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Federal and International
Ted McKinney, has been named by Governor Pence as the new Director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. McKinney has worked in high profile positions with Dow AgroSciences, Elanco Animal Health and was one of the those responsible for bringing the National FFA convention to Indiana.
Hoosier Ag Today
As of Dec. 11, all raw milk sold to consumers in South Dakota will be required to carry a label warning consumers that unpasteurized milk can cause illness. These new labeling rules will also require the label to list the name of the dairy and the date of production. The rules come after months of hearings and committee reviews. The Legislature’s rules review committee cleared the rules on the second try after initially telling the department that more work was needed.
Heifers for South Dakota. Last week, 45 bred heifers and cows were sent to my home state to help the ranchers in need. Another additional 400 head of cattle, including yearling and bred heifers have also been sent to ranchers from neighbors in Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. What’s more, about $1.5 million has been donated to the Rancher Relief Fund. Ranchers who wish to receive aid can apply to the Rancher Relief Fund. The deadline is Dec. 31, and the organization will then evaluate the need of the ranchers and how many folks are requesting assistance before deciding how much funds each rancher will receive. While some federal disaster assistance might be approved, it’s certainly not guaranteed, especially since Congress can’t pass a farm bill.
Nearly two months after devastating blizzards hit parts of South Dakota and Wyoming, farmers are still recovering from the loss of cattle and the effect on their businesses. The week before the storm, it had been wet and mild and the prairies of the Great Plains were deep in mud. Then, the first winter snow came early and unexpectedly in an icy blast from the north-west. Trapped in the mud, 30,000 cattle suffocated and froze to death. They were buried in 20ft snow drifts, entombed in ice in what ranchers call the "breaks and draws" - the slopes and valleys .
Free-range eggs might be the product of choice for the animal welfare-conscious shopper, but new research suggests hens kept in indoor cages are happier. Birds raised in “enriched cages” had fewer fractures, lower mortality, lower stress levels and did less damage in pecking each other than free-range birds, a study found. Free-range hens are often distressed by unpleasant weather or predators such as foxes, she said, adding that it could take up to five years before the welfare of free-range hens was better than that of caged ones. “Enriched cages” accommodate flocks of 70 or 80 birds living in stacked enclosures with access to food, water perches and scratching posts.
The Oregon Court of Appeals has thrown out a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of Oregon’s Right to Farm statute. Much like Indiana’s Right to Farm law, the Oregon statute protects farmers from litigation involving nuisance claims arising from standard agricultural practices. Plaintiffs alleged that the defendant farmer’s use of pesticides and chemicals constituted a nuisance and trespass, claiming the substances “drifted” onto their properties. The farmer raised the right to farm defense, and the plaintiffs voluntarily dropped the case. The plaintiffs then filed another lawsuit against the state of Oregon seeking declaratory judgment that the Right to Farm statute violates the state constitution. The Oregon Court of Appeals rejected the second lawsuit without reaching a decision on the right to farm argument merits. The court ruled that the alleged harm was too speculative since the plaintiffs had not made sufficient allegations of actual nuisance or trespass.
It began out of frustration. In just three years, however, it has channeled frustration into effectiveness for ag producers and other businesses in Ventura County, CA, as they deal with a crushing load of local regulations that threaten to put them out of business. Our Ventura County CoLAB actually started out of frustration,” says Sloan, who serves as the group’s president. “It was frustration with our county government and the pressures they were putting on us.”Among those pressures was a county ordinance called SOAR – Save our Agricultural Resources. Judging by the name, Sloan says the ordinance seemed positive. Instead, what it did was give county planners complete authority over any land use decision made anywhere in the county. “If you changed the intensification of the land in any way, you had to go before the population with a special election that you paid for,” Sloan explains. It narrowed us with biological constraints. ”No longer could a cattleman clear brush from his pastures, or a strawberry farmer improve the productivity of his fields. “It essentially turned a $50,000 equipment shed into a $500,000 project,” Sloan says. “Ranching and farming is a business. It’s not someone’s view shed, it’s not someone’s open space; it’s somebody’s property that they’re trying to make a living on,” he says.
Josh shares the facts and figures of raising pasture-raised, free-range, organic-fed hen eggs. It’s math that can really help you understand your inputs and what you should be charging for that dozen of eggs you collect from your chickens.
The Montana Department of Livestock will start a bison vaccination program in February without the approval of tribes and other state and federal agencies.
The Dept. of Agriculture, Trade filed a cease-and-desist order against Madison restaurant owner Dan Fox and his Fox Heritage Farms for allegedly selling unlicensed pork products to local businesses, including other restaurants. Fox allegedly fed table scraps that may have included animal parts to his rare pigs, then sold meat from the animals through his Fox Heritage Foods business to more than a dozen restaurants, both violations of state regulations.
I want to share with you some very positive statistics I have learned about the value of livestock to land. 90% of water use from the aquifer is still for crop irrigation. Ultimately, however, beef uses only 1% of the water being drawn from the southern region of the Ogallala Aquifer and generates a total value in the region just shy of $30 billion dollars and it accounts for more than 60,000 jobs. The number of large dairies and of hog operations is much higher than it was a few years ago, so we must add those into the usage totals, as well. Although they are small compared with beef, they bring the total livestock water withdrawal to 7 million acre feet per year. For that withdrawal of water the region gets back $37.8 billion in output and 96,500 jobs
To control trich within and across state lines, states have regulations to help producers and veterinarians comply with health requirements. Unfortunately, there’s wide variation in these defined regulations and testing procedures among states.
The American Bankers Association has released a listing of the 100 largest farm banks ranked by dollar volume. Wells Fargo tops the list, followed by Rabobank, Bank of the West, Bank of America and John Deere Financial.
Swiss drugmaker Novartis is ready to sell its animal health subsidiary and has opened its books to Bayer and other rivals interested in a business that could change hands for more than $4.1 billion. Germany's Bayer is seeking to bolster its position as a diversified life sciences company and made clear its interest in the animal health sector though it faces competition from at least two rivals.
It was a late night at Austin City Hall. A heated debate over proposed changes to the City’s Urban Farm Ordinance made for a standing room only crowd inside council chambers. In the end the council voted unanimously to allow up to six temporary use permits per year for urban farms. They also decided to prohibit market gardens, saying there must be a dwelling on the property. So many citizens signed up to speak either for or against the proposed changes that their entire debate would have taken more than seven hours. Instead the council encouraged both sides to reach a compromise: 39 minutes of debate for each side. There are currently four urban farms in Austin.
Eric Swafford, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) staffer, penned an article in the Shreveport Times, “Give Thanks For Compassionate Family Farmers This Season,” Swafford describes the idyllic family farm, complete with cows grazing on green grass in rolling pastures. As the director of rural development and outreach for HSUS, it’s his job to appeal to folks like you and me. His target audience isn’t consumers, but farmers and ranchers. I imagine it’s HSUS’s goal to try thawing the icy shoulder that most of rural America has given the extremist animal rights group. And I’m sure Swafford’s words will earn him a few brownie points from at least a few cowboys in our circle. I work with many farmers in Colorado, Iowa, Ohio and Nebraska who help other family farmers switch to more humane practices, as well as assist in bringing these farms to the marketplace so they can more effectively compete against mega- factory farms that are harming animal welfare and small farmers.” His article starts out complimentary to beef producers, but then he pulls the old switcharoo and slams “factory farmers.” “While these compassionate family farms do exist, 99% of turkeys raised for food spend their lives in confinement on factory farms and never touch one blade of grass. These oversized birds are manufactured — not raised as the animals God designed them to be.”
China may start importing Northwest fresh and chipping potatoes next fall as a result of Gov. Jay Inslee’s recent trade mission.
