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Agriculture needs to
practice strict biosecurity
with the reports of Avian Influenza
H5N2 Avian Influenza was found in all west coast states last fall, it
commercial turkey flock in Minnesota, Missouri and Arkansas in February, a wild goose in Kansas and
recently in geese in Wyoming and today a new flock of 66,000 turkeys in MN. This means it has been found
in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi flyways. This strain does not impact the safety of poultry meat or eggs,
but it is highly fatal to some bird species and more than 40 countries have banned poultry products
from some U.S. states. While most avian influenza viruses rarely cause clinical signs in wild waterfowl,
raptors and wild gallinaceous birds (pheasants, quail, turkey, grouse) appear to be very susceptible.
While organic egg production requires outside access, many commercial organic farms are requesting
waivers of this requirement. Flocks with outside access are at the most risk. It is important that
everyone involved in anypoultry related industry practices very strict biosececurity, as vehicle tires,
shoes and equipment may all carry the virus.
It is a reportable disease, so your state veterinarian would be the one to contact for additional information.
|:: March 20- March 27, 2015
Food and Rural Communities
Federal and International
The USDA's sheep experiment station near Dubois, Idaho, which is targeted for closure, will receive $200,000 in ongoing state funding. Supporters say it's a message to the USDA that Idaho supports the continued operation of the station and "has skin in the game.”
A federal judge has pushed back her stay on the implementation of a voter-approved Maui County moratorium on the farming of genetically engineered crops to June 15.
Hawaii’s Big Island has banned or severely limited the farming of genetically engineered crops, including a papaya developed by a native Hawaiian to resist a devastating virus disease. The battle over GE crops and the law enacted in Hawaii is a microcosm of the global fight determining the future of GE crops. This 12-part series by entomologist Anthony Shelton is the first comprehensive article about a genetically engineered crop, in this case, GE papaya in Hawaii. The story describes the virus disease outbreak, the development of virus-resistant GE papaya, small-scale farmers who adopted it, the emergence of the opposition and their takeover of the democratic process, the scientist who developed the technology, and the future of GE crops.
Sen. Dwight Bullard voted to add hemp to Florida’s list of crops. “The way it’s been explained to me in very simple layman’s terms is you’re talking about a plant that has the strength of bamboo but the malleability of cotton,” Bullard said. The agriculture committee unanimously approved the bill after hearing public testimony. No one spoke against it.
Consumers now must go to the farm or have it delivered by the farmer. The bill would allow raw milk to be sold at farmers’ markets, through community-supported agriculture programs and, with some additional regulation, at retail.
The legislature advanced the provisions found in an agriculture omnibus bill that fell to a governor’s veto last year, except for language that would have defined captive deer as livestock. Senator Brian Munzlinger’s omnibus this year adds a permanent weight restriction adjustment for hauling grain to market during harvest. Senator Margo McNeil said that’s a bad idea when the Transportation Department says by 2017 it will lack funding to maintain all the state’s roads. Munzlinger told Missourinet no one is more concerned about roads in rural areas than he is. He said in his district, two bridges are closed and about nine more have severe weight restrictions.
Despite a backlash from animal-rights groups, the Arizona Senate advanced legislation that would treat livestock differently from house pets under the state's animal-cruelty laws. The legislation authored by Rep. Brenda Barton, creates rules specifically for livestock and poultry, while adding tougher anti-hoarding penalties for non-livestock animals.. Barton defended separate abuse standards for livestock, saying the overwhelming majority of animal cruelty involves pets. HB 2150 "allows livestock to move out of the way so that law enforcement and appropriate agencies can deal with the animal abuse." In addition to tougher penalties for animal hoarding, the bill would require people convicted of pet abuse to receive a psychological evaluation or counseling. It also would ban counties and cities from instituting harsher livestock laws.
Farm legislation introduced in the state Senate Wednesday would transfer regulation of what is seen as a growing livestock field from North Carolina's Wildlife Resources Commission to the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Miller has been loudly complaining about the impact deep 2011 budget cuts had on the agriculture department and its ability to protect consumers.
Reno Gazette Journal
Bills that would allow irrigators in the Klamath Basin to lease or transfer water rights have drawn suspicion from opponents of broader legal settlements that require dam removal. Irrigators in Oregon’s Klamath Basin are seeking more flexibility in how they manage water due to concerns of looming drought in the region. However, legislation that would allow Klamath irrigators to transfer or lease water rights has met with suspicion from opponents of a controversial dam removal project. Currently, water transfers and leases aren’t permitted in the Klamath Basin because the ownership of water rights in the region is still being legally adjudicated. SB 206 and 264 would permit such transfers for water rights that have already been quantified and allow state regulators to participate in a “joint management entity” with irrigators in the upper Klamath Basin as part of a legal settlement.
Idaho farm organizations are being encouraged to have their voices heard on the suddenly hot topic of increasing transportation funding. A flurry of proposals to raise some of the additional $262 million a year that a governor’s task force says is necessary to adequately maintain Idaho’s roads and bridges have been floated in the Idaho Legislature. Food Producers of Idaho, which represents 40 of the state’s largest farm groups, told its members that agricultural groups need to let lawmakers know which of the proposals they can and can’t support. Many of the proposals that have been floated include a 5-cent increase in the state gasoline and diesel tax, a modest increase in registration fees and a limited amount of one-time money from the state’s general fund. Most of them also include a 2-cent a gallon increase in the state’s transfer fee, which is charged on all petroleum products in Idaho when the fuel is moved from bulk storage tanks. It is currently 1 cent a gallon and paid by the distributor but passed on to whoever purchases it.
Senate bill to regulate rail shipments of crude oil broadened to cover fertilizer. Anhydrous ammonia, a nitrogen-based fertilizer, has been dragged into legislation to regulate railroad tankers carrying crude oil. Train traffic between the Bakken oil fields and West Coast refineries is increasing rapidly. Lawmakers are working on a bill to help agencies respond to and prevent fiery derailments. The Senate and House have passed separate measures that must be reconciled. Both bills focus on crude oil, but SB 5057 was amended late, on a 25-24 vote, to require oil trains to add crew members on the rear of the train to decouple cars in an accident. The labor-supported amendment also extended the bill to cover anhydrous ammonia shipments, potentially increasing transportation costs.
Honey production in 2014 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 178 million pounds, up 19% from 2013. There were 2.74 million colonies producing honey in 2014, up 4% from 2013. Yield per colony averaged 65.1 pounds, up 15% from the 56.6 pounds in 2013.
Maybe it's time for state government to consider regulating crops based on their water needs as California's drought lingers menacingly and we head into the uncertain future of global warming.
