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News Article | May 18, 2017
Site: www.npr.org

Will The Government Help Farmers Adapt To A Changing Climate? The livelihoods of farmers and ranchers are intimately tied to weather and the environment. But they may not be able to depend on research conducted by the government to help them adapt to climate change if the Trump administration follows through on campaign promises to shift federal resources away from studying the climate. Farmers stand to lose a lot if worst-case climate projections come to pass. They are likely to face extreme swings in temperature and precipitation. Pests and crop diseases will show up more frequently. Heat stress could stunt meat and dairy production by the nation's cattle herds, costing farmers billions of dollars in lost revenue and forcing food prices to rise. Given the scope of the problem, the search for novel ways to adapt to a changing climate is driving agricultural research. The new administration in Washington, D.C., however, is attempting to change not just the direction of climate research, but also the tone and rhetoric around the issue. For more than a decade, the federal government has taken on a large role in directing and funding climate change research, spending more than $11.6 billion on climate research in 2014 — an increase from just $2.4 billion in spending in 1993, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Former President Barack Obama made climate change adaptation and preparation a signature issue, rolling climate goals into policies across the government. A high-profile Obama-era initiative specifically focused on the food system came in the form of U.S. Department of Agriculture research centers known as "climate hubs." The hubs are meant to better coordinate USDA research and outreach. After their creation in 2014, researchers set about translating scientific jargon into real-world advice for farmers, ranchers and foresters on how best to survive more erratic weather and a hotter climate. The Agriculture Department established nine hubs across the U.S., and put one devoted to Caribbean adaptation in Puerto Rico. In Fort Collins, Colo., the Northern Plains Climate Hub operates out of a squat, beige building, hidden behind a row of greenhouses. The center's director, agricultural economist Dannele Peck, says her team is doing the work necessary to keep America's farmers and ranchers productive as climate change upends their operations. And unlike other industries that could suffer losses in a hotter climate, Peck says farmers are already primed to start having conversations and changing certain practices now. "When you walk into a local diner, what are they talking about? The weather," Peck says. Peck's region – which includes Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota – is an agricultural powerhouse. Dairies are sprouting up and growing in Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota, while beef cattle feedlots dot the landscape throughout. In crop production, the Dakotas rank high nationally for production of field crops like oats, wheat, sunflowers and dry beans. To keep up the pace of food production in those areas, farmers and ranchers will have to make changes, Peck says. And it is the USDA's responsibility to help them adapt. "One part of the hub's creation was just to make us more efficient," Peck says. "If we have many, many different people working on weather and climate issues and they don't talk to each other, you get redundancy or duplication." While the Obama administration initially set up the climate hubs, they are now under the purview of a new president in Donald Trump, who has repeatedly called global warming "a hoax." He excoriated Obama during the Paris climate talks in 2015, taking to Instagram to call the former president's interest in climate change as a national security issue "ridiculous." Trump's new USDA secretary, Sonny Perdue, is now overseeing the agency's climate change projects, including the 10 climate hubs. He does not deny climate change is happening, but injects seeds of doubt about humanity's role in causing it. "I've been on a farm since the early [1950s] and I can tell you the climate is changing," Perdue says. "But the fact of what the cause of it is, is really what is in dispute." Nearly every climate scientist in the world disagrees. So do portions of the USDA's website that say unequivocally climate change is human-caused. But similar statements are slowly being scrubbed from other federal websites, leading some to question the Trump administration's commitment to well-established climate science. "Farmers care about this a lot," says Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, a left-leaning farmer advocacy group. He was a North Dakota farmer for the majority of his life. "What farmers really want is good, solid scientific information about how they can better operate their farms and ranches," Johnson says. With equivocation or outright denial of the facts about climate change from those in charge of the country's top scientific and regulatory agencies, that solid scientific information from publicly funded scientists is in jeopardy, Johnson says. "It looks really fuzzy right now," he says. "It looks like there's a bunch of science deniers, climate deniers that have largely been installed in high levels in this administration." The federal budget, which was passed in May and funds the government through the end of September, maintains or even boosts most scientific research funding. But Charles Rice, a soil microbiologist at Kansas State University, says the administration's rhetoric also matters. Rice has received USDA grants to look at how farmers might adapt to a hotter climate and says any pause in current research could have drastic effects down the line. "There is a general feeling of concern," Rice says, "particularly for those agencies that have direct roles in climate change research and monitoring." Policy changes implemented now will lead farmers in a direction that will play out over the next few decades. "It takes 20 or 30 years to develop a new crop variety, and so even a short-term reduction or priority change will have a long-term implication on research for plant development," Rice says. Rice is worried about a scientific "brain drain," and has worked with graduate students interested in climate change adaptation seeking to continue their education or work outside of the U.S. The Trump administration will find it difficult to cut funding for climate change research across the board. Federal agencies under Obama rolled adaptation into many different aspects of their work and there is no master list of climate change programs. According to former Obama administration officials, some initiatives purposefully avoided using the word "climate" in order to avoid Congressional budget cuts. Sally Rockey, director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, which relies on federal money for a portion of its funding, says climate change adaptation will continue to be a driving force within agricultural research, despite the skeptical tone coming from the executive branch. What might change, however, is what it is called. Climate research may be re-branded under the vague umbrella of "sustainability." "At the core of many of the things we do are sustainability, and sustainability is a lot about climate," Rockey says. "So the two are intertwined in almost every program we do." Federal projects with a climate change focus and the word "climate" in their name — like the USDA's climate hubs — will likely be under the microscope. Agriculture Secretary Perdue says it is too soon in his tenure to say what he wants the hubs to achieve. Perdue says his office will be looking at how the hubs came to be. And he says if they are found to have an ideological bent, or come from a "politically correct position," the USDA might find a "better way to research."


