Automakers, petroleum refiners, boat owners, gasoline marketers and others expressed concern that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is ready to approve higher ethanol blends in gasoline without appropriate vetting of the scientific record. The groups’ letter to EPA asked the agency to base its decision on a “complete and sound scientific record and we urge the Department of Energy to help provide this science by spending all of the $15 million targeted for expanding and accelerating mid-level ethanol blends research in the 2010 appropriations bill. Moreover, EPA should reopen the E15 waiver comment period to allow public review of new test data prior to making a final decision on the waiver request.” The groups also urged EPA to base their decision on a complete understanding of the potential impacts that higher ethanol blends would have on all segments of the end-user market. Those signing the letter were: Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, American Petroleum Institute, Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, Boat Owners Association of the United States, Engine Manufacturers Association, International Snowmobile Manufacturers, Motorcycle Industry Council, National Association of Convenience Stores, National Association of Truck Stop Operators, National Marine Manufacturers Association, National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, Petroleum Marketers Association of America, and Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America.
School Lunch and Food Safety — Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) plans to introduce legislation to improve the safety of food served under USDA’s National School Lunch Program. Sestak said, “Parents should not have to worry about the food their children are served at school. But, today, because of poor communication and testing that would not be acceptable for any restaurant; our children’s safety is at risk. We need to do more to protect our children’s health.” The legislation would direct USDA to:
• Study private industry food safety standards and implement testing and other safety procedures in line with private standards.
• Develop guidelines in consultations with Agricultural Marketing Service and Farm Service Agency to help determine whether to institute an administrative hold on suspect commodities for school meal programs.
• Work with states to explore ways for states to speed notification to schools.
• Improve timelines and completeness of direct communication between Food Nutrition Service (FNS) and schools about holds and recalls, such as through the commodity alert system.
• Establish a time frame in which it will improve the USDA commodity hold and recall procedures to address the role of processors and determine distributors’ involvement with processed products, which may contain recalled ingredients, to provide faster and more comprehensive information to schools.
• Provide states with more specific instructions for schools to dispose of recalled commodities and obtain timely reimbursements.
• Institute a systematic quality check procedure to ensure FNS holds on foods and products used by schools are carried out effectively.
• Direct the Food Service Inspection Service to revise its procedures to ensure that schools are included in effectiveness checks.
Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) has introduced similar legislation in the Senate. Congress is to reauthorize child nutrition programs this year.
Record Corn & Soybean Crops — USDA’s latest crop estimate indicates record corn and soybean crops for 2009. Estimated at 13.2 billion bushels, the crop is 9% higher than last year and 1% higher than the previous record of 13 billion bushels in 2007. USDA estimated record corn yields of 165.2 bu./acre. The 2009 soybean crop reached a record of 3.36 billion bushels, which is 13% above last year’s crop and up 5% from the previous record in 2006. USDA estimated the average soybean yield at 44 bu./acre.
USDA Delays Disease Status for South Korea — USDA announced it has delayed indefinitely implementing a final rule that would add South Korea to the list of regions that are considered free of rinderpest and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). Five outbreaks of FMD have been reported by south Korean officials, therefore the country is no longer considered to be free of FMD.
P. Scott Shearer