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|:: November 7 -
Food and Rural Communities
Federal and International
Sen. Russell Ruderman and Rep. Clift Tsuji are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to regulating the seed industry. Ruderman is a Big Island businessman who owns a chain of organic food stores and has been outspoken in his opposition to GMOs. Tsuji was named Biotechnology Industry Organization’s legislator of the year in 2010.
Huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening, has emerged as an increasing threat to the economic viability of citrus production in Florida. Citrus greening was first observed in non-commercial, backyard citrus in South Florida in August 2005. By February 2009, citrus greening had spread throughout the traditional citrus areas of the state. Thus far, quarantine, tree removal, insecticide applications, heat treatments, and foliar nutritional techniques designed to mask the disease symptoms are the only available, but not completely effective, techniques for managing citrus greening. The disease directly affects the citrus tree resulting in reduced yield and fruit quality following an initial incubation period, eventually making the tree unproductive and contributing to greater mortality.
The Livestock Investment Grant Program was first funded by the Minnesota legislature in 2008. Since then, 253 grant recipients have invested an estimated $93 million in improvements to their operations. Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson says these grants will allow eligible livestock producers to support their industry and help them stay competitive. “These grants have enabled livestock farmers to pay for new buildings or make renovations. In some cases, the recipients used the grants for modernizations and improvements that would help expedite the farm transition process to their sons or daughters.” Qualifying producers would be reimbursed 10% of the first $500,000 of investment, with a minimum investment of $4,000. Qualifying expenditures include the purchase, construction, or improvement of buildings or facilities for the production of livestock, and the purchase of fencing as well as feeding and waste management equipment.
Iowa farmers may be eligible for a tax credit by donating their self-produced food to food banks and pantries. The credit on state taxes will be equal to 15 % of the value of the goods donated throughout the tax year. If the amount is less than $5,000, then the farmers will be credited this amount. In order to qualify for the credit, producers must produce the food being donated, and must transfer the title to the organization registered with the Iowa Department of Revenue
With organic food growers reporting double-digit growth in U.S. sales each year, producers are challenging a proposed California pest-management program they say enshrines a pesticide-heavy approach for decades to come, including compulsory spraying of organic crops at the state's discretion. The California Dept of Agriculture's pest-management plan says compulsory state pesticide spraying of organic crops would do no economic harm to organic producers, on the grounds that the growers could sell sprayed crops as non-organic instead. The state's more than 500-page document lays out its planned responses to the next wave of pests that threatens crops. Steve Lyle, for the ag dept, said the outline doesn't give state crop-pest programs any power they don't already have by law. The fate of the plan outlined by the state isn't a theoretical concern. It's an immediate issue of their economic survival due, in part, to the Asian citrus psyllid which has caused billions of dollars in damage to crops in Florida and Texas.
A group of 14 homeowners has asked a county judge to block a southern Indiana farmer from being allowed to build a facility that would house 4,000 hogs. The group is appealing a Jackson County zoning board's approval. The appeal maintains the hog facility will hurt property values, increase odors and will expose area residents to health problems from water or air contamination. The zoning board took its 4-0 vote after six hours of public comments before a crowd of more than 100 people. The appeal argues people didn't have sufficient access to the meeting, that the three-minute limit for each person to speak was too short, and that 44 opponents didn't get to speak that night because of illness. The proposal for the site about 40 miles north of Louisville, still needs approval from the IN DEM
The California Dept of Water Resources has released an updated state water plan with about 350 recommendations, more than 50 of which have to do with agriculture. Adding more storage ponds, using deficit irrigation and boosting incentives for on-farm conservation are just a few of the many ideas officials propose. The plan also calls for reassuring landowners “that efforts to conserve water do not alter water rights” and addressing concerns that participation in voluntary habitat-restoration programs might increase their vulnerability to Endangered Species Act restrictions.
Most people wouldn't guess that clams and oysters could be objects of regulatory excess, but some local shellfishermen contend that's just what's happening in Connecticut. "Shellfishermen are being held back by a harsh regulatory environment," said Joe Gilbert, who harvests clams in leased bed. "If we could get the right kind of support from our state, this industry could take off.” Gilbert and his company, Empire Fisheries, are at the center of a lawsuit pending against the state Dept of Ag over terms of a lease that Gilbert contends are unfair and were changed improperly. Rheault said Connecticut shellfishing interests were ignored by state regulators when they developed and lobbied the General Assembly for new laws to update lease agreements and change other shellfish laws in the last session. Despite the defeat of the lease bill, the department announced that it had enacted a new policy updating its shellfish leases.
U.S. agricultural companies reached an agreement with farm groups on principles governing the companies’ use of crop data, a deal aimed at allaying privacy and information-security concerns as the Farm Belt embraces new technology. The first-of-its-kind accord, marks the biggest step yet to quell farmers’ fears about the expanded use of data on specific fields in planting technology and other services sold to growers.
Wall Street Journal
The review in question is a meta-analysis. This is a statistically rigorous study of studies, rather than a mere summary of the literature. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, its authors, Qaim and Klümper, of Göttingen University, in Germany, went through all examinations of the agronomic and economic impacts of GM crops published between 1995 and 2014. This provides a near-complete survey. The study found, herbicide-tolerant crops have lower production costs—though this was not true for insect-resistant crops, where the need for less pesticide was offset by higher seed prices, and overall production costs were about the same as for unmodified crops. With both forms of modification, however, the yield rise was so great (9% above non-GM crops for herbicide tolerance and 25% above for insect resistance) that farmers who adopted GM crops made 69% higher profits than those who did not. The study’s authors found that GM crops have reduced chemical pesticide use by 37 % and increased crop yields by 22 %.
Deploying sustainability tools in the beef industry doesn't require starting from scratch. There are ample examples now in play from other commodity segments, and methods to gauge progress being used by multinational companies and small subsistence farmers alike.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey encouraged eligible groups to apply for grants to support projects that will improve water quality. Approximately $830,000 is available through the Watershed Improvement Review Board to support qualifying projects. Funds are available to local watershed improvement committees, soil and water conservation districts, public water supply utilities, county conservation boards, cities and counties. Projects eligible for funding include, but are not limited to, those addressing agricultural runoff and drainage, flood prevention, stream bank erosion, municipal discharge, storm water runoff, unsewered communities, industrial discharge and livestock runoff.
Iowa Farm Bureau
There should exist a partnership, in New Jersey, between the casino and horse racing industries to enable both to remain sustainable, as competition for gambling dollars continues to escalate. Slot machines and table games in New York and Pennsylvania are impacting Atlantic City casinos now, and will continue to do so with increasing force as more gaming is put into place until the regional market is saturated. The installation of casino gaming and sports betting at New Jersey racetracks would be a relatively quick and easy way to slow down these trends, much to New Jersey’s advantage.
The story of Black Earth Meats is about regular people and competing visions of the kind of town they want to live in. And whether Wisconsin agriculture can survive when people decide they don't want to live face to face with the reality behind the food they eat. Bartlett Durand is the kind of guy who, when he talks about agriculture, often sounds like he's about to drift off into some Buddhist realm. Ask the former vegetarian why he wanted to own a butcher shop and he'll talk about "bringing reverence back to the table." But in the end his vision was as down to earth as a Main Street butcher shop and meat processing plant, which is to say, it's rooted in a muddy, bloody business that's as real as it gets. Durand bought a 60-year-old processing plant and butcher shop on the main street in Black Earth, Wisconsin, to put the idea to the test in the real world. But objections from neighbors scuttled that plan, so he instead looked to how to expand capacity within the existing Black Earth Meats facility. So having a meat processor on the main drag in town may not be the prettiest thing imaginable, but Black Earth Meats was a major employer. So those employees and their families might've been a good political constituency to keep it going. But something happened to the demographics of Black Earth in the meantime. As Madison had expanded in its direction, it had become a bedroom community for Wisconsin's capitol. They told me that there was not one thing I could do that would mitigate what they saw as a fundamentally inappropriate business in their neighborhood.
