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Food and Rural Communities
Federal and International
LB 329, the Nebraska Agritourism Promotion Act, aims to encourage people to allow others onto their land for agritourism purposes. The bill, introduced by Sen. Ken Schilz would limit liability for landowners who welcome tourists. Currently, agritourism landowners can be held liable for inherent risks, such as someone twisting an ankle in a pothole. The bill states that if a participant were being negligent and not following safety procedures, landowners wouldn't be fully liable for injury that occurs because of the negligence. However, the pendulum also swings the other way. If landowners are careless with safety measures, they are liable for any injury that occurs.
Legislation meant to help dairy farmers pay premiums on federal insurance for their operations is moving toward the governor’s desk from both state legislative chambers.
Public News Service
Oklahoma voters have at least a year before seeing ads for and against state questions on the ballot but you might want to get used to hearing this phrase now: right-to-farm. A bill proposed by Rep. Scott Biggs, would change Oklahoma’s constitution to say something very similar to Missouri’s. It adds: “The legislature shall pass no law that abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices without a compelling state interest.” John Collison with the Oklahoma Farm Bureau questions why the Humane Society is so concerned about agriculture. He says farmers are can be trusted to protect animals and the environment. “We’re the ones that raise millions and millions of animals every single day, and take care of them,” he says. “They’re our livelihood. We’re not going to treat our business badly.” But Cynthia Armstrong with the Oklahoma chapter of the Humane Society says many farmers resist animal-related regulations because they’re doing “the bidding of corporate agriculture.” “
A month after blocking hotly disputed environmental regulations drawn up by his predecessor, Gov. Larry Hogan is putting out his own rules to curb Chesapeake Bay pollution from farms — including an immediate ban on spreading poultry manure on some Eastern Shore fields. But Hogan also vowed to look out for poultry and grain growers, saying he's more slowly phasing in the restrictions on farmers' use of animal manure as fertilizer so that the costs of compliance won't put them out of business. Hogan outlined what he described as a "fair and balanced" plan for tackling runoff from farms. He said his approach should bring together environmentalists and farmers, who've been at loggerheads over the issue.
The results showed that agriculture in Illinois is responsible for one in every 17 jobs and $120.9 billion in total output. In addition to showing the major agricultural sectors, the report provides a comparison to other major industries in Illinois, such as manufacturing, financial, and construction.
“We will battle this to the end of our lives,” Puna resident Derek Brewer declared. “This is absolutely out of my mind how we can have this going on. I don’t need to stand here for the fifth time – in whatever country I’m in – talking about these people. If you do not take care of this, we will.” Brewer said he would “bring the Islamic nation here to battle this ourselves” and that these are “international companies committing international crimes.” He is referring to the House Ag Committees decision to defer a HB on pesticides. As chair of the House Ag Committee, Tsuji heard lengthy testimony on HB1514, establishing disclosure requirements and buffer zones for pesticide applications done near sensitive areas like schools. “I think this bill is divisive,” Tsuji said. “I hoped that the results wouldn’t split people but bring the thoughts together. So I think that’s what it is. I think cooler heads are prevailing. Members, the decision is to defer.”
Big Island Video News
The WV Bowhunters Association and the WV Wildlife Federation were two of the groups who spoke against SB 237 during the Natural Resources Commission meeting. The legislation would transfer control of captive cervids from the Division of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture. The legislation won overwhelming support in the House and Senate. Several lawmakers stood to laud the bill as an opportunity for another industry in West Virginia. Supporters of the move accused the DNR of being obstructionist to advancing farm raised whitetail deer as livestock. Opponents of the legislation have two key fears. One is the potential for wildlife disease outbreak originating within the pen raised animals. As a concession, the House of Delegates added an amendment to disallow the import of any animals into West Virginia from farms where CWD had been previously detected. The second fear sportsmen express about the change is the threat to the North American Wildlife Model. The model allows that wild game belongs to everybody. It also forbids the sale of wild game meat. However, one of the main thrusts of SB 237 is to create a market for farm raised whitetail venison for commercial sale to restaurants and retail stores.
One size doesn't always fit all, according to some opponents of a livestock zoning bill. LB 106, would create the Livestock Operation Siting and Expansion Act. The bill would allow the Nebraska Department of Agriculture to come up with a zoning matrix for counties to use when approving or denying applications for livestock operation siting permits. LB 106 would create more uniform zoning and planning standards for livestock operations. LB 106 also calls for the Director of Agriculture to appoint a special committee of experts to advise the department in creating the matrix. The bill also would create the Livestock Operation Siting Review Board, which would review county board decisions in denying livestock operation permits.
A bill that would restrict contests in which animals are caught and given as prizes is being considered by Oregon lawmakers. Proposed restrictions on “rabbit scrambles” and similar contests that award live animals as prizes have alarmed the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, which fears impacts on rodeo events. HB 2641 is intended to prevent injuries to animals during “scramble” competitions, in which young children try to catch rabbits or other small animals to keep as pets. Under HB 2641, animals could not be “chased, kicked or otherwise subjected to offensive physical contact” during the contest. The event’s organizer would also have to allow contestants to return the animals for six months after the competition.
A voter initiative made Alaska the third U.S. state to legalize pot, and the ballot measure prohibited smoking in public. Neither the measure nor lawmakers defined a public place, leaving it to the state’s alcohol regulators to do so. The state alcohol control board decided pot can’t be smoked in places generally accessible to the public, like parks, schools or on the street.
