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27- April 3, 2015
Food and Rural Communities
Federal and International
To help poultry growers and producers monitor these outbreaks of avian influenza, WATTAgNet has created an interactive map tracking confirmed cases in North America in 2015:
Watt Ag News
A captive falcon in Montana died due to H5N2 avian influenza, marking the state's first case of avian influenza. No commercial flocks have been infected in the state, but officials urge producers to keep wild birds away from flocks and report any illnesses.
The Bellingham Herald
A former HSUS undercover investigator speaks out in support of gestation stalls
Arizona Governor Ducey has vetoed a bill which would have separated farm animals from pets under the state’s animal abuse law. While the bill kept the same standards in-tact for both farm animals and pets, animal rights groups were concerned that it could lead to a weakening of standards for farm animals in the future. The bill would also require that anyone investigating animal abuse on a farm notify the Dept of Agriculture which could choose to join the investigation. Animal rights groups say that could lead to a “tip-off” for farmers from “a friendly agency. Governor Ducey issued a statement with the veto saying; “we must ensure that all animals are protected.”
West Virginia Governor Tomblin has vetoed a bill which would have allowed raw milk sales to consumers through herd-sharing agreements. Tomblin said he couldn’t sign the bill because consumption of raw milk “would pose a serious threat to public health.” The state’s House of Delegates passed the bill 81-to-19 while the Senate approved it by an 18-to-16 margin.
If signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, it would let trucks haul larger loads of cattle and grain at certain times, and would protect livestock farmers from liability if someone is injured on their farms.
Livestock operations that want to expand will still have to comply with county requirements under a bill that won first-round approval from Nebraska lawmakers. The legislation would create optional statewide standards for producers that want to build or expand facilities. Advocates say the bill encourages growth of animal agriculture by simplifying the permit process for out-of-state producers. The original bill would have mandated the standards and created a state-level board that could overturn county-level decisions. After three days of fierce debate, senators compromised with a measure that would rely on state, county and university experts to create the standards. Counties would have the option to use them as guidelines.
Months after rural voters helped Republicans reclaim the majority in the Minnesota House, lawmakers in both parties are looking to weaken environmental laws tied to agriculture. Gov. Mark Dayton's push to require farmers to leave a 50-foot buffer zone unplanted around rivers is facing stiff resistance from agriculture lobbying groups. Republicans picked up crucial rural seats in the Minnesota House in November, helping the GOP take control. Democrats don't appear ready to take on an environmental fight that would pit them against the state's agricultural interests. Dayton's buffer bill is "unworkable" and can't make it through the state Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, said committee chair Sen. Dan Sparks. Beyond the buffer bill, ag interests are also having a big influence on measures to exempt farmland from some school levies and others that touch on pesticide regulation and nuisance lawsuits.
Washington State Dept of Ag Director Bud Hover resigns from position on eve of his confirmation hearing. But Hover’s path to confirmation may not have been smooth. Hover’s appointment, made two years ago by Gov. Inslee, had never been confirmed by the Senate. Under Washington law, a gubernatorial appointment can serve unless rejected by the Senate. The hearing had long been scheduled.
A controversial measure that would have required monthly disclosure of pesticide use in Hawaii has died in the Legislature. SB 1037 passed the Senate but House Agriculture Committee Chairman Clift Tsuji failed to give it a hearing before a key legislative deadline. The measure would have required agricultural companies to submit monthly reports of what pesticides they use and in what amounts. On Kauai, seed companies report their monthly pesticide use through the Good Neighbor Program, but that is voluntary and limited only to that county. Tsuji said that he didn’t call a hearing for SB 1037 because he had already considered two similar proposals earlier this session and was concerned about the bill’s broad application to all farmers.
Bill seeks to prohibit giving antibiotics to healthy farm animals and require CAFOs to report how antibiotics are used.
Washington state Senate proposes renewing tax exemptions for food processors and creating new exemption for pesticide distributors. A Senate budget proposal renews tax breaks for food processors and creates a new tax exemption for pesticide distributors. Some 240 wineries, dairies, and fruit, vegetable and seafood processors would save an estimated $13.2 million in taxes during the 2015-17 biennium, and about 500 businesses that handle pesticides would save approximately $575,000. For about a decade, food processors have received an exemption from state business taxes on income from out-of-state sales.
Flash-cagefree is not better. A holistic, commercial-scale study to evaluate various laying hen housing systems and potential impacts on food safety, the environment, hen health and well-being, worker health and safety and food affordability, provides food system stakeholders with science-based information on sustainability factors to guide informed production and purchasing decisions. The research found there are positive and negative impacts and trade-offs associated with each of the three hen housing systems relative to each of the five sustainability areas. Depending on the goals of a food system stakeholder, the trade-offs may be weighed differently.
Sustainable Egg Coalition
May 6-7, Kansas City MO, this year’s event will explore animal agriculture’s continuous efforts to embrace new technologies that will help feed a growing population while measuring sustainability, engage consumers in innovative ways to bridge the knowledge gap, and highlight initiatives that demonstrate agriculture’s commitment to transparency.
Animal Ag Alliance
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation recently issued a report entitled, “A Policymaker’s Guide to the GMO Controversies.” The report summarizes the adoption rate of GM crops in the U.S., the economic benefits that have been realized, the current labeling movement and the sustainability of these innovations. The result of this technology has been a nearly $100 billion increase in farm gate value, 300 million tons of increased production and a 37% reduction in pesticide application.
