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NAMA News September 2011

  • NAMA and the Grain Chain refute the outrageous claims in the Wheat Belly
  • NAMA urges rejection of FDA user fees
  • NAMA requests CUE for methyl bromide
  • Senate sends another sulfuryl fluoride letter to EPA
  • NAMA weighs in on food safety preventive controls
  • U.S. government funding issues
  • NAMA joins coalition in recommending appropriate compensation for cross contaminated crops
  • Congress introduces ag research legislation
  • NAMA President appointed to ATAC
  • NAMA meets with Philippine millers
  • Federal District Court rules in biotech corn lawsuit
  • Viterra promotes Karl Gerrand to Chief Operating Officer – Processing
  • The Mennel Milling Company promotes Ford Mennel to Assistant to the President
  • CORE scientist wins award
  • USDA scientists use commercial enzyme to improve grain ethanol production
  • NAMA’s Technical Committee meets in Chicago
  • Lyndsey Valentine joins NAMA staff

NAMA and the Grain Chain refute outrageous claims in Wheat Belly
NAMA, the American Bakers Association, the Grain Foods Foundation (GFF), and others in the grain chain, are vigorously working to refute the outrageous claims made in the recently published book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health. The book, authored by Cardiologist William Davis, attacks the consumption of grain-based foods. In the book, Dr. Davis asserts that many of Americans’ chronic health problems, including obesity, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis can be attributed to wheat consumption. He claims that the baking industry has been inserting a secret ingredient to make people crave their products. Dietary advice from leading health organizations such as the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association he says should be ignored because those organizations are in bed with “Big Food.” Even the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which advises healthy Americans to consume six one-ounce servings of grain foods daily, with at least half being whole grain, is thrown out by Davis. He calls for all Americans to have a wheat free diet, and bases his findings mostly on anecdotal experiences from his clinic patients rather than sound science.

The GFF public affairs firm, Mullen, is working with their scientific advisory board to address claims made by Dr. Davis through proactive media outreach and its ongoing rapid response program. In addition, NAMA and the grain chain will urge Agriculture Secretary Vilsack to strongly refute the “Wheat Belly” message to eliminate wheat from the diet.

NAMA urges rejection of FDA user fees
NAMA, along with other food and agricultural organizations, urged the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (The Super Committee) to reject the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) registration fees as a revenue raiser. This issue was a constant topic of discussion during the Food Safety Modernization Act deliberations and FDA continues to voice support for additional funding through registration fees. In a letter sent to the leadership of the Super Committee, NAMA reiterated its support of maintaining the safety of the U.S. food supply as a top national priority and encouraged lawmakers to appropriate adequate federal funds to implement food safety programs and inspections that benefit all American consumers without imposing new food safety taxes or user fees on consumers and food makers.

NAMA requests CUE for methyl bromide
Each summer NAMA submits a detailed request to the EPA for continued use of methyl bromide. These requests – called Critical Use Exemption (CUE) requests – are two and a half years in advance of the calendar year for which the request is made. Only NAMA members have access to methyl bromide under the CUE.

On August 18, 2011 NAMA submitted its 50-page CUE request for calendar year 2014. The request is for 201,600 pounds to fumigate an estimated 179.5 million ft3. For perspective, in 1998 the milling industry used an estimated 1.0 million pounds to fumigate an estimated 667 million ft3.

For the first time, the EPA required NAMA to survey its members for detailed data on every methyl bromide fumigation on a mill-by-mill basis for CY2008-2010. 78 mills were fumigated at least once during that time period.

Next, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture and Department of State will review NAMA’s CUE. The NAMA request is aggregated into one package with the CUE’s from other industries. This package, called the U.S. Critical Use Nomination, is the sent by the U.S. government to the United Nations for consideration and (it is hoped) approval by the parties to the Montreal Protocol.

