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News Article | May 13, 2017
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

The Trump administration is planning to nominate Sam Clovis — the Department of Agriculture’s senior White House adviser — as head of USDA’s Research, Education and Economics division, according to individuals briefed on the decision. The move would mark a break with recent Republican and Democratic administrations alike, which have previously reserved the high-level position for scientists with expertise in agricultural research. Clovis — a former economics professor and talk radio host in Iowa who served as one of the Trump campaign’s first policy advisers — has bachelor’s degrees in political science and government, a master’s in business administration and a doctoral degree in public administration, according to his LinkedIn page. In other public biographies he’s emphasized his 25-year stint in the Air Force and expertise in national security and foreign policy. As Agriculture’s White House senior adviser, Clovis has played a key role in the department since President Trump took office. He helped run USDA during the time before Secretary Sonny Perdue took office, and he signed off on directives such as one employees received just after Inauguration Day that instructed them to clear any public communications in advance with the secretary’s office. The job he’s now under consideration for, Agriculture’s undersecretary of research, education and economics, ranks as a top-level science position that oversees the department’s extensive scientific mission. The department’s chief scientist also oversees Agriculture’s economic bureaus, including the Natural Agricultural Statistics Service and the Economic Research Service. Clovis’s expertise appears most closely related to these bureaus. [Senior White House advisers are Trump’s eyes and ears in federal agencies] The possible appointment of Clovis was first suggested Friday by Agri-Pulse. An Agriculture spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday. Reached by phone, Clovis said, “I can’t speak to the press.” Congress established the post in the 1994 Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act, and during the past two presidential administrations, it has been occupied by scientists and public health professionals. The position’s description was updated in the 2008 farm bill to clarify that the undersecretary will also hold the title of the department’s chief scientist, and that the position “shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, from among distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.” In 2001, then-President George W. Bush appointed to the post Joseph Jen, a comparative biochemistry PhD who had previously headed the University of Georgia’s Division of Food Science and Technology and served as the dean of the College of Agriculture at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Bush later nominated Gale Buchanan, a plant physiologist, to the post in 2006. When Barack Obama took office he tapped Rajiv Shah, who holds both a medical degree and a master of science in health economics from the University of Pennsylvania, for the post. Catherine Woteki, who earned her doctorate from Virginia Tech and held senior positions at USDA, Health and Human Services and the White House Office of Science and Technology, served as Agriculture’s chief scientist from Sept. 16, 2010 until Jan. 20, 2017. A food nutrition expert, Woteki served as Iowa State University’s dean of agriculture for five years between Bill Clinton’s and Obama’s time in office. The current acting undersecretary, Ann Bartuska, is described as an ecosystem ecologist who’s served on multiple scientific councils and panels, including the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, criticized the prospect of Clovis’s selection. “If the president goes forward with this nomination, it’ll be yet another example of blatant dismissal of the value of scientific expertise among his administration appointees,” Salvador said in a statement. “Continuing to choose politics over science will give farmers and consumers little confidence that the administration has their interests at heart.” Woteki said in an interview with ProPublica on Friday that since the position serves as the agency’s chief scientist, the occupant “should be a person who evaluates the scientific body of evidence and moves appropriately from there.” In the past, Clovis has challenged the scientific consensus that human activity is the primary driver of climate change over the last 50 years. In a 2014 interview with Iowa Public Radio, Clovis suggested that “a lot of the science is junk science. It’s not proven; I don’t think there’s any substantive information available to me that doesn’t raise as many questions as it does answers. So I’m a skeptic.” In the same radio interview, Clovis said, “I have enough of a science background to know when I’m being boofed,” though he did not detail any past research experience involving the hard sciences. As the undersecretary, issues related to climate change would fall under Clovis’s purview. A 2010 Agriculture Department report, “A Roadmap for USDA Science,” states that “agricultural and forestry ecosystems are climate dependent and could be affected in myriad ways by a changing climate” and suggests that the agency “anticipate and accommodate climate change effects such that agriculture, forestry, and U.S. producers realize net benefits.” While Clovis does not appear to have conducted extensive research in the hard sciences, he is a veteran Republican Party activist who joined Trump’s presidential campaign. In addition to working as a talk radio host, he served as a professor of economics at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, and made an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 2014. During that Senate run, Clovis described his credentials for running in an Iowa Public Radio interview: “25 years in the military, and the various jobs and opportunities I had while serving the nation, my experience as a business man, and my academic preparation … my experience in a variety of other fields, including homeland security, foreign policy, national security policy, creating jobs and all those things.” In 2015, Clovis took a leave of absence from his position at Morningside College to join the Trump campaign as a chief policy adviser. In this position, he inspired controversy among the college’s administration with his role in developing a Trump campaign proposal that would ban Muslims from entering the United States, a university spokesman told the outlet Iowa Starting Line. “This is not the Sam Clovis that we knew when he was here. Sam was a staunch defender of the Constitution and a strong advocate for religious freedom,” said university spokesman Rick Wollman. “If he played a role in drafting or advising the Trump campaign on this issue, we will be outraged and extremely disappointed in Dr. Clovis.”


