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Food and Rural Communities
Federal and International
North Dakota State Sen. Tim Flakoll, has been elected chairman of the Council of State Governments Midwest.
Local farmers market managers are applauding recent legislation that will establish uniform guidelines governing markets around Illinois. "There are a lot of overlapping and rules contradicting each other in the farmers market world," said Streator Downtown Farmers Market Manager Curt Bedei. The legislation includes a number of provisions: Consistent Statewide Rules: The law creates a timeline for Illinois Department of Public Health’s Farmers Market Task Force to complete recommendations for statewide rules and regulations and strengthens that task force’s authority and process for developing and finalizing said rules and regulations. Statewide Sampling Program: House Bill 5657 authorizes and instructs IDPH and the task force to develop a sampling certificate program that would allow a farmer or entrepreneur to offer product samples at any market in the state under one certificate and one consistent set of rules. Product Origin and Transparency Provisions: Consumers may assume products sold at these markets are locally grown, but there are some vendors who actually are resellers selling the same out-of-state product as most grocery stores. The law requires vendors who sell unprocessed produce to have a label that states the address where their products were physically grown. If the vendor can’t disclose that, the vendor must list from where it was purchased. The law caps the fee local health departments can charge cottage food operations for registering at $25 per year to minimize costs to these small businesses.
A bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will bar those convicted of livestock theft from holding a registered brand in California for five years, and the person will face increased scrutiny after that. The bill was the second in two years to deal with cattle rustling, which has become a high-tech crime.
At least three meetings of state boards or commissions have been canceled for lack of quorums as members resign because of Hawaii's new public disclosure law. 18 commission members have resigned. The resignations meant the state Land Use Commission did not have enough members to meet. A University of Hawaii Board of Regents Committee on Community Colleges meeting scheduled was canceled due to lack of quorum. A meeting of the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. also was canceled. The disclosure law took effect Tuesday. Four regents have resigned, as have five members of the nine-person Land Use Commission. The disclosure bill passed the Hawaii Legislature unanimously.
Kauai’s county attorney has asked the county council for more money to defend a new law regulating genetically engineered crops and pesticides. The county attorney is seeking $50,000 to pay private attorneys defending it against a federal lawsuit filed by seed companies. The companies argue the ordinance is invalid and arbitrarily targets their industry with “burdensome and baseless” restrictions on farming operations by attempting to regulate activities over which counties have no jurisdiction. The new law requires the companies to disclose their use of pesticides and genetically modified crops. It also requires them to establish buffer zones around sensitive areas, including schools and hospitals. The council in February authorized spending $75,000 on attorneys for the case.
West Hawaii Today
The question of whether or not counties have the authority to regulate pesticide use and genetically engineered crops was at the center of a federal court hearing challenging Kauai County’s new ordinance imposing buffer zones and disclosure requirements on biotechnology firms. Margery Bronster, former state attorney general and attorney for the plaintiffs, questioned the authority of Kauai County to pass the law, pointing to existing state and federal regulations on pesticide use. She also said the ordinance unfairly targets the biotechnology industry, and argued that the county has the burden to prove that it has the authority to regulate pesticide spraying. Conversely, county lawyers said that it’s the responsibility of the plaintiffs to show that Ordinance 960 defies state law.
The Vermont Public Interest Research Group along with the Washington D.C.-based Center for Food Safety have filed to intervene in the case. They say the state lacks the resources and expertise to adequately defend the law in court. They offer counsel from the Vermont Law School Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic as well as fundraising capabilities.
Consumers are continually bombarded with both negative and positive information about the use of biotechnology in food production, specifically GMOs. As issues like GMO labeling continue to heat up throughout the U.S., understanding the consumer's perspective on the topic has become increasingly important. Developed jointly by the Food Marketing Institute, Prevention magazine and Rodale Inc., a new report titled "Shopping for Health 2014" examines shoppers' interest and attitudes, as well as in-store activities, regarding health and nutrition concerns and the ways in which these play out in purchasing decisions at the grocery store. Participants in the survey were asked a variety of questions about biotechnology and GMOs, and results revealed that most shoppers were aware of the food terms "genetically modified" (67%) and "bioengineered" (53%). Interestingly, it was found that shoppers were less familiar with the acronym "GMO" (47%) than with its full-name counterpart, even though some food packages specifically tout that they do not contain GMOs. "There appears to be confusion and concern regarding these terms: Of those who are aware of them, more shoppers feel they are unsafe than safe, and many are unsure," the report notes. "Women are as likely as men to be aware of genetically modified food and GMOs but more likely to feel these foods are not safe. "Many shoppers are concerned or confused regarding GMOs and genetically modified and bioengineered foods," it adds. "It will be increasingly important to monitor both awareness and understanding of new food technologies and to make sure that shoppers fully understand how these technologies impact their food." According to similar research recently completed for the Iowa Farm Bureau Food & Farm Index and conducted online by Harris Poll, nearly nine out of 10 (87%) Iowa grocery shoppers said knowing that crops developed with GMOs can produce foods that provide better nutritional value would influence their decision to purchase this type of food for their family.
Rumors drifted across the California’s parched Central Valley that a bidding war for water might push auction prices as high as $3,000 an acre-foot, up from $60 in a normal year. One of the worst droughts in state history is pushing water prices to record levels — fraying nerves, eroding bank accounts and stress-testing the state’s “water market,” an informal and largely hidden network of buyers and sellers. Market-driven “water trading” is helpful in a drought, say experts, because it is an agile way to move water from the haves to have-nots, and from lower-value to high-value uses. For those with water, it may be more profitable to sell it than grow crops; in fact, it may be their only way of paying their bills.
Los Angeles Daily News
The Right to Farm stood up in court last week when an Indiana judge tossed out four lawsuits against farmers, finding that the state’s law protects them from neighbors’ complaints. In the cases, plaintiffs complained that the farming operations created a nuisance through odor, manure management practices, and location of the farms. But Indiana’s Right to Farm law protects farmers so long as they are following normally accepted practices and the judge didn’t find any evidence that the farmers were negligent in the way they ran their operations. OFW law represented Indiana’s farmers.
Mr. Gimbel, who once headed the hedge fund division of Credit Suisse, now spends more time discussing crop yields than stock or bond yields. He is the man on the ground for a group of investors — including New York’s biggest real estate dynasty, two Florida sugar barons and the founder of a multibillion-dollar investment firm — who have been buying up farms across the United States through a real estate investment trust called the American Farmland Company. Hedge funds are not new to farmland. For nearly a decade they have scoured the corners of the globe for cheap land as food prices have soared, positioning themselves to profit from the growing demand. Hedge funds now have $14 billion invested in farmland, according to the data provider Preqin. But in the latest twist, a small but growing group of sophisticated investors and bankers are combining crops and the soil they grow in into an asset class that ordinary investors can buy a piece of. Farmland Partners and the Gladstone Land Corporation, two real estate investment trusts that also own and lease farmland, are already trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange.
There is a whole category of legislation filed on Beacon Hill every two years that can best be categorized under the heading “What’s The Point?” Passage is merely intended to appease special interests, or a legislator’s political interests. Or the bill is filed because lawmakers in other states are doing something similar. And so it is that we have a bill that would require food manufacturers to label any grocery item that contains ingredients grown with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. There is plenty of Internet-driven innuendo — but no scientific studies that conclude that GMOs, which are widely used, are a threat to human health. But hey, who needs science! Supporters say consumers have a right to know what’s in their food. Then they should go right ahead and start lobbying Congress for a federal law. Because if food manufacturers are forced to comply with a patchwork of state laws (Vermont has passed a labeling requirement) the only result will be higher costs.
Virginia's oyster harvest rose nearly 25 % last season, topping 500,000 bushels for the first time since the 1980s.
The first six months of 2014 were the hottest ever in California. The period was nearly 5 degrees warmer than the 20th century average and more than a degree hotter than the record set in 1934. The first half of the year was the second warmest on average in Los Angeles in the last 70 years, with an average temperature just above 63 degrees. National Weather Service data show that more than 80% of California is now in an extreme drought. Northern California cities, including San Francisco and Sacramento, experienced the warmest six months ever.
Timely, reliable rail service is becoming increasingly hard to come by for Wisconsin’s agriculture industry. “Rail service availability or even service are getting more difficult all the time because of frac sand moving east and oil moving south,” said Ben Brancel, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. He said the financial situation is worsening in South Dakota, where some farmers are unable to move last year’s wheat from bins and have been asking financial institutions for carry-over loans to get them through the next harvest season until the previous year’s grain can be moved. “It’s a North Dakota-caused issue and a South Dakota-realized issue,” Brancel said, “and we’re in the middle.”