Senate sends another sulfuryl fluoride letter to EPA
On September 29 a bipartisan group of 12 members of the U.S. Senate sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson expressing concern with the Agency’s proposed order to revoke the tolerances for residues of sulfuryl fluoride (SF) on food and cancel associated uses. The Senators requested EPA consider administrative options to allow for continued SF use, and seek an independent review of the proposal.

The effort was led by Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat Roberts (R-KS), the Chairwoman and ranking Republican, respectively, on the Senate Agriculture Committee. Thanks go to NAMA Board member Art Loeffler, president of Star of the West Milling, Frankenmuth, MI who introduced Stabenow to the issue during her visit to the mill immediately after becoming Chairwoman of the committee.

This is the second such letter sent by concerned Senators on this subject. A different group of nine Senators sent a similar letter to Administrator Jackson on July 25.

To read the letter go tohttps://www.namamillers.org/pdf/Letter_Senate_EPA_SF_092911.pdf.

NAMA weighs in on food safety preventive controls
NAMA shared its views on preventive controls for registered food facilities in a comment letter submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on August 18. The request for comments was published May 23, in the Federal Register. With the help of the Food Safety and Technical committees, NAMA drafted comments reiterating the grain milling industry’s commitment to maintaining food safety throughout all phases of manufacturing and distribution.

Earlier this year, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law. NAMA has participated in all public meetings FDA had hosted thus far concerning implementation of the FSMA. FDA requested input regarding the identification of hazards and control measures appropriate for various types of food manufacturing. NAMA has worked with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, American Bakers Association and other stakeholders to ensure provisions of the new law are scientific, risk-based, non-prescriptive, and provide sufficient flexibility to allow manufacturers to adopt practices that are practical and effective for their specific operations. NAMA encouraged FDA to bear in mind the needs of smaller businesses as the agency moves forward with the implementation of preventive controls.

Read the comments athttps://www.namamillers.org/Comments_Preventive_Controls_08182011.html.

U.S. government funding issues
In August the President signed in to law, a deficit reduction bill that requires cuts in discretionary spending. The initial cuts do not require changes to entitlement programs, including crop price supports.

However, the law also creates a 12-member bi-partisan (“super”) committee tasked to find $1.5 trillion in savings by Thanksgiving. If Congress does not enact at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by December 23, automatic spending reductions will be triggered. These cuts will have a large impact on farm program reauthorization and the direction of the next farm bill.

The federal government’s new fiscal year (FY 2012) began on October 1. Agencies are being funded at last year’s levels under a short term “continuing resolution”. White House budget officials have directed federal agencies to cut next year’s funding request (FY 2013, which begins October 1, 2012) at least 5 percent and possibly 10 percent. This directive puts additional pressure on research and statistical and economic reports.

NAMA joins coalition in recommending appropriate compensation
for cross contaminated crops

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack recently rejuvenated the dormant Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, more commonly referred to as AC21. The official purpose of AC21 is two-fold: “To examine the long-term impacts of biotechnology on the U.S. food and agriculture system and USDA; and to provide guidance to USDA on pressing individual issues, identified by the Office of the Secretary, related to the application of biotechnology in agriculture.”

Secretary Vilsack appointed 22 people to the committee. The largest cohort of committee members comes from the organic industry. No grain millers, processors or exporters were appointed. There is one organic food manufacturer on the committee.

At its recent organizational meeting, however, Secretary Vilsack charged the committee to contemplate two questions: “What types of compensation mechanisms, if any, would be appropriate to address economic losses by farmers in which the value of their crops is reduced by unintended presence of GE material(s)?” and “What would be necessary to implement such mechanisms? That is, what would be the eligibility standard for a loss and what tools and triggers (e.g., tolerances, testing protocols, etc.) would be needed to verify and measure such losses and determine if claims are compensable?”

Observers summarize this charge as one to develop the concept for indemnifying organic growers whose crops are “contaminated” by biotech crops, such as in the recent alfalfa court case.

