Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Advances in farm technology continue. At one location that was visited tractors are driven entirely by global positioning systems to produce more accurate rows, human intervention only occurring at the end of a row. I saw solar driven moisture probes which are then read automatically to produced detailed graphs of moisture levels in the soil to help plan irrigation. And I visited a vast glasshouse producing herbs in which most processes were automated and labour was most evident in the packing section.
Bringing all these complex processes together under considerable cost pressures and a need to pay greater attention to environmental considerations requires highly sophisticated management. Good technical managers are increasingly hard to find. And the weather can still spring nasty surprises. At one farm visited a salad crop had been devastated by a hailstorm.
Many planting and harvesting operations still require substantial amounts of labour and one important source for many growers is the Concordia scheme which bring in students from Eastern European universities. This scheme, I was told, is to be extended to China. Employers are very pleased with the quality and effort of the labour force and estimate they would require substantially more British employees to achieve the same level of output.
This is increasing rather than diminishing. One enterprise had received visits from three different customers during one day that week. I saw lettuce in different shades of red being grown in adjacent plots to meet the specifications of different supermarkets. We also heard many stories of prices being forced down with the difficulties of some supermarkets make them even more price sensitive while requiring high quality standards.
Behind the supermarket is the ultimate customer who requires plentiful supplies of cheap food, good flavour, uniform appearance and grown with as few pesticides as possible. Not easy to achieve.Any source
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
May 24, 2005
In this newsletter:
WRITERS' DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT REVIVED BY APPEALS COURT
Four years after it was initially filed, a class-action age discrimination lawsuit filed by a group of WGA writers has been revived on appeal and sent back for trial.
In 2001, members of the Writers Guild went to Federal court to claim that they had been systematically discriminated against by television networks, production companies, and talent agencies because they were more than 40 years old. The original case had been dismissed for procedural reasons, without prejudice and with leave to amend.
The writers decided to abandon their Federal lawsuit and rewrite their script, bringing a new suit in the California state courts instead. They claimed that the television networks and production companies’ systematic discrimination against older writers violated the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.
Furthermore, the writers argued that talent agencies were “aiding and abetting” the discrimination by pre-screening writers and not referring older candidates for consideration on projects. The writers claimed that because talent agencies refused to provide services on a wide scale, the agencies violated the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, which protects against discrimination in providing services.
The state lawsuit was dismissed in trial court, however, the writers won a reversal of that decision on appeal.
Justice Paul Boland, writing for the Court of Appeal, wrote that the writers properly alleged “classwide claims” as well as a “pattern and practice” of discrimination against older writers among networks and production companies.
The writers also made proper allegations that talent agencies supposedly knew of the networks and production companies’ discrimination policy against older writers and gave “substantial assistance or encouragement” of the policy by only submitting names of younger writers to projects.
In addition, the writers adequately presented claims of unfair competition against the networks, production companies and talent agencies.
Alch v. Superior Court, 19 Cal.Rptr.3d 29, 2004 Cal.App.LEXIS 1531 (Cal.App. 2004), petition for hearing by the California Supreme Court denied (Dec. 22, 2004).
MARK BRINGS HIS RISKY BUSINESS SEMINAR TO DETROIT
Filmmakers in Michigan wanting to understand film financing and distribution of indie films can now register for Mark’s Oct. 15 seminar at Wayne State University.
The one-day seminar will teach filmmakers how independent films are financed and distributed. Topics covered include forming a production company, raising financing via pre-sales, debt and limited partnerships, negotiating tactics, principal terms of the acquisition/distribution agreement, cross-collaterization and creative accounting.
The seminar is being offered through ArtServe Michigan in partnership with Wayne State University Law School Sports & Entertainment Law Society and the University of Detroit-Mercy Law School Arts, Entertainment & Sports Association.
For more information and to register, click here.