The Country Today
Responding to a report by the Environmental Integrity Project, groups representing Maryland poultry farmers say restoration goals for the Chesapeake Bay are being met ahead of schedule. The EIP assessment of a decade’s worth of data concluded that no improvement had occurred and said the EPA may be overestimating reductions in farm pollution. But Delmarva Poultry Industry and the Maryland Farm Bureau called the EIP report flawed propaganda in a long rebuttal that addresses its contentions point by point. They note EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program office found that Maryland finished 2012-13 ahead of schedule with reductions exceeded by more than 3.5 million pounds for nitrogen, by nearly 147,000 pounds for phosphorus and by nearly 90 million pounds for sediment. The progress puts Maryland farmers on track to reach 2017 and 2025 EPA goals.
Inslee withdraws protection as longshore union pickets continue. A major grain export terminal in Vancouver, Wash., is effectively shut down because state grain inspectors refuse to enter the facility, citing harassment from longshoremen. The disruption is worrisome for farm groups, who don’t want foreign buyers to question the dependability of U.S. grain exports due to an ongoing dispute between the longshoremen’s union and Northwest grain handlers. Grain shipments must be inspected for weight and quality under federal law, but the USDA can delegate that authority to state inspectors. United Grain Co. locked out the International Longshore and Warehouse Union from its Vancouver facility last year as part of a labor contract disagreement, which resulted in picketing activity at the site’s entrance
Charity Navigator has become aware of the following information in connection with this charity: Feld Entertainment long running legal dispute with the Humane Society of the United States, "when the [voluntary] settlement…' between Feld Entertainment and several non-profit animal rights groups "…was announced, officials at the Humane Society of the U.S. and the Fund for Animals, which were responsible for paying the $15.7 million, defiantly claimed their insurance companies, not their donors, would pay the money to Feld." The article goes on to note that "what the animal rights groups failed to disclose to the public was that they'd been told four years before that their insurance companies would not provide coverage." Charity Navigator, as an impartial evaluator of publicly reported financial information, takes no position on allegations made or issues raised by third parties, nor does Charity Navigator seek to confirm or verify the accuracy of allegations made or the merits of issues raised by third parties that may be referred to in the Donor Advisory. However, Charity Navigator has determined that the nature of this/these issue(s) warrants making this information available so that donors may determine for themselves whether such information is relevant to their decision whether to contribute to this organization.
A new study on the environmental impact of livestock production in the United States conducted by researchers in physics, plant sciences, and forestry and environmental sciences at Bard College in New York, Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and Yale, respectively, claims beef production results in far more damage to the environment than other protein sources. The study, which appears in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, attempts to quantify the environmental impact of each calorie consumed of beef, pork, poultry, eggs and dairy, the major animal-based categories in the U.S. diet. Cattle require 28 times more land, 11 times more irrigation water, release five times more greenhouse gases and consume six times more nitrogen than the other livestock categories, the study says. They noted the main challenge was finding accurate input values as different production methods within species vary in input requirements. Should the beef industry consider the report a blow to modern beef production, or is this another attempt by the anti-beef community to get beef off the dinner plate? Eshel, who reportedly admitted to not eating meat, added that the takeaway message from the study is “wherever possible try to replace beef with other sources of protein from animal sources.”
It doesn’t matter if it’s a lie, just repeat it often enough and people will come to believe it. Sadly, the media and our political system have proven this adage time and time again. Thus, it should be no surprise that anti-meat activists continue to implement this strategy. A new study was published on the environmental impact of livestock production. In reality, however, “new” isn’t the appropriate word to describe this research as it’s just a repackaging of the pseudo-science and false assumptions that previous studies have cited. This latest report, however, is somewhat unique in that it specifically targets beef production, charging that all the other competitive protein sources are more environmentally friendly. The report was like reading verbatim the propaganda that usually emanates from anti-beef groups. To the dismay of cattlemen who work daily with Mother Nature to maintain their production base, the study’s conclusion at every corner is to eliminate beef from the diet. Beef has an amazing environmental story to tell. For one thing, we provide the environment for most of the country’s wildlife. And any consumer in the world has only to visit a ranch and hog or poultry production facility to immediately understand which industry is having the most positive impact on the environment. The real question is to decide whether responding with the real scientific facts is the right approach. Attacking the beef industry for its environmental impact is like attacking the U.S. for its commitment to democracy. Democracy may not be perfect but it has proven to be the best system ever invented by mankind. We have a good story to tell; we just need to make sure it’s understood.
I recently read an article entitled, “10 things you need to know about sustainable agriculture,” which was featured in The Guardian. The article featured experts who discussed sustainable agriculture and feeding a growing population. Of particular interest in this top 10 list of ways to improve our sustainability was point eight, which suggests that meat should go off the menu. According to the article, “Meat is off the menu. Achieving replacement level fertility, reducing food loss and waste, reducing biofuel demand for food crops and shifting our diets, will all go some way to closing the gap between food available and food required. Any meaningful change to consumption patterns and the environmental impacts of food production though, will have to involve knocking animal products off the menu, especially beef. For facts on this topic, I’ve rounded up five great resources and past blog posts that show cattle actually help the environment: 1. Meatless Monday Not Better For Health, Environment 2. VIDEO: Consider Both Consumer & Environment In Sustainability 3. Clearing The Air On Cattle And The Environment 4. Conventional Production Best For The Environment 5. Tofu Can Harm Environment More Than Meat, Finds WWF Study
An activist researcher claims that pork, poultry and eggs are five times as eco-friendly as beef. Why? For the very reason that animal rights attack producers: Confinement production. If one could paraphrase the meme that eco- and veggie activists have been pushing for nearly a decade now, it might be phrased like this: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all meats are not created equal.” And guess which sector of animal agriculture they love to hate? Big, bad beef.
A landmark 50-year study documents the reduced environmental footprint achieved by the egg industry. Egg farmers increased their number of laying hens by just 18 % while meeting the demands of a U.S. consumer population that grew 72 % over the same time period. Today’s egg production is cleaner, releasing 71 % less greenhouse gas emissions. Feed efficiencies mean hens received a scientifically balanced diet of vitamins and nutrients but use a little over half the amount of feed to produce a dozen eggs. And today’s hens are healthier, living longer and producing 27% more eggs per day. Egg farmers are doing their best to meet the nutrient requirements of a rapidly expanding global population while striving to maintain finite resources such as land, water and energy.
From its history as a peach-producing state to its current status as a major producer of poultry, soy and lima beans, Delaware always has been an agriculture state.
While not receiving quite as much attention, the USDA is currently forecasting a new record yield (45.2 bushels) of soybeans in 2014, exceeding the 2009 record of 44 bushels by a large margin. Like corn, high soybean yield expectations this year are based on generally favorable growing conditions to date and on the high percentage of the crop rated in good or excellent condition.
For the second time in a week, a man was arrested at the entrance of a Capitol Hill office building for allegedly carrying a firearm. The man, 59-year-old Ronald William Prestage of Camden, S.C., was apprehended by Capitol Police as he was attempting to enter the northeast entrance of the Cannon House Office Building. During an administrative screening process, officers found a loaded 9mm Ruger. Carrying a firearm without a District of Columbia license is illegal in the city, which has very strict gun laws.
Wall Street Journal
If you don’t think they’re serious about sustainability out at the University of Georgia’s J. Phil Campbell Sr. Research and Education Center in Oconee County, then you haven’t seen the revolutionary, yet old-fashioned, way they’re tending their cattle herd. Instead of herding cattle with trucks, humans on foot, or Kawasaki “mules,” they’re doing it with horses and men — not cowboys, but stockmen. It’s the old way, but it’s a new way for many ranchers or farmers who raise cattle, said Richard Boatwright, who rides herd on the Campbell farm’s cattle along with C.J. O’Mara.
The Athens Banner-Heralds
As U.S. farmers turn in record grain crops this autumn, many will have a powerful new tool - giant sausage-shaped storage bags - to help them avoid the lowest prices in years and gain more control. Demand has surged this summer for the white polyethylene bags the length of a football field and the equipment required to fill them. They allow farmers to store millions of bushels of corn and soybeans at a fraction the cost of conventional silos and far more efficiently than leaving grain in the open air. The bags, which are about 300-foot long and 10 feet in diameter, are common on the Argentine Pampas but until recently a rare sight in the U.S. Midwest, where the expansion of big elevators and 50-foot high silos has generally kept pace with ever-expanding crops.
State and regional investments approved included: Livestock Slaughter Facility: Beef & Bacon Custom Processing LLC was approved for up to $100,000 in state and $100,000 in multi-county funds to construct a 4,000-square-foot animal processing facility in McLean County. The facility will process cattle, hogs and deer initially with limited USDA-inspected processing in the future. Louisville Farm to Table: was approved for $120,000 in state funds across two years for continuation of the Louisville Farm to Table program.
