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ND House speaker Belter of Fargo recovering from surgery

Our wishes for a quick recovery to Wes Belter, foundation SARL member,
emeritus Treasurer and Speaker of the ND House. 
Hope you get back on your feet and feed quickly, Rep. Belter!

Comments Open:

Proposal to exempt organic producers from commodity checkoffs

Till 2-17-15. The proposed rule would expand the organic assessment exemption to cover all “organic”
and “100% organic” products certified under the National Organic Program regardless of whether the
person requesting the exemption also produces, handles, markets, or imports
conventional or nonorganic products.

EPA proposal to delay Bt rootworm resistance

Would require manufacturers of Bt seed to ensure 70% of their customers in "high-risk" rootworm
areas are using crop rotation, pyramided Bt-products, or non-Bt hybrids combined with a soil insecticide.

::  January 23-January 30,2015 ::

Agriculture News

Food and Rural  Communities

Federal and International

Texas: New Senator, Charles Perry to chair Ag

New York: Ritchie reappointed as Senate Ag Chair

SARL speaker, IL Pork leader, Jim Kaitschuk named Legislative Director for Gov Rauner

IN:It’s a win-win for producers and their right to farm

Delaware County (Indiana) Circuit Judge Marianne Vorhees ruled that Indiana’s right-to-farm law is constitutional and protects four large farms from lawsuits filed by residents.  The plaintiffs appealed that decision, but the lawyer representing the plaintiffs has dropped any future action against the farms. Bob Ivey, general manager of hog operations for Maxwell Foods, said, “Indiana has a strong right-to-farm law, and we’re very pleased that farmers are allowed to do what they do best, which is to farm without being burdened by frivolous litigation.”  Maxwell Farms uses production practices that are common within the industry, which made the experience of defending the farms that much more frustrating.

Pork Network

CSG NSAAS chair involved in the Shumlin water effort

When Gov. Peter Shumlin promises unprecedented support for Lake Champlain cleanup, he is depending on many farmers like Sam Burr.  Burr had just finished investing thousands of dollars trying to prevent sediment from reaching Lake Champlain.  Though the legislative session is just a few weeks old, water quality already has garnered plenty of attention.  The governor spotlighted the issue in his inaugural address and later announced millions of new federal dollars to boost the effort. A House water-quality bill that didn't make it through the Senate last session has reappeared in a new form. The changes under discussion that would affect farmers include a fee on fertilizer to pay for lake cleanup; additional staff for the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets; and the possible loss of tax breaks if farmers fail to abide by regulations. Small farmers also might have to begin certifying with the state every five years that they meet the regulations.  "There is a new attitude emerging," said Rep. Carolyn Partridge, chairwoman of the House Committee on Agriculture and Forest Products. She believes groups including the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition in northern Vermont are changing the tone of conversations about water quality to emphasize that everyone needs to be part of the solution. "There's a little bit less finger pointing," she said.  Partridge said she hopes the General Assembly passes a water-quality bill this year that will set a framework for efforts in the years ahead.  Vermont recently announced $16 million in federal funds that farmers can apply for. 

Burlington Free Press

Animal right activist fight reappointment of Nebraska agriculture director

A group of puppy mill opponents turned out in force to fight the reappointment of State Agriculture Director Greg Ibach.  They told state lawmakers that Ibach has allowed “cruel neglect” of animals at dog breeding operations to continue, and even worsen, under his watch.  But other animal welfare advocates supported Ibach at a confirmation hearing before the Legislature’s Agriculture Committee.  Judi Varner, president and CEO of the Nebraska Humane Society, said she is pleased with the changes underway at the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.  Those changes include efforts to beef up the department’s oversight of commercial dog and cat breeders.  Ibach is expected to be confirmed. Lawmakers typically allow governors to name the people they want to be in their administration.

North country agriculture impacted by Cuomo’s executive budget

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed budget calls for a big reduction in funding for key agriculture programs important to the north country. At first blush, the governor’s 2015-16 budget for programs administered by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets looks bleak compared with this fiscal year. The New York State Farm Viability Institute, which funds critical research to develop commodity crops across the state, would have its funding cut by $1.1 million, from $1.5 million to $400,000. And the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, which received $600,000 this year, would go unfunded altogether.  State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, said she plans to lead a charge to ensure the two agriculture research programs are fully funded.

Watertown Daily News

MO: Agriculture omnibus bill poised to move through senate

An agriculture omnibus bill that failed a gubernatorial veto override by a single vote last year was perfected in the senate today without controversial language dealing with captive cervids, all but assuring it’s movement through the Missouri House.  SB 12 deals with several agricultural provisions, most predominantly the “Missouri Dairy Revitalization Act.” The act calls for the University of Missouri to conduct a study on the annual revenue generated by the sale of dairy products,  also directs the university to develop a plan for improving and growing the dairy industry in the state.  The bill also “requires the Department of Agriculture to establish a dairy producer insurance premium assistance program for producers who participate in the federal margin protection program for dairy producers. Participating producers shall be reimbursed for 70% of their federal premium payment.”  The program also makes 80 scholarships at $5,000 each for tuition at any college or university in the state for students in agriculture-related degree programs who make a commitment to work in the agricultural industry.  The bill also reduces Missouri Livestock Marketing Law fees, increases the threshold for weight restrictions on trucks carrying livestock or grain, extends the waiver of liability as it relates to injury or death during equine events, and enacts number of other provisions.

Missouri Times

FL: GMO labeling bills introduced in both chambers

What Does Sustainability Mean for Agriculture?

What does it mean to be a sustainable agricultural producer?  That’s a debate quietly occurring across southern Idaho as various commodity groups begin talking with members about best management practices retailers want used to address concerns their customers have about the food they buy. But what one person considers a sustainable practice, another thinks is ludicrous. Reconciling those different viewpoints while trying to feed a growing population is the challenge that agricultural producers must answer.  A Nelson internet survey of 60,000 consumers found that 67% of respondents want to buy products from a socially responsible company and 55% are willing to pay more for products and services from a socially responsible company. But no one can quite agree on what “sustainable agricultural programs” really are.  But the biggest number driving agricultural producers, agricultural business, retailers and environmental groups to look at sustainable practices is that the global population is expected to top 9 billion by 2050.

Magic Valley

Harvard researchers dig into Maine’s growing food economy

What kind of policies does Maine need in order to increase the amount of locally grown foods consumed here and exported around the globe? Which economic development strategies work best for the farmers who grow apples and cucumbers and the food entrepreneurs who turn those crops into chutneys, pickles and other value-added products? How does Maine compare with other states that are mining their own Gold Rush food economies, and how can we accelerate our growth? Do we need better distribution channels? Better packaging? Or is it something else?  The answers to some of these questions may be available as early as this spring, when Harvard researchers release the findings of the Maine Food Cluster Project, an in-depth analysis of what is making Maine’s food economy tick and how it can be strengthened. 

Portland Press Herald

Feedyard heifer population at lowest point in nine years


Avian flu confirmed in commercial turkey flock in Central California

Mercury News

Map: Literally every goat in the United States

There were 2,621,514 goats in the United States as of 2012, the year of the most recent USDA Agricultural Census. If America's goats were their own state, its population would be larger than that of Wyoming, Vermont, D.C. and North Dakota -- combined. This is what all those goats look like on a map.

Washington Post

5 ways drones could change the way America eats

Herding cattle. Counting fish. Taking an animal’s temperature. Applying pesticides.  When it comes to drones, “your imagination can go pretty wild in terms of what would be possible,” says Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union.  This month, the Federal Aviation Administration issued the first permit for agricultural use of unmanned aerial vehicles. Steven Edgar, president and CEO of ADAVSO, says he will use a drone to survey fields of crops.

