READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, May 12th…

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Roberts Wants Stabenow’s GMO Bill Approved by Agriculture

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts wants any GMO labeling proposal from the Committee’s ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow vetted by agriculture groups. A Kansas Republican, Roberts says any GMO labeling bill needs the approval from agriculture and food groups to be successful in the U.S. Senate, according to Politico. Roberts says “we can’t get anywhere” unless the majority of the 800 agriculture and food groups approve of a GMO labeling proposal, adding “should that be the case, I’m ready to go.” Roberts says he is still unclear what Stabenow is willing to agree with to set a national standard on GMOs. Staff members for both lawmakers are reportedly hammering out the details for a bill with the hope of getting a proposal on the Senate floor before Vermont’s labeling law takes effect in July.

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Grain Elevators Face Challenges in New Crop Year

Grain merchandisers are beginning the new-crop growing season facing significant challenges. A new report by CoBank released Wednesday says low price volatility, ample grain and oilseed inventories, slow farmer selling and an anemic export program are all factors pressuring grain merchandisers in the United States. A CoBank researcher says that while many grain elevators have solid balance sheets thanks to multiple years of strong revenues, “pressure for consolidation will likely intensify”with slimmer profit margins. The grain and oilseed basis markets continue to remain stagnant, offering limited opportunities for elevators to profit on old-crop basis appreciation. However, grain elevators could still stand to profit by year’s end off the opportunity to buy wider new-crop basis post-harvest, according to the report. Further, the report says that a growing concern among co-op managers is the availability of storage space this fall.

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New Platform Aims to Expedite H-2A Processing

Federal officials say they have streamlined the process farmers use to temporarily bring migrant workers into the United States. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and the State Department launched an online approval platform Wednesday that the American Farm Bureau hopes will expedite H-2A visa processing. Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall says visa approval delays “have gone on far too long and cost farmers across the country hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost business.” The move follows advocacy from farm groups who argued that the current system causes workers to arrive late or miss critical planting and harvesting seasons, according to Politico. The Western Growers Association says Congress’ inability and unwillingness to move immigration reform have forced farmers to use the H-2A Program, a program that has historically seen little use. Currently, the H-2A visa program is the only way farmers can legally hire migrant workers.

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Dairy Groups Urge Obama to Oppose WHO Proposal

The U.S. dairy industry wants President Barack Obama to challenge a World Health Organization proposal that would discourage the consumption of dairy products by young children. The National Milk Producers Federation, along with the International Dairy Foods Association and the U.S. Dairy Export Council joined in a letter to the President this week. The groups say the WHO advice contradicts recommendations of respected national and global health organizations that endorse milk for its nutritional value, according to the Hagstrom Report. A WHO guidance document that will be presented to the World Health Assembly later this month contains the proposal. The three dairy organizations urged the U.S. government to seek further scientific review of the WHO guidance and how it may be used in the future. The dairy industry letter noted that for American toddlers aged 12 to 24 months, dairy products provide 26.7 percent of total energy intake.

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USDA Projects Record High Sugar Beet Production

In this week’s round of USDA reports, the Agriculture Department projected U.S. sugar beet farmers will produce a record 5.09 million short tons of sugar from beets in the 2016-2017 growing season. Pro Farmer’s First Thing Today reports that record production would come despite food manufacturers’ push for non-GMO cane sugar. This increase in production comes as the industry faces a five percent drop in cane production to 3.62 million metric tons due to the closure of a cane mill in Hawaii. Beets represent nearly 60 percent of U.S. sugar output and have been reliant of genetically engineered seeds since 2008. The recent push for non-GMO cane has strained the U.S. sugar program and has cane refiners pressuring USDA to increase raw sugar imports at a time when sugar beet inventories are swelling.

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2013 Texas Fertilizer Company Explosion A Criminal Act

Federal officials say the 2013 explosion at the West Fertilizer Company facility in West, Texas started from an intentionally set fire. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced the findings Wednesday stemming from a re-enactment of the fire performed at a research lab. While the ATF did not identify any suspects, the federal agency is offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to an arrest. A criminal investigation has been underway since shortly after the blast, according to the Dallas Morning News. The explosion killed 15, injured 300, and leveled a neighborhood in West, Texas, about 75 miles south of Dallas. About a month after the blast, the fire marshal offered three possible causes of the fire, faulty electrical wiring, a spark from a golf cart parked in a shed adjacent to the bin holding the fertilizer, or arson.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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