COPYRIGHT & DISCLAIMER
Mark Litwak & Associates grants newsletter recipients permission to copy and distribute this newsletter and distribute it free of charge, provided that copies are distributed for educational and non-profit use, no changes or revisions are made, all copies clearly attribute the article to its author and include its copyright notice.DISCLAIMER: While we are careful in preparing this newsletter, readers should consult with a lawyer before relying on any information. Case law and statutes are subject to change, and may not apply in all jurisdictions.Copyright 2005, Mark LitwakAny source
Sunday, May 22, 2005
In fact DG Agri officials were secretly pleased when the WTO ruled against the EU sugar regime earlier this year, forcing the anti-reform camp to face up to reality. But the new proposals are likely to provoke a major row, with opposition from countries who would lose their sugar industries such as Finland and Ireland on the one hand and development NGOs on the other.
Under the new proposals the support price for white sugar would be cut by 39 per cent compared with 33 per cent in the original plans. The minimum beet price would be cut by 42 per cent compared with 37 per cent.
Planned automatic cuts in sugar production quotas have been shelved with the Commission favouring a voluntary quota buy up scheme which offer producers a financial incentive (a bribe in plain language) to get out of the sector. In the first year of reform (2006/7), producers will be paid €730/t for any quota surrendered, falling to €370/t over four years.
This quota buy up scheme is to be funded in part by a sugar buyers' levy which will be imposed at a rate of €125/t in year one, falling to €90/t the following year. These plans will upset sugar buyers who will lose most of the benefit of the lower market prices. Despite this subvention, the scheme is going to cost taxpayers with a budget of €896m set aside in year one of the reform programme, rising to €1.5bn in year two. A lot of this money will go to 60 per cent compensation compensation for farmers to offset the minimum price of beet which will be incorporated into the Single Farm Payment.
Controversial plans to allow sugar quotas to be traded across member states have been dropped. One might think that in a single market it would be logical to trade quota across national boundaries, but this idea has never been accepted in the dairy sector. Such an approach would, however, allow a more market based adjustment to change, maximising the chances of an optimal rationalisation of the sector.
Oxfam has criticised the draft plan as 'a harsh, blunt reform package that will hurt the most vulnerable ... some of the poorest countries in the world will be robbed of the sweeeter future that sugar production could give them.'
The reform plan will be the first test of Mariann Fischer Boel's mettle as farm commissioner. She is insisting that she has to go further than Franz Fischler in order to avoid a planned revision of the new regime around 2008. She commented, 'The easiest thing would be to sit on my hands and let the industry die by itself, and that would be a painful death.'Any source
Thursday, May 12, 2005
LEGAL INSIGHTS FOR ENTERTAINMENT AND MULTIMEDIA
May 12, 2005
In this newsletter:
GEORGIA ADOPTS PRODUCTION INCENTIVES
The governor of Georgia has signed the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act.
HB539 enhances Georgia's competitiveness in the entertainment industry. Production companies investing at least $500,000 in services, materials and labor for a project in Georgia will receive a 9% base tax credit applied to their total investment. Companies will receive an additional 3% tax credit for hiring Georgia residents.
An additional 3% incentive is available for filming in an economically disadvantaged county. And for companies that invest in multiple television projects of more than $20 million in the state, there is an additional 2% credit. Additional information available here.
AIN’T IT COOL NEWS DIGS “HUSTLE & FLOW”
Harry Knowles of "Ain't It Cool News" has given a rave review to "Hustle & Flow," written and directed by our client, Craig Brewer.
"Like Tarantino did to the Kung Fu Revenge flick and Edgar Wright Jr did to the Zombie flick - Craig Brewer has done to Blaxploitation, writes Knowles. He gives additional props to the cast, who give a performance that "feels vital and alive and happening right before your eyes."
Read the review here. "Hustle & Flow" comes out this summer. Click here to visit the official website.