Almost every one of these animal rights groups wants to put me out of business and I am just too old to learn a new trade. But, I am not too old to debate their tactics and defeat their aims. In this my fifth blog in my six-part series on stimulating beef demand, I would like to offer my opinions on how to constructively, proactively, meaningfully and successfully debate these “animal rights” groups. We must do this for it is our livelihood we are debating. If these groups want to put me out of business — and they do — why shouldn’t I try to put them out of business? Truth be told, I really don’t care about destroying them, but I do care about engaging them in a debate that points out the inaccuracies of their arguments and proves to consumers that the meat industry is animal-compassionate. If I can do that, every time they put forth one of their titillating arguments, consumers will be reminded of how ridiculous and wrong they are. And then these “animal rights” groups become their own worst enemy.
Accusations of animal abuse in this day and age, sadly, aren't unusual. But an outpouring of support for a man accused of 13 counts of cruelty is unheard of. The 100 or so farmers, friends and strangers standing behind him say there's too much at stake for them to stay silent. "He doesn't deserve this," said Lily Alayne Owen. "I thought the charges were outrageous," said Rockwood's neighbor Jason Ambrosino. Ambrosino says the Agriculture & Market laws are unnecessarily subjective. He says that's hurting small farmers across the state. "They allow a charging officer to make a decision they might not be qualified to make," he said. Police say while he may have good intentions -- some of the animals didn't have proper shelter, or food and at times, the drinking water was frozen. The harsh winter caused issues on farms. But it doesn't mean his client wasn't caring for the animals. If this case goes forward, it's not only an attack on their friend and his family -- it could be detrimental to farmers across New York. Farm gets threats after putting piglet up for adoption. Tyler Boggs is into sustainable farming and he also takes in animals when others can't care for them. Now, Boggs is also wearing a sidearm because of death threats posted on Facebook that include pictures of hangings and promises to destroy his Heart 2 Heart farm. Even People as far away as the United Kingdom were posting threatening comments to Boggs.
KATU.com and WNYT.com
U.S. Poultry & Egg Association said its industry embraces animal welfare and sustainable farming concepts, in response to an unflattering USA Today editorial on the industry. Starkey emphasized the importance of humane slaughter to the chicken industry, noting that, in addition to federal regulations and inspectors, the industry reviews allegations of mistreatment via the Center for Food Integrity’s Animal Care Review Panel. Panels include a veterinarian, an animal scientist and an ethicist. In the most recent video at Wayne Farms, the panel found no evidence of abuse. “We understand today better than ever that the burden of proof for the care of the birds and eggs we eat falls squarely on our industry," Starkey said. "As such, we invite a member of the USA Today editorial board to tour a farm and poultry processing facility to see for yourself how we sustainably and safely raise, produce and process poultry.”
California's drought is so bad that farmers in Northern California are finding that their crops aren't their most valuable asset anymore—it's their water rights. So they're selling their water back to the state at crazy-high prices.
Milk prices have fallen by more than one-third since last fall
Over the years, including in a chapter in his 2014 book “Undeniable,” Nye has suggested that there’s something fundamentally problematic with foods containing GMO crops. He has argued that GMOs may carry environmental risks that we can never rule out with certainty. Now, Nye seems to have changed his mind. Backstage after an appearance on Bill Maher’s “Real Time,” Nye said an upcoming revision to his book would contain a rewritten chapter on GMOs. “I went to Monsanto,” Nye said, “and I spent a lot of time with the scientists there, and I have revised my outlook, and I’m very excited about telling the world. When you’re in love, you want to tell the world.”
I am first and foremost a mother. My two-year-old son is the light of my life and the center of my attention. I would do anything for him and do everything I can to keep him happy and healthy. That same attitude extends to our farm animals. Our mother calves began delivering their calves with the hopes that all 2015 calves are born by the end of March. Because we calve during cold, wet weather, we pay close attention to all of our mothers and babies – checking on them around the clock and taking extra steps to help newborns get on their feet and follow their mothers. But, if we find a calf that is lethargic or showing signs of illness – lowered ears and diarrhea are common symptoms – we will step in and help. We care first and foremost for the health of our animals. Some consumers want to deprive ranchers the ability to use antibiotics in their animals. That would basically mean we would have to watch our sick calves die from regular and treatable conditions. That’s not humane and certainly doesn’t make us good stewards of our animals and industry.
The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science
The recording of the final in-person public meeting of the National Research Council committee for the study, "Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects" is now available on the study's website.
National Academy of Sciences
Old timers remember the H5N2 highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak of 1983-1984. Over 400 farms affected, and 17 million birds killed. Well, the disease is back. So, we all need to do our part to manage the current outbreak by implementing the controls we’ve learned the hard way over the years. Biosecurity of farm facilities and practices needs to be tight. Surveillance, with subsequent quarantine and depopulation of affected flocks must be effectively implemented. Biosecurity at slaughter is also vital. Processing plants are concentration points for live birds. But these establishments must not serve as a distribution point for live virus.
Ordinance would allow residents to grow, sell produce. Supporters say if the urban ag law passes, it would be huge for the Capitol City. It could also help fight hunger in the community. Advocates add that not only will the food ordinance help people to eat healthier, but the economic opportunities are endless. If the ordinance is approved, people would be allowed to grow and sell fruits and vegetables from their homes. Residents could also grow crops on vacant lots and even have farm stands on site.
Idaho’s cattle and grain associations have developed a plan they hope will allow their members to settle open range disputes internally rather than in the courts or legislature. The Idaho Grain Producers Association and Idaho Cattle Association recently agreed on a system that will use regional directors from both groups to help solve open range issues between cattlemen and grain farmers. In open range areas in Idaho, cattle are permitted to roam freely. It’s the responsibility of landowners to fence their property to keep cattle out. The opposite is true in areas with herd districts, which can be created by county commissioners or through a petition by landowners. Most of Idaho is open range. The plan, which took a year to develop and will soon be explained to grain producers and cattlemen, involves regional directors from both groups appointed to deal with open range disagreements in their areas.
Precision agriculture is bound to hit some growing pains as new high-tech farming tools become more prevalent and powerful, experts say. As more devices communicate wirelessly via the electromagnetic spectrum, the bandwidth available for their signals becomes more crowded
A worsening drought in California. A public utility’s lawsuit in Iowa. Water quality legislation in Ohio. Buffer zones in Minnesota. And the controversial proposal known as the “Waters of the U.S.” rule. Coast to coast, the topic of water is flooding the conversation in farmland. “Are water quality issues coming to a head in agriculture all over?” asked John G. Dillard, an associate attorney at OFW Law in Washington, D.C. “Yes.”
