READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, August 2nd…

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GMO Bill Puts Labeling Efforts in Holding Pattern

The GMO labeling bill passed by Congress and signed into law last week puts labeling efforts into a holding pattern while the U.S. Department of Agriculture works on the rulemaking process. Senate Bill 764, the compromise labeling bill, was among several bills signed by President Barack Obama Friday. It directs the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national mandatory bioengineered food disclosure standard. The bill allows USDA two years to complete the rulemaking process, effectively postponing any labeling requirements until the rulemaking is complete. However, USDA may choose to rush the rulemaking process in the final months of the Obama administration. The bill also preempts state laws, such as the one in Vermont that prompted the discussion on a national level. It’s estimated that 75 percent to 80 percent of the U.S. food supply includes genetically engineered ingredients, according to Forbes. While the Food and Drug Administration has said GMO’s are safe for consumption, pro-labeling groups argue that safe or not, consumers have a right now what’s in their food.

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Japan Stopping Some U.S. Wheat Imports over Fears of GM Wheat

Japan is halting imports of western white and feed wheat from the U.S. Pacific coast after unapproved genetically-modified crops were found in an unplanted field in Washington State. However, imports of wheat from the U.S. Gulf region will continue. Bloomberg reports the measure should prevent contaminated supplies from entering Japan, Asia’s second-biggest wheat importer. Japan says the country will lift the restriction once a test system is in place, but no timeframe for developing a system was given. The U.S. is the largest wheat supplier to Japan, representing almost 60 percent of wheat purchased by the nation. U.S. regulators have not approved genetically modified wheat. The engineered crop found in Washington was developed by Monsanto, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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USDA Reaches Agreement to Reopen Beef Exports to Brazil

The Department of Agriculture announced Monday the reopening of Brazil for U.S. beef exports. USDA says the agency reached an agreement with Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture to allow access for U.S. beef and beef products to the Brazilian market for the first time since 2003. Brazil’s action, according to USDA, reflects the United States’ negligible risk classification for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (in-sef-o-lop-athy), commonly known as mad cow disease. Since last year alone, USDA has eliminated BSE-related restrictions in 16 countries, regaining market access for U.S. beef and “pumping hundreds-of-millions of dollars into the American economy,” according to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. Vilsack says the Brazilian market offers excellent long-term potential for U.S. beef exporters.

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West Coast Dockers Union to Consider Early Contract Negotiations

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents about 20,000 dock workers at 29 West Coast ports, will meet next week in San Francisco to decide whether to begin talks now on an extension of its contract with the Pacific Maritime Association. The pair signed a five-year contract in early 2015 – retroactive to July 1, 2014 – after protracted labor talks and a nearly four-month work slowdown that harmed U.S. exporters. The U.S. meat and poultry sectors lost an estimated $40 million a week during the slowdown. The National Pork Producers Council and 112 other trade associations in March sent a letter to the groups urging them to begin early discussions on a contract extension or a new contract “to avoid actions that would slow, stop, or disrupt cargo movement during negotiations.”

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Bayer Loses Appeal Against EPA Removal of Belt SC Registration

Bayer CropScience has lost an appeal of the registration status for SC Belt insecticide. The Environmental Protection Agency pulled the conditional registration in February for the product and Bayer’s attempt to reverse the action failed, the company announced Monday. Belt is the trademark name for Bayer’s insecticide used in some areas to control caterpillar pests in soybeans. DTN reports that a decision was handed down by EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board to allow distributors and retailers to distribute and sell remaining Belt inventories. Growers must continue using the product consistent with label directions. A Bayer spokesperson says while the company will comply with the EPA decision, but called the actions by the EPA “unlawful and inconsistent with sound regulatory risk assessment practices. EPA officials asked Bayer in early February to voluntarily cancel the 2008 conditional registration for Belt SC insecticide. The company refused and the agency moved to cancel anyway.

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Egypt to Consider Ergot Risks to Wheat Crops

The world’s largest wheat importer, Egypt, will take another look at the risks of ergot fungus in wheat. The announcement comes less than a month after Egypt’s government said it would accept ergot contamination in purchases of grain from overseas. Egypt has a detailed history with ergot contamination in recent months. Egypt has strayed back-and-forth from the industry standard of allowed ergot contamination levels of .05 percent. Pro Farmer’s First Thing Today reports Egypt’s agriculture ministry formed a committee to assess if the fungus in imported wheat poses a threat to the local crop. Egypt hasn’t allowed a “single grain of wheat contaminated with ergot” to enter the country, according to the agriculture ministry. Until the committee issues its report, the international standards will continue to be applied. 

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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