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::  December 12-December 19, 2014 ::

Agriculture News

Food and Rural  Communities

Federal and International

SARL alumni & SARL auditor, Tom Deadrick joining SD Secretary of State office

Attorney and SARL auditor, Tom Deadrick is changing jobs again. Tom has been a state representative, Speaker of the House, has a degree in animal science, also a dental degree and a law degree!  Now, South Dakota’s Senate Ag chair, and newly elected Secretary of State, Shantel Krebs has hired him as a deputy in her office.  He will be focusing on business friendly policies for SD. 

Farmer's Xmas Tale

But animals get hungry working hour by hour and reindeer don’t run on nuclear power.   
St. Nick, he would tire without milk and a snack, but the reindeer must haul that fat elf and his pack,
So Santa must feed them to finish his task – the farmer will tell all who take time to ask.
 
’Twas the night before Christmas, and all ’cross the farm the cattle were mooing as if in alarm.   
I sprang from my bed and put on my wrap, but neglected to button my long-handles flap.
That wakes you up fast on a cold winter’s night, so I went back inside and fastened it right. 
I picked up my flashlight and rifle, what’s more, and fully awake again stepped out the door.   
Visions of wrong-doers ran through my mind, rustlers or poachers I expected to find.
The cattle were herding ’ore the hill that cold night, so I followed their lead toward a very strange light. 
When you follow a cow, as all farmers know, you don’t look ahead but directly below…   
Old habits like that are not easy to break, but I gazed straight ahead since much more was at stake.
To the top of the hill the cattle I followed, to the source of the light by the hay in the hollow. 
A whiskered fat man was re-harnessing his team – they had stolen my hay, or so it would seem.   
I angered not much for the cost of the hay, but who wants to toss bales on Christmas day?
“Hold it right there,” I yelled at the elf.  “You really should be quite ashamed of yourself. 
I planted and harvested a good fescue crop, and you pause here as if it’s a roadside rest stop.”   
Looking my way, he laughed with a roar.  He regained his composure, then ho-ho’d some more.
My rifle and threats had caused him no fear, and why do I feel such a draft from the rear?
Looking behind me expecting a trap, I saw nothing more than my unbuttoned flap.  
Ho, ho, ho, he laughed with delight.  I guess he was laughing at the ridiculous sight
Of this farmer in long johns with flashlight and rifle, ranting and raving while exposed just a trifle. 
Embarrassed and angered, I was prepared to do battle –
I pushed my way through that big herd of cattle.  
His laughter continued as we met eye-to-eye, and I was finding it hard to be mad at the guy.
We ha-ha’d and ho-ho’d for an hour together at my careless exposure, to be sure for the weather, 
But even the best of good times must soon halt, so I bade him good-bye and said “Leave without fault.”  
For the use of my pasture and consumption of hay, he kindly and generously offered to pay,
But I wouldn’t hear of it – it gave me a lift to think that just once he was given a gift. 
He picked up the reins and got on his way.  The reindeer took off with that magical sleigh,  
I made my way back to my home and my bed, and laughed to myself at the last words he said
As he steered north by the stars without aid of a map, “Merry Christmas to you – and button your flap.” 

Missouri Farm Bureau

Nebraska and Oklahoma Sue Colorado Over Marijuana Law

Two heartland states filed the first major court challenge to marijuana legalization saying that Colorado’s growing array of state-regulated recreational marijuana shops was piping marijuana into neighboring states and should be shut down.  The lawsuit was brought by attorneys general in Nebraska and Oklahoma, and asks the US Supreme Court to strike down key parts of a 2012 voter-approved measure that legalized marijuana in Colorado for adult use and created a new system of stores, taxes and regulations surrounding retail marijuana.  While marijuana remains illegal under federal law, officials have largely allowed Colorado and other states to move ahead with state-run programs allowing medical and recreational marijuana.  

NYTimes.com

Ranchers’ costly legal battle impacts North Idaho Adjudication

A costly decision by two Southern Idaho ranchers to defend their stock watering rights on federal rangeland could benefit livestock owners in Northern and Southeast Idaho. Tim Lowry and Paul Nettleton fought the BLM over overlapping claims to stock watering rights. After a decade of court battles, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled the government can’t hold rangeland water rights because it doesn’t own cattle. The government can’t file on water rights without making beneficial use of it and they couldn’t make beneficial use of it because they didn’t own a cow. Though they won the court battle, Lowry and Nettleton lost in their effort to recoup attorney fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act, which was designed to award attorney fees to individuals or small businesses that successfully sue the federal government. The Idaho Supreme Court ruled the EAJA doesn’t allow state courts to award attorney fees against the federal government when the US appeared in an adjudication under the McCarran Amendment’s waiver of sovereign immunity. The two were left with more than $1.5 million in legal bills. Their costly battle over in-stream water rights on land covered by federally administered grazing allotments is now having an impact,,the Idaho Department of Water Resources is requiring federal agencies that file claims for stock watering rights to show evidence of beneficial use.

Capital Press

Lawmaker Seeks to Scale Back Farm Property Taxes

A Republican lawmaker from southeastern Minnesota said he plans to introduce a bill to relieve pressure on farmers who are being overwhelmed by tax increases. Rep. Steve Drazkowski the incoming chairman of the House Property Tax and Local Government Finance Division, said his proposal would exclude farmland from being taxed for capital bond referendums. Instead, taxes would be limited to a farmer's homestead, which includes the house, outbuildings and 1 acre of land. 

Ag Web

Virginia nutrient trading is model for similar programs across the country

U.S. EPA, USDA and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe recognized an innovative, market-based nutrient trading program run by Virginia to improve the water quality of Chesapeake Bay.  The cost-effective program that has saved the Commonwealth more than $1 million, demonstrating an innovative means of meeting Clean Water Act stormwater requirements and Virginia state water quality goals for the Bay. The program encourages economic investment while reducing phosphorus pollution to local waterways in order to meet water quality goals for the Chesapeake Bay. It is expected similar programs will be established around the nation to provide new revenue sources for agricultural producers while reducing soil erosion and runoff.  The agency's stormwater program requires reductions of phosphorus runoff from certain types of road construction projects that can be achieved by purchasing phosphorus credits from state-certified credit banks. Credits purchased are generated by Virginia farmers in the Potomac and James River watersheds, whose farming practices have permanently reduced the amount of phosphorus flowing into those rivers and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay. The farm practices are certified by the state as "nutrient credit banks" and come solely from private investors, reducing reliance on public funds and generating a new revenue stream for participating farmers.

USDA

CA Proposes First Crop-Based Program for State's Carbon Market 

The Air Resources Board is considering a proposal to allow rice farmers to generate offsets to sell in the state's cap-and-trade market.  The proposal allows farmers to voluntarily switch from wet to dry seeding; drain their fields seven to 10 days earlier; or alternate flooding and drying throughout the growing season.  The protocol will allow rice farmers across the United States to generate offsets to sell in California's carbon market. It eventually may be used for other crops to help the state's agricultural producers' transition to practices that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. 

Public News Service  

Michigan Governor Abolishes Council Designed To Support Local Food Systems And Agricultural Diversity

Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder, through executive order, abolished a council established to support local food systems and agricultural diversity. The Michigan Food Policy Council was created in 2005 under Governor Jennifer Granholm. Granholm hoped the Council would help Michiganders cultivate a healthy, safe food supply, especially for low-income and urban households.The goal of the Council, according to the CDC, was to bring together a “diverse group of stakeholders” in order to improve Michigan’s food environment. The Council established the Local Food Policy Taskforce, which has included representatives from tribal, urban farming, food pantry, co-op, and organic organizations. The duties of the former Michigan Food Policy Council would be absorbed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Snyder feels turning duties of the Council over to the department will increase the overall effectiveness of developing a healthy and safe food supply for Michigan residents.

Inquisitor.com

WI:Rep. Bob Kulp selected as chairman of the Assembly Committee on Mining and Rural Development

Marshfield News Herald

WI: Representative Lee Nerison has been named to serve his third term as Chair of the Ag Committee

LaCrosse Tribune

Wyoming sues feds, claiming too many wild horses

Wyoming filed a federal lawsuit seeking to force the federal government to reduce the number of wild horses that roam the state. Wyoming claims the U.S. Department of Interior has failed to follow federal law in controlling wild horse populations. The Western Governors' Association passed a resolution stating that federal agencies' inability to rein in rising wild horse and burro populations is an urgent concern. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management earlier this year estimated there were 3,771 wild horses in Wyoming. In its lawsuit, Wyoming claims the horse population exceeds appropriate levels in seven herd management areas by about 475 total horses while populations are constantly increasing.

