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Boots on the Ground

The latest developments and trends in the agribusiness industry

MO Supreme Court Rules in Agricultural Nuisance Case

Posted in Uncategorized
Jean Paul Bradshaw

The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that a statute that limited recovery in nuisance cases involving agricultural operations is constitutional.  Plaintiffs had sued a hog farm in Boone County claiming that the odor from that farm constituted a nuisance and wanted millions of dollars for the “loss of use and enjoyment” of their property.  It was one of a series of cases filed by out-of-state plaintiffs lawyers against hog and cattle producers.  Some of those cases resulted in verdicts that exceeded the value of the plaintiff’s property.

In 2011, the new law was enacted that limited recovery in nuisance cases to the loss of the value in the plaintiff’s property, along with any documented medical condition proved to be caused by the nuisance.  Damages for “loss of use and enjoyment” were eliminated.  The legislature passed the statute in order to promote the growth of Missouri’s largest industry – agriculture.

Lathrop & Gage is proud to have assisted in drafting the statute and to have represented Missouri Farmers Care and the National Pork Producers Council in the Missouri Supreme Court.

This Week in Ag: Grains, Drones and Droughts

Posted in Uncategorized
Russ Eggert

Grain futures – weekly outlook: March 23 – 27


U.S. grain futures rallied sharply on Friday, with wheat prices hitting a four-week high, as a broadly weaker U.S. dollar lifted demand for dollar-denominated commodities.The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a trade-weighted basket of six major currencies, tumbled 1.4% on Friday to end at 98.05, moving further away from a 12-year high of 100.78 hit on March 13.


California Tightens Water Use Restrictions as Drought Worsens

Ag Web

California regulators approved additional statewide restrictions on water use as the record drought gripping the most populous U.S. state enters a fourth year. The new rules by the California State Water Resources Control Board prohibit residents from watering lawns within 48 hours after a rain storm and limit watering to just two days a week. Restaurants and bars can only serve water if asked by a customer. Hotel and motel operators must offer patrons the option of not having towels and linens washed daily. Residents and businesses face fines for failing to follow the rules.


The future of farming: Drones, robots and GPS


Today’s agriculture has transformed into a high-tech enterprise that most 20th-century farmers might barely recognize. After all, it was only around 100 years ago that farming in the U.S. transitioned from animal power to combustion engines. Over the past 20 years the global positioning system (GPS), electronic sensors and other new tools have moved farming even further into a technological wonderland. Beyond the now de rigeur air conditioning and stereo system, a modern large tractor’s enclosed cabin includes computer displays indicating machine performance, field position and operating characteristics of attached machinery like seed planters.


Family Farms Remain the Cornerstone of U.S. Agriculture


As you can imagine, Census of Agriculture is a virtual data gold mine for an agricultural demographer. And as we celebrate U.S. agriculture this week, with the help of the Census data we can focus on the key element of our nation’s agriculture – family farms.

Of the 2.1 million farms in the United States in 2012, 97 percent were family-owned operations. Eighty-eight percent of all farms were small family farms. This group included farms such as retirement farms, farms with operators working part-time off-farm, as well as farms with less than $350,000 in gross cash farm income.

This Week in Ag: The Future of the Farm Bill

Posted in Uncategorized
Jean Paul Bradshaw

Think tank says U.S. farm bill payments to peak with 2015 crop


Government support for U.S. grain farmers under the new five-year farm bill will peak with the coming 2015 crop, the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute said in a new report.The 2014 farm bill replaced traditional direct payments to farmers with support tied to market prices, with farmers needing to choose one of two basic formulas by March 31.


Farm Bill By Crop

Ag Web

This year’s farm bill decisions are anything but clear cut. That’s the prevailing theme as crop producers choose programs for the next five years. With deadlines just around the corner, it’s time to crunch numbers on Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC). Bear in mind commodity prices will be a major factor in determining payouts.



Paying farmers not to farm? Not exactly

Harvest Public Media

Farmers face plenty of risk, including the unknowns of weather, global markets and the more predictable expenses of taxes and equipment costs.Federal commodity support programs were created to help farmers during bad years. But under a relatively unknown provision of federal law, farmers don’t have to actually grow a particular crop to get farm bill payments.

That might sound like “paying farmers not to farm,” but it’s actually a complicated way of helping to reduce over-dependence on one crop.


