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|:: December 5-December 12,
Food and Rural Communities
Federal and International
Sen. Jean Leising, worries that if property taxes on farmland continue to increase, Hoosier farmers will no longer be able to afford to raise crops and livestock. The average tax on farmland in Indiana increased 33.4 % from 2007 to 2013. Property taxes on farmland have increased primarily because of a complicated formula that is used statewide to determine the land’s value, starting with a base rate that is set by the state and adjusted each year for factors including land rents, crop yields and prices and interest rates. To determine the value of an acre of farmland, the base rate is multiplied by a soil productivity factor including typical crop yield, surface texture and slope. The base rate in 2007 was $880, Leising said, but increased to $1,760 this year. That means the rate has doubled in seven years. And, Leising said, the rate is projected to increase to $2,770 by 2017, meaning the rate would have tripled in 10 years.
Greensburg Daily News
A bill that would end property tax exemptions for crops, livestock and farm machinery in 2018 will be considered by Oregon lawmakers next year. Legislative Concept 1674, which the House Revenue Committee recently voted to introduce as a bill in 2015, would sunset numerous exemptions that apply to agriculture, potentially driving up property taxes for farmers.
Senator Mike Parson announced his intention to file legislation aimed at opposing any increasing government involvement in existing or the development of new federal commodity checkoff programs. His legislation comes after cattle producers raised concerns about overhaul of the national Beef Checkoff Program.
Seniors and those living in rural areas who are worried about one day losing their traditional phone lines can rest easy for now, but phone companies that want to focus more on modern technologies are expected to keep up the fight. A heavily amended, wide-ranging bill dealing with environmental, agricultural and fracking issues appears to have been crushed under the weight of its own amendments. The Senate does not plan to take up the House-passed HB 490. The bill includes language dealing with regulations of telephone landlines, allowing more water to be drawn from Lake Erie under the Great Lakes Compact and fracking-chemical-disclosure requirements. Sen. Cliff Hite said that the provisions were “getting beat up pretty good.”
Declining interest and profits have caused some to get out of the business, while others question the long-term future of the sport. Perhaps the biggest reason for a decline in Delaware’s racing, horsemen say, is due to competition from other states. The 1994 Horseracing Redevelopment Act enabled the state’s three tracks — Delaware Park, Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway — to add slots, with the express goal of helping the racing industry. Purses quickly skyrocketed, from less than $1 million to a peak of $29 million in 2008. Since then, however, it has been largely downhill. Pennsylvania now has 12 and Maryland has opened five since 2008.
The Dept. of AG and Kauai County are paying a consultant $100,000 to examine the possible health and environmental effects of pesticide use on genetically modified crops. The joint fact-finding process, directed by Honolulu planner and mediator Peter Adler, is expected to start in January and be completed within a year.
Oregon farm regulators want to double pesticide violation fines, but environmental groups are likely to call for even higher increases during the 2015 legislative session. The most the agency can fine a pesticide applicator is $1,000 for a first time offense and $2,000 for a repeat offense. The ODA wants to raise those penalty levels to $2,000 for a first time offense and $4,000 for a repeat violation. Some groups will be pressing for much larger hikes in pesticide penalties during the legislative session.
Agricultural regulators in Oregon are thinking of using conservation easements to steer urban development away from valuable farmland. The Oregon Board of Agriculture recently discussed the possibility of strategically placing easements instead of the current “scattershot” approach.
The California state lawmaker whose antibiotics bill was vetoed by Gov. Brown has introduced new legislation that would bar the sale of the drugs for livestock without a prescription and set up judicious-use rules and a tracking system to monitor the use of the drugs in the field.
A North Carolina chicken farmer under contract with Perdue invited animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming to video flock conditions on his farm over a period of months to create a promotional video. On Wednesday, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote an op/ed piece titled, “Abusing the Chicken We Eat,” about the video. Yesterday, Perdue sent its own audit team to visit the contract grower Craig Watts’ farm to assess current flock conditions. The company has also asked the Center for Food Integrity’s animal care panel to review the video. Perdue flock advisors visit the farms periodically and are a resource for the growers. These advisors are their first line of communication with the company. It is stated in the contract that growers must notify their flock advisor within 24 hours of any issues. Perdue Farms has thoroughly reviewed the video posted by an animal advocacy group, and we can assure you that the conditions shown in this farmer’s poultry house do not reflect Perdue’s standards for how our chickens are raised. It is clear from the video that he is not following our guidelines and has been negligent in the care of his flock.
The CFI panel said the editing in the video makes it impossible to determine the breadth of problems on Watts’ farm, but it appeared the farmer lacked proper culling and euthanasia protocols. “The farmer needs to implement a twice-daily bird health monitoring program that includes culling and euthanasia of any age chicken that is suffering and in distress,” panel member and Purdue University’s Dr. Patricia Hester said in a statement. “This includes the humane euthanasia of young chicks and older chickens with severe leg problems. It is obvious from the video that the farmer did not implement a rigorous culling program as there were older chickens in the flock that had been retained with severe leg problems. these lame chickens should have been humanely euthanized weeks earlier, yet the farmer allowed them to continue their suffering.”
The Maryland Manure Transport Program has launched a new streamlined application process labeled the “Fast-Track” option. Applicants will complete a shortened form that can be processed within 48 hours of receipt. This application can only be used when transporting and land applying poultry litter. Under the Fast-Track application process, MDA will continue to: Check nutrient management and MACS compliance Perform an animal health check Verify the poultry company contracting with the sending poultry operation. Once these checks are completed a conditional approval will be given to allow the poultry litter to be transported to a receiving farm.
It was early in the spring three years ago that a group calling themselves Mercy For Animals released the infamous E6 video. An undercover operative had taped some horrendous animal abuse and what we saw was nauseating. It was an event that first brought MFA's top gun, Nathan Runkle, to my attention. I posed six questions to Runkle and here are his answers, whole and unedited.
