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News from Around the Farm World - March 27, 2013
Agriculture disputes threaten new U.S.-EU talks
WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — There are signs that old agriculture disputes could be deal-killers for President Barack Obama’s goal of creating the world’s largest free trade agreement.

European Union leaders don’t want the negotiations to include discussions on their ban on genetically modified crops and other regulations that keep U.S. farm products out of Europe. But Obama said it’s difficult to imagine a pact that doesn’t address those issues.

Powerful U.S. agricultural lobbies say they will do their best to make sure Congress rejects any deal that fails to deal with the restrictions. That would threaten the dream of a behemoth free trade deal between the world’s two largest trading partners that, together, account for more than half of the world economy. It would lower tariffs and remove other trade barriers for most industries.

Pact between longshoremen, ports in ratification

NEW YORK — A new master contract between the International Longshoremen’s Assoc. (ILA) and East and Gulf Coast ports moved a step closer to taking effect after the union’s wage scale committee voted to recommend approval of the negotiated six-year pact, reported Progressive Railroading on March 19.

ILA sent the contract to its 14,500 members as well as members of the United States Maritime Alliance, which include container carriers, terminal operators and port associations, for a ratification vote.
The master contract includes a $1-per-hour wage increase in 2014, 2016 and 2017. Other provisions include a $1-per-hour increase in workers’ contribution to local fringe benefit funds, such as pension plans, and an agreement to protect jobs displaced by the introduction of new technology and automation at the ports.
The master contract would replace a pact that expired Sept. 30, 2012.

Son indicted in killing of parents in Kentucky

PAINTSVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Johnson County grand jury has indicted the son of an eastern Kentucky couple found buried on their farm. Willie Blanton is charged with for two counts of murder, two counts of tampering with physical evidence and one count of being a persistent felony offender.

A missing persons’ case was opened in September 2012 after Larry and Sandra Blanton disappeared. Authorities found the couple’s bodies last month. Johnson County Sheriff Dwayne Price told WYMT-TV in Hazard that Willie Blanton was immediately identified as a person of interest in the case.

Authorities said a plea agreement in which Willie Blanton’s girlfriend, Amanda Fannin, received immunity was the key to breaking the case. Blanton’s arraignment is set for April 5.

Fire at Ohio equestrian center kills horses
OREGON, Ohio (AP) — Ten horses and other farm animals perished early Thursday when fire destroyed a 100-year-old barn at a northwestern Ohio equestrian center that provides horse-riding therapy programs for the disabled, authorities said.

The fire in the 100-by-100-foot wood-framed barn at the Vail Meadows Equestrian Center in Oregon was reported at about 3:30 a.m. The horses, including six that were used for therapy purposes, as well as several goats, pigs and fowl died in the barn.
“That was our whole program,” Mike McGee, a Toledo police sergeant and member of the Vail family, told The Blade. “We’re going to try and keep the program going but we’ll have to start over ... We’ve got a lot of kids that depend on us.”

McGee said the horses trained for years for the therapy programs and had calm temperaments. One of them was a retired Toledo police horse. The cause hasn’t been determined. McGee said damage was thought to be about $100,000.