Obama urges House immigration vote: Last year, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill, but so far, House Republicans have been unwilling to take up the Senate bill and have taken a more piecemeal approach to immigration reform. In a statement, President Barack Obama applauded efforts by House Democrats who are seeking 218 signatures on a petition that would force a vote. "Like the Senate bill, the House bill would strengthen our borders, modernize our legal immigration system and keep more families together. It would make sure everyone plays by the same rules by providing a pathway to earned citizenship for those who are living in the shadows," Obama said. "Immigration reform is the right thing to do for our economy, our security and our future. A vast majority of the American people agree."
U.S., Japan hold TPP discussions: During a March 27-28 meeting in Washington, D.C., acting deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler and Ambassador Hiroshi Oe of Japan continued bilateral market access negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Several days of working-level meetings on market access also took place between the American and Japanese negotiating teams last week. U.S.-Japan parallel negotiations taking place this week between Cutler and Ambassador Takeo Mori will focus on motor vehicle trade. These negotiations are taking place in conjunction with the agreement between USTR Michael Froman and Japan's Minister Akira Amari to continue work seeking to narrow gaps between the two countries on these two priority areas in the TPP negotiations.
Hillshire turkey plant damaged in fire: Hillshire Brands' turkey processing plant in Iowa was closed after a fire broke out March 22. The Iowa Fire Marshal's Office was investigating the cause and assessing damage to the plant last week. Firefighters responding to the call reported that the fire occurred on the plant's production roof. As a result, a section of the roof was damaged and collapsed, while the remaining part of the building sustained substantial fire and smoke damage. In a statement, Hillshire director of corporate communications Mike Cummins said the company is "currently assessing the damage, and the plan is to keep the facility closed until further notice." No one was injured in the fire, and the total cost of the damage has yet to be determined.
Widget helps answer food questions: To help answer consumers' questions about food, a new widget from www.BestFoodFacts.org can be embedded on websites that allows readers to submit questions directly to experts who provide credible and balanced information. BestFoodFacts.org features more than 150 university-based food system experts who have done research and serve up unbiased answers to food-related questions in blogs, infographics, podcasts and videos. Roxi Beck with Best Food Facts noted that consumers "want balanced information to make informed choices. With the new widget, we're providing organizations, companies, associations, bloggers and others with a tool their readers can use to access quality information." Created by The Center for Food Integrity, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to build consumer trust and confidence in today's food system, Best Food Facts tracks trending topics and solicits questions from readers, providing responses within as few as 24 hours.
Dairy pricing rule published: The U.S. Department of Agriculture published a final rule in the Federal Register to extend the dairy forward contracting program through Sept. 30, 2018, as required under the new farm policy. The program, which was first authorized in the 2008 farm bill and expired on Sept.30, 2013, permits farmers to voluntarily enter into forward price contracts with milk handlers for pooled milk and allows regulated milk handlers to pay farmers in accordance with the terms of a forward contract instead of paying the minimum federal order blend price for pooled milk. Any forward contract entered into until Sept. 30, 2018, is subject to an expiration date of Sept. 30, 2021.
Smithfield reporting: Smithfield Foods announced last week changes to its reporting calendar to correspond with the financial calendar of its parent company, WH Group. It will file a transition report with the Securities & Exchange Commission on Form 10-K for the April 29 to Dec. 29, 2013, transition period. Due to the new schedule, Smithfield's fiscal year ended not even one week after the previous conference call. Regular reporting will resume in May.
Sale finalized: The Mosaic Co. has completed its acquisition of the phosphate business of CF Industries Inc. for $1.2 billion in cash plus $200 million to fund the company's asset retirement obligation escrow. The deal includes a 25,000-acre phosphate mine and beneficiation plant, a phosphate manufacturing facility and an ammonia terminal and finished product warehouse facilities in the Tampa, Fla., area. The facilities currently produce around 1.8 million tons of phosphate fertilizer per year, which will bring Mosaic's annual phosphate capacity to more than 11 million tons.
Ethanol plant: Valero Renewable Fuels Co. LLC announced that it has purchased a corn ethanol plant in Mt. Vernon, Ind., from Aventine Renewable Energy-Mt. Vernon LLC. The plant has an annual production capacity of 110 million gal. and uses Delta-T technology, which is similar to the process already in use at Valero's ethanol plant in Jefferson, Wis. The Mt. Vernon plant becomes Valero's 11th corn ethanol plant and its second in Indiana. The addition will give Valero more than 1.3 billion gal. per year in ethanol production capacity. The plant has been shut down for around two years, but Valero plans to begin a restart program and resume production within the next several months.
EPC contracts: Pellet Technology USA (PTUSA) has entered into an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) joint development agreement with ICM Inc. (ICM) under which it will become the exclusive contractor for PTUSA in the U.S. and abroad. PTUSA identified Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Texas and California as states likely to present EPC contract opportunities in the immediate future. Besides the ICM relationship, PTUSA announced that it also has begun discussions with several equipment, feed and energy producers, which will extend the two companies' agreement to work together to provide EPC contracts for new facilities in the near term.