After two years of intense study by researchers with the University of Maryland 18 piglets were recently born as the result of a breakthrough in the field of genetic engineering. Genome-edited pigs were produced, using clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats system. Known as a "target and replace/modify function" for DNA, the CRISPR system has dramatically improved scientists' ability to disable genes or modify their function inside any living cell. Originally discovered in a natural system bacteria use to protect themselves from infection by viruses, the CRISPR method is currently being tested in biomedical applications on a variety of species. The lab is one of only a handful in North America to successfully use the method in pigs.
Flowers are sold retail, sales tax is collected, and therefore flowers are exempt from use tax. The sponge that holds the flowers, the plastic wrap that wraps them, the wires and ribbons that adorn them and hold them together, are not being resold and are therefore subject to use tax. "It's a question of whether the item is going to be resold or if it's being consumed," Mousley said. If it's resold, sales tax applies. Soil to grow plants gets charged use tax. It comes down to while the use tax very generally might make sense to people, how it's interpreted involves a very fine line regarding what's eligible and what's not. The tax department is trying to reach out, mostly through 15 fact sheets available on its websites. The tax department is also doing what it can to meet with business owners face to face. The Farm Bureau got involved in the sales and use tax debate after equipment dealers became the focus of audits.
Nevada bill would require the federal government to obtain permission to use land within the state’s borders. The proposal also strips the federal government of state water rights. Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who garnered national attention when he and armed supporters engaged in a showdown with federal authorities, came to Carson City with scores of allies to rally behind a bill seeking to reclaim land from the federal government.
Research with animals is guided by a complex set of federal laws, regulations and guidelines that are designed to maximize the benefits of scientific research, and to oversee best practices for animal care and use. Many institutions voluntarily go above and beyond the federal regulatory requirements to implement additional standards for the care and use of animals by participating in an accreditation process with the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International. In addition, scientists and technicians who care for animals are guided by a complex interaction of ethical, empathetic and production considerations for the proper care and use of animals. The ultimate goal of federal regulations for the care and use of animals in research is to ensure standardization of care and humane treatment of animals.
Tobacco farmers would be better protected from nicotine poisoning under new guidelines from the Obama administration. The Department of Labor is looking to prevent tobacco workers from contracting what's known as "green tobacco sickness." Tobacco farmers are at risk of developing this form of nicotine poisoning as they plant, cultivate and harvest tobacco products.
Unsightly gear. Navigation problems. Less room for recreation. These are just a few complaints some Inland Bays residents have raised in their opposition to Delaware's proposed commercial shellfish aquaculture program, and they hope the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers takes their concerns into consideration. Cape Region residents living along Little Assawoman Bay and Beach Cove in Indian River Bay began protesting the state's proposed aquaculture program in the fall, taking issue with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's public process and site selection for aquaculture leasing areas. Delaware has proposed eight shellfish aquaculture development areas, or SADAs, within the Inland Bays. The corps is considering the program for a regional provision to a nationwide permit; if granted, the regional provision would streamline and expedite individual leases. Gov. Jack Markell signed HB 160, creating a commercial shellfish aquaculture industry in Delaware's Inland Bays and made Delaware the last state on the East Coast to adopt aquaculture legislation.
A pair of bills that would modify permissible activities in Oregon farm zones have raised concerns among agriculture and property rights groups, but compromises appear possible. At issue is what nonfarming commercial activities will be allowed on land zoned for agriculture. The current language of HB 3368, is incredible broad, making Farm Bureau decline to support it, because it allows all home occupations to take place in an “outdoor setting” in farm zones. If the language better reflects the bill’s intent — allowing farmers to hold weddings and similar events — then OFB would be willing to reconsider its position on the bill. Legislation that would reduce allowable activities in farm zones, HB 2829, caused similar worries about overbreadth as it defines the type of “private parks” that are permissible on farms, clarifying that they’re intended only for “passive outdoor recreational opportunities,” such as picnicking or hiking, and not active uses, such as paint ball competitions and tracks for motor vehicles. The sponsor says he plans to propose an amendment to HB 2829 to limit the new definition to private parks on high-value farmland.
Idaho State Dept of Ag officials said the new rules would still ensure herd health is protected. Two pending rules that relax some import restrictions on livestock entering the state have been approved by the Idaho Legislature. One of the rules involves dairy cattle headed for slaughter and the other affects all cattle and horses, and both are designed to make it easier for the state’s livestock industry to operate. The new rules both have safeguards to ensure herd health is protected. One of the rule changes will allow dairy cattle imported into Idaho to be granted a tuberculosis testing exemption if they are consigned directly to feedlots approved for finish feeding.
