Senate passes co-op pension bill: The Senate unanimously approved a bipartisan bill that will make it easier for charities and cooperatives to continue to offer pensions to their employees. The Cooperative & Small Employer Charity Pension Flexibility Act of 2013 would ensure that charitable and cooperative associations are not swept into the funding rules of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA), which would require them to divert funds from critical services and jeopardize their ability to provide pension benefits to their workers. Many charities and co-ops provide their employees with retirement benefits through defined benefit multiple employer pension plans, also known as CSEC plans. The plans allow small, community-focused employers to pool their resources to achieve economies of scale otherwise available only to large employers. CSEC plans would be able to opt into PPA in 2014 if they want, and importantly, PPA imposes additional transparency requirements on CSEC plans so that participants have access to accurate information. Bill co-sponsor Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa) urged his colleagues in the House to pass the measure.
Baucus confirmation hearing held: On Jan. 28, Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus sat before his fellow colleagues in a hearing regarding his nomination to be the next ambassador to China. As a committee leader, Baucus said he has led passage and enactment of free trade agreements with 11 countries. "The U.S.-China relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world," Baucus said in his opening testimony. "It will shape global affairs for generations to come. We must get it right." He explained that, if confirmed, he will try to achieve two overarching goals: "First, to develop our economic relationship with China in a way that benefits American businesses and workers. Second, to partner with China as it emerges as a global power and encourage it to act responsibly in resolving international disputes, respecting human rights and protecting the environment," he said. No problems are expected with Baucus' final confirmation. The Senate Foreign Relations committee likely will advance his nomination to the Senate floor as soon as Feb. 4.
Russia bans Australian beef byproducts: Russia has issued a temporary ban on Australian beef byproducts, including offal, over the use of a growth stimulant it deemed unsafe. As of Jan. 27, the restriction was imposed after the discovery of the growth stimulant trenbolone in several shipments of Australian beef byproducts. The ban also affects Belarus and Kazakhstan, two ex-Soviet nations that are part of a Customs Union led by Russia. According to the Interfax news agency, in the first 10 months of 2013, Australia shipped 13,000 metric tons, $21.3 million in trade, of beef byproducts to ex-Soviet nations. Following the U.S. and Brazil, Australia is the world's third-largest exporter of beef. In 2013, it exported 30,000 mt of beef to Russia.
Lawmakers urge OSHA clarification: Reps. Kristi Noem (R., S.D.), Jim Costa (D., Cal.), Adrian Smith (R., Neb.) and Mike McIntyre (D., N.C.) led 83 members of the House in sending a letter to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez urging the Occupational Safety & Health Administration to stop using funds to regulate small farming operations. Since 1976, Congress has banned OSHA from regulating farming operations with 10 or fewer employees. However, in 2011, OSHA issued a memo indicating that the agency has authority to regulate "post-harvest" activities, which could include storage, fumigation and drying — processes common on farms of all sizes. "We ask you to direct OSHA ... to issue an updated memo clarifying that OSHA has no authority to regulate any aspect of an agricultural operation with 10 or fewer employees," the letter said. OSHA officials stated the previous week that they would be working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to clarify what post-harvest activities are "intimately related to farming activities and which ones weren't." In December, a bipartisan group of senators sent a similar letter to Perez.
COOL hearing: At the request of parties in the World Trade Organization dispute over the U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rule, a WTO dispute panel has agreed to start a meeting with the parties the morning of Feb. 18 with a session open to public viewing at WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting will continue on Feb. 19. The panel will also open to public viewing a portion of its third parties session on Feb. 20.
Corzine denied: A federal judge rejected a bid by former MF Global Holdings Ltd. chief executive officer Jon Corzine to dismiss a suit from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) claiming that Corzine played a key role in causing the bankruptcy of MF Global. Corzine claimed that CFTC failed to show that he did not adequately oversee the firm and asserted that he was not responsible for directly supervising employees involved in transfers of customer funds. In November, James Giddens, the trustee unwinding MF Global's brokerage unit, won bankruptcy court approval for a plan to close the remaining shortfalls and fully repay thousands of former customers. Corzine and other executives have appealed that ruling, saying it is unfair for Giddens to repay customers and then pursue claims against them to recover those funds.
New terminal: Consolidated Grain & Barge Co. (CGB) recently broke ground on a new facility in Kentucky. The terminal, to be located on the Ohio River near the town of Brandenburg, will be similar to another of CGB's facilities in Jeffersonville, Ind., that buys, stores and ships grain. The location will be part of CGB's Ohio Valley region and is planned to be operational before the 2014 harvest season. "We will employ about six workers at the facility and expect its presence will draw in additional interest and business," said Mark St. Clair, general manager for the region. CGB Enterprises Inc. operates 70 grain facilities across the Midwest and also has sizable operations in logistics and transportation, fertilizer, crop insurance, agri-finance, soybean processing, producer risk management and other related businesses.