News Article | May 18, 2017
Site: www.npr.org

Will The Government Help Farmers Adapt To A Changing Climate? The livelihoods of farmers and ranchers are intimately tied to weather and the environment. But they may not be able to depend on research conducted by the government to help them adapt to climate change if the Trump administration follows through on campaign promises to shift federal resources away from studying the climate. Farmers stand to lose a lot if worst-case climate projections come to pass. They are likely to face extreme swings in temperature and precipitation. Pests and crop diseases will show up more frequently. Heat stress could stunt meat and dairy production by the nation's cattle herds, costing farmers billions of dollars in lost revenue and forcing food prices to rise. Given the scope of the problem, the search for novel ways to adapt to a changing climate is driving agricultural research. The new administration in Washington, D.C., however, is attempting to change not just the direction of climate research, but also the tone and rhetoric around the issue. For more than a decade, the federal government has taken on a large role in directing and funding climate change research, spending more than $11.6 billion on climate research in 2014 — an increase from just $2.4 billion in spending in 1993, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Former President Barack Obama made climate change adaptation and preparation a signature issue, rolling climate goals into policies across the government. A high-profile Obama-era initiative specifically focused on the food system came in the form of U.S. Department of Agriculture research centers known as "climate hubs." The hubs are meant to better coordinate USDA research and outreach. After their creation in 2014, researchers set about translating scientific jargon into real-world advice for farmers, ranchers and foresters on how best to survive more erratic weather and a hotter climate. The Agriculture Department established nine hubs across the U.S., and put one devoted to Caribbean adaptation in Puerto Rico. In Fort Collins, Colo., the Northern Plains Climate Hub operates out of a squat, beige building, hidden behind a row of greenhouses. The center's director, agricultural economist Dannele Peck, says her team is doing the work necessary to keep America's farmers and ranchers productive as climate change upends their operations. And unlike other industries that could suffer losses in a hotter climate, Peck says farmers are already primed to start having conversations and changing certain practices now. "When you walk into a local diner, what are they talking about? The weather," Peck says. Peck's region – which includes Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota – is an agricultural powerhouse. Dairies are sprouting up and growing in Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota, while beef cattle feedlots dot the landscape throughout. In crop production, the Dakotas rank high nationally for production of field crops like oats, wheat, sunflowers and dry beans. To keep up the pace of food production in those areas, farmers and ranchers will have to make changes, Peck says. And it is the USDA's responsibility to help them adapt. "One part of the hub's creation was just to make us more efficient," Peck says. "If we have many, many different people working on weather and climate issues and they don't talk to each other, you get redundancy or duplication." While the Obama administration initially set up the climate hubs, they are now under the purview of a new president in Donald Trump, who has repeatedly called global warming "a hoax." He excoriated Obama during the Paris climate talks in 2015, taking to Instagram to call the former president's interest in climate change as a national security issue "ridiculous." Trump's new USDA secretary, Sonny Perdue, is now overseeing the agency's climate change projects, including the 10 climate hubs. He does not deny climate change is happening, but injects seeds of doubt about humanity's role in causing it. "I've been on a farm since the early [1950s] and I can tell you the climate is changing," Perdue says. "But the fact of what the cause of it is, is really what is in dispute." Nearly every climate scientist in the world disagrees. So do portions of the USDA's website that say unequivocally climate change is human-caused. But similar statements are slowly being scrubbed from other federal websites, leading some to question the Trump administration's commitment to well-established climate science. "Farmers care about this a lot," says Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, a left-leaning farmer advocacy group. He was a North Dakota farmer for the majority of his life. "What farmers really want is good, solid scientific information about how they can better operate their farms and ranches," Johnson says. With equivocation or outright denial of the facts about climate change from those in charge of the country's top scientific and regulatory agencies, that solid scientific information from publicly funded scientists is in jeopardy, Johnson says. "It looks really fuzzy right now," he says. "It looks like there's a bunch of science deniers, climate deniers that have largely been installed in high levels in this administration." The federal budget, which was passed in May and funds the government through the end of September, maintains or even boosts most scientific research funding. But Charles Rice, a soil microbiologist at Kansas State University, says the administration's rhetoric also matters. Rice has received USDA grants to look at how farmers might adapt to a hotter climate and says any pause in current research could have drastic effects down the line. "There is a general feeling of concern," Rice says, "particularly for those agencies that have direct roles in climate change research and monitoring." Policy changes implemented now will lead farmers in a direction that will play out over the next few decades. "It takes 20 or 30 years to develop a new crop variety, and so even a short-term reduction or priority change will have a long-term implication on research for plant development," Rice says. Rice is worried about a scientific "brain drain," and has worked with graduate students interested in climate change adaptation seeking to continue their education or work outside of the U.S. The Trump administration will find it difficult to cut funding for climate change research across the board. Federal agencies under Obama rolled adaptation into many different aspects of their work and there is no master list of climate change programs. According to former Obama administration officials, some initiatives purposefully avoided using the word "climate" in order to avoid Congressional budget cuts. Sally Rockey, director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, which relies on federal money for a portion of its funding, says climate change adaptation will continue to be a driving force within agricultural research, despite the skeptical tone coming from the executive branch. What might change, however, is what it is called. Climate research may be re-branded under the vague umbrella of "sustainability." "At the core of many of the things we do are sustainability, and sustainability is a lot about climate," Rockey says. "So the two are intertwined in almost every program we do." Federal projects with a climate change focus and the word "climate" in their name — like the USDA's climate hubs — will likely be under the microscope. Agriculture Secretary Perdue says it is too soon in his tenure to say what he wants the hubs to achieve. Perdue says his office will be looking at how the hubs came to be. And he says if they are found to have an ideological bent, or come from a "politically correct position," the USDA might find a "better way to research."