The anti-biotech activist Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Farms CEO and recent White House nominee to a trade advisory committee, seems to enjoy highlighting bad news. Even when it's bogus-he manipulates it to serve his personal, ideological campaign against modern agriculture. When the International Agency for Research on Cancer, claimed that the world's most popular weed killer may cause cancer. Hirshberg talked to every reporter who would listen, calling this one more reason to get behind his “Just Label It” initiative. “Even if it's in debate and even if it's in dispute,” said Hirshberg “at least give consumers the right to know.” You know what consumers have a right to know? Hirshberg is peddling a lie. The IARC announced that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen.” Except that it isn't. Glyphosate may be the most vetted technology ever developed. Every reputable agency that has studied glyphosate has reached the same conclusion: It does not threaten human health. In January, the European Union released the results of its latest ongoing review conducted by the German Risk Agency: “In epidemiological studies in humans, there was no evidence of carcinogenicity and there were no effects on fertility, reproduction, or development of neurotoxicity attributed to glyphosate.” This is the scientific-research equivalent of what doctors call “a clean bill of health.” Glyphosate “does not pose a cancer risk to humans,” said the EPA in 2013. The IARC is not just out of step with every responsible group that has studied glyphosate. It's out of step with fellow researchers at the UN's World Health Organization, its parent organization. “Glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans,” said the WHO. In a separate analysis, it determined that “the presence of glyphosate … in drinking water does not represent a hazard to human health.”
One of the often-stated ethical reasons people give for choosing veganism is that by eliminating animal products, especially meat, from human diets, more plant-based foods would be made available globally because animals are inefficient at converting feed to products. However, this ignores the fact that the production of human food generates a significant amount of byproducts that are not edible to people but can be fed to animals. The U.S. soy and ethanol industries wouldn't be viable if they couldn't sell soybean meal and dried distillers grains as part of their business models. From a human nutrition point of view, the primary products from food processing are the human-edible portions and the inedible remainders are byproducts. The edible portion varies from a low of 20% in the oil from soybeans to a high of 75% for flour from wheat. The ethanol and biodiesel industries also generate significant amounts of byproducts that add to the animal feed supply. Over the 2009-13 crop years, 136.7 million tons of human food were produced from primary crops. An almost equal amount of byproducts — 137.5 million tons — were generated in human food and biofuel production combined.
Once Avian flu once infects a flock, it’s a lengthy process before that farm is able to resume production. A USDA appraiser will establish a value for the turkeys and put together a compliance agreement and then start the depopulation process. That involves euthanizing not only the surviving birds of the infected flock, but also any other flocks that are on that farm. The dead birds are then composted inside the barns using two heat cycles that kills bacteria and virus. After that the building goes through a disinfectant process, then sits vacant for three to four weeks.
The Schenectady County community has raised more than $50,000 to assist with legal costs for a farmer that faces multiple charges of animal endangerment. The story has gone viral and led to heightened emotions by both sides. Joshua Rockwood, owner of West Wind Acres farm in Glenville, was arrested and charged with more than a dozen counts of animal endangerment after police observed animals left out in the cold and without water, due to a frozen water pipe. Some of Rockwood’s animals have been confiscated. At a hearing this week, supporters packed into Glenville Town Court. Jon Katz, an author from Cambridge, New York, Rockwood’s hearing week and also saw the farm and animals himself. Katz said he realized that many Americans don’t have an accurate idea of what a farm is like. “So farms are kind of messy, dirty, stinky places. They’re not like Vermont postcards. And his looked like every other farm. It’d certainly be great if he had the money for a stronger infrastructure, but he didn’t. And I think half the farmers in Northeast have their water pipes freeze…that’s what every one of them told me is, ‘It could have been me. They could have arrested me.
Four of Southern Maryland’s equine centers are joining forces as part of a statewide campaign to bridge the gap between man and horse. The Maryland Horse Industry Board within the Maryland Department of Agriculture, will launch a statewide network of 35 Horse Discovery Centers in 15 counties. After a thorough selection process, the stables will join a network of others across the state to welcome people of all ages and skill levels to learn about and become comfortable around horses. “We think this will be a great way to bring more people into the horse world and educate them and show them what the horse world is all about,” Kristy Alvarez, executive director of Freedom Hill Horse Rescue.
Suit alleges effort to artificially lower the price of wheat in 2011 by buying large amounts of futures contracts
Wall Street Journal
The tax Utahans pay for a gallon of gas will be headed up by a nickel and could climb higher in the future, after Gov. Herbert signed into law a nearly $76 million increase to the state fuel tax. Herbert also signed a $76 million increase in property taxes, designed to help bring funding for rural schools up to par with those in more affluent, urban areas. Some saw both tax hikes, coming in a year when the state experienced a huge surplus, as unnecessary. But Herbert said the tax increase will help ensure Utah's long-term transportation needs can be met.
Salt Lake Tribune
The Alabama House voted down a bill requiring animal shelters to conduct a monthly census of animals that were housed, where they came from and what happened to them. The bill, debated on the House floor, required shelters to make the monthly report available to the public upon request. The bill failed 67-28. Some legislators objected to the additional workload. Others were concerned with whether it would make shelters more vulnerable to lawsuits by animal rights groups. Representative K.L. Brown said the bill would have made it easier to know what happens in shelters. He said it also allowed shelters to have the data needed to receive grants. Brown says he has not yet decided if he'll bring a similar bill again next year.