Critics of modern agriculture like to use the derogatory
term “factory farm” to describe large farming operations. At the recent Food
Dialogues: Iowa event in Ames, the head of the small farm advocacy group called
Food Democracy Now, Dave Murphy, launched into a tirade against what he called
“large, corporate, factory farms”. Murphy’s comments elicited this emotional
response from Katie Olthoff, whose family owns and operates a 20,000 bird
turkey farm near Stanhope, Iowa. “This ‘factory farm’ term obviously makes me
a little bit angry—I’m getting a little bit worked up here—because although my
farm is large, I don’t consider it a factory,” said Olthoff. “We’re out there
every day- walking through the turkeys and giving them the utmost care.
Olthoff reminded Murphy that nearly all farms are “family farms”, no matter
their size. “The fact is that 96 % of the farms in the United States are
family farms, like mine and my husband’s,” she said, “and our families, all of
us, work out there to provide the best care possible—to provide the best food
The corn market is a colossus, we know that. Since the beginning of its demand market in early 2006, corn has been anointed a king, ruling over the rest of agriculture in general. Other markets followed its march higher, sometimes with disastrous results (e.g. 2008 cash wheat market). The interest that the investment community showed corn made it a titan, dwarfing the much more heralded and historic markets of gold and crude oil. But as so often happens with things titanic, unexpectedly large obstacles can be their ruin. Such would seem to be the case with corn as we head toward the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014. The three major legs of demand (exports, feed and ethanol) are weakening while the market deals with the impact of a projected record harvest leading to the weight of record supplies.
Shortly after Farm Futures published my last column describing Pew Commission members, I received an email from a representative of the Pew Commission. Pew staff read my piece and asked me to review two letters the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production sent to the Federation of Animal Science Societies and the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2010. The two organizations criticized the 2008 original Pew Report. To refresh your memory, the AVMA and FASS claimed there were significant flaws in Pew's approach and conclusions. In 2008, both organizations claim that the Pew members, some of whom I described last week, were biased. Pew has strong views with regard to criticism of its work and asked me to review Pew's response. Former Kansas Governor and Commission chairman, John Carlin signed both Pew letters. He again states the Pew Commission believes industrial farm operations (CAFOs) are "…not sustainable and present an unacceptable level of risk to public health and damage to the environment, [are] harmful to the animals housed in the most restrictive confinement systems, and deters long term economic activity in the communities in which the operations are located." (In other words, CAFO operators are harming the environment and the public.)
Grain farmers are looking for new corn uses now that ethanol is not big enough. Low corn prices are encouraging end users to seek ways to add value to corn, which is now below costs for most corn growers. What about hogs? For the 2013/14 corn marketing year, hogs are offering an estimated $6.85 per bushel if the profits from hog production are assigned to the value of corn. Livestock were historically the way to add value to abundant corn supplies on Midwest farms.
Bonnie Blodgett’s commentary “Agriculture’s deal with the dark side” stokes unwarranted fear of “industrial agriculture” and mischaracterizes Cargill’s role in agriculture worldwide. For one thing, 96 % of crop-producing farms in the US are family-owned, and they represent 87 % of all agricultural value. For another, Cargill (where I work) is committed, like most of these farmers, to improved environmental stewardship and land management. We have many efforts underway to pursue sustainable production across the globe working with groups like World Wildlife Fund and the Nature Conservancy.
The world's food systems are being squeezed from all sides: Rising populations and shifting diets are increasing the global demand for food, while food production is increasingly compromised by climate change and land degradation. With nearly a billion people already going hungry, how will we manage to feed the world over the coming decades? There's a tendency to suppose that the job will fall to our conventional agriculture. But is that right? When banana wilt hit all the seven districts in Kagera region, there was panic among farmers. Panic also engulfed researchers as to whether they would play a role in taming the disease and saving the region's food security. "The diseased Kagera is the only region under severe threat of food insecurity. Science can provide the quick and long term solution Kagera farmers call upon the responsible authorities to help them fight against banana wilt, a disease that has affected hundreds of villages across the region. Mr Frederick said the area would soon run out of bananas unless there were serious interventions to address the problem.
The state-of-the-art beef packing plant plagued by repeated challenges could see new life once the bankrupt facility is auctioned off. At least $115 million has been invested into the Northern Beef Packers plant since the land was acquired in 2006. It was expected to meet processing demands in the area and cut hours of travel time for producers in the area. Setbacks kept the plant from operating at max capacity for an extended amount of time and now a few bidders are expected to vie for the limited-use facility.
A resource guide from the American Farm Bureau Federation encourages a smooth transition for military veterans seeking employment in the agricultural industry. The new resource guide is created through a partnership with the Farmer Veteran Coalition. The two organizations have combined efforts to assist military veterans planning a career in agriculture and the resources are likely to appeal to a large percentage of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the USDA, nearly four million veterans reside in rural America and a disproportionate share of men and women serving in the military were raised in rural communities. The Farm Bureau says that 44 % of military recruits come from rural America. The resource assists veterans seeking long-term employment upon their return home to their rural communities.
Gov. Sam Brownback decided to promote the deputy secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture to replace the outgoing secretary. Jackie McClaskey, who has worked for the state’s agriculture department since 2011, will replace Secretary Dale Rodman.
The Topeka Capital-Journal
Forget it, though, if an agriculture student at one school wanted to learn about the other school’s specialty. But that’s about to change through an experiment, touted as a first of its kind, in which five of the state’s public universities are working together to share some of the agriculture courses that make them unique. Starting in fall 2014, some of these specialty classes will be offered through a combination of online instruction and two-way video feeds that allow instructors to communicate in real time with students at different campuses. Students might even make the occasional weekend trip to the campus teaching the course for some hands-on instruction.
The Kansas City Star
Monsanto is the agriculture world’s prince of darkness, spreading its demonic genetically modified seeds on fields all over the earth. Or at least that’s the case if you believe any of a growing number of biotechnology haters. For years the St. Louis-based company has ignored such critics. But now the biotech giant is attempting a public relations makeover. In recent months the company has shaken up its senior public relations staff, upped its relationship with one of the nation’s largest public relations firms and helped launch a website designed to combat the fallacies surrounding genetically modified organisms
U.S. poultry exports through the third quarter of 2013 continued a record pace, growing marginally in quantity and value over the same period a year earlier, according to trade data released by the Foreign Agriculture Service and complied by the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council. Total poultry exports for the January- through-September period were 3.077 million metric tons valued at $4.152, up 1 % and 3 %, respectively, year on year, particularly anchored by record cumulative broiler meat exports.
Last year, a couple of scientific organizations in Boulder, Colo., made outlandish claims about gas emissions and cows. They concluded that cows contribute at least as much to the smog problem in Los Angeles, Calif., as automobiles. Somehow, I just couldn’t let that one slide. The study’s numbers on the amount of ammonia emissions potentially contributed by dairy cows didn’t add up either. Now the same organizations ― Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado and the Earth System Research Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder ― have teamed up with others on a second study that strains credulity. It uses some of the same methodology by measuring gas emissions from airplane flights and tall towers. And special attention seems to have been focused on the states of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. And if it’s Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, it must be cows and oil/natural gas extraction that’s causing the problem! Then, the news media picks up on it and starts blaming cows. A story that really bothered me was carried 0n the Fox News web site with the headline, “Big methane burp: Cow farts a greater problem than previously thought, EPA says.” The headline in particular bothered me because the EPA didn’t say it; in fact, an EPA official is quoted in the story as saying the agency hadn’t had time yet to go through the study.
The gassy rumblings of ruminating cattle, along with the hisses and sloshes as natural gas is extracted, refined, and transported to communities across the United States, may release 50 % more methane into the atmosphere than the government had estimated, according to a report. "Overall, we conclude that methane emissions associated with both the animal husbandry and fossil fuel industries have larger greenhouse gas impacts than indicated by existing inventories."
