USA: Congress must act to extend the ‘unattainable’ December 31 2015 deadline for the roll-out of Positive Train Control, rail industry associations reiterated in response to the release on September 16 of a Government Accountability Office report which says the Federal Railroad Administration needs to develop an adequate and comprehensive plan for overseeing progress with installation.The GAO interviewed a representative sample of 29 railways, including the four biggest. Five expect to complete PTC installation by the deadline, 20 expect completion within five years, and three have no estimated date; one is exempt owing to limited speeds. Problems include development complexity, supply industry and regulatory review capacity, funding and lack of access to the required radio spectrum. Concerns were expressed about interoperability, with one railway required to determine which of 260 other operators using its tracks would require PTC. Association of American Railroads President & CEO Edward R Hamberger said ‘freight rail operators have always contended that the Congressionally-mandated 2015 deadline for having PTC fully functional and being used coast-to-coast by passenger and freight rail alike was not realistic.’ Hamberger said the rail industry believes ‘PTC is an extremely complex technology that requires more time to install and safely test’. The ‘arbitrary’ deadline set by Congress had not reflected the ‘unprecedented challenges’ required to deploy it on 96 000 route-km which carry passengers or certain hazardous materials. AAR expects just 14% of this total to be covered by the deadline, with 31% of locomotives equipped, 69% of wayside units and 63% of base station radios installed and 33% of 114 515 employees trained. ‘Railroads are beginning to notify their customers of the possibility of an impending rail shutdown’ in ‘a worst-case scenario’, Hamberger warned. ‘Congress can’t wait until November or December when the clock is about to run out. If lawmakers want to avert a massive disruption of passenger and freight transport this fall, which will inflict significant hardships on businesses and passengers alike, it must take action now to extend the deadline.’ Michael Melaniphy, President & CEO of the American Public Transportation Association which represents passenger operators, said the commuter rail industry has spent $950m on PTC, and conservative estimates say $3·48bn will be required to complete the roll-out. However Congress has only appropriated $50m. APTA also called on Congress to make the required radio spectrum available to operators. ‘The time is now for Congress to act to extend the PTC deadline’, said Melaniphy. ‘This action is crucial to avoid the disruption of millions of Americans who rely daily on commuter rail service as they commute to and from work.’ Read more about the status of PTC implementation in the September issue of Railway Gazette International.
Digest HighlightsFarm Bureau calculates potential state-by-state dairy tariff mitigation paymentsFarm bill conference committee sets public meeting, Sept. 5Following Iowa murder, bill would mandate use of E-Verifya2 Milk gets Walmart dairy aisle spaceCalifornia bill targets restaurant beverage offeringsPennsylvania Milk Marketing Board sets listening sessionCanadian cow numbers up slightly Farm Bureau calculates potential state-by-state dairy tariff mitigation paymentsDairy farmers in the two largest milk-producing states, California and Wisconsin, could receive about one-third of the initial $127 million earmarked for dairy to offset economic losses resulting from ongoing tariff and/or trade wars, according to analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).advertisementadvertisementOn Aug. 27, U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue released details of the Tariff Mitigation Program, a three-pronged approach to aid to farmers. One component of that program, the Market Facilitation Program, provides direct payments to producers of commodities impacted by retaliatory tariffs. (Read: Dairy disappointed in USDA tariff assistance package)Based on January-June milk production data, Veronica Nigh, economist with AFBF’s Market Intelligence, estimated Market Facilitation Program for individual states (Table 1). California and Wisconsin dairy producers would receive about $41 million.Actual payments will be determined after dairy farmers submit applications with their operation’s milk production history. The USDA will determine whether a second round of payments is warranted later this year, based on trade negotiations and market factors.For information on estimated state-by-state payments for corn, soybeans, hogs and other commodities, read Trade Aid Round One: A State Perspective.advertisementFarm bill conference committee sets public meeting, Sept. 5Congressional agriculture leaders announced a public meeting of the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee will be held Sept. 5. The committee, made up of nine members of the Senate and 47 members of the House, will meet at 9:30 a.m. in the Russell Senate Building.Committee members must iron out differences between Senate and House versions of the proposed farm bill. The current farm bill expires Sept. 30, 2018.Following Iowa murder, bill would mandate use of E-VerifyA bill mandating all employers to use an electronic identity and work eligibility database has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, and Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, introduced S.3386, The E-Verify System Act of 2018 – that would require all employers to use E-Verify to ensure employees are authorized to work in the U.S. legally.E-Verify compares employee information on the Form I-9 to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) records. Use of E-Verify is currently voluntary. In addition to making E-Verify mandatory, the bill also requires employees to provide photo identification.The bill was introduced shortly after Mollie Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student, was found dead in a cornfield. The suspect arrested for her murder was a farm worker who allegedly used false documentation to gain employment, but his status had not been vetted through the E-Verify system.a2 Milk gets Walmart dairy aisle spaceThe a2 Milk Company announced it has garnered cooler space in dairy aisles at Walmart stores in five states and Washington D.C. Distribution in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Maryland and Washington D.C. began at the end of July, according to the company.advertisementIn addition to Walmart, a2 Milk is available in more than 6,000 retail outlets in the U.S. including at major grocers Wegmans, Stop & Shop, Giant Carlisle, Giant Landover, Whole Foods Market, Market Basket, Sprouts, Safeway, King Soopers, Target, Ralphs, Publix, ShopRite and The Fresh Market. (Read: The a2 Milk Company: Bringing people back to dairy)California bill targets restaurant beverage offeringsThe California Senate approved a bill, SB 1192, that would limit the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages to children. If signed into law, the bill would restrict what restaurants can include as the “default” beverage in children’s meals to water, sparkling water, unflavored milk or a nondairy milk alternative.Customers could still request and purchase any sugar-sweetened beverage with their children’s meal.Western United Dairymen is urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the bill into law and has launched a social media campaign to promote the nutritional value of milk.Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board sets listening sessionThe Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board (PMMB) will hold a listening session, Sept. 26, to receive input and answer questions regarding current dairy markets. The session will be held at Butler County Community College, Founders Hall, 107 College Drive, Butler, Pennsylvania. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m., with the session running from 6 to 9 p.m.Preregistration is not required to speak. Parties unable to attend may provide written testimony or comments [email protected] Written submissions and transcripts from prior listening sessions are available on the PMMB’s website.Canadian cow numbers up slightlyCanada’s dairy herd has reached 969,700 milk cows, the highest total in about a decade. According to a USDA report, data compiled by USDA and Statistics Canada also estimated there were 435,500 dairy replacement heifers over 1 year of age in Canada on July 1, 2018.Dairy cow numbers were up about 13,000 head from a year ago, while heifer numbers were down 2,000 head.For a more detailed look at Canada’s dairy production statistics, see the August 2018 issue of Progressive Dairyman Canada. Dave NatzkeEditorProgressive DairymanEmail Dave [email protected]
By Martyn HermanLONDON, England (Reuters) – The death of heavyweight Scott Westgarth was described as a disaster by British Boxing chief Robert Smith yesterday although he said it was impossible to make the sport 100 percent safe.Westgarth, 31, won his fight against Dec Spelman in Doncaster on Saturday but looked uncomfortable as he was interviewed ringside after his points victory.He was taken to Royal Hallamshire Hospital but his condition deteriorated shortly before arrival and his death was confirmed by his promoter Stefy Bull yesterday.It was the first death in professional boxing since Canada’s Tim Hague died two days after a fight last June.A year earlier, Scotland’s Mike Towell died from a brain injury following a bout.Smith, a former boxer and now the British Boxing Board of Control’s general secretary, reacted with shock to the latest death in a sport often criticised for its brutal nature.“It’s terrible for the sport and terrible for the family and we send our condolences to Scott’s family,” Smith told Reuters.Smith said the sport had made huge advances in safety since the 1980s and that Britain had an enviable record.“We are one of the most forward-thinking commissions in the world regarding medical aspects,” he said. “Some people don’t like us because they say we are too strict.“This is a tough, tough sport and we try to make it as safe as possible but you can’t make it 100 percent safe,” he added.“But that doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a disaster, but more importantly it’s a disaster for his family and that’s the most important thing.”Events such as Westgarth’s death inevitably lead to soul-searching by those in the sport and fuel the debate about the sport’s ethics.“We all do this for a reason. But that doesn’t take away the feeling I have today of ‘why am I doing this?’” Smith said.“We will continue. If it’s not me it will be someone else. But it makes you question why you are bothering.”
(Reuters) – Canada’s athletics federation called yesterday for a rigorous review of a new IAAF hyperandrogenism rule. “Athletics Canada has serious concerns with last week’s announcement from the IAAF regarding hyperandrogenism testing,” the federation said in a statement.The new regulations by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) lay down a series of criteria for athletes with a Difference of Sexual Development (DSD) to be eligible to compete internationally in certain events.They could prevent South African double Olympic champion Caster Semenya from competing in 800m and 1500m races. “In Canada, we encourage the full access for all Canadians to participate and compete in athletics, at every level of our sport free of discrimination,” the federation said. “Athletics Canada believes in the principles of inclusion, respect and health and safety.”The federation said it planned to review the eligibility rule in detail and hold discussions with government officials and other national sports organisations.“We believe this IAAF eligibility ruling requires rigorous review,” it said. The new rule goes into effect in November unless overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).Athletics authorities have struggled to find a solution to the issue that respected the rights of Semenya while also providing what they say is a “level playing field”.Some female rivals had complained that the 27-year-old’s hyperandrogenism gave her an unfair competitive advantage. The condition is characterised by higher than usual levels of testosterone, a hormone that increases muscle mass, strength and haemoglobin, which affects endurance. To compete internationally, athletes with a Difference of Sexual Development (DSD) must:* Be recognised at law either as female or as intersex (or equivalent);* Must reduce her blood testosterone level to below five (5) nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six months (e.g., by use of hormonal contraceptives); * Thereafter she must maintain her blood testosterone level below five (5) nmol/L continuously.The rule applies to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m, hurdles races, 800m, 1500m, one mile races and combined events over the same distancesIt effectively gives Semenya a choice of taking medication to restrict her testosterone or move to longer distance events.The IAAF’s previous attempts to regulate the issue fell foul of a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling in 2015 following an appeal on behalf of Indian athlete Dutee Chand, who had been banned from competing because of her testosterone levels. IAAF President Sebastian Coe has previously said nobody was suggesting Semenya had done anything wrong.Athletics South Africa said last week it would study the new regulations and compare them with the CAS recommendations to see if they are compatible and in line.“We will further seek support from the Minister of Sport and Recreation, SASCOC, other expert institutions and relevant organisations or individuals, so that we have a full grasp of this matter and how it should be properly handled,” it said.