USDA Announces Funding Available for Specialty Crop and Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Programs


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack yesterday announced the availability of more than $66.5 million in funding for research and extension activities to address the needs of America’s specialty crop industry and solve critical organic agricultural production issues. The grants will be funded through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative. Both programs are administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and made available through the 2014 Farm Bill.


This Week in Ag: Biofuels, GMOs and Droughts

Posted in Uncategorized
Robyn Anderson

UPDATE 2-U.S. EPA to Propose Biofuels Standards This Spring


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to offer a proposal for Renewable Fuels Standards for 2014, 2015, and 2016 this spring, and will use actual production levels to determine last year’s mandated volumes, an official said on Thursday.


California: No Drought Help for Central Valley Farms

New York Times

A federal agency said on Friday that it would not release water for most Central Valley farms this year, forcing farmers to continue to scramble for other sources or leave fields unplanted. Many farmers had been bracing for the announcement by the agency, the Bureau of Reclamation, as California’s drought enters its fourth year.


EU Nations Get Power to Ban Genetically-Modified Crops

Associated Press

The European Union is giving member states the power to ban the cultivation of genetically-modified crops even if they have been approved by the bloc’s food safety authority.

The 28 EU member states on Monday approved the rule that national governments can have the final say in the matter — a move that goes counter to many EU initiatives, which traditionally seek a common stance on EU policies.


Projected Soybean Plantings Surprisingly Low


Current expectations are for lower commodity prices in the 2015-16 marketing year,” said University of Illinois agricultural economist John Newton of $3.50-per-bushel corn, $9 soybeans and $5.10 wheat. “In large part, due to these lower commodity-price expectations, USDA projects total wheat-, corn- and soybean-planted acreage at 228 million acres in 2015, down 3.1 million acres from 2014.

This Week in Ag: Farming Forecast

Posted in Uncategorized
Wally Brockhoff

The Future Of Agriculture? Smart Farming


The agricultural sector is going to face enormous challenges in order to feed the 9.6 billion people that the FAO predicts are going to inhabit the planet by 2050: food production must increase by 70% by 2050, and this has to be achieved in spite of the limited availability of arable lands and the increasing need for fresh water. Forbes looks at how big data and interconnectivity may change the landscape of farming forever.

U.S. Farm Income Set to Drop 22% on Crop Slump, Cost Gain

Bloomberg Business

Declining commodity prices will reduce the 2015 cash profits of U.S. farmers to $89.4 billion, the third straight decline and the biggest single-year drop since 1931-1932, according to the Department of Agriculture.


As Rules Get Sorted Out, Drones May Transform Agriculture Industry


What makes the drone valuable to farmers is the camera on board. It snaps a high-resolution photo every two seconds. From there, Agribotix stitches the images together, sniffing out problem spots in the process. Knowing what’s happening in a field can save a farmer money.


USDA Announces More Than $160 Million Available in Funding for Food and Agriculture Research, Education, and Extension


The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced the availability of more than $160 million in funding for research, education, and extension projects that address key challenges affecting U.S. agriculture production. NIFA will fund the awards through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).


Nation’s Orange Crop Faces Triple Whammy of Drought, Cold, Ports


Orange crops in Florida and California—by far the country’s two largest producers—are fighting battles on almost every front a farmer can face. As boxes of California citrus fruit rot on the docks amid dragging labor disputes at the state’s shipping ports, Florida growers are concerned that a blast of frigid air that’s expected to hit the state on Thursday will freeze next year’s orange crop before it even grows.

This Week in Ag: Hot Crops, $16M in Farmer Support & Bt Corn regulations

Posted in Agribusiness, Food, Government, Uncategorized
Jay Felton

USDA Announces the Availability of $16 Million to Support Food Production


The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), part of The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announce new funding that aims to positively impact food production and security. The $16 million will support new and existing efforts in research and education, remove barriers to healthier food options for Americans, increase diversity and sustainability of crops and improve agriculture production systems.


U.S. Farmers’ Latest Hot Crop: Sorghum


China’s soaring appetite for animal feed and a shift in its buying preferences away from foreign corn have pushed imports of U.S. sorghum by china to 15 times higher than last year, with the price rising about corn in parts of the U.S. “This was about the first year ever when I really felt like I was in control and was not afraid to name my price,” a Nebraska sorghum farmer said.


