Leaders of the House and Senate Ag committees are struggling to agree on terms of a farm bill extension. There’s agreement that the 2018 farm bill would be extended for one year, taking it through Sept. 30, 2024. The question is what to do about 21 expired programs that won’t have funding unless Congress puts some more money into them. 

A source familiar with the negotiations said Wednesday that the discussions still had a ways to go. Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has indicated she wants to see the expired programs get funding in the extension. But her House counterpart, Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., is concerned about taking pressure off lawmakers to finish a new bill in 2024.  

“The question is do we find funding for [the expired programs], or do we use that as leverage to have us get our job done? I don’t want to make an extension too good. … I want to make sure that we’re always incentivized to get our job done,” Thompson told reporters Wednesday. 

Take note: Thompson concedes it will be January “at the earliest” before his committee can move a new farm bill. The committee’s work continues to be slowed by the need for technical assistance from USDA, cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, and the lack of agreement on how to fund modifications to commodity programs and other issues. 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters Wednesday there are “some creative ways” to address the funding issue, “and we would encourage Congress to consider them as quickly as possible.” He didn’t elaborate. 

Bayer seeks reversal of $175M Roundup verdict

Bayer is asking a Pennsylvania court for relief from a $175 million verdict issued last month to Ernie Caranci, who claims exposure to Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Bayer filed papers in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas “urging the court to issue judgment for Monsanto, order a new trial, or reduce the excessive and unconstitutional damages,” it said in a statement. The jury awarded $25 million in compensation and $150 million in punitive damages. The post-trial motion cites numerous “prejudicial and reversible errors at trial,” Bayer says. 

Company management said Wednesday on an earnings call that Bayer continues to emphasize the science behind what they claim is a safe product. They also said Bayer had won nine trials in a row before losing the last three.

Asked whether it would adjust its litigation strategy, Chief Financial Officer Wolfgang Nickl said, “I think you'll appreciate that we constantly adjust our strategy, but this is probably not the right forum to discuss it.”

Take note: On the earnings call, Bayer CEO Bill Anderson said the healthcare and ag company is looking at how to break off either its health or crop science divisions from its pharmaceuticals division. See our coverage here.

USDA presses seed companies on labeling compliance

USDA is warning seed companies that they need to develop a set of best practices for complying with federal labeling requirements. 

In a letter to the top six companies in the corn, soy and cotton seed markets, Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Bruce Summers says company executives need to ask themselves whether they’ve taken steps to ensure their “practices are in the interests” of their farmer stakeholders.

The letter stresses that federal regulations “require seed kind and varietal information to be printed on seed containers, or labels, in a form that is clearly legible. This requirement allows a purchaser of seed to make reasoned and informed decisions.”

Take note: AMS has finalized regulations requiring poultry integrators to provide more financial information to prospective or current growers before entering into contracts with them. See our coverage here. 

New Mosaic facility in Brazil to aid fertilizer distribution

U.S. phosphate and potash giant Mosaic says it’s the largest fertilizer supplier to Brazil and a new facility the company is building the northern Brazilian state of Tocantins will be a “1-million-ton distribution center,” the company’s future CEO Bruce Bodine said Wednesday during an earnings call.

Bodine is scheduled to take over as CEO from Joc O’Rourke on Jan. 1.

       It’s easy to be “in the know” about what’s happening in Washington, D.C. Sign up for a FREE month of Agri-Pulse news! Simply click here.

“With de-stocking of fertilizers in Brazil complete, inventories are quite low and will need to be replenished for 2024,” O’Rourke said Wednesday.

Strong Mexican demand boosts US pork exports

The volume and value of U.S. pork exports are slowing a bit. But record shipments to Mexico kept trade relatively strong in September, according to the latest trade data released by the U.S. Meat Export Federation. 

The U.S. shipped about 89,000 metric tons of pork to Mexico in September, valued at about $208 million. That’s an 17% increase in volume from September 2022 and an 18% increase in value.

“Pork exports achieving another $200 million month in Mexico is fantastic,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “But the good news doesn’t end there, as growth in regions such as Central America, the Caribbean and Oceania helped offset lower shipments to China and Japan.”

USDA seeks input on specialty crop programs 

USDA wants to learn how to better support the specialty crop industry, which like much of the agricultural industry has suffered losses due to natural disasters and dealt with pandemic-related disruptions to its market.

AMS is seeking comments on how best to implement its Specialty Crops Competitiveness Initiative. Marketing, research and competitiveness are among the topics on which AMS is asking for input. Commenters have 120 days to submit feedback.

He said it. “I'm willing to be here, but I don't think I would get it passed with all the grumpy people that would be here.” – House Ag Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., saying there isn’t enough time on the House calendar in December before the holiday season to consider a farm bill.