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TPA bill clears committees

Wednesday the Senate Finance Committee marked up and approved the proposed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill by a vote of 20-6 and the House Ways and Means Committee followed suit Thursday with its debate on the bill and passage by a bipartisan vote of 25 to 13.

TPA, seen as an essential assurance to foreign trading partners that Congress won’t amend any negotiated package, offers Congress the ability to vote up or down on any bill. It also defines 150 negotiating standards as includes transparency of public access to any negotiated text and for Congressional access during the negotiation process.

House Ways and Means Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) said TPA shows negotiators currently working on the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks that the U.S. is trustworthy. “They are waiting to put the best and final offers on the table,” Ryan said of Congressional passage of TPA. He noted one – the prime minister of Japan – is coming during the week of April 27 and is waiting for TPA passage assurances in order to put its best offer on the table.

The Senate is expected to make the first move on advancing its bill to the floor for a full vote sometime in early May.

Ahead of the Senate markup during a hearing on tariff policy, Thomas Donohue, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, explained that the 20 regions and countries the United States currently has trade agreements with represent a mere 6% of the world’s population, but buy nearly half of American’s exports. He also said when new trade agreements come into effect they have an annual average growth rate of 18% of the first five year period following an agreement coming into force.

Donohue said for American farmers and ranchers the stakes are particularly high as foreign markets place the highest tariffs on their agricultural products. “Agricultural exports have soared under new trade agreements,” he added.

AGOA and other trade bills

Both committees also took up original bills to extend the African Growth and Opportunity Act, the Generalized System of Preferences and the preferential duty treatment program for Haiti.

Agreed upon within the AGOA bill includes a trade agreement between the United States and sub-Saharan African countries, in the Senate was a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.) and cosponsored by Sen. Tom Carper (D., Del.) and Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.) which would put pressure on South Africa to remove unfair limits on American chicken imports. The amendment would require the president conduct an out-of-cycle review of South Africa within 30 days of enactment of AGOA.

The National Chicken Council, which has supported AGOA, said for the past 15 years while South Africa has benefitted from preferential duties under AGOA, it has simultaneously excluded chicken from its market. "This should send a clear message to South Africa and their poultry industry that they will not be given a 'Get out of jail free' card every time AGOA rounds the turn to pass 'Go.' It makes no sense for the United States to give special preferences to countries that treat our trade unfairly," said NCC president Mike Brown.

South Africa maintains a de facto ban on U.S. pork. It blocks U.S. pork exports based on a number of non-science-based barriers. The United States is at a significant disadvantage when it comes to gaining access to South Africa’s large and growing market for pork because that nation accepts pork from key competitors Brazil, Canada and the European Union. The National Pork Producer Council (NPPC) said it has been working with U.S. and South African officials to open the African country’s market to U.S. pork.

Ralco acquires rights to swine milk system

Ralco acquires rights to swine milk system

Ralco announced April 24 that it has entered into an agreement with Advanced Birthright Nutrition (ABN) for the exclusive worldwide rights to sell and distribute the Birthright Moveable Milk Cup.

The new technology is an in-line milk system that increases the profitability and efficiency of swine producers by allowing them to move supplementation milk cups within a farrowing facility while the system is running.

"This technology let's producers get Birthright milk to the right pigs and reduces over feeding," ABN owner John Vignes, who invented Birthright baby pig milk replacer, said. "They can also remove the cups while the milk system is running and clean the hard-to-reach bottoms, which is important for fighting" porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome and porcine epidemic diarrhea.

Swine producers that utilize the technology plumb each crate in a farrowing room, and then insert cups where they are needed. Birthright milk can be targeted to the smaller pigs for more uniform litters and less weaning of underweight pigs. Targeting the pigs that require supplementation the most reduces overfeeding and controls milk costs. Also, the cups can be removed and completely cleaned without shutting down the milk system, which is essential for biosecurity.

The patented technology took two and a half years to develop and was designed by mechanical engineer Justin Vignes.

The Birthright Moveable Milk Cup is patented under U.S. Patent No. 14/494,745 and European Patent No. EP14186175.7.

A leading global provider of livestock nutrition, animal health products and crop enhancement products, Ralco supports large segments of the livestock, poultry, aquaculture and crop industries.