It's more about the way the power of government in general can be used, in election season and out, to achieve ends that benefit one side, or the bureaucrats themselves—and the cost is a business environment that prevents innovation and stifles socially beneficial efforts to improve our food system. Scott Buer started Bolzano Artisan Meats in 2009 with the intent of reintroducing the lost arts of dry-cured salumi to Wisconsin. You can buy salamis and summer sausages which are made all over Wisconsin, but along with having preservative chemicals, that kind of charcuterie is cooked for a certain amount of time. Buer's intent was to be the state's first manufacturer of charcuterie cured solely by salt and dehydration, in the traditional European way. And they would do it using artisanal Wisconsin meats, which they bought whole and butchered into whole cured pieces such as pancetta and prosciutto, and other parts for grinding into sausage in house.
You thought New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's bridge traffic jam scandal was bad? Now he can't shake Gestation Crate-Gate. Critics are charging that Christie is in the pocket of big pork producers from Iowa, because he hasn't signed a bill that would outlaw the use of the crates for Garden State sows. Yes, of course New Jersey has pigs. The USDA counted 9,000 hogs in New Jersey. In January 2013, Christie vetoed a gestation crate bill, after it was passed by huge margins in the Legislature. Christie cited support of the crates from two national veterinary groups. The Clive, Ia.-based National Pork Producers Council praised Christie for "standing up to powerful lobbying groups on behalf of small, independent farmers." The pregnant pig protection bill is now back on Christie's desk, after the state Assembly passed it last month.
Des Moines Register
Bill the Butcher, an upscale chain of meat shops in Seattle, has shut down with roughly $500,000 owed to niche meat producers across the Northwest. Bill the Butcher was launched five years ago by retail consultant J’Amy Owens and chef William Von Schneidau, who funded the company by selling its shares to the public. Last month, all six of the Bill the Butcher shops closed. Owens had used company funds to pay for a $2 million home in a posh neighborhood of the city, claiming that Bill the Butcher was leasing its corporate facilities from her. The building’s owner filed a lawsuit to evict Owens when she failed to close on the home’s purchase. Several employees have filed a lawsuit claiming that Owens has absconded with a $100,000 tax refund instead of making payroll. Owens was the company’s CEO and sole member of its board of directors. Reed Anderson, a sheep producer in Brownsville, Ore., doesn’t expect to recoup $15,000 from Bill the Butcher. He simply stopped doing business with the company when it was chronically late on payments. Occasionally not getting paid is one of the pitfalls of direct meat marketing, he said. “It happens more than people think,” Anderson said. “There’s a lot of people out there who just don’t pay. If one farmer stops selling to them, they just find another one.”
The question facing Hawaiians in their grassroots opposition to GMO development: Do county governments - and the local communities they represent - have the power to regulate global chemical companies and genetically engineered seeds? The debate over GMOs in Hawaii is reaching a fever pitch. The battleground has shifted from packed local meetings to a federal court and the Legislature as powerful agrichemical interests push back against a movement that has succeeded in passing laws through two county councils.
The papers, three of which are authored by agricultural producers, are intended to inform discussion about fostering collaboration to drive innovation and improved environmental outcomes in working landscapes. “Each paper presents a unique viewpoint around the idea that productivity, profitability, and environmental outcomes go hand in hand,” said Jim Moseley, an AGree Co-Chair, former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, and co-author of one of the papers. Cooperative Conservation: A Producer-Led Approach to Achieving Healthy Agricultural Landscapes, Increasing Sustainability of America’s Working Landscapes through Improved Public-Private Collaborations at Multiple Scales, Towards a Knowledge Infrastructure for Science-Based Policy and Sustainable Management of Agricultural Landscapes, Food and Beverage Company Sustainable Sourcing Initiatives in Farming Regions, Securing the Future of Western Agriculture: A Perspective of Western Producers
Food and Ag Policy
As the USDA and farmers have watched the organics industry boom, the agency is working to find a middle ground between the needs of conventional and organic farmers. Initially reluctant to embrace the idea of sanctioning organics under a USDA label, the agency has started to view organics “like its own commodity,” Agriculture Secretary Vilsack said. But as the agency embraces organics, and recognizes the role they could play in boosting rural communities, it also has to consider that 18,000 organic producers are dwarfed by 2.2 million other farmers, most of whom grow or depend on GE crops. When organic producers send their products to market, they can be rejected if levels of GE ingredients are detected. This means they have to sell their product as conventional, losing the premium they get for organic. The agency set up the AC21 — the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture — in 2003 to address this question of “coexistence” and who should bear the costs of this contamination. A suggestion that organic growers could purchase insurance against contamination has angered the organic community, whose members believe the seed makers, who hold the patents on the genetically modified traits, should instead pay for the losses.
The Rhode Island Reds run free, which means the hens have a habit of laying their eggs anywhere they please: under the porch, near the hog pen, next to that tree over there. So Chris and Annie Newman have no choice but to play a kind of farmer hide-and-go-seek, squatting and squinting, reaching and grabbing for those hidden brown orbs. That beats their poultry processing duties, though, which are messy and bloody and decidedly not for the faint of heart. A little more than a year ago, Chris, 32, and Annie, 28, threw $27,000 of their life savings and Kickstarter proceeds into “guerilla farming,” a beyond-organic approach, which relies on imitating nature to create self-sustaining agriculture.
Supermarket eggs are dirt-cheap. Around $2 can buy a whole dozen. In some ways, that’s a good thing: Eggs are excellent sources of protein nearly anyone can afford. But the farming practices that make them so cheap are a flashpoint for controversy. Animal rights activists, led by the Humane Society of the United States, have long pushed for laws requiring bigger cages or no cages for egg-laying hens. And for just as long, conventional egg farmers nationwide have despised that campaign, defending their product’s quality and safety, rebuffing the idea that their methods are cruel, and decrying the economic turmoil they say new laws would impose.
The state has filed a lawsuit against Hawaii County seeking to exempt state employees or contract hunters from the county's ordinance banning aerial hunting. State officials say aerial killing is needed to eradicate feral sheep, goats, swine, cattle and axis deer that harm habitat.
Allen Featherstone says that while the overall farming sector is in good shape, he does have some concerns about the debt picture. “The sector is very healthy at this point,” Featherstone says. “However, looking at a sample of Kansas farms—about 1,000 or so—they have increased debt from about $320,000 to about $470,000 from 2006 forward.” That includes an increase of $41,000 in the past year, “and of that 60 % was on the current liability side—and in some respects, that’s probably what’s most disconcerting is the fact that current liabilities are starting to build.
Farmland values in the Seventh Federal Reserve District were down 2 % in the third quarter of 2014 from the second quarter, yet were unchanged on a year-over-year basis. Declines from a year ago in “good” agricultural land values for Illinois and Iowa were offset by increases for Indiana and Michigan; Wisconsin farmland values remained the same. Expectations for a fourth quarter drop in District farmland values dominated: 56 % of the survey respondents anticipated a decrease in farmland values in the fourth quarter of 2014 and only 1 % anticipated an increase. For the third quarter of 2014, District agricultural credit conditions exhibited similar patterns to those of recent quarters. Repayment rates for non-real-estate farm loans were lower in the third quarter of 2014 relative to the same quarter last year, and loan renewals and extensions were higher. Funds availability was up a bit for the third quarter of 2014 relative to a year ago. A surge in the demand for non-real-estate loans compared with a year ago contributed to the average loan-to-deposit ratio for the District rising to 69.5 percent—its highest level since the second quarter of 2011.
