READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, March 6th

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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, March 6th

Billionaire Defends Ethanol Plan

Billionaire Carl Icahn (Eye’-kahn) was on the defensive regarding his attempt to restructure the Renewable Fuels Standard. A Bloomberg article says Icahn is arguing that without changes, independent refiners and small gas station owners will soon go out of business. His attempt to get the point of obligation changed under the RFS is drawing criticism thanks to his role as an unpaid adviser to President Donald Trump. He’s also the principal owner of CVR Energy and therein lies the conflict. Icahn was quick to dismiss any criticism and said the action is straightforward. “I own a refinery,” he says, “so obviously, I have an interest in it. But there are 12 other refineries getting killed worse than mine is. I own a refinery so who knows it better than me? Why shouldn’t I advocate” Federal rules prohibit government employees from profiting from government service, but Icahn isn’t paid so those rules don’t apply. His proposed change wouldn’t alter the fact that biofuels are required to be blended in with gasoline and diesel. Icahn wants to change which businesses are required to do the blending, known as the point of obligation.

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No Ag Secretary Six Weeks Later

It was six weeks ago that President Donald Trump selected Sonny Perdue as his nominee for Secretary of Agriculture. Farm-state senators are frustrated as the administration hasn’t yet sent in paperwork for the nomination to the Senate. Those farm-state senators represent a lot of the core voters that were key to Trump’s election. Senate Ag Committee Chair Pat Roberts needs that paperwork before he can schedule a hearing. Roberts says he isn’t sure what the hold up is. “We need a champion for agriculture,” Roberts says, “we need him on board.” He predicted last week that once the paperwork is in there shouldn’t be any problem getting Perdue confirmed. The White House says the paperwork is coming soon. Senators say they haven’t been given any reason for the delay. “They don’t seem to have a reason as to why his name hasn’t come up,” says Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who spoke with several White House staff members about the nominee. Some farm-state senators are questioning whether the president is paying enough attention the the rural areas that played a big part in his election. South Dakota Republican Senator Mike Rounds disagreed, saying “He’s talking about rolling back regulations, things that really matter to rural America.”

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Legislation Would Boost Fuel Choices

The Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act was introduced recently in both the Senate and House of Representatives. It’s designed to extend the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) volatility waiver to gasolines blended with 15 percent ethanol. This would give retailers the opportunity to offer E15 without restriction from June 1 to September 15. “The introduction of this leglslation is the first step toward eradicating an unnecessary Environmental Protection Agency restriction that limits consumer choice at the pump during the peak time of year when Americans are on the road,” says Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. RVP is a measure of how quickly fuel evaporates. The EPA regulates it to prevent increased ozone or smog from emissions. Congress granted a waiver to E10 fuel blends because it reduces tailpipe emissions. Congress hasn’t given the same waiver to E15 as it did to E10, even though the 15 percent blended fuel is less volatile than E10. As a result, retailers are prevented from selling E15 for use in 2001 and newer vehicles from June 1 through September 15, despite the EPA approving its use.

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Legislation Would Address Agro-Terrorism

Bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives would address the potential threat of an agro-terrorism attack on the United States. The goal is to make sure the food put on the tables of American families remains safe from attack. Senate Ag Chair Pat Roberts co-sponsored the legislation in the Senate and says it reiterates the role of the Department of Homeland Security as it relates to agro-terrorism. “As the DHS continues to build the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas,” says Roberts, “now is the time to shore up our authorities regarding coordination and mitigation should our nation be hit by biological attack on our food and agriculture.” New York Republican Dan Donovan, who co-sponsored the legislation in the House, says America’s enemies are intent on attacking the country’s resources and vulnerabilities, which includes the food supply. “Threats to the U.S. food, agriculture, and livestock industries could devastate our food systems. This would affect millions of Americans and the economy,” says Donovan. He called the bill an essential tool to enhance the country’s preparedness for an agro-terrorism attack.

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Court Upholds Patent Infringement Suit Against Dow

A federal appeals court upheld a patent infringement verdict against Dow AgroSciences involving a gene used in glufosinate-tolerant seed. The Washington, D.C., court of appeals affirmed a 2016 district court judgement that confirmed an arbitration award issued by an international tribunal in October of 2015. An Agri-Pulse report says Bayer accused Dow of infringing on four patents which “describe and contain various technologies related to the pat gene, which confers resistance to glufosinate,” the appeals court said in its ruling. Bayer uses the gene in its LibertyLink line of products and Dow uses the gene in its Enlist cotton and soybean seeds. Dow says it disagrees with the court decision and is examining what its legal options are. Dow could possibly ask the full appeals court to review the decision. It could also petition the Supreme Court for a review. Most experts think neither option has a great chance to succeed. “Neither the arbitration award nor the federal court’s decision changes the company’s plans for Enlist, or it’s soybean and cotton businesses,” Dow says in a release issued shortly after the decision was announced.

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Administration Expected to Notify Congress on Redoing NAFTA

Now that Wilbur Ross is officially confirmed as Secretary of Commerce, the Trump administration may soon turn its attention to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Ross told members of the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees trade, that the administration would notify them in mid-March that it will renegotiate the 23-year old pact. Once the administration communicates its intent, it then must consult with Congress on the objective of trade talks during a 90-day period. The administration then must make public a detailed summary of the specific objectives. One possible holdup is President Trump’s pick to head the Office of the Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer (light-hy-zer), has yet to be confirmed by the Senate. The National Pork Producer’s Council has issued a statement saying any redone NAFTA deal must in no way disrupt U.S. pork trade with the industry’s No. 2 (Mexico) and No. 4 (Canada) markets.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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