Administration officials change: President Barack Obama said he intends to nominate Michael Froman as the next U.S. trade representative (USTR), the country's top trade negotiator. Froman is an assistant to the President and a deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs. Froman was involved in negotiating free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea and previously worked for the U.S. Department of Treasury and Citibank. As the new USTR, he will handle the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and free trade agreement negotiations with the European Union. Last Thursday, Obama also announced businesswoman Penny Pritzker as his pick for commerce secretary. Pritzker is involved in an investment firm and real estate and is part of the family that founded Hyatt Hotels. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that Michael Scuse, the current undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, will take over as deputy secretary for Kathleen Merrigan. The change will create something of a domino effect, with Darci Vitter taking over as acting undersecretary and Suzanne Heinen becoming acting deputy undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services in Vitter's place.
Challenge to EU ethanol duties urged: In a letter to acting U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Demetrios Manatos and acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, 14 senators calling on the officials to review and consider a World Trade Organization challenge to the controversial antidumping duty the European Union recently imposed on U.S.-produced ethanol. In a joint statement, Bob Dinneen, president and chief executive officer of the Renewable Fuels Assn., and Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, said the EU "failed to make any particular finding of dumping by any producer or marketer investigated in connection with the case. If allowed to stand, this rule would set a dangerous precedent for trade and trade remedies in advance of important trade talks between the U.S. and the EU and, furthermore, will dramatically change the boundaries and limits of international antidumping law." The letter was signed by Sens. John Thune (R., S.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), Al Franken (D., Minn.), Mike Johanns (R., Neb.), Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.), Deb Fischer (R., Neb.), Tim Johnson (S., S.D.), John Hoeven (R., N.D.), Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), Pat Roberts (R., Kan.), Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) and Roy Blunt (R., Mo.).
EU moves forward on pesticide ban: The European Commission said April 29 it will move forward with a temporary suspension of three types of neonicotinoid pesticides amid concerns that the products are endangering bee populations. European Union member states reached no conclusive decision on the issue in March following the release and review of a "European Food Safety Report" questioning the products' impact on bee health. The proposal restricts the use of clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam for seed treatment, soil application (granules) and foliar treatment on plants and cereals that attract bees. The pesticides are used mainly on sunflowers, oilseed rape, corn and some cereals. Because EU member states did not reach a "qualified majority," the decision was deferred to the European Commission, which said it would go ahead with the restrictions despite an appeals committee vote in which only half of the states supported the proposed ban. The restrictions will apply starting Dec. 1. A statement from Bayer CropScience said the EU's plan will not have a positive impact on bee health and expressed concerns that it could result in reductions in crop yields, food quality and competitiveness for European agriculture.
Input sought for co-product survey: Iowa State University is conducting a nationwide survey of livestock producers' use of feed-related co-products from ethanol production. "The feedback gained from the survey will be used to help improve co-product quality, which can help livestock producers with their feed costs and livestock performance," said Kurt Rosentrater, a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State who is leading the effort. The survey is focused on the beef, dairy, swine and poultry sectors. It is being funded by a coalition consisting of the Renewable Fuels Assn., the Distillers Grains Technology Council and the Corn Utilization Councils from Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska. Livestock producers are invited to take the survey online until June 19 at http://humansciences.ethanolcoproducts.sgizmo.com/s3.
Purdue poultry medicine residency: The Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine is now offering a fully endowed teaching program in poultry medicine thanks to an anonymous donor. The program supports one or more graduate students in a training and residency program in the college's department of comparative pathobiology. The program helps meet a need for poultry veterinarians, said Pat Wakenell, associate professor of avian diagnostics at Purdue and co-head of avian diagnostics at the Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. "With the rise in popularity of the general public running hobby farms, there is a lack of knowledge and skills needed to address the health and wellness of poultry and other livestock." She said the program helps provide a solution by integrating poultry medicine into the block schedule for fourth-year doctor of veterinary medicine students. In addition, the residency program will provide training in all major areas of an active poultry medicine practice such as diagnostic pathology and farm visits, Wakenell said. It also incorporates a training curriculum designed to lead to board certification in either the American College of Veterinary Pathologists or the American College of Poultry Veterinarians.