News Article | May 14, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

In Trump's world, you don't have to be a scientist to land a high-level science job. President Donald Trump has reportedly picked Sam Clovis — a conservative talk show radio host and climate change denier — to be the "chief scientist" of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's research division. If appointed, he'll oversee key scientific work on everything from nutrition to the effects of rising temperatures on food supplies. SEE ALSO: Here's why thousands of scientists are (and aren't) marching on Saturday The top position is supposed to be filled by "distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics," according to the 2008 Farm Bill. Yet Clovis, who was one of Trump's earliest campaign advisers, doesn't exactly check off the required boxes, according to reports by the Washington Post, ProPublica, and other outlets. He does hold bachelor's degrees in political science and government, along with a master's in business administration and a doctoral degree in public administration, his LinkedIn page shows. He's also spoken publicly of his 25-year service in the Air Force and emphasizes his expertise in foreign policy and national security. But Clovis has never taken a graduate course in science and has published almost no academic work — two bare-minimum requirements of any fledgling scientist. Instead, the Iowa native is better known for his conservative radio show "Impact With Sam Clovis" and for passionately advocating for Trump on television. He also made an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 2014. Clovis's leadership of the USDA's Research, Education, and Economics division would be his third agriculture-related role with Trump. On the campaign trail, Clovis advised Trump on agricultural issues, and he is now the senior White House adviser within the USDA. As the division's undersecretary, Clovis would oversee the USDA's extensive scientific mission and its economic bureaus, including the Natural Agricultural Statistics Service and the Economic Research Service. Catherine Woteki, who was the undersecretary during the Obama administration, said appointing Clovis to that position would be like tapping someone without a medical background to lead the National Institutes of Health, one of the world's foremost medical research centers. "This position is the chief scientist of the Department of Agriculture. It should be a person who evaluates the scientific body of evidence and moves appropriately from there," she told ProPublica. The USDA's undersecretary for research, education, and economics has historically consulted on a wide range of issues for which a scientific understanding is crucial, including the Zika and Ebola outbreaks and homeland security issues related to food safety, Woteki told the news organization. Climate change-related issues also fall under the undersecretary's purview. Yet Clovis has decried the mainstream scientific consensus that human activity is primarily to blame for global warming as "junk science." "I don’t think there’s any substantive information available to me that doesn’t raise as many questions as it does answers," Clovis said in a 2014 interview with Iowa Public Radio. "So I'm a skeptic.” The Trump administration's hostility toward scientists and their research hardly comes as a surprise.  Last week, the Environmental Protection Administration said it would not reappoint half the expert members of a board that advises the agency on the integrity of its science.  Instead, Trump's EPA will potentially consider replacing the academic scientists with people who work for chemical and fossil fuel companies — as in, the industries whose pollution the EPA is supposed to regulate. WATCH: This is the biggest indoor vertical garden in the world