Texas may continue to bar veterinarians from providing medical advice remotely, without physically examining their animal patients. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled against Ron Hines and upheld a Texas law governing how vets practice. Hines is a retired and disabled veterinarian. His license was suspended because he gave online advice to pet owners without hands-on contact with their animals. He appealed the suspension, a district court ruled against the state defendants' motion to dismiss Hines' claim. But then the state defendants appealed to the Fifth Circuit, which issued an opinion reversing the district court. Hines said he would appeal the Fifth Circuit ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Nearly two weeks after the launch of a farm workers’ strike that led to road blocks along the Transpeninsular Highway and threatened the output of one of Mexico’s most important agricultural regions, calm has returned to Colonet, Vicente Guerrero, San Quintin and other communities that grow strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes and other produce. Authorities reported that most striking workers were back on the job, despite the breakdown of talks on Friday between strike leaders and the growers.
Patrick Costello, a rural attorney has seen small towns lose financial support as farmland ownership moved out of town to non-farm heirs. He wondered if there was a way for a farmer to give a portion of his land to the community that would keep the farm together, benefit a long-time tenant and leave a legacy to his family and his community. In fact, community foundations are springing up across rural America to do just that. First, to better serve farmers such as Krog, Minnesota had to change its anti-corporate farming law to allow individuals and private foundations to make retained farmland gifts to public charities as exit strategies. An exemption to Minnesota's corporate farm ownership law allows the foundation to own a farm and benefit from its earnings. Farmers often receive charitable deductions for participating is another incentive, an annual charitable deduction on income taxes now and by gifting the property while still alive, it whittles down the estate value, reducing future estate tax exposure.
Gov. Paul LePage said this week that he plans to personally review and choose conservation and public easement projects before funding them with voter-approved bonds. increasingly political dispute in which his administration has already acknowledged that the governor is withholding $11.5 million for Land for Maine’s Future projects as a bargaining chip to advance his plan to increase timber harvesting on state-owned lands to pay for residential energy-efficiency programs. Both tactics could have implications for dozens of land conservation projects across the state. It also raises questions about the future of LMF, a 28-year-old program designed to preserve public access to hunting, fishing and recreational areas that would be closed without public funding.
Portland Press Herald
The Senate added $35 million to its plan for buying conservation land as backers of November’s land and water constitutional amendment continue to push for a higher funding level proposed by the governor. The additional Senate money, amended into the chamber’s $80.4 billion budget proposal for the next fiscal year, boosts funding to at least $37 million for land buying under the voter-approved initiative known as Amendment 1. Amendment 1 requires $741.8 million be set aside for land and water projects. Sen. Rob Bradley who sponsored the amendment, said the increase is a response to complaints about a lack of land-buying money in both the House and Senate budget proposals.
Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., a global supplier of agricultural commodities, has pledged to curb deforestation that results from the farming of soybeans and palm trees.
First, where does the EPA 10 mg/L (10 ppm) standard come from? A University of Nebraska review provides an answer. It concludes the connection between nitrate ingestion and blue baby syndrome is based on studies conducted in the 1940s. The water used in testing on babies was rural well water and was used to make baby formula. In 1945, Iowa City physician Hunter Comly found the well water he tested contained bacteria as well as nitrate. The wells tested were situated near barn yards and pit privies. Comly also found an absence of blue baby syndrome when the babies' formula milk used tap water rather than well water. "Re–evaluation of these original studies indicated cases of methaemolglobinaemia always occurred when wells were contaminated with human or animal excrement and that the well water contained appreciable numbers of bacteria and high concentrations of nitrate." The Nebraska paper describes another 1948 study where infants were administered doses of 175-700 mg/L of nitrate/day and the study strongly suggested that nitrate alone did not cause the blue baby syndrome. The paper goes on to say a report of the American Public Health Association in 1950 "…formed the main basis of the current recommended…nitrate limit, but even the authors of the report recognized it was compromised by unsatisfactory data and methodological bias."
For Apache and Mr. Moran, it was just another Sunday, as they waited to begin their shift, the man and the horse appeared to share a collaborative rather than coercive relationship. Apache seemed well fed and bore no obvious scars or lesions. “They get five weeks’ vacation a year; they don’t go out when it’s too hot, they don’t go out when it’s too cold,” Mr. Moran said. As might be expected, he had little patience with the argument that the life is cruel to the horses. He opined that the stables, are inspected more than homeless shelters or child care centers.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffee signed a bill into law that clarifies that a private animal shelter is “a facility operated for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes for animals.” While this definition seems obvious to most of us, the passage of this legislation has really ticked off the animal liberation organization PETA, whose “animal shelter” was specifically targeted by this law. PETA operates an “animal shelter” in Norfolk, Va. that kills over 90% of the animals in its care. Despite PETA’s desperate lobbying against the legislation, it was apparent to Virginia lawmakers that PETA wasn’t operating a “private animal shelter,” and the law passed overwhelmingly. Yet, PETA is now claiming in light of this new law that it has always been in the business of providing permanent adoptive homes. After the passage of this legislation, a PETA spokeswoman “told The Huffington Post by email that PETA intends to keep up its work. “That most of the animals PETA takes in are, “old, sick, and injured animals.” The implication here is clear, despite the passage of legislation specifically targeting PETA’s facility, PETA plans to flout the law and continue to kill animals. PETA has previously told the media that only half of the animals it kills are adoptable, so no one should believe its latest spin.
