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::  August 8-August 17, 2014 ::

Agriculture News

Food and Rural  Communities

Federal and International

Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers

We were comparing business models and profit margins, and it quickly became clear that all of us were working in the red.  The dirty secret of the food movement is that the much-celebrated small-scale farmer isn’t making a living. After the tools are put away, we head out to second and third jobs to keep our farms afloat. Ninety-one % of all farm households rely on multiple sources of income. With the overwhelming majority of American farmers operating at a loss — the median farm income was negative $1,453 in 2012 — farmers can barely keep the chickens fed and the lights on.  While weekend farmers’ markets remain precious community spaces, sales volumes are often too low to translate into living wages for your much-loved small-scale farmer.  Especially in urban areas, supporting your local farmer may actually mean buying produce from former hedge fund managers or tax lawyers who have quit the rat race to get some dirt under their fingernails. We call it hobby farming, where recreational “farms” are allowed to sell their products at the same farmers’ markets as commercial farms. It’s all about property taxes, not food production. As Forbes magazine suggested to its readers in its 2012 Investment Guide, now is the time to “farm like a billionaire,” because even a small amount of retail sales — as low as $500 a year in New Jersey — allows landowners to harvest more tax breaks than tomatoes.  On top of that, we’re now competing with nonprofit farms. Released from the yoke of profit, farms like Growing Power in Milwaukee and Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., are doing some of the most innovative work in the farming sector, but neither is subject to the iron heel of the free market. Growing Power alone received over $6.8 million in grants over the last five years, and its produce is now available in Walgreens stores. Stone Barns was started with a $30 million grant from David Rockefeller. How’s a young farmer to compete with that?

Responses-Can you earn a living by farming?

In my experience in starting farmers’ markets in New Haven, farmers want to focus on farming — and as Mr. Smith points out, theirs is challenging work. The onus is better placed on all of us as eaters to support healthy, local food and the viability of the local farm economy through policy change aimed at the root causes of our unsustainable food system. We can vote with our forks and also at the ballot box, and elect policy makers who promote family farming. AND

Bren Smith got it right in advocating that small-scale farmers growing for local markets work to shift subsidies from factory farms to family farms, among other sensible measures.  I’m one of those struggling farmers selling fresh, nutritious produce for less than the cost of my labor, a form of self-exploitation fostered by the prevailing cheap food policies. We can’t change things alone.  Foodies are going to have to pay a lot more for sustainably produced food and join broad coalitions to make it affordable to the disadvantaged. Last Saturday, my customers were paying twice the going rate for unusual garlic varieties. It keeps me farming, just barely.

Colorado industry veteran resurrecting Alberta processing plant

Alberta beef producers basking in the glow of this summer's high prices will have something else to celebrate when Harmony Beef enters the market this fall.  Rich Vesta, the Colorado native and meat industry veteran who is resurrecting the former Rancher's Beef plant near Balzac, expects the facility to start processing in January. Producers have long seen a need for additional slaughter capacity in the system.  Vesta - who has held executive positions at some of the best-known meat companies in the U.S., including JBS - is well aware he will need to compete for contracts. But he says the enthusiasm with which local industry representatives have greeted his new venture has been overwhelming.  "I'm not naive. I know we have to be competitive," Vesta said. "But the response from the ag community has been more than I've ever experienced in my life."

Calgary Herald

State-by-State Ag Facts

Agriculture is vital and every state plays a unique role in feeding, fueling and clothing our nation. Use this interactive map to view agriculture contributions for each state and download detailed factsheets.

Farm Policy Facts

Indiana Soybean Alliance partners with Ivy Tech on animal agriculture course

This comprehensive 21- week online course can give anyone looking to get into or add livestock, poultry or aquaculture to their operation the tools and knowledge they need to potentially run a successful livestock or aquaculture business.  

Indiana Soybean Association

Calif. antibiotic resistance bill goes to governor

The California Legislature has sent to the governor two bills that would prohibit the use of antibiotics in farm animals as growth enhancers and would establish hospital programs to ensure responsible use of antibiotics in humans. Approved on a 33-0 vote by the Senate, SB 835 would allow antibiotics to be sold for use in livestock only for medical reasons. For the first time, the antibiotics could be administered only with a prescription and under veterinary oversight.


Hawaiian Ag crops sustained extensive damage from Iselle

As officials assess the damage inflicted by Tropical Storm Iselle, it’s evident the Big Island’s agriculture industry has sustained a severe blow.  “Estimation of the sales lost, plus the start-up, the bulldozing costs and growing up to that first year, when they’re ready to harvest again … is about $53 million. Some folks have about 80 % damage. Some folks’ farms had less, of course, but the damage is extremely high.  “It takes about a year from the time you plant to the time you start to harvest. … The farmers went through a tough spot about a year ago, fighting disease. They got their crops to where they were ready to pick. … The plants are snapped off, not too high off the ground, but right to where the fruit column started to bear, because they’re heavy.”  Ha said a real problem that will hinder papaya farmers in their recovery is most don’t have credit

OH:State legislator wants to curb farm pollution that causes toxic algae blooms

State lawmakers who represent people along the Lake Erie shore are calling today for stronger regulations on the farming industry to reduce the type of runoff that causes the algae that poisoned drinking water for 500,000 in Toledo

Columbus Dispatch

Missouri's Right to Farm: Analyzing the aftermath

The good news is that Missouri’s Right to Farm amendment is now part of the state’s constitution. The bad news is that the message voters received might makes things even worse.  Voters in Missouri faced a seemingly straightforward question in this week’s primary election: Do they support the right to farm?  The answer was a razor-thin approval of Amendment 1, which enshrines that right in the state constitution. However, the debates that were stirred up by the controversial nature of the proposal re-energized anti-GMO activists, handed over yet more ammo to corporate farming haters and widened an already contentious urban-rural divide in a state where agriculture plays a prominent role in the economy. 


Orange-Juice Futures Bounce With Florida Set for Smallest Harvest in Three Decades

The USDA expects Florida, the top source of U.S. orange juice, to reap its smallest harvest in 29 years due to citrus greeening. The USDA expects Florida growers to have harvested 104.4 million 90-pound boxes this year.

Wall Street Journal

Farmers worry over forecasts of another strong corn harvest

With what appears to be another exceptional corn harvest headed our way, you might think farmers would be shopping for new trucks and planning pricey vacations.  But for many of them — particularly those who rent their farmland — 2014 looks like it’s bringing too much of a good thing.  It’s a simple case of supply far exceeding demand, with corn prices rapidly falling to the point where growers may actually lose money, despite having fields bursting with corn.  “A lot of crop producers are nervous,” said Pat Westhoff, director of the University of Missouri Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute. “They didn’t expect prices to fall as much as they have.”  Indeed, industry observers knew a correction was coming after several years in which rising demand and poor weather shoved prices into record territory, topping $8 a bushel in 2012.  Last year, prices slipped below $5 a bushel. And now the U.S. Department of Agriculture is suggesting the price could drop as low as $3.65, with some observers worried it could go even lower.  The problem is that many farmers can’t sell corn at that price and make a profit.

St Louis Today

Cool summer raises expectations of record corn, soybean harvest; seed, GPS technology factors

A mild summer across much of the nation's heartland has provided optimum growing conditions for the nation's corn and soybean crops. Pair that with high-yield seeds and other new farming technologies, and the U.S. is looking at busting records come harvest time. 

Star Tribune

Latinos Move Up, From Picking Crops to Running the Farm

When he was 15, an immigration raid at a Japanese flower nursery turned Arturo Flores’s life around.  The owners needed a new group of workers to replace the ones removed by immigration officials, and Mr. Flores landed a job cutting flowers. He slowly worked his way up to packaging and delivering them. In the mid-1980s he got a call from two businessmen looking to start their own cut-flower business. They asked him to manage deliveries and distribution. Today Mr. Flores, 50, is the president of Central California Flower Growers.  Farming in the United States are still dominated by whites, but Mr. Flores is one of a growing number of Latinos who own or operate farms in the country. While the overall number of farms in the United States decreased by 4 % from 2007 to 2012, during the same period the number of farms run by Hispanics increased by 21 % to 67,000 from 55,570.

Tentative Deal in Northwest Grain Terminal Dispute

A bitter and occasionally violent two-year labor dispute at Northwest grain terminals ended with a tentative deal reached in the middle of the night.  If ratified, the agreement ensures that U.S. grain exports proceed without disruption during harvest. Details of the deal were not divulged.  ILWU spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent confirmed the tentative agreement and said reduced pickets lines will remain at two terminals until the results of the contract vote are announced Aug. 25. More than a quarter of all U.S. grain exports move through nine grain terminals on the Columbia River and Puget Sound. The agreement comes shortly after U.S. Department of Agriculture grain inspectors refused to cross the picket line into the United Grain terminal, which has the largest storage capacity of any West Coast grain-export facility.

ABC News

CDFA floats change in California milk pricing      

In a surprise move, California's Ag Secretary Karen Ross distributed draft legislation to the dairy industry last week that would bring the state's Class 4b milk prices in line with those with Class III in federal orders. The proposal would bring California's milk used for cheese manufacturing within 50 cents per hundredweight of the federal order price.

Capital Press

Beginning farmers of all ages awarded $42,000 in grants

To help beginning farmers access the wealth of educational resources available to them, Badgerland Financial created a "Beginning with Badgerland" program. The centerpiece of the program is a small grant available to any beginning farmer who lives within Badgerland Financial's 33-county service area, regardless of age or whether they presently do business with the cooperative. Grant funds can be used for farm business-related costs such as tuition, conference registration fees, tax preparation by a Badgerland Financial tax consultant, business organization, marketing materials and more.

