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Food and Rural Communities
Federal and International
Many Minnesota property owners could see some tax relief this year, but farmers can expect higher taxes for at least the next two years. A Minnesota House report shows that property taxes as a whole should fall $49 million this year, a 0.6 % drop, although the cost for each property owner will be different. In 2015, property taxes should go up $238 million, a 2.8 % increase, the House report predicted. In both years, farmland property taxes are expected to rise: 8.1 % this year and 4.7 % next year.
Prairie Biz Magazine
With much fanfare lawsuits were initiated in 2009 by "three high-powered trial lawyers who vowed to make Randolph County 'ground zero' in a courtroom food fight over how Indiana produces pork and milk." That quote is from a 2009 Muncie Star-Press story "Lawyers target pig, dairy farms: Attorneys seek justice for neighbors allegedly injured by pork and dairy producers" and the ILB's quotes are worth rereading. Delaware County Judge Marianne L. Vorhees, ruled on a motion for summary judgment filed by defendants Maxwell Farms in all four cases, granting the motion. The Court concluded the Plaintiffs did not meet their burden to overcome the presumption of constitutionality. The Indiana Right to Farm Act is constitutional
Indiana Law Blog
After receiving overwhelming bi-partisan support in both the Missouri state House and Senate, Jeremiah Nixon vetoed Senate Bill 506 and House Bill 1326. While the bills aided veterinarians, livestock producers, and increased hauling weight limits for manure, the biggest punch may be to the dairy industry - which is now missing out on the Missouri Dairy Revitalization Act contain in S.B. 506. The Revitalization Act was touted by the Missouri Dairy Association as Landmark legislation which would have reimbursed dairies for 70% of their federal premium payment. It would have also established an 80-scholarship Missouri Dairy Scholars program with $5,000 awards for students attending colleges or universities within the state with a commitment to work in the agriculture industry. Senate Bill 506 passed 101-38 in the state house and 26-0 in the state senate. Referenced in a MDA release was the reason Governor Nixon gave for the veto - a provision moving regulation of white-tailed deer from the state’s Conservation Department to the Ag Department.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture has extended its deadline for applications for the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) until July 29, 2014. An estimated $10 million in competitive grant funding, authorized by emergency drought legislation (Senate Bill 103), will be awarded to provide financial assistance to agricultural operations for implementation of water conservation measures that result in increased water efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. .
A group opposed to a Callaway County hog-breeding facility has drawn more petition signatures than expected. But the petition is unlikely to trigger action by the county commission to block the plan. Eichelberger Farms wants to put a hog breeding facility on a 20-acre site in western Callaway County. The facility will require state permits from the Department of Natural Resources for construction and operation. Officials with the group, "Friends of Responsible Agriculture," gathered about 1,300 signatures in the 10-day effort opposing the facility. The opponents also want Callaway County commissioners to adopt a public health ordinance imposing tight local restrictions on large-scale breeding operations. But Eastern District Commissioner Randall Kleindienst says at this time that's not going to happen.
The Iowa Supreme Court rules two people appointed to the Environmental Protection Commission by then Governor Chet Culver were qualified to serve. Iowa Farm Bureau Federation the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and Iowa Water Environment Association sought to have rules implementing the federal Clean Water regulations thrown out. Those groups say then EPC member Susan Heathcote had a conflict of interest because she was employed by Iowa Environmental Council. They also said then commissioner Carrie La Seur was not eligible to vote because she had moved to Montana. The Iowa Supreme Court ruling says in the case of Heathcote, the nature of rulemaking does not disqualify a commission member from voting to adopt rules she personally and professionally supported. As for La Suer, the court concludes that the disqualification of a commission member does not invalidate the action taken by the commission when the particular disqualification did not undermine the integrity of the process and when the public interest supports validating the rule despite the disqualification.
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau says the new state budget signed by Governor Corbett maintains spending for several key agriculture programs and provides a modest increase in funding for administrative operations of the Department of Agriculture, but fails to increase funding for agriculture research and Cooperative Extension administered by Penn State University. An increase to the Agriculture Department’s General Government Operations budget and the restoration of funding for other programs will help support agriculture jobs and services. “The PA Preferred program, agriculture excellence programs and agriculture promotion and education programs are all sound investments that not only benefit farm families, but encourage consumers to learn more about the food they eat and the people who produce that food,” added Shaffer. Meanwhile, the state budget did not include any measures to address the Commonwealth’s $50 billion unfunded pension liability
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau
In Missouri, that means protecting the state’s $11 billion per year industry from attacks made by out-of-state interest groups, such as the HSUS-backed Proposition B in 2010, which sought to change some of the rules for operating “puppy mills” in the state; however, many within the industry feared it was a foot-in-the-door “domestic animal” regulation, which could also include livestock. “If out-of-state interests can limit a dog breeder to 50 dogs, why not limit a hog farm to 50 hogs? Or a cattle ranch to 50 cattle? Or an accounting firm to 50 accountants?” Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster
After Hawaii banned GMO crops, local farmers say they have no idea whether their plants are illegal or not. Plus, it's unclear whether the state even has the right to enforce this ban in the first place. The Aloha State is about to become ground zero for the U.S. food wars. Hawaii might seem an unlikely battleground for genetically modified crops, given that the state imports 85 % of its food. But the subtropical climate—which is ideal for cash crops such as papayas, bananas and orchids—is also a thriving environment for weeds, insects and diseases. The papaya industry was nearly decimated by the ringspot virus in the 1990s, until scientists engineered a disease-resistant variety, the "Rainbow papaya." In short, this is a state where farmers appreciate what GM crops have to offer. And, the GMO producers appreciate what Hawaii's climate has to offer.
Suit filed by Kawailoa Development wants operation to prove it won’t harm area. A resort three miles away filed suit to stop a proposed 580 acre, 1800 cow dairy farm. The suit says progress on the dairy operation should cease until its developers can prove it won’t negatively impact the surrounding environment. The resoirt is claiming its business, recreational, environmental and aesthetic interests would be adversely affected by the wastewater treatment unit, the dairy farm and its effluent ponds. It claims the harm could be avoided with the preparation of an environmental assessment to assess the effects of discharge, odors and other pollution that could diminish the properties, and pose a potential health risk to employees and guests, endangered species and the natural environment. Hawaii Dairy Farms spokeswoman Amy Hennessey called the suit “deeply disappointing,” and a “malicious attack on local food by commercial resort interests.” The farm is a model for sustainability and environmental quality that makes productive use of important agricultural lands, she said.
The Garden Island
A November ballot initiative could shut down its biggest employers, but the island's population is dwarfed by voters elsewhere in Maui County.
The largest study of its kind has found that organic foods and crops have a suite of advantages over their conventional counterparts, including more antioxidants and fewer, less frequent pesticide residues. The study looked at an 343 peer-reviewed publications comparing the nutritional quality and safety of organic and conventional plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, and grains. The study team applied sophisticated meta-analysis techniques to quantify differences between organic and non-organic foods. Most of the publications covered in the study looked at crops grown in the same area, on similar soils. This approach reduces other possible sources of variation in nutritional and safety parameters. The research team also found the quality and reliability of comparison studies has greatly improved in recent years, leading to the discovery of significant nutritional and food safety differences not detected in earlier studies. In general, the team found that organic crops have several nutritional benefits that stem from the way the crops are produced. A plant on a conventionally managed field will typically have access to high levels of synthetic nitrogen, and will marshal the extra resources into producing sugars and starches. As a result, the harvested portion of the plant will often contain lower concentrations of other nutrients, including health-promoting antioxidants. Without the synthetic chemical pesticides applied on conventional crops, organic plants also tend to produce more phenols and polyphenols to defend against pest attacks and related injuries.
