Hearing focuses on freight system: The Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation held a hearing Oct. 1 to hear perspectives from users of the nation's freight system. The panel is working to provide recommendations to the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee on ways to modernize the freight network and keep the U.S. competitive. Rep. John Duncan (R., Tenn.) said the panel plans to issue a report to the committee by the end of October. The manufacturing and agriculture industries represent almost one-fifth of the nation's annual gross domestic product. Duncan said both of these industries rely on a highly functioning, efficient and safe freight transportation network. The U.S. transportation system is critical to the competitive advantage the nation has in moving agricultural and food products across the country and around the world, Bill Reed of Riceland Foods Inc. testified, adding that with the focus on a fresh, safe food supply and just-in-time manufacturing and shipping, "it is imperative that products move within a narrow time frame, ... (which) requires a reliable and efficient transportation system." Edmond Johnston III, transportation policy leader for DuPont, testified that the number of Class I railroads dropped from 26 in 1980 to just seven by 2001, and with drastically reduced competition, railroad rates jumped 76% over the last decade. Johnston called on Congress to reform federal rail policy to promote greater access to rail competition and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Surface Transportation Board.
Stronger NAFTA sought: The U.S., Canada and Mexico enacted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) nearly two decades ago, in 1994. In a joint letter to their national leaders, the main lobbying groups for large companies in the three NAFTA countries said their members "continue to face obstacles to doing business across and within our borders." The letter, signed by the U.S. Business Roundtable, Canadian Council of Chief Executives and Consejo Mexicano de Hombres de Negocios, explained, "As free trade agreements proliferate, we must achieve a seamless North American market to be competitive. The challenge before us is to move beyond pilot projects, feasibility studies and regulatory reviews to fuller implementation and longer-term strategic action." The letter notes that the international trade and investment landscape has changed dramatically, becoming much more competitive and opening up many new opportunities, so "for these reasons, the time is ripe for Canada, Mexico and the United States to respond to these new challenges and pursue new opportunities to enhance our global competitiveness."
Arsenic-based animal drug petition denied: On Sept. 30, the Food & Drug Administration denied a petition from the Center for Food Safety and the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy that asked the agency to take steps to revoke the approvals of four arsenic-based animal drugs. FDA said the petitioners' requests on three of the four drugs (roxarsone, carbarsone and arsanilic acid) became moot after the sponsors of those drugs — Zoetis Inc. and Fleming Laboratories — requested that FDA withdraw the approvals for those products. For the remaining approved arsenic-based animal drug (nitarsone), FDA said it denied the petitioners' request because it is in the process of completing several scientific studies and reviewing information to help the agency more fully evaluate any potential concerns related to the safety of arsenic-based animal drugs. Nitarsone, the only arsenic-based animal drug currently marketed in the U.S., is approved for the prevention of blackhead disease in turkeys. Zoetis confirmed Oct. 1 that it had notified FDA that it was voluntarily withdrawing the marketing authorizations for 3-Nitro (roxarsone) and Carb-O-Sep (carbarsone). Roxarsone has not been on the market since July 2011, and carbarsone has not been manufactured or marketed for more than a decade, Zoetis said.
Chicken Caucus: Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.) announced the formation of the inaugural Senate Chicken Caucus. Speaking to attendees at the National Chicken Council's (NCC) annual meeting last week in Washington, D.C., he cited the importance of the chicken industry to the U.S. economy as impetus for founding the caucus. Coons will co-chair the caucus with Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.). The legislators said they want to educate other senators about the history, contributions and concerns of U.S. chicken producers, including a wide range of issues pertaining to agriculture, food safety, free trade, labor, immigration reform and others. Besides Coons and Isakson, founding members of the Senate Chicken Caucus, to date, include Sens. John Boozman (R., Ark.), Tom Carper (D., Del.), Saxby Chambliss (R., Ga.), Mark Pryor (D., Ark.) and Roger Wicker (R., Miss.). The House formed a Chicken Caucus in 2011; it is currently co-chaired by Reps. Rick Crawford (R., Ark.) and Sanford Bishop (D., Ga.) and maintains more than 50 House members. According to NCC, U.S. chicken companies directly employ more than 300,000 workers and produce products with a wholesale value exceeding $45 billion annually.
Asset transfer: Viterra Inc. announced Oct. 1 that it has transferred to Agrium Inc. certain of its crop input retail centers, fertilizer and ammonia storage and distribution assets in western Canada; Viterra Financial arrangements related to crop input retail centers; Viterra's interest in Interprovincial Cooperative Ltd., and the western Canadian fuel business, in accordance with the provisions of the support and purchase agreement between, among others, Viterra and Agrium.
Overseas offices: Richardson International Ltd. announced that it is expanding its grain and oilseed merchandising team by establishing international subsidiaries in Europe and Asia. The two new entities in Singapore and Geneva, Switzerland, will enhance Richardson's ability to service new and existing customers in overseas markets. "With the open market for wheat and barley and the acquisition of 19 new grain facilities across western Canada, our volumes have grown significantly over the last year and will continue to grow," said Brent Watchorn, executive vice president, marketing. "Looking to the future, we want to establish a permanent presence for the Richardson group of companies in key international markets to be closer to our evolving customer base and make the most of opportunities to expand our global reach." Richardson has had a presence in Asia for the last three years with its merchandising subsidiary in Hong Kong.
Conveyor testing: Modern Process Equipment Corp. (MPE) announced that it now offers on-site conveyor testing of product at its new test facility in Indonesia. This facility is fully equipped to test product on the company's demonstration Chain-Vey unit to determine the feasibility of and ideal configuration for the product's conveying needs. MPE said its Chain-Vey tubular drag conveyor moves products gently, efficiently, horizontally and vertically in a dust-tight environment without product degradation or declassification, thereby making it a solution for products ranging from coffee to food powders, material chips, activated carbon and more.
Agronomy locations: BRANDT announced last week that it has acquired two retail agronomy locations near Decatur, Ill. Hardy Fertilizer in Mt. Auburn, Ill., and Niantic Crop Service in Niantic, Ill., have become part of the BRANDT organization, extending the company's reach to the east. BRANDT offers a broad range of products and services, including plant nutrients, crop protection products, precision agriculture and custom application. BRANDT said the acquisition of Hardy fits with its aggressive corporate strategy of providing agronomic advice and services for customers in central Illinois. The combined company has 24 retail locations throughout central Illinois, serving nearly 1 million acres of production farmland.