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Industry-in-Brief: Deere Acquires Stake in Hagie, Saudi Arabia’s Californian Land Purchase Sparks Debate, more

April 1, 2016

Deere Acquires Stake in Hagie

Mega agriculture equipment provider Deere & Co. is acquiring a majority stake in US crop sprayer maker Hagie Manufacturing, allowing the company to enter the high-clearance sprayer market. Currently, Deere does not offer a high-clearance sprayer. These machines enable farmers to apply pesticides, fertilizers, and other inputs later in the growing season when the crops get taller. As part of the deal, Deere will equip Hagie’s sprayers with precision technology and integrate Hagie’s sales and service into its global distribution channels over the next 15 months.

Saudia Arabia’s Purchase of US Farmland Sparks Debate

Almarai Co, the largest dairy company in Saudi Arabia, has caused quite a splash after reports indicated that it purchased 14,000 acres of alfalfa farmland in California’s Palo Verde Valley. Almarai, which already owns property near Vicksburg, AZ, plans to harvest the alfalfa and ship it back to Saudi Arabia to feed its herd of 170,000 cattle. Reports indicate that the company is facing an impending alfalfa shortage that could lead to more than just tears over spilled milk. Part of the backlash over the buy focuses on California’s drought-stricken status and the high volume of water that alfalfa production requires. Saudi Arabia abandoned efforts to cultivate water-intensive crops domestically roughly eight years ago when it enacted a policy designed to protect its scarcer resources. In response to the purchase, many commentators have criticized what they describe as California’s unreasonably strong protections for farmers and a failure to put a cap on how many acres of water-intensive crops Southwest farmers can cultivate.

Public Interest Groups Sue FDA Over Approval of GE Salmon

A broad coalition of environmental, consumer, and commercial and recreational fishing organizations have filed a lawsuit against the US Food and Drug Administration over its approval of AquAdvantage; an Atlantic salmon engineered to grow quickly, and the first GE animal approved for human consumption by the agency. The plaintiff coalition includes representatives from the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Golden Gate Salmon Association, Kennebec Reborn, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, Ecology Action Centre, Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Cascadia Wildlands, and Center for Food Safety.

The lawsuit challenges FDA’s claim that it has authority to approve and regulate GE animals as “animal drugs” under the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. It claims those provisions were meant to ensure the safety of veterinary drugs administered to treat disease in livestock and were not intended to address entirely new GE animals that can pass along their altered genes to the next generation. The approval of the GE salmon opens the door to other genetically engineered fish and shellfish, as well as chickens, cows, sheep, goats, rabbits and pigs that are reportedly in development, they warn.

500 Startups Launches Distro Dojo in Los Angeles

500 Startups is launching a Distro Dojo in Los Angeles and looking for 10 post-seed, pre-Series A companies with at least $100K in monthly revenue. The program consists a one-month residency at a Downtown Los Angeles location, where founders are provided resources to boost growth marketing for their companies, followed by two additional months of programming. The accelerator has already invested in more than 65 LA startups and is described by Crunchbase Insights as one of the most active LA-based internet startup investors. Last year, 500 Startups launched three Distro Dojos in London, Miami, and Kuala Lumpur. It hopes to launch 10 total for 2016. Click here to apply.

USDA Announces $5.2m for Nanotechnology Research

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced an investment of more than $5.2 million to support nanotechnology research at 11 universities. The universities will research ways nanotechnology can be used to improve food safety, enhance renewable fuels, increase crop yields, manage agricultural pests, and more. The awards were made through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the nation’s premier competitive, peer-reviewed grants program for fundamental and applied agricultural sciences.

Kellogg’s and ConAgra Jump on Voluntary GMO Labeling Train

As Kellogg Co and ConAgra join the recent list of food companies that have announced voluntarily GMO labeling schemes, Vermont is getting ready to put its controversial mandatory GMO labeling legislation into action. Effective July 1, 2016, all genetically modified food products sold and distributed within the state must bear a label indicating that the product contains GMO ingredients. The law includes a 6-month “safe harbor” provision for products distributed in the state before the compliance date. After January 1, 2017, however, a product without the necessary labeling could saddle penalties.

The Vermont AG recently issued a memo seeking to clear up some of the confusion about the law.

Multiple Congressional efforts to preempt the Vermont law from taking effect have stalled out in the House and Senate while a coalition of industry trade groups’ legal challenge to the bill is pending in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mahindra & Mahindra to Acquire Stake in Sampo Rosenlew

India’s largest tractor manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra has acquired a stake in Finland-based harvester manufacturer Sampo Rosenlew. The two companies will work closely to expand Sampo Rosenlew’s markets worldwide, as well as take advantage of each other’s expertise in developing operations and products. Sampo Rosenlew and Mahindra & Mahindra will jointly focus on developing the combine harvester business in India, China, Africa and the Middle East. For the international markets, it already operates in, Mahindra & Mahindra will also leverage Sampo’s combine harvester product portfolio. Sampo Rosenlew will continue in its existing core markets independently and with its current partners.

Ag Inputs Provider Univar Acquires Nexus Ag

Univar Canada has acquired the assets of Nexus Ag Business. Founded in 1997, Nexus Ag is a wholesale fertilizer distributor in Western Canada’s agriculture market and offers a broad range of products, including micronutrients, specialty fertilizers, potash, phosphates, and liquid and soluble nutrients from leading North American producers. The company operates from six regional warehouse locations and is based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. In October 2015, Univar acquired Future Transfer and BlueStar Distribution expanding its capabilities within the Canadian agriculture market with logistics, warehousing, packaging, and formulation services. With the addition of Nexus Ag, Univar Agriculture’s distribution network now includes 16 facilities in four provinces with more than 1.2 million square feet of Agrichemical Warehousing Standards Association warehouse space, the most in Canada.

Elsevier Announces the Launch of Rhizosphere

Soil health is a hot topic in today’s agricultural world. Elsevier, a provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services, has launched a new publication called Rhizosphere, a multidisciplinary journal devoted to publishing research on the interactions between plant roots, soil organisms, nutrients, and water. This field of research has developed rapidly in the past few years and has the potential to contribute to important findings in soil ecology, crop science, and plant science, contributing answers to major research questions in sustainability and agricultural development. Rhizosphere will focus on papers that discuss how communications at the rhizosphere, with soil organisms and other plant species, affect root exudates and nutrient uptake.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew:

  • Americans will each eat an average of 3 pounds of beef this year on average, the first increase since 2006, according to USDA data, Bloomberg News reports.
  • A new organization called the Academy of Food Law Professors launched this week to help create a forum for discussing the increasingly popular field of food law and policy.
  • Fortune reports that soda consumption is at a 30 year low. Surprisingly, many beverage industry trade groups are shaking up the debate over proposed soda taxes by using statistics like this to argue that sugary drinks are not solely to blame for the nation’s obesity and diabetes epidemics.

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