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It will be
the last time Ag Chairs visits Vancouver
City of Vancouver proclaims country’s first Meatless Monday
Regardless, the Summit was
extremely successful and
if your legislative Ag Chair did not participate, help get
them to the 2013 meeting in Oklahoma City, January 3-5.
Attendees passed 8
The Legislative Ag Chairs
Summit is over for
2013, but you can still register for:
Midwestern Legislative Conference, July 14-17, in St Paul, MN
Southern Legislative Conference, July 27-31, Mobile, AL
CSG-West, July 30-August 2 in Las Vegas, NV
Eastern Regional Conference, December 6-9, in Puerto Rico
|::June 7-June 14-2013
Food and Rural Communities
Federal and International
Just a head’s up for those of you who have contact with your state Attorneys General. Wayne Pacelle has an unchallenged 30 minutes at the general session on Wednesday June 19th at 10:30 am-during the upcoming meeting of state attorneys general to share his opinions and the work of HSUS to those who enforce the laws. Depending on who sponsored him to be there, a guess is that he may focus on ag-gag bills and how they hinder the ability of law enforcement to build a case against animal abusers (which these AGs are obligated to prosecute). Just think about the issues he would want AGs to have HSUS views about since they have to enforce local relevant laws.
Like Connecticut’s newly passed GMO labeling law, Maine’s bill will not go into effect unless other states follow suit and pass similar measures, including New Hampshire, the only state to share a border with Maine. While Maine legislators overwhelmingly supported mandatory labeling of GMO foods, some expressed concern over the unintended consequences that such laws might have. “The American farmer today can feed the world because we have experimented. We have done research, and hybrid,” Republican Rep. Bernard Ayotte said during the debate on the House version of the bill. “I’m not against GMO labeling. What I fear is that this bill may lead to the curtailment or stopping of GMO experiments.”
NY Daily News
The Maine House took a first step toward banning commercial horse slaughter for consumption by humans. The House voted 94-49 for LD 1286, that would make any commercial horse slaughter for human consumption illegal in the state. The legislation also would ban the construction and operation of horse slaughtering facilities and make it illegal to transport horses through the state for the purpose of slaughtering them if the final intent is to have humans eat horse meat. The Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association opposed the ban on horse slaughter during the bill’s public hearing. A statewide ban on slaughter could complicate owners’ efforts to end their horses’ lives humanely, said Brenda Deojay, who serves on the association’s board of directors. “When slaughter is not allowed in a particular area and there is still a need to do something with the animals,” she said, “the conditions are sometimes worse for the horse, or they’ll end up still being taken someplace where they can be slaughtered.”
Bangor Daily News
New guidelines regulating exotic animals in Ohio will require owners to meet new caging, safety and caretaking standards. The new rules were reviewed by the state’s legislative rule-setting committee. Permit holders must obtain the authorization document by 2014 to keep their dangerous wildlife.
The Utah Legislature has appropriated $2 million to be used in a statewide “War on Weeds.” Many counties in Utah are affected by non-native weeds that interfere with recreation, poison wildlife and livestock, displace productive farmland and contribute to wildfires.
KSTU, Salt Lake City, Utah
One such problem, which has been dubbed the Ag-Gag by much of the media, involves undercover video or photography by animal rights groups at agricultural operations with farm owners and/or managers usually unaware of their presence. There is no federal law to deal with this situation. Therefore, various states are taking it upon themselves to craft legal remedies. It is there that most similarities end. Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Brubaker voiced concern last September with regard to protecting Pennsylvania agricultural operations by prohibiting unauthorized photos and video recordings. The legislation stems from an incident in Brubaker’s district that involved an activist group targeting a laying hen operation for an exposé featuring an unauthorized video filmed by an undercover employee. Despite the fact that three independent inspectors found health and safety conditions of the operation were at or above industry-best practices immediately following the incident, the accusations still placed a heavy burden on the business. “Under current law, there is no recourse for farm owners to protect their operation from an individual who takes photos or records video on their property without permission. Loos had kept an eye on the Tennessee ag-gag bill. “It was one page,” he said. “Four lines that said nothing other than if you have a picture or video of animal abuse, you are required to turn that over to the authorities within 48 hours.” Anti ag-gag forces wasted no time in piling on. HSUS’s Wayne Pacelle, and also singer Carrie Underwood, urged Tennessee’s governor to veto the bill. “Pacelle was urging the governor to veto a bill that did nothing but expose animal abuse,” Loos said. “This is a guy who is supposed to care about animal rights.”
Last year, more than 1,000 head of cattle were stolen from California farms and ranches, and a new bill on its way to the state senate hopes to crackdown on these thefts. Republican Assemblyman – and rancher – Frank Bigelow introduced Assembly Bill 924 in an effort to increase penalties for livestock theft. The bill bases penalties on the value of stolen livestock and uses the fines to help fund the state’s efforts to investigate livestock thefts.
The Grow Wisconsin Dairy 30×20 grants allow farmers to take steps to improve farm profitability, plan for future investments and make the transfer to the next generation. The grant funds will assist with re-surveying, appraising and completing legal work to transfer the farm buildings, pasture and a building site for a new barn to the beginning farmers as part of an overall farm transition plan. Grant applications were accepted in March and reviewed by an internal and external review process. Farmers could be awarded a grant up to $5,000. At least 20% in matching funds needed to be provided by the applicant.
An Idaho farm coalition is questioning the validity of the map Canyon County commissioners relied on to rezone agricultural land as residential. Idaho law requires a county's comprehensive plan to include a future land use guidance map. But the map the county relied on to rezone 380 acres of land south of Lake Lowell from agricultural to residential has no connection to the comprehensive plan, according to the Coalition for Agriculture's Future. The CAF has asked the county to stop using the map as a basis for zoning decisions and start a new process to properly adopt a land use map. Canyon County Commissioner Kathy Alder, a farmer who voted against the rezone request, said the county is researching the CAF's claims and will provide an explanation. "The map will be dealt with," she said.
Texas launched "The Water Source," a new online tool to serve as a one-stop information portal for Texans to learn various facts about the ongoing drought, statewide water resources and disaster assistance. The Water Source' is a comprehensive site that compiles helpful data and facts on water resources from various agencies and organizations. In addition, users will find helpful news articles, information about reservoir levels and the latest statewide drought conditions from the U.S. Drought Monitor. The site will also highlight great works and resources from fellow state agencies and the Texas Water Smart coalition.
Statutes in at least eight states that prohibit foreign ownership of land used for livestock or crops are unlikely to affect the proposed acquisition of Smithfield Foods Inc. by Shuanghui International. The issue potentially involving Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin arose in a report from Reuters that questioned whether the states could take legal steps to block the $4.7 billion deal. Keira Lombardo, vice president of investor relations and corporate communications at Smithfield, told Meatingplace. “Smithfield’s operations do not fall under the provisions, and only a few of them have applicable laws that need to be satisfied.