Antibiotics, bacteria found in feedlot dust

After testing dust in the air near cattle feedlots in the Southern High Plains, researchers at Texas Tech University found evidence of antibiotics, feedlot-derived bacteria and DNA sequences that encode for antibiotic resistance.  It is the first study documenting aerial transmission of antibiotic resistance from an open-air farm setting.  Phil Smith, an associate professor of terrestrial ecotoxicology at the institute, noted that scientists couldn't assess if the amounts of these materials were dangerous to human health.


TN: Agriculture Department seeks farmers to grow hemp

The Tennessean

Pork Prices Drop as Hog Herds Recover

More Pigs Come to Market a Year After Epidemic Hit Supplies; In the futures market, U.S. hogs are trading at four-year lows as herds bounce back from a virus that has killed millions of pigs since the spring of 2013. New vaccines and herd immunity have slowed the spread of the virus. Now, market watchers are bracing for record production as hogs bred after the virus was brought under control reach slaughter weight.  The price slide is benefiting consumers, who are paying less for bacon, ham and other pork products.

Wall Street Journal

Farmers Rewarded for Practicing ‘Carbon Farming’

In 2007, a California rancher, John Wick and his partners at the Marin Carbon Project convinced researchers at the University of California, Berkeley that restoring grassland soils could serve as a major source of carbon sequestration. Using his land for the experiments, the researchers found that every year, Wick’s soils held more and more carbon. After years of study, they have found that “compost applied to 5% of the state’s grazing land would store a year’s worth of emissions from conventional farms and forestry operations there. If that’s increased to 25% of grazing land, the soil would absorb 75% of California’s total annual emissions.”  Calling these regenerative practices “carbon farming,” the state of California is rewarding farmers and ranchers for how much carbon they have in their soil. Farmers receive tradable greenhouse gas emission reduction credits, which they can sell on California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Exchange.

Eco watch

Canadian support price dropping 1.8% on March 1

The Canadian Dairy Commission announced a reduction in the support price of skim milk powder that will be effective March 1, 2015.

Dairy Herd

U.S., Mexico Increasingly Competing for Farm Labor

The U.S. and Mexico are increasingly competing for a dwindling supply of farm labor, a development that likely will have long-term implications for the U.S. agricultural sector. " The majority of hired farmworkers in the U.S., estimated at around 1 million, are Mexican. In California, Mexican migrants account for 90% of hired workers. But the pool of Mexican agricultural workers is steadily declining, with no indication that it will be reversed. The decline mainly results from changes in rural Mexico, including shrinking birthrates and a rise in the availability of education. There are also more jobs in nonagricultural sectors in Mexico as the economy there improves. To meet its needs, Mexico has been importing farm workers from Guatemala.

Wall Street Journal

Toledo water crisis impacted perceptions of Lake Erie algae causes

The August 2014 water crisis in Toledo impacted Ohioans’ views of Lake Erie algae problems by increasing the attribution of blame of algae growth on crop and animal agriculture, as well as increasing the levels of reported fear and concern among citizens, said Brian Roe, an economist at Ohio State University.

Neonicotinoid Seed Treatments Critical for Certain Soybean Operations

Hoosier Ag Today

Farmers Move to Open Stalls for Hogs, but Reluctantly

Without Crates, Animals Fight, More Workers Are Needed, and Costs Rise

Wall Street Journal

Cargill notes speed of its sow-housing conversion

Cargill Pork LLC is 11 months ahead of its own schedule for completing the conversion to group housing for sows at company-owned farms, the company said in a news release.


Global GMO plantings hit a record of 448 million acres in 2014, led by US

Des Moines Register

What Do Farmers Think about Climate Change?

"Our research so far has shown pretty clearly that although most farmers believe that climate change is occurring, a minority attribute it to human activity," said Arbuckle, at Iowa State University.  Whether or not farmers agree about the causes or even existence of climate change, researchers agree that farmers still have to prepare their farms for the consequences of rising temperatures, increased atmospheric CO2 and more extreme weather events.  Arbuckle recommended that extension workers avoid talking specifically about greenhouse gas mitigation or even use the phrase "climate change" at all.  "Instead, the focus should be on adaptation to increasingly variable weather. Farmers are professional adapters, and they respond to the challenge of adapting to difficulty," Arbuckle said. 

Scientific American

Poultry vet says industry needs to the data on antibiotics use

Chuck Hofacre laments that the questions he gets from reporters about the food animal industry’s use of antibiotics — such as the doozy about how it gobbles up 80% of all antibiotics — are clearly misinformed, but he doesn’t really have the data to help set them straight. The director of clinical services at University of Georgia’s Poultry Diagnostic & Research Center said that until the industry knows how much antibiotics are being used and how they’re being used, such inaccurate claims will continue to persist in the minds of consumers.  “We’re going to have to get a handle on this antibiotic use,” he said.  Hofacre said efforts are under way within the pork and poultry industries, as well as the FDA and USDA, to get a measure of their use of antibiotics. He said that until then, the industry will continue to take the brunt of the blame for antimicrobial resistance even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the vast majority of antimicrobial resistance is attributable to use in human medicine.  “We need to be the spokespersons and help consumers understand how complex this is,” he said.


Critical Role of Animal Science Research in Food Security and Sustainability

The report documents the important contributions that animal science and animal agriculture make to society and finds that current funding levels are not sufficient to meet global demands.  Over the past two decades, public funding of animal science research has been stagnant. Growth in U.S. research related to animal agriculture productivity and sustainability is imperative, and the report recommends that the public investment in animal science should be increased to make up for past years of underfunding and to help meet future needs. The report also identifies key areas where enhanced public funding can help provide science-based solutions to improve animal productivity, increase food safety and food security, improve sustainability, and address public concerns about animal welfare.


Putnam: “Time not on our side” in fight to save citrus

Florida state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam warned “time is not on our side” in the battle to save an industry with an estimated $9 billion annual impact on Florida’s economy.  It’s personal for Putnam, whose family has grown citrus in Polk County for generations. It’s more than just losing a way of life, though. Florida derives much of its identity from oranges. It’s a symbol of our state. The industry employs an estimated 76,000 workers. For years, citrus production survived maladies like canker, bad weather, the consolidation of packing plants and the sale of former orange groves to developers. But since 2005, the phenomenon known as “citrus greening” has proven unstoppable. It’s bacteria spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, and it has been destroying healthy trees throughout the state. Putnam said the disease now has infected more than half of Florida’s orange groves. He requested $18 million from the Legislature for continued research in how to fight back, on top of about $200 million already devoted to the struggle.

Tampa Tribune

NAS Report: Furthering America’s Research Enterprise

Congress asked the National Academies to study measures of the impacts of research on society. The intent of this study was to increase the returns on federal investments in scientific research. Metrics that could serve to increase the translation of research into commercial products and services were of specific interest.  The committee that wrote this report found that while the American research enterprise is indeed capable of producing increased benefits for the U.S. society and the global community, the metrics used to evaluate any one aspect of an isolated research system (without a strong understanding of the bigger picture) may prove misleading. According to this report, “without this system-level understanding, policies focused on relatively narrow objectives—such as increasing university patenting and licensing of research discoveries or reducing the funding for certain disciplines or types of research—could have undesired consequences.”  Thus, the current metrics used to evaluate research benefits are inadequate to guide national decisions regarding which research investments will expand the benefits of research.


Report offers solutions to improve research funding

Sustaining Discovery in Biological and Medical Sciences: A Framework for Discussion” that outlines the dismal state of funding in the biomedical sciences. The report examines funding over the period from 2003 – 2012 and makes some recommendations for improvement. The emphasis of the report is on declining NIH funding, but also indicates that there have been similar declines in NSF and USDA support for biology research.  The report shows that inflation adjusted federal spending for biomedical research has declined 20% since 2003. Several other factors greatly increase the impact of the reduced federal funding on researchers. These include: a greater number of grant applications (due to an increase in the number of investigators seeking funding), a greater regulatory burden on investigators, a greater need to fund salaries from extramural funds, a decrease in state support at public institutions and a decrease in funding from private industry.