“There’s been a lot of conversations on the opposing sides of ag practices in farming and the way to get our story out and to give out insights on how farming has changed in the past 50 years, when farmers are online and chatting with individuals, they have a great bond with people vs. the marketers going out there and doing the talking for them” Schindler encourages those of all ages to get engaged online. One of his current favorite mechanisms is Instagram, overtaking Twitter and Facebook. But blogging is effective too, and now longer rather than shorter blogs are preferred.
Hoosier Ag Today
Premises Identification Numbers will be required of pork producers who wish to continue receiving USDA funded laboratory testing of samples in cases of suspected Swine Enteric Coronavirus Disease, including porcine epidemic diarrhea virus. The Pork Checkoff is reminding producers about the upcoming requirement that all submissions be accompanied by a valid PIN.
The State of California is experiencing one of the most severe droughts on record, which has implications for citizens of California and beyond. Many State, Federal, and Tribal agencies make routine observations of the water cycle. This website graphically visualizes these data to help understand the effect of drought on rivers, streams, lakes, and reservoirs. Learn more about water use and changes in the water cycle due to the current drought in California.
U.S. grain and soybean prices tumbled to their lowest levels in four years after federal forecasters predicted record-setting harvests that topped analysts' expectations. Corn prices slumped 2.1% after the USDA estimated that domestic farmers will harvest a record 14.395 billion bushels this autumn, up from its forecast last month of 14.032 billion bushels. The USDA also said in its monthly crop report that yields in the U.S.will reach 171.7 bushels an acre, which would shatter the record of 164.7 in 2009.
Wall Street Journal
A systematic overview of more than 100 studies comparing organic and conventional farming finds that the crop yields of organic agriculture are higher than previously thought. The study, conducted by UC Berkeley researchers, also found that certain practices could further shrink the productivity gap between organic crops and conventional farming. The study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 115 studies comparing organic and conventional agriculture. They found that organic yields are about 19.2 percent lower than conventional ones, a smaller difference than in previous estimates. They also found that taking into account methods that optimize the productivity of organic agriculture could minimize the yield gap. They specifically highlighted two agricultural practices, multi-cropping (growing several crops together on the same field) and crop rotation, that would substantially reduce the organic-to-conventional yield gap to 9 percent and 8 percent, respectively. The yields also depended upon the type of crop grown, the researchers found.
On June 16, 2014, twin tornados roared through the small Nebraska town of Pilger, leaving two people dead and much of the town destroyed. North of town, the funnels merged and the resulting tornado slammed into a 6,000-head feedyard, causing extensive damage, killing numerous cattle and injuring hundreds more. David Gnad, DVM, serves as that feedyard’s veterinarian, and related his experience from that week to fellow veterinarians during the recent Academy of Veterinary Consultants conference in Kansas City. While the likelihood of an individual feedyard, dairy or other concentrated livestock operation being hit by a tornado is small, many such facilities are in tornado-prone areas. Lessons from the Pilger event could help veterinarians and managers conduct some contingency planning , just in case.
Goodman recently posted five observations on social media and agriculture that are worth noting — and pondering. 1. People trust farmers, but not necessarily the business of farming or the practices involved. 2. When statements support what we want to believe, it’s amazing what we will make ourselves view as credible information. 3. People don’t know how to find, read or evaluate sound science information. 4. People actually perceive documentaries, celebrities and run-of-the-mill websites as credible information sources to solely base a belief upon. 5. Members of the agriculture community need a serious lesson in how to communicate with others, how to facilitate a productive conversation, and how to respect others’ choices when those choices contradict their own beliefs.
Farm and Dairy
Seemingly disconnected events and trends around the country have come together to create unprecedented demand for Florida agricultural land. But there’s only one problem: There isn’t enough farmland on the market to satisfy the demand.
The idea that phones should be smart but food should be based in the stone age isn’t reality. Farmers love innovation, whether it involves a new tractor or a new production method. Given the long lead time in producing crops or animals it can take time to yield results on a field scale. There is a growing population needing to be fed in the middle of the major climate change problems. We need scientists to continue to discover new ideas and develop existing practices. Despite the current price worries this is an exciting time to be a farmer and/or a scientist.
Several thousand head of cattle have been quarantined in Montana after a cow near Yellowstone National Park tested positive for brucellosis, the livestock disease much feared by ranchers and also carried by elk and bison. The quarantine will for the time being place off-limits livestock belonging to the rancher whose cow tested positive - likely infected by an elk - and neighboring producers whose herds may have been exposed through intermingling of livestock.
I have never heard of a farmer being forced into retirement. In fact, I don’t often hear of farmers retiring at all! But according to a UN official, younger farmers may have to get out of their lifelong careers, for good, at some point. Generating three centimeters of top soil takes 1,000 years, and if current rates of degradation continue all of the world’s top soil could be gone within 60 years, a senior UN official said.
Ohio’s Country Journal
With the number of U.S. farms declining and the average age of American farmers now at 58 years, the USDA has been seeking ways to attract a new generation to the land. Recognizing an opportunity to tackle this problem and simultaneously serve the country’s veterans, Al Muņoz created the Returning Veterans to Agriculture Project, a website to help those who have served in the military find the resources and information they need to return to farms in rural communities or to start careers in agriculture.
Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson asked Arkansas' Farm Bureau to support his proposal to cut taxes for the middle class by $100 million, saying the state needs to move beyond exemptions narrowly targeted to agriculture and other industries. Hutchinson told the group he supports existing exemptions farmers receive on items such as on feed and fertilizer but said broader changes to the state's tax code are needed.
The Wheat Growers grain and agronomy cooperative is planning a $3.2 million facility in northeastern South Dakota to train members about the latest innovations and technologies in agriculture.