Alaska's new law is similar in many ways to the laws already in effect in Washington State and Colorado, though it also has some distinctive elements. Like Washington (and Oregon once the law there takes effect), the marijuana industry will be overseen by the state liquor control board (in Colorado, it's under the Department of Revenue). As in Colorado, limited amounts of "home grows" will be allowed – up to six plants per household. Also, local municipalities can decide to ban marijuana sales in their town. Wasilla – perhaps best known as the town where Sarah Palin was once mayor – has already passed a measure prohibiting residents from making marijuana "edibles" or concentrates. Perhaps the most notable difference in Alaska has to do with the tax structure. Unlike Colorado and Washington, both of which tax a percentage of sales – Colorado through an excise tax and sales tax and Washington through three excise taxes at various points in production – Alaska will have a flat tax of $50 per ounce. Once Oregon's law takes effect, it will also tax by the ounce.
Christian Science Monitor
New England farm cash receipts for 2013 were up 4% over the previous year. Vermont ranked highest in cash receipts at $836 million — 10% higher. Maine earned second place with receipts of $740 million — a 2% increase. Connecticut ranked third at $575 million, followed by Massachusetts with $447 million which marked a 6% drop.
Burlington Free Press
Across the U.S. Midwest, the plunge in grain prices to near four-year lows is pitting landowners determined to sustain rental incomes against farmer tenants worried about making rent payments because their revenues are squeezed. Some grain farmers already see the burden as too big. They are taking an extreme step, one not widely seen since the 1980s: breaching lease contracts, reducing how much land they will sow this spring and risking years-long legal battles with landlords.
Our industry still struggles at times with being content to fight these scientific battles on the basis of good science, but the issue has never been about science. The environmental activist community, animal rightists, the anti-large farming/ranching crowd are committed to our destruction. The nutritional front is just that another front in that war. I don’t understand why these people hate our way of life so much. I think we all consider ourselves good people, trying to live good lives, working to take care of God’s creatures and the environment while providing nutritious food for our fellow humans. I find it hard to understand how and why people get up each morning committed to destroying my way of life. The tricky part is that until we all embrace the fact that these people are committed to doing just that, and that they won’t waver in that conviction to accomplish it, we won’t be able to effectively combat them. I’m reminded of the resolution of a long-running case in which Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, was sued by a handful of activist groups claiming abuse of elephants. After having spent millions of dollars to fight the bogus claims, the case was dismissed. Owner and CEO Kenneth Feld could have walked away to lick his wounds but he continued the fight to win back the legal costs incurred from the frivolous lawsuit. In the end, these activists, which included the Humane Society of the United States, ended up paying nearly $16 million to reimburse Feld’s legal costs.
Craig Watts alleges Perdue retaliated against him after he participated in a mini-documentary about the condition of birds that Perdue placed on his farm. Following the release of the film, the complaint charges that Perdue subjected Watts to "intensive scrutiny" by sending auditors to his farm almost daily . But Perdue said the complaint “is more about publicity than legal action.” “We have been more than professional and accommodating to Mr. Watts,” the company said. “Our actions are consistent with our standard procedures for handling contract grower issues and what we feel is necessary to ensure that our chickens are receiving appropriate care. As we told Mr. Watts in writing, “Perdue’s increased attention to your poultry farm during the weeks ahead is not for purposes of retribution, but to ensure that Perdue’s poultry are being properly cared for in an environment that ensures both adequate animal husbandry and animal welfare practices.”
Farmers fear hemp pollen would find its way to their unpollinated female cannabis flowers, slowing their growth and leading to seeds. The result: weak pot.
Farm regulators in Oregon are contemplating how recreational marijuana fits into existing regulations for pesticides and licenses, among other issues. Marijuana legalization in Oregon has farm regulators pondering how cultivation will square with existing rules for agriculture. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has primary jurisdiction over recreational marijuana, however, some aspects of regulating the crop may come under the authority of the Oregon Dept of Ag and other state agencies. Regulating these commercial processes may bear on subjects with which ODA already has expertise — for example, pesticide rules for farmers are enforced by the agency, no chemicals are registered for marijuana Another uncertainty is how marijuana operations fit under Oregon’s land use rules, said Marks. Processing facilities, farm stands and promotional events are permitted in exclusive farm use zones, though it’s unclear if such uses will be allowable for marijuana, he said.
I don’t agree with many positions taken by the Humane Farming Association, but I do agree with the group’s president that Proposition 2 was a waste of everyone’s time, money and energy. Bradley Miller, president, Humane Farming Association, said "Proposition 2 is finally being recognized for what it is - an empty vessel of false promises, wasted resources and squandered opportunity." Miller goes on to express dissatisfaction that passage of Proposition 2 didn’t result in California egg producers being forced into cage-free egg production. “ This obscene reversal of voter intent was made possible by the determined negligence of Proposition 2’s sponsor, the Humane Society of the United States.” Once again, I have to agree with Miller’s central point: Proposition 2 was a waste. I hope that everyone in California remembers that it was the activist groups that brought about this mess in the first place.
