UN: Global food prices are lowest in 30 months

Led by “much weaker” vegetable oil, dairy, and grain prices, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s index of global food prices fell to its lowest level since May 2016. The price of vegetable oil dropped to a 12-year low.

Climate change puts more than a billion people at risk of iron deficiency

Rising levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will reduce the amount of nutrients in staple crops such as rice and wheat, say researchers at Harvard's public health school. As a consequence, more than 1 billion women and children would lose a large amount of their dietary iron intake and be at larger risk of anemia and other diseases.

U.S. share of Mexico rice market lowest in two decades

Mexico is the largest rice importer in the Western Hemisphere and the top market for U.S. rice, but American dominance is slipping, says USDA's monthly Grains: World Markets and Trade report. South American competitors are gaining ground, especially Uruguay, which is forecast to take 15 percent of the market. The U.S. share, which reached 100 percent after NAFTA took effect, is expected to drop to 80 percent, the smallest since 1996.

China makes progress on salt-tolerant rice varieties

Much of the arable land in China, the world's largest rice producer, is off-limits for growing rice because there is too much salt in the soil or in the available irrigation water. Researchers are making progress, however, on developing 200 varieties that tolerate salty water although at far lower levels than found in sea water.

The Alabama runoff election could affect 2018 farm bill

The newest member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Luther Strange of Alabama, is also the first to face the voters. The outcome of today's runoff election between Strange, cast as the establishment candidate, and Roy Moore, the Bible-quoting, conservative outsider, for the Republican nomination for the Senate could influence the course of the 2018 farm bill.

With phytosanitary agreement, U.S. nears rice exports to China

The United States is on the cusp of exporting rice to China for the first time, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, following a Sino-U.S. agreement on a protocol to prevent the introduction of rice pests into China. The trade group USA Rice said the agreement was "a tremendous leap" forward after a decade of work by the industry and USDA for access to the world's largest rice consuming nation.

Scientists find enzyme that helps rice plants block arsenic

Rice tends to absorb arsenic from the soil more readily than other food crops, prompting concern about the presence of the chemical in baby food. "Scientists have identified enzymes that help rice plant roots tame arsenic, converting it into a form that can be pushed back into the soil," thereby reducing the threat to humans, says Science News.

Crawford proposes disaster savings accounts for farmers

The chairman of a House Agriculture subcommittee proposed a tax-deferred disaster savings account that farmers could tap during hard times without waiting for government assistance. Rep. Rick Crawford said the damaging rains in his home state of Arkansas last month show the merit of letting producers take disaster preparedness into their own hands.

To break out of poverty, Vietnamese farmers break dikes

Farmers in Vietnam's southernmost province, Ca Mau, in the Mekong River delta, intentionally pierced four dikes erected against saltwater encroachment so they can convert rice paddies to seafood ponds. It was an illegal move, "but we just want to breed prawns to escape poverty," farmer Nguyen Thi Bi told Xinhua news agency as she stood on the edge of a newly created aquaculture pond.