Increasing atmospheric concentrations of methane have led scientists to examine its sources of origin. Ruminant livestock can produce 250 to 500 L of methane per day. This level of production results in estimates of the contribution by cattle to global warming that may occur in the next 50 to 100 yr to be a little less than 2%. Many factors influence methane emissions from cattle and include the following: level of feed intake, type of carbohydrate in the diet, feed processing, addition of lipids or ionophores to the diet, and alterations in the ruminal microflora.
Journal of Animal Science (1995)
I debated whether I wanted to publicly address the November 22, 2013 ABC 20/20 broadcast segment on "True Confessions of a Veterinarian." At first, I did not want to give this segment any more public attention. I silently wrote to ABC about my dismay at the producer's lack of fact checking skills and reckless innuendos about the widespread greed of veterinarians. Using Andrew Jones, a former Canadian veterinarian who surrendered his veterinary license, as a spokesperson for this segment speaks volumes on lack of quality of this production. Honestly, did they think so little of their audience that we would not challenge his motive? However, once I pressed the "send " button on my computer, I was not satisfied with only expressing my frustrations to the network. I decided that this story needs more attention, not less. This segment has definite teachable moments. This episode is a perfect example of careless and sensational reporting. To think most veterinarians are practicing veterinary medicine and surgery just to "make a buck" is absurd.
This reality was verified at a private meeting I attended at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, Penn. The topic was the ethics of animal agriculture. The panel consisted of a well-known prominent philosophy professor, animal scientists and the CEO of a major U.S. animal activist group. I was the pig farmer in the group, and there was a dairy farmer from Pennsylvania. Basically, the activists have identified a weak spot in agriculture’s position over animal production, and their attack has shifted from science to morality. As I have visited with colleagues it has become clear that we do not understand this tactic. In my humble opinion, the activists are winning arguments with untruths by creating “common knowledge myths” that have impacted our business greatly. Kevin Murphy says it best in his blog post, Where have you gone, Moral Champion?: “So while agriculture sits nestled in the warmth of its scientific bunker, distracted and infuriated by HSUS' arguments based on emotion, HSUS suddenly flanks and moves to the high ground of morality. We need consultants who can write and engage the general public on the philosophical, religious and moral dimensions and legitimacy of animal agriculture.
Across the Midwest, farmers like Scott Ford are taking a hard look at their water usage. In Nebraska, which leads the nation in the number of irrigated acres, farmers have had to become more efficient as water grows scarcer. The drought, coupled with the last decade’s record low water levels at Lake McConaughy, the state’s biggest water storage reservoir, forced the reductions for Central Irrigation’s customers. Next year, the utility’s producers will only get half of what their contracts allow. Thousands of new groundwater wells have been drilled above the reservoir in the last 70 years. And farmers have become more efficient. That means less water is wasted upstream from the Lake, but it also means less water runs off fields back into the Platte and Lake McConaughy. So farmers downstream have had to cut back.
Harvest Public Media
The new Open Range Beef Packing Plant in Gordon, Neb. finally opened its doors. The 36,000-square-foot plant employs 100 people and hopes to process 65,000-70,000 cattle annually, according to the newspaper. The plant will specialize in custom kill orders for further processors, harvesting the animals and fabricating the meat down to sub-primal cuts.
Following a meeting with some family members of victims of the 2011 listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe from their farm, Eric and Ryan Jensen signed over a lawsuit they filed against PrimusLabs to the victims. By “assigning” the case to the victims, the Jensens have basically taken themselves out of the lawsuit against Primus Labs, Marler said. Now he and the other lawyers representing victims in civil cases against the Jensens will prosecute the Colorado case against PrimusLabs. Any settlement in the Primus Labs case will be divided among the victims. He said he could not estimate how long it would take to resolve the case. Marler will continue to represent 46 clients who have filed civil suits against the Jensens. In the suit against PrimusLabs, the Jensen brothers contend the auditing firm should be liable for damages related to the 2011 listeria outbreak that killed at least 33 people.
On Thanksgiving we express gratitude for the abundance on our holiday tables, but rarely do we thank the people who grew, harvested, and processed that food. But a very diverse group of family farmers around the world, and at home, deserve our support -- according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 98 % of American farmers are family farmers. The United Nations recently declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming, celebrating the global community of family farmers.
U.S. animal agriculture’s consumption of U.S. soybean meal increased by 1 million tons in the 2011/12 marketing year, according to a soy-checkoff-funded report. It takes 42 million bushels of soybeans to produce that amount of meal and that is good news for soybean farmers since domestic animal agriculture uses about 97 % of the U.S. soybean meal consumed in the United States. The increase is welcome news but the report also concluded that U.S. soybean farmers shouldn’t let their support for the animal ag industry weaken.
Hoosier Ag Today
Adam Putnam looks over the flooded prairie of the Rafter T Ranch and can smell the opportunity, stronger than cow flop. The Republican Florida agriculture commissioner from Bartow has been decidedly low-profile during his first term in the office in dealing with a billion-dollar issue that doesn't usually grab big headlines: Florida's dwindling water supplies and growing thirst. But now Putnam is facing a watershed moment of sorts, with a series of environmental calamities over the last year intensifying pressure for policymakers to tackle Florida's water woes.
The Orlando Sentinel
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control laid out groundwater remediation options at a public workshop this week for residents living near the site of a former pickle factory where Allen Harim Foods wants to build a chicken processing plant. State officials found elevated levels of perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene and lead in the groundwater, with nitrates in some wells also exceeding standard. The chemicals do not pose a risk now but may in the future, so the state is looking at whether further monitoring or remediation of the site should be the next step. Allen Harim in July signed a “brownfields” agreement with the state to determine the scope of possible remedial activities and could be reimbursed up to $225,000 for the site’s cleanup. The company could decide to proceed with its own plan for cleaning up the site or work with the state and accept its funds, the department spokesman said.
A citizens’ organization has filed an appeal in Sussex County (Del.) Superior Court to overturn a land use permit that would allow Allen Harim Foods to convert a local pickle factory into a chicken processing plant. Protecting Our Indian River formed to oppose the proposed siting of the Allen Harim plant due to concerns of potential pollution in the nearby Indian River in Millsboro, Del. They contend that the Sussex County Board of Adjustment lacked jurisdiction to issue the permit, and, among other things, that the board did not base its decision on substantial evidence showing the development will be protective of public’s health and safety.
Imagine as a commercial loan officer having the ability to say “yes” to commercial loan customers and small business borrowers even if they do not fit your bank’s lending guidelines. Since 1994, 33 banks have been able to say “yes” by working with Northern Initiatives, a community development financial institution (CDFI) serving northern Michigan and Wisconsin. The banks maintain relationships with business customers through deposit and cash management services while also entering into partnerships with us to help grow those same businesses. Partnerships are happening more and more in rural Michigan. When Northern Initiatives was formed, our founders considered a community perspective raised by urban studies author Jane Jacobs. Jacobs wrote about rural areas needing connections to urban centers to acquire three critical needs that are less available in rural places: 1) access to capital, 2) access to information, and 3) access to markets..
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
With state planners working to address primary care shortages and federal graduate medical education pay ment reform looming, regional retention statistics for family medicine residency programs are a subject of high interest. Using the 2009 American Medical Association Physician Masterfile, we found that 56% of family medicine residents stay within 100 miles of where they graduate from residency.
