Bayer Reaches Deals on Share of 125,000 Roundup Suits

Bloomberg writers Jef Feeley and Tim Loh reported this week that, “Bayer AG has reached verbal agreements to resolve a substantial portion of an estimated 125,000 U.S. cancer lawsuits over use of its Roundup weedkiller, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

The deals, which have yet to be signed and cover an estimated 50,000 to 85,000 suits, are part of a $10 billion Bayer plan to end a costly legal battle the company inherited when it acquired Monsanto in 2018, the people said. While some lawyers are still holding out, payouts for settled cases will range from a few million dollars to a few thousand each, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly.

“Bayer is likely to announce the settlements, which need approval from the supervisory board, in June, people familiar with the negotiations said. None of the deals are signed, though plaintiffs’ lawyers are expected to do so the day of the announcement, the people said.”

The Bloomberg article noted that, “Bayer declined to comment on specifics about the talks. Chris Loder, a U.S.-based spokesman, said Friday the company has made ‘progress in the mediations’ that arose from lawsuits. ‘The company will not speculate about settlement outcomes or timing,’ Loder said in an emailed statement. ‘As we have said previously, the company will consider a resolution if it is financially reasonable and provides a process to resolve potential future litigation.'”

Posted in Agriculture Law | Comments closed

FSA Expands Set-Aside Loan Provision for Customers Impacted by COVID-19

An update yesterday from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) stated that, “[FSA] will broaden the use of the Disaster Set-Aside (DSA) loan provision, normally used in the wake of natural disasters, to allow farmers with USDA farm loans who are affected by COVID-19, and are determined eligible, to have their next payment set aside. In some cases, FSA may also set aside a second payment for farmers who have already had one payment set aside because of a prior designated disaster.

“‘This immediate change of the Set-Aside provision can provide some welcome financial relief to borrowers during this current crisis,’ said FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. ‘FSA recognizes that some customers may need this option to improve their cash flow circumstances in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.’

FSA direct loan borrowers will receive a letter with the details of the expanded Disaster Set-Aside authorities, which includes the possible set-aside of annual operating loans, as well as explanations of the additional loan servicing options that are available. To discuss or request a loan payment Set-Aside, borrowers should call or email the farm loan staff at their local FSA county office.”

Yesterday’s update added that, “USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with producers by phone and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other Service Center agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.”

Posted in Agriculture Law | Comments closed

USDA Announces Details of Direct Assistance to Farmers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

A news release yesterday from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) stated that, “U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to this direct support to farmers and ranchers, USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program is partnering with regional and local distributors, whose workforces have been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat and deliver boxes to Americans in need.

“‘America’s farming community is facing an unprecedented situation as our nation tackles the coronavirus. President Trump has authorized USDA to ensure our patriotic farmers, ranchers, and producers are supported and we are moving quickly to open applications to get payments out the door and into the pockets of farmers,’ said Secretary Perdue. ‘These payments will help keep farmers afloat while market demand returns as our nation reopens and recovers. America’s farmers are resilient and will get through this challenge just like they always do with faith, hard work, and determination.’

Beginning May 26, [USDA], through the [FSA], will be accepting applications from agricultural producers who have suffered losses.”

Yesterday’s update noted that, “To ensure the availability of funding throughout the application period, producers will receive 80 percent of their maximum total payment upon approval of the application. The remaining portion of the payment, not to exceed the payment limit, will be paid at a later date as funds remain available.

USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with producers by phone and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or any other Service Center agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.”

Posted in Agriculture Law | Comments closed

Meat Plant Sued Over Worker’s COVID-19 Death

Earlier this month, Bloomberg writer Millie Munshi reported that, “The family of a beef plant worker who died because of the coronavirus has brought a wrongful death lawsuit in a Philadelphia court against JBS SA, the world’s biggest meat company.

