U.S. prepares more payments to trade-hit farmers [Wall Street Journal]
The U.S. government will make a second, multibillion dollar payment to U.S. farmers struggling against tariffs on American soybeans, pork and dairy products. The move soothed nerves in the U.S. Farm Belt, after some farmers wondered whether the payments would come as trade relations improved between the U.S. and top food-importing countries Mexico and China. Despite a new North American free trade deal signed in November and this month’s trade truce between the U.S. and China, farmers and livestock producers continue to face low prices for many of their goods, pushed down by tariffs that remain in effect.
Foodborne illness outbreaks in spotlight as technology improves [Wall Street Journal]
Technological advancements are transforming how regulators respond to foodborne illnesses, helping to fuel a surge in outbreak investigations and increasing pressure on the country’s biggest food companies….Government officials and food industry groups say increased investigations, linked to foods ranging from romaine lettuce to ground beef and melon, don’t mean the U.S. food system is less safe. They’re the result—at least in part—of new tools that have made it easier to link individual illnesses and determine their source.
Gene-edited farm animals are coming. Will we eat them? [Washington Post]
…As scientists in labs across the world create virus-resistant pigs, heat-tolerant cattle and fatter, more muscular lambs, a big question looms: Will regulation, safety concerns and public skepticism prevent these advances from becoming anything more than fascinating laboratory experiments, or will the animals transform agriculture and the food supply? So far, gene-editing tools have jump-started research worldwide, creating more than 300 pigs, cattle, sheep and goats. Now, proponents of the field say the United States is at a make-or-break moment, when government action over the next year could determine whether any gene-edited food animals make it to market.
A million California buildings face wildfire risk. ‘Extraordinary steps’ are needed to protect them [Washington Post]
…A Times analysis of wildfire hazard across California found that hundreds of communities from Redding to San Diego are at high risk of deadly wildfires like those in Paradise and Malibu last month. More than 1.1 million structures, or roughly 1 in 10 buildings in California, lie within the highest-risk fire zones in maps drawn by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the analysis showed….Although they identify areas where stricter building standards and brush clearance are required, the maps do not directly trigger land-use restrictions or funds to make communities less vulnerable. They do give notice to local agencies, insurance companies and residents, and they support requests for fire planning and mitigation grants.
Farm bill’s federal hemp provision could disrupt Humboldt County cannabis economy [Eureka Times-Standard]
A major agriculture bill passed by the U.S. Congress last week could legalize hemp at the federal level, allowing farmers across the country to cultivate hemp, but that doesn’t necessarily spell good news for Humboldt County….In California, hemp is already decriminalized, with a web of regulatory costs imposed on growers, oil extractors and retailers alike….But if other companies in the country begin selling hemp products within the legal THC level, they won’t face any of the prohibitive costs or federal tax restrictions that pump up the price of Humboldt County’s legal hemp. As a result, out-of-state hemp might sink local companies in the competitive marketplace.