DAVIS, Calif. and GUADALAJARA, Mexico, May 09, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Agri-Star, a company of Albaugh, LLC group and a leading distributor of crop protection products in Mexico and Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (NASDAQ:MBII) (MBI), a leading provider of effective and environmentally responsible pest management and plant health products, announced today the companies have signed an exclusive agreement to distribute and market two MBI bioinsecticides, GRANDEVO® and VENERATE® in Mexico. These advanced broad-spectrum bioinsecticides offer protection against chewing and sucking insects and mites including thrips, whiteflies, Asian citrus psyllid, armyworms and other pest caterpillars, Lygus bug, mealybugs and soil-inhabiting pests. Mexico is a major producer and exporter of fruits and vegetables, with exports to the U.S. alone totaling US$19.3 billion in 2013-15, according to the USDA Economic Research Service. Mexican growers of exported produce must meet the increasing demands of consumers, retailer preferences and government restrictions on chemical and pesticide residues, making Mexico the second largest user of biopesticides in North America according to “Biopesticides Market – North America Industry Growth, Trends and Forecasts (2017 – 2022).” Dr. Pam Marrone, MBI’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer, commented, “We are proud to add Agri-Star to our growing network of partners. The combination of their market knowledge and expertise and our proprietary microbial technology will provide Mexican growers with badly needed solutions for insect control. Our effective and environmentally responsible biological products help growers around the globe control pests, improve plant health, and increase crop yields while decreasing chemical residues on food and fighting the development of pest resistance.  We look forward to delivering economic and environmental value to Mexican growers as we continue to expand our presence in this large and growing market.” Carlos Betancourt, Marketing Leader of Agri-Star said, “Grandevo and Venerate are excellent additions to our growing portfolio of specialty products that help growers achieve their production goals in a sustainable way, while providing economic advantages and a return on investment to growers.” About Agri-Star Agri-Star is one of the leading agricultural distributors in Mexico, headquartered in Guadalajara, Jalisco and is part of Albaugh, LLC  the largest global privately-held producer of post-patent herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and plant-growth regulators. In México, Agri-Star is an important participant in the copper market and a leader with Hi Bio Technology. Smart. Natural. Solutions. Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (NASDAQ:MBII) strives to lead the movement to a more sustainable world through the discovery, development and promotion of biological products for pest management and plant health.  Our effective and environmentally responsible solutions help customers operate more sustainably while controlling pests, improving plant health, and increasing crop yields. We have five products for agriculture on the market (Regalia®, Grandevo®, Venerate®, Majestene®, and Haven™), and also distribute Bio-tam 2.0® for Isagro USA in the western U.S.  MBI also markets Zequanox® for invasive mussels for water markets. We have a proprietary discovery process, a rapid development platform, and a robust pipeline of pest management and plant health product candidates. At Marrone Bio Innovations we are dedicated to pioneering better biopesticides that support a better tomorrow for users around the globe.  For more information, please visit www.marronebio.com. Marrone Bio Innovations Forward Looking Statements This press release contains forward-looking statements that involve substantial risks and uncertain-ties.  All statements, other than statements of historical facts, included in this press release regarding strategy, future operations and plans, including assumptions underlying such statements, are forward-looking statements, and should not be relied upon as representing MBI’s views as of any subsequent date.  Examples of such statements include statements regarding sales of the Company’s products, including GRANDEVO and VENERATE, in Mexico and other markets, the potential benefits of the Company’s products, and MBI’s efforts with respect to expansion of its product labels. Such forward-looking statements are based on information available to the Company as of the date of this release and involve a number of risks and uncertainties, some beyond the Company's control, that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated by these forward-looking statements, including consumer, regulatory and other factors affecting demand for the Company’s products, any difficulty in marketing MBI’s products in Mexico, competition in the market for pest management products, lack of understanding of bio-based pest management products by customers and growers, and adverse decisions by regulatory agencies and other relevant third parties.  Additional information that could lead to material changes in MBI’s performance is contained in its filings with the SEC.  MBI is under no obligation to, and expressly disclaims any responsibility to, update or alter forward-looking statements contained in this release, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.


