#AgAlerts: Climate change; pesticides; Gates Foundation Ag Center

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A roundup of news, reports, and research on agribusiness and related issues.

It’s often seen as the silver lining set against the dark clouds of climate change: As precipitation patterns change and cold parts of the planet warm up, the quantity of potential farmland could grow immensely. In just the last decade, for example, farmers in northern Alberta, Canada, have started to produce corn in areas where the growing season had long been too short to do so. The wine industry has been expanding successfully into England, Norway, and other parts of Northern Europe. Meanwhile, Russia and its neighbors have seen growth in the land available for wheat, barley, and other grain production.

DOURADOS, Brazil — Waldir Brasil could see that the truck driver was terrified. His hands were shaking. His knee was jiggling. Whatever the driver had in the back of his trailer, the highway cop concluded, it wasn't legal. Along one of Latin America’s most lucrative smuggling routes, where Brazil and Paraguay share an expansive and virtually unpatrolled border, Brasil had seen every illegal good imaginable. But now, another illicit product — one that, until recently, he couldn’t have imagined — was increasingly appearing.

ST. LOUIS — The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has plans to establish a new nonprofit agriculture center in St. Louis. The Seattle-based philanthropic organization said in a statement last week that it plans to headquarter its new nonprofit, Bill & Melinda Gates Agricultural Innovations, in the greater St. Louis area. The nonprofit will be called Gates Ag One and is designed to focus its research on helping “smallholder farmers adapt to climate change and make food production in low- and middle-income countries more productive, resilient, and sustainable.”

Bayer AG faces an extraordinary challenge as it tries to settle tens of thousands of claims that its Roundup weedkiller causes cancer: The product remains on the shelves, making it almost impossible to put the litigation to rest forever. Experts say Bayer is in an unusual position compared with other companies that have faced multibillion-dollar lawsuits over their products. To end mass-tort litigation, other companies generally have discontinued or altered their products or added warning labels—all of which are problematic for the German pharmaceutical and agricultural firm.

Missouri agriculture officials are struggling to address a backlog of complaints from farmers who allege that dicamba-based herbicide drift from another farm has damaged their crops. The Missouri Department of Agriculture has about 600 pending pesticide investigations. Some of them date back to 2016, the year that Bayer-owned Monsanto began selling its dicamba-tolerant soybeans. State legislators are considering a budget request the state agriculture agency made last week to hire more staff to help address complaints. “We had a team that was the right size for an average year of around 100 complaints, and the number of them coming in has been the No. 1 complicating factor,” said Sami Jo Freeman, the agriculture department’s communications director.