In the last several years, Boulder and Denver have become hubs for tech startups, and companies in the state's Front Range are on a tear, patenting new technologies in irrigation, food science and plant genetics. Public scientists are keeping pace, publishing research articles in agricultural science in record numbers. That's prompted local economists to make some bold predictions. "We're poised, if we play our cards right, both as a state government, as a land grant institution [Colorado State University], as an industry, to become the Silicon Valley for agriculture in the 21st century," says Greg Graff of Colorado State University.
As people around the world celebrated World Water Day 2015 on Sunday 22 March, the UN released a new report predicting major water shortages of 40% across the globe in line with a 55% increase in demand by 2050. The unsustainable use of water globally has already led to 20 per cent of the world’s aquifers being currently over-exploited and inappropriate agricultural practices, among other things, has been found to underminine the environment’s capacity to provide clean water.
The Meat Site
The American company that produced the world’s first genetically modified crop has admitted for the first time that its “hubris” in promoting the technology contributed to a consumer backlash against genetically modified food. The chief executive of Monsanto conceded that the company had failed to appreciate public concerns over GM technology when it was introduced nearly 20 years ago. And he also said that the company had suffered by making “the wrong call” when it failed to rebrand itself in the aftermath of the botched launch of GM in Europe. But Hugh Grant claimed that unless public attitudes towards biotechnology changed it would be impossible to feed the world’s growing population and called for a more nuanced debate on the potential uses for GM technology in the developing world. “There never had been a lot of trust in companies, particularly not big companies and certainly not big American companies,” he said.
The Ohio Forestry Association has yet to take an official stance against the proposed Hardwood Lumber and Hardwood Plywood Promotion, Research and Information Order. But it may be coming soon. Dorka said the roughly 550 OFA members, representing approximately 100 lumber industry companies, feel there are several areas of concern related to the proposed structure of the hardwood checkoff, including the number of exemptions. “The fee goes on certain manufacturers, but a large number of other manufacturers would be excluded,” Dorka said.
Farm and Dairy
Aquaculture is an increasingly vital means of supplying demand for seafood, as wild fisheries suffer from stress and collapse. Water treatment is essential to successful aquaculture, and demand for water treatment is expected to nearly double from $7.2 billion in 2014 to $13.3 billion in 2030.
Shahriyar Smith's guest opinion ("Clean fuels plan would drive GMO expansion in Oregon," ) misleads in a number of ways. Energy versus food crops pose difficult choices for society -- and we need lots of both. The various sources of energy -- fossil and renewable forms -- also have a wide variety of pros and cons. To simplify the complex tradeoffs to a "food vs. fuel" dichotomy does nothing to advance thinking about these difficult issues. Smith writes: "It's well documented that conventional agricultural production is part of the carbon emission problem." This is correct. However, it's not just conventional agriculture but most forms of agricultural production that have these impacts. When the land and animals used to produce manure, and the distances over which food is transported, are factored in, "conventional" vs. alternative agriculture does not differ in any consistent, meaningful way. In fact, use of GMO crops often helps to reduce, not increase, carbon emissions compared to non-GMO systems.
As his ultrasound at the Denver stock show had predicted, Charlie's high-end primal cuts were exceptionally large for an animal of his size. "The rib primal was 19.67 pounds, the largest we have ever had, with beautiful marbling," Steward wrote to Seven Days the day she collected the first half of Charlie's meaty remains. Potter was impressed, too. Charlie's shorthorn DNA gave him the advantages of thriving on a grass diet like a Highland, with the marbling and size of the larger breed. Compared to a full-blooded Highland, Potter said, "Charlie is a different category. It's like buying a Cadillac versus a Volkswagen. When you're trying to make money by the pound, there's no comparison."
An unmanned helicopter shows promise in spraying pesticides across uneven terrain, like vineyards. The possibility of using unmanned aerial vehicles for pesticide spraying is more than just hype. The excitement over drones has led farmers and entrepreneurs to conjure up many potential uses for the devices. Yamaha’s R-Max helicopter shows promise in spraying pesticides in areas that are challenging for conventional ground and aerial applicators. Wine grapes and other specialty crops are sometimes grown in irregular configurations on slopes and in the vicinity of trees — awkward conditions for existing spray systems but ideal for unmanned aerial vehicles, he said.
Agribusiness giant Monsanto Co. is confronting some of its stiffest challenges in years, as it contends with consumer criticism of biotech foods, farmers tightening their belts, and a global health agency that has labeled its trademark weed killer as a potential carcinogen.
Wall Street Journal
The Pew foundation took the latest US census and looked at where in the state the growth/loss occurred. Delaware, Washington and Florida experienced the most widespread growth in population between 2013 and 2014. More than 80% of their counties had more people than the year before. In contrast, Connecticut, Illinois and New Mexico had growth in less than 25% of their counties.
The Board of Water Works Trustees of the City of Des Moines, Iowa, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, against three counties and several drainage districts which drain farm land. Des Moines is attacking the very heart of the Clean Water Act, which protects agriculture. The complaint is composed of 52 pages, 290 separate paragraphs and 10 separate counts. Let's examine the complaint. Des Moines seeks to have Drainage Districts charged with violating the federal CWA and enjoin the Districts from ongoing violations of the CWA and assess penalties against the Drainage Districts "…for each continuing day of violation." This could be up to $37,500 per day.
Legislation restricting phosphorus use on Eastern Shore farms may be on its dying breath after a Senate bill was referred back to committee — clearing the way for the larger compromise. After Gov. Larry Hogan and Assembly Democrats announced the sides had reached an agreement on a new version of Hogan's regulations, Sen. Paul Pinsky, referred his bill back to the Health, Education and Environmental Affairs committee. The bill mirrored former Gov. Martin O'Malley's plan for restricted the use of chicken manure on Shore farmers, which was pulled by Gov. Hogan at the last minute before publication in the Maryland Register. While both Hogan and O'Malley acknowledged the Shore agricultural industry as a contributor to pollution into the Chesapeake Bay, the two differed on how strict the regulations should be, with Hogan initially offering more ways for the state to pull out of implementation if it was seen as too adverse for the Eastern Shore region. Hogan's regulations, expected to be proposed by the Department of Agriculture would eliminate language that "could have allowed for delay after delay" of the regulations' implementation, according to two environmental advocacy groups involved in the talks.
Rapid City Journal
A new law introduced in Kentucky to reduce the hold period for stray horses from 90 days to 15 days has been praised by a coalition of equine groups in the state. Before the enactment of H.B. 312, Kentucky had the second highest hold period in the country at 90 days. This new law brings Kentucky more in line with bordering states that all have 10-day hold periods.
The concept draft of the measure, LD 826, seeks to increase funding to the state’s ConnectME Authority from $1 million to $5 million in order to expand universal broadband and high-speed Internet into the 6% of the state that has no access to such service.