SFGate

Hawaii: Mayor veto on ag bill stands

The mayor’s veto stands.  The Kauai County Council on officially killed a bill that would have used lease rents, rather than fair market values, to help calculate real property tax assessments for biotech research land users.  The decision, by a 5-1 vote, affirmed Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.’s veto in which he expressed concerns about the bill’s impact on the agricultural industry on Kauai and the county’s ability to enforce it.  

The Garden Island

Hawaii: GMO appeal squeaks through council

The Hawaii County Council voted to appeal a federal judge’s ruling striking a law that restricts genetically modified crops on the island.  The county ordinance bans growing GMO crops in open-air conditions, with some exceptions.  U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren invalidated the county law in a Nov. 27 order, saying state law pre-empts county law on the issue. He said lawmakers intended the state to have broad oversight of agricultural issues in Hawaii. “I urge you to stand up to bullies,” said state Sen. Russell Ruderman, owner of Island Naturals food stores.  Papaya and corn already growing on the island, as well as scientific study in greenhouses and other enclosed settings, were exempted by the county ordinance. That didn’t satisfy one papaya packer, who said the mere discussion of the law has hurt his sales.  “It is very hard to understand why you take our tax money to drive us out of business,” said Eric Weine

Hawaii Tribune

NY: Neighbors fight proposed shrimp farm

Peconic neighbors fired up about the idea of a proposed shrimp farm faced off with the Southold Town board.  “Just what I need to accompany the helicopters all summer is the stench and flies of a shrimp factory,” said John Skabry, Sr., whose home is located adjacent to where a fish farm could possibly be sited. Tess and Todd Gordon of Laurel hope to launch a new, indoor, business, Celestial Shrimp Farm and if approved, it would be the first indoor shrimp farm in New York State. 

Southold Local

Farmers should talk up ag two hours a month

One of the speakers at the South Dakota AgOutlook conference says that farmers need to commit to telling the story of agriculture.  Dr. Jay Lehr says a month consists of 720 hours.“I believe that every farmer needs to commit two of those 720 hours to educating the public,” said Lehr, who spends about 120 days a year traveling North America talking to farm groups about the future of agriculture. In his experience, Lehr says people on the coasts are not antagonistic, they simply have little understanding of agriculture.

Brownfield

Agriculture needs innovation, answers in PR war

Farming today is dealing with a negative war of words where non-farm groups want to reshape agriculture according to their own visions.  California vegetable grower Bruce Taylor believes agriculture is losing in the verbal attack, but there is still time to change.

Western Farm Press

Midwest recruiting California dairies to pump up rural economy

Drought, feed costs, and urban development wear on West Coast milk producers, states like Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa are pitching themselves as a dairy heaven. Even in California, the nation’s No. 1 dairy state, many dairy farmers are listening.  For the Midwest, an influx of dairies isn’t just about milk. It’s about pumping dollars into the rural economy. 

Harvest Public Media

Farm controversy in Provincetown closes with sale of rabbits

The unpermitted rabbit farm recently discovered at 43 Race Point Road has been dispersed.    Ken Abert, who was found raising as many as 50 rabbits for their meat and fur inside two horse stalls at the property last month, removed the last of the animals in late November, he said.    The town’s animal control officer, Ruth Anne Cowing, confirmed last week that the animals are no longer housed at the property.    Their removal complies with a shut-down order by the town and subsequent eviction notice from the property owner, Ken Malone, for violating the town’s zoning bylaw against commercial livestock.   

Provincetown.wickedlocal.com

Why didn’t you think of selling dried poop on line?

This Internet thingy is proving that people really are that stupid. On Black Friday, 30,000 people ordered a box of "bullshit" online for $6, then were surprised when they received a box in the mail that contained bull shit. The company out to prove P.T. Barnum was right is Cards Against Humanity, "a fill-in-the-blank party game where players try to one up each other with phrase cards ranging from merely politically incorrect to legitimately disgusting." The packaging boasts that while the box was made in China, the poop was made in America. The stupidity, too, as some of the buyers resuckered their box of B.S. on eBay for $36.

Grazing the net

If only Trustafarians can farm, then we’re all going to go hungry

He’s one of the young farmers leading a resurgence in the industry that aims to re-establish more local food systems in the state, where Maine is leading the way. But before that really takes off, he said, the state needs to put its money where its mouth is. More specifically, more accessible funding needs to be available to the folks who grow food that Mainers put in their mouths. Maine Harvest Credit Union will start seeking about $1.4 million in grants to provide mortgages between $100,000 and $500,000, equipment loans between $5,000 and $50,000, and seasonal loans between the same amounts.
Bangor Daily News

Should the Agricultural Use of Neonicotinoids Be Banned

A team of entomology graduate students from the University of California, Davis, successfully argued at the Entomological Society of America's recent student debates that a ban on the insecticides in agriculture “will not improve pollinator health or restore populations, based on current science. Neonicotinoids are important for control of many significant agricultural and veterinary pests. Part of the solution is to develop better regulations that will protect the health of pollinators and retain the use of an important IPM tool.” UC Davis won the debate, defeating Auburn University, Alabama, and then went on to win the overall ESA student debate championship for the second consecutive year.  The team also argued successfully that neonicotinoids are not all “created equal.”  The insecticide, chemically similar to nicotine, is implicated in the mass die-off of pollinators. 

American Bee Journal

Discovery aims to fight destructive bee disease

Researchers hope their new discovery will help combat a disease killing honeybee populations around the world. The researchers have found a toxin released by the pathogen that causes American foulbrood disease -- Paenibacillus larvae -- and developed a lead-based inhibitor against it

Science Daily

Citrus Still an Economic Engine for Florida

The impact of the Florida citrus industry on the state's economy remained stable, down just 0.7 % over five years, despite an 18 % loss in jobs during that period, primarily because of rapidly declining production attributed to citrus greening disease.  Florida citrus generated $10 billion in economic impact during 2012-13.

The Ledger

Why we gave up free range; Wild duck, captive falcon infected with bird flu in Washington

Officials say a wild duck and a captive falcon in Whatcom County in northwest Washington state were infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza, similar to the virus killing thousands of chickens and turkeys in British Columbia. The H5N2 virus, which has struck 10 B.C. poultry farms, was found in a northern pintail duck. A separate highly contagious avian influenza strain, H5N8, was found in a gryfalcon, which died after eating a hunter-killed wild duck.

Capital Press

Post GMO Vote

Things got very heated over the controversial genetically modified organisms ballot initiative this election and sadly many of the predictions made have been realized.  The first is that the issue would not be settled by the election. It was widely recognized that lawsuits would be filed and this has occurred on both sides. As expected, the county has been named and is dealing with the legal ramifications, which cost all residents more. The negative sentiments once centered on the GMO issue are not only continuing but escalating. Further, efforts are now aimed at hurting Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., our last remaining sugar plantation in Hawaii and large Maui employer. These sad forecasts have become disheartening realities that seek to change our way of life.  And, while proponents of the negative movement talk about peaceful demonstrations, the language and symbolism used in their propaganda do not come across as peaceful, with images of raised fists, attacks on industries and leaders, and messaging that encourages people to roar against government.  To have such negativity circulating in our own community is bad enough, however these messages have been spread far and wide, across the globe, with social media posts that showcase a character and intention that is in conflict with the aloha spirit that we are widely recognized for. Such efforts have tarnished and are continuing to tarnish the beauty of Maui, one of the key things the movement says it seeks to protect.

Maui News

Corn Price Strength Continues

March 2015 corn futures traded to a high of $4.115 on December 15, the highest level since July 10 and $0.80 above the low reached on October 1. A number of factors have contributed to the strength in corn prices, first, the USDA's October and November production forecasts were well below the expectation of nearly 15 billion bushels that was being widely discussed in early October. A second supportive factor comes from prospects for corn consumption that have improved modestly since September. The USDA now projects 2014-15 marketing year corn consumption at 13.67 billion bushels, 65 million bushels above the September projection. The recent pace of consumption in some categories, however, has been above the average rate projected for the year. That pace has contributed to the post-harvest strength in both futures prices and basis levels.

Farmdocdaily.illinois.edu

State says manure spreading not cause of Lake Erie algae

A citizens environmental group is raising a stink over the large Hudson Dairy farm's manure spraying on vacant croplands, worried nutrients may make their way into nearby streams and western Lake Erie. But the farm's operators, as well as the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, say they are making hay over a moot issue. The farm is regulated and the farm's individual permit prohibits manure application to frozen or snow-covered ground, but the ground was unfrozen at the time of the application.

