Corporate farming notes

Farm and Food

Bayer settles Roundup suits

Bayer, maker of the widely used herbicide Roundup, will pay $10 billion to settle tens of thousands of claims filed by consumers alleging a link between their use of Roundup and their cancer, most notably non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Claimants will receive between $5,000 and $250,000 each, depending on the strength of their case. The company admits no wrongdoing in the settlement.

Bayer still faces at least 30,000 claims from plaintiffs who did not agree to settle.

Bayer purchased Monsanto in 2018; they dropped the name Monsanto at merger. The merged company controls more than a quarter of the world’s seed and pesticides market.

Meatpacking profits soared along with COVID-19

As workers and advocates struggled to get meatpackers to distance workers, slow lines, and provide protective gear, company profits soared.

Take one plant, for example. The kill capacity at the Tyson Foods plant in Dakota City, Nebraska, is 6,000 head per day. At the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak there, packers were clearing $700 per head in profit on cattle. That means that this one plant was generating $4 million per week in profit for Tyson Foods.

Record profit margins were driven by panic buying that drove meat prices up in the grocery store at the same time as slaughter capacity shortages drove live animal prices down for producers.

One out of 12 people in Dakota County has tested positive for COVID-19. Twenty-nine have died.

Meatpacker profits soared while farmers faced steep losses and workers faced severe illness and death.

CARES Act relief sidesteps payment limits

Congress included $9.5 billion in aid to farmers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) included in the CARES Act. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) later announced that with additional funds on-hand, up to $16 billion would be made available in aid. 

In implementing the program, the USDA chose to ignore already insufficient payment limitations for farm programs. Operations structured as corporations, limited liability companies, or limited partnerships will be allowed to receive higher payments, and producers with adjusted gross income over $900,000 remain eligible for payments so long as 75 percent of their income is from farming, ranching, or forestry. The program does not require applicants to broadly demonstrate economic harm from COVID-19, only that they show a change in their inventory, production or shipment of eligible commodities.

While the USDA has stated publicly that CFAP is not first-come, first-served, because the USDA is making very large operations eligible for payments and allowing for payments up to $750,000, funds are still more likely to dry up before smaller producers are able to access assistance.

Farmers and ranchers interested in applying should contact their Farm Service Agency office as soon as possible.