The Humane Society of the United States has been a pain in the back for agriculture producers across the nation. However, HSUS and similar activist groups are being exposed for what they really are about by organizations interested in maintaining the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers across the U.S. At the 25th annual World Pork Expo this past week Rick Berman, and Brian Klippenstein shared that Wayne Pacelle, the chief executive officer of HSUS, is to be commended for his ability to get donations and ramp up support for his group, but he’s been doing it in an untruthful manner. "If he's got to spend a dollar he'd rather spend it on chickens than cats or dogs," Berman says. "But that's not what he tells the donors. He tells them their money is for cats and dogs." Many donors to HSUS see the images of abused pets and think it’s going to their local shelters to help dogs and cats. In actuality donation money is going to advertising campaigns and starting legislation that negatively affects animal agriculture, which will ultimately move the U.S. consumer in a more vegan direction.
In some parts of the Cornbelt many farmers have been dodging showers to get as many acres of corn and soybeans planted as possible, despite being beyond the final date for planting for crop insurance coverage. Late planting deducts 1% coverage per day, but there will be many farms which finished planting by the deadline to secure their full coverage. However there will be many farms which remain too wet to plant, particularly in the northern Cornbelt states which had perfect weather and great yields last year and planned to expand their corn and soybean acreage this year. It is not a pretty sight everywhere.
Nobody likes tax increases but farmers also realize that an adequate transportation system is important to the industry, Sen. Bert Brackett, a Republican rancher from Rogerson, said. "Agriculture is very dependent on the transportation system," he said. "A good transportation system and infrastructure is critically important for the industry." A governor's transportation task force found the state's thousands of miles of roads and bridges are not being adequately maintained because of an estimated $250 million annual shortfall in transportation funding. "The ag community of all sectors doesn't like deficit spending but failure to do maintenance is a form of deficit spending," Brackett said. "If you're not doing it now, the cost will go up later and that is a form of deficit spending." Brackett introduced four bills near the end of the 2013 Idaho Legislature that included a variety of fee and tax increases that would raise about $220 million a year for transportation funding. The bills were introduced late and never intended to pass the legislative session, they were intended to start the conversation and get people seriously discussing the ideas. "Transportation is critically important to agriculture. Virtually everything that ag does moves by truck at some point," said FPI member Doug Jones, a Magic Valley farmer and former Idaho legislator.
It’s clear that industrial agriculture is not serious about reducing water contamination. The industry seems content to take credit for limited successes but blame weather for repeated failures. It attacks those who document the downstream damage and costs. It asks society to continuously pay producers to do what is right without guaranteeing results or penalties for contamination. The industry, substantially underwritten by taxes, bizarrely claims exemptions from regulations that would demonstrate a civic responsibility expected from other industries. A bold industry move would be to seriously discuss regulations with the EPA.
Des Moines Register
Drugs used to treat horses renders the meat adulterated and therefore unfit for human consumption. according to a legal analysis by Gary King, the state attorney general. The opinion presents a potential block to Valley Meat Co., Roswell, NM. The owner, Ricardo De Los Santos has been trying to re-open his former beef slaughter to process horse meat. De Los Santos received a letter from the USDA recommending his application be processed and a grant of federal inspection be issued. De Los Santos plans to sell horse meat to foreign markets. A lawyer representing the company said a drug residue testing program is in place at the facility, and plans to open the plant are moving forward.
Valley Meat Company is now facing a new challenge after USDA is considering whether the company is required to have a federal permit to discharge waste water under the federal Clean Water Act.
Southwest Farm Press
According to Jeremy Sullens, a wildland fire analyst at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, ID, the 2013 fire season is really a tale of two halves. “In the eastern U.S., we’ve seen quite a bit of frequent and periodic precipitation, and we’ve seen a reduction in the number of acres burned that we would normally see this time of year. Largely that’s because we’ve seen most of our fires across the eastern and southeastern U.S. In the West, Sullens says, it’s a very different story. The western U.S. is still experiencing severe drought in places. “What that’s leading us to is an expectation that we’re going to see some above-normal, significant fire potential across the Southwest and up into the four corners area.
No-till management practices can reduce soil erosion, but evidence suggests they can also lead to increased runoff of dissolved phosphorus from soil surfaces. Meanwhile, farmers looking to avoid herbicides often have to combat weeds with tillage, which causes erosion. With all of the tradeoffs of different management systems, which one should growers use? To answer that question, researchers from the USDA Agricultural Research Service compared nutrient and sediment loss from no-till, conventional tillage, and reduced-input rotation watersheds in a study published online in Soil Science Society of America Journal.
I was watching one of those home re-do shows on television this weekend. The people, whose home was being remodeled, had pet chickens in their yard. The decorator decided that everyone should paint a canvas for instant art in the new space. All was well until one of the decorators showed her canvas. She had painted four-legged chickens and admitted that she thought they had four legs. What?! They were running around in the yard the entire time. How in the world can we hope to span that distance?
Four states reported completion of corn planting as of June 9. These include Colorado, Nebraska, North Carolina and Ohio. USDA's June 9 Crop Progress report indicates corn planting in the 18 selected states is at 95%, just off the 98% pace of the five-year average. Pasture and range is generally in Fair to Good condition.
Though California has hardly been impacted by it at all, the discovery of biotech wheat in an Oregon field has exposed divergent opinions within the industry here about the potential for developing such wheat. Whatever happens in Oregon, however, wheat producer Jim Crisp suggested that Roundup Ready wheat could someday be "commercially acceptable" as the global demand for food increases. "I see it as a big bunch of hype and drama," Crisp, owner of Crisp Warehouse in Stratford, Calif., said of the Oregon discovery. "The world has rejected the idea of genetically modified wheat ... (but) people eat and have been eating GMO products all the time and there's not so much hype about it. "One of the standard ideas ... is that there's not enough financial incentives for the rest of the world to accept a GMO-type wheat because they don't own any of the patents," he said. "At some point in time, we're going to need more wheat than we can grow ... and all of the sudden it will be commercially acceptable."
NY Daily News
Monsanto says it has tested 56 different wheat seed varieties which represent more than 80 % of all the soft white winter/spring wheat seed grown in Oregon and Washington. Among the varieties tested were the seed stock for the two varieties the farmer reportedly planted in the fields where some Roundup Ready wheat was found a couple of weeks ago, they found no detectable presence of MON71800 in any of the 56 varieties.
Recent hysteria aside, genetically modified wheat is a safe product.
Wall Street Journal
Organic groups and other organizations don't have the legal standing to challenge the Monsanto Co.'s biotech patents in court, according to a federal appeals court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has held that a lawsuit filed by the biotech critics must be dismissed because they haven't demonstrated an "actual controversy" with Monsanto. The plaintiffs wanted a federal judge to declare that Monsanto's patents for transgenic crops were invalid and unenforceable, claiming that they feared the biotech company would sue organic farmers if their crops were contaminated with altered genes. A federal judge in New York dismissed the lawsuit last year, finding that Monsanto had never threatened the plaintiffs with a lawsuit and saying the groups had engaged in a "transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists." Plaintiffs challenged that opinion, but the federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal, ruling that the possibility of Monsanto suing them for patent infringement "is too speculative to justify their present actions
The study was published in the June issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Organic Systems by researchers from Australia who worked with two veterinarians and a farmer in Iowa to study the U.S. pigs. Researchers said there were no differences seen between pigs fed the GM and non-GM diets for feed intake, weight gain, mortality, and routine blood biochemistry measurements. But those pigs that ate the GM diet had a higher rate of severe stomach inflammation - 32 % of GM-fed pigs compared to 12 % of non-GM-fed pigs. However. 60 of non-GM pigs had mild or moderate inflammation compared with 41 GM pigs, and only 4 non-GM pig stomachs were graded “nil,” while the GM pigs had 8 with no inflammation. More than 60% of all pigs had pneumonia, so animal care has to be questioned in the study.
