The little-known U.S. Judicial Panel on Mulitdistrict Litigation is scheduled to hear arguments on Jan. 25 in Miami on one of the hottest issues in agriculture — claims of crop damage due to the weedkiller dicamba, said the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The panel will decide whether to centralize more than a dozen lawsuits filed in four states against the makers of dicamba, which would mean one court would oversee the cases.
In another sign of trouble for so-called advanced biofuels, the newly created giant corporation DowDuPont stopped operations at its $225 million cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa, and hopes to find a buyer for the plant with a 30-million-gallon-a-year capacity, said the Des Moines Register. Last December, Abengoa Bioenergy sold its cellulosic plant in Hugoton, Kan., for pennies on the dollar as part of a bankruptcy liquidation of assets.
Following an explosion of complaints about crop damage by the weedkiller dicamba, the EPA strengthened its rules for spraying the herbicide onto genetically modified cotton and soybeans. The new guidelines require special training of applicators before they can spray dicamba, limit the time of day when it can be used and bar spraying when winds exceed 10 miles an hour, a reduction from the 15 mph limit this year.
In the wake of this summer’s widespread damage to soybeans and other crops caused by the unintended drift from applications of the weedkiller dicamba, Reuters reports that EPA regulators told state officials that they are considering a ban on use of the herbicide after a cutoff date early next year. The idea would be to limit spraying to early spring, before soybeans emerge from the ground.
Missouri has tightened its rules for dicamba, permitting use of the herbicide only during the day and if winds are mild, as agriculture officials in the mid-South try to contain crop damage from the weedkiller sprayed on cotton and soybeans. Widespread reports of damage have left some growers feeling forced into buying dicamba-tolerant GE seed.
Dow Chemical and E.I. DuPont can carry out their planned $130 billion merger if they agree to sell off some of their pesticide and petrochemical business, said the Justice Department. Justice’s antitrust division said the divestitures would preserve competition in the ag chemical sector.
In a multibillion-dollar asset swap, Dow is selling part of its crop protection operation to FMC and and picking up nearly all of FMC's health and nutrition business. As part of the deal, FMC will acquire a Dow agricultural research center in Newark and turn it into the global research and development center for FMC, which is based in Philadelphia, says the Wilmington News Journal.
The administrative arm of the European Union approved the merger of Dow and DuPont based on their promises to divest some assets, says Deutsche Welle. It was the first decision on a wave of proposed consolidations that would reshape the seed and ag-chemical sector into a "big three," down from the six firms that now compete.
To satisfy EU regulators, U.S.-based Dow and DuPont offered to sell part of DuPont's crop protection business along with its associated research and development and Dow's business in copolymers and ionomers, said the News Journal. The companies hope to complete their $130 billion merge in the first half of this year.
The Justice Department review of the merger of Dow and DuPont is "pretty far down the road" and the arrival of Donald Trump as president is unlikely to affect the transaction, said DuPont chief executive Ed Breen in a Reuters interview. "I don't think it will have any impact," said Breen, who noted the review is being handled by career civil servants.
More than 300 companies, including Monsanto and Unilever, called on President-elect Donald Trump, President Obama and Congress to continue U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement, reports NPR. The international treaty commits countries to lowering global climate emissions and keeping world temperature increases below two degrees beyond the pre-industrial standard.
The seed and ag-chemical industry "is seemingly on the precipice of a significant structural transformation," says Senate Judiciary chairman Charles Grassley in remarks written for today's hearing on consolidation in the sector. Five of the "big six" companies are involved in mergers while two Canadian companies are combining to form the world's largest fertilizer company.
The man that would lead the agriculture division created by the merger of U.S. giants Dow and DuPont says the companies expect to close the merger by the end of this year despite ongoing antitrust reviews, said DTN.
Ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on consolidation in the seed and ag chemical sector, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission say they will consider the combined impact of mergers as well as the import of each deal. If they go forward, the mergers would result in three dominant companies in the sector instead of the current six.
U.S. farm income is down sharply from the records set in 2013, with little improvement forecast in the near term. "If something doesn't change between now and 2018, we will be in a big crisis," said Zippy Duvall, president of the largest U.S. farm group, during a luncheon session with reporters, referring to the target date for Congress to overhaul farm policy law.
Two of the largest seed and agricultural chemical companies of the world, Bayer and Monsanto, will combine in a deal valued at $66 billion. Monsanto chief executive Hugh Grant said the merger, in which Bayer buys Monsanto for cash, will result in "an innovation engine that pairs Bayer’s crop protection portfolio with our world-class seeds and traits and digital agriculture tools to help growers overcome the obstacles of tomorrow."
The Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit in federal court in Chicago to block Deere and Co., the world's largest farm equipment maker, from buying Precision Planting, its chief competitor in selling high-speed seed planters to farmers. The government says the two companies account for at least 86 percent of sales of the planters, which are expected to become the industry standard.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Glassley of Iowa said he would hold hearings next month on "a wave of consolidation among seed and chemical producers, including the merger of Dow and DuPont," the Des Moines Register reported. The announcement came one day after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States approved the $43 billion merger of ChemChina and Swiss-based Syngenta, which has significant operations in the United States.