Capitol Hill

Agronomy

Nutrition

Oil Around the World

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A supplement to U.S. Canola Digest


Capitol Hill

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its long-awaited proposal May 29 to establish renewable fuel standards for 2014, 2015 and 2016, according to the Des Moines Register. For biomass-based diesel, the agency proposed volumes of 1.63 billion gallons in 2014, 1.7 billion gallons in 2015 and 1.8 billion gallons in 2016. While not as robust as the biodiesel industry had hoped, the new volumes are higher than in the previous proposal, which would have set the requirements at 1.28 billion gallons for 2014 and 2015. There will be a public comment period on the proposed rule, and the U.S. Canola Association (USCA) is planning to submit comments. The EPA intends to finalize the proposal by Nov. 30.

The EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the "Waters of the United States" rule on May 27, renaming it the "Clean Water Rule." Intended to protect the nation's public health and aquatic resources, the rule will clarify the scope of "waters of the United States" consistent with the Clean Water Act, Supreme Court precedent and science. Many farmers, ranchers and industry groups, however, oppose the new regulations as government overreach. The House passed a bill to block the rules and the Senate is considering a similar measure, according to Bloomberg Business. The EPA also released industry-specific fact sheets, including agriculture, that detail changes made compared to the initial rule released in April 2014.

Legislation to “fast track” trade cleared the Senate 62 to 37, according to CNN, advancing a bill that is one of President Obama’s top priorities. The White House is seeking to secure a broad trade deal with Pacific Rim nations, including canola trade partners Japan and Canada, and Trade Promotion Authority would limit Congress to an up or down vote on such agreements. Without it, proponents of the bill argue, Congress’s ability to amend trade deals could stall them indefinitely. The bill’s future in the House is uncertain.

Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN) expressed concern about the destruction of crop insurance during a May interview with Agri-Pulse, reported National Crop Insurance Services. Some crop insurance companies are considering leaving the business due to attacks on profit margins and premium support offered to farmers. According to Peterson, the worst case scenario would be entire states not receiving crop insurance. “Crop insurance is what keeps family agriculture and smaller farmers going," he said. "It’s so expensive to farm, the banker isn’t going to finance you if you don’t have a way to pay him back, which is what crop insurance does.”


Agronomy

President Obama's interagency task force to address pollinator health released a proposal, "Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators," according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s blog. The plan’s three main goals are reducing honey bee colony losses to economically sustainable levels; increasing monarch butterfly numbers to protect the annual migration; and restoring or enhancing millions of acres of land for pollinators through combined public and private action.

The Honey Bee Coalition, which includes the USCA among its more than 30 members, began a job swap program entitled, “Bee Understanding,” which groups farmers with beekeepers, crop advisors with entomologists, and pest control applicators with regulators to understand the problem of pollinator loss from the ground level. The program will be captured in a series of documentary short films to promote awareness about the issue.

In Bee Culture: The Magazine of American Beekeeping, The Honey Bee Coalition encouraged incident reporting to diagnose problems and prevent pollinator losses. “Accurate information on bee loss incidents is key to understanding the real-world experience of our pollinators and to inform best practices for pesticide use and application," the article explained. It also shared how to report bee losses, including collecting and analyzing evidence; reporting to the state, EPA and pesticide manufacturer; and how to receive assistance. Photograph above submitted by Karen Sowers.

Challenging winter conditions for canola this past winter made it difficult to collect data for the National Winter Canola Variety Trial at Kansas State University (KSU), according to High Plains-Midwest Ag Journal. Despite the issues, Mike Stamm, associate agronomist and canola breeder at KSU, said, “It gives us an opportunity to select better adapted material and in the case of winter hardiness we have been able to screen a lot of the germplasm in our program and the germplasm that is being introduced from places like Europe for adaptability to our climate.” However, looking at the 2015 plots, Stamm predicted another challenging year for canola production. “I think we can get through these tough years and have a better idea of our varieties and their adaptability to the southern Great Plains,” he said.

A bill in Oregon met resistance in the state Senate from opponents of a proposal to extend canola production in the Willamette Valley, according to Capital Press. Proponents of the bill argued extending production would avoid disrupting the market while opponents fear cross-pollination with related seed crops.

Nutrition

On Jacksonville.com, Judith Rodriguez, chair of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of North Florida, corrected rumours regarding canola oil, its composition and origins. She stressed that canola oil is one of the healthiest cooking oils available, with the least saturated fat of all common oils and zero trans fat. Rodriguez also clarified that canola was derived from rapeseed through traditional plant breeding but now there are modern biotech varieties that tolerate certain herbicides. 

Men’s Fitness magazine listed nine pantry staples, including a high-heat cooking oil like canola for sautéing and frying. Chefs cited in the article warned that using olive oil with high heat can ruin a meal. They also provided a tip for making homemade mayonnaise using canola oil.

In response to reader concerns, Katherine Brooking, M.S., R.D., explained to WebMD why canola oil is not harmful. “Part of the confusion stems from the notion that canola oil is produced directly from the rapeseed plant,” she explained. “However, scientists used traditional plant breeding to eliminate the undesirable components of rapeseed, specifically erucic acid and glucosinolates, and the result is a very different plant — canola.” She noted studies have shown that canola oil is not only safe, it may have significant health benefits.

Oil Around the World

The chief executive of Richardson International, a lead grain handler in Canada, exhibited interest in expansion into the U.S. through acquisitions worth up to $1.67 billion, according to Reuters. The company is specifically interested in Andersons Inc, Bartlett and Scoular and some co-operatives. There were no comments from the potential acquisitions, as of publication.

A more colorful and flavorful version of rapeseed oil has hit the shelves in the United Kingdom, according to an article on npr.org’s food blog, The Salt. The artisanal rapeseed oil is processed differently than in the majority of the U.S., cold pressing the seeds as with high quality olive oil. One of the producers in the article selects his seed in a manner similar to single-malt whisky distillers, paying premium for a seed with a unique and appealing taste. Rapeseed is now considered the new “British olive oil.”

In an effort to remove radioactive cesium from the soil, fields of canola are being grown 25 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, according to The Wall Street Journal. The project has tripled in size since it started at 4.7 hectares in the fall of 2013. The goal of the project is to create a chain of decontamination and power generation, using a biomass power station to make electricity from methane given off by fermenting canola.

Latest Industry News

According to The New York Times, the USDA has developed a new government certification and labeling for foods that are free of genetically modified organisms. The certification would be voluntary and companies would pay for it. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the new label was being developed at the request of a “leading global company.” In April, the USCA and more than 350 other members of the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food signed a letter urging Congress to support the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act introduced by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC). The bill calls for voluntary biotech food labeling to prevent patchwork state-based labeling requirements.

About the USCA

The USCA, National Sunflower Association and American Honey Producers Association sent a letter to the National Resources Conservation Service division of the USDA regarding the continuation of canola and/or sunflowers in cropping rotations to provide habitat for honey bees and wild pollinators. The proposed Honey Bee and Pollinator Habitat Enhancement would require producers who choose this enhancement to plant either canola or sunflowers.

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