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Agriculture News

Food and Rural  Communities

Federal and International

Undercover duck farm video doesn’t sway authorities

An animal rights group that infiltrated one of California’s largest duck farms and shot undercover video of dead and dying birds is alleging widespread abuse. But an investigation by local authorities found no wrongdoing, just standard treatment of animals raised to become food. A team of animal experts, veterinarians and county sheriff’s deputies visited and concluded that the ranch, which houses more than 200,000 ducks, appeared to be in compliance with industry standards. “There was absolutely no reason for us to be out there,” said veterinarian David Rupiper, who was on the investigative team. “These birds are very well cared for.”


Oregon GMO task force drafts report

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber convened a task force to frame the debate over genetic engineering and issue a report to guide lawmakers during the 2015 legislative session.  After six months of discussions, the task force has now released a draft version of its report to the public.  While task force members believe there should be a “path to coexistence” among biotech, conventional and organic growers, they were divided as to whether preventing cross-pollination among such crops should be mandated by the government or conducted on a voluntary basis.  The topic of liability for cross-pollination also highlighted the members’ contrasting perspectives.  The draft report also said government policy should “clarify the interaction between state and federal law” for GMOs and define the role of state agencies in regulating biotechnology.  However, the task force did not reach consensus on what level of regulatory oversight is sufficient. 

Capital Press

Governor Cuomo Announces $17.6 Million to Protect 6,440 Acres of Farmland Across New York State

Colorado State University releases new fact sheet on gmos

Current U.S. law mandates food labeling when there is a substantial difference in the nutritional or safety characteristics of a new food. The FDA does not consider the method of genetic engineering by itself to create such a difference.  Companies may voluntarily label foods produced without genetic modification, and foods labeled USDA Organic are produced without genetic modification.

Multiple editorials on the gmo ballot initiatives in Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii and LA.

Sowing the seeds of an illogical crop ban

Last year's half-baked and unsuccessful proposal to ban genetically engineered crops in Los Angeles has not improved with time

GMO labeling is not in our best interests

North Jersey

Two Views on Measure 92: GMO label measure lacks reliability

As a nutritionist and dietitian for 30 years, I understand how important it is for food labels to be accurate and reliable so that consumers can make informed decisions about the foods they buy. That’s why I strongly oppose Ballot Measure 92.  This measure is a deeply flawed food labeling proposal that would require many food products sold in Oregon to carry misleading labels that would provide inaccurate and unreliable information to consumers.

Lawyer urges judge to invalidate Big Island GMO law

A lawyer representing a group seeking to invalidate Hawaii County's law restricting the use of genetically engineered crops is asking a judge to make the same decision he recently made for Kauai's law.

Carroll: Chipotle CEO's hypocrisy on GMOs

The Chipotle chairman and co-CEO didn't actually accuse opponents of GMO labeling of being greedy?  No one as dedicated to wealth as Ells would dare charge others with greed unless he'd lost all sense of proportion. A fellow who has pocketed so much in compensation — more than $25 million in 2013 alone — that company shareholders actually voted to oppose Chipotle's executive-compensation plan, might want to tread softly when attributing others' motives.  Ells and his equally acquisitive co-CEO have reportedly received stock awards since 2011 worth more than $250 million — and yet now he offers himself as a social conscience for consumers. Ells recently claimed opponents of labels were putting "profits ahead of consumer preferences." He adopts the clichés of a callow anti-capitalist to denounce the sort of self-serving maneuvering at which his company excels. Yes, of course food producers and agricultural outfits that oppose labeling seek to protect and enhance their economic interest — just as Chipotle, Whole Foods and supporters of labeling are pushing their institutional interests. Bowing to consumer preferences is a sensible strategy for restaurants like Chipotle and stores like Whole Foods, but is it a good reason for government to adopt a labeling mandate when such labels traditionally have been reserved for safety, health and nutrition information?  It's also possible, of course, that a labeling standard will push food producers and processors away from GMO crops — which is what opponents fear and labeling backers seek — and thus hurt the likes of Colorado's sugar beet farmers.  But who knows, maybe Ells can give the farmers a lecture on responsible agriculture as they struggle to cope with rising costs.

Denver Post

Landmark Agriculture Bill Now Law in Virginia

The bill, HB 268 (SB 51), protects certain activities at agricultural operations from local regulation. The new law protects customary activities at agricultural operations from local bans in the absence of substantial impacts on public welfare. It also prohibits localities from requiring a special-use permit for a host of farm-related activities that are specified in the bill.

Farm to Consumer

Farmer’s Harassment Claim against Green Group to Get Airing

Martha Boneta says a regional conservation group has trespassed repeatedly on her small farm in Paris, Va., about an hour outside Washington, D.C.  Boneta says the group, the Piedmont Environmental Council, has attempted to drive her off the farm through overzealous zoning enforcement, unwarranted and overly invasive inspections and an IRS audit she says was instigated by one of its board members.  The group argues that it has done nothing more than perform its duty to enforce a legal agreement with Boneta and decries the failure “to see eye-to-eye” with Boneta on how to do so. Boneta purchased land with a conservation easement.

The Daily Signal

Missouri to start taking hemp production applications

The Agriculture Department will begin taking applications from growers on Nov. 3. The application window will be open for 30 days after which the department expects to grant two licenses.  Under the department’s rules, the approved growers must be nonprofits and cannot be located within 2,000 feet of a school, daycare facility or residential area. The approved growers will also be required to notify law enforcement about its production plans.  The new law legalizes and strictly regulates the production of oils high in cannabidiol, or CBD, but low in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical that causes the intoxication experienced from marijuana use.

St Louis Post Dispatch

Legislatively called crisis group addresses Idaho grain losses

A crisis response group convened by Idaho's Speaker of the House, Rep Scott Bedke, is trying to find ways to help growers in Southern Idaho deal with the huge losses in wheat and barley production they suffered this year due to unusually heavy August and September rains.

Capital Press

Citizen-initiated law ends chance that referenda could ban wolf (or other) hunting in Michigan

Eight years ago, a statewide ballot initiative ended the hunting of mourning doves in Michigan. Ever since then, Matt Evans of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs notes, sportsmen in the state have been concerned about what animal hunts might be banned next. They turned those concerns into action this year, resulting in legislative enactment this summer of a citizen-initiated statute. The law requires future decisions on hunting, fishing and trapping of different species to be controlled by the seven-member, governor-appointed Natural Resources Commission.


Maine Town Votes to Ban Lawn Pesticides on Public and Private Property, Becoming Second to Act in Last Year

In another key victory for public health and the environment, last month residents in the small ocean-side community of Ogunquit, Maine (pop:~1,400) voted to become the first town in the state to prohibit the use of pesticides on public and private property for turf, landscape, and outdoor pest management activities. Ogunquit’s ordinance makes the town the second local jurisdiction in the United States in the last year to ban pesticides on both public and private property, and the first to be passed by popular vote, 206 to 172. The ordinance was modeled in large part on the first private/public pesticide ban in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Beyond Pesticides

What will become of Alaska's agriculture?

Do we want more agriculture? And who do we want doing the farming and ranching — local startups, experienced farmers, big corporations? Should we be sitting back and watching things happen or should Alaskans attempt to direct the growth?

New Drone Coalition Hopes to Pave the Way to Commercial Use

Eight technology companies have announced they have formed the Small UAV Coalition in an effort to push for a regulatory environment that will support safe, reliable and timely operation of small UAVs for commercial and civil use in the U.S. and abroad. Safe commercial, philanthropic and civil use of small UAVs will keep the U.S. technologically competitive in key markets, including agriculture.

Farm of the Future

Flooded Manitoba cattle ranchers downsizing to hang on

Some leaving industry due to impact of 2 floods in 4 years. Provincial agriculture minister Ron Kostyshyn said the province is working on recovery programs with the federal government, looking at a controlled outlet out of the lake, and is also putting $50,000 towards a watershed study.

New guidelines aim to prevent bee die-offs

The Almond Board of California unveiled best-management practices that suggests growers consult with beekeepers while planning their insecticide and fungicide applications.  The document urges growers to avoid insecticide applications during bloom until more is known about how they affect developing bees in the hive, and to avoid tank-mixing insecticides with fungicides.  If fungicides are needed, they should be applied in the late afternoon or evening when the bees aren’t present.

Capital Press

The Race Is On To Find Organic Pesticides

Seed and pesticide makers like BASF, DuPont Co. , Bayer AG and Monsanto  are investing heavily to develop new products incorporating organisms like bacteria and tiny fungi, which executives say can help corn, soybean and other plants fend off pests and grow faster.

