READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, July 8th…

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(The Senate was expected to vote on the compromise GMO labeling bill Thursday evening. An additional story will be forthcoming following the outcome.)


Senate Passes GMO Labeling Bill Thursday Night

The U.S. Senate late Thursday night passed a bipartisan GMO labeling bill, sending the measure on to the U.S. House of Representatives. On a vote of 63 to 30, the Senate approved the bill that will mandate labeling of genetically modified foods and preempt state labeling laws. The bill requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture  to administer GMO labeling required through either on package notification, or smart labels that direct consumers to more information through a smart phone or 1-800 number. The vote occurred after Democrat Jeff Merkley of Oregon motioned to open the process to allow amendments to the bill. However, his motion failed 30-63. Now, the bill moves on the House, which passed a voluntary GMO labeling bill last year. The House is under pressure from the food industry to take up the Senate version so the bill could be sent to the President before Congress goes into recess on July 15th until September, according to the Hagstrom Report.


Vermont Politicians Critical of Senate GMO Labeling Bill

As Congress inches closer and closer to passing a GMO labeling bill, Vermont’s Governor criticized the legislation authored by Senate Ag Committee members Pat Roberts and Debbie Stabenow because the bill is weaker than the Vermont law. Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law went into effect at the beginning of this month. Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont told reporters Wednesday as the bill cleared a cloture vote in the Senate that “It’s a sad day when so many members of the U.S. Senate sell out to big food and big business and turn their backs on those who elected them.” The Roberts-Stabenow bill places a national standard of mandatory GMO labeling requiring either on package labels or smart labels that would direct consumers to more information. The bill would block Vermont’s first in the nation state GMO labeling bill as the Senate bill preempts state labeling laws.


Global Food Prices Rise in June

The latest Food Price Index shows global food prices moved 4.2 percent higher compared to May of this year. The monthly report released Thursday by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations shows June food prices represented the largest monthly increase witnessed over the past four years. The index averaged 163.4 points in June 2016, 6.6 points higher than in May and one percent below the corresponding month last year.  Except for vegetable oils, the values of all commodity sub-indices included in the index moved higher. The increase was led by a surge in the price of sugar and more moderate increases for cereals(grains), dairy and meat. The dairy index increased 7.8 percent compared to May, but compared to June last year, the Dairy Price Index was down 23 points, or 14 percent. Meanwhile, the Meat Price Index increased 2.4 percent compared to May. Finally, sugar prices jumped 14.8 percent on less positive production prospects in Brazil, the world’s largest sugar producer and exporter, following heavy rains which hampered harvesting operations and lowered sugar yields.

Increased Rail Freight Demand Expected for July, August

Another year of at or near record crops has rail freight demand on the rise. BNSF Railway reports there are “tangible signs” for much better U.S. grain exports than the industry expected a few months ago, according to BNSF’s chief of agricultural products, John Miller. Pro Farmer’s First Thing Today reports that BNSF has sold record grain shuttles for July and August this year, and the company expects a late surge in the size of the U.S. winter wheat crop. BNSF grain shipments have increased 4.3 percent year over year through week 26 this year, according to the Association of American Railroads.


New Proposal Eases Travel Burden to Cuba

The Department of Transportation Thursday proposed to select eight U.S. airlines to begin scheduled flights between the United States and Cuba. While not directly impacting agricultural trade between the two nations, it will allow for easier travels by agriculture groups promoting U.S. products in Cuba. In a statement, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the move creates “opportunities for American businesses of all sizes.” The proposal comes nearly one year after the United States and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations in July 2015. Still hindering agriculture trade though are limits on financing. Earlier this year, the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba urged Congress to take action to allow private financing for agricultural exports to Cuba. The coalition says that while channels are open for shipping agricultural commodities to Cuba, “those sales have made it difficult to compete with our foreign competitors in the Cuban market.”


Texas Researchers Find Improved Beef Quality in Cloned Cattle

Scientists at West Texas A&M University are one step closer to helping ranchers produce a herd of cattle that consistently produces the highest-quality beef per animal, along with more beef per animal. In 2012, the University successfully cloned a bull, which they named Alpha, from the carcass of a steer that graded Prime, Yield Grade 1 – the best combination of quality grade and yield grade in the United States. Such a rating is only achieved by about 0.03 percent of all beef carcasses. Three heifers were cloned from another Prime, Yield Grade 1 carcass. While not clones themselves, the 13 calves of Alpha and the heifers were the first bovine offspring ever produced from two cloned carcasses. Last month, seven of them were harvested. The seven steer carcasses were evaluated by a third-party USDA beef grading supervisor and graded significantly above the industry average. The project’s lead researcher, Ty Lawrence, says “by cloning and crossing these rare genetics, we have demonstrated the ability to create exactly what the market desires.”


USDA Announces $49 Million to Improve Critical Wetlands

The Department of Agriculture Thursday announced a $49 million public-private investment to improve what USDA calls critical wetlands in 12 states. USDA is awarding $44.6 million through its Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership to support ten wetland enhancement projects. Recipients for each project are providing more than $4.3 million in matching funds, bringing the total investment to approximately $49 million. In total, the projects will help to protect, restore or enhance 15,000 wetland acres in critical watersheds. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack says the projects will “ensure our land and water resources are healthy now and for the next generation.” The funding will help projects in Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service