Basis Hit Hard, Driving Corn Prices to $2.50/bu. in Corn Belt Fringe

Producers on the northwestern fringe of the Corn Belt are feeling the squeeze as transportation bottlenecks cause basis to widen.  As mid-August approached, the unthinkable was happening to corn prices. For producers on the northwestern fringe of the Corn Belt, local corn quotes were as low as $2.50/bu. for fall delivery, not much better than that for old crop. Tumbling futures prices since late spring were a major reason, but basis was also weighing down corn bids. The spread between futures and local prices has widened to more than $1/bu. in isolated cases, with average basis in this part of corn country the widest since 2008.  "From the 2012 to the 2013 crop, we had an under-supplied, high-demand corn market; now the market is over-supplied and that’s reflected in basis," says John Melius, farm market consultant for Hurley and Associates in Brookings, S.D.  While basis has widened considerably for new-crop corn regardless of location, the spread from region to region is huge. This could result in major crop acreage shifts come spring 2015 in the outer reaches of the Corn Belt, Melius says. Current basis bids for Valley City, N.D., are 80 cents and 85 for new crop; 80 current and 87 cents new crop for Aberdeen, S.D.; Kelly, Iowa, 21 cents current basis bids/46 cents new crop; and Champaign, Ill., 0.01 cents old crop/27 cents new crop.

Ag Web

Trent’s Loos Tales covers Muck boots and California Egg Lawsuit

Trent interviews the head of Muck Boots about the donation to HSUS that was posted on the Muck Boots Facebook page.  Muck Boots says the donation came from employees and went to a local Humane Society in Rhode Island.  Then he interviews Ken Klippen of the National Association of Egg Farmers concerning the lawsuit against the California egg law and how animal agriculture needed to fight animal activists.  Klippen summarized the hearing on the California Association of Egg Farmers and the HSUS motions to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the Attorneys General from six states regarding California’s pending requirements on hen housing. Klippen asserted that associations representing animal agriculture must maintain a vigilance in refuting each and every false claim made about modern production practices.

PETA’s Undercover North Carolina Dairy Farm Video.

After watching the video for the first time I was disgusted! The video shows cows slogging through incredibly deep manure. Their legs are dirty and the amount of manure in the barn is unbelievable!  I started talking to other dairy farmers about this video and how there was absolutely no defending it when I realized something… The barn they show really is unbelievably dirty… as in so dirty that you have to ask yourself if what they are showing you is really real.  As I watched the video again I realized that the cows themselves were telling me the truth…I see a lot of manure, I see cows with dirty legs. But I see something else, something that most people that aren’t around cows wouldn’t even think about or notice…In this video the alley is so full of manure that if a cow was laying in the stall not only would her hips end up with manure on them, her tail would be covered in it. Once her tail was covered in manure and she flicked at flies, the rest of her body would be covered in manure as well. None of the cows in the video are dirty like that! When I look beyond the manure I see a group of cows that are clean when if they were living in this barn they would be filthy from head to toe. I see a feed area with not a scrap of feed in it and my experience in dealing with manure tells me that this stuff has been moved around recently. While I don’t know this farmer and I don’t know the story about what’s going on here, to me it looks like these cows were paraded through this area for the purpose of making this video. The lack of feed in the feed area, coupled with the amount of manure makes me wonder if this part of the barn was being used for temporary manure storage rather than to house cows..

Low corn prices have widespread impact on U.S. agriculture

An abundant corn harvest is expected to flood the market with billions of bushels this fall — a grain rush that has driven down prices and squeezed the bottom lines of many Corn Belt farmers while supplying ethanol and livestock producers with cheap product. Any investments in the farm will likely be relegated to repairs and other maintenance.

Des Moines Register

After several high-income years, Kansas farmers expect to take big financial hit in 2014

One of the worst wheat harvests in decades followed by an abundant corn and soybean crop that's driving down prices have Kansas farmers preparing for a sharp income decline after several good years.  The agricultural sector contributed nearly one-third of the income that fueled the modest economic recovery in Kansas last year, despite an off-and-on drought. That's not likely to happen this year, with Kansas' wheat harvest down 26 % from last year.

, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Bountiful rains and cool temperatures in June and July have put the

The Republic

Low corn prices have widespread impact on US agriculture

Anti-GMO arguments based on fear, not facts

By the time you finish this column, about 15 children will have died from malnutrition. Before you sleep tonight, over 20,000 people will have died today from hunger. Know how many individuals have ever died from eating genetically modified food? Zero.  As society moves further away from an agrarian-based economy, most people have lost any direct connection to their food production, and therefore have no experience to refute outrageously false claims. Opponents of genetic engineering typically voice concerns in one of three main areas: pesticide use, seed dispersal and farming techniques. I hope to explain why GM food is safe, fair and actually improves the soil.

Star Advertiser

GMO Opponents Haven't A Scientific Leg To Stand On

Connecticut, Maine and Vermont have all passed genetically modified organism labeling legislation despite no reputable evidence for health concerns. Unfortunately, New Englanders in both public and private sectors have revealed themselves to be no more enlightened than the anti-vaccine contingency by rejecting overwhelming scientific consensus with the publicizing of research misinterpretations and cries of conspiracy theory. Even popular magazine Scientific American's qualified and well-written defense of GMOs did little to move the needle of opinion.  It is no mystery as to why GMOs invoke a knee-jerk reaction. It frankly sounds scary that corn can be engineered to produce its own pesticide — well, at least until you know that a regular head of cabbage produces 49 different pesticides of its own. Creating a GMO is as simple as taking the gene that codes for one of those naturally occurring compounds and inserting it into a different food.

Anti-GMO Candidates Lose Big Statewide

On Kauai, pro-GMO mayor Bernard Carvalho crushed anti-GMO candidate Dustin Barca, leader of the so-called "Kauai Rising" protests.  Kauai HD15--Rep Jimmy Tokioka utterly destroyed anti-GMO Dylan Hooser 63-29% with 5 of 5 precincts reporting.  Kauai council results are mixed.  Pro-GMO challengers Arryl Kaneshiro and Kipu Kai Kualii finished 3rd and 8th respectively.  Incumbent anti-GMO leader and tax cheat Gary Hooser is 6th, his cohort Tim Bynum finished 7th, and anti-GMO appointee Mason Chock came in 10th, right ahead of 11th place pro-GMO newcomer Arthur Brun.  The top 14 candidates move on to a runoff for seven seats in the November 4 General.  Pro-GMO Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa cruised to victory with 63.8% of the vote. 

Hawaii Free Press

California Drought Transforms Markets as Growers See Dry Future

For more than 70 years, Fred Starrh’s family was among the most prominent cotton growers in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Then shifting global markets and rising water prices told him that wouldn’t work anymore.  So he replaced most of the cotton plants with almonds, which make more money per acre and are increasingly popular with consumers in Asia.  Such crop switching is one sign of a sweeping transformation going on in California--the nation’s biggest agricultural state by value--driven by a three-year drought that climate scientists say is a glimpse of a drier future. The result will affect everything from the price of milk in China to the source of cherries eaten by Americans. It has already inflamed competition for water between farmers and homeowners. 

Ag Web

Fruit growers were tested this winter

Winter of 2014 tested fruit with cold and snow levels last seen 20 years ago. It’s been 20 years since northeastern U.S. fruit growers—from the Midwest across the Great Lakes region—last experienced a “test winter,” where low temperatures and deep snow tested trees’ and vines’ ability to withstand tough winters.  “We thought we’d see which varieties do well and which don’t,” Longstroth said about the aftereffects of winter. “But instead we saw that the winter was cold enough to hurt anything that was weak. We’re seeing more injury in older apple trees than in young ones. We are seeing real differences in sites.  The closer you were to Lake Michigan, the better off you were. The further you get from the lake the more damage you see. Sites with good air drainage generally fared much better than those where cold air collected. On good sites close to Lake Michigan, they have a crop of peaches, and away from the lake, they are wondering what portion of their trees will survive.  ptoms of winter injury that will become more apparent as the season progresses.”

Beginning farmers of all ages awarded $42,000 in grants

Des Moines Register

11 States are on Pace for a Record Cold Year, 3 for hottest.

Weather so far in 2014 has been historically cool in the Heartland.  In fact, 11 states experienced some of the coldest January-to-July temperatures on record. The list includes Alabama (No. 10 coldest YTD on record), Minnesota (10), Missouri (10), Indiana (7), Iowa (7), Michigan (7), Arkansas (5), Illinois (5), Wisconsin (5) Louisiana (4) and Mississippi (4). July in particular saw twice as many record cool temperatures (5,508) than record warm temperatures (2,605). The West Coast sat at the other end of the spectrum. Blistering temperatures have dealt California the hottest YTD on record, with Nevada (2) and Arizona (3) not far behind.

Ag Web

Vineyard operators oppose 2,4-D-resistant crops

Capital Press


VT State senator: GMO labeling ‘a marketing ploy’ by organics industry

A Vermont state senator who voted against labeling foods containing GMOs says the push to label genetically modified food is about boosting sales of organic foods.  “This is a marketing ploy by the organics industry so they could get a bigger share of the market. If you scare people about what they’re eating, they’re going to change,” state Sen. Norm McAllister, R-Franklin.  McAllister said GMO labeling advocates stand to see a 15 % gain in market share as a result of mandatory labeling. McAllister said the use of Vermont’s legal system to support special interest groups was appalling.  “Whoever comes along with the most money can buy whatever they want,” he said. “We put our legal system up for sale. If you have an advocacy thing, we’ll just let you start up a fund and let people donate to it. And we’ll let the state fight it for you with tax dollars. It’s disgusting.”  McAllister, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, added the anti-GMO movement can’t legally ban GMOs, and therefore is seeking a backdoor method of accomplishing the same goal.  “They tried an outright ban, but you can’t do that — it’s nowhere near constitutional. Then they did labeling of seeds, but nobody paid attention to that,” he said. “So what do you do next to scare the public and the consumer? How do you get them to think your form of food is the only way to go? You scare them about what they are eating. You tell them all these dreadful things that could be — anything you can dream up.”  In fact, prominent organic activists recently claimed GMOs are causing thousands of deaths.  “What does this really do? This scares people who don’t understand it, and they will want to go buy organic. And organic gains,” McAllister said. 