Agricultural lending rose further in the third quarter as commodity price movements continued to increase the need for farm sector financing. Loans to the livestock sector ro se alongside sharply higher feeder cattle prices, and operating loans held at high levels as the substantial dr op in crop prices over the past year boosted the need for working capital. Although debt levels have continued to rise, profitability in the livestock sector, expectations of record yields and revenue support from crop insurance are likely to help lessen the drag on farm income from low crop prices this year.
Kansas City Fed
Ohio’s Country Journal
The Shawano County, Wis. district attorney's office declined to pursue criminal charges against the owner of a dairy farm where an undercover video taken on the premises depicts alleged acts of animal abuse. Mercy For Animals took the undercover video at Andrus Dairy Farm, Alan Andrus, owner of the dairy farm, told reporters that the video is based on isolated incidents, like tail docking, that were blown out of proportion. Scott Niemi, assistant district attorney, said "If Mr. Andrus wishes, forfeiture actions could be started against some of his employees, however, the actions of the employees caught on video do not amount to a situation where criminal charges are warranted based upon the review of local and state vets." Mercy For Animals urged Hiram, Ohio-based Great Lakes Cheese to adopt animal welfare standards for its milk suppliers. Great Lakes Cheese issued a statement saying the company purchases "an infinitesimal" amount of cheese from Mullins Cheese, which buys a "small portion" of milk from Andrus Farm. The company said it expects suppliers to adhere to its established animal welfare policies, and has advised Mullins Cheese that Great Lakes Cheese will not accept any cheese made with milk from Andrus.
Andy Bose wanted to expand his nascent Nebraska farm operation a few years ago but couldn’t find land he could afford. The problem: more-established farmers could offer bigger rent checks to landowners. Mr. Bose, 35 years old, found a solution in a USDA program that provides financial incentives to older landowners to rent to neophytes more cheaply. In 2012, he began leasing 220 long-dormant acres from Avis Pearson, who owned the land for decades but had no children interested in agriculture.
Wall Street Journal
Globally, most of the land - which totals some 456 million hectares - lies just outside of cities, although 67 million hectares of it is being farmed in urban centers.
Washington apple prices are the lowest they've been in eight years as the industry grapples with selling a crop 20 % larger than the previous recent high.
Cotton stockpiles are swelling so large that there will be enough in global warehouses to make about 23 billion pairs of jeans, or three for every person on the planet. The glut sent prices to a five-year low.
Five Maui County residents and the nonprofit organization behind the moratorium, called the SHAKA Movement, filed a lawsuit in state court against the county, Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences seeking more influence on how the law is implemented and aiming to resolve the issue of whether the law is enforceable.
Maui taxpayers should not shoulder the legal cost to defend the genetically modified organism ordinance. Monsanto will ask a court to declare the GMO ordinance invalid. The County of Maui will be joined as a defendant. The court will let the SHAKA Movement into the case to defend the GMO ordinance.
The lawsuit comes a day after the SHAKA Movement filed a lawsuit to ensure that the moratorium is enforced. “Because the ban would cause immediate and irreparable harm, the plaintiffs are also requesting the court to enter a temporary injunction to prevent enforcement of the ordinance until the case is resolved.”
Crop producers and scientists hold deeply different views on climate change and its possible causes, a study shows. Researchers surveyed 6,795 people in the agricultural sector in 2011-2012 to determine their beliefs about climate change and whether variation in the climate is triggered by human activities, natural causes or an equal combination of both.
The division of the Central Experimental Farm is an attack on heritage designations and federal science. On Nov. 3, John Baird announced the transfer of 60 acres of the Farm from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to the National Capital Commission who then offered a dollar-a-year lease to The Ottawa Hospital to build a new Civic Hospital campus. The Farm, founded in 1886, is a National Historic Site of Canada and an important federal research station. The announcement is troubling alongside deep cuts across federal research institutions, including the cancellation of the long form census, the closure of libraries at Environment Canada, the attempts to shut down the Experimental Lakes Area in Northern Ontario.
The O'Malley administration backed down from its proposal to lease a Kent County farm to a politically connected nonprofit for $1 a year, promising to rebid the contract competitively. The move likely pushes the decision about whether to pursue the deal into the administration of Gov.-elect Larry Hogan, who might not view it as favorably as his predecessor. Officials had proposed a two-part deal under which the state would buy the 255-acre Wick Farm for $2.8 million using Program Open Space money. They were planning to immediately lease the farm to the Eastern Shore Food Hub Corp. for $1 a year.
Smithfield Foods, acquired by China’s WH Group last year, reported a surge in third-quarter profit and said it may expand hog production next year vision.
Of the seven commissioners who will take office, two are in favor of the Sanderson Farms plant, three are opposed and two are undecided.
Wall Street Journal
The overwhelming approval of the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, Amendment 1, by Floridians on the November 4 ballot is a reminder that environmental conservation in Florida is a nonpartisan issue. Amendment 1 will establish a Land Acquisition Trust Fund funded by the document tax to be used for acquisition and protection of a variety of environmentally sensitive areas. Some estimates show that approval of Amendment 1 could mean maybe $600 million to $1 billion dollars next year for environmental conservation allowing for the purchase of lands to protect wetlands, natural springs, beaches, forests, river beds, and even farms and ranches. The money could also be used for park and trail management. How this money will be spent, and specifically what process will be implemented to choose lands for purchase is the question at hand. Today, the question for land owners to consider is, “Do you have some swamp land to sell?”
National Law Review
Transport Canada announced two exemptions that simplify small unmanned aerial vehicle operations in Canadian airspace. Under the new exemptions, commercial use of UAS will no longer require a special flight operations certificate or SFOC for any UAV under 2kg and certain operations with a UAV under 25kg. The department has also simplified the application process and time it takes to issue SFOCs for larger UAVs.
True blue conservation is not done by those sitting at desks in Santa Fe or in Washington, D.C. It is not done by government bureaucrats in federal agencies making one-size-fits-all decisions based upon environmental rhetoric. No, true blue conservation is done by the people who live on the land. It is done by ranchers, loggers, hunters, farmers, fisherman, etc. It is done by people who make their living actively caring for the land. True blue conservationists like President Theodore Roosevelt know that when you use the land in a responsible manner, it thrives and will be there tomorrow to provide for us. They know it will be there for generations to come. In contrast, the green movement, or environmentalism, is based upon the premise that the only way protect the environment is to exclude people from the lands. That movement represents the single greatest threat to the preservation of our western landscapes, the wildlife and the people whose customs and culture depend on healthy landscapes. A great example is the environmental push to end logging by abusing the Endangered Species Act under the guise of protecting the Mexican spotted owl. Twenty-plus years ago environmentalists like or including Senator Heinrich pushed to end logging under the guise of saving the spotted owl, but it turns out that logging wasn't the greatest threat to the continued existence of the owl. The federal government now admits that the greatest threat to the owl is catastrophic wildfire, the kind of catastrophic wildfire that is created when you don't actively manage the forest with cutting and thinning or prescribed fire.
Since the Democrats had a rough night on November 4, it is worth focusing on one of their structural weaknesses, and one I believe is being ignored by many of their party leaders. And that is the longer-term difficulties that face Democratic candidates in small towns and rural America. Notwithstanding the very strong farm and agricultural economy the past few years, the Democratic Party and its leadership are having a great deal of trouble connecting with farmers and rural citizens and small-town America. The urban/rural divide has become a steep one over the past two decades and it is often overlooked.
