Preparing GeorgiaAs officials in Mississippi and Louisiana now know firsthand, anaction plan is needed to make sure food is available during adisaster.”We typically have about a seven-day food supply in our grocerystores,” said Wade Hutcheson, a UGA Extension agent in SpaldingCounty. “That’s not including the items that are supplied dailylike milk and bread. When there’s snow or a hurricane headed ourway, those items just fly off the shelves.”Hutcheson said the main goals of the agrosecurity trainings areto educate responders on possible threats and to encouragecommunities to prepare disaster plans.”Georgia’s farmers and farm workers must be aware of the damageforeign plant diseases and pests can do to their crops,” he said.”A safe, secure and inexpensive food supply is the foundation ofour society. An increased awareness of crop biosecurity couldkeep Georgia’s food secure in the short and long term.” Ag – big contributor to state’s economyIn Georgia alone, two-thirds of the state’s counties reportagriculture as the largest or second largest sector of theeconomy, Lynch said.Threats to food production can come from terrorists, naturaldisasters and accidental and intentional diseases, Lynch saidduring a recent training for 60 emergency workers from fivemiddle Georgia counties.Trainings like this are being taught statewide by experts fromthe Georgia Department of Agriculture and UGA College ofAgricultural and Environmental Sciences. More than 3,000emergency first responders should be trained by the year’s end.”Ag workers and traditional responders need to be ready torapidly and effectively resolve an emergency situation beforecatastrophic consequences occur,” Lynch said.In addition to the loss of crops and herds, an agriculturaldisaster can also affect a producer’s mental state. Emergencypersonnel must also be prepared to deal with these issues aswell, she said. In agricultural emergencies, improper disposal of diseased animalcarcasses can have environmental and economic consequences, Lynchsaid. If a poultry disease strikes in Georgia, the entire nationwould be affected. By Sharon OmahenUniversity of GeorgiaAlong the Gulf Coast, the nation has seen firsthand how a naturaldisaster can quickly destroy food supplies. In Georgia, farm anduniversity experts are teaching emergency workers and people inagriculture how to identify and handle threats to the foodproduction.”Our food supply … needs to be protected,” said Dana Lynch, aUniversity of Georgia Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist.”Our nation is the largest exporter of food products. And about17 percent of all the jobs in the U.S. are linked to the foodindustry.” Plants, animals must be protected”Georgia produces 24.6 million pounds of chicken meat in oneday,” said John Pope, UGA Extension agent for Monroe County. “Ifdiseases like avian influenza and Exotic Newcastle strike thepoultry industry, they would have a serious negative impact.”Plant diseases are a threat, too. UGA plant pathologist MilaPearce says most people don’t realize that ornamental plantdiseases can also affect production.”You may say, ‘Who cares about what’s killing Ms. Johnson’sgeraniums?’ ” Pearce said. “Geraniums and potatoes are from thesame family, and you probably do care about french fries andmashed potatoes.”Pesticide costs and yield losses from plant diseases cost theU.S. $20 billion a year, Pearce said.”We fight a constant battle against diseases every day,” shesaid. “Never mind what some terrorist has up his sleeve.”Pearce does have good news. Intentional introduction of a plantdisease is a “very, very difficult” task.”Introducing a plant disease into our food production would notbe a very good tactic for a terrorist,” she said. “It’s virtuallyimpossible to do. Spreading disease is an abominable task. It’svery hard for even us to do in our research labs.”