Vermont Watchdog

Is Kauai Pro-GMO? Primary Election Results Suggest So

Kauai County Councilmen Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa, the lone members to oppose the county’s controversial GMO disclosure bill last year, are now more popular than ever among voters.  They took the top two slots, respectively, in Saturday’s crowded primary race — the best either has ever done in any election.   The third-place finisher, first-time candidate Arryl Kaneshiro — another staunch supporter of the genetically engineered seed companies that provide many jobs on the island’s westside — followed closely behind.  None of the new candidates who wants to pass laws that would require GMO labeling on food products, banish GMO companies or restrict their use of pesticides won a seat or is positioned well to do so in the general. 

Civil Beat

Kauai county council approves more funds to defend gmo law

The Council authorized $50,000 for continued special counsel services in a federal lawsuit filed by seed companies. So far, the total amount for special counsel services is $175,000.

Star Advertiser

Deadly Algae Are Everywhere, Thanks to Agriculture

The rains come and water the spring shoots of another bounteous Midwestern corn crop in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. The rains also wash phosphorus off farm fields and into creeks, streams and rivers. The waters flow into the shallowest of the Great Lakes—Lake Erie, which is just 18 meters deep on average and far shallower on its western edge. All that phosphorus doesn't just help crops grow. When it reaches the lake it fuels the growth of mats of bright green algae, turning the water the color of pea soup. Such Microcystis cyanobacteria bear poisons, at least 80 different varieties of a toxin dubbed microcystin. And when the shallow waters deliver an algal bloom down to the right water intake pipes, an entire city like Toledo is left without water. Such dangerous blooms are becoming more common, affecting all 50 states. And such blooms are not confined to freshwater. Offshore, similar algal blooms create dead zones; microbes consuming dead algae use up all the available oxygen in the water, killing slow-moving and sessile sea life.

Scientific American

Michigan agriculture group launches mapping tool

Welcome to the Michigan Agri-Business Association’s “Agricultural Mapping Tool”. This web-based resource was developed in partnership with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development through a Strategic Growth Initiative Grant.  This interactive tool gives Michigan agribusinesses access to key information that will guide strategic business decisions, allow agriculture to seize new opportunities for economic growth, and provide guidance in developing priority areas for agricultural expansion in response to new markets, climate change and other factors.

Bridges key piece to toting big soybean harvest

A no-frills concrete bridge on the edge of Stockland, Illinois, represents just the kind of headache the nation's soybean farmers hope a multimillion-dollar campaign and a little creative thinking will cure.  The 50-feet concrete span and hundreds like it in soybean-growing states can't handle the weight of fully loaded grain trucks that'll be bringing an expected record harvest to grain elevators this fall. That means those who use the often small, obscure bridges will have to make more trips and spend more money.  But those counties have small, often dwindling populations and the bridges are lightly used outside of hauling crops to market, which makes them a tough sell to state and local policymakers.  National and state soybean trade groups are spending millions — $1.5 million in Illinois over three years, for example — to make their case and present solutions beyond asking government agencies in charge of the bridges for money that they often don't have.  Wayne Humphries has avoided a bridge in southeast Iowa that can't handle heavy farming equipment for 40 years. It will soon be replaced at a cost of $897,000.  That bridge is only a tiny piece of the growing infrastructure problem in the U.S., Humphries said.  "I don't quite understand where the American public thinks we're going to be in 20 years if we don't invest in infrastructure," he said. "And I don't know who they think is going to pay for it if they're not going to pay for it themselves."

Sustainable agriculture is a gold mine for rural entrepreneurs

There’s a new opening for rural America to create jobs and make farming more future-friendly, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation. The Growing Business of Cover Crops details new business opportunities arising from a resurgence in the ancient practice of cover crops.  Rural America continues to struggle with a declining population, shrinking labor force and high poverty rates.  However, opportunity is growing on America's farms. Over the last decade, many farmers started using cover crops—non commodity crops used to protect soil and nutrients – creating a niche market for rural entrepreneurs. The USDA reports a 38 % increase in cover crop acres from 2012 to 2013, with the average farmer willing to pay $40 per acre on cover crops. For the average-sized farm (420 acres) that means $16,800 per farm spent on cover crops each year. 

Ag Weekly

Life without antibiotics

Producers in Denmark and The Netherlands have had a ban on subtherapeutic antibiotic use for a number of years. While the transition was not necessarily smooth, producers and researchers there have learned how manage health and production without antibiotics (except under the direction of a veterinarian).  Dr. Theo van Kempen, who is originally from The Netherlands and is an adjunct professor at North Carolina State University, says initially there was an increase in antibiotics, but then there was a steady decline. Basically, Dutch producers had to rebuild the industry from the foundation up, notes van Kempen. “Facilities are five to six times more expensive than those in the United States,” he says. “I fully realize this is not practical for the U.S. industry and it’s not practical in many parts of Europe either.” 

Pork Network

PETA makes at least two blunders in latest video

If all news is good news, PETA again struck it big with a video showing less-than-ideal situations on a Hickory, N.C., farm. The news was then picked up by the Associated Press. But if some news is bad news for PETA, then maybe it’s that its latest video didn’t target who they wanted to target, and may not be showing what they wanted to show.  In recent videos showing poor conditions on dairy and other livestock farms, the formula has been consistent — find a farm with bad conditions, link them to a regional or national name brand, and get everyone talking about it. Tuesday’s video is one of the first “animal cruelty” videos that may have failed on both of the former counts, although there was again partial success in distribution. 

Dairy Herd

Manure Hits the Fan in PETA Press Scam

Center for Consumer Freedom

Harris Teeter denies PETA allegations about abuse at dairy

Harris Teeter denied that it uses milk from a small farm that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals accused of animal cruelty, though PETA insisted its investigation shows the milk goes to Harris Teeter.  We will be asking PETA to issue a retraction immediately,” said Harris Teeter spokeswoman Catherine Becker.  Osborne Dairy Farm, the farm PETA filmed, could not be reached for comment. Piedmont Milk’s president did not return a message.  The dairy operation is located in Haywood County, in Western North Carolina, and  milks about 30 cows.  A spokesman for the N.C. Department of Agriculture confirmed the agency had received PETA’s complaint and inspected the facility last week. Brian Long said inspectors found some violations in the milking parlor, such as loose ceiling tiles and rusted metal. He said inspectors found nothing that would constitute a public health hazard, and found no problems in the milk storage tanks.  “That area was not similar to what was depicted in some parts of that video,” Long said of the milking parlor.

Charlotte Observer

Slow pace of rail recovery stirs fear of future woes

More than eight months after an extreme winter began snarling North American rail traffic, a Reuters analysis of industry data shows delays lingering, raising the risk of a second winter of chaos on the rails.  Across the continent's seven largest operators, trains ran almost 8 % slower on average and sat idle at key terminals for nearly three hours longer in the second quarter than a year earlier, data from the main railroads, known as Class 1, show.  While Canada’s rail operators have nearly recovered, many U.S. operators lag far behind.  The concerns are sharpest in the U.S. Farm Belt, with lawmakers fearful that the biggest crops on record may be slow to reach markets or could even rot.  Rail logjams contributed to the economic slowdown early in the year, rippling across corporate America and affecting everything from car makers to ethanol producers. Many experts blame an incomplete recovery from last winter's freight backlogs, coupled with record crops and rising competition with crude oil tankers for track space amid an economic recovery.     


No Room at the Bin for Grain 

With the start of the spring-wheat harvest in Arnegard, North Dakota,  the bins on Bob Wisness’s 11,000-acre farm are half full with last year’s crops that have been stranded by a train traffic jam.  “With the railroad situation the way it is, it almost looks hopeless as far as catching up” for storage capacity normally at least 90 % empty at this time, said Wisness, the president of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association.  BNSF Railway, and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.  struggled with “greater-than-normal” demand from shippers of coal, oil and Midwest crops. Record-high grain and soybean harvests anticipated this year may exacerbate the squeeze in silo space.  Railroads in 2013 transported 75 % of the wheat crop and more than half of the corn and soybeans from elevators in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Nebraska. About 2,700 railcar orders were running an average of less than 17 days late in the U.S. compared with a peak in early April of about 16,500, John Miller, the group vice president for agricultural products at Fort Worth, Texas-based BNSF, said.


Farmland Values and Credit Conditions

For the second quarter of 2014, “good” agricultural land values in the Seventh Federal Reserve District were 3 % higher than a year ago. Moreover, farmland values increased 2 % from the first quarter to the second quarter of 2014. Farmland values were partly buoyed by a spring rally in corn and soybean prices, which occurred before these crop prices started falling again. Only 2 % of survey respondents anticipated farmland values to rise during the third quarter of 2014, while 30 % predicted them to fall and 68 % expected them to be stable. The District’s agricultural credit conditions weak - ened somewhat in the second quarter of 2014 relative to a year ago. Repayment rates for non-real-estate farm loans were lower than a year earlier.

Chicago Federal Reserve

Fed: Iowa farmland values may have "plateaued"

Des Moines Register

Midwestern Farmland Values Flatten as a Hot Market Cools -- 2nd Update


John Deere takes a hit as farm economy weakens

Cargill fourth-quarter results ‘fell short of expectations’

Watt Ag Net

Brown Signs $7.5 Billion Plan to Ease California Drought

California Governor Jerry Brown agreed to boost water spending plans to $7.5 billion, a compromise 25 % higher than he had said the state could afford, as drought tightened its grip on cities and farms.  Brown signed the bill he brokered with state lawmakers to place a measure on the November ballot asking voter permission to issue $7.1 billion in new bonds, with $445 million to come from previous debt sales.