The General Assembly nixed a plan to dip into the state’s highway fund to close a budget gap, responding to fears that it threatened a broad $1.2 billion-a-year transportation-funding overhaul approved in 2013.
Since the beginning of 2010, 43 rural hospitals — with a total of more than 1,500 beds — have closed. The Affordable Care Act was designed to improve access to health care for all Americans. But critics say the ACA is also accelerating the demise of rural outposts that cater to many of society's most vulnerable. These hospitals treat some of the sickest and poorest patients — those least aware of how to stay healthy. Hospital officials contend that the law's penalties for having to re-admit patients soon after they're released are impossible to avoid and create a crushing burden. The closings threaten to decimate a network of rural hospitals the federal government first established beginning in the late 1940s to ensure that no one would be without health care. Rural hospital officials and others say that federal regulators — along with state governments — are now starving the hospitals they created with policies and reimbursement rates that make it nearly impossible for them to stay afloat. Low Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements hurt these hospitals more than others because it's how most of their patients are insured, if they are at all. Here in Stewart County, it's a problem that expanding Medicaid to all of the poorest patients -– which the ACA intended but 23 states including Georgia have not done, according to the federal government — would help, but wouldn't solve.
Des Moines Register
According to a US Geological Survey report on water use, the U.S. in 2010 not only withdrew* less water than it did when the agency conducted its previous survey five years earlier, but it also withdrew less than it had since 1970.
High Country News
A Washington appeals court has struck down Wahkiakum County’s ban on applying biosolids to farmland. The southwest Washington county prohibited Class B biosolids in 2011 after a Grays River farmer obtained a state permit to spread treated sewage on 80 acres.
Jason Bissette could throw a sweet potato from his office here in eastern North Carolina, to their newest barn. But despite his wishes, Mr. Bissette cannot extend the high-speed broadband from the office to his barns, either by wire or Wi-Fi, an upgrade that would help him monitor his sweet potatoes and tobacco. The problem is that his office sits in Wilson County, where a municipal power company has built a high-speed fiber-optic network. The barns, however, sit in Nash County. And a three-year-old state law prohibits the city of Wilson’s utility from expanding its broadband network outside its home territory. In North Carolina, as in 18 other states, state laws limit municipalities from building or expanding high-speed Internet service networks. The reason behind those laws, supporters say, is to limit taxpayer exposure to projects that at times fail and for which there may be little demand. But Tom Wheeler, the Federal Communications Commission chairman, says providing access to broadband Internet is in the public interest. And for that reason, he says, the commission can override those state laws — setting off a heated debate about the federal commission’s authority over states and about whether local governments or private companies should provide the service. At the center of the debate are Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilson. The two cities have petitioned the commission to invalidate their state laws. A ruling from the F.C.C. is expected next year.
That air above your house — who owns it? Is it you, or can your neighbor fly a drone over your home? Are drones an invasion of privacy — and can you defend yourself against one? These questions are popping up in New Jersey and elsewhere across the country in this, the era of the unmanned aerial vehicle. In the state Legislature, elected officials are advancing a law which would limit how law enforcement uses drones to catch criminals – and would also ban putting guns or other weapons on the unmanned aircraft in New Jersey. Recently, in Cape May, a man allegedly shot down a drone flying over his house – and was charged criminally. The Federal Aviation Administration told NJ Advance Media that is perfectly legal to fly private drones over private houses, and the agency is working on a full set of regulations expected next year
The Indiana Commission on Business Personal Property and Business Taxation released a report with four of the 16 recommendations from the commission offering solutions to the unsustainable tax burden being shouldered by Indiana’s farmers. Recommendations include 1.Require that agricultural land must be assessed for the March 1, 2015, assessment date using the same base assessment rate used for the March 1, 2014, assessment date. 2. Require that agricultural land must be assessed for the March 1, 2015, assessment date using the same soil productivity factors used in 2011. 3. Conduct further study of alternative means of agricultural land assessment. 4. Consolidate the existing local option income tax rates into a single rate for three larger uses: certified shares, property tax credits, and special rates for debt and special projects. 5. Remove the link between having a public safety local option income tax and a local option income tax providing for property tax relief.
Hoosier Ag Today
Ohio Farm Bureau has presented its official recommendations to the Ohio General Assembly to improve and modernize the Current Agricultural Use Value program. Under CAUV, farmland is taxed on its agricultural productivity rather than its development value. Recommendations include changing the CAUV formula to: 1) More closely tie tax values to current economic conditions in agriculture. 2) Include more recent data on crop mix, prices, yields and production costs. 3) Better represent the true value of woodlands compared to cropland. These recommendations, when enacted, will more accurately value farmland and provide a more stable, predictable tax amount for landowners to plan for in the future.
Ohio Farm Bureau
Gov. Paul LePage's plans to withhold funding to communities that provide aid to undocumented immigrants could cost the city $3.2 million a year.
Data from the Mothers Pension Program, launched at the turn of the 20th century, finds benefits on education, income and longevity. It's the first to document benefits over the span of a century.
The USDA is looking into the Pittsburgh Zoo’s use of dogs to herd its African elephants after receiving a complaint from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Maya the chihuahua was a comfort to a little girl who moved to the Eastern Shore from Mexico. The girl’s family said the dog had a good life in their Parksley home and was well cared for. They told WAVY.com they can’t wrap their heads around why an organization that looks out for animals, took the dog from her home. He noticed Maya missing when he got home. Cerate checked his security camera and the video shows a van with “PETA” on the side back into his driveway. Two women got out of the van and one walked up his porch, took Maya, and put her in the back of the van. The two women from PETA came back to his house three days later, he said. They brought a fruit basket and terrible news — Maya had been euthanized. They didn’t provide Wilbur any proof, so he called police and thought the women would be held accountable. Accomack County Sheriff Todd Godwin told WAVY.com he charged the PETA workers with larceny. He said pets are considered personal property. But the local commonwealth’s attorney told WAVY.com he dropped the charges because there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute. He said the video does not show criminal intent, so he declined to take the case to court.
High Country News
Two pieces of legislation, supported by many of the law enforcement, judiciary, health care and treatment professionals who testified at the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s public hearings on heroin and opioid addiction, are now law. Senate Bill 1164, now Act 139, provides legal protections for witnesses, or Good Samaritans, seeking medical help at the scene of an overdose. In addition, it allows Naloxone, a synthetic drug that blocks opiate receptors in the nervous system, to be prescribed to a third party, and administered by law enforcement and firefighters. Senate Bill 1180, now Act 191, expands the types of drugs monitored under the state’s existing Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to include Schedule II through V controlled substances. It also creates a board within the Department of Health to establish and oversee an electronic data system listing all controlled substances that are prescribed and dispensed in Pennsylvania. The report summarized the findings of four statewide hearings in July and August on heroin and opioid related deaths and arrests across Pennsylvania.
94 % of municipalities with fire companies rely on volunteers. To support these volunteer companies, municipalities provide annual contributions, which account for roughly 3 % of all municipal expenditures. In 2012, rural municipalities provided a median of $17,109 for fire services, or $18 per person, and urban municipalities provided $89,232 for fire services, or $27 per person. According to the analysis, 38 % of rural municipalities did not have a fire company within their jurisdiction in 2012 and provided a median of $15,045 on fire services; 52 % of rural municipalities had only one fire company located within their jurisdiction and provided a median of $17,022; and 10 % of rural municipalities had two or more fire companies within their jurisdiction and provided a median of $42,928 on fire services.