News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: www.prnewswire.com

"Farmers have been resilient in the face of challenging headwinds over the past few years," said William J. Thone, AgriBank chief executive officer. "It is a testament to their hard work and the Farm Credit Associations that support them. With further stress on the horizon, our work to provide capital to rural communities and agriculture has never been more important." Net income increased $5.1 million, or 4.1 percent, to $129.5 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2017, compared to the same period of the prior year. Net interest income increased to $143.1 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2017, compared to $140.6 million for the same period of the prior year, primarily due to increased interest rates on wholesale loans. Provision for loan losses was $2.0 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2017, compared to $3.0 million for the same period of the prior year. Non-interest income increased to $19.6 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2017, compared to $16.7 million for the same period of the prior year. This increase was primarily driven by increased mineral income, due to higher oil and gas prices. Total loans decreased $1.0 billion, or 1.2 percent, to $85.1 billion from year-end 2016, primarily due to paydowns on wholesale loans. This decrease reflects seasonal repayments on operating lines in the production and intermediate-term sector at District Associations, following draws prior to year-end for tax-planning purposes. The adequate liquidity and solid equity positions of most retail borrowers of the District Associations are reflected in the sound credit quality of the AgriBank portfolio at 99.6 percent loans classified as acceptable as of March 31, 2017. Loans classified as acceptable represent the highest quality assets. Credit quality remains relatively consistent with the position at December 31, 2016. The credit quality of AgriBank's retail loan portfolio moderated slightly to 95.0 percent classified as acceptable at March 31, 2017, compared to 95.5 percent at December 31, 2016. This moderation was driven primarily by continued low net farm income levels for certain borrowers, which has resulted in credit quality downgrades mostly in the production and intermediate term loan sector. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (USDA-ERS) projects net farm income for 2017 to decline $6.0 billion, or 8.8 percent, to $62.3 billion for 2017, from the revised 2016 estimate of $68.3 billion. Aggregate farm balance sheet forecasts indicate that U.S. farmers are likely to see limited deterioration in their equity position in 2017 due to slight declines in farm asset values and increasing total farm debt. An improving outlook for the U.S. economy is expected to support domestic demand for most agricultural commodities in 2017. The primary area of risk will remain the export side of the demand equation, with a strong dollar and increasing uncertainty surrounding the future of U.S. trade policy. Producers who are able to realize cost and marketing efficiencies are most likely to weather the current low price environment. Optimal input usage, adoption of cost-saving technologies, and effective utilization of hedging and other price risk management strategies are all critical in yielding positive net income for producers. Total capital remains very strong, increasing $67.1 million during the first quarter to $5.6 billion, driven primarily by net income, partially offset by patronage distributions declared. Cash and investments totaled $15.4 billion at quarter-end, compared to $16.0 billion at the end of 2016. The Bank's end-of-the-period liquidity position represented 149 days coverage of maturing debt obligations, which supports AgriBank's operational demands, and is well above the 90-day minimum established by AgriBank's regulator. Effective January 1, 2017 the regulatory capital requirements for Farm Credit System Banks and Associations were modified. The revised requirements are intended to be comparable to the Basel III framework, while considering the cooperative structure of the Farm Credit System, and to improve transparency and ensure institutions hold sufficient capital to fulfill their mission as a government-sponsored enterprise. As of March 31, 2017, AgriBank exceeded all regulatory capital minimum requirements, including additional regulatory buffers. AgriBank is one of the largest banks within the national Farm Credit System, with over $100 billion in total assets. Under the Farm Credit System's cooperative structure, AgriBank is primarily owned by 17 affiliated Farm Credit Associations. The AgriBank District covers America's Midwest, a 15-state area stretching from Wyoming to Ohio and Minnesota to Arkansas. With about half of the nation's cropland located in the AgriBank District and over 100 years of experience, the Bank and its Association owners have significant expertise in providing financial products and services for rural communities and agriculture. For more information, please visit www.AgriBank.com. Any forward-looking statements in this press release are based on current expectations and are subject to uncertainty and changes in circumstances. Actual results may differ materially from expectations due to a number of risks and uncertainties. More information about these risks and uncertainties is contained in AgriBank's annual report. The Bank undertakes no duty to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/agribank-reports-first-quarter-2017-financial-results-300455249.html


