News Clips August 25, 2015



1. Dems to FDA: Help small farmers comply with new food safety rules

2. Merger approved: Deal to close in October; ag retailers combine services

3. BIO report says RFS has displaced 1.9 billion barrels of foreign oil in its 10 years

4. Obama adds $1 billion in loan guarantees for clean energy

5. Stay COOL: Keep the Country of Origin Labeling Act intact


1. Dems to FDA: Help small farmers comply with new food safety rules

The Hill

Lydia Wheeler

Aug. 24, 2015


Congressional Democrats want the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help small farmers comply new food safety laws due out in spring 2016.


Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), along with 12 other lawmakers, sent a letter to the FDA’s Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff on Monday asking that he implement technical assistance and training programs geared toward helping small farmers, small producers, and fruit and vegetable wholesale merchants follow the new rules required by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).


Lawmakers say they are most concerned about the new preventive controls for human food at factories and warehouses and what will be a first-ever nationwide standard for produce safety.


The rules aim to keep the nation’s food supply protected from foodborne pathogens that cause illness outbreaks.


“Small farmers will need time, training, and relationships with regulators in order to effectively navigate new guidelines. Further, many small farms are diverse and have multiple profit centers—from produce, to value-added products, to dairy, to bakeries, and more,” the lawmakers said in their letter. “While we understand the preventive controls rule is still being developed, we feel strongly that the final rule provide clarity on what qualifies as a “facility” and what farmers must do to ensure compliance.”


In addition to Murphy and DeLauro, the letter was signed by Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Angus King (I-Maine), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Reps. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine).


“With the passage of the FSMA, Congress took a major step forward in shifting the focus of food safety from response to prevention,” they said. “But confusion and misinformation is already circulating, and establishing lines of communication to farmers or to organizations that partner with farmers about implementation deadlines, training opportunities, and future technical assistance is critical to timely and accurate compliance.” 


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2. Merger approved: Deal to close in October; ag retailers combine services

DTN Progressive Farmer

Todd Neeley

Aug. 24, 2015


United Suppliers, Inc., and Land O'Lakes, Inc., have approved a merger of the Iowa and Minnesota ag retailers that will combine the companies' seed, crop protection and crop nutrients divisions, the companies announced in a joint news release Monday.


The companies expect to close on the merger in October 2015.


Land O'Lakes, Inc., based in Arden Hills, Minnesota, is a member-owned cooperative with operations that span the entire agriculture business spectrum from farm production to consumer foods.


In 2014, the company, which has been in operation for more than 90 years, reported annual sales of more than $15 billion, making Land O'Lakes one of the nation's largest cooperatives, ranking 203 on the Fortune 500.


Land O'Lakes' brands include Land O'Lakes Dairy Foods, Purina Animal Nutrition and WinField. Land O' Lakes currently conducts business in all 50 states and more than 60 countries.


United Suppliers, Inc. is a customer-owned wholesale supplier of crop protection inputs, seed and crop nutrients, headquartered in Eldora and Ames, Iowa. United Suppliers was founded in 1963 and is comprised of 600 agricultural dealers that operate nearly 2,800 retail locations across the United States and parts of Canada.


According to the news release, both companies "overwhelmingly approved" the merger.


"The merger will build on the recent successes of the two companies and aims to create a single, relevant and competitive system of independent agricultural retailers," the companies said in the release.


Chris Policinski, president and chief executive officer of Land O'Lakes, said the merger will result in a company that is more competitive.


"This merger will allow us to continue to meet our customers' needs through each company's successful go-to-market strategy while providing for the size and scale to compete in an environment of consolidating suppliers and competitors," he said. "We are excited to bring our WinField business and United Suppliers together and expect our members, owners and customers will benefit greatly from this merger."


The first step of the merger, the news release said, will be to combine the companies' seed and crop protection businesses under Winfield US, LLC. The second step of the merger will involve the crop nutrient business.


"Customers are expected to benefit from expanded product offerings, enhanced precision agriculture services, tools and technologies, improved product insights, consulting services and more," the companies said in the news release.


Brad Oelmann, president and chief executive officer of United Suppliers, said the merger will ultimately benefit customers.


"Both organizations exist to increase our customers' capabilities and competitiveness," he said in the news release. "By coming together, we are true to our shared purpose, and we also preserve our different approaches to best serve a wide variety of customer needs. Together, we are positioned to protect and build the future of independent agricultural operations in an environment of consolidation."


In 2014, WinField reported $4.9 billion in seed and crop protection product sales. United Suppliers reported $2.6 billion in crop protection, seed and crop nutrient sales.


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3. BIO report says RFS has displaced 1.9 billion barrels of foreign oil in its 10 years

Biofuels Digest

Meghan Sapp

Aug. 24, 2015


In Washington, over its 10-year lifespan, the Renewable Fuel Standard s (RFS) requirement to substitute biofuels for fossil fuels has displaced nearly 1.9 billion barrels of foreign oil and reduced U.S. transportation-related carbon emissions by 589.33 million metric tons, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) finds in an analysis released Monday.


The major findings of the study include:


Over its 10-year lifespan, the Renewable Fuel Standard has reduced U.S. transportation-related carbon emissions by 589.33 million metric tons.

The total reduction is equivalent to removing more than 124 million cars from the road over the decade.


The RFS has displaced nearly 1.9 billion barrels of foreign oil over the past decade by replacing fossil fuels with homegrown biofuels.


EPA s recent proposed rules for the RFS would cut short achievable future carbon emission reductions. In 2015 alone, the proposal would add 19.6 million tons of CO2e for the year, equal to putting 7.3 million cars back on the road, compared with achievable levels of biofuel use.


