January 27, 2020

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Bayer agrees to trial delay amid settlement optimism
Bayer may be close to settling thousands of lawsuits alleging exposure to Roundup as a cause of cancer.
The company agreed to delay a trial due to start on Friday in state court in St. Louis in order “to provide room for the parties to continue the mediation process in good faith under the auspices of Ken Feinberg,” a mediator appointed by a federal judge in California.
Feinberg, who was a special master for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, told Bloomberg he was “cautiously optimistic” about reaching a settlement but also that it would be “premature to state that a settlement is near or will be reached.”
“While Bayer is constructively engaged in the mediation process, there is no comprehensive agreement at this time,” the company said. “There also is no certainty or timetable for a comprehensive resolution.”
News reports have put the figure for a settlement between $8 billion and $10 billion. 
CDFA considers a carbon farming market
CDFA measures the success of its Healthy Soils incentives program in part by how much carbon is sequestered in the soil. Now the department is considering a proposal to monetize that benefit through a carbon offset market, supplementing the incomes of those farmers.
A coalition of businesses and organizations has already secured an agricultural carbon removal provision in the 2018 Farm Bill, with demonstration projects kicking off last year.
It works through a USDA tool that calculates the amount of carbon dioxide saved through climate-smart practices. Farmers would verify the practices through a startup like Nori that hosts a carbon trading market. Each year, a farmer could gain as much as $80 per acre.
The catch is CDFA would fund the program as a public-private partnership, which would take away from incentives funding for Healthy Soils.
“It's likely the private market will complement, if not overshadow, government support once the tap is turned on,” said Nicole Lederer of the green business advocacy group Environmental Entrepreneurs.
Next: CDFA staff are reviewing the details of the proposal, while the department’s environmental advisory panel will vote on it at its next meeting.
The panel also heard a pitch for adopting an organic transition option for Healthy Soils. Restore California, which last year launched a carbon farming surcharge program for restaurants, also suggested a partnership, as a cost-sharing supplement to Healthy Soils.

Western Growers hosts forum on energy independence
In the last year, growers and food processors have faced increasing uncertainty when it comes to energy. This includes several power shutoffs, historic fire seasons that bankrupted PG&E and rate increases of 20% in the utility’s service area, according to Western Growers.
The trade group is now hosting its first Salinas Valley Energy Forum today, offering farmers insights and options for energy independence. The forum will feature a panel of experts representing energy developers, a USDA energy coordinator, a local farm bureau and an electrical manufacturing company.
Attention turns back to USMCA this week
Wednesday is another big day for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. President Donald Trump will sign the agreement’s implementing bill at a ceremony that day, according to White House officials. Meanwhile in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to unveil his country’s implementing bill for USMCA.
Trudeau drew applause from Canada’s Liberal members last week when he told them that in the new session of the Canadian Parliament “the very first priority … will be moving forward on the ratification of the new NAFTA.”
For more on what will be happening this week, read our Washington Week Ahead.
Positive signs for EU-US trade pact
Trump wants a U.S. trade pact with the European Union, and he wants it quickly, according to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who spoke to Bloomberg News at the Davos World Economic Summit.
There is still a lot of tension between the U.S. and the EU, say officials at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but optimism is growing for a trade pact. The biggest sign that talks are progressing is the expectation that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will visit the U.S. early next week on the heels of a meeting with Trump in Switzerland last week, said Marjorie Chorlins, a vice president at the Chamber.
“The message … that came through very clearly was both sides want to find a way forward,” she told reporters. “Obviously there are major challenges in the relationship, but the vibe certainly was positive.”
Keep in mind: the biggest obstacles to a trade pact may be the threat of more tariffs. France, Italy and Spain are all considering new digital taxes that would hit U.S. companies like Facebook. And the Trump administration continues to threaten to hit the EU with automobile tariffs. 
Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed last week to delay France’s new tax and any U.S. retaliation, but the issue is far from resolved.
And the U.K. is planning a similar tax, something Treasury Secretary Seven Mnuchin said would be sure to provoke U.S. retaliation.
“If people want to just arbitrarily put taxes on our digital companies, we’ll consider arbitrarily putting taxes on car companies,” Mnuchin said.
He said it:
“We can ease the transition and get farmers paid for their above-ground crop as well as their below-ground crop.” – Paul Zorner, CEO of Locus Agricultural Solutions, a company selling “probiotics for crops.” Zorner was part of the coalition pitching CDFA on a carbon farming market.

Steve Davies, Bill Tomson and Ben Nuelle contributed to this report.

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