It's a powerful word shaping the future. But what does it really mean for Canadian livestock production? To the producer at the base of the food chain, it's an often confusing and threatening term meaning more pressures, scrutiny and risks to economic viability. But what is true sustainability, really? Is it something producers and their industries should be afraid of? How can the issue be managed to be more about opportunities and less about challenges? As the Chief Sustainability Officer for JBS USA and president of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, he brought an authoritative and often frank, no-holds barred take on the fast-shifting landscape around this issue. Here's a small sampling: Six things to know 1. Glass half full. Sustainability is a term increasingly used in the marketplace with consumers, advocacy groups and activists. Many in animal agriculture have seen it as a threat - driving higher expectations that threaten economic viability. But the rise of sustainability as model for the future should not be feared, says Bruett. 2. Real sustainability includes economics. The key is having the right definition, he says. True sustainability deals with three pillars - economic, environmental and social – in a model of balance and continual improvement. "It is the balance of three pillars where the true sweet spot of sustainability lies," says Bruett. Critics of modern agriculture tend to leave out the economic part, which is a big mistake, he says. 3. Niche systems will not do the job. Niche systems such as organic, grass-fed and natural beef are often promoted incorrectly as higher sustainability models, he says. "Sustainability in its simplest terms is producing more with less.
The vice president of animal well-being for Tyson Foods, Dean Danilson, says farm animal welfare issues will continue to be “a driver for change” in the industry. “More consumers are becoming aware of animal welfare issues, which are increasingly becoming factors in their purchasing decisions,” Danilson says, “and consumers want to know more about how food is produced—but they aren’t sure where to go for accurate information.” But Danilson says, at the same time, studies have shown that consumers aren’t interested in hearing science-based arguments. “Consumers are overwhelmed with studies and facts—they don’t know what to believe,” he says. “In our industry, we use scientific- and experience-based language, (but) it doesn’t resonate with consumers—with the moms in New York City. “The food industry says ‘here’s the reality of pig farming’—the consumer hears ‘you’re speaking down to me and ignoring my very real concerns’.” So, Danilson says, the industry must continually ask itself, “Is there a better way to do things?” “Is what we do today the best and the right thing for sustained animal agriculture—and for the welfare of the animal?
On-farm technology to turn liquid manure into clean water, while separating out valuable nutrients, is expected to be available commercially by year's end.
Prices Have Fallen Nearly 30% in Past Three Months. Tumbling corn prices are sowing fears that many U.S. farmers will suffer their first losses in years and the agricultural economy could face its first sustained slump in a decade. Corn prices have plunged nearly 30% in the past three months to their lowest point since 2010 as near-perfect weather in the Midwest fuels expectations of a second consecutive bumper harvest. Prices of other crops have fallen sharply as well, with soybeans trading near 2½-year lows and wheat near four-year lows.
Wall Street Journal
Former Purdue University economist Brent Gloy is weighing in on any potential cash rent crash for 2015. Since he headed back to his western Nebraska home farm this spring, he's become an academic with real skin in the game, so to speak. He emailed me to share his analysis showing that statewide-average cash rents rarely slide much in any given year. It's those cut-throat, top-of-market leases bid up at cash corn's $6.89 season-average peak in 2012 that stand to see the biggest adjustments. But renters shouldn't get their hopes up. From 1976 to 2013, cash rents on "average" quality Indiana farmland reported in Purdue's land survey rarely moved more than 10% per year. "It is also obvious that rents do go down, but usually not very much or very often," Gloy found.
A new study finds more than 75 % of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought.
The overwhelming majority (over 97%) of Missouri’s farms are family owned and operated. Those farm families support over 300,000 jobs. Missouri farmers and ranchers continue to provide some of the world’s safest, most affordable and abundant sources of food to consumers, while using fewer resources, less land, less water and less energy. Estimates show that by 2050, agriculture will be required to increase its productive capability no less than 70 % to feed the growing world population and avoid widespread famine. By protecting farmers and ranchers, Missouri will preserve its most important economic sector, while ensuring that our families have access to the fresh, nutritious foods they need…at prices they can actually afford.
Protect the Harvest
The 2014 Ohio Farm Custom Rate Survey found that the rates paid to farm workers and machinery operators for custom farm work have increased thanks in part to increased supply costs and the agriculture industry boom in recent years
The attorney representing the Placitas-based Wild Horse Observers Association in a lawsuit against the state Livestock Board says he’s planning to appeal a District Court Judge’s decision that ruled against the organization. The Wild Horse Observers Association was seeking to stop the Livestock Board from picking up horses from private property in Placitas and asked the court to declare that the Placitas feral horses are wild. But Judge Valerie Huling’s decision issued on July 16 said WHOA “failed to demonstrate that the horses at issue are not estray livestock and that the (Livestock) Board acted outside of its authority under the Livestock Code.”
National Beef Packing Co. closed its Brawley, CA, plant in May. By some estimates, anywhere from a third to a half of the region’s 400,000 head of cattle have left the valley, perhaps never to return.
Declining grain and soybean prices will change the economic landscape for agriculture. “We’re going to have a lot of yield this year and that’s going to help somewhat with the lower prices—and insurance this year will help to buffer the downturn,” says David Oppedahl, senior business economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. “It’s really more next year that the crop farmers are going to feel the full weight of these lower prices, unless something else changes.” But Oppedahl says most farmers are in good shape financially, with very positive balance sheets. “Of course, there will be certain operations that maybe expanded a little too quickly and are in a tighter situation,” he says, “and, going forward, working capital is an issue because a lot of farmers have used that up in purchase of either land or equipment—so that’s going to be a key issue, how much working capital you can have.”
Meat and Livestock Australia has invested in research to counteract claims made by Meat Free Mondays campaigns across Australia through multiple platforms including producer videos, social media and community forums. Its Target 100 program is taking the meat industry’s response directly to consumers to enable them “to make informed decisions, rather than being influenced by only catchy taglines.” According to MLA, 4 % of people who are the main grocery buyer/meal preparer in their household know about Meat Free Mondays , but only 5 % have been persuaded to change their eating habits. MLA wants to make sure those numbers remain low
As budgets continue to be slashed and regional interests shift, some university and research dairies are shuttering for good. The latest is Fort Hays State University, currently a 35-cow dairy in an antiquated facility with a double-four parlor.
Actual cropland returns in 2013 and projected returns in 2014 and 2015 are considerably below returns from 2010 through 2012. In many cases, projected 2015 returns will be lower than current cash rents, likely require renegotiating for lower cash rents. This article evaluates these situations by 1) identifying farms requiring adjustments in cash rents, 2) identifying how far cash rents must be lowered, and 3) providing comments for both land owners and farmers.
Fires in Washington's Okanogan County have burned thousands of acres of rangeland, killed livestock, left ranches and orchards without power for irrigation and destroyed homes.
The bigotry and fear greeting busloads of Central American mothers and children is almost word for word what Steinbeck’s Joads heard 75 years ago. The angry protestors who made headlines recently when they confronted three busloads of Central American mothers and their children in Murrieta, California, reflect widespread fears that many now have about uncontrolled immigration. But we should also remember that as a nation we have dealt with such fears of newcomers before. Seventy-five years ago in The Grapes of Wrath, his classic 1939 Great Depression novel, John Steinbeck depicted a similar confrontation between Californians and down-and-out arrivals to their state. The difference is that in Steinbeck’s book the targets of widespread anger were not immigrants. They were migrants from the Dust Bowl of the South and Southwest who had come to California when drought made their lives as farmers impossible. What happens when they come here with diseases and can overrun our schools? How much is this costing us?” a Murrieta protester was quoted as asking the town’s mayor this month. In The Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck has an angry Californian use almost identical language to say of the Dust Bowl migrants, “They bring diseases, they’re filthy. We can’t have them in the schools. They’re strangers
A $70 million facility being constructed in downtown Boise will house 52 antique tractors that will help serve as a reminder of Idaho's farming roots. The building is being funded by the J.R. Simplot family.
New research identifies the unhappiest cities in the U.S., but finds that some young people are still willing to relocate to them for a good job opportunity or lower housing prices. The analysis suggests people may be deciding to trade happiness for other gains.
In the past few decades, rural school districts, especially those in the Midwest, Southwest, and Deep South, have been folding their smaller schools into bigger ones, which are often many miles away. These schools close because of shrinking state funding, low enrollment, or simply a desire for efficiency—even as studies show small schools often have higher test scores, higher graduation rates, and better student participation in extracurriculars. Post-closure, Johnston’s ghost-town fears often become reality. Experts say that closing these schools can be counter-productive not just for the students, but for the entire population. Not only does the town fail to attract young families, who would rather live near a school, it often loses one of its main hubs of activity and community interaction.
The American Farm Bureau Federation together with Georgetown University announced the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge. The first-of-its-kind challenge provides an opportunity for individuals to showcase ideas and business innovations being cultivated in rural regions of the United States. The inaugural challenge is accepting applications beginning July 24 until Sept.15. Participants, who must be based in a rural county, will compete for the Rural Entrepreneur of the Year Award and prize money of up to $30,000 to implement their ideas. “Through the challenge, we will identify rural entrepreneurs with innovative ideas and help them remove any barriers standing between them and a viable, emerging business,” said Lisa Benson, Ph.D., AFBF’s director of rural development.
Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest general farm organization, announced their support for Constitutional Amendment 7, the proposed transportation sales tax that will appear on the Aug. 5 primary ballot. A good road and bridge system is so vitally important to agriculture and all of rural Missouri, and approval of Amendment 7 will make many needed transportation improvements throughout Missouri,” said Blake Hurst, president of Missouri Farm Bureau.
In many small communities, the grocery store is a thing of the past. And soon after losing the grocery store, the rest of the town begins to die, according to recent studies. According to Nebraska based Center for Rural Affairs, rural grocery stores are slowly disappearing across the nation. And nowhere is the decline more noticeable than in Midwest and Great Plains states, where availability to healthy food is becoming more sparse. In Iowa the number of grocery stores with employees dropped by almost half from 1995 to 2005, from about 1,400 stores in 1995 to slightly over 700 just 10 years later. Meanwhile, “supercenter” grocery stores (Wal-Mart and Target, for example) increased by 175 % in the 10-year period. From the same report, rural Iowans lost 43 % of their grocery stores in towns with populations less than 1,000. And in Kansas, 82 grocery stores in communities of fewer than 2,500 people have closed since 2007, and nearly one in five rural grocery stores has gone out of business since 2006, according to research from Kansas State University’s Rural Grocery Initiative. In total, 38 % of the 213 groceries in Kansas towns of less than 2,500 closed between 2006 and 2009.
Tighter limits by the EPA on wood-burning heating appliances are designed to improve air quality and human health. The proposed rules, which will reduce allowable emissions for many new woodstoves, could have a bigger impact in rural areas, which burn up to twice as much wood for heat as metropolitan areas. Industry representatives worry that the tighter restrictions will make the cost of new stoves prohibitively high. Maine Senators Susan Collins and Angus King said the rule would have the unintended effect of encouraging woodstove owners to keep their old, dirtier models operating longer.
Almost every horse rescue in the country is running out of room or money as they continue to be strained by an influx of abandoned equines, a trend that began during the recession. Although hundreds of nonprofits nationwide care for thousands of horses, resources are stretched thin. When the downturn started seven years ago, some owners got rid of their horses, many donors discontinued contributions to horse charities and adoptions plummeted. “Some nonprofits are down 50 %,” said Shirley Puga, executive director and founder of the California-based National Equine Resource Network. “If you have a fixed population of animals and your donations go down 50 %, that’s a huge constraint financially.” The economy has turned a corner, but things have only improved marginally for the rescues, Puga said. An astonishing number of horses are still being abandoned and many people are still worried about their finances and not ready to resume donating or adopting yet, she said.
Sale of farmland to nonfarm investors declines. Rural Mainstreet Index falls for the first time since February of this year. Farmland prices decline for seventh straight month, but rate of decline slows. • Almost half of bankers reported higher beef and pork prices are a big plus. • The % of farmland sales for cash declined to 23.7 % from 28.4 this time last year. • Over the past year, bankers reported that the % of farmland purchased by nonfarm investors sank to 14.4 % from 19.7.
An upstate New York town that rejected a proposed meat processing business earlier this year now is considering changes to its zoning laws that would permit such a development. The Rome Common Council on Wednesday sent proposed amendments to the city’s zoning codes to the local planning board that would pave the way for a meat processing facility in two industrial districts.
Populations of the pollinators are not declining and a ban on neonic pesticides would devastate U.S. agriculture. The White House issued a presidential memorandum creating a Pollinator Health Task Force and ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to "assess the effect of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on bee and other pollinator health and take action, as appropriate." Why the fuss over bees? Is the U.S. in the midst of a bee-pocalypse? The science says no. Bee populations in the U.S. and Europe remain at healthy levels for reproduction and the critical pollination of food crops and trees. But during much of the past decade we have seen higher-than-average overwinter bee-colony losses in the Northern Hemisphere, as well as cases of bees abruptly abandoning their hives, a phenomenon known as "colony collapse disorder." Citing this disorder, antipesticide activists want to ban the most widely used pesticides in modern agriculture—neonicotinoids that account for 20% of pesticide sales world-wide. This would have disastrous effects on modern farming and food prices. Often-cited experiments include one conducted by Chensheng Lu of the Harvard that exposed the insects to 30-100 times their usual exposure in the field. That does poison bees, but it doesn't replicate real-world colony collapse disorder.
Wall Street Journal
A new documentary entitled, "Cowspiracy," paints the beef business in a very negative light, citing cattle as the sole reason we have sustainability issues on our planet. Ranchers will need to"beef" up on their beef production facts to help balance out the conversation about sustainability and animal agriculture.
Researchers recently found that Maine's only native rabbit, the New England Cottontail, has been slowly disappearing over the past decade. Now experts are fighting to restore this endangered species' habitat, an action that they believe will keep the rabbits around for years to come. "The New England cottontail is a species of great conservation concern in the Northeast. This is our only native rabbit and is an integral component of the native New England wildlife. Maintaining biodiversity gives resilience to our landscape and ecosystems," Adrienne Kovach, a researcher with the New Hampshire Agriculture Experiment Station said in a recent statement.
Nature World News
Maine’s Republican governor wants all able-bodied recipients of the federal food stamp benefit to complete work or volunteer activities. “We must continue to do all that we can to eliminate generational poverty and get people back to work,” LePage said in a statement announcing the change. “We must protect our limited resources for those who are truly in need and who are doing all they can to be self-sufficient.” Currently, Maine receives a waiver from the federal government that allows some food stamp recipients to receive benefits without meeting work requirements. Maine has received the waiver for the past six years, largely because of its high employment rate and anemic job market.
Portland Press Herald
A dispute between Black Earth Meats and village of Black Earth officials that appears destined for a courtroom has forced the popular organic meat processing facility to close. Black Earth Meats expects to close by the end of July after it lost its loan with the Bank of New Glarus following the Village Board’s decision last month to pursue legal action to stop the company’s operations at its present site rather than work with it to find a new facility site, owner Bartlett Durand said. The board made its decision after the growing company outlined four possible options to move the slaughter facility out of town as ordered by the board. The facility had been labeled a public nuisance. “We came with four plans to discuss with them and they just said they would prefer litigation,” Durand added. “I told them if they did that we’d lose the note and they did it anyway, and we lost the note.” Black Earth Meats is the only small organic meat processing facility in the state, and it created a niche with its focus on local grassfed and organic meats and humane handling of animals.
Wisconsin State Journal
Of all the places one might expect to find a hotbed of opposition to a GMO labeling initiative, the Denver Urban Homesteading market would be an improbable choice. After all, this is a shop that prides itself on handcrafted food and locally grown vegetables, most of them organic. But owner James Bertini says the Colorado Right to Know initiative, which appears likely to make the November ballot, forces the same heavy-handed regulation on small markets like his as it would on mega-grocery chains. He says he can't afford it. As it turns out, the intentional flexibility of this initiative is a double-edged sword. Proponents say they they have no desire to include mom-and-pop operations in the regulations, which would require labeling that says whether genetically engineered ingredients are in the food. Bertini, says the initiative as written would force him to label many of the goods that line the wood shelves in his small market. "I think labeling is a good idea, but I don't think it's a good idea to include small markets in that law," he told me. "We'd have to hire an extra person to do all the labeling." Bertini, who is a lawyer, has scrutinized the initiative and believes that as written, it will force him, for instance, to label the fresh pasta he buys in bulk from a Denver producer and packages for individual sale. The honey from boutique apiaries might also need labels, he said. And he's just not sure about the grass-fed beef, raised on a ranch outside Denver. The law also includes a criminal penalty, and that is of particular concern to Bertini. "It bothers me that I could make a mistake on labeling a product that a farmer brings in here and I commit a misdemeanor," he said. The irony is that those pushing the GMO labeling initiative are philosophical soul mates with people like Bertini.
Overall, the average number of meals or snacks that contained chicken eaten by survey respondents in the two weeks prior to the survey was 6.1. This is up from 5.2, or 17%, from the 2012 findings. Millennial respondents (18-34) remain the most likely to eat chicken meals or snacks frequently (7.7).
The expired meat scandal in China is giving fast-food executives around the globe indigestion. It's also giving U.S. consumers reason to ask: Can the same food-safety lapse happen here? Answer: It could — but it's far less likely. On Monday, both McDonald's and Yum Brands said they had stopped buying meat products from Husi Food, a supplier in Shanghai, even as Chinese authorities continue to investigate allegations that beef and chicken were sold past the expiration date. Husi is owned by OSI Group of Aurora, Ill. Husi had repackaged old beef and chicken and put new dates on the meat sold to McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants.
