subscribe to AgClips, the weekly e-newsletter providing a roundup of
rural development news from the regional offices of The Council of State Governments
and State Agriculture and Rural Leaders, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with
"subscribe-agclips" in the subject line or contact any of the regional staff listed at the bottom
|:: September 19-September 26,
Food and Rural Communities
Federal and International
UW-Extension released its report on the Economic Impact of Wisconsin Agriculture. Agriculture has a $88.3 billion impact on the state's economy, up from $59 billion, an increase of 49.3 %.
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed his groundwater regulation bill, a bill that one local farmer says will not only hurt his business, but also the county’s economy. “I have to look at buying less pickups, employing less people, buying less tractors. You name it, from top to bottom,” said Pete Belluomini, the VP of Farming for Lehr Brothers Inc. “We are tied to the groundwater 100 %, " he said, "so ultimately it will have an effect on consumer prices. There’s just no getting around that.”
Potential conflicts between farming and other land uses in Oregon are likely to inspire new legislative proposals next year. “Don’t be surprised to see several bills dealing with non-farm development,” said Jim Johnson, land use specialist with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Some land uses are permitted outright in “exclusive farm use” zones in Oregon, but nonetheless may be incompatible with surrounding farms. For example, wetland mitigation banks are created on farmland to offset the loss of wetlands to development in other areas. Aside from taking land out of production, those newly-created wetlands can create drainage problems for nearby growers and attract birds that eat crops, Johnson said. One farmer has likened the situation to the wetland bank providing lodging for birds while farmers provide the restaurant, he said.
A preliminary draft report contains numerous proposals, some of which are briefly summarized here: Improve international and domestic market access for state farm goods by funding Oregon State University programs aimed at “business development, value added manufacturing and other rural economic development initiatives.” Fund OSU programs aimed at food safety. Support local food systems by helping people to use federal food programs to purchase local produce. Develop a “consistent policy on rural agritourism and related events.” Some agritourism events have run into conflicts with state land use laws in the past. State agencies should coordinate to ensure railroads are preserved and to steer investment toward more transportation “infrastructure,” in cooperation with farm groups and local governments. Prevent the conversion of valuable farmland to other uses, in part by supporting succession planning programs at OSU and helping beginning farmers get access to land. Lawmakers should support a proposed federal prohibition on the U.S. Department of Labor using the “hot goods” provision of labor law to block shipments of perishable farm products. Invest in irrigation water conservation and other water programs for farmers. The draft report also contains proposals specific to different regions in the state.
A pest alert system created by university researchers has kept Southern Idaho and Eastern Oregon growers up to date on disease and pest outbreaks. The free network has 1,200 subscribers but researchers say it should have a lot more.
Former Prosecuting Attorney for the City and County of Honolulu Peter Carlisle describes in detail just how far the Farming Ban initiative’s legal reach would go. Home gardeners growing certain plants, and even an ‘accomplice’ helping to water them, could face thousands of dollars in fines and up to one year in jail for violating the initiative’s provisions. Please look into the facts about the Farming Ban initiative before you vote.
Jim Perdue says unlike neighboring states, Maryland does not give companies any discourse
Called Field to Faucet, the initiative will seek end-to-end solutions to hazardous algal blooms and water quality issues
The Idaho Department of Water Resources and three irrigation water providers plan to conduct the state's first extensive winter aquifer recharge effort soon. IDWR hopes to recharge up to 100 cubic feet per second through seepage from 31 miles of AFRD No. 2’s unlined canal and an additional 150 cubic feet per second by diverting water to the district’s Milepost 31 recharge basin. IDWR aims to recharge 50 cubic feet per second through the Twin Falls Canal down to Murtaugh Lake. Southwest plans to recharge 25 cubic feet per second this winter through a series of injection wells. Models show a large percentage of the recharge from all three systems will remain in the aquifer beyond five years.
Starting next month, America’s remaining tobacco growers will be totally exposed to the laws of supply and demand. The very last buyout checks, totaling about $916.5 million, go out in October to about 425,000 tobacco farmers and landowners. They’re the last holdovers from a price-support and quota system that had guaranteed minimum prices for most of the 20th century, sustaining a way of life that began 400 years ago in Virginia, when the leaf became the chief cash crop of the Jamestown colony.
US corn and soybean crops could break records this year, but for farmers the bounty has a dark side: falling prices and a logistics nightmare getting crops to market.
Jointed goatgrass is even worse than it sounds. Classified as a noxious weed in Washington state, it’s considered a threat to the state’s wheat industry. The wild grass can hybridize with winter wheat, reducing yields. But jointed goatgrass is resistant to stripe rust, a bacterial infection that’s the scourge of grain growers. In 2012, the fungus accounted for $500 million in crop loses for U.S. wheat farmer. WSU researchers discovered the gene that makes it difficult to beneficially cross wheat with related wild grasses. This advance, combined with the knowledge of how to selectively silence it, means it is now possible to make targeted crosses between wheat and related species. So you can get a wheat variety resistant to rust without the reduced yield that would come from introducing all of jointed goatgrass’ chromosomes, along with the hundreds of thousands of other genes that come with it, into wheat. The promise, then, is of wheat varieties with the kind of precision-targeted improvements seen in GMO crops but without the creepiness of introducing an unrelated species into the crop. Still, said Kulvinder Gill, one of the authors of the study, a bit more genetic engineering will be necessary before we can arrive at that point. While what the researchers propose isn’t splicing a gene from one species into another, bypassing natural breeding, the new wheat variety they’re developing is assisted by some biotechnology that would be at home in a Monsanto laboratory—but it results in non-GMO seed.
