China Seed Trade, Contracting With Emojis & More
China Plans to Secure Domestic Seed Supplies
China’s quest for food security is making its seed industry a top policy priority, and President Xi Jinping has ordered the country’s top anticorruption enforcers to focus on rooting out illicit trade in low-quality and substandard seeds. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the Chinese government has “taken to comparing seeds to advanced semiconductor chips, a technology that China has pledged to master in its quest for a national renaissance.” But corruption in the seed trade has been widespread and plagued with fake varieties and poor quality seed passed off as top-quality genetics. A Chinese newspaper cited a case in which a seed company paid local officials to sell low-germinating seed across 30 villages in Sichuan resulting in substantial losses to farmers. Thus, authorities in China are cracking down on fraudulent practices in the domestic seed and grain industries.
While China views its seed industry as strong enough to withstand being cut off from foreign supplies, seed quality lags behind the U.S. where the Federal Seed Act and state seed laws impose strict requirements for selling agricultural and vegetable seed. You can read more here.
Farmer’s Thumbs Up Emoji Results in a Binding Contract
Tiffany Lashmet of Texas A&M reported on a recent case out of Canada finding that a binding contract for delivery of flax was created when a farmer texted a thumbs up emoji in response to a picture of the written contract. For several years South West Terminal (SWT) bought grain from Acher Land & Cattle (Acher) through deferred delivery contracts. Around 2020, after discussing contracts over the phone, SWT started texting pictures of the contracts to Acher and asking for confirmation of the terms. In response to these text pictures, Acher responded on various occasions with “looks good,” “Ok,” and “Yup.” In 2021, SWT and Acher discussed a flax contract over the phone, after which SWT texted a picture of a written contract to Acher with the message, “Please confirm flax contract.” Acher responded to this text with a thumbs up emoji. When Acher failed to deliver the flax by the contract’s delivery date, SWT sued.
Archer argued that the thumbs up emoji only meant that it received the contract, not that it accepted it. But the Court found that in light of the parties’ prior dealings in which they entered into contracts via text message, the emoji signaled Archer’s acceptance of the flax contract and was binding. The result in the case relies quite a bit on the parties’ prior course of dealing with one another. The case is also a cautionary reminder to be mindful and diligent in commercial communications, particularly during contractual discussions. Although firing off a quick text message or email is easy, it is just as easy to misinterpret by the recipient unless your intentions are clearly stated. A solid, written document that is signed by the parties is always the best way to contract. You can read more in Tiffany’s article here.
Proposed Ag Labeling Bill a Bad Bet for Agriculture
A Bill (H.R. 4288) to amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) was introduced by Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) which will immunize pesticide manufacturers from liability for problems or damages caused by their products. This misguided Bill ignores the fact that EPA does not review product performance data for virtually all pesticides, and has not reviewed such data for decades. EPA itself has even stated that product performance issues should be handled in the marketplace, which would include legal actions by agricultural producers that experience adverse performance by pesticides. Rep. Johnson’s Bill would eliminate the ability of farmers and ranchers to hold pesticide manufacturers accountable. The Bill’s backers are using scare tactics to suggest that States are imposing labeling requirements that will result in the loss of pesticide tools for agricultural community, but the reality is all of these tools remain widely available for use. In short, this Bill is a solution looking for a problem to solve that doesn’t exist.
With the Farm Bill coming up for negotiation in the coming months, it would not be surprising to see Rep. Johnson’s Bill slipped into the text of the massive Farm Bill legislation for covert passage. This would be a blow to the farm community.