Pipestone seeks supervisor

Pipestone seeks supervisor

First of kind Feed LCA Guidelines released

The International Feed Industry Federation (IFIF), American Feed Industry Assn. (AFIA) and European Compound Feed Manufacturers' Federation (FEFAC) announced the official release of the "Global Feed Life Cycle Assessment" (LCA) guidelines developed by the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO)-led Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership (LEAP).

IFIF, AFIA and FEFAC are founding members of LEAP, which aims to improve how the environmental impacts of the livestock industry are measured and assessed.

These groundbreaking global LCA guidelines are an essential step to help reduce the impact of livestock products on the environment, the organizations said.

"The guidelines provide practical and science-based recommendations to assess the environmental performance of feed supply chains. They carry an international scientific consensus based on the input of 20 international experts in the drafting process and a thorough international public review which took place ahead of this official release," said Dr. Frank Mitloehner from the University California-Davis and former chairman of LEAP.

"These guidelines represent a significant milestone for the global feed industry," IFIF chairman Mario Cutait said. "Sustainability is one of the key priorities for IFIF and these global guidelines will enable consistent and credible environmental assessments with a view to reduce the environmental footprint of livestock products."

Cutait added, "we can now work with our partners on the agri-feed chain to develop practical tools for feed and livestock producers to assist them in further reducing the environmental footprint of their activities."

"LEAP is an international and a multi-stakeholder process," AFIA president and chief executive officer Joel G. Newman said. "It means that the LEAP/FAO Feed LCA Guidelines reflect a common vision among partners, including FAO, national governments, private sector organizations as well as (non-governmental organizations). This adds value to these globally harmonized metrics and will help meet our customers' expectations."

"We took into account the main recommendations of the Product Environmental Footprint Guide published by the European Commission Common during the development of the FAO/LEAP Guidelines," said FEFAC President Ruud Tijssens. "From a European perspective, the FAO/LEAP guidelines are therefore the logical and relevant starting point to develop a standard aligned with the recommendations of the European Commission."

The guidelines can be accessed on the LEAP website: http://www.fao.org/partnerships/leap/en/.

Alltech acquires Ridley Inc.

Alltech and Ridley Inc. announced April 23 that they have entered into a plan of arrangement agreement under which Alltech will acquire 100% of the outstanding stock of Ridley, one of the leading commercial animal nutrition companies in North America, for $40.75 (Canadian) per share. The total consideration payable to Ridley shareholders is approximately $521 million (Canadian).

The $40.75 per share price represents a premium of approximately 23% to the 20-day volume weighted average price of Ridley's common shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange as of April 22. The closing price of the Ridley shares on the TSX on April 22, 2015 was CAD $33.94.

The boards of directors of both companies have unanimously approved the merger.

"This transformative transaction that combines two industry leaders allows Alltech to deliver better performance and value to livestock and poultry producers across the globe," said Dr. Pearse Lyons, founder and president of Alltech. "With Ridley's leading animal nutrition supplements, block products, extensive livestock and poultry producer distribution network and on-farm presence, we will be able to bring our advanced nutrition technology to market faster and more effectively. This combination creates a new model to deliver superior animal nutrition and tailored feeding programs supported by robust scientific research and data analytics. This deal underscores our continued momentum in growing our business through strategic acquisitions of best-in-class companies with trusted technology and brand recognition."

Steven J. VanRoekel, president and chief executive officer of Ridley, said, "Joining Ridley with Alltech is about bringing the best nutrition solutions to meat, milk and egg producers around the world. Alltech is the technological leader with a broad global footprint so by uniting forces we will create a scalable platform to grow and market solutions to enhance the profitability of producers. We are also joining a financially strong company that is committed to investing in science and innovation so that we can deliver the most advanced animal nutrition solutions."

Ridley is one of the largest commercial animal nutrition businesses in North America. Ridley manufactures and markets a full range of animal nutrition solutions, including formulated complete feeds, premixes, feed supplements, block supplements, animal health products and feed ingredients. Ridley's customers include livestock producers as well as equine and pet breeders. Ridley's products are sold to producers by direct sales or through distributor and dealer channels.