Takes an in-depth look at the labeling of GE food, notably in the United States, and attempts to address what is at stake. In particular, it focuses on the first mandatory law, passed by the Vermont legislature. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other food trade organizations sued the state; the article explores the various legal challenges the law is expected to face. Drew Kershen, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, said, “The case will be very interesting to watch and very important in its outcome.” Kershen expects the case will eventually make its way to the Supreme Court. According to this article, the Vermont law, and other laws under consideration in other states, threaten to make a patchwork of state laws. Bob Woods, the CEO of Targeted Growth, said if the laws survive legal challenge, it would inevitably prompt a federal solution to supersede them.
States;Energy & Renewables
The Michigan House of Representatives passed 63-46 legislation that would count fuel from burning solid waste as a renewable energy source, something environmentalists say is "irresponsible." HB 5205, aims to remove barriers to the use of solid waste as a clean energy source. It would revise the definition of renewable energy sources in the state's Clean, Renewable, and Efficient Energy Act to add fuel that has been manufactured from waste. The act establishes a renewable energy standard that the state's electric providers must meet: 10 % renewable energy by 2015. But with this change, environmental groups say the state is taking a step backward on renewable energy.
North Dakota is poised to impose the strictest oil standards in its history on Tuesday, requiring every barrel of crude to be filtered for dangerous types of natural gas in an effort to make crude-by-rail transport safer. The new requirements come as federal, state and local officials grapple with how best to ensure the safe transport of North Dakota's crude oil, which has been linked to a string of fiery crude-by-rail explosions, including one last year in Quebec that killed 47 people. Governor Jack Dalrymple and the two other members of the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) are taking the first concrete regulatory steps to sanitize the state's oil. They nearly approved a previous set of standards last month before asking staff members for last-minute tweaks and additional public comment.
Large-scale development of natural gas and oil from shale has been described as a revolution, a bonanza, and simply a boom. Regardless of how this historical event is described, all agree that the magnitude of development is huge with large domestic reserves of shale oil and gas set to reduce U.S. oil and gas imports. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that, at current rates of consumption, the US has enough natural gas from shale alone to supply the entire country for about 90 years as well as more oil than previously thought. For natural gas, the United States is in the early years of a potentially long expansion in production with the EIA estimating that, by 2040, production of natural gas will double relative to the level in the mid-2000s when drilling in shale became common. Yet, concerns about local consequences of extraction of oil and gas from shale formations have caused several states such as New York and Maryland and many local governments around the country to pass a moratoria on hydraulic fracking, the key technology used to develop shale. This collection of articles aims to increase the understanding of several local consequences of unconventional oil and natural gas development.
Shale formations rich in oil and gas cover parts of many agriculturally rich states. Since farmers own or operate more than half of the non-urban land in the 48 lower states, the potential for oil and gas drilling to affect the well-being of farmers and the profitability of their farms is high. Most onshore oil and gas production is concentrated in the south-central United States, the western Plains, and the Appalachian Mountain region in the east. The value of this production often dwarfs the local agricultural economy. In 2012, the value of energy production was, on average, 16 times greater than the value of agriculture in energy-producing counties, up from 6 times in 2002.
Little-noticed program criticized as rebates could reach $1 billion per year Under Louisiana law, Goodrich must pay the state a “severance tax,” 12.5 % of the value of all of the oil it extracts. But under an incentive program passed with little debate two decades ago, the state will refund all of that tax to Goodrich — at least until the company has paid off the well. As a result, Louisiana taxpayers will cut Goodrich a check for nearly $2 million, even though the firm, in calls with investors before a recent drop in the price of oil, has boasted expectations of profit margins ranging from 29 to 53 %. Suddenly, as the natural gas-rich Haynesville Shale in the northwest part of the state was tapped, an exemption that had cost Louisiana less than $1 million in lost taxes in 2008 had ballooned to $239 million two years later. Since then, the state has given back $1.2 billion in tax receipts due to the horizontal-drilling exemption.
A survey suggested advanced energy employment in Iowa is more than 22,000 strong and on pace to reach nearly 24,000 jobs in 2015. The report is a first-ever survey by the Advanced Energy Economy Institute. The AEE Institute published a similar report on California’s advanced energy industry. Based on this survey of more than 2,000 companies doing business in California, advanced energy employment in the state is currently 431,800. Employers are optimistic about the future as well, with about half of all firms expecting to add employees during the coming year, for more than 70,000 new jobs – a 17% projected increase, for California.
Hoosier Ag Today
Our conclusion was that current high ethanol prices relative to gasoline prices might slow the growth in domestic ethanol consumption, but would not likely result in consumption that is less than the 10 % blend wall. In contrast, the high price ratio may represent a threat to growth in ethanol exports and could result in some decline in ethanol export volumes from current relatively high levels. Softness in export demand, in turn, would be expected to pressure ethanol prices and bring the ethanol/gasoline price ratio back to more normal levels. In today's article, we investigate how much ethanol prices could decline from the combination of weaker export demand and continued low gasoline prices and the impact that lower prices would have on the profitability of ethanol production.
State lawmakers have one more week of work this session before adjournment. Finding agreement on a formula for fixing the state's roads remained elusive, amid plans to form a compromise committee that would soon start work. The House and Senate have passed differing proposals; it's likely the final product will include elements of both. The Senate voted to increase fuel taxes by more than double over four years. The House voted for a plan that does not significantly raise taxes overall but instead repeals the sales tax at the pump over six years and increases the wholesale gas tax by an equivalent amount.
Click on Detroit
There is a new app highlighting rural tourism in Vermont, including tours of Vermont's 118 covered bridges or biking and hiking trails near Burlington, thousands of destinations in all. But, rural spots like the Liberty Hill Farm are a main focus of the app, especially in areas where Internet service is lacking. It does it by storing information within the app which is accessible even where there isn't coverage and lack of service is still a significant issue in rural areas of the state.
Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet approved the sale of the former G. Pierce Wood Mental Health Facility near Arcadia in DeSoto County. The Power Auto Corporation purchased the property with plans to construct a manufacturing facility, driver training center, tactical training and a hotel. The proposed facility will bring between 80 and 120 jobs to the area during the first year, and up to 360 within five years
The Washington Parks and Recreation Commission is working on a policy setting fees and terms for when farmers can use long-distance trails otherwise off-limits to motorized vehicles.