Bangor Daily News
In the midst of a growing call around Maine for faster broadband Internet, the Maine Farm Bureau has embarked on a campaign to assure that before some people get faster Internet, all people get some Internet. And in what some might see as a bit of irony, an Internet fund-raising site is one of the tools being used to help those who currently can’t get there from here.
Maine Farm Bureau
There is an important statute that limits liability of certain property owners who open their land up for recreational uses. Understanding that the vast majority of Texas land is privately owned, and hoping to encourage landowners to allow recreation on their land, the Texas Legislature passed the Recreational Use Statute. This statute may be found at Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 75. Essentially, where the statute applies, the landowner, lessee, or occupier owes the plaintiff the same duty as a trespasser–meaning that the landowner, lessee, or occupier may not intentionally injure or act in gross negligence. As explained by the statute, the statute does not apply to acts of gross negligence, bad faith, or malicious intent. No additional duty (such as those owed to trespassers or licensees) apply. The following elements must be met in order for the Recreational Use Statute to apply.
Integrated Animal Health will work closely with Northwest Missouri State University and a business incubator. An Australian company is making itself at home in the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor before building its new global headquarters. Integrated Animal Health Inc., which has a few products on the market and more under development, in mid-March signed an agreement with Northwest Missouri State University and the institution’s Dean L. Hubbard Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Hubbard Center, a business incubator in Maryville, Mo., will work with Integrated Animal Health on the testing and developing of products designed to improve the health of cattle, sheep, swine, poultry and fish.
Veterinary Practice News
The building now houses a technical center for seven rural and town high schools, mostly in Crawford County, but also neighboring Cherokee County. Statewide, Kansas Board of Regents data indicate rural and town students are more likely than their peers in cities and suburbs to take advantage of an initiative launched in 2012 that offers all Kansas high-schoolers tuition-free access to post-secondary-level career and technical classes. Though schools sometimes face hurdles to meeting the demand and interest among students for these programs, here they are sidestepping those by consolidating resources at a 30,000-square-foot building, with help from city and county officials, Fort Scott Community College and philanthropists. Supporters of this facility, called the Southeast Kansas Career and Technical Education Center, see it as part of a regional plan to bolster economic growth in a corner of the state where household earnings lag behind the Kansas median. The hope is to attract more businesses to the area and connect students with jobs.
The schools of Elkhart, a town of about 2,200 people tucked into Kansas’ southwest corner, aren’t the main source of revenue for this oil and gas community. Nor are they the main employer, according to county officials. Yet residents of Elkhart describe their schools as community glue. “School is probably the central location for just about everything that goes on here,” said Vienna Lee, the county’s economic development director. “We can assure you that if there’s a school function, everybody in town is there.” That kind of community pride and engagement makes Elkhart Unified School District 218’s financial roller coaster all the more difficult. In the years after the 2008 recession and 2012 state tax cuts, Kansas’ base state aid for K-12 education fell to levels not seen since the early 2000s. Elkhart cut after-school tutoring, classroom aides, lunch staff, field trips and other spending. The situation didn’t improve this school year, though the Kansas Supreme Court last spring ordered that millions more dollars must go to schools. The Legislature complied, but in the same appropriations bill sliced other categories of school funding, which hit Elkhart hard. Statewide, it appears dozens of school districts — mostly rural — lost more money through these cuts than they gained through the court ruling. Elkhart lost the biggest chunk of its budget. In a single school year, the district’s superintendent, Nancy Crowell, found herself dealing with the loss of $1.66 million — one-fifth of the district’s general and supplemental general dollars, the two main pots of money she uses to pay the district’s bills, from teacher salaries to utilities to classroom supplies.
His school district, Syracuse Unified School District 494, covers just under a thousand square miles. “I have a long day,” laughed Hirsch, who rises before 5 a.m., works during the school day as a special education aide, and drives this route again after school, finishing at 5 p.m. As he turned north onto the dirt road that separates Hamilton County from its eastern neighbor, Kearny — and that marks the boundary between Mountain time and Central time — he got a call on his two-way radio, asking him to include another house on his route. In terms of area, this southwest Kansas school district is the state’s largest, covering the whole of Hamilton County. But in other ways it is a typical Kansas district — rural and about 550 students, the state’s median enrollment. More than two-thirds of Kansas’ school districts are classified as rural by the U.S. Department of Education, and another quarter are town districts. Together they educate just over half of the state’s students. Yet many face challenges related to low enrollment, to their distance from cities or to serving wide swaths of land, and to budget cuts linked to the 2008 recession and the state’s 2012 cuts to income tax.
If you are interested in tracking animal, particularly pet bills, join the Cavalry Group – some featured this month include – Montana’s Bill to Enact Commercial Pet Breeding Regulations, Maine's Bill to Ban the Sale of Dogs and Cats in Pet Stores, Ohio Seeks Dismissal of Restraining Order for Medina County Couple's Bear and more.
The Calvary Group
Consolidating had been a topic of discussion off and on for about three years, he says, but sports brought the situation to a head. Milner describes the community’s decision to merge with Belleville as difficult, and remembers sitting in front of Hillcrest patrons at a public forum. As he recalls it, some people wept; some yelled. Some wondered aloud how the towns that made up their district had lost so many students over the years. The fear in many rural communities is that closing a school kills a town. Milner believes Hillcrest experienced the opposite. The towns dwindled, then the school left, too. School district consolidation is easily the most taboo subject in Kansas K-12 education.
Some school districts and other organizations are trying to attract teachers to hard-to-fill positions with monetary incentives. In Indiana, Purdue has placed 50 math and science teachers in rural schools by offering $30,000 stipends for professionals who want to pursue master’s degrees to transition from jobs in these fields to teaching. The stipend is in exchange for staying at the schools at least three years. The Ozarks Teacher Corps, based in Missouri, offers $8,000 in tuition for rural students to study education, in exchange for three years teaching in their hometowns or other rural schools. The Kansas Board of Regents offers scholarships of about $5,500 a year, usually for college juniors and seniors, to study education in return for teaching either in urban districts — Topeka, Wichita and Kansas City — or in the western third of the state. Garden City Unified School District 457 covers $5,000 in graduate tuition for teachers who stay five years.
Kansas City Star
Florida was home to the nation's fastest growing metro area from 2013 to 2014, according to new U.S. Census Bureau metropolitan statistical area, micropolitan statistical area and county population estimates released today. The Villages, located to the west of the Orlando metro area, grew by 5.4% between July 1, 2013, and July 1, 2014, to reach a population of about 114,000. State population estimates released in December revealed that Florida had become the nation's third most populous state. Florida's growth to reach this milestone was propelled by numerous metro areas and counties within the state.