Michigan senate passes citizen initiative for scientific wildlife conservation

The Michigan Senate passed the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, a citizen initiative brought to the Legislature by the signatures of almost 300,000 registered Michigan voters led by the Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, a coalition of conservation, hunting, fishing and trapping organizations. The act would share the authority for naming game species between the Legislature and the Natural Resources Commission, which is require to use sound science in its game decisions. The act also grants the NRC the authority to issue fisheries order, under the same sound science mandate, protects those fisheries with a $1 million rapid response fund for aquatic invasive species, and preserves free hunting and fishing licenses for active military members.  The act also defeats two referendums sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, which is seeking to prevent a regulated hunting season on wolves in certain areas of the Upper Peninsula with high rates of livestock and pet depredation.

California lawmakers considering historic shift in groundwater policy

California is the only western state to not regulate groundwater; that could soon change State lawmakers could approve a significant change in groundwater policy during the final month of session California proposal would direct local agencies to create plans by 2020 for managing their groundwater.

Problematic “Puppy Mill” Proposal in North Carolina Dies

Sportsmen and hobby breeders were left scrambling when the North Carolina House of Representatives added stringent, new kennel regulations to the bill that the Senate passed. The provisions, being advocated for by the governor, would have subjected hobby dog breeders to the same regulations, inspections, and treatment as abusive, large-scale dog breeding operations.  While proponents claimed the new rules would crack down on high volume commercial kennels, the language of the provision would have applied additional standards on any kennel harboring 10 or more intact female dogs. In addition, the enforcement authority for dog laws would have been transferred from the state Department of Agriculture to the state’s law enforcement agency, the Department of Public Safety.  This would have set the stage for police officers to conduct kennel inspections on private property without the expertise of specialized animal care inspectors currently housed in the Dept of Ag.

Cities, States Face Off On Municipal Broadband

The U.S. House last month voted 223-200 to block any FCC preemption of state laws limiting broadband.  Wilson, North Carolina, determined nearly a decade ago that high-speed Internet access would be essential to the community’s social and economic health in the 21st century.  But private Internet service providers would not join the city in building a high-speed broadband network, so in 2006 Wilson’s city council voted unanimously to go it alone, borrowing about $35 million to deliver fiber optic cable to homes, schools and businesses via its municipal electric utility.  Today, Wilson is North Carolina’s first “Gigabit City.” Its Greenlight broadband utility serves 7,000 of 50,000 residents with Internet speeds up to  1 gigabit per second. That’s just about the fastest speed around, roughly 20 times faster than what private cable companies typically offer. Many other small communities without high-speed broadband would like to follow Wilson’s lead, but they have run into resistance from state officials who don’t want municipalities competing with private companies that pay taxes. States also fear exposing taxpayers to potential losses if systems should fail.  The core question is whether high-speed Internet access is such an economic necessity that municipal governments in less-populated areas of the country should provide it when private companies won’t. 


Ohio highway median turns bee habitat

The Ohio Department of Transportation is turning a highway median in southern Ohio into a honeybee paradise in an effort to create habitats for a bee population that has been declining in recent years.

Capital Press

Miracle in a Central New York cornfield: a $101 million milk processing plant grows

Heading out on the country roads west of Auburn you see cows, cornfields and in the middle of one field a shiny $101 million milk processing plant.  Kevin Ellis, the chief executive officer of the new Cayuga Milk Ingredients plant on Eagle Drive calls it a "miracle in a cornfield."  The 21 dairy farmers who invested in the company see it as a way to have more control over the profit they earn from their milk.  And the surrounding community sees a company that expects to earn $170 million in annual revenues, employing 58 people with a $3.5 million annual payroll. 


South Dakota co-op targets rural areas with fiber, cable TV

While rural schools are the target of a fiber build being undertaken by South Dakota telecom co-op Valley Telecommunications, others outside metro/suburban limits will also benefit.  Farmers, often left on the other side of the broadband digital divide, will get better Internet speeds and cable TV.  Mainly, though, the co-op is using a $19 million USDA Rural Development loan to push higher speeds out to Hosmer, Leola and Ipswich in South Dakota.

Rare Spotlight on Rural Hawaii After Storm Leaves Election Cliffhanger

Politics seldom intrudes on the easternmost district of the Big Island of Hawaii, a hard-to-reach paradise where the homes are nestled among lava-formed cliffs and the papaya and macadamia nut harvests loom larger than the machinations in Honolulu, let alone in Washington.  “Traditionally, Puna is the place time forgot,” said Dawn Hurwitz, 58, who has lived here for almost half of her life. But nobody has forgotten about Puna this week.  The area was battered by Tropical Storm Iselle, which left thousands of people without power or running water. And while residents are focused on digging out after the storm, politicians, aides and television crews have swarmed in, well aware that voters here are poised to finally decide the long, bitter Senate primary race between the incumbent, Brian Schatz, and Representative Colleen Hanabusa. (Schatz won)

New Hampshire Declares Emergency Over Synthetic Drug 'Smacked'

Gov. Maggie Hassan declared a state of emergency in response to 44 reported overdoses linked to people smoking or ingesting "Smacked," a synthetic marijuana-like product sold in convenience stores as potpourri. The state of emergency authorizes public health officials to investigate stores and quarantine the product. Nearly all the overdoses, none fatal, have been reported in the Manchester area.

No gray areas in animal attack

Here’s a headline you don’t see every day:  “Otter attacks, injures boy and grandmother”  I mean, most people’s concept of an otter is likely to be an image of a sleek, graceful mammal cruising effortlessly around a pool at some marine park, or floating on its back cracking open a clam to enjoy as a watery snack. Vicious attacks just don’t seem to be in their nature, which makes the incident that happened last week at a park about 30 miles north of Seattle all the more shocking.  What’s next? A straight-to-cable movie “When Good Otters Go Bad?” Or maybe “Otternado 2: Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the river . . . ” Otters, in fact, are like weasels on steroids: skillful predators, they can weigh up to 25 or even 30 pounds and are equipped with sharp claws and powerful jaws, as the unfortunate young boy and his grandmother discovered the hard way. 


Waggoner Ranch, Among US' Largest, Listed for Sale

One of the largest ranches in the U.S. and an icon for Texas horse and cattlemen has been listed for $725 million, marking the end of a decades-long courtroom battle among the heirs of cattle baron W.T. Waggoner, who established the estate in 1923.  The estate includes the 510,000-acre ranch spread over six North Texas counties, with two main compounds, hundreds of homes, about 20 cowboy camps, hundreds of quarter-horses, thousands of heads of cattle, 1,200 oil wells and 30,000 acres of cultivated land.  Heirs and stakeholders currently occupy two of the three principle houses and much of the estate has not yet been explored for oil and other mineral reserves.  The Waggoner Ranch is the largest contiguous ranch in the United States. The Waggoner name was prominent in the development of Hereford cattle and pedigree American quarter horses.


For Many Small Farmers, Being Certified 'Organic' Isn't Worth the Trouble

The USDA certification is arduous to maintain, and some community farmers are finding alternate ways to assure buyers that their produce is pristine.

8 sick: Minnesota preliminary test results of petting zoo animals positive for E. coli O157

The Minnesota Department of Health received the positive preliminary test results after taking samples from animals that were part of the Zerebko Zoo Tran petting zoo at the Rice County Fair in mid-July.  Wally Zerebko, owner of Zerebko Zoo Tran in Bovey, said the preliminary results are inconclusive. As the Department of Health continues to investigate and await the final results, Zerebko and his animals remain at home.  “They are telling me lives are at stake, I know that,” he said. “That’s why I am at home and why I encouraged them to come down and test. … I’m not out here to get kids sick. I’m trying to make a living.”

Barf Blog

Not cute with 300 sick from Salmonella linked to live poultry in backyard flocks

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that as of August 5, 2014, a total of 300 persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Newport, or Salmonella Hadar in 42 states and Puerto Rico, up from 251 in late June.


20,000 North Dakota jobs open for 6 straight months

Bismark Tribune

Pesticides didn’t kill bees, analysis shows

Capital Press

Starvation caused bee deaths, expert says

Capital Press

Muck Boots Keeps Stepping In The Muck On Social Media

Muck Boots is in hot water with its agricultural customers on social media over a fundraiser for HSUS. Here is an update on the company’s response to the online uproar.


Cargill finding jobs for Milwaukee beef plant workers


Proposed Sanderson Farms plant finds opponents in North Carolina

As Sanderson Farms considers building a chicken processing plant in Cumberland County, North Carolina, some area residents are voicing opposition to the project.  Sanderson Farms is looking at constructing the facility in Cumberland County’s vacant Cedar Creek Business Center, a 485-acre industrial site east of Interstate 95. If realized, the proposed Sanderson Farms plant would employ as many as 1,000 people and would generate an estimated $1 million in property tax revenue annually.  But some  are less concerned about its positive economic impact and instead focusing on possible environmental impacts. The group has been circulating petitions, had yard signs printed and has even started a website dedicated to persuading residents to oppose the proposed Sanderson Farms plant. 

Watt Ag Net

Idaho county pursues forest right-of-way through farm ground,SARL member concerned.

The Bannock County Commission has proposed to validate a mile-long, overgrown farm road through residential and agricultural land as a public right-of-way to access national forest, against the wishes of the affected private land owners.  Following a heated public hearing, the commission tabled a vote, wanting more time to accept written public testimony and legal briefings. The county has offered no financial compensation for the right-of-way, contending it’s existed since the late 1940s. Bannock County’s general counsel, Ian Service, who recommended that the commission approve validation, argued a prescriptive easement exists simply because people have used the access for so many years. McCammon resident Michael Bartlett, for example, testified he’s used the road for hunting and family outings since the 1960s.  T.J. Budge, an attorney representing a property owner, said the alleged right-of-way appears on no county land-use maps, as required by law.  Evidencing that the road isn’t public, Budge said it’s been gated for years, and neighbors have long sought permission before using it. He also noted that the landowners have all paid taxes on the property, with no easement factored into the county assessor’s calculations.  Rancher Ken Andrus, a state lawmaker who chairs the House Agricultural Affairs Committee, fears a primitive road through his ranch may be among the yet-to-be named access targets. Andrus intends to file a public information request before the county seeks any additional right-of-way validations.