The author is an anti-biotech campaigner and is supported by Gilles-Eric Séralini, the French scientist that published a study in the fall that was heavily criticized by the scientific community for the conclusion that GMO corn caused high levels of death in rats. The second author is president and co-founder of Verity Farms, a U.S. ‘natural foods’ outfit, which markets non-GMO grain. The funding came from the Institute of Health and Environmental Research, dedicated to anti-GMO activism. Problems with the study include what the authors choose to say about the results and what the results actually show. Most damning of all, close to 60% of both sets of pigs were suffering from pneumonia at the time of slaughter—another classic indicator of bad husbandry. Had they not been slaughtered, all these pigs might well have died quickly anyway. No conclusions can be drawn from this study, except for one—that there should be tighter controls on experiments performed on animals by anti-biotech campaigners, for the sake of animal welfare.”
Food Safety News
Farmers growing older. As younger farmers attempt to take agriculture’s reins, many are finding that task to be difficult. Young and beginning farmers frequently face tighter credit markets and higher collateral requirements than more-experienced farmers. These requirements appear to be limiting bank lending for real estate purchases to young and beginning farmers. Higher prices for land and fixed expenses appear to be shifting the structure of farm enterprises managed by young and beginning farmers from an owner- operator model to a renter-operator model. Current federal and state policies support the owner-operator model in U.S. agriculture. However, the structure of farm enterprises in the future may continue to develop into a renter-operator model, especially if market forces continue to drive up fixed costs of production.
Kansas City Fed
Mercy for Animals, which has previously publicized undercover video shot at various meat production facilities, has unveiled a video shot at Hudson Valley Foie Gras, purporting to show the mistreatment of ducks that are being raised for foie gras production. The short video taken at the company’s farms show ducks being fed through a metal tube inserted in their necks; injured ducks that are bleeding; and duck carcasses. MFA says it is “calling on Amazon [a major Hudson Valley customer] to immediately end the sale of foie gras on its website worldwide.” Hudson Valley’s operations manager, Marcus Henley, rejects the idea that MFA’s video shows cruel treatment or inhumane animal handling; in fact, there's nothing on the video that Hudson Valley didn't post in its own video on YouTube years ago. As for the injuries to the ducks show on the video, he said he would like to know how it happened but that the injuries are minor. I think people buying ag products have a right to come to the farm. And if it's a questionable issue I don’t think you should hide, I think you should confront it," Henley said. "Show responsible people what you're doing and let them judge."
The world quietly reached a milestone in the evolution of the human diet in 2011. For the first time in modern history, world farmed fish production topped beef production. The gap widened in 2012, with output from fish farming-also called aquaculture-reaching a record 66 million tons, compared with production of beef at 63 million tons. And 2013 may well be the first year that people eat more fish raised on farms than caught in the wild. More than just a crossing of lines, these trends illustrate the latest stage in a historic shift in food production.
Oil & gas production from shale formations is a water-intensive process, and states are taking different paths to ensure future production is not limited by the availability of water. High crude-oil prices incent higher levels of production, but it takes about 6 million gallons of water to hydraulically fracture a single well. In the arid West, where many shale formations are located, oil & gas production is on a collision course with agricultural and residential demand for water.
A federal judge moved a South Dakota beef processing company’s defamation lawsuit against ABC News back to state court. Beef Products Inc. sued ABC News Inc. for defamation over its coverage of a meat product the company calls lean, finely textured beef but that critics dubbed “pink slime.” The meat processor claims the network damaged the company by misleading consumers into believing the product is unhealthy and unsafe. BPI is seeking $1.2 billion in damages.
I took part in a conversation where it was argued that we would all be a lot better off without all this technology that pervades our life, and beef production, today. If we hadn’t improved genetics, the argument goes, we would need a lot more cattle today. And the same could be said for implants, or a host of other technologies. There is truth to that. Occasionally, the consumer may reject certain technologies or even pay enough of a premium for producers to justify not using it
China’s abrupt decision to enforce tariffs on imported peanuts has doused hopes for a banner season for Georgia’s peanut growers.In April, China all but quit purchasing U.S. peanuts after a whirlwind buying spree that had farmers from Donalsonville in southwest Georgia to Sylvania near the South Carolina line counting their blessings and profits. Peanut industry honchos blame China’s sudden enforcement of a 15 % import tax and 13 % value-added tax on peanuts.U.S. brokers and shippers had sidestepped the taxes by shipping peanuts to Vietnam. The Vietnamese would either transship the peanuts on to China or turn raw peanuts into cooking oil. Both products would then enter China duty-free.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
During calving season earlier this year, I jokingly suggested that BravoTV make a reality show called, “Real Ranchwives of Rural America.” I learned that you’ve got to be careful what you wish for. A few weeks later, my sisters and I were actually approached about doing such a show, but after a few interviews, we were deemed “too tame” for national TV. Go figure. Now there’s a casting call for a new reality show featuring single cowboys. Yes, you read that right. If you’re an available cowboy bachelor (ages 21-35), this is your opportunity to find love on national TV.
A new President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation has been named. The group’s current Chief Operating Officer, Jim Mulhern, has been appointed by the board to fill the position held by Jerry Kozak since 1997. Mulhern is to take over on January 1st, 2014. Kozak told the NMPF board earlier this year that he wanted to retire at the end of this year.
The Corpus Christi City Council on approved a grant giving Sam Kane Beef Processors $3 million in tax breaks over the next five years, according to local media reports. The catch is Sam Kane can make no layoffs and must add more people to its workforce, which currently consists of about 700 people. President and CO Lou Waters was quoted as saying the company plans to add 100 people. Waters heads up the group of Texas ranchers and cattlemen that acquired Sam Kane last month. The company planned to retain nearly all of Sam Kane’s employees. City officials reportedly also proposed annexing the Sam Kane property.
A federal judge returned Beef Product Inc.'s $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit against ABC News to state court, and denied the news organization’s motion to dismiss the case.
A SLC free webinar - Friday, June 14, 2013 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EDT. This complimentary SLC webinar will feature the latest developments from several Southern states and provide an opportunity for webinar participants to learn more about some of these strategies. Participants will be able to direct questions to the legislators that spearheaded these vital transportation reforms in their states.
