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Commodity Communicator Weekly

March 14, 2014

EUROPEAN UNION FTA ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION IN LITTLE ROCK. . . . .ARFB President Randy Veach and some 25 other businessmen and legislators sat down with the British Consulate General from Houston, Andrew Millar, to discuss the Transatlatic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).  Mr. Millar explained the benefits of the proposed FTA for both the United States and European Union economies.  Mr. Millar's reason for being in Arkansas was to discuss opportunities specifically for Arkansas.  In his remarks, Mr. Millar had overlooked the state’s largest industry and largest export market, agriculture.  Mr. Veach took this opportunity to press the Consulate General on Europe’s continued aversion to U.S. meat, poultry and bulk agricultural products.  He expressed his hope that the European Union would take this opportunity to reevaluate their regulations and begin the process of opening their market to more U.S. agricultural goods.

USDA MOVING QUICKLY ON CATFISH. . . . .Asian countries will soon have to adjust to tougher food safety standards if they want to keep exporting catfish to the United States now that USDA is moving more quickly to take over inspection from the FDA.  Philip Derfler, deputy administrator for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, said that his agency is working now to satisfy an April 8 deadline for completing its work on a final rule. The 2014 farm bill (sect. 1206) gives FSIS 60 days from Feb. 7, the date the bill was enacted, to complete the final rule.

GMO LABELING DEBATE HITS THE ROAD. . . . .National experts on both sides of the genetically modified food labeling debate made their cases to lawmakers in a three-hour hearing, hashing and rehashing arguments over safety, cost and pesticide use. But the fight didn’t take place on Capitol Hill.   Rather, the event was in Annapolis — less than 30 miles from Washington, D.C. — in a meeting room at the state Senate’s office building. Representatives from key industry and consumers groups were all on hand to debate S 778, a bill introduced by state Sen. Karen Montgomery, who represents the 14th district. Similar debates are being had in close to 20 states throughout the country, though the Maryland hearing drew some heavy firepower, likely due to its close proximity to the nation’s capital. The ongoing labeling debate in the Free State could provide a glimpse into whether labeling bills will see much success this year and what forces could be put into play should there ever be a federal discussion on the issue.

2,4-D CROP COMMENTS CLOSED THIS WEEK. . . . .More than 6,000 comment letters were filed in relation to USDA’s proposal to deregulate two strains of soybeans and a variety of corn that have been genetically engineered by Dow AgroSciences to be resistant to the pesticide 2,4-D closes.

. . . . . Russia has agreed to partially lift its ban on U.S. pork, paving the way for the first U.S. exports to the country in more than a year. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has approved two North Carolina plants owned by Smithfield Foods to export pork to Russia after both were certified under the Agricultural Marketing Service’s new Never Fed Beta Agonists Program. Russia banned U.S. pork in February last year after raising concerns about residues of ractopamine, a beta-agonist class growth drug, in U.S. meat.

. . . . .When it comes to restoring harmony between organic and genetically engineered crops, talk is cheap, the organic industry says. The Organic Trade Association, representing farmers and producers, is urging the Agriculture Department to move forward with fully implementing a 2000 law that the group says gives officials full authority to regulate GE crops.  OTA’s comments are in response to a public input request from USDA on how to better foster communication and collaboration to ensure the coexistence of GE, conventional and organic crops. In all, more than 3,200 comments were filed.

. . . . .The Arkansas Farm Bureau in conjunction with the Arkansas Agriculture Department and Cooperative Extension Service are in the process of developing an app to help producers find locally grown products.  At this time we are working to develop the database for this app and asking producers to sign-up for the program.  Those interested in finding new customers should go to to sign-up your operation.  If you have questions please contact Amber Martin at 501-224-4400.

ACTIVELY ENGAGED DEFINITION. . . . .Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told lawmakers that the USDA will release a proposed rule by year’s end to define who is eligible for farm subsidies as required by the recently passed farm bill.  “We recognize the diversity of American agriculture, and we celebrate it,” Vilsack said. “There was and is a concern on the part of many, and appropriate concerns that there are circumstances where” people investing in farming “have been able to qualify for benefits. I think it is appropriate for us to look at that. I don’t think your family farmers need to be concerned about this.”