For the last 10 years, Tim Meyers has been coaxing an enviable quantity of fruits and veggies from just four acres of land. Last year, he produced 50,000 pounds of potatoes, beets, carrots and other vegetables. "I think we grow [a greater variety] here in this climate than most people can grow in the hot weather," says Meyers. Meyers says warmer temperatures due to climate change in Alaska are giving him flexibility to plant more crops over a longer growing season. But the secret behind his yield, he says, is actually the soil. Meyers begins by planting inside high tunnels then he plants his raised beds that he protects from the elements also with plastic coverings
It takes 441 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of boneless beef. Farmers and ranchers are committed to water conservation and have reduced the amount of water used to raise beef by 12% compared to 30 years ago.
Yes, it's impossible to imagine government policymaking without science. But these situations also demonstrate the limits that individuals and policymakers face in relying on science since it changes over time. Americans may simply have to rely on common sense and the admonition to eat and drink everything in moderation and smaller portions when making their diet decisions.
The Society for Range Management says ranchers and range professionals who participate in SRM are doing wonderful things with grazing to improve rangeland and plant biodiversity. The problem is that the public does not know anything about it. Well managed grazing can provide habitat for wildlife. The water sources that ranchers provide for their cattle also provide water for endangered species such as the California Condor. Both our industry and SRM need to better communicate with the public on environmental stewardship.
We’re all familiar with the ads…dramatic camera pans and close ups of sad puppies and kittens in cages. Some showing signs of abuse or neglect while appropriately moving music plays in the background. But how much money do they actually spend to help abandoned, abused or neglected animals in your state? According to the HSUS 2013 tax return, virtually none. As has been pointed out in past, HSUS gives approximately 1% of its overall revenues to local shelters, and HSUS does not operate any rescue efforts or shelters themselves. HSUS doles out a pittance of its $130 million budget to shelters of any kind. So where are the millions that HSUS raises every year going if not to shelters? Well, it appears that the only shelters HSUS can really get behind are tax shelters. In the past 2 years HSUS has put $50 million in off shore hedge funds in the Caribbean.
First of Hunters
The seventh annual First Rate – First State Summit is scheduled for Dover. The free annual event is an informal networking session between Delaware growers and grocery store chains. Over the years, it has expanded to include school districts, restaurants, farmers market managers, processing companies and value-added producers who use locally-grown fruits, vegetables and meats to make jellies, salsas, sausages and other products.
The February 2015 Class III price will be near $15.55/cwt., compared to $16.18/cwt. in January and $17.82/cwt. last December. The February Class III price a year ago was $23.35/cwt.
The calculation tool is a computer-based, user-friendly spreadsheet that allows a grower to evaluate the carbon footprint of their farm. In addition, it can point out suggested improvements to the farm operation and calculate potential reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and cost savings.
The US has a very efficient agri-food system. The average U.S. resident spends only 6.4% of their annual expenditures on food, which is less than for the 83 other countries for which data are available (USDA, 2014). This efficiency is driven by productivity rooted in scientific progress, much of it generated in the public land grant system. Oftentimes, however, scientific progress is laden with consumer perceptions of uncertainty and unintended consequences, in part due to the complexity of the agri-food supply chain. The current era of consumer interest in the nature of the agri-food system contrasts to previous times when consumers and consumer advocates lacked knowledge and interest in the technical aspects of the system.
The case of the People of the State of New York against Amber Canavan touches on a variety of issues: animal rights, food culture and tradition, and the advisability of posting online videos of yourself on other people’s property. But at its heart, the central matter in the case is this: Did Ms. Canavan steal a pair of ducks? Ms. Canavan had gone to Hudson Valley Foie Gras, entered one of the company’s barns and filmed the birds, one of several videos that were spliced together and posted on the website of the Animal Protection and Rescue League. But the video also seems to show her holding ducks at Hudson Valley, and ducks being placed into a bin. A bin is later seen being carried away. “She’s a thief,” said Marcus Henley, the company’s operations manager. The Sullivan County district attorney, seemed to agree, and this month — nearly four years after the episode — Ms. Canavan was indicted on two counts, including burglary in the third degree, a Class-D felony. The felony charge carries the possibility of up to seven years in jail, though nonviolent offenders can get far less jail time or be sentenced to probation.
Are you sure you want to be eating glyphosate? Glyphosate, an herbicide used to kill weeds that choke out crops, can be found in trace amounts on foods that are genetically engineered to tolerate the herbicide, as well as some foods that are not. According to the FDA and laboratories across North America, the residual amount of glyphosate present in these foods is not harmful to humans. Period. Let’s remind those who can’t get past the fact that there’s a minuscule, nontoxic amount of weed killer on their food, that we put potentially toxic substances in our bodies all the time. (Cocktails, anyone?) One such substance that springs readily to mind is warfarin, which the Environmental Protection Agency classifies as rodenticide, or rat poison. Yet millions of Americans know warfarin as a lifesaving anticoagulant medication that helps to prevent blood clots that could cause heart attacks and strokes. We trust medical science to tell us which medicines are safe; it’s time we trust food science to tell us which foods are safe.
This whole brouhaha over whether to vaccinate children for measles frankly caught me off guard. Not so much that there were people who were opposed to vaccines, as it’s a question of trust. Those on the far left have total unbending trust in what is “natural,” and those on the far right have total unbending mistrust in “institutions.” I just thought most people would realize that people used to actually die from measles. Since we started vaccinating kids, they don’t even get them. Ergo, vaccines must be a good thing. But that would be trusting science, and a lot of Americans have no such trust.
Some legislators have made the argument that farmers and ranchers are not paying their fair share. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although the current formula insulates producers from large swings in commodity prices, agricultural land taxes have increased overall by 59% since 2008.