In response a 16-member coalition of organizations, including NAMA, that represent the farm-to-table integrated food production and processing industries wrote a letter to Secretary Vilsack. The letter recommended close attention to three core principles: 1. any solution should be in line with and appropriately address the size and scope of the problem, if it exists. That is, the solution should address the source of the problem without imposing unjustified cost; 2., any compensation or risk management mechanism should preserve grower incentive for good stewardship practices. A mechanism that separates risk from responsibility for an identity-preserved product would fail to do that and lead to unintended consequences; and 3. risk should follow reward. Growers receiving a premium for any identity-preserved product should retain responsibility to maintain the purity of their crop and meet their own contractual obligations.

To read the letter go tohttps://www.namamillers.org/word/ABPC_statement_on_AC21_092711.doc.

Congress introduces ag research legislation
The House and Senate introduced bipartisan bills to amend the tax code to allow for the creation of a new type of charitable, tax-exempt organization, agricultural research organizations (AROs.) The bills, introduced in the Senate by Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and John Thune (R-SD), and in the House by Devin Nunes (R-CA), aim to spur new agricultural research, leveraging private dollars to create charitable partnerships between universities and private entities to strengthen and improve American Agriculture.

The Charitable Agricultural Research Act, designed to address funding challenges, would require AROs to work in conjunction with agricultural and land-grant colleges and universities to conduct research in the field of agriculture. Since there are no tax differences between AROs and other charitable organizations, donors would be able to commit funds to agricultural research and receive tax advantages.

The establishment of ARO’s will complement existing public and private research and also provide an opportunity for previously under funded projects to be fully funded, such as research on specialty crops and specific diseases. NAMA, as a board member of the National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research (NC-FAR), has been working to convey the importance of funding agricultural research and applauds the efforts of lawmakers.

NAMA President appointed to ATAC 
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk appointed NAMA President Mary Waters to serve on the ATAC (Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee) for Trade in Grains, Feed, Oilseeds and Planting Seeds). The committee will provide technical advice and information in the development and implementation of U.S. agricultural trade policy. Waters will serve on the ATAC until June 9, 2015. Congress established the advisory committee system in 1974 to ensure a private-sector voice in establishing U.S. agricultural trade policy objectives to reflect U.S. commercial and economic interests. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative jointly manage the committees. Paul Green, NAMA Trade Consultant, has served on the committee in the past. Read NAMA’s news release at https://www.namamillers.org/PR_Waters_09_12_11.html.

NAMA meets with Philippine millers
NAMA President Mary Waters (center) and Trade Consultant Paul Green (back row) met with a team of senior executives from the Philippine flour milling industry in the NAMA office. The Philippine millers were in Washington to meet with U.S. policy makers about ongoing issues with unfairly priced flour imports and to learn more about the 2011 U.S. soft white (SW), hard red spring (HRS) and hard red winter (HRW) wheat crops. U.S Wheat Associates is sponsored the trade team.

Federal District Court rules in biotech corn lawsuit
On August 22, seed company Syngenta filed a suit in Federal District Court against Bunge in Iowa seeking a declaratory judgment. The suit objects to Bunge posting signs in elevators notifying growers that it would not purchase a specific Syngenta corn variety – Viptera – because it has not received the necessary regulatory approvals to be imported into certain major markets, notably China. Syngenta argued that Bunge can not refuse to accept the corn at its facilities without violating the United States Warehouse Act, comparable provisions of state statutory and common law, and the Lanham Act, or without causing irreparable injury to the seed producer’s business and reputation.

On September 26 the Court ruled, denying Syngenta’s request for a preliminary injunction. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Bennett wrote “Having considered and balanced the pertinent factors, I find that Syngenta is not entitled to the preliminary injunction that it requests. I find no likelihood that Syngenta will succeed on the merits of the claims on which it focused, its warehousing, Lanham Act, and third-party beneficiary contract claims. That being so, the remaining factors do not change the balance against granting preliminary injunctive relief. While I acknowledge that Syngenta does face a substantial threat of reputational harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction, I am not convinced that the harm is of Bunge’s making.