We recently reported on the PETA campaign to systematically euthanize an entire populace of feral cats in an Arizona county. But when San Diego came looking for a solution to its feral pig problem, PETA had different views, protesting the county’s proposed lethal methods of pest control. When pigs rather than cats are on the line, it looks like PETA does a complete 180. For years, the city of San Diego has struggled to control a growing population of feral pigs that is contaminating rural reservoirs, destroying delicate ecosystems, and damaging local agriculture. In response, officials announced that the city would begin a coordinated campaign to put down the region’s feral pigs by trapping or shooting them. Given that PETA recommended systematic killing as a prescription for overpopulation of feral cats, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to presume PETA would approve of San Diego’s solution to its pig problem. Instead, PETA criticized the program. Speaking on the issue of feral swine, one PETA cruelty case workers explained: “No animal should be killed for [trying to survive].” Unless, evidently, you are a stray kitty. Unfortunately, PETA’s hypocrisy comes as no surprise: The animal “activist” kills up to 97 percent of dogs and cats in its so-called animal shelter in any given year.
A brand-new GMO pesticide is about to hit the market and the health of your brain could be in trouble. Dr. Oz needs your help to stop it before it’s too late. This show will challenge the food industry, the chemical industry and the President.
One trend across all 11 questions that emerges is that members of the public are much more likely to indicate they don’t know the prevalence of industry practices than are beef producers. This isn’t surprising, but it reinforces the notion that there’s a need for ongoing educational efforts to raise basic awareness of production practices within the general public, and to engage more broadly in additional “this is how beef is produced” discussions.
The Mercy for Animals video of animal abuse on a New Mexico dairy makes everyone’s blood boil. First, there’s the alleged abuse. I say alleged because so many of the scenes seem staged, and don’t represent anything of what happens on 99.9% of dairies in this country. I’m not saying a tired, frustrated milker or cow pusher might not hand slap a balky cow now and then. They’re human; frustration sometimes boils over. But this kind of routine abuse with chains and wires does not happen with any kind of frequency any dairy that I know of. Period. Dairy owners and dairy managers simply do not tolerate this kind of abuse. Second, using hip clamps to load a down cow into a trailer doesn’t make sense. If the workers were loading the cow into the trailer to euthanize her, as the video claims, why would they go to that trouble? It’s a lot simpler and safer (for the workers) to euthanize the animal where she is. Loading a non-ambulatory animal onto a trailer to move her to another spot and then drag her off to euthanize is, again, stupid. After last year’s down cow incident in Wisconsin, one would think producers everywhere had gotten the message. Third, how did this animal rights videographer get on to, and/or hired by, the dairy? The dairy fired its entire staff within hours of release of the video. Cattle were dispersed to neighboring herds. And the dairy has been shut down for good.
1. Cooperative Conservation: A Producer-Led Approach to Achieving Healthy Agricultural Landscapes: 2. Increasing Sustainability of America’s Working Landscapes Through Improved Public-Private Collaborations at Multiple Scales: 3. Towards a Knowledge Infrastructure for Science-Based Policy and Sustainable Management of Agricultural Landscapes: 4. Securing the Future of Western Agriculture: A Perspective of Western Producers: 5. Food and Beverage Company Sustainable Sourcing Initiatives in Farming Regions.
Frontline investigates the widespread use of antibiotics in food animals and whether it is fueling the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance in people. Also this hour: An exclusive interview with the family of a young man who died in a nightmare bacteria outbreak that swept through a hospital at the National Institutes of Health.
The Legislature and the Brown administration apparently believe California’s farmworkers cannot be trusted to exercise their democratic rights. It’s the only plausible explanation for their efforts — via an administrative process and legislation — to invalidate the votes of 3,000 Fresno area workers who took part in a union election. Workers at Gerawan Farming voted on a labor contract 10 months ago, but the Agricultural Labor Relations Board refuses to even count their votes. Instead, ALRB argues the election is invalid and is trying to force the workers to accept a controversial “no strike” contract.
Farmers’ complaints about railroad practices are nothing new. The latest round of criticisms says railroads are favoring Bakken oil over grain shipments. As a result, farmers worry they will watch their harvest spoil on the ground.
A series of television commercials say Maui farms and the county's economy will suffer if voters vote "Yes" to a moratorium on cultivating and reproducing genetically engineered organisms in Maui County. Maui farmer Darrell Tanaka believes hundreds of jobs are at stake because a GMO ban could lead to other anti-farming measures. "The same people who back the anti-GMO movement also back the anti-pesticide movement," he said. "What all small farmers don't want to see is a ban on pesticides." Some Maui voters think the wording of the ballot question is confusing.
Hawaii News Now
UK's crop at its Spindletop Research Farm was one of the first legal hemp crops in Kentucky in more than 50 years. Research trials allowed by the federal Farm Bill led to the planting of about 15 acres from Murray to Eastern Kentucky. Otherwise cultivating hemp is illegal.
