#AgAlerts: EPA; trade deal; Bayer and disaster aid

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

The Trump administration has formally revised a proposal that would significantly restrict the type of research that can be used to draft environmental and public health regulations, a measure that experts say amounts to one of the government’s most far-reaching restrictions on science.

The revisions made public Tuesday evening mean the Environmental Protection Agency would give preference to studies in which all underlying data is publicly available. That slightly relaxed restrictions in an earlier draft that would have flatly excluded any research that did not offer up its raw data, even if that data included medical information protected by privacy laws or confidentiality agreements.

The Trump administration would face resistance from the U.S. Congress if it tried to push through a mini trade deal with the European Union that did not include agriculture, U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said on Wednesday.

In an interview with Reuters, Grassley, a Republican from the farm state of Iowa, said he saw a chance of getting results in negotiations with the European Union under the leadership of its new trade commissioner, Phil Hogan.

Bayer has opened what the firm calls its new smart, state-of-the-art, automated greenhouse facility in Marana, Arizona. Company officials says this is part of Bayer’s plan to provide farmers with innovative, sustainable, and technically advanced agricultural solutions.

Bayer officials say the Marana greenhouse facility is the first of its kind for the company and the most technically advanced. The approximately $100 million facility will serve as a global product design center for corn, the only crop to be grown there. Additionally, the Marana facility will capitalize on innovation advancements in proprietary seed chipping, advanced marker technology, automation, and data science. 

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it would distribute $285 million in natural disaster aid to sugar beet farmers, who faced one of the worst harvests in memory last year due to severe weather conditions. The money—which will be distributed to growers via the sugar processing cooperatives that they are a part of—will likely be a welcome financial stopgap, as some farmers are still waiting on bank loans to fund this year’s operations.

Inexhaustible sources of methane such as hog and cow manure and food waste from restaurants are powering a growing renewable natural gas industry, and Utah consumers now have an opportunity to boost that effort.

Dominion Energy customers can elect to buy blocks of renewable natural gas at $5 each, added as a surcharge to their monthly gas bills. Dominion uses funds from this GreenTherm program to purchase renewable natural gas from methane recapture plants, either in Utah or around the country.