Ag Today November 13, 2018

Trump renews attacks on NATO and trade imbalances [New York Times]

President Trump, fresh off an international display of unity among global leaders to mark the end of World War I, renewed his attacks on America’s longtime allies on Monday, and demanded fair treatment for the United States. In a trio of Twitter posts, Mr. Trump said that the United States pays “for LARGE portions” of other countries’ military protection and loses money on trade with those same countries. Mr. Trump has frequently criticized what he asserts are the unbalanced costs of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the military alliance whose core includes mutual defense. Wasting little time after the midterm elections, held just six days earlier, Mr. Trump renewed one of his favorite campaign topics — the “unfair” position of the United States in the NATO alliance — without even mentioning the name of the alliance. But the complaint, a familiar rallying cry for his political base, serves as a reminder that his campaign to win re-election in 2020 is well underway. The president also renewed his complaint about the trade deficit, saying that trade between the United States and Europe “must be FREE and FAIR!”


Cost of building Southland section of bullet train could jump by $11 billion, documents show [Los Angeles Times]

The cost of constructing the Southern California section of the state bullet train could jump by as much as $11 billion over estimates released earlier this year, though rail authority officials caution that their new numbers assume a more expansive design than is likely to be built. The new estimates are contained in environmental reports prepared for Thursday’s meeting of the authority board, which will review planned routes throughout the Southland. The reports acknowledge that the new cost estimates could affect the $77-billion price tag of the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco system, though they also use a different methodology than previous figures and are therefore not directly comparable….The Palmdale-to-Burbank section could hit $20.33 billion, up from $14.87 billion in the estimates prepared for the 2018 business plan. The construction of rail from Burbank to Los Angeles could rise to $3.55 billion from $1.25 billion. And the Los Angeles-to-Anaheim section might go as high as $4.8 billion, up from $3 billion.


Scientists: Wind, drought worsen fires, not bad management [Associated Press]

Both nature and humans share blame for California’s devastating wildfires, but forest management did not play a major role, despite President Donald Trump’s claims, fire scientists say. Nature provides the dangerous winds that have whipped the fires, and human-caused climate change over the long haul is killing and drying the shrubs and trees that provide the fuel, experts say. “Natural factors and human-caused global warming effects fatally collude” in these fires, said wildfire expert Kristen Thornicke of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. Multiple reasons explain the fires’ severity, but “forest management wasn’t one of them,” University of Utah fire scientist Philip Dennison said.


Bayer hit by more lawsuits over safety of Roundup weedkiller [Wall Street Journal]

Bayer AG disclosed another jump in the number of lawsuits alleging the German company’s recently acquired weedkillers cause cancer, elevating an issue that has wiped billions off Bayer’s market valuation. Lawsuits from 9,300 plaintiffs were pending at the end of October compared with 8,700 at the end of August, Bayer said Tuesday. Plaintiffs claim that Roundup weedkillers, which Bayer acquired in its takeover of Monsanto Co., made them ill and that Monsanto knew or should have known of the risks but failed to warn adequately. Bayer rejects the allegations, arguing there are hundreds of scientific studies and regulatory authorities that affirm glyphosate, the compound contained in the weedkillers, is safe to use….The latest increase in the number of cases highlights the challenge for Bayer to assuage investor concerns that its acquisition of Monsanto this year had burdened the pharmaceutical and chemicals company with a problem that could take years to resolve and could weigh on its share price for some time.


Toxic taps abound in rural Tulare County, failed water bond brings no relief [Visalia Times-Delta]

“Safe, clean and affordable” drinking water is enshrined in California law as a basic human right. Politicians across the aisle applauded when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Human Right to Water Bill in 2012, making California the first state to pass a right-to-water measure. Now, six years later, those same politicians have failed to pass meaningful legislation that would provide the money necessary to make good on the bill’s declaration. For the one million Californians who live with unsafe drinking water in the shadow of the world’s fifth-largest economy, according to a recent EPA report, Brown’s promise remains elusive. “Californians talk a big game about safe drinking water,” said Tulare County Supervisor Kuyler Crocker. “But there’s no teeth to any of it.”


North Coast wineries bullish on organic grapes to drive growth [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]

Walk down the aisle at the local Whole Foods Market or any other similar grocer. Almost everywhere you look, there are organic products on prominent display, from lettuce to macaroni and cheese to ice cream. But over at the wine section? Not so much. And that’s the perplexing plight for those in the wine industry looking to increase their share in the overall $50 billion organic food market in the United States — a category that was up 6 percent from 2016 to 2017….Indeed, the organic category is still a sliver in the more than $41 billion U.S. wine retail market, so much so that major consumer data firms do not readily track its totals.