The Austin City Council has denied what's called a "healthy food ordinance". It would have restricted the type of restaurants that are built around areas frequented by children, such as schools, to encourage healthier eating habits. In a four to three vote, the council denied the proposal. It came from the recently completed Community Health Improvement Plan. It identifies and makes suggestions on how to improve the health of Austin's citizens. The healthy food ordinance drew a lot of attention from critics who said it would allow government to get too involved in personal choices like what we feed our children. “I don't want people to think we're trying to create some new level of bureaucracy where we're going to go police restaurants and convenience stores,” said co-sponsor Councilman Mike Martinez. “Texas is a very pro-property right state, so we're certainly mindful of that." Martinez said the ordinance would have been more about giving incentives for places to sell healthy food.
A food safety journal has decided to retract a paper that seemed to show that genetically modified corn and the herbicide Roundup can cause cancer and premature death in rats. The editor of the journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology, said in a letter to the paper’s author that the study’s results, while not incorrect or fraudulent, were “inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication.” The paper, published 14 months ago, has been cited by opponents of biotech foods and proponents of labeling such foods. But it has been vociferously criticized as flawed, sensationalistic and possibly even fraudulent by many scientists. The main author of the study, Gilles-Eric SÚralini, of the University of Caen in France, had done other studies challenging the safety of genetically engineered foods. Dr. Hayes said there was “legitimate cause for concern” that the number of rats in each arm of the study was too small and that the strain of rat used was prone to cancer. That made it difficult to rule out that the results were not explained by “normal variability.”
A heavily criticized study of the effects of genetically modified maize and the Roundup herbicide on rats is being retracted — one way or another. The paper — by Gilles Seralini and colleagues — was published in Food and Chemical Toxicology last year. There have been calls for retraction since then, along with other criticism and a lengthy exchange of letters in the journal. Meanwhile, the paper has been cited 28 times, and the French National Assembly (their lower house of Parliament) held a long hearing on the paper last year, with Seralini and other scientists testifying. The paper will be retracted if Seralini does not agree to withdraw it.
Smartphones, video games, tablets, apps … the list could go on and on. Our society and economy run, function and communicate via technology. Technology has become so advanced that we now use the “phone” portion of the smartphone far less than we use the device to browse the Web, tap into social media, listen to music and play games. Technology is changing the way we do just about everything, and by all accounts we can’t get enough of it. Until we start talking about food technology, and then our mindsets revert to the Dark Ages. Farmville vs. Farm Technology For years, farmers and ranchers have used technology to produce more food, feed, fiber and fuel, while using less acreage, chemicals and water. Now, facing quite possibly the biggest challenge of our generation – to produce 100 % more food by 2050 – we need technology to feed them.
Disappointing doesn’t even begin to describe it. A headlined editorial in the Seattle Times featured a pair of local physicians, weighing in against the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics in livestock production. The disappointment comes not from the arguments they marshalled about drug-resistant infections — but from the way these two highly educated, highly intelligent professionals portrayed the equally professional business of animal agriculture. In fact, they lost me with the first three words of their column: “Remember pink slime?” the physician-pundits wrote. “It’s a so-called food additive that made news when reports said that it was present in over 70 % of ground beef. Though deemed safe for human consumption by the FDA, consumers were uncomfortable with the use of these filler materials in their ground beef.” That’s wrong on so many levels. First of all, calling FDA’s credibility into question undermines the entire medical profession. The agency approves all drugs, medical equipment and even certain surgical procedures. Without the FDA. “The pink slime controversy has passed,” they wrote, “but the routine use of antibiotics to treat livestock is a public health threat for carnivores and vegetarians alike.” Okay, what does one have to do with the other? (And gee, I wonder why the “controversy” has passed? Could it be because, upon further review, it wasn’t so controversial after all?).
You’re more likely to get injured or become ill selling an RV to Cousin Eddie than you are working in a poultry processing plant. And it’s as safe mowing the fairway on the 3rd hole or working the omelet station at the country club champagne brunch as it is to work in a poultry processing plant. And it’s more dangerous to work at a department store (especially during the holidays), a pet store or for your state and local government. The 2012 Workplace Injury and Illness Report which showed the incidence of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in the poultry sector, which includes slaughter and processing, is at an all-time low.
Of the more than 22 million veterans in the US, 5.6 million live in rural or small towns, 25% of the nation’s veterans live in rural communities.
A Critical Access Hospital has engineered a restructuring that puts it and seven rural clinics under one corporate umbrella.
Rural America needs foster and adoptive homes in each community, with families trained, licensed and ready to care for the town’s own children if the need ever arises.
A couple of humane handling groups have gone public with entreaties to consumers to make sure their Thanksgiving table is humane (if, in fact, it’s not actually vegetarian). The key, they say, is for shoppers to look for their certification stamps on the animal products they buy for the holiday.
It will be interesting to watch what happens in Sweden now that the country is on the verge of bucking dietary recommendations that have laid much of the blame on fat. Following publication of “Dietary Treatment for Obesity” by an expert committee of Swedish health professionals, the country may recognize that a low-carb diet is the best way to fight obesity. Read more. Saturated fat may lose some of its stigma as a result. One of the committee members, Fredrik Nystrom, is quoted as saying the “deep-seated fear of fat is completely unfounded.”
Last week, there was another story about abandoned chickens from backyard flocks. The most common reasons are that the birds quit laying eggs or they became more trouble than anticipated. I recently participated in a conversation with several extension specialists chatting about calls they are receiving about backyard chickens. Some of the questions are about disease and injury treatment, but more are about basic chicken knowledge. For example, will my eggs hatch if the hen sits on them? The answer, has she been around a rooster? Does it hurt the chicken to lay an egg? Do bigger chickens lay bigger eggs? How can I change the color of the eggs my chicken lays? Is cat food enough for my chickens? This tells me that there is very little homework being done before the birds are selected. I wonder why. There are plenty of resources with good information available online and in book stores and libraries. So, what is going on? I suspect it is just the latest result of the growing disconnect from the average American and food production.
Study reveals global shift towards animal-based diet. The fast-growing economies of China and India are driving a global increase in meat consumption, cancelling out decreases elsewhere, according to a comprehensive study of global food consumption. The work, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1, takes a detailed look at what people eat, as well as trends from one country to the next. It is also the first time that researchers have calculated humanity's trophic level, a metric used in ecology to position species in the food chain.
Depending on how big Boeing Co.'s potential 777X facility in north St. Louis County winds up being, the incentives Gov. Jay Nixon is proposing to bring it here could cost the state as much as $1.7 billion over the next 22 years. But the project could generate up to $2.9 billion in tax revenue over the same period. Republican leaders in the House and Senate have said they want more details on any incentive package before they vote to create it. So Nixon's office obliged, drawing up projections of what the credits would cost the state's bottom line, and what the jobs would generate.
St Louis Dispatch
Massachusetts students scored above the international average in reading, math and science literacy on the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, while U.S. scores as a whole remained at or below average in all three subjects. The 2012 exam marked the first time that three states—Massachusetts, Connecticut and Florida—were compared to other 15-year-old students around the world. In math, the US had a higher percentage of low-performing students and a lower percentage of high-performing students compared to the international average. PISA is intended to test student preparation for adult life by assessing their ability to apply knowledge to real-life applications. Massachusetts scored higher than all but three other education systems (Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore) in reading. In science and math, Massachusetts tied for seventh and 10th place. Connecticut beat the international average in reading and science and scored average in math. Florida scored average in reading and below average in math and science.
A member of the animal rights activist group Compassion Over Killing, who secretly captured on video alleged abuses of dairy calves at a Colorado ranch, has been charged with animal cruelty for failing to report the abuse while it was happening, Weld County Sheriff John B. Cook said. “Radig’s failure to report the alleged abuse of the animals in a timely manner adheres to the definition of acting with negligence and substantiates the charge of animal cruelty,” Cook said.
