Soybean industry hopes to land big catch
With help from Jenny Hopkinson, Helena Bottemiller Evich and Catherine Boudreau
SOYBEAN INDUSTRY HOPES TO LAND BIG CATCH: Nobody is more excited about the Obama administration’s approval of large-scale fish farming in the Gulf of Mexico — the first ever in U.S. federal waters — than soybean farmers in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and other mostly Midwestern states. While the soybean industry already is seeing sales climb in response to the demand for their commodity as fish feed in other countries, the move promises to open a new domestic market. The U.S. has more than 3.9 million square miles of federal waters, the largest sea zone in the world as designated by the United Nations. The Gulf operation, at maximum capacity, represents only about .001 percent of that.
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But a lawsuit filed in January by the Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch, the Gulf Fishermen’s Association and nine other environmental and commercial and recreational fishing groups in a federal court threatens to wash away the opportunity, Pro Agriculture’s Catherine Boudreau reports this morning. The lawsuit argues the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration unlawfully used the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which authorizes federal oversight of fishery management, to regulate a practice that isn’t really fishing and failed to fully examine the environmental impact.
“Permitting floating net pens of confined fish in open federal waters is not the same as permitting fishing vessels,” the lawsuit states. “It is a fundamentally different, and much more novel, activity with a different set of economic and ecological considerations.”
NOAA has until April 7 to respond to the complaint. Pros can read the rest of Boudreau’s story here: http://politico.pro/1RmOSFF.
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MELTS IN YOUR MOUTH, NOT IN THE GMO-LABELED PACKAGE: Candy maker Mars may have announced on Monday that it’s going to label GMOs in its products nationwide, but it started shipping new GMO-labeled M&Ms to stores long before that. The candy, which includes the disclosure “Partially produced with genetic engineering” on the back, appeared on candy shelves as early as last month when the company rolled out its 75th anniversary throwback packaging. That was before Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, on March 1, formally introduced his bill to preempt GMO labeling laws in Vermont and other states, and before that bill failed to secure enough votes for cloture two weeks later.
“The 75th anniversary M&M’s are a good example of us seizing an existent repackaging opportunity to introduce the GM labeling,” a Mars spokesman told MA, adding that new labels on other products are still being rolled out. Check out the new packaging, which MA found on a bag of M&M’s in the POLITICO cafe Wednesday morning, here.
Meanwhile, ConAgra and Kellogg on Wednesday joined Mars, General Mills and Campbell to announce they will start labeling GMO products nationally in advance of Vermont’s law, which goes into effect in 98 days.
CALIFORNIA COULD BE FIRST ON FOOD WASTE: California made a big splash when it passed a cage-free egg law in 2008 and it came close to becoming the first state to pass a mandatory GMO labeling law in 2012. Now proposed legislation (AB2725) from Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) aims to put the state on the map for being the first to significantly reduce food waste by better regulating “best if used by” and “expires on” dates on labels, reports Tara Duggan for SF Gate. Under Chiu’s bill, the first expression would indicate when a food is at its best quality and the second would mean it should no longer be eaten. The state’s Department of Public Health would be charged with enforcing the law.
Duggan notes that Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) has been working on similar legislation nationally.
“Americans waste as much as 40 percent of food, which in the household can amount to 20 pounds per person per month,” Duggan writes. “Food waste experts estimate that even reducing the amount of food waste by 30 percent could feed every hungry American, including the 6 million Californians who don’t have enough to eat, if that food was distributed properly. Read Duggan’s article here.
WSJ: GRASSLEY WANTS USDA, FDA IN CFIUS: The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. — the panel that reviews foreign investments to make sure they don’t represent a national security risk — is made up of representatives from 16 U.S. departments and agencies, but none are from the USDA or FDA. It’s something that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) says he and other senators want to change, so that mergers take food security and safety into account, The Wall Street Journal’s Jacob Bunge reports. Grassley raised the issue in relation to the proposed acquisition of Syngenta AG by China National Chemical Corp., a deal that Grassley and other farm-state senators are preparing to ask the USDA to review.