Shuttle facility: Lansing Trade Group LLC recently announced plans to construct a high-speed shuttle train facility on the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) near Grayridge, Miss. Construction is expected to begin this month, with plans to receive grain by this fall. Once completed, the facility will be capable of loading 110-car shuttle trains. The state-of-the-art design includes high-speed truck receiving, a high-capacity dryer and the ability to receive multiple commodities. The facility will be Lansing's second shuttle facility in the Delta region and will add to the existing network of facilities operated by the company. "We are excited to build our Delta presence north toward southeast Missouri," chief executive officer Bill Krueger said. "This opportunity allows Lansing to bring value to producers in this rich production area of the Missouri Bootheel by providing access to a high-speed, UP-served shuttle-loading facility. The operation will expand our origination depth and enhance service opportunities for our destination customers." Lansing is an entrepreneurial commodity trading company focused on the physical movement of many different commodities, including whole grains, oilseeds, feed ingredients, energy products, containerized commodities and freight throughout North America and internationally.
Adisseo plant up: According to plan, Adisseo has confirmed the start-up of its methionine unit in Nanjing, China, which mirrors its sister plant in Burgos, Spain. The project, which took 9 million hours, has been a major industrial challenge, with more than 25 different chemical units filling a surface equivalent to 30 football fields. The project between Adisseo and its shareholder BlueStar reached mechanical completion in the first quarter of 2013. Chinese authorities delivered all permits, including the free sales certificates last August, and all units of the entire chemical complex (from elementary sulfur to liquid methionine) are now operative to ensure full reliability and optimized health, safety and environmental conditions, the company noted. The facility now manufactures Rhodimet AT88 on specification with the same quality standard as the Burgos plant. Sales of Rhodimet AT88 manufactured in China began after last September, but most of the 2014 production will be for the domestic market.
Rebranding plan: Makhteshim Agan Industries, a world leader in crop protection solutions, announced last week that it will transition to a new global brand, ADAMA, beginning in April 2014. To support the initiative, the company changed its legal entity name to ADAMA Agricultural Solutions Ltd. ADAMA comes from the Hebrew word for "earth" or "soil" and reflects the company's farmer-centric focus and its commitment to advancing agriculture in its global markets. Brand implementation will be conducted on staggered, country-by-country launches. The full transition to the new brand is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. Over the course of the brand transition, the company expects to reduce its numerous local brands and to establish a more simplified product portfolio. Over time, the move is expected to generate commercial and financial benefits. The formal launch of the new global brand is scheduled for early April, at which time the company will provide further details on the group's gradual adoption of the ADAMA name worldwide.
Colostrum replacer: Land O'Lakes Animal Milk Products introduced Land O'Lakes Colostrum Replacement for Kid Goats & Lambs, which is formulated to protect newborn goats and lambs from day 1 by reducing the risk of disease transmission. The company noted that the product reduces the risk of disease transmission when fed in place of maternal colostrum. It also provides consistent levels of immunoglobulins.
Enrofloxacin relaunch: Norbrook Laboratories Ltd. announced that following the Food & Drug Administration's denial of a citizen petition filed by Bayer Animal Health, FDA has reinstated in full its prior approval of the sale and use of Norbrook's new Enroflox 100 (enrofloxacin) in cattle and non-lactating dairy heifers less than 20 months of age. New Enroflox 100 is approved for the treatment of bovine respiratory disease (BRD) associated with Mannheimia haemolytica, Pasteurella multocida, and Histophilus somnus in beef and non-lactating dairy cattle. Norbrook, a veterinary pharmaceutical company, said the new BRD treatment antibiotic has the same active ingredient and formulation as Baytril 100 (enrofloxacin) and is approved in cattle for multi-day use only. Enroflox 100 will be available from veterinarians in 100 mL and 250 mL bottles.
Trich test: Life Technologies Corp. announced the availability of the only U.S. Department of Agriculture-licensed, real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to detect Tritrichomonas foetus — a sexually transmitted disease in cattle that leads to early embryonic losses and infertility, resulting in cattle industry losses due to open (non-pregnant) and late-calving cows. The VetMAX-Gold Trich Detection Kit gives veterinary diagnostic laboratories a test that provides sensitive and specific results through real-time PCR amplification of T. foetus DNA, the announcement said. Accurate testing to identify positive bulls is the only way to prevent the spread of trichomoniasis prior to cows being exposed to bulls.