“Ferdinand Benjamin filed the suit on Thursday after his father, Enock Benjamin, died of respiratory failure caused by Covid-19, according to a copy of the timestamped complaint provided by Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky, the law firm representing the family. Enock Benjamin worked at the JBS USA plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania.”

The Bloomberg article stated that, “The suit may be part of the beginning of a litigation wave against meat companies after thousands of U.S. workers contracted the virus. At least 27 meatpacking workers have died in the coronavirus pandemic, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.”

The article also noted that, “Smithfield Foods Inc. was sued last month by employees at a rural Missouri pork-processing facility. They argued that the company, owned by Hong Kong-based WH Group Ltd., hadn’t done enough to protect workers from the virus. U.S. District Judge David Gregory Kays on [May 5th] declined to hear the case, saying it’s up to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, not the courts, to oversee safeguards for workers.”

Posted in Agriculture Law | Comments closed

California Gig Workers- Contractors or Employees, Issues Persist

New York Times writer Kate Conger reported recently that, “California’s attorney general and a coalition of city attorneys in the state sued Uber and Lyft on [May 5th], claiming the companies wrongfully classified their drivers as independent contractors in violation of a state law that makes them employees.

“The law, known as Assembly Bill 5, requires companies to treat their workers as employees instead of contractors if they control how workers perform tasks or if the work is a routine part of a company’s business.

At least one million gig workers in the state are affected by the law, which is supposed to give them a path to benefits like a minimum wage and unemployment insurance that have been traditionally withheld from independent contractors.”

The article noted that, “Although A.B. 5 took effect on Jan. 1, Uber, Lyft and other gig economy companies that operate in California have resisted and are not taking steps to reclassify their drivers. Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have poured $90 million into a campaign for a ballot initiative that would exempt them from complying with the law. Uber has also argued that its core business is technology, not rides, and therefore drivers are not a key part of its business.

The lawsuit also claims the ride-hailing companies are engaging in an unfair business practice that harms other California companies that follow the law. By avoiding payroll taxes and not paying minimum wage, Uber and Lyft are able to provide rides at ‘an artificially low cost,’ the suit claims, giving them a competitive advantage over other businesses. The suit seeks civil penalties and back wages for workers that could add up to hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Ms. Conger added that, “California’s move is a significant threat to the gig companies and could influence other states with similar laws to take action against them, labor experts said.”

Posted in Start-up Company Law | Comments closed

More Online Grocery Shopping Inspires Investors to Look Closely at the Sector

Melissa Repko reported recently at CNBC Online that, “FreshDirect co-founder and former CEO Jason Ackerman said customers’ growing interest in online grocery shopping during the coronavirus pandemic has whet venture capital firms’ appetites.

“In an interview with CNBC’s ‘Squawk Alley,’ he said the surge of online grocery shopping has inspired more investors to look closely at the sector.

“‘I’m seeing more deals in online grocery … than I’ve ever seen before,’ he said.”

The CNBC update added that, “In the U.S., customers have been slow to adopt online grocery shopping. Only 3% or 4% of grocery spending in the U.S. was online before the coronavirus outbreak.

“During the pandemic, however, online grocery shopping has quickly gained popularity as people look for ways to avoid the grocery store. Grocers and delivery services, such as Instacart and FreshDirect, have struggled to ramp up to meet that sudden increase in demand.”

Posted in Start-up Company Law | Comments closed

TODAY—USDA to Host Webinar for Producers Interested in Applying for Direct Payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

A news release this week from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) stated that, “The [USDA’s AMS] and Farm Service Agency (FSA) will host a webinar on Thursday, May 14, 2020, at 1 p.m. ET, for farmers, ranchers and other producers interested in applying for direct payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

This webinar is an opportunity for producers to learn about the general application process and required documentation prior to the official beginning of signup. Producers interested in participating may register in advance for webinar at https://www.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_SPWI7yOFSqaGG1JKzhEbjA.

“After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. We encourage participants to submit questions through the Q&A box or by emailing CFAP.webinars@usda.gov. While questions will not be answered live during the webinar, answers will be posted at farmers.gov/CFAP.”