In 2009, the United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency reviewed 67 studies on this topic and couldn't find much difference in nutrient quality. In 2012, a larger review of 237 studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine also found that organic food didn't appear to be any healthier or safer than their conventionally grown counterparts. But there have long been dissenters who argue that there must be some health benefits to organic. And a new study in the British Journal of Nutrition, led by Carlo Leifert of Newcastle University, has reopened this debate by adding a small twist. Their review of 347 previous studies found that certain organic fruits and vegetables had higher levels of antioxidants than conventionally grown crops. Unfortunately, this doesn't prove very much by itself. No one knows if those moderately higher levels of antioxidants actually boost your health. For that to happen, they'd have to be absorbed into your bloodstream and distributed to the right organs — and there just hasn't been much good research showing that. For now, there's little evidence to suggest concrete health benefits. In the meantime, some experts have suggested that this endless health debate has become a distraction. Food experts point out that most Americans don't eat enough fruits or vegetables of any type — and that's a far more pressing concern than whatever minor differences may exist between organic and conventional food. "What's missing in this debate is the important fact that the best thing consumers can do is to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, period, regardless of whether they are produced organically or conventionally," says Carl Winter of the University of California.
PETA US says that there is a continuing pattern of improper and illegal behaviour that is tolerated within this industry. In this instance, investigators stuck it out through constant un-reprimanded cruelty in order to show how common, repetitive and routine the abuse of sheep is and that it happens as a matter of course in one shearing shed after another, after another.
Why sheep shearing is absolutely necessary for sheep welfare. As long as there are sheep, shearing must be practiced for the health and hygiene of each individual animal. Unlike other animals, most sheep are unable to shed. If a sheep goes too long without being shorn, a number of problems occur. The excess wool impedes the ability of sheep to regulate their body temperatures. This can cause sheep to become overheated and die. Urine, feces and other materials become trapped in the wool, attracting flies, maggots and other pests. This causes irritation, infections and endangers the health of the animal. There is no denying the footage PETA published was violent and inhumane, but to suggest, let alone state, this is the norm in the sheep industry says a lot about the “in-depth investigations” conducted to create this footage. The American Society of Animal Science and associated affiliations do not condone or tolerate the acts of violence and cruelty exhibited in these videos. It is not common practice in the sheep industry in the United States or Australia to handle sheep in a violent manner or treat the animals inhumanely. The violence contained in the video footage is inhumane, does not demonstrate acceptable husbandry practices, and is not tolerated within the industry. In fact, unlike those filming the video, responsible sheep producers would never stand silently by filming inhumane treatment of sheep.
A pair of California animal rights protestors have been federally charged with freeing 2,000 mink from an Illinois fur farm. Tyler Lang, 25, and Kevin Johnson, 27, allegedly released the animals from a mink farm in Morris, 65 miles southwest of Chicago, then daubed the walls of a barn with the words “Liberation is Love.” The pair are suspected of travelling across the U.S. — including stops in Iowa and Wisconsin — to free caged animals, including those on mink farms and a fox farm in Roanoke, Ill. Though some of the animals were recovered, many died after they were freed.
The genetic blueprint of wheat has been deciphered for the first time, a discovery that researchers said Thursday could lead to improved plant breeding and protection against disease and drought.
California’s dogged drought will cost the state’s economy $2.2 billion and an estimated 17,100 jobs, but consumers will largely be spared higher prices,
The study found that the drought -- the third most severe on record -- is responsible for the greatest water loss ever seen in California agriculture, with river water for Central Valley farms reduced by roughly one-third. Groundwater pumping is expected to replace most river water losses, with some areas more than doubling their pumping rate over the previous year, the study said. More than 80 % of this replacement pumping occurs in the San Joaquin Valley and Tulare Basin. The results highlight California agriculture's economic resilience and vulnerabilities to drought and underscore the state’s reliance on groundwater to cope with droughts.
John Werries has experienced the kind of summer this year that brings to mind the old saying: "You can almost hear the corn growing." Row after row of towering corn has tasseled and creamy silks wait for the half-million or more grains of pollen that will shower from each plant over the coming weeks. One really can hear corn grow. "On very still nights you can hear a popping or cracking noise," said Below. "It occurs around the V15 growth stage and what you hear is the cell walls of the stalk expanding. Mostly I believe it is the tracheids (the specialized water-conducting tissues of the xylex), which are expanding."
A recent report commissioned by the United Soybean Board highlights the economic importance of domestic animal agriculture to the nation as a whole and to the state of South Dakota. For the report, estimated economic impacts were calculated by a modeling process that quantified the effects U.S. animal agriculture has on employment, income, and taxes for the entire economy. These include impacts created by all employment connected to the U.S. livestock and poultry industries – including activities from associated industries. For example, total employment in U.S. animal agriculture includes not only jobs in livestock production (such as ranching), but also jobs in the feed industry. Some employment in manufacturing, marketing, finance, insurance, transportation, food retail and wholesale, for example, also support U.S. animal agriculture and those estimated impacts are included in this report. Highlights of the report include estimates of the positive impacts from U.S. animal agriculture to the domestic economy in 2012. These are: 1,851,000 jobs $346 billion in total economic output $60 billion in household income $15 billion in income taxes paid, and $6 billion in property taxes paid
A new study that involved fitting bumblebees with tiny radio frequency tags shows long-term exposure to a neonicotinoid pesticide hampers bees' ability to forage for pollen. The study shows how long-term pesticide exposure affects individual bees' day-to-day behavior, including pollen collection and which flowers worker bees chose to visit.
1. The family farm is a dying tradition and agriculture is dominated by “corporate farmers.” Wrong. 96 % of farms have “50 % or more ownership interest held by an operator and/or persons related by blood, marriage or adoption.” 2. Farming is dominated by “factory farms.” Wrong. Virtually all farms meet the Small Business Administration definition of a small business ($9 million or less of gross sales). 3. Agriculture would be better if commercial farms had not grown so large. Wrong. The growth trend in full-time farms is driven largely by two dynamics: 1. Farmers aspire to the same standard of living as we in the nonfarm sector, including nice homes, college educations, family trips and a comfortable retirement. 2. Farming is almost always a low-margin business that requires tremendous investment in land, equipment and livestock to operate profitably. 4. Farmers depend on government payments to earn a living. Wrong. In 2012, only about 19 % of Northeast farmers received payments from the federal government at an average amount of just over $8,100. Most farmers are not eligible for direct commodity payments and many payments reimburse beneficial conservation and environmental investments.
Farm Credit East
Not that long ago, grizzly bears ruled the wild places of the western United States. The brown bears were so ubiquitous that early Californians chose one to adorn their flag, a symbol of the state – awesome, powerful and unstoppable. No other creature in the land could outfight Ursus arctos horribilis. It’s the official state animal of California, even though it doesn’t live here anymore. Now, 92 years after the last California grizzly bear was killed in Tulare County, there’s an effort to return them to their ancestral homelands. Or at least those that haven’t been swallowed up by development and could sustain a predator that has been known to grow as large as 2,200 pounds. Places such as California’s Sierra Nevada. It’s one of the few locations that the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group, is proposing as ideal for a return of the grizzly.
Dave Frank could see the confusion that might develop if the state didn't step in. The number of commercial and hobbyist beekeepers and bee colonies had dramatically increased in New Jersey over the last several years, prompting municipalities to begin regulating and even banning operations. Some beekeepers were taken to municipal courts by neighbors complaining about the bees. No uniform guidelines existed. So Frank - a land-use lawyer, Springfield Township Council member, and beekeeper - and others in the New Jersey Beekeepers Association began pushing about a year ago for statewide standards to govern and promote the growing industry. A package of six bipartisan bills, sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer, passed the General Assembly. It is expected to be taken up by the Senate in September.
