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::  August 22-August 29, 2014 ::

Agriculture News

Food and Rural  Communities

Federal and International

Missouri dairy farmers urge veto override

Missouri dairy farmers warned that consumers could face higher milk prices if lawmakers don’t override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of legislation authorizing financial incentives for their industry.    The dairy cattle incentives are included in two broader agriculture bills that Nixon vetoed because they would shift regulation of deer farms from the Department of Conservation to the Department of Agriculture. Deer provisions have dominated the public debate about the bills, but dairy farmers are attempting to draw attention to their own plight as lawmakers prepare for a Sept. 10 session to consider veto overrides.  The bills would authorize state subsidies for dairy farmers’ premiums in a new federal insurance program designed to minimize financial losses for dairy farmers by paying them when the margin between milk prices and their feed costs dips below certain thresholds.    The insurance premium subsidies are estimated to cost the state up to $3.2 million annually but could not be paid unless lawmakers include the money in the budget. The legislation also would authorize 80 college scholarships of up to $5,000 each for students who get internships at dairy farms and agree to work in Missouri agriculture after graduation.

Washington Times

Federal judge declares new Kauai GMO, pesticide law invalid

A federal judge ruled that a Kauai County ordinance that requires agricultural operations to disclose the presence and use of pesticides and genetically-modified crops is preempted by state law and therefore unenforceable.

Recount requested on Missouri right to farm

Election officials across Missouri will conduct a recount of the narrow passage of a constitutional amendment creating a right to farm, as opponents of the measure seek to reverse the results.  Voters approved the right-to-farm amendment by a margin of 2,490 votes out of nearly 1 million cast, a victory of one-quarter of a percentage point. Missouri law allows the losers to request a recount whenever the margin of victory is less than half a percentage point.

St Louis Post Dispatch

California Won’t Pursue Dairy Pricing Legislation

State’s ag secretary says not enough progress has been made on finding common ground for financial relief for the industry. The head of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Secretary Karen Ross, said that AB 2730, introduced to "modernize California’s dairy processing system will not be pursued this session.”  


Wisconsin’s agricultural producer security payments unfair to dairy industry

Wisconsin’s dairy industry is requesting the Department of Agriculture consider changes to its Agricultural Producer Security program and fund, which were designed to protect dairy, grain, and vegetable producers from the financial defaults of their buyers. The request comes after an out-of-state contractor’s nonpayment wiped out over half of the fund to reimburse 19 Wisconsin vegetable producers. The vegetable processing industry had contributed just 8 % of the total fund.  

Wisconsin Daily Independent

Idaho barley sustains ‘catastrophic’ losses

The Idaho Barley Commission is seeking to help growers cope with "catastrophic" damage due to a wet August.

Capital Press

Concerns increase over Maui GMO law after Kauai decision

GMO foes, farmers clash at meeting in Keaau

A small group of anti-GMO activists and organic food proponents was ejected from a talk-story session in Keaau aimed at helping farmers recovering from Tropical Storm Iselle.    Organizers of the event say the activists were trying to capitalize on the losses experienced by farmers, creating a disruption and harassing growers who choose to raise Rainbow papayas and other genetically modified crops. The activists say they were in attendance to prevent big agriculture companies from preying on farmers while spreading the use of their products. Agriculture officials have said that Big Island farmers were hit hard by the high winds, rain and falling trees that accompanied Iselle, with papaya farmers taking the most damage. Estimates for the papaya industry alone have put the impact at about $56 million. W. H. Shipman and Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United hosted a gathering for farmers to discuss their problems and offer experts to provide some solutions.   

West Hawaii Today

GMO labeling measure gets narrow 'no' recommendation from Oregon citizens review panel

A 20-member citizen’s panel has narrowly voted against recommending passage of the Oregon Mandatory Labeling of GMOs initiative. The Citizens Initiative Review Commission voted 11-9 to oppose Measure 92, which would require the labeling of food products containing genetically modified ingredients.    Political observers expect the measure, which will appear on the November general election ballot, to be one of the costliest in state history.    The review panel's decision came after nearly four days of debate and discussion. During that time, panelists randomly selected to match the demographics of the state heard from expert witnesses both for and against the measure.    The panel's findings will appear in the Official Voters' Guide this fall.

Illinois governor signs law allowing pilot program for study of industrial hemp

The Illinois law says an institution of higher education or the state's Agriculture Department can study the growth, cultivation and marketing of hemp. Those wanting to participate have to notify the state and local law enforcement and provide reports to the state.

Daily Reporter

PA:Tweak to Seed Library Rules Ignites Debate

As controversies go, it would have been difficult to see this one coming. In tiny Mechanicsburg, PA, a pilot seed library in existence for all of four months is now the epicenter of a national discussion among seed traders, growers of organic food, and other agriculture experts after state officials wrote a list of regulations for the fledgling program.  Participants could “borrow” packets of seeds, agreeing to “return” seeds harvested from their fully-grown plants at a future date. Who could possibly object?    But it wasn’t long before Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture took notice, alerting the Cumberland County Library System that it was in violation of the state’s Seed Act of 2004, which covers sale and distribution of seeds. Meetings were held, a compromise was reached on new regulations, and the Simpson Seed Library stayed open.    Check Out, But Don’t Return.

Iowa farm groups to support water quality alliance

Three Iowa farm groups launched a new group charged with accelerating the pace and scale of water-quality improvements across the state. Still, some environmental leaders expressed doubt the approach would be strong enough. The Iowa corn growers, soybean and pork producers associations are each providing $200,000 annually to support the new Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance. The farm groups tapped Sean McMahon, who leads the Nature Conservancy’s North American agriculture program, to lead the initiative.

Iowa City Press Citizen

Why You Don’t Want to Be a Farmer in America

It’s no secret that the local food movement has, in recent years, become more mainstream. Everywhere you look, it seems, there is another reverent article about a new, farm-to-table restaurant in which the chef has perfected some amazingly creative feat with kohlrabi or golden beets or pasture-raised pork belly. And though buzzwords surrounding sustainable agriculture abound, “small-scale farmer” is perhaps one of the movement’s most ubiquitous and cherished, while small farmers themselves, it seems, are its most celebrated poster-children.  Yet among all the quaint editorial spreads of lush hillsides, dirt-smudged, grassy-kneed, bright-eyed young farmers and rooftop local food dinners la Martha Stewart, there is, according to small farmer Bren Smith, whose recent op-ed in The New York Times is creating quite a stir, a darker, gloomier reality hiding beneath the optimism. Smith says that the reality of farming is often overlooked in favor of the happier, brighter vision of colorful farmers’ market displays, or the manicured gardens at institutions like Stone Barns, a non-profit farm. “The dirty secret of the food movement is that the much-celebrated small-scale farmer isn’t making a living,” Smith writes. The glamorized vision most consumers have of the modern, small family farm simply isn’t accurate, he opines.  Smith notes that 91 % of all farm households rely on multiple sources of income, with most finding it impossible to survive solely on a farm income, meaning that most of those bright-eyed and bushy-tailed farmers’ market vendors are often office drones by day, or waitresses on the weekends. One might think that the food movement would have benefitted farmers economically, especially considering the rise of community supported agriculture programs and a new abundance of farmers’ markets, but that’s not the case, Smith says. While the jury is still out on whether farming is a smart financial decision, one thing certainly is clear: the local food movement is changing (and rapidly); being successful in such a tumultuous climate, it seems, increasingly requires creativity, innovation, and plain chutzpah.