U.S. grain farmers add debt as crop prices squeeze cash flow

U.S. grain farmers are boosting demand for loans from farm banks as five-year lows in crop prices squeeze operating budgets ahead of spring planting.  "Reduced profits in the crop sector persisted in the fourth quarter of 2014, leading to a sharp rise in farm-sector borrowing and a slight decline in cropland values," the bank said. "Should low crop prices and high input costs persist, crop sector profit margins may weaken further and strain loan repayment capacity in the coming year."  Corn prices set record highs during the summer of 2012 amid the biofuels boom and drought in the United States and many overseas areas. But prices are now down by about half after two consecutive record American harvests. At the same time, crop production has recovered overseas, hurting wheat exports. Without mammoth Chinese demand, soybean prices would be even lower.  The Fed survey, which covered the Midwest, Plains and Mountain states, said farm loan debt outstanding as of Sept. 30 was 6.7% higher than a year earlier.


Canadian crop acres rising across the board

Just about every major crop grown in the Canadian Prairies is forecast to come out a winner in the annual fight for acres this year, with unseeded area the only place where reductions are forecast, according to early estimates.

Ag Canada

Canadian railways falling short in moving grain - farm coalition


IDFA Comments on state of dairy industry

Whether it’s the environment, food security, rising income inequality , or personal and community well-being, the considerations that go into decision s about what to eat are vastly different than what most of us grew up thinking . If General Hayden’s consumers’ world premise is true and I believe he’s rightthen, engagement of the consumer is a must - have and a major business driver. So what’s the take - away for our industry? The good news for dairy is that we’ve become a food industry pioneer, innovator and leader in many ways. Organic dairy continues to grow and new global markets hold great promise. And while there remain pockets of problems with meeting our customers ’ evolving wants and needs , we can’t let up

Tyson Foods to add 500 jobs at poultry plant in Vienna, Georgia


DuPont Warns of Currency Headwinds  

DuPont Co. gave a disappointing outlook for 2015, saying its earnings would take a significant hit from the strengthening dollar, though the chemicals company indicated it would hit its goal to cut $1 billion in costs well ahead schedule.  The company, which is facing pressure from activist investor Trian Fund Management LP to split itself up, expects to post per-share earnings of $4 to $4.20 a share for the year, below analysts projections for $4.46 a share according Thomson Reuters.


Deere & Company layoffs in Iowa/Illinois

More than 900 workers at John Deere ag equipment plants in Iowa and Illinois are being laid off indefinitely. The Moline, Illinois company is giving notice to 560 workers at three locations in Waterloo, Iowa, 300 at the Des Moines Works Plant in Ankeny, Iowa and 45 employees of Harvester Works in East Moline, Illinois.


Perdue AgriBusiness headquarters moving to Delaware

While Perdue AgriBusiness headquarters will move, Perdue Farms will remain headquartered in Salisbury, Maryland

Watt Agnet

CA:Personal agriculture and apartment living

AB 2561 was introduced “to establish conditions under which residents of common-interest developments and tenants in rental housing might engage in personal agriculture.”  This new law requires a landlord to permit a tenant to participate in personal agriculture if certain conditions are met, including that the rental property is a building of two units or less and the tenant’s unit is on the ground level. The bill took effect on January 1.

California’s Scrambled Eggs

The state’s new chicken-coop law is hitting human beings hard. California has a way of living up to the worst regulatory expectations, as grocery shoppers across the country are discovering. The state’s latest animal-rights march is levying a punishing new food tax on the nation’s poor.

Wall Street Journal

HSUS says California most animal friendly

For the sixth straight year, Humane Society of U.S. has ranked California as the most animal-friendly state


1 in 5 Children on Food Stamps

Sixteen million children were on food stamps as of last year, the highest number since the nation's economy tumbled in 2008.

Price Spreads from Farm to Consumer

ERS compares prices paid by consumers for food with prices received by farmers for corresponding commodities. This data set reports these comparisons for a variety of foods sold through retail foodstores.  Comparisons are made for individual foods and groupings of individual foods that represent what a typical U.S. household buys at retail in a year. The retail costs of these baskets are compared with the money received by farmers for a corresponding basket of agricultural commodities.  ERS data on price spreads for meat, pork, poultry, and eggs can be found in the Meat Price Spreads data product. A different method is used to calculate monthly price spreads for beef, pork, broilers, turkeys, and eggs.  Users may also be interested in an interactive data visualization; see Interactive Chart: Price Spreads and Food Markets.


Pasteurization expected to shield hazelnut farmers

Pasteurization equipment recently installed at the Hazelnut Growers of Oregon processing facility is expected to shield suppliers from on-farm food safety regulations.

Capital Press

Milk Industry Fights Back Against 'Anti-Dairy Folks'

As Americans continue turning away from milk, an industry group is pushing back at its critics with a social media campaign trumpeting the benefits of milk. The association says it needs to act because attitudes about milk are deteriorating more rapidly, with vegan groups, non-dairy competitors and other perceived enemies getting louder online.  Julia Kadison, CEO of Milk Processor Education Program, which represents milk companies, says the breaking point came last year when the British Medical Journal published a study suggesting drinking lots of milk could lead to earlier deaths and higher incidents of fractures. Even though the study urged a cautious interpretation of its findings, it prompted posts online about the dangers of drinking milk.  The campaign is intended to drown out milk's detractors with positive posts about milk on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere.


Egg Company Locally Laid Turns Complaint Letter Into Lesson About Sustainable Agriculture

We’ve written about the cheeky egg company in the past for its feat of pulling off sassy puns with style, so it’s no surprise that it’s now taking advantage of a disgruntled customer’s handwritten letter to explain not only its innuendos, but why its eggs cost more than others in the grocery aisle.  “I find your name on your egg carton extremely offensive and your sexual innuendos in advertising them vulgar,” he writes. “Not only were they the highest price in the store but also worst in advertising.”  Locally Laid replied in an open letter that should serve as an example to every other company faced with a displeased customer, taking the time to explain first of all, why those eggs are so pricey.  After acknowledging the customer’s right to complain and thanking him for taking the time to handwrite his letter, Locally Laid’s “marketing chick” Lucie Amundsen goes on to outline the company’s reasons for its name and prices.  She starts with the most basic reason it’s called Locally Laid — the pasture-raised eggs are indeed, “laid locally” — and goes on to explain why that matters in the grand scheme of things. 


Chicken wing nation: 1.25 billion for Super Bowl

Detroit Free Press

Seattle is now publicly shaming people for putting food in their trash bins

Seattle began enforcing this month a new law, which aims to curb the amount of food sent to landfills. As of January 1, residents of the city, including all commercial establishments, must have a composting service haul away their food waste, drive the waste to a processing site, or compost it themselves at home or on-site. The law applies not only to food but also any cardboard or paper with food on it.  For those unwilling to cooperate, there will be a price.  For now, the cost of defiance will come in the form of public shaming. Those who refuse to separate their garbage will find their bins tagged with a red sign for all to see. The hope is that the tags will help serve as both a warning as well as an incentive to make composting a habit. But come June, after a public education campaign lasting several months about the new rules, violators will begin facing fines—$1 per infraction for households; and $50 per breach by apartment buildings and businesses.

Washington Post

People do know that all chicken is antibiotic free, right?