Southern Legislative Conference
As the 2013 hurricane season begins, the East Coast is still picking up the pieces after its licking from Hurricane Sandy last year. Already this year, deadly tornadoes are wreaking millions of dollars in damage across the Midwest. The cost of these natural disasters is staggering, and some state and local officials are trying to figure out new ways to managing them. Public officials have been particularly responsive in New York City, where Independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg has drawn up plans to spend billions of dollars shoring up infrastructure and cutting carbon emissions thought to be driving climate change. The state is also investing heavily in coastal upgrades while strengthening oversight for gas and electric utilities, which Sandy crippled. In hard-hit New Jersey, where some coastal communities are struggling to recover, Republican Gov. Chris Christie last month signed legislation requiring insurers to clearly spell out what their policies. Only Maine, Michigan, Vermont and Wisconsin were left unaffected by the year’s 11 weather events— including hurricanes, severe storms, drought and wildfires. Halfway through 2013, the economic toll from least one disaster — the Oklahoma tornados — is expected to eclipse $1 billion.
Responding to last summer's devastating wildfires, Colorado lawmakers passed several bills this year to prepare for future fire seasons. But it's a measure to establish a state-owned aerial firefighting fleet that's getting the most attention -- and partisan wrangling -- as wildfire season begins with three destructive fires burning around the state. The federal government has 10 air tankers to combat fires, and all of them were in use Wednesday nationwide. The Republican-sponsored bill signed into law last week created the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps, with a mission to buy or contract firefighting aircraft. But there was no funding attached to the measure. And without the $17.5 million needed to retrofit aerial tankers from the federal government, the newly minted state division can't launch. Soon after the wildfires exploded, Republican lawmakers took to Twitter to blast Gov. John Hickenlooper for rejecting funding for the program. But even with funding, state-owned planes wouldn't be fighting the fires now. It would take eight months to a year for the fleet to be operational.
Tired of state legislative moves that they say ignore their agricultural way of life, several counties in north and northeastern Colorado are looking into forming their own state. While the chances of success are slim at best, the county commissioners say they are serious about the idea.
Though Gov. Chris Christie's administration often waxes poetic about the importance of boardwalks and beaches to the region's economy, the state's Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher knows one of New Jersey’s most important economic assets walks on four legs. “The horse is something deep in everyone’s heart, but it is also a big industry,” Fisher said New Jersey boasts over 7,200 equine facilities comprising 70,000 acres of land.
This issue brief uses data from the Current Population Survey collected from 2003 to 2012 to assess trends in employment in middle-skill jobs and the Great Recession’s impact on middle-skill workers, with particular attention paid to differences between those in rural and urban places. Roughly half of American workers living in rural areas held middle-skill jobs in 2012—positions requiring at least some on-the-job training, an apprenticeship-type experience, or postsecondary education but no more than a two-year degree. This figure is well above the national average of 43 % and the urban average of 42 %. Since 2003, the percentage of workers holding middle-skill jobs has not changed in rural places but has declined in urban areas.
The Carsey Institute
Over the past century and more, research and development has contributed to a transformation of the U.S. food and agricultural sectors. R&D has fueled productivity growth, enabling U.S. farmers to do more with less. It has helped U.S. farmers to remain competitive in increasingly integrated global commodity markets and better achieve an environmentally sustainable supply of biofuels, fiber, and feed, as well as safe, nutritious, and affordable food. But support for U.S. public agricultural R&D has waned at a time when U.S. farm productivity growth is slowing. In what follows we describe the evolving patterns of support for public agricultural and food R&D, the shifting emphasis of spending within the broad portfolio, and some potential policy approaches to revitalize U.S. agricultural research.
Brazil’s JBS SA, the world’s largest beef producer, agreed to buy assets from Marfrig Alimentos SA in Brazil and Uruguay, which will make it the world’s largest chicken producer
Applications are being accepted for grants to finance broadband deployment in remote, rural areas. Through this notice, USDA Rural Development may award up to $21 million in grants through the Community Connect Grant program. It serves rural communities where broadband service is not available, but where it can make a tremendous difference in the quality of life for citizens.
Rural America is losing population for the first time ever, largely because of waning interest among baby boomers in moving to far-flung locations for retirement and recreation, according to new census estimates. Long weighed down by dwindling populations in farming and coal communities and the movement of young people to cities, rural counties are being hit by sputtering growth in retirement and recreation areas, once residential hot spots for baby boomers.
Hjartarson is among what University of Minnesota Rural Sociologist Ben Winchester coins the “Brain Gain,” in rural America. “Discussions about the future of rural communities can have a negative tone, but this isn’t your grandfather’s rural,” Winchester said. “You look at the numbers and you can see the rural narrative is being rewritten.” Automation and larger farms did drive rural young people toward cities decades ago to establish careers and overall, rural populations have shrunk, he said. However, the actual number of people living in rural areas in the United States increased between 1970 and 2010 from 53.5 million to 59.5 million. Urban areas grew, too, but at a rate faster than rural areas, resulting in a proportional decline of the population living rural. “When it comes to 30- to 40-year-olds, one in five live in a rural area today,” Winchester said. “There is a growth in rural areas among the 30- to 35-year-old cohort, an age when a lot of people are re-examining their lives and looking for low density living. That’s also the cohort we are seeing decreasing in numbers in many metro areas.”
Great Falls Tribune
But New York’s P.S. 244 in Flushing still boasts only all vegetarian lunch menu
NY Daily News
It was not just the worst of three destructive fires burning simultaneously across the state, but also the worst in state history, authorities said. Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three disaster emergencies authorizing a combined $10.15 million.
All four of the case studies featured in this report should be exciting examples for advocates of engagement. " They demonstrate, to varying degrees, the four aspects of successful engagement: the use of new tools and strategies; the ability to reach a broad spectrum of people; notable outcomes; and sustained efforts and structures. " The four case studies and our analysis of the other ten communities examined in this report also reflect the diversity of the leaders.
National League of Cities
After a complicated 20-year effort to save a redbrick mill in North Carolina that was once considered the largest in the world for textiles and that played a significant role in the South’s textile history, the plant is finally moving toward a new life as a multiuse complex.
The Georgia Institute of Technology is rolling out an alternative program experts say offers a beacon of hope for both students and employers: A three-year master’s degree in computer science that can be earned entirely online — and that will cost less than $7,000. The school is partnering with Udacity, a for-profit provider of MOOC (massive open online course) education, and AT&T, which is contributing $2 million and will provide connectivity tools and services. “We believe this program can establish corporate acceptance of high-quality and 100 % online degrees as being on par with degrees received in traditional on-campus settings.”
Young adults are in a critical period of change and choices, as they confront the decisions that will pave the way to their futures. But the generation coming into its own in the aftermath of the Great Recession faces challenges that threaten to undermine even the best laid plans. Demos investigated the Bureau of Labor Statistics data for young adults in 2012 in order to see how the experience of young people today affects their prospects for tomorrow. We found that last year passed with no significant gains for young people, who continue to endure a jobs crisis even as the economy recovers. The latest numbers from 2013 reveal no significant change in the trend. Without policy targeted to the needs of young adults, we risk a generation marked by the insecurities of the Great Recession for the rest of their working lives. Young people are facing a jobs deficit of over 4 million jobs. The economy needs to add 4.1 million new jobs for young adults in order to return to employment at the same levels as before the recession began.