The Idaho Outdoor Business Council has sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to use his executive power under the Antiquities Act to create a 592,000-acre national monument in a rugged swath of central Idaho. The coalition of 45 business and recreation groups says that designating the 592,000-acre national monument would increase protection of an unspoiled area for current and future generations. Another plan proposed by Republican Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho is to create three wilderness areas totaling 332,775 acres while also releasing 130,000 acres from a wilderness study area to a multiple-use designation. But that plan for years has failed to get through Congress.
Why do sustainable food businesses fail, and what lessons can be learned. No matter how much good they want to do in the world, people who start sustainable businesses must realize they are still subject to all of the pressures and constraints of the marketplace. “My experience has been that sustainable businesses focus a little too much on the sustainable piece and not enough on the business piece,” Wilson said. Local food businesses present particular challenges. Structurally, they may be missing big pieces that other businesses take for granted – such as the ability to buy the right equipment. The explosive growth of big agriculture decades ago meant the gradual demise of medium-sized everything. People who start such businesses are fueled by their passion for a cause. Slow Money Maine has put together guidelines that outline what investors expect from a business and has been working on a technical assistance program to help struggling entrepreneurs. “A single entrepreneur typically does not come in with the set of skills required to have a successful business,” said Bonnie Rukin, the Maine chapter coordinator. People often need little help in finding their mission.
Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan would help 95,000 working poor statewide buy health insurance. The governor faces a skeptical Legislature, though, especially after he and lawmakers learned this week that any alternative to expanding traditional Medicaid will cost millions more than previously thought. That’s because of a 40 % increase in the state’s estimate of the number of people in the coverage gap who would seek coverage, up to 63,000 from the 45,000 predicted in a 2013 state-commissioned study.
Salt Lake Tribune
Here is something the New York City Council can do to end 2014 on a high note. It can vote down Mayor Bill de Blasio’s effort to abolish carriage horses. It can give him the opportunity to move on from the foolish campaign promise to shut down the industry, made last year to a small, loud and financially generous group of horse-rights advocates. Why eliminate an entire class of Teamsters union jobs? How will the horses escape slaughter? What will happen to the stables, on coveted property on the West Side of Manhattan? (Not for nothing do people wonder why the force behind NYClass, the group pushing the anticarriage crusade, is a real estate developer, Stephen Nislick.) Why are no advocates talking about getting rid of Police Department horses, which have tougher jobs than carriage horses?
Gov. Bill Haslam told Tennessee Farm Bureau leaders the struggle for economic development "is different and more challenging in our rural areas" but steps are underway and he will keep rural development a top priority of his second term. The governor also said Farm Bureau leaders met with him recently about the need to maintain and improve the state's transportation systems, including waterways, short-line railroads and local roads and bridges.
Knoxville News Sentinel
The total number of students receiving private-school tuition vouchers in Wisconsin is about to cross the 30,000 threshold.
Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel
Abbott's aspirations reflect strong interest by lawmakers to boost funding for road construction and maintenance. TxDOT has said it needs $5 billion more each year to keep traffic from getting worse in a fast-growing state. Finding even $4 billion more each year will be tricky, but voters have already helped Abbott get partway to his goal. Abbott's office confirmed that his count includes funds from Proposition 1, a measure approved by 80 % of Texas voters last month to divert some oil and gas production tax revenue to the highway fund.
People in the country's unhappiest communities spend about a quarter of the month so far down in the dumps that it can harm their productivity. "This is a real concern not just in the United States, but across the world," said Stephan Goetz, professor at Penn State, and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. Residents in the community with the poorest mental health on average reported they spent 8.3 days a month in a negative mood. People in high mental health areas reported they were in poor mental health only a little less than half of a day each month. Suburban residents seem to be the happiest, compared to those who live in rural areas and inner cities. After controlling for certain conditions, such as commute time, people who lived in suburbs tended to report the fewest poor mental health days.
Record rains fell in California this week. They’re not enough to change the course of what scientists are now calling the region’s worst drought in at least 1,200 years.
In National Association of Manufacturers 4th Quarter poll, 91.2% of respondents were either somewhat or very positive in their own company’s outlook. This continues an upward trend that began in the first quarter of 2013, and it was only the fourth time since the survey began in 1997 that the outlook measure has been 91% or better. The last time was in the fourth quarter of 2005. Parsing this data out by firm size, larger manufacturers were the most positive, with slightly more than one-quarter saying they were very positive; in contrast, only 18.8% of the smallest manufacturing firms were very positive.
Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new state-by-state “Made in Rural America” report illustrating the impact of USDA investments in rural communities. Each state factsheet highlights specific USDA investments in rural businesses, manufacturing, energy, water and other infrastructure development. They also outline how USDA is helping rural communities attract businesses and families by investing in housing and broadband
Maryland Gov.-elect Larry Hogan said he plans to declare a state of emergency regarding Maryland’s struggles with heroin addiction and create a task force to figure out why the number of overdoses has steadily increased.
Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Wolf earned a historic victory in ousting the state’s incumbent chief executive last month. Now budget woes and mounting retirement expenses threaten to undermine his campaign pledges. The 66-year-old Democrat will assume control of a government that has trailed all U.S. states in job growth since 2011. He has to balance promises, including more money for schools, with a $2 billion revenue shortfall for the year that begins July 1. Only New Jersey and Virginia are struggling more than Pennsylvania to fully fund retirement costs, according to Moody’s Investors Service.
Attorneys for railroad carrier CSX argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that Alabama’s 4% sales tax on fuel used by freight trains—a tax trucks and barges don’t have to pay—is inherently discriminatory and violates federal law. While the case originated in Alabama, at least nine other states impose a full or partial sales tax on train fuel, including Arizona, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and West Virginia. Several of these states and others filed a “friend of the court” brief. Alabama and the other states contend that they assess all kinds of different taxes—on fuel, on sales, on entertainment, to name a few—and the railroad diesel fuel tax is just another one. CSX Transportation, which sued Alabama to initiate the case, argues it is unfair to single out their mode of transportation with a fuel sales tax.