New resource shows half of GMO research is independent

Those who follow the issue of genetically engineered crops have heard claims that there is little independent research on their safety for consumption or the environment. A new public database of research tells a different story. The resource is the GENetic Engineering Risk Atlas. The results show that independent peer-reviewed research on GMOs is common, conducted worldwide, and makes up half of the total of all research on risks associated with genetic engineering.  GENERA is a searchable database of peer-reviewed scientific studies on the relative risks of genetically engineered crops. The database includes important details at-a-glance to help people find and learn about the science of GMOs. GENERA has now entered its beta-testing phase with the first 400 out of over 1,200 studies that have been curated.  GENERA is a project of Biology Fortified, Inc. (BFI), an independent tax-exempt non-profit. The mission of BFI is to strengthen the public discussion of issues in biology, with particular emphasis on genetics and genetic engineering in agriculture. Founded in 2008 as a scientist-run information resource and public forum, Biology Fortified does not accept funding from industry sources, and is instead funded by the contributions of readers and grants.

Why Liberal Americans Are Turning Against GMO Labeling

Europeans countries that consider themselves “liberal minded” scratch their heads over why there is such a big controversy in the US over the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients. Sixty-four nations around the world have enacted mandatory labeling laws. The federal government has resisted calls to label GM foods on the grounds that there is no substantial difference between them and conventional or organic food. That’s the correct scientific position. Genetic modification is a process. There is no detectable difference between, say, sugar made from GM or organic sugar beets.    The pressure for labeling is coming from legislatures in liberal states such as New York, California, Oregon and Massachusetts, where anti-GMO groups are lobbying relentlessly. But a curious thing is happening. The most enlightened liberal thinkers and the progressive publications in key states are joining with the science establishment to oppose mandatory labeling. The pro-labeling arguments, they say, boil down to two deceptive talking points: GMOs may be unsafe and are untested—the Frankenfood argument; and GMOs are part of a corporate plot to monopolize the food system—the Argumentum Monsanto.    Neither is supported by the evidence. [A] labeling requirement would only serve to confuse consumers,” editorialized the Boston Globe, on 30 July, becoming the latest progressive publication,  to oppose a statewide measure. “Advocates say it would alert those who may object to genetically modified foods to choose other options. But the mere fact of a label would contribute to the stigmatization of food that is actually perfectly healthy. Besides, there’s already an easy solution for the GMO-wary buyer: Labels that tout foods that are not genetically modified.” The most strident opposition to labeling is on science grounds. As the Washington Post wrote in June, “There is no mainstream scientific evidence showing that foods containing GMOs are any more or less harmful for people to consume than anything else in the supermarket, despite decades of development and use.”    [T]here is no reliable evidence that genetically modified foods now on the market pose any risk to consumers,” noted The New York Times.   


New effort seeks to strengthen voice for science for GMOs

A new international effort led by Cornell will seek to add a stronger voice for science and depolarize the charged debate around agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified organisms.  Supported by a $5.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Cornell Alliance for Science will help inform decision-makers and consumers through an online information portal and training programs to help researchers and stakeholders effectively communicate the potential impacts of agricultural technology and how such technology works.  The project will involve developing multimedia resources, including videos of farmers from around the world documenting their struggles to deal with pests, diseases, crop failure and the limited resources available in the face of poverty and climate change.

Cattle Network

Five-year study compares organic and conventional dairies

Cows raised on organic and conventional dairy farms in three regions of the United States show no significant differences in health or in the nutritional content of their milk.    Many organic and conventional dairies in the study also did not meet standards set by three commonly used cattle welfare programs.    "While there are differences in how cows are treated on organic farms, health outcomes are similar to conventional dairies," said Mike Gamroth, co-author of the study and professor emeritus in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. "Few dairies in this study performed well in formal criteria used to measure the health and well-being of cows."    Nearly 300 small dairy farms—192 organic and 100 conventional—in New York, Oregon and Wisconsin participated in the study, which was funded by a $1 million grant from the USDA.    One in five herds met standards for hygiene; 30 % of herds met criteria for body condition;  Only 26 % of organic and 18 % of conventional farms met recommendations for pain relief during dehorning; 4 % of farms fed calves recommended doses of colostrum, which helps boost their limited immune systems after birth; 88 % of farms did not have an integrated plan to control mastitis; 42 % of conventional farms met standards for treating lameness;  Cows on organic farms produced 43 % less milk per day than conventional non-grazing cattle,  and 25 % less than conventional grazing herds.    Milk from organic and non-organic herds also showed few nutritional differences, researchers found. Organic milk can occasionally contain more omega-3 fatty acids, which may improve heart health. However, those increases come from seasonal grazing and are not present when cattle are fed stored forage.   

Bovine Vet Online

Land Costs Hamper U.S. Competitiveness

Agricultural economists from around the world met in Des Moines to assess global competitiveness of the world's key corn and soybean producers. Using 2011 data, Brazilian soybean farmers and Ukrainian corn farmers scored the highest profit margin, with a typical U.S. farm in Iowa coming in second ahead of Argentina for both corn and soybeans and ahead of Brazilian corn producer. Why wasn't the U.S. first? In the U.S., as profits increase, so do land costs for American farmers.


Judge won’t stop water for Klamath salmon

The judge ruled that the potential harm to salmon from drought conditions right now outweighs the potential harm to farmers next year.

Capital Press

Can You Lease a Dairy Cow? And Other Legal Questions

The details of the fight over Lee Purdy’s dairy cows unfold like a particularly thorny math question on an SAT exam. In 2012, Purdy had about 750 dairy cows. Most of the cows were leased from an Arizona-based outfit. Purdy owned the rest of the cows outright. These he used as collateral on loans with Citizens First Bank. But Purdy swapped the tags between cows, making it hard to tell a bank cow from a leased cow. Two years ago, rising feed prices cut into Purdy’s milk shares, and he started selling off his herd. By the time Purdy filed for bankruptcy, there were 432 cows left. Which cows were they? And who gets to keep them?  That answer, as it turns out, depends on the plausibility of leasing a dairy cow—and more broadly, on the oft-litigated question: When is a lease really a sale in disguise?  The bankruptcy court sided with Citizens First, saying it didn’t make sense to sign a 50-month lease on a dairy cow. In that case, the court said, Sunshine’s deal with Purdy was a “disguised security agreement”—essentially an installment sale in which Sunshine maintained a security interest in the event of a default. The decision allowed Citizens First to claim the cows, which it sold at auction for $402,353.54. When Sunshine Heifers appealed, the appellate court reversed the decision. In the opinion Judge Karen Nelson Moore said the lower court had missed the point. Purdy’s lease required him to replace cows that became unproductive. Thus, Purdy had effectively leased a herd, not individual cows.  “Purdy had a duty to return the same number of cattle to Sunshine that he originally leased, not the same cattle,” Judge Moore wrote.


Heat Wave Leaves Hundreds Of Thousands Of Tomatoes To Rot Stinkily In Fields

Sure, farming can be stinky business. There are all those acres in need of fertilizer, after all, making things grow. But it’s an overdose of tomatoes that’s making fields stink to high heaven in Illinois, just south of St. Louis, Mo.    The usually delicious, delectable fruits grew like crazy this year, which at first was a good thing for the farmer. But after a few weeks of plentiful tomatoes, everyone had their fill.    “If you grow in high volume and they all come at one time with full moon, there’s no way you can control them. You either have too many or you don’t have enough,” the farmer explained. “It’s a perishable item. That’s why vegetable growing is kind of tricky. It’s supply and demand.”    Then came a heat wave — zapping the tomatoes more quickly than workers could pick them, he added.    That’s left somewhere in the hundreds of thousands of pounds of tomatoes rotting on the vine, with the stink caught by the heat. And it’s been too hot to get workers out there to clean it up, bringing in the flies and all the smells.