Antibiotic-free chicken now in consumer mainstream

Watt Ag Net

A Food Sisterhood Flourishes in North Carolina

Back in the 1970s, when Nathalie Dupree and Shirley Corriher were cooking together in Atlanta, they wanted to avoid the kind of relationship in which competition slides into rancor.  So the two women, who went on to build national reputations, developed the pork chop theory. The idea is that one pork chop in a pan cooks up dry. But two produce enough fat to feed each other, and the results are much better.  The pork chop theory is as good an explanation as any for what’s happening in North Carolina, where women dominate the best professional kitchens.  The North Carolina food sisterhood stretches out beyond restaurants, too, into pig farming, flour milling and pickling. Women run the state’s pre-eminent pasture-raised meat and organic produce distribution businesses and preside over its farmers’ markets. They influence food policy and lead the state’s academic food studies. And each fall, the state hosts the nation’s only retreat for women in the meat business.

Louise Slaughter to McD's CEO: 'Live up to [your] commitment'

New York Rep. Louis M. Slaughter thinks McDonald's is dropping the ball on safe food, and she let CEO Don Thompson know about it in a letter she sent to him.  At issue for Slaughter is McDonald's support for the criteria for global sustainable beef drafted by the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef — of which McDonald's is a founding member — and how they address the use of antibiotics.  "... I am writing to express my disappointment in the Principles and Criteria for Global Sustainable Beef ... . McDonald's 2004 commitment on antibiotic use ... includes 'reductions in the total use of antibiotics belonging to classes of compounds currently approved for use in human medicine.'  ... [T]he failure to include meaningful restrictions on antibiotics use in the agreed upon standards (developed by the GRSB) calls into question McDonald's commitment to ending the misuse of antibiotics and could contradict its own policy.  I urge McDonald's to live up to its commitment by requiring that its suppliers eliminate non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics, including growth-promotion and routine disease prevention," she wrote in the letter.



Des Moines Water Works insults farmers

Rep. Gary Worthan, Iowa legislator, says "Managers of the Des Moines Water Works have insulted every family farmer in northwest Iowa by threatening to sue three counties over nitrate pollution in the Raccoon River." It flows into the Des Moines River the city's drinking water supply.  The Des Moines Water Works claims that drainage districts which cover more than 9 million acres, or 26% of all Iowa farms, are creating large nitrate concentrations in the Des Moines River water supply.  Nitrate is a naturally occurring oxide of nitrogen. Nitrate occurs naturally in surface and groundwater in concentrations up to 2 ppm. EPA has set the Safe Drinking Water Standard at 10 ppm or 10 mg/L. EPA believes this drinking water standard is necessary to protect the health of infants.  In the Notice of Intent to Sue, DMWW claims that 98% of the nitrate loss from farms does not come from storm water runoff but that the nitrate loss from farm fields ends up in groundwater rather than surface water.

Farm Futures

The Register's Editorial: Good things could flow from water lawsuit

This lawsuit could profoundly redefine federal and state regulation of water quality, not just in Iowa but in all states where water quality has detriorated in large part because of the use of chemical fertilizers by industrial-scale agriculture. 

Des Moines Register

More States Lean Toward Medicaid Expansion

The federal government yesterday approved Indiana’s plan to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, increasing the number of expansion states to 28, plus the District of Columbia. With enrollment starting Feb. 1, Indiana’s plan could add an estimated 350,000 low-income adults to the nearly 5 million expected to enroll in the 27 states that expanded Medicaid last year.   In the weeks after the election, governors in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming asked lawmakers to approve detailed proposals for expanding the federal-state health plan for low-income adults, in some cases restarting previous efforts to seek approval for expansion.  In a smaller group of states in the South – Alabama, North Carolina and Texas – governors said for the first time they were open to the idea of expanding Medicaid. Other than Arkansas, no Southern state has expanded Medicaid.


Vermont making progress in opiate fight

A year after Vermont grabbed national headlines when Gov. Peter Shumlin in his State of the State speech made fighting heroin and opiate abuse a priority, the state is treating 47% more patients, waiting lists for treatment have declined and distribution of an anti-overdose drug has saved 133 lives.  

Burlington Free Press

Ohio septic system regulations overhauled

The state of Ohio has revised its septic system rules, as of Jan. 1, and the changes — the first in 30 years — may surprise homeowners. The new rules, which went into effect Jan. 1, will impact what types of systems can be constructed, depending on soil types, and how wastewater is to be handled onsite.

Farm and Dairy

Norfolk firms want to attract more young people to rural areas - but how?

Enhancing opportunities for young people and expanding the use of digital technologies were key to thriving communities. Training through apprenticeship schemes would also give young people the technological skills they need to work with the increasingly-sophisticated machinery coming into farming. Better mobile and broadband connectivity across the region were also identified as important factors which would attract young people and empower aspiring entrepreneurs. Young people are part of the answer to the social care problem and ageing population

Groundwater Wars Brewing in Austin's Suburbs

In a classic example of the gaps in Texas' patchwork approach to regulating groundwater, an unprecedented amount of water may soon be pumped from underneath already parched Hays County with virtually no oversight.   Houston-based Electro Purification hopes to eventually pump 5 million gallons of water daily from the Trinity Aquifer, and sell it to some of Austin's fastest-growing Hill Country suburbs.   It's by far the biggest commercial pumping project in the area, but it won't be subject to any regulation because the well fields are in a regulatory "no-man's land," as some lawyers like to call it.   About 100 groundwater conservation districts across Texas limit how much water users can pump from aquifers in an effort to protect the resource.

Texas Tribune

"Eco-Warrior" Vandana Shiva, at $40,000 a Speech, Rejoins Hawaii Anti-GMO Crusade, But Truth Is the Victim

She's baaack, and it's not good news for science literacy, farmers and food-minded Hawaiians.  I'm referring to Vandana Shiva, the Indian anti-GMO crusader who kicked off a five-day blitz through Hawaii with a talk-and-music fest at the Capitol Building.  It's a grand tour, marked by private fund-raising pitches to wealthy locals and wannabees from the mainland who view the limited role of biotechnological research in modern agriculture as an anathema--Hawaii is a world center because of its favorable climate. While polls show a majority of Maui farmers and residents oppose the effort to shut down the seed nurseries and research labs, anyone but diehard opponents of modern agriculture will be personae non grata at this rally.  Shiva is reprising her 2013 tour, scheduling of her $40,000-a-pop promotional speeches. As more details of her philosophy and background have emerged, a darker picture has emerged. She leverages her claim as an expert at every stop. "I am scientist... a Quantum Physicist," she claimed, until recently on her website and in many books, a claim repeated by journalists, even prominent. But she's not. Her degree was in humanities--she's a philosopher of science, but has no professional hard science background or writings.  Shiva believes the Green Revolution has been a sham, publicly calling it "a failure," that has led to diminishing productivity and kills farmers.

Huffington Post

The Virginia Right to Farm Act: Part 2 – Zoning Limitations

It is not uncommon for farmers to run afoul of their neighbors. Sometimes their disgruntled neighbors are transplants seeking the rural aesthetic that are not too pleased with the side effects of country living. Others may be longtime residents that object to farming practices that “ain’t how Daddy did.” In particular, the planned construction or expansion of new livestock confinement facilities can draw the ire or your neighbors.  Despite the high esteem and respect rural communities  generally hold for farmers and agriculture, local governments can create substantial headaches for would-be farming operations, especially if fear of dust, noise, traffic or odor imperils property values. County planning commissions and zoning boards have a tendency to set up roadblocks for the construction of new farm operations. In some instances in the past, localities have attempted to zone out certain types of farming operations completely. Virginia’s Right to Farm Act curbs the authority of local governments to zone out or prohibit agricultural operations. Specifically, Va. Code § 3.2-301 prohibits localities from adopting ordinances that require special exceptions or special use permits for any “production agriculture or silviculture” activity in an area zoned or classified as an “agricultural” district.  While the Right to Farm Act forbids localities from requiring exceptions or special use permits, it does not completely remove local control over farming operations. Section 3.2-201 provides that localities can adopt setback requirements, minimum area requirements, and “other requirements”  that apply to agriculture and forestry activities in agriculturally-zoned areas. In practice, these setbacks and minimum area requirements are generally geared towards providing buffers between livestock or poultry confinements and their neighbors’ property lines, residences, or wells.  There are boundaries on the limits (setbacks, minimum area) that localities can place on farming operations. Section 3.2-301 forbids localities from enacting zoning ordinances that “unreasonably restrict or regulate” farm structures or farming and forestry practices in an agricultural district unless these restrictions are based on the health, safety, or general welfare of neighboring residents.