Wall Street Journal

Young farmers encounter lack of money, available land

“At the farmers market, it’s hard because no one sees the whole picture; they only see what’s on your table,” said Cano, who started CasaCano Farms. “Anyone who comes out here gets that we’re struggling and we’re working really hard.”  Cano and Versteeg, both 23, typify the new breed of farmer: young, college-educated, passionate and determined.  The number of young farmers like them is growing – alongside consumer demand for locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs and meats. Also growing is the average age of the American farmer, fueling forecasts of an 8 % downturn in the agricultural workforce by 2018.  While more young people are farming now than they were nearly a decade ago, numbers are nowhere near as high as they were in the early 1980s. And multiple barriers face those wanting to break into the business.

Town challenges horse farm's claim to agricultural tax break

Attorneys for the Town of Huntington are challenging assertions that an Asharoken horse farm is an agricultural business, suggesting it is a hobby the property owner is trying to use to land a tax break.  An attorney for the town said despite roughly 35 sporting events in the past five years that were supposed to help sell the farm's horses, sales have been slow.

In the future farmers’ fiercest taskmaster may be consumer expectations

For a long time it was easy for farmers to subconsciously consider their “consumer” to be the elevator that bought their grain or the buyer at the local auction barn who purchased their steer. But as the value chain has become more vertically integrated so have the expectations.  As a result, consumers, who are concerned about the release of nitrogen and phosphorus into the nation’s waterways, have made their wishes known to retail establishments who in turn have communicated these concerns to their suppliers all the way back through the supply chain to the producer of the original inputs—farmers, growers, and ranchers.  With an increasing amount of disposable income, many consumers are no longer simply focused on getting the most food for the fewest dollars. They want to know where their food comes from. They want to know how it was produced. The concerns they have about the environment is reflected in the purchases they make.  What does all this mean to those of us in the agricultural sector? It may mean that the toughest standards are not going to come from the EPA or from the FDA. The toughest standards may come about through the value chain that directly reflects consumer wants and expectations.

Ag Policy

Urban farm bill could help transform South LA’s empty lots

Council members Curren Price and Felipe Fuentes recently introduced a motion to provide a property tax adjustment for private landowners who convert their vacant plots into “urban farms,” which the city council defines as commercial ventures that sell food.

South LA

Dairy Co-ops Push Forward with Mandatory FARM Program Participation

Leading dairy processors are on their way to 100% participation in the animal care program. Nationally, more than 12,000 farms have already gone through at least Phase 1 of the FARM program, which represents more than a fourth of U.S. dairy farms. Land O Lakes, Foremost Farms, Northwest Dairy Association, United Dairyman of Arizona already require participation. Later this month, the National Milk Producers Federation Board of Directors will take up the issue of mandatory participation

AG Web

Get Used to High Milk Production

On a state-by-state basis, top producers are getting healthier by the month. With exception of Illinois, every other state in the top 23 expanded production. Colorado led the way with +10.8% growth followed by Texas at +9.6% and Kansas +9.2%, Utah +7.8% and Michigan at +6.9%. It is no surprise these five states are also leaders in herd growth. We believe the conditions are ripe for very strong US milk production through the remainder of the year. With aggregate Nov-Dec ’13 production declining versus the prior year, we could be on the verge of 5% year-over-year milk production growth during the final two months of 2014, levels not seen since Jan-Mar 2006.

Dairy Business Today

Cropp: “There is Considerable Risk with Milk Prices in 2015”

Higher U.S. milk production, slowing of dairy exports and higher dairy imports are pushing down milk prices.

Dairy Business

Ban on GMO plants advances at L.A. City Hall

Citing environmental and health concerns, a panel of Los Angeles lawmakers threw their support behind a citywide ban on growing genetically modified crops. The ban would be "largely symbolic," said Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who co-authored the proposal, because there's limited agriculture in the city. But it would send a "clear signal that in Los Angeles we want to return to GMO-free food," he said


The Bleeding of Aloha: Ugliness of the Anti-GMO Movement in Hawaii

The last 2 years have been very tumultuous here in our state in regards to biotechnology.  Hawaii as a state has been the subject of the heavy hand of activism based in fear and misinformation and it hasn’t been pretty at all. Last year, in the county of Kauai, the notorious anti-GMO bill was passed and invalidated in federal court.  It did not stop the mainland based SHAKA Movement managed to garner some 9000 signatures to get an anti-GMO, anti-ag bill placed on the ballot.  Despite many of the anti-GMO candidates losing in the primary election, groups like the Center for Food Safety are still working on stirring the pot in this county.  Voters will get to decide on the issue on November 4th.  This has activated the activists into some interesting behaviors in our the community there. 

Hawaii Free Press

Flying-Cam Commercial UAS Exemption Finally Approved

The FAA posted an exemption grant for Flying-Cam Inc. to use unmanned aerial systems on closed sets.  Flying-Cam was one of seven aerial video and photography companies who filed nearly identical Section 333 exemption petitions on 28 May this year but was the last to receive approval. The grant also limits each UAS flight to 30 minutes or to 25 % battery power, whichever comes first.  The other six companies received approval late last month and since the announcement, petitions for Section 333 exemptions have nearly doubled in a matter of weeks.

Cranberry farmers struggle with high supply, low prices

Capital Press

Durum premium to quadruple, say Canada officials

Canadian officials hiked their estimate for the premium that growers will receive for durum, over prices of conventional wheat, citing the squeeze on world stocks - which will fall to their tightest in 15 years.  The Canadian farm ministry, AAFC, lifted by Can$20 to Can$255-285 a tonne its forecast for the price that domestic farmers will receive for their newly-harvested durum crop.  The upgrade implies a premium of some Can$65 a tonne over the price of common wheat, which was seen gaining farmers Can$190-220 a tonne, an estimate downgraded by Can$10 at both ends of the range.  Last season, the durum premium was Can$15 a tonne, and in 2012-13 just Can$5 a tonne


No-till farming alone could cut yields

To resolve the argument, an international team examined data from 610 studies in a total of 63 countries. The researchers found that, when viewed as a global average, no-till reduced yields compared with conventional ploughing practices.  “This raises some important questions about whether conservation agriculture has the capacity to play a major role in the sustainable intensification of agriculture, as is commonly assumed,” Cameron Pittelkow at the University of California, Davis. “We found if one is implementing conservation agriculture, it is critical to also adopt the principles of crop rotation and residue retention to minimize yield reductions. Using no-till alone reduced crop yields by 9.9%, whereas together with crop rotation and residue retention, the technique lowered yields by 2.5%.  The exception to the yield-reduction trend was in dry-land climates without irrigation where, when used in combination with the other two conservation agriculture measures, no-till produced yields 7.3% higher than conventional farming.

Emvironmental Research Web

Scientists Say Biotechnology Needed to Best Deal with Rust, Wheat Productivity

Wheat scientists and breeders at the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue pushed for more research programs for the crop and stressed that genetic engineering will be needed to grow more wheat in the future. Wheat scientists and breeders at the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue stressed that genetic engineering will be needed to grow more wheat in the future.   Panel members focused on an issue Borlaug rarely faced: Having a technology -- genetic engineering -- that they know can help prevent famine but that is unacceptable in much of the world due to fear. 


Chobani's search for non-GMO fed herds could require 225,000 cows

Green America, a group with articles like,“Replacing Dairy in Your Diet” on their blog, pressured the yogurt company over the summer to “keep it ‘real’” when touting their products’ were made from all-natural ingredients. Today, as Chobani notes, 90% of the cows in this country are fed with biotech-derived feed. Green America applauded when Chobani lost shelf space in December 2013, as Whole Foods Market removed the brand from stores in favor of finding GMO-free yogurt products. But last week. the two announced a partnership to explore evolution of the U.S. milk supply.  The announcement coincided with Chobani’s notice of expansion into the organic market. Separately, the two organizations said they will work to convert Chobani's and America’s milk supply to one from cows that are not fed genetically modified feeds.    Both numbers could be hard to reach, because only 2.264 billion pounds of fluid milk sold in the U.S. was organic in 2013, or about 2.5 billion pounds less than Chobani would need at full capacity. Meanwhile, ERS reports that biotech corn and soybeans accounted for 93 and 94 % of acreage in 2014, respectively.  Unless Chobani can obtain a little more than 200% of the current organic fluid milk supply for its own products, it will need to find nearly 225,000 conventional dairy cows on non-biotech feeds to achieve its goal.

Video shows use of 4R Best Management Practices for fertilizer

Biodegradable Test show Wool is the Winner

In June, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, hosted a very special experiment to demonstrate just how quickly wool can biodegrade in soil. Two sweaters were buried side by side in a flowerbed, they looked the exactly same but there was one crucial difference. One was a pure merino wool sweater, the other was a synthetic look-a-like, the Campaign for Wool went back to the burial site to see what had happened to each over the four month period they spent in the ground. The sweaters look very different now.  The merino wool sweater is on its way to complete decomposition and is being held together by the wire frame. The synthetic sweater, however, is virtually un-touched by its time in the ground.  