News Article | February 25, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

Octopus-like robots are plucking strawberries in Spain, in the US machines are vacuuming apples off the trees, and in the UK they are feeding and milking cows. Robots are taking over fields around the world, and last week food and rural affairs secretary Andrea Leadsom suggested they could help replace the thousands of EU workers who currently help put food on British tables. And it is not just Brexit that is forcing the agricultural industry to embrace the next phase of mechanisation. Farmers are already having to rethink their operations in the face of higher minimum pay – mainly a result of the national living wage for over-25s, which came into effect last year. Robotic milking machines, in which cows queue up to milk themselves, are now mainstream, while systems tat automatically feed or track the health of livestock are on the rise. Next month, British researchers will attempt to produce cereal crops on a “hands free hectare” in Shropshire – where everything from planting seeds to assessing and harvesting the crop will be done without humans. Some farmers say planned increases in minimum pay alone would put them out of business if they did not find ways to improve productivity, or the amount of economic output per hour worked. The fall in sterling since the referendum has already reduced eurozone residents’ enthusiasm for working in the UK because it has reduced the value of the money they can send home. The potential loss of access to a vast pool of labour post-Brexit means farmers are beginning to wonder if robots might be the answer. The industry is expected to require 90,000 seasonal workers a year by 2021, on top of more than 250,000 permanent staff – more than three-quarters of whom currently come from the EU. If just one in five permanent workers decides to go home, an additional 50,000 people will be needed, on top of the 85,000 seasonal workers required if access to EU migrants is cut off in 2019. Hence the appeal of those machines. Harry Hall, managing partner of Hall Hunter Partnership, which supplies strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries to customers including of Marks & Spencer and Waitrose, told the National Farmers Union conference in Birmingham this week that he thinks robotic picking machines, which use 3D cameras and sensors to automatically gauge when fruit is ready before picking and grading it ready for shipment, are not yet economically viable. But a change in the flow of workers from the EU could soon change that. “If Theresa May decides in 2019 ‘that’s it, you’re on your own’, that would radically impact my approach to robots. I would have 500 robots in two years and probably spend £5m on it.” Robots Hall has seen pick at about a third of the speed of a human. However, their financial appeal lies in the fact that they can pick all day and all night. Simon Blackmore, head of robotics and automation at Harper Adams University, a specialist agricultural establishment in Shropshire, says: “No new technology is needed; it is just a case of getting on with it. It could be two or three years away. We can just start to build these things.” He thinks smaller-scale machines, such as laser weeders and drones, will have broader appeal than large-scale harvesting and sowing technology on farms today. But he admits that established producers of agricultural machinery are not keen to invest in hi-tech gadgets that may disrupt their existing businesses. For example, Innovate UK, the government-backed innovation agency, is supporting development of a strawberry picker in collaboration with a major fruit grower, but can’t find an agricultural machinery firm to manufacture the appliance. The patchy availability of good broadband in rural locations and the legal restrictions on, for example, the activity of flying drones, could also stand in the way of farm automation. Technology requires heavy upfront investment that some farmers cannot afford. Government support in terms of grants, tax allowances or cheap loans may be required. Retailers and food processing companies may also need to offer longer-term contracts and guaranteed prices so that farmers can invest for the future. David Speller, a Derbyshire poultry farmer who spoke at the NFU conference, says he is already finding it difficult to recruit staff. He is looking at moving on from his current use of technology – such as using sensors to monitor bird health – towards buying robots that carry out physical tasks such as refreshing bedding. But he says the technology is probably still two or three years away and the company he is working with has to raise about £1m to develop it. “I think Brexit may go two different ways for two different types of companies,” Speller says. “Depending on the outcome of the negotiations, some, if they feel a financial squeeze, will react by cutting back on investment. Some will take that as a motivator to invest, as they will say we need efficiency for the future and some technology to help us with that.” James Simpson, managing director of Kent apple producer Adrian Scripps, a major supplier to Tesco, is one of those who has already decided to invest. The company has ploughed more than £4m into packing technology since 2013, and this has enabled it to expand without taking on additional workers. Apples are now bagged by robots and loaded on to pallets ready to be transported to retailers. The system is operated by two or three people, each packing about 20 bags a minute. Previously, the rate was less than three bags a minute. Adrian Scripps recruits nearly all of its 220 seasonal pickers and about 60% of its nearly 100 permanent staff from the EU. Simpson says: “Brexit is something that is focusing the mind. We’re very aware that attracting labour to the UK can be a challenge.” He is looking at automating jobs such as lawnmowing – which several British orchards already do – and is talking to organisations around the world about potential picking technology. “Apples are not so easy to pick [using robots], although there are working versions in the US and Israel and test rigs in the UK. Some predict that rigs will be harvesting robotically in two to three years, but my gut feeling is that robotics is five to ten years away,” says Simpson. “There’s no denying the fact that we need temporary overseas labour for UK agriculture. Robotics are not going to happen quickly enough for Brexit. Without access to European labour, UK agriculture dies on its feet.” Laurence Olins of British Summer Fruits, which represents most of the UK berry industry, agrees that robots are not the answer in the short term. “We’ will be using seasonal pickers for at least 10 years,” he says. “If Andrea Leadsom thinks otherwise, she’s mistaken.” Olins says the soft fruit industry alone needs 31,000 people a year, and the industry needs to know how it can access those workers well in advance of the UK’s probable 2019 exit from the EU. “If you can’t pick your crop, you can’t grow it and you will go out of business. There’s no halfway house. If we only get half of them, we will have an industry that is half the size.” As the recent courgette crisis and shortages of lettuce, aubergines and broccoli have shown, Spain’s fame as the vegetable garden of Europe is well deserved. The country’s huge agricultural sector - citrus fruits, courgettes, lettuces, tomatoes and strawberries - feeds a huge demand. There has been a major shift towards mechanisation since the 1950s, but just as in the UK, many crops still need to be harvested by hand, and many farmer rely on migrant labour. Even where mechanisation can be used, picking machines tend to be too expensive and impractical for small-scale farmers. “It depends a on the area, the crop, the local labour supply and the size of the harvest,” says José Ramón Díaz, a technical adviser at Asaja, Spain’s largest farming association. “When a crop needs to be harvested very quickly, sometimes there aren’t enough local hands, so we get in foreign workers - as in other countries.” Díaz says tension between locals and migrant workers , predominantly from North and Sub-Saharan Africa and eastern Europe – is not a big problem, as many of the foreign workers have proper contracts and return to the same farms year after year. “They’re known and that’s important,” he added. Alfrut - a company in the south-western province of Huelva that exports strawberries, raspberries, and other fruits around the EU - still harvests by hand. “There is a machine that gathers strawberries, but you have to adapt the crop to the machine,” says Agustín Muriel, a technical and quality control expert at Alfrut. “If we were to use machines, we would have to modify our entire infrastructure and it would require a lot of investment in machinery, which is designed mainly for large areas and really big companies.” Muriel estimates that between 60% and 65% of the company’s workers are foreign, most of them from Morocco and Romania. He adds that the traditional, manual approach is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, as fruit prices aren’t high enough to allow farmers to make big investments in machinery or spend money reconfiguring their operations. He also says that legal contracts and the fact that most migrant workers tend to spend only five or six months a year in farming areas mean that there are few problems with local communities. “People tend get on well here, because there’s enough work to go around in our area.”


