READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, June 10th…

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Senate Ag Committee Continues GMO Labeling Talks

Staffers for members of the Senate Agriculture Committee are continuing negotiations on reaching a compromise for a national GMO labeling law. A key Senate aide told The Hagstrom Report this week that staff members for the committee are working on reaching an agreement on behalf of Republican chairman Pat Roberts and the committee’s ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow. Less than two weeks of working days remain for Congress to pass a compromise that would supersede the Vermont mandatory GMO labeling law taking effect July first. The Coalition for a Safe Affordable Food Supply also noted that a New York state law continues to advance, and that the law was an indication of the danger of more states considering state laws with differences, potentially causing “chaos in the marketplace.”

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Anti-Organic Checkoff Groups Sends Letter to USDA

A letter submitted to USDA this week from the No Organic Checkoff Coalition urges the Agricultural Marketing Service not to establish a checkoff for organics. The letter tells USDA a mandatory federal organic checkoff is not “the correct vehicle to address the obvious need for organic marketing and research.” The group, representing 755 signatories including 25 organic farmer organizations and businesses, says they have not seen “any convincing evidence” the checkoff program would support increased organic production. The coalition claims there is a lack of industry support for an Organic Checkoff and argues that ‘organic’ is not a commodity. Further, the coalition says, organic research is not a priority in the checkoff proposal being considered by USDA and provided by the Organic Trade Association. On the other hand, the Organic Trade Association says nearly 1,300 organic stakeholders support the proposal, including 75 percent of certified organic farmers.

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General Mills Announces Partnership to Help Dairy Farms Go Organic

General Mills this week announced a strategic sourcing partnership with the largest organic cooperative in the United States. The partnership with Wisconsin-based Organic Valley will help about 20 dairy farms add around 3,000 acres to organic dairy production. The program will assist General Mills to double the organic acreage from which it sources ingredients by 2019. Since 2009, General Mills has increased the organic acreage it supports by 120 percent. Also, General Mills will launch the Organic and Regenerative Agriculture Transition Council. The council, according to the company, will bring together sustainable agricultural leaders, farmers and industry stakeholders with the mission of advancing organic agriculture practices. General Mills attributes the moves to USDA data that says demand for organic food is increasing in the Unites States, but supply has not been able to keep up.

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Judge Orders Dairy Group to pay Farmers $50 Million

The Dairy Farmers of America cooperative has agreed to a $50 million revised settlement paid to Northeast U.S. dairy farmers. The settlement stems from a class-action lawsuit that accused the marketing group of trying to drive down milk prices. The revised settlement includes new protections to prevent retaliation to farmers that was missing from a settlement proposal denied by a federal judge in March, according to Reuters. Settlement papers were filed on Thursday and require approval by a U.S. District Judge. If approved, the cooperative will pay an average of $4,000 to more than 8,000 dairy farms. The lawsuit was filed in 2009 when farmers accused Dairy Farmers of America, its Dairy Marketing Services arm and dairy processor Dean Foods of conspiring to monopolize the market for raw Grade A milk in 11 U.S. states stretching from New Hampshire to Virginia. Dean Foods reached a $30 million settlement in the case in 2011. The Kansas City, Missouri-based Dairy Farmers of America did not admit wrongdoing in agreeing to settle, according to court documents.

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Egypt Again Changes to Zero Tolerance Ergot Policy

Egypt has backtracked on a government pledge to apply international standards on the fungus ergot found in wheat imports, recently rejecting two more shipments. Last time around, suppliers called the zero tolerance ergot standards by Egypt impossible to meet. Traders had boycotted tenders by Egypt to purchase wheat after the first round of rejections. The country later assured suppliers they would follow a 0.05 percent tolerance policy, a widely applied international standard. However, recently Egypt rejected 30,000 metric tons of Polish wheat and another 10,000 metric tons of Canadian wheat since April, according to Reuters. Those rejections come despite their levels of ergot falling below 0.05 percent. The Polish wheat, rejected twice since April, contained just 0.02 percent of ergot.

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USDA Funding Research of Manure Management Practices on Antibiotic Resistance

Researchers from four universities are teaming up with dairy farms across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic to study the impact of manure management practices on antibiotic resistance. The $1 million project, funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, will evaluate antibiotic-resistant bugs in dairy cow manure, how they survive treatment systems and whether any residuals end up on farm fields. Although there is no direct evidence of resistance spreading from antibiotic use on dairy farms, USDA is funding the research because of the potential risk. A team of scientists will evaluate how well three different waste-processing techniques — anaerobic digestion, composting, and long-term storage — remove drugs and germs in mannure.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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