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4- April 11, 2014
Food and Rural Communities
Federal and International
Hansen is a state representative in his fifth term representing District 52A, which includes his full-time home in South St. Paul. He easily could be categorized as a metro liberal: "I never met a poor person who felt entitled," he remarked. But he's also a hunter, farmer and small-business owner, putting him in a rare category at the Legislature. As a former research assistant with the Minnesota Dept of Agriculture whose master's thesis was on the "effects of fly ash on irrigated soils" and as a landowner who has acres enrolled in conservation programs, he has first-hand knowledge on the technical aspects of conservation, perhaps more than any of his colleagues. On paper, Hansen should be the best friend of conservationists -- those who hunt and those who don't -- pushing for environmental and wildlife habitat protections. Which is why it's curious that in some conservation circles, he's regarded as an outsider, at best. And an obstacle if not enemy of the cause, at worst.
Lawmakers increased the University of Idaho’s agricultural research and extension budget by $1.51 million and some of that money will almost immediately to hire a barley agronomist and to fund a potato pathology position that was being financed by grant money, and to fund two staff positions to support those researchers.
The House of Representatives passed the "Missouri Dairy Revitalization Act of 2014" which offers an insurance program for dairy farmers. The bill passed in the house by an overwhelming vote of 137-4. With Missouri continuing to lose dairy farmers, those in the industry are hoping the bill becomes law. The bill includes an insurance related policy that would pay dairy farmer's premiums up to a certain point so they wouldn't have to pay the premiums themselves.
State lawmakers adjourned after narrowly passing an education package that included enhanced funding for education as directed by the Kansas Supreme Court. The House and Senate gave final approval to a conference committee report on SB 265 regarding the income tax treatment on sales of breeding stock and a sales tax incentive for new and expanding livestock facilities. HB 2447, passed the House and Senate and was sent to the governor for his signature. This measure would protect private landowners from frivolous lawsuits due to injuries of unauthorized intruders. Prior to adjournment, the Kansas Senate debated and voted down SB 323 which would have prohibited voluntary conservation easements from being perpetual in duration.
York County has asked a judge to shut down two oyster farms. Seaford resident Anthony Bavuso was served with an injunction that said he was illegally operating their commercial oyster business without a permit, which the state Supreme Court ruled earlier this year the county was right to require. Dandy resident Greg Garrett is named as defendants in a similar document in York-Poquoson Circuit Court. Since the ruling in January, the two have continued to farm oysters from their homes in violation of the county's ordinance and the court's ruling. This year, the General Assembly passed legislation that prevents localities from requiring permits for aquaculture operations. Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed the bill into law on Monday. But the legislation, at the request of the county, doesn't take effect until Jan. 1, 2015. The county Board of Supervisors has now asked its Planning Commission to look at several proposed changes that would limit farming — be it row cropping, chicken or livestock keeping or oyster growing — on thousands of smaller residentially zoned properties in the county.
Oyster aquaculture in the Potomac River estuary could result in significant improvements to water quality, according to a new study. All of the nitrogen currently polluting the Potomac River estuary could be removed if 40 % of its river bed were used for shellfish cultivation, according to the joint study. The researchers determined that a combination of aquaculture and restored oyster reefs may provide even larger overall ecosystem benefits. Oysters, who feed by filtering, can clean an enormous volume of water of algae which can cause poor water quality.
In a move designed to reduce regulatory redundancies between their agencies, the directors of the Ohio Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources recently announced a proposal to streamline the management of manure in the state to bring all oversight of farmers applying agricultural nutrients under a single agency.
Farm and Dairy
SB 150 will require farmers with 50 or more contiguous acres to attend a continuing education course on fertilization application. This certification process will support practical and feasible best management practices. The best way to improve farming practices in Ohio is through education, and this bill takes a step in the right direction. Although nutrient management plans are completely voluntary, Ohio’s major agricultural groups support creating a plan to help farmers meet the new industry requirements. There are resources available, such as Ohio State Extension, professional agronomists, the Soil and Water Conservation office, and the Farm Services Agency, to help agricultural professionals develop appropriate nutrient management plans. By having a state-approved nutrient management plan in place, affirmative defense may provide legal protection to farmers.
Dairy farms and other agricultural operations across the state warned that they could be put out of business by proposed regulations governing how they apply manure to their lands. “If you impose these regulations, there will be no dairy farms left in the state of Massachusetts,” Tedd White, a West Hawley dairy farmer with 114 Holsteins, told hearing officers at the Dept of Agricultural Resources hearing on proposed “plant nutrient application regulations” for manure, fertilizer, compost and other materials on 10 acres or more of agricultural and non-agricultural land. The bill requires detailed records of tests of soil and manure as well as a “nutrient management plan” to be developed and updated every three years in accordance with “best practices.” The agriculture department — which developed the regulations in accordance with 2012 state legislation so that cities and towns can cut nitrogen and phosphorous pollution to waterways to maximize federal Environmental Protection Agency credits — was supposed to have a comment period that ended Friday. But hearing officer Lee Corte-Real announced that, following hearings already held in Boston and Lakeville, the comment deadline has been extended for 60 days.
Crop irrigation has boomed in Minnesota in the past few years, increasing land values and raising yields for corn, soybeans and other crops. But hundreds of Minnesota farmers appear to be irrigating cropland without the state permits required to use large volumes of public water. Of roughly 1,200 crop irrigation wells drilled from 2008 to 2012, more than 200 likely are operating without a permit. In addition, nearly 200 others operated without a permit until the past year or so. The lack of permits matters because it clouds the picture the state has of its groundwater and hampers the state's ability to manage what is increasingly seen as a valuable and vulnerable resource. The findings mean tens of millions of gallons of water are likely being pumped without the state's knowledge and that some irrigators are boosting yields and profits while avoiding oversight and, often, fees.
SF 221 expands drainage authority criteria considerations to include multipurpose water management; requiring the investigation of the potential use of external sources of funding and technical assistance when planning a drainage project or repair;
The Department of Natural Resources has launched a project to study whether groundwater use in the Bonanza Valley and two other areas in Minnesota is sustainable in the future.
The state of Idaho has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that targets a new state law that makes it a crime to interfere with agricultural operations or secretly film them.
Alabama has seen its share of industrial recruitment coups in the past few years. In fact, 20 years ago the landing of Mercedes was the impetus that has catapulted us to the top of the nation in automobile manufacturing. Mercedes, Honda, Hyundai and the peripheral support manufacturing companies have placed us in the top three states in America when it comes to automobile manufacturing jobs. The announcement of the mammoth Airbus plant in Mobile will create over 1,000 jobs for the state. We will now build the largest airplanes in the world in the Heart of Dixie. However, when all is said and done, Alabama’s most important industry is still agriculture. The economic impact of Alabama’s agriculture, forestry and related industries is staggering. The total output and employment impact of agriculture and related industries was over $70 billion last year and accounts for over 580,000 jobs.
The difference in corn prices between 2012 and 2013 means a nearly $7.5 billion loss to the Illinois economy. Data resulting from an analysis conducted by Western Illinois University's Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs clearly illustrate the close tie between a strong corn industry and economic activity across the state of Illinois. "When corn prices are strong, the impacts are felt statewide," said Gary Hudson, Illinois Corn Growers Association President. "When corn prices drop, the negative impacts are also felt statewide," explained Hudson, a family farmer from Hindsboro. "Basically, what's good for corn prices is good for Illinois." WIU's economic model shows that when the average price received for corn in 2012 dropped some 40 % in 2013, the cost to the Illinois economy was $7.48 billion in the value of goods and services. The equivalent of 76,082 jobs were lost, GDP dropped by $3.8 billion, and compensation/proprietor income dropped by $1.8 billion.
A North Carolina farm is asking a federal district court to block state regulators from permitting air emissions from livestock operations under the Clean Water Act, opening a new legal front on the issue just as a landmark appellate case that had been expected to test the issue is delayed as the court grapples with procedural questions.
One of the most irritating aspects of wading through the river of rhetoric that flows like the tides form the activist community dedicated to demonizing animal agriculture is the holier-then-thou tone that permeates their messaging. Not only is the cause of animal rights or vegan lifestyles so much more than important than other priorities — affordable food, farm-sector security, rural development, among other issues — but the goals of most groups are cloaked in a moral superiority that justifies whatever tactics these groups decide to use. Name-calling, mud-slinging, even property destruction and vandalism — it all gets whitewashed because no matter how far extremists go beyond what’s reasonable and appropriate, it’s okay — it’s for “the cause.” If you support animal agriculture and meat-eating, then everything about your lifestyle and your personal values is corrupt. HSUS’s 2012 tax return shows a total of $25.7 million in various funds in the “Central American and the Caribbean” region. “Where exactly is this $26 million invested?” the report stated. “It turns out HSUS funneled mega-bucks to several funds located in the Cayman Islands. You know — the secretive place where secretive people stuff their secretive money. All those well-meaning donors who truly care about homeless and abandoned pets ought to simply write a check directly to their local shelter, rather than forking over cash to an organization that takes that donation and sticks it into an offshore bank account.
A disagreement between Idaho regulators and farm leaders over a 1972 fugitive dust law will be addressed through the state's negotiated rule-making process. The rule allows regulators to control fugitive emissions and provides for fines up to $10,000. Idaho’s agricultural industry is concerned the law could be used to fine agricultural practices that create dust. Idaho Department of Environmental Quality officials say the agency has no intention of using the rule to target normal agricultural practices but it’s what DEQ considers to be normal farming practices that concerns industry representatives. Farm groups first became aware of the law last year after a southwestern Idaho farmer who was fined for creating dust on his property while grinding grain. After several meetings with DEQ officials, both sides agreed it was best to address the issue through the negotiated rule-making process.