Campaign for Wool

The Future of Farming and Rise of Biotechnology

Placing limits on biotechnology restricts the advancements that Borlaug pioneered and only hurts the world’s starving population. Interest groups will continue to combat the use and production of GMOs, but science will continue to dominate the industry. Through advanced research and new farming methods, hunger can be fought and conquered.

Editorial: Farmers need to listen as consumers speak

The solution to the interstate egg war won’t be found through litigation. The solution lies in uniform, national standards of the kind agreed to three years ago by the Humane Society of the United States and United Egg Producers, a cooperative of farmers who own 95 % of the nation’s egg-laying chickens.

Des Moines Register

Toward a More Resilient Agriculture

Developing resilient agriculture implies an understanding of which agricultural practices need to be persistent, when adaptation is needed, and maybe most important, how to build transformative capacity when fundamental changes are required. To encourage an agriculture that is both efficient and resilient, radically new approaches to agricultural development and bold experimentation are needed. These approaches must build on a diversity of solutions operating at scales from the farm to the planet. Practices that are inefficient and do not provide opportunities for innovation are maladaptive and should be discontinued. Policies should instead stress learning and innovation toward an agriculture that serves human needs while decreasing the adverse effects of agriculture on biodiversity, water resources and quality, harmful contaminants, and climate.


Pork industry launches new common audit

The overarching goal of the common audit process is to provide consumers greater assurance of the care taken by farmers and pork processors to improve animal well-being and food safety. The concept of a common audit was first introduced at the 2013 National Pork Industry Forum and reintroduced last June at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, where a coalition of packers and pork producers explained how the audit is a credible and affordable solution for improving animal well-being.

Pork Network

BLOG: Flawed petition asks Starbucks to only buy ‘cage-free’ eggs

Terrence O'Keefe: A petition posted by the humane league on the website calling for Starbucks to source only eggs from cage-free hens shows a lack of understanding of how hens are housed in the U.S. and in Europe. At first I was just going to laugh this online petition off, but then I realized that the millions of people who could be persuaded to shell out $5 for a cup of bitter coffee would probably include a fair number of folks who would believe the misstatements in the petition.

Watt Agnet

Carnivore’s Dilemma, National Geographic takes on beef production

Would Americans help feed the world if they ate less beef? The argument that it’s wasteful to feed grain to animals, especially cattle has been around at least since Diet for a Small Planet in 1971. The portion of the U.S. grain harvest consumed by all animals, 81 % then, has plummeted to 42 % today, as yields have soared and more grain has been converted to ethanol. Ethanol now consumes 36 % of the available grain, beef cattle only about 10 percent. Still, you might think that if Americans ate less beef, more grain would become available for hungry people in poor countries. There’s little evidence that would happen in the world we actually live in. Researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute have projected what would happen if the entire developed world were to cut its consumption of all meat by half—a radical change. “The impact on food security in developing countries is minimal,” says Mark Rosegrant of IFPRI. Prices for corn and sorghum drop, which helps a bit in Africa, but globally the key food grains are wheat and rice. If Americans eat less beef, corn farmers in Iowa won’t export wheat and rice to Africa and Asia. If the world abstained entirely from beef, emissions would drop by less than 6 percent, because more than a third of them come from the fertilizer and fossil fuels used in raising and shipping feed grain.

National Geographic

“Organic” is a misleading label. Here’s how technology could create something better

Confusion starts at the top. The USDA’s first claim about organic producers is that they “preserve natural resources and biodiversity.” Other common definitions use words like “enhancing,” “ensuring,” and “harmonizing,” as if these were guarantees. Unfortunately, the USDA doesn’t measure anything to support these claims. In fact, organic certification tells you very little about what was done in the production of the food. It’s defined, instead, by what was not done: specifically, that synthetic chemical compounds were (more or less) not used in the production of the food. Many of the synthetic compounds most widely used in agriculture are merely artificial versions of naturally occurring chemicals. Banning the synthetic forms doesn’t make the product any different or healthier, and in some cases it can have knock-on effects you might not expect. But there’s a better way: Use modern technology to “know your farmer, know your food,” and then make your own decisions. Transparency in agriculture is now common at a previously impossible scale and level of detail.


Potash Corp. Expects Steady Fertilizer Demand for 2015

Wall Street Journal

Syngenta lawsuit against Bunge over GMO corn revived on appeal

A federal appeals court has opened the door for Syngenta Seeds to revive a lawsuit it brought against Bunge North America in 2011 over the agribusiness company's refusal of a type of genetically modified corn.


Syngenta Faces More Suits Over Viptera Corn Seeds

U.S. farmers in 11 states have sued Syngenta in federal courts during the past few weeks, alleging losses they say arose from the Swiss seed-and-chemical company’s move to sell biotech seeds before the corn was approved by Chinese authorities for import there. China’s rejections of U.S. corn shipments found to contain the Syngenta strain starting last November allegedly depressed overall market prices for the grain, driving more than $1 billion in losses for U.S. farmers, according to documents filed in the lawsuits. Syngenta officials said the cases have no merit, and that it has been transparent about the approval process for the GMO corn in question, known as Viptera.

Wall Street Journal

Legislators in Midwest protest proposed U.S. law limiting state regulation of ballast water

Close to 50 state lawmakers from the Great Lakes region have signed a letter expressing “strong opposition” to federal legislation that would greatly limit the role of states in regulating the discharge of ballast water from transoceanic vessels. Those discharges have long been a concern of states because of their role in introducing and spreading invasive species in the Great Lakes and other waterways in the region. Zebra mussels and round gobies are among the notable, or notorious, examples of such species thought to have reached this region via oceangoing vessels — with high ecological and economic costs.

CSG Midwest

Wisconsin: Nitrate test results highlight groundwater issues

Nearly 70 % of groundwater samples tested during a groundwater listening session showed unsafe levels of nitrates.  Nineteen samples were tested and 13 of those water samples contained nitrate levels that are considered unsafe for consumption. One sample contained more than 31 milligrams of nitrates per liter; 10 milligrams per liter or fewer is considered safe.

Stevens Point Journal

Waste Storage and Water Contamination: Lessons from WV and NC- A Webinar

In CSG South’s Southern Legislative Conference member states, the coal and chemical industries are essential to state economies. Given the importance of these industries to the region for both economic development and employment opportunities, legislators often are faced with balancing business interests with the need for environmental protection and conservation. Hazardous spills in two SLC states—West Virginia and North Carolina—have focused attention on this careful balance. This webinar will examine the spills in those two states and subsequent legislative action to offer lessons learned for other states.

CSG-Southern Legislative Conference

Our Conservation Easement on 64 Acres in VA.

A number of stories have been circulating the internet about an easement that PEC co-holds with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) on a 64 acre property in Paris, VA. We wanted to take this opportunity to present important facts which have been omitted from many of the articles that we have seen. We also wanted to be clear that issues pertaining to the conservation easement are separate from the issues this landowner has had with Fauquier County over citations for zoning violations.

Improving Safety on Rural Local and Tribal Roads

The Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Safety released the Improving Safety on Rural Local and Tribal Roads Toolkit and two user’s guides with scenarios for applying both site-specific and network-level analysis.

County unemployment rates reflect patterns established during the recession

During the 2007-09 recession, unemployment rates rose fastest in the West, South, South Atlantic, and parts of the Midwest. States most reliant on manufacturing—including Michigan, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and North Carolina—were hit especially hard. Many of the States with the smallest increases in unemployment were located in the Great Plains and had relatively high employment shares in agriculture, which was largely unaffected by the recession. Similarly, States in the West South Central region (which includes Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas) saw their unemployment rates held in check by growth in oil and gas drilling. Since 2009, unemployment rates have fallen in all states, with large improvements in a few. In general, States that experienced the largest increases in unemployment rates during the recession have seen the largest reductions in unemployment rates during the recovery. Still, most of the hardest-hit States continue to have above-average unemployment rates.


Why Plains States Did Better with Jobs

Throughout the recession and its aftermath, unemployment rates in rural Plains States counties have been lower than other rural areas. The Economic Research Service attributes the regional variation to the predominance of agriculture (which didn’t slump the way industries like manufacturing did) and higher education levels. But there’s a darker side to the lower unemployment numbers: population loss. The slow rate of jobs recovery is one of the biggest stories in rural America over the past six years.  Metro America is nearly back to pre-recession levels of employment. But job growth in nonmetro, or rural counties remains flat-lined more or less since 2010.

