Today’s quick hits, August 22, 2019

Threat forces USDA officials off crop tour (Reuters): USDA employees, including a leader of its crop statistics agency, left a midwestern crop tour because of a telephone threat of violence midway through the four-day examination of corn and soybean fields, according to three unnamed sources.

Suicide in organic-grain fraud scheme (AP): Randy Constant, the man described as the central figure in the fraudulent marketing of conventional grain as higher-priced organic corn and soybeans, died of suicide at his home soon after being sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.

USDA cuts buyout offer to $10,000 (Government Executive): Instead of the original offer of a $25,000 payment to Economic Research Service employees who decided against moving to Kansas City, the buyout payment will be $10,000, the USDA said this week. Employees have until Aug. 26 to decide whether to accept the offer.

Saving cabernet from climate change (UCANR): In “the mother of all cabernet trials,” University of California specialists, a vineyard, and a nursery will study 10 rootstock and 10 cabernet sauvignon clone combinations to see which will grow best in a warmer world and still produce the highest yields and best-quality grapes.

Fires surge in the Amazon (BBC): Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who favors economic development, shrugged off a government report of an 84 percent increase in the number of fires — more than 74,000 from January to August — in the Amazon rainforest this year.