NASA just laid a heavyweight title belt atop the U.S. Corn Belt. New data from satellite sensors reveals the Midwest is the most productive region in the world during the Northern Hemisphere's growing season. Productivity is a tricky term here. Often, agricultural productivity describes how much food a farmer produces with a limited number of resources. The research, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, is instead concerned with “gross productivity” — in other words, the sheer amount of photosynthetic activity happening in a region. Chlorophyll in plants mainly absorbs light for conversion into energy, but the cell organs also emit a small portion of that light as a florescent glow invisible to the naked eye. The tropics topped out productivity during most the year, but then there was the raging plant party known as Iowa in July. In the height of the growing season, the Corn Belt lit up NASA’s map at levels 40 times greater than those observed in the Amazon rain forest.
There was more good news this month for Vermont — with unemployment numbers reaching a low of 4 % and the news that Vermonters are first in the nation for eating our vegetables and getting exercise. Vermont tops the nation in green jobs. These include green energy jobs (we are ranked number one for solar job creation), agriculture (Vermont sales of agricultural products has grown 15 % in the last five years, and the number of farms and acres in production is expanding significantly every year) and forestry. Forest-based manufacturing in Vermont provided 12 % of the manufacturing payroll and employed 16 % of manufacturing employees in 2005. Not only did the industry contribute $1 billion in value of shipments to the economy, while employing more than 6,300 people, but forests also provide the backdrop for Vermont’s tourism and outdoor recreation industries.Outdoor recreation accounts for more than 12 % of the gross state product and also contributes to our good jobs record — including more than 35,000 jobs. Outdoor recreation accounts for nearly $200 million in annual state tax revenue and produces more than $2.5 billion annually in retail sales and services across Vermont.
For the first time in nearly 5 years, dairy producers are today being paid a price for the milk they bring to the market that more accurately mirrors what it actually costs to produce the milk on the farm. What most people don’t know is that once the milk is in the tank, then the milk truck arrives at the farm. Even though the milk is about to change hands, there is no established price the producer will be paid for that tank full of milk. There is the past price and the future price, but not much is said or can be counted on as the current price. So the milk is loaded into a tanker truck and the meter just keeps on running. You see after the milk is loaded into the tanker, the dairy producers then pay their share of the cost to deliver the milk to the processors. Next, milk producers pay a share of processing costs to the processors through the mandated make allowance program, which amounts to more than $2.40/CWT. The blessing for producers over the past two quarters is that there has just been less milk available to the market, so milk buyers have had to compete for what was available. Even Australia, New Zealand and other milk producing countries have been hit with conditions that reduced their ability to make as much milk as in the past and so the worldwide milk production numbers were either in the negative range or at a rate of increase well below the historical production numbers, all while demand continued to rise.
National Dairy Producers
Bumper corn, soybean and wheat crops last year, expansion of North Dakota's Bakken oil field, and a long, cold winter that affected the size and speed of the trains railroads could operate have joined to create a persistent bottleneck in rail shipping of ethanol and grain. This is no way to run a railroad, rail, state and agricultural officials agree. But while BNSF Railway spokeswoman Amy McBeth says the problem is operational and not systemic, and the bottleneck will be cleared, Soy Transportation Coalition Executive Director Mike Steenhoek points to the continued growth of both oil and agricultural traffic and wonders how much more the rail system can absorb. While more than one railroad has been responsible for shipping delays of farm commodities, the problem is centered around BNSF, which serves the North Dakota oil industry.
University researchers in Florida who work with animals are now lobbying the state legislature for the right to shelter personal information from animal activists intent on intimidating them. A bill currently moving through the Florida House of Representatives would exempt the personal contact information of animal researchers at state-funded research facilities from being part of the public record. If approved, the bill would exempt the personal identification of researchers in animal records on treatment and care, research protocols and approvals, purchase or billing records, animal care and use committee records and facility and lab records. In Gainesville, Fla., where the main campus of the university is located, a radical animal rights group has vowed to continue to harass UF scientists.
FarmStart, an innovative Northeast program to help young people get started in farming, is pleased to announce the approval of its 125th investment. Since the first investment approved in August of 2006, FarmStart has now invested more than $5 million with 125 participants in the states of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont. The program’s 125th investment was to McKinzey Farm, a sheep dairy in Trumansburg, N.Y.
Agriculture has been and continues to be an integral part of Pennsylvania’s landscape, economy and culture. However, changing communities and land use patterns provide operational challenges for farmers, as well as community planning and regulatory challenges for local elected and appointed officials. Because of that Penn State Extension officials will present “PA Agriculture: Local Planning, Regulations & Policies” workshop which provides participants education on the availability and interrelationship of land use related programs and protections for farmers, as well as planning and policy tools that are available to local municipalities.
The Kittanning Paper
Excessive flows of nutrients into the Chesapeake Bay can damage the bay’s environment, yielding coastal dead zones, fish kills, and impaired drinking water supplies. This can lead to health risks and economic costs for those who use the bay’s waters or live nearby. Agriculture is a main contributor to nutrient run-off, responsible for 38 % of the bay’s nitrogen and 45 % of phosphorus loadings. Land application of livestock manure accounts for about half of these agricultural loadings. Chesapeake Bay States have focused on greater oversight of the manure management at large concentrated animal feeding operations, which are farms that confine animals and have limited acreage on which to spread manure. In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, approximately 70 % of large and medium CAFOs produce poultry, while nearly three-quarters of small CAFOs are dairy farms.
The initiative, Kentucky’s 20/20 Vision for Reforestation, will plant 20 million seedlings produced by the Kentucky Division of Forestry.
Today, Governor Bullock, the Montana Dept of Agriculture and the Agriculture Development Council announced the recipients of $333,404 in funding for agricultural related projects. The Growth Through Agriculture program provides grants and loans to strengthen and diversify Montana’s agricultural industry through development of new agricultural products and processes. The council identified several areas of focus this year, including irrigation, malt production, and businesses transitioning beyond direct sales.
Seattle has become the fifth U.S. city — and the largest — to approve a resolution supporting a statewide and national ban on the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in livestock, joining officials in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Providence, R.I. and Redhook, N.J. Their concern is that the use of low doses of antibiotics in livestock to promote growth or prevent disease is likely to lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains that can then spread to retail meat, farmers and rural environments.
The feast of fear that was intentionally served up to pass Bill 2491, the pesticide/GMO regulatory bill, is now serving to feed the small frenzy of opponents to the dairy. “I am really anxious about the impending Hawaii Dairy Farm plans,” writes Jackie Hoban in a trembling letter to the editor that begs our elected officials to “protect us” from certain “environmental disaster” — the same verbiage so frequently uttered in the 2491 fight. Geez, Jackie, it's a fricking dairy with cows on important ag land, not a nuclear waste incinerator. And I thought, ya know, this crap is getting out of hand. It's time to expose the very deliberate fear-mongering that drove the 2491 campaign in hopes of quelling the scourge of paranoia running rampant through our community.
As I begin to plant my own crops this week, I know that somewhere in the northern hemisphere this month, a farmer will put a seed in the ground—and the world will have its 4-billionth acre of genetically modified crops. Perhaps it will happen in my country of Spain, which is Europe’s leader in GM farming. We can only guess at the location of this milestone achievement, let alone the farmer who will reach it. Yet we know for certain that the great moment will come about halfway through this month. That’s a lot of acreage. There’s a lesson in all of this: GM crops are good for farmers, good for consumers, and good for the environment. Farmers like me choose to plant GM crops because they work. We have found them safer and easier to use. They also produce more food than so-called conventional crops. With 4 billion acres of cumulative biotech acres now planted globally, of course, we may want to reconsider the definition of "conventional."
Researchers have genetically engineered trees that will be easier to break down to produce paper and biofuel, a breakthrough that will mean using fewer chemicals, less energy and creating fewer environmental pollutants.
David Stoltzfus of Monsanto Maui lofts a stack of studies and safety reviews in front of Kalana O Maui building on as Monsanto employees rally in Wailuku. Stoltzfus and other company leaders delivered the stack of reports backing up their side of the genetically modified crops issue to the office of Mayor Alan Arakawa. County spokesman Rod Antone accepted the reports on behalf of the mayor and said they would be on file if people want to review them.
Alarm at the most potent threat – a fungus known as Panama disease tropical race 4 – has risen dramatically after it was announced in recent weeks that it has jumped from South-east Asia, where it has already devastated export crops, to Mozambique and Jordan.
This year's Florida orange crop is approaching the fruit's lowest harvest in decades, and experts say a deadly bacteria that's infecting the trees is to blame. The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its citrus production forecast and the news isn't good. The 2013-2014 orange forecast is 110 million boxes, down 4 % from last month, and 18 % less than last season's final production figure.
Despite record-high milk prices and lower feed costs, dairymen in the western U.S. aren't making any moves to expand production beyond slowing cull rates. Instead, they are focused on recovering from the extreme downturn in 2009 and rebuilding equity.
Mark Allen, PhD, director of marketing and genomics with TransOva Genetics described how assisted reproduction tools, coupled with genomics, can accelerate the rate of genetic progress by two to eight times. Several of these tools already have contributed dramatically to genetic progress – artificial insemination (AI) since the 1950s, embryo transfer since the 1970s, in-vitro fertilization and cloning since the 1990s and sex-sorted semen since the early 2000s. Activists have resisted the implementation of ARTs, and that resistance has increased as new tools such as genetic engineering and gene editing become available. Allen presented a formula for the rate of genetic gain, saying it equals (variation x accuracy x selection intensity) divided by the genetic interval. Accuracy and intensity of selection have increased significantly with the use of genomic predictions, AI, embryo transfer and sexed semen. In-vitro fertilization meanwhile, has reduced the genetic interval by allowing production of multiple calves per year from elite cows, and production of embryos from elite heifers as early as six months of age.
