The Justice Department and lawyers for 10 current and former poultry executives are at odds over when a new trial should be held on charges of price-fixing and bid-rigging in the industry.

A jury in the federal criminal case in Colorado could not reach a verdict last month after the conclusion of a multiweek trial.

“After scouring the evidence, we still have firm convictions on both sides of the debate,” jurors told U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer in a note. “We do not believe we can reach consensus on any of the ten defendants.”

DOJ wants to start the trial on Feb. 22, but the defendants want a delay until March 22.

Defendants include Jayson Penn, former CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride, and Bill Lovette, Pilgrim’s former president and CEO.

USTR backs Lithuania in China spat
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Wednesday vowed to support Lithuania in its spat with China. Tai called out China’s “economic coercion” against the Baltic nation after meeting with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis.
The two trade leaders “noted that the United States and the EU, as democratic market economies, share a number of core values and principles that we need to defend internationally,” according to a statement issued by the Office of the USTR.
The Chinese animosity towards Lithuania is reportedly a response to the country recognizing Taiwan as Taiwan and not “Chinese Taipei.”
The U.S. ag sector remains hopeful that the U.S. and China will sit down for trade talks this year after China’s commitments to purchase U.S. farm commodities under the “phase one” deal expired on Dec. 31.
Wheeler picked to head Virginia environmental agencies
Former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has a new job. Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has chosen Wheeler to be his next secretary of natural resources, advising the governor and overseeing five different agencies.
Youngkin also said Michael Rolband, a longtime wetlands consultant and scientist, would be his director of environmental quality, serving under Wheeler. Rolband set up the state’s first wetland mitigation bank in 1991.

Wheeler became the EPA administrator in 2019 after Scott Pruitt departed under an ethical cloud. He also has been chief counsel at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and an energy lobbyist. During the Trump administration, Wheeler led the effort to come up with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which was largely supported by the ag community.

EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are now working on a replacement for the NWPR, which was invalidated by a federal court.

By the way: Wheeler isn’t the only Trump administration veteran in Youngkin’s cabinet. Former Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Matt Lohr was picked as the state’s next ag secretary on Tuesday.

RMA offers coverage of split applications of nitrogen for some corn farmers

Farmers of non-irrigated corn in 11 states who “split-apply” nitrogen have another option for insurance coverage, USDA’s Risk Management Agency announced Wednesday.
RMA released details Wednesday of its Post Application Coverage Endorsement (PACE), which will pay for projected yield lost “when producers are unable to apply the post nitrogen application during the V3-V10 corn growth stages due to field conditions created by weather,” the agency said.
PACE is being offered in select counties in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Split application “can lead to lower input costs and helps prevent runoff and leaching of nutrients into waterways and groundwater,” RMA said. 
“PACE is an important addition to the risk management toolbox for corn growers,” National Corn Growers Association President Chris Edgington said.
Soybean checkoff announces strategic plan
The soybean checkoff program is emphasizing sustainability in its latest strategic plan.

The United Soybean Board released the five-year plan Wednesday to guide checkoff investments in research, education and promotion across three priority areas — infrastructure and connectivity, health and nutrition, and innovation and technology.
Among the priorities, according to the plan: “Produce and expand opportunities for use based on market need — from feed and food to industrial products.”
USB said its work in the health and nutrition priority area “will improve both plant and soil health, preserving the environment, and animal and human health, delivering a more nutritious soybean to U.S. soy customers.”
USB’s farmer-members approved 181 new checkoff-funded projects totaling $78 million in July.
China demand rising for craft beer imports
Chinese beer imports have been dropping since 2019, and the trend intensified during the pandemic, but market watchers say the exception is American beer – especially craft brews. The U.S. has a relatively small market share of China’s import market, but it’s been growing over the past three years, according to a new analysis by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
Craft beer is growing steadily in popularity and consumers are ready to try new brands, whether at beer festivals, beer bars, or at home,” says the FAS office in Beijing. “Though only accounting for 1.9% of imported beer market share in China, U.S. beer has enjoyed a strong and growing reputation in China. From January to October 2021, China imported $11.26 million of U.S. beer, up 5.6% compared to the same period in 2020.”
When it comes to craft beer, FAS said, Chinese demand “will grow exponentially over the next few decades, showing a change in consumer preference toward new flavors and varieties.”
The Chinese government currently levies a 25% retaliatory tariff on U.S. beer – a result of the Trump-era trade war – but Beijing has been exempting importers.

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