The number of people with insurance coverage for alcohol and drug abuse disorders is about to explode at a time there’s already a severe shortage of trained behavioral health professionals in many states. Until now, there’s been no data on just how severe the shortage is and where it’s most dire. Jeff Zornitsky has developed the first measurement of how many behavioral health professionals are available to treat millions of adults with a substance use disorder in all 50 states. The “provider availability index” – the number of psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors and social workers – ranges from a high of 70 in Vermont to a low of 11 in Nevada. Nationally, the average is 32 behavioral health specialists for every 1,000 people afflicted with the disorder. The shortage of specialists threatens to stall a national movement to bring the prevention and treatment of SUD into the mainstream of American medicine at a time when millions of people with addictions have a greater ability to pay for treatment thanks to insurance. The Affordable Care Act for the first time requires all insurers, including Medicaid, to cover the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction.
Newly released research results from an Iowa State University economist revealed that consumers are willing to spend more for GM potato products with reduced levels of acrylamide. Potato products like French fries and potato chips make up the biggest source of acrylamide consumption in the U.S. Simplot's varieties of Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank and Atlantic potatoes are collectively known by the trade name "Innate" and are genetically engineered to reduce the formation of black spot bruises by lowering the levels of certain enzymes in the potatoes. Additionally, they are engineered to produce less acrylamide by lowering the levels of an amino acid called asparagine and by lowering the levels of reducing sugars. Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods during high-temperature cooking, such as frying, and has been found to cause cancer in animals. Participants were willing to pay $1.78 more for a 5 lb. bag of potatoes after they received information from a scientific perspective on hazards associated with acrylamide exposure and a potato industry perspective on dramatically reducing acrylamide in potato products using biotechnology. Likewise, the participants were willing to pay an extra $1.33 for a package of frozen French fries after they received materials explaining the scientific implications of human exposure to acrylamide.
Cancer-fighting pink pineapples, heart-healthy purple tomatoes and less fatty vegetable oils may someday be on grocery shelves alongside more traditional products. These genetically engineered foods could receive government approval in the coming years, following the OK recently given to apples that don't brown and potatoes that don't bruise. The companies and scientists that have created these foods are hoping that customers will be attracted to the health benefits and convenience and overlook any concerns about genetic engineering.
Animal Rights Activists are pushing companies for cage free – but that’s just the start. Regardless of the reality that cage free is not better for the hens, workers or food safety and the fact that there are not that many cage free eggs available, The Humane League, which is currently focusing on cage-free eggs was founded by activist Nick Cooney, who was convicted on making terrorist threats, harassment and criminal conspiracy, all in the name of animal rights. It is only the beginning step to ultimately mandate a vegan lifestyle. The National Association of Egg Farmers says the media has been misinformed about egg production practices. This has led some food companies to source their eggs from cage-free farmers believing it is more humane or better from a food safety perspective. Today’s modern conventional cages used in producing eggs provide: 1)A humane way of producing eggs as evidenced by extensive scientific evidence. 2) Provide a safe and wholesome egg. 3) Provide a lower cost for a high quality protein product
Consumers Have the Right to Know What’s in Their Food- Before a medical professional can input substances into a person’s body, informed consent is required. And we require extensive labeling of prescription medications, including copious lists of adverse side effects, before people are expected to swallow those pills. Is a little information on a label too much to ask from food providers? Is it really so unreasonable or cost-prohibitive to simply provide what is necessary for human beings to make informed decisions that have serious consequences to the health of their own bodies? Food companies need to be held accountable for what they put in food and how they label it. This doesn’t inhibit free trade. It makes the competition play fair. That’s why we have open dating on packages, so that we know the shelf life of the food products we purchase
88% of scientists polled by the Pew Research Center in January said genetically modified food is generally safe to eat. Only 37 % of the public shared that view. The movement to require genetically modified food products to be labeled both reflects and exploits this divergence between informed opinion and popular anxiety. Mandated labeling would deter the purchase of genetically modified food when the evidence calls for no such caution. Congress is right to be moving toward a more sensible policy that allows companies to label products as free of GM ingredients but preempts states from requiring such labels
It’s been a big month for menu changes at the nation’s largest food companies, including: Dunkin’ Donuts will remove the whitening agent titanium dioxide from its powdered donuts. McDonald’s and Costco will sell only antibiotic-free chicken by 2017. Nestle will remove artificial flavoring from its 250 chocolate products by the end of this year. But these changes and others weren’t just to tweak the recipes. Increasingly, nonprofits and bloggers are pressuring Big Food to remove chemicals and preservatives from their products — or face the wrath of social media. The person most identified with the movement is not a politician, policymaker, or even a trained scientist. She’s a 34-year-old who left a career as a managerial consultant to start her own nutrition blog in 2011. Her name is Vani Hari, best known as “Food Babe.” But her crusade is not without controversy. Hari’s lionized by her legions of followers, dubbed the “Food Babe Army,” but vilified by a vocal group of research scientists, some of whom argue she’s doing more to hurt the field than help it. Critics deride her as a dilettante who mucks the science (sometimes purposefully), a “fearmongerer” who preys upon the ignorance of a science-illiterate public for her own profit. Her most ardent critic is Yale neurologist Steve Novella who called her “the Jenny McCarthy of food activism.” But love her or hate her, one thing is clear: Hari’s changing what we eat.
