Right before deadline this week, an influx of news came through our wire that normally would be too late to include in this week’s newspaper. Fortunately, the editor’s column is the last item written for the paper, so I thought I’d share a few of these major events with you here.

In next week’s issue we will have much more about these items. In the meantime, we encourage you to check out the Journal’s website, www.hpj.com each day, for breaking news.

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer signs drought declaration

At a press conference on March 13, Colyer signed a drought declaration for all 105 counties in Kansas, to provide assistance to farmers and ranchers impacted by drought. The action “…activates the disaster response efforts at the state level and provides authority for the deployment and use of personnel, supplies, equipment, materials or facilities available to aid the drought response. Importantly, this declaration will temporarily suspend certain motor carrier rules and regulations in order to expedite efforts to transport hay to livestock in drought-stricken areas.”

Colyer issued letters to David Schemm, Kansas State executive director of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, and all county executive directors, to urge them to act quickly on requests to permit the use of CRP ground for haying and grazing.”

In Kansas, 57 counties are considered to be in D2 (severe) or D3 (extreme) drought levels, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. It can be found at www.droughtmonitor.unl.edu.

A fix for Section 199A tax provisions

In January, we learned that an unintended consequence of Section 199A of President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was that members of farmer-owned cooperatives received a favorable tax ruling on the sale of commodities to their cooperatives.

The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation developed a fix to the 199A provision, which, if approved by Congress, will be part of a larger omnibus bill later this month. The legislation would serve two purposes: restore as much as possible the tax benefits to farmer-owned cooperatives and their farmer patrons under the previous Section 199, and restore the competitive landscape of the marketplace as it existed in December 2017, without incentivizing farmers to do business with a company just because it is a cooperative or private-independent business.

The legislation would be retroactive to the beginning of 2018.

Syngenta settles corn lawsuit for $1.51 billion

The class action lawsuit filed by farmers on behalf of the Kansas City, Missouri, law firm Stueve, Siegel, Hanson, L.P. was settled by Syngenta on March 12 for $1.51 billion— the largest agricultural litigation settlement in U.S. history.

Filed in September 2016, the lawsuit claimed farmers lost revenue due to Syngenta’s genetically modified Viptera being made available to U.S. farmers before it was approved for export. Chinese officials rejected tons of corn containing the trait, causing lost revenue for farmers.

All class members will have to submit a claim form to receive a share of the settlement. Judge John W. Lungstrum, a United States District judge for the District of Kansas, has to approve these claims and if he does, payments could be made as early as 2019.

Bill Spiegel can be reached at 785-587-7796 or bspiegel@hpj.com.

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