WRDA conference deal reached: The House and Senate have reached a conference agreement on the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) that would provide an $8.2 billion boost to U.S. ports and waterways. A joint statement from the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee and the House Transportation Committee said the conference report "maintains ports and navigation routes for commerce and the movement of goods, provides flood control that protects lives and property and restores vital ecosystems to preserve our natural heritage." The statement added that the leaders will prepare the final legislation to go to the House and Senate floor for a vote during the week of May 12. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill passed last year with overwhelming support, but talks had slowed down during conference negotiations. WRDA would increase funding for waterway development projects, such as deepening waterways and making lock and dam repairs and upgrades. The conference report is expected to alleviate some funding challenges by reallocating the Olmsted Lock & Dam projects away from the Waterways Trust Fund and directing the Army Corps of Engineers to seek public/private partnerships for certain projects.
BSE case confirmed in Brazil: According to an alert issued May 5 by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), a 12-year-old cow was identified in Brazil with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The investigation began in April after a fallen cow that arrived at a slaughterhouse in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, was suspected of having neurological problems. The OIE report noted that meat and other products from this animal did not enter the food chain. The animal's movement was traced, and offspring of the female were located on 10 other properties in three different municipalities in Mato Grosso. Although the 49 offspring did not show clinical signs, the animals were destroyed and tested for BSE as part of a routine inspection process. The results of the test conducted by Brazil's National Agricultural Laboratory were negative for BSE.
Court upholds 2013 RFS: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a petition by Monroe Energy LLC challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's 2013 renewable fuel standard (RFS). After EPA reduced the cellulosic biofuel volume mandated for 2013, Monroe Energy, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines that operates a fuel refinery in Pennsylvania, challenged EPA's decision not to reduce the renewable fuel and advanced biofuel volumes by the same or a lesser amount. Monroe Energy has said a spike in renewable identification numbers (RINs) could cost it more than $100 million, but the court found "no ground to conclude that the 2013 standards are unlawful simply because RINs are costlier than in prior years." In a statement, biofuel groups said the court rejected Monroe Energy's argument that EPA's decision served no "statutory purpose" and reaffirmed the directive from Congress that EPA ensure that U.S. transportation fuel contains at least the volumes provided in the RFS statute. The court also rejected Monroe Energy's attempts to revisit decisions about the RFS program that EPA made in earlier years, stating that "the time to challenge that decision has passed."
Pesticide rule comments filed: Members of the Pesticide Policy Coalition (PPC) recently filed comments on two proposed guidance documents related to pesticide spray drift. The Environmental Protection Agency issued the proposals earlier this year and accepted comments until April 30. The PPC comments expressed concern that the models may overestimate exposure from spray drift and do not take into account drift reduction technologies (DRTs) and standard operating procedures. The coalition recommended that EPA implement a program to verify DRTs. "EPA's use of atypical assumptions and default input parameters overlooks many of the (DRTs) and standard operating procedures that are now typical for aerial and ground applications," PPC members said in a letter. "EPA's default parameters are rarely encountered in normal commercial pesticide applications. The resulting modeling flaws assign unwarranted exposure risks to routine pest control situations and require extremely large no-spray buffers to mitigate phantom risks."
European GIs: U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman told the Senate Finance Committee May 1 that the fifth round of the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership will be held this month, and USTR continues to urge the European Union to back off its aggressive stance on geographical indicators (GIs). By permitting the use of food names such as parmesan, bologna and black forest ham, the EU can provide protection for domestic producers of those products while at the same time limiting imports for commonly assumed product names. Froman said the GI system allows the EU to export billions of dollars of products to the U.S., but U.S. producers are not able to export commonly named items such as feta cheese. He said he hasn't convinced his European counterparts to give up on the GIs but is pushing for a common names and a trademark approach.
Fertilizer storage: CHS Inc. and Fessenden Cooperative Assn. of Fessenden, N.D., announced that they have formed a 50/50 joint venture company to construct and operate a fertilizer warehouse in Hamberg, N.D. The facility will have 28,000 tons of nitrogen, potassium, sulfate, phosphorus and micronutrient storage capacity and product blending capabilities. The new Hamberg warehouse will primarily serve farmer-owners of Fessenden Cooperative's retail business, and CHS also will serve its nearby wholesale customers from this location. Mark Hovland, general manager of Fessenden Cooperative, said the fertilizer warehouse is the second major partnership with CHS. Last year, they built a greenfield grain shuttle-loading facility on the BNSF rail line at Hamberg. Plant construction will begin this summer and is expected to be completed by the fall of 2015. When the plant is operational, Hovland said three additional employees will be hired. "Long-range plans for improved fertilizer capacity and service have long been part of our growth strategy, and we look to CHS to provide global access to a wide array of markets as well as valuable marketing insights and expertise," he said.
Co-op merger: Agland Co-op Inc. and Green Valley Co-op have announced that they will merge, effective Sept. 1. The two farm supply and grain cooperatives will be incorporated as Agland Co-op, with headquarters in New Philadelphia, Pa. The combined co-op will have approximately 200 employees and will serve customers from 24 locations in 20 eastern Ohio counties, as well as areas of western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia. Cooperative business leaders estimate that the combined organization's sales will be about $320 million.
Pinnacle adds on: Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings LLC has successfully acquired Frontier Chemical LLC, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Formed in 2007 in Beattie, Kan., Frontier Chemical added a second location in Troy, Kan., in 2011. Today, the business has grown tenfold from its original volume. Travis Stuke will continue to manage the Beattie location, and Jed Johnson will continue to manage the Troy location.