Venezuela Flag Against City Blurred Background At Sunrise Backlight

Food and ag corporations could be caught in crossfire: The situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate. Public safety is increasingly threatened as the government intensifies its crackdown on the political opposition, whether real or imagined. As is often the case, the turmoil gives ne’er-do-wells an opportunity to commit violence, settling old grudges. Violence and threats are also being used by the Maduro government to intimidate. 

Food- and agriculture-related corporations, if still present in the nation, will surely continue to be negatively impacted. Best advice at this point – remove assets as quickly as possible. The social fabric of the country is rapidly unraveling, corruption is flourishing, and the black market is the only thing that keeps the meager supply of food available to the general public. How long that will continue is questionable, given hyper-inflation. 

The country is not yet in civil war, but is very close. The refugee crisis continues largely unabated, putting massive economic pressure on surrounding countries. Russians and Chinese (read “military”) have shown up in recent weeks in an attempt to shore up the shaky Maduro government.  It is always troubling when that happens, but not unexpected. 

Some have warned that the U.S. could be facing another Syria. There are some parallels, but the closer proximity and availability of potential strategic partners make this a different situation. A consortium of U.S. allies is currently forming. Although, there are no indicators of imminent invasion plans for Venezuela, very significant economic pressure is being mounted by the U.S. and its allies, and the U.S. is openly working with allies to foster a change in leadership. 

The presence of Hezbollah in the nation will cause an intensification of economic, political and military pressure. Venezuela is a failed state.  It will not be allowed to become a significant launching platform for terrorist activities into the U.S., regardless of whether the Russians and Chinese are present. The U.S. administration has shown itself willing to neutralize threats, even if those threats emanate from the Russians, as it did so dramatically last year in Syria, when U.S. forces killed well over 100 Russian “security contractors” (i.e. “Little Green Men”). 

Long-term, the U.S. will be dealing with a coalition of Russia, China, Hezbollah and others working in tandem to spread chaos, designed to dissolve our nation’s influence. Food and agriculture corporations can and will be caught in the crossfire (political and actual).  A plan for dealing with the possibilities is essential. Read more HERE, HERE and HERE.

BORDER SECURITY

Does heaven have a wall? A family-owned Christian grocery store with several locations in Southeast Arkansas is dealing with backlash as customers object to a weekly ad mailer that included a controversial political message about a border wall. The country’s hyper-partisan atmosphere makes it increasingly difficult for personal opinions to be expressed. This becomes a food defense concern if those that choose to disagree attempt to escalate the rhetoric into something greater. READ MORE

‘Emergency’ coming? President Donald Trump gave his strongest indication yet Friday that he will soon declare a state of emergency, bypassing the need for congressional approval to fund a controversial US-Mexico border wall. READ MORE

Immigration update: U.S. border officials said Friday they saw an abrupt drop-off in illegal crossings during the holiday season, but the number of Central Americans arriving in family groups has returned to record levels since then. HERE and HERE

FOOD SAFETY

The dangers of homemade hooch: Some 175 people have been arrested and 297 cases registered over deaths caused by consumption of illicit liquor in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. By Saturday, 92 people had died. READ MORE

PUBLIC HEALTH

‘Altruistic’ bacteria? Bacteria have multiple strategies to survive antibiotics: Developing genetic resistance to the drugs; delaying their growth; or hiding in protective biofilms. Now researchers have shed light on another approach: self-sacrifice. In a population of E. coli bacteria, some dying cells absorbed large amounts of an antibiotic, allowing their neighbors to survive and continue growing. READ MORE

Global spread of ‘superbugs’: A University of Kansas geologist’s work in the remote High Arctic of Norway has exposed the startling global spread of antibiotic-resistant microbes — including multidrug-resistant “superbugs” — that could have dire implications for human health worldwide. READ MORE

Stray pup had rabies: Multiple people in Houston County, Ala., are being treated for potential rabies exposure after a 4-month-old stray puppy was confirmed to have rabies late last month, the state Department of Public Health said Thursday. The dog, one of a litter of four puppies, was picked up by local animal control officers. Theywere treated and held for required observation before adoption. READ MORE

SUSTAINABILITY

The problem with monocultures: A new University of Texas study suggests that globally we’re growing more of the same kinds of crops, and this presents major challenges for agricultural sustainability on a global scale. Soybeans, wheat, rice and corn are grown on nearly 50 percent of the world’s entire agricultural lands, while 152 crops cover the remainder. READ MORE

BREXIT

Will BREXIT lead to chaos? Food companies are increasingly concerned that BREXIT will lead to chaos in their operations. The governor of the Bank of England estimated that British food prices could rise up to 10 percent with a hard BREXIT (no agreement between the UK and the EU). The island nation imports nearly a third of its food, so some of the biggest problems involve trade bottlenecks. READ MORE