U.S. wins WTO chicken case: U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Aug. 2 that the U.S. won a major case at the World Trade Organization on behalf of U.S. chicken producers, proving that China's imposition of higher duties on broiler products — which was precipitated by an 80% drop in exports of those products to China — is unjustified under international trade rules. A WTO dispute settlement panel found that China violated numerous WTO obligations in imposing antidumping and countervailing duties on chicken imports from the U.S. "Farm exports in fiscal year 2012 reached $135.8 billion. ... More than $23 billion worth of those agricultural products went to China alone, but China's prohibitive duties on broiler products were followed by a steep decline in exports to China, and now, we look forward to seeing China's market for broiler products restored," Vilsack said, calling the WTO decision "an important victory today for the U.S. poultry industry."
Senate advances drought info bill: The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation passed the Drought Information Act of 2013 (S. 376), which reauthorizes the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). Initially authorized in 2006, NIDIS provides vital drought information to farmers, ranchers and other industries affected by drought-related weather conditions. Since then, government agencies have worked to develop a long-term plan for drought monitoring, forecasting, research and education. S. 376 would extend this program for five years and support an improved early-warning system of timely and accurate drought information. By increasing coordination with existing partners, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the private sector, this bill would also boost the agriculture industry's involvement in the program. "NIDIS is a critically important tool that provides agricultural producers with early-warning information they need to prepare for drought conditions," ranking committee member Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.) said. "The financial stress and uncertainty created by droughts make tools like this vital for farmers and ranchers to prepare for drought occurrences, such as the widespread drought of 2012. I ... hope it will receive floor consideration in the Senate during this session of Congress."
Sheep, goat industry improvement: The National Sheep Industry Improvement Center's (NSIIC) board of directors announced that it is accepting proposals through Sept. 30 that are designed to improve the U.S. sheep and goat industries. NSIIC, established as part of the 2008 farm bill, currently has budgeted up to $300,000 for grants that will support projects to strengthen and enhance the production and marketing of sheep and goat products in the U.S. through infrastructure development, business development, production, resource development and market and environmental research. Financial assistance provided by the center must accomplish one or more objectives: (1) strengthen and improve the long-term sustainability of the goat and/or lamb and wool industry's infrastructure, (2) provide leadership training and education to producers and packers in the sheep and goat industries, (3) improve industry infrastructure through assistance to address sustainable production and marketing of sheep and goat milk, meat and fiber and through related services such as grazing for fire management and pasture improvements, (4) promote lamb and meat goat marketing through an organized method that measures tangible results and (5) enhance the sheep and goat industry by coordinating information exchange and encouraging cooperation among international industries. More information is at www.NSIIC.org.
Japan resuming imports of U.S. wheat: Yoshimasa Hayashi, minister for Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (MAFF), announced at a press conference that Japan will resume importing U.S. western white wheat on Aug. 1 and soft white wheat on Aug. 7. Japan suspended white wheat imports two months ago after the discovery of a volunteer stand of genetically modified (GM) wheat, MON71800, on a farm in Oregon. On July 5, MAFF began testing imported U.S. wheat before the suspension. In addition, MAFF also tested library samples of U.S. western wheat imported from October 2012 through May 2013. All test results were negative. "It is important that we maintain such a (testing) system so we can respond when we discover something that shouldn't be there," Hayashi said. Moving forward, all U.S. wheat will be tested for the GM strain before shipment from the U.S., and all wheat cargoes will be tested again upon arrival. Japan imports approximately 3 million tons of wheat annually from the U.S.
GM wheat update: Since the May 13 detection of MON71800 genetically modified (GM) wheat plants in one field of an Oregon farm, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has been conducting a thorough investigation to uncover how the GM wheat came to be in the field and to determine the extent of its presence. All of the evidence collected thus far indicates that this single detection in Oregon remains the extent of the presence of the GM wheat. To date, APHIS has no evidence that MON71800 wheat is in commerce or present in any of the other 15 states where MON71800 field tests were conducted.
Caribou's eggs: Calling it a step toward "addressing animal well-being in its food offerings," Caribou Coffee announced July 29 that its most popular breakfast sandwich is now served with 100% cage-free eggs. The coffeehouse's signature chicken apple sausage breakfast sandwich represents roughly 20% of its breakfast sales. "We believe that we can and should ensure the proper treatment of animals throughout our food offering," said Alfredo Martel, senior vice president of marketing and product management at Caribou. "Making this transition to cage-free eggs is naturally aligned with our company's core values of providing quality food at reasonable prices." Martel said the move was one step in the chain's larger efforts at more responsible purchasing practices.
Blumberg invests: Blumberg Grain, in cooperation with the government of Nigeria, has executed a letter of intent for a $250 million investment program in Nigeria's agriculture sector, according to an announcement. The investment includes a large-scale production and distribution facility for Blumberg's food security storage warehouses, agricultural processing and packaging facilities and investments in land and technology to create high-yield, high-efficiency farms. The letter of intent supports Nigeria's goal to increase agriculture production 15% by 2015.
Fuel station: Kalmbach Feeds announced that it contracted TruStar Energy to build a public compressed natural gas (CNG) fast-fill station near its Wyandot County, Ohio, feed manufacturing plants and distribution center. The station is part of a new venture, Kalmbach Clean Fuels, that will support the company's CNG-powered feed distribution trucks. Kalmbach president Paul Kalmbach had tasked the company's distribution team with developing a home-grown fueling strategy for the fleet. Director of distribution Tim Rausch noted that, "with natural gas, we believe we found the right solution. There has always been the discussion of whether to buy CNG trucks or wait until there were fueling stations available. ... Kalmbach is stepping forward to develop that infrastructure to move the industry forward." The station is scheduled to be completed in early November and will allow two vehicles to fuel simultaneously via dispensers that function similarly to standard diesel fuel pumps. The facility will provide 24-hour on-demand fueling to the public. Rausch said the entire truck fleet will transition to dedicated CNG or CNG dual-fuel vehicles over the next decade.