Posted in Agriculture Law | Comments closed

Fast-Sounding Start-Ups Have Bloomed

New York Times writer Erin Griffith reported last week that, “One day this quarantine, who can say which, I encountered the following pieces of information: Zoom, the videoconferencing company, saw its stock hit a new high; Zūm, a ride-sharing venture, cut its work force by a third; and Zume, the robot pizza start-up, failed to raise more funding.

“In other words: Zoom boomed while Zūm pruned, and maybe Zume was doomed?

Fast-sounding start-ups, it seems, have bloomed. There’s Zoomd, Zoomi, Zumi, Zoomy, Zoomies, Zoomin, Zoomvy, Zoomly and Zoomph. Zoom.ai offers virtual assistants, Xoom is a payments service, and Zumobi does mobile content marketing. Tractor Zoom, in Urbandale, Iowa, says it is revolutionizing the acquisition of farm equipment at auction.”

The Times article stated that, “Start-ups are supposed to be very, very fast. They ‘move fast and break things,’ they ‘hire fast, fire fast‘ and they certainly fail fast. They have a magazine: Fast Company. They have a diet: intermittent fasting.”

Ms. Griffith noted that, “Fact: There have been at least 120 start-ups whose names include something that sounds like ‘zoom‘…Fact: Around 40 or so of the start-ups — a third — appear to be dead.”

Posted in Start-up Company Law | Comments closed

During Outbreak, Home Prices Stay Steady, So Far

Wall Street Journal writer Nicole Friedman reported last week that, “The economy is shrinking, businesses are closing and jobs are disappearing due to the coronavirus pandemic. But in the housing market, prices keep chugging higher.

“Home prices plunged during the last recession after a housing crash caused millions of families to lose their homes. Home values could start to erode again, especially when mortgage forbearances end, some economists warn.

But that hasn’t been the case so far. The median home price rose 8% year-over-year to $280,600 in March, according to the National Association of Realtors. While buyer demand has softened and sales fell 8.5% that month from the prior month, the supply of homes on the market is contracting even faster, recent preliminary data shows.”

The Journal article noted that, “Homes typically go under contract a month or two before the contract closes, so the March NAR data largely reflects purchase decisions made in February or January.

“Even by the end of last month, many sellers were reluctant to cut prices. Only about 4% of sellers cut their prices in the week ended April 25, down from 5.7% during the same week last year, according to Realtor.com. ( News Corp, parent of The Wall Street Journal, operates Realtor.com.)

“Some sellers say they are hanging tough because they believe their homes aren’t moving because buyers haven’t viewed them in person or are reluctant to make offers right now, not because the asking price is too high. They are waiting for stay-at-home orders to ease before deciding whether to lower the price.”

Posted in Real Estate Law | Comments closed

USDA Announces Grants for Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production

Last week, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) indicated in a news release that, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the availability of $3 million for grants through its new Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production. The competitive grants will support the development of urban agriculture and innovative production projects through two categories, Planning Projects and Implementation Projects. USDA will accept applications on Grants.gov until midnight July 6, 2020.

“‘These grant opportunities underscore USDA’s commitment to all segments of agriculture, including swiftly expanding areas of urban agriculture,’ Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey said. ‘Such projects have the potential to address important issues such as food access and education and to support innovative ways to increase local food production in urban environments.’

“‘We are proud to be able to offer support though this cross-agency effort,’ said Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach. ‘In creating this grant opportunity, USDA will build upon its years of experience providing technical support, grant funding and research to help farmers and local and urban food businesses grow.'”

The update added that, “A webinar, which will be held on June 3, 2020, from 2 to 4 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, will provide an overview of the grants’ purpose, project types, eligibility and basic requirements for submitting an application. Information on how to register for and participate in the webinar, or listen to the recording, will be posted at farmers.gov/urban.”

Posted in Agriculture Law | Comments closed