Virginia Ag Law

New Publication Examines Northeast Region's Land Link Programs

From 2012-2013, Pillen conducted interviews with the program staff at the region’s 19 land link programs, and also administered a survey to hundreds of farmland owners and seekers who engaged the services of ten of the region’s programs. In addition to matching land owners with land seekers, these programs may also provide support services, such as education, technical assistance, and mediation. Pillen identifies the areas in which land link programs are most successful and areas that could be improved upon, and she provides some recommendations for how to address future challenges and opportunities. 

Penn State

Millions of GMO Insects Could Be Released in Florida Keys

Never before have insects with modified DNA come so close to being set loose in a residential U.S. neighborhood.  "This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease," said Michael Doyle, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, which is waiting to hear if the FDA will allow the experiment.  Dengue and chikungunya are growing threats in the U.S., but some people are more frightened at the thought of being bitten by a genetically modified organism. More than 130,000 people signed a petition against the experiment.    Mosquito controllers say they're running out of options. There are no vaccines or cures for dengue, known as "break-bone fever," or chikungunya, so painful it causes contortions.

ABC news

F.C.C. Sharply Expands Definition of Broadband

The new broadband benchmark sets downloads at a speed of 25 megabits a second and uploads of 3 megabits a second. The previous standard was a download speed of 4 megabits a second and an upload speed of 1 megabit a second. 53% of rural Americans — 22 million people — do not have Internet access at the 25 level. By contrast, only 8% of urban Americans lack access to 25 broadband.

Broadband Linked to Population Growth

Counties that have better broadband access tend to be adding population at a faster rate than counties that don’t have as much access. And the counties with the worst levels of access are losing population. Counties with better broadband access are adding population at 10 times the rate of counties that lack good broadband connections, according to a study by an industry magazine.  The study by Broadband Communities found that counties in the bottom half of their states’ broadband-access rankings had a population growth rate of only 0.27% from 2010 to 2013. Counties in the top half of broadband-access rankings increased their population by an average of 2.79% during the same period.

Daily Yonder

Wolf survey shows Northeastern Oregon has met ‘conservation objective’

The survey result gives Eastern Oregon cattle ranchers a bit more leeway in protecting livestock.  An annual wolf population survey shows seven breeding pairs in Oregon, enough to meet the state’s conservation objective in Eastern Oregon and to give ranchers more leeway to protect livestock. The count moves Oregon’s wolf plan, at least in Eastern Oregon, to Phase 2. Livestock owners are still encouraged to use non-lethal means to protect livestock, but now may shoot wolves that are chasing livestock. Previously, producers could shoot wolves only if they were “biting, wounding or killing” livestock or working dogs, and then only if other conditions were met.

Capital Press

‘Dryland’ makes waves across region

The agriculture-themed documentary, "Dryland," about two Lind, Wash., farmers coming of age, screens at the Spokane International Film Festival. Arbuthnot and Wilhelm are in the early stages of making another documentary about natural resources and agriculture in the region.

Capital Press

GOP Wins House Vote in 82% of Counties

Daily Yonder

Do Poor People ‘Have It Easy’?

The funeral for my high school buddy Kevin Green is Saturday, near this town where we both grew up.  The doctors say he died at age 54 of multiple organ failure, but in a deeper sense he died of inequality and a lack of good jobs.  Lots of Americans would have seen Kevin — obese with a huge gray beard, surviving on disability and food stamps — as a moocher. They would have been harshly judgmental: Why don’t you look after your health? Why did you father two kids outside of marriage?  That acerbic condescension reflects one of this country’s fundamental problems: an empathy gap. It reflects the delusion on the part of many affluent Americans that those like Kevin are lazy or living cushy lives. A poll released this month by the Pew Research Center found that wealthy Americans mostly agree that “poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.”  Lazy? Easy? The Greens encapsulated if not the American dream, at least solid upward mobility. The dad, Thomas, had only a third-grade education and couldn’t read. But he had a good union job as a cement finisher, paying far above the minimum wage, and he worked hard and made sure his kids did, too. He had no trouble with the law.  But then the dream began to disintegrate.  The local glove factory and feed store closed, and other blue-collar employers cut back. Good union jobs became hard to find. For a while, Kevin had a low-paying nonunion job working for a construction company. After that company went under, he worked as shift manager making trailer homes. He fell in love and had twin boys that he doted on. But because he and his girlfriend struggled financially, they never married.

At tiny Laton High School, nearly everyone is in FFA

Fresno Bee

Buffalo halal poultry plant plans await meetings with residents

Plans to build a halal poultry slaughter plant in an abandoned building in Buffalo are on hold until February’s meeting of the city’s zoning board of appeals


Bison, cows and rabbits square off on Utah range

One day in 1941, 18 bison — 15 cows and three bulls — stepped from their wooden crates and wandered into Utah’s San Rafael Desert.  The shaggy beasts had been imported from Yellowstone National Park, a quixotic project co-sponsored by the state and a local rod and gun club. Seventy-four years later, those bison’s descendants find themselves unwitting combatants in a range war, blamed by Utah cattlemen for eating cows out of house and home. A new study, however, suggests that ranchers’ real beef should be with another mammal entirely.  According to Ranglack analysis, in the Journal of Applied Ecology, cows were the power mowers of the Henry Mountains, devouring around 52% of the available forage. Bison, by contrast, were eating just 13 percent. As for those tiny, innocuous jackrabbits and their lagomorph cousins? They gobbled 34 percent.   

High Country News

Rural counties dealing with loss of fed dollars

Josephine County, Oregon, faces an ominous budgetary challenge with the start of 2015: The southern Oregon county has already cut back around-the-clock law enforcement, and officials say they’re now “trying to figure out now how to keep the jail open.” The funding hole is from the loss of federal dollars through the Secure Rural Schools which Congress failed to renew last year. As a result, for the first time since 2000, rural and mostly Western counties are missing out on more than $300 million in annual subsidies that pay for schools, road maintenance, government services and jobs, search and rescue, and conservation projects. 

High Country News

Hispanics and Education: a Texas-Sized Challenge for States

Manuel Ramirez was the first in his family to get a college degree, and it wasn’t easy.  His parents, who brought him to the U.S. illegally from Guanajuato, Mexico, when he was 8 years old, made just enough to get by with day labor and house cleaning. They could not afford to pay their son’s roughly $10,000 tuition at the University of Texas at Austin, so Manuel earned extra money as a server in restaurants, coloring hair at a spa, translating Spanish, working in a rock quarry and building fences at a ranch.  Last year, Ramirez earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations. He is busy lobbying against a bill that would repeal in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, which has been in place in Texas since 2001.  “It’s not even about immigration. Just make higher education affordable so all the people can get an education,” Ramirez said. “If Texas is going to be competitive, it has to produce great minds and give them a job.”  U.S. population growth is being driven by Hispanics; no other ethnic group is being replenished by enough babies or immigrants to keep its overall population from declining.  But in Texas and 24 other states, whites are at least twice as likely as Hispanics to have college degrees. States are beginning to highlight that gap as a serious problem in an economy that is generating more jobs for educated workers and fewer jobs for high school graduates, let alone high school dropouts. 