Consider the potential economic disruption that federal legalization of marijuana could create. It’s a potential multi-billion dollar industry. There’s some speculation that widespread federal legalization of marijuana is very possible within the next decade. Some companies are betting on that assumption, building infrastructure to avoid getting caught flat-footed if and when legalization occurs.
Farmer-paid winter wheat premiums will be lo wer for 2015, regardless of the Risk Management Agency (RMA) rate changes. The r eason for lower premiums per acre is the winter wheat crop insurance price el ection for 2015 has dropped from $7.02 to $6.30 and volatility has declined from 19% to 17%, an all-time low over the past 17 years. In 2013 the winter w heat approved volatility value was 24%. Those volatilities and prices are set by the market and out of RMA’s control. The third factor for setting a premium is the farmer’s APH, also outside of RMA’s control. RMA does set the rate and the premium cost is then adjusted based on the APH, volatility, and base price.
Two Indiana agricultural companies, Elanco and Dow AgroSciences, are announcing a strategic research and development agreement that will focus on developing integrated solutions to enable livestock producers to increase meat and milk production to meet the demands of the growing global population.
The Advanced Ethanol Council and BIO are running a full-page ad in the New York Times aimed at the White House. The ad asserts that if the administration accepts the EPA’s proposal to alter the RFS, President Obama will have “ inadvertently done more to damage [his] climate legacy than [his] worst enemies.” The message coincides with “The People’s Climate March,” which had 300,000 attendees, and the beginning of Climate Week. This ad follows a series of competing ads run by Fuels America and API. The organizations released ads targeting the White House’s decision on the RFS volume obligations. API’s ad is a TV stop, while Fuels America’s campaign ran a full-page USA Today ad from September 19-21.
As a result of emergency spending limitations and slashed federal budgets for many public programs, some related to agriculture, rural American may just now be entering a period foretold by policy architects and analysts at the height of the spending cut frenzy. Those predictions included that so much budget cutting and program slashing would have an adverse effect on important and ongoing issues like food safety and national security. One clear example is the closing of the USDA-ARS Kika de la Garza Subtropical Agricultural Research Center in Weslaco, Texas. The days of effective agriculture-based research on the U.S.-Mexico border ended thanks to congressional budget cuts in 2010, which designated the center for closure. The Weslaco center, along with nine other ARS centers across the nation, were on a list of budget cuts that resulted in closing that station and reducing field-based research in South Texas, a key research location for inbound tropical pests and disease. The facility was the largest ARS research center in the United States.
Southwest Farm Press
A supplier of eggs to the trout industry is developing what appears to be a viable alternative to hormone use to produce all-female trout for commercial production. Up to 90 % of commercial trout raised in the U.S. are female, desired for their overall efficiency, but FDA approval of the hormone needed to produce them is not guaranteed. The effort began in 2005 when Troutlodge crew members came across unusual males in the company’s brood population. A very small percentage, less than 1 %, of the company’s male population displayed odd sexual characteristics. the rare males contained a genetic mutation in a non-sex chromosome that overrides the sex-determining chromosome and must contain two copies of the recessive gene in order to express as male, he said. They crossed the rare males with normal females and produced 99 % to 100 % female offspring in the 54 pairings that produced offspring,
Modern supercrops will be a big help. But agriculture can’t be fixed by biotech alone.
Belahi is the product of an education program aimed at preparing wannabe farmers for the hazards of starting a farm. She attended the Central Illinois Farm Beginnings program, a yearlong series of seminars, workshops and mentorships offered by The Land Connection, a nonprofit. The program's goal is for students to finish with a workable business plan. "People come to us with a lot of passion, but they know they might not have the business acumen. During the past decade, several farmer education programs have sprouted up in Illinois. The Central Illinois Farm Beginnings program costs students $1,250 for nine weeks of seminars as well as workshops and a mentorship with an experienced farmer that altogether last a year.
A three-year initiative to partner farmers, ranchers and foresters with technical and research bodies to help adapt to drought, unusual seasons and other consequences of climate change to agriculture. Solutions From the Land, a nonprofit focused on finding land-based strategies to mitigate climate change, unveiled the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Initiative today at the U.N. Climate Summit in New York. With the initiative comes the creation of the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance, which will include agriculture heavyweights like the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union and commodity crop associations. The initiative was created to facilitate discussions on adaptation between experts and producers on new tools and production systems. It was also created to review the latest information on how climate change is affecting agriculture and forestry. The group will collaborate with Agriculture Department-backed projects, such as the Climate and Corn-based Cropping Systems Coordinated Agriculture Project, an effort to improve efficiency and productivity in corn.
Farmers who plant Enlist crops can spray their fields with Enlist herbicide and kill weeds but not the crops. Dow, which had $7.1 billion in revenues in 2013, hopes Enlist will boost its share of the lucrative U.S. seed market, which now is dominated by Monsanto. But threats of lawsuits by food safety and environmental groups who want to block Enlist could delay Dow's hopes to have farmers planting the new crops next spring. Critics have inundated regulators with predictions that Enlist herbicide, made with 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, (2-4D), will increase already severe weed resistance problems on farms and create safety issues for consumers.
Using probiotics as an alternative to antibiotics in poultry production has proven to be effective in keeping chickens healthy, according to Dr. Bruce Stewart-Brown, senior vice president of food safety at Perdue Farms. While the company still uses antibiotics in some flocks to control parasites and treat illnesses, it has reduced its use of antibiotics.