The combined company will have a presence in more than 128 countries and 4,200 employees worldwide. Alltech has more than doubled its sales in the last three years and is on target to achieve $4 billion (U.S.) in sales in the next few years.

The transaction is subject to approval by Ridley shareholders, regulatory review and other customary closing conditions. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the second quarter.

Founded in 1980 by Dr. Pearse Lyons, Alltech improves the health and performance of people, animals and plants through natural nutrition and scientific innovation. With more than 3,500 employees and a presence in 128 countries, the company has developed a strong regional presence in Europe, North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Ridley, headquartered in Mankato, Minn., is one of the leading animal nutrition companies in North America, serving customers mainly in the U.S. and Canada. Ridley employs more than 700 people in the manufacture, sales and marketing of a full range of animal nutrition products under highly regarded trade names.

Further HPAI cases listed

In the past two days, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service has confirmed the presence of H5N2 highly pathogenic avian influenza in additional 15 flocks in Minnesota and one flock in South Dakota.

On April 21, USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed HPAI H5N2 in the following counties and states:

* Cottonwood County, Minn., with 30,000 turkeys;

* Wadena County, Minn., with 301,000 turkeys;

* Kandiyohi County, Minn., with 61,000 turkeys, and

* Spink County, S.D. with 33,300 turkeys.

On April 22, USDA confirmed the following cases:

* Otter Tail County, Minn., with 34,500 turkeys;

* Redwood County, Minn., with 35,500 turkeys;

* Kandiyohi County, Minn., with 75,000 turkeys;

* Kandiyohi County, Minn., with 19,100 turkeys;

* Kandiyohi County, Minn., with 34,500 turkeys;

* Kandiyohi County, Minn., with 61,000 turkeys;

* Kandiyohi County, Minn., with pending number of turkeys;

* Stearns County, Minn., with 28,600 turkeys;

* Stearns County, Minn., with 72,500 turkeys;

* Stearns County, Minn., with pending number of turkeys;

* Meeker County, Minn., with 58,900 turkeys;

* Meeker County, Minn., with pending number of turkeys, and

* Meeker County, Minn., with 10,700 turkeys.

The affected premises have been quarantined and birds on the property will be depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease. Birds from the flock will not enter the food system.

Additionally, USDA has revised the bird count on the Osceola County, Iowa, laying hen flock from 5.2 million chickens to 3.8 million chickens due to actual inventory on the farm at the time of the outbreak.

EU biotech approval process troubles U.S. groups

The European Commission has proposed to amend its approval process for biotechnology traits to allow individual member states to opt out of the import of products containing those traits, even though such traits have been fully approved by EU food safety officials.

A statement from House Agriculture Committee chairman Mike Conaway (R., Texas) said the process ignores science-based safety and environmental determinations made by the European Union and allows for an “opt out” of imports of products of biotechnology.

The announcement “ignores the scientific consensus regarding the safety of these products and flies in the face of existing trade agreements” said Conaway. “At a time when Europe and the United States are engaged in negotiations to expand market opportunities for producers on both continents, this decision raises serious questions regarding Europe’s commitment to these negotiations.”

The American Soybean Assn. added that it is bad for the EU’s own livestock producers and feed industries, will make those industries less competitive, and is bad for EU consumers who ultimately will pay more for the meat they put on their tables.

 ASA vice president and Delaware farmer Richard Wilkins said, “The EU feed and livestock industries have reacted very negatively to the EU Commission’s action, warning that it would make livestock production uncompetitive and disrupt trade into and within the EU market. Currently, the EU feed industry imports 75% of the soymeal it requires for livestock uses.”

Wilkins also expressed strong concerns about the compatibility of the action by the Commission with the EU’s existing international trade obligations as well as the ongoing Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations between the United States and EU.

“The World Trade Organization has ruled against the EU for not operating a timely and science-based approval process, and today’s decision would create new WTO violations by allowing member states to restrict these imports based on something as trivial as political or popular whims. It also runs completely contrary to the very spirit of eliminating barriers to US-EU trade under the TTIP. We believe this proposal, if finalized, would negatively impact U.S. soy trade with the EU,” Wilkins stated.