The official federal poverty rate measures pretax income—period. It doesn’t consider government benefits such as food stamps, nor does it factor in the costs of housing, taxes and child care, all of which vary greatly across states and help determine how rich or poor people feel. The Census Bureau in 2010 began calculating a Supplemental Poverty Measure as a way to create a more nuanced picture of poverty in America. Nationally, the supplemental poverty rate in 2012 was only a single percentage point higher than the regular rate—16 % as opposed to 15 %. But in 41 states, there was a significant difference between the 2010-2012 averages of the two measures. For example, under the supplemental measure, California has a three-year average poverty rate of 23.8 %, compared to its three-year average official rate of 16.5 %. By comparison, Kentucky’s supplemental three-year average is 13.6 %, compared to its three-year average official rate of 17.4 %. The wide disparity in housing costs between states and regions is the main reason why a family with the same income may feel poor in one place but not in another.
Tennessee’s rural hospitals are laying off workers and reducing services as they try to cope with the funding changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act and the political battles that surround expanding TennCare. The federal health law reduces reimbursements to Tennessee hospitals by $5.6 billion over the next 10 years. That money was supposed to be replaced through expanding TennCare, the state Medicaid program. But Republican leaders in the state legislature oppose expansion, saying they doubt the federal government will stand by its obligation. Gov. Bill Haslam has been trying to design a framework that will satisfy both the Obama administration and fellow Republicans.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal
Funding changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act and the political battles that rage on about the federal health law threaten rural hospitals of all sizes in Tennessee. Their administrators have been laying off workers, reducing services and worrying about the future. They are losing millions of dollars in federal grants — funding that was supposed to be replaced through expansion of TennCare, the state Medicaid program. The law made Medicaid expansion almost a certainty until the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that provision, leaving it up to individual states to decide whether to accept federal money to cover an uninsured person making less than $15,856 or a family of four with a household income below $32,499. But wealthier people in rural areas also are at risk of losing access to care because hospitals may close or cut back on services. There are so many people with low incomes and so few folks with good insurance that rural hospitals need expansion to operate in the black.
As farmers across the Midwest have simplified the landscape and plowed up grassland to grow more corn and soybeans, habitat for pheasants, quail and other grassland birds has become increasingly scarce and their numbers are falling. In Nebraska, wild pheasant concentrations have fallen 86 % since their peak in the 1960s. The pheasant harvest during hunting season in Iowa is off 63 % from the highs reached in the 1970s. In areas that used to be overrun, you’ll struggle to find a pheasant now. It’s easy to see why if you take a birds-eye view.
Harvest Public Media
The state of Vermont is facing a shortage of primary care physicians, and it’s a problem that could get worse as more people access health care insurance. One aim of the Affordable Health Care Act and Vermont’s new marketplace, Health Connect, is to insure more Vermonters. And surveys suggest that Vermont has an adequate supply of physicians per capita. But they are not evenly distributed throughout the state, and many are specialists, not primary care doctors.
Vermont Public Radio
Leadership in rural school districts is very personal, and often a force for progress or stagnation. That’s among the early observations of Paul Hill, founder and former director of the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education, who is leading a consortium that’s studying innovations in rural communities. Hill said he’s found that some rural schools have made imaginative use of money and technology. And many rural districts are eager to guide their high-school students into dual enrollment programs, for college credit or to acquire vocational skills. He’s also found that leadership can be an especially powerful force in a rural school district.
The Seattle Times
The successful labor program that helps Ontario’s fruit and vegetable industry prosper also pays off with significant economic benefits for rural communities, says Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services. During 2013 growing season, the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program helped Ontario farmers hire approximately 15,000 seasonal workers from Mexico and the Caribbean as a supplement to local labour. Under SAWP, these seasonal workers from Mexico, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad/Tobago and the Eastern Caribbean States are able to work in Ontario for a maximum of eight months each year and are guaranteed no less than 240 hours of work. The average length of stay is 20 weeks.
The Sioux Falls (South Dakota) Tri-State Neighbor
People in rural areas are nearly three times more likely to drown than those who live in cities, a new Canadian study finds. This may be because rural residents are more likely to be around open water and less likely to have taken swimming lessons, according to the researchers at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.
US News and World Report
News stories about the shortage of dentists and family doctors in rural Maine have appeared regularly over the past two decades. A combination of lower salaries and fewer opportunities for professional advancement have produced apparent chronic shortages in the state’s rural counties — and, in response, several programs designed to combat them. There’s a state loan forgiveness program for dentists, and new funding for rural health clinics in the Affordable Care Act.
But could an even larger and older profession — law — also be affected by these demographics?
The Bangor Daily News
While there is much debate about the Affordable Care Act and insurance, the legislation is credited with getting more doctors and other health professionals into Wyoming. The National Health Service Corps received a big funding boost under the ACA, which meant more loan repayments for health care providers who agree to set up shop in underserved areas. Martin Kramer, director of communications, Health Resources and Services Administration, said the funding sent close to 100 physicians, nurses, dentists and other professionals to Wyoming. 50 % of health care professionals receiving loan repayment assistance work in Community Health Centers.
Public News Sevice
This is how things are going in Kentucky: As conservatives argued that the new health-care law will wreck the economy, as liberals argued it will save billions, as many Americans raged at losing old health plans and some analysts warned that a disproportionate influx of the sick and the poor could wreck the new health-care model, Lively was telling Noble something he did not expect to hear. “All right,” she said. “We’ve got you eligible for Medicaid.” Places such as Breathitt County, in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Kentucky, are driving the state’s relatively high enrollment figures, which are helping to drive national enrollment figures as the federal health exchange has floundered. In a state where 15 % of the population, about 640,000 people, are uninsured, 56,422 have signed up for new health-care coverage, with 45,622 of them enrolled in Medicaid and the rest in private health plans.
The Washington Post
Less than 30 years ago, the town of Osakis, its population vanishing year by year, made a bold offer that drew global headlines: a check for $5,000 to anyone willing to move in, build a house and stay awhile. In an era of rural decline, it was just one of many desperate measures by small towns whose prospects seemed bleak. Today, Osakis — in central Minnesota near Alexandria — doesn’t need to pay people to stay. Population is at an all-time high, having grown by nearly 500 since those anxious days of the 1980s. The school system is adding a classroom’s worth of students each year. Main Street is almost full, and the sporting goods store is expanding its business by 25 % a year.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune
Crime has soared as thousands of workers and rivers of cash have flowed into towns, straining police departments and shattering residents’ sense of safety. To the police and residents, the violence shows how a modern-day gold rush is transforming the rolling plains and farm towns where people once fretted about a population drain. Today, four-story chain hotels are rising, and small apartments rent for $2,000 a month. Amid all of that new money, reports of assault and theft have doubled or even tripled, and the police say they are rushing from call to call, grappling with everything from bar brawls and shoplifting to kidnappings and attempted murders. Traffic stops for drunken or reckless driving have skyrocketed; local jails are spilling over with drug suspects.
Agricultural food prices are expected to post double digit price falls this year and next, thanks to plentiful supplies of cereals, sugar and vegetable oil, according to Macquarie, the investment bank said it expected food prices to decline by 11 per cent in 2013 and by 10 % in 2014. The bank’s Macquarie Agricultural Commodity Price Index is forecast to rise 2.8 % in 2015.
Mom went to the local grocer with her shopping list and a fistful of coupons as part of a weekly chore, but today's savvy food shopper heads to the supermarket with a smartphone and store loyalty card as part of a fairly social outing. Lempert highlighted 10 trends as part of his work for ConAgra, noting that 60% of all snack foods are now positioned as healthier options (relatively speaking). Supermarkets will likely capitalize on consumers' desire to "eat better" by replacing traditional higher-sugar, higher-fat snacks with more healthful options such as seeds, flavored nuts and other similar "grab-and-go" types of products.