The average American farmer is a white man in his late 50s. Or at least, that's who's in charge of the farm, according to new data from the USDA. But the number of female-run farms has tripled since the 1970s, to nearly 14 % in 2012. And if you dig a little deeper, you'll find women are showing up in new roles. But because of the way farm businesses are structured, women's work often isn't included in those USDA counts
The West’s biggest water agencies are finalizing a major new agreement to boost water levels in Lake Mead, on the Arizona-Nevada border. Under the so-called Pilot Drought Response Actions program, which would begin next year, urban water agencies in California, Arizona and Nevada hope to use a number of methods to add between 1.5 and 3 million acre-feet of water to Lake Mead over the next five years. That’s roughly as much water as 3 to 6 million households use in a year. Those “protection volumes” are designed to keep the water level in the reservoir from sinking below 1,000 feet above sea level, at which point Las Vegas will have difficulty withdrawing its share of the Colorado River from the reservoir, which could set off a humongous water fight before the U.S. Supreme Court.
High Country News
Proceedings from the NIAA Antibiotics Symposium are now posted on the NIAA website.
A greater percentage of rural medical practices have adopted electronic medical records. A new study looks at why rural clinics may be outpacing urban practices in using this new technology.
On rural routes, it’s best to yield, second-guess your GPS and observe the Golden Rule when it comes to making someone eat your dust. You can get there from here, but it may take a while.
The fight over GMO labeling in Oregon is over for now as Measure 92 supporters say they've lost their recount. Proponents of Oregon’s genetically modified organism labeling initiative are finally throwing in the towel more than a month after election day. A judge rejected a request by supporters to force state officials to count 4,600 ballots that were excluded due to discrepancies between voter signatures on ballot envelopes and registration cards.
Missouri seniors could be eating more fresh produce if a proposed bill gets lawmaker support. Rep. Kim Gardner filed legislation to give seniors vouchers for farmers' markets. Under the measure, low-income seniors would receive vouchers for local markets or roadside stands in their county to buy fruit and vegetables. The bill is intended to give seniors who are at least 60 years old greater access to fresh, local foods. The legislation also aims to increase demand for Missouri-grown produce and encourage more farmers' markets. The bill requires the state to apply for a federal grant to fund the program.
This is one health trend you don't want to try. Raw milk skips the commercial chain of pasteurization and homogenization, and many proponents drink to the promise of a purer, less processed food. But the CDC has long warned that the consumption of raw milk, which poses serious risks to Americans’ health, is nothing more than a misguided health trend. Now, a new report from the agency shows that the yearly number of outbreaks from raw milk is increasing. Nearly 1,000 people were sickened from raw milk outbreaks from 2007-2012, the report says, and 73 went to the hospital. The new study shows there were an average of 13 outbreaks per year from disease-causing bacteria that can be present in unpasteurized milk between the years 2007-2012, with 81 total outbreaks in 26 states. That rate has quadrupled since 1993-2006, the data set used when CDC last studied the subject.
Massachusetts last year became one of the first states to require food stamp cards to include photos of recipients, but the new program has created such confusion that some low-income families are unable to buy groceries and the federal government is demanding that the state quickly fix the problem. Store cashiers have turned away the recipients’ family members or others in the household — who can legally use the benefits — because they do not match the photos. Such practices violate federal rules, which require retailers to treat food stamp recipients like any other customer.
Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture announced goals that its member companies — including General Mills, Kellogg’s, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Cargill — have committed to in an effort to advance sustainable agriculture in the US.
In Hadley overlooking the Connecticut River Valley, Jonathan Carr uses a century-old press to make an elegant sparkling cider and other apple drinks that he delivers himself to liquor stores, jamming 30 cases at a time into his Pontiac hatchback. In a few weeks, though, Carr risks being a modern-day bootlegger, as the law in Massachusetts that allows small “farmer-wineries” to distribute their own wine and ciders to stores and restaurants will abruptly expire — by accident. Lawmakers are scrambling to pass a fix before the end of the year. The bedrock of the state’s alcohol regulations requires most producers, particularly the large ones, to distribute their drinks through wholesalers. One additional wrinkle: Federal and local courts have ruled that state alcohol laws cannot treat in-state and out-of-state wineries differently. The Massachusetts ABCC lost two lawsuits, one in 2005 and another in 2010, about previous rules that gave an edge to Massachusetts wineries.
Milk is flowing like never before in the U.S., where dairies have expanded output enough to send wholesale prices plunging from an all-time high in September. Production in the 12 months through October reached 17.08 billion pounds a month on average, up 1.8 % from a year earlier. Global supplies are expanding with increased output from top producer New Zealand and the EU, sending U.S. dairy exports in September to a 19-month low.
The current dietary guidelines for Americans recommend limiting saturated fat consumption to 7-10% of total energy intake and consuming the majority of calories from carbohydrates. Often, in order to reach this goal, individuals will avoid eating or will eat less of foods that contain saturated fat, such as beef, eggs and high-fat dairy. This typically results in dietary saturated fats being replaced by greater amounts of carbohydrates. However, a team of researchers from The Ohio State University, the University of Connecticut and the University of California-Davis found that a diet in which saturated fat levels were doubled or tripled did not increase the total levels of saturated fat in the blood. Recent meta-analyses found no association between heart disease and dietary saturated fat, but higher proportions of plasma saturated fatty acids pose a greater risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Yet dietary guidelines continue to advocate restriction of saturated fat.
