Food corporations should consider evacuations: Venezuela bears very close attention as the political and military situation continues to deteriorate. Food corporations with personnel in that country should consider evacuating non-essentials, as well as family members.Russia has joined in the fray, by sending Russian contractors (read Spetsnaz posing as civilian contractors – aka “little green men”) to protect Maduro. This response was not unexpected, but complicates diplomatic and military matters. That being said, Venezuela is not Syria. Venezuela is falling apart economically, becoming the poster child for how socialism/communism only benefits the government and military elite. The state will eventually collapse, which seems inevitable regardless of Russian intervention. Russia is not capable of propping up the Venezuelan economy and replacing the financial assets that are being frozen rapidly by the United States. Venezuela is in a death spiral, and the humanitarian crisis and the ugly have only just begun. Read more HERE, HERE, HEREHERE and HERE 

THE ECONOMY

Rural bankers fear loan defaults: The January 2019 Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) reveals the rural economy is seeing continued neutral growth. More than 40 percent of community banks execs, however, say they expect their greatest challenge in 2019 to be loan defaults. READ MORE

PUBLIC HEALTH

Farmers first: The Farmers First Act is an important component of the farm bill that slid under most farmers’ radar. Through this program, State Departments of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension and nonprofits will receive funding to help develop programs to boost mental health in rural America. READ MORE

Vaccine delivered by drone: A baby on a small Pacific island has become the first person to receive a vaccine delivered by a commercial drone. UNICEF arranged for the drone to be flown some 25 miles across rugged mountains that otherwise take hours to cross. About 20 percent of children in Vanuatu don’t receive important vaccinations because the supply is too difficult. READ MORE

Report blames ‘Big Food’ for multiple ills: Big Food is portrayed as the new Big Tobacco in a sweeping report that links the industry’s influence to a global obesity epidemic, along with malnutrition and climate change. The Lancet Commission on Obesity blamed a growth-focused sector for a system that gorges populations on empty calories while misusing land, energy and other resources. READ MORE

Eggs modified to contain cancer drug: Scientists have genetically modified chickens to lay eggs containing high quality cancer drugs, in the latest breakthrough. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute believe the technique could offer a cost-effective way of producing drugs in the near future. READ MORE

SUSTAINABILITY

Eye on the earth: A private company has set off a revolution in space by launching hundreds of small satellites, enough to photograph the entire landmass of the Earth every day. This technology could potentially have big benefits for agriculture. READ MORE