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Twenty-one U.S. Senators have written USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in support of proposed rules aimed at restoring competition in the beef, pork and poultry markets. Twenty of the Senators are Democrats, many coming from large meat producing states. The one Republican was Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. 

The letter is in support proposed by USDA’s Grain Inspection and Packers and Stockyards Administration in June. They have been strongly opposed by meatpacking companies and by House members in a committee hearing. 

The Senators wrote that rules were called for in the 2008 Farm Bill and were needed to removing “undue preference and other issues critical to achieving fair markets for family sized farmers.” 

• The New York Times had a long story on mountaintop removal mining in West Virginia. 

•On the list of crazy things people do for fun, add school bus racing. The latest thing on dirt race tracks is racing souped up school buses, according to the Wall Street Journal. “I told my mom it’s like putting a bunch of fat people in a little room and telling them to run around as fast as they can,” said one spectator. (Photo above.) 

•Genetically modified crops are popping up all over, according to the L.A. Times. Feral canola is the most widely ranging GM plant, having been found across North Dakota, Canada, Germany, France, Britain, Japan and Australia. Genetically engineered bentgrass was found in Oregon far away from the golf courses where it was planted. As GM plants spread, so do their traits. In the case of herbicide resistant canola, this would spread its resistance to weeds. 

• Meanwhile, Friday a federal judge ruled that the USDA erred in allowing a GM sugar beet to be planted without another layer of studies. The judge allowed this year’s crop to stay in the ground, but said the government must do additional environmental studies before another crop of the sugar beets is planted. The seeds come from Monsanto and are breed to be resistant to Roundup weedkiller. 

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