Detroit Free Press

Sow's milk has potential to deliver pain medicine to piglets

Veterinary researchers at Iowa State University have devised a novel means of delivering pain medication to piglets through the milk of the mother sow as the piglets nurse. It's a proof-of-concept study that could help pork producers reduce the stress and pain experienced by piglets that are castrated or have their tails removed without the need to inject each piglet with medicine. Hans Coetzee, a professor of veterinary diagnostic said consumers are concerned about pain management during routine animal husbandry procedures. The results of the year-long study indicate that piglets that receive the pain medication through the milk of a medicated sow experience less stress following castration and tail docking than piglets nursed on sows that didn't receive the medication.

Feedstuffs

New Investigation Unit Aims to Stop Cattle Theft in Kansas

Kansas Department of Agriculture along with the Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt are increasing the state's efforts to combat cattle theft.  Schmidt's office has formed a new Livestock/Brand Investigation Unit within the office's consumer protection division. Record cattle prices have led to increases in cattle thefts. The new unit will respond to requests from local law enforcement agencies for help in investigations.

Nebraska.tv

Employing agriculture: How the Midwest farm and food sector relies on immigrant labor

The agriculture sector is already hurting from the lack of immigration reforms and will continue to be affected by increased enforcement—already at record levels under the Obama administration—without Congress passing new legislation to address the inconsistencies and flaws of the system. These include;the Midwest has been under-represented in US immigration policy discussions related to agriculture. Definitions of STEM degrees eligible for special provisions under the House SKILLS Visa Act do not  appear to include agricultural disciplines. Labor needs for year-round animal care in the  region differ from seasonal crop labor demand in  other states Many Midwestern agricultural jobs are in  hard-to-access rural areas, making it harder to  attract workers. Although there is broad support for E-Verify, support hinges on the creation of guest worker visas to protect farmers who cannot function without this  important labor force. 
Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Cow Export Faces a Pinch

Cattle hauler Preston Newcomer found lucrative work in recent years moving cows from a quarantine center in Pennsylvania to the Port of Wilmington, Del., for export on floating feedlots to countries such as Russia and Turkey. But after a string of banner years, U.S. cattle exports have fallen by a third this year. Wilmington’s port has seen an even sharper drop: It expects to end 2014 having moved 24,000 head of cattle, half the 49,000 it averaged each of the three prior years. Many of the cows originate in states such as Minnesota, Nebraska and Idaho, but the effects of the decrease have reverberated throughout the mid-Atlantic region and the supply chain beyond because Wilmington exports more cattle than any other U.S. seaport.

Wall Street Journal

Confusion about GMOs & hormones in milk and meat leads to advocacy moment

In visiting with her professor about her chosen topic, Kaley was told that although her teacher didn’t know much about GMOs, she refused to feed her daughter “GMO-milk” because the “hormones would cause her to reach early onset puberty.” Wait, what? Here was a college-level professor mixing up one misconception about food with another. Somehow she had convinced herself that milk and meat could be genetically modified and that GMO crops contained hormones. Confused? I sure was when Kaley called me to tell me about it, and her essay ended up being a basic explanation of GMO crops as well as a lesson in the naturally occurring hormones in meat and milk

BEEF

The anti-antibiotics argument

Industry pumps a lot of time and resources into pushing back against activists who insist producers must stop using sub-therapeutic antibiotics. But is the strategy on target?  Let’s see? What would make a good topic for a column aimed at generating controversy? Assuming, of course, that controversy “sells.”  Which it does, by the way.  I’d argue that few issues would fit that model better than antibiotics. That’s because it’s emotional, it affects nearly everyone (at least indirectly) and there’s enough legitimate uncertainty about the nature and extent of the threat to generate concern among both ends of the public opinion spectrum: well-educated people who must be swayed with argumentation and low-information consumers who accept the activist message that antibiotics are being abused, that they’re unnecessary in animal agriculture and that society is in danger thanks to the impact of antibiotic resistance among human microbial pathogens.   Talking about how rigorous inspector are about monitoring antibiotic use is truly a PR dead end. 

Drovers

Reshaping the horse through millennia: Sequencing reveals genes selected by humans in domestication

Whole genome sequencing of modern and ancient horses unveils the genes that have been selected by humans in the process of domestication through the last 5,500 years, but also reveals the cost of this domestication. An international research group reports that a significant part of the genetic variation in modern domesticated horses could be attributed to interbreeding with the descendants of a now extinct population of wild horses. This population was distinct from the only surviving wild horse population.

Science Daily

Sanofi buys two equine health products from Bayer

Sanofi said that Merial, its animal health unit, had reached an agreement with Bayer HealthCare to buy two Bayer equine health products for an undisclosed amount.  Legend/Hyonate is an injectable solution that treats noninfectious joint dysfunction while Marquis Antiprotozoal Oral Paste is the first FDA-approved treatment for equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM).

The Economic Times

Deere to Sell Crop Insurance Unit to Farmers Mutual Hail

Bloomberg

Syngenta drops lawsuit against Bunge over biotech Viptera corn

With expectations rising that China will soon approve imports of a genetically modified corn variety developed by Syngenta AG, the seed maker dropped a lawsuit against Bunge North America over the agribusiness company's refusal to handle the controversial grain, court documents show.  The settlement clears up a long-running legal dispute over Syngenta's genetically modified Agrisure Viptera corn and probably precedes an eventual decision by Bunge to begin accepting the grain, also known as MIR 162, as the China market opens up. Bunge and Syngenta agreed to dismiss the litigation over Viptera corn without paying any fees or costs to each other.  Syngenta said it expected to win Chinese government approval soon for Viptera corn imports.

Reuters

Washington’s colleges offer to freeze tuition, but only if they get more state funding

Washington’s public four-year colleges and universities would agree to freeze tuition for another two years if the state Legislature increases college funding by 16%,

Seattle Times

Redistributing North Carolina’s sales tax revenues will be on Legislature's agenda.

A redistribution of local sales tax revenue to benefit poor counties is on the agenda for legislative leadership. Money raised from local sales taxes largely benefits counties that have shopping centers or are tourist meccas because most of the revenue, generally 75 %, goes back to the counties where goods are sold. 25 % is distributed among the counties based on population.

The Times News

Georgia leaders lay groundwork for transportation overhaul

Georgia Republicans are laying the groundwork for what could be a monumental effort to raise new revenue to fund transportation improvements, possibly by hiking taxes or imposing new fees. In private gatherings and at public conferences, GOP politicians and their allies talk of the need to raise $1 billion in new revenue each year to maintain and improve the existing network of highways, roads and bridges. A larger annual infusion, they say, could speed along more projects on the state’s wish list.

Atlanta Journal Constitution

Concord Votes to Approve USDA Poultry Processor

The saga of the Fournier Foods major site plan application came to a conclusion last night as the Concord Planning Board moved to approve the proposal. Fournier Foods is planning on building a 5,500-square-foot USDA inspected facility that would enable New Hampshire’s poultry meat industry to grow. Fournier Foods plans on operating around the clock with three shifts, with the capability of processing 6,000 birds a day.  The ability to have this many USDA certified birds processed in one day opens up many possibilities for poultry producers around the state. There were about 30 people in attendance at last night’s meeting however, no public comments were taken. Past meetings generated numerous comments from East Concord residents in opposition, with their main concern being odor.  Planning Board Chair Gerry Drypolcher pointed out there are no grounds to deny the application and doing so would put the City at risk of litigation.

NHFarm Bureau

Maine to gain two poultry processing plants

Maine producers of livestock and poultry regularly grumble about how hard it is to get their animals slaughtered and processed in a state that has only a dozen federal- or state-inspected facilities. Whether it’s pigs, cows or chickens, a date at the abattoir often has to be booked months in advance. But three new facilities inspected by the USDA- two poultry processing plants and a slaughterhouse dedicated to red meat – are slated to open in the next few months.

Portland Press Herald

VA:New meat processing facility to come to Lynchburg

Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that Seven Hills Food, LLC will revitalize and open a meat processing facility in the City of Lynchburg.  The company, a locally-sourced meat processing operation, will invest $3 million and create 43 new jobs in Lynchburg, while committing to purchase 100 % Virginia-grown beef and pork. 

Governor.Virginia.gov

November Rural Mainstreet index still weak

For the first time since May, the Rural Maintstreet has improved, but weakly, farmland prices declined for the 12th straight month.  Farm equipment sales declined for the 16th consecutive month. 

Creighton.edu

Farm Credit makes donation to Fresno State agriculture program

Five of California’s agricultural lenders will support Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences with a combined gift of nearly $300,000.American Ag Credit, CoBank, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit and Golden State Farm Credit will support the Multicultural Scholars in Agriculture program, which is created to build closer ties between the Jordan College and future agricultural leaders from Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties. The gifts from the lenders will be matched by a $200,000 Title V-Hispanic Serving Institution grant by the U.S. Department of Education. Each participating student will receive $1,500 for the 2015 spring semester. In return, they will work as mentors with ethnically-diverse high school students in rural communities across the Central Valley.