As populations grow, especially in developing nations, governments often work to ensure their people have access to enough food. In recent years, some governments, including several in former Soviet Union countries, have incentivized livestock production by offering subsidies in the amount of $1,000 to $1,400 per head for cattle that are a minimum of 75 % registered in the case of Russia and 100 % registered in the case of Kazakhstan. Unfortunately, there remains a knowledge gap and lack of training related to modern cattle production practices.
Norman Borlaug might not be a name many would put on a list of American icons, but a statue of this Iowa farmer now stands with sculptures of former presidents and other great American figures in the U.S. Capitol. Inscribed on it is the phrase, “The Man Who Saved a Billion Lives.” To put this in perspective, the world’s population is 7 billion. Borlaug earned this title for his lifetime achievements in improving ag efficiency in developing nations struggling to feed their people. He used science and technology to develop plant genetics that would thrive in local conditions and could be used by local farmers. We must continue to embrace science-based innovations like plant and animal genetics and conservation techniques that help a safe and healthy food supply meet a growing demand. I applaud the work of Nebraska’s ag community to explore new and creative ways to feed the world and help to save a billion lives.
The heated battle over using genetic technology in our food systems has continued for over a decade and shows little sign of cooling down. From the early days of herbicide tolerance in corn and soybeans to the fast growing salmon of today, the battle lines are firmly drawn and rarely seem to waiver. On the one hand, concerned consumers in the US, Europe and elsewhere, accuse GM foods of being unnatural and the companies that develop them as business seeking to control the world’s seeds. On the other hand, farmers worldwide have embraced GM foods as an exciting new technology that provides higher yields and allows them to use fewer and safer pesticides to increase the sustainability of their farms. Well, as we all dig our heels deeper in this battle, a new wave of technological innovations that are set to change the face of the world’s food production systems are quickly ramping-up. The GMOs or transgenics we are familiar with (but that most of us never quite understood at a deep level) involved introducing a genetic trait from one organism into another unrelated one; like it or not, they may be becoming old hat. As science has begun to unravel the intricacies of the genetic code and understand how life works at the molecular level, it may no longer be necessary to put something new into a plant to get a desired end result. The ability to simply tweak what nature already provides in the plant without changing its genetic makeup or adding new traits is a reality. This is the new world of world of cisgenics; simply turning a gene on or off within the plant’s genome or adding a gene from a different cultivar of the same species to elicit traits in that have hitherto been unattainable.
You can’t separate the organic movement from the anti-GMO movement. They are one and the same, existing in perfect anti-technological symbiosis. What’s bad for GMOs is good for organics and vice versa. With GMO labeling initiatives underway in 26 out of 50 states, and a global campaign to stop life-saving GM Golden Rice from being approved, you’re supposed to believe the leaders of the multibillion-dollar organic industry are just watching innocently from the sidelines. Nothing could be further from the truth. And when Democratic State Senator Noreen Evans claims her GMO labeling bill – an idea that Californians already defeated once – is “agnostic on whether GMOs are good, or whether they are bad,” she’s lying. Since when do politicians label things for no reason? The “GMO Free Mendocino” campaign was launched in Senator Evans’ district by Els Cooperrider, a founding member of the The Mendocino Organic Network, who succeeded in 2004 not merely in banning GMOs in Mendocino County, but in having all GMO crops destroyed by order of a federal judge. With the “organic” cause as the backbone of Cooperrider’s agricultural program, Mendocino instantly became Grand Central for all subsequent anti-GMO movements. The science of genetic engineering gave diabetics synthetic human insulin which replaced insulin from slaughtered pigs. Try to imagine someone blocking genetically- synthesized human insulin, or labeling it to encourage use of the “organic” alternative. The fact is that organic and Greenpeace activists actually need GMOs. They’re quite content to continue to “co-exist” right alongside their avowed arch nemesis because it provides a vital element to their continued existence as activists. Banning GMOs is the last thing on organic politicians’ and activists’ minds. They just want to control GMOs, and to that end labeling provides the perfect balance. GMOs will remain in circulation to scare consumers, while growth in the GMO sector is severely limited under a labeling regime, so much so that fewer and fewer corporations will develop new GMO crops, thus guaranteeing that this still untapped field of science never becomes fully accepted by the masses.
The citrus crop may be struggling across Florida, but the blueberry business is booming. The amount of farmland planted with blueberries has tripled in the state over the last ten years, the Tampa Bay Times said. The crop this year is expected to reach 25 million pounds. The national leader, Michigan, produced about 87 million pounds in 2012. Blueberry farmers in Florida credit the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, which developed about 98 % of the southern highbush berries that are now grown in the state.
I selected the title for this blog with a great deal of self-advisement beforehand. And the answer is…No, we can’t. Don’t take it personally. A brief walk through the pages of human history shows we never have been able to. So maybe being disagreeable is in our DNA. Maybe all I have to do is recognize that we have a very diversified bunch of consumers out there, who create markets for a very diversified offering of beef products, which creates opportunities for the many entrepreneurially-minded folks who call themselves beef producers. Maybe we all do.
By changing row-crop management practices in economically and environmentally stable ways, US farms could contribute to improved water quality, biological diversity, pest suppression, and soil fertility while helping to stabilize the climate, according to an article in the May issue of BioScience. The article, based on research conducted over 25 years at the Kellogg Biological Station in southwest Michigan, further reports that Midwest farmers, especially those with large farms, appear willing to change their farming practices to provide these ecosystem services in exchange for payments.
American Institute of Biological Sciences
When Russ Zeeck starts talking about corn yields, it's only natural to assume he's got grain on his mind. As it turns out, though, Zeeck is concerned about everything but the individual grains of corn that come from Nebraska's top cash crop — the husks, stalks and leaves left behind after a harvest, known as corn stover. The company, using a recently patented process, has developed feed pellets for cattle
For decades, farmers across the country have been dying by suicide at higher rates than the general population. The exact numbers are hard to determine, mainly because suicides by farmers are under-reported (they may get mislabeled as hunting or tractor accidents, advocates for prevention say) and because the exact definition of a farmer is elusive. People started talking about farmer suicide during the 1980s farm crisis. By the 1960s, technical innovations had made farming easier, and farmers were expanding operations by taking out loans. But the 1980s brought two droughts, a national economy in trouble and a government ban on grain exports to the Soviet Union. Farmers started defaulting on their loans, and by 1985, 250 farms closed every hour. That economic undertow sucked down farms and the people who put their lives into them. Male farmers became four times more likely to kill themselves than male non-farmers, reports showed.
New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman hosts a filled-to-capacity event at the Cooper Union with writers Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson, on the future of agriculture. Does that future include farmers from “deep rural” America who produce the nation’s dairy and grain? An Upstate New York farmer and lawyer says it’s time for small commodity farmers to start telling their own stories. Here’s how to do it.
The Louisiana Rural Caucus has announced the election of officers for 2014-2015, including Rep. Dorothy Sue Hill of Dry Creek, who has been elected as secretary and treasurer of the Legislative Rural Caucus. The officers are Reps. Jack Montoucet of Crowley, chairman; Bernard LeBas of Ville Platte, vice chairman; and Dorothy Sue Hill of Dry Creek, secretary/treasurer. The Rural Caucus, whose membership includes 88 legislators from around the state, is an organization that serves to promote and better the conditions and objectives of rural areas of Louisiana, according to a release.
For years, the leaders of Beaufort, S.C., have promoted the charms and convenience of their coastal city, which has a historic downtown and cozy neighborhoods. To improve safety and boost pedestrian traffic, city officials would like Beaufort’s street grid, parts of which are more than 300 years old, to include narrow lanes and on-street parking, which would encourage drivers to slow down. But Beaufort cannot make changes to many of its own streets because the state, which prefers wider roads and faster speeds, owns virtually all of the roads in town. That may change soon, as South Carolina legislators try to save money by unloading part of the state’s vast road network onto localities like Beaufort. The percentage of state road networks owned by state governments varies widely. In recent years, North Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and other states that own large road networks have tried similar tactics. But states have had limited success in giving them away, because cities such as Beaufort don’t want to pay for them either.
The House gave initial approval to a package of bipartisan telecommunication bills legislators hope will bring Colorado’s laws and regulations up to speed with new technology and expand rural access to broadband. Here’s a rundown of the policy that makes it all possible: HB 1328, incentivizing rural broadband: All Colorado telecomm ratepayers pitch in to the High Cost Support Mechanism fund, which offsets the financial burden of bringing telephone service to rural areas where the consumer base isn’t dense enough to make it profitable. HB 1329, in which lawmakers say they won’t regulate Skype: Voice over internet protocol. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission doesn’t do much VoIP regulation currently and this bill essentially promises providers that they won’t in the future. HB 1331, deregulating landlines: the Colorado Public Utilities Commission will continue to oversee areas where there’s no competition among telecomm providers to insure that folks still have affordable connections and access to 911 services. The commission won’t oversee basic services in areas that are considered competitive, however. HB 1330, provides legal definitions for many of the terms used in the rest of the telecomm package. HB 1327, makes it easier for broadband providers down in the trenches, literally. It allows broadband companies to work with the Colorado Department of Transit to lay telecommunications lines in conjunction with their projects.
