READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, June 22nd…

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Compromise Near on National GMO Labeling Law

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow, says lawmakers are getting “close” to reaching a deal on GMO labeling. Stabenow told Politico she and the committee’s chair, Kansas Republican Pat Roberts, are “narrowing the issues” surrounding GMO labeling legislation. Stabenow says she and Roberts are meeting constantly. However, they have yet to share a draft bill with the full Senate. The bill, aimed at blocking state laws like the Vermont law taking effect July first, would set a national GMO labeling standard. To stop the Vermont law in time, the Senate must pass the legislation this week for any hope the House can consider the bill before going on recess next week. Politico says questions remain over one of the most fundamental issues, being whether on-pack labels should be part of a mandatory disclosure system. Come July first, on-pack labeling will become the de facto national standard, as food and beverage manufacturers will be forced to comply with Vermont’s law or potentially face a $1,000 fine per day, per product.

Wall Street Journal Opinion: Label GMO’s to Prove Safety

In a Wall Street Journal Opinion piece, a California Agriculture Education official says farmers and the food industry needs to stand up for GMO’s by labeling them. Richard Sexton, Chair of the University of California-Davis Agriculture Department, along with his son Steve, a public policy professor at Duke University, wrote the opinion piece. They say labeling GMO’s could be the best way to make consumers confront their irrational fears and stamp out public ignorance. By labeling GMO’s, the pair says consumers will realize they have been eating GMOs for years without adverse effect, adding consumers simply need to be educated about their food. The opinion piece cited Rutgers University research from 2013 that says 90 percent of Americans want GMO’s labeled, yet when researchers ask them to list the food characteristics they want labeled, only seven percent name GMOs. Further, a 2015 survey by Oklahoma State University found that 80 percent of respondents would require labels on foods containing DNA, even though all foods contain DNA. Concluding the opinion, they say once consumers understand that their own experiences with GMO foods demonstrate the technology’s safety, they will choose science over fear mongering.

FAA to Allow Commercial Drone Use

The Federal Aviation Administration Tuesday announced a rule that will allow the use of drones commercially, including for agriculture purposes. The FAA rule limits most small commercial drone operations to daylight hours and requires operators to get certified every two years. The FAA’s 624-page rulebook allows commercial drones weighing up to 55 pounds to fly during daylight hours lower than 400 feet in the air and the aircraft must remain in sight of the operator. The final rule has a 60-day comment period. A White House fact sheet issued Tuesday says, for agriculture, unmanned aircraft can monitor crop health in real-time for farmers who are trying to manage farms. Further, the White House says by reducing the need for manned aircraft in agricultural operations, drones can help reduce fatal agricultural aviation accidents and can increase crop yields by providing higher-quality data about the ground below.

Mosaic Mulling Acquisition of Vale’s Fertilizer Business

The world’s top producer of concentrated phosphate has entered talks to buy Vale SA’s fertilizer unit. The move is part of an effort by Mosaic to grow its business in South America and Africa, according to Reuters. Both companies are still discussing the structure of a potential deal and seem to prefer a cash and stock agreement. Vale SA’s fertilizer unit, based in Brazil, is estimated to be worth $3 billion in the proposal. Mosaic’s CEO in February said the Minnesota-based company was “on the lookout” for phosphate or potash assets that could be bargain-priced in a weak commodity sector. Vale has fertilizer assets in five different countries, including Argentina, Brazil and Canada. Brazil is the world’s fifth-largest fertilizer consumer and fertilizer demand in the nation is expected to grow twice as fast as global demand until 2025.

CME Group Launching EU Wheat Futures

CME Group will launch European Union Wheat futures and options in September, according to a company news release. CME Group is the owner of the Chicago Board of Trade and announced the new EU Wheat futures this week. CME Group’s Tim Andriesen says the new EU Wheat futures further positions the CME Globex trading platform as the global destination for wheat trading and risk management. Each contract will represent 50 metric tons of physical EU wheat with specific quality specifications. EU Wheat futures and options contracts will be available for trading electronically via CME Globex Monday through Friday between 10:30 a.m. and 6:35 p.m. Paris time. EU Wheat options will also be available for trading on the company’s Chicago trading floor from 8:30 a.m. to 11:35 a.m. Chicago time.

USDA Makes $52 Million Available for Rural Utility Customers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday announced a new program that will help rural residents conserve energy and save money on their utility bills. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the Rural Energy Savings Program, or RESP, will make $52 million in loans available to energy providers to help rural families and small businesses reduce their energy use. Vilsack says the program will “build a cleaner and more sustainable energy future” for rural communities. RESP will provide loans to rural energy providers who in turn fund projects for consumers to make energy efficiency improvements that will lower their energy use. Eligible applicants include current and former Rural Utilities Service borrowers or subsidiaries and entities that provide retail electric service in rural areas.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service