Ag Today May 17, 2019

U.S. farmers, wanting a trade deal, brace for aid package some fear will fall short [Wall Street Journal]

Stalled trade talks between Beijing and Washington are exacerbating a slump in the U.S. Farm Belt, and many farmers don’t believe an aid package being assembled by the Trump administration will be enough to compensate for the economic damage. Agriculture has been among the U.S. economic sectors hit hardest by the yearlong trade conflict with China. Now that a deal has slipped from the grasp of negotiators, farmers are facing the likelihood that the deepest downturn in the agricultural economy since the 1980s could be prolonged. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in the absence of a deal, is cobbling together a farm relief program that will total somewhere between $15 billion and $20 billion, according to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. This is the second such aid package since the trade fight began. Many farmers doubt the scale of that aid package is anywhere near sufficient to make up for a trade spat that has shut them out of a lucrative Chinese market of 1.4 billion consumers.


Trump administration cancels $929 million contract for California bullet train [Sacramento Bee]

In a dramatic move, the Trump administration announced Thursday it has canceled a nearly billion-dollar funding contract with the California bullet train, throwing the state’s troubled high-speed rail project further in doubt. California Gov. Gavin Newsom immediately fired back, calling the move illegal and vowing to fight it in court. The Federal Railroad Administration said it terminated a longstanding contract to pay the California High Speed Rail Authority $928,620,000 because California “has repeatedly failed to comply with the terms of the (2010) agreement and has failed to make reasonable progress on the project….Trump previously tweeted that California “has wasted billions of dollars on their out of control Fast Train, with no hope of completion.” Gov. Newsom responded defiantly Thursday afternoon. “The Trump Administration’s action is illegal and a direct assault on California, our green infrastructure, and the thousands of Central Valley workers who are building this project,” he said.


Trump says U.S. reaches deal with Canada, Mexico to end steel and aluminum tariffs [Wall Street Journal]

The Trump administration reached agreements with Canada and Mexico that end U.S.-imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, removing a major barrier to the three countries’ new trade pact. During a speech to the National Association of Realtors in Washington, Mr. Trump said the U.S. “just reached an agreement with Canada and Mexico and we will be sending our product into those countries without the imposition of tariffs or major tariffs.” The U.S. didn’t immediately offer additional details. In a separate statement, the Canadian government announced its half of the deal Friday, saying an agreement had been reached for the U.S. to drop all its steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and for Canada to drop all its retaliatory tariffs, which were placed on goods ranging from metals to food products, within two days.


Commentary: Did a jury ignore science when it hit Monsanto with a $2-billion verdict? [Los Angeles Times]

The epic $2.055-billion jury verdict against Monsanto over accusations that its blockbuster weed killer Roundup causes cancer is just one step in a very long legal road. The company has now lost three trials in a row and is still facing lawsuits from 13,400 farmers, gardeners and other users. If you’re in a gambling mood, you probably would do worse than to bet that Monsanto will lose every one of those cases. The odds are good for several reasons. Rising anti-business sentiment in society at large can hardly be kept out of the jury room. Concerns about our poisoned environment are ever present. The credibility of scientists has been undermined by partisan political attacks and more general fears that we’ve lost our ability to ensure that technological advances work to our advantage.


Trump plan would shift immigration focus to ‘merit’ [Associated Press]

Unveiling a new immigration plan, President Donald Trump said he wanted to provide a sharp contrast with Democrats, and he did — aiming to upend decades of family-based immigration policy with a new approach that favors younger, “totally brilliant,” high-skilled workers he says won’t compete for American jobs. Trump’s sweeping immigration plan is more a campaign document than anything else. It’s a White House attempt to stretch beyond the “build-the-wall” rhetoric that swept the president to office but may not be enough to deliver him a second term. As Trump heads into reelection season, his campaign sees the plan as a way to help him look more reasonable on a signature issue than he often seems — and to cast Democrats as blocking him….Trump said Thursday that his new system, with points given for those with advanced degrees, job offers and other attributes, will make it exactly “clear what standards we ask you to achieve.”


Monterey County becomes ‘major epicenter’ for Valley Fever with tenfold uptick [Salinas Californian]

Rogelio Jacinto doesn’t know if he can sing anymore — it’s a struggle just to breathe….At 68, a Valley Fever diagnosis abruptly changed his life….At first, doctors thought he had bronchitis or pneumonia, telling Jacinto that his lungs “sound awful.” His doctor later confirmed that he had coccidioidomycosis, an infection caused by the fungus Coccidioides — commonly known as Valley Fever….In fact, cases of Valley Fever in Monterey County have skyrocketed over the last few years, prompting county health officials, medical providers, employers and residents to take safeguards….In 2008, just 30 cases of Valley Fever were reported, according to the Monterey County Health Department. That number began creeping up over the next few years — with 80 cases reported in both 2011 and 2012 — before dipping down to 24 cases in 2014. Then it spiked to 80 cases in 2016 and more than doubled to 200 cases in 2017. Last year, there were 240 Valley Fever cases reported in Monterey County.