A company called Falcon Force is working at Roy Farms in Moxee, Yakima County, to keep away pests that swipe cherries and blueberries.
A kids’ show explores the contentious issue of using animals to test drugs or conduct research. What they had to say offer a valuable insight into why the issue is so volatile even for adults. In “Animal Rights . . . Or Wrong?” a recent episode on Nick News, a kids’ show on the Nickelodeon cable channel. The segment opened with the story of a Raleigh, N.C., girl named Lyvia, a nine-year tomboy, as her father Brian described her, who related in clinical detail how she collapsed back in first grade and was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a disease in which the bone marrow stops functioning. Despite her age, she offered a world-wise perspective on her situation. “I needed treatment for my disease, and I’m so thankful to the animals they used to test the treatment,” she told the interviewer. “If I didn’t have that, I would have passed away.” The show then continued with a series of comments from kids, obviously well-chosen but very revealing: “We have to do animal testing to save the lives of humans.” “It’s wrong. We aren’t giant rats. “Using animals [for testing] is heartless; they can’t speak up for themselves.” I think the benefits to the human race outweigh what the animals need.” “If we don’t use animals, how are we supposed to test drugs?” “These [researchers] are hurting animals. They abuse them until they die.” Across the spectrum of opinion. It’s expected that young people will hold black-and-white views on the subject of animal research, as they do with many issues that adults understand are far more nuanced.
Conditions are improving for barge freight on the upper Mississippi River, but downstream problems remain an issue. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, reopened its three Minneapolis locks to commercial navigation Saturday, July 5, when flows dropped below 40,000 cfs. "So far this navigation season, the three Minneapolis locks, have been closed to commercial navigation four times, totaling 47 days," said the USACE. "Commercial traffic at these locks is shut down at 40,000 cfs."
The USDA says Michigan and other northern states planted a record amount of corn, wheat, and soybeans this year, and the primary reason is climate change."We are clearly seeing more growing degree days and a longer growing season in the state of Michigan," says Jim Byrum, President of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, "which means some of those crops can be produced further north."Byrum says farms in northern Michigan that haven't been farmed in 50 to 70 years are being put back into use, growing wheat, corn, soybeans, dry beans and potatoes. Some land as far north as the Upper Peninsula is being converted from hay to food crops, and grapes are being planted in northwest Michigan because it's warmer. But that's only one side of the coin. Climate change is causing a lot of grief for Michigan's farmers, as well."We're seeing more and more extreme weather, deeper, further, just like our past winter," says Byrum. "Those kinds of things are ultimately going to affect everything we do in agriculture and frankly beyond agriculture for that matter."Byrum says.
Feeding a growing human population without increasing stresses on Earth's strained land and water resources may seem like an impossible challenge. But according to a new report focusing efforts to improve food systems on a few specific regions, crops and actions could make it possible to both meet the basic needs of 3 billion more people and decrease agriculture's environmental footprint.
AgGateway is introducing a comprehensive agricultural glossary that can be freely accessed and used by the industry to facilitate accurate communications. The glossary is a one-stop location in the form of an online wiki for agriculture terms, definitions, acronyms, key words and synonyms. The glossary pulls from a number of established industry sources and includes government definitions for key terms, from "field" and "production" to "irrigation" and "pump". There are currently more than 3,000 terms in the glossary.
Webinar on July 23. This webinar will highlight examples of state land use policies that are helping to stem the loss of productive farmland and encourage smart growth. We will also take a look at state farmland mitigation policies and where they are making a difference. Come with your thoughts and questions.
American Farmland Trust
A new incubator program for farmers at the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy’s Maple Bay Farm promises to bring innovation and young talent to the area, drawing prospective farmers to relocate to Northern Michigan in order to learn fundamental farming techniques within the nuanced Northern Michigan food and drink industry. Farmer residency programs like the ISLAND farmer residency program at Maple Bay are on the rise across the country. These programs are just like business incubators in that they give farmers the chance to test out their idea — a farm with a crop and business plan of their choosing — for a set amount of time. While they have complete control of their farm, they must come up with a business plan with the help of a business counselor.
North Brooklyn residents are willing to open their wallets for more green space in the neighborhood. Two Kickstarter campaigns aimed at creating urban farms — one in South Williamsburg and another in Bushwick — met their fundraising goals in the last week, raising more than $52,000 combined.
Like it or not, a McDonald’s spokesman said pork production practices need to change to meet consumer demands. McDonald’s serves 69 million customers daily. Those customers tell the company they want to know where their food comes from and how the animals that provide their food are treated. Much of that information could be coming from social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. While people trust scientists when it comes to food information, Ransom said they also tend to trust NGOs or non-governmental organizations. “Many times, those groups are against organizations like McDonald’s,” he said. “Science is important, but you still have the NGOs out there who are influencing consumers.” One of those cases is the effort to eliminate gestation stalls on hog farms, Ransom said. McDonald’s has stated it will not accept pork from farms which use gestation stalls after 2022.
Iowa Farmer Today
Grain shipper Keith Brandt in North Dakota is worried he’s about to run out of storage space just as rains in the U.S. improve the outlook for a soybean crop that’s already forecast to reach a record. Rail delays of more than three months mean he’s still struggling to haul supplies from last season, while farmers across the nation have almost finished planting what the government estimates is an all-time high of 84.8 million acres. The supply boom sent prices to the longest slump in more than four decades and means that Brandt, is facing the worst storage squeeze he’s seen. “If we could have moved out last year’s crop, then we would not be facing this crunch,” Brandt said yesterday in a telephone interview. “We are not going to have enough storage, even with additional farmer-built bins the last several years.”
Prices for soybeans, corn and wheat fell sharply after the USDA projected bigger-than-expected harvests and stockpiles this year, extending months of market bearishness for three of the biggest U.S. crops by value. Soybean futures dropped about 3%, wheat fell by more than 4%, and corn prices slid to the lowest level in nearly four years.
Wall Street Journal
It was a successful day for a Western Illinois University professor at the National Swine Registry’s Summer Type Conference. Mark Hoge and his family sold their Yorkshire boar for a world-record price of $270,000.
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. has completed the sale of a large block of carbon reduction credits to Chevrolet. CF Industries will donate the net proceeds of $600,000 to the National FFA Foundation to support excellence in farmer education and fertilizer best management practices. CF Industries generated the carbon credits by voluntarily implementing nitrous oxide abatement technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The company began implementing the abatement technologies in 2008.
The topic of poverty and inequality has gained renewed public interest with recent publications on inequality and economic mobility by Thomas Piketty (2014) and Raj Chetty et al. (2014). Piketty argues that inequality is a central feature of capitalism and can be remedied only through government policy. He also speaks of improving education, skills, technological innovation, and diffusion as means for correcting inequities. Chetty et al., focusing on intergenerational mobility, find substantial variations in mobility across areas within the United States and that higher parental income is associated with more child income in the future. They also identify less residential segregation, less income inequality, better primary schools, greater social capital, and greater family stability as factors correlated with upward mobility. Equally important to and interconnected with the subject of mobility and inequality is poverty.
Farm groups say Manitoba, Saskatchewan and neighboring U.S. states need to work together on a long-term solution to flooding. Doug Chorney of Keystone Agricultural Producers said it is one thing if a farmer has to deal with too much water on his land, but the problem is worse if water is also coming from 100 farms upstream. Mr. Chorney suggested more structures should be built to store water, pointing to work being done by the Red River Basin Commission in North Dakota. “It’s deliberate storage of water to not only protect local residents, but also reduce the flow of water during peak floods at the Canadian border by 20 per cent,” Mr. Chorney said from Brandon, where members of Manitoba’s Keystone group met to talk about the recent flooding. “What we’re seeing in this event is people protecting themselves and their farmland, but sacrificing their downstream neighbors, and that’s not sustainable. Somebody has to either pay for that or resolve it.”