Daily Yonder

With Farms Fading and Urban Might Rising, Power Shifts in Iowa

Pocahontas is running out of students. Public school enrollment in this corn-blanketed county in northern Iowa has plummeted 32 % over the past decade as the population steadily shrinks. Schools have merged, classes have combined, and sports teams have consolidated. Dallas County faces a very different problem: It is running out of schools. With the population swelling, in what used to be farmland ringing Des Moines, enrollment in its largest district has doubled over the same 10 years. As soon as a gleaming new high school is completed, construction on another begins. Iowa, the quintessence of heartland America, is undergoing an economic transformation that is challenging its rural character — and, inevitably, its political order.  The scale at which people and power have shifted from its rural towns to its urban areas is emerging as a potent but unpredictable undercurrent in the excruciatingly close race, offering opportunity and risk for both sides.   Once-vibrant communities have been shattered in two waves, first by the farm crisis of the 1980s, then by technological improvements that encouraged far bigger farms and required far fewer farmers.


Amid California's drought, a bruising battle for cheap water

Texas State Soil and Water Conservation publishes 75th Anniversary History

The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board released Plowing New Ground: The 75th Anniversary History of the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board. This year marks the diamond jubilee of the establishment of the agency and the beginning of soil and water conservation in Texas. on recently recorded oral histories of people directly involved over the decades with the work of the agency, Plowing New Ground commemorates 75 years of soil and water conservation in Texas, from the era of the Dust Bowl to the present.

Encourage applications for America’s Farmers Grow Ag Leaders Scholarships

America’s Farmers Grow Ag Leaders scholarships will support students pursuing careers in  agriculture by offering $1,500 scholarships for higher education. These scholarships are presented by Monsanto Company and administered by the National FFA Organization as part of the National FFA Collegiate Scholarship Program.

Alaska land access fights hinge on one word in 34-year-old law

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected two high-profile Alaska cases dealing with federal authority in Alaska, largely because of a six-letter word Congress inserted into a sentence in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act 34 years ago.  The court has concluded that the state and private parties challenging the National Park Service have misinterpreted the law because they are not giving the word its due.  The word is “solely” and its use as a qualifier in Section 103 of the act has given rise to a continuing argument about where federal authority ends in the national parks, preserves and monuments across Alaska. The 1980 law, preceded by years of intense debate in Alaska and Washington, D.C., created 10 new parks and preserves and expanded three others.   Section 103 has been cited in Alaska as the legal justification for why state property, such as a navigable river, should not be subject to federal regulation on sections running through the 51 million acres in Alaska under Park Service control.  

Alaska Dispatch News

Responding to Activists

But we don’t appreciate the way petition’s author, Dr. Ruth Decker, misrepresents the research. By piling up mistakes, myths and exaggerations, and omitting important information, she asks well-meaning people to speak out with little understanding of the real science and the long, deliberative process through which it was approved. The truth is of little concern to activists who wish to end animal research, no matter the benefit to humans and animals. We don’t share that sentiment. We prefer people make their judgments on animal research with a fuller understanding of the research — of both its costs and potential benefits.

The Shifting Economics of Global Manufacturing

How Cost Competitiveness Is Changing Worldwide. A Country view of cost competitiveness.  For the better part of three decades, a rough, bifurcated conception of the world has driven corporate manufacturing investment and sourcing decisions. Latin America, Eastern Europe, and most of Asia have been viewed as low-cost regions. The U.S., Western Europe, and Japan have been viewed as having high costs.  But this worldview now appears to be out of date. Years of steady change in wages, productivity, energy costs, currency values, and other factors are quietly but dramatically redrawing the map of global manufacturing cost competitiveness. The new map increasingly resembles a quilt-work pattern of low-cost economies, high-cost economies, and many that fall in between.  Who would have thought that Brazil would now be one of the highest-­cost countries for manufacturing—or that Mexico could be cheaper than China? The UK has become the lowest-cost manufacturer in Western Europe. Costs in Russia and much of Eastern Europe have risen to near parity with the U.S. Cost structures in Mexico and the U.S. improved more than in all of the other 25 largest exporting economies. Because of low wage growth, sustained productivity gains, stable exchange rates, and a big energy-cost advantage, these two nations are the current rising stars of global manufacturing.

Boston Consulting Group

Indiana adopts stricter food stamp policy, could impact thousands

For years, Indiana has waived the federal requirement that if you use SNAP, or food stamps, that you either have a job, are in job training for one, or you’re actively searching for employment.  The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration announced that the waiver is history and starting next year, food stamps could be cut for 65,000 Hoosiers. Starting in spring of 2015, new requirements will mandate that any able-bodied Indiana adult without children will need to be working at least 20 hours a week, be in job training, or searching for employment in order to qualify.

Fox 59

Ash Borer spreads to a native ornamental, the white fringetree, alarming tree experts

While surprising and disappointing to some plant experts, the discovery in white fringetrees in the Dayton, Ohio, area was not out of the question. Ash and fringetree are related; both are in the olive family, which has hundreds of species of trees and shrubs, including forsythia and lilac.

Courier Journal

Build a home, lose a farm

Tiny, water-deficient Borrego Springs (population 3500) may be a microcosm of what San Diego will be if the water crisis worsens. Borrego is betting the farm — actually, betting on leveling farms — for its survival. For more than half a century, Borregans have said their town would be “the next Palm Springs.” But since the 1980s, financially troubled developers and asset flippers have pumped more than $100 million into the town while taking big losses.  Now, Borrego is making real estate developers buy and fallow farmland if they want to build homes. Fruit farms, nurseries, and the like use 70 % of Borrego’s water. A developer building a home has to obtain a farm, cut down the trees, restore the desert landscape, and shovel out other funds to make the place presentable. So, what do you suppose is happening to farm prices? Zoom!

Film Looks Between the Rock, Hard Place

A filmmaker covering a fight over a new uranium mill in Colorado expected a morality play with environmentalists on the side of justice. Instead she found complex stories of rural residents facing tough choices and struggling to keep their communities alive. The Yonder interviews filmmaker Suzan Beraza about her movie “Uranium Drive-In,” which was released to DVD this week.

Daily Yonder

Cornell Alliance for Science gets $5.6 million grant

A new international effort led by Cornell will seek to add a stronger voice for science and depolarize the charged debate around agricultural biotechnology and GMOs. Supported by a $5.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Cornell Alliance for Science will help inform decision-makers and consumers through an online information portal and training programs to help researchers and stakeholders effectively communicate the potential impacts of agricultural technology and how such technology works.

FCC ruling may pave way for better cell coverage in rural America

A decision by the Federal Communications Commission may further efforts to bridge the gap between urban and rural America.  The FCC unanimously voted on Friday to adopt a report and order that it says will “promote deployment of the wireless infrastructure necessary to provide the public with ubiquitous, advanced wireless broadband services,” the commission said.


Food News

Citizens panel weighs in on tax breaks for Washington food processors

The five-member citizens commission on tax preferences was silent on whether seafood companies, dairy product manufacturers and fruit and vegetable processors should remain exempt from paying taxes on gross revenues.  The commission did say lawmakers should figure out how to objectively measure whether the tax breaks help workers. Commissioners left the details to legislators, though they offered guidelines for judging success.  Lawmakers have long used the state’s business and occupation tax to encourage businesses to invest. The Legislature created the Citizen Commission for Performance Measurement of Tax Preferences to study whether specific tax cuts do more than swell corporate profits.

Capital Press

More Cities Are Making It Illegal To Hand Out Food To The Homeless

21 cities have passed measures aimed at restricting the people who feed the homeless since January 2013. In that same time, similar legislation was introduced in more than 10 cities. The latest city to crack down is Fort Lauderdale, Fla, whose city's commissioners passed a measure that will require feeding sites to be more than 500 feet away from each other, with only one allowed per city block. They'll also have to be at least 500 feet from residential properties.


Growing Food Connections food policy database to help communities strengthen food systems

Municipalities and counties got a big boost with the unveiling of a searchable database with more than 100 newly adopted innovative, local government food system policies that can be shared and adapted across the country.  The Growing Food Connections Policy Database, hosted by the University at Buffalo, will assist local governments as they work to broaden access to healthy food and help sustain local farms and food producers.  Growing Food Connections has compiled over 100 policies governing issues as diverse as public investment in food systems, farmland protection, local food procurement and food policy council resolutions.  This database is a useful resource particularly for government officials, planning and public health professionals, academics, and students.

