Home 5 Ag Stories 7 Ag Stories You Need to Read Today, September 23

7 Ag Stories You Need to Read Today, September 23

EPA Abandons Key Farm Case in West Virginia

OLD FIELDS, W.Va. – The Environmental Protection Agency will not appeal a key federal ruling in favor of a West Virginia farmer.

The U.S. Court for the Northern District of West Virginia earlier ruled against EPA and in favor of farmer Lois Alt in October 2013. The court rejected EPA’s contention that the Clean Water Act regulates ordinary stormwater runoff from the farmyard at large livestock or poultry farms. The American Farm Bureau suggest the lower court’s ruling carries implications for tens of thousands of poultry and livestock farms nationwide.

An appellate court decision upholding that ruling would make it even harder for EPA to persist in imposing wide-scale federal permitting requirements on large animal farms. Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman stated “For most of us, standing firm doesn’t mean walking away just because you are afraid you won’t like the outcome. EPA might call that smart and strategic, but I call it cynical and cowardly.” The American Farm Bureau also charges that EPA touted their plan online through a blog.

EPA’s blog explained the agency simply decided “to stop spending resources on litigation regarding the farm in question,” stating that the agency “[stands] firm on this commitment to protect public health and the environment.” The withdrawal, it wrote, “does not change either the law across the country or EPA’s commitment to protecting water quality.”

General Mills Shareholders Urged to Vote Against No GMO Proposal

MINNEAPOLIS – Shareholders of General Mills are set to vote today on a company proposal to remove genetically modified organisms from its products.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is urging the investors to vote the proposal down during the annual shareholders meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Center’s Justin Danhof stated “The science is settled – GMOs are safe.” He said a no vote would send a strong message to “self-appointed food police.” Numerous independent and well-regarded scientific organizations and studies have categorically proven that GMOs are safe, notably in this recent study.

If approved, the proposal would require the company to remove GM ingredients from all the products it manufactures or sells. The National Center for Public Policy Research says the proponent deceptively claims this removal is necessary because they “believe genetic engineering involves risk to the environment, food security, and public health.”

The meeting marks the third occasion in 2014 that the National Center has urged corporate shareholders to reject an anti-GMO proposal. In both prior meetings, the shareholders sided with the National Center and against anti-GMO proponents.

WHO Monitoring New Threat to Animal Health and the Poultry Industry

ROME – A new strain of bird flu is being closely monitored by the World Health Organization and other groups on animal health as it is being considered a new threat to animal health and the poultry industry.

The H5N6 strain of avian influenza first reported in China in April is of particular concern because it has been detected in several far-reaching areas of Southeast Asia and it can kill poultry within 72 hours. Current evidence suggests that H5N6 poses a limited threat to humans, although one human case of infection was seen soon after the virus was discovered in China and that person later died.

The agencies are asking all countries in Asia to continue to monitor the potential spread of the virus among chickens and geese and to report any outbreaks, especially in the wake of the 2014 outbreak of H5N1 and H7N9.

U.S. and Japanese Trade Officials to Meet this Week

WASHINGTON – Top U.S. trade officials are expected to meet with Japanese trade officials this week in Washington, according to a report from The Hill.

The two groups are expected to continue dialogue on issues in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said last week “we’re now at a critical juncture in this negotiation.” He made those remarks at a Trans-Pacific Partnership event, further stating “we are working hard with Japan to achieve our shared objectives.” Talks on agriculture trade barriers have been ongoing for months.

The United States and Japan are working with 10 other nations, from Chile to New Zealand, to forge the massive Pacific Rim deal that represents 40 percent of global growth. More meetings between the trading partners are shaping up for mid-October in Australia, ahead of President Obama’s planned trip through Asia.

Federal Government Investing in Biorefineries for Military

WASHINGTON – Three companies were awarded contract to construct biorefineries for “drop in” biofuels for the military and private sector on Friday.

The Departments of Navy, Energy and Agriculture announced the contracts under a 2011 presidential directive. The contracts are part of the Obama Administration’s goal to boost and diversify the domestic fuel base, according to Friday’s announcement.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack commented “”Any time our military can use more American grown fuels instead of relying on foreign sources, it makes our armed forces more energy secure.”

In total, these projects will produce more than 100 million gallons of military grade fuel beginning in 2016 and 2017 at a price competitive with their petroleum counterparts.

Under the contracts awarded Friday, Emerald Biofuels will build an 82 million gallon per year refinery on the Gulf Coast using waste fats to create military grade fuel. Fulcrum BioEnergy will build a 10 million gallon per year refinery in McCarran, Nevada using municipal solid waste as its feedstock. USDA announced a $105 million Biorefinery Assistance Program loan guarantee for that facility earlier this month. Also, Red Rock Biofuel will build a 12 million gallon per year refinery in Lakeview, Oregon using woody biomass, or the by-products of forest management, as its feedstock. The drop-in alternative fuels can be blended at a 50/50 ratio with traditional fossil fuels. This blend was successfully demonstrated during the Rim of the Pacific demonstration in 2012 for ships and planes, showing the fuel can be utilized in the Navy’s warfighting platforms with no degradation to performance or mission.

AFIA Gives Feedback on Release of Revised FSMA Rule

The American Feed Industry Association has applauded the pre-publication of four re-proposed rules pertaining to the Food Safety Modernization Act. According to the group, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has incorporated many of the changes AFIA recommended. AFIA President Joel. Newman said “The American Feed Industry Association is pleased the Food and Drug Administration has issued a revised proposal for these complex rules.” AFIA plans to request an extension to the comment period as all the rules were released simultaneously versus in succession.

The reissued rules are: Produce Safety Regulation, Foreign Supplier Verification Program, Current Good Manufacturing and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food, and Current Good Manufacturing Practices and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals. AFIA previously submitted comments on five major sets of related proposed rules during the last 10 months.

US Wants Clarification on Taiwan’s Ractopamine Policy

Meatingplace reports U.S. trade officials wants Taiwan to clarify its policy on ractopamine in pork imports and certain beef products. In 2012, Taiwan established a maximum residue level for ractopamine in beef cuts and has not set a level for pork. Taiwan also maintains unpredictable policies that impede the importation of rice, organic products and other items, according to deputy U.S. trade representative Michael Punke. Punke is also a U.S. ambassador to the World Trade Organization.

He commended Taiwan on its strong efforts over the past four years to liberalize its trade and investment policies to further integrate with the global economy. He noted U.S. farmers exported $3.1 billion to Taiwan in 2013, making it the seventh largest market for U.S. agricultural goods.

The above stories are provided courtesy of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters New Service, powered by the American Farm Bureau Federation.