Why are GMO opponents so worried about scientists who talk about biotechnology? Are they worried that the public will actually learn that GMOs aren’t scary and that they actually help make agriculture more sustainable and help keep food costs low? Are opponent groups scared of scientific facts? Science writer Keith Kloor explains in an article posted on the Science website that a dozen public sector scientists working in the field of biotechnology were hit with Freedom of Information Act requests from a California-based group opposed to GMO foods. The group, U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) of Oakland, California, has targeted only researchers who have written articles posted on GMO Answers. USRTK is interested in documenting links between universities and business, says USRTK Executive Director Gary Ruskin, and is “especially looking to learn how these faculty members have been appropriated into the PR machine for the chemical-agro industry.”
Total meat and poultry production will be at a record high of 95 billion pounds in 2015, mostly due to record pork and broiler production
Falling commodity prices and declining farm income around the world credited with a drop in farm equipment exports last year. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers says U.S. agricultural equipment exports totaled $8.5 billion in 2014 down more than 29% from 2013. Exports to Canada, our biggest customer totaled $2.6 billion down 38% from the previous year. Sales to Mexico slipped nearly 7%. European purchases dropped nearly 31% to $1.95 billion. Sales to South America fell nearly 19 percent, and Asian purchases plunged nearly 35 percent.
A group of homeowners is suing South Dakota’s Turner County Commission and Sonstegard Foods, the owners of a proposed layer farm, in hopes of keeping the company from building the operation near the city of Parker
Recruiting a poultry complex to the area would have an “overwhelmingly positive” impact on Pittsylvania County, Virginia
Mars Petcare is planning a US$81.7 million expansion of its facility in Arkansas, the second significant expansion of the plant in two years. The expansion will add an estimated 95 jobs. The Tax Back endorsement is a formality as part of an incentive program administered by the Arkansas Department of Economic Development. The program allows businesses to seek sales tax refunds from construction materials, new equipment and other qualifying expenses of investments that result in new jobs.
The bill to rein in PETA's killing at their headquarters in Virginia passed the House of Delegates in a landslide 95-2 vote. Shelters will now be required by definition to make efforts to adopt out animals, instead of summarily killing them. SB1381 reads: "Private animal shelter" means a facility operated for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes and facilitating other lifesaving outcomes for animals that is used to house or contain animals and that is owned or operated by an incorporated, nonprofit, and nongovernmental entity…. PETA being PETA, they managed to sneak in a last-minute floor amendment, striking the words "and facilitating other lifesaving outcomes" from the bill. So they won't have to bend over backwards to actually cure desperately sick animals. (I imagine we'll hear arguments that their lobbying money was well-spent? That's for donors to decide.)
DFL Sens. Matt Schmit, Jensen, Saxhaug, Sparks, and Tomassoni created legislation meant to spur public infrastructure, housing and career counseling. The bill calls for $40 million for the Business Development Public Infrastructure Grant program, which ensures grants are available for communities looking to attract or keep businesses. In recent years, the amount of funding has been limited, resulting in a smaller chance of local cities receiving grants. Since the program's inception in 2003, 166 greater Minnesota cities have been supported by an average grant amount of $280,000. The grants provide up to 50% of the capital cost of public infrastructure necessary to expand or retain jobs, increase the tax base or expand and create new economic development.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers hopes to expand the reach of “telemedicine” in Minnesota by requiring health insurers to pay for remote consultations the same way they do for in-person visits. Clinics and hospitals across Minnesota already use telemedicine, but some insurers don’t cover it and some services — such as nurses who educate diabetics how to care for themselves — are not covered by insurance at all. In addition, the law does not allow for reimbursement of telemedicine delivered in long-term care facilities or group homes. If the proposal passes, Minnesota would join 22 other states and the District of Columbia in mandating coverage for medical care delivered via electronic networks.
Two federal lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Colorado against the state’s politicians, public servants and businesses aim to “end the sale of recreational marijuana in this state.” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is among the defendants named in the lawsuits, which focus on property owners’ rights under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
New Mexico is the only state with a 24/7 registered nurse call center that is free to all residents, whether insured or not. In operation since 2006, it has kept tens of thousands of New Mexicans out of emergency rooms and saved the state more than $68 million in health care expenses. It has provided a basic form of health care to thousands of uninsured people who have no other access to care. It also has relieved demand on doctors and hospitals in a sparsely populated state where all but a few counties have a severe shortage of health care providers. The statewide call center has generated real-time public health data that has served as an early warning system during epidemics and natural disasters. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will recommend New Mexico’s advice line as a national model.
In 2014, Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted his State of the State address to what he called a “full-blown heroin crisis” in Vermont. The State Legislature enacted many of his initiatives, including giving one-time grants to addiction clinics to help them reduce the size of their waiting lists. The Central Vermont Addiction Medicine clinic here used its share of the grant to extend the hours of its lone doctor. Counselors reached out to people on the waiting list, moving active needle-users and pregnant women to the top. Officials here say they have made strides against addiction, about 40% more Vermonters are seeking treatment for addiction today than a year ago. Progress can be measured only in baby steps. As aggressively as Vermont is attacking opioid addiction, the number of deaths from heroin is going up, not down. Preliminary data from the state Health Department shows that the number of deaths involving heroin reached 35 in 2014, an increase of 66% from 21 deaths in 2013. (Deaths from prescription opioids stayed the same.) It is a familiar story across the region.