Not so fast, Jeff Bezos—before Amazon can deploy its fleet of delivery drones, the company will have to wait for the results of drone tests at six state-run sites, which the FAA will select later this month.
Among the 46 WIC State agencies that awarded new rebate contracts after December 2008, nearly all paid lower net prices in their current contracts (in effect in February 2013) than in their previous contracts after adjusting for inflation. Across the 46 WIC State agencies, real net price decreased by an average 43 % (or 23 cents per 26 ounces of reconstituted fluid), allaying concerns about increasing real net prices. With lower net prices, combined with declining WIC purchases of infant formula, WIC State agencies paid $107 million less for formula in their new contracts over the course of a year.
Think you don't recycle enough? You're not alone. However, people's ability to overcome self-doubt plays a critical role in how successfully they act in support of environmental issues,
The photographs that helped bring Paul Harvey’s “So God Made a Farmer” essay to life in the Dodge Ram Super Bowl commercial are part of a 300-page photographic essay available from the Ram Truck brand. The comprehensive collection of agriculture and farming photography includes the images used by Dodge in its “Farmer” Super Bowl commercial. ‘The Farmer in All of Us: An American Portrait’ is a 300-page coffee table book with images taken by 10 world-class photographers as they traveled across America’s heartland over the course of three weeks.
The locavore movement feels virtuous but ignores a larger moral obligation.
Wall Street Journal
A new German grand coalition government would seek tougher regulations in the European Union for labeling of meat from farm animals that have eaten genetically modified organisms, a policy draft showed. Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats are negotiating policies. “The coalition would seek an EU labeling duty for products from animals which have been fed with genetically modified plants,” says a draft of a coalition agricultural policy document.
Chinese health officials have confirmed the first case of H7N9 avian influenza contracted by a human near Hong Kong, just months after an outbreak of the deadly virus killed 45 people in eastern China. A 36-year-old Indonesian domestic worker contracted the virus after coming into contact with poultry while traveling to Shenzhen, about 60 miles from Hong Kong. With the virus seemingly moving south among poultry in China, Hong Kong is now at a heightened “alert” status and plans are in the works to inspect local chicken farms to make sure infection control measures are in place.
A U.S. company hoping to commercially produce genetically modified salmon eggs in Canada says it has cleared a major hurdle in its proposal to make the fish available for human consumption, a possibility that has critics worried about the prospect of “frankenfish” escaping and endangering wild Atlantic salmon around the world. Environment Canada’s conclusion that the eggs are not harmful to the environment or human health when produced in contained facilities marks a significant step for Aquabounty Technologies. The hatchery in Souris, P.E.I., is still waiting for decisions from Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before the fish and eggs are available for sale.
Dozens of members of Congress have told the FDA that its proposed food safety rules could force businesses around the country to go out of business — and that it needs to try again. "We believe the rules as currently proposed would result in a multitude of unintended consequences that would be severely detrimental to national, regional and local agriculture," 75 members of the House and Senate told the FDA in a letter.
SARL member Richard Sellers reports that the feed industry’s principle concern is the lack of time to review the rules, and we clearly understand the constraints FDA is under with respect to the court ordered timeline for Food Safety Modernization Act rulemaking. This industry has never seen the magnitude of such rulemaking with such a major impact on all of the feed industry. We are expected to review, answer questions and provide comments in just over four months. This industry has never seen good manufacturing practices regulations, and FDA is proposing to implement those, as well as hazard analysis and risk based preventive controls in a very short timeframe. We think FDA and the industry will have their hands quite full in the next decade implementing these rules
Now that the FDA has crossed trans fat off its to-do list, look for three big food regulatory changes to come soon from the agency: menu labeling, nutrition facts and sodium. The FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s 2013-14 plan outlines an almost dizzying list of priorities, and after the policy freeze that preceded the 2012 election, several of them are on the move. The agency has met many of its 2013 goals, including issuing an acrylamide guidance, settling on a definition of “gluten-free,” setting action levels for arsenic in apple juice and publishing the most significant Food Safety Modernization Act rules. But with just a month to go in the year, many of the initiatives planned for 2013 have yet to arrive, including developing policy options for energy drinks, issuing updated fish consumption advice and releasing a final guidance for manufacturers who want to voluntarily label their products with or without genetically engine.
Presentations from the FSMA public meetings concerning proposed rules on Foreign Supplier Verification Programs and the Accreditation of Third-Party Auditors/Certification Bodies are now available. Visit the meeting pages to view these presentations and additional information.
In 2010, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan worked to get an amendment added to a food safety law that exempted small farms that sell directly to consumers or restaurants. Now the FDA is working on the regulations needed to carry out the law, and North Carolina’s Democratic senator says those proposed rules need to be written more clearly in order to help small farms. Under the amendment that Hagan and Sen. Jon Tester, sponsored, small producers are exempt from most of the federal rules, but they remain subject to state and local food safety and health requirements.
The Raleigh News and Observer
The EPA has issued a draft strategic plan for the next four years that includes reductions in federal inspections, judicial and administrative enforcement cases and forced clean-ups. The draft strategic plan, recently published in the Federal Register, lays out five strategic goals that include law enforcement. EPA sets out to maintain its enforcement presence, but based on its own numbers will reduce that presence in certain areas. The agency, for example, aims by 2018 to conduct 70,000 federal inspections and evaluations, whereas it conducted some 21,000 per year in the five fiscal years from 2005 through 2009. The number was 20,000 in fiscal 2012. In the next five years the EPA also sets out to initiate 11,600 judicial and administrative enforcement cases, compared with 3,900 annually from 2005 through 2009. The number was 3,000 in fiscal 2012. Forced clean-ups also will be reduced. By 2018, EPA wants commitments to clean up 905 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and groundwater media resulting from corrective enforcement actions. The annual average over the period of fiscal 2007 through 2009 was 300 million cubic yards, and in 2012 was 400 million cubic yards.
The USDA and the EPA have announced an expanded partnership to support water quality trading and other market-based approaches that provide benefits to the environment and economy. "New water quality trading markets hold incredible potential to benefit rural America by providing new income opportunities and enhancing conservation of water and wildlife habitat," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "Additionally, these efforts will strengthen businesses across the nation by providing a new pathway to comply with regulatory requirements." "EPA is committed to finding collaborative solutions that protect and restore our nation's waterways and the health of the communities that depend on them," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "We're excited about partnering with USDA to expand support for water quality trading, which shows that environmental improvements can mean a better bottom line for farmers and ranchers."
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced funding for projects in 40 states to finance investments in improved water and wastewater systems for more than 200,000 rural residents. "Rural businesses and residents need access to clean water and modern waste disposal systems. This isn't just an economic issue, it's an issue of basic health and safety," said Vilsack. In today's announcement, USDA is providing $203 million to finance 74 water and infrastructure improvement projects in 40 states.
Based on survey results for calendar year 2012, GAO estimates that most local areas used various sources of information to identify occupations that are in demand. Local areas found all of the sources of information they used to be at least moderately useful. To identify occupations that are in demand, GAO estimates that nearly 90 % of local areas used state job banks and occupational projections, both of which are funded by the Department of Labor. To guide participants toward training, most local areas required them to complete certain activities, such as meeting with a case manager to discuss training options (80 %) or completing a skills assessment (78 %). Most local areas faced challenges in guiding participants toward training. Specifically, local areas faced challenges related to participants' lack of financial or work supports, such as child care or transportation (67 %); participants' lack of the basic skills necessary even to participate in training (66 %); difficulty finding training providers who could quickly adapt curricula to employers' changing needs (62 %); and high training costs (54 %). However, in 57 % of local areas, these challenges did not affect their ability to guide participants toward training. Local areas had difficulty helping employers fill certain jobs for a variety of reasons, including the low skills of some participants.