Manure shouldn't be regulated like human waste

Livestock manure is a nutrient-packed resource that should not be categorized, classified or regulated in the same way as human waste. The main difference between human waste and livestock manure is that human waste contains pathogenic organisms and heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, selenium and mercury in sewage sludge. These potentially dangerous substances are not found in livestock manure.    The Environmental Protection Agency "makes clear scientific distinctions between livestock manure and human waste, where a significant number and variety of harmful pathogenic organisms and disease-causing agents can be found," Ndegwa said. "For anyone who understands the nature of the two waste streams, there is no scientific basis for classifying livestock manure nutrients the same as sewage sludge as the latter pose significantly higher potential threats to the environment and human health.


Farmers, ranchers must set the record straight

Some people have the mistaken idea that farmers and ranchers are harming our environment. You hear it everywhere: at the coffee shop, church, public forums, traveling, even in the grocery.  Children arrive home from school and tell parents about harmful practices farmers are using on the land. Everywhere you go today people are concerned about the food they eat.  Few businesses are as open to public scrutiny as a farm or ranch in the United States. While farming and ranching practices occur in the open, the only picture many have of agriculture is what they read in newspapers, or see on television or social media. Even fewer people have set foot on a modern farm.    That’s why it’s more important than ever to engage with our customers and tell them about what we do in agriculture.

Net Farm Income Forecast To Fall in 2014

Net farm income is forecast to be $113.2 billion in 2014, down 13.8 % from 2013’s forecast of $131.3 billion. If realized, the 2014 forecast would be the lowest since 2010, but would still remain more than $25 billion above the previous 10-year annual average. After adjusting for inflation, 2013’s net farm income is expected to be the highest since 1973; the 2014 net farm income forecast would be the fifth highest. Net cash income is forecast at $123 billion, down 6 % from the 2013 forecast. Net cash income is projected to decline less than net farm income primarily because it includes the sale of more than $10 billion in carryover stocks from 2013. Net farm income reflects only earnings from current calendar-year production.


Michigan expects big apple crop, overtakes New York in rankings

Detroit Free Press

Idaho Dairy Group Urges Farmers Not to Give Tours

An Idaho dairy industry group has sent a letter to its members urging them to deny media requests for tours and on-farm interviews in the wake of a new law that makes it illegal to secretly film animal abuse at agricultural facilities.  Co-chairs Tom Dorsey and Tony Vanderhulst advise dairy producers that there's been an increase in requests from media groups seeking to film on-farm footage since the law was passed earlier this year.  Several groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho are suing the state over the law, which they contend curtails free speech rights. Ag groups say the law is needed to prevent animal rights groups from unfairly targeting certain businesses and to protect private property rights.

Magic Valley

Farm Workers Sue DuPont

A major seed company is being sued by more than 30 migrant farm workers who say they were underpaid while removing tassels from corn in southwestern Michigan. The workers are mostly from Texas and were hired in 2012 to work in Cass County. Detasseling is hot, labor-intensive work that occurs while the corn still is in the ground.    The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Grand Rapids, accuses Johnston, Iowa-based DuPont Pioneer and two recruiters of violating federal wage and migrant labor laws. The allegations include poor housing, unsafe transportation to the fields and inadequate water.

ILWU ratifies four-year grain contract

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union ratified a new collective bargaining agreement with grain handlers in the Pacific Northwest, spelling the end to an embittered, two-year battle between the two parties and allowing the union to focus on still-unresolved coastwide container talks.  The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service announced that a tentative agreement had been reached and the ILWU has now ratified the contract with three large grain exporters. Over the course of the two years, there were several pickets and two grain terminals — the United Grain terminal in Vancouver and Portland’s Columbia Grain terminal — locked out workers.  Last fall, grain inspectors requested escorts to United Grain’s terminal in Vancouver, Washington because of a perceived threat of violence. Washington governor Jay Inslee made the decision to stop providing the escorts in July, and inspectors refused to enter the facility without state police, resulting in export operations at the terminal being nearly shut down.

Biggest weed contest winners announced

“While none of the samples topped the 13 foot mark like last year, several were quite wide, making up for the lack of height,” said Mark Renz, University of Wisconsin-Extension/Madison weed specialist. “Of the nine samples submitted, four were annuals, four biennials, and only one perennial plant - common milkweed.” Typically the biennial and perennial plants take the prize, but this year a giant ragweed was the grand champion. Wayne Greeler from Neillsville, Wisconsin brought in this specimen that was over 10 feet tall and seven feet wide. The overall size of the plant is determined by multiplying the weed’s height by the maximum width when held in its normal growth form.

U.S. needs to avoid trade retaliation

Iowa agriculture is an economic powerhouse that drives large US exports, particularly to America's two leading export markets, Canada and Mexico. A looming trade crisis threatens those exports and the economic benefits they provide to Iowa.    The threat is real.    So far, Canada and Mexico have succeeded in their World Trade Organization case challenging the U.S.'s "Country of Origin Labeling" (COOL) requirements for meat products. Since the rule forces segregation of animals by country of origin throughout the process of raising the livestock and harvesting the meat, heavy discounting of pigs from Canada and cattle from Mexico and Canada have resulted.    A final adjudication is expected early next year. If the U.S. were found to be in violation of its trade obligations, Canada and Mexico would be authorized to retaliate against U.S. exports of various products.  

Des Moines Register

More Research and Innovation Around the Corner for Canadian farmers

In order for farmers to compete and excel, producers are always looking for the newest and most innovative varieties which help them in their constant battle with insects, disease, and the weather including our short Canadian growing season.  “We need access to genetics and varieties to stay ahead of pest problems and climate change,” Tomtene emphasises.

Poultry processor gets state grant to revive plant

The North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority announced the approval of a $750,000 grant to support the reuse of the former Townsend Chicken plant in Siler City.  Carolina Premium Foods, which will receive the Community Development Block Grant, will invest $4 million to renovate and equip the vacant building with two new production lines, the state said in a press release.

Michigan voted petition approved by House

The Michigan House cleared the way for an appointed panel to decide whether to allow continued hunting of the resurgent gray wolf, instead of leaving the matter up to the state’s voters.  On a 65-43 vote in Lansing, the House affirmed a citizen-initiated measure that puts the Natural Resources Commission in charge of designating game species and setting hunting and fishing policy. The Senate gave its approval earlier. Because the governor’s signature is not required, the measure will become law. Lawmakers didn’t have it take effect immediately. That means the effective date will be 90 days after the legislative session ends this fall, which rules out a wolf hunt until next year at the earliest

A new wildfire protection approach in Colorado

The county's new Wildfire Partners program, gives homeowners in high-risk wildfire zones the tools and support they need to protect their properties as thoroughly as possible; rewarding them with a certificate once they achieve their goals.  Across the West, about 2 million homes like Miles' occupy the wildland-urban interface, or WUI, where public forests border private land. Colorado has about 300,000 such houses, around 9,000 in Boulder County alone. Defending the WUI accounts for a big chunk of annual federal firefighting costs, which have tripled to more than $3 billion since the 1990s, according to Headwaters Economics. Mitigation measures by homeowners could help reduce the federal price tag, as well as improve firefighters' safety.