But wait! Hemp has a great personality, honest! It may be low in THC, but the plants are great for sucking up metals, pesticides, and even crude oil, keeping them out of the soil — and thus the food and water supply. So says a bill that just passed Hawaii’s House of Representatives and is on its way to the state Senate
The Vermont Economic Development Authority has approved over $5.2 million in financing for energy, agricultural and commercial development projects throughout Vermont. Financing approvals by the Authority include: Commercial Energy Loan Program financing of $1 Million to Barton Solar, $1.6 million in financing to Vermont farmers through the Authority’s agricultural loan program, $1.92 million in financing for small business projects through its Small Business Loan Program, which assists growing Vermont small businesses that are unable to access adequate sources of conventional financing.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture unveiled an Agriculture Teacher Scholarship and Loan Assistance Program. “Nebraska is facing a critical shortage of agricultural education teachers. The good news is that agriculture education and FFA is expanding in Nebraska. The bad news is that there is not enough agriculture teachers to keep up with the growth. Competition in the market is pulling many students who are potential agriculture teachers into other fields,” said Steve Nelson, president of Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. At a time when Nebraska’s population is becoming increasingly urban and disconnected from agriculture, enticing qualified agricultural education teachers to stay teaching, is critical. The Teacher Loan Assistance Program is for current Nebraska agricultural education teachers who have existing student loans have been teaching between 1-5 years. The amount of loan assistance would increase over the course of the teacher’s first five years in the classroom, thus encouraging the teacher to remain in the profession.
Nebraska Farm Bureau
The years 2010–13 mark the first extended period of depopulation in rural and exurban America, although the latest figures show the pace slowed last year. USDA indicate a net loss of 28,000 from rural and non-metropolitan counties between July 2012 and July 2013, following a decline of 48,500 a year earlier. The total net loss since 2010 has been around 100,000, despite growth in the general population. In particular, losses occurred in 14 eastern states between 2004 and 2007 and between 2010 and 2013. In other states, although growth continued in non-metropolitan areas, the pace moderated significantly. Migration to rural areas, particularly those with scenic and recreational features, peaked in 2006.
In a move that effectively kills the legislative effort for the year, the legislation aimed at ending SeaWorld’s killer whale shows was sent to interim hearings. The author agreed to the committee chair’s request when it became clear that the votes were not there to move the bill. The action spares legislators and SeaWorld the uncertainty that a simple defeat of the bill in committee would have brought since bills sent to interim cannot be reconsidered.
No chickens for Volga. In one of South Dakota’s first elections on the matter, voters in that town spoke resoundingly against allowing layers and broilers in backyards.
From North Carolina, U.S. to Brisbane, Australia, outbreaks of E. coli, Salmonella and other pathogens related to petting zoos or animal exhibits have been devastating to the families involved. We wanted to provide a checklist for parents, and the teachers who book these events. The uniting factor was – we all have kids. We’ve all seen microbiologically terrible practices, and read about them from around the world, and thought, maybe we should try and provide some guidance. And now it’s been published.
Three conservation organizations filed a notice of intent to sue any potential timber purchasers of nearly 3,000 acres of the Elliott State Forest recently authorized for sale by the State of Oregon.
The Australian regulator authority, APVMA, has recently published its 2014 overview report titled “Neonicotinoids and the Health of Honey Bees in Australia”. Their conclusion: The number of Australian honeybee populations is stable, despite the increased use of the neonicotinoid group of insecticides in agriculture and horticulture since the mid-1990s. In addition, they found that the introduction of neonicotinoid insecticides has brought a number of benefits, including that they are considerably less toxic than some of the chemistry they have replaced. The report also states that when bee losses did occur after insecticide use, these incidents were usually due to a lack of communication between farmer and affected beekeeper. The full report and a summary can be found here.
HSUS is at it again, taking aim to eliminate the rights of American sportsmen. Despite HSUS’s failed attempt to rewrite Maine’s bear hunting laws in 2004, they’re back hoping for an all out ban on bear hunting in November 2014. HSUS is currently bankrolling the local organization, Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting. Maine is another stop in HSUS’s annual trek across the country, where they hope to secure a seemingly small victory to aid in their larger effort to restrict the rights and freedoms of American sportsmen. The effort to ban bear hunting in Maine is not a “grassroots” campaign organized and funded by a local group of determined citizens. In fact, HSUS hired a consulting firm out of Los Angeles to carry out the professional signature gathering process necessary for placing the issue on the ballot in the first place.
Protect the Harvest
Over the past century, the bobcat population in Illinois went through a drastic decline. In 1977, the state took steps to ensure the future of species by adding bobcats to the threatened species list. Those steps worked and in 1999, Illinois officials removed the recovered population from the list. Since then, the population has continued to thrive, more than doubling since 2000. Now, Illinois sportsmen may soon have the opportunity to hunt bobcats under legislation passed last week by the House of Representatives. HB 4226, sponsored by Representative Wayne Rosenthal, repeals the current prohibition on taking bobcats in the state, giving the Department of Natural Resources the authority to establish a bobcat season as part of their management plan. HB 4226 passed the House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 91-20 on March 27th. Today, the state’s DNR estimates that population has reached more than 5,000 with a majority of the bobcats residing in the southern tier of the state.
Strolling of the Heifers, a Vermont-based local food advocacy group, has released its third annual Locavore Index, a state-by-state ranking of commitment to local foods. The 2014 Locavore Index incorporates four measures for which current data is available for all states: the number of farmers markets, the number of consumer-supported agriculture operations, the number of food hubs — all compared on a per-capita basis — plus the percentage of each state’s school districts with active Farm-to-School programs. The Index says the top three states for locavorism, are Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, rankings that are unchanged from last year. Oregon moved up to fourth place (from seventh in 2013), and Hawaii came in fifth (from 13th in 2013). Rounding out the top 10 were Rhode Island, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Montana and Iowa.
Most of the folks who grew up in this vast agricultural area were farmers and this environment was truly the breadbasket which helped feed this country. Nearly every farmer in those early days built their homes on the farm. Small communities sprung up every few miles and schools, churches and small businesses abounded. Later farm-to-market roads with pavement afforded farmers access to the markets and other amenities. As the country developed and grew, so did farming practices. Tractors took the place of horses and mules and as the engines developed more and more horsepower, so did the tractors and farm machinery. In a matter of a few generations, the farms grew larger, and so did the towns, but the small communities were soon disappearing at an alarming rate. All of a sudden, seemingly on the farm almost overnight, our farming image changed. Now there are fewer and fewer farm families who actually live on the farm. This has created another problem for farm producers. The farm equipment is too large and heavy for the farm-to-market roads. One expert recently proclaimed that are areas of this once proud way of life and food producing enterprises could soon be back to square one because it is no longer feasible or profitable to continue as a food producing source. Gravel roads may once again be our rural thoroughfares.
Investing in habitat that attracts and supports wild bees in farms is not only an effective approach to helping enhance crop pollination, but it can also pay for itself in four years or less, according to research. The paper gives farmers of pollination-dependent crops tangible results to convert marginal acreage to fields of wildflowers.
Although Missouri lawmakers are not clamoring to legalize marijuana, key Republican lawmakers appear ready to follow a few states in allowing use of a cannabis extract for people whose epilepsy isn't relieved by other treatments. Legislation is advancing in the Missouri House, where a committee could hold a public hearing and vote this week. Recently filed legislation is backed by the Republican House speaker, majority leader and Democratic leaders.
The Grand Theater in the southeastern Colorado town of Rocky Ford is the only cinema showing 3D movies in the 150 miles between Pueblo and Kansas — thanks to volunteer fundraising that allowed it to buy an $84,000 state-of-the-art projector to show digital films. That may have turned out well, but the ending isn't so happy for countless small, independent theaters that have fed dreams and anchored main streets in small towns across America. Hollywood is going digital, and movie houses soon won't be able to find 35mm films to show. A Colorado coalition is working to help — and in the process support small towns, where people who see a movie stay to eat at the restaurant down the street and shop in the nearby store. The Denver Film Society, a private group of cinephiles, reviews applications and provides technical support to the theaters selected to receive funds. Downtown Colorado, a nonprofit development organization, reached out to theaters to explain how to seek state and other assistance, and what it might mean to convert from a commercial enterprise to a nonprofit organization. "I haven't heard anything as brilliant" as Colorado's public-private-foundation solution, said Mike Hurley, who owns small theaters in Maine and consults for other theater owners across the country.
Some telephone customers who live in rural areas are in for a price shock: Monthly bills will go up as much as 46% later this year, as carriers deal with efforts by the Federal Communications Commission to dial back subsidies that allow rural customers to pay less for landline service than customers elsewhere. The first hikes will arrive on some bills in June. Customers will have to pay at least $20.46 for basic service. But some monthly fees could go as high as $46.96. Rural residents and businesses want to delay the increases but won’t get their way
The Kiplinger Letter
But few Californians seem to grasp what is at stake. I stand in flooded farmland on a dead end dirt road in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta. Overhead, dozens of greater sandhill cranes make a jagged line against the gray winter sky, descending into the beige fields with an eerie clatter. Snowy egrets and great blue herons stalk the shallow water, while flocks of starlings launch from the roadside and coalesce into great swarms. The wild avian display here on Staten Island – one of 60 islands scattered across the Delta’s waters – is a jarring contrast to the human drama unfolding across the region. For most people outside this watery region, where the state’s two largest rivers end and its greatest water engineering projects begin, the Delta is typically seen through a veil of conflict – one pitting endangered fish against the needs of water-starved farms in the Central Valley and cities in southern California. Today that conflict has escalated, as the state faces its most severe drought on record and Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Department of Water Resources push ahead with an ambitious $25 billion plan to re-plumb the Delta, known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
High Country News
Tyson Fresh Meats and Gavilon Ingredients will be expanding operations in Council Bluffs, Iowa, after winning tax credits from the Iowa Economic Development Authority Board.
Within a year, the program will restrict commercial compost collection in Portland to food scraps only. The methane digester could not handle other types of material.