Fonterra, the world’s biggest milk supplier, has cut the amount it will pay farmers after a fall in global dairy prices that may take the shine off New Zealand’s surging economy
Even as billions of dollars in toll road projects are in various stages of development across Texas, state leaders say their home is still a hot spot for new toll projects. Joe Weber, the Texas Department of Transportation’s executive director, echoed other state officials when he described tolling as “vital” to the state’s future mobility planning as Texas tries to close the gap on a road funding shortfall. The tax Texans pay on a gallon of gas — 38.4 cents — has not changed since 1993 even as road construction costs have risen sharply and cars have become more fuel efficient, reducing the amount of money raised. A state proposition on the November ballot, if it passes, is projected to raise a third of the agency’s $5 billion annual shortfall by diverting some tax revenue from oil and gas production to the state highway fund.
Several states are trying to make the sport of hunting into a constitutional right for its citizens. In light of the continued opposition of animal activists, maybe that’s not a bad idea. Down in Mississippi a proposed amendment asking voters to approve making hunting and fishing one of the rights enshrined in the state constitution. If voters approve, it would make Mississippi one of 17 states that have enacted similar provisions ensuring constitutional protection for hunting and fishing.
Entrepreneurs in these regions are innovating in ways specific to the economic heritage of their region. While many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs (and investors) have a “hits” mentality — if they don’t strike it rich quickly they often quit and move on to the next thing — the Midwestern work ethic leads to a more patient approach. This approach should bode well in the third wave of the Internet, where patience, perseverance and partnerships will play more of a role. In this next wave we will see revolutions in health, education, energy, and food — but they’ll likely happen in evolutionary ways. Over the next decade, innovation and investment will accelerate in “flyover country” for five reasons: Advancements in technology are enabling start-ups to take shape for a fraction of the cost it took just a decade ago. Increased mobility enables “Rise of the Rest” start-ups to more easily attract talent — often by luring people back to Midwestern cities for lifestyle reasons, and by tapping into expertise all across the world via by leveraging networks. Lower cost of living enables investment capital and paychecks to go much further. The major start-up expenses such as salaries and office space cost less, and the cost of living is considerably lower for employees. Local support is building with the creation of accelerators and greater engagement from the leading local companies, universities, and government officials. Greater access to capital is making it easier for companies to start and scale. Local angel investors are emerging to back start-ups and strengthen their communities. Crowdfunding is widening the circle and enabling entrepreneurs to reach national investors.
Sportsmen hoping to bag a big moose are seeing increased competition from a tiny parasite that’s reducing moose populations in New England, prompting some states to offer hunters fewer permits. Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are issuing fewer moose hunting permits this year, citing the impact of winter ticks on the populations. Thousands of ticks are sometimes found on a single moose, and the parasites can bleed the animals and cause anemia and death.
If neonicotinoid pesticides were banned–as activists are demanding–U.S. farmers’ productivity would drop and they would resort to more toxic chemicals, the nation’s agricultural economy would be damaged, food prices would increase, and bees would be much worse off. H.L. Mencken was right that there is an easy solution to every human problem—and that it is invariably neat, plausible, and wrong. In that category is the insistence of anti-pesticide crusaders and the organic food industry that federal regulators should ban neonicotinoids, the mostly widely used class of pesticides. Activists commonly cite two justifications for such a ban: the presence of pesticide residues in foods and the supposedly detrimental effect of the chemicals on bees. Neither of these rationales is valid. Apparently the activists don’t know much about the sources of pesticidal substances found in our diet. The vast majority that we consume occur “naturally,” and they are present in organic foods as well as those that are produced with conventional methods. In a landmark research article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University of California, Berkeley, biochemist Bruce Ames and his colleagues found that “99.99 % (by weight) of the pesticides in the American diet are chemicals that plants produce to defend themselves. Only 52 natural pesticides have been tested in high-dose animal cancer tests, and about half (27) are rodent carcinogens; these 27 are shown to be present in many common foods.”
Farm Equipment Sales Decline to Record Low. Rural Mainstreet Index falls for third straight month to its lowest level in almost two years. Farmland prices decline for ninth straight month as the pace of decline quickens. On average, bank CEOs expect farmland prices to decline by 4.8 % over the next year.
An Ephrata farmer and his daughter have become the first father-daughter duo to compete on CBS’s “Survivor” in the 14 years of the reality television show.
Yellowstone National Park plans to reduce its bison population this winter by as many as 900 head, or a fifth of the herd, by killing off those animals that stray from the park in what would be the largest such culling in seven years
An official with the Humane Society of the United States is responding to recent criticism that the animal rights organization is “anti-agriculture.” A spokesman for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association calls the Humane Society of the United States an “extremist activist group” that is “against livestock producers and cattle producers.” Other critics of the HSUS have blasted it for having an alleged goal of ending all livestock operations. “They try to take one piece of information and twist it to make it a negative and ignore the full truth and facts of who HSUS is and how we operate and what we’re for,” Maxwell says. He insists the organization isn’t against farmers, but it is against agricultural practices which treat animals cruelly. The HSUS has tangled with Iowa farming operations in recent years, including in 2012, threatening to sue 28 swine operations in Iowa over what it said were inhumane conditions. The National Pork Producers Council accuses what they refer to as “radical animal rights groups” of having the “goal of ending food-animal production in the U.S.”
