The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a decision to expand the scope of its October, 2010, decision to allow a 50 percent increase—from 10 percent (E10) to 15 percent (E15) — in the amount of ethanol permitted in gasoline.

The decision by the EPA broadens its earlier decision to allow E15 gasoline in model year 2007 or newer automobiles. The new higher ethanol-content fuel will now be available for use in millions of cars in model years 2001 to 2006 as well.

The National Corn Growers Association released a statement applauding the decision.

“The announcement by EPA this morning is welcome news,” said NCGA Chairman Darrin Ihnen, a South Dakota corn grower. “We have worked closely with EPA during this process and are pleased to see they also realized what our industry has known for a long time: the use of higher blends of ethanol in vehicles is safe.”

Ihnen added that the move will add 136,000 new jobs across America and inject $24.4 billion into the American economy annually, as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

The food industries that depend on corn in their production, as well as environmental groups, criticized the EPA and called on the Obama administration to reverse the decision.

“Increased pressure on the corn supply has again pushed corn above $6.00 a bushel, levels not seen since 2008,” said AMI President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle. “This announcement only means that more corn will be diverted from an already thinning supply and increased pressure will be put on the meat and poultry sector which is already facing near record high feed costs. For consumers who are concerned about food prices, this decision will further increase prices at the grocery store. Burning our food and feed as fuel is not a sustainable approach to solving this country’s long-term energy needs.”

“EPA’s decision to increase the ethanol blend to E15 will further increase volatility in the grain markets,” said Robb MacKie, president and CEO, American Bakers Association. “This could hasten the reduction in wheat acres and raise Americans’ food bills. U.S. cropland is already stretched to its limit. Increasing the blend has the potential to further impact commodity stocks and ultimately food prices. The grain markets are currently experiencing near record volatility and prices have edged closer to the record levels of 2008.”

"Today's decision will divert even more food and feed to fuel, increasing food prices at a time when food prices are already rising. We urge EPA and the Obama Administration to put the needs of ordinary Americans ahead of the needs of the ethanol industry and reverse this decision,” said Geoff Moody, director, Energy and Environmental Policy, Grocery Manufacturers Association.

“Dairy processors and farmers are increasingly aware of the impact that ethanol policies are having on feed costs and ultimately what consumers are paying for dairy products. EPA’s decision is unfortunately another step in the wrong direction,” said Jerry Slominski, Sr. Vice President, International Dairy Foods Association.

“EPA’s decision is another giveaway to the ethanol interests and again demonstrates EPA cannot or will not balance the broad national interests on this issue. E15 may be good for ethanol producers and corn farmers but it is clearly detrimental to all other interested parties,” said Bill Roenigk, senior vice president and chief economist, National Chicken Council. “To the extent EPA and the ethanol industry actually manage to force more ethanol into the nation’s motor gasoline, they will put even more pressure on the already very tight supply of corn. When consumers ask why their food costs are higher, it will be difficult for EPA to explain that today’s decision had no impact on the food shopper’s dollar.”

Source: AMI, NCGA

Sara Lee to weigh bids this week: Report

Reuters is reporting that Sara Lee Corp. will weigh an offer this week from a group of private equity firms which values the company at up to $20 a share or nearly $13 billion, a source familiar with the situation said. U.S.-based Sara Lee, valued by analysts at about $12.5 billion, has been examining various options such as selling itself or splitting itself up into meat and beverage units.

Indications of interest in Sara Lee were due on Friday.

The private equity consortium of Apollo Global Management, Bain Capital and TPG Capital submitted a takeover offer for Sara Lee which values the company higher than its current $18.70 share price and up to $20, the source said.

It will likely face competition from Brazilian beef processor JBS , which along with a group of other companies, has arranged a financing package to bid for all or parts of Sara Lee, a source with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters on Thursday. However, an expected rival offer has not as yet been made by JBS.

Private equity giant Blackstone Group is involved in some capacity with JBS's pursuit of Sara Lee, a separate source familiar with the situation said.

Source: Reuters

Law firm sues Taco Bell over ground beef claims

Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C. has filed a consumer rights class action lawsuit against Taco Bell Corp. The lawsuit challenges Taco Bell's practice of representing to consumers that its restaurants serve "seasoned ground beef" or "seasoned beef" filling in its products, when in fact a substantial amount of the filling contains substances other than beef. The lawsuit seeks to require Taco Bell to properly advertise and label food items, and to engage in a corrective advertising campaign to educate the public about the true content of its food products.