Another important consideration for any landowner looking to lease land is the issue of what liability he or she may be subject to if someone is injured during the term of the lease agreement. In Texas, the general rule is that a landowner is not liable to the tenant or to others on the land for physical harm caused by any dangerous condition that existed at the time the lessee took possession of the land. As with most laws, however, there are several exceptions to this rule.
There is something unusual about the teachers at Kenneth Henderson Middle School, and principal Glenda LaBarbera can prove it. On a Friday morning, she handed a reporter a list of teachers’ names and offered a tour of her school. First stop, Charles Kressbach’s science room. “You can go in there and the kids are just glued to them,” LaBarbera said of Kressbach and his special education co-teacher, Grant Allen, a duo known for their high-energy, animated teaching style. But their talent isn’t the only thing worth noting. Kressbach is from Michigan, and Allen, from Minnesota. About 20 of 30 teachers here hail from other states. They are transplants to this remote but bustling town of 27,000 people, nestled among the vast farms and ranches of southwest Kansas. It isn’t because the administrators of Garden City Public Schools — a 7,700-student district — aren’t satisfied with Kansas teachers. It is because they struggle year after year to find enough of them. Hiring quality teachers is one of the most important tasks for any school. But reports of districts unable to find the staff they need are common, and in Kansas, those affected often are remote or rural.
Actually, we've been laughing for two days, as have about 150,000 other YouTube users, at this poor, poor Director of Florida Emergency Management Bryan Koon guy forced to stand in front of a Senate budget committee in Tallahassee and mind Gov. Rick Scott's edict of "don't say 'climate change,' fools!" In the short video, you will witness a number of washes of hilarity when state Sen. Jeff Clemens, tries to draw the words of shame from his lips. Following some back and forth between Koon and State Senator Jeff Clemens, Clemens asked Koon if it is true that states need to have “climate change plans” to qualify for that federal money. Koon agreed, saying it required “language to that effect.” “I used ‘climate change,’” Clemens replied, “but I’m suggesting that maybe as a state, we use the term ‘atmospheric reemployment.’ That might be something that the governor could get behind.”
The starkly different views on buying conservation land illustrate a recurring theme in Florida's Capitol: Proposals that have broad popular support are frequently ignored, even when voters make their intentions clear. Environmental advocates are gearing up for a big lobbying push to convince top lawmakers to change their minds about Florida Forever spending before the legislative session ends in six weeks. But some are already wondering if the conservation amendment will follow the path of the Florida Lottery, class-size limits and other voter-approved ideas that did not turn out as many expected.
The Kansas City Fed just released the March Manufacturing Survey today. The survey revealed that Tenth District manufacturing activity declined in March, and producers' expectations moderated somewhat but remained slightly positive.
Kansas City Federal Reserve
High Country News
The Water and Land Conservation Initiative was the biggest vote getter on the November ballot, approved by 74.9% of the voters. Most of the 4,230,858 who voted “yes” assumed — wrongly as it turned out — that they were voting to guarantee a funding stream for Florida Forever, the land acquisition program that allows the state to buy wildlife habitat and protect water resources. Less than four months later, the state Senate responded to this outpouring of public sentiment with a bill that would cut the current Florida Forever budget by 84%. You can understand how Floridians might be confused, given that the ballot summary for Amendment One promised 33% of the state’s real estate tax collections would be earmarked to “acquire, restore, improve and manage conservation lands including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands protecting water resources and drinking water sources
A deep freeze this winter left much of the Great Lakes blanketed in thick ice, sidelining the ship lines and companies that move vast amounts of grain, cement and other commodities through this system of waterways. And now the spring thaw, which creates piles of impassable ice, will most likely create more delays
The FDA has approved apples and potatoes which are resistant to bruises and don’t go brown as safe to eat. Consumer and environmental groups are concerned that such products could have unknown risks to human health. The FDA said the gene-altered apples and potatoes are good for commercial plating since they are "as safe and nutritious as their conventional counterparts". The decision increases these products’ chances of finally appearing on the grocery stores’ shelves. The approval covers six kinds of potatoes by Boise, Idaho-based J. R. Simplot Co. and two types of apples by the Canadian company Okanagan Specialty Fruits. The USDA approved them as being safe in mid-February. This authority is, however, primarily concerned with crops not posing threat to other plants, while the FDA considers food safety.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency reviews of Arctic apples are complete, concluding that they "are as safe and nutritious as traditional apple varieties
A battle is brewing in the organic food industry. The largest trade association for organic farmers, marketers and processors wants growers to help pay for promotional campaigns, using a decades-old funding model that paid for iconic ads like “Got Milk?” and “Beef: It’s What’s For Dinner.” But deciding how to spread the organic message is dividing the sector into factions. Farmers would be the biggest group paying into the proposed organic checkoff. Farmers of mid-size operations have been the toughest sell. Advocates are still trying to convince farmers like Condon that the checkoff is a good idea. The OTA still needs to submit a formal proposal to the USDA, which would complete a review. OTA representatives say they’ll be ready to submit that proposal in the next couple months.
Iowa Public Radio
Scientists have discovered that milk helps stave off damage to brain cells that could cause degenerative diseases in later life.
Most people would be horrified if they went to a restaurant bathroom and saw the chef not bother to wash his hands after using the toilet. It's a good thing raw milk fad health buyers do not understand cow milking for the same reason. A new review finds that consumers are nearly 100 times more likely to get foodborne illness from drinking raw milk than they are from drinking pasteurized milk, which is a lower figure than the CDC, which puts that number at 150X.
Research showed that mice on the low-linoleic diet did not gain as much weight or develop insulin resistance but did become glucose intolerant. The composition of the genetically modified Plenish oil is very similar to olive oil, which is considered the healthiest of all oils. She adds olive oil production is around one million tons and coconut oil 3 million per year, while soybean oil production annually is over 40 million tons.
The “Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee” had mostly good news for dairy. Consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, it supported consumption of lowfat and fat-free milk and dairy products. The committee’s report affirmed that dairy foods are excellent sources of key nutrients that are under-consumed, including vitamin D, calcium, and potassium.
Eggs and the way in which they are produced have also faced questions about their sustainability including criticisms from environmental groups about the various methods in which hens are housed. All current housing systems, be it free-range, cage-free aviary, or conventional cage system, suffer from feather pecking and yes, cannibalism as the result of pecking order. Domestically-raised birds, no matter how they are housed, also suffer from a variety of other conditions including hypocalcemia, foot problems and egg yolk peritonitis. The CSES study found no difference in the detection of Salmonella spp. or Campylobacter spp. between the eggs produced in the three commercial housing systems monitored. Management of housing systems to encourage nest box usage, when they are present, and to control dust are key to enhancing the safety of eggs produced in any hen housing system.
