Wednesday Roundup: Monsanto Wheat Suit

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A Kansas farmer has filed suit against ag giant Monsanto, saying the discovery of a field of genetically modified wheat is driving down U.S. prices, the Associated Press reports. The modified wheat, found in an Oregon field, was the same strain as one that Monsanto designed to be Round Up resistant. The seed isn’t authorized for use in the United States.

Farmer Ernest Barnes seeks unspecified damages in his lawsuit. He farms 1,000 acres near Elkhart in southwest Kansas. Barnes’ attorney says other lawsuits are in the works.

The United States exports about half its wheat crop, and many nations won’t accept genetically modified crops. Japan suspended some U.S. imports after the discovery of the unauthorized modified wheat. And South Korea said it would increase inspections of U.S. wheat.

Monsanto said the lawsuit was being drummed up by “tractor chasing lawyers.”

In 2011 Bayer CropScience announced it would pay $750 million to settle claims for contaminating the U.S. rice crop with genetically modified rice.

Rural Voters – Senate Democrats are pushing to pass the upcoming farm bill, which they believe is the key to appealing to rural voters and retaining their majority in 2014. With seats up for grabs in important agricultural states like Montana, South Dakota, Arkansas and North Carolina (all major GOP targets), Democrats have stepped up their rural outreach, according to an article in the Hill. As evidence, the Hill cites the rural summit, recently held by the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee. That gathering highlighted ways the farm bill would support business development through competitive grants, expanding access to broadband services, promoting conservation and lowering energy bills.

A Tradition of Excellence – Sheila Kay Adams, (a ballad singer from Western North Carolina), Ralph Burns (a Native American storyteller from Nevada), and Séamus Connolly (an Irish fiddler from Maine) are three of the nine individuals selected to receive the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. NEA National Heritage Fellowships recognize folk and traditional artists for their artistic excellence and efforts to conserve America’s culture. A complete list of this year’s recipients and a profile of their achievements can be found here.

The 2013 National Heritage Fellows will receive their awards in Washington D.C. September 25. The NEA will be accepting nominations for the next round of National Heritage Fellows until July, 15.

Panic and Pandemonium. The Financial Times has a cursory look at new population figures on rural America. (The Economic Research Service has reported on this trend, and the Yonder reprinted their reports here and here.)

There’s nothing new in the Financial Times story, but it did stick in our craw just a bit. It isn’t just that FT piece conflates rural with white and Republican (which is some of the story though not nearly all of it). It’s mostly the headline: “Rural US shrinks as young flee for cities.”

“Flee” is a great headline word – short, evocative (did we mention short?). But it sounds as if there’s pandemonium and panic in the heartland, with young people running in terror from an unnamed monster – perhaps an alien with a shrink-ray gun.

In fact, there’s other evidence that people under 40 find rural areas an appealing place to live. Some of these young people may even be fleeing cities. Who knows –  there may be some shrieking involved.

Smithfield Deal – Some Missourians are concerned about the proposed purchase of Smithfield by Chinese meat processor Shuanghui Holding Ltd., one of the largest food processors in China. A press release from the Missouri Rural Crisis Center calls the Smithfield plan “a prime example of how expanded corporate consolidation in agriculture has gone too far.” They also warn the deal could damage rural economies, narrowing the market for independent producers and raising retail prices.

The New York Times has a good story showing that the proposed Smithfield deal isn’t just a Chinese effort but a global bid with a strong American connection that includes Goldman Sachs.

Rural LISC – The nonprofit community development program Rural LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) has a new leader. Suzanne Anarde, a developer with more than two and a half decades of experience helping revitalize low-income rural communities, will direct the national rural program for LISC. Anarde has been with LISC since 2008, working with local community development groups in rural California, Oregon and Utah. She will replace Elise Hoben, who retired last month as Rural LISC’s program vice president, the release said.

 

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