WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2016 - Syngenta/ChemChina merger forging ahead, but later than expected.Syngenta kicked off its annual Media Summit in Cary, North Carolina, by assuring journalists that its proposed union with ChemChina is moving forward, if a bit later than originally hoped. The companies have garnered nearly a dozen regulatory approvals but said this week that, because the European Union's review is taking a bit longer than expected, the Chinese company's acquisition won't be finalized until early next year. 
Syngenta officials also cast doubt on other news reports – that the Chinese government wants to merge ChemChina with Sinochem, another state-owned Chinese chemical company, which is also active in the ag inputs business. A merger of those two companies could complicate the ChemChina-Syngenta deal. 
"We talk to ChemChina very, very often and to the best of our knowledge, that’s not true," said Ponsi Trivisvavet, president of Syngenta Seeds. "ChemChina is not aware of it."
Money is not the issue. Trivisvavet also dismissed reports that ChemChina is having trouble financing the acquisition, saying that the bridge financing to complete the transaction is done. The way Syngenta will operate after the acquisition is another issue, she said – one that the two companies will have to discuss once the transaction is complete.
On matters closer to ground level, Trivisvavet told the media that financial pressures are causing some farmers to "trade down" and choose older hybrid seeds that have fewer traits, because they're cheaper. "We've started to see some growers compromise and move into picking the lowest-price hybrid within the same class," she said.
Dannon provides impetus for new USFRA initiative. The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance announced a new “Straight Talk” campaign on Thursday, an effort seemingly launched as a result of Dannon’s pledge to eliminate GMO feed from its milk-producing cows. The new campaign will seek to bring producers to food company C-suites to talk about potential ramifications of so-called sustainability initiatives.
National Milk Producers Federation chairman Randy Mooney told reporters that a similar conversation was attempted with Dannon, but “ they were just unwilling to listen, to be quite frank. They wanted to go their own direction, they saw this as a better direction for their company, I guess, and they decided to go an opposite way.”
USFRA CEO Randy Krotz agreed. He said the conversation didn’t accurately portray the GMO technology that we use on millions and millions of acres in this country.
“In this particular case, we felt like the food company got it backwards,” Krotz said, “but going forward, we really want to have those conversations earlier, and we want to have productive conversations.”
Mooney said the Dannon Pledge served as “a major tipping point” for USFRA. Check out the Agri-Pulse story here.  
USDA to announce top B&I lender. USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Lisa Mensah is set to announce the top lender under the Business and Industry Loan Guarantee program. Greater Nevada Credit Union provided loans of over $120 million in fiscal 2016 and even went as far as to create a program within the credit union that specifically worked to accommodate the B&I guarantees. Mensah will make the announcement this morning at the National Rural Lenders Association Conference, hosted in the Farmer Mac offices in Washington.
Clinton promises to continue garden. With First Lady Michelle Obama looking on at a campaign event yesterday in North Carolina, Hillary Clinton promised to keep the White House garden going if she’s elected president. Clinton told the crowd that the first lady “planted an amazing vegetable garden at the White House. And I can promise you if I win, I will take good care of it, Michelle.”
NCBA given intervenor status in OCM lawsuit. A battle to reveal the contents of some beef checkoff audit reports advanced this week. A federal court will allow the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to review documents and records to look for confidential business information. NCBA can then object to distribution of that material to the Organization for Competitive Markets.
Kendal Frazier, NCBA’s CEO, said in a statement that the group wants to ensure “our business records and private staff information stay out of the hands of HSUS.” The Humane Society of the United States is providing pro bono legal help to OCM in this case.
As a reminder, OCM has filed a lawsuit to obtain the results of audits of the beef checkoff program. OCM board member Fred Stokes said his group doesn’t want any of NCBA’s proprietary information, but “We sure are demanding to see how our checkoff funds have been spent by NCBA, who we feel is responsible for hiding the truth from cattle producers. It’s our money; it’s our right to know.” A refresher on the case can be found here.
EPA searching for environmental justice. The agency released the second installment of its environmental justice strategic plan covering the years 2016 through 2020. Among other things, the agency pledges to make progress on ”significant national challenges” facing minority and low-income communities, including providing safe drinking water, improving air quality and cleaning up hazardous waste. It also said that in the future, it expects to focus on “issues of concern to overburdened communities that may warrant attention at the national level” including pesticide impacts on farmworkers.
Paul Schlegel, director environment and energy policy with the American Farm Bureau Federation, said he hasn’t studied the document which was released Thursday yet, but said AFBF has no problem with the concept of environmental justice.
“Everyone deserves environmental justice,” he said, “but we have to wait and see how this promise works itself out in specific policies.”
A reminder: House Republicans aren’t big fans of WOTUS. A new House Oversight Committee report says EPA “made no effort to ensure the (Waters of the U.S.) rule was based on sound science.” The 181-page majority staff report also said that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “was cut out of the rule development process,” but that the Corps “pulled its primary WOTUS staffer off the rule entirely and retaliated against him after he recommended to conduct the analysis.”
The committee’s ranking member, Maryland’s Elijah Cummings, said the rule “will help protect drinking water for millions of Americans.”
Avacad-oh my. California’s Hass avocado growers would face new competition, but U.S. consumers could see some slightly lower prices, under a new Agriculture Department proposal to admit imports from Colombia.
In its latest market-opening move, the Agriculture Department on Thursday published for public comment the proposal that Colombia’s Hass avocados be admitted into the United States so long as a number of phytosanitary requirements are met.
“A growing U.S. population and growing Hispanic share of the population, greater awareness of the avocado’s health benefits, year-round availability of fresh, affordable Hass avocados and greater disposable income have contributed to the increased demand,” the department stated. Annual U.S. avocado production over the last decade averaged 206,368 tons, of which California accounted for 87.5 percent. Read more here.
He said it: Randy Mooney admitted USFRA’s new approach is a more aggressive methodology than the group has used in the past, but “we can’t sit back anymore and let this happen.”
“When something is out there that's outrageously wrong, all of us are going to have to speak up and attack it.”
Steve Davies, Sara Wyant, Dan Enoch, and Phil Brasher contributed to this report.


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