The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science
The added costs imposed by mandatory labeling for GE organisms could increase the price of food to consumers, while driving smaller farms out of business. In addition, the use of GMO crops is important to her farm’s economic sustainability. In testimony presented before the House Agriculture Committee, Lidback, who farms in Westmore, Vermont, with her husband and two young sons, said that building an economically viable small family business has led them to “fully embrace using technology to farm better and with less impact on our surroundings” – and part of that entails using GMO seed varieties that grow best in New England. “We would want the choice of the best seed regardless of breeding technology; genetic engineering offers the best options,” she said.
The news wires have been buzzing lately about the recently released scientific report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. One of the hottest topics for discussion is how out of step the report is on a number of issues, including the Committee’s dive into political matters like sustainability, soda taxes, and “added sugar” labeling. These topics are outside the jurisdiction of the Dietary Guidelines and should be addressed by Congress or the FDA.
Eight communities across the country will receive training and assistance to link family farmers and local residents who lack access to healthy food. Over a three-year period, Growing Food Connections will help local governments create their own plans, policies, partnerships, and make public investment to support family farmers and enhance food security. The communities will also serve as models for other communities nationwide that face similar challenges. They were selected from a competitive nationwide search and application process.
Farm and Dairy
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, ranked the herbicide glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” inspiring fierce rebuttal from the agricultural science community. IARC categorized glyphosate-used on millions of acres of commodity crops in the United States-in Group 2A, which suggests the herbicide has “limited evidence” of carcinogenicity in humans and includes coffee, cell phones, aloe vera, pickled vegetables, the indoor emissions from wood stoves and shift work. Information Technology and Innovation Foundation senior fellow Val Giddings issued a response to IARC's announcement, saying that “a vast body of relevant information, including dozens of detailed genotoxicity studies, animal bioassays, peer-reviewed publications and regulatory assessments show no evidence of carcinogenicity,” but were ignored by the committee.
Monsanto Co, maker of the world's most widely used herbicide, Roundup, wants an international health organization to retract a report linking the chief ingredient in Roundup to cancer. The company said on that the report, issued by the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer, was biased and contradicts regulatory findings that the ingredient, glyphosate, is safe when used as labeled.
It’s a milk house and milk plant all in one, including claw, vacuum pump, filter, pasteurizer, and carton packer/filler in a petite upright package that moves from cow to cow.
In a jolt certain to be felt in food pantries across the globe, H.J. Heinz and Kraft Foods Group will merge into a single food behemoth -- forming the world's fifth largest food and beverage company. News of newly-proposed Kraft Heinz Co. propelled Kraft shares nearly 35% -- more than $21 per share -- in late afternoon trading. It's a bid "to create a Nestle of the U.S.A," said Nomura equity analyst David Hayes.
Open for Comments
USDA asks for “…public comment to assist in analyzing its existing significant regulations to determine whether any should be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed.” The notice does go on to suggest several questions for consideration.
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a draft
guidance to help animal producers ensure the safety of animal feed that is used
on-farm. The draft guidance outlines steps animal producers can take to
identify and prevent feed contaminants that are sometimes present in the farm
production environment and could jeopardize the health of farm animals and the
safety of human food derived from the animals. The FDA is accepting public
comments on this draft guidance
US producers asked for stricter regulation to counter competition from lower-priced imports, but the impending inspection changes could put further pressure on struggling catfish farmers. In 2008, faced with increased competition from Vietnam and China, catfish producers in the US did the unthinkable: They asked for more regulation of their industry. Congress concurred and agreed to move the inspection of foreign and domestically produced catfish from the FDA to a more rigorous program at the USDA. However, the process has dragged on for nearly seven years. Now, as the administration prepares to finalize the inspection regulations, domestic catfish farmers may have received more than they bargained for, experts say.
A white flaky fish that recently overtook cod and crab to become the sixth most popular seafood in the U.S. could soon disappear from American dinner plates. Depending on whom you ask, the reason stems from either imported food safety concerns or a bureaucratic entanglement designed to protect the shrinking market share of American-produced catfish. The fish in question—pangasius—is produced in Southeast Asia and often appears on restaurant menus as basa or swai. Pangasius lives in fresh water and has barbels or “whiskers” just like American catfish, which is a closely related cousin. Indeed, it used to be called catfish until Congress prohibited that labeling in 2002. Pangasius supplies could dry up as the Agriculture Department assumes control over catfish and pangasius this spring—a job currently done by the FDA. The USDA is expected to impose tough new standards on Vietnam and other countries that export pangasius to the U.S.
Wall Street Journal
The FDA released a draft guidance document that has been under development for many months titled, "Ensuring Safety of Animal Feed Maintained and Fed on Farm." The draft "...outlines steps animal producers can take to identify and prevent feed contaminants that are sometimes present in the farm production environment and could jeopardize the health of farm animals and the safety of human food derived from the animals." Richard Sellers, AFIA said that "although the draft has been in the works for quite some time, this is our first glance at the guidance. Unfortunately, AFIA was unable to provide input to the agency during the drafting of the document. At first blush, we show concern surrounding the encouragement of animal producers to contact FDA with problems, but the neglect to mention the importance of contacting the firm whose name is on the label. AFIA intends to ask FDA to amend the draft to tell producers to contact the manufacturer about potential feed concerns.
Petition to USDA Demands Changes in Scientific Integrity Policies, Procedures. USDA needs to strengthen its internal rules to better protect the department's scientists from outside political and industry pressures over their research, a group alleges in a petition to the department. The group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, charges that USDA scientists "routinely suffer retaliation and harassment" from managers and private industry for research that conflicts with agribusinesses. PEER is filing a petition to force USDA to beef up its policies on scientific integrity.
Even as a special White House created task force is poised any day now to address concerns over supposedly vanishing honeybees, new research suggests that the very premise of the federal investigation may be misplaced. The latest headline on farmers’ critical pollinator? The numbers of beehives are actually growing, continuing a multi-year improvement—gradually repairing the damage wrought by the 2006 mass bee die off known as Colony Collapse Disorder. The USDA announced that honey production, which had been disrupted after CCD devastated the bee population nine years ago, continues to improve, up 14%. The total number of hives also increased again, by 100,000 or 4%, as it had increased the year before and the year before that. More to the point as to the acrimonious debate over whether and how much neonicotinoids are impacting bee health, the total number of beehives today is higher than it was in 1995 when neonics as they are often called had just come on the market. The report also comes just days after a USDA-sponsored study concluded that widely promoted claims that neonics are the primary driver of been health problems seriously distort the scientific explanation as to why bees have struggled.