The devastation of this drought comes in three forms: pastures that have dried up or are choked by drifts of sand; tumbleweeds that blow into tall hills against fences, homes and barns; and massive dust storms that steal topsoil and could make it harder to grow grain, wheat and sunflowers for years. The region hasn't seen normal amounts of rain since the blizzards of 2007. Southeast Colorado averages 12 to 16 inches of rain annually, but many areas have gotten fewer than 8 inches each year since 2010. Since the latest drought officially set in late in the summer of 2010, the Arkansas Valley has been drier for a longer sustained period of time than during the Dust Bowl, said Nolan Doesken, the state climatologist at Colorado State University.
The Denver Post
The top 25 fast-growing nonmetro counties include 10 from North Dakota.
One more rural population story: The loss of nonmetro population in the last three years has been the result of migration, not births and deaths. That means the size of the rural populations could recover – if the economy does.
Rural America is older than the nation overall, and second, aging in place is the best option for seniors. “Aging in place” refers to older adults living independently in their current residences or communities for as long as possible. The vast majority of rural seniors own their own homes, so this often means remaining there; it can also be accomplished, however, by moving to a more manageable dwelling (such as a smaller apartment). Numerous reports have proposed that aging in place is preferable for seniors. Living independently often results in improved health, life satisfaction, and self-esteem for elders. Of course, challenges exist. How can a population that is aging faster than other regions “age in place” if the support systems are not there for them to do so?
A record number of kids are donning the blue corduroy jacket of FFA, formerly known as Future Farmers of America. From 2007 to 2012, the U.S. lost almost 100,000 farms and FFA enrolled an additional 60,000 students, and opened new chapters, bringing the organization to its highest number of students in its almost century-old history, just shy of 580,000. That's a lot of blue corduroy jackets. Unlike FFA members of the past, Melton didn't grow up on a farm. His parents did. And that's the norm for the 60 other students in his chapter. "We're in an urban area, so most of our members do not grow up on property, though they still have that connection to agriculture," he says. But because most millennials are several generations removed from the farm, the school district is going to great lengths to make agriculture appeal to more students.
Rantoul Foods/Trim-Rite Foods in Rantoul, Ill., may soon be buying the village nearly $200,000 for new equipment for the waste water treatment facility, as it seems that undertreated water from the company’s pork processing plant is gumming up the works. The board voted to spend $198,000 to replace the sand filter with one that features new technologies. That expenditure will be billed back to Rantoul Foods. Rantoul Foods reportedly also plans to add water treatment equipment to help address the issue. Last year the company said it intended to build a $10 million rendering facility to ease odor problems.
A total of 9,500 signatures were submitted to the county as part of a petition calling for the suspension of genetically-engineered operations and practices in Maui County. The signatures were submitted by The Shaka Movement in an attempt to get the item on the November ballot as an initiative. Mark Sheehan, who started the petition said a critical factor for petition backers their belief that, “a wide range of illnesses — childhood cancers, miscarriages, birth defects, ADD, ADHD, allergies, asthma, and more — are related to the contamination of the environment from massive use of pesticides.”
A study of national forest litigation over a 20 year period found that the U.S. Forest Service has been more willing to settle cases in recent years. Lawsuits over the management of national forests have persisted despite a steep decline in logging, based on a 20-year litigation study. An average of 56 cases a year were filed against the U.S. Forest Service between 1989 and 2008. In that time, annual timber harvest levels in national forests have dropped roughly 75 %, from 12 billion board feet to fewer than 3 billion board feet, according to Forest Service data.
There’s only a couple of weeks for school administrators from nominated school districts to submit grant applications for $10,000 or $25,000 in America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program. The program, in its third year and sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, is investing over $2.3 million to strengthen math and science education in rural communities. Farmers nominated local public school districts to compete for one of the grants. Now it’s up to administrators from nominated districts to submit their applications, which is to be done by April 21.
A California bill to require sugary soft drinks to carry labels warning of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay passed its first legislative hurdle. If enacted, the legislation would put California, which banned sodas and junk food from public schools in 2005, in the vanguard of a growing national movement to curb the consumption of high-caloric beverages. The California measure, passed by the state senate's health committee.
The unusually cold temperatures and heavy snowfall that enveloped much of the U.S. this past winter have taken a toll on farms—from New York to Kansas to California—that grow everything from grapes used to make wine to wheat for baking bread. In Michigan, fruit growers are assessing the damage after months of continuous snow cover and a high number of subzero days. Michigan experienced its coldest winter in about 37 years, and six other Midwestern states—Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin— had their coldest one in roughly 35 years. The extent of the crop damage in the Midwest isn't yet known.
Wall Street Journal
Through a new strategic partnership between the California Farm Bureau Federation and the Buy California Marketing Agreement, Farm Bureau members in California now have access to a 50 % discount on California Grown branding and licensing for their agricultural commodities.
Legislation to ban the sale or use of genetically modified lawn seed in Connecticut won state Senate approval even though GMO grass isn't expected to be available here for at least one to two years. The bill had the strong support of the Senate's top Democratic leader, Donald Williams Jr. of Brooklyn. But the legislation now heads to the House, where it faces opposition from that chamber's top Democrat, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey of Hamden, a fact likely to derail the bill. Questions about what the House would do with the GMO seed ban didn't deter its Senate supporters, nor did claims by critics that such a prohibition was premature and unsupported by scientific evidence. The bill passed the Senate on a mostly party-line 25-11 vote, with three Republicans voting in favor. Advocates of the ban warned that use of the herbicide- and pesticide-resistant GMO grass seed would encourage homeowners and businesses to use far more potentially harmful weed-killing chemicals on their lawns. "One of the great threats to us in this country today is the invasion of pesticides," said state Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford. He said allowing the use of GMO seeds in this state would result in the use of "huge quantities of pesticides" because homeowners could spread those chemicals all over their lawns without damaging the grass.
Legislation is pending before the state Legislature to require GMO labeling on all food products. Sound reasonable? Maybe, but not as proposed As grocers, we believe that consumers should have access to consistent, accurate and relevant information about the food products they buy. Our goal is to offer consumers the widest variety of products at the lowest possible prices. This can only be done under a uniform, national system of labeling. Federal labelling standards are set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It is our belief that consumers are best served if these agencies adopt a single, national labeling standard for GMO and non-GMO food products. State-specific labeling will lead to higher food costs and product unavailability. Let me give you some examples. Supermarkets are restocked from multistate warehouses. If New York requires GMO labeling that is different from the rest of the country, then food warehouses will have to double-slot items: One slot for New York and another for the rest of the country. There is not enough space in any warehouse in the country to double-slot all the food items a typical supermarket carries. The problem will be compounded if other states adopt different labelling bills. Will warehouses have to triple- or quadruple-slot items? What products will stores no longer be able to carry? What will this do to consumer prices?
A new study comparing genetically modified and conventional tomatoes lends further support to the pro-GM food movement. Cornell University scientists found no significant biochemical differences between the two. Led by Cornell professor Owen Hoekenga, the researchers extracted roughly 1,000 biochemical metabolites from a group of tomatoes that had been genetically modified to ripen more slowly. Then they compared the metabolic profile of these GM tomatoes to those of unmodified modern and heirloom tomato varieties. Aside from the GM tomatoes differing in metabolites related to fruit ripening, as they were designed to, there were no significant biochemical difference between the GM and other tomatoes. The results, published in The Plant Genome, challenge the growing belief that GM foods are inherently less nutritious than conventional counterparts. The findings suggest little or no accidental biochemical changes due to the genetic modification process.
In this Brazilian farm town where legions of people have suffered from dengue fever, a campaign is fighting back, releasing swarms of mosquitoes engineered to wipe out their own species. As workers open plastic containers allowing millions of newly hatched Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to spread their wings and flutter into the sky, it seems counterintuitive. After all, this is the same pesky bug that transmits the dengue virus through a human-to-mosquito-to-human cycle that's surprisingly difficult to break. The traditional defense is to kill these flying vectors with chemical insecticides. But that hasn’t worked in Brazil or other tropical countries where dengue is a leading cause of illness and fatality. There is no vaccine. The insects are genetically modified (GM) in a laboratory with a lethal gene designed to devastate the Aedies aegypti population and reduce dengue's spread.
As the popularity of raw milk has grown, so too have associated outbreaks. They have nearly doubled over the past five years, with eight out of 10 cases occurring in states that have legalized sales of the unpasteurized product, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Public health officials have also documented how pathogens in raw milk have produced kidney failure in more than a dozen cases and paralysis in at least two.
Sometimes it is astonishing how ignorant people can be. Now it’s the turn of fans of “raw milk,” a new fad that is sweeping the U.S. I still remember reading milk cartons as a kid, and asking my parents what “pasteurized” meant. While I don’t remember exactly what they said, I’m sure they told me that it made the milk safe by killing bacteria. Even as a kid, I understood that bacteria in my milk were probably a bad thing. We have plenty of good science about raw milk. CDC review of infectious disease outbreaks across the U.S. from 1993-2006 found that “The rate of outbreaks caused by unpasteurized milk and products made from it was 150 times greater than outbreaks linked to pasteurized milk.”
A glass of milk a day could help stop women's knees from creaking, claim researchers. A new US study found women who frequently drink fat-free or low-fat milk may have less osteoarthritis in the knee. But eating cheese increased the problem in women. Drinking milk made little difference in men, and eating yogurt did not affect progression in men or women.
A new federally-regulated slaughterhouse is opening in southern Vermont. Vermont has seen a shortage of these facilities, but it's now the animals that are in high demand. Black River started as a produce company, but then purchased this plant which used to house Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Black River Meat employees say it now represents the future of agriculture in the state. Outside a new slaughterhouse is under construction. Black River is partnering with Vermont Packaging House, a newly formed company with meat processing expertise in Minnesota.
