This week’s top stories in food & ag:
Trump vetting Gov. Otter to head USDA. Idaho governor Butch Otter is being vetted as a potential secretary of agriculture, his press secretary, Jon Hanian, confirmed Wednesday. The Daily Caller noted that Gov. Otter returned from a trade mission to China in November, and has made efforts to boost his state’s international trade with missions to Vietnam, South Korea, and Taiwan. The U.S. agriculture industry is economically dependent on trade, exporting $133 billion in 2015. President-elect Trump is also considering Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp for ag secretary, a move his rural advisers are pushing back on, reports POLITICO.
Rep. Zinke tapped for Interior Secretary. President-elect Trump has selected Montana’s first-term representative, Rep. Ryan Zinke, to serve as secretary of the Department of the Interior, reports the Washington Post. He opposes transferring federal land to states, recently criticized an Interior Department rule aimed at curbing inadvertent releases of methane from oil and gas operations on federal land as ‘duplicative and unnecessary.’ ‘Clean air and clean water are absolute top priorities when we talk about responsible energy development, however the final rule issued by the Obama administration does nothing to further protect our resources,’ he said in a statement. ‘This rule is a stark reminder that we need to invest in infrastructure projects like the Keystone pipeline, so we don’t need to flare excess gas.’”
USDA Proposes Updated Marketing Protection Rules for farmers. The Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) released Farmer Fair Practices Rules on Wednesday, outlining criteria that would entitle farmers to compensation, such as the abrupt suspension of a delivery of birds.
Monsanto shareholders approve merger with Bayer. On Tuesday, Monsanto’s shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favor of its acquisition by Bayer, with 99 percent of votes cast in support of the sale. CEO Hugh Grant said in a statement, that the approval “is an important milestone as we work to combine our two complementary companies and deliver on our shared vision for the future of agriculture. By bringing together our expertise and our resources to drive this shared vision, we can do even more together to benefit growers around the world and to help address broad global challenges like climate change and food scarcity.”
Soda taxes are good revenue enhancers but fail to curb consumption. Harvard’s finding that nearly 4,000 deaths could be prevented by enacting a 1 cent tax per ounce on soda in 15 major cities was based on a computer model that isn’t grounded in reality, argues columnist Guy Bentley at Reason. In Mexico, the “tax took effect in 2014 and after an initial decline in the average purchases of taxed sugary beverages of six percent, sales are on now on the up again. Coca-Cola Femsa SAB, Mexico’s biggest coke bottler, reported in April that soda volumes in the country rose 5.5 percent, from the previous year” while Arca Continental SAB, the second largest, saw sales soar by 11 percent. “similar pattern was observed in Finland, with its tax on confectionery items introduced in 2011. Within a year, shops were reporting sales returning to pre-tax levels following a modest decline.”