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania contracted with Pennsylvania State University researchers in 2004 to begin a longitudinal study of rural Pennsylvania school students to understand their educational, career and residential goals and the factors influencing these goals. The Rural Youth Education Study followed two groups of youth from 11 rural Pennsylvania school districts. The study collected data every other year for four waves beginning in 2005. At the beginning of the study, the younger group was in 7th grade and the older group was in 11th grade. By the final wave, the younger group was 1 year out of high school and the older group was 5 years out of high school. This installment of Rural Snapshot looks at the students who were in 11th grade during Wave 3 and their residential goals as adults.
Colleges have figured out how to extract resources from grateful alumni who long ago left campus. Small towns should adopt a similar homecoming strategy for harvesting investments from young people who have moved on but remain connected and appreciative.
The rural veteran population is declining in number and is growing older as a group, but the nation's veterans are still disproportionately rural, according to federal data. The Yonder celebrates Veterans Day with county-level information on veterans populations in rural and metro counties.
Hoosier Ag Today
Rural counties with a large proportion of "creative-class" workers have tended to recover more quickly from the recession. But "amenity-rich" areas near national parks and other natural areas aren’t doing nearly as well, even though they boomed in the 1990s.
Moves by some U.S. states to legalize marijuana are not in line with international drugs conventions, the U.N. anti-narcotics chief said on Wednesday, adding he would discuss the issue in Washington next week. Residents of Oregon, Alaska, and the U.S. capital voted this month to allow the use of marijuana, boosting the legalization movement as cannabis usage is increasingly recognized by the American mainstream. "I don't see how (the new laws) can be compatible with existing conventions," Yury Fedotov, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), told reporters. Asked whether there was anything the UNODC could do about it, Fedotov said he would raise the problem next week with the U.S. State Department and other U.N. agencies.
A series of agricultural land use planning modules are now available as a resource for land use planners on such topics as farmland conservation, farm and property taxes, commercial composting, agritourism, and food system planning. The planning guide is a project of the Vermont Farm to Plate Initiative’s Agricultural Land Use Planning Task Force. Municipal officials, local and regional planning commissions, and agriculture advocates will be able to use the modules to guide land use planning for farmland, including ways to update zoning regulations that can sustain and spark more agricultural economic activity in Vermont communities.
Ed and Lea Arnold of Lyndonville started giving peanut brittle to family and friends as a Christmas presents four years ago. Now, they sell a range of Vermont Peanut Brittle products at farmers markets, festivals and several stores. Under a new Vermont law, the Arnolds will likely be required to place a label on their old-fashioned confection that says, “Produced With Genetic Engineering.” That’s because the family company uses Karo corn syrup to make the candy. To not to label their products, producers will have to prove their products are GMO-free by either obtaining sworn statements from suppliers or by hiring a third party to verify the supply chain, under the proposed rules. Five years ago, Gilbert launched an “all natural” chip, salsa and hot sauce company called Gringo Jack’s. He is in the process of certifying the products as non-GMO certified. It will cost the company about $4,000 to verify that the 23 products in his lineup do not contain GMO ingredients. “You have to go though ingredient by ingredient,” GIlbert said. “You need to go back not only to the distributor of it to you, but sometimes further back to the main source, which on some things can be daunting. Where did your pepper come from? Where does you cinnamon come from?” But it’s unclear whether Gilbert’s non-GMO certification process will satisfy the state. The Vermont Attorney General’s Office is looking to qualify organizations that would provide third party verification that a product has met state standards.
The free webinar on Wednesday, 11/19 at 2:30-3:30 (EST) will provide background to help the listener frame the discussion as well as an update of the current status of those proposals. In addition, the program will address: The historical development of GMO labeling debate;A review the states’ laws that have been enacted;The status of litigation involving the Vermont GMO labeling law; Applicable November 2014 ballot measures voters considered on election day; and Federal legislation
National AG Law Center
Eldon Hooley with Rosey Ridge Farms sells raw milk to customers from his farm. He has a license to sell the products on the farm. The current issue is that his milk apparently made it to a co-op in the city of Fort Worth. “I never delivered anything to Fort Worth,” Hooley said. Fort Worth’s city council approved an ordinance that prohibited the “distribution of unpasteurized milk and unpasteurized milk products without a Grade A Raw for Retail Permit from the State of Texas.” Rosey Ridge Farms lists several co-ops that might carry its products on its website. Several of these co-ops are in cities that are suburbs of Fort Worth and at least one seems to fall within city limits
When Chipotle warned investors back in March that it might suspend serving guacamole at its restaurants if avocado prices rose because of the California drought, climate change hit home for chip-and-dip lovers, who took to Twitter in distress. Things have not gotten better since then. It takes 74 gallons of water to produce one pound of avocados—and drought-stricken California produces 95 % of the avocados grown in the United States. No wonder Chipotle’s bean counters are worried. One-third of the state’s avocados are grown in San Diego County, which has some of the highest water prices in the state. In Valley Center, a town that is home to many family farms, avocado growers have seen water rates rise steeply in recent years—so much so that irrigating their groves has become more expensive than the price they get for selling their avocados.
Recently there was study published in the British Medical Journal that suggested that having more than three glasses of milk a day could shorten your life. Since I have a glass of milk every day with breakfast, I was fairly concerned. After all, I don’t really want to die.But then I actually read the study rather than the news reports. Observational studies, such as this, work in the following manner: A group of people is recruited and asked a series of questions about their diet and exercise patterns, and many other things. When it comes to food studies, information on food intake is usually measured via a questionnaire. A food questionnaire is a tricky thing to do correctly. People lie when asked to fill out a form about their dietary habits. On food questionnaires, people eat more fruit, eat less junk, exercise more, smoke less, and are in general paragons of virtue. This phenomenon has a name: social desirability bias. Invariably, people will answer questions based on what they think the researchers want to hear, so good habits are exaggerated and bad habits are downplayed.
Lunches packed at home are generally not as nutritious as school lunches, a new study shows. Researchers compared more than 750 school meals with more than 560 packed meals given to pre-K and kindergarten students in three schools, analyzing them for nutritional value over five days. "We found that packed lunches were of less nutritional quality than school lunches," said lead researcher Alisha Farris, a Ph.D. candidate at Virginia Tech University. The packed lunches had more fat, and included more desserts and sugary drinks than the school lunches did, the researchers found.
Our dairy industry has a track record of a high-quality product free of antibiotics, whether our customers realize it or not. The FDA took the initiative to survey farms in 2012 – 900 previous violators of beef residue rules and 900 random farms – in a double-blind study to look for additional residues beyond the beta lactam drugs for which there are routine tests. The correlation makes sense, but why FDA didn’t only pick previous violators to potentially take corrective action against or simply take a representative sample of the nation’s milk supply is unknown. If you’re a consumer reading this, please know that milk is routinely tested for antibiotics and discarded if any appears – at cost to the farmer. The same is true for beef, and in both cases farms have an amazing track record. In 2013, the National Milk Drug Residue Database FY 2013 report says that 0.014% of bulk milk trucks had accidental residues, while 0.000% of consumer-ready products had any residue. To be clear, both numbers are less than one-tenth of 1 percent.
Participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) value nutrition as much as other consumers, but their attempts to balance nutrition goals with competing constraints—time, distance to grocery stores, and money—may make it harder for SNAP shoppers to make healthy choices.
