I’m going to start this blog by introducing myself. My name is Steven Kilger, the new assistant editor here at Feed & Grain. I'm also the guy who’s been putting together our Industry Watch newsletter for about a month or so. I read agricultural-related news for about half of my work day, until it’s almost bursting from me (seriously — it’s becoming all I talk about.) So, we figured that I should have a blog to share my thoughts, and so I can stop boring people.
My goal is to make this section of the site my own, starting with the update frequency. This is now a weekly blog. The goal here is to have a place where you can get caught up on the important news in agriculture in one convenient place. My goal is to have the blog out every Tuesday afternoon, a goal that I have already failed, but there’s always next week.
I’m also changing the format; from now on “Views” will cover the top news stories of the previous week along with my take on them. Much of that news can’t go into Industry Watch for space or context reasons, so I sometimes have some content that doesn’t make it to the newsletter. I also have all of the stories linked at the bottom in a convenient list format.
On to the news.
The top story of last week was once more the Farm Bill. The Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a bill without any nutrition programs attached to it, which they say will be taken up later. I say Republicans because the bill passed without a single Democrat’s vote, among warnings that the Senate won’t approve a bill without Nutrition Assistance attached, and a threat to veto from the president. I can’t see into the minds of our elected officials, but it seems like the House is doing something just to make it look like they’re doing something. Even when they go into negotiations with the Senate, the moment Nutrition Assistance gets added back in, The House will vote against it when it’s brought back for a final vote. The most likely outcome when this is said and done is another continuation of the 2008 Farm Bill.
The second most popular story was about the Food Safety Modernization Act being implemented. After the FDA was sued by the Center for Food Safety, they have been forced to set a timeline for publishing all of the new rules required by the act. Everything should be published by June 30, 2015. As far as feed is concerned, those rules should be out late this year to early next year.
The federal government takes up the third slot as well, with the USDA getting sued by the meat packing industry over the new meat labeling rule. The new labels require packagers to note where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. Like labeling for GM products, this is foreseen as a logistical nightmare. It will require much more in-depth record keeping for what the industry are calling a needless concern. It will also cost millions of dollars to design and implement the new labels, which will then be passed on to the consumer.
Layoffs are always a topic that invokes passionate views. It’s easy to be empathic with an employee who gets laid off, not because of performance, but because their company was bought out. That’s what happened here. Conagra bought Ralcorp in January and the people being fired held duplicate positions. It’s hard to blame Conagra for this— it’s just business — but still sad for those getting let go. Feed & Grain wishes them the best of luck.
This story was a bit of a surprise for a two reasons: Plant openings aren’t usually very popular, and this is a foreign plant. We are an international publication, of course, but our main readership is in the United States and Canada. The big news with this plant is that it is now the United Kingdom’s largest single-source supplier of animal feed and can supply a third of its bioethonal demand. It goes show just how much the refining process has advanced; it can now get so much out of the raw materials they use.