USDA Gains Partners for Ag Competition, Old Viroid Gets New Host and More
USDA Partners With State Attorney Generals for Ag Competition
The United States Department of Agriculture recently created the Agricultural Competition Partnership, a new partnership with State Attorney Generals in 31 states to specifically focus on competition in agricultural markets and anticompetitive market structures. The new partnership stems from a request by several states for USDA to establish support for state antitrust enforcers and cooperation between federal and state agencies to promote fair and competitive markets. USDA has committed $15 million to funding the partnership’s activities, including support for enforcement actions, academic and market research into business practices, training in competition law, and new enforcement infrastructures. You can read more from the USDA here.
Cover Crops With Dual-Purpose Potential
A small handful of cover crops are emerging with a dual purpose as a potential cash crop for producers. Pennycress, camelina, and carinata are oilseed crops that are gaining attention not only as cover crops between growing seasons, but also for their strong potential to serve as feedstocks for renewable fuels, particularly jet fuel. All three have a higher oil content than soybeans which is currently a leading source of renewable fuels. Major oil companies BP, Chevron, and ExxonMobil have all invested in these crops to supply sustainable fuels. The University of Florida began a Carinata research and development program in 2011 and has been conducting regional testing throughout the Southeast since 2018.
To realize their revenue potential, these crops will typically need to be grown under contract with a processor. The contracts will bring obligations that impact producer profitability and add management responsibilities that would be unnecessary for straight cover crops. You can read more in the Wall Street Journal here.
Old Viroid Finds New Host in Cannabis
Hop latent viroid (HLVd), an infectious pathogen, has spread rapidly throughout cannabis crops in the U.S. and Canada resulting in significant losses to cultivators. HLVd, also known as “dudding disease” was initially discovered in hop plants in the 1970s and was shown to reduce yields and the compounds that add aromas and bitterness to beer. In cannabis, HLVd infection can cause severe yield loss as well as a significant reduction in the psychoactive compounds of the plants, i.e., plants become “duds.” There is currently no known cure or control for HLVd.
Although cannabis has become a major horticultural and agricultural crop, its illegal status under federal law and patchwork state laws has prevented the typical research and coordination among industry professionals and academics that would address such problems for most crops. Commom problems that have been solved for other crops, such as pest control and breeding resistant cultivars, have often come from land grant universities and USDA researchers collaborating on vexing production problems. But this sort of cooperative industry research will likely remain elusive until cannabis is de-regulated at the federal level.
Proposed Ag Labeling Bill a Bad Bet for Agriculture
We’re continuing our call to the Ag community to oppose the Agricultural Labeling Uniformity Act (H.R. 4288) to amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) introduced by Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD). This Bill 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. A copy of the Bill is available here.
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.