WEEKLY NEWS HIGHLIGHTS

WTO Leaders Meet — Key players in the World Trade Organization process are in a last-minute meeting to determine their next step. During the Hong Kong Ministerial, WTO members established an April 30th deadline to come to terms on a framework for agricultural trade. Key differences remain, putting global trade reform in doubt. Senior diplomats are meeting today to consider unresolved issues.

Musical Chairs — US Trade Representative Rob Portman has been nominated to take over as the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Former OMB Director Josh Bolten is the new White House Chief of Staff . During the Rose Garden announcement, Portman bid farewell to the trade post. "I’m really going to miss working with the talented and hardworking people at USTR," said Portman, "In the rapidly changing. increasingly integrated global economy, the United States must have a proactive and ambitious trade agenda for 2006 and beyond."

Corn Ruling — The Canadian International Trade Tribunal ruled imports of unprocessed US corn do not injure the Canadian corn industry. Audrae Erickson of the Corn Refiners Association spoke for the US Corn Coalition. "The rulling upholds international trade rules which state that imports have to be a substantial cause of economic injury," said Erickson, "It is true that there are potentially other factors that have supressed the price of corn in Canada, including substantial amounts of feed wheat and barley that were placed on the Canadian market." National Corn Growers Association President Gerald Tumbleson called the Canadian ruling good news for his industry. "It is such a close country; it would be a shame to have anything come between us."

Disaster Vote is Long Overdue — The US Senate is expected to soon vote on an agricultural disaster package. National Farmers Union President Tom Buis says election year politics should help advance this legislation. "For some reason, these guys and gals that represent people out here have their antenna a little sharper in the years divisable by two." Buis will be in Fargo Tuesday.

Wiesemeyer Talks Disaster with Johanns — Reporter Jim Wiesemeyer of www.agweb.com interviewed Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and the USDA leader voiced his deep concern about the agriculture disaster bill moving through Congress. Like the farm bill debate, Wiesemeyer says Johanns is concerned about treating all farmers equitably. The disaster package is tied to program crops. "What’s that mean to the 60 percent of producers and ranchers that aren’t program crop producers?" was the question raised by Johanns.

Don’t Rush It — Seedbed preparation sets the stage for the rest of the growing season. To determine if soils are fit for planting, Pioneer Field Sales Agronomist Jim Boersma digs two to four inches into the seedbed, takes a handful of soil and squeezes it. "You can take that soil between your thumb and forefinger and if you can squeeze a ribbon of soil off and it sticks together, that is a warning that it may be too wet for field activity." According to Boersma, "Soil that is in good condition should just crumble in your fingers."

Planters Roll — Over the weekend, more growers ventured into the field. In the Aberdeen area of South Dakota, Monsanto’s Jeremy Ewalt wheat planting is wrapping up. "There is wheat popping up in the western edge of Campbell county, Walworth county and Edmunds county." Ewalt says corn planting will begin, in earnest, this week.

Soil Tests — University of Minnesota Extension Educator Hans Kandel is recommending soil tests in the fields that were flooded. The erosion and soil deposits that come with flooding can influence the root zone. In addition, nitrogen levels could be affected.

Wet, Heavy Snow — Up to two feet of heavy, wet snow cut through the western Dakotas and eastern Montana this past week. Winds of 40 to 60 miles per hour made bad conditions worse. The storm came during the heart of the calving season. During the Capital for a Day event in Madison, South Dakota Agriculture Secretary Larry Gabriel voiced his concern. "I’m in the cattle business and I know as part of the cattle business, we lose some some calves, but we sure don’t like losing them; I feel for the people going through this."

Worthless — The USDA’s proposed animal identification plan will not require farmers or ranchers to track the age of animals. South Dakota State Veterinarian Dr. Sam Holland says that omission could make the system worthless. An Associated Press article says USDA doesnt want to overburden producers, but Holland says it is ‘nonsense’ not to track the source and age of the animal.

Johanns Meets With Canadian Counterpart–Talk Cows — USDA is developing rules to allow older Canadian cattle to cross the border. Despite Canada’s latest BSE case, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns remains committed to a complete border opening. USDA hoped to finish the first draft of a rule to allow cattle over 30 months of age into the United States by May, but Johanns says that won’t happen. Johanns met with Canadian Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl this past week. Strahl is confident Canada’s ruminant feed ban is working.

Adding Value — Governor Mike Rounds is proud of South Dakota’s role in the ethanol business. "In South Dakota, we have more farm families that have invested in ethanol plants than any other state in the nation." In 2002, South Dakota had annual ethanol production of 165 million gallons. "Three short years later, we produce over 450 million gallons and by the end of 2007, we’ll be producing over 700 million gallons of alcohol for ethanol." Rounds says corn growers are adding value to their crops. He sees similar opportunities for soybean farmers. Rounds and his cabinet were in Madision Wednesday for the Capital for a Day activities.

Court Ruling — Millennium Ethanol is pleased with its court victory. Circuit Judge Arthur Rush ruled Millennum’s conditional use permit was granted properly. Great Plains Ethanol, in nearby Chancellor, South Dakota, appealed Turner County’s approval of the Millennum project. Great Plains questions if there is enough corn in the trade area to justify two ethanol plants. Millennium will be located northwest of Marion, South Dakota.

Japan Bt — Japan’s Food Safety Commission is making an exception in its zero-tolerance policy and is recommending the government allow shipments with up to one percent Bt 10 corn. Bt 10 is genetically the same as Bt 11. A year ago, Syngenta reported a small amount of the unapproved Bt 10 strain was grown in 2001 through 2004, prompting Japan to test all US corn shipments. The change to the zero-tolerance policy may be a non-factor. The chance of finding Bt 10 corn has dropped off with the harvest of the 2005 crop.

New Soybean Market Possible — Brazil, Argentina, and China are considering the development of a multinational soybean market. It would serve as an alternative to the Chicago Board of Trade. World Soybean prices are now established in Chicago, but South American officials indicate the CBOT does not always reflect the conditions in their market.

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