COPYRIGHT & DISCLAIMER
Mark Litwak & Associates grants newsletter recipients permission to copy and distribute this newsletter and distribute it free of charge, provided that copies are distributed for educational and non-profit use, no changes or revisions are made, all copies clearly attribute the article to its author and include its copyright notice.DISCLAIMER: While we are careful in preparing this newsletter, readers should consult with a lawyer before relying on any information. Case law and statutes are subject to change, and may not apply in all jurisdictions.Copyright 2005, Mark Litwak
Sunday, May 8, 2005
The problems faced by LDC sugar exporters are illustrated by the example of Mozambique, a country that is third from bottom on last year's UN human development index. Three out of four people live on less than $2 a day. It has a HIV/AIDS infection rate of 15% and has serious problems with malaria, cholera and tuberculosis. There is virtually no infrastructure with only one decent road running up the edge of the country.
The land is fertile and could develop quickly with more agricultural production and trade. Sugar offers one path out of poverty. The current sugar trade with the EU represents 16% of the country's exports and 34% of its export revenue. The real danger with sugar reform is that the beneficiaries will be emerging countries like Brazil rather than much poorer countries.Any source
The chief threats to soil identified by the atlas are erosion, degradation from the overuse of fertilisers and pesticides, the loss of organic content, contamination from industry, the loss of biodiversity, salinity, the compacting of soil by agricultural vehicles, landslides and flooding. In southern Europe nearly 75 per cent of the soil has an organic matter content (a measure of fertility) so low that is a cause for concern. But even in England and Wales the percentage of soils classed as low in organic matter rose from 35 per cent to 42 per cent between 1980 and 1995 because of changes in farming practice.
The atlas is the first report to analyse all of Europe's soil. The study will form the basis of the Soil Framewirk Directive, expected by the end of the year which is intended to protect Europe's soil from further damage. But the real answer does not lie in the publication of a directive in the Official Journal, but changes in farming practice. Farmers need to be encouraged to use more composted organic material, but their willingness to do so will be affected by considerations of availability and price.Any source
Friday, May 6, 2005
Much of Hungary's grain storage is oudated and leaky and there is not enough of it. As a result it has been forced to rent grain storage facilities in other countries. The storage space problem and other infrastructure issues mean that Hungarian farmers have seen little benefit from the record grain harvest last summer. In addition, raspberries and sour cherries were left to rot as state buying prices were too low to make harvesting worthwhile. Since Hungary joined the EU the country has increasingly been flooded with cheap fruit and vegetables from Poland and dairy products from Slovakia.
It is estimated that between 700,0000 and 1.2 million people (seven to ten per cent of the population) depend on farming. Some 80 per cent of these are small-scale farmers. Government estimates suggest that between a third and a half of all agricultural concerns are unviable.
The story of the early years of the CAP was effectively the elimination of the European peasant, always seen as a politically dangerous reservoir of support for reactionary and populist movements (or occasionally for the far left). Now with acession peasants (or subsistence and semi-subsistence farmers) are back in droves. And there will be even more of them when Bulgaria and Romania join the EU. These problems would be exacerbated even further should Croatia and Turkey join.
When the European economy was expanding rapidly in the years of the long post-war boom, it was possible to transfer peasants (or rather their children) into urban areas and manufacturing employment. There are large areas of eastern Europe with a very low density of services, with high unemployment, but where subsistence level agriculture makes it possible to eke out some kind of living. For example, Poland has 1.8 million people classified as farmers, many of them cultivating holdings of an average of little more than one hectare in size.
What all this points to is the importance of a rural development policy that promotes economic restructuring. But it won't be easy to find the money or to remedy deeply rooted structural problems reinforced by a lack of appropriate skills and the absence of an entrepreneurial mindset.Any source
Thursday, May 5, 2005
EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson gave ground on the issue of converting specific tariffs into ad valorem equivalents (expressed as a percentage of a product's value) so as to make it possible to pursue discussions on tariff reductions. The deal involved Mandelson taking risks as it is likely that tariffs will be reduced by a greater amount than the Commission had envisaged. However, market access is proving the most difficult agricultural issue in the Doha Round and something had to be done to break the log jam.