Does genetic manipulation causes unintended changes in food quality and composition? Are genetically modified (GM) foods less nutritious than their non-GM counterparts, or different in unknown ways? Despite extensive cultivation and testing of GM foods, those questions still linger in the minds of many consumers. A new study demonstrates a potentially more powerful approach to answering them.
Pontotoc, Miss.-based Southern Quality Meats notified its 110 plant workers that the plant is closing. Operations will be consolidated with its sister plant an Albertville Quality Foods plant in Albertville, Ala.
Quality Meat Packers and Toronto Abattoirs Ltd. have filed for court protection from creditors, according to local news reports. Both companies plan to continue operations while restructuring under Canada’s bankruptcy laws. Headwinds for the pork processors include higher prices for hogs combined with the spread of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) that has killed piglets on Canadian hog farms.
Faced with rising child obesity rates, pretty much everyone involved with feeding children who attend public schools agrees that kids need to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Figuring out how to do that hasn't been easy. The California Farm to School Network, is aimed at solving that problem. The Farm to School Network divides California into 10 regions. In each region, the local leads are using face-to-face meetings and Internet-based applications to find local farmers willing and able to sell their products to school food managers.
Recent retail food price increases of 6.1 % in 2008 and 4.6 % in 2011 put food prices in headlines and raised concerns about food price inflation. However, taking the long-term view, food price inflation has been falling, on average, over the past several decades. Since 2010, food prices have risen by an average of 2.1 % a year. Adjusting for inflation, many consumer staple foods, including a large number of fruits and vegetables and bread, are cheaper today than they were 20 or 30 years ago.
Nearly one in three U.S. adults with a chronic disease has problems paying for food, medicine, or both. That doesn't have to be the case. Of the 10,000 adults who reported that they had a chronic disease such as diabetes, asthma, arthritis, high blood pressure, stroke, a mental health problem, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, nearly one in five said they said they had problems affording food during the past 30 days, a condition called “food insecurity.” Nearly one in four said they had skipped medication dosages because of cost. More than one in ten said they had problems paying for both food and medication.
Extreme weather has thinned the nation's cattle herds, roiling the beef supply chain from rancher to restaurant.
Organic or conventional? It’s a choice many grocery shoppers are faced with, over and over. The price difference is easy to see; it’s right there on the product. The quality difference is much harder. Is the organic milk better for your kids? Is the conventional lettuce more likely to carry pathogens? Leave aside for the moment whether organic agriculture is better for the planet and whether organic livestock have better lives, although there’s a strong case for both of those arguments. What motivates many organic buyers, particularly the parents of small children, is health benefits, and there are two questions: Do organics do us more good (in the form of better nutrition), and do they do us less harm (in the form of fewer contaminants and pathogens)? Because the risks and the benefits vary by product — meat is different from produce — it’s important to look at each category separately. Compared with conventional milk, organic milk has higher levels of omega-3 fats, which protect against heart disease and may decrease the risk of depression, stroke, cancer and other diseases, but the quantities are too small to be very meaningful. (It takes 11 quarts of organic milk to equal the omega-3s in four ounces of salmon.) Neither organic nor conventional milk contains antibiotics.
More than a million children attend public schools in New York City. About 780,000 of them are poor enough to qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch. Getting into the program requires some paperwork, which is a burden but not a terrible one; the application is just one page. So why do so many eligible children — about 250,000 — not participate? The problem, advocates for schoolchildren say, isn’t so much aversion to the menu as it is the embarrassment and bullying that come from being identified as poor, from being seen taking the “free-free,” the derisive nickname New York schoolchildren give to subsidized lunches.
You know an unhealthy diet can make you fat, but new research suggests it can sap your motivation too. In a study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, researchers at UCLA found that rats fed a diet low in fat but high in simple sugars and refined flour were not only more obese than rats that had a better diet, but also less willing to work for a reward.
When Paul Vaughn, an economics major, was in his third year at George Mason University, he decided to save money by moving off campus. He figured that skipping the basic campus meal plan, which costs $1,575 for 10 meals a week each semester, and buying his own food would make life easier. But he had trouble affording the $50 a week he had budgeted for food and ended up having to get two jobs to pay for it. “Almost as bad as the hunger itself is the stress that you’re going to be hungry,” said Vaughn. “I spend more time thinking ‘How am I going to make some money so I can go eat?’ and I focus on that when I should be doing homework or studying for a test.”
"The reality is that organic foods are quite expensive and consumers are looking for alternative claims to help them determine what other types of menu items are safe and of good quality to eat
It is teaming with Wild Oats to sell organic packaged food priced in line with conventional foods and at least 25% cheaper than other organic brands it currently carries.
Los Angeles Times
Overall, milk consumption provides health benefits to all age groups. Effects of cheese, butter, and fat-reduced and saturated fat-reduced milk and dairy products are less clear and require more research. Public health nutrition policy related to milk consumption should be based on the evidence presented and not solely on the believed negative effects of dietary fat. Milk is not a white elixir since no study has reported eternal youth from drinking it, but there is certainly no evidence that milk is a white poison!
Sign-Up Begins April 15 for Livestock, Honeybee, Fruit Grower Programs. The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program will provide payments to eligible producers for livestock deaths and grazing losses that have occurred since the expiration of the livestock disaster assistance programs in 2011, and including calendar years 2012, 2013, and 2014. Enrollment also begins on April 15 for producers with losses covered by the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program and the Tree Assistance Program.
Environmental advocates have been fighting the state’s limits for nutrient pollution in court for years. Groups like Earthjustice have argued the state’s criteria favors polluters over stricter water regulations. A spokesperson for the EPA said in a statement, however, that “there is no need for overlapping federal criteria.” Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement the decision “paves the way for more protection of Florida’s waters." The state agency also said Florida’s criteria are more comprehensive than the federal government’s. However, David Guest, an attorney for Earthjustice who has been fighting Florida’ nutrient criteria, said the state’s rules are not good because industries were too involved when the state wrote the standards.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy defended her agency's Clean Water Act and Renewable Fuels Standard proposals. “Part of the challenge we have is that EPA does not have a trusting relationship with the agriculture community,” McCarthy said in her address. “I'm here today because I want to start that.” Early reaction to the EPA proposed rule to define “waters of the U.S.” under the CWA included charges by many Republicans and some Senate Democrats that the proposal was another example of regulatory overreach. McCarthy emphasized that the proposed rule is not final and discussions with the agricultural community will continue.
More than a dozen Republican lawmakers are pushing the EPA to reconsider asserting regulatory authority over streams and wetlands amid intense backlash from farm groups over the agency's proposed water rule. In a letter, the GOP senators faulted the EPA for announcing a proposed rule last week before the government's peer-reviewed scientific assessment was fully complete. They are calling on the government to withdraw the rule or give the public six months to review it, rather than the three months being provided.
EPA exempts "ditches that are excavated wholly in uplands, drain-only uplands and have less than perennial flow." This really is not an exemption because EPA does not have jurisdiction in uplands. EPA exempts, "Ditches that do not contribute flow, either directly or through another water, to a traditional navigable water…" Again, EPA does not have jurisdiction over ditches in uplands because these do not flow to traditional navigable water or to an impoundment of jurisdictional water. So, EPA is giving nothing because it does not have jurisdiction in the first place. EPA exempts "artificially irrigated areas that would revert to upland …" EPA has never had jurisdiction on upland areas – irrigated or not. Once again, EPA is giving nothing. EPA exempts "artificial reflecting pools or swimming pools created by excavating and/or diking dry land;" It is generous of EPA to exempt homeowners' swimming and/or reflecting pools on dry land. EPA exempts "water-filled depressions created incidental to construction activity." Of course, EPA does not regulate these depressions such as in landfills, because they lost a major case where EPA claimed birds flying over such water-filled depressions gave it jurisdiction. The courts basically said, "you have to be kidding." EPA claims it is exempting groundwater "including groundwater drained through subsurface drainage systems." EPA is not given authority under the CWA to regulate groundwater but it does attempt to regulate groundwater through the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The Indiana State Board of Animal Health has joined a federal program allowing state-inspected meat and poultry to be shipped outside Indiana. The agency says the Cooperative Interstate Shipment Agreement program will be especially beneficial to small businesses looking to expand into new markets. The Cooperative Interstate Shipment program was established by the 2008 Farm Bill and finalized in 2011 by the USDA. Indiana is the fourth state (including Ohio, Wisconsin and North Dakota) to enter the CIS program. BOAH oversees daily inspection of products and facilities in 79 state-inspected plants, along with 40 custom-exempt facilities.
The suit brought by livestock and meatpacking groups against USDA's mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling rule lives to fight another day. A panel of the active judges (known in the legal world as an "en banc" panel) sitting on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals entered an order to vacate the D.C. Circuit's decision to uphold USDA's COOL Rule. The entire panel of the active judges on the D.C. Circuit will re-hear the case on May 19th. ).
At the request of the USDA, the Agricultural Technology Innovation Partnership has established a public-private partnership to enhance research on sustainable soil health for multiple land uses in agriculture. The partnership supports and strengthens the research that serves as the underpinning of demonstration projects.The Foundation announced the formal establishment of the "Resilient Economic Agricultural Practices" public-private partnership, with seven founding participants: POET-DSM, the National Corn Growers Association, Monsanto, New Holland Agriculture, The Nature Conservancy, Archer Daniels Midland Company, and DuPont Pioneer.
