And scientists worry trade issue will further slow exchange of info: For over a year, the Chinese government has withheld lab samples of a rapidly evolving influenza virus from the United States — specimens needed to develop vaccines and treatments, according to federal health officials. Despite persistent requests from government officials and research institutions, China has not provided samples of the dangerous virus, a type of bird flu called H7N9. In the past, such exchanges have been mostly routine under rules established by the World Health Organization. Now, as the U.S. and China spar over trade, some scientists worry that the vital exchange of medical supplies and information could slow, hampering preparedness for the next biological threat. READ MORE

FOOD SAFETY

FDA confirms more than 500 cyclosporiasis cases: The FDA has confirmed more than 500 cases of people in 15 states who became sick with an intestinal illness caused by the Cyclospora parasite after eating McDonald’s salads. McDonald’s stopped the sale of salads at 3,000 restaurants last month until it could find a different supplier. The FDA says it’s still investigating the supplier of romaine lettuce and carrots. READ MORE

THE FUTURE

This robot could replace strawberry pickers: Experts in the United Kingdom are developing a robot to replace human strawberry pickers as farms struggle to find workers due to Brexit. Around 20 per cent of the country’s soft fruits are going to waste because of a shortage of workers, University of Essex researchers say.  This will worsen when Britain leaves the EU, scientist claim, which has led to farms looking for alternate solutions to harvest crops. READ MORE

FOOD SECURITY

Missouri ‘meat’: Missouri will be the first state in the country to have a law on the books that prohibits food makers to use the word “meat” to refer to anything other than animal flesh. This takes aim at manufacturers of what has been dubbed fake or non-traditional meat. Clean meat— also known as lab-grown meat—is made of cultured animal tissue cells, while plant-based meat is generally from ingredients such as soy, tempeh and seitan. READ MORE

Assistance for pecan growers: USDA has announced additional assistance for pecan growers to replant and replace trees through the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) as they recover from the impacts of 2017 weather events. The aid was made available by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018. READ MORE

TARIFFS

Big hit to dairies: A new report finds the retaliatory tariffs by China and Mexico could lower dairy exports by $2.7 billion, while reducing dairy farmers’ revenues by $16.6 billion over the next few years, the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) has announced. READ MORE

Factors that will impact milk prices: Early in 2018, as U.S. dairy producers were wallowing in an extended period of low milk prices, expectations were that milk prices would slowly recover through the balance of 2018. Then trade disputes and tariffs through a wrench in those plans, throwing the expectations of a price recovery into limbo. As the market begins to normalize around ongoing trade negotiations, we can begin to look at the factors that will impact milk prices through the balance of 2018 and into early 2019. READ MORE

Stocks jump on trade deal news: Stocks jumped on Monday as the United States and Mexico closed a new trade deal, potentially removing a source of uncertainty that had been plaguing investors for months. President Donald Trump said the deal would be called The United States-Mexico Trade agreement, leaving behind the 24-year-old NAFTA name, which he said had bad connotations. READ MORE

Signups set for USDA aid program: Signup will start Sept. 4 for the Trump administration USDA aid program to provide payments to corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean and wheat producers. That will be the initial payment period, USDA said, and a second one, if warranted, will be determined by USDA. USDA said the initial signup will go to mid-January. READ MORE

EMPLOYEE SAFETY

Meat packer hit with safety violations on top of immigration raid: A state inspection that took place days after an immigration raid at Southeastern Provision, a Bean Station, Tenn., slaughterhouse, has resulted in more than $41,000 in fines for working conditions at the plant. The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration lists 27 violations, including 23 deemed “serious.” The violations include lack of appropriate eye or face protection, inadequate safety training, hazardous chemicals inadequately labeled and toilet facilities not maintained. READ MORE

HUMANITARIAN CRISES

Water woes in Venezuela: When I’m lucky, a trickle flows through my apartment building’s rickety pipes. When I’m really lucky, they deliver as much as 30-straight minutes worth of H2O. That’s enough to fill up the 200-or-so-gallon tank in my kitchen and trigger a celebration. I’ll do something crazy and run the water until it gets really hot before I jump into the shower. Welcome to life in Caracas. READ MORE

Seeds of Venezuela’s problems planted many years ago: To understand Venezuela’s current collapse, we must have a clear picture of the past 60 years of Venezuela’s political history, writes Jose Nino in an op-ed in Eurasian Review. There is no denying that Venezuela was more stable in the past decades, he says, but the seeds of its very undoing were planted during those glory years. In his analysis, creation of the petro-state ultimately helped facilitate this decline. READ MORE

ANIMAL HEALTH

African swine fever continues to expand in China: African swine fever (ASF) has continued to expand in mainland China, with the source of the ASF virus still under investigation. There is some evidence that the source may be Russia, where several epidemics have occurred in the far east since 2017. In the month of August, the Chinese epidemic has spread from the northeastern part of China to the coastal cities of Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Some 25,000 pigs have been culled so far in an effort to control the epidemic. South Korea has now  ramped up quarantine measures at airports after African swine fever (ASF) was detected in Chinese foods brought by a South Korean traveler. HERE and HERE.

JUST INTERESTING

Under the border: The hole in the tile of the abandoned KFC was small: eight inches in diameter, barely large enough to fit a 15-piece family bucket. It could have easily been overlooked as just another deteriorating aspect of an abandoned fast-food restaurant, had authorities not known better. In fact, it connected with an underground tunnel to Mexico, just 200 yards south. The tunnel went under the 20-foot-high border fence. READ MORE

A chilly, chattering winter? It may be hard to think about the cold and snow at the end of August, but the 2019 Farmers’ Almanac is out with its winter predictions. The Maine-based publication is predicting “teeth-chattering” cold and plenty of snow. New England will see the coldest weather mid-February, according to editor Peter Geiger. READ MORE

The great lemon heist: Authorities say a man has been arrested in Southern California after deputies found about 800 pounds of stolen lemons inside his car. Riverside County sheriff’s officials say 69-year-old Dionicio Fierros was arrested Friday and booked on a charge of theft of agricultural products. Deputies were investigating recent farm thefts when they stopped Fierros’ car in Thermal on Friday morning. READ MORE

Kroger going plastic-bag free: The nation’s largest grocery chain will be plastic-bag free at all of its nearly 2,800 stores by 2025. Kroger Co., which orders about 6 billion bags each year, operates 2,779 stores in 35 states and the District of Columbia, serving almost 9 million people daily through two dozen different grocery chains. READ MORE