In a report, Auditor General Michael Ferguson said his office found weaknesses in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s follow-up activities after a product has been removed from the market. CFIA did not have the documentation required to verify that companies had appropriately disposed of recalled products or taken timely actions to correct the underlying cause of the recall to prevent a food safety issue from reoccurring, according to the report.
Owners and investors of Hallmark/Westland Meat Co. have paid a final settlement of more than $3 million in a False Claims Act lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States following the 2008 saga of downed animal abuse at its Chino, Calif., facility that led to the largest beef recall in U.S. history. The lawsuit alleged that the owners and investors of Westland/Hallmark slaughter facilities defrauded the federal government by violating the terms of their federal school lunch program contracts, which required the humane handling of animals. The DOJ intervened in the case and joined The HSUS in seeking to recover millions in taxpayer money spent on potentially tainted and inhumanely produced ground beef. Under the settlements, Westland Meat Co., will pay $240,000. M&M Management, and the estate of Cattleman’s deceased owner, Arnie Magidow, and Magidow’s surviving spouse will pay a total of approximately $2.45 million. A final judgment will also be entered against Westland Meat Packing Company in the amount of $155.7 million. This is the full value of the fraud claim, but cannot be satisfied due to the defendants’ lack of assets.
Despite the importance of the Latino vote, divisions among Republicans leave immigration reform at a standstill. Earlier this year, as House Republicans began considering changes to the nation's immigration laws after their party's defeat in the presidential election, they were given a list of do's and don'ts that updated GOP thinking on the issue. The suggestions seemed obvious to most but signaled a new tone for the Republican Party. "Don't use the term'anchor baby' or phrases like 'send them all back,'" said the memo. "Do acknowledge that 'our current immigration system is broken and we need to fix it.'" Changing the way the party talks about immigration is about all House Republicans have to show for their efforts over the last 11 months.
Federal officials have been making the case in public hearings that reintroduction programs for the gray wolf have been successful and that the animal no longer needs Endangered Species Act protection. The government is taking comments on its proposed delisting of the wolf.
In 2005, the bank regulatory agencies expanded the types of activities that could receive Community Reinvestment Act consideration. The agencies amended the definition of community development to include loans, investments, and services that revitalize or stabilize nonmetropolitan middle-income geographies designated as distressed or underserved. The agencies made the change to increase the effectiveness of regulations encouraging rural community development, and in response to comments from community banks and federal savings associations and community organizations that the definition of community development had been too narrow. Until 2005, most activities considered to have a primary purpose of community development were those that benefited low- or moderate-income individuals or geographies. Because of the way median family income is calculated, many rural counties are defined as middle-income even though they may lack access to essential community services or are economically distressed. Activities in many rural areas with high rates of poverty, unemployment, and loss of population were excluded from CRA consideration because these areas were not recognized as low- or moderate-income, but instead were defined as middle-income geographies.
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
USDA has revised its forecasts for fiscal 2014 agricultural trade. Exports are now expected to fall $3.9 billion from fiscal 2013's record, to $137 billion. Imports are expected to rise $5.7 billion from fiscal 2013, to a new record: $110 billion. Compared with the last forecast in August, the new forecast for exports is $2 billion higher, and the forecast for imports is $3.5 billion lower.
U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., unveiled a new school nutrition bill that seeks to reduce federal mandates on school lunch standards, which have been a point of contention since their implementation at the beginning of the 2012 school year. The legislation, which is endorsed by the National School Boards Association, would: Make the USDA’s temporary easing of the meat and grain requirements permanent, allowing schools more flexibility in serving meats and grains while still staying within calorie maximums and give administrators flexibility on some of the rules that have increased costs for school districts.
The new mCOOL rules have officially taken effect, but meat and livestock industry groups continue their efforts to modify or repeal the law. Nick Giordano, international trade counsel for the National Pork Producers Council, says unless Congress acts, trade retaliation by Canada and Mexico is likely in 2014. “There’s a very, very good chance that WTO rules against us in the spring and summer—then we’re in the retaliation phase,” says Giordano. “There’s going to be a lot of U.S. products, companies and workers, farmers and ranchers hurt if it comes to that.”
November 23rd was a significant date for the livestock and meat industry. After more than a decade of lobbying, litigating, and haranguing, all fresh cuts of beef, pork, lamb and chicken sold in retail establishments must bear a label stating the country (or countries) where each animal supplying meat in the package was born, raised, and slaughtered. Prior to the implementation of the mCOOL legislation, beef and beef products were subject to the generic country of origin labeling requirements which apply to all processed products, both foods and non-foods, that is that the label should designate the place of most recent substantial transformation as the place of origin. The ban on commingling will cause dramatic reverberations for the beef and swine industry that will unnecessarily increase costs that will be passed along to consumers. Feedlots will be required to maintain additional records and segregate livestock based on country of origin. Processing plants will have to do separate production runs based on an animal’s country of origin designation. These processing plants will also have to use extra cold storage space to allow for segregation of finished product by country of origin. Ultimately, some of the most ardent supporters of mCOOL, disaffected beef producers, may prove to be the biggest victims of mCOOL.
Negotiators have failed to craft the first global trade deal in more than a decade, which could have given the world economy a $1 trillion boost, the director-general of the WTO said. Roberto Azevedo said diplomats from the WTO's 159 members tried hard but "cannot cross the finish line here in Geneva" ahead of a summit where ministers were to have signed the deal in Bali, Indonesia next week. The diplomats became deadlocked over the details in the past few days and there remains so much disagreement that several more weeks of negotiations could close the gaps and it will not be possible to negotiate the final details in Bali, he said. "Holding negotiations in the short time we'll have in Bali would be simply impractical with over 100 ministers around the table," he said.
The World Trade Organization is under intense pressure at a major conference in Indonesia this week to come up with a trade deal that proves its members can actually finalize a global trade pact instead of just bickering.
Farm Bill Update
We cant say it enough – the
Farm Bill accounts for less than 1% of the Federal Budget!
As House-Senate talks resume, the bad blood among rival commodity groups is becoming an embarrassment for farm bill advocates and a threat to getting legislation through Congress this winter. Cotton and rice recently took a shot at corn and soybeans in a letter about proposed payment limits in both bills. Corn and beans went directly after House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) — threatening to kill the farm bill and seek a two-year extension that would run past his tenure as chairman. But given the poor state of affairs in the farm world, the threats drew little notice. Even sugar seems split. Southern cane growers showed up Monday at a House strategy meeting in the Capitol basement even as sugar beet growers remain leery of challenging Stabenow. “This has gotten out of hand, and it doesn’t need to be,” said Randy Russell, a veteran agriculture lobbyist. “This is not helping to get a farm bill,” said Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), “I didn’t have this in 2008. The attitude among the commodity groups this time seems to be: Line up and shoot.”
Congress could enact a new U.S. farm law that cuts food stamps for the poor and expands federally subsidized crop insurance in January if negotiators soon break a deadlock, the lawmaker overseeing the negotiations said. Cuts in food stamps are the paramount issue for the farm bill, which is more than a year overdue. Conservative Republicans want the largest cuts in a generation, $40 billion over 10 years. House Democrats solidly oppose any cuts. The sides continue to struggle for a compromise. The food stamp fight has repeatedly slowed work on the five-year, $500 billion bill, which has also endured the first-ever defeat of a farm bill in the House of Representatives. Deep divisions also remain over crop subsidies and dairy reform, other lines of dispute that must be resolved.