U.S. entrepreneurship rates climbed to the highest level in more than a decade according to the 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report. In 2012, the average Total Early-Stage Entrepreneurial Activity rate increased to nearly 13 %, an all-time high since GEM first began tracking entrepreneurship rates in 1999. “Despite a sluggish economy, 2012 was marked by U.S. entrepreneurs reporting greater optimism and confidence in their abilities to start new businesses,” commented the GEM Report’s lead author, Donna J. Kelley, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at Babson College.
Global agricultural production is expected to grow 1.5% a year on average over the coming decade, compared with annual growth of 2.1% between 2003 and 2012. Limited expansion of agricultural land, rising production costs, growing resource constraints and increasing environmental pressures are the main factors behind the trend. But the report argues that farm commodity supply should keep pace with global demand.
April’s joblessness numbers are a mixed bag for rural communities. The unemployment rate is dropping. But the number of jobs in rural America isn’t climbing very quickly. In fact, in the nation’s most rural counties, there are fewer jobs this year than last.
The nation's most rural communities have broadband availability rates that are a third lower than the rates of big cities and suburbs, a federal report shows. But within these broad findings, there are important variations in broadband access among U.S. cities, suburbs, towns and very rural areas. The report, by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Economics and Statistics Administration, shows once more that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” answer when it comes studying rural issues. In general, the farther a location is from a central city, the worse its broadband availability will be. But the underlying story is more complicated.
Entrepreneurs live, work and thrive in rural communities. Broadband connectivity is the essential ingredient.
From a small town in West Virginia, Smooth Ambler Spirits creates beverages found in some of the best restaurants in America. And they do it with a “distill-where-you’re-planted” attitude.
Replacing a school’s leaky windows, equipping firefighters with grassland fire suits, outfitting a park’s playground with materials that are safer for children – these reasons compelled this year’s judges to select a few of the latest More for Everyone community award winners. The annual awards program that financially supports small community groups is made possible by InVigor® canola hybrids from Bayer CropScience. Through the More for Everyone awards program, Bayer CropScience is donating a total of $30,000 to 10 non-profit organizations across North Dakota in 2013
Mainstream science can be wrong; but it’s better than astrology. In the interest of public discussion and equal opportunity opinion, public agencies will often invite alternate opinions on a topic. Which is apparently what the British Columbia Center for Disease Control did when it invited a raw milk proponent to promote her cause. The subsequent press release was predictable, breathlessly announcing in scientifically-sounding garble that “quantitative microbial risk assessments recently published in the Journal of Food Protection have demonstrated that unpasteurized milk is a low-risk food.” In craving credibility, the release states “British Columbia CDC’s Medical Director of Environmental Health Services, Dr. Tom Kosatsky, who is also Scientific Director of Canada’s National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health, welcomed the invited presentation as ‘up-to-date’ and ‘a very good example of knowledge synthesis and risk communication.’” Risk communication shouldn’t be propaganda (although it often is). Whether a food is low-risk or high-risk is a largely subjective comparison especially because it needs to be done on a per serving basis to be meaningful. A small percentage of people drink raw milk, yet it seems to cause a disproportionately high number of outbreaks, especially among kids.
Kentucky lags far behind neighboring states when it comes to spending money and protecting natural lands, either through outright purchase or conservation easements. That was one of the take-home points of the The Courier-Journal’s “Bracing for Climate Change” stories. Kentucky’s nature license plates are a key source of land conservation funding in the commonwealth, but the revenue is down amid more competition for specialty plates. So how do other states do it: Minnesota voters approved a Constitutional amendment in 2008, increasing sales taxes by 3/8ths of 1%, aimed at generating $5.5 billion for land and water conservation through 2034. – Ohio voters passed a Constitutional amendment in 2000, creating a Clean Ohio Fund and authorizing a $400 bond program. West Virginia in 2008 established an Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund. It comes from a $4 flat fee on the recording of deeds and a $5 flat fee on the recording of other documents
Louisville Courier Journal
Like nuclear power, whale hunting and the use of preservatives before it, genetic modification has become a cause célèbre among the self-styled ecoscenti who care oh-so much about how far humanity has strayed from what’s “natural.” But what is natural? It’s a slippery term to fully define, and one that has many meanings for many people. Applied to animal agriculture, much of what constitutes modern production science is deemed “unnatural” by critics. Applied elsewhere, however, the tolerance level seems far broader
What’s the biggest contemporary problem for livestock producers? That’s easy—if, like me, you’re an outsider looking in, that is. The No. 1 problem is that even the most articulate producers spend way too much time talking to each other, or to scientists, veterinarians, policymakers and members of the trade media. Take the case of one Jeremy Ranck, a 30-year-old Pennsylvania hog farmer and subject of an insightful profile in the Des Moines Register as World Pork Expo gets underway in Iowa’s capital this weekend. “Any farm, that’s your life, that’s your passion,” Ranck was quoted as saying. “We do everything we can to have the best production in crops, the best production in hogs. It is very frustrating when there are activist groups and social media blitzes of blatant lies.” That quote could probably have come from any of thousands of producers across the country, and indeed in its essence, Ranck’s observation informs a whole lot of conversation among attendees at virtually any industry trade show or conference I’ve ever attended. That’s the problem: When producers try to state what they believe to be the obvious advantages of modern production, consumers come away with a far different interpretation Nowhere is that phenomenon more evident than in debates over the use of antibiotics.
This week Pope Francis said, “Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry.” For those of you who work hard to produce and process food, I am sure you feel the pain of wasted food and wasted effort. But now let us consider another type of waste — failing to do our best at food production, cutting corners to save a buck, avoiding production technologies because the consumer does not understand or is afraid of them. Examples abound. The total loss of lean finely textured beef created the need for one million new cattle per year. The use of herbicides and genetically modified seed is prohibited in some of the world’s hungriest countries. Meat production tools such as anabolic agents and beta-agonists are considered, by some, a curse of modern agriculture. There is no evidence that these technologies are harmful to animals or people who consume them. However, we know starvation kills.
The case of the labels warning of genetically modified wheat found on Kraft Mac & Cheese boxes in Britain has been solved. The labels, posted on the product’s own Facebook page and picked up by a food blogger, set off a buzz among consumers overseas and in the US around the same time last week that modified wheat was found in a field in Oregon. The problem, it seems, is that Kraft does not use genetically engineered wheat, which is not commercially available, according to a spokeswoman. So the label’s origins perplexed Kraft officials. “We have no authorized distributor there,” said the spokeswoman, Lynne Galia, referring to Britain. “Anyone implying that G.E. wheat is in Kraft Mac & Cheese or any of our products is wrong,” Ms. Galia added, noting that Kraft buys wheat from Canada and the United States. For its part, Tesco was as baffled by the label as Kraft, indicating that a distributor, Innovative Bites, had slapped on the warning. Innovative Bites did not respond to calls or e-mails. A Tesco spokeswoman said that the warning on about genetically modified wheat was “only precautionary; it doesn’t say the product does contain such wheat.” But the label is ambiguous as to the product’s contents: it says it is “made from” and “may contain” the wheat. She said Tesco intended to get in touch with Kraft about the issue
Antimicrobial resistance was top of the agenda at a meeting of international science ministers in the UK yesterday ahead of the G8 summit.