High Country News

New Mexico City may Pay Farmers to not use Water

A New Mexico city struggling with drought is considering a plan to pay farmers with federal grant money to stop watering crops.  Clovis-area farmers would be paid about $400 an acre to make the switch under a proposed conservation program aimed at changing the way farmers use their water supply.    Farmers would then have to rely on rain and some might have to switch to crops requiring less water.


EPA says California’s Delta water tunnel project could violate federal law

The pair of giant water diversion tunnels proposed in the Delta could violate the federal Clean Water Act and increase harm to endangered fish species. In a letter sent to the National Marine Fisheries Service and released publicly on the EPA’s website Thursday, the EPA said its research found that by diverting freshwater from three new intakes proposed on the Sacramento River – farther upstream from existing intakes – the project is likely to increase concentrations of salinity, mercury, bromide, chloride, selenium and pesticides in the estuary.

Sacramento Bee

Washington allows sheep rancher to kill wolves

Capital Press

Canadian pork producer could owe workers $14 million

Canadian pork producer Olymel has yet to appeal a court arbitrator’s ruling that would have the company pay as much as $14 million in back pay, benefits and interest to 406 workers locked out since 2007


How kids’ livestock shows became a cutthroat (and expensive) business

The state’s youth agricultural education community is aware of the cost problem. In some areas, producers sponsor animals for kids who can’t afford them, and there’s been talk of creating a “pride of the county” category for livestock grown locally instead of purchased from out of state. In FFA, though, inequality of opportunity is seen as part of the learning experience. “That’s a valuable lesson that you’re going to learn either in the show ring or somewhere else,” says Stephen Cook, chair of the agriculture department at a school district in Delaware. “The more money you have to get started with something, maybe the easier it is, but it doesn’t mean you don’t work hard to achieve your own goals.”

Washington Post

Drugs needles, ‘raw opium’ and other scenes from the county fair over the years

You read Lydia DePillis’s report on how kids’ livestock shows at the West Virginia county fair have changed with the times. But long before that — or even before fried Twinkies dominated county fairs across America — Sheriff’s deputies scared small children with portraits of drug addiction. Step into this touching scene from 1970, captured in the Post archives:      “One of the arcade’s most elaborate displays is the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department exhibit on drugs. It shows opium pipes, vials of marijuana, barbiturates, and raw opium, and has a potted marijuana plant on a nearby table, turning yellow from lack of sun. If the exhibit is a sign of how the Prince George’s County Fair has changed with the times, then the 11-year-old boy who was looking at it must be a sign of how the more things change, the more they remain the same. Solemnly listening to Capt. William Feeney of the county sheriff’s department discussing the dangers of drugs, and observing the exhibit, he pointed to a picture of a drug addict with a needle. The age-old interest of 11-year-old boys in gory details shone through, as he asked for a copy – a souvenir of the fair.”

Washington Post

War of words becoming uncivil

In-depth knowledge of the issues is no longer necessary and often seems to be considered an impediment by some of the new practitioners of modern journalism. That very high bar set by the post-World War II generation of reporters and newscasters can best be described today as a limbo bar. For this commentary, I'm going to set aside the more overt political issues and questions about civil rights and the economy until a later time.    The critical subject is agriculture. Never have so many known so little about this single most important human pursuit, and never have those undereducated folks been more eager to pass off their lack of knowledge as fact based and unassailable. How often has an "agvocate" stood up to defend some small part of agriculture, only to be aggressively dismissed as a flawed, paid-for-by-big-ag-interests shill? The attack often comes from people who read something on the internet — and, therefore, it must be true. Never mind that the agvocate might have a Ph.D. in the subject or spent his entire life on a ranch or farm.    Does "I read it on the internet" trump a doctorate from great universities like Texas A&M, Colorado State or Kansas State? How can it beat out a lifetime of herding cattle or growing row crops? How did we get to the point that proven expertise in a scientific pursuit and the intellectual honesty that it almost always brings must bow down before the unlettered opinion of a fanatic?    More important, how did we get to the point in the urban versus rural discussion that it has started to resemble the ugly rancor of the sixties


8,500 residents. 12 attorneys: America’s rural lawyer shortage

Rural Nebraska needs lawyers. Young, single, college-educated people keep leaving the Heartland, enticed elsewhere by more money or exposed brick lofts or mimosa-drenched brunches. The young have long fled small towns for big city lights, but the trend has been worse in recent years, aggravated by recession and a historic concentration of resources in urban areas. Nearly 60 % of America’s rural counties lost residents last year. That’s up from 50 % in 2009 and 40 % in the late ’90s.  Nebraska policymakers have long wondered how to attract — and retain — young lawyers. Until recently, tuition debt relief was mostly available for recent graduates who decided to work for nonprofits and government agencies.  That wasn’t enough to stay competitive with cities like Omaha, where more than 2,000 attorneys work. Nebraska’s biggest city has dodgeball leagues, Tinder options, yoga classes. Center’s only bar closes on Mondays.  Meeting new people here is much harder, Doerr admits. She feels lucky to have already built a satisfying, mutually supportive relationship. Her brother, who will take over the family farm, went to community college in Norfolk, the nearest city, with two goals: Earn a degree — and find a wife.  Exacerbated by these forces, the rural lawyer shortage persists, delaying justice for people with already limited resources. Country attorneys retire, unreplaced. Twelve Nebraska counties today have no lawyers. 

Washington Post

Scarce as Hen’s Teeth

Many of us have weeded old-fashioned figures of speech out of our everyday conversations.  Maybe it’s time to start preserving “Barnyard English” as a threatened cultural treasure.

Daily Yonder

U.S. Study Finds Boomtown 'Curse'

Rocky Mountain counties that prospered during the 1970s oil-and-gas boom are doing worse now than they would have without the boom, a new study says. Energy boomtowns in North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas might be better off economically in the long run if they had never started pumping oil and gas out of the ground.  That’s one implication of new research looking at the impact of the “resource curse.”  They found that after a time of rising incomes and employment, those regions did poorer economically than they would have – all things equal – without an oil and gas boom.  “The boom [of the 1970s and ‘80s] created substantial short-term economic benefits, but also longer-term hardships that persisted in the form of joblessness and depressed local incomes,” the researchers write in a paper due for publication in The Economic Journal.  The resource curse theory asserts that over-reliance on natural resources like oil, gas and coal in regional economies winds up hurting local economies more than helping. It’s also called the “paradox of plenty,” because a resource that we’d think of as helping build a local economy is actually hurting it. 

Daily Yonder

Unhappy, Worried, and Pessimistic: Americans in the Aftermath of the Great Recession

The protracted and uneven recovery from the Great Recession has led most Americans to conclude that the U.S. economy has undergone a permanent change for the worse. Seven in ten now say the recession’s impact is permanent, up from half in 2009 when the recession officially ended. Much of this is rooted in direct experience. Fully one-quarter of the public says there has been a major decline in their quality of life owing to the recession, and 42 % say they have less in salary and savings than when the recession began. Despite five years of recovery, sustained job growth, and reductions in the number of unemployed workers, Americans are not convinced that the economy is improving. Only one in three thinks the U.S. economy has gotten better in the last year and only one-quarter thinks it will improve next year. Moreover, just one in six Americans believe that job opportunities will be better for the next generation of workers, down from four in ten five years ago.