“What is particularly troubling about this proposal is that it hardly squares with the EU’s goal of presenting one coordinated economic face to the rest of the world,” added Wilkins. “Instead of standing with science, with modern agriculture, and with the realities of the global economy, the EU has divided itself with this proposal between those member states that choose to recognize the promise and potential of biotechnology to provide for their citizens, and those that do not.”

The proposal now must be adopted by the 28 EU member states and the EU parliament through the co-decision process. A timeline for that has not been set.

NALC to expand limestone operations

NALC LLC, a limestone and industrial minerals company, will invest $5 million to establish a second limestone quarry and fine-grind facility in Cloverdale, Ind., one-half mile from its current 174-acre operations, according to the Indiana Economic Development Corp. (IEDC).

Activity at the new 181-acre site will include the extraction and processing of high calcium carbonate limestone to be sold as an animal feed supplement, a fertilizer for agricultural purposes, an ingredient in the manufacturing of glass, a pollution control product for power plants, a safety application in underground coal mines and a filler for product manufacturing and other industrial applications.

Serving a diverse collection of industries, the company anticipates its new quarry and fine-grind operation to be operating by October, IEDC said. The company, which currently employs nearly 30 people, plans to create up to 15 new jobs by 2016.

IEDC offered NALC up to $110,000 in conditional tax credits based on the company's job creation plans. These incentives are performance-based, meaning until Indianans are hired, the company is ineligible to claim incentives.

Putnam County, Ind., approved additional incentives for NALC at the request of the Greencastle/Putnam County Development Center, IEDC added.

Founded in 2008, NALC began with the development of the greenfield quarry and added the first fine grind facility in early 2011. The company now controls more than 8 million tons of high-quality reserves in Cloverdale.

IEDC leads the state of Indiana's economic development efforts, focusing on helping companies grow in and locate to the state.

Reliable grain inspection standards needed

In September, several provisions of the Grain Standards Act expire, leading House legislators to hold a hearing to highlight what currently works as well as needed changes as it finalizes legislation to reauthorize the act and do so “well in advance” of the expiration to achieve bipartisan consensus.

During a hearing Wednesday,  House Agriculture subcommittee on general farm commodities and risk management chairman Rick Crawford (R., Ark.) said legislative drafts are “nearly concluded” and proposals have been reviewed from grain industry organizations and majority and minority offices have worked very closely in an effort to develop a bipartisan consensus in advance of a markup in the “near future.”

The U.S. Grain Standards Act, which was first passed in 1916, authorizes the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration to establish official marketing standards for grains and oilseeds, and requires that exported grains and oilseeds be officially weighed and inspected. It also establishes rules for the voluntary inspection of domestic grain.

USDA’s Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) performs the essential role of maintaining the official U.S. grain standards, which are critical to establishing value and price-discovery in the U.S. grain and oilseed marketplace.

Expiring provisions include the authority of the Federal Grain Inspection Service to collect user fees that fund their operations and the authority for a U.S. Department of Agriculture Grain Advisory Committee.

Members of the panel as well as legislators noted the importance of addressing shortcomings which have led to intermittent disruptions in official inspection and weighing service such as what happened at the Port of Vancouver, Washington in 2013 and 2014.

Nick Friant, business unit food safety leader for Cargill and on behalf of the National Grain and Feed Assn. and North American Export Grain Assn., urged that existing language be strengthened to reinforce the Secretary of Agriculture to restore official inspection in a prompt manner, which was not followed through on last year. He testified, “Make no mistake, U.S. foreign buyers took note of this very visible and extreme disruption, which damaged the reputation of FGIS and undermined confidence of international buyers in the reliability of the U.S. official grain inspection system at export locations.”

David Winkles, South Carolina Farm Bureau president, testified that these types of disruptions bring chaos into the marketplace and threaten customer relationships that have taken years to build and farmers, local businesses and consumers pay the price.

Farm Bureau testified it believes it is essential to have a contingency plan in place to ensure that official grain inspection activities still occur regardless of service disruptions. “We need to have a reliable third party inspection and grading program for emergency situations to assure both seller and buyer that every contract can be expected to be fulfilled in a timely manner,” Winkles said.