The globe and mail
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled in favor of sportsmen and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on a long-running lawsuit over the use of dogs in the state’s wolf hunt. In January 2013, the USSA Foundation and our partners prevailed when Dane County Circuit Court Judge Peter Anderson issued a ruling that paved the way for wolf hunting with dogs. Unhappy with the outcome, a coalition of Wisconsin humane societies and other plaintiffs appealed the ruling. While the 2013 decision was positive for sportsmen overall, it did raise concerns by declaring the DNR’s rules for training dogs to hunt wolves invalid. Last week, the Court of Appeals issued its ruling, stating that not only are dogs allowed in the wolf hunt, but that hunters could also train their dogs to hunt wolves.
Residents in a rural Florida community are upset about a proposed housing development coming to their front door. They claim it would impact their lives and those of potential buyers. One has even put up an attention-grabbing sign talking about the noise, smell, and other activities animals will be doing. Englewood resident Sue Young posted a sign to let everyone know exactly what farms entail. The sign is a reminder that “animals make funny sounds, smell bad & have sex outdoors.”
My Sun Coast
Safe, accessible water resources are essential, but various threats are closing the taps. A growing problem comes from nuisance aquatic plants that invade rivers, lakes, and other aquatic ecosystems. They can affect aesthetics, drainage, fishing, water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, flood control, human and animal health, hydropower generation, irrigation, navigation, recreation, and, ultimately, land values. Led by Kurt Getsinger, the authors of this commentary emphasize the necessity for the skillful management of nuisance aquatic plants--they hope regulators, managers, stakeholders, and legislators gain scientific insights about this important issue. Using specific examples and detailed explanations of the situation, the paper thoroughly examines the negative impacts of nuisance plants and the need to be aware, informed, and--when possible--proactive about the problems.
Council for Agriculture Science Technology
Reservoirs' Water Levels Have Fallen to Less Than Half Their Capacities
Wall Street Journal
Environmentalists say they intend to sue U.S. officials unless more is done to protect threatened bull trout. A formal 60-day notice of their intent to sue was filed by the Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, WildEarth Guardians, Cascadia Wildlands and the Western Watersheds Project. The groups say the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service failed to evaluate the consequences of projects approved within bull trout habitat. The bull trout has disappeared from half its historical range in Oregon, Washington, Montana and Nevada due to habitat loss from logging, mining, dams and livestock grazing. A separate case involving bull trout is pending in federal court in Oregon, where environmentalists sued federal officials for failing to develop recovery plans for the fish.
The so-called gulf between rural and urban America is really a fertile space of intense economic, political and environmental interaction. For the benefit of us all, higher education - especially land grant universities - should do more to cultivate research and public service that helps us understand this place of productivity and innovation.
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. For the analysis, students were grouped into four school/community-activity participation categories as follows: no participation, one activity, two to three activities, and four or more activities. The survey responses from students in the various activity participation categories were then compared to their responses for various questions about their educational, residential and career goals.
Center for Rural Pennsylvania
Student enrollment in Pennsylvania charter schools has grown dramatically since the mid-2000s. Between 2006-07 and 2010-11, charter school enrollment increased by 54 % from about 58,000 students to more than 90,000 students. Cyber charter schools grew 75 % during the same 5-year period. Charter school enrollment in Pennsylvania, as nationally, is overwhelmingly urban. By 2010-11, only slightly more than 1 % of all charter school students attended rural charter schools.
Center for Rural Pennsylvania
Winning the costly war against invasive species starts with prevention and public education. That’s what high-ranking state officials said at the Department of Environmental Conservation’s new Round Lake boat launch off Route 9, where people were urged to check, clean and dry all vessels leaving the water. The event was part of a first-ever statewide Invasive Species Awareness Week designed to stop the spread of nuisance aquatic plants and animals that harm the environment and impact the economy by detracting from tourism and recreation activities.
Dairy farm exposure also beneficial during pregnancy. Children who live on farms that produce milk run one-tenth the risk of developing allergies as other rural children. According to researchers, pregnant women may benefit from spending time on dairy farms to promote maturation of the fetal and neonatal immune system.
A lot of people didn’t get the joke, and thought Spielberg really had shot a dinosaur.So far, the image has had 30,000 shares and attracted 10,000 comments, including…”Steven Spielberg, I’m disappointed in you. I’m not watching any of your movies again ANIMAL KILLER.” “Disgraceful. No wonder dinosaurs became extinct. Sickos like this kill every last one of them as soon as they are discovered. He should be in prison.”
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania has released the report, Status of Pennsylvania's Municipal Pensions, which describes research that examined Pennsylvania's rural and urban municipal pension plans and trends in pension data over the 10-year period of 2001 to 2011. The research found that urban municipal pension plans rather than rural municipal pension plans tended to have unfunded liability over the study period. The trends in the data indicated that urban municipalities have had pension plans with unfunded liabilities since 2001 and that the liabilities have increased over time, especially since 2009. Despite the upswing in the market from 2010 to 2011, the urban plans' unfunded liability continued to increase. This indicates that urban municipal pension plans are not underfunded due to the downturn in the market, but instead may have systematic structural issues within the plans.
Center for Rural Pennsylvania
Farmers undertaking actions to conserve critically threatened farmland birds will get priority access to substantial funding within Ireland’s new Rural Development Program. If properly implemented, this move offers hope of halting declines and restoring bird populations across the country
A new form of rodent poison, aimed at reducing the health risk to children, pets and wildlife, is appearing on store shelves nationwide and locally. But worries are mounting among veterinarians about the unintended consequences. Although the rodenticide is meant to be safer, it’s fast-acting and doesn’t have an antidote, and veterinarians fear it could increase the number of dogs who become severely sick or die from accidental poisoning.
Just a few free-roaming bison herds remain in the West. Roughly 4,000 bison inhabit Yellowstone, but they are hindered by ranchers who fear they spread brucellosis, which can cause cattle miscarriages. The park and state agencies limit the herd's roaming and remove "excess" animals by hunting, slaughter and transplanting to other areas. But in 2012, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar directed his department to identify lands where Yellowstone bison could be relocated. The Department of Interior released a report proposing to quarantine Yellowstone bison so that they can be verified as brucellosis-free and be safely relocated to up to 20 locations in the West and Great Plains. It's a big step forward, conservationists said, but the agency still hasn't expressed specific goals for transplants and hasn't consulted adequately with tribes that want bison.
High Country News
The so-called gulf between rural and urban America is really a fertile space of intense economic, political and environmental interaction. For the benefit of us all, higher education – especially land grant universities – should do more to cultivate research and public service that helps us understand this place of productivity and innovation
With constitutional amendments, scare tactics and a bumper crop of fuzzy thinking, the only thing we have to fear is politics itself.
The federal government needs to overhaul the rules that govern small, rural hospitals. Otherwise, we’ll see a drastic number of closures and a loss of critical medical services for small communities. Who is going to step up? One issue is access to round-the-clock urgent and emergency care. In a rural community that means an emergency room. The way things stand now, under Medicare rules, you can’t have an emergency room without inpatient beds. And Medicare rules determine how rural hospitals operate. That’s because older people who qualify for Medicare make up most of the patients for rural hospitals, and a lot of other payment programs follow Medicare rules. Medicare won’t pay bills for emergency room services unless a facility has inpatients
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said the FWS should utilize incentives rather than restrictions to assist prairie chickens. Specifically, Brownback called for the FWS to offer financial compensation to Kansans who preserve or restore prairie chicken habitat. The FWS listed the lesser prairie chicken as threatened under the Endangered Species Act after environmental activist groups filed suit against the FWS and demanded such a listing. “The listing proves once again that ‘sue and settle’ is taking the place of sound science,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp in a press statement. In addition to impediments on farming and ranching, the FWS restrictions also threaten energy production in the state.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s recent announcement that the state will start raising and releasing lesser prairie chickens was not greeted with a lot of support in the conservation world. “Pen-reared birds have a long track record of not surviving well in the wild,” said Randy Rodgers, a retired biologist with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism who has more than 31 years’ experience working with pheasants and lesser prairie chickens in western Kansas. “There are numerous studies all over the country, with different research techniques, that all come to that same conclusion: It just doesn’t work.”