DAVIS, Calif. and GUADALAJARA, Mexico, May 09, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Agri-Star, a company of Albaugh, LLC group and a leading distributor of crop protection products in Mexico and Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (NASDAQ:MBII) (MBI), a leading provider of effective and environmentally responsible pest management and plant health products, announced today the companies have signed an exclusive agreement to distribute and market two MBI bioinsecticides, GRANDEVO® and VENERATE® in Mexico. These advanced broad-spectrum bioinsecticides offer protection against chewing and sucking insects and mites including thrips, whiteflies, Asian citrus psyllid, armyworms and other pest caterpillars, Lygus bug, mealybugs and soil-inhabiting pests. Mexico is a major producer and exporter of fruits and vegetables, with exports to the U.S. alone totaling US$19.3 billion in 2013-15, according to the USDA Economic Research Service. Mexican growers of exported produce must meet the increasing demands of consumers, retailer preferences and government restrictions on chemical and pesticide residues, making Mexico the second largest user of biopesticides in North America according to “Biopesticides Market – North America Industry Growth, Trends and Forecasts (2017 – 2022).” Dr. Pam Marrone, MBI’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer, commented, “We are proud to add Agri-Star to our growing network of partners. The combination of their market knowledge and expertise and our proprietary microbial technology will provide Mexican growers with badly needed solutions for insect control. Our effective and environmentally responsible biological products help growers around the globe control pests, improve plant health, and increase crop yields while decreasing chemical residues on food and fighting the development of pest resistance.  We look forward to delivering economic and environmental value to Mexican growers as we continue to expand our presence in this large and growing market.” Carlos Betancourt, Marketing Leader of Agri-Star said, “Grandevo and Venerate are excellent additions to our growing portfolio of specialty products that help growers achieve their production goals in a sustainable way, while providing economic advantages and a return on investment to growers.” About Agri-Star Agri-Star is one of the leading agricultural distributors in Mexico, headquartered in Guadalajara, Jalisco and is part of Albaugh, LLC  the largest global privately-held producer of post-patent herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and plant-growth regulators. In México, Agri-Star is an important participant in the copper market and a leader with Hi Bio Technology. Smart. Natural. Solutions. Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (NASDAQ:MBII) strives to lead the movement to a more sustainable world through the discovery, development and promotion of biological products for pest management and plant health.  Our effective and environmentally responsible solutions help customers operate more sustainably while controlling pests, improving plant health, and increasing crop yields. We have five products for agriculture on the market (Regalia®, Grandevo®, Venerate®, Majestene®, and Haven™), and also distribute Bio-tam 2.0® for Isagro USA in the western U.S.  MBI also markets Zequanox® for invasive mussels for water markets. We have a proprietary discovery process, a rapid development platform, and a robust pipeline of pest management and plant health product candidates. At Marrone Bio Innovations we are dedicated to pioneering better biopesticides that support a better tomorrow for users around the globe.  For more information, please visit www.marronebio.com. Marrone Bio Innovations Forward Looking Statements This press release contains forward-looking statements that involve substantial risks and uncertain-ties.  All statements, other than statements of historical facts, included in this press release regarding strategy, future operations and plans, including assumptions underlying such statements, are forward-looking statements, and should not be relied upon as representing MBI’s views as of any subsequent date.  Examples of such statements include statements regarding sales of the Company’s products, including GRANDEVO and VENERATE, in Mexico and other markets, the potential benefits of the Company’s products, and MBI’s efforts with respect to expansion of its product labels. Such forward-looking statements are based on information available to the Company as of the date of this release and involve a number of risks and uncertainties, some beyond the Company's control, that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated by these forward-looking statements, including consumer, regulatory and other factors affecting demand for the Company’s products, any difficulty in marketing MBI’s products in Mexico, competition in the market for pest management products, lack of understanding of bio-based pest management products by customers and growers, and adverse decisions by regulatory agencies and other relevant third parties.  Additional information that could lead to material changes in MBI’s performance is contained in its filings with the SEC.  MBI is under no obligation to, and expressly disclaims any responsibility to, update or alter forward-looking statements contained in this release, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.