Fresno Bee

Maine drive to protect farmland exceeds initial goal

The Forecaster

Pennsylvania Land Preservation Program adds 28 farms in 2014

Pennbusinessdaily

Immigration Is Driving Broad Demographic Shifts In U.S., Report Says

Native-born Americans are making up a smaller percentage of those living in some areas of the U.S. as immigration moves to become the key factor in population growth within the next quarter-century.  Key findings include:  — The percentage of immigrants in the "gateways" of California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas, has decreased, while as a percentage of the population, they have increased in other states, including Nevada, North Carolina and Washington. Immigration is driving population growth in the Sunbelt, Pacific Northwest and Mountain states. - The portion of native-born Americans in some parts of the country has fallen. This change is mainly concentrated along a north-south axis from Montana and North Dakota to Texas.— Immigration has slowed population declines in many of those same areas in Middle America.

NPR

With Hospitals Under Stress, Tennessee’s Governor Pursues Medicaid Expansion

Under mounting pressure from financially strapped hospitals, Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee proposed an alternative plan for expanding Medicaid that he said would bring health coverage to tens of thousands more poor residents of his state without following traditional Medicaid rules.  Mr. Haslam, a Republican, made clear that he still opposed President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which encourages states to expand Medicaid to everyone earning up to 138 % of the federal poverty level, or $16,105 for a single person. Nonetheless, he proposed using federal Medicaid funds available under the law to cover some 200,000 low-income residents through their employer’s health insurance plan or the state’s Medicaid program.

NYTimes

Ohio legislators OK protection orders for pets

Ohio is poised to become the 28th state to extend legal protection to pets caught up in domestic violence, stalking and other situations of alleged abuse.  The Senate gave final approval and sent to Gov. John Kasich a bill to allow judges to include household or companion animals in court-ordered protection orders already available to victims of abuse. The vote was unanimous.

Columbus Dispatch

FCC Boosts Rural Broadband Speed Requirements to 10 Mbps

Broadband providers that want to get funding through the Connect America program to help bring services to more rural users must now agree to provide download speeds of at least 10 Mbps. The Federal Communications Commission has raised minimum download speeds to 10 Mbps for any broadband companies that want to get funds from the government's 4-year-old Connect America program to install and maintain broadband services in rural US.
Eweek.com

Biotech Seed Makers Try to Defuse Trade Uncertainties

The U.S. agricultural industry is crafting a framework for launching new biotech seeds in an attempt to avoid the types of trade disruptions blamed for hundreds of millions of dollars in losses over the past year. Groups representing seed companies, grain traders and farmers aim to agree next year on a set of practices that could help U.S. farmers plant new genetically modified crop varieties while steering those harvests away from countries that have yet to approve the crops for imports, officials said.

Wall Street Journal

Republican Governors Push to Reshape Welfare Programs

Republican governors are pushing to reshape social-welfare programs with drug testing or other requirements, arguing that the new rules better prepare recipients for employment and assure taxpayers that the benefit money is well spent .Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, fresh off his re-election, said he would propose his state join several others in mandating drug screening for people seeking nutrition or cash assistance. Utah Republicans want to require that certain residents allow the state to assist them in finding a job if they want to collect benefits through Medicaid, the health-care program for low-income and disabled Americans. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is proposing Medicaid recipients kick in at least a few dollars a month as a condition for receiving benefits. Critics say the new welfare requirements, particularly drug screening, unfairly target low-income people and are aimed at cutting recipients off the benefit rolls. Many of the efforts have run into resistance from the Obama administration, though federal courts have also limited the state push. Still, the efforts by Republican-led states are challenging the political and legal boundaries that govern the way government provides assistance to the poor and provide another example of how GOP control of state governments, which grew after the midterm elections, is affecting policy.

Wall Street Journal

Owners of Chemical Firm Charged in Elk River Spill in West Virginia

A federal grand jury indicted four owners and operators of the company whose toxic chemical spill tainted a West Virginia river in January, forcing a prolonged cutoff of drinking water to nearly 300,000 residents in and around Charleston.

NYTimes

Understanding Connections Between Rural Communities and Family Well-Being A Study of Hampton, Iowa

This study explores the role of “place” in shaping rural residents’—and in particular low-income residents’— futures. The analysis draws from interviews with residents and community key informants in Hampton, Iowa. From 2000 to 2010, Hampton’s population grew by 5.8 %, a rate that exceeded the overall growth rate in Iowa. Much of the growth was driven by Hispanic population gains. Hampton’s Hispanic population doubled in this period, increasing from 463 in 2000 to 958 in 2010. About one in five residents of Hampton and nearly one in three schoolchildren are of Hispanic descent. The poverty rate (12.3 %) is slightly above the state average; more than half (54.4 %) of the children in the Hampton− Dumont schools receive free or reduced-price meals. Life stories provide a glimpse of how a set of opportunities and barriers intersect with the experience of low- income families in rural settings, including: (1) limited access to and support for postsecondary education, (2) a weakened labor market, and (3) a lack of specialized community-based programs for those with disabilities.

Carsey School of Public Policy

Pumps dropped from Delta water tunnel plan

The massive water diversion tunnels proposed in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta have undergone another major design change aimed at appeasing local residents: The three intakes planned on the Sacramento River will no longer require pumps.  The project, known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, has been in the works for eight years and is estimated to cost $25 billion. It calls for a pair of giant tunnels, 40 feet in diameter, that would draw water out of the Sacramento River and route it 30 miles away to existing state and federal diversion canals near Tracy.

Sacramento Bee

11 trillion gallons of rain still needed to end California drought

CNN

$90 Million Vegetable Oil Refinery Planned for Iowa

One of the largest soybean processing companies in the nation plans on building a $90 Million Dollar vegetable oil plant just south of Sergeant Bluff. Ag Processing Inc. would seek to construct a vegetable oil refinery capable of handling thirty train tank cars per day. The expansion is expected to create about 20 jobs. 

Siouxland Matters

The Montana House leaders approve simple dress code

The Montana House of Representatives will have a simple dress code after a previous stricter code drew criticism as sexist and outdated.  Republican House leaders agreed to abandon the original, strict one-page dress code that drew widespread media coverage, critical editorials and was widely ridiculed on social media.  The original code included language such as: "Women should be sensitive to skirt lengths and necklines."  Instead, Republican leaders went along with a simple, one-paragraph statement suggested by new House Minority Whip Jenny Eck, of Helena, and other Democratic leaders.  Lee Newspapers of Montana reports the new House dress code says simply that representatives and others on the House floor are asked to dress in professional business attire that is befitting the honor of the institution.

Helenair.com

Liberal state lawmakers form new group to counter growing GOP power

More than 200 state legislators, Democratic consultants, liberal donors and interest group activists gathered for the first national meeting of the State Innovation Exchange, a coalition designed to counter the impact of state-focused groups on the right, including the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council. The new organization will “advance a progressive policy and messaging agenda in the states by providing training and other policy , communications and technical support to state legislators, serving as the campaign war room and organizational hub for multi-state legislative campaigns.”

Washington Post

Flood-Causing Deluge Amounts to Just Drops in California Drought

The strong Pacific storm that left Northern California a sodden mess will not have much impact on the state’s historic drought, meteorologists said Friday.  As the storm moved south into the Los Angeles area after causing floods, mudslides, power failures and at least two deaths in the north on Thursday, water levels in the state’s two largest reservoirs, Shasta and Oroville, showed some improvement. As of midnight Thursday, according to the state’s monitoring system, Shasta was at 29 % of capacity, up from 23 % on Dec. 1, and Oroville was at 30 %, compared with 26 % at the beginning of the month. Both reservoirs are still far below historic averages for mid-December.

NYTimes

Scientists fear dolphin population die-off

News that the morbillivirus outbreak area spread from Brevard County to the Keys this week is almost a worst-case scenario, scientists say.A necropsy performed on an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin that died on Nov. 7 after washing up sick on the Bahia Honda State Park beach earlier that day returned positive Tuesday for the deadly measles-like disease that is highly contagious among sea mammals. Until now, Keys’ bottlenose dolphins were considered a “naďve population,” meaning the endemic mammals had not been exposed to the virus. Not having morbillivirus here is a good thing, but it also means that Keys dolphins do not have the antibodies in their system to fight off the disease should they become exposed. This makes the population prone to a large die-off.