Hogan announced a four-pronged approach to one of the signature issues of his campaign. It involves no dramatic breaks from the policies followed by former Gov. Martin O'Malley. His four-point program includes two executive orders — one to create a coordinating council of the agencies involved in tackling the problem and the other setting up the task force. The third point was Hogan's announcement of a donation of 5,000 EVZIO kits for the rapid treatment of heroin and other opiate overdoses by manufacturer Kaleo Pharmaceuticals. EVZIO is a delivery device similar to an epi-pen for the delivery of naloxone. Hogan also announced a $500,000 federal grant to the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention that will be used to increase treatment programs in the state's jails and prisons, but no new state money for treatment. Del. Kirill Reznik, said the task force duplicates the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council he has served on since it was created by O'Malley in 2007. Reznik said the council has already identified what the state needs — more treatment beds and more preventive education programs starting as early as elementary school.
The Baltimore Sun
A group of New Mexico lawmakers wants to create a 500-mile, statewide recreation trail that stretches from Colorado to Texas and weaves through majestic vistas, monuments and cultural areas. Called the Rio Grande Trail, the pathway is envisioned as being similar to the Appalachian Trail or the Continental Divide Trail. Rep. Jeff Steinborn, introduced a bill to create a commission to define the best routes and reach necessary agreements to designate a path. The trail would only cross land accessed through voluntary agreements with owners and would link pathways that already exist along the Rio Grande, including the Bosque in Albuquerque, Taos, Elephant Butte and Las Cruces.
Here is a look at where some agriculture-related bills stand: Wolves: HB 2107 requires the Department of Fish and Wildlife to amend the wolf recovery plan. The bill instructs game managers to review the plan in light of the fact that wolves are concentrated in northeast Washington but have not spread throughout the state. SB 5940 would allow hounds be used to pursue or hunt cougars in Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Chelan and Okanogan counties for the next five years. Other counties could opt in. HB 2093 would allow landowners to go onto adjoining private and public lands without permission to battle fires in the early stages. SB 5012 to simply declare hemp an agricultural crop. HB 1552 would legalize but highly regulate growing hemp. SB 5017 would classify beekeepers as farmers and honeybee products as agricultural crops. The classification would have favorable tax implications for beekeepers. HB 1179 and SB 5260 would exempt makers of alcoholic cider from wine commission assessments. SB 5584 would require the Washington Department of Ecology to document water pollution with on-site tests. SB 5698 and HB 1823 extend tax breaks for food processors. SB 5209 and HB 1220 would provide a tax cut for warehouses that handle pesticides that are not made or used in Washington. HB 1104 to criminalize undercover taping at agricultural operations got media attention and a House hearing, but didn’t go anywhere. Washington farm lobbyists steered clear, seeing no reason to take on the battle while the constitutionality of Idaho’s ag-gag law is being challenged in federal court. SB 5628 calls for a statewide vote in November on levying a per-parcel tax to fund water supply, flood control and stormwater treatment projects.
At 7 a.m. every Friday during the Utah General Legislative Session, the Rural Caucus, often referred to as the “Cowboy Caucus,” meets to discuss potential legislation that will affect rural Utah. Popular topics revolve around land management, environmental issues, natural resources, water, energy, road access, agriculture and education. When the caucus started about 20 years ago, there were very few members. “It was called the ‘Cowboy Caucus’ because it was just a bunch of cowboys gathering together to talk about rural issues,” said Okerlund, who attended the caucus as a commissioner prior to becoming a state senator. Since then, it has grown considerably. Today, the Rural Caucus has about 30 members from both the House and the Senate.
A bill aimed at helping reduce the numbers of free-roaming horses easily passed the House 97-1 on Monday and now goes to the Senate. HB 312 by Rep. Tom McKee, reduces the number of days that someone trying to take a stray horse would have to wait for the previous owner to claim them from 90 days to 15.
Geographically isolated wetlands play an outsized role in providing clean water and other environmental benefits even though they may lack the regulatory protections of other wetlands, according to Indiana University researchers. Given those benefits, the authors argue, decision-makers should assume that isolated wetlands are critical for protecting aquatic systems, and the burden of proof should be on those who argue on a case-by-case basis that individual wetlands need not be protected. "Geographically isolated wetlands provide important benefits such as sediment and carbon retention, nutrient transformation and water-quality improvement, all of which are critical for maintaining water quality," said lead author John M. Marton. "We demonstrate that continued loss of these wetlands would likely cause serious harm to North American waters."
Burmese Python, Emerald ash borer, Nutria, European starling, Northern snakehead, Brown marmorated stink bug, Feral hogs, Lionfish, Norway rat, Tegu, Asian citrus psyllid, Brown tree snake
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund issued two independent reports that provide the first-ever comparative analysis and evaluation of the effectiveness of Community Development Financial Institutions as compared to mainstream lenders. The findings confirm that CDFIs are resilient and a reliable resource for capital in areas that need it the most. CDFI loan fund lending fills market gaps for key underserved low-income populations; CDFI loan funds deliver between roughly two-thirds to over ninety% of all loan volume to borrowers living in a CDFI Fund-designated Investment Area; From 2005 through 2012, CRA reported lending decreased while CDFI loan fund reported lending more than tripled, and during the recession this activity provided a counter-cyclical boost to the economy; CDFI loan funds provide borrowers that may not qualify for loans from mainstream sources.