Helping Rural Regain Its 'Swagger'

There really is no rural without a city nearby and no real city exists without a rural counterpart nearby. They are part of the same ecosystem and are, in truth, completely inter-dependent.  I have no trouble integrating the fundamental issues of our time -- jobs, energy, water, air, and land -- into either an urban or rural mind-set.  It is not either/or. It is both.   Over the past decade or more, way too many pundits have just stopped thinking of rural areas as equally important and have fallen all over themselves thinking that cities are the answer to the world’s sustainability problems.  I don’t buy that at all.   Cities have something to offer as we move forward, but rural areas have just as much and arguably even more.  The 2014 APA poll consists of  a national sample of 1,000 people, statistically calibrated to represent the U.S. population over 18 years of age to 65 years of age. Of all the questions we asked, this one was most intriguing to me personally:  Where do you live now and where would you most like to live someday assuming you could afford it?   -A walkable urban area with lots of shops and restaurants nearby.  -Out in the country with lots of nature.  -A suburb where most people drive to most places.  -A walkable suburb with some shops and restaurants nearby.  -Or a walkable small town in a rural area.   The data indicates that almost 40% picked either “out in the country” (27%) or “in a walkable small town in a rural area” (13%) as where they would like to live someday -- and this is compared to 16% who picked “a walkable urban area and only 21% who picked a either of the suburban areas.  

Daily Yonder

FCC Announces Additional Steps to Implement “Connect America Fund”

The Federal Communications Commission takes further steps to implement the Connect America Fund to advance the deployment of voice and broadband-capable networks in rural, high-cost areas, including extremely high-cost areas, while ensuring that rural Americans benefit from the historic technology transitions that are transforming our nation's communications services. The Commission finalizes decisions to use on a limited scale Connect America funding for rural broadband experiments in price cap areas that will deploy new, robust broadband to consumers. The Report and Order (Order) establishes a budget for these experiments and an objective, clear cut methodology for selecting winning applications. The Commission describes the application process and announces that formal applications must be submitted by 90 days from release of the Order. The Commission will use these rural broadband experiments to explore how to structure the Phase II competitive bidding process in price cap areas and to gather valuable information about interest in deploying next generation networks in high-cost areas.

VT algae infiltrates community, locals monitor

Blue green algae is a regular problem on St. Albans Bay. The Lake Champlain Committee has been monitoring the problem for over ten years, but scientists sense this year is worse than the last two.

Farmworkers versus unions, a new fight in California

“It’s hard to believe Cesar Chavez, who formed the United Farmworkers Union to speak for workers and give workers a voice, would have approved of a union actually seeking to suppress workers’ voices and workers’ votes.”  Strong words from Matt Patterson, who heads up the Center for Worker Freedom, a special project of NGO Americans for Tax Reform.  Patterson says the election was held in November and the votes still haven’t been counted, with no clear timeline in sight. Campaign against UFW - panorama - Americans for Tax Reform  “It’s such a strange situation, and it is unusual to see workers protesting unions, but I think it’s something you’re seeing more of and you’re going to see more of in the future,” says Patterson.  “They [the workers] feel like they were well-treated, they feel like the union did nothing for them to deserve 3% of their money, so they want to boot the union out. But the ALRB is saying ‘no’, we’re not going to count your votes, and that’s absolutely outrageous.

Rural Mainstreet Index drops in August

The Rural Mainstreet Index moved to its lowest level in almost two years. The index has been trending lower since June 2013 when the reading stood at 60.5.   

Cattle Network

Post-recession rural employment growth has remained sluggish

In December 2007, six years of economic growth ended as the U.S. economy entered the most severe recession since the Great Depression. Despite starting earlier and falling slightly more, employment trends in rural (nonmetro) areas followed much the same pattern as urban (metro) areas during the recession and the beginning of the economic recovery.  Beginning in 2011, nonmetro employment grew much more slowly than urban employment, and growth fell to zero or slightly below throughout 2012 and 2013. Preliminary data for 2014 show an uptick in nonmetro employment; however, at the end of the second quarter of 2014, nonmetro employment remained 3.5 % below its pre-recession peak while metro employment exceeded pre-recession levels. A lower (often negative) rate of population growth, and an older, less-educated work force have all contributed to sluggish employment growth in nonmetro counties since the end of the 2007/09 recession.


N.C. residents launch multiple suits against Smithfield subsidiary

Seven lawsuits representing more than 200 plaintiffs from five North Carolina counties have named Smithfield Foods subsidiary Murphy-Brown LLC in hog nuisance complaints.


Food News

A foolish ban on California food aid is finally lifted

Californians saddled with drug felony convictions will now, finally, be able to navigate their return from prison or jail with the help of food stamps.  It's hard to overstate how important, and how belated, that change is for California.  The foolish lifetime ban on food assistance for convicted drug felons dates back to an act of Congress in 1996, when the war on drugs was in full swing and common sense and compassion were at a low point. Drug users and low-level dealers were so vilified that it was deemed necessary to continue their punishment even after they had served their time. The deeper irony was that convicted murderers, rapists and other serious criminals did have access to food stamps as they transitioned back into their communities. But not those with drug convictions.

NFSN launches first-ever farm to school evaluation framework

The National Farm to School Network launched a pioneering and highly anticipated new resource, Evaluation for Transformation: A Cross Sectoral Evaluation Framework for Farm to School.  In less than a decade, farm to school has expanded from a handful of programs to a full-fledged, thriving, grassroots-led movement in all 50 states and D.C. To date, however, no evaluation framework existed to guide practice, ground research and enable policy development for the growing field.  Evaluation for Transformation is a first step toward bridging that gap — not only does it define outcomes farm to school can achieve across multiple sectors, it offers common language, guidelines and metrics to help users understand and articulate those outcomes. The framework is organized around four key sectors: public health, community economic development, education and environmental quality. Beyond the four sectors, the framework is also structured around three levels of action: program, research and policy. This organizational structure enables all users to identify the parts of the framework most relevant to their interests.

New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno Signs Five Farm-to-School Bills

Acting Governor Kim Guadagno signed five bills that support and streamline New Jersey’s farm-to- school program with the goal of increasing student access to healthy, locally-grown foods. The package of unanimously passed bills supporting the farm-to-school program allows farmers to better connect with schools and food bank, officials said. The bills that were signed include:    A-156 – Requires the Department of Agriculture to post on its website certain information regarding the state’s farm-to-school program.    A-2641 – Provides for voluntary contributions on gross income tax returns to support farm-to-school and school gardens programs.    A-2642 – Allows contributions to the New Jersey farm-to-school program.    A-2643 – Establishes “Best in New Jersey Farm-to-School Awards Program” to annually recognize the best farm-to-school programs implemented by a school or school district.    A-2644 – Directs the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to establish a clearinghouse website for farmers to offer produce and dairy products for use by school breakfast programs, school lunch programs and food banks.

Raw milk sickens 45 in Utah


MN's First Farm Taproom Is On The Way

Supermarket “Market Basket” strike over, CEO buys

Arthur T. Demoulas — reinstated as CEO after a two-month standoff over his firing that saw rank-and-file workers walk off their jobs and customers jump to competitors in protest — thanked his workers this morning, hours after his historic purchase of the company.  “You are simply the best,” Demoulas said, addressing hundreds of workers from the back of a pickup truck “As I stand before you, I am in awe of what you’ve all accomplished. It is an example you have all set for so many people across the region and across the country. Early this morning, a massive fleet of delivery trucks lined up ready to roll and hundreds of ecstatic employees reported to work for the first time in weeks, heralding the return of a boss they said had provided generous pay and benefits and a culture of respect for workers.  The chain, which employs 25,000 workers in Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire, and which was worth $4 billion before Arthur T.’s June 18 firing touched off a customer boycott and employee walkouts, had racked up millions in losses and shelves were left empty due to a halted supply chain.  Demoulas said he hopes to take less than two weeks getting shelves restocked and stores back to some semblance of normalcy. 