The cows that produce the nation's organic milk spend their days ruminating happily on an idyllic green pasture, usually beside an iconic red barn. That, at least, is what the ubiquitous marketing would tell you. Now a group based in Wisconsin has obtained aerial photos of 14 large-scale organic farms - five dairies and nine chicken operations. Not surprisingly, the reality is less picturesque and more industrial than that advertising image. The aerials taken in May and June show very few animals outside, even though organic rules require that animals be allowed daily free access to the outdoors.
Farm and Dairy
Wholesale egg prices already average a record $2.27 a dozen nationally, up 34 percent from a year earlier. With the new law, the price Californians pay may jump as much as 20 percent for shell eggs in three to six months.
To comply with the California rules, farmers are culling at least 10 million hens.
Every week, two out of three Americans eat pizza. And when they eat pizza, they love to put meat on top of it. The average consumer buys pizza away-from-home five times a month
A DNA-based investigation, by ocean conservation organization Oceana, showed that one-third of more than 1,200 fish tested in the U.S. were not truthfully labeled
Uber has been experimenting with a food delivery service called UberFRES. It's promising to deliver dinner from a few Los Angeles restaurants in under 10 minutes, and it launched a one-day promotion in various US cities to deliver lunch from local restaurants in the same amount of time. Estimates show Americans spend $70 billion a year on food takeout and delivery, with $9 billion of that total ordered online.
The Organic Trade Association announced the industry plans to ask for its own checkoff. As permitted in the 2014 Farm Bill, it would be different from other checkoff programs because it would cover a production process rather than a specific product and also cover the entire industry, not just one level of production.
Mandatory labeling of GM food in the US will not only make all food more costly but also bamboozle consumers.
When I looked at McDonald’s YouTube video on how chicken McNuggets are made, I thought that this was a great way for the quick-service restaurant giant to be transparent and tackle misinformation head on. I don’t know much about “reality television,” but the choice of former MythBusters host Grant Imahara to be in the videos looks like a good one. Imahara comes off as a rational tech-savvy person with a fun streak, kind of a slightly younger, and maybe a tad “hipper,” version of Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe. The McNuggets’ video is just one of a series of videos that show how McDonald’s products, including hamburger patties, McRib and fries, are made by their suppliers and prepared in their restaurants. To me, the "Our food Your questions" campaign looks like a home run, but gaining traction on the Internet isn’t easy. Since being published on December 8, the McDonald’s new McNuggets video had around 1 million views in its first two days. A video posted in 2010 by “The Young Turks” which makes spurious claims about what goes into mechanically separated poultry and claiming that this is the primary ingredient in many chicken nugget-type products has nearly 10 million views.
Watt Ag Net
Selection criteria include:Demonstrated scientific credentials and disciplinary expertise in relevant fields; Willingness to commit time to the committee and demonstrated ability to work constructively and effectively on committees; Background and experiences that would contribute to the diversity of perspectives on the committee, e.g., geographic, economic, social, cultural, educational backgrounds, and professional affiliations; and For the committee as a whole, consideration of the collective breadth and depth of scientific expertise; and a balance of scientific perspectives.
USDA is publishing a rule that outlines how it will improve the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), one of USDA's largest conservation programs. The interim final rule includes program changes authorized by Congress in the 2014 Farm Bill. USDA has established a 60-day comment period for the rule. Comments are due by Feb. 10, 2015.
Four companies won FAA approval to fly commercial drones to conduct aerial surveys, monitor construction sites and inspect oil flare stacks. The approvals for Trimble Navigation Limited, DOS Global, Clayco Inc. and Woolpert Inc. come as the FAA drafts comprehensive regulations for drones to share the skies with passenger planes. Michael Toscano, CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, called the FAA action a positive step, but that the agency needs to complete its regulations to allow broader use of drones.
Agriculture is included in the newly released Science and Technology Strategy for Canada. The future success of this large and impactful industry is dependent upon a focus on science and innovation. New research is critical to ensuring productivity advances are possible and allows modern agriculture to continue to contribute to the growth of Canada’s economy.
Two sections buried within a lengthy maritime reauthorization bill that is moving through the U.S. Congress have some emergency food aid NGOs up in arms. Sections 316 in H.R. 4005, which passed the House in April and 321 of H.R. 5769, which passed the House on Wednesday, would give the U.S. Secretary of Transportation — through the Maritime Administration unilateral authority in the interpretation and application of cargo requirements, instead of consulting relevant aid agencies as is done now. 50 % of all U.S.-sourced food aid must be transported on U.S.-flagged commercial vessels, according to the 1954 Cargo Preference Act, a law designed to help protect the U.S. cargo business against cheaper, international shipping companies. The Department of Transportation’s own statistics show that shipping with foreign vessels costs half, and sometimes a third of the cost of shipping on U.S. vessels. Many development professionals have long argued that the law is inefficient, and forces aid implementers to overspend on shipping, when those resources could be used to feed more people.
Implementation of FDA’s judicious use policy means medically important antibiotics will be used in food animals only to fight disease under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. There is no loophole. The Pew report alleging that growth promotion uses might continue is wrong. There are 82 growth promotion claims that will be removed from the labels of medically important antibiotics. Of those approved applications with growth promotion claims, only 17 also have prevention claims on their product labels, and in none of those 17 instances are the dose and duration of use the same for the growth claim and prevention claim. In short, growth promotion uses of medically important antibiotics are being eliminated under the FDA policy. Such use going forward would be illegal.
U.S. grain transportation costs have slumped to multi-year lows as last winter's weather-related shipping problems have so far failed to materialize, but even a modest cold snap could still overwhelm the nation's train, barge and truck network and send costs soaring again. Kraft Foods warned that industry wide logistic problems would drag on earnings, and grain processor Archer Daniels Midland Co said that rail service troubles could flare up in the first quarter of 2015. "We still have room to have issues here as we get into the winter and I don't know that we have a large amount of confidence that the rail situation's going to get better," Craig Willis, vice president of ADM's ethanol business.
