Today’s quick hits, Dec. 22, 2020

Pink bollworm eradicated in Southwest: A combination of biotech cotton and conventional pest control has eradicated the pink bollworm, which had caused tens of millions of dollars of damage annually in the Southwest United States and northern Mexico, scientists report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (University of Arizona)

Biggest jump in food prices in nearly a decade: Consumers are seeing a 3.5 percent increase in grocery prices this year, the highest since the 4.8 percent surge in 2011. Meat prices are driving the increase this year, rising by 7.5 percent, just as they did nine years ago with an increase of 8.8 percent. (USDA)

Three states get one-fourth of Covid aid: Farmers in Iowa, California and Nebraska have collected nearly a quarter of the $23.4 billion paid through USDA’s coronavirus relief programs since May, with Iowa alone getting $2.4 billion. (FERN’s Ag Insider)

Tyson called the shots: As Covid-19 swept through a Tyson Foods pork slaughter plant in Waterloo, Iowa, local officials found they were powerless against the company. Top Tyson managers in Waterloo were directing interpreters to downplay the threat of infection at the plant, while privately making winner-take-all bets on how many workers would test positive. (ProPublica)

Vilsack and the rural voter: Tom Vilsack, selected for agriculture secretary by President-elect Biden, has called for years for Democrats to engage with rural America but skeptics question if a centrist approach will close the 2-to-1 gap with Republicans. (New York Times)