Boston Herald

Grocery Manufacturers Association Plans to Make Additives More Transparent

The Grocery Manufacturers Association is taking steps to make food additives more transparent.    The trade organization, representing more than 300 food, beverage and consumer product companies, says their five-part initiative will modernize the process for making “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) determinations.    The category has been controversial because it allows companies to determine whether a substance is GRAS without having to seek FDA approval. Consumer groups claim that some additives with GRAS status don’t meet the same safety standard as food additives.    The first step in GMA’s plan is to develop a science-based framework that specifies a rigorous and transparent ingredient safety assessment process, which will be documented in a Publicly Available Standard.

Food Safety News

Is Beef The Best First Food For Babies?

New research shows that beef makes the best first food for babies and supports linear growth, proportional weight gain and improved absorption of zinc and iron.


Tyson to divest Heinhold pork business

The company must divest itself of its Heinhold Hog Markets business within 90 days of Aug. 27. Both Heinold Hog Markets and Hillshire Brands buy sows from US farmers.

Dept. of Agriculture: Researchers are close to creating an allergy-free peanut

Energy-Guzzling Billionaire Gives Up Burgers For The Environment


6 Farm Dates We Need To See on Chris Soules’ Season of The Bachelor

While we could have been living life in the fast lane with race car driver and Bachelor hopeful Arie Luydenyk Jr., instead we will be watching corn grow with Soules — a stable and successful farmer from quite possibly the smallest town in the world. This season on the Bachelor, the “surprise concerts” will be country, the strategically placed couches in the middle of the wilderness will be replaced with haystacks, and helicopters will be swapped out for tractors. Find a needle in a haystack, Catch a greased pig, Cook Chris a farm fresh breakfast using only products found on the farm, A corn maze race, Shear a sheep, Assist with the birthing of an animal


Introducing the USDA Sponsored Margin Protection Program for Dairy Decision Tool

USDA Farm Service Agency announced the new Margin Protection Program (MPP) for Dairy Producers. The program is effective September 1, 2014 and dairy farmers may enroll beginning September 2, 2014.To aid dairy operators in the decision process there has been developed a web-based decision support tool for MPP and the Livestock Gross Margin-Dairy insurance program.

Enrollment for New Dairy Farm Risk Management Program to Begin Sept. 2

The voluntary program, established by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides financial assistance to participating farmers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below the coverage level selected by the farmer.


STB Asks Railroads about Plans for Service Issues

Every year, federal regulators ask the nation’s freight railroads how they plan to deal with peak seasonal traffic. This year’s request comes with more urgency.  At a time when many electric cooperatives have been plagued by delayed or missing coal shipments, the Surface Transportation Board wants railroads to explain how they plan to avoid a catastrophe this fall and winter.  STB Chairman Daniel R. Elliott III asked the seven Class I railroads to respond by Sept. 15 on how they will work with customers to prevent or cushion critical commodity shortfalls during periods of rail congestion

Millions in Agriculture Lost as Rails Neglect Grain Surplus

Farmers in North Dakota are experiencing millions of dollars in losses as their grain shipments — held up by rails’ prioritization of the transport of oil — have no way of getting to the companies that need them, like cereal producer General Mills. Production at such companies has slowed, and the grain, with nowhere to go, “is simply going to ground and rot,” farmer Bill Hejl said. What’s more, farmers expect that the upcoming harvest will yield a record crop of wheat and soybeans, meaning that this problem is only expected to get worse.

The Daily Meal

Food Crops Pushed To The Side As Oil Trains Sail Through

In oil-rich North Dakota, farmers trying to get their crops to market are getting squeezed out of the rail transportation picture.  Rail line congestion caused by the oil boom in the Bakken shale oil field of North Dakota and Montana is creating huge backlogs for farmers anxious to get wheat, soybeans, sugar beets, and other crops to markets, and it’s driving large production losses for big food companies like General Mills and Cargill.  A study conducted by North Dakota State University at the request of Sen. Heitkamp found that farmers could lose more than $160 million in revenue because of crowded rail lines.  The booming production of oil from the Bakken field has meant a huge increase in shipments by rail because the region is not well served by pipelines. About 75 % of the Bakken production is shipped by rail, including about 400,000 barrels a day to the East Coast. to other sources as a result. I don’t know how much longer we can survive like this.”

Deals with feds offer only limited legal protection

Agreements that limit landowner liabilities under the Endangered Species Act can still be challenged by environmentalists.

Capital Press

SNAP program and rural households

For the period 2008 to 2012, 14.6 %  of rural households received Supplemental  Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.  That is a higher percentage than households receiving SNAP in both metropolitan and micropolitan (small city) areas.  From 2008 to 2012, rural and micropolitan  areas combined – small cities, small towns  and rural areas – had about one in seven  households (14.1 % of all households)  receiving SNAP benefits, over 3 percentage  points greater than metropolitan areas.  Rural areas and small cities both have higher proportions of their households with senior  and child residents receiving SNAP than do larger urban areas and the nation as a whole. Federal data show that rural SNAP participation rates are significantly greater  than urban participation rates. Nearly 86 % of eligible rural residents receive SNAP  benefits compared to nearly 73 % of  eligible urban residents

Missouri River Could Ease Grain Bottleneck on Railroads

The Missouri River might help alleviate grain backups caused by railroads hauling more crude oil in the northern U.S., though federal spending on infrastructure and changes in water allocations may be needed.   


Deal with Wash. port will send rail cars to N.D

North Dakota farmers will have more options for shipping by rail under a deal signed.    Under the agreement, the Port of Vancouver, which is the third largest port in the state of Washington, will send rail cars to North Dakota delivering lumber, paper, cement, fertilizer, energy supplies and other goods. After they are unloaded, the cars will be filled with North Dakota soybeans, lentils, flax, buckwheat, dry beans and other crops, — both bulk and specialty — that will be shipped west, either for distribution or international export.  The partnership will begin with two shuttle trains a month and work its way up to four, said Todd Coleman, CEO of the Port of Vancouver USA.  

Bismarck Tribune

Farmers may apply to terminate acreage contracts under Farm Bill

Farmers with acreage under contract through the Conservation Reserve Program can apply for early contract termination under the 2014 Farm Bill. The effective date for early termination is no earlier than Oct. 1. The contract must have been in effect for at least five years, and other conditions must be met.

The Times News

California environmentalists decry feds’ fire plan

The highly awaited decision will allow logging on 52 square miles of forests blackened in the Rim Fire, which burned 400 square miles of the Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park’s backcountry and private timber land.

Capital Press

USDA releases SCO availability maps

The USDA released additional information on the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) availability for Spring 2015 crops. A provision of the 2014 Farm Bill, SCO is a county - level policy endorsement that covers a portion of the deductible of the underlying crop insurance policy. SCO is available for corn, cotton, grain sorghum, rice, soybeans, spring barley, spring whe at, and winter wheat in select counties for the 2015 crop year. Farmers and ranchers interested in learning how SCO can help them better manage unforeseen risks can now find maps showing where the option is available, commodity fact sheets, frequently asked questions, policy information and more at RMA’s website To help producers better understand the SCO and Stacked Income Protection Plan for producers of upland cotton (STAX) programs, RMA is also announcing an online Crop Insurance Decision Tool . Producers should consult their crop insurance agent for detailed information and a premium quote specific to their operation.