Friant added in his testimony the use of the independent third-party inspections in the cases when disruptions in official service occur should be utilized. He said some have attempted to denigrate, undermine or obfuscate this concept by labeling it as “privatization.”

“That emphatically is not what NGFA and NAEGA are proposing. Instead, what we propose is a process to further strengthen the federal system we seek to improve and preserve by enabling qualified individuals working under federal oversight and employed by independent, private third parties to be licensed under Section 84 of the USGSA utilizing the same process USDA already does to license personnel from designated official State and private entities in the domestic market,” he shared.

David Cox, who testified on behalf of the American Federation of Government Employees for the AFL-CIO, said that FGIS has a successful record over four decades of inspecting and weighing nearly 90% of the grain shipped to customers around the world. Approximately 200 inspectors are currently employed by FGIS. Cox said privatization would “undermine America’s guarantee of impartial and honest, government-backed trading which is relied upon by world buyers.”

NGFA and NAEGA also urged that FGIS be required to base the tonnage component of export inspection user fees on a fluctuating and more market-responsive basis that takes into account shifts in actual shipment volumes that are officially inspected, rather than the current static formula that is based on what were erroneously low projections in export volumes. Specifically, they recommended that FGIS use a rolling five-year average as the basis for the tonnage user fee calculation.

The Grains Standards Act is typically reauthorized every 10 years, however, NGFA and NAEGA recommended the time period be changed to ever five years given the “dynamic, changing and highly competitive nature of the global grain export marketplace,” Friant said.

McDonald's announces global commitment on deforestation

McDonald's announced April 21 a global commitment on deforestation across the company's expansive global supply chain.

The commitment builds upon McDonald's Global Sustainability Framework and longstanding leadership in the area of sustainable sourcing.

According to the announcement, the pledge encompasses all of the company's products and focuses on beef, fiber-based packaging, coffee, palm oil and poultry — for which the company will begin developing specific time-bound sourcing targets in 2015.

McDonald's will continue working collaboratively with a broad range of stakeholders, including suppliers, governments and non-governmental organization partners, to develop long-term solutions designed to combat deforestation around the world.

"This commitment to end deforestation demonstrates another major step for McDonald's as we work to increasingly embed sustainability throughout our global business," said Francesca DeBiase, senior vice president of McDonald's Worldwide Supply Chain & Sustainability. "Making this pledge is the right thing to do for our company, the planet and the communities in which our supply chain operates. We're excited to continue collaborating with our supplier partners to achieve our goals."

McDonald's commitment also aligns with the company's endorsement of the "New York Declaration on Forests," a call for global companies and organizations to "do their part" in an effort to end natural forest loss by 2030.

According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), deforestation creates far-reaching challenges and implications for future generations due to loss of biodiversity and contributions to climate change, and accounts for 15-20% of global greenhouse gas emissions — underscoring the urgent need to address the issue. WWF helped advise McDonald's on the deforestation commitment.

"We commend McDonald's plans to combat deforestation across their full range of commodities. This will lead to real conservation impacts on the ground, and we hope that this commitment will inspire other companies to take action," said David McLaughlin, WWF's vice president of sustainable food. "This commitment is bolstered by McDonald's ongoing sustainability work with the beef industry and the company's participation in WWF's Global Forest & Trade Network. Expanding monitoring and compliance efforts by McDonald's and their suppliers will be critical to ensuring the success of this important initiative."

Applying throughout the entire supply chain, the core principles and practices of McDonald's Commitment on Deforestation include:

* No deforestation of primary forests or areas of high conservation value;

* No development of high carbon stock forest areas;

* No development on peatlands, regardless of depth, and the utilization of best management practices for existing commodity production on peatlands;

* Respect human rights;

* Respect the right of all affected communities to give or withhold their free, prior and informed consent for plantation developments on land they own legally, communally or by custom;

* Resolve land rights disputes through a balanced and transparent dispute resolution process;

* Verify origin of raw material production, and

* Support smallholders, farmers, plantation owners and suppliers to comply with this commitment.

To view McDonald's full commitment and supporting information, visit: http://www.aboutmcdonalds.com/mcd/sustainability/sourcing/commitment-on-deforestation.html.