The group with which Atlas and others of her persuasion are connected is called Direct Action Everywhere, and their manifesto is breathtaking: “Every sentient being — dog or cat, human or rat — deserves the same safety, happiness, and freedom that we ask for ourselves.” Direct Action fancies itself as an avant garde organization, undertaking exciting, revolutionary actions. However, a description of their tactics reveals that they’re merely another of the myriad protest groups complaining about whatever aspect of modern life happens to be their raison du jour: “We will use crime scene tape to cordon off a place of violence against animals (for many activists, this will be the meat section of a grocery store). As activists speak, other protesters will then hold signs and banners with images of a dog, pig, and a human and the question, ‘What if they killed your friend?’ Finally, an activist covered in blood will lie under the banner to represent the lives that were lost.” The problem with Direct Action and every other animal activist group is that they fall victim to a twisted thought process that fails to grasp the monumental irony in its positioning. If animals have the same status as humans, then by that logic they should behave according to the same standards to which humans are held.
Are we forgetting about all the hens killed to meet Prop2?
Before Steve Case co-founded AOL and became a billionaire, his second job out of college was helping develop new styles of slices in Wichita, Kansas, for Pizza Hut. The food business, he quickly found, was packed with risks and surprises, making it a minefield for entrepreneurs. Yet even as a big name venture capitalist, the 56-year-old Case hasn’t shied away from food. Case said the $1 trillion food business is “ripe for disruption” and one of America’s most promising growth industries. “There are opportunities to improve the way things are done at every level: How food is produced, exported, processed, consumed,” Case said in an interview this week. “Our focus … is on investing in people and ideas that can change the world, and it’s harder to imagine anything that changes the world as much as food.”
Entrepreneurs looking to get a leg up in the food industry are seeking a new pathway to success. So-called "food incubators" are popping up in commercial kitchen spaces across the country, and if you've ever dreamed of having your own restaurant or catering business, it's a good place to start. Union Kitchen is a food incubator; a place where wannabe chefs and food entrepreneurs can come to get a foothold in the business. In the last five years, they've been sprouting up all across the country and now number about 150. Some have become so popular, including incubators in Boston and Philadelphia, that they're expanding into larger locations.
In February, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee submitted its preliminary dietary guidelines for Americans; the report also includes the impact the U.S. diet has on the environment. In the advisory report, the DGAC stated that "current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use and energy use." Moreover, the committee concluded that a diet higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods would be more environmentally friendly. As a result, the committee proposed that the next edition of the dietary guidelines will highly recommend consumption of a plant-based diet. The North American Meat Institute stated, "If our government believes Americans should factor sustainability into their choices, guidance should come from a panel of sustainability experts that understands the complexity of the issue and address all segments." Oklahoma State University economist Jayson Lusk and his team of researchers took on the task in the March "Food Demand Survey.” When asked about the trustworthiness of the committee's dietary advice, 41.79% of the survey participants said they trusted the information, whereas 40.79% did not find it reliable .
Beef with reasonable marbling and juicy taste is preferred among consumers, and industry leaders continue to monitor how to consistently produce a product with these traits. A recent research article addresses the biology and biochemistry of beef marbling and its effects on production systems, carcass and fat quality. “We need fat in beef to improve the eating experience,” said Dr. Smith,of Texas A&M. “Marbling: Management of cattle to maximize the deposition of intramuscular adipose tissue.” shows as cattle fatten and put down marbling, the fat becomes healthier because there is a replacement of saturated fats with oleic acid.
USDA asks for “…public comment to assist in analyzing its existing significant regulations to determine whether any should be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed.” The notice does go on to suggest several questions for consideration.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed several modifications to the animal disease traceability rules as they pertain to livestock marketing facilities. The proposed changes would amend the regulations governing approval of facilities that receive livestock moved in interstate commerce, and the conditions under which livestock may move to such facilities without official identification or prior issuance of an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection.USDA
The FAA proposal offers safety rules for small UAS conducting non-recreational operations. The rule would limit flights to daylight and visual-line-of-sight operations. It also addresses height restrictions, operator certification, optional use of a visual observer, aircraft registration and marking, and operational limits.
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a draft
guidance to help animal producers ensure the safety of animal feed that is used
on-farm. The draft guidance outlines steps animal producers can take to
identify and prevent feed contaminants that are sometimes present in the farm
production environment and could jeopardize the health of farm animals and the
safety of human food derived from the animals. The FDA is accepting public
comments on this draft guidance
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the award of $31 million in loans and grants for organizations in 12 states to promote rural economic development. "These infrastructure investments will help rural residents start or expand businesses," Vilsack said. "The funds can be used for a wide range of needs. They can help businesses increase production and manufacturing capacity, and can even help rural homeowners save money by making their homes more energy efficient." The funding is being provided through USDA's Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program. USDA provides zero-interest loans and grants to utilities that lend funds to local businesses for projects to create and retain employment in rural areas. These revolving loan funds broaden the program's reach and create a multiplier effect for its impact.
GlobalVetLINK released its latest tool for veterinarians and animal owners, the goal of the web portal is to provide a one-stop-shop for veterinarians and animal owners seeking interstate movement requirements for their pets and livestock.
