Daybreak: October 16, 2020

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Brazilian meat honchos to pay millions to resolve bribery-related charges

Brazilian meat magnates Joesley and Wesley Batista and their companies, J&F Investimentos and subsidiary JBS S.A., have agreed to pay nearly $27 million “to resolve charges arising out of an extensive bribery scheme,” the Securities and Exchange Commission said.

The SEC order found the Batista brothers “engaged in a bribery scheme in part to facilitate JBS’s 2009 acquisition” of Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, the agency said. Pilgrim’s has agreed in an unrelated case to pay a $110.5 million fine to settle charges of price-fixing and bid-rigging in the broiler chicken market.

The SEC said that following the acquisition and while serving as board members of Pilgrim’s, the Batistas paid about $150 million in bribes at the direction of a former Brazil Finance Minister “using in part funds from intercompany transfers, dividend payments, and other means obtained from JBS operating accounts containing funds from Pilgrim’s.”

Meanwhile, the Justice Department announced that J&F pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and agreed to pay a penalty of $256.5 million. Under a plea agreement, half of that amount will be credited to payments J&F makes to Brazilian authorities.
New group wants to promote agroecology in US and abroad
A new organization being announced today – the World AgroEcology Alliance – wants to promote a system of agriculture that has recently been panned on the international stage for its potential to hamper production.
Karla Klingner, a founding member of the WAEA, tells Agri-Pulse the group wants to focus on bringing agroecology into a developed nation like the U.S. and promote its seven principles, which include things like “Localization & Diversification” and “Fairness to Farmers.” But she says farmer profitability will be paramount in WAEA’s agronomic efforts.
“When you can transition food supply into a more localized approach, when you can diversify and move away from these crop monocultures … we think we can revive rural communities under this, we believe that we can get a high-quality, nutrient-rich product at a price that consumers can afford and access,” she said.
A farmer’s thought: Kip Tom, an Indiana farmer and the U.S. representative to the United Nations agencies for food and agriculture in Rome, decried the spread of agroecology around the world in his recent remarks at the Agri-Pulse Ag and Food Policy Summit. He called an agroecology platform in the European Union “indefensible scientifically and indefensible morally.”
Farm Bureau convention in January will be virtual
The American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention is going virtual, following the cancellation of all events at the San Diego Convention Center through Jan. 31, 2021.
The event is slated for Jan. 10-13 and will feature discussions on the impact of COVID-19 on agriculture, sustainability and the future of the supply chain.
“Our top priority at every Farm Bureau gathering is the safety of our attendees and staff,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “While we are saddened to not meet in person for this convention, we are eager to bring this event safely to farm and ranch homes across the country and excited to offer the same top-level content our members have come to expect from our in-person events.”
COVID leaves school meal programs hurting financially, SNA finds

A new survey by the School Nutrition Association finds 54% of school districts surveyed nationwide say their school meal programs suffered a financial loss in the 2019/20 school year. Some 62% anticipate a loss this school year.

“With food insecurity on the rise in communities across the nation, school meal programs offer a critical safety net to families struggling to put food on the table during the pandemic,” SNA President Reggie Ross said, calling for congressional action “to ensure these school meal programs remain on solid financial footing. We urge the Senate to pass the Heroes Act 2.0, providing desperately needed emergency relief funds for school meal programs to support America’s students.” 

The report said of 844 districts that reported school year 2019/20 losses, the median loss was $150,000. But districts with more than 25,000 enrolled saw a median net loss of $2.3 million. Combined losses exceeded $483.5 million.

SNA said 1,614 school districts out of 4,025 responded to the survey conducted from Sept. 9-24.

Ag Marketing Service plans to survey hemp growers

The Agricultural Marketing Service plans to survey hemp growers to gain a better understanding of the industry.

“The data obtained from the survey will be used for forecasting hemp activity and to develop a representative understanding of hemp production practices and costs at national, regional, and state levels,” AMS said in a Federal Register notice expected to be published today.

Questions will go to an estimated 18,000 producers and address current production costs, production practices, and marketing practices, AMS said.

Chile prepares for bumper almond and walnut crops
USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service is predicting a big jump in Chile’s almond and walnut crops this year, just in time to benefit from “a recovery in export markets from the shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The FAS, in a new report out of Santiago, is now predicting Chile will export 9,500 metric tons of almonds and 155 tons of walnuts in the 2020-21 marketing year. That would be a 35% increase for almonds and a 30% increase for walnuts over 2019-20.
Chilean walnut acreage has steadily increased over the past decade and the country has more trees than ever this year. There were just 37,000 acres of walnut groves in 2010. This year there are about 116,000 acres, according to USDA data.
USTR looking for members of ag advisory committees
USDA and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) are looking for new members for seven agricultural trade advisory committees.
The Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee advises the agencies on the operation of existing U.S. trade agreements, on negotiation of new agreements, and on other trade policy matters. Members of six Agricultural Technical Advisory Committees “provide technical advice and guidance on international trade issues that affect both domestic and foreign production in specific commodity sectors,” USDA and USTR said.
The technical committees focus on trade in animals and animal products; fruits and vegetables; grains, feed, oilseeds, and planting seeds; processed foods; sweeteners and sweetener products; and tobacco, cotton and peanuts.
She said it: “A farmer cannot transition into sustainable, regenerative – whatever type of word you want to use – types of practices if they can’t pay their banknote to put food on their own table.” - Karla Klingner, a founding member of the World AgroEcology Alliance.