Traffic, prostitution, no Starbucks. Such is life in Williston, N.D. 'It will get better,' says the new mayor . The new mayor of the nation's fastest-growing micro area says the turmoil of rapid growth will be overcome. The small city at the center of North Dakota's oil boom wants a bigger share of oil tax revenue. It’s hard to manage when you double the population in five years, or triple in five years. We have about 30,000 people in town, and a service area of 45,000 people (up from 13,000 in 2009).
Many beekeepers feed their honey bees sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup when times are lean inside the hive. This practice has come under scrutiny, however, in response to colony collapse disorder, the massive -- and as yet not fully explained -- annual die-off of honey bees in the U.S. and Europe. Some suspect that inadequate nutrition plays a role in honey bee declines. Scientists took a broad look at changes in gene activity in response to diet in the Western honey bee, and found significant differences occur depending on what the bees eat.
Nature lovers can get a glimpse of salmon runs through a live streaming video. For the second year, the Forest Service is streaming from the bed of Juneau’s Steep Creek on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.
Some debates run and run. Last month, an analysis found that a selection of organically farmed food contained, on average, higher concentrations of supposedly beneficial antioxidant compounds than food produced by conventional farming. This field is still relatively small and the quality of research can be variable. The analysis advances previous work, thoroughly evaluates the current situation and yields some results that warrant further investigation. Still, several prominent nutrition scientists have voiced valid criticisms of the paper’s method and statistical analysis and have raised concerns over the scientific rigour of some of the primary research that it covers. It is good to be thorough: the study examines all of the available evidence so far. But in a field in which research quality can be hit and miss, it can be better to be cautious. The authors would perhaps have generated more confidence in their results if they had been more selective. Beyond the arguments about this specific study, which the authors have defended, lies a bigger issue. There are some fundamental questions that this type of research cannot answer, despite the way the results have been interpreted by the mainstream media as pointing to clear benefits of organic farming. The study attempts to examine how different farming methods affect the nutritional quality of the product — an important question. The paper also refers to the link between increased dietary concentrations of antioxidant compounds, such as phenolic acids and flavonols, and a reduced risk of chronic diseases — including some cancers. However, the evidence for such a link is mixed, and tentative at best. A more important question is not the level of antioxidants in organic or non-organic food, but how that contributes to health. It is also not clear that organic farming practices are the cause of the observed higher concentrations of antioxidants. Research on the different farming systems can often seem like a contest in which one practice is pitted against another and in which researchers must pick sides. Science should stay focused on the heart of the matter: the provision of more nutritious food for more people in a more sustainable way.
Many students who paid for school meals are opting out, revenues are declining, and too many kids who are forced to take a fruit or vegetable as part of the nutrition standards are junking it, one school group says. But supporters of the high standards – ranging from the National Parent Teacher Association to a group of past presidents of the SNA – are pushing back, urging that Congress maintain the standards rather than move forward with a waiver bill being considered in the US House as part of the agriculture appropriations process. In that bill, school meal programs that have suffered at least six months’ worth of net losses would be eligible for a one-year delay. While the SNA supports many standards passed in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, it says some stringent rules are backfiring in some districts that haven’t had enough time to find or create the right mix of products to satisfy kids’ taste buds.
United Fresh Produce Association officials, including chairman Ron Carkoski, took part in a rondtable discussion with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, officials from the School Nutrition Association, Let’s Move! executive director Sam Kass and numerous other child nutrition advocates. The meeting was respectful of all perspectives about federal school lunch standards. While United Fresh, USDA and other voices have defended the new federal guidelines, the School Nutrition Association has criticized some aspects of the standards, including the requirement that schools serve a half cup of fruits or vegetables at every reimbursable school lunch.
Research on the impact of SPAMMY, a fortified poultry product developed by Hormel Foods Corp., shows the product can help improve physical and cognitive development in malnourished children. Hormel developed SPAMMY to meet the specific micronutrient needs of children in Guatemala. SPAMMY is used as an ingredient that can blend easily into customary diets, the company said. More than 160 preschool-age children ate either a fortified or unfortified formulation of SPAMMY on school days over a 20-week period. The fortified SPAMMY contained several micronutrients, such as vitamins D and B12. Both formulations were identical in protein, calories and fat. The trial revealed: All participants showed greater-than-expected improvement in cognitive scores.
Dairy farmers on the Big Island say one of Hawaii’s largest dairy farms has requested to sell milk below the minimum price set by the state. Concerns were raised at a public hearing hosted by the state Department of Agriculture held on the Big Island. Big Island Dairy requested to sell milk at a price below the minimum set by the Milk Control Act. Cloverleaf Dairy President Ed Boteilho Jr. said if the request is granted for just Big Island Dairy it will give that company a price monopoly. Boteilho said he was told Big Island Dairy’s request was backed by milk processor Meadow Gold, and that the companies had reached a pricing agreement.
A new milk could threaten New Zealand's $17 billion dairy export industry. Made in the lab from yeast, and due to be on shelves in 2016, it will be a product virtually indistinguishable from cows' milk. Because it will have the same proteins, fats, sugars, vitamins and minerals, it will also taste the same, according to Perumal Gandhi, co-founder of Californian research and development company Muufri. But the milk will be able to be made without the typical cholesterol, allergen lactose and bacteria in cows' milk, meaning it will be healthier and won't need to be refrigerated, giving it a much longer shelf-life. Soon after its introduction, it would become far cheaper than its cow-made rival, Gandhi said. While the milk might first appear to have a lab-grown "ick factor", Muufri thinks people will get over it, especially as the process will essentially be the same as beer production.
Duke (or Dook as it’s known around here) is waging war on multiple fronts this week: with John Wayne’s estate over bourbon, and with the equally powerful yogurt community over nuances of pathogenicity. Here’s the shortened story: Chobani receives complaints associated with yogurt coming out of one of their plants: packages were bloating and popping. Some customers experienced a gross-out factor that led to barfing. Duke researchers obtain some of the organism from an opened bloated yogurt container in Texas. They culture the organism and test it on mice human cells and says that the fungus is more dangerous to rodents and humans than we thought.
We favor giving consumers as much information as possible about the products they buy and consume. We wonder, though, if the state-by-state push for mandatory labeling of genetically modified food will do more to frighten people than to inform them. Ample research and decades of experience have shown that genetically modified crop technology is safe. People have been consuming genetically modified food for years. The vast majority of Midwest corn and soybeans used for animal feed and many pantry staples is genetically modified. Moreover, this technology represents an astonishingly effective way to increase the food supply — to feed a rapidly expanding global population. There is vast potential: crops with enhanced nutrition, crops that grow in droughts, crops that enable subsistence farmers to deal with conditions that thwart conventional crops. Those innovations are well within reach. Labeling should inform the public, not prompt alarm.
Nutrition facts labels on food packages list ingredients and nutrient levels, but they don't tell consumers outright if a food is good for them. Public health advocates say that information is necessary to help consumers make healthy choices at the supermarket. They'd like to see labels on the front of packages and a clearer statement of which ingredients are good and which should be avoided. The Food and Drug Administration is working on a label overhaul and has proposed two different versions.