Crop Roundup: EPA Proposes New Requirements for Bt Corn


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of drafting a new framework on how farmers use Bt corn. Currently seeking public comments on the proposed changes, the aim of the new framework is to delay corn rootworm pests from becoming resistant to corn genetically engineered to produce Bt pesticides. The EPA is concerned with corn rootworm’s development of resistance to Bt corn.


U.S. Lawmakers Preparing Cuba Telecomms, Agriculture Bills: Aides


With relations between the U.S. and Cuba thawing, legislators are drafting a series of bills aimed at easing economic restrictions between the two countries in the early draft, one bill would address the market for agriculture products in Cuba, and another would be a broader effort to lift the decades-old embargo.




2014: The Year in Ag

Posted in Agribusiness, Farming, Government
Jay Felton

This year was a memorable one for the agriculture industry. From passing the Farm Bill to the unpredictable weather and record harvests, farmers experienced many highs and lows. As we head into the new year, let’s take a look at what we experienced throughout 2014. Here are five of the top agricultural stories from 2014:

1.       Missouri Right to Farm

Missouri farm families celebrated in August when the Missouri Farming Rights Amendment passed, and again in September, when the amendment’s passage was upheld after a challenge. The amendment, often called the “Right to Farm,” provides constitutional protection to Missouri farmers and ranchers from any future attempts to pass laws regulating anything from how livestock are raised to the use of genetically modified crops.

2.       Farm Bill Passes

In February of this year, Congress gave final approval for a new, five-year farm bill. The $956.4 billion package was unveiled just a week prior and quickly made its way through Congress in just a few days. The bill will save billions by consolidating conservation programs by the government, and it also authorizes the end of billions of dollars in direct subsidy payments to farmers. In the place of direct subsidy payments is a new crop insurance program. The bill has been a huge win for our clients as well as the nation’s farmers.

3.       GMO

The debate over genetically modified crops continued throughout 2014. Late in the year, a meta-analysis was released. It revealed that the effect of GM crops on farming has been overwhelmingly positive. Additionally, in December, Chinese officials lifted the ban on Syngenta’s GMO corn trait MIR 162, along with two varieties of biotech soybeans, a huge step for a country that has been historically strict about GMO imports. Since the lift, China has signed contracts for 15 cargo shipments of dried-distillers grain for next year. We anticipate the GMO debate will continue in 2015 and beyond.

4.       Record Harvests and Changing Weather

2014 saw record harvests for both corn and soybeans. With USDA estimates reaching 4 billion bushels of soybeans and 14.5 billion bushels of corn for the year, farmers around the country were hit hard when demand could not keep up with the harvest. However, some states, particularly California struggled with a severe drought for the majority of 2014 and were forced to rely on water reserves, pushing farmers to be strategic with the crops they planted. With increased rainfall throughout the last few weeks, California farmers still need sustained precipitation through winter and spring to make up for the 36-month shortfall.

5.       Big Data

The term “big data” took off this year in the agriculture world. Crop farmers anticipate that precision farming might be the next agricultural revolution. Major players like John Deere and DuPont have become leaders in this sector, touting scores of information that, when compiled, could help provide an in-depth, comprehensive data model, providing farmers with more tools to make vital crop decisions. Controversy remains between these organizations and critics, who state that the companies that believe data should remain private. The topic continues to be debated and likely will continue to be discussed through 2015.

From making a record harvest in soybeans, to making history with the passage of Right to Farm, 2014 has seen a wide variety of issues and events affect both family farmers and large-scale operations. At Lathrop & Gage, we continue to stay updated and informed on all changes in the agriculture industry to better serve the needs of our clients, wherever they may need us. We wish everyone happy holidays, and we look forward to seeing you in 2015!