Impossible Foods has raised more than $200 million to make a burger engineered from plants that tastes at least as good as ground beef. Patrick O. Brown, the CEO of the five-year-old food startup, is a famed Stanford geneticist who previously started the nonprofit Public Library of Science. The company’s many backers (among them Bill Gates, Li Ka-Shing, UBS, Khosla Ventures and Viking Global) aren’t just betting on Brown — they are hoping to disrupt the massive “animal products” industry with food that is not only appealing and affordable, but produced in an environmentally sustainable way. Traditionally, making “protein” requires massive feedlots, slaughterhouses and medicines and chemicals to treat and process animals. Although Impossible Foods has stated ambitions, and raised funds, to replace an array of animal products with those engineered from plants, success with just the one category of ground beef could bring it outsized returns. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, consumers purchased 25.67 billion pounds of beef at restaurants and groceries last year, and around 5 billion of that was ground beef for hamburgers, spaghetti and other popular restaurant items. Impossible Foods is on target to open its Oakland, Calif. factory this summer. The factory should produce 1 million pounds of “plant meat” per month, the company has confirmed, to be sold only to restaurants and prepared by professional chefs for now. We interviewed Pat Brown at a StrictlyVC event this month and asked how Impossible Foods is putting its capital to work, and whether or not VCs really know what they’re doing in food. We also asked what Brown thinks of “clean meat” companies using synthetic biology to grow meat from a few animal cells in a lab. TC: What you make at Impossible Foods has been called a “fake burger,” a “vegan burger that bleeds” and “plant meat.” How do you think of your product? PB: We think of it as meat made a better way… Meat today basically is made using pre-historic technology, using animals to turn plants into this very special category of food that is defined by a particular kind of delicious flavor, sensory experience and nutritional profile with general affordability and accessibility. But to your typical consumer, like your hardcore American burger lover, the value proposition of meat has nothing to do with its coming from an animal any more than the value prop of transportation 200 years ago had anything to do with its being a horse… Unlike the cow — first of all, it’s not even trying to be delicious! And it stopped improving at that a million years ago. We are able to optimize our meats for deliciousness, sustainability, nutrition and affordability. And we are able to keep getting better and better. TC: Why not try “clean meat,” or lab-grown meat from animal cells? PB: The simple answer is because that is one of the stupidest ideas ever expressed. First of all, it’s not true you can do a better job that way. Because then you buy into, at best, the same limitations that a cow has. And it’s economically completely un-scalable. If we could grow tissues that were a meaningful replica of animal tissues at an affordable price from stem cells, it would revolutionize medicine. Look around you. It’s not happening. TC: Venture investors have backed some of those companies. So I’m wondering what you think about VCs in food. Do they know what they’re doing? PB: It’s not about VCs in food actually. I love VCs, and particularly the ones that invested in us. But it is truly astonishing how little diligence they do in terms of the actual science that underlies some tech companies. Sometimes, some of the VC firms we work with will ask me to take a look at a company. But it doesn’t really matter what I say because sometimes I’ll say, ‘If I were you I’d just flush my money down the toilet because it is faster and easier.’ But it doesn’t matter! They’ll do the deal. TC: Would it help for venture firms to have scientists in-house? PB:  Yes! It certainly would. Not only that but to listen to them and to really look critically — sometimes it’s just like, do the math! Anyway, and I’m not being ironic here, I also think one of the great things about the venture world is that people will make wild bets on things that they see as highly risky, like a science-based product they haven’t done diligence on, but it has the potential for a huge payoff. We would have never gotten any money if that wasn’t true. We have raised more than $200 million and have amazingly great investors. We don’t let anyone invest. We are very psyched about who they are. They have to understand this. And if they are looking for a quick exit, look elsewhere. We’ve told them we are not going to be acquired. Forget about that. The market we are going after is a $1.5 trillion global market based entirely on a prehistoric technology that hasn’t improved materially in a million years. So that’s like a no-brainer in a certain sense from a financial standpoint. But we look for people who see the financial gain and really believe in our mission. We will never put anything on the market that we don’t believe, based on all the science, is healthier than what it replaces. That’s table stakes, if you’ll pardon the phrase. But we also don’t accomplish anything from a health or environment perspective if nobody buys our product. So we have to make products that sell primarily on deliciousness.