Sanderson Farms may yet receive an incentive package offer from officials of Cumberland County, N.C., although the idea of locating a poultry processing facility there does not have unanimous support either from the residents or from the members of the county board.
A former coal mine has become a wildlife management area. About a decade ago, the land around Coal Lake was a 100-foot deep hole. “Today, it looks as though all the land was undisturbed,” Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk said as waterfowl floated on the lake behind him. Falkirk mined to the east and west of the lake while preserving the lake and the woody draws surrounding it. The area is now open to the public for fishing, hunting, trapping, camping and other activities. “Falkirk and Great River Energy reclaimed, restored and donated the 729 acres of land to the for public use after being approached by the North Dakota Department of Transportation. A former haul road remains in place to allow access.
According to the report by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, 90 % of the acres where today the climate is suitable for lodgepole pine will become unsuitable for the species by 2060 if current emissions rates continue. This doesn’t mean that 90 % of the West's lodgepoles will die, but it does mean that much of the habitat they occupy today will not support them by 2060. Aspens will lose 60 % of the acreage that supports them today and ponderosa pines will lose 80 %. These startling numbers come with another big caveat. These “climate envelope” models contain huge amount of uncertainty, in part because they assume that climate is the single most important factor in determining where a species lives, and they don’t account for many other aspects that matter for survival: plant physiology, short term variation in temperature and precipitation, interaction with other species, or local geography
High Country News
Every day, bovine veterinarians dedicate themselves to ensuring the health and welfare of dairy and beef herds. But few people understand how these veterinarians help animals thrive or protect animal health to help protect human health and the environment. The various tasks performed by food animal veterinarians to keep dairy cattle healthy are highlighted in a mobile exhibition from the Smithsonian, “Animal Connections: Our Journey Together,” which explores the complex connections between humans and animals.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture adopted most of the standards proposed by the Olive Oil Commission of California, a group of local growers and millers who called for new testing and labeling requirements. The rules only apply to California olive oil makers who produce a minimum of 5,000 gallons a year. An estimated 100 olive growers and about a dozen millers meet that minimum. The proposal raised the ire of olive oil importers, who viewed the standards as a potential blueprint for market restrictions down the road.
The Texas Department of Agriculture has changed the rules for Go Texan wine. Going forward, any wine bearing the Go Texan label must be made from at least 75 % Texas-grown grapes. The rule is a 12-month pilot program to see if it alleviates consumer confusion
Some 150,000 Michigan families are poised to lose an average of $76 in food stamp benefits this fall due to federal cuts that many other states have taken action to avoid. The latest farm bill, signed into law here in Michigan last winter, scaled back the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which includes a provision affording extra food benefits to families who also receive assistance with heating bills. Some families who rent don’t have utility bills, but states had been able to help them qualify for extra food stamps by providing just $1 in heating assistance. Under the new farm bill, the minimum "heat and eat" payment is jumping to $21. Of the 16 states directly impacted by the federal rule change, 12 have decided to pay the higher tab to help recipients avoid food stamp cuts. Many are redirecting additional federal dollars from a separate low-income heating program.
Australian research has suggested that a red meat-rich diet helps preserve the health of the elderly.
We found bloggers from all across the country—California to New York, Washington D.C. to Utah to Florida, and even several local bloggers from North Carolina. These bloggers write about being moms, crafting, food, recipes, local politics, religion and healthful living. Varied in their interests, only one, had ever been on a farm before. Over two and a half days we took them to tour Prestage Farms, Smithfield’s processing facilities, and the meat science lab at North Carolina State University. We let them see it all—and encouraged them, at every step of the way, to ask us anything.
Farmers’ markets practically glow with wholesome virtue: Shop here, they promise, and you can help build a sustainable, healthy food system! But without the data to buttress those claims, it’s hard to know whether farmers’ markets are actually meeting those goals or how they can adapt to better meet their communities’ needs. Alfonso Morales, a professor of urban planning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wants to help change that. Morales and his partners at the Farmers Market Coalition are working with managers at nine farmers’ markets around the country to ask, “What is it that’s relevant to them and their community?” They’ll help market managers figure out what data they need and how to collect and present it. Some of the data will help address all those assumptions about the environmental benefits of farmers’ markets, such as the average number of miles the food actually travels, the number of organically farmed acres represented at the market, and how diversified the market’s farms are. Other data will speak to a market’s impact on its community by looking at the number of small businesses started through the farmers’ market, whether it attracts foot traffic to nearby shops, and the number of vendors who are minorities or women. All this data collection will help reveal how each farmers’ market is affecting its community — and how it could be doing better.
When the industrial food behemoth’s shareholders were presented with a proposal to dump all genetically modified ingredients from the company's vast lineup of brands, they responded with a resounding “No.” The Minneapolis-based company said preliminary vote totals from Tuesday’s annual shareholder meeting showed that 97.8% of participants rejected the proposal.
"We are strongly in support of federal labeling solution that will provide for consistent labeling requirements across the country, but would not vary state by state, which we believe would be impossible to implement,
Cargill and McDonald’s are among 39 companies and 32 countries endorsing a formal commitment to halt and reverse the loss of forests around the globe.