News Article | June 20, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

Lidl has become only the second grocer to sign up to a 12-month-old scheme to back British farmers by promising to buy more of their produce and offer long-term supply deals. The German discounter joins its close rival Aldi, which almost a year ago became the first retailer to sign up to the National Farmers Union-backed “fruit and veg pledge”, which aims to boost the profitability of British farmers and suppliers. The code includes a commitment to paying on time and in full, offering more certainty on price and production requirements and aiming to reduce waste by buying the whole crop and adopting realistic product specifications. The farmers’ union has called on all retailers to sign up publicly to the pledge, which took three years to draw up after the publication of its Catalyst for Change report. The union has previously said it has been involved in negotiations with other major UK retailers including Tesco, but only the relatively small-scale discounters that together account for about 10% of the UK market have signed up. Catalyst for Change found millions of pounds had been stripped out of the fresh produce sector through poor supply chain practices and a short-term approach to relationships with growers and intermediaries, damaging farmers’ ability to produce fruit and vegetables. Although there is a code of conduct covering major grocers’ relationships with their suppliers, many farmers are not covered because they go through wholesalers rather than dealing with supermarkets directly. Ali Capper, NFU horticulture and potatoes board chair, said: “We are delighted that Lidl has publicly committed to our pledge, highlighting its commitment to long-term supply relationships, equitable distribution of reward along the supply chain, and fair and respectful trading relationships. “Our goal is to generate integrity, honesty and openness across the market and that can only come from the key asks within our pledge – which include price certainty, transparent working and strong, long-term relationships that are fair for everyone involved.” Ryan McDonnell, commercial director for Lidl UK, said: “We’re very keen to ensure that our sourcing process supports the growth and development of UK growers, which is vital in encouraging more and more people, particularly our shoppers, to regularly eat more fruit and veg.”


News Article | February 13, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

UK employers are increasingly struggling to fill jobs in shops, factories and hospitals according to a new report that suggests the shortfall may be down to fewer EU migrants seeking work in the UK in the wake of the Brexit vote. Company bosses are reporting labour and skills shortages throughout the food supply chain as well as in sectors such as manufacturing, healthcare and hospitality, according to the latest Labour Market Outlook from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and The Adecco Group, which polls more than 1,000 employers. One in four also had evidence that the EU nationals they employed were considering either leaving their organisation or the UK in 2017. Gerwyn Davies, labour market adviser at CIPD, which represents human resources professionals, pointed to official data which showed that the growth in the number of non-UK EU nationals in employment had slowed in recent months. “This is creating significant recruitment challenges in sectors that have historically relied on non-UK labour to fill roles,” he said. “With skills and labour shortages set to continue, there’s a risk that many vacancies will be left unfilled which could act as a brake on output growth in the UK in the years ahead.” The most recent labour market data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that while EU nationals were still arriving in the UK, they were doing so in smaller numbers than in the past. Growth in the number of non-UK nationals from the European Union working in the UK had almost halved from an average of more than 60,000 per quarter in the nine months to June 2016 to just 30,000 in the three months to September 2016. The figures needed to be treated with caution though, warned Davies as they had not been seasonally adjusted. At the end of last year industry groups representing the major supermarkets and food manufacturers warned that EU workers provided “an essential reservoir of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour” and without them food prices would rise. The open letter to the government was signed by 30 food and drink industry bodies, including the Food and Drink Federation, which represents major suppliers, including Marmite maker Unilever and Mr Kipling owner Premier Foods; the British Retail Consortium, which counts Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons among its members, and the National Farmers Union. Employment agencies have warned that the UK’s food industry is facing the worst labour shortage for at least 12 years. The public sector is expected to be severely impacted by the risk of a drop in EU labour, with 43% of education and 49% of healthcare sector employers surveyed in the Labour Market Outlook saying they believed EU migrants among their workforce were considering leaving. The survey found that despite the acuteness of the issue, more than a quarter of employers did not actually know how many EU nationals they had in their workforce. “Employers need to start collecting data about their workforce and review their approach to workforce development and training to avoid a squeeze on skills and the workforce,” continued Davies. “Employers in sectors like retail, hospitality and care, will need to work much harder to attract candidates and combat labour shortages by improving the attractiveness of their jobs … and improving pay and employment conditions where possible.” Another new survey, the London Employment Monitor, also highlights a 29% drop in professionals job hunting in the City last month, as high fliers look for jobs in other financial centres. “Many of our non-British clients are choosing to return home, or seeking opportunities elsewhere in Europe”, said Hakan Enver,operations director, at Morgan McKinley Financial Services. “People wanting to get ahead of the threat of having their right to work revoked is understandable, but is a huge loss for the City”. January is a key month for job hunting with vacancies surging 81% in January from the previous month. But that compared with a surge of 115% a year ago. “Until the terms of Brexit are known and put in motion, the jobs market will remain cautious,” added Enver.


News Article | February 25, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

Compared to most industries subject to the ups and downs of global markets, farming is a cottage industry. Where mining has a few operators dominating the scene, agriculture involves thousands of producers in each country. That simple fact works against the high levels of investment agriculture minister Andrea Leadsom would like to see in the run-up to a hard Brexit. Leadsom wants farmers to embrace productivity-enhancing technology to offset the loss of migrant workers. As the latest figures reveal, money is tight, so that won’t be easy. In 2015, total income from farming was 24% lower than 2014, a fall of £1.25bn to £4bn. The finger of blame was not pointed at the weather, but a crash in commodity prices and a steep rise in the value of the pound. The two factors combined to cut the value of wheat, barley and all other crops priced on global exchanges. But those factors aside, if Britain is to solve its productivity problem, then industries such as agriculture will have to do their bit. According to the chancellor, Britain’s productivity gap with its neighbours – the fact that European rivals produce more economic output per hour worked – has a real impact on living standards. “In the real world, it takes a German worker four days to produce what we make in five; which means, in turn, that too many British workers work longer hours for lower pay than their counterparts,” Hammond said. So farmers need to make their contribution to the conundrum. But Guy Poskitt, vice-chairman of the National Farmers Union’s horticultural board, asks why banks would lend on, or farmers invest in, technology when margins are so thin, a piece of kit might be useful for only three weeks at harvest time and global prices for agricultural produce are volatile. “The banks are not keen to lend against a business case based on new equipment when supermarket contracts can be cancelled at short notice and the equipment is experimental or can quickly become out of date,” he says. That’s not to say volatile incomes and a squeeze on profits mean investment is zero. The agricultural workforce has shrunk dramatically in the postwar period following intense mechanisation. The industry’s productivity has risen in the last couple of years in line with the snail’s pace registered by rest of the British business community. To make faster progress, Poskitt says the current Common Agricultural Policy payments to farmers – soon to become a victim of Brexit – should be replaced by British government investment grants. “Post-Brexit there could be a pot of money that supersedes the single payment to farmers to reward investment,” he says. “That is what Andrea Leadsom should be thinking about.”