Keyinfonet

Park's wild horses an experiment in birth control

Bismarck Tribune

Monkey malaria transferring to humans

"According to the textbooks there are only four species of plasmodium parasites that cause malaria in humans," says Balbir Singh, the director of the Malaria Research Center at the University of Malaysia in Sarawak. Now a fifth malaria parasite, called plasmodium knowlesi, has become the leading cause of malaria hospitalizations in Malaysian Borneo. "At some hospitals in Malaysian Borneo," Singh says, "Up to 95 %, even 100 % of the cases are actually this monkey malaria."

NPR.org

Guard digs used to protect endangered species

It sounds like the plot of a Disney movie - vulnerable critters who need to be released into the wild are at risk from foxes and other predators, so a group of fluffy dogs are sent out to protect them. But this is not fantasy. Werribee zoo is aiming to raise almost $600,000 to train specially-bred livestock guardian dogs to protect the endangered eastern barred bandicoot from predators when they are freed. The zoo wants to release some of the bandicoots, which are extinct in the wild but can be found at several public zoos across Australia, into specially selected locations across Victoria in coming years to help re-establish their populations and ensure they retain their natural behaviours. Director of wildlife science and conservation Rachel Lowry said the world-first program would see the odd couple released on a private reserve in the state's west, where the landowner will be responsible for feeding and caring for the dogs when they are not on duty. The dogs will act as a "fence", chasing foxes and feral cats away from the native critters. Ms Lowry said previous attempts to release bandicoots in the wild had failed as they had fallen victim to foxes and cats.

The Age

Food News

Most vegetarians go back to meat  

It seems becoming a vegetarian and staying a vegetarian are two very different things. A whopping 84% of vegetarians end up eating meat again, and most people shift back within a single year. Specifically, 53% of vegetarians are meat-eaters again within 12 months, while more than 30% go back to meat within three months.

Newser

Wisconsin Supreme Court will not consider raw milk case

Wisconsin dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger’s 2013 conviction for selling raw milk will be allowed to stand. Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to consider Hershberger’s appeal of his conviction for violating a state holding order

Brownfield

Survey shows Floridians have concerns about food safety, GMOs

While Floridians believe they do a fairly good job of keeping themselves safe from foodborne illnesses, they aren’t always clear about which foods, preparation techniques or cooking methods pose the biggest risks. A survey released by the University of Florida’s Public Issues in Education Center shows that the state’s residents have many concerns about food safety and genetically modified foods but want to know more. Survey respondents rated 10 public-issue topics based on their importance. The economy, health care and water were at the top of the list, deemed by respondents as most important. Food production landed just lower than housing and foreclosures and just ahead of immigration in terms of importance.

University of Florida

Bitman charges $1400 to attend Food for Tomorrow meeting

The Times Food For Tomorrow Conference has solved the mystery of how to feed 9 billion people. The host was The Times charlatan food editor, Mark Bittman, along with a guest appearance from Michael Pollan. The Times said the conference was designed to "explore how to feed a growing population of the world's poor and how to reverse poor eating habits in the developed world." Participants paid $1,400 apiece to attend the day-and-a-half meeting held at a $239 per night Marriott sponsored in part by Porsche. We're certain the world's poor are feeling grateful. Or not.

Grazing the Net

Science Denial and Today’s Food Consumer

A key takeaway from the research is how important food issues are to moms, millennials and foodies. They help define who they are as people and shape their cultural identities. Foodies, in particular, express a higher level of concern about food-related topics than any other segment. Because these issues are meaningful and relevant to each of these groups, how technical and scientific information is introduced to them is crucial. By following the approach outlined in the research, we can find new ways to encourage informed decision-making.

Center for Food Integrity

Eastern Wineries by the numbers

There are now 390 licensed wine producers in 58 of New York's 62 counties, with 9 licenses pending.  Given the SLA's expedited licensing system, those 9 might become active within a month, and -- who knows? -- another couple may begin the process.  So it's possible that we'll have 400 wineries going into 2015. Some perspective: Since January of this year, 37 new wineries have opened, and since January 2013 the number totals 55.  And none of this includes the 67 "branch offices" (remote tasting rooms of farm wineries).

PennLive

The antibiotic nightmare

This year the issue seems to be antibiotics.  The issue of antibiotic resistance has been discussed for years with animal agriculture given the blame for most of those years.  Whether or not that is the case has had little impact on the situation.  The move to market “antibiotic free” products is continuing to grow.  If you are in the poultry industry, you are most likely aware that this is a non-issue.  Federal monitoring, by USDA and FDA, of the U.S. food supply reveals few, if any, violative antibiotic residues in poultry tissues.  But do not think that helps the perception in any significant way as it does not.  Once again, we are not getting the message across with simply stating scientific evidence as we have not yet demonstrated credibility.  Last year I learned first-hand that I had more credibility as a mother and grandmother than I do as a scientist.  So, what do we do?  We must talk as individuals to the people who have similar values or experience.  One issue that we need to get ahead of is what will happen to the “sick” chickens in the case of a disease outbreak?  Will they be treated?  If so, they cannot be sold as antibiotic free according to the public’s perception.  Some companies have established programs that include both conventional and antibiotic free labels. The door is then open for a shortage of chicken. And that scares me as it leaves a gap which can be filled by an unscrupulous group to the detriment of us all. 

meatingplace

Seniors sharing in food truck craze

Dining trend now being used to deliver nutritious, subsidized meals to the needy elderly

UTSandiego.com

A new patch treatment for peanut allergy developed

CBS

Cargill says corn sweetener supplies 'limited'

Cargill Inc told customers supplies of corn sweetener are "limited" for 2015 and withdrew all outstanding offers.

Reuters

A little education goes a long way toward changing customers’ attitudes about antibiotics

What a difference a few paragraphs can make.  Back in 2008, Pfizer Animal Health (now Zoetis Inc.) conducted market research to get a better handle on consumer opinions about the use of antibiotics and other medicines for the treatment of sick farm animals. Although the study was done more than 6 years ago and was specific to beef, dairy and pork, the results still demonstrate how a small dose of education can have a big — and positive — impact on consumer perceptions.  The survey involved more than 2,100 people in the US, ages 21 to 65. All participants were initially asked a few baseline questions about livestock production, particularly about the management of sick and at-risk animals. About 40% of respondents rated their knowledge of production as very low.  The participants’ baseline confidence in safety, wholesomeness and quality was moderate. After receiving a handout on antibiotic use,  the percentage of participants giving dairy wholesomeness a score of 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale increased by 46%. Similar rankings for beef wholesomeness and safety increased by 59% and 48%, respectively, while for pork, the same ratings each increased by 63%.  Other notable changes in consumer perceptions:  • At baseline, more than 40% felt that animals receiving antibiotics should not be allowed into the food supply. After reading the narrative, 70% to 75% of participants agreed that “sick animals should be treated with antibiotics if all the practices mentioned in the description are followed.” 

Poultry Health Today

People Affected by Hunger in West African Ebola Nations Could Double

The number of people threatened by hunger in the three West African nations battling the worst Ebola outbreak in history could double to one million by March if food supplies don’t improve.  Half a million people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the epicenter of the epidemic, are facing acute food shortages because of supply disruptions caused by border closures, quarantines and hunting bans.

Wall Street Journal

While all pork is antibiotic free- Panera Bread commits to all-antibiotic-free pork

Meatingplace

American Farmers’ Newest Market? Cuba.

American farmers may soon have a new market for their products, thanks to the White House’s decision to begin normalizing relationships with Cuba.  “The new approach includes expanded trade with Cuba, which represents a relatively untapped market of 11 million people for U.S. goods, including rice and other agricultural products.  "I believe that American businesses should not be put at a disadvantage, and that increased commerce is good for Americans and for Cubans," Obama said.

Ag Web

What The Change In U.S.-Cuba Relations Might Mean For Food

It took a few hours for some Cubans to realize the magnitude of President Obama's announcement about changes in the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, according to Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez.  Why? Because they were at the market, buying fish. "It is important to also say that the news had fierce competition, like the arrival of fish to the rationed market, after years of disappearance," wrote Sanchez, who is perhaps the most celebrated dissident on the island.  As you've probably heard — or seen, if you've traveled to Cuba — food (and, at times, the lack thereof) remains one of the most striking emblems of Cuba's dysfunctional economic system. Let's just say that the agreement between Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro will probably eventually mean big changes for the food supply in Cuba.

