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In Brief… – for Mar. 5, 2009

Streamlining farm subsidies: European Union ministers are considering changing the way farmers receive subsidies. The Czechs plan to launch a debate on how the EU’s complex farm payment system might be altered for the next seven-year budget period, which starts in 2013, Czech Agriculture Minister Petr Gandalovic said.

Average levels of direct farm payments vary widely across the EU’s 27 member countries, with Latvia languishing at the bottom and Greece leading the field with the highest handouts to its farmers.

Flood forecast: Spring flooding in the Red River Valley this spring will likely have a greater impact on farming south of the border than in Canada, the Canadian Wheat Board says. Deep snow cover in North Dakota combined with a rapid spring melt is expected to flood the valley on both sides of the border.

The flood is not expected to reach the magnitude of the 1997 “flood of the century,” which swamped homes in North Dakota and the Canadian province of Manitoba, said the Manitoba Water Stewardship Department in its first flooding outlook.

GM stalemate: A meeting of European Union biotech experts ended in deadlock on Feb. 25 after failing to agree on whether to allow more cultivation of genetically modified crops, hugely controversial in Europe. The applications for two GM maize types will now be sent to EU ministers for a decision.

Two GM maize types were considered at the meeting– Bt-11 maize, engineered by Switzerland’s Syngenta and 1507 maize – jointly developed by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a unit of DuPont Co. and Mycogen Seeds, a unit of Dow AgroSciences. –Reuters

New post: Kathleen Merrigan, an assistant professor at Tufts University who helped develop U. S. organic food labelling rules, has been tapped for the U. S. Agriculture Department’s No. 2 job.

Merrigan, tapped for deputy secretary of Agriculture, was head of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service from 1999-2001 during the Clinton era. As a Senate aide, she worked on the 1990 law that recognized organic farming.

Merrigan has worked at the Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture and as a consultant for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

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