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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News as heard inside the BARN for March 25th…

Posted by Brian Allmer on March 25, 2013

CLICK HERE to listen to TODAY’s BARN Morning Ag News with Brian Allmer…

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

“Senate Approves FY 2014 Budget Resolution”

Early Saturday morning – the U.S. Senate approved a fiscal year 2014 budget resolution on a 50 to 49 vote. Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray says the Senate’s budget takes the balanced and responsible approach to tackling our fiscal and economic challenges that the vast majority of families across the country support. Murray says the budget replaces sequestration in a balanced way to protect jobs and the economy and invests in broad-based economic growth and job creation. Several ag-related amendments were included in the measure. With a vote of 80 to 19 – the Senate approved an amendment that would repeal or reduce the estate tax if done in a fiscally responsible way. An offset would be required.

By voice vote – the Senate approved an amendment opposed by the American Farm Bureau Federation that would allow Senate committees to use funding for reports about the labeling of genetically engineered fish. An amendment to ensure the appropriate Senate committees are able to use funding for promoting investment and job growth through the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline was approved with a 62 to 37 vote.

Three separate amendments to establish deficit-neutral reserve funds to – eliminate the estate tax; protect the interests of the United States in making a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline; and to ensure all revenue from a carbon pollution fee is returned to U.S. taxpayers through federal deficit reduction, reduced federal tax rates, cost savings or other direct benefit – were all rejected.

“EPA Hears from Ag Groups on February Release of Personal Data”

In response to the release of personal information on thousands of livestock and poultry producers – the National Pork Producers Council and other agricultural organizations have requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency take steps to prevent such a release in the future. They are asking EPA to review data that might include personal information before releasing it, to retrieve the data released and to agree that the information will not be posted to its website or distributed in any form. The groups also asked that the agency obtain assurances from the recipients of the information that they won’t release or distribute the private data of farmers.

EPA released raw data from farms in 30 states that included – in some instances – home addresses, phone numbers and email addresses – to several activist groups in February. The groups – including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earth Justice and the Pew Charitable Trusts had filed Freedom of Information Act requests. According to a letter the agricultural organizations sent to EPA – a review of the release found that the agency’s actions were not consistent with its own policies or its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act – and violated the Privacy Act of 1974.

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“Buis Says Recent Attack on RFS Inaccurate”

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis says manipulating data and spreading misinformation is not the way to educate lawmakers and drive policy decisions. His remarks followed an American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers teleconference that attacked the Renewable Fuel Standard and blamed increased gas prices on renewable fuels. According to Buis – our energy security is a matter of domestic and national security. He says the fossil-fuel-only approach of oil companies and refiners will do nothing for our growing energy needs expect continue to feed our addiction to foreign oil and line the pockets of oil executives.

Citing AFPM’s assertion that the presence of E15 would limit consumer choice if offered in the marketplace – Buis said oil companies and refiners will say and do anything to protect their interests and bottom line. Buis says they pretend to advocate for the consumer – but are actually intentionally blocking a choice and savings at the pump while taking in excessive profits at the consumer’s expense. He says it’s time for oil companies and refiners to get out of the way and let consumers and retailers make the voluntary decision to use higher fuel blends like E15. Once E15 is more widely available – Buis believes consumers will choose the homegrown fuel that helps support our economy and is better for our environment. He says that’s exactly what the oil companies and refiners are afraid of – which is why they are using false data to blame the industry that threatens their record profits and bottom lines. But Buis says the bottom line is that ethanol saves consumers at the pump – and any information stating otherwise is simply false.

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“House Energy Committee Begins Review of RFS”

According to the House Energy and Commerce Committee – the Renewable Fuel Standard has unfolded as expected in some respects – but has not unfolded as expected in others. The committee says several implementation challenges have emerged that received little consideration prior to passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. In addition – the committee says the overall energy landscape has changed since 2007. As a result – the committee intends to undertake an assessment of the RFS. The committee is issuing a series of white papers as the first step in the review. Each will provide an overview of an issue and solicit input from interested stakeholders.

The first white paper – on the so-called blend wall and fuel compatibility issues – was released Wednesday. The paper states the targets in the RFS may soon necessitate that more than 10-percent of ethanol be added to the gasoline supply. According to the white paper – because of declining gasoline usage – the blend wall is approaching much faster than anticipated and may actually be reached as soon as late this year or 2014. Citing the EPA’s denial of an RFS waiver last year – the paper questions whether the existing waiver process could be used to address any blend wall issues that may arise.

Four subsequent white papers will address other economic, environmental and policy issues.

[Link to white paper:http://energycommerce.house.gov/sites/republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/files/analysis/20130320RFSWhitePaper1.pdf.]

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“RFS Gets Senate Attention with Focus on RINs”

Just as the House Energy Committee begins its review of the Renewable Fuel Standard – the RFS is getting some attention in the Senate Energy Committee as well. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden – Chairman of the Energy Committee – is asking the EPA for data that would explain the recent volatility in ethanol Renewable Identification Numbers. The value of RINs jumped from seven-cents in January to a record high above one-dollar this month. In a letter to the EPA – Wyden says it’s critical for the committee to have a better understanding of the causes and effects of RIN market volatility and developments because of the role of ethanol in the cost and supply of motor fuel in the U.S. Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen says the spike in trading credit prices can’t be explained by market fundamentals. According to RFA – oil interests are manipulating the RINs market in an attempt to dismantle the biofuel mandate.

[For related story and audio, please see below]

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“Just as Horse Slaughter Issue Re-Emerges, Plant Ready to Start Up Again”

A meat plant in New Mexico aims to be the first to slaughter horses in the U.S. since 2007. According to an attorney for the plant – the facility may be operational in three weeks. Valley Meat Co. in Roswell is one of several companies that have applied to USDA to slaughter horses. While USDA reportedly has not commented on the lawyer’s claim – the department did say this month that it will have no choice but to go forward with inspections once the company meets technical requirements and inspector training has taken place. According to the lawyer – the Valley Meat Co. plant may eventually have about 100 employees processing as many as 100 horses a day for export.

USDA last inspected horse meat in 2006 before Congress imposed a ban on the slaughter. That measure lapsed in 2011 and has not been renewed. USDA recently called on Congress to put the ban back in place. Last week (week of March 18) – four lawmakers introduced legislation to ban horse-killing for human consumption in the U.S. and prohibit transporting the animals outside the country for slaughter.

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“Long-Sought Achievement Opens Door to Development of Heat-Tolerant Crops”

A USDA scientist may have opened the door to development of more heat-tolerant crops. Plants use an enzyme known as Rubisco in photosynthesis. Temperature plays an important role in this life-giving process. When it gets too hot – a Rubisco helper protein called Rubisco activase shuts down, photosynthesis stops and the plant doesn’t grow. The result is a less-bountiful harvest. But different plants shut down photosynthesis at different temperatures. Ever since a USDA Agricultural Research Service team discovered the important role of Rubisco activase in 1985 – scientists around the globe have been trying to crystallize the plant protein. ARS Plant Physiologist Michael Salvucci – who was part of that ARS team in the 80s – is now part of a team that has found a way to crystallize Rubisco activase. That discovery will allow researchers to visualize it with X-ray diffraction – which will help scientists better understand how it works and possibly manipulate its sequence so it doesn’t unravel at higher temperatures.

Salvucci and Arizona State University cooperators cloned the activase genes from the creosote bush – which remains relatively stable at high temperatures because it is heat tolerant – and generated parts of the protein that were stable enough to produce crystals. The findings could help in the search for genes that cue plants to synthesize more heat-stable versions of the protein and thrive at higher temperatures.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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