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4-H seeks nominees for National Ag Day Student Leadership Training

The National 4-H Council is offering an agriculture leadership opportunity for 10 students to represent 4-H in the 2020 National Ag Day events in Washington, D.C. this spring. Students will participate in a training at the National 4-H Conference Center from Sunday, March 22 to Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

The Agriculture Council of America (ACA) sponsors a total of 100 student representatives from across the country to participate in the training and attend the National Ag Day activities on Capitol Hill. The students — from FFA, AFA, 4-H and Student NAMA — put a face on the future of agriculture and personally emphasize the importance of agriculture in our everyday lives.

Thanks to support from Bayer, the 10 4-H representatives will receive an additional day of programming focused on topics such as ag policy, ag journalism, and government affairs. The Bayer sponsorship will cover the 4-H representatives’ travel expenses as well as an additional (Sunday) night of lodging. The remaining onsite expenses of rooms, meals and ground transportation will be covered through the ACA sponsorship. To start the application process: 

  • Each state 4-H office may nominate up to two delegates to represent 4-H.
  • Nominees must submit their application by midnight on Friday, December 6, 2019.
  • Participants will be selected through a competitive application process
  • 4-H representatives should:
    • Be between the ages of 18-23 and enrolled in post high school education
    • Be 4-H alum or currently active in collegiate 4-H
    • Have a strong interest and/or career plan in the agricultural industry
    • Have the desire to learn about communication and leadership skills

Nominees will respond to questions on the online application. In addition to the questions, a letter of reference from a 4-H professional must be submitted. To be considered as a 4-H representative for the 2020 National Ag Day Student Leadership Training, nominees must submit the requirements by midnight on Friday, December 6, 2019. 

If you have any questions, contact Beth Hecht, [email protected], 301-221-4859

Read infringement

Syngenta files patent infringement suit against Atticus

Syngenta is suing agrochemical maker Atticus LLC over allegations of patent infringement. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, alleges, among other things, that Atticus’ Acadia 2 SC, Acadia ESQ, Aquila XL, Artavia 2 SC, and Artavia Xcel products each infringe certain Syngenta patents relating to the manufacture of azoxystrobin fungicide.

Atticus’ infringement enables it to unfairly compete in the crop protection market and benefit from significant product development investments made by Syngenta, the original developer of azoxystrobin. The lawsuit seeks to permanently stop Atticus’ infringement of Syngenta’s intellectual property rights, to recover damages adequate to compensate Syngenta for Atticus’ infringement, and to obtain other equitable and monetary relief.

Syngenta has invested significant resources in researching, developing, and ultimately commercializing azoxystrobin, a breakthrough fungicidal chemical, which effectively controls a variety of plant diseases and enhances the yield of crops, including cereals — such as wheat and barley, fruits, vegetables, bananas, rice, soybeans, corn, turf, and ornamentals. Syngenta has marketed a number of azoxystrobin products, including those under the trade names Abound, Heritage, Quadris, and Quilt.

The stringent regulatory approval process and high cost of research and development for new crop protection chemistries require a major commitment: the average time to bring a new crop protection product to market is up to 11 years and can cost $286 million.

At the time of this posting, no public statement or response from Atticus was available.

Read Conservation Stewardship

USDA invites input on Conservation Stewardship Program rule

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service seeks public comments on its interim final rule for the Conservation Stewardship Program. CSP, the nation’s largest conservation program in terms of participating land, is designed to help farmers have more robust conservation activities. The rule — now available on the Federal Register — takes effect upon publication and includes changes to the program prescribed by the 2018 Farm Bill.

“We’re excited to roll out an updated Conservation Stewardship Program,” NRCS Chief Matt Lohr said. “We know the program is important to American farmers and ranchers, especially those who want to build on existing conservation efforts while strengthening their operations.”

Changes to CSP include:

  • Increasing payment rates for adoption of cover crop rotations.
  • Introducing a new supplemental payment for advanced grazing management.
  • Creating one-time payment for developing a comprehensive conservation plan.
  • Providing specific support for organic and transitioning to organic production activities.

As part of implementing the 2018 Farm Bill, NRCS has streamlined CSP by basing contracts on funds instead of acres, bringing it in line with the agency’s other large conservation program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Additionally, NRCS is aligning CSP with EQIP through common applications, contracting operations, conservation planning, conservation practices and related administrative procedures.

“These changes will result in greater efficiency in program delivery and reduced burden on producers,” Lohr said.

Submitting Comments

The interim final rule becomes effective upon publication in the Federal Register. NRCS invites comments on this interim rule through January 13, 2020. Electronic comments must be submitted here under Docket ID NRCS-2019-0020. All written comments received will be publicly available here.

NRCS will evaluate public comments to determine whether additional changes are needed. The agency plans on publishing a final rule following public comment review.

Applying for CSP

CSP is offered in all 50 states and the Pacific and Caribbean areas through continuous sign-ups. The program provides many benefits, including increased crop yields, decreased inputs, wildlife habitat improvements and increased resilience to weather extremes. CSP is for working lands including cropland, pastureland, rangeland, nonindustrial private forest land and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe.

NRCS will make available $750 million for interested producers in fiscal 2020. NRCS state offices will announce sign-up periods for CSP in the coming weeks. Additionally, CSP participants may have an opportunity to renew their contracts in the first half of the fifth year of the five-year contract.

For more information on how to sign up for CSP in your state, visit your state website from nrcs.usda.gov or contact your local NRCS field office.

Read bankruptcy

Dairy product leader files for bankruptcy, DFA considers purchase

Dean Foods Company, America’s largest milk producer, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and is considering the sale of its assets. Dean Foods intends to use this process to protect and support its ongoing business operations and address debt and unfunded pension obligations while it works toward an orderly and efficient sale of the company.

Dean Foods also announced that it is engaged in advanced discussions with Dairy Farmers of America regarding a potential sale of substantially all assets of the company. If the parties ultimately reach agreement on the terms of a sale, such transaction would be subject to regulatory approval and would be subject to higher or otherwise better offers in the bankruptcy.

In a statement to Michigan Farm Bureau, DFA confirmed interest in purchasing Dean Foods. “Today, Dean Foods announced it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and is engaged in discussions with DFA regarding the purchase of Dean Foods’ assets,” Monica Massey, executive vice president and chief of staff of DFA, said in a statement. “As Dean Foods is DFA’s largest customer, our focus is ensuring we have secure markets for our members’ milk. Thanks to the strategic planning and management by our farmer Board of Directors and management team, the Cooperative is in a financial position to withstand a situation like this.”

With a shift to dairy alternatives and Walmart creating their own processing store, this is not coming as shock to some. Reuters reported, “Dean Foods, which has a market valuation of about $74 million, had a net debt of about $968 million at the end of June.”

Dean Foods is operating in the ordinary course of business and remains focused on providing its customers with wholesome, great-tasting dairy products and the highest levels of quality, service, and value. Dean Foods has received a commitment of approximately $850 million in debtor-in-possession (“DIP”) financing from certain of its existing lenders, led by Rabobank. Following court approval, the company expects to use the DIP financing, together with cash on hand and operating cash flows, to support its continued operation throughout this process, including payment of employee wages and benefits without interruption and payment to suppliers and vendors in full under normal terms for goods and services provided on or after the filing date.

 

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