Best wishes,
Jay Felton

This Week in Ag: December 18, 2014

Posted in Agribusiness, Environmental, Government
Boots on the Ground
  • Reuters discussed how our nation’s agriculture will benefit from the progress made between US and Cuba relations. As the US works to repair these relations with Cuba, exports of farm goods will be cheaper, less time-consuming for shippers, and it will become significantly easier to sell US farm products to Cuba. In the past, agricultural trade has been limited by financial and regulatory hurdles, which the government is now trying to eliminate. With this, Cuba will be able to engage in business relations with the US at a much higher level, ultimately benefitting US farmers.
  • Farm Futures reported that Chinese officials lifted the ban on Syngenta’s GMO corn trait MIR 162 along with two varieties of biotech soybeans. China’s approval process for GMO traits has long been criticized by US agriculture groups, and since last year the country had rejected over 1.2 million tons of corn cargoes because of the ban. Since China’s lift on the ban, they have signed contracts for as many as 15 cargo shipments of dried distillers grain for next year.
  • Science World Report looked at the impact of climate change on agriculture in an effort to determine what agriculture might face in the years to come. The researchers conducted an analysis, creating a global scenario covering nine different climate scenarios, 18 crops and four crop management systems. They found that the biophysical impacts vary greatly across crops, management systems and regions, which in turn creates opportunities for adaptation. It will require major transformations in agricultural systems that will require careful planning in order to get adaptation right.
  • USDA has provided greater protection for specialty crop growers, such as those who grow fruits and vegetables. The protection is available from the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program for crops that were previously ineligible for federal crop insurance. They will provide greater coverage to specialty crop growers and will help ensure that farm families will be able to withstand losses after natural disasters.

Dairy Farmers of America and China’s Yili to build plant in Kansas

Posted in Dairy
Stephen Sutton

Last month, our client Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) announced a joint venture with their partner China’s Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co Ltd. to build a plant to produce powdered milk in Kansas. They plan to invest $70 million, while $30 million will come from Yili. The new plant will produce 80,000 metric tons of milk powder each year, although the amount that will be sold in China was unspecified.

“There is a huge demand for dairy products in China. Like other developing nations, China is building up its dairy industry, but dairy is a complicated blend of agriculture, science and business,” said associate professor of dairy science at University of Wisconsin Madison, Pamela Ruegg, in a China Daily USA article last month. The growth in China’s dairy market has resulted in several deals over the last year.

The partnership between DFA and Yili to create the Kansas plant is both timely and relevant as China’s milk consumption is rising, and it is estimated that China will be the world’s largest dairy market by 2017. In 2008, China’s melamine scandal resulted in the death of six infants and 300,000 sick children. Since then, doubts among Chinese consumers have remained prevalent, and China’s desire for overseas producers, specifically for foreign milk, has greatly increased. While dairy sales have stagnated in developing economies, China is growing at roughly 10% per year, and premium milk brand demand is growing at almost twice that rate.

Data shows that over the last five years, China has been pursuing an increased number of international deals in the agribusiness and dairy sectors. In 2010, Chinese companies invested $86 million in three deals, and so far this year, they have invested $8.4 billion in 11 deals.

In July of last year, Yili and DFA formed a strategic alliance and are continuing to strengthen their relationship through the announcement of this new plant. DFA is a cooperative based in Kansas City, Missouri, accounting for one-third of the output of raw milk in the United States and representing nearly 13,000 producers across 48 states. They process raw milk, bought from members, into dairy products for wholesale.

This Week in Ag: December 11, 2014

Posted in Farming, Food, Natural Resources, Row Crops
Boots on the Ground
  • CBS News discussed the increase in meat prices throughout 2014, led by a record high for U.S. beef prices. Retail prices on all fresh meats were up by roughly 12.4% through October of this year compared to the same time period last year. The primary issues behind the increase appear to be weather, disease and increased demand.
  • The Wall Street Journal  looked at the future of agriculture in Africa. Almost half of the world’s uncultivated land suited for growing crops is on the continent, and an estimate of nearly 50% of the produce in some countries never makes it to market. Morocco is providing a strategy that other African countries could follow to boost their agricultural output. The country has amplified its agricultural productivity, increasing output by more than 40% since 2008 by implementing the strategy aimed at growing farming and commercial agriculture through reforms in areas such as water management, improved access and more (Subscription Required).
  • USDA announced the kick off of the International Year of Soils, which aims to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil in everyday life as it relates to food security and essential ecosystem functions. Working with U.S. farmers and ranchers to take care of the soil to ensure that agricultural practices are sustainable, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NCRS) focuses on soil conservation, classification and studies.
  • Fox Business reported that the USDA’s latest crop update shows few adjustments to production estimates. In the report, the USDA did not change the number of corn acres planted this year, though many analysts expect it might increase. The USDA’s minor adjustments reflect an increased demand for corn and soybeans as farmers in 22 states are expecting record corn and soybean yields.