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Published January 30, 2012, 09:13 AM

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BNSF completes expansion in Minot, N.D.

By: Agweek wire reports, Agweek

BNSF completes expansion in Minot, N.D.

• BISMARCK, N.D. — Burlington Northern Santa Fe recently completed its new railcar service facility and two inspection tracks at the company’s Minot, N.D., railway yard. BNSF constructed a 24,500-square-foot railcar service facility and two 9,200-foot inspection tracks at its Gavin Yard in Minot. In 2011, BNSF hired 90 additional employees in Minot and company officials expect to hire more workers this year. BNSF’s mechanical workers will report for work at the new railcar shop by the month’s end. The $35 million facility was built partly to accommodate the needs of increased rail traffic from crude oil loading sites in western North Dakota.

MF Global mess spurs call for more oversight

• NEW YORK — Earlier this month, an unlikely assembly of futures industry executives, regulators and customers discussed the fallout from MF Global’s collapse. The closed-door meeting illustrated a fundamental shift underway in the futures industry: Financial firms, ordinarily loath to accept regulation, are now spearheading efforts for new oversight as they try to heal the black eye left by MF Global and the disappearance of $1.2 billion in its customers’ money. But calls for a crackdown must contend with the legacy of a light regulatory touch. Many firms that trade futures contracts employ only scant safeguards to protect customer money, interviews with dozens of industry officials and an examination of public records show. While futures firms must track their customer money daily, most are required to share their reports with regulators only monthly, and the firms are subject to full-scale audits just once a year. Firms need not inform customers of the whereabouts of their money, and not one of the firms examined for this article employs real-time tracking of its customers’ money — a feature that might have alerted regulators when MF Global first dipped into customer money. People in the industry also question whether regulators, in particular an exchange that profits from the industry’s gains, have been too gentle on futures firms. And if a firm runs afoul of the rules, regulators largely rely on the firms to report their own wrongdoing. While regulators have sanctioned about 10 firms for misusing customer money over the past 15 years, records show, scores more have gone unpunished because regulators deemed their violations accidental, people briefed on the cases say.

ZeaChem to receive $232.5 million USDA loan guarantee

• WASHINGTON — ZeaChem Inc., a developer of biorefineries for the conversion of renewable biomass into sustainable fuels and chemicals, has been selected for a $232.5 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 9003 Biorefinery Assistance Program. ZeaChem president and CEO Jim Imbler called the award “a significant validation for ZeaChem’s highly efficient, economical and flexible biorefinery technology,” and detailed the company’s ongoing development of a 25 million gallon per year commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production facility adjacent to its demonstration plant in Boardman, Ore. The facility will produce advanced ethanol and biochemicals from woody biomass and agricultural residues.

Minnesota legislators consider wolf hunting season

• ST. PAUL — A wolf hunting and trapping season in Minnesota was one of the first issues to be debated in the 2012 Minnesota legislative session. Both the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, have introduced potential parameters for gray wolf hunting and trapping seasons that would begin this year. The discussion came on Jan. 26, the day before the state took over control of wolf management after the animal’s removal from the federal endangered species list. House and Senate committees discussed the issue but did not take action. The DNR’s proposal would set a joint hunting and trapping season for Nov. 24 through Jan. 5, or until a quota of 400 wolves is met. Officials suggested offering up to 6,000 licenses using a lottery system. Dill’s proposal sets a hunting season that would begin no later than the beginning of the deer season and a trapping season in January. For the seasons to begin in fall, lawmakers would have to approve a bill and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton would have to sign it this session. Leaders of the state Cattlemen’s Association, Farmers Union, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and Minnesota Forest Zone Trapping Association testified in favor of the bill, though some also advocated for parallel wolf and deer hunting seasons. Trapping and hunting will bring in some revenue and help with maintaining state management of the wolf, many said.

Food safety agency reorganization an ongoing process

• WASHINGTON — Although Jeff Zients, who is now White House Office of Management and Budget director, said recently that consolidation of food safety agencies would be one of those “addressed in subsequent, specific proposals,” an OMB spokeswoman tells Agweek that the administration has not confirmed which areas of the government might be consolidated beyond the consolidation of the six business agencies that was recently announced (see Jan. 23 Agweek, page 46). “The administration has not confirmed specific areas for future consolidation proposals beyond the first one announced by the president,” says Moira Mack, an OMB spokeswoman. An administration source also says the administration does not plan to put forward further proposals unless Congress reinstates the president’s authority to consolidate agencies. A number of agriculture industry and consumer advocates reacted negatively to the idea of consolidating the 12 agencies involved in food safety.

Briefly …

New elevator: A new Archer Daniels Midland Co. grain elevator is opening in spring in Tulare, S.D. The elevator will start receiving grain April 1. It has the capacity to store 2.2 million bushels.