USDA seeks to streamline rules: The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking public comments as it reviews existing program rules to determine whether any should be modified, streamlined, clarified or repealed, particularly concerning areas where USDA can simplify and reduce the reporting burden for entry and access to USDA programs while reducing its administrative and operating costs by sharing data across participating agencies. In response to Executive Order 13610 (Identifying & Reducing Regulatory Burdens), USDA has incorporated various initiatives into its review to reduce the burden on the public, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Conservation Delivery Streamlining Initiative, which has the potential to reduce administrative time for clients participating in conservation programs, and a streamlined version of a Farm Service Agency (FSA) form for use by repeat customers whose information has not changed. USDA initially focused its review on Rural Development, the Risk Management Agency (RMA), FSA and the Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) and has continued to make progress on these initiatives, including the publication of two FSIS proposed rule for electronic applications and certifications of both exports and imports. In the coming year, FSA and RMA will continue to collaborate on an Acreage & Crop Reporting Streamlining Initiative, and USDA will continue to implement the use of mobile information management technology to record exported animals.
EU nixes ethanol countervailing duties: The European Commission formally published a decision Dec. 20 declaring that no countervailing duties will be imposed on imports of U.S. ethanol. A joint statement from the Renewable Fuels Assn. (RFA) and Growth Energy said "it is good and right" that the European Commission decided not to impose duties. The U.S. ethanol lobbying groups said they believe similar conclusions will be drawn on Europe's antidumping investigation. The European Commission is recommending that member states apply a 9.6% antidumping duty to U.S. ethanol. Growth Energy and RFA said they "remain convinced that, if all the facts are considered, the European Union will decide not to impose any antidumping duties on imports of ethanol produced in the U.S." Currently, the U.S. ethanol industry does not receive any support like the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit that the EU previously said gave the U.S. product an unfair advantage.
Many EU states to miss stall ban deadline: About 80% of European Union countries are not yet compliant with the EU's animal welfare legislation that bans individual stalls for gestating sows and goes into effect Jan. 1, according to the British National Pig Assn. The association released the information because major British supermarkets have pledged that they will not sell pork from farms on the European continent that are not in compliance with the law, but approximately 60% of the U.K. pork supply is imported, and much of that is processed product such as bacon or ham that is nearly impossible to trace. The group said France is just 33% compliant with the EU ban, Germany is 48% compliant and Ireland is 57% compliant. Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain also are expected to miss the compliance deadline, according to the announcement.
Stall-free pork: Arby's announced that it is working with pork suppliers that "have policies in place" to eliminate gestation stalls from their pork production systems. The company did not specify any dates by which it expects plans or schedules from suppliers or by which it will source only "stall-free pork." Arby's, based in Atlanta, Ga., has more than 3,500 restaurants. In addition, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. announced plans to cease sourcing pork from production systems that use gestation stalls by 2022. Royal Caribbean is the second-largest cruise operator in the world, and its 41 ships carried 20 million travelers last year.
Wisconsin co-ops: Members of two Wisconsin grain cooperatives voted last month to merge. Wisconsin River Co-op (WRC) in Adams, Wis., and Farmers' Co-op Supply & Shipping Assn. in West Salem, Wis., will merge their operations under a single banner, effective by April 1. WRC chief executive officer Timothy Diemert will manage the merged organization, with Farmers' Co-op general manager Monte Wick serving as chief financial officer. The cooperative will hold a contest among employees and members to name the merged co-op. WRC offers agronomy, feed and grain, energy and retail operations at six Wisconsin locations, while Farmers' Co-op manages similar services in five additional areas of the state.
Crop production planning service pilot: Ag Production Planning Services based in Masonville, Colo., announced that it is launching a new service targeting mid- and large-scale growers who have some flexibility in their rotations and crop mix. The firm is recruiting several growers in six U.S. agricultural regions to participate in a pilot program designed to demonstrate a production planning service delivered over the internet. The consultant and the grower will work together to develop a crop plan for the 2013 season. At the end of the consultation, the grower receives a production plan that shows the production scenarios evaluated, the one that is most favorable and the reasons why. The plan can be easily updated prior to final planting decisions to account for changes in markets, weather, input costs, etc. Gary Schneider, president and founder of Ag Production Planning Services, said he is looking for feedback from the growers who participate in the pilot to help hone the service and the software. For more information, visit www.ag-production-planning.com.