WASHINGTON, April 4, 2016 - The Senate returns from its two-week Easter recess today to take up a bill that could benefit biotech companies. It's not GMO labeling legislation but rather a bill that would allow companies to file claims in federal courts against people who the firms believe have stolen trade secrets. 

Bethany Shively, a spokeswoman for the American Seed Trade Association, says the bipartisan Defend Trade Secrets Act would put “trade secrets on par with other forms of intellectual property – like patent, trademark, or copyright protection.  For a wide range of industries - seed included - trade secrets are what give companies their competitive edge.”

She says the legislation, which the Senate will vote on this afternoon, would allow for much quicker resolution of disputes. A similar bill has been introduced in the House, but the Judiciary Committee has yet to do anything with it. 

There has been little sign of progress so far on the GMO labeling issue. But Randy Russell, who has led the industry lobbying for legislation to preempt state labeling laws, says that “clearly there is growing pressure for the Senate to find a compromise.”

Since the preemption bill stalled in the Senate on March 16, four major food companies have announced plans to begin labeling their products in compliance with the Vermont labeling law, which takes effect July 1. 

Starting this morning, we’d like to capture what you are seeing when Daybreak arrives in your inbox each morning. Daybreak will be featuring a photo from one of our readers each week. Whether you are in the nation’s capital or Iowa, California, Texas, Georgia or Hawaii, we would like to share your Daybreak photos with the rest of our readers. Send your photos to philip@agri-pulse.com.

This first photo comes from Lynn Tjeerdsma, a senior policy adviser to Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who captured this view from his balcony overlooking the Potomac River.

Renegotiating trade Trump's first priority. Donald Trump’s latest eye-opening pronouncements are that the nation faces a “massive recession” and he can erase the entire federal debt of $19 trillion in eight years. 

But he also said in an interview with the Washington Posthat he would use his first three months in office to do something slightly more doable - renegotiating trade policy with Mexico, China, Japan and - as he put it — “all of these countries that are just absolutely destroying us.”

Trump also emphasized that U.S. trade policy played a key role in his decision to run for president. “I felt that we were doing some of the worst trade deals ever,” Trump said.

Trump doesn’t appear to have any intention of pivoting away from the trade issue or backing off his opposition to NAFTA or the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Pediatricians, rice growers welcome arsenic limit. The American Academy of Pediatrics has joined the rice industry in endorsing the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed new limit on the amount of inorganic arsenic that can be in rice. The cap of 100 parts per billion is higher than some consumer activists wanted. But the pediatricians group said manufacturers of infant cereals should act without delay to comply with the new limit. 

Gerber Products, which controls about 80 percent of the market for infant rice cereal, already meets the limit, according to USA Rice Federation.

Further decline in land prices seen. Farmland values could be down as much as 18 percent this year – down from their peak in 2013 - because of continued declines in commodity prices, according to a quarterly analysis of the farm economy by MetLife Investment Management. The report says that commodity prices should turn the corner by the end of the year and likely prevent the drop in land values from being any steeper. 

The reason the analysts  don’t expect commodity prices going lower is that they expect a La Niña later this year to produce drier weather through the major grain producing regions in North and South America. That would serve to depress crop yields in Brazil and Argentina as well as the United States. 

Corn futures tumbled 20 cents a bushel after USDA projected on Thursday that producers would plant 93.6 million acres of corn this week, a 6 percent jump over 2015. 

Brazil boosts biodiesel mandate. Brazil is raising its biodiesel mandate from the current 7 percent to 10 percent by 2019, USDA reports. Legislation that was recently signed into law also will require testing on the feasibility of increasing the mandate to 15 percent. The mandate was originally set at 2 percent in 2008. 

Brazil used about 1.1 billion gallons of biodiesel last year, compared to 2.2 billion gallons in the United States.

He said it. “If EPA feels like it’s not really a land grab, then why did they ever put it forward”—Kendal Frasier, CEO of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, in an Agri-Pulse Open Mic interview on the Obama administration’s “waters of the U.S.” rule.


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