Measure would exempt beer brewers from proposed FDA rule. Spent grain left over from breweries' beer making process would be exempted from a controversial animal-feed processing regulation that's been proposed by the FDA under a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner and several of his congressional colleagues. "The FDA's proposed rule is a solution in search of a problem," the bill's sponsors said in a joint statement. "The last thing breweries and farmers across the country need is the federal government interjecting itself into the environmentally sound, centuries-old practice of breweries selling or donating their spent grains to farmers for use as food for animals, when there is no indication that this practice poses any sort of risk to our food safety." The proposed FDA rule, could force breweries to pay to have the grains used in beer production to be taken to landfills, critics of the regulation objected, if those breweries were unable to afford the sanitation, record-keeping and handling procedures that might be required before selling or giving the spent grains to local farmers and ranchers for livestock feed.
The FDA has issued a final rule expanding its emergency records access authority, as provided by the Food Safety Modernization Act. Establishment, Maintenance, and Availability of Records: Amendments to Record Availability Requirements; 79 Fed. Reg. 18799. The final rule adopts, without change, an interim final rule issued in February 2012. The final rule expands FDA’s records access authority in emergency situations, i.e., when the agency has a reasonable belief that an article of food is adulterated and presents a threat of serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals. In such situations, FDA may inspect and copy records relating to the suspect article of food that are held by any person (excluding farms and restaurants) who manufactures, processes, packs, distributes, receives, holds, or imports such food.
The FDA has issued a draft guidance document on labeling of honey and honey products. According to FDA, “honey” is the common or usual name for “a thick, sweet, syrupy substance that bees make as food from the nectar of flowers and store in honeycombs.” The floral source of honey may be included on the label (e.g., “orange blossom honey,” “clover honey”), provided that (1) the particular plant or blossom is the chief floral source of the honey; and (2) the producer, manufacturer, processor, packer, or distributor can show that the designated plant or blossom is the chief floral source.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that over $300 million will be paid to 41 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in support of local schools and roads as part of the Congressional reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. The disbursement includes $30 million in Title II funding to complete special conservation projects on Federal lands proposed by resource advisory committees. Funding is provided through the U.S. Forest Service.
The USDA will begin administering a program to raise funds for Christmas tree promotions this year
A Republican congressman from Kansas introduced legislation that would nullify efforts in multiple states to require labeling of genetically modified foods. The bill, dubbed the "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act" was drafted by U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo from Kansas, and is aimed at overriding bills in roughly two dozen states that would require foods made with genetically engineered crops to be labeled as such. The bill specifically prohibits any mandatory labeling of foods developed using bioengineering.
For families trying to make it in this economy, every dollar counts. And it’s getting harder. The USDA recently announced that it expects food prices to jump 3.5 % in 2014. For these families, food costs make up a substantial part of their spending each and every week. Yet activists are calling for a 50-state patchwork of labeling laws for foods containing everyday genetically modified ingredients that could cause food prices to skyrocket by 15 to 30 % without improving the safety of the food supply. We have to do better by America’s families. That’s why we are proud to introduce bipartisan legislation that would establish, once and for all, a federal standard for labeling foods with genetically modified ingredients that would keep prices low, enhance consumer choice, and ensure that information that reaches consumers is accurate and does not mislead
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspections Service Administrator Kevin Shea testified before the House Appropriations Committee agriculture subcommittee about the current backlog of pending petitions for biotechnology products. Shea told subcommittee members that USDA planned to have the backlog reduced by half within a year. In addition to Shea, witnesses included Ed Avalos, USDA undersecretary of marketing and regulatory programs. Avalos commented that USDA was committed to reducing the current petition timeline, which many throughout the agriculture industry feel is too long and costly, putting growers from the U.S. at a disadvantage with competing nations that sometimes see products readily available in a more timely fashion.
One of the few House Republican proposals aimed at allowing some undocumented immigrants to become legal U.S. residents was blocked Friday by a powerful committee chairman, who said he would not allow the measure to move forward in his bill. The decision by House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (Calif.) further lowers the odds that any immigration reform proposal will pass in the Republican-controlled House this year.
For the poultry industry, among others, the National Labor Relations Board's proposed rule seeking changes to union election rules and procedures is a case of deja vu, and so is their response. But the NLRB in February reintroduced the proposed rule on "Representation-Case Procedures" which first was unveiled in 2011, and then struck down by the courts on what the labor organization describes as a "technicality." The 2014 version of the proposal is essentially the same as the 2011 version, with updates. The proposed changes include significantly reducing the amount of time allowed for various procedures to occur, such as filing paperwork or notifying participants of upcoming elections or hearings.
Housing programs in USDA Rural Development appear to be on a glide path to elimination, says this analysis from advocates at the Housing Assistance Council. The Obama administration's proposed budget for next year continues the downward funding trend.
A federal judge ordered a Copemish farmer to stop classifying migrant workers as independent contractors as a way to avoid paying minimum wage. U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist also ordered Daryl Howes Farms to comply with record-keeping requirements and housing standards required under federal law, and to stop interfering with investigators. The Department of Labor filed a federal lawsuit against the Manistee County farmer alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. The federal agency requested a partial summary judgment, prompting Howes to file a cross motion for summary judgment, arguing that workers were not considered employees under the FLSA, and thus, minimum-wage and record-keeping requirements didn’t apply.
Livestock ranchers pay a grazing fee established by a presidential Executive Order in 1986. Currently, the grazing fee is $1.35 per animal unit month, or the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month. While the relationship between the federal government and ranchers is a well-understood business agreement in most cases, for one Nevada the rancher, the relationship has turned south. Over the past couple of weeks, the story of Cliven Bundy and his family’s decades’ old battle with the federal government has come to a head and a “Range War” has begun. Bundy and his family previously held grazing permits on approximately 600,000 acres in an area owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management called Gold Butte. In 1998, this land was declared habitat for the desert tortoise, which is protected under the Endangered Species Act, making it off limits for cattle grazing. The Bundy’s battle with the BLM started five years earlier. The family stopped paying the federal grazing fee for the land in 1993. According to Bundy, he owes, but refuses to pay, the federal government back-fees totaling approximately $300,000. BLM, however, estimates that figure is more than $1 million.
More protesters are showing up to support rancher Cliven Bundy, who is resisting federal rangers outside Mesquite
EPA’s Fiscal Year 2013 appropriation directed the Agency to competitively award $12.7 million for training and technical assistance to public water systems and wastewater systems located in urban and rural communities. The funding will help provide water system staff with training and tools to enhance system operations and management practices, and support EPA’s continuing efforts to protect public health and promote sustainability in small communities.
The House approved a fiscal year 2015 budget proposal (H.Con.Res.96), on a 219-205 vote, that aims to reduce federal spending by $5.1 trillion over 10 years and includes spending cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and mandatory agricultural outlays.
Your irrevocable 2014 farm bill decisions are getting complicated by this spring's surprise price rally. While it was widely assumed commodity prices were headed for a multi-year crash when the farm bill was being drafted, few experts considered what your best risk management options would be if markets stayed near levels achieved over the last two months. After all, 2014 harvest futures prices were running $5 corn, $12 soybeans and $7.50 wheat this week, too high to trigger farm payments under any of these farm program options this year, based on most forecasts. Who knows what happens for 2015 and beyond and whether any of these revenue or target-price type safety nets ever trigger
Each year, the USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration initiates over one-hundred enforcement actions against packers, dealers, market agencies, live poultry dealers and other regulated entities for alleged violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act. These actions are taken for alleged unfair and deceptive trade practices, or anticompetitive behavior, such as collusion between dealers and packers, or agreements between dealers to alternate bids or refrain from competing on livestock at auctions. GIPSA also brings enforcement actions for other violations of the P&S Act and implementing regulations, such as failure to make full payment promptly, failure to provide a seller of livestock or poultry details of the purchase contract, and failure to register with USDA as a dealer or market agency. .
The 2014 farm bill replaced direct payments with risk management programs. Moreover, a key farm safety net policy and political factor is the distribution of program payments by state. This post therefore examines the distribution by state of direct payments and net crop insurance payments for the 2004-2013 crops. The 5 states with the largest share of direct payments over the 2004-2013 crops were Iowa (9.9%), Illinois (8.8%), Texas (7.9%), Kansas (6.5%), and Nebraska (6.5%). In comparison, the 5 states with the largest share of net crop insurance payments were Texas (16.7%), North Dakota (8.5%), Kansas (8.4%), Iowa (7.9%), and Illinois (7.5%).
A group of senators pushed back on the European Union’s support of restricting the use of common product names like bologna and black forest ham by U.S. producers. The EU supports graphical indication restrictions on food products exported by U.S. companies under the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. A group of senators said the restrictions would inhibit U.S. trade.
Rabobank says joint industry and government approach needed to improve sector's competitiveness. New Zealand's milk production growth is likely to be constrained over the next five years as the ability to change land use will become more difficult and expensive. The bank said the future growth of the New Zealand dairy industry would partly depend on how efficiently producers adapted their production systems to meet heightened environmental controls.
Chinese importers have defaulted on at least 500,000 tons of U.S. and Brazilian soybean cargoes worth around $300 million, the biggest in a decade, as buyers struggle to get credit amid losses in processing beans. Three companies in the eastern province of Shandong had defaulted on payments for shipments as they were unable to open letters of credit with banks, trade sources said on Thursday. A string of defaults on loans, bonds and shadow banking products in recent weeks has highlighted rising credit risks in China, partly fuelled by signs the economy is slowing.
Australia concluded a bilateral trade agreement with Japan that cuts the Japanese tariff on imported Australian frozen beef to 19.5 % from 38.5 % with deep cuts in the first year of the agreement. Australia has broken new ground as the first major agricultural exporting economy to conclude such a liberalizing agreement with Japan. Beef is Australia’s biggest agricultural export to Japan, currently worth $1.4 billion. The agreement also allows for duty-free access for Australian cheese and a wide array of fruit, vegetables and nuts. The tariffs on canned products such as tomatoes, peaches and pears, as well as fruit and vegetable juices, will also be eliminated.