News Article | July 28, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

Scottish farmers face losing hundreds of millions of pounds in subsidy after Brexit unless the UK government increases funding for Holyrood, a Scottish parliament committee has been told. A senior economist and the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) said the EU referendum vote raised significant doubts over the future of £452m in common agriculture programme spending in Scotland, because of the current Treasury deal to fund Holyrood. Pro-Brexit campaigners insisted during the referendum campaign that all agricultural funding would be protected, as Westminster would equally redistribute the £350m a week it would allegedly save from no longer funding the EU. Prof Graeme Roy, director of the Fraser of Allander Institute, an economics thinktank at Strathclyde University, told Holyrood’s European and external relations committee, which was recalled from summer recess to investigate the ramifications of the Brexit vote, that this was not currently possible. Under the latest fiscal framework deal for financing Scottish spending, signed off by the then chancellor George Osborne in February, Holyrood would continue to be funded largely by the UK Treasury on a rough per capita basis, through the so-called Barnett formula, and by Scottish taxation. Scotland’s population is about 8% of the UK total, but Scottish farmers receive 18% of the UK’s overall common agricultural policy (CAP) funding under the EU system, including 85% of less-favoured area payments. The industry has slumped in the last few years due to falling prices, increasing its heavy reliance on subsidies. UK ministers, Roy said, would have to find a way of changing the current fiscal support system or protecting Scottish agriculture funding through another route. “I think that’s quite a significant thing which needs to be resolved relatively quickly,” he told MSPs. The NFUS said it is pressing the UK government to guarantee funding at the same levels set out by the CAP for the next four years. But Clare Slipper, the union’s Scottish parliamentary officer, said UK ministers had yet to make any concrete commitments. Slipper added that there was also a “massive question mark” over what the Scottish government was planning to do on farm funding post-Brexit. Leaving the EU meant ministers in Edinburgh would need to introduce their own agricultural policies, which could be far more beneficial to farmers than the CAP. Slipper said: “Our concern is we don’t know whether there will be agricultural funding through the block grant or whether it will be ringfenced or topped up by the Scottish government.” James Withers, of Scotland Food and Drink, said protecting agricultural funding was crucial to the success of many industries that relied on farm produce. His group’s members converted £3bn in agricultural raw materials into products worth £11bn to the Scottish economy. Shortly before the evidence session began, the Fraser of Allander Institute warned that Scotland’s already struggling economy was likely to be hit by a further slowing in the next two years as a direct result of Brexit, potentially going into a technical recession. MSPs were told, however, that the UK’s decision to leave the EU could be very rewarding for Scotland, allowing its major industries such as financial services and fisheries to grow but in different ways. Hugh Chater, director of banking for Virgin Money, which has a large base in Edinburgh, said the city could see a boom in financial services if Scotland won special concessions giving it much better access to the single market than the rest of the UK. He said Scotland could offer “safe harbour” for some other UK banks or financial services firms which were worried about losing their so-called passporting rights to operate in the single market. “I think that’s a very credible view,” he said. The loudest welcome for the UK leaving the EU came from Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation. He said leaving the common fisheries policy (CFP) was an extraordinary chance for Scotland to control fishing in a huge area of the continental shelf. The UK’s exclusive economic zone in the North Sea and Atlantic “was a really, really big patch of prime maritime real estate,” he said. Control over that area had to be defended by UK and Scottish ministers during the Brexit negotiations; it would allow Scotland to overtake Norway and Iceland as major global fish producers. “We have the opportunity, if there’s the political backbone not to trade it away again, to become managing partner in the best piece of the north-east Atlantic for harvesting seafood,” he said. • This article was amended on 29 July 2016. An earlier version said incorrectly that James Withers was from the Scottish Food and Drink Federation.