For years, Congress renewed the nation’s farm and food stamp programs on large, bipartisan votes – with urban lawmakers who support food stamps joining rural state lawmakers who back the farm subsidies. Now the bill has stalled. The reality of who benefits from these programs doesn’t neatly follow the electoral map. The state receiving the most in in both food stamps and subsidies tends to be rural and Republican.
Wall Street Journal
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the fundamental food safety-net program in the United States. Over its fifty-year history, it has effectively reduced hunger and buffered American families against economic downturns. This paper provides an overview of SNAP’s shortcomings, and a proposed detailed policy agenda to improve SNAP’s effectiveness. The author proposes to subsidize healthy foods in order to encourage better nutrition among SNAP recipients and to reform eligibility and payment rules to enable SNAP to better fight hunger and support program beneficiaries
The Hamilton Project
Since 2006, crop insurance has been the dominant crop safety net program. However, the prosperity that has characterized this period may be coming to an end. Thus, crop insurance may perform differently in the future than during the past few years. Therefore, this post examines the performance of crop insurance since 1980 on an important metric: how well has insurance covered the cash plus land cost of producing corn and soybeans.
The budget situation for the farm bill is more difficult this year than for recent farm bills because of attention to the federal debt. The desire by many to redesign farm policy and reallocate the remaining farm bill baseline—in a sequestration and deficit reduction environment—is driving much of the farm bill debate. Uncertainty persists about broader deficit reduction plans, some of which have targeted agricultural and nutrition programs with mandatory funding. Much of that uncertainty affects the farm bill but is beyond the control of the agriculture committees. Moreover, some popular 2008 farm bill programs do not have a baseline that would provide continued funding and thus will require budgetary offsets to continue. The political dynamics of sequestration and deficit reduction pose difficult questions about how much and when the farm bill baseline may be reduced. In an era of deficit reduction, Congress faces difficult choices about how much total support to provide for agriculture and nutrition, and how to allocate it among competing constituencies.
Congressional Research Service
Most people would probably agree that it's not desirable for farmers to experience catastrophic losses. But the question here is why the government should intervene if they do. A: Well, you only have to look at the last century to see times when the federal government was not involved, when the policies weren't right. My grandparents were young men and women in the Depression. They had to deal in the southern plains in the middle of the United States with a horrendous drought. They got caught up in the collapse of the price of agricultural products, a collapse in the price of their land. Everything they defined as an asset overnight seemingly became worthless. Had they had crop insurance as we have now to address weather, it would have softened the blow. My parents were young men and women in the 1950s. We didn't have the economic problems they had in the Depression in the 1930s. But in my part of Oklahoma, we went through a horrendous four-year drought, which — just like the '30s — drove more people off the land, reducing the number of producers. But ultimately we got through that weather pattern. I came home from college in the early 1980s just in time to watch the worst economic meltdown in rural America since the Great Depression — another generation of people driven off the farm.
The next farm bill is all but certain to contain cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps. Long championed by legislators from urban districts, the food stamp program isn’t just an urban concern. Families living amid fertile farmland struggle to put food on the table and increasingly rely on SNAP benefits.
Since the year 2000, the number of rural counties experiencing high poverty has gone up nearly 30 %. Limited access to public transit, support programs and financial education are big problems in many rural communities.
Harvest Public Media
That rural-urban coalition fell apart last year when the House removed food stamps from its version of the farm bill. The legislation has also become a battleground for environmental groups that see crop subsidies encouraging reckless and unsustainable management of farmland. Consumer groups increasingly concerned about Americans’ diets and rates of obesity believe Congress should encourage production and consumption of fruits, vegetables and organically grown foods. And, while city folk might be sympathetic to the plight of family farmers, they are less so of corporate-style industrial agriculture.
Des Moines Register
As the bioenergy industry in the United States expands to meet increased demands for transportation fuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard and electrical power under state Renewable Portfolio Standards, farmers will seek the ability to grow dedicated, high yielding energy crops of a perennial nature on leased property. This is the fourth in a series of short articles intended to address a range of legal issues raised in a bioenergy farm lease. In this article, we examine the potential incorporation of evolving standards (e.g., regulations, sustainability standards) into bioenergy farm leases.
Hoosier Ag Today
Our water comes from the Ohio River." That's the voice of Kaleel Skeirik, a music professor at Xavier University. The university is in Cincinnati and Skeirik lives in a suburb. Both places are in southwest Ohio, far from the eastern Ohio hills and fields where the oil industry is extracting oil and gas from shale deep underground. Yet the Ohio River, even at its farthest reaches, represents the latest battleground in the environmental and safety debate over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. That part of Ohio is not likely to see oil, gas or the fracking byproduct of chemical-and-sand-infused wastewater coming out of the ground. But under a proposal being considered by the U.S. Coast Guard, barges could move the wastewater down the Ohio and other navigable rivers as the industry seeks new places to dump fracking's waste.
Louisiana missed out on millions of dollars in oil and gas extraction taxes from 2009 to 2012 because of a faulty collection and refund process at the Department of Revenue.
The EPA's 2014 proposed rule for the RFS sets large volumes of biofuel use across several broad categories of fuel types but represents a significant reduction in mandated volumes from legislated levels. The EPA has once again proposed to significantly reduce the cellulosic mandate (from 1.75 billion gallons to just 17 million gallons) but, in contrast to previous years, has also proposed to reduce the overall mandate by more than 3 billion gallons. Under the proposed volumes, biofuel prices and the blend wall will largely determine a fairly narrow range of about 460 million gallons - about a day and a half worth of US motorfuel consumption - where much of the action in the biofuels market is likely to occur. It is this volume which will intersect the blend wall, influencing RIN prices and where biodiesel, corn ethanol and sugarcane ethanol imports will face off.
The U.S. government in recent years has not needed to prop up grain farmers' income with subsidies, but those payments could come roaring back if the lower ethanol mandate proposed this month drives corn prices lower, as many analysts expect.
Biofuel proponents are making a mighty push against the EPA proposal to trim the 2014 RFS mandate. The EPA would reduce the RFS by 2.94 billion gallons – moving from 18.15 billion gallons to 15.21 billion. Enacted in 2005, the required biofuel production level, argue proponents, reduces the United States’ reliance on foreign oil and bolsters farmers’ bottom lines. The EPA announcement has certainly not helped corn prices as the market continues to falter.
Delta Farm Press
“Gas Rush Stories,” is a series of simple, but captivating short films on America’s gas drilling boom made by Kirsi Jansa it is an effort to portray the many meanings and realities surrounding hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, in Pennsylvania communities scattered over the gas-rich Marcellus Shale. Jansa has a refreshing style, meaning no style. She listens and records. People state their case and share their feelings. Viewers see lives disrupted and lives uplifted. Jansa’s work, given more visibility, could resonate far beyond Pennsylvania and help communities on other resource frontiers, including just across the state line in New York, resolve conflicts.
Shale Gas Reporter
Tax breaks for wind-power producers are set to expire in a little more than a month, threatening hundreds of manufacturing and energy jobs in the state if nothing is done. In Iowa, much of the attention has focused on the federal Renewable Fuel Standard in which the federal government guarantees a market for biofuels. But for Iowa’s turbine manufacturers and power companies, it’s the federal production tax credit that is the center of concern.
EPA officials' recent announcement of intentions to pare back the RFS has been met by massive opposition in the crops and biofuels sector. Cutting the eight-year-old RFS as much as federal officials have proposed would essentially remove a big piece of the demand side for U.S. corn, and the depth of the cut should be reconsidered’ Officials with EPA have proposed lowering the ethanol mandate from its current 14.4 billion-gallon level to 13.01 billion gallons, something Purdue University's Wally Tyner says is "a mistake" that would "destroy the incentive.”
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