News Article | April 21, 2017
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

In late 2014, a whistleblower scientist rocked the Agriculture Department with a charge that it retaliated against him because his research found that a popular and lucrative farm pesticide might harm pollinators such as bees. The issue died down when the scientist, Jonathan Lundgren, withdrew his case to contemplate whether to make it broader, and because his superiors continued to penalize him for infractions that other scientists committed without discipline. Now a recent survey of the Agriculture Department’s scientists by the agency’s inspector general has brought it back to the forefront. According to the survey’s findings, nearly 10 percent said their research has been tampered with or altered by superiors “for reasons other than technical merit,” possibly because of political considerations. [Was a USDA scientist muzzled because of his bee research?] Questions were submitted by the inspector general to more than 2,000 scientists in four branches of the department — the Agricultural Research Service, Forest Service, Economic Research Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service. The intent was to gauge their understanding of its Scientific Integrity Policy, which allowed them to complain if they felt their work was compromised. Nearly 40 percent didn’t bother to take the survey, according to findings released April 13. Of those who did, more than half said they didn’t know how to file a complaint and some said they didn’t do so because they feared retaliation. “You do not need to have many cases to create a strong chilling effect, and the current science climate inside USDA is quite nippy,” said Jeff Ruch, executive director of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which represented Lundgren. The USDA has said it doesn’t retaliate against any employee, and disputed Lundgren’s claim that he was targeted to suppress his science. Lundgren had been with the agency 11 years, ran his own lab with a staff and wrote a well-regarded book on predator insects, but his career began to fall apart when he published research that cautioned against the use of pesticides approved by the agency. In a Washington Post Magazine story about his case, Lundgren said he thought his downfall started in 2012 when he published findings in the Journal of Pest Science indicating that a popular class of pesticides, neonicotinoids, don’t improve soybean yields. He followed that the next year with a paper that said a new pest treatment called RNAi pesticides should trigger a new means of risk assessment. After the research drew national interest and a report on NPR, Lundgren said he was hauled into the office of a superior who told him for the first time that he shouldn’t talk to the media. After speaking to another news outlet about another research paper months later, Lundgren was suspended for unruly office behavior when he pretended to hump a chair. [A whistleblower withdrew his complaint against the USDA — to make it even stronger] Later he was docked for filing an unsigned travel request and rushing off to an event. Other Agriculture Department scientists contacted by The Washington Post said they had done worse, such as not filing a travel request at all, and not faced a penalty. In the survey, 85 percent of the 1,300 scientists who responded said the Scientific Integrity Policy established to protect their work didn’t benefit them, or offered no opinion. Nearly 20 percent said they didn’t know the policy existed. A few scientists submitted unflattering comments about the agency’s attempt at integrity. “The SIP is kind of a nicety with no real meaning,” one said. “It has done nothing about the lack of scientific integrity exhibited by my station director,” another said. The SIP seems “designed to protect the agency only, not a code for individual scientists interacting with other scientists,” yet another said. The comments were anonymous. “Nothing has really changed,” another comment said, “because the SIP still provides managers with the ability to stop communication of anything they want. The wording has changed and sounds better, but reality has not changed.” Other scientists saw the policy in a more positive light. “My agency was doing a fairly good job already. My work was not directly changed by SIP. However, SIP is indirectly beneficial in supporting a climate of scientific integrity.” Another said: “The policy makes it clear that as a senior scientist, I am speaking from the facts of science and not opinion.”