“Moreover, I find that disproportionate harm would fall upon Bunge, if I were to enjoin its actions in the manner that Syngenta requests. Bunge’s decision to reject Viptera corn at all of its locations was a legitimate and reasonable business decision; the injunction would impose prodigious costs on Bunge for a situation that Bunge did not create; and Bunge’s purported promise in April 2010 to accept Viptera corn once that corn had received import approval in Korea and Japan simply does not make it inequitable for Bunge to decide for the following crop year not to accept Viptera corn, so that it could service substantial export contracts for corn to China. Finally, where Syngenta has no likelihood of success on the merits of its claims, the public interest favors denying preliminary injunctive relief, because the public interest in fostering export markets for United States corn, in allowing business to make legitimate business decisions, and in allocating the risk of commercialization of a new transgenic corn trait upon the party that commercialized the trait would thereby be best served.”

As millers well know, within the U.S. grain handling and processing system, each company makes its own determination as to whether to accept various commodity crops – including biotech crops – based on customer preferences, contracts, regulations and the markets they supply.

To see the entire Court ruling on the motion for preliminary injunction, go tohttps://www.namamillers.org/pdf/US_District_Court_ruling.pdf.

Karl Gerrand promoted to Chief Operating Officer – Processing
NAMA member Viterra, Inc. announced Karl Gerrand, a member of NAMA’s Executive Committee, was appointed Chief Operating Officer – Processing. In the announcement Viterra stated Gerrand is responsible for all of Viterra’s processing operations globally including wheat and oat milling, malt, pasta, oilseed crushing and feed manufacturing and will be focused on aligning business excellence programs throughout Viterra’s value-added processing assets to capitalize on the company’s commodity origination and procurement expertise.

Ford Mennel promoted to Assistant to the President
NAMA member The Mennel Milling Company announced the appointment of Ford Mennel to Assistant to the President. Ford Mennel is the son of Board member Donald Mennel and has been recently active on NAMA committees.

CORE scientist wins award
NAMA congratulates Dr. Eric Jackson, winner of the Herbert L. Rothbart Outstanding Early Career Scientist Award for USDA-ARS. Eric leads the research team of the Collaborative Oat Research Enterprise (CORE), who are working to improve understanding of genetic markers and traits in oat with the goal of developing selective breeding strategies to further improve the disease resistance and health benefits of oat crops in the future.

The award recognizes the impact of at least one major contribution or one with potential for major impact on science and technology. Dr. Jackson was selected among 16 area winners to win the national award “for revitalizing oat genomics research in North America through exceptional scientific creativity and partnerships.”

USDA scientists use commercial enzyme
to improve grain ethanol production
A commercial enzyme could reduce overall costs linked with producing ethanol from grain, and also reduce associated emissions of greenhouse gases, according to a study by U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists and colleagues.

The researchers found that the enzyme helps extract water from an ethanol byproduct used to make dried distillers grains with solubles, which can be used as feed supplements for cattle, swine and poultry. This could significantly reduce the amount of electricity, natural gas, energy and water needed for production of grain ethanol and its marketable byproducts. Results from this study were published in the scientific journal Industrial Biotechnology. Read more athttp://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2011/110912.htm.

NAMA’s Technical Committee meets in Chicago
Members of NAMA’s Technical Committee gather in Chicago, IL for their annual fall meeting.

Lyndsey Valentine joins NAMA staff
Lindsey Valentine joined the NAMA staff on September 6 as the Administrative Assistant. Valentine is an Illinois native and a graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville Ohio with a B.A. in Communications Multimedia. She is a freelance graphic designer and during college was a lab assistant for academic computing and a graphic design and marketing intern.

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