Conventional cages give us plenty of quality eggs

Regarding Rekha Basu's excoriating attack on Iowa lawmakers and Gov. Terry Branstad: She used the 2010 salmonella outbreak attributed to Wright County Eggs as her platform, but no Iowa lawmakers or any state or federal agency condoned the mismanagement by Jack and Peter DeCoster at that congressional hearing in 2010.  Her criticism was also leveled at the governor for participating with five other state attorneys general in challenging the California egg law restricting the interstate commerce of eggs. Branstad is to be commended for his leadership. Too often political leaders lead from behind after reading the polls. Branstad showed he leads in the front by knowing the issue and the science behind Iowa's egg production standards.  Basu wants Iowa to be "championing its commitment to a clean environment and the health of its residents." The Iowa egg industry is already doing that in following the FDA’s food safety standards. Interestingly, those federal standards say states may not require "standards of quality condition that are different from or in addition to federal requirements."

Des Moines Register

Impact of Fertilizing With Sewage Sludge on the Abundance of Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Soil, and on Vegetables

The consumption of crops fertilized with human waste represents a potential route of exposure to antibiotic resistant fecal bacteria. The present study evaluated the abundance of bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes using both culture-dependent and molecular methods. Various vegetables (lettuce, carrots, radish and tomatoes) were sown into field plots fertilized inorganically or with Class B biosolids, or with untreated municipal sewage sludge. Analysis of viable pathogenic bacteria or antibiotic-resistant coliform bacteria on plate counts did not reveal significant treatment effects of fertilization with Class B biosolids or untreated sewage sludge on the vegetables. Numerous targeted genes associated with antibiotic resistance and mobile genetic elements were detected by PCR in soil and on vegetables at harvest from plots that received no organic amendment.

Applied and Environmental Microbiology

Study shows malnourished kids in high range communities

A study of elementary school children in a highly educated community in the Pacific Northwest found that about three-fourths of the students had vitamin D levels that were either insufficient or deficient, and they also lacked adequate intake of other important nutrients.  The findings, make it clear that nutritional deficiencies can be profound even in communities with a very knowledgeable population and easy access to high-quality, affordable food.  Many other studies have found similar concerns in areas with poor food availability and populations with low socioeconomic status and lower levels of education.  This research identified significant nutritional problems in Corvallis, Ore., a university town with many grocery stores, a free bus transit system and some of the highest education levels in the nation. As students grew from younger children into adolescents, the problems only got worse, the research showed.


Children who drink almond, rice, soy or goats milk are twice as likely to have low vitamin D

Children who drink non-cow's milk such as rice, almond, soy or goat's milk, have lower levels of vitamin D in their blood than those who drink cow's milk. “Children drinking only non-cow's milk were more than twice as likely to be vitamin D deficient as children drinking only cow's milk," said Dr. Jonathon Maguire, a pediatrician and researcher with St. Michael's Hospital. "Among children who drank non-cow's milk, every additional cup of non-cow's milk was associated with a five per cent drop in vitamin D levels per month."

Medical Press

Salmonella-infected mice that were given antibiotics became superspreaders

Science Daily

New wheat breeds can help avert food security disaster

Wheat breeders involved in the monumental global challenge of ensuring food security for 9.5 billion people by 2050 face enormous hurdles.   Wheat, a major staple crop, currently provides 20 % of the overall daily protein and calories consumed throughout the world. Production must grow 70 % over the next 35 years, according to the international Wheat Initiative – an achievable goal if annual wheat yields are increased from a current level of below 1 % to at least 1.7 percent.   Governments and the private sector must more fully support research efforts into developing new wheat varieties or face the risk of further global insecurity related to price instability, hunger riots and related conflict.

Thomson Reuters Foundation

Touring bloggers get ag-based view of what we eat

Watching cattle graze in a McPherson County pasture, food and mom blogger Annie Shultz admits she has never set foot on a working family farm with cattle and crops.  But now the mother of three from Manhattan hopes she can dispel some myths to some of her foodie followers who are also generations removed from the farm and post critically about conventional farming practices.  After all, she said, what she had seen so far on the Kansas Farmer Bureau and Kansas Soybean Association blogger tour didn’t raise concerns. Instead, she said, she met farmers passionate about farming. She learned more about the high-tech and capital-intensive techniques they use to operate.

Kamsas Ag Land

Are we hungry enough?

The reason the Michael Pollans and Food Babes and Dr. Oz’s of the world can start the debates they do is because they’re not hungry. The reason they can pick and choose what’s healthy or not is because there are options—an abundance of choices—so many choices that there are now “right” and “wrong” ones.


Twinkies are not vegan

Twinkies Are Made With Beef Fat. For anyone who has beef with the beef, it'd be wise to do a close-read on product ingredient lists: Many seemingly-vegetarian foods, like refried beans, potato chips and even orange juice contain animal products beyond milk and eggs.

Huffington Post

World Food Prize laureate Rajaram says technology key to ending hunger

World Food Prize laureate Sanjaya Rajaram said that developing countries can use improvements in seed technology and more modern farming techniques to help feed burgeoning populations. The plant scientist received the prize on World Food Day last week in Des Moines, Iowa, for research that is credited with increasing world wheat production by more than 200 million tons. Rajaram, who succeeded Norman Borlaug - the famed “father of the Green Revolution” - as the leader of the wheat breeding team at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico, said modern agriculture technology can be used in the developing world.  “I cannot differentiate the technology which the big farmers and corporations use and the technology which would be needed by the very small farmers,” Rajaram said


Rutgers professor develops ‘superfood’ lettuce

My Central Jersey

A beef with yogurt

Few food categories are hotter than yogurt is right now. But the brand marketing capitalizing on its trendiness is seriously flawed — as are most of the products themselves, unfortunately.  Of all the food product categories that have lucked into marketing prominence, at least from a health standpoint, few have been as successful as yogurt. I have a big-time problem with the positioning that most yogurt marketers have chosen to adopt.  If we’re going to properly respond to the appeal to limit consumption of snack foods, fast-food and junk foods in favor of healthier alternatives, then the option isn’t highly processed, dairy-based concoctions that deliver two-thirds (or more) of their calories from sugar.  Nature didn’t design milk from animals or humans to be low-fat or fat-free — for good reason — and if the dietary establishment truly wants Americans to opt for a healthier diet, then the recommendation is simple and straightforward: Eat natural, unprocessed foods, like meat, poultry, milk and eggs.  End of recommendation. 

Cattle network

New Tool (FooDS) Identifies Consumers' Views on Food Safety

Awareness and concern for 17 food issues have been tracked over the course of the survey. GMOs, Salmonella, E. coli, and hormones have been the top four issues consumers report hearing most about in the news. A significant increase in awareness was seen for Salmonella in October 2013, likely as a result of a widely publicized outbreak in a California meat processor. Interestingly, spikes in awareness do not always correspond with changes in concern. GMOs, Salmonella, E. coli, and hormones were also ranked as the issues of most concern among consumers in the past year. Concern for all food issues fell in December and rose in January and February.


Miner Institute: Consumers are confused and Google isn't helping

I typed each question into Google as it is written above. The table shows the first five results in Google for each question as well as the answer to the question provided by the website. The first five results yielded mixed answers to each of the four questions. For example, two out of five sources reported that there are antibiotics in milk. No wonder consumers are confused!  A new question came to mind: if I was an unknowing consumer, which website would I click on? In terms of animal welfare, survey research shows that 56% of consumers don’t have a primary source for information. Of the 44% who do, the top sources included the HSUS and PETA. Information providers from the industry in question were the least-used public sources of information.  So what can we do? As members of the dairy and agribusiness industry we need to take every opportunity to share our story. Some farmers share their stories through farm blogs and social media. I was pleasantly surprised to see multiple agriculture advocacy blogs in the first five Google results. Ultimately it depends on all of us to educate our community about what we do. So the next time someone asks you what you do for a living, don’t shy away from the question. Take the opportunity to promote the industry that we believe in.


Why Eating Horses Is Totally Fine

Most chefs are happy to serve or eat horsemeat — they just can’t find anyone to buy it from. Equine dining is nothing new or special in parts of Canada, Europe, Asia, and plenty of other places in the world. “You can find horsemeat at all of our major grocery stores,” said David McMillan, one of the chef-owners of Joe Beef in Montreal. “It’s not a question, it’s just another protein that we eat.” Diners visiting from south of the border seem to have trouble grasping that. “We have a lot of Americans that come to eat it as novelty. Why do you want horse when there are so many other things on the menu? They want something for Instagram, they want something to tweet about.”

Europe’s food experts fooled by pranksters into confusing McDonald’s with organic food

Dutch pranksters have fooled food experts and consumers and proved that even foodies can’t tell McDonald’s from real, organic food when offered some on a plate. The comments from misled ‘experts’ are hysterical.  Lifehunters, as the guys call themselves, posted a video of them visiting one of the most popular annual food expos in Europe, in the city of Houten, to serve their “top of the notch recipes” from their “high-end restaurant” that serves “organic alternatives to fastfood.”  The experts did not disappoint: “It definitely tastes a lot better, and the fact that it’s organic is definitely a good thing,” said a young woman.  “You can just tell this is a lot more pure,” came another comment from a young lady operating an organic stall.

