Leaving Canada

Case Corporation is closing a Canadian manufacturing plant and moving the product lines across the border to plants in Illinois and North Dakota. The tillage and soil preparation equipment produced in the Hamilton, Ontario, Case plant will be manufactured in a Goodfield, IL, plant. Case acquired the Illinois plant last year when it purchased DMI. The other products from the Canadian plant will be manufactured in a Fargo, ND, plant that Case acquired in 1996 from Concord. Case reports that closing the Canadian plant and consolidating manufacturing should save the company $95 to $100 million a year.

Background checks

If you want to check the background of an investment firm or commodity broker dealing in futures, a new Web site will help answer your questions. The National Futures Association (NFA) is offering a new service online called BASIC. Available on BASIC are all disciplinary actions taken by NFA and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. The information provided at www.nfa.futures.org is free to the public. You may also call NFA at 800/ 621-3570 for additional help.

Troubled waters

Farmers can spot water quality and habitat problems by using an online assessment program offered on the Natural Resources Conservation Service's National Water and Climate Center (NWCC) Web site. The assessment program is located at www.wcc. nrcs.usda.gov and is found under the Water Quality and Quantity Sciences section. For more information, contact the NWCC at 503/414-3055.

U.S. corn banned in Europe

As farmers head to the fields this spring, they will care for fields of corn and soybeans that are banned in the European Union (EU). For the third year in a row, the EU is banning all corn exports from the United States based on the use of genetically modified (GM) corn varieties planted by our farmers. This ban is costing U.S. farmers an estimated $200 million in lost corn exports.

The U.S. Grains Council estimates that 311/2 million acres of corn, or 40% of U.S. corn acres, are GM varieties.

U.S. companies selling the GM corn varieties have applied for EU approval of their seeds. But only four varieties have been approved, and seven varieties are still in the approval process, which is taking two to three years. The EU bans all U.S. corn, fearing our inability to segregate the different varieties in the export process, according to Alex Jackson, director of trade relations for the U.S. Grains Council.

On the other hand, U.S. soybeans are still allowed for export into the EU. Two GM soybean varieties are approved for EU export, while 20 more varieties wait in the approval queue.

Last year, 30% of our soybean exports headed to the EU. Unfortunately, the amount of soybeans being exported this year is running 15 to 25% below the export number of a year ago, reports Jim Hershey with the American Soybean Association. Hershey attributes this drop to the large Brazilian crop, not to concerns about GM crops. But the concern with GM soybeans is growing and could impact exports in the future. For example, Great Britain seeks soybeans that are free of genetic modifications. About half of the U.S. soybean crop this summer is planted with GM varieties, Hershey estimates.

Zeneca, Monsanto agree on herbicide use

Growers should be able to use another herbicide on their Roundup Ready soybeans this summer. Zeneca and Monsanto reached an agreement to allow growers to apply Zeneca's Touchdown herbicide on Roundup Ready soybeans. Before this occurs, however, EPA must register the product for this use. EPA's registration is expected in time for this summer's growing season.

Once the registration is received, the special agreement between Zeneca and Monsanto will let growers use the herbicide on the soybeans without becoming involved in legal issues over patent rights for this application, provided they comply with any license or agreement they have with Monsanto or its seed licensees. The agreement also gives Zeneca the rights to test, register and sell Touchdown on Roundup Ready corn in the United States.

As part of the agreement, Zeneca, Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred International agreed to dismiss the lawsuits they have pending against each other in Delaware and Missouri. These relate to the use of Touchdown over Roundup Ready crops and related Monsanto patents and to Monsanto's marketing practices.