Bovine Vet Online
U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration is pledging to end the practice of using "medically important" antibiotics for growth promotion in poultry and livestock. A plan, released on March 27, follows an executive order issued by Obama in September 2014, where the president called for the creation of task force to create a national plan to fight antibiotic resistance. The plan was to include initiatives involving animal antibiotic use. “The National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria,” also directs the FDA to make meat and poultry producers get a veterinarian’s permission in order to buy antibiotics for animal health related reasons. The FDA had recommended those measures before, but the agency did not require livestock and poultry producers to comply. The newly released report gives the agency a year to set final changes to the labels of “medically important” antibiotics sold for animals that are being raised for food. The changes will make it illegal to sell these antibiotics without a prescription from a veterinarian.
Watt Ag net
The EPA more than doubled the number of U.S. states where Dow AgroSciences' new herbicide can be used. The EPA approved Enlist Duo on Oct. 15 with a series of restrictions aimed at addressing potential environmental and health hazards. At that time it said the herbicide could be used in six states - Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The regulatory agency added nine more on Wednesday, all key farming states: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma.
The House Ethics Committee has opened a formal investigation into 11-term Rep. Ed Whitfield, deepening a probe into the Kentucky Republican's potential violations of lobbying rules and other laws. Whitfield has been under the ethics panel's review since last November, following an independent ethics probe that concluded there was "substantial reason to believe" that Whitfield had improper lobbying contacts with his wife in connection with legislation he sponsored and co-sponsored in the House. The subcommittee will look into "allegations that (Whitfield) failed to prohibit lobbying contacts between his staff and his wife (Connie Harriman-Whitfield), improperly used his official position for the beneficial interest of himself or his wife, and dispensed special favors or privileges to either his wife, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, or the Humane Society of the United States.
Robert Johansson, the new acting head economist at USDA, is not so gloomy. Yes, there will be tough times and low prices, but big cash reserves and low interest rates should have many farmers surviving, he says. In addition, the median farm household income should creep higher, albeit because of off-farm jobs. Johansson talked with Farm Futures about the farm economy's new realities – and what may lie ahead. “In the last four years, we have seen record high income, although 2014 was down from the record of 2013. Nevertheless 2014, was a remarkable year,” he says.
The FDA announced a strategy to establish ingredient definitions and standards for animal food in order to increase transparency and affirm the safety of the animal food supply, as required by the Food & Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007. As part of the strategy, FDA will review the list of animal food ingredient definitions used by industry and state regulators, it intends to align AAFCO ingredient listings with the agency's regulatory process and requirements. The agency has identified the following steps for animal food ingredients: 1. FDA intends to publish a proposed rule establishing as the agency's standards and definitions for animal food ingredients the AAFCO definitions for those ingredients that are recognized as GRAS or approved by the agency as food additives. 2. FDA scientists will evaluate the remaining animal food ingredients listed in the AAFCO Official Publication that are currently not FDA-approved food additives or recognized as GRAS.
The EPA’s’s regulatory power faces another key test at the Supreme Court as justices weigh arguments that the agency failed to consider industry costs before issuing a landmark air quality rule. The case, Michigan v. EPA, centers on the EPA’s first-ever limits on mercury, arsenic and acid gases emitted by power plants, slated to take effect next month for some plants.
The federal Animal Disease Traceability program is up and running, but challenges including inconsistencies in state requirements and mixed messages regarding program goals continue to slow progress toward true traceability. The ADT rule specifies that several classes of cattle travelling in interstate commerce must be identified with official ID and accompanied by traceability documents acceptable to the shipping and receiving states. These include all sexually intact cattle and bison over 18 months of age, all female dairy cattle of any age, all dairy males born after March 11, 2013 and cattle and bison of any age used for rodeo, shows, exhibition and recreational events. Feeder cattle under 18 months of age are currently exempt from the ADT rule.
U.S. regulators will put new restrictions on the world's most widely used herbicide to help address the rapid expansion of weeds resistant to the chemical. The EPA will require a weed resistance management plan for glyphosate. An EPA spokeswoman declined to give specifics of the plan, but told Reuters that its requirements will be similar to those placed on a new herbicide product developed by Dow AgroSciences, including weed monitoring, farmer education and remediation plans.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA has awarded $31.5 million in funding to local, state, and national organizations to support programs that help participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program increase their purchase of fruits and vegetables. These grants were made through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program in the 2014 Farm Bill. The awards under FINI represent a variety of projects, including relatively small pilot projects, multi-year community-based projects, and larger-scale multi-year projects. USDA is funding projects in 26 states for up to 4 years,
We’re soon going to find out what Section 402 of the Food Safety Modernization Act means. Section 402 is one of those “miscellaneous provisions” of the FSMA that has not received much attention until now, but it’s been on the minds of food industry attorneys and human resource managers ever since the FSMA was signed into law early in 2011. Last year, the rules were handed down to make it an enforceable addition to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Whistleblower Protection Program. With the addition of food safety, OSHA now enforces more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees who report violations of various laws. Whistleblower protections exist to protect someone on the job from retaliation for doing the right thing — like reporting an injury or violation of the law.
Food Safety News
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is making available $332 million in financial and technical assistance through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service will accept ACEP applications to help productive farm and ranch lands remain in agriculture and to protect the nation's critical wetlands and grasslands, home to diverse wildlife and plant species. In FY 2014, NRCS used $328 million in ACEP funding to enroll an estimated 145,000 acres of farmland, grassland, and wetlands through 485 new easements. In Florida, NRCS used ACEP funds to enroll an additional 6,700 acres in the Northern Everglades Watershed, supporting the restoration and protection of habitat for a variety of listed species, including the Wood Stork, Crested caracara, and Eastern Indigo Snake. The Nebraska Land Trust plans to use ACEP to enroll more than 1,400 acres of native grazing lands that also include grasslands and woodlands that provide critical habitat for Nebraska's bighorn sheep and elk.