At last week’s Indiana corn and soybean joint policy forum in Indianapolis Steve Censky and Jon Doggett were asked where the responsibility falls for the regulations imposed on farmers, regulations farmers often think are unjustified. Doggett, National Corn Growers Association said Congress bears some of the responsibility. “Congress increasingly throughout the last three decades has put in legislation ‘the secretary or administrator shall have the discretion to…’ and it gives a lot of wiggle room to the agencies and to the departments. So we’ve tried to encourage folks on the hill to narrow this down. Don’t give the authority to the bureaucracy to do these things. Make some decisions yourself. Waters of the U.S. is a classic example. We wouldn’t be in this spot if there was a narrower definition of what the waters are.”
Hoosier Ag Today
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing to examine FDA’s role in the regulation of genetically modified foods. Congressman Mike Pompeo’s Safe and Affordable Food Act (H.R. 4432), which would preempt state GMO labeling laws and require labeling only if a food product were deemed unsafe or materially different by the FDA, was also a major focus of the hearing. While the bill will die at the end of this Congress, it is expected to be reintroduced in the 114th Congress. There was general consensus among Committee Members from both parties that a federal GMO labeling standard applied nationwide would be more sensible than state-by-state regulations. When Rep. Pompeo asked the second panel, which included two GMO labeling advocates, to answer with a yes or no whether they agreed GE foods are as safe as their conventional counterparts, all four witnesses answered, “yes.”
Crop insurance was considered a protected area of the 2014 farm bill with direct payments targeted as the program requiring cuts, now it is drawing some unwanted attention from legislators looking to make cuts. The GAO has released two studies just in the last three months focusing on different aspects of crop insurance, including ways to reduce the federal premium subsidy.
Incoming House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway is setting up a separate subcommittee to oversee federal nutrition programs, confirming that food stamps and other feeding programs will be a major focus in the next Congress. The committee could consider new cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The $35 billion organic-food industry has nearly tripled in size in the past decade, challenging the Agriculture Department’s ability to monitor the more than 25,000 farms and other organizations that sell organic crops and livestock. There are currently 81 accredited “certifying agents,” or groups that stamp food as organic in the U.S. But of the 37 that had a complete review this year, 23 were cited for failing to correctly enforce certification requirements on farms in audits, according to an internal Agriculture Department report. The 23 firms didn’t properly conduct onsite inspections or correctly review applications for organic certification, among other things, the report said. A separate Wall Street Journal investigation of USDA inspection records since 2005 found that 38 of the 81 certifying agents failed on at least one occasion to uphold basic standards.
Wall Street Journal
Originally intended as a safety net against weather extremes for family farmers when established in the 1930s, a new analysis of subsidized crop insurance says it's putting the future vitality of small towns and rural Minnesota at stake. The report also says that by providing guaranteed income on even marginal farmland, subsidies are pushing prices per acre higher - and pushing many beginning farmers off the land. The new series of white papers from the Land Stewardship Project also notes that more than 50 % of all crop insurance subsidy payments end up in the pockets of less than 2.5 % of the nation's farmers.
Public News Service
Immigration reform is critical for the health of agriculture in the Midwest and across the country, according to a report y by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. A continued stalemate on immigration reform means lower food production, higher food costs, economic and job losses in Midwest agriculture, and compromised global competitiveness.
Chicago Council on Global Affairs
The SBA has an Office of Advocacy and that office advises EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw its proposed WOTUS definition and start over. It is one thing for private sector interests to attack EPA. It clearly is a man bites dog story when one federal agency attacks another federal agency and tells it to withdraw its proposed rulemaking because it breaks the law. On October 1, 2014, an unexpected ally from within the administration filed comments with EPA claiming that EPA and the Corps "have improperly certified the proposed rule [WOTUS] under the Regulatory Flexibility Act because it (WOTUS) would have significant effects on small businesses."
As budget talks in the U.S. Congress lurch toward a frenzied conclusion, the House is scheduled to vote today on a bill that gives staying power to U.S. President Barack Obama’s Feed the Future initiative. If passed, the Global Food Security Act of 2014 would grant congressional authorization to the U.S. Agency for IID $1 billion effort to fight hunger in 19 targeted countries through agriculture programs. Food security advocates are hopeful that with the passage of this bill, Feed the Future — considered a signature initiative of USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah — could find some long-term security in the new legislation and live on as a development legacy of the Obama-Shah administration. According to USAID, Feed the Future helped more than 7 million smallholder farmers' access new tools and technologies to improve yields and boost incomes and reached 12.5 million children with nutrition interventions in 2013.
School food workers have been complaining for months about the breakfast and lunch standards being rolled out by the Obama administration. Now, Congress has seen fit to give them a break. Tucked inside the spending bill are two tweaks to the school food standards. One freezes the existing limits on sodium, which were scheduled to ratchet down over time, and another gives states the ability to waive whole grains standards for schools that are struggling.
Wall Street Journal
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack would be prevented from moving forward with a second beef checkoff and the EPA would not be limited in its ability to regulate new bodies of water under the Clean Water Act," despite provisions in the bill passed earlier by the House blocking EPA. The overall Agriculture and related agencies bill would cost $20.5 billion for fiscal year 2015, down from $20.8 billion in 2014. The bill would also contain $784 million in cuts to mandatory programs.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson and United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) President Danni Beer sent a letter to the House and Senate leaders strongly objecting to three anti-family farmer and rancher provisions slipped into the 2015 Appropriations Act. The report language included on Country-of-Origin Labeling could be used as an opportunity to stop the appeals process at the World Trade Organization or re-open the legislation that mandated COOL, both of which are unacceptable,” notes the letter.
In an explanatory statement directing the congressional directives, the agreement said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is directed not to implement a “second duplicative beef checkoff program” citing that “an overwhelming majority of cattle producers do not support paying assessments into two separate beef checkoff programs operating simultaneously. Congress also directs the ag secretary, in consultation with the U.S. Trade Representative, to submit by or before May 1, 2015 a report with recommendations for any changes in federal law on how to fix the establishment and implementation of a country of origin labeling program based on the latest findings from the World Trade Organization ruling.