Public comments to FAA needed to maintain research with drones

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS), also known as drones or “unmanned aerial vehicles” have received much publicity in recent years and have even been called by some as “the next big thing for agriculture.” Advocates suggest that as farms get larger in size and have fewer employees; UAS may be useful to scan large pastures for sick or injured cattle, or survey fields for plant health or soil and water conditions. UAS may also be used to ward off birds from crops, pollinate trees, monitor the snow pack, or forecast water supplies. More and better information may allow farmers and ranchers to make better management decisions and enhance the efficiency of food production.


U.N. Draft Report Lists Unchecked Emissions’ Risks

Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” over the coming decades, according to a draft of a major new United Nations report. Global warming is already cutting grain production by several percentage points, the report found, and that could grow much worse if emissions continue unchecked. Higher seas, devastating heat waves, torrential rain and other climate extremes are also being felt around the world as a result of human-produced emissions, the draft report said, and those problems are likely to intensify unless the gases are brought under control. The world may already be nearing a temperature at which the loss of the vast ice sheet covering Greenland would become inevitable, the report said. The actual melting would then take centuries, but it would be unstoppable and could result in a sea level rise of 23 feet, with additional increases from other sources like melting Antarctic ice, potentially flooding the world’s major cities.  “Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reduction in snow and ice, and in global mean-sea-level rise; and it is extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the draft report said. “The risk of abrupt and irreversible change increases as the magnitude of the warming increases.”  The report was drafted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of scientists and other experts appointed by the United Nations that periodically reviews and summarizes climate research. It is not final and could change substantially before release.

Tyson wins U.S. Justice Dept antitrust nod for Hillshire deal

Tyson Foods Inc won U.S. antitrust approval for its $8.5 billion purchase of Hillshire.  To win approval for the merger, the companies agreed to sell Heinold Hog Markets, the U.S. Department of Justice said. The attorneys general of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, all big hog-producing states, joined the settlement.


Farm worker faces No. 2 Republican for House seat

Raul Garcia has a question for Kevin McCarthy, the House's No. 2 Republican: "While we are waiting for you on immigration reform, who should be harvesting America's food?"    It's a provocative query and the foundation of Garcia's long-shot challenge to McCarthy, a four-term incumbent.    Garcia's is a longshot challenge. He's an unknown California farm worker who got on the ballot as a write-in candidate. But he now has backing from labor unions, and ambitions to hold the new House majority leader to account in his own, agriculture-rich back yard for the failure of the Republican House to move immigration legislation.

Drought looms over California House race

California’s Central Valley is in the midst of a drought of near-biblical proportions, and Rep. David Valadao is praying his response to the crisis can keep him in office this fall. The freshman Republican has been campaigning hard on water issues in this agriculture-heavy swing district, trumpeting his work on a water bill that passed the House earlier this year that he says would go a long way to helping the region. Water use has become his signature issue as he tirades on the trail against those he says are keeping the valley dry: Democratic lawmakers from the coast and state and national regulators. He’s hoping to tie those policies to his opponent, former Senate chief of staff Amanda Renteria.

The Hill

EPA blasts ‘myths’ on water jurisdiction rule

The EPA hit back after a top Republican accused it of trying to take over large pieces of private land and water.    Tom Reynolds, the agency’s top spokesman, wrote a blog post to respond to what he said were “myths and misunderstandings” about the Waters of the United States rule.   “This law has nothing to do with land use or private property rights, and our proposal does not do anything to change that,” Reynolds wrote in a blog post Thursday, referring to the Clean Water Act.    “The idea that EPA can use the Clean Water Act to execute a land grab or intrude on private property rights is simply false,” he said.   

The Hill

EPA's Waters and Wetlands Maps Released Under Pressure from House Committee

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith, announced the release of maps produced by the EPA that detail all the waters and wetlands of each of the 50 U.S. states.    The maps had remained private, but former EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe agreed to release them following Smith's requests during a hearing earlier this summer, the committee said. According to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the maps "appear to detail the extent of the 'Waters of the United States' proposal." "These maps show the EPA's plan: to control a huge amount of private property across the country," Smith said in a letter sent to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "Given the astonishing picture they paint, I understand the EPA's desire to minimize the importance of these maps. But the EPA's posturing cannot explain away the alarming content of these documents.  Smith urged McCarthy to release additional information explaining the existence of the maps and why taxpayer money was used to create them, "just days after the EPA announced its Waters of the U.S. rule," a Science Committee statement said.

Farm Futures

Iowa Drainage District Pushes EPA to 'Ditch the Rule

A new issue was raised that I had not considered in my columns on this proposed rule. The drainage leaders believe EPA's proposed rule may require CWA permits for drainage repairs and improvements which would take control of drainage districts away from trustees and county supervisors, in violation of Iowa law.

Farm Futures

USDA puts $5.7 million toward healthier school food

The grants to state agencies administering the National School Lunch and Child and Adult Care Food Programs will expand and enhance training programs that help schools encourage kids to make healthy choices.


Resolution of U.S. Crop Year Price Uncertainly and Its Implications for the 2014 Farm Program Decision

The 2014 farm bill gives Farm Service Agency farm owners a 1-time decision to elect their Title 1 crop program for the 2014 through 2018 crop years. FSA has not yet released the sign up dates, but sign up likely will not end until sometime in 2015. By this time, farmers will have good information on 2014 crop yields. The related question, “How much uncertainty about 2014 U.S. crop year prices will have been resolved by the time sign up ends?” is examined in this article. U.S. crop year prices are used to determine payments by the Agriculture Risk Coverage - county (ARC-CO), ARC - Individual (ARC-IC), and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs.

Coalitions sue Forest Service to block Alaska old-growth timber sale

Two coalitions of environmental groups have filed three separate suits against the U.S. Forest Service, hoping to stop what the organizations say is the largest sale of old-growth timber in nearly a generation in America's largest national forest.

Bid to Expand Medical Marijuana Business Faces Federal Hurdles

Behind a tall curtain of corn that hides their real cash crop from prying eyes, the Stanley family is undertaking an audacious effort to expand their medical marijuana business to a national market.    For years, the five Stanley brothers, who sell a nonintoxicating strain of cannabis that has gained national attention as a treatment for epilepsy, have grown medical marijuana in greenhouses, under tight state and federal regulations. But this year, they are not only growing marijuana outdoors by the acre, they also plan to ship an oil extracted from their plants to other states.    The plan would seem to defy a federal prohibition on the sale of marijuana products across state lines. But the Stanleys have justified it with a simple semantic swap: They now call their crop industrial hemp, based on its low levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in pot. “The jump to industrial hemp means we can serve thousands of people instead of hundreds,” said Jared Stanley. Colorado, which has legalized the sale of marijuana for recreational and medical use, has accepted the new designation. But the real question is whether the federal government will go along. If it does, the impact would be significant, opening the door to interstate sales not just by the Stanleys, but possibly by scores of other medical cannabis growers across the country.    But if it does not, the Stanley brothers could be shut down by federal agents.