A Vermont-based social media platform helps residents communicate with neighbors. Front Porch Forum, a hyper-local social-media platform, is operating in 200 towns in Vermont, about a third of the residents in each of these communities are using the system. The forum serves as a place for people to share information, plan neighborhood gatherings, promote local businesses and connect with their neighbors. In the process, participants feel more connected to each other and their communities, says the project’s founder.
The bill allowing public-private partnerships on such projects as the Brent Spence Bridge passed the Ky. House handily, and without the anti-toll amendment that led to a veto last year
Medicaid Expansion as a Rural Issue, the most recent contribution to our rural health care series of reports, examines the consequences rural states’ decisions on the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid. Medicaid is at the center of the Affordable Care Act’s primary mission to provide near universal health insurance coverage. We found: Rural states were less likely to expand Medicaid. States with the highest percentage of rural and small city population (“rural” states) were less likely to expand Medicaid. We also found that state decisions not to expand Medicaid create a “coverage gap. The consequences of the state decisions not to expand Medicaid create a significant rural health care urgency. Driving people into the “coverage gap” leaves them without health insurance coverage; places increased financial stress on those in the gap and their families; affects the health of those in the gap; stretches the rural health care provider network, possibly to the breaking point, in non-expansion states; and possibly leaves rural communities without critical pieces of their health care foundation.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball announced a proposed $20 million in state funding earmarked to preserve Hudson Valley farms. An additional $14 million from the Environmental Protection Fund will be made available statewide. The money would continuation of the New York Farmland Protection Program, which was launched in 1996, but fell behind following the 2008 financial crisis. It would be reimplemented if approved by both the state Assembly and the state Senate
Daily Freeman News
America Depends on its Rural Communities. Ensuring that rural areas offer the same basic services as other locales enjoy is critical to attracting the next generation of agricultural producers – things like broadband internet and mobile phone service, affordable electricity, and community services like schools and hospitals that depend on a consistent supply of clean water, aren’t amenities, they’re necessities. The utility infrastructure to support these services is more difficult and significantly more expensive to build in rural areas than in urban. For example, running fiber-to-the-home in a city can reach hundreds of families in one large housing complex, while providing the same access in a rural area can require miles of fiber to reach a single home.
Two environmental groups and a resident want to stop the state from allowing logging on state lands that burned in north-central Washington last summer. Conservation Northwest and others say logging about 1,200 acres of forests burned in the massive Carlton Complex Fire would lead to more erosion and mudslides. The Department of Natural Resources auctioned off the timber harvest near Carlton. The agency used the best scientific information available. He says harvesting and planting helps to restore timber stands exposed by the fire. Conservation Northwest’s Dave Werntz says logging would occur near creeks that feed into the Methow River, which provides habitat for endangered fish, and that the plan would slow the recovery of forests. The appeal was filed with the state Pollution Control Hearings Board
The Idaho Department of Lands has put forward a draft plan to protect sage grouse habitat on state endowment land as part an effort to avoid a federal listing of the bird under the Endangered Species Act. The plan aims to protect habitat by creating enforceable stipulations in state leases, permits and easements. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will likely take Idaho’s plan into consideration when the agency makes a decision about listing sage grouse. Idaho’s plan covers an array of activities that occur on state lands. Those include solar, wind and geothermal energy projects as well as oil and gas exploration and development. Mining and grazing are also covered as is the granting of rights of way. Also included are fire prevention and mitigation efforts to minimize loss of sage grouse habitat.
Their project examines aerial baiting, a technique that involves distributing vaccine-filled bait at select points throughout the wilderness so that free-ranging wildlife gain immunity to rabies simply by eating food. Used in the eastern US, this strategy has been successful in reducing the westward expansion of rabies in raccoons-the primary carrier of the disease in North America-but don't do enough to eliminate the disease. Working to overcome this challenge, wildlife ecologists distributed placebo baits identical to those distributed in the aerial baiting program in the Upper Wabash River Basin in north-central Indiana. "We know that wildlife don't utilize the landscape randomly, but they selectively spend a disproportionate amount of their time in habitats containing preferred resources," Beasley said. "So, our interest was in determining whether we could increase the number of raccoons that consume baits by placing a disproportionate number of baits in areas of preferred habitat."
The environmental benefits of restoring and preserving wetlands—including cleaner water, increases in wildlife populations, and carbon sequestration—as well as costs, depend on wetland type, land productivity, and the public's desire for amenities, all of which depend on location. Findings show where wetland conservation funding might be targeted to maximize benefits relative to costs.
The Census Bureau released manufacturing statistics from its 2012 Economic Census at the state looking at the number of manufacturing jobs and companies. Below is the Top Ten list of states 1.California employed 1.2 million at 38,741 companies. The average annual payroll per employee for California manufacturing establishments rose 21.1% 2.Texas - employed 767,024 in 19,782 companies. From 2011-2012 employment was up 2.5%, exports were up 8% 3.Ohio - employed 627,124 at 14,482 companies. Manufacturing employment grew 9.4% 4. Pennsylvania - employed 543,642 at 13,988 companies. 5. Illinois - employed 542,004 at 13,868 companies.
A bill that was opposed by food safety officials has passed the Wyoming Senate. The Food Freedom Act allows Ag producers to sell such unregulated eggs and raw milk locally. Supporters say the Food Freedom Act will help Ag Producers make more money by allowing them to sell products locally..