The Business Side of Animal Rights

Animal-welfare advocates are courting a new Wall Street ally as they take on big U.S. meatpackers: proxy advisory firms.  Groups such as the Humane Society of the U.S. for years have sought to build support among large companies’ shareholders to push for changes in animal treatment, often finding little traction. Now, some pitches are being tailored to win backing from increasingly influential firms that advise investors on how to vote their shares, including Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. and Glass, Lewis & Co.  The Humane Society landed the endorsements of ISS and Glass Lewis for its shareholder proposal that Hormel Foods Corp. , the maker of Spam, detail the financial risks that could arise from the meatpacker’s reliance on hog farmers who house pregnant sows in enclosures called gestation crates. Proxy advisers are more receptive to hearing about the issue with meatpackers such as Hormel and Tyson Foods Inc. partly because restaurants and retailers—the meatpackers’ big customers—have been tightening their own animal-welfare policies in response to consumer pressure, hence a risk of lost business.   Placing animal-rights issues in companies’ proxy statements makes more investors consider them as potential risk factors and can prompt management to meet with advocates to reach a mutually agreeable solution, advocacy groups say.  Mr. Prescott said, however, that securing a sizable portion of the vote could enable animal-rights activists to pitch similar proposals again at Hormel and other companies.  “It gives us a greater position from which to push,” he said.

Wall Street Journal

Should nature have standing to sue?

In 1965, the Sierra Club sued to stop a ski development in Sequoia National Forest, California, arguing that Walt Disney Enterprises’ proposed resort would constitute an injury to Mineral King Valley. In 1972, the Supreme Court rejected the club’s reasoning, unwilling to accept that natural objects had standing to sue in court. Instead, the court urged the Sierra Club to amend its complaint to show how the club’s members, rather than the valley, would be injured. The club did so, and the ski resort was stopped.  However, one justice, William O. Douglas, was persuaded by the Sierra Club’s original reasoning. His passionate dissent in Sierra Club v. Morton marks a pivotal point in environmental legal battles, one that still shapes advocacy today and points the way toward a potentially different way of thinking about nature.  Douglas recommended accepting nature’s rights — allowing nature’s own voice to be heard in the courtroom — as a lasting way to shield wild places and processes from the ever-accelerating threats they faced. 

High Country News

Bee population rising around the world

Contrary to what some environmental activist groups are claiming, data collected by the crop protection industry from the USDA, FAO and StatisticsCanada shows that bee populations even in intensely farmed areas of the world are increasing rather than rapidly decreasing.

Ag Professional

Thousands sign petition against AstraZeneca's plans for animal research lab in Cambridge

UW-Madison has ended controversial cat experiments targeted by PETA


US Agriculture Officials Call For Independent Review Amid Scandal Over Nebraska Meat Research Facility

U.S. agriculture officials are calling for an independent review of the Meat Animal Research Center, a federal facility where lambs, pigs and cows are reportedly being subjected to cruel and experimental breeding techniques. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack directed agency staff to create an updated animal welfare plan within 60 days.  The memo was sent to all Animal Research Service employees in response to a New York Times investigation which supposedly exposed widespread animal abuse at the research complex in Nebraska.

Stalled West Coast ports sinking industry’s business

US exporters of beef, pork and poultry are under major shipping pressures due to massive, growing backlogs of containers containing such products in key West Coast ports — most importantly, the Port of Long Beach This is the result of an eight-month long, ongoing labor dispute between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union regarding reaching an agreement on a new contract for longshore workers.  Both parties have been in negotiations since May 2014 plus a federal mediator agreed on Jan. 6 to intervene in the talks. But back-ups of containers at the five largest West Coast ports have reached levels that are no longer sustainable.  “That statement suggests that the eight-month labor dispute may be moving closer to a work shutdown like the one that closed 29 West Coast ports for 10 days in 2002,” Carpenter warned. “This is obviously very significant to us.”

Cattle Outlook: Seaport slowdown hurts U.S. meat exporters

For several weeks there has been a slowdown in activity at west coast seaports because of a dispute between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union. This is causing serious problems for U.S. meat exporters and has the potential to become a crisis. Containers of meat destined for export are piling up and growing old at west coast docks. Roughly 10% of U.S. beef production, 22% of pork and 20% of chicken are exported each month, with most going out from the west coast.

Cattle Trader

Meat, poultry in freezers could reflect West Coast port jams

Total red meat supplies in freezers on Dec. 31, 2014, were up 6% from the previous month but down 4% from last year.   Total pounds of beef in freezers were up 11% from the previous month and up slightly from last year. Frozen pork supplies were up 2% from the previous month but down 10% from last year. Stocks of pork bellies were up 37% from last month but down 42% from last year.  Total frozen poultry supplies were up 2% from the previous month but down 3% from a year ago.  Total stocks of chicken were up 2% from the previous month and up 2% from last year. Total pounds of turkey in freezers were up 3% from last month but down 19% from Dec. 31, 2013.


Progress seen in West Coast port dispute: report

Efforts to resolve a labor dispute affecting 29 ports along the West Coast for the last six months may have opened a door toward a resolution with a new agreement on truck chassis maintenance


Court Sides With EPA on Release of Information Related to Livestock Operations

Efforts to stop the EPA's release of farm owners' personal information came up short as a federal district court dismissed an American Farm Bureau Federation and National Pork Producers Council lawsuit that challenged the agency's policy. A federal district court ruled that so long as farmers' personal information already can be found on the Internet, EPA's distribution of the information does not result in any injury to farmers. AFBF President Bob Stallman said the court's ruling should raise alarm bells for all farmers and ranchers.  The court said in its ruling that three elements must be shown to establish standing in the case: Plaintiffs much show a specific injury that is concrete, actual and imminent; they must show the action taken by EPA led to an injury; and they must show it is likely that an injury will be addressed by a favorable court decision.  In issuing its ruling on summary judgment, the court concluded the owners of federally permitted livestock facilities are not injured by the information release because the Clean Water Act requires the disclosure of such information.  The court ruled that so long as farmers' personal information already can be found on the Internet, EPA's distribution does not result in any injury to farmers.  The court said farmers with a public Facebook page used to promote their farms, or whose information could be found via search engines or any state regulatory website, cannot sue to stop the federal government from compiling and distributing that information.  The ag groups have 60 days to file an appeal on the suit that was filed to block further personal information disclosures in Minnesota, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma and Washington


EPA, manufacturers agree to limit methomyl insecticide uses

While Florida and California are the areas of greatest concern for risks from methomyl in drinking water, EPA said several other measures will be implemented nationwide. They include: limiting its use on wheat in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington; reducing the number of applications to corn, celery, and head and leaf lettuce; and reducing the number of applications and the seasonal maximum application rate for peppers


Animal Terrorists Have No Privacy Right in Historical Cell Site Data.

The defendants, from the Bel Air, California, area, were arrested in Illinois and charged in a two count indictment with violating the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act for terroristic acts committed upon an Illinois mink farm.  One of the charges involved using a facility of interstate and foreign commerce for the purpose of damaging and interfering with the operation of an animal enterprise under the Act.  Two cells phones were found in their car at the time of the arrest and the government searched those phones pursuant to a search warrant.  The search indicated contact with a third cell phone and the government sought an order seeking historical cell site and toll record information for the third phone.  The defendants claimed that the government had to obtain a search warrant to obtain that information because the defendant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the information.  The court disagreed with the defendants, noting that no federal case had ever determined that obtaining such information implicated the Fourth Amendment's requirement of a search warrant.