The firm claims that according to standards established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the meat filling in Taco Bell's products does not meet the minimum standard requirement to be labeled and advertised as "beef," seasoned or otherwise. The substantial majority of the filling is comprised of substances other than beef, and is required to be labeled and advertised as "taco meat filing." Taco meat filling includes ingredients added to increase the volume of the product, such as binders and extenders like "isolated oat product."

"Our government, through the USDA and FDA, provides definitions, standards and labeling guidelines for 'ground beef.' What Taco Bell is representing on their restaurant menu as 'ground beef' does not meet any of those definitions, standards and labeling guidelines," explains Beasley Allen attorney Dee Miles. "This product does not qualify to be considered 'ground beef' and many of the 'seasoning' ingredients are in fact binders, fillers and coloring. These ingredients increase the overall volume of this product, reducing the actual 'beef' content per serving. It is against the law in this country to take someone's money for a product that is misrepresented. This lawsuit seeks to put a stop to that type of conduct and practice," he says.

Taco Bell says it doesn't exaggerate what it gives consumers and that there has been no false advertising about any of its products, reports ABC News.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court Central District of California Southern Division (8:11-cv-00101-DOC-FFM) by Beasley Allen attorneys W. Daniel "Dee" Miles, III, and William E. Hopkins, Jr., along with the San Diego law firm of Blood Hurst & O'Reardon, LLP, lawyers Timothy G. Blood, Leslie E. Hurst and Thomas J. O'Reardon, II. Plaintiffs in the case are Amanda Obney, on behalf of herself, all others similarly situated, and the general public.

Source: Beasley Allen Law Firm, ABC News

Cattle feed of the future: Algae?

A cogeneration executive is hoping to create healthier beef and reduce CO2 emissions from his Oklahoma City power plant through algae. Dave Van Pelt Smith, owner of the PowerSmith Cogeneration power plant wants to grow algae using the CO2 emissions, dewater the algae into a sludge and feed it to cattle, who will produce meat with more omega-3 fats like docosahexaenoic acid, known as DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid, known as EPA, reportsThe Oklahoman.

“It could become very big,” Smith said. “It’s making the world a better place but helping keep our carbon cycle balanced.”

Oklahoma State University scientists are proving cows will eat the algae, given the right formula, and focus groups haven’t detected much change in flavor of the resulting beef. But Smith needs to expand beyond a pilot study and build a commercial-sized algae farm to test his plan on larger numbers of cattle.

He hopes to build an algae farm on a plot the size of two football fields near his power plant in south Oklahoma City. Using power plant exhaust, the algae will be grown in greenhouses that control pH level, temperature and other factors. Water will be extracted from the algae, creating a green sludge that Smith wants to truck daily to a Watonga feed lot.

Smith, who needs about $2.4 million for commercial testing, is appealing to investors. He recently spoke at the World Algae Congress in San Francisco.

“It’s a business that could be worth $50 billion,” Smith said. He said he won’t need carbon credits to be viable commercially.

OSU scientist Clint Krehbiel said that cattle will stop eating if they ingest too much dietary fat, so the trick is controlling the amount of fat in the algae. He added that a Texas A&M taste test showed that people did not have a problem with the flavor of the algae-fed beef but noted that more studies on the flavor are needed.


Seafood industry creates marketing coalition

A group of more than 50 fishing and seafood organizations from 24 states have signed on to the National Seafood Marketing Coalition, a group that is working on a national plan to better market American seafood. The Coalition, which has been in development for more than a year, say promotion, new product development, education and other marketing means will strengthen the U.S. seafood economy and generate jobs, reports AP.

"Our experience is that a little bit of marketing goes a long way," said Dane Somers, executive director of the Maine Lobster Promotion Council who has been active with the national group. "Since nobody's doing much, when you do a little bit it's noticeable."

There are regional seafood groups around the country, but there has been no unified national marketing program or organization, which has put seafood at a disadvantage against other proteins like beef and pork, which have launched very successful nationwide marketing campaigns.

The coalition will be made up of five regional marketing boards representing New England and the Great Lakes; the Mid-Atlantic; Florida and the Gulf of Mexico; the Pacific coast; and Alaska and Hawaii. Each region would develop marketing programs for its areas depending on the need. The boards would also collaborate to address national marketing issues.

For funding, the coalition intends to line up a sponsor for a federal bill to establish what it's calling a National Seafood Marketing Fund. The goal is to get up to $100 million a year, with one possible funding source coming from duties and tariffs that are already imposed on seafood imports.

Source: Associated Press