“But, you know, the reality is, you know, I’ve told some of these big companies that if Vermont is successful with this appeal to their lawsuit, and they are allowed to go ahead with their labeling law, I wish that these big companies would just not sell to Vermont, and let them understand what the effect of what they’re doing is. The same thing in California. I don’t want them to fix the egg problem. If those people created that problem, and I hope they run out of eggs, and I hope eggs go to 20 bucks a dozen, you know, so people figure out what’s going on.”
A country that has abandoned all efforts at creating a saner immigration policy has gotten the result it deserves: not one policy but lots of little ones, acting at cross purposes and nullifying one another. Not unity but cacophony, a national incoherence How are states adjusting to the millions of unauthorized immigrants living outside the law. Some, like Washington and California, allow such immigrants to earn driver’s licenses, having concluded that roads are safer when drivers are tested and insured. Other states balk at any such benefit for people they consider undeserving. They prefer to tolerate illegal driving to make a point about illegal immigration. Twenty-six states have sued to block President Obama’s executive actions giving some immigrants work permits and protection from deportation.
Nitarsone was used in turkeys and chickens to prevent blackhead disease
Over the last year, the US dollar has appreciated by 27 % against the Euro. For US residents, this strengthening of the dollar has made traveling to European countries that use the Euro a bargain. At the same time it has made imports from the Eurozone cheaper and US exports more expensive. Not only has the dollar strengthened against the Euro, it has strengthened against currencies in general, making US goods more expensive in most markets and imports cheaper. Many agricultural economists have long argued that a strong dollar has a negative impact on exports. So what can we expect this time around? For soybeans, US farmers face a greater risk than a strong dollar. And that risk is a decision by Chinese officials to level off on their imports of soybeans. They do not even have to reduce their imports to cause havoc for soybean producers worldwide. Without the average increase of 136 million bushels a year from China, producers will face a glut of soybeans on the world market and the strong US dollar will have little to do with that. And, sooner or later there will be a price-hiccup in world soybean markets when Argentine farmers and their government come to an agreement over export taxes on soybeans
Half of all U.S. wheat production is exported to nearly 80 countries around the world every year. I wonder if my great-grandfather, who broke ground on the farm more than a century ago, ever expected that wheat from his farm would end up on the plates of people across the planet. I think he'd be pleased. Today, international trade is more important to American agriculture than ever before, and completing trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership will be crucial to providing new opportunities for American agriculture and industry. In 2014, U.S. agricultural exports were valued at $152 billion — an all-time high. Agricultural exports have climbed 41% in value over the past five years. The U.S. economy as a whole set a historical record last year with $2.3 trillion in exports of goods and services. (Food for thought: The entire gross domestic product of Canada in 2013 was $1.8 trillion.) Those exports, in turn, supported an estimated 11.3 million American jobs, 98% of which were with small and medium-sized businesses.
New EU meat labelling rules have come into effect to ensure consumers know where the animal was reared and slaughtered. That means pork, lamb, goat and poultry will need to be marked with the new information but not processed foods like sausages and pies. If animals were born, raised and slaughtered in the same country, the label can simply state the “origin” country.
Energy and Renewables
In 2000, following a decade-long building boom, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln nearly reached peak energy usage. Around that time, new large-scale research facilities opened on campus, the Kauffman Center became a home and workspace to hundreds of students, and expansions dramatically altered Memorial Stadium and the Nebraska Union. The construction proved a deep strain on energy resources. The thousands of square feet of additional space had to be heated and cooled, clothes had to be washed and dried, and rooms had to be connected and lit. Construction hasn’t slowed, but UNL’s energy usage has seen a dramatic decline. And that trend doesn’t appear to be reversing anytime soon.
A slim majority of Americans (51%) now favor the use of nuclear energy for electricity in the U.S
The American Farm Bureau Foundation is making available to middle- and high school teachers lesson plans and resources that help explain energy’s connection agriculture. There are two different units of curriculum, each with five comprehensive lesson plans. All lessons are aligned to Next Generation Science Standards.
In North Carolina, Bluesphere has broken ground for its first waste-to-energy project and new US headquarters in Charlotte, NC. The Bluesphere facility will produce 5.2 megawatts of clean energy from uneaten food. That electricity will then be sold to Duke Energy to provide power to local homes and businesses. “This facility is the ultimate landfill because we take waste in the back end, nothing going out. There’s no smell, zero product, just electricity and compost,” said CEO Shlomi Palas. Bluesphere hopes to be up and operational by the end of the year and to have 11 additional facilities around the world built by 2018.
Syngenta has signed a commercial agreement with Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy to begin using Enogen corn enzyme technology at its Council Bluffs, Iowa, ethanol production facility. SIRE is the third Iowa plant to sign such an agreement. The robust alpha amylase enzyme found in Enogen grain helps an ethanol plant dramatically reduce the viscosity of its corn mash, and reduce – or may eliminate – the need to add a liquid form of the enzyme. Farmers who grow Enogen corn benefit as well – they earn an average premium of 40 cents/bu.
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