We frequently report on the anti-genetically improved foods (GIF) movement and the efforts by its activist base to confuse policymakers with manic ramblings and deceptive misinformation. This week, a Congressional panel met to evaluate the merits of creating a national requirement that genetically improved foods. Luckily, scientific consensus on the issue is unequivocal enough to drown out even the loudest whining from fear-mongering quacktivists: lawmakers and scientists firmly agree that GIFs are as safe as conventional foods. Finding that its dregs of bogus data failed to sufficiently sidetrack Congress from sound science, the anti-GIF activist base scrambled to find a plausible explanation for the lawmakers’ very logical conclusion that perfectly safe foods do not—and should not—require a special label.
Center for Consumer Freedom
Cargill said independent farms that supply it with turkey would stop giving the birds growth-promoting antibiotics.
Des Moines Register
Of all the nonsensical, trendy ideas to eat healthier and save the planet, the backyard chicken movement is a boondoggle. Major U.S. cities outlawed raising livestock inside city limits in the 19th Century. Now, under pressure from foodies, many of those cities have revised ordinances allowing homeowners to keep a small flock in their backyard. There are no ordinances, however, that require urban chicken coopers to have even the slightest of fowl knowledge. That's why Jason Price posted "Raising Backyard Chickens for Dummies" on his The Hungry Dog Blog. Therein he reveals that chickens in your backyard will, indeed, change the aroma around your patio. He also warns that "at least one of your chickens will die a horrible death," as in predators such as dogs, snakes or coyotes that are fond of chicken snacks. But the biggest reason backyard chickens are for the birds is the cost. Writing for Forbes.com, James McWilliams quotes one California backyard farmer: "Don't tell my wife, but I think my eggs are costing about $40 a dozen."
Fear: Consumers should avoid purchasing chicken from a grocery store. Plant lines that prepare chicken run so quickly that inspectors often miss important things, like bacteria. Fact: Strict government and company rules and regulations guarantee a safe food supply. Both are dedicated to ensuring that the meat, poultry, milk, and eggs that you purchase at the grocery store are safe and of the highest quality. Fear: Chickens are cleaned with chemicals because they’re raised in bad conditions. Fact: Good practices start before the grocery store, and even before the plant. Extensive measures are taken to ensure that the chickens sent to the plant are healthy and well cared for. At the plants, the U.S. federal meat and poultry inspection system is aided by companies and processors to ensure that the meat and poultry is safe, nutritious, and correctly labeled and packaged. Fear: We don’t know enough about the presence or impact of chemicals on our chicken resulting from chemical baths. Fact: Processing facilities use both food-grade rinses to eliminate potential foodborne pathogens and organic sprays to cleanse the chickens and inhibit bacteria. These cleanses and sprays are in no way harmful; they are actually a valuable tool to clean the birds and are continuously evaluated and monitored by the FDA and USDA for their effectiveness and safety.
Sysco Corporation, the largest U.S. food distribution company, along with its seven California affiliates, regularly kept perishable foods such as seafood, milk and raw meat in unrefrigerated sheds, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office. Prosecutors say Sysco food trucks would deliver small food orders to unrefrigerated and unsanitary sheds and then later, the food would then be picked up by employees who would use their personal cars to deliver the food to restaurants, hotels, hospitals and schools.
San Jose Mercury News
A Hillshire Brands Co. shareholder filed a lawsuit to stop Tyson Foods Inc.'s acquisition of Hillshire, while another law firm is investigating the transaction. The plaintiff claims Hillshire executives breached their fiduciary duties by agreeing to sell the company to Tyson Foods "too cheaply via an unfair process",
With funding from the Maryland Energy Administration Offshore Wind Development Fund, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has secured a $1.1M commitment from the U.S. Dept. of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to gather scientific information about the bionetwork of the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Area. This effort is intended to protect the ecosystem while providing opportunities for deployment of advanced renewable energy technology within the state.
American Fisheries Society
The landscapers at this 45-acre solar farm northeast of downtown do not complain that they are only paid in shrubbery. After about three months on the job, the bleating crew has kept the grounds in sheep-shape. The site’s operator, OCI Solar Power, has used about 90 Barbados-cross sheep as a low-cost, low-effort solution to controlling the overgrowth that would otherwise impede the company’s technicians. .
The House passed its version of the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act (H.R. 1528) and the Senate unanimously passed the same version. The bill now heads to the President where he is expected to sign the bill. The Senate had unanimously approved its version – S. 1171 – in January, but legislative procedures require bills to be passed out of both chambers with the same bill number. The bill clarifies that it is legal for veterinarians to transport and use controlled substances beyond their registered places of business. It also allows licensed veterinarians to register in multiple states, regardless of where their principal place of business is located
The House has passed legislation extending a number of tax deductions for charitable contributions and making them permanent. The bill, known as the America Gives More Act of 2014, passed by a vote of 277 to 130, despite complaints from that the loss in tax revenue was not offset. One provision of the bill would make permanent and expand the charitable deduction for contributions of food inventory by businesses regardless of how they are organized. The bill also would ensure that seniors who donate to charities from their individual retirement accounts can do so without a tax penalty. In addition, the bill would make permanent the deduction for contributions of conservation easements, increasing the amount of land or property donated for charitable use
The House Ag Appropriations Subcommittee has blocked USDA's request to reprogram funding for the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho, and close the facility. The action, however, does not address the long-term threat to the research facility.
The recent fall in prices of major crops is expected to continue over the next two years before stabilizing at levels above the pre-2008 period, but markedly below recent peaks, according to the latest Agricultural Outlook produced by the OECD and FAO. Demand for agricultural products is expected to remain firm while expanding at lower rates than in the past decade. Cereals are still at the core of what people eat, but diets are becoming higher in protein, fats and sugar in many parts of the world, as incomes rise and urbanization increases.
The Senate confirmed Darci Vetter to be the next chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Vetter replaces Islam Siddiqui who stepped down earlier this year. Vetter is currently the USDA deputy undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, a position she has held since 2010.
President Barack Obama nominated Lisa Mensah to be the undersecretary of agriculture for Rural Development. She graduated from Radcliffe College at Harvard University in 1983 with a B.A. Mensah continued her education at Johns Hopkins University, earning an M.A. from the school’s Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Upon graduation from Johns Hopkins, Mensah became an economics teacher and assistant to the directors at the Governor’s School of New Jersey on Public Issues. Mensah joined the Ford Foundation’s economic development unit in 1989. She began as a program officer and in 1991 was named deputy director of rural poverty and resources programs. In 1996, Mensah became deputy director of economic development, remaining in that job for six years. In 2002, Mensah moved to The Aspen Institute to become executive director of its Initiative on Financial Security
The National Grain and Feed Association has proposed a new rule and brought it to the Surface Transportation Board to streamline challenges of rail freight rates. Their plan called the rate reasonableness methodology not only streamlines the process, but does away with the previous complex, costly and time consuming challenge system. “Basically analyze the rate for that particular shipment and compare it against all traffic for a similar commodity type of shipment, the distance of the shipment, so there’s some comparability analysis that’s part of that. But this is all fairly publicly available data so a shipper wouldn’t have to go to extreme lengths to bring a case.” Gordon says under the present system, the last time a challenge was brought it took 18-years before a decision was made. He says their proposal cuts out the red tape and calls for the STB to decide on the challenge within 170-days.
Hoosier Ag Today
The Environmental Integrity Project released a pair of reports assessing cleanup efforts on the Chesapeake Bay that conclude no improvement has been made over the past decade. The group said the EPA may be overestimating reductions in farm pollution.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention closed two laboratories after officials discovered a series of safety breaches. Officials at the agency said they learned that researchers at CDC's influenza lab cross-contaminated a less-harmful strain of animal influenza with highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza. The incident occurred as researchers were preparing to ship the less-harmful strain to a partner laboratory.
