Biodiesel tax incentive bill introduced: Sens. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) and Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) introduced a bill Feb. 19 to extend the expired biodiesel tax incentive for three years. According to the National Biodiesel Board, the bill, S. 2021, would extend the tax incentive through 2017 while also changing it from a blenders' incentive to one for biodiesel producers. Enactment would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2014. As has occurred in the past, it is likely that any extension of the biodiesel incentive would be passed as part of a larger package of tax incentives affecting a variety of industries, not as stand-alone legislation. However, S. 2021 provides a marker for such a package and adds to the momentum created recently as lawmakers, including new Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), have called for passing tax extenders legislation quickly.
China's new pork import requirements: Several food and agricultural associations sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and trade Ambassador Mike Froman in February expressing concern about China's new "test and hold" requirements on imports of U.S. pork, calling the decision "unwarranted and extraordinarily disappointing." The groups stated that the requirements "will undoubtedly disrupt U.S. pork sales to one of our most important export markets and could significantly undermine the food safety and animal health and welfare of the U.S. pork industry." The letter asks Vilsack and Froman to actively engage with China to eliminate these new requirements and adopt science-based maximum residue levels for the import of U.S. pork in order to avoid disrupting mutually beneficial trade.
Website tells poultry production story: The National Chicken Council (NCC) has launched a new website, www.ChickenRoost.com, that features information on issues such as animal welfare, food safety, environmental stewardship, antibiotic use and the modern partnership between farmers and chicken companies. The site was developed as a follow-up to last year's inaugural Chicken Media Summit hosted by NCC and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn., where 30 members of mainstream, social and trade media toured every aspect of how chicken is produced and processed today, from the hatchery to the feed mill, farm and processing plant. "We heard from folks at the summit about what their readers and listeners were interested in hearing and learning about — the health of the chickens, the family farm, what labels mean, where their chicken comes from and how it is raised," NCC president Mike Brown said. "We had overwhelmingly positive response by not only explaining but showing what it is we do and why we do it. We want to build off of that by continuing to tell our story online, being more transparent and addressing consumer concerns that go beyond the product." The new site also allows consumers to share and access content via social media like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. The goal is to form a better dialogue with consumers and answer their questions about chicken production and chicken products.
Batta nominated for USDA legislative post: President Barack Obama has nominated Todd Batta to be assistant secretary of congressional relations at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Batta is currently senior adviser to the agriculture secretary, a position he has held since 2012. In this role, he is responsible for providing strategic advice and guidance to the secretary regarding USDA's budget, legislative and regulatory agenda. From September 2011 to April 2012, Batta served as special assistant in the USDA congressional relations office. Prior to his work at USDA, Batta was a legislative assistant to Sen. Herb Kohl (D., Wis.), a staff member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a staff member for Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa).
Pesticide safety: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed significant improvements to worker training regarding the safe usage of pesticides, including how to prevent and effectively treat pesticide exposures. Increased training and signage will inform farm workers about the protections they are afforded under the law and will help them protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposure, EPA said. Workers and others near treated fields will now be protected from pesticide overspray and fumes. In addition, EPA has proposed that children under 16 be legally barred from handling all pesticides, with an exemption for family farms. These revisions protect workers while ensuring agricultural productivity and preserving the traditions of family farms. This proposal represents more than a decade of extensive stakeholder input by federal and state partners and from across the agricultural community on the current EPA Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides first established in 1992.
Bio ag alliance: Monsanto Co. and Novozymes recently announced that they closed on the The BioAg Alliance following the satisfaction of relevant closing conditions and the receipt of required regulatory approvals. Both companies will now focus on implementing the long-term strategic alliance. The BioAg Alliance brings together Novozymes' commercial BioAg operations and capabilities within microbial discovery, development and production with Monsanto's microbial discovery, advanced biology, field testing and commercial capabilities. The result will be a comprehensive research, development and commercial collaboration for sustainable microbial products.