Capital press

Southwest braces as Lake Mead water levels drop

Once-teeming Lake Mead marinas are idle as a 14-year drought steadily drops water levels to historic lows. Officials from nearby Las Vegas are pushing conservation but also are drilling a new pipeline to keep drawing water from the lake.  Hundreds of miles away, farmers who receive water from the lake behind Hoover Dam are preparing for the worst.  The receding shoreline at one of the main reservoirs in the vast Colorado River water system is raising concerns about the future of a network serving a perennially parched region home to 40 million people and 4 million acres of farmland.  Marina operators, water managers and farmers who for decades have chased every drop of water across the booming Southwest and part of Mexico are closely tracking the reservoir water level already at its lowest point since it was first filled in the 1930s. 

Capital Press

Nurturing Democracy’s Wetlands

David Mathews’ book, The Ecology of Democracy, looks at ways to strengthen civic participation at the source. So it is. The book, by the president and chief executive officer of the Kettering Foundation, is an enjoyable read. The questions are provocative, addressing potentially successful paths toward enhancing the processes of active citizenship in communities, including rural places.  The book is about, as its subtitle says, Finding Ways to Have a Stronger Hand in Shaping Our Future.

Daily Yonder

W.V. in Top Tier of Medicaid Expansion

Although rural residents are more likely to live in states that rejected Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, West Virginia (the third most rural sate in the nation) bucked the trend. A health-care advocate describes how the Mountain State went about exceeding projections for Medicaid – and describes what remains to be done. You don’t hear much about West Virginia and the Affordable Care Act. But since the law passed, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care and other advocates in the state have been educating the public about its provisions.

Daily Yonder

The Rural Student Brain Gain

The common wisdom is that rural America’s “best and brightest” want to leave home. New research shows these students are no more likely to want to leave than their counterparts. And when they do go, they have a stronger desire to return. Common assumptions about rural brain drain may be incorrect.  The study, conducted by researchers Robert Petrin, Kai Schafft and Judith Meece, reveals that high-achieving high school students are not necessarily more likely to leave a rural community than students who aren’t as interested in academics. And of those students who do leave, high-achievers are more likely to indicate a desire to return.  This desire to return home is linked to high-achievers’ stronger feelings of community engagement and connection.  Local economic conditions and students’ perceptions of future employment opportunities are the largest factors influencing the decision to stay or leave, the study showed.  The study also found little evidence for the assertion that teachers and school administrators contribute to brain drain by “grooming” their best students to leave. The study showed that these interactions do not have a significant impact on the students’ decisions to stay or leave. 

Daily Yonder

Cascade County, Montana has more jobs than jobless

The bump in job openings mirrors a national trend. The U.S. Labor Department reported 4.7 million openings nationwide, the highest level since early 2001.

Great Falls Tribune

California Silvery Minnow becomes newest threatened species

A super-sized silvery minnow found only in Clear Lake is the newest threatened species in California, representing a victory for environmentalists and Indian tribes and a potential threat to Lake County ranchers and others who draw water from the lake’s tributaries.  The Clear Lake hitch, once abundant in the shallow lake and a food staple of Native Americans for millennia, is now struggling for survival after decades of dam-building, water diversion, mining and pollution have damaged or isolated most of its spawning grounds.  Last week, a coalition of Lake County citizens, tribes and an Arizona-based conservation group found a powerful ally in the California Fish and Game Commission, which unanimously approved a proposal to designate the hitch as a threatened species, a step that prevents any harm, even if it is incidental, to the fish.


Utility must buy the farm its towers stand on, judge rules

A coalition of utilities that planted a power line through a small organic dairy farm can be forced to buy the whole property, a judge has ruled.  Scott County District Court Judge Caroline Lennon sided with Florence and Dave Minar, who turned to Minnesota’s “buy the farm” law when a power line threatened Cedar Summit Farm near New Prague, Minn., billed as the only grass-fed organic dairy farm in the region.  State law holds that when utilities want to push through a farm, and would threaten the farm’s existence, they must buy the entire tract of land if the farmer wants out.  “It’s a way of, to some extent, leveling the playing field,” said Paula Maccabee, an attorney for the Minars.  But the companies behind the $2 billion CapX2020 line, which crosses Cedar Summit Farm, argued that the law didn’t apply. Their transmission structure would cover less than an acre, they said, and wouldn’t have a major impact.  The Minars said otherwise, worrying that a 345,000-volt line would harm their cows and raise questions in customers’ minds. 

Star Tribune

Coca-Cola gives $1.5M to citrus research

The Coca-Cola Co. announced an additional $1.5 million contribution to finance citrus greening research over the next three years.  The contribution raises the company's total contribution to the Lake Alfred-based Citrus Research and Development Foundation to $3 million since 2011. The foundation, an affiliate of the University of Florida, is the Florida citrus industry's chief agency in the research effort against the deadly bacterial disease that threatens the viability of the state's commercial citrus industry, which has an estimated $9 billion annual economic impact in Florida. 

The Ledger

Plan to keep 3 Southwest Florida ranch properties unbuilt gains steam

  A bid to protect three ranches in Sarasota and Manatee counties from development got preliminary support from state officials Friday.  The state Acquisition and Restoration Council voted unanimously to move the proposal forward to the next stage of review.  Environmental experts will visit the ranches for an analysis of their conservation value. The ARC council will then take a final vote in December on the application for funding from the Florida Forever conservation program.

Herald Tribune

Food News

The Enigma of Animal Suffering

One of the most provocative tactics used by opponents of animal exploitation is to draw an analogy between human and animal suffering. Marjorie Spiegel’s “The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery” finds parallels between white oppression of African slaves in America and human exploitation of nonhumans. Spiegel asserts that like human slaves, nonhuman animals are subjected to branding, restraints, beatings, auctions, the separation of offspring from their parents and forced voyages.  We dominate and slaughter plants, but few people care because it is assumed that our plant victims don’t perceive any of it.  Charles Patterson’s “Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust” mines another human tragedy for comparisons to animal husbandry. Such analogies are shocking. But are they sound?  Our perception of the external, of disturbing images or scenes, is sometimes a projection of our own feelings as observers; it does not match what the subjects of such treatment actually experience. Animal slaughter, for instance, looks gory and disturbing, but when the animals are knocked insensible first, the discomfort is our own — not theirs.  For human analogies to animal farming to have force, the experience of being a farmed animal should be equivalent to the human experience in superficially similar circumstances. Is it safe to assume that a cow raised for food suffers the same general humiliations, agonies and frustrated drive for freedom that a human slave or victim of sexual assault or genocide does? If not, arguments equating animal suffering to human suffering are logically flawed.

Wis. raw milk farmer wins court case, now has a winning business

For Vernon Hershberger, 2014 has been much better than 2013. Last year, he was in the middle of a raw milk suit against the state of Wisconsin. After being acquitted on three of four charges in Sauk County, Wis., court, the well-publicized court case served as a great marketing opportunity for Hershberger’s raw milk business. Today, the members of his buyers club are about 25% greater than they were last year. He was found not guilty on charges relating to producing and selling milk, but was charged only for violating the holding order placed on his products after a 2010 raid.  The 35-cow dairyman did not increase his milking herd, but told the Journal that the pigs and chickens on his Loganville farm just have less available to drink.  His conviction resulted in a $1,000 fine paid by friends.

Dairy Herd

Food stamp use up in rural areas

Oftentimes, the issue of hunger is associated with people in inner cities, where the cost of living tends to be high.  But a new study shows some of the greatest need can be found where America’s food supply is grown and raised.  Jon Bailey, director of rural public policy program for the Center for Rural Affairs, examines the use of food stamps, now called SNAP benefits, from 2008 to 2012.  “And what we found is that during that time period, more households in rural areas received SNAP benefits than did households in more urban areas,” he says.  In that five-year period, the report says more than 14 % of rural households received benefits, compared to slightly less than 11 % of urban households. 

The Durango Herald

Bringing Sexy Back: Potatoes Edition

Companies are trying new products, promotions, and flavors to reheat potatoes’ popularity, such as healthier versions of french fries and gourmet options like the petite fingerling variety.      “We’re gonna bring the sexy back,” said Chris Wada, marketing director for Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, an Idaho-based grower, shipper and marketer of potatoes founded by Mr. Wada’s grandparents in 1943.      Wada is about to launch a line of Smalls Artisan Mini-Potatoes, bite-size red or gold spuds specially packaged to cook in a microwave in five minutes.

Wall Street Journal

Forty-Five % of Americans Seek Out Organic Foods -- Gallup

"A little less than half of Americans actively try to include organic foods in their diets, while 15% actively avoid them. More than a third, 38%, say they "don't think either way" about organic foods...This is the first year Gallup has asked about eating organic foods in the annual Consumption Habits survey.  The 38% who say they "don't think either way" about organic foods is higher than the percentage for any of the other food products. In the U.S., inclusion of organic foods is highest in the West (54%) and lowest in the East (39%).