Merchants Bancshares, Inc. Announces Special Dividend and TrustPreferred Securities IssuanceSOUTH BURLINGTON, VT – The Board of Directors of Merchants Bancshares, Inc.(NASDAQ: MBVT), the parent company of Merchants Bank, today declared a specialcash dividend of $4.50 per share payable December 17, 2004 to shareholders of record asof the close of business on December 10, 2004. The total amount of this special dividendwill be approximately $28.10 million. After looking at several alternatives, MerchantsBoard of Directors has determined that the lower tax rates on dividends provide anopportunity for Merchants to return capital to its shareholders in the form of a specialdividend in a simple, fair and transparent process. Merchants has decided to moveforward with a special dividend as the optimal capital management alternative. Merchantswill remain well capitalized under applicable regulatory guidelines after the specialdividend. Merchants hereby notifies participants in its dividend reinvestment plan that itis temporarily suspending its dividend reinvestment plan, effective as of the date hereofthrough December 18, 2004, in order to permit payment of the special dividend. Alldividend payments will be made in the form of a check.Merchants also plans to participate in a private placement of $20 million of trustpreferred securities, through a newly formed Delaware statutory trust affiliate ofMerchants. The transaction will be part of a pooled trust preferred program. Keefe,Bruyette & Woods, Inc. and FTN Financial Capital Markets, a division of FirstTennessee Bank, N.A., will serve as placement agents in the offering. These hybridsecurities are expected to qualify as regulatory capital for Merchants, up to certainregulatory limits. At the same time they are considered debt for tax purposes, and as such,interest payments are fully deductible. While trust preferred securities have been aregulatory capital funding option for bank holding companies since 1996, there has beenno prior time period where an equivalent level of relative cost effectiveness has existedversus alternative funding options. Upon issuance, the trust preferred securities will bearinterest at a fixed rate for five years, and after five years, the rate will adjust quarterly.The trust preferred securities mature on December 31, 2034, and are redeemable at theCompanys option beginning after five years from issuance. The proceeds from the saleof the trust preferred securities will be used for general corporate purposes, allowingMerchants to pay the special dividend, and at the same time continuing to pursuealternative growth opportunities.Merchants estimates that the payment of the dividend and the issuance of the trustpreferred securities will reduce 2005 net interest income on an after tax basis byapproximately $1.06 million, or approximately 17 cents per share.Mr. Joseph Boutin, President and Chief Executive Officer and Ms. Janet Spitler, ChiefFinancial Officer, will host a conference call to discuss this special dividend payment anddebt issuance at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday, December 3, 2004. Interested partiesmay participate in the conference call by dialing (888) 428-4480, the title of the call isSpecial Dividend Conference Call for Merchants Bancshares, Inc. Participants are askedto call in a few minutes prior to the call in order to register. A replay will be availablethrough December 17, 2004. The U.S. replay dial-in number is (800) 475-6701. Theinternational replay dial-in number is (320) 365-3844. The replay access code, regardlessof dial-in location, is 759060.The mission of Merchants Bank is to provide best-in-class community banking servicesin the state of Vermont. This commitment is fulfilled through a community, branch-based,system that includes 35 bank offices throughout Vermont, employees dedicated toquality customer service, and innovative banking products such as Free Checking forLife ®, MoneyLYNX ® money market accounts, and CommerceLYNX ® business bankingproducts. Merchants Bank also includes a trust and investment division, known asMerchants Trust Company, serving individuals and institutions. For more informationabout Merchants Bank visit our website at www.mbvt.com(link is external). Merchants stock is traded onthe NASDAQ National Market system under the symbol MBVT. Member FDIC.Some of the statements contained in this press release constitute forward-lookingstatements. Forward-looking statements relate to expectations, beliefs, projections, futureplans and strategies, anticipated events or trends and similar expressions concerningmatters that are not historical facts. The forward-looking statements reflect Merchantscurrent views about future events and are subject to risks, uncertainties, assumptions andchanges in circumstances that may cause Merchants actual results to differ significantlyfrom those expressed in any forward-looking statement. Forward-looking statementsshould not be relied on since they involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties andother factors that are, in some cases, beyond Merchants control and which couldmaterially affect actual results. The factors that could cause actual results to differmaterially from current expectations include changes in general economic conditions inVermont, changes in interest rates, changes in competitive product and pricing pressuresamong financial institutions within Merchants markets, and changes in the financialcondition of Merchants borrowers. The forward-looking statements contained hereinrepresent Merchants judgment as of the date of this report, and Merchants cautionsreaders not to place undue reliance on such statements. For further information, pleaserefer to Merchants reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Legendary Germany striker legend Miroslav Klose says an African country will win the FIFA World Cup if the continent has more slots like their European counterparts.Africa are allocated five out of the 32 slots while World Cup power houses Europe and South America have 13 and five slots respectively.While five countries from Europe have won the World Cup (England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain) three from South America (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay) have tasted glory on football’s biggest stage.The farthest African teams have been at the World Cup is the quarter-final (Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana).Co-host of the 2002 World Cup South Korea is the only Asian country that has gotten to the semi-final.And according to Klose, the 2014 World Cup who is also the tournament’s all time leading goalscorer, posited that the five slots allocated to Africa limits the continent’s chances of winning it.“There is no way Africa can win the World cup, unless FIFA brings balance to the number of teams that qualifies to the World cup,” the former Bayern Munich striker said, as cited by Soccer Scenes Africa.“For now it is advantage to Europe and South America. The slot for African teams is very bad. Only five teams in a world cup that has almost 13 European teams. If Black lives really matter, we should show it by actions in every institution not only by kneeling down.“We need to balance everything, no one must be considered superior than the other. Despite all the talent they have, but it would be absolutely impossible to go all the way to reach the World cup final with only five teams in the tournament, meanwhile other continents have more than five,” he added.