Oregon State University researchers in Ontario have found that bulb onions pose no risk of E. coli contamination from irrigation water regardless of how they are irrigated and regardless of how much bacteria is present in the water. The research began last year after the FDA released a proposed produce safety rule that would limit the amount of generic E. coli bacteria that can be present in irrigation water. This year’s trial is much larger and researchers expect it will confirm last year’s findings, which showed bulb onions pose no risk of E. coli contamination, regardless of how they are irrigated and regardless of the water quality. Researchers even enriched some of the water with extremely high levels of generic E. coli by using runoff water from a pasture. Still, there was no trace of bacteria when the onions were ready for packing. “By the time we packed them out, the numbers were all zero,” said Clint Shock, director of the Malheur experiment station. There were traces of E. coli present on the outside of some onion bulbs when they were pulled out of the soil and left on the ground to dry. But after they were cured in the field — all bulb onions in this area go through that process — and ready for packing, no E. coli was present on any of the onions.
The National Potato Council’s board of directors has officially endorsed the safety and usefulness of genetically modified technology, as well as voluntary labeling of GMO products. But unofficially, industry leaders retain concerns about how companies advancing GMO potatoes, such as J.R. Simplot, will segregate their biotech tubers and how foreign markets will react.Officials with the U.S. Potato Board were also involved in writing the position statement on behalf of the industry.
I read that Cargill had decided to stop their use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion in their turkeys in time for next Thanksgiving. I don’t think that use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion is a good idea. At the same time, I am certain that treating sick animals is not optional. And, I have long held that there will be someone to object to whatever is done in animal agriculture. However, I was taken aback by a statement from “Keep Antibiotics Working,” an advocacy group. Instead of applauding Cargill’s move they said that Cargill left a loophole by "failing to extend its pledge to antibiotics used for routine disease prevention." The discussion of antibiotic resistance is complicated and should not be an emotional issue but rather one for the real experts who are trying to wade their way through all of the data to find an answer to a question that may not have an answer. I will not be surprised to see more of this type of demand from advocacy groups. There will never be enough for some groups.
Five employees of a company accused of selling expired beef and chicken to McDonald's, KFC and other restaurants in China were detained by police after an official said illegal activity was an organized effort by the supplier. China's food safety agency said on its website that its investigators found unspecified illegal activity by Husi Food Co. but gave no confirmation expired meat had been found or other details.
Nathan Hendricks, an agricultural economist at Kansas State University, says big food producers are trying to gauge what direction consumers are headed in. "Ultimately," he says, "these big companies aren't just friends with Monsanto or something. They want to make a profit, and they want to be able to do what's going to make them money." So they'd better have a product line in the works if consumer sentiment starts to shift more heavily toward GMO-free food.
Adoption of rigorous husbandry protocols effective in cutting post weaning mortality in swine. All pig farmers are listed in the vetsta database and their unit’s consumption of antimicrobials is tracked.
Campbell Soup Co. announced an ambitious new product lineup for fiscal 2015 that involves more than 200 items, including an organic version of its classic Chicken Noodle Soup, and said it will also improve the quality of many of its most popular products.
Kraft Foods Group Inc.’s Oscar Mayer brand has given a three-year, $125,000 grant to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls to create an animal welfare program. Kurt Vogel, assistant professor of animal science at UWRF, has been named the Kraft Foods/Oscar Mayer faculty scholar.
Agropur, Canada’s largest dairy cooperative, and Davisco Foods International, a US-based cheese and dairy ingredients company, have entered into an agreement for Agropur to acquire the dairy processing assets of Davisco. This will double Agropur’s US processing operations and will increase its global milk intake by 50%. It will also strengthen its position in the North American and international dairy industries. “With over US$1 billion in annual sales, this acquisition is by far the largest transaction in Agropur 76 year history,” said Serge Riendeau, president of Agropur. “This transaction, combined with the most recent ones in Canada, will increase our sales to over CDN$5.8 billion (US$5.4 billion) on an annualized basis, and we should reach 5.3 billion litres (12.1 billion pounds) of milk processed each year in 41 plants across North America.
Sitting at her kitchen table in Houston, Bettina Siegel, a corporate lawyer-turned-school lunch blogger and mom of two, had no idea she had the power to spark a massive consumer uprising with her laptop. But that’s exactly what she did. In March 2012, her petition on Change.org asking the Agriculture Department to stop serving “pink slime” to school kids drew nearly 260,000 signatures. The social media fire, fanned by ABC News and dozens of other media outlets, led retailers and schools across the country to drop the product, formally known as lean finely textured beef, or LFTB, from their ground beef. Siegel’s petition was one of the early examples of social media dramatically influencing the food system and, ultimately, food policy. But now these online consumer revolts are a norm that’s upending the power dynamic between corporations and consumers. In the two years since the frenzy over LFTB, online petitions have helped pressure Starbucks to drop red dye made from crushed bugs from its strawberry Frappuccino. Kraft has removed artificial dyes from some of its children’s mac & cheese products. Chick-fil-A removed high fructose corn syrup and certain additives from its buns and sauces while pledging to source poultry from birds raised without antibiotics by 2019. Chipotle has posted a list of its ingredients that contain GMOs on its website. And just last month, Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors for the first time disclosed ingredients for some of their beers online.
The six-person team gathers its equipment and heads out in heavy boots and tie-dyes, moving in for the kill. Sharpened knives? Check. Scalder? Check. A “kill cone” to drain blood from upside-down chickens? Check. Towed behind a Ford F-250 pickup, Island Grown Initiative’s mobile poultry-slaughtering unit is on the move in Martha’s Vineyard, ready to feed the growing appetite for locally raised products on the Massachusetts island best known as a vacation playground for the Kennedys. While fruit and vegetable growers can often handle their own harvest needs, livestock requires slaughter -- a messy business that could be unwelcome in affluent communities, where demand for locally produced food is highest. Enter Island Grown, a nonprofit formed by Munroe and others that comes to the farm to slaughter, scald and pluck
Maybe you've wondered, while looking at the price tag on some organic produce, whether that label is telling the truth. , a professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, doesn't just wonder. He's an outright skeptic, especially because the organic label seems to him like a license to raise prices. And also because those products are arriving through supply chains that stretch to far corners of the world. The U.S. imports organic soybeans from China, spices from India, and dried fruits from Turkey. "It just screams to my perhaps prejudiced, cynical, journalist's mind: Is there anything wrong with this?" Laufer says. "This needs some checking." Two products recently caught Laufer's attention when they showed up in his kitchen: a can of organic black beans from Bolivia and a bag of organic walnuts, which turned out to be rancid, labeled "Product of Kazakhstan." Laufer's mental fraud alarm went off. "I've done a lot of work in the former Soviet bloc, and when you look at the 'corrupt-o-meter,' it doesn't get much worse than Kazakhstan," he says. Bolivia, he says, isn't much better. So Laufer tried to find out exactly where those products came from. As he recounts in his new book, Organic: A Journalist's Quest to Discover the Truth Behind Food Labeling, he interrogated store managers, distributors and the company that certified the beans as organic. He had a hard time getting answers, which made him even more suspicious.
The notion that larger farms have a different and lower cost structure is widespread; likewise, the idea that larger farms can negotiate lower prices and that they have more acres over which to spread fixed costs seems logical. Both ideas indicate that, as farms increase in size, the operating costs decrease. However, the Illinois Farm Business Farm Management Assn. and the University of Illinois department of agriculture and consumer economics recently assessed 2013 data from farms of three sizes — 1,200-1,999 acres, 2,000-2,999 acres and more than 3,000 acres — to determine whether this conclusion is accurate. The researchers selected per-acre costs for an increasing average farm size (in acres) for farms in northern, central and southern Illinois. For 2013, total crop costs in northern and central Illinois showed little variance as the farm size increased. Crop costs were higher in southern Illinois for the over-3,000-acre group. Crop costs determined from Illinois FBFM data were on an accrual basis and included fertilizer, pesticides and seed. A closer look at each of the components of crop costs revealed some differences in cost per acre as the farm size increased. Northern Illinois had a lower pesticide cost as farm size increased, but that trend did not hold true for fertilizer and seed. Central Illinois had a lower cost for seed as farm size increased, but such was not the case fertilizer or pesticides.
Pharmacists and doctors are more likely than the general public to buy generic medicine, as last year. And chefs are more likely than the general public to buy generic food. When it comes to food, chefs buy generics for baking (baking soda, brown sugar baking mix) much more often than the general public. Also, interestingly, tea. But chefs buy name brand yogurt, cereal and ice cream more often than the rest of us. Maybe that fancy ice cream really is worth the extra money
The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, the oldest and largest organic organization in the country, announced a million dollar gift from the Partridge Foundation to launch an Educational Programs Endowment. "Today, we are committed to building on our success by bringing even more farmers, more jobs and more economic expansion to Maine," stated MOFGA's executive director, Ted Quaday. The gift could grow substantially if MOFGA is able to raise another one million dollars over the next 18 months, as the Partridge Foundation has pledged to match those donations with another million dollar donation, bringing the endowment to $3 million by the end of next year.