Relearning How to Eat Fish

On a recent weeklong cruise along the shores of southeast Alaska, the dining room menu included wild salmon, Dungeness crab and sablefish. Many of my fellow 63 passengers had neither heard of nor tasted sable.  No wonder: Almost all of this delectable, nutritious fish caught by Americans is exported, along with about one-third of all our wild catch. Instead, we dine on farmed seafood imported from countries like China, Thailand and Chile; 86 % of the seafood we consume is imported.  Despite the overwhelming popularity of shrimp among Americans, none was served on the trip. A naturalist who lectured on board cautioned that almost all the shrimp reaching American tables is imported, half of it farmed in Asia — mostly under conditions that would ruin even the most voracious appetite.  Mr. Greenberg argues that the harvest of wild fish must be better controlled if we are to maintain sustainable populations. We need an “ocean policy that looks at wild and domesticated fish as two components of a common future,” he wrote in “Four Fish.”  He pleads for a standard that will boost fish supplies in as sustainable a manner as possible.  “Humans should purposefully select a handful of fish species that stand up to industrial-size husbandry with the goal of compensating for the huge gap between wild supply and growing human demand.”

Gulf oyster harvest has nose-dived since BP spill

Fisherman Randy Slavich drags a clunky metal net through an underwater oyster bed in Lake Machias, a brackish body opening into the Gulf of Mexico. For generations, this has been a bountiful lake for harvesting oysters, long before millions of gallons of oil spilled off Louisiana's coast in 2010.  On this day, Slavich's cage-like net pulls up dozens of empty, lifeless oyster shells.  "It's not good," he said, shaking his head as he pushed the shells back into the water. "We've never seen it like this, not out here."  Gulf Coast oyster harvests have declined dramatically in the four years since a BP PLC oil well blew wild in the nation's worst offshore oil disaster. Even after a modest rebound last year, thousands of acres of oyster beds where oil from the well washed ashore are producing less than a third of their pre-spill harvest.

Sun Herald

The Future of Food:How our eating habits will change

The way we eat — the kind of food we buy, where we get it, how it's prepared — has become a part of our identity, a guiding force that shapes how we live. It unites us. And divides us. Food brings people together in communal functions. But it also pits ideologies against each other: vegetarians vs. carnivores; all-natural evangelists vs. the convenience crowd; calorie counters vs. indulgence seekers.  No matter where individuals fall on the spectrum, we are a country obsessed with food. And with a seeming explosion in allergies, heightened concerns over obesity, increased scrutiny of chemical additives and growing environmental concerns, there's more attention being paid to what we eat than perhaps ever before. After decades of stocking our kitchens with meat, cheese and noodles, while simultaneously dieting to reverse the effects of all those fatty, starchy foods, we may be realizing that food isn't just a way to live, it's a lifestyle choice.  USA Today asked some experts: How will Americans be eating in five years? Here's what they said about the future of food:  Food that's good for us will taste better.

USA Today

Study shows global need to produce more fruits and vegetables

The global supply of fruits and vegetables falls short of the needs of the population.  Low fruit and vegetable intake is a leading risk factor for death and disability globally and is attributed to approximately 1.7 million annual deaths worldwide. With current global dietary guidelines recommending a daily fruit and vegetable consumption of at least five servings, researchers analyzed whether the supply of fruits and vegetables is sufficient to meet current and growing population needs. Findings suggest that the global supply of fruits and vegetables falls 22 % short of  the global population's needs and approximately 95 % short in lower income countries.

New potato helps feed growing world, prevent waste

You go to the grocery store, buy a sack of potatoes, and come home to get that meal on the table fast — only to discover after peeling and slicing, you don’t have that clear, consistent color you were expecting. Instead you find internal bruising or black spots that you have to cut away. The wasted potatoes go in the garbage and you think, what a waste.  Wouldn’t it be nice if technology could prevent all of this hassle and waste?  Soon it will. A new potato that is the result of some exciting innovative technology is almost ready for market — and it’s developed to reduce black spot bruising and browning when cut.

Capital Press

Genetically Edited Crops Proposed as Alternative to GMOs

Experts are trying to promote the recent creation of Genetically Edited Organisms (GEOs) as a preferable alternative to gene-insertion-based Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) crops. A very specific type of GMO, they say, has been raising concerns with governments and the public alike, and the editing of a plant within the bounds of its own natural genetic information may simply be a preferable course of action. GEOs improve crops by simply taking the plant's preexisting genetic information and editing it - causing deletions and sequence swaps to create a genome that expresses preferable "super" traits.

Kansas Plant Reopening After 'Pink Slime' Dispute

Ag Web

Let's Use Organic and GMOs to Feed the World

As anyone who follows food and agriculture issues knows, much of the public discourse -- particularly around genetically modified organisms is highly polarized. The debates are often as personal and bitter as the extremes that characterize today's partisan politics.  For both personal and professional reasons, I'm among those saddened by the intensity of the conflict. Not only did I grow up on a family farm in Illinois, but 30 years ago I helped develop GMO crops. Yet far more important than my, or anybody's, individual reaction is this: The debate over GMOs has tended to sidetrack progress on the development of a common agenda to solving the global food security problem

Huffington Post

Pity the Potato: The Humble Spud Falls From Grace in the U.S.

Wall Street Journal

You need meat, baby

Finally, a scientific survey that can be embraced, rather than debunked.  The only downside is that it was published halfway around the world, and thus will generate minimal enthusiasm among parents in the US.  According to a new study was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, children need to eat more meat. And we’re talking toddlers here—kids 12 to 16 months old. The researchers cautioned that inadequate meat consumption is compromising the iron levels of many youngsters in that crucial growth period, which can be detrimental to good health and proper physiological development.  What the study authors called the current “low-meat trend”—read, “stop eating meat to save the planet!”—has been linked to an increase in the use of infant formula use by a number of health experts. The study reported that more than half of the children surveyed were eating inadequate servings of the five recommended food groups: dairy, fruit, vegetables, meat and grains.

Cattle Network

Few shoppers handle raw poultry properly, study shows


Consumer reports throws science under the bus, again

The latest consumer report, “Milk Alternatives: Should You Sip or Skip,”  addresses alternatives to dairy milk, such as soy, coconut and almonds. As Kevin Folta, head of the University of Florida plant technology program writes, the editors found fault in almost all of the milk alternatives, for instance pointing out that some contain “heavy metals.” But the most egregious CR development is its unexplained dissing of GMO soy milk. Upwards of 94% of the US soy crop is GMO so it’s no surprise that your favorite edamame or your morning glass of soy milk is made from soy beans designed to be grown with fewer insecticides and herbicides. In its “Cons” section, CR encourages consumers to “Look for brands with the USDA organic seal or the non-GMO verified label.”


Ky., Feds Reach Agreement Over Hemp Seed Imports

Ky. agriculture officials and the federal government have finalized an agreement on how industrial hemp seeds may be imported into the state.  After reaching the deal Friday, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture has agreed to drop a lawsuit filed over acquiring the seeds.  Under the agreement, the department will file an application with the federal government for a permit to import hemp seeds, and the federal government will process the Kentucky's application quickly. The federal government also agrees that the process established by the state will control the cultivation and marketing of hemp.  The department filed suit in May against several government agencies after seeds ticketed for Kentucky were held by customs in Louisville. The seeds were released in late May and distributed to universities and private farmers.

EPA approves pollution budget for Md.

The U.S. EPA has approved the pollution budget developed by Maryland to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus in Maryland’s coastal bays and tributaries to levels that meet water quality standards.  The budget calls for pollution reductions in the coastal bays of up to 35 % for nitrogen and up to 18 % for phosphorus. Higher reductions are required in some of the bays tributaries.  The limits, designed to improve conditions for aquatic life and shellfish harvesting, are contained in a series of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) submitted for EPA approval by the Maryland Department of the Environment.


USDA Rural Development Loans for everything from farms to factories-and libraries

The USDA is an important source of capital and assistance in finding capital for many rural Michiganders, ranging from local government officials to farmers, factory owners and others in small business.  The library in Lake Odessa, a small Ionia County village, is a case in point.

Grand Rapids Business Journal

USDA Funds Broadband Expansion in Rural Minnesota, North Dakota and Texas

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack awarded nearly $40 million in loans for new or improved broadband service in rural parts of Minnesota, North Dakota and Texas. The loans are being funded through USDA Rural Utilities Service's Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program to finance projects to expand voice, video and data services.


FDA Reports Positive Trends in Antimicrobial Resistance

The US FDA released its National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System 2011 Executive Report, showing mostly decreasing antimicrobial resistance trends. The annual NARMS Executive Report focuses on resistance to antibiotics that are considered important in human medicine as well as multidrug resistance (described as resistance to three or more classes of antibiotics), according to the FDA.

The Poultry Site

USDA says beef grading system may be outdated

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is seeking public input on possible revisions to the U.S. Standards for Grades of Carcass Beef to adjust for recent improvements and trends in animal raising and feeding. AMS is also seeking input on a review of beef instrument grading.  One driver is the advent of grass-fed beef, which has different attributes than grain-fed beef.  “Significant changes (such as grass fed versus grain fed feeding regimens, instrument grading, management, and export requirements) have taken place in the beef industry since the current grade standards were adopted in 1997,” USDA explained in a public notice.


Glickman to Chair Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research

"Former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman has been elected board chairman of the newly established Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research. The 15-member board chose Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum as vice chairman at the group's inaugural meeting on Thursday. Authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, FFAR will operate as a non-profit corporation seeking and accepting private donations in order to fund research activities that focus on problems of national and international significance. Congress provided $200 million for the foundation, which must be matched by non-federal funds as projects are identified and approved.


Dairies sue EPA to keep records private

Several Washington dairies have filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the federal government from disclosing their confidential business information to the public. The U.S. EPA investigated the four farms — Cow Palace, George DeRuyter and Son Dairy, Liberty Dairy and H&S Bosma Dairy — in connection with possible groundwater contamination.  The agency was looking for possible sources of nitrate that was detected in drinking water wells in the Lower Yakima Valley.  Last year, the EPA sought specific information from the four dairies while negotiating a settlement agreement to improve water quality in the area, according to a complaint filed by the farms.  In response, the dairies turned over documents pertaining to their waste lagoons, cattle numbers, soil test results, water volume usage, drainage information and other data, the complaint said.  The companies later reached a settlement with the EPA that required them to monitor groundwater, develop plans to prevent nitrate leaching and upgrade their lagoons, barns and other facilities, among other measures.