Genetic Literacy Project
Reps. Mike Pompeo, and G.K. Butterfield, introduced the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 includes a new provision to regulate and certify foods promoted as non-biotech. The new legislation would set up a voluntary certification process run by USDA for foods labeled as non-GMO, modeled after the department's organic certification program.
Shifting from the current voluntary system to a mandatory system in New York State would significantly increase food costs. The report found that a family of four in New York State could pay, on average, an additional $500 in annual food costs if mandatory labeling becomes law. The state would also incur an estimated $1.6 million in costs from writing and enforcing new regulations and litigating potential lawsuits related to mandatory labeling, which could run as high as $8 million and would be passed onto consumers.
USDA announced that it will bring $35 million to the table as it teams up with the White House to increase high speed and wired broadband access in under-served and rural areas. The $35 million in loans USDA is contributing will go to three telecommunications companies in Arkansas, New Mexico and Iowa, to support broadband infrastructure upgrades,
An analysis shows the total package still bends farm aid downward. The knives are out for the new farm bill even before the deadline for producers to sign up for the first commodity support payments due in October. A spate of recent forecasts shows that costs will be higher than predicted given the drop in grain prices. But in the rush to judgment, one cardinal rule still applies: As thickheaded as the farm lobby can be, its critics are often thicker. The EWG has asserted that corn growers in most counties of Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota and Kansas will cash in on payouts of $60 to $200 an acre. The Washington Post editorial page picked up on this number and came down hard: “Like so many of its predecessors, the 2014 farm bill promised cheaper, more efficient federal agricultural policy, but delivered the opposite.” Indeed, the $200 per acre estimate — if true — would be more than eight times the $24 per acre average for corn under the prior system of direct cash payments to producers truth is, the five-year costs of the new commodity payments will average out to be lower than the prior system. If the window is widened to count more than the commodity title in the farm bill, two points also stand out. First, for the decade from fiscal year 2015 through 2024, mandatory government spending for agriculture — including conservation and crop insurance programs — is expected to average substantially less than the average for the prior two decades. Second, even with the current market turmoil, the cost estimates show a consistent ratio of about 20-to-1 between the relative size of the farm economy — measured in total farm cash receipts — and what government aid is promised.
You’ve heard the hype about unmanned aircraft. A study by AUVSI shows the UAS industry will create over 100,000 jobs and generate $82 billion in revenue in just 10 years. Precision ag is expected to claim more than $65 billion of that market. The reality is, none of it will be realized until the FAA finalizes rules for UAS integration into national airspace. Even though the proposed rules are out for public comment, it still may be a year or more before they are final. “Flying a UAS over a farm right now is technically not going to be legal for a couple of years,” says Gielow. “However, if you own an unmanned aircraft, fly it over your farm fields, and use the pictures to make crop decisions, the FAA has said it is not going to come after you.”
The USDA announced a proposed rule to limit farm payments to non-farmers, consistent with requirements Congress mandated in the 2014 Farm Bill. The proposed rule limits farm payments to individuals who may be designated as farm managers but are not actively engaged in farm management. In the Farm Bill, Congress gave USDA the authority to address this loophole for joint ventures and general partnerships, while exempting family farm operations from being impacted by the new rule USDA ultimately implements.
The USDA is conducting the 2014 Census of Horticultural Specialties to gather detailed information on horticultural production and sales. Last conducted in 2009, this census will provide the only source of comparable and consistent data at the national and state levels for the industry. Producers can fill out the Census online via a secure website, www.agcensus.usda.gov, or return their form by mail. Federal law requires all producers who receive a form to respond and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential.
Beef/Cattle: Despite continuing drought in the Southwest, winter precipitation has kept feeder cattle on Southern Plains wheat pasture. Placements of heavier feeder cattle in feedlots during the first and second quarters, combined with heavier average dressed weights for cows, could mitigate anticipated declines in cattle slaughter. Despite record retail beef prices, recent declines in live cattle prices have not resulted in significantly wider packer margins. Pork/Hogs: USDA increased first-quarter 2015 pork production slightly , to reflect larger than expected February hog slaughter and heavier average dressed weights.
Retail pork prices are exhibiting stickiness even as wholesale pork prices decline. Poultry: Broiler meat production for 2015 is estimated at 40 billion pounds, up 75 million from the previous estimate. Production increased by 5% in January due to an increase in the number of birds slaughtered and growth in average live weights. Table egg production continues to expand and production in January was 619 million dozen, up 1% from a year earlier. Dairy: Milk production for 2015 is forecast at 211.1 billion pounds, 2.5% higher than the 2014 level of 206.0 billion pounds. The all-milk price for 2015 is forecast at $17.05-$17.65 per cwt, a decrease from last month’s forecast of $17.40-$18.10 per cwt.
The budget would turn Medicaid into block grants to the states, cutting health care spending for the poor by $900 billion. The food stamp program would also be turned into block grants and cut by hundreds of billions of dollars.” If the cuts came solely from eliminating eligibility for certain categories of households or individuals, states would have to cut an average of 11 to 12 million people from the program each year between 2021 and 2025. If the cuts came solely from across-the-board benefit cuts, states would have to cut an average of almost $55 per person per month in 2021 to 2025.
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Projects will Help Transition People Off of Food Assistance, Reduce SNAP Spending the Right Way. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, joined by Labor Secretary Tom Perez, announced the recipients of $200 million in competitive awards to fund and evaluate pilot projects in 10 states to help Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program participants find jobs and work toward self-sufficiency. Projects in California, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington were chosen. The grants will fund projects for three years.
The USDA domestic food and nutrition assistance programs serve about 1 in 4 Americans at some point during the year and account for about three-quarters of USDA’s annual budget.
An unprecedented attempt to protect sage grouse habitat across parts of more than 900 square miles of privately owned land in Nevada will begin under a deal involving the federal government, an environmental group and the world's largest gold mining company. The agreement comes as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approaches a fall deadline for a decision on whether to protect the greater sage grouse, under the Endangered Species Act. Commercial operations, including mining companies and oil and gas producers, are entering into such deals in an effort to keep the bird off the threatened or endangered list because the classification would place new restrictions on their work. The deal involves Barrick Gold Corp., The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service. It establishes a "conservation bank," providing the mining firm credit for enhancing critical habitat, in exchange for flexibility in future operations.
A White House strategy for fighting antibiotic resistance calls for studying the extent of the problem on farms and lays out plans for developing new drugs that producers can use more safely. The plan affirms the steps the FDA has taken to phase out the use of medically important antimicrobials for growth promotion, through the voluntary cooperation of drug makers, and to require veterinary oversight of all other uses of the antibiotics. It does not set targets for reducing drug usage but includes plans for monitoring the impact of the voluntary strategy and analyzing the extent of resistance on farms. The National Action Plan, which also addresses human use of the drugs, says the five-year strategy “will lead to major reductions in the incidence of urgent and serious” disease threats.