Each year, USDA prepares ten-year projections of global agricultural supply, demand, and trade. In each projection, China—with its large population, rapid economic growth, and anticipated dietary change—is a key component. Until the late 20th century, the Chinese population obtained over 90 % of its calories from carbohydrates like rice, wheat, millet, beans, and tubers. Many observers expected this to change as China began to emerge from poverty and isolation in the 1980s; the expectation was that rising living standards would lead to increased demand for livestock and feed grains that would outstrip China’s production capacity.
In 1944, Borlaug moved to Mexico to work on breeding high-yield, disease-resistant strains of wheat. Mexico adopted them — and in 1970, wheat yields were six times what they had been in 1950. In 1965, India and Pakistan, then on the brink of widespread famine, began growing the high-yield wheat. Over the next 30 years, wheat yields in India tripled. The same happened with high-yield rice strains that had been developed in the Philippines. Borlaug, who died in 2009, directed the wheat improvement program of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, which goes by the Spanish acronym Cimmyt. The research headquarters is a 78-hectare spread of land a half-hour drive from Mexico City. Today Cimmyt researchers grow and test new varieties of corn, or maize, along with the wheat. Their purpose is to contribute to a new green revolution — this time for Africa. The high-yield wheat and rice of the Green Revolution produced dramatic gains in harvests in Asia and Latin America. But not in Africa. There, the climate was too varied, the soils too degraded. Africa lacked infrastructure such as roads, or India’s railway system, that helped farmers to commercialize their grain. It did not have a network of companies to sell farmers the hybrid seeds for the high-yield varieties, nor the fertilizer and pesticides necessary to take full advantage of those seeds.
U.S. beef shipments to Japan may drop after the largest Asian buyer agreed with Australia to begin reducing import tariffs as early as next year, Japan’s agriculture ministry. Japan agreed to gradually lower tariffs on imports of frozen beef from Australia to 19.5 % and cut duties on chilled beef to 23.5 % in a bilateral accord reached yesterday. The levies are now 38.5 % and the reductions will take place over 18 years and 15 years, respectively. .
South Africa’s Rural Development and Land Reform Ministry has proposed buying half of some farms and splitting the land up among workers, according to recommendations published by the department. People who have worked on a farm for 10 years will be entitled to 10 % of the land purchased by the state, according to the proposal. Workers on a farm for 25 years will get 25 % of the land.
Brazil's ongoing effort to gain approval for fresh beef exports to the US may be threatened by a setback with canned beef currently permitted for export to the United States following an alleged detection of excessive levels of anthelmintic ivermectin in a shipment of canned beef from JBS SA.
Energy and Renewables
Three bills expanding the rights of landowners who are currently leased with natural gas companies were approved today with strong bipartisan support by the full state Senate, according to prime sponsor, Senator Gene Yaw. The legislation, known as the Oil and Gas Lease Protection Package, aims to provide more protections for landowners. The first bill, SB 1236, would expand upon the Oil and Gas Lease Act by allowing royalty interest owners the opportunity to inspect records of natural gas companies to verify proper payments. In addition, the bill requires all royalty payments be made within 60 days of production unless otherwise stated in the contract. SB 1237, would prohibit a gas company from retaliating against any royalty interest owner by terminating their lease agreement or ceasing development on leased property because a royalty interest owner questions the accuracy of current royalty payments. S 1238, would require a gas company to record a surrender document in the county Recorder of Deeds office where the oil and gas well is located within 30 days upon expiration, termination, or forfeiture of an oil and gas lease.
Misleading headlines say the future of Minnesota's biodiesel mandate is uncertain. Don't believe everything that you read. Despite sensationalist headlines circulating recently about the future of Minnesota’s biodiesel mandate being in jeopardy, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and state policymakers are working on a sensible compromise that keeps the nation’s first biodiesel mandate on a promising trajectory. First and foremost, the state still plans to move forward with implementation of B10 come July 1. This has not changed. Currently, all No. 2 diesel fuel in the state is required to be 5 % biodiesel. As of July 1, B10 will be required only in the summer months, which, hitherto, have been determined to be April through October
Efforts to raise the state gas tax in Iowa to fund road and bridge repairs appear to be falling short once again. Many of the state’s farm and commodity groups have lobbied for the increase. But House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha says they haven’t gained much traction. “I don’t think anything’s changed in that dialogue this session,” Paulsen says. Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock says he’s not sensing a groundswell for a gas tax increase. “I believe that what you’re seeing happen in the Iowa Senate is that people are listening and while attitudes may be changing about that, at the moment they’re not hearing a strong message from the vast majority of their constituents to make those changes,” Dix says. Iowa transportation officials estimate they are 215 million dollars short of what’s needed to maintain and build new roads and bridges. Iowa’s gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1989.
The Uinta Basin in northeast Utah is changing fast. Its lower reaches are already pockmarked with some 8,000 oil and gas wells, but so far, the top of the high southern rim -- the area known as the Book Cliffs -- has avoided much of the industrialization found to the north. But that could change, and soon. The road from Vernal to the Book Cliffs Divide was dirt until just a few months ago; now, fresh pavement ends at the Uintah-Grand County line, not half a mile from the tiny PR Spring Mine. It won’t be tiny for long: US Oil Sands, a company based in Calgary, Canada, has permits to enlarge this mine’s pit from 200 acres to almost 6,000 acres. Beyond that, the company holds leases on 32,000 more acres nearby. It plans to strip-mine the Green River Formation from the surface down to 150 feet. The rock contains bitumen, a hydrocarbon that’s hard as a hockey puck. The company will crush and mix the bitumen with a solvent called d-limonene, turning it into synthetic crude oil.
High Country News
Even at today’s historic low prices, rooftop solar still costs several thousands of dollars, and even a no-money-down lease from a company like Solar City requires a credit score of 680. The Flint/Jones household still relies on that grid, too, to bring them electricity at night and on the rare rainy day, like a big, diffuse battery spread across the transmission wires. One day, however, they may not need to. One day soon, many energy analysts predict, people with rooftop solar will also have batteries, fuel cells and microturbine generators to complement their solar when the sun goes down. In that case, some of the utility companies’ best customers could quit the grid and go it alone, leaving even fewer people to pay for the maintenance of transmission lines, substations and control rooms with smart-grid software. Rates will then rise for the rest, prompting yet more customers to defect, and driving rates up more: The dreaded utility death spiral.
High Country News
Federal judges on pressed the Obama administration to explain delays that have plagued its implementation of the U.S. biofuel mandate, as the government attempted to fend off an oil industry challenge to renewable fuel use targets. In a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington D.C., the American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers argued the 2013 biofuel use targets should be thrown out because the administration acted "arbitrarily and capriciously" when it issued the targets nearly nine months after its legislative deadline.
The dangers of fracking are becoming increasingly well-known as study after study shows how it contaminates water -- a critical resource for our industries. Fracking would jeopardize the safety of the water we rely on for producing our wine -- the same water relied upon by the beer industry and other farm-based beverage industries. States have confirmed water contamination resulting from fracking, and recent scientific studies by three major American universities -- from three different states that permit fracking -- substantiate those dangers to water supplies. That simply doesn't mix with brewing beer, producing wine or other beverages. We at King Ferry Winery, maker of Treleaven brand wines, are proud of the many gold medals that we have won in national and international competitions over the last 25 years.
From plant factories fueled by the magenta glow of blue and red LED lights, to the 30-foot tall Ferris wheel for plants in Singapore, we've shown you the design possibilities for growing vegetables up instead of out. But critics ask, what kind of stresses does that put on the plant? And how do you feed this kind of intensive cultivation without spending more than what you get back in the harvest? They say one of the signs of reaching maturity is your ability to answer your critics. Well, vertical farming may be about at that stage. With a grant from the state of Illinois, Edel is "installing a giant anaerobic digester that will convert truckloads of food waste into biogas, burned onsite to keep the lights on,"Edel's baby is The Plant, a 93,500-square-foot former meatpacking facility in Chicago's downtrodden Back of the Yards neighborhood. He's helped transform it into an energy self-sufficient food production operation that will house food nonprofits, for-profits and educational enterprises.
No-one is suggesting America will stop importing power overnight, but being largely self-sufficient in energy could have widespread implications not just for the US, but for the rest of the world. Last year, the United States spent about $300bn on importing oil. This represented almost two-thirds of the country's entire annual trade deficit. Oil imports are, therefore, sucking hundreds of billions of dollars a year out of the US economy. As the IEA says, a persistent trade deficit can act as a drag on economic growth, manufacturing and employment. If the US achieved energy independence, not only would the country spend far less on cheaper, domestically generated power, but the money would be going primarily to US-owned energy producers. The US's oil import bill also constitutes about 2% of the country's annual economic growth. As the US economy averages about 2% growth a year, the country would, in effect, be getting a year's growth for free
The Obama administration has halted investments in advanced biofuels plants following its proposal last year to reduce how much renewable fuels must be blended into the country's fuel supply in 2014, an executive representing the industry told Senate lawmakers. "What the (Environmental Protection Agency) proposal did, first the leaked version in October and then in November is frozen everything," Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council, told sympathetic lawmakers on the Senate Agriculture Committee. "Every single one of my companies. There are no exceptions."
A new model for solar farms that 'co-locates' crops and solar panels could result in a harvest of valuable biofuel plants along with solar energy. This co-location approach could prove especially useful in sunny, arid regions such as the southwestern United States where water is scarce.
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