This week, we salute all those who carry forward our Nation's proud tradition on sprawling ranches and cross-hatched fields. Let us recommit to raising awareness of the dangers they face and doing our part to protect their health and well-being. Together, we can ensure a safer future for this great American industry.
The research shows there is a relationship between animal abuse and people abuse. That's why the FBI is now wanting metrics on animal abuse as an early indicator for criminal or anti-social behaviors among people, and I think it's a good move
The U.S. Court for the Northern District of West Virginia earlier ruled against EPA and in favor of farmer Lois Alt in October 2013. The court rejected EPA’s contention that the Clean Water Act regulates ordinary stormwater runoff from the farmyard (non-production areas) at large livestock or poultry farms. Since no federal court had ever addressed the question of stormwater runoff from farms such as Alt’s, the lower court’s ruling carries implications for tens of thousands of poultry and livestock farms nationwide. An appellate court decision upholding that ruling would make it even harder for EPA to persist in imposing wide-scale federal permitting requirements. EPA’s voluntary dismissal of its appeal signals the agency’s desire to avoid a likely loss in the appellate court. The appeal could still go forward if any of the five environmental groups that intervened in support of EPA decides to go forward without the government.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said state officials must be ready to assist thousands of families whose lives would be impacted if the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shuts down oyster harvesting in Apalachicola Bay. Putnam wouldn’t go so far as to say he’d support closing the Northwest Florida bay to harvesting. But he expressed confidence in the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s biologists who are working to revive the waterway, which has struggled from over-harvesting and a reduction in water coming out of Georgia. “If that’s the conclusion their scientists come to, we’re going to respect a lot of their work,” Putnam said. “And if that’s the conclusion they come to, then all of us across state government need to be prepared to move in and assist those families that will be devastated.”
EPA is echoing calls from environmentalists and North Carolina regulators for a federal district court to dismiss and return to state court an industry suit aiming to block the state from issuing Clean Water Act permits for farm dust, arguing that the federal court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case and it must be resolved in state court. In an amicus brief in Rose Acre Farms Inc. v. North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources , EPA agrees with DENR and environmentalist intervener’s' arguments that the case presents no question a federal court can decide, because it does not deal with the conduct of a federal agency or any interstate activity. The case, pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, aims to overturn a 2013 North Carolina Superior Court decision allowing DENR to move forward with CWA National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requirements for feathers and farm dust. By moving the suit to a federal court, Rose Acre is hoping to invoke a West Virginia district judge's 2013 ruling that EPA had no authority to issue CWA permits for airborne pollutants in Lois Alt, et al. v. EPA, et al. If the court dismisses the suit, it would prevent industry from solidifying its earlier victory in Alt, where the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia ruled that runoff carrying feathers and farm dust from a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) is exempted by rule from NPDES permit requirements as "agricultural stormwater," rejecting EPA's argument that the court must defer to its narrow reading of the agricultural exemption.
The federal government issued a new blueprint for its efforts to restore the Great Lakes, including plans to clean up 10 contaminated rivers and harbors and step up its attack on poisonous algae blooms that coat parts of three lakes each summer. The program will include a new attempt to buffer the lakes against the effects of climate change. It will require, for example, that new wetlands include plants that can thrive in warmer temperatures.
The Federal Aviation Administration has taken a big step forward on drones: It's now allowing some filmmakers to operate robotic flying cameras on commercial movie and TV sets. The decision marks the first time the agency has granted a commercial entity an exemption from the rules that prohibit drones from flying in U.S. airspace without a special certificate. The civil drone industry has been pressuring the FAA to relax that ban and to develop new regulations designed to safely integrate unmanned vehicles into the nation's air traffic system. While we're still waiting for those formal rules, the FAA is now saying that making movies with drones, or TV shows, or advertisements, or anything else you might do on a closed production set, is legal — so long as you can prove it's safe.
Food safety warnings are not “regulatory takings” by the government, and, therefore, Uncle Sam does not have to compensate tomato growers who lost big money when the public was warned about a 2008 Salmonella outbreak. Tomato “growers, packers, and shippers” in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina have lost the claim they made for federal reimbursement after the FDA mistakenly named certain tomatoes as the likely cause of a Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak that later turned out to be caused by Mexican-grown jalapeņo and serrano peppers.
Food Safety News
The American Meat Institute and eight co-plaintiffs have filed a petition for panel rehearing and rehearing en banc and a motion for miscellaneous relief with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit as part of its appeal for a preliminary injunction to block implementation of the USDA’s May 2013 final rule on country-of-origin labeling. The move follows the July 29 decision by the Appeals Court to reject the coalition’s appeal of the denial of its July 22, 2013 request for a preliminary injunction to block implementation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s. The petition seeks a panel rehearing and rehearing en banc to contest the authority of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to regulate production practices in the COOL rule, specifically by prohibiting the commingling of meat products. This issue was not addressed by the en banc panel and the Petition argues that the earlier opinions of the District Court and three judge Appeals Court panel, which condone this aspect of the regulation, contradict established legal precedent.
FDA released revisions to its proposed produce safety rule Sept. 19 and growers and farm group leaders are sorting through the 152-page technical document to try to determine whether the changes are reasonable and economically viable for farmers.