Researchers retract bogus, Dr. Oz-touted study on green coffee bean weight-loss pills

Researchers have retracted a bogus study that was used by a company to validate weight-loss claims for green coffee bean pills, one of several questionable supplements being scrutinized by federal regulators. The use of green coffee extract is one of several questionable weight-loss schemes that have been endorsed by syndicated television personality known as Dr. Oz. Oz's Web site has been entirely scrubbed of almost every mention of the green coffee extract, including the episode touting the product and the "independent" experiment he and his show conducted to present their own evidence of the substance's weight-loss effects.

Washington Post

Quackmail: Why You Shouldn't Fall For The Internet's Newest Fool, The Food Babe

She made the front page of the Financial Times as the blogger who humbled Big Food and whose latest campaign for transparency in beer ingredients left “The King of Beers,” Anheuser Busch InBev, and close running rival SabMiller clamoring like Neville Chamberlain to appease a bully. “The rapid response by AB InBev and SABMiller—which capitulated to Ms Hari’s demands within 36 hours—underscores the growing power of social media over corporate policy.  Ironically, one of the key factoids in blogger Vani Hari—aka, “The Food Babe’s”—attack on Big Beer was that they “even use fish swim bladders” to make their product without putting this self-evidently dodgy fact on the label; the implication is that beer should not from fish bladder be made. Yet, isinglass—as dried fish bladder is Tolkienesquely called—has been used to clarify beer, wine and liquor since the early 18th century, and its manufacture was widespread in Colonial America (a versatile compound, it was also mixed with gin and used as a glue to repair broken china). While this may cause vegans to pause before a draught, isinglass has been used and consumed without incident for centuries.


With its first TV commercials, Whole Foods wants to show you where your food comes from

Whole Foods Market unveiled its first national marketing campaign Monday, a series of primetime television commercials and glossy print ads that the organic grocer hopes will help revive its disappointing sales.  The campaign, which the company says has a “values matter” theme, is aimed at health-conscious shoppers concerned about where their food comes from.

Washington Post

WTO rules against U.S. meat labelling laws

Canada has won an important battle in an ongoing trade dispute with the United States over meat labelling laws that have hurt the beef and pork industries.  The World Trade Organization has ruled that U.S. country-of-origin labelling (COOL) rules discriminate against exports from Canada and Mexico. Pork and beef industries hurt by laws that demand country of origin label for each animal. The panel says changes the U.S. made to the rules last year made the policy even more detrimental to livestock exporters.

Ag Web

WTO finding the COOL rule on muscle cuts of meat violates U.S. international trade obligations.

In response, a broad coalition of U.S. industries called on Congress to immediately authorize and direct the Secretary of Agriculture to rescind elements of COOL that have been determined to be noncompliant with international trade obligations by a final WTO adjudication. If the final ruling finds the U.S. in noncompliance, Canada and Mexico will have the opportunity to retaliate against U.S. goods resulting in lost sales in the billions and put thousands of jobs at risk.  

Ag Web

Canada warns U.S. to repeal COOL or face consequences

“We will target everything from California wine to Minnesota mattresses, not to mention the over $2 billion in U.S. beef and pork sales to Canada,” said federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz.

COOL Reform Coalition urges compliance first

The COOL Reform Coalition – which also includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers – says Canada and Mexico will have the chance to retaliate against U.S. goods – if Congress doesn’t act


R-CALF says COOL is working

“Consumers are preferring a domestic product. They’re looking for the labels. And, that makes the Canadian and Mexican beef less competitive in our marketplace. That’s why problems that Canada and Mexico have complained of to the WTO are happening!” says R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard. He tells Brownfield Ag News says there is less demand for foreign products in the U.S. when consumers can choose domestic food products.


Federal agency sues Oregon farm, claiming sexual harassment

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit claiming that a farm in Lincoln County allowed men to sexually harass the female seasonal harvesters and maintained a hostile work environment for women.  The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, accuses County Fair Farm in Jefferson of ignoring complaints by a longtime seasonal worker, Aurora Del Rosario Clemente Arpaiz, and other female workers that they had been groped against their will by a male supervisor or male workers and repeatedly propositioned for sex on the job.

Settlement Agreement Reached on GRAS Notification Program Final Rule

The decree resolves a lawsuit by CFS filed seeking to invalidate FDA’s GRAS Notification Program.  In the lawsuit, CFS noted that FDA has operated the GRASN Program for over 15 years under the provisions of a proposed rule published in 1997.  CFS asked the court to vacate the proposed rule and reinstate the GRAS Affirmation Petition process that had been used prior to the proposed rule.  FDA and CFS have now agreed to settle the lawsuit.  Under the provisions of the consent decree, FDA is required to submit for publication a final rule on “Substances Generally Recognized to be Safe” by August 31, 2016.  In addition, FDA agrees to commit the necessary resources to meet the deadline.  The decree also provides a process for extending the deadline if the agency is unable to issue the final rule “despite [its] best efforts.”  The consent decree appears to be a significant victory for the current GRASN Program. In other words, FDA will continue to operate the program as it has since 1998 and will issue a final rule on the program as it already intended to do.

Who supports WOTUS?

Comments can now be submitted through to Nov. 14. As of publishing, over 217,156 comments had been submitted.  But in the face of the robust “Ditch the Rule” campaign, supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation and numerous other agricultural industry groups, there has also been a “Ditch the Myth” campaign spearheaded by the EPA, which also claims a host of supporters.  According to the EPA, 107 groups and organizations ranging from tribal groups to non-governmental organizations (popularly called NGOs), agricultural groups, environmental groups, and state organizations requested “clarification of the ‘Water of the United States’ by rulemaking.”

Western Livestock Journal

EPA water rule could harm Nebraska agriculture

A new analysis chartered by the Common Sense Nebraska coalition, which opposes the EPA’s proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule, said the impact of the proposed rule on Nebraska agriculture could be “significant” and “cause cost increases, confusion and uncertainty to agricultural producers.”  The analysis was conducted by Mike Linder, former director of Nebraska’s Department of Environmental Quality

The Independent

EPA review board finds 'strong scientific support' for water rule

The panel reviewed the EPA's draft report on the connectivity of waterways around the country. "The report should also clearly indicate that the definitions used for rivers, streams, and wetlands are scientific, rather than legal or regulatory definitions. Relatively low levels of connectivity can be meaningful in terms of impacts on the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of downstream waters," the advisory board wrote.

The Hill

EPA's New Water Definition Would Devastate Business

There is "…overwhelming evidence that EPA's proposed WOTUS rule would have a devastating impact on businesses of all sizes, States, and local governments without any real benefit to the environment,…"  says the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber, along with other business groups, has prepared and released a letter to EPA and Corps of Enginer that  describes and criticizes EPA's grab for power over land use.

Farm Futures

Groups ask EPA to investigate pollution causes by cattle farms

Six environmental groups asked the EPA to exercise emergency powers under the Safe Drinking Water Act to investigate groundwater contamination in cattle-intensive Kewaunee County in northeastern Wisconsin.

Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel

EPA awards $8.6 million to reduce Lake Erie algae

Three states are receiving a combined $8.6 million in federal grants for programs aimed at reducing phosphorus runoff that causes harmful algae blooms in western Lake Erie, which led officials to order about 400,000 people not to drink tap water for two days in August.  The PA is awarding the funding to Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. Regional director Susan Hedman said that the grants will provide technical assistance to farmers and improve measurement of phosphorus loads in Lake Erie tributaries.  EPA says more federal funding will be announced soon.

EPA considers prohibiting use of 72 chemicals in pesticides

A majority of the 72 chemical targeted by the EPA are on the list of 371 inert ingredients — also considered inactive chemicals — identified as hazardous by the environmental groups.

The Hill

Crop Insurance Program Needs Tweaking, Forage Producers Say

More coverage is needed for yield, forage-quality losses. The current federal crop insurance program needs adjustments and expanded coverages for forage producers dealing with yield and/or forage-quality losses during a growing season.  That’s the consensus of many attending USDA listening sessions aimed at finding ways to improve crop insurance for forage producers. Any alfalfa producer, broker or user who wishes to offer comments on forage crop insurance can contact Nick Young of Agralytica Consulting at The company was hired by RMA to conduct the sessions.

Hay and Forage

USDA approves Monsanto lepidopteran insect resistant soybean


USDA to Launch New Farm Bill Program to Help Provide Relief to Farmers Affected by Severe Weather

The Actual Production History Yield Exclusion, available nationwide for farmers of select crops starting next spring, allows eligible producers who have been hit with severe weather to receive a higher approved yield on their insurance policies through the federal crop insurance program.