Federal officials found more than just long-forgotten smallpox samples recently in a storage room on the National Institutes for Health campus in Bethesda, Md. The discovery included 12 boxes and 327 vials holding an array of pathogens, including the virus behind the tropical disease dengue and the bacteria that can cause spotted fever, according to the FDA, which oversees the lab in question.
In the wake of disclosures that top government labs mishandled anthrax, smallpox and avian flu, U.S. health authorities are considering the once unthinkable: cutting the burgeoning number of labs working with the planet's most dangerous microbes.
I'm not sure if the FDA is especially good at empire-building or it's just that I pay more attention to this federal agency than others. But the FDA seems to spend a significant amount of its time trying to extend its reach. Recently it has taken a manifest destiny mindset toward the digital landscape, attempting to broaden its regulatory jurisdiction to include Twitter, Facebook, message boards, blog comments, and more.
The USDA is backing down from a GMO disclosure rule that would have provided state regulators with information about the genetically modified organisms that farmers use to spray their crops. In February 2013, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service proposed sharing information with state regulators about genetically engineered organisms that are released in their jurisdictions. But the USDA withdrew the rule, because it said it found "potential vulnerabilities" that would have put farmers' businesses at risk.
The Bureau of Land Management says budget constraints will cause it to remove fewer wild horses and burros from public rangeland this year.
Just as Texas and federal regulators have patched up differences over air pollution, they could split on a regulatory proposal involving water. Texas officials had been entangled in a long-running row with the EPA, which has recently calmed down, over air pollution issues. I asked how the water proposal was received. David Foster, who heads the Texas office of the advocacy group Clean Water Action, said the state environmental agency has shown little appetite for regulating the waterways. He cited permits that had been issued by the agency to subdivisions seeking to discharge treated sewage into intermittent Hill Country creeks that feed the Barton Springs portion of the Edwards Aquifer. The waterways issue has long been a political and legal football.
Cover crops, Virginia says, "…comes at considerable expense to agricultural producers…" Virginia's WIP wants cover crops on 10% of available cropland. Financial incentive programs will be available. Virginia officials state "Achieving livestock exclusion on 95% of riparian waterways will require the establishment of a new expectation within resource management plans." Once again, Virginia says it will reward early adopters and pay a large percentage of fencing costs in the first few years. Land retirement plan Like Maryland, Virginia, too, has an agricultural land retirement program. The WIP states on page 63 that "…approximately 5% of available lands is expected to be [retired] through a combination of financial incentives provided through state and federal programs…" The Virginia WIP goes on to request that 5% of upland agricultural lands must be replanted in trees. Poultry mortality composters must be in place by 2017 because dead birds cannot be buried. Swine mortality composters must be in place by 2017. The transport of poultry manure from two counties must be exported out of the counties by 2017 and by 2025, 75,000 tons annually would need to be either landfilled or exported outside the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed two bills aimed at undercutting the way the EPA regulates water pollution. One of the bills would give states more authority over water pollution permits and state permitting rules, while the other would block the agency’s joint proposal with the Army Corps of Engineers to redefine which waters it has jurisdiction over per the Clean Water Act.
The American Farm Bureau Federation released to Congress a comprehensive document that responds, point by point, to numerous inaccurate and misleading comments made about the EPA’s latest clean water rule. Nancy Stoner, EPA acting assistant administrator for water, made the statements in a recent agency blog post.
This article begins the exploration of environmental regulation, voluntary conservation and farming in America in an attempt to better understand the overall issues involved in this frequent and intense debate. The most direct environmental regulatory issue for agriculture involves water, and it provides the point of departure for this series with a look at the Clean Water Act. Critics of farming struggle with agriculture’s treatment by environmental law but acknowledge the challenges inherent in attempting to regulate nonpoint source pollution.
In a letter sent to the EPA, Naional Farmers Union President Roger Johnson asked for more information about which bodies of water would be deemed jurisdictional under the proposed Waters of the United States rule. The letter was a follow-up to a conference call held this week between the Administrator and members of the NFU board of directors, which consists of Farmers Union state and regional presidents. The general sense was that the proposed rule has created less clarity, not more as intended.” Johnson acknowledged that it is not always possible for EPA to make definitive determinations for all bodies of water at this point, but stressed that more information must be made available to rural America to alleviate confusion and resentment.
National Farmers Union
O'Malia, a CFTC commissioner since 2009, said working internally to fix issues is the best way to solve problems before unintended consequences take hold on the marketplace. CFTC says its mission is “to protect market participants and the public from fraud, manipulation, abusive practices and systemic risk.” The commission most directly impacts the farm community through its oversight of agriculture futures markets. Complexities of market activity can easily lead to complexities in regulations, but O'Malia said CFTC should remain proactive in adjusting regulations to keep markets running smoothly.
NGFA has begun an extensive review of the EPA’s proposal that would amend the current section of its new source performance standards to update the provisions that affect grain handling, receiving and load-out operations. NGFA said it is “pleased that the proposed rule references EPA’s decision to rescind a Nov. 21, 2007, letter which it had equated temporary storage structures with permanent storage facilities when it came to determining whether elevators were subject to costly permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act. “ EPA in its proposed rule notes that it is rescinding that interpretation since it is “now aware that (temporary storage facilities) typically handle the grain less time throughout the year than other types of permanent storage facilities, and may require different treatment.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the results of the request for referendum on the Soybean Research and Promotion Program (soy checkoff). USDA received 355 request-for-referendum forms, of which only 324 were valid, from Farm Service Agency offices. The 355 forms represent 0.06 % of all eligible U.S. soybean farmers. That result falls short of the 10 % needed to prompt a referendum.
The initiatives are intended to guard the power supply and reduce risks of catastrophic weather events.
The USDA submitted a draft final version of its Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review. The proposal to build on the HACCP Based Models Project has been a controversial one. Critics such as Food & Water Watch are concerned that the program privatizes poultry inspections, decreases the number of USDA inspectors, replaces inspectors with untrained company employees, and allows inspection line speeds to go from 140 birds a minute to 175 birds a minute. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service position is that a system like HIMP will prevent at least 5,000 more foodborne illnesses annually. While the proposal would improve efficiency and save taxpayer dollars, the agency states that the rule shifts focus from visual inspection for defects to sampling for bacteria and control of the facility’s sanitary conditions.
Food Safety News
There are two conventional ways of measuring farm size: (1) number of acres operated and (2) volume of sales. Between the 2007 and 2012 Censuses of Agriculture, the size of the average Illinois farm increased by 3.2% to 359 acres, and the average market value of agricultural products sold per farm increased by 32% to $228,895. However, given the size and diversity of the Illinois farm population, the average farm size may mask some important changes occurring across the distribution.
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service proposed requiring all makers of raw ground beef products to keep records, a rule aimed specifically at retailers that grind. “By requiring retail outlets to maintain improved records on sources for ground products, the proposal will enable FSIS to quickly identify likely sources of contaminated product linked to an outbreak.”
Farm Bill Update
The USDA announced that approximately $13 million in Farm Bill funding is now available for organic certification cost-share assistance, making certification more accessible than ever for small certified producers and handlers. The certification assistance is distributed through two programs within the Agricultural Marketing Service. Through the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, $11.5 million is available to all and provide cost-share assistance through participating states to USDA certified organic producers and handlers for certification-related expenses they incur from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014. Payments cover up to 75 % of an individual producer's or handler's certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 per certification.
A combination of high insurance premiums and infrequent loss events has led a significant number of California crop insurance clients to limit their purchases to catastrophic crop insurance policies only, shunning more robust offerings like yield or revenue coverage. Record-breaking drought in California has left many policyholders responsible for large portions of their losses because they opted for low levels of insurance coverage.