The American Feed Industry Association said it welcomes the pre-publication of four re-proposed rules pertaining to the Food Safety Modernization Act. At first glance, the FDA has incorporated many of the changes AFIA recommended in its comments. While AFIA believes it is reasonable for FDA to re-propose these rules based on complexity alone, the association is concerned with the re-proposal’s financial impact. “The additional cost, with very limited added benefit, continues to be a major concern for AFIA. FDA seriously underestimated the cost of the proposed rule and the additions within this re-proposal have the potential to drive that cost up even further,” said Richard Sellers, AFIA senior vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs. The comment period to review all four rules is 75 days after publication in the Federal Register, which will take place the week of September 22.
Antibiotic resistance is a serious public health threat. Like the 2013 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on antibiotic resistance, President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report provides an important perspective and context on antibiotic resistance and the role of both human and animal medicine. Judicious use of antibiotics is important in all settings, including agriculture. That’s why everyone in animal agriculture – animal health companies, farmers, ranchers and veterinarians – are working together to implement FDA’s policy to phase out the use of antibiotics to promote growth and phase in veterinarian oversight. Every company with animal health products affected by this policy has affirmed their intent to comply with FDA’s policy. As a result of FDA’s judicious use policy, all medically important antibiotics used in food animals will be used to fight disease and will be administered under the supervision of a veterinarian.
Oklahoma State University and Kansas State University have released a computer decision aid to help farmers decide on the best option for participation in the 2014 Farm Bill commodity program. This computer aid will allow farmers to evaluate the program and to start thinking about the option that best fits their farm.
Secretary Vilsack announced the regulations for the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs created by the 2014 Farm Bill. Along with the regulation, Secretary Vilsack also announced the public release of the web-based decision tools that have been developed under cooperative agreements with the Farm Service Agency. This article provides more information on these items.
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is investing $15.7 million through grants to 47 entities that will help develop and demonstrate cutting-edge ideas to accelerate innovation in private lands conservation. Recipients of USDA’s Conservation Innovation Grants will demonstrate innovative approaches to improve soil health, air and water quality, conserve energy, and enhance wildlife habitat in balance with productive agricultural systems.
"These USDA investments capitalize rural small businesses, which allows the owners to expand operations, enter into new markets and increase hiring," O'Brien said. "The investments we are announcing today include financing to development organizations for microlending to very small rural businesses. Funds are also being provided to utilities to pass on to local businesses for development projects. These innovative programs increase economic opportunities in rural areas.
"Farmers, ranchers and other producers in the U.S. and around the world are feeling the impact of climate change now. They are experiencing production challenges from extended droughts, more severe flooding, stronger storms, and new pests and diseases. The Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture offers the opportunity to collaboratively share knowledge, make investments and develop policies that will empower all producers to adapt to climate change and to mitigate its consequences. Long term global food security depends on us acting together now."
The agency is looking for breakthrough ideas on how to find disease-causing organisms in food as part of the 2014 FDA Food Safety Challenge. The competition was developed under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 which gives federal agencies the authority to conduct prize competitions to spur innovation, solve problems and advance core missions. The FDA challenge offers a total prize pool of $500,000.
The Federal Trade Commission is considering a possible antitrust lawsuit to block the planned merger of Sysco Corp. and US Foods Inc., concerned that combining the nation's two biggest food suppliers to restaurants, schools and other institutions could threaten competition
Just a few weeks ago, the newest bill went into effect. It was meant to save money by swapping $5 billion in annual direct payments to farmers with a new kind of crop insurance. But this insurance subsidy is turning out to be even more bloated and wasteful than the old cash giveaways. The new crop-insurance program, known as price-loss coverage, pays farmers when they suffer so-called shallow losses. (A separate federal insurance program covers catastrophic crop failures caused by floods, hail and drought.) So when prices fall somewhat, as they have this summer, farmers come in for a payout. That wouldn't necessarily cost taxpayers so much, except that Congress, under pressure from Big Ag, pegged the price floors that trigger payouts to the record-breaking commodities prices of recent years. The average price that results in payouts to corn producers, for instance, is $3.70 a bushel. Thanks to a crop that may be the biggest on record, corn now fetches only $3.40 a bushel. In the case of wheat, the trigger price is $5.50 a bushel, and the current price is $4.93 a bushel. Prices for peanuts, sunflower seeds and some other commodities are lower than or close to the trigger levels, too.
A new report prepared by the Environment America Research and Policy Center has revealed than in 2012 alone, more than 206 million pounds of toxic chemicals found were dumped into waterways. The report, dramatically named the "Wasting Our Waters" report, comes as the EPA considers a new ruling that would add Clean Water Act protections to about two million miles of critical waterways across the nation. This move, which would redefine "waters of the United States," is sternly opposed to by a great deal of private land owners and the agricultural sector, for fear that the CWA would be used to control private waterways and hurt business. But EPA officials argue that total control isn't their aim, and instead simply want to prevent harmful practices and highlight alternative and greener solutions.
The Canadian government will fine Canadian National Railway Co for failing to meet minimum weekly grain volumes under an official order demanding railways ramp up grain shipments or face penalties
Canadian National Railway Co. (CNR) said the federal government should lower a grain shipment minimum because farmers haven’t been sending enough of the crop to allow the railroad to comply with the order.