Capital Press

USDA Seeks Applications for Grants to Increase Economic Opportunity and Improve the Quality of Life in Rural Areas

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is seeking applications for grants that will be awarded to organizations to provide critical financial and technical assistance to recipients to develop and strengthen their capacity to carry out housing, community facilities and community and economic development projects.  "Many rural nonprofits often need capital and technical assistance to carry out their missions," Vilsack said. "These grants will provide both of these components through local and regional organizations that are experts at delivering such services."  USDA is making nearly $6 million available to qualified organizations under the Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI).  Recipients must be non-profit organizations, low-income rural communities, or federally recognized tribes. Intermediary organizations are required to provide matching funds at least equal to the RCDI grant. The grants do not go directly to business recipients but rather through qualified intermediaries.  The deadline for submitting RCDI applications is November 12, 2014.


AFIA submits comments to FAO on sustainability guidelines

The American Feed Industry Association recently submitted comments to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on the Livestock Environmental Assessment Performance draft guidelines regarding the animal feed supply chain.  AFIA was pleased the guidelines seemed well constructed, including their breadth and depth. The report, developed for a more harmonized approach to Life Cycle Assessments in the animal feed industry, takes into account the various production sectors involved. The draft also defines the methods necessary to produce consistent LCAs across the animal feed industry. 

Watt Ag Net

Budget deficit on track for best showing since 2008

 A lower than expected budget deficit in July kept the federal government on track to produce its lowest shortfall in six years. The imbalance ran $94.6 billion July, 3.1 % below the $98 billion during the same same period last year, the Treasury Department’s monthly budget statement showed on Tuesday.

The Hill 

Food Stamp Use Shows Continued 'Underemployment' Pain

The overall U.S. unemployment rate has steadily declined since the recession officially ended in June 2009. But many Americans still are finding it hard to get by, even if they do have jobs.  A key indicator of economic hardship—enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Progran—is higher in every state than it was five years ago, even though unemployment has dropped in every state during the same period.  Economists say the official unemployment rate underestimates economic pain, since it doesn’t include people who have stopped looking for work or who are barely getting by with part-time or low-paying jobs.  The official U.S. unemployment rate is 6.3%. But an alternative federal measure that includes people who want to work but are too discouraged to keep looking, and those working part-time though they would prefer to work full-time, is 12.6 %.


USDA predicts record harvests

Corn production at 14 billion bushels, up 1% from 2013, soybeans forecast to be a record 3.8 billion bushels up 16%, all cotton up 36% from last year.  Wheat down 5% from 2013.


Market-following programs, once perfected, would be no protection at all

As the annual crop tours end, it is evident that, in the absence of an extremely early frost or other weather event, the US corn and soybean crops could achieve record levels of production. Unless there is a rapid increase in the ethanol, feed, or export demand, there is no reason to expect that the sub-$4 corn prices and falling soybeans prices are over. Even with the low prices, analysts are predicting that insurance payments will be minimal. They note that payments adjust to market conditions, as if that were a good thing.  Now, if adjusting to market conditions is a good thing, then why on earth do we have farm programs at all? If the programs we designed are market-following, providing protection and making high payouts when prices are high and little protection and few payments when farmers need them the most, what interest does the taxpaying public have in such programs? What benefits do they derive from their investment in such a policy?

ARC of Destruction

The 2014 farm bill includes a new program called Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC). Generally speaking, when you hear the word ARC one of two things pops into your head. It's a vehicle that could save U.S. corn (and soybean) growers from prices well below the cost of production, yet ultimately destroy corn's demand market kingdom.  ARC offers growers a safety net price that is calculated by taking the Olympic average cash price of the five previous years. An Olympic average is where you take your set, throw out the high and low, and average the rest. This Olympic average price can then be compared to another program, the Production Loss Coverage program, that is a set-in-stone price.  For example, this October the ARC price of corn for 2014 would be calculated at approximately $5.30 (Olympic average for 2009 through 2013) while the PLC would be a locked in $3.70. A simple comparison of the numbers seems to make a strong case about which program will be the more popular.  By now you may be asking where the problem is. After all, $5.30 for corn doesn't sound like that bad of a price considering where cash may be come harvest if indeed the U.S. produces more than 14 billion bushels. Let's now look at the ripple effects of the ARC program.  We've determined the 2014 price for corn could be near $5.30. But what about soybeans? The Olympic average for the 2009 through 2013 period would be roughly $12.30. This results in a 2014 cash soybean-to-corn price ratio of 2.3:1, deep in the range that makes corn a more attractive crop to grow.  Think about that last sentence for a minute. A ratio that low favors growing corn, meaning that as U.S. farmers turn their attention to 2015 planting decisions, corn could gain back some of the ground lost in 2014.


ARC-CO and PLC Payment Indicator Using August WASDE U.S. Yield and Price

The 2014 farm bill gives farm owners the option to choose their crop program for the 2014 through 2018 crop years. A factor, perhaps key factor that will influence this decision is the payment by the program choices for the 2014 crop year. This article uses the just released U.S. yield and price estimates in the August 2014 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates to calculate an indicator of potential payments by the Agriculture Revenue Coverage - county program and the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program. The indicator estimates are for the 2014 crop year for barley, corn, oats, long grain rice, medium (and short) grain rice, sorghum, soybeans, and wheat.

Proposal to reduce the number on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board

USDA is proposing to reduce the number of people on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board from 103 to 100.  According to the Beef Promotion and Research Order, a state or unit must have at least 500,000 head of cattle to have a seat on the board. An additional member is added for each 1 million head.  Due to a decline in cattle numbers since the last reapportionment in 2011, the number of domestic cattle producers on the board should decline from 96 to 94 and importer representation would go from seven to six.  Original data suggested the two domestic producer seats would come from Texas however the current rebuilding of the Texas herd may save one of those seats by time the reapportionment takes place


Beef Checkoff Rift Continues

R-CALF, Excluded From Talks, Opposes Possible Changes. The three-year attempt to make recommendations to Congress to revamp the Beef Checkoff program may be in trouble. Recently, the 11 groups that make up the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group apparently came up with a set of recommendations some members view as a last attempt at consensus. R-CALF USA, which is not a member of the group, issued a warning that other farm groups plan to agree to a proposal it considers "smoke and mirrors," while some participants in the group said no agreement would be announced until this fall or winter, if ever.  In addition, Chandler Keys, a former National Cattlemen's Beef Association vice president who now represents JBS, the Brazilian-based meat company and other clients, wrote that there are so many problems associated with the national checkoff that producers should abandon it in favor of state checkoffs. The working group was established in response to a proposal to raise the beef checkoff, from $1 per head each and every time an animal is sold to $2 per head, and complaints that the checkoff was benefiting the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which has been close to the management of the checkoff dollars.  The group is supposed to make recommendations to Congress, since congressional action is the only way to make major changes to the program under the 1985 law that established it as a way for producers to engage in research and promotion efforts.


Russian Farmers Will Need Years to Fill Gaps Left by Food Ban

Russian politicians have declared the recent bans on Western imports a golden opportunity for Russian agriculture — but farmers and economists warn that upping production is a question of years, not months, and closing the market will not be enough to solve its problems.  Against a background of international friction over the crisis in Ukraine and increasing economic isolation, the question of where Russian's food is produced has been painted as a matter of national power and sovereignty.  "We are the kind of country, the kind of government, which can and should feed itself," Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said earlier this week.  The bans — which target imports of meat products, fish, fruit, vegetables and dairy products from the EU, the U.S., Australia, Canada and Norway — will ultimately serve Russia's farmers, he added, before concluding, "We are well-placed to fundamentally change the situation in agriculture."  At first glance, the sudden cancellation of about $9 billion in food imports could look like a windfall for an uncompetitive agricultural sector suffering from two decades of underinvestment.  But increasing Russian agricultural production will take at least five years, provided there is substantial investment and good state policies, according to Natalya Shagayda, director of the Center for Agricultural Policy at economic research university RANEPA.  The import bans, meanwhile, will only last a year unless the government renews them, and could be lifted at any moment if relations with the West clear up.

The Moscow Times

EU to Compensate Farmers Hit By Russian Import Ban

The European Union will start a program to compensate farmers particularly hard hit by Russia's ban on imports of European fruit and vegetables, the first step in what will likely be a broader drive to cushion the blow to producers.

Wall Street Journal

EU to pressure Egypt and Turkey on Russia food embargo

Egypt and Turkey are set to join Latin American nations in facing heightened diplomatic pressure from the EU, which insists they should not take advantage of Moscow’s food embargo against European producers. European foreign ministers are holding an emergency summit in Brussels on Friday to discuss the crises in Ukraine and Iraq. Senior EU diplomats said representatives from the 28 countries were expected to discuss a united response against countries moving in to fill the gap created by Moscow’s embargo against EU food.

Financial Times

Why Did Russia's Food Ban Spare Peanuts?

Peanuts, raw or processed, are not included in a recent Russian ban on food imports from countries that have imposed sanctions against it for the Ukraine crisis, according to the American Peanut Council. The official document announcing the ban includes numeric codes that correspond to affected commodities, such as meat, fish, and cheese. The code for tree nuts, such as almonds, cashews, pecans and walnuts, is listed; the code for peanuts—which are not nuts, but legumes—is not. So why did Russia leave peanuts off the list? It may be because Russia, thanks to its climate, cannot grow peanuts on its own, and depends entirely on imports to meet consumer demand. But Russia can't grow tree nuts, either, except for pine nuts. In any case, demand in Russia is up for peanuts and all nuts. During the first two months of this year, Russia imported 70 % more peanuts in volume than it did during the same time period in 2012, according to the U.S. Foreign Agriculture Service.