Combination vaccine: Merck Animal Health introduced Circumvent PCV-M G2 — a porcine circovirus Type 2 (PCV2) and Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae combination vaccine. The new vaccine is the only one-dose or two-dose, ready-to-use combination with five-month PCV2 duration of immunity, which is 25% longer than any other PCV2 vaccine on the market, the announcement said. The vaccine is the second product in the next generation of Circumvent G2 vaccines, which offer one- or two-dose options, giving producers and their veterinarians the flexibility to choose the dosing protocol that best fits their operation's needs. With the two-dose option, producers can administer the first vaccination to piglets as early as three days of age, which helps get them off to a stronger start. Having the ability to vaccinate at such an early age also offers the convenience of working with smaller pigs that are easier to handle and less stressed, and this process can be completed by some of the operation's trusted and capable pig handlers who commonly work in the farrowing barns.
Horse feeds: Purina Animal Nutrition has introduced IMPACT horse feed, a line of premium horse feeds designed to meet the nutritional requirements of horses of all types and lifestyles. The product line offers textured, pelleted and complete feeds for horses of nearly any life stage and activity level. IMPACT horse feeds offer: high-quality protein for muscle maintenance; added fat for sustainable energy and a healthy hair coat; nutritional balance, removing the need for supplements, and ingredients selected to support overall horse health.
Milling deal: Western Milling based in Goshen, Cal., recently acquired Integrated Grain & Milling (IGM) in Hanford, Cal., on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway track. The purchase will allow Western Milling, which has units on the Union Pacific rail line, to use both railroad companies. The Hanford facility handles bulk commodities and can receive 110-unit trains. It has nearly 45,000 tons of storage capacity, and the rolling operation can produce 2,500 tons of steam-flaked corn per day. Western Milling bought out Zacky Farms but plans to continue a partnership IGM has with Harris Farms. The new unit will no longer carry the IGM name.
India biorefinery: Aemetis Inc., an advanced fuel and renewable chemical company, announced that it has upgraded its 50 million gal.-per-year biodiesel and refined glycerin production facility in Kakinada, India, to produce high-quality distilled biodiesel. The plant uses large volumes of lower-cost, non-food byproducts from the edible oil industry as feedstock to supply the biofuel, pharmaceutical and industrial markets. The Aemetis plant, built in 2008, is the only distilled biodiesel producer in India and is one of the only plants in Asia capable of producing large supplies of biodiesel that meet the rigorous European Union standards. In 2013, the Aemetis plant produced roughly $20 million of biodiesel that was delivered to customers in Europe.
Fertilizer assets: CHS Inc. announced that it has acquired the fertilizer business and related fertilizer assets of Terral RiverService in Lake Providence, La. Terral is a river transportation service company specializing in the bulk storage and handling of dry and liquid materials along the Mississippi River system, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and inland waterways of Louisiana and southern Arkansas. CHS will integrate nine Terral RiverService locations, including eight river terminals, into its existing Crop Nutrients business. "This acquisition aligns with CHS growth plans for strategic business and infrastructure expansion into the Lower Mississippi River region," said Cheryl Schmura, CHS vice president of crop nutrients. "CHS will serve agricultural supply dealers throughout the region with a full range of dry and liquid (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) and specialty fertilizers, backed by global fertilizer supply and logistics expertise." Terral's 36 employees will become CHS employees, and its fertilizer customers are being notified of the ownership change. Terral will retain ownership of its port and marine operations, aggregates and cottonseed businesses.
Colfax purchase: Private equity firm Irving Place Capital and Victor Technologies recently announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement to sell Victor to Colfax Corp., a global manufacturer of gas and fluid handling and fabrication technology products. The all-cash transaction values Victor at approximately $947 million, including the assumption of debt, and is subject to customary closing conditions. Victor is a designer and manufacturer of a comprehensive suite of metal cutting, gas control and specialty welding products.
Nutrient research: Iowa State University announced a new website for its Iowa Nutrient Research Center, www.nutrientstrategy.iastate.edu/center, that provides information on research projects that are under way to improve nutrient management practices on Iowa farms. The "Projects" link on the website provides summaries of the center's 10 funded projects, including research on bioreactors, cover crops, new technology to more accurately predict movement of nutrients and decision support tools for farmers. The first set of projects — led by teams of scientists at Iowa State, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa — addresses critical needs or gaps in nitrogen and phosphorus research identified in the science assessment that was part of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, a science and technology-based approach to assess and reduce nutrients delivered to Iowa waterways and the Gulf of Mexico. The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Center was established in response to legislation passed last spring in which the center received $1.5 million for 2013-14 from the Iowa legislature for research in areas that include evaluating the performance of current and emerging nutrient management practices, providing recommendations on implementing the practices and developing new practices.