Sabine Hartmann, D.V.M., director of animal-friendly product management, Four Paws International correctly told the audience at EuroTier’s Poultry Forum in Hanover, Germany, that the price for food has risen at less than the rate of inflation. She said that the relative improvement in the affordability of food has actually been a bad thing. Low prices for food don’t leave enough money for the farmers to raise the animals in a better manner, according to Hartmann. She doesn’t like the “high-performance culture.”
How we produce and consume food has a bigger impact on Americans’ well-being than any other human activity. Yet we have no food policy — no plan or agreed-upon principles — for managing American agriculture or the food system as a whole. That must change. The food system and the diet it’s created have caused incalculable damage to the health of our people and our land, water and air. If a foreign power were to do such harm, we’d regard it as a threat to national security. We need a policy that allows all Americans have access to healthful food; Farm policies are designed to support our public health and environmental objectives; Our food supply is free of toxic bacteria, chemicals and drugs; Production and marketing of our food are done transparently; The food industry pays a fair wage to those it employs; Food marketing sets children up for healthful lives by instilling in them a habit of eating real food; Animals are treated with compassion and attention to their well-being; The food system’s carbon footprint is reduced, and the amount of carbon sequestered on farmland is increased; The food system is sufficiently resilient to withstand the effects of climate change.
The activists call themselves “public health,” but modern public health has very little to do with traditional public health—the determined doctors and researchers who tackled infectious diseases with germ theory and vaccination. Instead of protecting us against invisible enemies lurking in the water supply, today’s activists are trying to protect us from ourselves. Modern public health activists demand everybody follow their view of a health-optimized lifestyle, regardless of whether we want to or not.
Center for Consumer Freedom
Unilever, maker of Best Foods mayonnaise, a.k.a. Hellmann’s, is suing Hampton Creek, a San Francisco startup that’s trying to disrupt the mayonnaise space. The case has to do with Hampton Creek using the word “mayo” along with an egg shape on its labels. CEO Josh Tetrick “believes his company is absolved of false advertising claims because his spread uses the colloquialism ‘mayo’ and not ‘mayonnaise.’ “FDA guidelines for mayonnaise contain egg yolk.” Unilever is accusing Hampton Creek of false advertising because its product does not contain eggs. That’s the whole point: Hampton Creek is trying to create food that’s delicious, healthy, and free of the problems associated with animal agriculture.
Great analysis of FSMA changes to proposed rule, covers manure, agriculture water, harvesting activities and more.
The USDA has approved commercial planting of a potato that is genetically modified to resist bruising and to produce less of a chemical that has caused cancer in animals. Boise, Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co. developed the potato, and it was approved by the USDA. Simplot is a major supplier of french fries, hash browns and other potato products for restaurant chains like McDonald’s Corp. The company altered the potato’s DNA so it produces less acrylamide, which is suspected to be a human carcinogen. Potatoes naturally produce the chemical when they’re cooked at high temperatures.
The F.D.A.’s nonbinding advisory opinion states that “natural” means “nothing artificial or synthetic (including colors regardless of source)” or anything in the product that “would not normally be there,” but this opinion cannot be legally enforced. Still, many Americans remain confused about foods that are marketed as “natural” products.
New York Times
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says delays of barge traffic have run about 10 hours since the Corps began closing a three-mile stretch of the Mississippi River from dawn to dusk to reinforce a section of river bank between Memphis, Tennessee and Greenville, Mississippi. The Corps said backups of barge traffic that occurred during the first days of the closure were cleared. The Corps also said it has agreed to delay repair work each morning if necessary to accommodate tows that don't clear the work area overnight.
The National Corn Growers Association is urging the Army Corps of Engineers to delay work on the Mississippi River that would shut a portion of the river channel down to barge traffic. The Corps of Engineers Thursday announced they are shutting down five miles of the river near Memphis for two weeks to all daylight traffic. NCGA Vice President of Production and Utilization Paul Bertels says the timing of the work is problematic.
Hoosier Ag Today
Canada is at the forefront of continental scale conservation issues. That's because Canada possesses a rare treasure, a global biome that is one of the last, large still intact regions left on earth -- the boreal forest. The forest itself sets Canada apart from most of the world, but so do the continental-scale conservation approaches being embraced across the nation. What makes conservation in Canada stand out? Here's an unofficial "top five" list: One of the World's Last Great Primary Forests Canada's boreal forest region spans an impressive 1.2 billion intact acres (485 million hectares). It contains about 25 per cent of the world's primary forests -- regions that have large blocks of habitat with little or no footprint from large-scale industrial resource extraction industries, and limited conversion of forested land to agriculture. This last-of-its-kind intactness has also made the boreal forest a great reservoir of abundance for wildlife. The boreal forest region still has free-flowing rivers that allow fish to move hundreds, sometimes thousands, of kilometres to spawning grounds. The trees, peat, soil, and permafrost of the boreal forest holds some of the largest terrestrial stores of carbon on the planet -- more than 208 billion tonnes from one estimate.
The reality is when we debate public policy; we often have no idea what we're talking about. We do not analyze public policy with anywhere close to the scientific rigor with which we analyze the efficacy of drugs or the safety of cars. We don't study it in that way. Economist Anna Aizer of Brown University realized there was a way to study the long-term effects of welfare because it turns out there was a time people were selected and rejected for the program. It wasn't scientific randomization, but it came very close. When welfare started originally a century ago, there was a program known as the Mothers Pension Program. It ran between 1911 and 1935. It was administered by the states, not the federal government. And when the Great Depression struck, a lot of money dried up, and many states couldn't cover all the moms who needed help. So they picked some and rejected others. The moms were mostly white. The family's who did get the money and didn't get the money were nearly identical. After tracking who got the money and who didn't, Aizer and her colleagues tracked down all the kids of all these moms, in 14 states, and followed what happened to them decades and decades down the road. And what she found was that kids whose families had received the welfare lived one year longer, on average, than identical kids whose families did not receive welfare. Those whose mothers were accepted stayed in school almost a half a year longer and earn about 15 % more in young adulthood.
The federal government is about to put $100 million behind a simple idea: doubling the value of SNAP benefits — what used to be called food stamps — when people use them to buy local fruits and vegetables. This idea did not start on Capitol Hill. It began as a local innovation at a few farmers' markets. But it proved remarkably popular and spread across the country. "It's so simple, but it has such profound effects both for SNAP recipients and for local farmers," says Mike Appell, a vegetable farmer who sells his produce at a market in Tulsa, Okla. The idea first surfaced in 2005 among workers at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. They were starting a campaign to get people to eat more fresh produce. "I think we were trying to confront the idea that healthy foods, [like] fresh fruits and vegetables, are not affordable," says Candace Young, who was director of the department's nutrition programming at the time. (Young now works for The Food Trust in Philadelphia.) Young recalls that one of their workers pointed out that some SNAP recipients live near farmers markets "and we thought, how about we incentivize them to use their SNAP benefits at these farmers markets?
The National Wildlife Federation has filed a federal lawsuit alleging USDA is mismanaging the long-term set-side and that ducks, pheasants and other populations of ground-nesting birds are being harmed as a result. The lawsuit filed by the NWF and six of its state affiliates, challenges decisions made by the Farm Service Agency (which administers the CRP) that have allowed haying and grazing on the millions of acres of land enrolled in the program at intervals too frequent to sustain healthy levels of grassland cover required by nesting birds. MWF conducts FSA has violated the program's conservation mandate.
President Obama called for the government to aggressively regulate Internet service providers, treating broadband like a public utility as essential as water, phone service and electricity. Such a move would have a dramatic effect on cable and telecom firms that have fought vigorously to keep their highly profitable Internet businesses free of regulation. This is Obama's most aggressive statement yet in favor of a free and open Internet and against allowing Internet service providers to charge content companies like Netflix for faster access to their customers. The president's statement calls for the FCC to adopt the strictest rules possible for ensuring so-called net neutrality, or the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally.
