READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, July 15th…

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House Passes GMO Labeling Bill

The U.S. House Thursday passed the Senate version of GMO labeling, sending the bill on to the White House and the expected signature of President Obama. The legislation, which was the result of a compromise between Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas and Senate Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, passed the house on a 306-117 vote. The House action follows last week’s action in the Senate, which voted 63 to 30 for passing the bill. The legislation mandates GMO labeling either on package or through smart labels. It also preempts state laws, such as the Vermont labeling law that went into effect July first. The House last year passed a voluntary labeling bill 242-185, but a similar measure failed to gain traction in the Senate earlier this year. A spokeswoman for President Barack Obama said this week the President will sign the compromise GMO labeling bill.


USDA Investigating Low Path Avian Influenza

The Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is following up on recent tests showing a presence of low-pathogenic avian influenza in the Northeast United States. Testing confirmed the presence of low path avian influenza at three live-poultry markets in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, according to Meatingplace. APHIS this week confirmed the presence of H5 bird flu virus during routine testing, noting that the influenza is not uncommon in live-bird markets and backyard flocks. Still, investigators are working to trace the possible sources of the virus and have closed the affected markets, which usually supply fresh poultry from backyard breeders and commercial farms to specific ethnic markets or groups. USDA also says the affected markets are following established protocols for responding to avian influenza outbreaks of any kind, including market closures, poultry depopulation or sales and cleaning and disinfection of the affected areas.

Monsanto, BASF, Resume Talks on Acquisition

Monsanto has revived talked with BASF regarding a potential merger. Bloomberg reports that Monsanto is exploring various transactions, including the potential acquisition of BASF’s agriculture-solutions unit. In return, Germany’s BASF would likely receive newly issued shares in Monsanto. However, according to those involved, discussions are at an early stage. Meanwhile, Monsanto acknowledged Thursday that the company has received a revised, non-binding proposal from Bayer AG for a potential acquisition of Monsanto. The company will review the proposal, in consultation with its financial and legal advisors. An analyst told Bloomberg a Monsanto-BASF deal is “the most logical combination,” given the industry landscape. At stake for both BASF and Bayer, fierce rivals in the market for products such as pesticides, is the chance to create the world’s largest agrochemical and seeds supplier.

Livestock Groups Voice Concerns against Proposed Organic Livestock Rule

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has asked the Agriculture Department to withdraw USDA’s proposed organic livestock rule. In submitted comments, NCBA President Tracy Brunner told USDA that voluntary agency marketing programs are not the place to codify animal production practices. The comments are directed at USDA’s National Organic Program; Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices proposed rule. Brunner told USDA “America’s cattle producers are the best stewards of their herds,” adding that USDA should suggest that organic producers become certified in the Beef Quality Assurance Program, rather than attempting to address continuously changing animal practices. The comments come as the National Chicken Council asked USDA to revise and clarify the rule. An NCC spokesperson says the proposal “imposes unreasonable costs and requirements of doubtful benefit on organic farmers,” and “and undermines ongoing international efforts to develop poultry welfare standards.”

Vilsack on Shortlist for Clinton Vice President Pick

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is on the short list of vice president candidate’s to join Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. Vilsack has declined to answer questions on whether or not he’s being vetted by Clinton, a move the Washington Post calls “a surefire indicator that he’s being considered.” Vilsack has been a long-time supporter of Clinton, dropping his brief campaign for President in 2007 to support Clinton’s campaign. The report calls Vilsack a well-known figure across rural America, where Democrats and Clinton have struggled. Vilsack is the only cabinet member for President Barack Obama who has served through his entire tenure in office. Vilsack is also perceived as well-liked by both parties in Congress. Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley says Vilsack would be a good pick for Clinton, and gave him high marks as head of USDA. Two other candidates for vice president said to be on Clinton’s short list are Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, who campaigned with Clinton Thursday.


China to Spend Million on Weather Modification Program

China has allocated the equivalent of $29.7 million for the nation’s weather modification program. Pro Farmer’s First Thing Today reports the funding is an effort to combat drought and other natural disasters in China. China’s Ministry of Finance says the additional funding will be made available to help with the large number of “extreme weather events” this year, including flooding in south and central regions as well as drought in the northwest. China uses weather modification technology in an effort to make it rain during droughts, reduce hail and to clear the skies during periods of too much rain. One of the methods China uses, cloud seeding, was used before the 2009 Beijing Olympics to clear the skies, according to Reuters.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service