The Liberal Democrats do not have any “theological” opposition to genetically modified foods, the agriculture minister has said, paving the way for Britain to relax the rules on controversial biotech crops.
If the FDA permits the transgenic salmon to be imported for human consumption — which the firm that developed the fish hopes will be granted this year — the research station in Panama that is studying the GM salmon would switch to growing it for the US market. This would have trickle-down benefits for local firms and ensure further research into GM salmon and how best to grow it. The project is based in Panama because of the country's long-standing policy support for aquaculture and GM organisms, says Clifford.
Energy and Renewables
A new study commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association shows no direct correlation between the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the overall increase in food prices since 2008. John Urbanchuk with ABF Economics conducted the study. He says, “If you take a look at the time since the implementation Renewable Fuels Standard, and basically we’re five years into the RFS, and you take a look at a comparable period PRIOR to that, what we found is that retail-level food prices have actually increased at a slower rate than was the case before the RFS took effect.”
Efforts to modify or even do away with the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) have generated a lot of discussion this week at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop in St. Louis. American Coalition for Ethanol executive vice president Brian Jennings says changes to the RFS would have a major impact on the ethanol industry. “Today, virtually all gasoline is E10,” Jennings says, “and if the Renewable Fuels Standard were to go away—combined with the fact that, on an annual basis, gasoline use overall declines—means that our market would shrink.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of up to $98.6 million to support the production of advanced biofuels, and an opportunity for eligible producers to submit applications. The payments are provided through USDA Rural Development's Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, commonly referred to as the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program. It was established in the 2008 Farm Bill to support the expansion of advanced biofuel production. Payments are made to eligible producers based on the amount of biofuel produced from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch.
Using wood for energy is considered cleaner than fossil fuels, but a Dartmouth College-led study finds that logging may release large amounts of carbon stored in deep forest soils.
At current retail gasoline prices, spot cash corn prices, around $7, are well above the breakeven price for E85. However, bids for corn delivered during the upcoming 2013 harvest, near $5.25, are right at that breakeven corn price. Depending on the outcome of the 2013 harvest, it is feasible that corn prices could decline below the breakeven price for E85 if retail gasoline prices remain near current levels.
Farm and Dairy
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced funding for rural electric projects in 16 states to provide reliable, affordable electricity for rural residents, including improved service for Native Americans. USDA remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today's announcement is one part of the Department's efforts to strengthen the rural economy. "USDA funding for rural electric utilities not only improves service to customers, it makes the grid more efficient and reliable and encourage investment, business development and job creation in rural communities," Vilsack said.
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee approved two bills designed to make natural gas service available to more Pennsylvanians. SB 738 and 739, sponsored by Yaw and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi will foster the extension and expansion of natural gas distribution systems to un-served and under-served residential, commercial and industrial sites. SB 738, known as the Natural Gas Consumer Access Act, will require every natural gas distribution utility operating in Pennsylvania to submit a three-year plan to the Public Utility Commission outlining the utility's plans for extension and expansion projects. SB 738 will also create a system providing for expedited extension or expansion projects if an economic development agency or a large number of residential, commercial or industrial entities want to seek to obtain natural gas service.
A $300M plan to convert public buildings to clean energy will create 5,000 jobs, officials predict. A plan to be unveiled today to more than double the energy efficiency in state and Honolulu County buildings could add 5,000 new jobs to Hawaii's economy by 2015 and bolster efforts to meet aggressive clean-energy goals.
Texas, the lone state with its own power grid in the continental United States, is a key testing ground for the natural gas-renewables relationship. It leads the nation in both natural gas and wind, dwarfing all other states. Meanwhile, the state’s energy demand is soaring with its population. In the short term, low natural gas prices are “extremely unlikely” to uproot existing renewable energy capacity in Texas. Instead, both fuels are likely to further eat into the market share of coal, which has plummeted across the country. Though developers of renewables face higher upfront costs, such projects are cheaper to maintain because they aren’t tied to volatile fuel prices.
House Natural Resources Committee held an oversight hearing on the Endangered Species Act and heard from state and local officials about the challenges the ESA presents to their locally-led conservation efforts. Tyler Powell, Oklahoma’s Deputy Secretary of Environment, described state conservation projects and how the ESA can negatively impact relationships between state wildlife agencies and landowners. “States are unquestionably qualified to be effective partners in the implementation of the ESA,” said Steve Ferrell, Policy Advisor for wildlife and endangered species issues to Wyoming Governor Meade.Ferrell also noted that states are often significantly impacted by the ESA and should be “afforded every opportunity to provide input to laws, regulations and policies in implementing the ESA.”
You can’t have a real discussion about labor shortages without mentioning wages. One of the most common arguments for allowing more immigration is that there is a “need” for foreign workers to do “jobs that Americans won’t do,” especially in agriculture. . In the real world, employers compete for workers, just as they compete for customers for their output. And workers go where there is more demand for them, as expressed by what employers offer to pay. Farmers may wish for more farm workers, just as any of us may wish for anything we would like to have. But that is wholly different from thinking that some third party should define what we desire as a “need,” much less expect government policy to meet that “need.” In a market economy, when farmers are seeking more farm workers, the most obvious way to get them is to raise the wage rate until they attract enough people away from alternative occupations — or from unemployment. With the higher labor costs that this would entail, the number of workers that farmers “need” would undoubtedly be less than what it would have been if there were more workers who are available at lower wage rates, such as immigrants from Mexico. The price that farmers receive for their produce is usually a fraction of what the consumers pay at the supermarket. And what the farmers pay the farm workers is a fraction of what the farmer gets for the produce. In other words, even if labor costs doubled, the rise in prices at the supermarket might be barely noticeable. “Jobs that Americans will not do” are in fact jobs at which not enough Americans will work at the current wage rate that some employers are offering.
Veterinary researchers at University of California at Davis that simulated how difficult it would be to find and contain a case of Foot and Mouth Disease if it broke out somewhere among that state’s 22,000 dairy herds. When Great Britain suffered an outbreak in spring of 2001, an estimated 7 million sheep and cattle were eventually killed in an attempt to halt spread of the disease, eventually costing the country's industry some $13 billion. The California researchers compared the predicted results of containment efforts assuming either an electronic tracing system, a paper-based tracing system of variable efficacy, or no tracing system at all. Their results estimated that an electronic tracing system would reduce the average number of infected farms by anywhere from 8 % to 81 %, depending on how big the operation that first spread the disease was.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that human genes cannot be patented, a decision that could shape the future of medical and genetic research and have profound effects on pharmaceuticals and agriculture.