 NPR

Congress Approves Agriculture, FDA Funding as Part of Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2015

The legislation provides $147.581 billion in both mandatory and discretionary funding.  This is an increase of nearly $2 billion over FY 2014 and $17.9 billion below the Administration’s FY 2015 request.  It includes $25 million in emergency funding for FDA work on the Ebola Response and Preparedness.  The mandatory funding in the Act is nearly $126.492 billion, of which more than $103 billion goes for food assistance programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP, previously Food Stamps) Program and the Child Nutrition Programs.  Discretionary spending will be $20.6 billion in FY 2015, $305 million below FY 2014.

Ag/FDA Blog

Comment on proposed EQIP changes

Highlights of program changes in this rule include:Requires at least 5 % of available EQIP funds be targeted for conservation practices that promote wildlife habitat; Establishes EQIP as a contributing program for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program; Increases the advanced payment from 30 % to 50 % for eligible historically underserved producers, including  beginning farmers, to help purchase material or contract services; Targets assistance to veteran farmers and ranchers including eligibility for the new 50 % advance payment and up to 90 % of the cost to implement EQIP conservation practices; Increases the payment limitation for EQIP from $300,000 to a maximum of $450,000 for benefits received during 2014-2018 and removes the option for a waiver to exceed payment limitations;    Eliminates the requirement for a program contract to remain in place for one year after the last practice has been implemented, allowing practices to be scheduled through the tenth year of a contract; Includes an option to waive the irrigation history requirement under certain conditions; Incorporates the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program functions into EQIP. 

Regulations.gov

Ag Groups Mixed on Omnibus

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the Public Lands Council over the weekend praised the Senate passage of the fiscal year 2015 omnibus appropriations bill, while the American Soybean Association and the National Association of Conservation Districts had mixed reactions. Congress is requiring the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the rule that was handed down last March regarding conservation practices that would be exempt from Clean Water Act provisions. The appropriations bill doesn't specifically block EPA from continuing to pursue the actual Clean Water Act rule revising the definition of Waters of the United States. Language prevents the Interior Department from listing the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act for the fiscal year. The bill prevents funding for the EPA to require cattle producers to obtain greenhouse gas permits for livestock and to prevent mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems. The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative was given a 3% boost in funding. But the bill makes further cuts to conservation programs on working lands such as the voluntary Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP).

DTN

Spending Bill Ends Rural School Fund

The trillion dollar spending package doesn’t include funding for rural schools that have struggled to make up shortfalls because of declines in the timber industry.  The Secure Rural Schools program provided about $270 million to 729 counties this year. But funds for the program aren’t included in the new spending package that Congress just negotiated.  Secure Rural Schools was launched in 2000, primarily to help schools defray the loss of public revenue that came from the struggling timber industry. Funds may also be used for road maintenance. Because the program primarily serves areas that had timbering, it skews toward helping rural counties.

Daily Yonder

Inside Congress's $42B tax-break package

Opponents on the left and right insist the bill is full of corporate giveaways, and even supporters acknowledge is no way to set tax policy. The current set-up allows Congress to gloss over the costs of the tax breaks, because the Congressional Budget Office assumes lawmakers won’t renew the preferences. This article details some of the tax provisions that cover teachers, contributions, local taxes, business incentives,

The Hill

U.S. spending bill includes money to fight PEDv

Buried deep within the 1,603-page annual spending package expected to be approved this week in Congress is $2 million to address the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea, a virus that has ravaged the country's hog herd. The funds, while a small fraction of the $1.01 trillion spending bill, would be used for research and surveillance.

Des Moines Register

Spending bill bans schools from serving Chinese chicken

Public schools will now be banned from from buying chicken raised in the U.S. and processed in China.

The Hill

In Final Spending Bill, Salty Food and Belching Cows Are Winners

Health insurance companies preserved their tax breaks. Farmers and ranchers were spared having to report on pollution from manure. Tourist destinations like Las Vegas benefited from a travel promotion program. Also buried were provisions that prohibit the federal government from requiring less salt in school lunches and allow schools to obtain exemptions from whole-grain requirements for pasta and tortillas. A typically arcane provision of the bill provides relief to nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, which have special tax breaks that were threatened by the Affordable Care Act. Blue Cross is not mentioned by name in the relevant section of the 2015 spending bill, titled “Modification of treatment of certain health organizations.” But the deduction in question is available only to Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans. The bill says the government cannot require farmers to report “greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems.” Nor can it require ranchers to obtain greenhouse gas permits for “methane emissions” produced by bovine flatulence or belching. The spending bill requires the E.P.A. to withdraw a new rule defining how the Clean Water Act applies to certain agricultural conservation practices. It also prevents the Army Corps of Engineers from regulating farm ponds and irrigation ditches under the Clean Water Act.

NYTimes.com

Final budget bill guts conservation funding

In total, this so-called “cromnibus” package, weighing in at 1,600 pages, authorizes $1.1 trillion in discretionary spending to fund the federal government through September 30 of next year, with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security, whose funding will need to be renegotiated in February once Republicans gain control of both houses of Congress. The cromnibus bill represents largely flat or slightly shrinking domestic social program spending levels, including overall cuts to the EPA the IRS, and the USDA.  Of the trillion dollars in newly appropriated funds for 2015, $20.6 billion (or roughly two percent) is directed to fund food, farm, and rural development programs administered by USDA and the FDA. This level is a cut of $305 million below last year’s funding. With the exception of homeland security, the bill is a real appropriations bill, not another autopilot-type continuing resolution locking in old spending patterns. The bill includes new multi-billion dollar bumped up funding packages for military spending in the Middle East, for Ebola, and assistance to reduce the flow of Central American children to the US. On the other hand, it keeps a very tight lid on domestic spending for normal government functions, and includes plenty of policy measures.

Sustainableagriculture.net

For public lands, massive protections in defense bill

The must-pass, $585-billion defense spending bill now before the Senate also includes about 70 public-lands measures. That’s the biggest package of public-lands bills since the huge omnibus act of 2009 (which designated 2 million acres of wilderness, among other things). But it’s decidedly a mixed bag – with one hand, it adds about 250,000 acres of designated wilderness, while with the other hand, it transfers 110,000 acres into private ownership. It creates half a dozen new national parks, but appropriates no extra money to run them. It gives one Indian tribe more control over land, while taking sacred sites away from another tribe. It protects hundreds of thousands of acres from mining and drilling, but tells the Bureau of Land Management to fast-track grazing and energy permits.

High Country News

EPA eyeing water quality rules

The EPAS said it plans to come up with updated water quality standards for Washington partly tied to how much fish people eat – in case the state doesn’t do it by next year.  The federal process will run parallel to the state’s own, which is currently underway, and ensures the EPA can propose a rule in a timely manner should it be necessary. Under federal law, rivers and other water bodies must be clean enough so people can safely eat fish from those waters.  The announcement puts renewed pressure on the state, which began working on a contentious rule two years ago and has missed its own deadlines. McLerran told state officials in April that the EPA would step in if the state didn’t finalize a rule by the end of 2014.  In July, Gov. Jay Inslee proposed a rule that dramatically raises the fish consumption rate to 175 grams a day to protect people who eat about a serving of fish a day. The current standard assumes people only eat about 6.5 grams of fish a day, or roughly one fillet a month.

Spokesman Review

SARL alumni introduced legislation aimed at eliminating costly regs introduced in Senate

Sen. Orrin Hatch, a longtime advocate for regulatory reform, has introduced the Searching for and Cutting Regulations That Are Unnecessarily Burdensome Act of 2014, better known as the SCRUB Act. The bill, sponsored by SARL alumni Rep. Jason Smith, advanced to the House floor following a 17-10 vote in the Judiciary Committee. The legislation would establish a bipartisan BRAC-style commission to review existing federal regulations and identify rules that should be repealed. The commission’s goal would be to reduce cumulative costs from regulations by 15 % and prioritize rules that have been in effect for more than 15 years

The Hill

Fed Register -Organic produce, perennials, wine coolers and endangered species

Tuesday’s edition of the Federal Fegister contains new rules for organic produce from the Agriculture Marketing Service, a Department of Agriculture rule for perennial flowers coming from Turkey, new test procedures for wine coolers from the Energy Department, new flood insurance suspensions from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and new animals for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to add to the threatened and endangered species lists. 

The Hill

USDA Provides Greater Protection for Fruit, Vegetable and Other Specialty Crop Growers

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that greater protection is now available from the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program for crops that traditionally have been ineligible for federal crop insurance. The new options, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, provide greater coverage for losses when natural disasters affect specialty crops such as vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, floriculture, ornamental nursery, aquaculture, turf grass, ginseng, honey, syrup, and energy crops. Previously, the program offered coverage at 55 % of the average market price for crop losses that exceed 50 % of expected production. Producers can now choose higher levels of coverage, up to 65 % of their expected production at 100 % of the average market price.