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4. Obama adds $1 billion in loan guarentees for clean energy

Bloomberg Business

Mike Dorning and Toluse Olorunnipa

Aug. 24, 2015


President Barack Obama will announce on Monday a $1 billion increase in loan guarantees for renewable energy projects as part of a series of steps to promote development of clean energy.


The federal government also will ease access to financing for home-energy improvements made by some low-income families and approve a transmission line for a California solar facility, according to a White House fact sheet released before the president speaks at a clean energy summit in Las Vegas.


After legislative efforts to limit U.S. carbon emissions failed in Obama’s first term, he has made climate change a focus of his remaining time in office by taking regulatory action, including stricter rules on power-plant emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.


In Las Vegas, Obama “will talk about the imperative of acting to address climate change, the progress we’ve made to cut carbon pollution and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy,” Brian Deese, a senior adviser to the president, told reporters on a conference call Monday. “We’re incredibly focused on these issues.”


The president has set a target of reducing U.S. carbon emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels in 2025.


Distributed Energy


Among the steps to be announced Monday, the Energy Department will add as much as $1 billion in loan authority to help promote innovation in so-called distributed energy projects such as rooftop solar energy, energy storage and smart-grid technology.


Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said federal support remains critical as the the clean-energy industry seeks to establish a foothold.


“The playing field is not always level and that’s where investors and developers can have risks,” he told reporters on the conference call. “That’s where things like our loan program come in.”


Republicans have sought to trim federal funding for clean energy programs, accusing the Obama administration of wasting taxpayer funds. Moniz said the solar-energy industry would continue to expand, albeit at a slower pace, if Congress failed to extend tax credits for solar development beyond next year.


Blythe Project


Obama also will announce Interior Department approval of a transmission line across federal lands for the Blythe Mesa Solar Power Project in California. The 485-megawatt photovoltaic plant will produce enough energy to power more than 145,000 homes in California, according to the fact sheet.


The project will be located immediately adjacent to federal land that has been designated as a special zone for solar energy production, Ray Brady, manager of the Bureau of Land Management’s National Renewable Energy Coordination Office, said in a telephone interview last week.


The Housing and Urban Development Department will clarify loan guidelines for Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgages, available to loan-income families, to make it easier to transfer loans that finance energy improvements or solar panels when selling a home. The new loan rules also will permit homebuyers to incur more debt on houses with above-average energy efficiency, according to the fact sheet.


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5. Stay COOL: Keep the Country of Origin Labeling Act Intact

Roll Call

Joel D. Joseph

Aug. 25, 2015


Recently, the House of Representatives panicked and caved in to demands from Canada, Mexico and the World Trade Organization gutting the Country of Origin Labeling Act. These are the same members of Congress who want President Barack Obama to “get tough” with Iran and Russia, yet cower when threatened by third-rate powers.


California has a population greater than Canada. Mexico is a drug cartel operating as a country. Every day we allow substandard Mexican delivery trucks to cross our borders and enter into the United States. With regard to our northern neighbor, we have not complained that Canada has imposed confiscatory duties on American dairy products and chicken.


We need to get tough; we should take the gloves off and fight Canada and Mexico on unfair trade. We should also expose the World Trade Organization for what it is: an undemocratic, unfair clique of small countries that love to skewer the United States.


Canada and Mexico filed a complaint with the WTO charging that COOL was a barrier to free trade because it required grocery stores to label meat products with their country of origin. Ninety percent of American consumers want to have the country of origin labels on their meats. If mad cow disease is coming from Canada (which it has), consumers and processors should have the right to know where their beef is coming from.


But what about the real tariff barriers to trade enacted by our northern neighbor? According to Canada’s leading newspaper, the Globe and Mail, the Canadian federal government imposes tariffs that run between 200 per cent and 300 per cent on virtually all dairy and chicken imports including milk, cheese and ice cream. Incredibly, we can’t ship Vermont’s Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or Vermont’s excellent cheddar cheese, milk or butter across the border because it would triple the cost.


Instead of enacting excessive duties, Mexico has established illegal subsidies on many products. Two major industries affected by this are sugar and steel. The U.S. International Trade Commission recently made a determination (by a 5-0 vote) that imports of dumped and subsidized Mexican sugar are materially injuring U.S. sugar producers. According to the antidumping and countervailing duty petitions filed by the U.S. sugar industry, Mexico has systematically dumped subsidized sugar into the U.S. market costing domestic producers an estimated $1 billion this year alone. In 2014, U.S. Department of Commerce made a determination that rebar steel imports from Mexico were unfairly being dumped into the U.S. market threatening the jobs of American workers.


At the same time, Obama said that his new Trans Pacific Partnership would not force the United States to change its laws. The President said recently, “critics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation — food safety, worker safety, even financial regulations. They’re making this stuff up. This is just not true. No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.” Mr. President, your critics are not making this stuff up; our little trade agreement that created the WTO is doing just that.


The World Trade Organization sounds like a legitimate international organization, but it is not. The WTO operates in secret by handpicked delegates from around the world. Cases reviewed by the WTO are determined by “judges” selected for one case even if they have demonstrated conflicts of interest. WTO decisions make a mockery of U.S. and European laws that have been designed to protect the health of consumers and the environment. The WTO is unfair, unethical and undemocratic. It needs to be overhauled.


The United States Senate should keep COOL in force. In fact, the Senate should pass a resolution challenging the validity of the WTO ruling for conflict of interest reasons.


In the event that the Senate passes a bill that guts COOL (like the House bill) and sends it to the president, the president should veto the bill. As the president said, “No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.” If he is true to his word, the president must veto the COOL amendments.


Joel D. Joseph is chairman of the Made in the USA Foundation and worked on the Country of Origin Labeling Act.


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