Studies have been done on the safety, benefits, risks and regulations of GMOs. I am writing in response to the anonymous commentary to the Maui Weekly (July 10 issue) titled "Why We don't Trust Monsanto." The first and most important point I would like to make to the writer of that commentary is that you should not look for unbiased research-based information on any topic, from sources that stand to profit from their ability to sway the reader's alliances. Biased sources for genetically modified food would include Biotech Seed companies, and on the non-GMO side, advocates like Jeffrey Smith, who sells his books and documentaries, and gives talks on this subject as sole beneficiary of his "nonprofit" organization. As a plant geneticist and a professor at the University of Hawai'i Maui College, I am often asked how to assess the issues surrounding GMOs. In my introductory genetics class, I give students guidelines on how to evaluate technical areas of scientific research that can be useful to all who are interested in learning more about GMOs. The first guideline is to look closely at the data that supports the scientific claims being made. Therefore, I instruct my students to base their conclusions on the cumulative studies, reports and findings of the majority of the world's scientific bodies and not on the concerns of a few individuals. Concern due to a lack of understanding or knowledge is not unimportant, but it should not dictate legislative action. I think author and Medical DoctorMichael Crichton said it best in the following quote: "Because in the end, science offers us the only way out of politics. And if we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost. We will enter the Internet version of the dark ages, an era of shifting fears and wild prejudices, transmitted to people who don't know any better. That's not a good future for the human race."
Rising temperatures are affecting agave farming, which could mean weaker tequila.
Dean Foods Suffers as Consumers Sour on Cow Milk Shoppers' zeal for healthier foods and beverages has turned the tables on a small soy-milk supplier and its former parent, America's largest milk processor. A little over a year ago, Dean Foods Co. spun off its Silk plant-based milks and Horizon-brand organic milk into a separate company, The WhiteWave Foods Co. In the past 12 months, WhiteWave shares have jumped 62% while Dean's are off 17%.
Wall Street Journal
Almonds are a precious foodstuff: a crunchy jolt of complete protein, healthful fats, vitamins and minerals, and deliciousness. Given their rather intense ecological footprint we should probably consider them a delicacy, a special treat. That's why I think it's deeply weird to pulverize away their crunch, drown them in water, and send them out to the world in a gazillion little cartons. What's the point of almond milk, exactly? Evidently, I'm out of step with the times on this one. Dairy is still king, of course, comprising 90 % of the "milk" market. But as our consumption of it dwindles—down from 0.9 cups per person per day in 1970 to about 0.6 in 2010, plant-based alternatives are gaining ground.
As a genetics student in the early 1980s, we were taught about the silliness of Trorfim Lysenko, who set back Russian agricultural production by hundreds of years. Today’s current Russian leader, Vladamir Putin, wants to go further back to the dark ages, and apparently has a professional food taster on his full-time staff.
The UK Food Standards Agency board has asked for the FSA to maintain the current regulations controlling the sale of raw milk, while further evidence is gathered to allow board members to make a final decision on whether to revise the rules.
Listening Sessions have been scheduled seeking comments on proposed changes to the offsite methods used in making wetland determinations and new wetland mitigation banking alternatives related to implementation of the USDA wetland compliance provisions. The USDA wetland compliance provisions were originally enacted in the 1985 Farm Bill and through the 2014 Agricultural Act these provisions have been re-linked with the premium subsidy paid under the Federal crop insurance program. NRCS will also be hosting listening sessions outside of DC to gather additional input, including:
Ankeny, IA – July 28 , Albert Lea, MN - July 29, Aberdeen, SD - July 30, Fargo, ND - July 31, Gainesville, FL – August 7 - no information available yet, Davis, CA – August 14 - no information available yet
Wall Street is looking for ways to invest in America’s heartland, and the government is ready to play matchmaker. The White House Rural Council will announce plans to start a $10 billion investment fund that will give pension funds and large investors the opportunity to invest in agricultural projects. Those include wastewater systems, energy projects and infrastructure development in rural America. “We’re the eHarmony.com of infrastructure and business investment,” the agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, said, referring to the online dating service. “We’re going to be a connector,” he added. “This is a new role for the USDA.” The fund, called the Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund, will be backed by CoBank, a cooperative bank and a member of the Farm Credit System, a government-sponsored network of banks that lend to the agriculture industry. CoBank has committed the first $10 billion to the fund. Capitol Peak Asset Management, an investment firm, will manage the fund’s investments and the Agriculture Department will help find projects for the fund. Investors will be able to make debt and equity investments in individual and bundled projects. They will earn returns on their principal investments along with interest. The move comes as pension funds and institutional investors, faced with few investment opportunities that yield high returns in the face of low interest rates, have begun to shift large amounts of money into less traditional investments that promise bigger returns like hedge funds and private equity firms.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that communities across the nation will benefit from a $262 million investment to rehabilitate dams that provide critical infrastructure and protect public health and safety. The 2014 Farm Bill inreased the typical annual investment in watershed rehabilitation by almost 21 fold, recognizing the critical role of these structures in flood management, water supply, and agricultural productivity.
A stop-gap highway bill may be on the road to congressional approval as lawmakers try to avert depletion next month of the Highway trust Fund. The Highway Trust Fund is about to run dry. More fuel-efficient vehicles and fewer miles driven have rendered the gas tax a poor way to fund roads and bridges. But lawmakers can’t yet agree on a permanent solution.
Hoosier Ag Today
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's informal email orders enforcing its drone policy are not legally binding, a federal court ruled in a case filed by a Texas group. A Texas search-and-rescue group, Texas EquuSearch, had challenged the FAA's drone policy against using unmanned aerial vehicle for search-and-rescue operations. The FAA had argued in a June letter to the court that anyone wishing to operate an aircraft in the United States - other than hobbyists operating model aircraft - must obtain FAA approval. However, the email communication against using drones was not a formal cease-and-desist order, which follows a formal investigation, the FAA had said. "The challenged email communication from a Federal Aviation Administration employee did not represent the consummation of the agency’s decision-making process, nor did it give rise to any legal consequences," according to the court decision. Three judges of the U.S. appeals court for the district of Columbia circuit threw out the case, saying "this court lacked the authority to review a claim where an agency merely expresses its view..."
Forage production insurance coverage for the 2015 crop year has been made available to several Idaho and Washington counties, USDA’s Risk Management Agency announced. Growers can apply for insurance in Pend Oreille, Spokane and Stevens counties in Washington and Benewah, Boundary, Kootenai, Teton, and Twin Falls counties in Idaho. Coverage was previously available only in Klamath and Malheur counties in Oregon. The policy states that the irrigated practice is insurable in all the additional counties and the non-irrigated practice is available in select counties. Alfalfa hay is insurable in all the counties. Alfalfa-grass mixes, in which alfalfa comprises less than 60% of ground cover, are insurable in select counties.
Hay and Forage
Students Complained When Regulations Implemented, But Ultimately Found Them Agreeable. When the federal government implemented new school-meal regulations in 2012, a majority of elementary-school students complained about the healthier lunches, but by the end of the school year most found the food agreeable, according to survey results. The peer-reviewed study comes amid concerns that the regulations led schools to throw away more uneaten food and prompted some students to drop out of meal programs. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago surveyed administrators at more than 500 primary schools about student reaction to the new meals in the 2012-2013 school year. They found that 70% agreed or strongly agreed that students, by the end of the school year, generally liked the new lunches, which feature more whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and lower fat levels.
Wall Street Journal
Myth: EPA Is Expanding Their Authority To Every Drop Of Water. Fact: EPA Is Not Adding Any New Types Of Waters To Their Protection. Myth: This Action Is An Unprecedented Land Grab. Fact: Government Will Cover Fewer Bodies Of Water Than They Did Under Reagan
Under the Clean Water Act, the federal government has jurisdiction over “navigable waters,” which the statute further defines as “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” Property owners often need to get permits if waters covered under the law will be impacted. Therefore, a critical question is what types of “waters” are covered under the CWA. As expected, the EPA and the Corps are seeking to expand their authority to cover waters never imagined when the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972. For example, the new proposed rule would regulate all ditches, except in narrow circumstances. This even includes man-made ditches. The rule would apply to tributaries that have ephemeral flow. This would include depressions in land that are dry most of the year except when there’s heavy rain. There’s widespread opposition to the proposed rule. Farmers and ranchers are concerned that the rule could affect normal agricultural practices. Homebuilders could face additional development costs that would likely be passed on to buyers. Counties are concerned because of costly new requirements that could impact municipal storm sewer systems, roadside ditches, among other things.
The EPA controversial plan to regulate small bodies of water around the country may have found some unlikely supporters: small business owners. A new poll from the left-leaning American Sustainable Business Council released Wednesday found that 80 % of small business owners say they would support provisions of the EPA's Waters of the U.S. rule.