Wyoming Public Media
A bill that would repeal a ban on raw milk advertising in Oregon did not encounter opposition during a recent legislative hearing.
The federal government banned the sale of raw milk across state lines nearly three decades ago because it poses a threat to public health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association all strongly advise people not to drink it. But individual states still control raw milk sales within their borders. Raw milk has become popular in recent years as part of the local food movement: An estimated 3% of the population drinks at least one glass a week. Many of its fans are fiercely passionate about what they see as its benefits. NASDA's Ehart suggests some states may not be legalizing raw milk sales to condone it. Rather, he says legalization may give public health agencies the power to regulate a market that might otherwise exist underground.
A Missouri state legislator wants to give people the right to sell farm-produced products directly to the consumer without any interference from state or local regulatory agencies. HB 866 is similar to Wyoming “Food Freedom Act.”
Food Safety News
Oregon law – tweaked to aid small farmers and to meet consumer demand – opens the market for small-scale poultry processors.
Small-scale slaughterhouses either operated by or catering to small farmers. Some also find themselves doing the dirty work for urban hipsters who raise backyard flocks. A 2011 change in Oregon law freed poultry processors from state licensing if they handle no more than 1,000 birds per year, raise the birds themselves and process them on site. The legislation changed Oregon law to line up with the federal standard, which says producers are exempt from mandatory USDA inspection and can sell uncooked poultry on the farm and at farmers’ markets if they stay below the 1,000-bird threshhold.
An associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University says ultimately consumers will pay for the changes they're demanding in animal welfare. "What Will Consumers Really Pay for Happier Pigs?" Dr Glynn Tonsor: “We live in an era where it's next to free to ask questions. You can want to know more, put pressure on industry to defend, explain, be more open about the production practices but you don't necessarily have to pay a dollar more for that pork chop that has those different adjustments in production practices so that creates economic challenges for the pork industry. Animal welfare matters but it's much lower on the relative importance scale than things like safety, freshness, taste, nutrition, health and price in particular.
The Pig Site
To date there is no cure. Since the disease is insect vectored, it is almost impossible to control the spread from infected groves. Many groves are just abandoned while some groves burn trees. Others implement an advanced nutrition program applying trace nutrients to the leaves or to the roots, which in some cases has helped infected trees maintain yields. Antibiotics and other known drugs or compounds that are safe for human consumption are also being tested for their ability to suppress the bacteria. A number of promising compounds have been identified and are already approved for use on food crops. They could be tested on actual field trees soon but remain expensive and impractical solutions. Another approach to treatment is through development of new rootstocks. Seventeen rootstocks have been identified by the University of Florida that seem to tolerate the HLB infection well, and these are all being tested throughout the state. The biggest issue is the inability to treat a grove of thousands of trees and do so at a realistic cost. “Transgenic citrus,” trees have a gene added to confer resistance or tolerance to the disease. In fact, there is a gene from spinach that seems to help the tree grow fine with infection. Genetic solutions are all very promising, but there are some big hurdles to overcome in terms of consumer acceptance and massive deregulation. There is a big effort already to question the safety and efficacy of these products even though no fruit have ever been consumed, and they simply contain a gene product that is eaten in any spinach salad.
This review summarizes the influence of dietary lipids from red meat on human health and examines the potential to enhance lipid composition through pasture-feeding. The role of fatty acids in plant and ruminant metabolism is discussed to highlight the complexity of ruminal digestion when trying to enhance fatty acids in meat. Generally, ruminants that consume pasture diets have been shown to produce a more desirable fatty acid composition than those fed grain and offer potential to be further enhanced by using specific plant species. Elevated polyunsaturated fat content in meat, however, tends to increase susceptibility to oxidation, which influences other meat quality characteristics including shelf-life and color. Consideration must be given to environmental influences on plant fatty acid composition to ensure consistent production of meat products with high nutritive value under a range of management practices. This review also explores the potential impact of climate change on plant fatty acid composition, and the potential implications of this for meat quality.
Note that the foregoing discussion has changed the spotlight from the right to know to the “need to know.” Why not ignore the latter and require GMO labeling simply because it appears that many consumers favor the notion? At least two observations are germane at this juncture. First, new label information would inevitably crowd other facts and claims already present, thereby competing for limited consumer attention. Other economic considerations are also in order. Mandatory GMO labeling would be costly to society. Such costs take a number of forms. Food manufacturers, conscious of the stigma of GMO labeling, might reformulate many of their products, substituting GE ingredients with less desirable yet non-GMO alternatives (e.g., palm oil instead of soybean oil). This costly process would be exacerbated if GMO labeling were mandated by some states and not others, requiring the food system to implement identity preservation and segregation activities currently unnecessary. Such costs could add up to nontrivial amounts. A University of California study in 2012 concluded that Proposition 37 could have increased food manufacturing costs by more than $1 billion per year. In 2014, 180 million acres of land were planted to GE varieties in the United States, whereas only 0.25 million acres with GE varieties were planted in the entire EU. Protecting the public from new risks remains a paramount objective of public regulation. This is why new GE varieties undergo extensive review as part of their pre-market authorization, with specific roles for the USDA, EPA, and the FDA. This process is, and arguably must remain, science-based.
What if cauliflower got the same type of marketing firepower as candy bars and potato chips? A campaign plans to put that premise to the test by enlisting celebrities including actress Jessica Alba and NBA star Stephen Curry to shill for fruits and vegetables. The campaign was announced by the Partnership for a Healthier America. A teaser video for the broader campaign posted online features stars with fruits and vegetables set to music, with the words "PREPARE TO BE MARKETED TO" flashing on the screen.