APHIS Makes Two Announcements Regarding FMD and Argentina

USDA proposes to allow importation of fresh beef from Northern Argentina; also proposes to add Patagonia region of Argentina to regions free of FMD list

Farm Futures

Commerce: Mexico dumping sugar; fees to be imposed

Government subsidies are giving Mexican sugar companies an unfair trade advantage, the U.S. Dept. of Commerce said Tuesday, a ruling that may help Louisiana's 630 sugar growers stay afloat.  That preliminary determination in a Commerce investigation of Mexican sugar imports means U.S. Customs and Border Protection will impose a fee on Mexican companies sending sugar to this country.

The Advertiser

Sugar From Thailand Heading for NY  Amid Global Glut

Traders may ship Thai raw sugar equivalent to 16 % of the global surplus against the October contract on the ICE Futures U.S. exchange, the first deliveries from the Asian nation since 2012.


EU provides aid to dairy sector after Russian ban

The European Commission announced financial support for exporters of dairy products hit by Russia's ban on Western food imports, adding to emergency measures already taken to help fruit and vegetable producers.


Russia Grain Harvest Seen With Potential to Exceed Record


China Is Awash in Grain Crops

As the harvest looms next month, the country is on track for an 11th year of bumper grain crops. But production is too much, even for the world's most populous nation, with warehouses bursting at the seams and posing a dilemma for policy makers.

Wall Street Journal

Bumper Crops in U.S. and China Point Up Differences – and Similarities

This is a bumper harvest year in both the U.S. and in China. In the U.S., that means falling prices and – despite the huge harvest – falling incomes for farmers. U.S. corn prices, which fell 40% last year, are down another 15% this year, on expectations for a larger than normal harvest.  China is headed for its 11th year of bumper grain crops and its silos and warehouses are overflowing.  But prices are not plunging because of mounting  state subsidies and purchases. Corn prices on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange are trading at about 2,390 yuan a ton, well above the 890 yuan a ton on the Chicago Board of Trade. Once upon a time, there was a China market and a U.S. market and not much interaction between them.  No longer. Chinese traders are importing U.S. crops even though there’s a surplus in China and selling at a hefty mark-up in China.

Wall Street Journal

A climate for change: A solution conservatives could accept

A member of Congress has proposed a comprehensive national climate-change plan. It’s only 28 pages long, it’s market-based, and it would put money into the pockets of most Americans.    This is not the first time that Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), a House Democratic leader, has made the point that the best climate-change policy is not complicated. The underlying logic is older still: Since the beginning of the climate debate, mainstream economists, left and right, have argued that the best way to cut greenhouse gases is to use simple market economics, putting a price on emissions that reflects the environmental damage they cause  As economists see it, the nation is giving a massive implicit subsidy to the users of fossil fuels, who fill the air with carbon dioxide, imposing real costs on society, without paying for the privilege. Make users pay for the carbon dioxide they emit and they will waste less energy, while investment will flow into low-carbon technologies. The nation would obtain emissions cuts at a minimum cost to the economy.   

Washington Post

Energy and Renewables

Colorado Town to Ask Higher Court to Uphold Its Fracking Ban

Leaders of a Boulder, Colo. suburb on the front lines of the fight against gas drilling recently voted 7-0 to appeal last month's court ruling that overturned the city's ban on fracking.  The city council's unanimous vote not only brings the high-profile anti-fracking case back to court, but also guarantees the town of Longmont a few more years free of fracking. That's because of the last few sentences in the court ruling, which says the judge would agree to uphold the ban during the appeal if the town asked for it.

Iowa governor blasts EPA on ethanol mandate

EPA delays in setting the Renewable Fuel Standard are contributing to weaker corn prices for farmers and costing manufacturing jobs, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said. In November, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed reducing ethanol produced from corn in 2014 to 13.01 billion gallons from 14.4 billion gallons initially required by Congress. The 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard requires refiners to buy alternative fuels made from corn, soybeans and other products to reduce the country's dependence on foreign energy.  "I feel like they're playing politics instead of doing what's right for America, and doing what's right for reducing our dependency on foreign oil, and improving farm income and creating jobs," he said.

USA Today

CHS Tank Program will Assist Retailers Offering E15

For Cenex retailers wanting to offer E15 in addition to their current gasoline products, the Cenex Tank Program will cover a significant portion of the cost to purchase and install an additional storage tank for the purpose of offering E15.  The Cenex network was among the first in the country to offer mid-level ethanol blends under its brand. The program will halp build out the necessary Infrastructure for E15.

Here's one more reason to block the Keystone XL pipeline

The policy debate over the Keystone XL pipeline (as opposed to the political one) in many ways boil down to railroads. Supporters of Keystone say there's no point in blocking the construction of massive pipeline that will traverse the United States, since the projected 510,000 barrels of oil the pipeline would transport could just be moved around on trains. Either way, they say, the oil is coming out of the ground and it's going to be burned.    However, there is reason to think that transporting a monstrous influx of new oil by rail would be a lot more difficult than many imagine.    It's not because the U.S. freight rail system is a failure. Our passenger rail is a complete joke and a national disgrace, but our freight rail is, by most accounts, quite good. However, like everything about American infrastructure, it is very far from perfect. More importantly, it is already jammed to capacity.

The Week

Utah grapples with toxic water from oil and gas industry

A massive stream of wastewater tainted with hydrocarbons has been flowing into Utah from oil and gas mining on Colorado’s West Slope.  The Colorado company running the 14-pond facility operated without a Utah air-quality permit for more than six years, while providing officials faulty data that underreported its emissions and exaggerated the efficiency of its emission-control equipment. Danish Flats Environmental Services finally secured a permit earlier this month and agreed to pay a reduced $50,000 fine for its failure to seek one in a timely manner.    The Danish Flats experience reflects a larger threat to air quality posed by wastewater gushing out of Utah’s increasingly busy oil patch. The permit issued by the state Division of Air Quality for Danish Flats was the agency’s first associated with evaporation ponds, and it’s now examining other evaporation disposal sites in Utah.

Salt Lake Tribune

Enbridge Inc. To Pump More Canadian Oil To United States Amid Obama's Keystone XL Pipeline Decision Delay

Enbridge Inc. is steadily advancing plans to build a pipeline network akin to the Keystone XL. The Calgary company is progressing on at least two projects that will help it move more Canadian tar sands oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast, recently revealed documents and a federal ruling last week indicate.  In one project, Enbridge is proposing to switch crude oil from one pipeline to another before it crosses into the US -- a move that enables the company to circumvent a lengthy federal permitting process. Environmental groups first learned about the plan after the U.S. State Department released documents related to the crude switch.

International Business Times

More AgClips

click here to view this week's More Ag Clips story summaries

USFRA Announces I Am Farmland Campaign

Making the connection between technology lab and farm

MD Farmers win long-term lease to stay at former Naval Academy dairy farm

Iowa rancher is next star on 'The Bachelor'

Agriculture economist predicts good times ahead for nation’s cattle producers

USDA seizes more than 1,200 illegal giant snails

Boar's Head plans Indiana plant

Can Hormel continue to outperform? Analysts say yes

Water 'thermostat' could help engineer drought-resistant crops

Diplomats And Lawyers Try To Define 'Culturally Acceptable Food'

KY ham sells for $2 Million

Tommy Tractor gets a ticket

Anti-GMO “Magic Soaps” Company Needs to Clean Up Its Own Labels

Moving Back Home Together

The Truth about American Manufacturing

AgClips is a free weekly email service for all state officials and staff. It serves as a roundup of the latest information on agriculture and rural development issues across the country and contains links to news articles and reports.
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The regional contacts for agriculture and rural development for The Council of State Governments are:
South Midwest and East West
Lauren Greer Carolyn Orr, Ph.D.