Before lawmakers could agree to a $1.1 trillion, last-minute deal to avoid shutting down the U.S. government, they first had to deal with a couple of birds. The result is a 1,603-page spending bill that includes a paragraph barring the Obama administration from approving endangered-species protections for two types of sage grouse, an imperiled, pheasant-like bird that is ruffling the petroleum industry’s feathers across the West by cohabiting on prime oil and gas land. Now environmentalists are squawking. The grouse provision is “grossly irresponsible,” Defenders of Wildlife CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark said, while Randi Spivak of the Center for Biological Diversity called the legislation a “death warrant” for a bird whose noisy, elaborate mating rituals attract tourists to so-called sagebrush safaris.
For the first time, low-income women would be able to pay for white potatoes with government-subsidized vouchers issued by the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, known as WIC.
ILeVO is designed to protect soybean root systems against infections such as Sudden Death Syndrome fungus. Registration allows the product to be available for the 2015 growing season. It’s the first seed treatment against SDS.
Canadian grain exports to the U.S. have fallen sharply as railways expand the more-lucrative cross-border crude-oil shipments, a shift that Canada’s farmers say is pushing their crops to lower-priced overseas markets. The shift of Canadian grain abroad is likely to prop up prices for U.S. farmers and consumers. In particular, wheat growers in states such as North Dakota and Minnesota could see higher bids for supplies from U.S. buyers with less access to cheaper wheat across the border. The decline in grain exports is an unintended consequence of recent regulatory changes aimed at guaranteeing farmers rail time in the face of stiff competition from crude by rail. Those changes aren’t always helping farmers, as rail companies look for quicker journeys for grain to meet federal requirements, sending cargoes to ports in Vancouver and along the St. Lawrence River.
Wall Street Journal
Canadian officials have established a “primary control zone” designed to prevent the spread of a highly pathogenic H5N2 avian flu strain that so far has sparked the culling of 140,000 birds. It’s divided into three sub zones — infected, restricted and security — that represent the relative risks of infection spreading to other areas. CFIA also has restricted movement of birds within the primary zone to include captive birds, poultry products and b-products and anything that has been exposed to captive birds, including feed, vehicles, equipment or clothing.
American consumers get all the salsa, squash and melons they can eat at affordable prices. And top U.S. brands — Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Subway and Safeway, among many others — profit from produce they have come to depend on. These corporations say their Mexican suppliers have committed to decent treatment and living conditions for workers. But a Los Angeles Times investigation found that for thousands of farm laborers south of the border, the export boom is a story of exploitation and extreme hardship.
Imports of Australian beef and veal will jump 35 %,to 360,00 metric tons, in 2014-2015, Bloomberg reported. That would amount to the highest volume since 2004-2005 and comes as the U.S. cattle herd hovers at its lowest levels in decades. The U.S. bought some 35 % of Australia’s beef and veal exports in the first four months of 2014-2015, compared with 19 % in the year-earlier period.
Economic sanctions against Russia could translate into making the country more self-sufficient in food production and help Russian farmers become bigger competitors with the U.S. over the long-term. That will depend on how well Russian officials stick to their strategy to increase the use of new farm machinery and open up more land to production in the country. The country's producers average about 4% of global grain exports and as much as 14% of the global wheat export market.
Agreement to permit country-level bans of genetically modified plants should ease deadlocks in EU approval process. After years of political deadlock and legal wrangling, the EU appears to have reached a compromise on the approval process for the cultivation of genetically modified crops. In the late hours of 3 December, representatives of member states and the EU Parliament hashed out an agreement to waive the principle that every member state honor EU approvals of GM crops. Instead, each member state will have the power to overrule EU approvals in their country. This means that EU approval of several GM crops that have been in limbo for years is now likely to now move forward
Feds;Energy & Renewables
The EPA used scientifically flawed methods in a new regulation that could harm ethanol production, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is now asking a federal court to review the agency’s requirement. The legal action comes at the behest of a state association of ethanol processors. Schmidt argues the EPA implemented its 2014 edition of the Motor Vehicle Emissions Simulator, which helps estimate pollution from cars and trucks — without allowing states to comment or review the changes. The attorney general also says an EPA-commissioned fuel study to develop MOVES used a flawed methodology.
The U.S. is adding ethanol to the list of fuels it dominates in world markets. Exports of the additive derived from corn rose 31 % this year to the highest level since 2011, meeting demand from South Korea to Persian Gulf oil producers. The growth in sales follows a tripling of gasoline and diesel exports since 2009.
Standing before South Terminal on a chilly December day, city and nonprofit officials announced a new report promoting wind energy as a partial remedy for global warming. The report proposes a series of measures by the state and federal government to propel the nascent industry, which already produces 4 % of America’s energy but has the capacity to exponentially increase. Speaking alongside Mayor Jon Mitchell and industry officials, Persinger said the report comes as Congress is set to leave for the year without voting to renew tax incentives for wind energy.
South Coast Today
U.S. energy production has changed dramatically since 2006 due to technological advances in the energy industry. To better capture these recent changes and study their effects on future U.S. trade, this article proposes a model that separates the energy and non-energy components to forecast near-term imports and exports for both. In addition to providing an independent trade forecast, the framework is flexible and can generate alternative forecasts under additional assumptions of future domestic energy production. The framework forecasts a 2.9% decline in energy imports in 2014 and a 4.6% decline in 2015. The key factors shaping this forecast include relatively stable domestic energy consumption and a continued increase in energy production, which reduces reliance on energy imports. Energy exports are expected to increase 12.3 % in 2014 and 19.4 % in 2015.
Kansas City Fed
Lawmakers vented their frustration at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wednesday over its repeated delays of the annual ethanol mandate. The Wednesday hearing in the House Oversight Committee’s subpanel on energy came weeks after the EPA announced that it wouldn’t make a 2014 ethanol blending requirement for fuel refiners until next year.
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