The Supreme Court has ruled that genes can’t be patented. A Colorado State University Associate Professor recently found that the case may not have the dramatic impact some in the biotechnology industry have feared. Still – they caution that while attention is currently focused on human genetic diagnostics – the decision may have unanticipated impacts on patents that claim sequences from species well beyond just humans. There are fewer U.S. gene patents than previously suggested. The study also found that the majority of gene patents actually claim genes from other organisms – ranging from mice to corn to microbes. In fact – 59- % of the patents impacted by the court’s decision claim sequences from non-human species. The study’s third key finding is that applicants appear to have been moving away from making the kinds of patent claims at greatest legal risk in this case for the past decade.
Hoosier Ag Today
Two environmental groups have revived a lawsuit against the EPA over pesticides, though the new version has been scaled back. The Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North America have asked a federal judge to order restrictions on 50 pesticides, down from 382 in a previous lawsuit. The environmentalists claim that EPA has violated the ESA by failing to consult with other federal agencies about pesticide effects on protected species. Pesticide industry groups like Croplife America breathed a sigh of relief when the last "mega" lawsuit was dismissed and are disappointed that the plaintiffs have resumed litigation. Rachel Lattimore, general counsel and senior vice president at Croplife America, said it's too early to tell whether the revised complaint will pass muster with the judge. However, the case will divert from the EPA's efforts to develop a comprehensive system for analyzing the effects of pesticides on threatened and endangered species, she said. "Lawsuits like this are a distraction from that more unified, collaborative approach," Lattimore said.
The House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee last week held a markup for the FY2014 Agriculture and FDA funding bill. The bill, which is expected to be on the House floor later this month, provides $19.5 billion for the discretionary programs under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction. This funding level is $1.3 billion less than last year’s enacted discretionary funding level, though nearly equal to post-sequestration funding levels. Notably, the bill would keep APHIS funding steady, providing $803.5 million for animal and plant health activities. Funding for FDA’s food safety activities are increased by $27 million in the bill. The bill was reported out on a majority voice vote and will be marked up by the full Appropriations Committee this Thursday.
A select group of elected officials from Texas took a major step forward in keeping their promise this week to lawfully force the U.S. Secretary of State to lean on the Mexican government to comply with terms of a 1944 International Water Treaty with the United States or otherwise run the risk of losing U.S. benefits in the future. Texas Sen. John Cornyn Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Reps. Filemon Vela) and Mike Conaway introduced joint legislation in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S House, in the form of an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act, fulfilling promises made to residents and agricultural interests in drought-stricken Deep South Texas who have been suffering severe water shortages since the first of the year.
Southwest Farm Press
I recently had a chance to travel to British Columbia for a conference with state and provincial legislators that chair their respective agriculture committees. On this trip, I encountered several kind, but candid, Canadians involved in their agricultural sector. At the tip of everyone’s tongue was "country of origin labeling" and the devastating effect that it has on their livestock industry. mCOOL has been flailing around, begging to be put out of its misery, since the 2002 Farm Bill. While mandatory labeling of meat products by country of origin has been required by statute since 2002, Congress has a habit of speaking out of both sides of its mouth. It restricted funds for implementing the law until 2008, when fears of tainted Chinese cat food ingredients tipped the scale in favor of putting mCOOL into effect. Skeptics, myself included, argue that mCOOL’s primary purpose is to disrupt international trade by imposing so many regulatory and practical burdens that it is simply easier for American packers to stick to processing American livestock. mCOOL cannot be defended to our trade partners with a straight face and is not doing American farmers any favors. The WTO’s Appellate Body rejected the first iteration of mCOOL in 2012, holding that it discriminated against Canadian beef and pork. As part of the WTO’s ruling, USDA was ordered to either eliminate mCOOL or re-write the regulation so as to not discriminate against international commerce. This placed the Obama Administration in an awkward position wherein they had to concurrently re-write the mCOOL regulation while lobbying Congress to repeal it.
A new report released by the U.S. General Accounting Office noted that while USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has broadened its disease surveillance program, it should tweak its plan so that it does more to boost homeland security efforts
Tens of thousands of acres in Oregon's drought-stricken Klamath Basin will have to go without irrigation water this summer after the Klamath Tribes and the federal government exercised newly confirmed powers that put the tribes in the driver's seat over water use -- a move ranchers fear will be economically disastrous. Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor said Monday that they were making what is known as a "call" on their water rights for rivers flowing into Upper Klamath Lake in Southern Oregon. The tribes are maintaining river flows for fish, while the bureau is using its water for the Klamath Reclamation Project, a federal irrigation project covering 225,000 acres along the Oregon-California border south of Klamath Falls.
Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran has joined with Louisiana Sen. David Vitter to introduce legislation to avoid potentially drastic flood insurance rate increases. Cochran is the primary cosponsor to the Responsible Implementation of Flood Insurance Reform Act, which was developed in response to increasing concerns from Mississippians about the prospect of significantly higher flood insurance rates being imposed as early as 2014. The Vitter-Cochran legislation would delay the phase-in period for new flood insurance rates until communities have time to better plan for them, give flexibility to state and local governments to assist with subsidizing flood insurance, and reform some FEMA flood mapping procedures.
Delta Farm Press
A group of industry leaders from South Carolina hospitality and agriculture associations met Thursday to promote the need for comprehensive immigration reform. The groups say the time is now for a pathway to legal work status for undocumented workers and there is need for a national employment verification system. They say it is also time to improve U.S. national border security.
WACH-TV, Columbia, South Carolina
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is seeking applications from cooperatives to provide technical assistance to small, socially disadvantaged agricultural producers in rural areas. The USDA remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Funding will be made available through USDA Rural Development's Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant program. The maximum grant award is $200,000.
When Patrick and Sharon O'Toole began their ranching business on the Wyoming-Colorado border, they tended the sheep themselves. But eventually, the O'Tooles wanted to settle down and have kids, so they hired foreign ranch hands with H-2A, or guest worker, visas to work on the ranch for $750 a month. Peruvian shepherds on guest worker visas tend thousands of sheep in Wyoming, but they only make about half of what agricultural workers elsewhere are paid. Under the U.S. Senate's newest immigration proposal, these guest workers would receive a special exemption from minimum wage rules. The proposal has stirred disagreements between ranch owners and workers' rights advocates.
National Public Radio’s Morning Edition
The Supreme Court of New Zealand has ordered the Ministry for Primary Industries to halt the implementation of new regulations that would open a new export market for foreign pork processors. According to Tuesday’s order, until the court makes a final ruling, New Zealand will not allow the import of consumer-ready raw pork from the United States, Mexico, Canada and Europe. The regulatory agency recently approved the import of limited quantities (3-kilogram packages or less) of retail-ready fresh pork, but the domestic pork industry challenged those regulations in court. The new ban, which took effect at the end of May, will remain in place during the appeal process from the New Zealand Pork Industry Board.
