Ag Today July 30, 2019

Trump administration, Democrats make progress on new NAFTA [Associated Press]

Congressional Democrats appear to be moving from “no way” to “maybe” on President Donald Trump’s rewrite of a trade pact with Canada and Mexico. House Democrats have met four times with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, most recently on Friday, and both sides say they are making progress toward a deal that would clear the way for Congress to approve Trump’s U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA….Talks could still fall apart. Meetings between congressional staffers and officials from Lighthizer’s office during Congress’ August recess could prove critical.


U.S.-China trade talks resume with no breakthroughs in sight [Wall Street Journal]

Chinese and U.S. negotiators resumed trade talks, taking tentative steps to overcome mutual mistrust and limited political appetite for a breakthrough agreement after weeks of recriminations….Both sides are looking to the other to demonstrate goodwill, said people briefed on the discussions, with the U.S. expecting a pickup in Chinese orders for American farm goods and Beijing waiting for Washington to relax restrictions on Chinese telecommunications gear maker Huawei Technologies Co.’s access to U.S. technology….Apart from small steps, however, expectations are low for significant progress in resolving a trade dispute that has rattled global markets and seen both sides slap punitive tariffs on about half the more than $600 billion in goods they trade.


Judge delays ruling to stop Shasta Dam study [Redding Record Searchlight]

A judge on Monday backed off a decision to stop a Fresno-based water district from going forward with a study on whether to raise the height of Shasta Dam. The judge had issued a tentative ruling that would have forced the Westlands Water District to stop work on an environmental impact report assessing the impacts of raising the height of the dam. However, after listening to arguments in Shasta County Superior Court on Monday from the district and the state Attorney General’s Office, the judge said he would issue a final statement within 48 hours. The judge, Dennis Buckley, at times appeared flummoxed about how to proceed on the issue, at one point closing his eyes and putting his head in his hands.


Bayer warns on crop weakness as Roundup plaintiffs rise [Wall Street Journal]

Bayer warned that severe weather affecting its crop-science division could put its 2019 sales target out of reach, adding to concerns about the fallout from last year’s acquisition of Monsanto….Bayer has been entangled in a protracted legal battle that pits it against thousands of cancer patients claiming Monsanto-invented Roundup weedkillers cause cancer. The number of plaintiffs rose to 18,400 as of July 11, from 13,400 in April, Bayer said….Bayer lost the three first jury verdicts in the U.S. with the biggest award topping $2 billion, though last week a California judge reduced that penalty to $86.7 million. Bayer, which argues that Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate are safe, is appealing the verdicts.


People are willing pay a hefty premium for ‘locally sourced’ food, but sometimes it’s made thousands of miles away [MarketWatch]

…Researchers at Indiana University found that marketers who advertise their products as being local and charge higher prices are more likely to appeal to customers compared to discount stores. There may, however, be a catch….The term “local” on food packaging hasn’t been officially defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration….Food manufacturers are required to register with the FDA as a food facility, and an inspection would follow once every three or five years to check on food safety controls, sanitation and food labeling. However, the agency doesn’t address label issues outside of regular inspections.


A new way to fight crop diseases, with a smartphone [New York Times]

Late blight is a common disease of plants such as tomatoes and potatoes, capable of wiping out entire crops on commercial-scale fields….But farmers may have a new weapon to add to the arsenal. The technology, designed by researchers at North Carolina State University, relies on the science of subtle plant odors, and it can recognize sick plants early by employing a simple test strip that plugs into a reader on a smartphone….In proof-of-concept testing, Dr. Wei and his team found that the technology could accurately detect changes in 10 different plant odor molecules just two days after plants were inoculated with the pathogen that causes late blight,  even before the effects were visible to the eye.