HSUS PARTNERS WITH INDEPENDENT RANCHERS, ATTACKS CHECKOFF PROGRAMS. . . .The Humane Society of the United States and the Organization for Competitive Markets, a group of independent farmers and ranchers that advocates for more competition in agriculture, announced a partnership to take on the giants in the meat industry.  Fred Stokes, former head of OCM, said at an event in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the New America Foundation that although the groups have historically opposed each other, they have a common enemy. “We have rallied around things we have in common,” Stokes explained, adding that both groups could be more effective by putting their resources together. Wayne Pacelle, CEO and president of HSUS, and Stokes criticized checkoff programs, viewed by many as a tax that ranchers pay when they sell their cattle to fund the activities of their trade associations. “What’s holding us back is trade associations that don’t want to see gains in animal welfare in any sector,” Pacelle said. “It’s an unbelievable scam.” Stokes also said ranchers are “being forced to fund their own demise” through the checkoff programs.

USDA READY TO ENFORCE ANIMAL DISEASE TRACEABILITY REGULATIONS. . . . .USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service sent a bulletin outlining the next phase of implementing Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) regulations including enforcement actions when needed. “We know that sometimes taking enforcement action is necessary to make sure a system as important as ADT is successful,” APHIS Administrator Kevin Shea said in a note to stakeholders. “When and where necessary, we will take that action. As a standard practice, we will continue to notify first-time offenders when they do not meet the regulatory requirements to ensure they understand the regulation and what they need to do to comply. Additionally, we will now pursue appropriate penalties in situations where an individual repeatedly fails to comply with the regulatory requirements.”

MORE STATES JOIN CALIFORNIA EGG LAWSUIT…..Five more states have joined Missouri in a lawsuit filed in a U.S. District Court, in Fresno, challenging California’s prohibition against the confinement of farm animals in small crates.  The states — Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and Oklahoma — argue that California’s law violates the Commerce Clause and encroaches on each of the states’ sovereignty. Animal welfare groups, who pushed for the California law, are calling the lawsuit a waste of taxpayer dollars.  According to Wayne Pacelle, “State officials trying to curry favor with agribusiness interests are letting their political grandstanding trump their better judgment about the rights of states to make laws and about the wisdom of having some minimal standards for the care of animals

. . . . .The next round of regional workgroup meetings for the state water planning process are as follows:

East Region: March 17 – Grand Prairie Center, Phillips Community College, 2709 Highway 165 South, Stuttgart.
•    10 a.m. -11:30 a.m. optional session on water management and conservation practices, funding, and enrollment process
•    Lunch will be provided
•    1p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Issues and Recommendations Workgroup Meeting

North Region: March 18 – Fayetteville Town Center: 15 West Mountain St., Fayetteville.
•    1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Issues and Recommendations Workgroup Meeting

West-Central Region: March 19 – Lake Point Conference Center, 171 Lake Point Lane, Russellville.
•    1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Issues and Recommendations Workgroup Meeting

South-Central Region: March 20 – El Dorado Conference Center, South Arkansas Community College, 311 South West Ave., El Dorado.
•    10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m., optional session on local water issues
•    Lunch on your own.
•    1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Issues and Recommendations Workgroup Meeting

Anyone interested in the water planning process is encouraged to attend these meetings. To view the agendas for each region, click on the following link: ANRC - Water Plan Regional Meetings.

. . . .The National Cotton Council (NCC) has scheduled education meetings in to provide its members with a greater understanding of The Agricultural Act of 2014. NCC President/CEO Mark Lange said, "This new five-year comprehensive farm law includes fundamental changes in cotton's safety net, a greater reliance on crop insurance products, and will be implemented over the 2014 and 2015 crops."

McGehee – March 18,  9 a.m.; McGehee Men's Club Community Center, #1 Airport Road South
Keiser – March 20,  2 p.m.; UA Northeast Research & Education Center, 1241 West County Road 780

GENERAL MOTORS PRIVATE OFFER. . . Members can save $500 on qualifying 2011/2013 model year Chevrolet, GMC or Buick vehicles. Complete details at

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