September 1, 2014

EPA Releases Maps Detailing Waters of U.S. Rule

 Environmental Protection Agency released maps detailing the extent of the Waters of the U.S. proposal on Wednesday.  The maps were handed over to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.  Similar maps were made by tthe National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other agricultural organizations.  NCBA alleges the maps show individual states facing upwards of 100,000 additional stream miles that could be regulated under the proposed regulation.  NCBA’s Ashley McDonald called the maps “the smoking gun” for agriculture.  She stated “These maps show that EPA knew exactly what they were doing and knew exactly how expansive their proposal was before they published it.”

Knowledge of the maps came as the Committee was doing research in preparation for a hearing regarding the proposed Waters of the United States rule. The maps were kept hidden while the Agencies marched forward with rulemaking that fundamentally re-defines private property rights, said Chairman Representative Lamar Smith. He stated “Given the astonishing picture they paint, I understand the EPA’s desire to minimize the importance of these maps.”  You can see the maps online at www.science.house.gov.

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North Dakota Department of Ag, Port of Vancouver Announce Shipping Agreement

The state of North Dakota and one of the nation’s leading ports are teaming up to increase the shipment of North Dakota agricultural commodities to the West Coast, while bringing more supplies and industrial products into the state.

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and Todd Coleman, CEO, Port of Vancouver USA signed a memorandum of agreement Wednesday in Fargo, uniting the state and the port in a collaborative rail service program that supports both the agricultural and energy industries.

“This agreement provides more marketing opportunities for our identity-preserved and specialty crop products, such as food grade soybeans, peas, lentils, dry beans and other commodities, to be transloaded and containerized,” Goehring said. “It also provides a major opportunity for North Dakota commodity handlers, especially smaller and mid-sized companies, to access rail facilities on the same basis as larger companies, enabling them to remain competitive.”

“We expect this agreement to increase capacity and reliability for farmers needing to move their products to market by rail,” said Coleman. “Cargoes, specifically supplies for the energy industry, are already moving east from the Pacific Northwest to the Midcontinent. We’re taking it a step further by leasing boxcars to carry those eastbound cargoes and then, with the help of our logistics partners, filling these boxcars with agricultural products for the return trip to Vancouver.”

Coleman explained that the port’s responsibilities include designating load centers, managing boxcars, coordinating with BNSF Railway and providing monthly service reports.

Goehring said NDDA’s responsibilities include collection of production data, and communicating with the agriculture community, exporters and with small to mid-size shippers.

“We have been working at this more than a year,” Goehring said. “When the Port approached me about the possibility, I saw it as an opportunity to reduce the problem of trying to get out our wheat and other crops to market, a problem we have had for decades and one that has become a greater challenge recently. This agreement will not end that problem, but I believe it can go a long way to relieve it.”

“We’re looking at starting to move full boxcars from North Dakota as early as mid-September,” said Coleman. “The equipment and infrastructure are already there, and we’ll work together to optimize its use and get products moving west and beyond to markets in Asia and Latin America.”

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U.S. Government To Impose Tariff On Mexican Sugar

The U.S. government, through the Commerce Department, on Tuesday announced that they will be looking to tax Mexican sugar imports at a rate as high as 17.01% as soon as next week. The move follows a host of rhetoric and litigation that began in March as U.S. sugar producers lodged a complaint with the Commerce Department alleging that Mexican sugar was flooding the U.S. market.  The tariff could attach as soon as next week, although duties won’t be final until early winter after the Commerce Department has time to fully investigate the dumping claims.

The news has already served to widen the gap between U.S. and world sugar contracts.  U.S. ICE futures finished at an almost two year high of 26.35 cents while world prices extended losses to 15.71 cents on the same ICE exchange.  The U.S. typically produces around 70% of its total annual consumption with the rest filled by imports primarily from Mexico.  Under NAFTA rules, Mexico is one of the few countries with unlimited access to U.S. sugar markets and is projected to ship a whopping 1.9 mmt of sugar into the U.S for the crop year which ends in September.  The shipments came at the same time that U.S. prices plunged, sparking sugar processor loan defaults of more than $250 million.

U.S. and Mexican authorities have been in talks to resolve this issue and reach some sort of compromise.  The Mexican Sugar Chamber on Tuesday appeared set to accept an export cap instead of an all encompassing tariff.  American Sugar Alliance spokesman Phillip Hayes was quoted as saying the Commerce Departments decision “validates our claim that the flood of Mexican sugar, which is harming America’s sugar producers and workers, is subsidized by the Mexican government”.  Many Mexican sugar mills are ultimately state owned following economic issues in the 1990′s that forced the Mexican government to bail them out by assuming at least partial ownership.

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