The President’s statement is an important and welcome addition to the record of the Open Internet proceeding. Like the President, I believe that the Internet must remain an open platform for free expression, innovation, and economic growth. We both oppose Internet fast lanes. The Internet must not advantage some to the detriment of others. We cannot allow broadband networks to cut special deals to prioritize Internet traffic and harm consumers, competition and innovation. As an independent regulatory agency we will incorporate the President’s submission into the record of the Open Internet proceeding. We welcome comment on it and how it proposes to use Title II of the Communications Act.
Based on the worn adage that "big crops get bigger", analysts generally expected the USDA's November Crop Production report to contain larger forecasts for the size of the current U.S. corn and soybean harvest. The soybean production forecast was larger, but the corn forecast was smaller than the October forecast. The U.S. soybean crop is now forecast at 3.958 billion bushels, 31 million bushels larger than the October forecast. The U.S. average yield is forecast at 47.5 bushels, 0.4 bushel larger than the October forecast.
There are a variety of disturbing questions surrounding the Dietary Guidelines for Americans now being drafted for release in 2015. The questions relate to whether the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee should focus its review and recommendations on the current science on nutrition and diet, or whether it should be working to ensure the guidelines fit a policy agenda. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recognized that the human body does not differentiate between added sugars and naturally occurring sugars. Unfortunately, the 2015 Advisory Committee is deviating from the Nutrition Evidence Library approach and selectively looking at only those studies and recommendations which support establishing limits on “added sugars.”
The popularity of crop insurance was on full display during debate of the 2014 Farm Bill, and the phrase "do no harm to crop insurance" was uttered over and over again by farm leaders and policymakers alike when describing their policy goals. Lawmakers embraced the policy because, with crop insurance, farmers have skin in the game and contribute their own dollars to purchase protection. In addition, private insurance providers help shoulder losses so taxpayers aren't on the hook for everything. Farmers utilize crop insurance because they can tailor policies to fit their own unique needs, and because they know efficient private-sector insurers are there to speed assistance when it is needed most without all the red tape. However, crop insurance wasn't always so popular. Just 20 years ago, participation rates hovered around 30%. It didn't gain popularity and cover 89% of cropland until Congress decided to make crop insurance widely available to farms and farmers of all kinds; decided to make policies more affordable to farmers; and decided to make delivery viable for private sector insurers.
Farm Policy Facts
Backed by a $300,000 federal grant, South Carolina officials are trying a new approach to what they call a particularly insidious problem: food stamp trafficking. The pilot program could provide a model for other states looking to limit trafficking of food stamps. Officials use the word “trafficking” to describe the sale of food stamp benefits for cash, or the use of the benefits to turn a profit instead of to purchase food. It will be the first time the state has focused on charging food stamp recipients with fraud and appears to be the first effort of its kind in the country. But critics worry South Carolina’s dragnet might lead to investigations or intimidation of those who’ve done nothing wrong. They question the seriousness of the problem, not to mention the wisdom of giving federal food stamp enforcement money to South Carolina’s social services agency, which has come under fire this year for mismanagement, seeking to limit what food stamp recipients can purchase and imposing new eligibility requirements.
The listing was a downgrade from an earlier agency recommendation — and an acknowledgement of work by Native American tribes, private land owners and state wildlife officials in Colorado and Utah to cut threats to the bird in an effort to avoid an endangered listing. "Efforts by Utah and Colorado, private landowners and tribes have reduced the threats to the bird," said wildlife service director Dan Ashe. "These investments and protections that have been put in place will pay enormous dividends in the future."
Salt Lake Tribune
AgGateway's Data Privacy and Security Committee has published a white paper to help the agriculture industry consider ways to incorporate data privacy best practices and standards into their operations. The paper is also intended to provide recipients of farm data and their customers with areas to consider when using that data. The paper, which is publicly accessible at www.AgGateway.org, includes key terminology to encourage consistency across the industry
The importance of clarity in the rule regarding Waters of the United States is paramount to achieving the clean water objectives for commerce, recreation and health in our communities. One of the primary recurring themes heard at the public outreach meetings is that the proposed rule, as written, does not achieve the intended level of clarity. The Workgroup also heard extensive concerns with the current permit ting process as well as a strong consensus that the proposed rule could further degrade an already highly stressed and inefficient permitting process, while placing an excessive economic burden on local government. Moving forward, the LGAC recommends that EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers continue to evolve the rule such that it addresses the concerns and incorporates the recommendations of local government.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued an opinion supporting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on regulating businesses that handle and process grain and other agricultural products which create dust. The case was a challenge to OSHA's revised Hazard Communication Standard, which in effect states that grain dust is a hazardous chemical. OSHA has been told by Congress to keep its hands off of farm grain storage operations with 10 or fewer employees. The court made it clear that industry knows very well what constitutes combustible dust. It tells industry petitioners that they need only to read from OSHA's National Emphasis Program which defines combustible dust as well as agricultural dust. The petitioners were told they need not worry about the HCS not defining combustible dust because there were plenty of definitions and industry only need to read and follow them.
Demands by Canadian competitors and the U.S. meatpacker industry to immediately rescind Country-of-Origin Labeling before the WTO has completed the dispute process are deceptive and premature because the US has strong grounds to appeal the case, and should pursue a vigorous appeal, said National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson. “Recent comments by an attorney for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association that the law will inevitably be struck down should be seen for what they are: a paid advocate for a foreign competitor attempting to scare the U.S. Congress into hasty and unwarranted action,” said Johnson. “The U.S. Congress should reject Canada’s absurd demand for unconditional surrender at the WTO,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “The U.S. must pursue a vigorous appeal to defend the COOL labels that Congress enacted and not buckle to the Canadian cattle and U.S. meatpacker demands.”
The Department of Labor must better police labor laws in countries where the U.S. has free trade agreements, the Government Accountability Office says. A GAO report cited instances where union leaders have been killed and threatened in Columbia and Guatemala, while other countries are concealing violations by farming out subcontractors. Investigators also identified problems in Peru and the Dominican Republic, which are also among the countries that have entered into 14 free trade agreements with the US. The pacts accounted for more than 35 % of all U.S. imports in 2013, the report said. GAO said the Labor Department has received five formal complaints of possible labor law violations since 2008, but only one has been resolved. The GAO said there is confusion among labor officials in other countries about how to file a complaint or report violation, according to the report, which urges the Labor Department to remedy that problem.
DuPont Pioneer, one of the world's largest seed companies,
is refusing to give up on efforts to cultivate genetically modified crops in
Chinese fields in the face of regulatory hurdles, even as rivals pull back.
Dow AgroSciences it will restrict sales of its new genetically modified corn and soybeans to prevent them from entering U.S. domestic or international marketing channels as it awaits import approval from China.
European lawmakers have voted to give EU member states the power to ban cultivation of genetically modified crops on their territory even if they have been approved by the 28-nation bloc. Tuesday’s vote on gmos must still be converted into EU-wide law by the bloc’s executive, the European Commission and national governments. Environmentalists welcomed the vote by the parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks appear to be making progress and could soon put pressure on Canada to make concessions of its own, namely slashing the tariff walls that Ottawa uses to keep foreign milk and cheese at bay. Mr. Harper and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key are expected to talk about issues ranging from global security threats from Islamic militants in Iraq to Russian aggression in Ukraine. They are talking ahead of a Group of 20 meeting in Australia. The conversation is expected to get more awkward when the subject turns to the Trans-Pacific talks, where New Zealand is pushing for Canada to open its dairy markets.