Award-Winning Agritech Expo Zambia Returns to Chisamba in April as Agri Sector Continues to Move with the Times The award-winning Agritech Expo Zambia returns to Chisamba for the fourth time this year from 27-29 April. Chisamba, Zambia, February 19, 2017 --( Mr Hamusimbi adds: “Agritech Expo has blossomed into an umbilical cord bonding together national, regional and global farmers, agribusinesses, policy makers and development agents as they search for solutions to ever increasing pestilences, adverse weather effects, wasting soil health/fertility, dwindling productivity, inadequate irrigation and mechanization, and increasing stock diseases. Without a doubt Agritech Expo 2017 has been designed to specifically give farmers the innovations and business connections they need to move their farming and agribusiness to the next level.” More international pavilions Last year the event drew a record-breaking attendance of 17 605 visitors. This year even more small-scale, emerging and commercial farmers are expected to descend on the GART research farm in the heart of Zambia’s agri-hub, where the latest farming products and services will be showcased. The three-day expo will furthermore feature an even greater international presence with international pavilions from Germany, Zimbabwe, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, the UK and France already confirmed. Agritech Expo will also offer free workshops again, live machinery and product demonstrations and crop trials. New for this year will be specialised agri-sector industry zones and mowing and baling demonstrations. Multi-award winning Agritech Expo Agritech Expo Zambia recently won two coveted awards at the ROAR Organiser and Exhibitor Awards in Johannesburg which honour excellence in the exhibition and events industry on the continent. The awards were organised jointly by the Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO) and the Exhibition & Event Association of Southern Africa (EXSA). Agritech Expo won for Best Trade & Consumer Exhibition +12000 sqm and for Distinction in Social Responsibility. “The Agritech Expo Zambia team is honoured and thankful for the recognition of what they have achieved over the last three years with our partners, the Zambia National Farmers Union,” says Emmanuelle Nicholls, Natural Resources Group Director, Spintelligent, organisers of the event, “building the event from scratch in a field in the middle of Zambia.” She adds, “Their commitment, blood, sweat and tears bear testimony to the uniqueness of this event.” The expo also has an outreach programme at the local Golden Valley Basic School, where, with the assistance of numerous event sponsors, it is assisting the school with much needed infrastructure upgrades, equipment supplies and management of the school’s farm. As in previous years, Agritech Expo enjoys extensive support from the agri industry with well-known suppliers AFGRI and John Deere returning as platinum sponsors again. Confirmed gold sponsors are Action Auto, Agricon, BHBW, Case Construction, Case Agriculture, Gourock and SARO. Agritech Expo Zambia is organised by Spintelligent, leading Cape Town-based trade exhibition and conference organiser, and the African office of Clarion Events Ltd, based in the UK. The event is owned by the Zambia National Farmers Union. Other well-known events by Spintelligent include Agritech Expo Tanzania and Agribusiness Congress East Africa. Agritech Expo Zambia 2017: Dates: 27-29 April 2017 Location: Gart Research Centre, Chisamba, Zambia Chisamba, Zambia, February 19, 2017 --( PR.com )-- “As Zambian agriculture continues moving with changing times and environment, so does our Agritech Expo. Farmers should brace themselves for yet another awe-inspiring agribusiness and agricultural technology and B2B platform,” says an excited Mr Coillard Hamusimbi, the Head of Services and Agribusiness for the Zambia National Farmers Union, the owners of the upcoming Agritech Expo Zambia. The award-winning event returns to Chisamba for the fourth time this year from 27-29 April.Mr Hamusimbi adds: “Agritech Expo has blossomed into an umbilical cord bonding together national, regional and global farmers, agribusinesses, policy makers and development agents as they search for solutions to ever increasing pestilences, adverse weather effects, wasting soil health/fertility, dwindling productivity, inadequate irrigation and mechanization, and increasing stock diseases. Without a doubt Agritech Expo 2017 has been designed to specifically give farmers the innovations and business connections they need to move their farming and agribusiness to the next level.”More international pavilionsLast year the event drew a record-breaking attendance of 17 605 visitors. This year even more small-scale, emerging and commercial farmers are expected to descend on the GART research farm in the heart of Zambia’s agri-hub, where the latest farming products and services will be showcased. The three-day expo will furthermore feature an even greater international presence with international pavilions from Germany, Zimbabwe, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, the UK and France already confirmed.Agritech Expo will also offer free workshops again, live machinery and product demonstrations and crop trials. New for this year will be specialised agri-sector industry zones and mowing and baling demonstrations.Multi-award winning Agritech ExpoAgritech Expo Zambia recently won two coveted awards at the ROAR Organiser and Exhibitor Awards in Johannesburg which honour excellence in the exhibition and events industry on the continent. The awards were organised jointly by the Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO) and the Exhibition & Event Association of Southern Africa (EXSA). Agritech Expo won for Best Trade & Consumer Exhibition +12000 sqm and for Distinction in Social Responsibility.“The Agritech Expo Zambia team is honoured and thankful for the recognition of what they have achieved over the last three years with our partners, the Zambia National Farmers Union,” says Emmanuelle Nicholls, Natural Resources Group Director, Spintelligent, organisers of the event, “building the event from scratch in a field in the middle of Zambia.” She adds, “Their commitment, blood, sweat and tears bear testimony to the uniqueness of this event.”The expo also has an outreach programme at the local Golden Valley Basic School, where, with the assistance of numerous event sponsors, it is assisting the school with much needed infrastructure upgrades, equipment supplies and management of the school’s farm.As in previous years, Agritech Expo enjoys extensive support from the agri industry with well-known suppliers AFGRI and John Deere returning as platinum sponsors again. Confirmed gold sponsors are Action Auto, Agricon, BHBW, Case Construction, Case Agriculture, Gourock and SARO.Agritech Expo Zambia is organised by Spintelligent, leading Cape Town-based trade exhibition and conference organiser, and the African office of Clarion Events Ltd, based in the UK. The event is owned by the Zambia National Farmers Union. Other well-known events by Spintelligent include Agritech Expo Tanzania and Agribusiness Congress East Africa.Agritech Expo Zambia 2017:Dates: 27-29 April 2017Location: Gart Research Centre, Chisamba, Zambia