Green groups sue to force EPA regulation of animal farm emissions

The Environmental Integrity Project and the Humane Society of the United States filed lawsuits in federal court against the EPA for failing to respond to requests to regulate farm emissions like methane and ammonia. The groups say they took legal action on behalf of rural residents and farmers who say their health is affected by air pollutants from large nearby farms known as concentrated animal feeding operations. The lawsuits ask the court to order EPA to make a final decision on both petitions within 90 days.  The Humane Society's petition asks EPA to include CAFOs as a category of pollution sources under the Clean Air Act, and set performance standards for new and existing facilities. The Environmental Integrity Project's petition asks EPA to set health-based standards for ammonia. 


Join Webinar on Genetically Engineered Crops and Social Science Research on Feb 4

The National Research Council committee for the study, "Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects," will hold a webinar on Wednesday, February 4, from 2pm-4pm Eastern on social science research of GE crop adoption and acceptance. The speakers’ presentations will address how farmers and consumers participate in local food systems, the debate over the potential of GE crops to improve yields and livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the compatibility of GE crop production with social objectives.  The webinar is an information-gathering meeting for the committee in which the speakers are invited to provide input to the committee.  Members of the public are welcome to register to listen to the webinar and view the presentations. The webinar will be recorded and posted on the study’s website.

National Academy of Sciences

Senate votes not to remove Lesser Prairie Chicken

The U.S. Senate rejected an amendment that would have taken the lesser prairie chicken off the federal government’s list of threatened species.  The amendment failed to get the 60 votes necessary to add it to a bill intended to expedite construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. 

Miami Herald

How the Rising Dollar Has Pressured U.S. Manufacturers

The rising dollar is putting U.S. manufacturers through the equivalent of a new year’s fitness regime, causing pain for now but also promising long-term gains in efficiency.  After more than a decade of weakness, the dollar began surging in mid-2014 against the euro and many other currencies. That is making U.S.-made products pricier in other countries and imports cheaper in the U.S.—a combination that is likely to expand the already gaping U.S. trade deficit.  “When the dollar was weakening, it was a lot easier [for manufacturers] to be a little sloppy,” said Hal Sirkin, at Boston Consulting Group. A rising dollar, which effectively raises prices, forces manufacturers to automate more production processes and redesign products “to be lower cost and higher value,” Mr. Sirkin said. U.S. manufacturers also will look for ways to buy lower-cost parts and materials in Asia or Europe.  Past periods of currency strength in Switzerland, Germany and Japan required manufacturers there to streamline processes and find niches that allowed them to charge premium prices.

Wall Street Journal

Feb. 5th Webcast on Lessons Learned from Ten Years of Watershed Assessment in USDA's Conservation Project

Join us for a Watershed Academy webcast on Feb. 5, 2015 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm Eastern to learn about lessons from the past 10 years of USDA's Watershed Assessments in the Conservation Effects Assessment Project. Renown agricultural research experts will share some of the key findings from the CEAP Watershed Assessments on how the suite, timing and spatial distribution of conservation practices influence and impact local water quality outcomes. Topics covered will include nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment loss reduction and various approaches to targeting, as well as overall lessons learned from the CEAP Watershed Assessments.


USDA cannot restrict GMO pine

A genetically modified variety of pine developed by Arborgen cannot be restricted by USDA, the agency has determined.

Capital press

Farm Bill costs rise on price declines, disaster aid

Farm programs will cost $18 billion more over the next decade than previously estimated, due to lower commodity prices and a surge in demand for livestock disaster assistance. Mandatory spending for agricultural programs reached $19 billion in fiscal 2014, $1 billion more than the Congressional Budget Office forecast last August. The programs' costs are expected to dip to $11 billion for this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, before jumping to $16 billion in 2016 and $19 billion in 2017.


USDA Seeks Applications for Conservation Innovation Grants

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that applications are being accepted for up to $20 million in grants to facilitate the creation of new, innovative markets for carbon credits, providing additional revenue sources for producers to use to address natural resource conservation challenges. These grants are part of the Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program, authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill. 


Obama seeks extra funding to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria

The Obama administration wants to double the amount of federal funding dedicated to combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a mounting problem that causes an estimated 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths annually in the United States. President Obama will ask Congress for the $1.2 billion as part of his annual budget.

Washington Post

Case Could Alter the Reach of the Endangered Species Act

The U.S. District Court for the District of Utah attracted national attention with its November decision in People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners v. United States Fish and Wildlife Service, in which it ruled unconstitutional the federal regulation of a purely intrastate species on nonfederal land under the Endangered Species Act.  The decision has renewed interest by some in challenging the federal government's authority to prohibit "take" of listed species existing in only one state. The ruling, however, is set in the context of several mostly contrary decisions from other circuits. In fact, five other U.S. circuit courts have previously addressed this type of constitutional challenge to the scope of federal regulatory authority under the ESA—including the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, Eleventh, and D.C. Circuits—and each has upheld Congress' authority to regulate the "take" of intrastate species, though the circuit courts' reasoning in reaching that common conclusion has not always been aligned. The Utah District Court's apparently outlying opinion has the potential to create a circuit split if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service appeals the decision and the Tenth Circuit affirms the lower court's decision.  The case deals specifically with the Utah prairie dog, which is found only in Utah. The Wildlife Service originally listed the Utah prairie dog as endangered in 1974, however, it opted to downlist the species to "threatened" in 1984 and promulgated a §4(d) or "special take" rule simultaneously with the downlisting. The Wildlife Service issued a revision to the special rule in 2012, which significantly limited the scope of authorized activities protected under that rule and prompted People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners to file suit. The court ruled against the Wildlife Service on opposing motions for summary judgment, holding that Congress does not have authority to regulate "take" of the Utah prairie dog on nonfederal land under the Commerce Clause or the Necessary and Proper Clause. 

Texas Lawyer

Nationwide USDA Organic Survey Underway

Study of Organic Agriculture Production will Help Develop Programs for Producers. The USDA  just kicked off the Organic Survey to gather detailed data on U.S. organic agriculture production. The survey is a complete inventory of all known organic producers that are certified, exempt from certification, and transitioning to certified organic production.  Conducted by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Organic Survey is a result of this growing demand for organic agricultural products and data. The survey looks at many aspects of organic agriculture during the 2014 calendar year – from production and marketing practices, to income and expenses. It also focuses on the future of organic production by including producers transitioning to certified organic agriculture. 


USDA considers freeing organic growers from promotion fees

Organic farmers are fertilizing a proposal to broaden their exemption from paying industry fees that largely support conventional agriculture. Hundreds of organic growers and their supporters have urged the USDA to grant the broader fee exemption. The proposal would free more growers from the industry fees used to promote the likes of almonds, beef and raisins, and would potentially cut some conventional agriculture advertising budgets.

WOTUS All the Fuss About?

To understand the Waters of the United States controversy, one must understand the significance of the term itself. The federal Clean Water Act prohibits the “discharge” of any pollutant without a permit and defines discharge as “any addition of any pollutant to navigable waters from a point source.”  A discharge can be anything from releasing sediment to changing the temperature of water. Consequently, agriculture – and every other industry – cares about whether the waters under its influence are “waters of the United States.” The CWA defines “navigable waters” as “the waters of the United States” but does not define what that means. Some argue Congress meant for the broadest interpretation of the term; others argue it should be limited to the traditional understanding of a water body capable of supporting boat traffic of some kind.

Delta Farm Press

Satellite mission poised to help farmers and water managers, NASA says

A NASA satellite being launched into space Friday will measure moisture in the top layer of soil, including soil on California farm fields far below.  The Soil Moisture Active Passive project is expected to provide crucial information to Central Valley farmers and water resource managers dealing with the multiyear drought. The mission, which was due to launch Thursday but scrubbed by NASA because of a weather pattern, will begin a three-year mission after liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base aboard a Delta II rocket.  The soil moisture information gleaned from the mission can be used by farmers to decide when to plant and harvest crops.

