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News from Around the Farm World - March 6, 2013
Obama nominating EPA and Energy chiefs
WASHINGTON, D.C. — National Public Radio and other news outlets reported Monday that President Obama was expected to nominate Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to head the agency.

Obama was also to tap the director of MIT’s Energy Initiative, Ernest Moniz, as his new Energy secretary. The nominations were to be announced at the White House Monday morning (after Farm World press deadline). Both require Senate confirmation.

NPR reported McCarthy has overseen regulations that will limit carbon emissions from new power plants, and she played a key role in doubling automotive fuel-economy standards. Before joining the EPA in 2009, she served in state environmental roles under two Republican governors: Jodi Rell in Connecticut and Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.

Like McCarthy, NPR reported the president’s pick for energy secretary is familiar to both the industry and Washington. Moniz served as under secretary of the Energy Department during the Clinton administration. A nuclear physicist by training, he has been a scientific advisor to Obama.

USDA to set thresholds on interest rates
WASHINTON, D.C. — The USDA announced an interim rule Friday that sets thresholds on the interest rates charged by lenders on guaranteed farm ownership and operating loans. The changes will amend guidelines for interest rates and establish new policies that clearly set the maximum interest rate lenders may charge to borrowers.

USDA stated the interim rule on maximum interest rates for Farm Service Agency (FSA) guaranteed loans will benefit lenders and producers alike. Lenders have expressed a desire to see greater clarity in FSA’s interest rate policy. At the same time, FSA seeks greater consistency with industry standards and other government agencies that administer similar programs. USDA said the improvements in the new rule will make credit pricing procedures easier to follow and improve compliance for lenders.

FSA is requesting additional comments on the interim policies in the rule, aiming to assure the benchmark rates required of lenders do not prevent farmers and ranchers from obtaining guaranteed loans. USDA is seeking comments through June 3. Write to: USDA, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250; or call 202-720-2791.

CountryMark paying for pollution controls

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (AP) — Southwestern Indiana oil refiner CountryMark is spending $18 million on new pollution controls to settle Clean Air Act violations.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department announced Thursday CountryMark will spend the money on improved pollution controls such as flares at its refinery in Mount Vernon, about 20 miles west of Evansville. Officials alleged CountryMark violated the law when it expanded operations without obtaining proper permits and installing necessary pollution controls.
The settlement is part of a larger drive by federal authorities to enforce the Clean Air Act. Officials have negotiated 32 other settlements for a total of $6 billion, to fight pollutants that help contribute to acid rain and smog.

Indiana county OKs levee settlement

WASHINGTON, Ind. (AP) — A southern Indiana county’s commissioners have approved a $200,000 settlement over a levee breach that flooded thousands of acres near the city of Washington.
The Daviess County commissioners and the county council approved the settlement with four defendants during a joint Feb. 25 meeting. The Washington Times-Herald reported the settlement was negotiated two weeks ago with the defendants.

The county had sued Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock, the Bennington Levee Board and two others seeking $292,000 for the March 2011 levee breach. The levee’s south side breached during heavy spring flooding along the West Fork of the White River, flooding thousands of acres of real estate west of Washington.