New USTR Robert Portman was seen as having played a key role in brokering the deal. He commented, 'It was a technical calculation, but had so many real-world impacts.'
The issue at stake was how to determine the import price to use for products such as meats and dairy products where the values may be distorted by tariff rate quotas, tariff preferences etc. The EU has the most specific tariffs of any WTO country, followed by Switzerland, the United States and Bulgaria.Any source
Sunday, May 1, 2005
The appeal body upheld the original ruling that so-called 'C' sugar exports benefit from an element of cross-subsidy through production quotas and tariff barriers. These work in such a way that EU sugar producers can sell their sugar abroad at below the cost of production, in other words dumping on the world market to the disadvantage of other producers.
The appeal body also confirmed that the EU could not deduct a quantity equivalent to the sugar imported at the full EU price from ACP countries and India under preferential arrangements from the subsidised exports notified to the WTO.
The affected exports amount to almost 4 million tonnes a year and would push the EU's volume of subsidised exports well over the 1.273 million tonnes agreed in the Uruguay Round. The EU's notifiable spending on export subsidies would jump to €1.3bn a year as a result of the verdict, compared with the official (and misleading) ceiling of €499m.
The Commission will now have to revise its reform proposals for the sugar regime. A revised reform package is now promised for 22 June. The EU is going to have to find a formula for reform that effectively eliminates the production of C sugar. It is not economic to produce beet sugar in Europe at typical world prices for sugar which are about one third of the current EU support price.
The EU cannot hope to be rescued by a higher world sugar price. There is a structural surplus of production over consumption leading to a declining trend in prices. Given the continuing obesity debate, sugar consumption (especially in processed foods) is likely to fall rather than rise.
In order to conform with the WTO ruling the EU has to cut its support price to the level where it is no longer profitable to produce sugar outside the quota. Account must be taken of the increase in sugar imports that will result from the implementation of the 'Everything But Arms' agreement intended to help least developed countries.
The current draft plans would eventually achieve what is required, but they would not do so within the timetable laid down. To do so, the whole of the 37 per cent cut in price would have to be introduced at once, not in three stages.
The Comission's plans have already been under attack in the Farm Council as too radical. The European Commission's own calculations suggest that at world prices almost all of the EU sugar beet industry would be wiped out.
It is difficult to see the Council accepting measures that would cut the EU's production by more than a quarter with the biggest hit taken by the most marginal beet sugar producing areas which include politically sensitive parts of France and Germany.
Both beet farmers and the sugar processing industry have always been very effective lobbyists, hence the delay in the implementation of the EBA agreement. Beet refining is an important employer in rural areas. Most beet farmers in the UK are large scale farmers in Eastern England who have considerable political clout and will argue that including beet in their rotation brings agronomic benefits.
Companies take hit
Beet processing companies are already taking a hit. British Sugar was set up by the government as part of its moves to counter the depressionin the 1930s, but is now owned by Associated British Foods. It is reducing its dependence on the sugar beet refining business, but its shares dropped after it admitted that the looming EU reform was likely to have an impact eventually.
The first serious impact on profits is expected in 2007. At present analysts are forecasting a halving of British Sugar's profits over the next five years.Any source
Estonia claims that of the 91,466t of extra sugar that suddenly appeared on the Estonian market last year, two-thirds was bought up by private households so that they could indulge their traditional pasttime of making jam and preserves to provide high energy food the year round. Given that Estonia's population is a little over 1.4m, all one can say is that they must be the most enthusiastic jam makers in the world.
A short-term fix
The European Commission decided in mid-April to give Estonia and four other new member states an extra seven months to get rid of their surplus sugar stocks. This can be done by processing it into animal feed or biofuel or by exporting it as C sugar, i.e., without EU export subsidies.Any source