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U.S senators propose interim support

washington / reuters Congress would revive disaster-relief programs for farmers and ranchers hurt by drought and other natural catastrophes under a stop-gap bill introduced on Jan. 25 by two key Senate committee leaders.

Producers could get up to $100,000 each for losses in 2012 and this year. In particular, ranchers would benefit because they do not have access to federally subsidized insurance, as farmers do for their crops.

The bundle of disaster programs, covering livestock, tree and fruit and vegetable producers, ran out of money in 2011. Attempts to restart them last year failed.

Big Apple proceeding with ban on big-gulp drinks

new york / reuters /New York City will give restaurants and food outlets a three-month grace period before imposing fines for serving the large, sugary drinks that will be banned.

The ban, the first of its kind in the nation, was imposed after excessive soda drinking was fingered as a significant cause of obesity and other health problems.

Under the new rules, most restaurants and food outlets will not be allowed to serve non-alcoholic, sugar-sweetened drinks in cups larger than 16 oz., the equivalent of a “small” drink at McDonald’s restaurants.

Although the ban takes effect in March, violators will be notified but not fined for the first three months. From June onward, violators will be subject to a $200 fine.

The American Beverage Association is fighting the ban in court, arguing it robs consumers of their right to choose.

Farmers upping their insurance coverage

london / reuters /Farmers have spent 20 per cent more on agricultural insurance in recent years to protect against crop losses from increasingly frequent bad weather events, according to reinsurer Swiss Re.

The rise in extreme weather disasters, such as last year’s widespread U.S. drought, has reduced food output at a time when the world’s population is expected to grow by a third by 2050, the world’s second-biggest reinsurer said in a report.

Global agricultural insurers took in $23.5 billion in annual premiums in 2011, up by a fifth from 2005, Swiss Re said.

China and India accounted for nearly two-thirds of the $5 billion in premiums paid in emerging countries. Swiss Re said the agriculture insurance market could still grow fourfold in emerging markets.

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