USDA releases State by State ”Made in Rural America” report illustrating rural investments

USDA announced a new state-by-state "Made in Rural America" report illustrating the impact of USDA investments in rural communities. Each state factsheet is a snapshot of specific USDA investments in rural businesses, manufacturing, energy, water and other infrastructure development. They outline how USDA is building strong rural communities that are attractive places for businesses and families to locate by investing in housing and broadband.


Railroads show improvement

The region’s two Class I railroads — BNSF Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway — are reporting improved status on late cars, and CP has proposed a major merger to bypass an infamous Chicago bottleneck blamed for last winter’s delays.

Ag Week

USDA seeking feedback on animal disease reporting, response

Stakeholders in animal agriculture have until January 16, 2015 to submit feedback to the agency on a National List of Reportable Animal Diseases and a Proposed Framework for Response to Emerging Animal Diseases.

Cattle Network

USDA Invests in Small and Emerging Rural Businesses and Rural Transportation

The investments through USDA's Rural Business Enterprise Grant program, promote the development of small and emerging businesses in rural areas. RBEGs may also be used to help fund distance learning networks and employment-related adult education programs.


USDA Announces Funding for Rural Broadband and Telecommunications Infrastructure

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $190.5 million in grants and loans to make broadband and other advanced communications infrastructure improvements in rural areas.  USDA is providing assistance through the Community Connect Grant program, the Public Television Digital Transition Grant program and the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan program.  USDA is providing $190.5 million for 25 projects in 19 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


Technical Assistance and Training Grant for Rural Waste Systems

USDA Technical Assistance and Training grants will be offered to organizations who assist rural communities water or wastewater operations through technical assistance and/or training.  Funds may be used to: Identify and evaluate solutions to water problems of associations in rural areas relating to source, storage, treatment, or distribution.  Identify and evaluate solutions to waste problems of associations in rural areas relating to collection, treatment, and disposal. Assist associations in the preparation of water and/or waste loan and/or grant applications.  Provide training or technical assistance to association personnel that will improve the management, operation, and maintenance of water and waste disposal facilities. Pay expenses associated with providing technical assistance and/or training.

USDA Invests $1.4 Billion to Improve Rural Electric Infrastructure

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $1.4 billion in USDA loan guarantees to improve the delivery of electric power to rural communities in 21 states. This includes $106 million for smart grid technologies and $3 million for renewable energy programs and systems. For fiscal year 2014, USDA's Rural Utilities Service provided more than $186 million for smart grid technologies. 


USDA Announces Funding to Improve Rural Water Systems Nationwide

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is providing more than $352 million in loans and grants to upgrade rural water and wastewater systems nationwide and make infrastructure improvements in rural Alaska villages.


EPA Launches a Voluntary Star-Rating Program to Reduce Pesticide Drift

The EPA is announcing a new voluntary Drift Reduction Technology program to encourage the use of verified, safer pesticide spray products to reduce exposure and pesticide movement while saving farmers money in pesticide loss. DRT is a voluntary program that encourages manufacturers to test their technologies (such as nozzles, spray shields and drift reduction chemicals) for drift reduction potential. EPA encourages pesticide manufacturers to label their products for use with DRT technologies. The four DRT ratings represented by one, two, three or four stars are awarded for technologies that demonstrate at least 25 % reduction in potential spray drift compared to the standard.


Interior, Agriculture Departments Partner to Measure Conservation Impacts on Water Quality

The USDA and DOI announced a new partnership agreement that will provide a clearer picture of the benefits of farmers' conservation practices on the quality of our Nation's water.  Working together, USDA's NRCS and DOI's USGS will quantify the benefits of voluntary agricultural practices at a watershed scale.  When hundreds of farms take action in one watershed, it can make a difference—it can help prevent an algae bloom downstream or lessen the need for water treatment plants to treat for nitrates.  The U.S. Geological Survey will now use Natural Resources Conservation Service data on conservation work to factor into its surface water quality models, which track how rivers receive and transport nutrients from natural and human sources to downstream reservoirs and estuaries. This information will help provide a more accurate picture of the conservation systems in the watershed that contribute to water quality improvement and will provide crucial information for voluntary nutrient management strategies and watershed planning.

USDA Needs to Strengthen Its Approach to Protecting Human Health from Pathogens in Poultry Products

Since 2006, the USDA has taken a number of actions to reduce contamination from Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry products. USDA's actions to reduce these pathogens include, for example, tightening existing standards limiting the allowable amount of Salmonella contamination in young poultry carcasses, implementing the first standards limiting Campylobacter contamination in young poultry carcasses in 2011, and developing an action plan detailing a priority list of actions, such as developing new enforcement strategies, to reduce Salmonella.  


USDA Climate Hubs web site launched

The new site provides a portal for farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, and others to find useful, practical information to help cope with the challenges and stressors caused by a changing climate. The site provides resources related to drought, fire risks, pests and diseases, climate variability, and heat stress, and links users to the network of USDA conservation programs and resources that provide producers with technical and financial assistance to manage risks.


Sweetener users study: Mexico trade case costly

Trade cases U.S. producers have filed against Mexican sugar imports will likely cost consumers $2.4 billion in higher prices this marketing year, according to a new white paper by the Sweetener Users Association.  The sugar growers filed their case six months ago, alleging the illegal dumping of heavily subsidized Mexican sugar depressed domestic prices. Due primarily to market uncertainty stemming from the case, U.S. refined sugar prices have risen from 26.5 cents per pound in March to 37.5 cents per pound in September, according to agricultural economist Tom Earley.

Capital Press

U.S. Sugar Producers File Antidumping, Subsidy Cases Against Mexico

Sugar Alliance

Mexico warns US of retaliation in sugar war

Financial Times

US Urges Japan to Be Bolder in Opening Markets

Japan’s farmers face an existential crisis: Reform or die out

But now the local government, with support from Tokyo, is launching an experimental reform project aimed at reviving Yabu’s struggling farming base. The authorities hope to make working here more attractive for people and companies, and to loosen the enormously powerful agricultural lobby’s hold on the sector.

Washington Post

Russia to Ban Agriculture Imports From Ukraine

Feeding China: what does the future hold for hunger?

Despite more of the world's land devoted to crops, yield growth is stagnating in several countries, including for corn and rice in China.

Des Moines Register

China GDP Growth Rate Is Slowest in Five Years


Russia bans some Euro beef, imports from Mongolia, pressures McDonald’s


Despite Riches, Venezuela Starts Food Rationing

Amid worsening shortages, Venezuela recently reached a milestone of dubious distinction: It has joined the ranks of North Korea and Cuba in rationing food for its citizens.  On a recent, muggy morning, Maria Varge stood in line outside a Centro 99 grocery store, ready to scour the shelves for scarce items like cooking oil and milk. But before entering, Ms. Varge had to scan her fingerprint to ensure she wouldn’t buy more than her share.  Despite its technological twist on the old allotment booklet, Venezuela’s new program of rationing is infuriating consumers who say it creates tiresome waits, doesn’t relieve shortages and overlooks the far-reaching economic overhauls the country needs to resolve the problem. Venezuela is turning to rationing because of shortages caused by what economists call a toxic mix of unproductive local industry—hamstrung by nationalizations and government intervention—and a complex currency regime that is unable to provide the dollars importers need to pay for basics.

Wall Street Journal

China’s Growing Bets on GMOs

China’s government spends more than any other on research into genetically modified crops. It’s searching for varieties with higher yields and resistance to pests, disease, drought, and heat. The results are showing up in the nation’s hundreds of plant biotech labs.

Technology review

Energy and Renewables

Pennsylvania passes gas bills

One measure would require drillers to submit monthly gas production reports; they are currently required to report every six months. The second bill requires companies to file a document with the county recorder of deeds surrendering a lease once it has expired.

State Impact

With rise in rail transport of crude oil through region, new calls for tougher safety standards

On an average day in Minnesota, seven oil-carrying trains cross the state, usually through the heavily populated Twin Cities area. Each train has an average of 110 cars containing 3.3 million gallons of oil, for a total of 23 million gallons of crude oil crossing through the state each day. The oil mostly comes from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields, on the way to refineries as far away as 1,000 miles or more. The increased activity in Minnesota reflects a national trend: huge growth in the shipment of crude oil by rail, from 9,500 rail carloads in 2008 to 415,000 in 2013. And the safety of these shipments has become a greater concern in the Midwest, in part because of recent serious rail accidents and explosions involving oil tanker cars in the United States and Canada.