Thailand's pork producers rallied in front of Government House, the seat of Thailand's government, against plans to import U.S. pork and pork offal. The protesters presented 100 pig heads as part of a ritual to seek divine blessings for their cause. Some of the heads carried small U.S. flags with a picture of a hog in the middle and a phrase saying "U.S. Pork No Entry." Swine Raisers Association president Surachai Sutthitham, who led the protest, said pork producers are not the only ones who will be affected if the Thai government yields to the influence of the U.S. Sutthitham said after Vietnam opened its pork market to the U.S., half its local producers had to quit. Vietnamese farmers who grew crops used as pig feed, such as corn and cassava, also suffered, he said.
Rep. Hank Johnson unpacked a few bags of groceries on the House floor to demonstrate the paltry diet he'll live on for the next week. Johnson is taking the food stamp challenge, under which he and several other members will live on just $31.50 worth of food for a week. Johnson and other Democrats are taking the challenge to highlight cuts to food stamps that are being proposed in both the House and Senate farm bill. "I went to Safeway, and here is my bill," Johnson said as he unpacked his bags. "It is for $29.76."
The chair of the Senate Ag Committee has several concerns with the proposed sale of Smithfield Foods to a Chinese company. Debbie Stabenow says food safety is a big one—and she says Shaunghui International has a “spotty track record” in that area. Asked about the Smithfield purchase, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack also cited food safety concerns.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry put the stakes bluntly “If we agree on the rules of the road about data transmission and privacy,” he said, “if we can bring our regulations regarding safety and other kinds of things together,” then “we will have established a huge number of goods and products being produced according to a set of standards. And others who want to get into that are going to have to raise their game.” The United States and Europe have different auto-safety requirements, for example, and not all American states have the same ones. They differ on how to ensure the safety of chicken — the Europeans do not allow the import of American chicken that has been chlorinated to kill bacteria. They differ on the safety of genetically modified grains and foods. In general, said Mr. Elliott of Brookings, European regulators “have a more cautionary approach than Americans, and they have to prove safety rather than disprove arguments about why something is unsafe.” American regulators generally require scientific evidence that something is unsafe; the Europeans are more precautionary.
Farm Bill Update
A landmark five-year Farm Bill cleared the Senate, setting the stage for a long-delayed fight on the House floor next week over major revisions in agriculture policy and the future of food stamps. The 66-27 roll call exceeded last year’s margin with 18 Republicans joining Democrats on passage. And the increased GOP support makes it more difficult for Speaker John Boehner to walk away from the choices before him — as he did last summer. the task at hand is difficult. Republicans are genuinely divided over the role of government in farm policy, with the speaker — a veteran of the House Agriculture Committee — engaged in his own personal war against a new milk- supply management proposal in both the House and Senate bills. Food-stamp reform and the deep cuts demanded by the House raise fundamental questions for both parties. On top of all this, nearly 200 of the 435 House members have never before been part of a farm bill debate given the immense turnover of recent years. The result could be a bloody free-for-all, driven by regional and ideological differences.
Farmers and ranchers deal with many variables on a daily basis. From Mother Nature and commodity prices to political decisions in far-flung corners of the world, many events that might have little impact on most industries carry significant importance, and in some cases substantial threat, for ag producers in America. Washington should not create another moving target by delaying updated long-term ag policy. This week, the Senate took a big step toward providing greater certainty for ag producers in Nebraska and across the country by passing a new five-year farm bill. I voted for this bill.johanns.senate.gov
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, including $404 million for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas.
The US Congress wants to deny 2 million people food stamps, while hardly denting large agribusinesses.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday that he will vote for the House farm bill despite having some "concerns" about legislation that is heading for floor action this week.
The Senate voted Monday to approve its version of the farm bill, a massive spending measure that covers everything from food stamps to crop insurance and sets the nation's farm policy for the next five years. The centerpiece of that policy is an expanded crop insurance program, designed to protect farmers from losses, that some say amounts to a highly subsidized gift to agribusiness. That debate is set to continue as the House plans to take up its version of the bill this month.
National Public Radio’s Morning Edition
As the House prepares to take up the Farm Bill, Illinois 17th District Congresswoman and House Ag Committee member Cheri Bustos says the biggest debate will come over the nutrition programs. “In the Senate version there are cuts to the SNAP program but those cuts are much less severe than what is in the House version,” she says. “And that has a lot of people worked up.” Bustos tells Brownfield both parties will have to come together to get a five-year Farm Bill accomplished. “The only way we’re going to be able to get those important pieces of legislation through is if we all have a willingness to compromise and give a little bit,” she says. “We have to look out for the people who we’re representing.”
Texas Food Bank Network officials say if the proposed cuts in the federal farm bill passes Congress, some 171,000 Texans could be dropped from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. Texas could face $1 billion in lost federal benefits and result in 481.7 million meals being eliminated. Bexar County residents could lose $87 million in benefits, which would eliminate 38 million meals and kick 13,559 local individuals off food stamps. Bizjournal.com
Iowa Representative Steve King was successful in attaching his “Protect Interstate Commerce Act” to the House Ag Committee’s farm bill. And King says he will fight to keep that language in the bill once it hits the House floor, and eventually, a House-Senate conference committee. The amendment would bar states from imposing their own animal welfare standards on eggs, meat and other ag products brought in from other states.
Both of Iowa’s senators, Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley, voted for the Senate Farm Bill. But Grassley says there are a couple of aspects of the bill he doesn’t agree with. “It spends too much overall—more belt-tightening can be made on nutrition programs,” Grassley says, “and it has a target price program which takes us backwards in farm policy about 15 years.” But Grassley also sees positives in the bill.
The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act addresses many priorities critical to United Fresh members, including programs supporting essential research, market promotion and nutrition, and continues their support of specialty crops that was established in the 2008 Farm Bill. “We congratulate the Senate Agriculture Committee and Senate Leadership for moving forward with this legislation that is so important to the nation’s produce providers,” said Tom Stenzel, United Fresh CEO. “The bill supports fruits and vegetables in ways that will boost consumption and help provide healthful options to Americans – through block grants, nutrition programs and pest and disease research. We’re looking forward to working with the House to preserve funding for these critical fruit and vegetable programs.”
Western Farm Press
USA Rice Producers' Group Chairman and Texas rice producer Linda Raun applauded the 66-27 Senate vote to pass its 2013 farm bill, S. 954. Raun said U.S. rice producers now are positioned to work for passage soon of the House bill, H.R. 1947, when that chamber's floor deliberations commence, possibly as early as next week. USA Rice Federation strongly supports the House committee bill, is coordinating the bill's floor-vote preparations with House leaders and is communicating its views to rice-district House members. USA Rice joined with 193 other organizations in sending a letter to all House members to express "strong support for a new five-year bill and commend the House Committee on Agriculture for advancing a bill for timely action" by the House.
Western Farm Press
Tobacco growers across the Southeast would get a significant reduction in risk if the U.S. Senate version of the farm bill is signed into law, according to North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan. Senator Hagan secured major victories for North Carolina farmers in the 2013 farm bill. Hagan led a bipartisan coalition of Southeast legislators in defeating an amendment that would have significantly harmed roughly 2,000 tobacco farmers in the region.
Western Farm Press
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