Objective: To estimate the effect of the US Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) on the food security (consistent access to adequate food) of recipients, net of the effect of the self-selection of more food-needy households into the programme. Design: The food security of current SNAP recipients and recent leavers is compared in cross-sectional survey data, adjusting for economic and demographic differences using multivariate logistic regression methods. A similar analysis in 2-year longitudinal panels provides additional control for selection on unobserved variables based on food security status in the previous year. Setting: Household survey data collected for the US Department of Agriculture by the US Census Bureau. Subjects: Households interviewed in the Current Population Survey Food Security Supplements from 2001 to 2009. Results: The odds of very low food security among households that continued on SNAP through the end of a survey year were 28 % lower than among those that left SNAP prior to the 30-d period during which food security was assessed. In 2-year panels with controls for the severity of food insecurity in the previous year, the difference in odds was 45 %. Conclusions: The results are consistent with, or somewhat higher than, the estimates from the strongest previous research designs and suggest that the ameliorative effect of SNAP on very low food security is in the range of 20-50 %.


McPhail L.L.,Economic Research Service
Energy Economics | Year: 2011

Despite the growing importance of biofuels, the effect of biofuels on fossil fuel markets is not fully understood. We develop a joint structural Vector Auto Regression (VAR) model of the global crude oil, US gasoline, and US ethanol markets to examine whether the US ethanol market has had any impact on global oil markets. The structural VAR approach provides a unique method for decomposing price and quantity data into demand and supply shocks, allowing us to estimate the distinct dynamic effects of ethanol demand and supply shocks on the real prices of crude oil and US gasoline. Ethanol demand in the US is driven mainly by government support in the form of tax credits and blending mandates. Shocks to ethanol demand therefore reflect changes in policy more than any other factor. In contrast, ethanol supply shocks are driven by changes in feedstock prices. A principle finding is that a policy-driven ethanol demand expansion causes a statistically significant decline in real crude oil prices, while an ethanol supply expansion does not have a statistically significant impact on real oil prices. This suggests that even though US ethanol market is small, the influence of US biofuels policy on the crude oil market is pervasive. We also show that ethanol demand shocks are more important than ethanol supply shocks in explaining the fluctuation of real prices of crude oil and US gasoline. © 2011.


Hitaj C.,Economic Research Service
Energy Policy | Year: 2015

Many governments offer subsidies for renewable power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the power sector. However, most support schemes for renewable power do not take into account that emissions depend on the location of renewable and conventional power plants within an electricity grid. I simulate optimal power flow in a test grid when 4 renewable power plants connect to the grid across 24 potential sites, amounting to over 10,000 configurations. Each configuration is associated with different levels of emissions and renewable power output. I find that emission reductions vary by a factor of 7 and that curtailment due to transmission congestion is more likely when renewable power plants are concentrated in an area of the grid with low demand. Large cost savings could be obtained by allowing subsidies for renewable power to vary across locations according to abatement potential or by replacing subsidies with a price on emissions. © 2015.

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