News Article | January 29, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

Those of us who want to eat safe, healthy food awoke to a nightmare on Tuesday, a chilling interview on Radio 4’s Today programme. Bob Young, chief economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation, made it crystal clear that any US trade deal struck by Theresa May would be contingent on the UK public stomaching imports of US foods that it has previously rejected: beef from cattle implanted with growth hormones, chlorine-washed chicken, and unlabelled genetically modified (GM) foods. Wiping the sleep from our eyes, we hoped it was just a bad dream, but the grim reality worsened. Martin Haworth, director of strategy at the National Farmers Union (NFU), was up next. Surely our own farmers, who have worked for decades to stricter EU standards shaped by consumers’ demand for safe, natural food, would reiterate their commitment to keeping them? Not a bit of it. Haworth’s only concern was that if such controversial American products were allowed into the country, British farmers should be able to use the same production techniques to ensure “an even playing field”. Do you find it credible that British farmers could beat the US’s vast industrial feedlots, hi-tech poultry plants and vast GM prairies at their own game? No matter, the NFU does. Later, at prime minister’s questions, the Scottish National party MP Angus Robertson pressed May for the reassurance that everyone who cares about food quality and safety badly wants to hear. Would she tell Trump she wasn’t prepared to lower our food safety standards? Judging from May’s evasive reply – she would improve trade through prosperity, growth, jobs, putting UK interests and values first – it seems entirely possible that she would bin existing food rules in order to clinch a deal. For decades, the food on our plates has been protected – albeit inadequately – by virtue of our EU membership. Food on British shelves differs in critical ways from the US equivalent. Citizens in Europe loudly opposed the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that sought to impose on us the US “Big Food” model. But now it looks as if Trump and May could usher in a bilateral version of TTIP with bells on. So the nightmare is real, although there is a ray of hope. Post-Brexit, we can’t continue to sell British food to mainland Europe unless it meets EU standards. And losing concrete business with the EU in the vain hope of gaining some notional trade advantage with the US sounds like a deal-breaker. Eighty-two pesticides are banned in the EU on health and environmental grounds – but not in the US. Among these 82 pesticides are permethrin, the broad spectrum insecticide that is classed as a likely carcinogen and suspected endocrine disruptor, and atrazine, a herbicide thought to affect the immune system, which has also been linked to birth defects. A US-UK trade deal opens the door to imports of American foods grown using these pesticides. The US would probably also lean on the UK government to relax our EU-set “maximum residue levels” for pesticides in food. Even people who boycotted US imported food would probably end up eating more residues in food because British growers would no longer have to control their spraying regimes to keep residues within EU limits. Derivatives of GM maize and soya are in thousands of processed foods in the US. American consumers’ demands to see them labelled have been quashed by lobbying from big biotech companies, notably Monsanto. In the US, the only way to avoid eating GM ingredients is to buy organic food to cook at home and never eat out. In the EU, foods made using GM ingredients must be clearly labelled as such, and consumers have shown repeatedly that they don’t want to buy them. The only GM foods currently on British shelves are sweet imported American junk foods, and cheap cooking oils aimed at the catering trade. No GM crops are grown commercially in the UK. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have all effectively banned their cultivation. Currently, EU states have the right to ban the import of GM food. In the event of a US-UK trade deal, farmers on both sides of the Atlantic might argue that GM labelling, and cultivation and import bans, are discriminatory barriers to trade. Processed foods in the United States typically contain many more additives and hi-tech ingredients than their equivalents in Europe. Several food additives banned in Europe are permitted in the US. These include petroleum-derived food colourings, azodicarbonamide, the chemical used to bleach flour that has been linked to asthma, and potassium bromate, a chemical that reduces the time needed to bake industrial bread. It has been associated with kidney, nervous system and gastrointestinal disorders. British companies could argue that if they are to compete with US imports on price, they must be allowed to use these problematic additives. In the US it’s perfectly legal to “wash” butchered chicken in strongly chlorinated water and to spray pig carcasses with lactic acid. Abattoir companies present these as belt-and-braces methods of reducing the spread of microbial contamination from the animal’s digestive tract to the meat. These practices aren’t allowed in the EU, and the dominant European view has been that, far from reducing contamination, they could increase it because dirty abattoirs with sloppy standards would rely on it as a decontaminant rather than making sure their basic hygiene protocols were up to scratch. There are also concerns that such “washes” would be used by less scrupulous meat processing plants to increase the shelf-life of meat, making it appear fresher than it really is. If the UK were obliged to accept chlorine chicken and acid-washed meat from the US, this would not need to be flagged up on product packaging because these washes and sprays would count as “processing aids”, which don’t need to be labelled. The EU has a general ban on the use of synthetic hormones to promote growth in farm animals because the European Food Safety Authority says that there isn’t enough data to fully assess potential human health risks, such as increased cancer, and early puberty. In the US, synthetic hormones are considered safe, and intensively reared beef cattle and dairy cows are often implanted with them. Pigs are also treated with the beta-agonist drug Ractopamine, which has hormone-like bodybuilding effects. Globally, there is heightened awareness that the overuse of antibiotics in farming is encouraging the emergence of bacterial infections in animals and humans that are resistant to key groups of these vital drugs. The latest data shows that 75% of medically important antibiotics in the US were given to farm animals. In the UK, the equivalent amount is lower (40%), largely because EU farmers have not been allowed to use antibiotics to make their animals grow bigger more quickly – or produce more milk. Once a UK-US trade deal was signed, US meat processors would be likely to see big opportunities to get their pork – and to a lesser extent, their beef – into the UK. These imports would probably be purchased by processed food manufacturers. And as their multi-ingredient products don’t have to list the country of origin of individual ingredients, there would be no sure way of avoiding eating milk or meat produced to less exacting US standards, unless you never ate processed food. Powerful US meat and grain corporations want the EU to drop restrictions on animal byproducts (abattoir offcuts and waste) in animal feedstuffs, arguing that it is a barrier to trade aimed at protecting our internal market. The American Feed Industry Association has already challenged this EU rule on the grounds that its industry experienced a 62% drop in exports over the past decade because of it. The practice of feeding slaughterhouse byproducts, such as brains and spinal cord, back to animals in their rations can result in outbreaks of livestock diseases: swine fever, foot and mouth disease and mad cow disease. It is thought to be the most likely cause of in humans. The UK’s willingness to accept imports of animal feed manufactured with animal byproducts (and GM soya) could be a prerequisite of any US trade deal.