Globe and Mail
The sugar market gave investors a buzz, when news of a surprisingly sharp decline in Brazilian production sent prices to their biggest percentage gain in more than six weeks. The report rattled investors who had made large bets that sugar prices would decline amid a global glut. Those wagers—the biggest in almost 18 months—largely hinge on a big Brazilian harvest flooding the market with supply. The country produces about one-fifth of the world’s sugar. Brazil’s main sugar-growing region experienced its worst drought in decades earlier this year, hurting the development of sugar cane, and dozens of mills have closed for the year because of poor weather and low prices, reducing Brazil’s output. But Tuesday’s report was weaker than expected.
Wall Street Journal
South America’s soybean harvest probably will face delays early next year, boosting demand for U.S. exports. The soybean harvest in Brazil, the world’s top exporter last year, may be delayed by two to three weeks this season, postponing the beginning of the country’s export program to the second or third week of February. Recent dry weather in Brazil meant farmers delayed planting this year, setting back crop development.
India and the U.S. reached an agreement on India’s massive food-stockpiling program, clearing the way for India to ratify an important WTO agreement aimed at facilitating trade. After a months long impasse, the U.S. agreed to give India more freedom to subsidize and stockpile food to feed its people and support its farmers. India is now confident that it can ratify the trade-facilitation agreement, which WTO members hammered out last year but failed to adopt due to the unrelated stockpiling dispute. U.S. trade officials said the new deal included a clarification to end the ambiguity in last year’s agreement about how countries could react to India’s massive food stockpiles. India buys rice and wheat from farmers in enormous quantities at above-market prices, which it sees as vital for ensuring food security but which critics say encourages overproduction. This year, India is expected to spend close to $20 billion on its food subsidies. That puts it at risk of violating WTO rules on subsidies, exposing India to potential trade cases brought by other countries.
Wall Street Journal
Energy and Renewables
The bill is the first introduced since Wisniewski’s panel began holding hearings on how to replenish the state’s roadwork fund, which will exhaust its cash and bonding authority next fiscal year. “We have to raise revenue,” Wisniewski, 52, a Democrat from Sayreville, said in an interview in Camden at the panel’s third meeting. “We can’t solve our transportation funding crisis by pretending there’s money someplace we haven’t tapped.” Republican Governor Chris Christie in September appointed a Democrat to lead the Transportation Department and said, “Everything’s on the table,” including a higher tax, to replenish the fund. The governor previously had said he wouldn’t agree to higher gasoline costs for New Jerseyans, who pay the most property taxes among U.S. states.
On the front lawn of Connexus Energy’s headquarters outside the Twin Cities sits the largest community solar garden in Minnesota, a 245 kW installation comprised of 792 panels on a plot of land the size of a football field. Connexus Energy is a non-profit cooperative that is exempt from Minnesota’s mandate that investor owned utilities produce 1.5 % of their electric power from solar by 2020. Yet the interest was high enough among the co-op’s 128,000 members to warrant the project. It’s part of a wave of community solar projects undertaken in the past few years by rural cooperatives – entities not often seen as being on the cutting edge of clean energy. In addition to Minnesota, where recent legislation encourages such projects, significant co-op community solar developments are operating or underway in Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and other states.
Midwest Energy news
State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg is seeking data on state-owned conservation land that could be affected by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.'s 128-mile route across the state, I n filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Tennessee Gas described its preferred route, which would cut through dozens of state parks, forests, and other preserved land and waterways on its way across the state. Rosenberg has not taken a stand on the proposed natural gas pipeline, but has expressed confidence that the legislature could prevent the pipeline from crossing publicly-owned protected land. At the same time, Rosenberg has warned that approximately 8,300 megawatts of power from fossil and nuclear sources will go off-line in the New England region in the next six years, representing 25 % of the region's electric power, and says the capacity must be replaced. Rosenberg, as the expected next Senate president, would play a key role if the legislature invokes Article 97 of the Massachusetts constitution, which requires legislative approval for any change in use of state conservation land.
Wholesale gasoline prices in the U.S. have declined by about a dollar per gallon, or one-third, since June. The CBOB price last week was $2.11 per gallon, the lowest level since autumn 2010. This decline was mainly due to the drop in crude oil prices from around $105 per barrel to $80 over the same time period. The question addressed in today's article is whether the decline in gasoline prices has been large enough to threaten the competiveness of ethanol in gasoline blends. The answer to that question depends on the assumed breakeven price of ethanol relative to the price of gasoline and that is a major focus of the analysis.
Lower fuel for production corn and soybeans in 2015 will occur if fuel prices remain lower through the 2015 growing season. However, fuel costs are a low proportion of total costs of producing corn and soybeans. As a result, oil and fuel price declines will have a small impact on 2015 production costs.
Roads crumbling under the weight of oil tankers blowing out tires, breaking axles and cracking windshields. And eighteen-wheelers crowd the roads, contributing to accidents and long waits in traffic. As a result, bus drivers must start earlier — and some patients must wait longer for rides home from their appointments. Such conditions are common across parts of South and West Texas, where a drilling bonanza has transformed life for better and for worse.
Opponents Fear Loss of Rural Character; Review Under Way. More than 50 solar energy farms, with acres upon acres of white and gray solar panels pointed skyward, have been approved on Long Island and dozens more are in the pipeline. But the latest plan for a new 60-acre solar installation on a sod farm in Shoreham has drawn opposition from residents who say that such facilities would be better built to replace abandoned warehouses or unsightly industrial areas.
Wall Street Journal
BNSF Railway is blocking some shippers from adding tank cars to its system in a bid to prevent a worsening of the gridlock that sparked regulators’ ire. BNSF, which has come under scrutiny this year from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board over late grain deliveries, has told some oil shippers its network can’t accommodate more tank cars. In June, BNSF and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. were ordered by the board to report plans for resolving the service disruptions. While BNSF has said it’s spending $5 billion this year to add workers, rail cars and expand track, Berkshire acknowledged in a filing last week that the railroad’s service is still “well below” its standards. Compounding the problem is the prospect of a record soybean and corn crop in the U.S., which will put additional pressure on railroads. The railroad’s shipments of petroleum products have jumped 14 % this year, outpacing a gain in total traffic of 1.7 % and a 0.4 % rise in grain cargo. That has caused complaints from gain and coal shippers that BNSF is favoring crude over their shipments.
BNSF Railway said third-quarter profit rose 5 %, with freight volume falling 1% as congestion continues to strain the company’s rail network. Net income was $1 billion, up from $989 million, a year earlier. Revenue rose 4 % to $5.8 billion. Freight volumes fell in three of the railroad’s four categories, as crew, locomotive and railcar shortages coupled with record grain harvests and crude oil production from North Dakota have led to shipping delays. The harsh winter and spring floods also hurt the nation’s railroads in getting trains to customers on time. Union Pacific, about tied with BNSF at $22 billion in annual operating revenue, said it had 8,845 outstanding grain car orders, up 41 % from a week earlier. U.P. said last month that its freight volumes rose 7 %, with increases in five of the six freight categories. Third-quarter net income vaulted 19 % to $1.4 billion.
Mexico has spent nearly $800m to insure against a further fall in oil prices next year, locking in sale prices of the commodity that funds a third of federal revenue. The finance ministry said on Thursday it had completed its annual hedging programme for oil exports, typically the largest of its kind in commodities markets, settling on a price floor one-tenth lower than the terms it inked for this year. When it began on September 1 the Brent crude benchmark was $103 a barrel; on Thursday the price was below $78.
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