USDA

Vilsack says USDA ‘stuck’ on COOL revisions

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said it will take congressional action to revise country-of-origin labeling law. The $1 trillion spending package by the House requires USDA to recommend action on COOL, which has repeatedly been shot down by the WTO.“We’re stuck. We need congressional action,” Vilsack is quoted as saying at the Farm Journal Forum in Washington D.C. “They need to convince me they’ve got the votes to do something. They’ve been giving opportunities on a couple of occasions, but they have yet to solve the problem. They don’t try to solve the problem. They make me report back to them how they can solve the problem.

Meatingplace

Organic exemptions – funding organic or gutting checkoffs?

The USDA published a notice in the Federal Register to exempt organic producers from being required to participate in the conventional commodity check-off program assessments, a step that is viewed as a precursor to the establishment of a check-off program for organic producers. The proposed rule would also exempt organic producers from paying the portion of the assessment in federal marketing order programs designated for market promotion authority. The proposed exemption, would pertain not exclusively to farmers or handlers who work solely with organic products, but also to those who produce, process, handle and import both organic and conventional products, the Organic Trade Association said.

Congress To Nutritionists: Don't Talk About The Environment

NPR

Coalition promotes balanced nutrition guidance

As the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture finalize developing nutritional policies set to be released in 2015, a coalition of 18 food organizations called for a more balanced, practical and achievable dietary guidance. The Back to Balance Coalition was formed in response to public policy efforts occurring at the local, state and national levels to malign and restrict certain foods when both scientific research and the nutrition community say such efforts are unlikely to work.

Feedstuffs

AFIA reiterates FSMA costs trump benefits

The American Feed Industry Association submitted comments  to the FDA on the Food Safety Modernization Act's supplemental proposed animal food rules, flagging the cost as the lead concern if the rules are implemented as-is. "We recognize the inclusion of many of the industry's suggested changes by FDA to the proposed rules as they continue to reduce the cost of the implementation of the final rule. However, it is not enough," said Richard Sellers, AFIA senior vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs. The organization believes there is still language within the rule that could be confusing to industry despite its thorough attempt in its March comments to offer alternative wording and definitions. AFIA urged FDA to more closely align with the agency's medicated feed CGMPs that have been in place for more than 40 years, as there is already an understanding and excellent compliance.

AFIA

Sustainable agriculture comments on FSMA revisions

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and its member organizations led a national effort to analyze and comment on the revised proposed rules so that they: ensure local food and farms can grow and thrive; encourage farmers to use sustainable farming practices; and provide options that treat family farms fairly without unnecessary, excessive costs.“The revised rules are a significant improvement from the original proposals,” said NSAC Policy Specialist, Sophia Kruszewski,  FDA’s definition of ‘farm’ still risks inappropriately classifying farms as facilities because it defines a farm as ‘under one ownership’ and ‘in one general location.’ “This definition presents an unrealistic and incomplete understanding of how most American farms are structured,” said Kruszewski, “and places significant burdens on some of the most innovative farms that are working together to get fresh produce into local markets.  

Sustainabileagriculture.net

Obama’s Immigration Move Benefits Democrats Where It Counts

A month after President Obama’s decision to defer deportation and offer work authorization to millions of undocumented immigrants, his action not only looks like a winner, but it also seems to be a fairly promising sign for Democrats after the disastrous midterm elections. A Pew Research poll conducted last week showed that 81 % of Hispanics supported the immigration action. That large majorities of Hispanic adults support Mr. Obama’s decision isn’t at all surprising. What is more telling is the extent to which Mr. Obama’s approval rating among Hispanic voters seems to have improved. Both Pew Research and Gallup show Mr. Obama’s approval rating rising into the mid-60s, up from around 50 % earlier in November. Mr. Obama’s rebound among Hispanic voters may be a sign that the tactics that worked for the Obama campaign in 2012 might still work in 2016.

NYTimes.com

Midwest, South split new GOP seats on Senate Ag panel

Four newly elected Republican senators, including Iowa's Joni Ernst and Nebraska's Ben Sasse, will be joining the Senate Agriculture Committee for the new Congress. David Perdue of Georgia and North Carolina's Thom Tillis are the other two new GOP members, providing some geographic balance. But the committee's battles in the new Congress will be less geographically based, as they often are with farm bills, and more ideological in nature. The committee's to-do list includes reauthorizing child nutrition programs and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The new Republicans on the committee are staunch conservatives. 

Agri-pulse

USDA Details on APH Exclusion

USDA's Risk Management Agency released details regarding how the Actual Production History Yield Exclusion will work.  The APH Yield Exclusion is part of the Agricultural Act of 2014 and will be available in spring for barley, canola, corn, cotton, grain sorghum, peanuts, popcorn, rice, soybeans sunflowers and wheat.  Farmers will be able to drop their APH for crops when the average yield for the county was 50% below the average for the previous 10 consecutive crop years. Effectively, exclusion can be used for a county that generated a 75 bushel per acre yield for a year when the 10-year average topped 150 pba.  If the exclusion translates into higher average yields for a producer, then that translates into a higher premium charged as well. "The premium charged will reflect the higher effective coverage level and higher risk of loss, because of the yield exclusion option," according to RMA.  “APH Yield Exclusion will provide additional options to producers who have suffered from devastating natural disasters,” said RMA Administrator Brandon Willis. “The resources made available today will help eligible producers get the most benefit out of the new protections created in the 2014 Farm Bill.”

DTN

Senate lets Feed the Future Bill die

"The Senate did not act on the Global Food Security Act before adjourning, signaling the death of the bill. The Good Food Security Act would have ordered that U.S. food aid and agricultural development programs be coordinated for one year at the presidential level under the direction of the U.S. Agency for International Development. It was viewed as giving official statutory authorization to the Feed the Future program, which USAID launched using executive authority and which has been funded through appropriations.

Food and Ag Policy

China’s Hard Line on Biotech Burns U.S. Hay

Over the summer China began testing imports to detect the presence of hay made from a biotech alfalfa that Beijing hasn’t approved. Consequently, shipments to China have plunged since midsummer and some deliveries have been rejected. China’s actions are a sharp blow for shippers of hay, which is produced from alfalfa and other grassy plants and is the fourth-largest U.S. crop by acreage, and valued at $20 billion a year. U.S. hay prices also have fallen about 12%, in part because the reduced Chinese demand boosted domestic supplies. With Chinese dairy producers eager to feed high-protein U.S. alfalfa to cows, U.S. exports of alfalfa hay to China had jumped more than eightfold from 2009 to 2013, reaching nearly 785,000 tons, and accounted for a quarter of such exports in the first 10 months of this year.

Wall Street Journal

China approves delayed GMO imports as United States ties warm

China has approved the import of a genetically modified corn strain it blocked last year, causing market turmoil, and has given clearance to biotech soybeans that had been waiting years for clearance, in a sign of improving relations with the United States. China approved imports of American-grown Viptera corn developed by Swiss-based Syngenta, known as MIR 162, as well as shipments of biotech soybeans developed by DuPont Pioneer and Bayer CropScience.

Economic Times

China GMO Corn Approval Seen Spurring Recovery in U.S. Imports

China’s decision to lift an import ban on some genetically modified crops triggered an immediate jump in purchases of U.S. corn-based feedstock and may spur a recovery in corn shipments by the world’s second-biggest consumer. The approval may lead to a surge in grain shipments from the U.S.. China, already the biggest market for U.S. food and largest buyer of its soybeans and cotton, is seen to be relaxing curbs on corn imports as the government pushes forward with a campaign to gain public acceptance of genetically modified organisms and seeks to expand food supplies. Chinese buyers bought as much as 900,000 metric tons of a corn-based feedstock known as dried distillers grains from the U.S. as the approval neared.

Bloomberg

Energy and Renewables

Cuomo to Ban Fracking in New York State

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration announced that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State because of concerns over health risks, ending years of uncertainty over the disputed method of natural gas extraction. State officials concluded that fracking, as the method is known, could contaminate the air and water and pose inestimable dangers to public health. Mr. Cuomo had focused a great amount of attention on trying to improve the economic climate upstate, and fracking appeared to offer a way to bring new life to struggling areas atop the Marcellus Shale.

NYTimes.com

Colorado’s Inslee:Make big polluters pay for transportation projects

Gov. Jay Inslee proposes a 12-year, $12 billion transportation plan, saying fees on the state’s biggest polluters will help fund improvements. After two years of watching gas-tax increases tank in the Legislature, Gov. Jay Inslee proposed to take a new approach: Charge major polluters for the right to emit carbon.  Inslee’s plan, featuring a “cap-and-trade” system, would generate $400 million a year to cover nearly 40 % of his $12 billion, 12-year transportation improvement plan. The remainder would come from bond debt, existing gas taxes, tolls and an assortment of vehicle fees. 