National Journal

Russians already hurt by Western food import ban

Russians are already paying a price — literally — for the ban on food imports from Europe and the United States that Russia imposed last week to retaliate for American and European economic sanctions.  Suppliers and consumers are facing shortages and price hikes on staples such as fish and fruit, as well as gourmet items such as Italian Parmesan and French Brie cheese.  Suppliers have raised prices for some fish by 20-36%, one of Russia's biggest retailers.  Suppliers reported shortages and higher prices for fruit, retailers braced for milk prices to go up, and some meat suppliers were engaging in price speculation.

USA Today

Montana Cowboy Bucks Putin Meat Ban With Russian Ranch Expansion

Montana lone ranger Darrell Stevenson knows it’s wise to drink upstream from the herd.  When Russian President Vladimir Putin banned U.S. and European meat, the third-generation cowboy already had a leg up on the competition. With a ranch 550 kilometers  south of Moscow, he stands to benefit from a market increasingly walled off from foreign rivals after Russia struck back against countries that imposed penalties over Ukraine. Russia is scouring the world for produce ranging from Chilean salmon to Egyptian oranges to fill a $9.5 billion hole left by restrictions on food imports imposed last week. Much closer to home, the ranch near Voronezh run by Stevenson and his partners is jumping into the fray to help feed a nation of 143 million that imports about 40 % of its beef.


Food import ban means Russia is fully at war with the West

Russians older than 30 have vivid recollections of such shortages, but the state propaganda machine is working hard to make people associate the looming hardships not with the memories of the failed Soviet economy but with the struggles of World War II. They are to think of their losses as heroic sacrifices made for the war effort. This propaganda, drawing on a wealth of cinematic and literary narratives of the glorious deprivations of wartime, may well prove successful with the vast majority of Russians who support the current war effort, at least in the short run.  A country at war invariably declares war not only on the outside enemy — in this case, the West, as represented by Ukraine — but also on the enemy within. In his landmark speech to parliament in March announcing the annexation of Crimea, Putin made reference to a “fifth column” of “national traitors” who are in cahoots with the West. With the ban on imported foods, he has broken an uneasy, long-standing truce with the group he views with the most suspicion: Russia’s cafe society.

Washington Post

China puts clamps on six U.S. pork plants, storage facilities

China  suspended six major U.S. pork plants and six cold storage facilities from its list of eligible pork exporters based on its ractopamine-free requirements.


China's Food And Drugs Saga: The Never-Ending Milk Scandal


China Corn Reserves Swell

Chinese Government Selling 2011, 2012 Leftover Crops. China's state-owned corn reserves have reached burdensome levels, especially when faced with the prospect of another good corn harvest this fall.


Energy and Renewables

Sierra Club vs. Mississippi Power Company Settlement Could Expand Renewables

A settlement this week in the legal battle between the Sierra Club and the Mississippi Power Company could expand the use of renewable energy by the utility in both Mississippi and Alabama. Under the agreement, Sierra Club agreed to drop its lawsuit challenging construction permits for Mississippi Power's Kemper County Energy Facility; and the utility agreed to convert four coal units to run on natural gas, upgrade an existing natural gas plant, along with other environmental and clean energy steps. Mississippi Power's parent company, Southern, has largely transitioned away from coal to natural gas, but the Mississippi and Alabama subsidiaries had not readily moved in the same direction. Now, six of the plants owned by Mississippi will be converted to run on natural gas or other non-fossil fuel sources by 2018. Once that occurs, 60 % of Mississippi Power's energy mix will be from natural gas by 2020 reports Ed Holland, president and CEO. The company will also set up and endow a $15 million fund with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community Foundation for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, and contribute to a conservation fund for Mississippi gopher frog habitat. Next door in Alabama, the utility will convert coal-fired units at three plants, and close two others. The utility expressed the opinion that new federal environmental mandates are restricting their ability to provide customers with energy in a cost-effective manner, and comes shortly following EPA's propose rule that would require utilities to reduce carbon emissions from existing plants.

Climate Change News

Hawaii Department of Agriculture Awards $1.6 million for zero-waste biofuel conversion project

Mesquite a complementary biofuel feedstock

A recent Texas A&M AgriLife Research study will be published in the BioEnergy Research journal, outlining how mesquite, growing in abundance in some regions of the southwest, could fit into the overall picture.  The paper is based on the study, Economic and Greenhouse Gas Efficiency of Honey Mesquite Relative to Other Energy Feedstocks for Bioenergy Uses in the Southern Great Plains. Despite its higher energy density per pound, mesquite production values on a per-land area basis are lower than other feedstocks observed in this comparison and therefore could not replace them entirely.

Crop Report Should End Food VS. Fuel Debate

 “It is clear from this report that the food versus fuel debate over the U.S. renewable fuel policy can be put to bed.  Our farmers have once again proven we can produce abundant quantities of high quality food, feed, fiber and renewable fuel.  “Trying to blame the ethanol industry for high food prices makes great headlines, but is not supported by the facts. A 2013 World Bank study has proven that crude oil prices are responsible for 50 % of the increase in global food prices since 2004. Meanwhile, the restaurant industry is reporting record-breaking profits— $683.4 billion forecasted in 2014, according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA). Additionally, the NRA reported that the restaurant industry has a 47 % share of the food dollar. The American farmer, however, receives less than $0.18, and of that about three pennies go to corn.  “Furthermore, the June Consumer Price Index for food is up 2.3 % over June, 2013. While food prices are rising at nearly the same rate as the overall index – up 2.1 % year over year – the cereals and bakery products category, which includes consumer grain products declined 0.3 % while meat products rose by 7.5 percent.  “It is downright disingenuous to see the executives of restaurants like Carl’s Jr., Wendy’s and White Castle perpetuate misinformation that corn prices are causing increased food costs. In fact, the decline in grain prices has reduced global food costs to a six-month low according to the United Nations.

Hoosier Ag Today

IRS guidance relaxes renewable energy tax credit

The IRS lowered the threshold for renewable energy projects that qualify for federal tax credits.  The new guidance by the IRS and Treasury Department could provide a boost to developers and investors in the wind energy industry, who up until recently were uncertain how much they would be able to rely on federal credits. The guidelines state renewable energy projects could qualify for a pair of tax credits if they paid for at least 3 % of the total project cost before the start of 2014. That is down from the earlier threshold of 5 percent. The IRS also specified which construction qualified as a project of "significant nature," which is another way developers and investor partners can be reassured they qualify for the credits.

The Hill

Hemp Could Power Better Super-Batteries

Industrial hemp can play a role in manufacturing super-powerful supercapacitors for energy storage at a cost that's far cheaper than graphene, researchers report. A team led by David Mitlin, an engineering professor at Clarkson University, heated up hemp fibers to create carbon nanosheets that can be used as electrodes for supercapacitors. Compared with graphene, the hemp-derived carbon is "a little bit better, but it's 1,000 times cheaper.”

Utility must buy the farm its towers stand on, judge rules

A coalition of utilities that planted a power line through a small organic dairy farm can be forced to buy the whole property, a judge has ruled.  Scott County District Court Judge Caroline Lennon sided with Florence and Dave Minar, who turned to Minnesota’s “buy the farm” law when a power line threatened Cedar Summit Farm near New Prague, Minn., billed as the only grass-fed organic dairy farm in the region.  State law holds that when utilities want to push through a farm, and would threaten the farm’s existence, they must buy the entire tract of land if the farmer wants out.  “It’s a way of, to some extent, leveling the playing field,” said Paula Maccabee, an attorney for the Minars.  But the companies behind the $2 billion CapX2020 line, which crosses Cedar Summit Farm, argued that the law didn’t apply. Their transmission structure would cover less than an acre, they said, and wouldn’t have a major impact.  The Minars said otherwise, worrying that a 345,000-volt line would harm their cows and raise questions in customers’ minds. 

Star Tribune

People preparing now to avoid another winter propane crisis

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin has joined U.S. Senators Al Franken and Rob Portman in sponsoring bi-partisan legislation to address the root causes of last winter's propane shortage.     The Propane Supply and Security Act is designed to improve the flow of supply and price information, study the need for propane reserves, and help farmers purchase storage tanks.  And while that bill works its way through Congress, there's action being taken at the state level as well.  Experts say last winter's propane crisis took everyone by surprise, and there was no playbook on how to handle it.     They say now, people have a better idea what should be done before winter rolls back around.     Last winter, propane demand in Wisconsin shot up as temperatures took a nose dive.      “Record levels and usage of propane 12 % greater than any other year." said Brandon Scholz, Wisconsin Propane Gas Association’s executive director.     And that sent prices through the roof, while making it hard for suppliers to make deliveries

More AgClips

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

Invader Batters Rural America, Shrugging Off Herbicides

Don’t ignore public perception of livestock euthanasia

More Beef In The Diet Shows Improvements In Cardiovascular Health

Kellogg joins campaign to fight climate change

Firm hired to run Illinois Lottery has failed to hit profit goals for 3rd straight year

Death Threats From Anti-GMO Nuts

Blue Rooster poultry deboning operation to add 100 jobs in Arkansas

Meredith: Find your inner 'Googliness'

Papaya Families Hit Hard by Iselle

Weed could be resistant to GMO labeling in Colorado

Sen. Chris Murphy spends day as farmhand at Freund’s Farm in East Canaan

Scrutiny Circles Track at Del Mar

Protection proposed for yellow-billed cuckoo

Gulke Questions Likelihood of 14-Billion-Bushel Corn Crop

Pregnant women, fetuses exposed to antibacterial compounds face potential health risk

Patrick Cavanaugh expands agriculture reporting with new website

Why Arizona needs a better land exchange

When to grow GMOs: How two farms made vastly different choices

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