A federal indictment unsealed on Tuesday shows TJ Cox, a California Democrat whose one term in Congress included time on the House Agriculture Committee, is facing 28 counts of fraud.

A Department of Justice release says Cox has been charged with 15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution fraud, and one count of campaign contribution fraud. 

DOJ alleges Cox “perpetrated multiple fraud schemes targeting companies he was affiliated with and their clients and vendors. Cox created unauthorized off-the-books bank accounts and diverted client and company money into those accounts through false representations, pretenses and promises.”

All told, the alleged fraud totals $1.7 million from 2013-2018.
Cox served one term in Congress after unseating incumbent Republican David Valadao in 2018, only for Valadao to reclaim the seat in 2020.

Midwest especially vulnerable to extreme heat, new report says.

The number of counties experiencing at least one day a year of temperatures above 125 degrees will grow by nearly 2,000% by 2053, according to a new analysis from nonprofit research group the First Street Foundation.

The group concluded that more than 100 million Americans will have to deal with “extreme danger days” in 30 years, up from about 8 million now, and said most of those people will be in an “Extreme Heat Belt” stretching north from the northern border of Texas and Louisiana through Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois.

“Many locations likely to bear the brunt of increases in extreme danger over the next 30 years are concentrated inland and in the industrial Midwest, and not necessarily in the Deep South or West,” the report said.

States that are part of the Extreme Heat Belt “generally do not benefit from the coastal breezes that help to keep the Southwest, Southeast, and East Coast from hitting these extreme temperatures currently,” the report said.

Ukraine grain shipments accelerate

Ukraine exported about 500,000 metric tons of corn, wheat and other farm commodities from three ports in the Odesa province in just a couple of weeks after the Istanbul agreement was signed by Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations.

Sixteen ocean-going vessels headed for ports in Europe, Asia and Africa had left the Ukrainian ports by Aug. 13, according to the consulting firm APK Inform, and trade continues out of the Odesa ports that were shuttered for five months. Five more vessels left Odesa ports Tuesday.

A ship laden with Ukrainian grain at the port of Pivdennyi is currently preparing to depart to Ethiopia, the firm said.

Russian wheat harvest seen bigger

Russia is now expected to produce 94.7 million metric tons of wheat this year, according to the Black Sea agricultural markets research firm SovEcon, which raised its forecast Tuesday, up from 90.9 million tons.

Record high yields after two weeks of beneficial rain are behind the increase, but Russia is still having trouble shipping its grain overseas, says the firm.

“Russia’s big crop is getting bigger thanks to great weather in 2022,” says Andrey Sizov, head of the company. “This is likely to have a limited impact on the global market as 2022-23 Russian exports remain painfully slow.”

The latest USDA forecast for Russian wheat production is 88 million tons.

Carbon capture and storage gets more incentive in IRA

The nearly $20 billion in the $379 billion Inflation Reduction Act for on-farm conservation and technical assistance has gotten a lot of attention for its potential to hasten climate-smart ag practices.

But the Inflation Reduction Act also is investing heavily in carbon capture and sequestration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

At least three CCS pipelines are planned in the Midwest to transfer liquid CO2 from ethanol plants to sequestration sites. The IRA increases the 45(q) tax credit for each ton of CO2 sequestered from $50 to $85. For Summit Carbon Solutions, which has said it will sequester 12 million tons per year, that would be an increase from $600 million to about $1 billion annually.

There’s also a new way to claim the benefit, through a tax refund instead of going through the more onerous process of qualifying for the tax credit.

The upshot? “It is clear that one of the goals of the Act is for the U.S. government to spur the growth of [carbon capture, utilization and storage] by encouraging additional investment and wider application and adoption” of carbon capture projects, lawyers at the McDermott law firm said in an analysis.

Cattle virus spreading fast in India

Thousands of cases of the lumpy skin disease (LSD) are being reported throughout several regions in northern India, raising concerns about dairy production in the country, according to a report from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

The virus, which is spread by flies, mosquitoes, and ticks, causes fever, skin blisters and even death. More than 60,000 cases have been reported, according to the FAS analysis out of New Delhi.

“The outbreak is rapidly becoming a cause of concern for dairy farmers, who fear incurring huge financial losses as productive cattle die off,” FAS said.

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