On March 30, 2012, Virginia's Secretary of Natural Resources submitted Phase II of Virginia's Watershed Implementation Plan. "The Phase II WIP supplements the Phase I WIP and the activities already implemented in [Virginia's] efforts to reduce phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment loads to the [Chesapeake Bay]." Again Virginia officials tell EPA that its process was far too limited for localities and once again advised EPA that "…model anomalies affecting nutrient management plans be corrected…" Virginia officials said "…the level of precision expected is far beyond what the [Chesapeake Bay] model is capable of producing." (There is little discussion of this major issue in the legal briefs I have read in AFBF v. EPA). Producers in tillage agriculture and animal agriculture should take note and work with their state environmental agencies to make sure adequate and accurate data is generated regarding nutrient runoff when EPA brings its power to bear on the Mississippi River Basin. The Virginia Phase II includes 93 pages. Agriculture is still a major component. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation attempts to create Total Maximum Daily Loads for each watershed in Virginia. The local strategy tables are set forth in Appendix B-F for those who want further detail.
Federal regulators denied Texas farmers' push to use a powerful herbicide against invasive "super weeds" threatening to strangle cotton crops. The EPA cited risks to drinking water and other hazards in its refusal of state officials' emergency request to allow the farmers to use Milo-Pro. The herbicide includes the chemical propazine, a restricted product that requires a license to purchase and use. Texas had asked the EPA for an exemption that would have permitted use of the pesticide on up to 3 million acres--roughly half the state's land planted with cotton this year--to combat palmer amaranth, or pigweed.
Wall Street Journal
A divided federal appeals court upheld a FDA policy allowing the use of various antibiotics in animal feed, even if such use might endanger the public health. Reversing a lower court ruling, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the FDA was empowered to reject two citizen challenges to its policy, which discourages but does not ban the use of penicillin and some tetracyclines in feed for chickens, cows and pigs, even if they are not sick. Writing for a 2-1 appeals court majority, however, Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch said the FDA deserved deference, even if agency officials had scientific concern about the feed's safety. "While the agency regards the indiscriminate and extensive use of such drugs in animal feed as threatening, it does not necessarily believe that the administration of antibiotics to animals in their feed is inherently dangerous to human health," Lynch wrote. As a result, he said the FDA was not arbitrary or capricious in denying the petitions, or in encouraging what the agency has called "judicious" use of the feed, rather than seeking to withdraw approval through a "protracted administrative process and likely litigation."
Congressman Kevin Cramer met with BNSF President and CEO Carl Ice to discuss what the rail company is doing to reduce ongoing delays of grain shipments in North Dakota. During the meeting Cramer pressed Ice on BNSF’s pledge to clear the backlog of last year’s crop before the new harvest begins, asked for a progress update on the company’s hiring of additional employees, and discussed the new rule for oil by rail shipments proposed yesterday. “Given we are fast approaching the next harvest and the last report from BNSF still indicated a backlog of more than 3,900 cars, time is running out on their promise to have it cleared by then,” said Cramer. “During my meeting with Carl Ice I relayed my concerns as well as those I have heard from farmers and grain shippers across the state. He informed me BNSF has now completed more than 40 miles of double tracking between Minot and Glasgow as part of its $1 billion expansion in the northern region and is on track with their other planned improvements. I appreciate these efforts to ensure their system is in the best possible shape in order to move what appears to be another bumper harvest. We also discussed the proposed rule for oil by rail shipments released yesterday, which may have an impact on agriculture shipments.” BNSF is engaged in a $1 billion expansion and maintenance program in the northern region.
U.S. Senator John Thune sent a letter to the Surface Transportation Board calling for the inclusion of two new metrics on the weekly grain order reports required by the board from Canadian Pacific Railway and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. Following increased concerns from South Dakota rail shippers regarding harvest season, Thune’s letter requests that the STB require CP and BNSF to include the average shuttle turn rate, which is the average number of roundtrips a group of railcars makes per month, and also include the number of locomotives CP is providing each week to the Rapid City, Pierre, and Eastern (RCP&E) Railroad.
Canadian officials are now less than 30 days away from implementing labeling regulations that will require notification of mechanically tenderized beef. The regulations, created after that nation’s largest meat recall in history two years ago, mandate labels that include safe cooking instructions to prevent foodborne illnesses related to mechanically tenderized beef. They will take effect Aug. 21.
The US Justice Department announced that a Federal court entered judgment against French bank BNP Paribas for $80 million for defrauding a program designed to encourage American exports.
A fight is brewing between America's consumers and the giant businesses that grow and manufacture our nation's foods. At issue is the use of so-called GMOs in those foods. The fight over genetic engineering boils down to this underlying disagreement: Consumers want to know what is in the foods they are eating. They want government — either their state or, better yet, the federal government — to require growers and processors to label their products to disclose the presence of GMOs so shoppers know what is in the foods they are buying at the supermarket. Those growers, manufacturers and processors don't want to be forced to go to the expense of labeling their many products. And they especially don't want the government telling them what they must do. Besides, these companies say, research has shown that GMOs are not harmful to people's health.
Des Moines Register
Something pretty remarkable happened in a small windowless auditorium next door to the White House. President Obama signed a new law: the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. It streamlines and updates the nation's job training programs and was 11 years overdue. The bill got overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. "Folks in Congress got past their differences; they got a bill to my desk," Obama said at the signing ceremony. "So this is not a win for Democrats or Republicans; it is a win for American workers." When an unemployed or dissatisfied worker seeks out job training through a government program, the hope is to get a new job in a field where workers are in demand. But the nation's workforce development system hasn't always succeeded in matching the training with the work. The act aims to fix that by better matching training to employer needs. It encourages more apprenticeships and on-the-job training. The measure of success will no longer be just how many people sign up for help, but also how many actually get jobs.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the creation of the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, and the appointment of a 15-member board of directors. The 15 voting members of the board include a former agriculture secretary, a number of university professors, a representative from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, an executive of Cargill, and one farmer – National Corn Growers Association Chairwoman Pam Johnson of Iowa.
A federal appeals court has issued an unusual order overturning a lower court's ruling that Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack must sit for a deposition in a libel lawsuit former USDA employee Shirley Sherrod brought in connection with her forced resignation in 2010 following a web posting that portrayed her as a racist based on video clips of a speech she delivered. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon abused his discretion when he ordered Vilsack to testify as part of pre-trial discovery in the suit where Sherrod accused late conservative publisher Andrew Breitbart and business partner Larry O'Connor of defamation. "It is well-established that 'top executive department officials should not, absent extraordinary circumstances, be called to testify regarding their reasons for taking official actions,'" the appeals court panel wrote. "As such extraordinary circumstances are not present in this record, the district court abused its discretion by allowing the deposition of Secretary Vilsack at this stage in the proceedings." .
This article discusses the one-time option the owner of an Farm Service Agency farm has to reallocate, but not increase, its base acres. The article concludes that this decision is important because of the emerging low prices, because Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage pay on base acres, and because the change in base acres can be substantive. For a broader policy discussion of the base acre reallocation option, see an article by Nick Paulson and Jonathan Coppess titled "2014 Farm Bill: Reallocating Base Acres. PLC and ARC-CO programs make payments for a covered crop on 85% of the covered crop's base acres on an FSA farm. Payment acre determination is more complex for ARC-IC (ARC individual coverage) but in general equals 65% of total base acres on an ARC-IC farm, including, in most instances, any generic (former cotton) base acres planted to a covered crop for the crop year.
Across the divide from the challenging realities of regulating nonpoint source pollution and agriculture reside the natural resource conservation policies for farmers contained in the omnibus legislation commonly known as the farm bill. The suite of conservation programs tend to avoid the sharp-edged debate surrounding environmental regulation, as well as the harsh criticism aimed at their sibling policies for commodity supports in Title I of the farm bill. They are, however, related to the issue of environmental regulation of farming and part of the universe of policies that impact farming on the ground.
This summer, government agencies and are making a massive push to get millions of meals to kids who might otherwise go hungry as part of the nationwide . And they're doing some creative things to reach them. Take rural Hopkins County, in western Kentucky. It's mostly farms and coal fields and gently rolling hills. So when school's out, the children are widely dispersed and often isolated. That makes it a challenge for the local YMCA. It's feeding about 700 children a day this summer, mostly at central sites like camps and parks. But increasingly, it's using mobile units to get food to some of the harder-to-reach areas in the county. The problem is, right now, the government's summer nutrition program is hit or miss. It relies on a loose network of agencies and volunteers still trying to figure out the best way to reach needy kids when they're not in school.
Within just a five-year period through 2016-17, China will have gone from producing 35 million bales of cotton to just 20 million bales.