Around 100 farmers hauled artichokes, potatoes and broccoli to Morlaix by tractor, unloaded them onto the streets and set them ablaze, Reuters reports. Demonstrators also dumped piles of manure in the streets of the Breton town. During the mayhem, angry farmers ransacked and set alight the local tax office and agricultural mutual insurance building. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls accused the farmers of obstructing firemen trying to put out the fires, and called for arsonists to be prosecuted.
Wall Street Journal
The bilateral agreement is expected to remove tariffs on Canadian agri-food exports.
Energy and Renewables
Environmental and citizen groups are urging Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to rethink leasing land under the Ohio River for oil and natural gas drilling. Ohio and West Virginia groups expressed concerns that the state won’t sufficiently safeguard against releases that could harm water supplies. Groups said more than 5 million people use the Ohio for drinking water. Until Sept. 25, the state is taking bids on the rights to the reserves below 22 miles of the river.
California hopes to meet its Low Carbon Fuel Standard goals through 2020 by gaining a significant share of increasing US production of biodiesel, renewable diesel and natural gas, as well as attracting lower carbon intensity ethanol, the California Air Resources Board said. Under the state's LCFS, sellers of transportation fuels must reduce the fuels' carbon intensity 10% by 2020. Fuel types are assigned a CI score based on their life cycle emissions. As 2020 approaches, the rules require increasingly stringent reductions in fuel carbon intensity. The board laid out a scenario in which targets might be met mainly through an expected ratcheting up of production of fuels that are now generating most of the LCFS credits
It has taken years of expensive bioengineering to figure out how to break down tough natural material meant to give plants enough structure to stand upright and convert it to sugars that can be fermented into fuels. Ethanol producers have also had to persuade farmers to accommodate the collecting and bundling of the agricultural waste they were generally accustomed to tilling under the field or leaving on top to help enrich the soil or control its erosion. Feeding a new generation of factories that can consume hundreds of thousands of tons of biomass to produce 20 million to 30 million gallons of ethanol a year has meant new costs in labor and equipment.
Operating profits for many ethanol makers more than doubled in the second quarter compared with last year, reflecting lower prices for corn and strong demand for the fuel, sustained partly by exports. Valero Energy, which owns 11 U.S. ethanol plants reported operating income of 63 cents per gallon, more than double that of the quarter a year ago. Just two years ago, the nation’s 212 ethanol plants saw profits take a free fall as the price of corn climbed in some regions to $8 per bushel. More than 20 U.S. ethanol plants were shuttered.
The Railroad Commission of Texas will meet Monday morning to consider an issue of huge importance to landowners across Texas. It has to do with how the state oversees energy companies that need access to private land. At issue at the hearing will be pipelines for oil & gas. But there are other land use issues emerging in the hot plays including the Eagle Ford shale of South Texas.
A farming company in Kern County, California, has sued four oil producers over claims that their faulty wastewater injection methods led to the contamination of groundwater it uses for irrigation. Palla Farms LLC, a ninety-two-year-old family farm operation, says it had to tear out hundreds of cherry trees due to high levels of salt and boron in the groundwater it has used to irrigate its crops for the past 25 years. The company claims its almond orchard has also experienced production declines.
The U.S. energy outlook is great. Really fracking great. And that means great things for the rest of the U.S. economy as well — as long as oil prices don’t get too low. It’s not news that America is undergoing an oil and gas boom. Or that the boom has been brought to us by the dedicated efforts of dozens of independent oil companies working to perfect the one-two punch of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. What is news is that the boom is showing no signs of slowing down. Ten years into the shale drilling revolution, oil and gas companies have proven that this is “the real deal,” says Pickering. And as drilling expands it will continue to “the next big thing” for another 20 years.
Increased oil and gas production presents challenges for transportation infrastructure because some of this increase is in areas with limited transportation linkages. For example, insufficient pipeline capacity to transport crude oil has resulted in the increased use of rail, truck, and barge to move oil to refineries. These transportation limitations and related effects could pose environmental risks and have economic implications. Due to the increased oil and gas production, construction of larger, higher-pressure gathering pipelines has increased. However, these pipelines, if located in rural areas, are generally not subject to U.S. DOT safety regulations that apply to other pipelines, including emergency response requirements. Most states do not currently regulate gathering pipelines in rural areas. Crude oil carloads moved by rail in 2012 increased by 24 times over that moved in 2008. Such an increase raises specific concerns about testing and packaging of crude oil, use of unit trains and emergency response preparedness.
Corn prices are down, and farmers are feeling it. But food prices for consumers are still high. One of the most frustrating criticisms corn farmers face is the contention that we should be growing corn strictly for food, not ethanol fuel. Our critics frame the debate as food vs. fuel, and completely disregard the facts when unfairly blaming ethanol for taking food off people’s plates and raising food prices. But those increases are because of the cost of oil, not using corn to make ethanol. In reality, the presence of ethanol in our gasoline is saving that same family of four about $863 annually at the pump.
John D. Rockefeller built a vast fortune on oil. Now his heirs are abandoning fossil fuels. The family whose legendary wealth flowed from Standard Oil is planning to announce on Monday that its $860 million philanthropic organization, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, is joining the divestment movement that began a couple years ago on college campuses
view this week's More Ag Clips story summaries
is a free weekly email service for all state officials and staff. It
serves as a roundup of the latest information on agriculture and rural
development issues across the country and contains links to news
articles and reports.
The Council of State Governments and its regional offices do not endorse the editorial content of the pages to which it links.