Insurance Business America
A review the historical performance of the Milk Income Loss Contract program using data provided by USDA Farm Service Agency. It demonstrates how the Margin Protection Program, by increasing production coverage to be more accommodating to all U.S. dairy producers, offers a larger safety net program and is capable of providing considerably more production coverage than the existing, and soon to be expired, MILC program.
Farm Bill lobbying is a reflection of big business. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the largest overall spenders on Capitol Hill, spent $146. 5 million during that two-year period and regularly lobbied on behalf of the Farm Bill. Energy companies Exxon and DuPont also spent in the tens of millions and promoted ethanol and biofuels. The American Bankers Association, one of the groups that will benefit most from the bill thanks to a shift away from the safety-net policy of direct subsidies to crop insurance, reported spending $14 million on lobbying.
Harvest public media
The articles in this theme discuss new or revised provisions relating to commodities, crop insurance, dairy, conservation, nutrition, and specialty crops as included in the Agricultural Act of 2014. For agricultural commodity producers and landowners, this farm bill offers new programs and new choices. Key changes include the elimination of direct payments, counter-cyclical payments, and the Average Crop Revenue Election program. Producers now have a choice between new commodity programs, including Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage, as well as some new supplemental, area-wide crop insurance programs. Throughout the process, the House and Senate agriculture committees focused on providing a strong safety net to producers with an emphasis on risk management and crop insurance. This objective was further enhanced by including a new level of interaction between commodity and crop insurance programs. Enrollment in the new commodity and crop insurance programs are linked and producers and landowners will likely want to consider both choices simultaneously.
The 2014 farm bill provides the owner of a Farm Service Agency farm with a one-time option to update the farm's payment yield for covered crops. This article will discuss this decision. It concludes by recommending that all producers consider updating yields if updated yields are higher than current yields; however, updated yields may be surprisingly low.
Using requirements over best practices, involving animal welfare groups, and taking a multi-species approach, Canada’s “Dairy Code” for animal welfare will differ sharply from the National Dairy F.A.R.M. program. But the Canadian system is still a few years from full implementation, while F.A.R.M. (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) reached the 70% participation threshold in the U.S. in early 2013.
Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates on Immigration Reform. American citizens are paying 535 people to take care of the legislative needs of the country. We are getting shortchanged. Here’s an example: An incumbent congressman in Virginia lost a primary election in which his opponent garnered only 36,105 votes. Immediately, many Washington legislators threw up their hands and declared that this one event would produce paralysis in the United States Congress for at least five months. In particular, they are telling us that immigration reform — long overdue — is now hopeless. Americans deserve better than this.
Global use of antibiotics is rising rapidly, especially in developing countries, driving increased resistance to drugs used to combat both common and rare illnesses. The scientists found a 36 % rise in worldwide antibiotic use between 2000 and 2010, with cephalosporins, broad-spectrum penicillins and fluoroquinolones accounting for more than half of the increase among 16 groups of antibiotics studied. They also found increasing resistance to carbapenems and polymixins, two classes of drugs considered last resort antibiotics for illnesses without any other known treatment.
Chancellor Angela Merkel once said she wished "for nothing more than a free-trade agreement between the USA and the EU". To the dismay of many in Brussels and Washington, Germans are now taking a very different view. That is putting Europe's biggest exporter in the unusual situation of becoming one of the most vocal opponents of the world's biggest trade deal. The idea that the U.S. technique of disinfecting chicken with chlorine might be introduced in Europe has alarmed Germans and highlights their wider suspicions about an EU-U.S. accord.
The Japan News
South Korea will scrap rice-import caps starting next year, because an import duty of 300-500% will replace import limits, a surge of imports is unlikely. Such a level would bring prices for imported rice largely in line with local grain
Wall Street Journal
Energy and Renewables
An ethanol plant in Nebraska is pumping out fuel made from sugar beets, and corn farmers are suing to stop it - a small-town dispute that offers an unusual take on the debate over the impact of sugar and corn subsidies. Local corn farmers,say in court documents that Aventine's action violates an agreement to use their grain exclusively as a feedstock for the firm's recently reopened plant in Aurora. Aventine denies any wrongdoing, saying it has abided by its contract.
The existing federal biofuel policy—also known as the renewable fuels standard as defined in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007—is leading to a very intense political debate, whose outcomes and decisions today affect the future development of advanced biofuels. In an effort to better understand the sources of the intense debate and the implications of existing policy decisions, the current theme attempts to explain various benefits and costs associated with the expansion of advanced biofuels and their co-products.
The American Petroleum Institute and Association of American Railroads have agreed to new regulations regarding rail tankers that transport crude oil, but the new norms aren't applicable to ethanol and other renewable fuels.
In Indiana, Cummins announced the development of an engine and powertrain that reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by as much as 80 % compared with a baseline gasoline- powered medium-duty truck.
In Canada, Enerkem is set to spend the next three years and $6 million, in addition to $1 million from the Quebec government and another $1.5 million from the federal government, to demonstrate its MSW processing technology to fuel power plants in remote areas.
Colorado leasing case gives climate change new weight. A federal judge in Colorado stopped a coal-mining lease expansion from going forward, claiming that the agencies involved had not worked hard enough to account for climate impacts, either in the mine’s operations or in the amount of emissions that could come from the burning of the coal. The decision came just after the EPA issued a new set of regulations for emissions from power plants, and, though it may be appealed, it could set new precedents in the way mines and agencies calculate the cost of coal to the climate. Judge R. Brooke Jackson ruled to enjoin expansion of Colorado’s West Elk Mine, it came as something of a surprise. Jackson ruled that the BLM failed to account for the “social cost of carbon,” an established monetary measure of how the greenhouse gas emissions might affect global warming.
High Country News
Regulators look at raising the limit for radiation amid a rash of illegal dumping. Schreiber’s comments reflect growing public concern in the state over safe disposal of oilfield waste, and now North Dakota is responding, with a batch of new rules, scientific studies and risk assessments aimed at low-level radioactive oilfield waste.
High Country News
Utah's tar sands could yield from 12 billion to 30 billion recoverable barrels of yet-untapped oil, so in 2008, Calgary-based U.S. Oil Sands proposed mining the remote Tavaputs Plateau. Though the planned 213-acre mine is small, a profitable tar sands operation could set a precedent, and environmental groups like Moab- based Living Rivers have fought it since its inception. Utah's Supreme Court dismissed Living Rivers' final appeal as "untimely." The group had appealed the mine's 2008 groundwater permit in a last-ditch effort to stop development, but the court ruled that the permit was final because no challenges were filed within 30 days. The mine will now proceed.
High Country News
Boom, then bust. It's a scenario often played out in local economies heavily reliant on one type of industry, especially in the energy sector. And it's an underlying concern for Ohio communities experiencing a boom in shale oil and gas development. But the cycle isn't inescapable, say community development specialists with Ohio State University Extension. They have received funding to help eastern Ohio communities examine how shale development is affecting their economies, environmental conditions and social structures and to create plans for long-term viability.
The American Petroleum Institute is focusing on the EPA in its fight to reduce the ethanol blending mandate, conceding that there’s little short-term hope in congressional action. Bob Greco, API’s director of downstream operations, said his group is still pushing for legislative changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard that requires oil refiners to mix ethanol, biodiesel and other renewables into their fuels. But with elections approaching, it is trying instead to convince the EPA to keep the mandated volumes low.
National AG Law Center has updated a comprehensive, digitized compilation of past and current federal and state laws relative to the role of agriculture in the nation's energy equation. So far, the laws of about 3/4 of the states have been updated. The Center is continuing work on the remaining states, as well as other publications applicable to the topic.
National Ag Law Center
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