Delta Farm Press
How do you derail a free-trade agreement between Europe and the U.S. that could boost growth on both sides of the Atlantic by an estimated $100 billion annually? Well, fear-mongering might work. And that's the path taken by sundry environmentalists regarding the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. So three cheers for Anthony Gardner, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, who last week delivered a sharp rebuke to the greens who say that implementing TTIP would mean forcing Europeans to eat American beef, poultry and other food products. "The debate has been mischaracterized by the enemies of this agreement," Mr. Gardner told the website Euractiv. "They are accusing us of trying to force European consumers to eat products that they do not want. That is false." He was referring to the notion that regulatory harmonization between the U.S. and EU under TTIP would somehow threaten consumer health by lowering barriers to entry for American food products.
Wall Street Journal
Africa's unique green revolution, with its focus on smallholder farmers, is now moving beyond the tipping point. And as smallholder farmers make the transition from subsistence farming to successful entrepreneurs, the continent's green revolution will fundamentally change the face of Africa
The way I keep explaining China to people is that it’s kind of like the U.S. in the time of Upton Sinclair and ‘The Jungle,’ ” referring to the 1906 novel that described unsanitary conditions in the meatpacking industry and inspired reform. “There is tremendous desire by the Chinese to get it right, but they have a long way to go.” The varied and often-stomach-turning episodes in China, along with the growing number of American food companies operating there, have made it a focus of world attention and expert support in the efforts to build its food-quality protections.
This little piggy is going to the market after all. Three months after it scrapped plans for a $5.3 billion share sale in Hong Kong, China’s WH Group, the world’s biggest pork producer, is back with a leaner offering that will seek to raise about $2 billion. WH Group was created last year after Shuanghui International of China paid $4.7 billion in cash for Smithfield Foods, the biggest pork producer in the US. That deal remains the biggest-ever buyout of an American company by a Chinese one.
Argentina on Friday will sign deals to borrow $7.5 billion from China, its Cabinet chief said, at a time when the Latin American country cannot tap global capital markets due to disputes over unpaid debt. Among the 19 agreements to be signed, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and her Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, will agree on a loan for $4.7 billion from the China Development Bank for the construction of two hydroelectric dams in Patagonia. The Chinese bank is also expected to grant a $2.1 billion loan to help finance a long-delayed railway project that would make it more efficient to transport grains from Argentina's agricultural plains to its ports. "Regarding the total amount, it is about $7.5 billion, covering cooperation agreements to finance infrastructure projects and this bilateral trade deal," Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich told reporters. Argentina is the world's third-largest exporter of soy and corn. China is the main buyer of its soybeans. Xi, China's first president to visit Latin America's No. 3 economy in a decade, will also sign an agreement for an $11 billion swap operation between the countries' central banks over three years that will allow Argentina to pay for Chinese imports with the yuan currency.
Energy and Renewables
According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower provided 55.7% of new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity during the first half of 2014. Solar provided 32.1%. Wind provided 19.8%. Biomass provided 2.5%. Geothermal provided 0.9%. Hydropower provided 0.5%. Most of the balance of the new generating capacity was provided by natural gas while no new coal or nuclear power capacity was reported.
Hoosier Ag Today
Agriculture could provide up to 155 million tons of crop residues and 60 millions tons of manure to produce clean fuels and electricity in 2030 that would help cut the nation’s oil use and phase out the use of coal, according to a new analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The UCS research found that the top 10 states with the potential to use the residues left behind from crop harvest and livestock production, such as plant materials and manure, to create low-carbon fuels and electricity are: Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota, Arkansas, Texas, California, Indiana, South Dakota and North Carolina. Together, these states can provide about two-thirds of total projected U.S. crop residues and manure in 2030.
The EPA issued a proposal Friday under the Clean Water Act that would limit mining activity in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, striking a major blow to a project that would rank as one of the world's largest open-pit mines. The proposed determination, which will now be subject to a public comment period until Sept. 19, represents the latest step by the Obama administration to impose restrictions on a massive gold and copper mining project, called Pebble Mine. Native Alaskan tribes, commercial fishing operations and environmentalists who have been seeking to block the venture on the grounds that discharge from its operations could harm the area that supports nearly half of the world’s sockeye salmon.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA has selected 36 energy facilities in 14 states to accept biomass deliveries supported by the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Biomass owners who supply these facilities may qualify for BCAP delivery assistance starting July 28, 2014. Of the total $25 million per year authorized for BCAP, up to 50 % ($12.5 million) is available each year to assist biomass owners with the cost of delivery of agricultural or forest residues for energy generation. Some BCAP payments will target the removal of dead or diseased trees from National Forests and Bureau of Land Management public lands for renewable energy, which reduces the risk of forest fire.
The Prairie Star
Plans for a pipeline to carry natural-gas liquids from Ohio to the Gulf Coast are progressing. Dubbed the Utica Marcellus Texas Pipeline Project, the pipeline is being developed by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP and its partner, MarkWest Utica EMG LLC. It is designed to serve the Utica and Marcellus shale regions in Ohio and surrounding states. New details for the project, have emerged on a fact sheet posted on Kinder Morgan’s website. The pipeline would run from a proposed natural-gas processing plant in Uhrichsville in southern Tuscarawas County to Mont Belvieu, Texas. The new processing plant and pipeline are estimated to cost $1 billion. The project calls for converting 1,005 miles of Kinder Morgan’s 24-inch and 26-inch Tennessee Gas Pipeline system, switching it from carrying natural gas to transporting related liquids such as ethane, butane and propane. The existing pipeline runs from Mercer County in western Pennsylvania to Natchitoches, La. A new line, stretching about 200 miles, would be built from Natchitoches to Mont Belvieu. The project also includes about 160 miles of new laterals and interconnects in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. The pipeline would have an initial capacity of 150,000 barrels per day. That would be expanded to 400,000 barrels per day with the addition of pump stations.
This week, for the first time this summer, Don and Becky Kretschmann are pulling an early crop of carrots, and will include them in the overflowing boxes of vegetables, fruits and herbs they‘ll deliver to the more than 1,000 customers of their Community Supported Agriculture operation 25 miles north of Pittsburgh in Beaver County. But at a New Sewickley Township supervisors hearing, they‘ll have a tougher pull as they try to uproot a Marcellus Shale gas compressor station proposal by Cardinal Midstream Inc. that they say is threatening the continued operation of their 80-acre organic farm, their way of life and the agricultural nature of their community.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Organic farmer Don Kretschmann has been tilling his soil for 35 years but believes that the spread of natural gas drilling rigs, and especially the proposed compressor station, are a threat to his way of life. “We have a history and a desire of the population to reside in a rural and an agricultural area, and that’s what’s being threatened,” Kretschmann said. And though many who turned out Wednesday night at a public meeting agree — many don’t, including some fellow farmers who say leases and royalty checks are keeping them in business. “They’ve come in and I’ve been able to upgrade equipment, fix some things up and they promised to keep everything right,” resident R.J. Kraus said. Compressor stations repressurize gas along pipelines on their way to market, and the company Cardinal Midstream is seeking township approval to put one in an empty field. At least one supervisor says they’re likely to get it, noting that most everyone has a lease with the gas company. “We have 71 percent of our landowners in natural gas lease agreements,” supervisor Greg Happ said. “In order for them to make any profit on it, the gas has to go to industry and this is the only way it’s going to get there.” But even folks with leases still want a say in what goes where. “We signed off to drill, and we are OK with the drilling part. resident Chris Palmer said, “but this facility could be put somewhere else, not in a residential neighborhood.”
The U.S. ethanol industry pushed back against what they called a "one size fits all" approach to proposed federal rules for shipping fuel by rail, saying regulators must distinguish between the often corn-based biofuel and crude oil. Their calls follow proposed safety features for new tank cars transporting fuel, and the phasing out of older cars considered unsafe. Developed in response to a string of fiery railcar accidents involving crude oil cargoes, the new rules would also apply to shipments of ethanol.
White House adviser John Podesta has indicated the administration plans to raise the amount of ethanol and other biofuels that must be blended into the nation's fuel supply, Sen. Al Franken said. The EPA's proposed draft on blending volumes, which was released late last year, cut the amount of biofuels that refiners would need to mix into their fuels. The plan represented the first time the agency had lowered the target from the previous year. While the primary focus of themeeting between Podesta and Senate Democrats was on biodiesel volumes, Franken said the adviser mentioned that the final blending mandates would likely be higher than what the EPA had initially proposed.
New research outlines the path to a possible future for California in which renewable energy creates a healthier environment, generates jobs and stabilizes energy prices.
The U.S. nitrogen fertilizer market will soon reach a point of saturation, following the sharp increase in capacity in recent years as the cost of natural gas - used in fertilizer production - fell with the fracking boom. That's a key finding in a report from Rabobank, “A Shale Tale: the Aftermath of the U.S. Nitrogen Fertilizer Boom.” The report says further capacity addition in the short term is unlikely, considering market saturation and increasing fixed and variable costs for production. The recent rapid capacity expansion, however, could see the U.S. become self-sufficient in urea as soon as 2017, according to the study.
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