Sacramento Bee

EPA Proposes New Rules for Bt Corn, Rootworm Management

Growing Bt-corn hybrids could come with a whole new set of rules by 2016, if a new EPA proposal is finalized without changes. The agency released a proposed framework for delaying the development of corn rootworm resistance, as part of the five-year reregistration review of Bt-corn products that target the corn rootworm.  Among its many proposals, the drafted document would require manufacturers of Bt seed to ensure 70% of their customers in "high-risk" rootworm areas are using crop rotation, pyramided Bt-products, or non-Bt hybrids combined with a soil insecticide. The proposal, which was prompted by the continued development of western corn rootworms that can tolerate Bt proteins, is likely to stir industry and farmer concerns, industry experts told DTN.  "EPA's initial proposal here has some good suggestions but other ones that are going to be challenges," said Nathan Fields, director of biotechnology and economic analysis for the National Corn Growers' Association. "We have concerns with how the EPA is going to enforce things like crop rotation, multiple modes of action, or changing modes of actions."


Does it cost more to keep unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. -- or deport them?

According to a 2013 study by the social action group Center for American Progress, if the undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States were provided legal status, the 10-year cumulative increase in the gross domestic product would be $832 billion.   While the debate over immigration reform often appears to revolve around politics, the root of the issue is economics.  But while the immigration debate revolves around politics, the root of the issue is economics. In other words, does it cost more to keep illegal immigrants in this country, or does it cost more to deport them?  “We know that unemployment is higher than reported and that wages are lower partly due to illegal immigration” said Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that opposes the executive orders.  Ediberto Román said these claims have no evidence to support them.  Here, then, are the pros and cons of immigration reform by the numbers. On its website, the White House says that by 2023, the U. S. economy will lose some $80 billion in economic output by not allowing a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented workers. The country will also have $40 billion in higher deficits in the next 10 years. And during that same decade, the Social Security Trust Fund will lose out on some $50 billion. According to a 2013 study by the social action group Center for American Progress, if the undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States were provided legal status, the 10-year cumulative increase in the GDP would be $832 billion. 


China poised to surpass U.S. research spending


Europe's food fight shifts after GM crop vote

Campaign groups and the biotech industry are digging in for a new round of conflict, following the EU's decision to allow member states to set their own rules on growing genetically modified organisms.  Environmentalists who favor a GMO ban say the crops have not been properly tested - posing health risks for consumers and giving a small group of corporations too much control over food supplies. The biotech industry says farmers should be free to grow whatever crops they want, and GMOs are a safe way to boost food production and feed the planet's growing population. 


U.S., China open doors to apple trade

The U.S. apple industry has gained what it's wanted for 20 years, full varietal access into China. And China also gets into the U.S. with its apples, something it's wanted for 17 years

Capital Press

China state corn stocks seen soaring: industry

China's state corn stockpiles are expected to climb by a record volume this year, as Beijing's efforts to boost demand with a tax rebate for corn starch exports struggle to stimulate sales, industry officials said.  Beijing's policy of subsidizing corn prices has supported production and swollen stocks, pushing China to raise export tax rebates for corn starch and other corn-based products such as monosodium glutamate to 13% in a bid to make exports competitive.  "It will be of little help as the industry is unable to export much and has been making losses over the past few years," said Fan Chunyan, an official at the China Starch Industry Association.  China's corn consumption fell for a second year in 2013/14, also hit by buyers continuing to opt for cheaper substitutes, such as distillers' dried grains.


Japanese rice: the new, safe luxury food in China

First it was European infant formula, then New Zealand milk. Now Chinese consumers are adding Japanese rice to the list of everyday foods they will bring in from abroad at luxury-good prices because they fear the local alternatives aren't safe.


Millions of poor farmers to benefit from new type of insurance

Governments from Mongolia to Nigeria are creating new forms of insurance to protect the developing world's small farmers, who are suffering especially badly from extreme weather events made worse by global warming, a new study said. Obstacles like poor infrastructure and lack of financing have been partly overcome in several countries, and insurance is now available to millions of small farmers.


Energy and Renewables

Marcells Shale Gas Development and Impacts on Pennsylvania Schools and Education

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania commissioned a Marcellus Shale Impacts study, the third looking at impacts on Pennsylvania schools and education. The rapid development of natural resources resulting in sudden economic expansion and the influx of new people to meet new labor market needs is commonly referred to as “boomtown” development.  While this economic activity may be welcomed by many, especially in areas that have experienced longer term economic stagnation, these sudden community changes can also place new and unexpected strains on local infrastructure and institutions. One such institution is the local school.  This research focused on several  topical areas, including changes in student populations and characteristics, student achievement, and school district finances. Findings indicated that: The spikes in student populations that school districts in the regions may have anticipated in association with sudden industry development have not come to pass. Enrollments across both the northern tier and the southwest have largely continued their steady and longer term decline.  Qualitative data suggest modest influxes of new students, but the state-level data and the focus group data suggest that the overall numbers of new students are low.  No discernible pattern is evident with  Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) testing data either.

Millions of gallons of fracking saltwater leak into North Dakota creek

Almost 3 million gallons of potentially toxic saltwater leaked from a western North Dakota pipeline into a creek that feeds the Missouri River, the largest spill of its kind in the state's history.

U.S. regulators should study oil slump: CFTC official

U.S. futures market regulators should review the sharp drop in crude oil prices to gain a better understanding of the slide as they pursue rules to crack down on speculation in commodities, a top official said on Monday.  The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is considering regulations to rein in speculation in energy, grain and metals markets with new rules on position limits. However, the agency needs more data to justify sweeping changes, Commissioner Christopher Giancarlo told a commodities conference in Miami.  A review of oil's decline could help determine what is driving market moves, he added. Oil prices have fallen almost 60% since June


Another Yellowstone River oil spill

This weekend, a pipeline leaked up to 40,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River upstream of Glendive, Montana, which draws its drinking water from the river. Residents reported foul smells wafting from their taps, and testing revealed elevated benzene levels in the municipal treatment plant's water. The county told residents not to drink tap water, and the company that owns the pipeline, Bridger Pipeline, began trucking water to the town. 

High Country News

The Profitability of Biodiesel Production in 2014

A farmdoc daily article last fall indicated that 2014 was shaping up to be a very tough year for biodiesel producers. Since that article was published there have been some major developments such as the collapse in crude oil prices and reinstatement of the biodiesel tax credit. The purpose of this article is to provide a full-year review of biodiesel production profitability in 2014.

Farm Doc Daily

Senate approves Keystone pipeline bill, in face of White House veto threat


Federal Judge Finds NM County’s Oil and Gas Production Ban Unconstitutional

Judge Jim Browning, a federal judge in New Mexico, has invalidated the oil and gas production ban passed by Mora County.  Mora County taxpayers may be on the hook for up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees after a federal judge last week threw out a sweeping ordinance, which the Mora County Commission passed in 2013. It essentially eliminated oil and natural gas production in the area and banned hydraulic fracturing, declaring the ban unconstitutional

Human Events

More AgClips

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

Clark State will fly drone for farmers

Cows and Crops: Waste Not — Want Not

Barns Are Painted Red Because of the Physics of Dying Stars

MythCrusher video takes on technology

Denver homeless initiative would be latest to tap social impact bonds

When the atmosphere 'goes bananas,' wildfires do too

Temple Grandin says the livestock industry needs to “change some practices and open up the doors”

Deputy probes abandoned car, finds bear cubs

Chocolate overdose blamed for bear deaths

JBS to put $75 million into Utah plant

Whole Foods, Half Off

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