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USDA establishes rural business investment program PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by DAVID PITT, Associated Press   
Monday, 21 April 2014 10:45

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Monday a new $150 million program designed to provide investment capital to help small agriculture-related business in rural areas with cash needed to expand.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced in Cedar Rapids the formation of the first Rural Business Investment Company, a for-profit firm licensed by the USDA to invest in businesses that otherwise might not have the capital to increase business opportunities.

The USDA traditionally has offered guaranteed loans or direct loans for rural businesses. The creation of the Rural Business Investment Company is a new way for USDA to establish a licensing procedure that makes Farm Credit bank funds available as investment capital. The banks cannot directly hold ownership stakes in companies through capital investment.

Under the new program the government has created a new business entity, the Rural Business Investment Company, to receive money from Farm Credit banks and set up an investment capital fund. The money will be managed by Advantage Capital Partners, a New-Orleans-based firm with experience in investing in small rural businesses. Advantage Capital will choose the companies in which the new funds will be invested.

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Study: Fuels from corn waste not better than gas PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by DINA CAPPIELLO, Associated Press   
Monday, 21 April 2014 06:41

WASHINGTON (AP) — Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration's conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change.

A $500,000 study paid for by the federal government and released Sunday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change concludes that biofuels made with corn residue release 7 percent more greenhouse gases in the early years compared with conventional gasoline.

While biofuels are better in the long run, the study says they won't meet a standard set in a 2007 energy law to qualify as renewable fuel.

The conclusions deal a blow to what are known as cellulosic biofuels, which have received more than a billion dollars in federal support but have struggled to meet volume targets mandated by law. About half of the initial market in cellulosics is expected to be derived from corn residue.

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UAW withdraws appeal of Volkswagen union vote PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by ERIK SCHELZIG, Associated Press   
Monday, 21 April 2014 09:12

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The United Auto Workers announced Monday it is withdrawing an appeal of the outcome of a union vote at Volkswagen's assembly plant in Tennessee.

In a statement released one hour before the scheduled start of a National Labor Relations Board hearing in Chattanooga, Tenn., UAW President Bob King said the union decided to put the "tainted election in the rearview mirror" because the challenge could have taken months or even years to come to a conclusion.

The UAW had filed its appeal with the National Labor Relations Board after Volkswagen workers rejected the union in a 712-626 vote in February, arguing that public statements from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and other GOP officials raised fears about the plant's future if workers there organized.

Documents also show Tennessee tied a $300 million incentive package to the satisfactory outcome of the labor situation at the plant.

Corker and Haslam filed motions fighting subpoenas from the union to produce documents and appear at the NLRB hearings.

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Fracking foes cringe as unions back drilling boom PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by KEVIN BEGOS, Associated Press   
Monday, 21 April 2014 06:27

PITTSBURGH (AP) — After early complaints that out-of-state firms got the most jobs, some local construction trade workers and union members in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia say they're now benefiting in a big way from the Marcellus and Utica Shale oil and gas boom.

That vocal support from blue-collar workers complicates efforts by environmentalists to limit the drilling process known as fracking.

"The shale became a lifesaver and a lifeline for a lot of working families," said Dennis Martire, the mid-Atlantic regional manager for the Laborers' International Union, or LIUNA, which represents workers in numerous construction trades.

Martire said that as huge quantities of natural gas were extracted from the vast shale reserves over the last five years, union work on large pipeline jobs in Pennsylvania and West Virginia has increased significantly. In 2008, LIUNA members worked about 400,000 hours on such jobs; by 2012, that had risen to 5.7 million hours.

Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says total employment in the nation's oil and gas industry rose from about 120,000 in early 2004 to about 208,000 last month. Less than 10 percent of full-time oil and gas industry workers are represented by unions.

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