“I’m not saying foreign direct investment is inherently bad,” Grassley reportedly said in an interview. “But we ought to ensure through [CFIUS] that we’re not permitting the sale of too much of our food industry, especially when government-controlled entities like ChemChina are the buyers.” Read the rest of the WSJ article here.
U.S., ARGENTINA ROLL UP SLEEVES ON AG, TRADE: As part of their newly signed Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, the United States and Argentina — both ag exporters — pledged Wednesday to expand global trade in agriculture and “combat non-scientific barriers to trade,” according to a White House release during President Barack Obama’s visit to the Latin American country.
The TIFA will provide an official framework for the two sides to work regularly on trade and investment irritants, providing a forum for discussions on things such as market access, intellectual property and “shared objectives” at the World Trade Organization and other international bodies. The agreement comes as Argentine President Mauricio Macri has expressed a willingness to liberalize the country’s economy, which has long been highly protected.
CONSUMER GROUPS ASK DARDEN TO BUY MORE LOCAL, ‘HUMANE’ FOOD: A coalition of 50 environmental, social justice and animal welfare groups launched a campaign today calling on Darden, the company that owns more than 1,500 restaurants worldwide like Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse, to adopt stricter labor and sustainability practices in its food supply.
“It is clear there is a major gulf between the company’s rhetoric on strong animal and social welfare, workers’ rights and environmental protection, and the actual impacts of its food sourcing and labor management practices,” the Good Food Now! campaign, led by Friends of the Earth, the Animal Welfare Institute and other organizations, said in a statement. “We ask Darden to adopt better labor practices and greener menus that support the well-being of its customers, its workers, farmers, animals and our environment.”
The coalition contacted Darden twice last year and in January requesting a meeting to discuss its specific requests. Darden issued a response in December, which didn’t grant the meeting or address key issues. See Darden’s response here. See the coalition’s most recent letter here.
JOHNS HOPKINS BRINGS MORE POLLING TO FOOD POLICY SPACE: The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future is investing in a series of polls to better understand where voters are on various food policy issues — part of a growing trend among advocacy groups.
“It’s always struck me how little polling NGOs do,” said Bob Martin, program director of CLF’s Food System Policy Program. But it’s starting to change, he noted. Food Policy Action, a 501(c)(4), has been polling on food policy and the election as part of its Plate of the Union campaign, a joint project with the Union of Concerned Scientists and the HEAL Food Alliance.
“We’re interested in finding out who the food voter is. … We think they are out there,” said Martin, who has worked on and off Capitol Hill for more than three decades. His group’s first foray into polling came two weeks ago with a survey that found 74 percent of voters think the Dietary Guidelines should include sustainability. But more work is planned, Martin said. Next up: A focus on measuring consumer attitudes about meat production and what it would take to get people to eat less meat. “You can’t foster change unless you understand where people are coming from,” he said. More on the latest survey of 800 voters is here.
CNFA PROMOTES PIEPER TO CFO: Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture, an international agricultural development organization, has promoted Alan Pieper to the title of chief operating officer. Pieper, who has been with CNFA since March 2013, was executive VP of CNFA’s operations and compliance department. His new role will give him oversight of the organization’s accounting, finance, communications, contracts, human resources and information technology departments. He’ll also oversee CNFA project field operations in 18 countries across Africa, Eastern Europe, and Central and South Asia.
— USDA has deregulated corn genetically engineered by Monsanto to resist its dicamba herbicide, Reuters reports.
— Harvard and NASA researchers say global warming is making the early harvest of French wine grapes more frequent, the Washington Post reports.
— Starbucks has pledged to donate 100 percent of the food unused by its 7,000-plus locations to food banks, CNN Money reports.
— Texas A&M University’s agricultural research division reports that a Texas wheat farmer has agreed to pay it and a Hereford seed company $130,000 to settle charges that he violated intellectual property rights by selling wheat seed it developed.
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