News Article | February 27, 2017
Site: www.altenergystocks.com

“Trump Reiterates Support for Ethanol, RFS” is the major headline to come out of the National Ethanol Conference in San Diego, which is the Renewable Fuels Association’s annual conflab and as usual produced a flurry of studies, keynotes and statements on the viability and importance of US ethanol to everything from American jobs to advanced American manufacturing. The Trump headline came out of a letter sent to the delegates to the event by President Trump — which itself is a hopeful sign of support. But did the President really offer support for the Renewable Fuel Standard? Let’s look at the letter behind the headlines. “Rest assured that your president and this administration values the importance of renewable fuels to America’s economy and to our energy independence. As I emphasized throughout my campaign, renewable fuels are essential to America’s energy strategy,” Trump wrote. “As important as ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard are to rural economies, I also know that your industry has suffered from overzealous, job-killing regulation. I am committed to reducing the regulatory burden on all businesses, and my team is looking forward to working with the Renewable Fuels Association, and many others, to identify and reform those regulations that impede growth, increase consumer costs, and eliminate good-paying jobs without providing sufficient environmental or public health benefit,” Trump added. Hmm. There’s support for renewable fuels in there. President Trump reiterates that “renewable fuels are essential to America’s energy strategy,” but when it comes to the RFS itself, the President notes the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard to rural communities — and then quickly pivots to a theme of identifying and reforming “those regulations that impede growth, increase consumer costs, and eliminate good-paying jobs without providing sufficient environmental or public health benefit.” Now, the President could have written a letter to the Affordable Healthcare Society attending at the National Conference to Save Obamacare with the following: “As important as Obamacare is to low-income people, I also know that your industry has suffered from overzealous, job-killing regulation. I am committed to reducing the regulatory burden on all businesses, and my team is looking forward to working with the Affordable Healthcare Society, and many others, to identify and reform those regulations that impede growth, increase consumer costs, and eliminate good-paying jobs without providing sufficient environmental or public health benefit.” It sounds very supportive, but it’s a long way from a pledge to defend Obamacare. And we’ve changed nothing in the structure, just the names. Nevertheless, the Renewable Fuels Association was grateful. “We thank President Trump for reaffirming his support for the domestic biofuels industry and the RFS,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “The RFS has cleaned the air, reduced our dependence on foreign oil and boosted local economies. Donald Trump understands all this. Consumers benefit from this national policy and our industry looks forward to continuing to be the lowest cost, highest octane fuel in the world.” The RFA debuted a new study by ABF Economics. which found that the U.S. ethanol industry added $42.1 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product and supported nearly 340,000 jobs in 2016. According to the analysis, the production and use of 15.25 billion gallons of ethanol last year also: •contributed nearly $14.4 billion to the U.S. economy from manufacturing; •added more than $22.5 billion in income for American households; •generated an estimated $4.9 billion in tax revenue to the Federal Treasury and $3.6 billion in revenue to state and local governments; •displaced 510 million barrels of imported oil, keeping $20.1 billion in the U.S. economy; In all, it’s been a strong year for ethanol. Dinneen said in his keynote that 2016 was “a record year for production, a record year for net exports, a record year for domestic demand, and a record year for E15 sales and infrastructure build-out. It was, in short, a pretty darn good year,” said Dinneen. Overall, he noted that the industry produced a record 15.3 billion gallons of ethanol in 2016, while supporting 74,420 direct jobs and 264,756 indirect and induced jobs across the country. Dinneen also predicted that the Trump Administration would “stand up for American trade, and fight back against any trade distorting tariffs, such as those recently imposed by the Chinese on U.S. ethanol and dried distillers grain exports.” How much U.S. ethanol was produced last year? What were the top U.S. ethanol export markets? What are ethanol’s environmental and octane benefits? How many states offer E15 (15 percent ethanol) blends and how many automakers warranty their vehicles for higher ethanol blends? The answer to these questions and many more is simple, says the RFA — it’s in the 2017 Ethanol Industry Outlook, and that’s here. One of the issues in the mix for the ethanol industry right now is a fight over “the point of obligation” in the Renewable Fuel Standard. Right now, that’s oil refineries. Carl Icahn and others have been urging the White House to shift the point of obligation to retailers and fuel distributors— and a coalition of independent oil marketers, convenience store chains, travel plazas and truckstops, and ethanol producers has assembled to fight the change. NATSO, representing more than 1,500 travel plazas and truckstops nationwide, opined: “changing the point of obligation would hinder the program’s objective of displacing traditional fuel and replacing it with renewable substitutes to promote stable supply and prices, and inject such massive disruption and uncertainty into fuels markets that retail fuel prices will inevitably skyrocket and the incentive for fuel marketers to integrate renewable fuels into their product lines will dissipate. This will crush the very constituencies whose interests President Trump promised protect in order to benefit a narrow segment of the refining industry.” Growth Energy delivered an economic analysis commissioned from Edgeworth Economics that identifies numerous problems associated with changing the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) point of obligation. Growth Energy strongly supports EPA’s proposed denial to move the point of obligation. “Changing the point of obligation would have a disastrous impact on the industry, retailers, and consumers,” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said. Also appearing this week from the The Urban Air Initiative and several partners were filed comments with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that disrupts the agency’s current rationale for controlling ethanol blends under the Clean Air Act, in response to the proposed Renewables Enhancement Growth Support Rule (REGS Rule). The proposed rule would codify EPA’s position that fuel blends with more than 15% ethanol (E16-E83) may only be used in Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs). UAI argues that the Clean Air Act does not forbid the use of midlevel gasoline-ethanol blends in conventional vehicles. UAI points out that under the Clean Air Act, EPA bears the burden of showing that ethanol contributes to harmful emissions before it may limit the concentration of ethanol in fuel. The proposed rule reverses this burden of proof and subverts the intent of Congress by requiring fuel manufacturers to show that higher levels of ethanol would not harm emissions control systems. In its comments, UAI takes on EPA’s longstanding assumption that the Clean Air Act’s “substantially similar” (sub-sim) law allows the agency to control the concentration of ethanol in gasoline. UAI argues that EPA’s interpretation of the sub-sim law is inconsistent with the clear language of the law and must change. “We believe these comments can be potentially game changing in the way the EPA regulates clean burning ethanol,” said UAI President Dave Vander Griend. Several other organizations joined UAI’s comments. They include the Energy Future Coalition, Clean Fuels Development Coalition, Glacial Lakes Energy, Siouxland Ethanol, ICM Inc., Nebraska Ethanol Board, National Farmers Union, South Dakota Farmers Union, Minnesota Farmers Union, Montana Farmers Union, North Dakota Farmers Union, and Wisconsin Farmers Union. One thing you’ll note in the ethanol industry’s line of discussion — it remains the ethanol industry, only loosely allied with the renewable fuels industry as a whole. Further, we see a shift from RFA — and almost everyone else promoting renewable fuels on Capitol Hill – from discussing the greenhouse gas benefits of renewable fuels to the domestic jobs and energy security that flows from US-based fuel production. But, that said, times are good and we’ll see about 2018. Focal point ahead? For RFA, the focus is clearly on E15. There’s quite a bit of work to be done with engine manufacturers who might incorporate E30 blends in a new generation of engines designed to reach the 52MPG CAFE standards that are proposed for the 2020s and 2030s. Those worthy goals are far more in the background as the ethanol industry continues to focus on a E15 tolerance that would boost the potential for ethanol blending well above 20 billion gallons.

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