CSG Midwest

Opposition to renewable energy brews in Imperial Valley

Renewable energy development could disrupt productive farmland and kill agriculture jobs in the Imperial Valley, farmers and conservationists argued at a public meeting on the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan.  Unprecedented in scope and scale, the plan lays the ground rules for the next quarter-century of solar, wind and geothermal development across 22.5 million acres of California desert. In Imperial County, it could open more than 700,000 acres to solar and geothermal development while designating nearly 900,000 new acres for conservation.  Policymakers and some renewable energy advocates have hailed the plan, as a landmark in the fight against climate change. Others, though, say the desert is being asked to carry too heavy a burden, arguing that regulators should prioritize rooftop solar and other small-scale renewables. 

The Desert Sun

Minnesota’s highways are poised to become renewable energy generators

The state Department of Transportation is soliciting proposals for solar developers to lease land along highways that they would select for the installations. MnDOT, is leaving most of the solar details to experts in that field.


MI:Bill Proposes Adding Wind Industry to 'Right to Farm' Act

House Bill 5886 would let wind turbines avoid zoning and building permits

Michigan Capital Confidential

Kansas cellulosic ethanol plant holds grand opening

Abengoa held a grand opening today for its new cellulosic plant in Hugoton, Kansas.  The plant, which is located about 90 miles southwest of Dodge City, began production in late September. At full operation, the Abengoa plant will produce 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually and process one-thousand tons per day of biomass.  More than 80 % of the feedstock will be irrigated corn stover, with the remainder comprised of wheat straw, milo stubble and switchgrass.


Texas: Tax Credits for Energy Industry Are Under Scrutiny

If we want to have that conversation about how we invest in our energy infrastructure let’s have that conversation,” said Marita Mirzatuny, a climate and energy policy specialist at the Environmental Defense Fund, which supports the expansion of renewable energy. “But let’s do it across the board.”  Ms. Mirzatuny get that wish in the coming weeks. The comptroller’s office will soon release a report that could rekindle debate surrounding Texas’ largest incentive for natural gas operators.  From 2008 to 2013, a tax exemption covering “high-cost natural gas drilling” has shaved more than $7 billion off operators’ tax bills.  The incentive, which applies to wells completed after 1996, originally cut taxes on just 5 % of gas produced in Texas. Now, the tax code treats more than half of Texas gas as “high cost.”

Biofuels look beyond the gas tank

When it comes to the future of advanced biofuel production, Abengoa Bioenergy, the Spanish company whose $500 million plant in Hugoton, Kan., has just one word: plastics.  At many of the companies opening big new biofuel plants in the Midwest, executives are already shifting their focus to replacing petroleum not only in the gas tank but elsewhere as well. In Abengoa’s case, a big target is plastic bottles.

Ethanol Production Profits Hit the Wall

The ethanol production industry in the U.S. has been on an unusually long "winning streak" in recent years. A run of historically high profits began in March 2013, punctuated by a spectacular spike during February-April 2014. The high profits were largely the result of steady or rising ethanol prices and falling corn prices. At several points during the run we argued the equilibrium long-run level of ethanol production profitability was much lower and either ethanol prices had to fall or corn prices had to rise in order to restore equilibrium It was further argued that ethanol prices would likely bear the brunt of the adjustment. To the dismay of ethanol producers, the predicted adjustment process was painfully accurate. The purpose of this article is to examine the decline in ethanol production profits and the price adjustments that have driven the decline.

Fuels America Releases New Footprint Analysis

The data are in:  The Renewable Fuel Standard is driving billions of dollars of economic activity across America.  This is the result of years of investment by the biofuel sector to bring clean, low carbon renewable fuels to market.  This activity creates a ripple effect as supplier firms and employees re-spend throughout the economy.  The result is clear: $184.5B of economic output, 852,056 jobs, $46.2B in wages and $14.5B in taxes each year. Explore the map below to learn more about your state and Congressional district.

Fuels America

Farmers, Hedge Fund Strike Deal Over Payments for Guar

Growers Owed Millions After Price of Legume Used in Fracking Soared, Then Crashed. Farmers in Oklahoma and Texas who shipped more than $20 million worth of guar beans last year to the nation’s only guar processing plant, which is now in bankruptcy, have struck a deal with the plant’s majority owner, a New York hedge fund.  Under the deal, the farmers who agree to the plant’s pending sale to an investment firm will recover about 75 cents on the dollar of what they’re owed when the plant near Lubbock, Texas, leaves bankruptcy protection. Some farmers will also be able to split another $2.95 million.  The proposed buyer, Cor Capital Group has agreed to pay $9.2 million for a majority ownership stake in West Texas Guar Inc. The company’s processing facility extracts the starchy part of the legume’s seed, which is ground up to make a thickening powder that natural-gas drillers add to the fluids they pump into the ground to unlock oil and gas reserves.

Wall Street Journal

Allowing Exports Could Reduce Consumer Fuel Prices, and the Size of the Strategic Reserves Should Be Reexamined

The studies GAO reviewed and stakeholders interviewed suggest that removing crude oil export restrictions is likely to increase domestic crude oil prices but decrease consumer fuel prices. Prices for some U.S. crude oils are lower than international prices. Studies estimate that U.S. crude oil prices would increase by about $2 to $8 per barrel—bringing them closer to international prices. At the same time, studies and some stakeholders suggest that U.S. prices for gasoline, diesel, and other consumer fuels follow international prices, so allowing crude oil exports would increase world supplies of crude oil, which is expected to reduce international prices and, subsequently, lower consumer fuel prices


CBO report sees tougher times ahead for ethanol & advanced biofuels

The report points out the central problem with the Renewable Fuel Standard: “a trade-off exists between the goal of limiting the cost of complying with the RFS (for example, by reducing the requirements for cellulosic biofuels) and the goal of providing a strong incentive for the development of better technologies for advanced biofuels.”


The Renewable Fuel Standard: Issues for 2014 and Beyond

In this analysis, CBO evaluates how much the supply of various types of renewable fuels would have to increase over the next several years to comply with the RFS. CBO also examines how food prices, fuel prices, and emissions would vary in an illustrative year, 2017, under three scenarios for the Renewable Fuel Standard:The EISA volumes scenario, in which fuel suppliers would have to meet the total requirement for renewable fuels, the requirement for advanced biofuels, and the cap on corn ethanol that are stated in EISA for 2017—but not the requirement for cellulosic biofuels, because the capacity to produce enough of those fuels is unlikely to exist by 2017; The 2014 volumes scenario, in which the EPA—which has some discretion to modify the mandates of EISA—would keep the RFS requirements for the next several years at the same amounts it has proposed for 2014; and The repeal scenario, in which lawmakers would immediately abolish the RFS.  The repeal scenario would require Congressional action. In the absence of such action, CBO considers the 2014 volumes scenario much more likely than the EISA volumes scenario, which would require a large and rapid increase in the use of advanced biofuels and would cause the total percentage of ethanol in the nation’s gasoline supply to rise to levels that would require significant changes in the infrastructure of fueling stations.


More AgClips

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

Conservation postal stamp renewed with new law

Drought Hits São Paulo, Stirring Debate Ahead of Brazil Election

Russia’s food import bam and the implications for the global food economy

Minimum wage job now falls far short of paying for college in Ohio

Minn. company develops PEDv vaccine

Rancho Feeding exec, yardman may be cutting plea deals

DC Restaurant to charge for “artisanal” ice cubes

GMO battle taken to the ballot

Projected Corn Gross Revenues Down in 2014 and 2015

The Dark Side of the Hawaii anti-gmo movement

Agricultural areas looking to bioscience, research as seeds of a brighter economic future

Math comes to the aid of local berry growers

New grain train helps Wisconsin farmers sell corn and soybeans

Pew, CSPI take a global view of meat inspection

The Future of Farming and Rise of Biotechnology

New lab incidents fuel fear, safety concerns in Congress

Owners spend 350$million on pets Halloween costumes

2,447 Bottles of Wine on the Wall and Pennsylvania Plans to Dump Them

Probiotics, controversial additive with a future

Fruits and Vegetables Are About to Enter a Flavor Renaissance

Australia cuts Renewable energy target cut to 'real 20 per cent'

Watchdog sues EPA over renewable fuel mandate

FDA settlement on additives issue

Farm to Dog Dish Raw Food Co-Ops

AVMA discourages feeding any uncooked animal source protein

Six universities launch animal ag industry climate change website

Get ready for robot farmers

Baker Institute paper: Data indicate there is no immigration crisis

The Science of GMOs

Union Pacific CEO: Major rail mergers 'don't make sense'

Can Genetics and Breeding Do for Cassava What They’ve Done For Corn?

Billionaire Businessmen Buying Up Mega-Ranches

Florida lizards evolve rapidly, within 15 years and 20 generations

Kentucky first state to grow Chia seeds in U.S.

Hysteria Porn

Commission greenlights grocery deliveries by struggling Postal Service

Food Babe visits my university

Vani Hari (a.k.a. The Food Babe): The Jenny McCarthy of food

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