Seattle Times

Falling gas prices turn consumers more bullish

U.S. consumer confidence rose in December to a near eight-year high, a sign that falling gasoline prices and expectations of a better job market could give a boost to the economy.The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index rocketed up to 93.8 this month

Daily Finance

North American energy leaders agree to data exchanges

The top energy officials in the United States, Canada and Mexico agreed to new measures to share and better integrate data on North America’s energy.  It was the first time the countries’ energy leaders met in seven years, and they pledged to continue meeting on the issues important to each nation.

The Hill

Importance of Mineral Rights and Royalty Interests for Rural Residents and Landowners

The US is unique in the world insofar as private individuals own a majority of subsurface minerals. While federal and state governments also own minerals, the market for mineral prospects includes many sellers and buyers. Many mineral owners are willing to lease acreage for exploration and experimentation with new extraction technologies. Those individuals capture a share of the proceeds if and when production occurs. Understanding the legal framework of minerals rights and royalty interests is critical to better understand the magnitude of economic gains from oil and gas royalties. The value of the change in U.S. production due to this technological change is impressive. Between 2008 and 2013, onshore oil production in the lower 48 states increased by 81%; natural gas production increased by 30% over the same time span, but began to increase before 2008. Royalties accruing locally might well have different effects than revenue that accumulates to oil and gas companies, which are often based out of state.

Choices

Dissecting Denton: How a Texas City Banned Fracking

McMullen’s group — Frack Free Denton — persuaded nearly 59 % of Denton voters to approve a fracking ban on Nov. 4. The movement had help from Earthworks, a national environmental group, but its opponents — backed by the oil and gas lobby — raised more than $700,000 to spend on mailers and television ads and a high-profile public relations and polling firm. That was more than 10 times what Frack Free Denton collected.  The town had company on Election Day. Voters in Athens, Ohio, and two California counties — three of the seven other communities that weighed in nationally — rejected the practice. 

Texas Tribune

Kansas, Nebraska attorneys general challenge EPA ethanol emissions model

The attorneys general in Kansas and Nebraska have asked a federal appeals court to block new EPA regulations they say discourage the use of ethanol by requiring states to adopt conclusions about ethanol emissions not backed by scientific facts. The lawsuit, filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by Kansas AG Derek Schmidt and Nebraska AG Jon Bruning, asks the court to reject new EPA regulations that will require states to immediately begin using the MOVES2014 model in their State Implementation Plans for controlling pollutants governed by national air quality standards. The suit argues that by implementing the MOVES2014 model without the opportunity for review and comment by the states and affected parties, the EPA forces states to measure emissions from ethanol-blended fuels in a way that incorrectly predicts higher levels of pollution. The MOVES2014 model is based on an EPA-commissioned fuel study that is designed to analyze the emissions effects of different fuel parameters, including ethanol content. The suit alleges the model artificially and unnecessarily holds other fuel parameters constant. The so-called "match-blending" methodology, the suit alleges, unfairly targets ethanol and assigns disproportionate negative emissions effects. By dictating the use of the model, EPA effectively blocks states from encouraging the use of ethanol as part of their clean air plans, the attorneys general say.

Midwest Producer

Renewable Energy Companies Use New Clout in Statehouses

Ohio became the first state to freeze a scheduled increase in the amount of electricity that must be generated by wind, solar and other renewable sources. The move gave advocates of repealing states’ mandatory green energy standards a rare victory after defeats the last two years. But the Ohio victory may have been an aberration: Green energy industries have become mainstream businesses with the political clout to match the fossil fuel industry and big electric utilities in many statehouses, and they are using that influence to defend the renewable energy standards in place in 31 states and the District of Columbia.  Green industry is creating jobs, providing lease payments to landowners and taxes for local government in many states. 

Pew Trusts

Will cheap oil kill Keystone?

Greens who want President Barack Obama to kill the Keystone XL pipeline are adding a new weapon to their arsenal of protests and lawsuits — the world’s glut of cheap oil. The same collapse in oil prices that is pumping dollars into motorists’ wallets also risks undermining the case for building the 1,179-mile pipeline in two crucial ways: It’s squeezing the western Canadian oil industry that has looked to Keystone as its most promising route to the Gulf Coast. And anti-pipeline activists hope that falling prices will make it politically safer for Obama to reject the project, despite the new Republican Congress’ pledges to put Keystone at the top of its 2015 energy agenda.

Politico

Deck Stacked Against Ag and Biofuels in Report

The Bipartisan Policy Center appears to be a bit partisan in a new report released this week on “Options for Reforming the Renewable Fuel Standard.”  The report was produced after several meetings during the year with an advisory group that consisted of 23 members, seven of which were oil companies representatives. Only five members of the group represented agriculture or advanced biofuels and biodiesel producers. The rest were a mix of academia (2), big business (4) with two of those representing Toyota, environmental groups (2), and policy organizations (3).  Both of the agriculture representatives were from the National Farmers Union. Goule says NFU has major objections to two of the policy recommendations made in the report. “The flattening of the total renewable fuel mandate at its current level going forward, but continuing to increase the three advanced categories, we have significant concerns about what that would to do ethanol and biodiesel,” he said. 

Hoosier Ag Today

Setting the record straight about ethanol and air quality

There’s a new study from the University of Minnesota making the rounds that claims ethanol may be worse for air quality than gasoline. The study is based on flawed models and disingenuous assumptions about ethanol production vs. oil production. Nonetheless, it’s generating a decent amount of media coverage.  The study’s authors cherry-pick models and adjust methodologies until they conform to what appear to be anti-ethanol viewpoints. Their work differs greatly from the work done by USDA, the DOE, the National Argonne Laboratory and other academic research institutions that all conclude ethanol is better for the air we breathe than gasoline made from oil.  
Minnesota Connerstone

Life cycle air quality impacts of transportation fuels

Our assessment of the life cycle air quality impacts on human health of 10 alternatives to conventional gasoline vehicles finds that electric vehicles powered by electricity from natural gas or wind, water, or solar power are best for improving air quality, whereas vehicles powered by corn ethanol and EVs powered by coal generated electricity are the worst.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

UM study conclusions are undermined by real world.

The paper’s assertion that increased ethanol use would cause higher emissions of ozone and PM2.5 is contradicted by EPA data from actual air sensors. Data from 222 EPA sensing sites show that ozone and PM2.5 concentrations have trended downward during the period in which the use of ethanol-blended gasoline has dramatically increased.

Minnesota Cornerstone

Montana PSC shoots down agreement for wind power project

A divided state Public Service Commission rejected NorthWestern Energy’s agreement to buy power from a new wind project at a cost lower than the utility is paying for power from hydroelectric dams purchased earlier this year.  The PSC voted 3-2 to reject an agreement between NorthWestern and Greenfield Wind, which is proposing a 25-megawatt wind-power project near Fairfield.  Under the agreement, Greenfield would have a 25-year contract to sell power to NorthWestern for about $54 per megawatt hour.  Earlier this year, the PSC approved NorthWestern’s proposal to pay $870 million to buy 11 hydroelectric dams and use that power to supply its Montana customers. The cost of that power to ratepayers is $57 to $58 per mWh.  John Pimentel, the president of Foundation Wind Power and a partner in the Greenfield project, said it plans to ask the PSC to reconsider its action. 

Billings Gazette

WTO says U.S. duties on Chinese solar panels break rules

LATimes

More AgClips

click here to view this week's More Ag Clips story summaries


Packers and processors reach all-time best for non-fatal injuries, illnesses

Tensions rise over South African anti-dumping duties on U.S. poultry

Officer ordered man to sit in hot car after finding his dog locked inside

Canadian bird flu outbreak expands; another country bans imports

30 meat, poultry executives share their enthusiasm in new video

Japan runs short of butter as dairy farms dwindle

Maui group wins ability to intervene in GMO case

GE pigs advancing study of arrhythmias

How your program yield compares to your county’s yield may matter 

While all pork is antibiotic free- Panera Bread commits to all-antibiotic-free pork

Cargill names new president of meat division

Vatican to Open Pope's Farm to Public

High Plains Aquifer continues decline

Undocumented workers and agriculture: no easy answers

Protections blocked, but sage grouse work goes on

Rubio Threatens To Unravel Obama Cuba Deal

Is Deforestation Drying Up Brazil?

Windmilling is a dying art that hangs on in Texas

Restaurants could fill gaps via families with kids: NPD study

European Court Rules Obesity Can Be a Disability

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