The White House was so concerned last year that a crackdown on federal travel and training was undermining the standing of U.S. scientists that it ordered a survey of scientist-heavy agencies across government to see how bad things were. The empirically based research results were dispiriting. The travel restrictions, ordered by the Office of Management and Budget in 2012 in response to the uproar over a Las Vegas conference where hundreds of federal workers partied for four days at taxpayer expense, have hurt research while spawning new spending, a survey by the National Science and Technology Council found. Some agencies, for example, have hired up to six full-time employees just to process scientists’ requests to attend or present their research at conferences. Several agencies reported that they modified or built from scratch a “conference request and tracking approval tool” to handle the voluminous paperwork and levels of staff review that are now required when a scientist puts in a conference or travel request. The one-time costs of these tools range from $72,000 to $900,000. The tracking systems carry annual operating costs, too: One agency reported that it now spends $248,000 a year on its system.
President Obama’s immigration policies suffered a rough week, faltering in the courts, taking fire on Capitol Hill, angering his political base and even having his own deportation chief undercut his message as he struggles to find a middle-ground path to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. The busy week climaxed when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced it had deported an illegal immigrant Mennonite pastor, in a case that has sparked fury among immigrant rights advocates who say it exposes the hypocrisy of Mr. Obama’s own statements about pushing for a more lenient policy that keeps families together. The deportation was announced just hours after ICE Director Sarah Saldana was forced to walk back her statement from a day earlier that she wanted Congress to pass laws requiring state and local authorities to hold and turn over illegal immigrants.
South Dakota soybean growers just back from Europe learned that EU policy regarding use of GMOs differs from what they expected. “I assumed that the European market was for mostly non-GMO soybeans, but we were pretty surprised to learn that that’s actually a pretty small fraction of what’s going into Europe,” Ethan, South Dakota farmer Matt Bainbridge said. “The interesting thing is they can import GMO soybeans, but their farmers can’t grow the GMO soybeans.”
Despite the significant potential consequences for antimicrobial resistance, there has been no quantitative measurement of global antimicrobial consumption by livestock. We address this gap by using Bayesian statistical models combining maps of livestock densities, economic projections of demand for meat products, and current estimates of antimicrobial consumption in high-income countries to map antimicrobial use in food animals for 2010 and 2030. We estimate that between 2010 and 2030, the global consumption of antimicrobials will increase by 67%, from 63,151 ± 1,560 tons to 105,596 ± 3,605 tons. Up to a third of the increase in consumption in livestock between 2010 and 2030 is imputable to shifting production practices in middle-income countries where extensive farming systems will be replaced by large-scale intensive farming operations that routinely use antimicrobials in subtherapeutic doses.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
China faces daunting farm statistics: One-fifth of the world's population feeds off one-twelfth of the planet's arable land. And that acreage is shrinking: In the last 30 years, an area the size of New York state has been paved over as China urbanized. An additional 8 million acres became so polluted that the government announced in late 2013 that they shouldn't be used for agriculture. China's solution is to industrialize farming. When the Communist Party released its policy blueprint, the “No. 1 Central Document,” for the 12th year in a row, it focused on rural reforms. The government is promoting the consolidation of family-farmed plots into large-scale, managed enterprises.
The world’s second-largest economy needs a seed developer that can hold its own in the country’s $17 billion seed market against global agribusiness companies including DuPont Co. and Syngenta AG.
Wall Street Journal
Energy and Renewables
The bills would prevent cities from passing oil and gas ordinances that are not “commercially reasonable” and require them to make up tax revenue lost because of oil and gas restrictions. Opponents view the legislation as part of a slate of bills this session aimed at limiting local control, but supporters say otherwise. “Local regulations must be reasonable and ensure that property owners have the regulatory certainty that they will be able to access their minerals,” said Todd Staples, head of the Texas Oil and Gas Association. “The threat to Texas and our state’s biggest economic driver — oil and gas — is real and it is urgent,” said Staples, who is also a former state agriculture commissioner. Cities raised concerns about potentially ambiguous terminology in the bill that they said would dissuade cities from proposing ordinances or would lead to expensive litigation when they do.
Dallas Morning News
The Obama administration imposed tougher restrictions on oil and gas “fracking” operations on public lands, seeking to lower the risk of water contamination from a controversial practice that is chiefly behind the recent boom in U.S. energy production. The regulations represent the administration’s most significant effort to tighten standards for hydraulic fracturing, a technique that helped make the US the world’s No. 1 producer of natural gas while igniting a fierce debate over environmental consequences. The Interior Department rules apply only to oil and gas drilling on federal lands, or about a quarter of the country’s current fossil-fuel output.
While the first official draft was fairly protective and a second was significantly weakened, this final version appears to be squarely between the two – predictably falling short of what many environmental groups hoped for, and going beyond what industry groups seem willing to live with. One thing is certain: The rules are much stronger than what was in place before on federal lands, which account for 11% of the nation's natural gas production and five% of its oil production.
High Country News
The energy boom in rural America creates a new set of challenges for local fire departments. If a mid-sized city with a professional department is having trouble getting prepared, what does that mean for the small, mostly volunteer departments that protect rural America?
A New Hampshire-based company has teamed with poultry giant Perdue to propose a $200 million plant on the Eastern Shore to extract energy from chicken manure, offering its plan as a viable remedy for the farm pollution fouling the Chesapeake Bay. Officials with AgEnergyUSA met in Annapolis with lawmakers, state officials, environmentalists and farmers, seeking support and legislation worth tens of millions of dollars for their project.
U.S. coal companies that are publicly skeptical of man-made climate change acknowledge in mandatory financial disclosures the widely accepted scientific link between fossil fuel emissions and a warming planet. Sustainable investment advocates warn that such doublespeak undermines the industry's credibility with shareholders. And scientific integrity experts are critical of the coal companies' climate communication strategy, which they argue is detrimental to the long-term health and security of the American people.
Georgetown, Texas is a relatively small city of 50,000 people, and its city-run utility recently announced that it would rely entirely on wind and solar energy in just two years. Georgetown plans to achieve this feat by purchasing energy from local solar and wind ventures. Texas gets plenty of sun during the days, and it tends to get windy in the state at night, so getting energy from both sources should cover the energy needs of the town. In an additional benefit, the move also saves water in a state that is notoriously dry. As Slate notes coal-burning power plants not only rely on non-renewable fossil fuels, but also use up stunning amounts of water, a resource also craved by agriculture, and, well, people.
The share of electricity generated from renewable resources last year was 79.9%, a 5% increase from the previous year.
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