The nation's egg suppliers wished upon a star - and their dream is about to come true. For the first time in more than 50 years, eggs could be sold not under the weight of a cholesterol warning. Demand should rise if the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee sticks to its decision to no longer caution against eating foods that contain cholesterol. This would likely result in new federal dietary guidelines that crack open new sales opportunities for eggs and egg products.
Facts, Figures and the Future
Emulsifiers, which are added to most processed foods to aid texture and extend shelf life, can alter the gut microbiota composition and localization to induce intestinal inflammation that promotes the development of inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic syndrome, new research shows.
Open for Comments
Under the decision, Nebraska will have to pay Kansas $5.5 million for overusing irrigation water in the Republican River basin in 2005 and 2006. Of the $5.5 million, $3.7 million is for damages to Kansas farmers for Nebraska’s overuse of water. Another $1.8 million is for "disgorgement," which special master William Kayatta called "a small portion of the amount by which Nebraska’s gain exceeds Kansas’s loss." Nebraska officials celebrated the fact that the court agreed that the state should get credit for water that seeps from the Platte River basin into the Republican.
The FCC classified Internet providers as public utilities, a landmark vote that officials said will prevent cable and telecommunications companies from controlling what people see on the Web. The move, approved 3 to 2 along party lines, was part of a sweeping set of new “net neutrality” rules aimed at banning providers of high-speed Internet access such from blocking Web sites they don’t like or auctioning off faster traffic speeds to the highest bidders. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler argued that the agency needed to take a dramatic step to preserve a “fast, fair and open Internet.” Broadband Internet providers will now face some of the same heavy regulations that the federal government imposes on telephone companies. Cable and telecommunications companies, quickly condemned the move as an overreach of government intervention into their businesses, and lawsuits are expected to follow.
Updated information on every state. The number of farms in the United States for 201 4 is estimated at 2.08 million, down 18 thousand farms from 2013 . Total land in farms, at 91 3 million acres, decreased 1.03 million acres from 2013. The average farm size for 2014 i s 43 8 acres, up 3 acres from the previous year. Production or commodity price changes in 2013 resulted in the total value for virtually all livestock and livestock products to increase while the value of most crops declined. The value of vegetable, fruit, and tobacco crops increased.
Earlier this month, Utah state Sen. Jim Dabakis put forward a surprising bill that would force the state to act on its attempts at transferring federal public land into the state's control. If passed, Dabakis’ bill would force the state attorney general to make good on the Transfer of Public Lands Act and sue the federal government to move 20 million acres of public land to the state. The land transfer movement, which has existed in Utah since the 1930s, was most recently resurrected in the 2012 Transfer of Public Lands Act. Opponents say the act is legally dubious and would fail in court, if tested.
High Country News
The case for strong government rules to protect an open Internet rests in large part on a perceived market failure — the lack of competition for high-speed Internet service into American homes. The F.C.C.’s approach makes sense, proponents say, because for genuine high-speed Internet service most American households now have only one choice. The new rules will not ensure competition from new entrants, ranging from next-generation wireless technology to ultrahigh-speed networks built by municipalities. Instead, strong regulation is intended to prevent the dominant broadband suppliers from abusing their market power. Technology, of course, can change quickly and unpredictably. So, analysts say, it is impossible to predict what the competitive landscape might look like in several years, or a decade from now. “I think the key is to give people incentives to compete rather than trying to create competition through regulation,” said Mr. Irving, co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance, a nonprofit group whose supporters include telecommunications companies and community organizations. The city-by-city broadband initiatives, analysts say, are encouraging, but it is not clear how far such programs might spread. Local budgets are tight, and the experience so far is mixed.
FDA will hold a “National Kick-Off Meeting on Implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act on April 23-24, 2015, in Washington, D.C. The agency has sent out a save-the-date notice to subscribers to its FSMA webpage, but the notice contains few details. FDA says that meeting specifics, including registration information, will be made available in March via a Federal Register notice and an announcement on FDA’s FSMA webpage.
The Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union reached a tentative agreement Friday night on a new five-year contract covering workers at all 29 West Coast ports
Soring of horses is a terrible practice! Soring is the use of chemicals to cause pain in a horse's feet when they touch the ground, resulting in the horse picking its feet up quickly. Even so, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit on February 19, 2015, in Contender Farms v. USDA, basically "horse whipped" USDA and its lawyers over this issue. The case involved USDA regulations on illegal soring of horses at Tennessee Walking Horse shows. The appellate court not only reversed a district court, but vacated USDA's regulation, which means USDA was 100% wrong on its attempt to regulate the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, and its regulation of horse soring. In 1970, Congress passed the Horse Protection Act. This legislation requested the Secretary of USDA to regulate practices used in training Tennessee Walking Horses. The plaintiffs claimed USDA's regulation violated due process and the separation of powers clause under the U.S. constitution. The court agreed with the plaintiffs.
The debate over whether or not to slaughter horses for human consumption has become a controversial issue in agriculture in the past decade. Horses were slaughtered in the United States until a 2007 appropriations billwithheld the federal funding necessary to inspect horsemeat, creating a de facto U.S. ban on the industry . In 2011, the withholding was left out of the appropriation, causing potential industry entrants to mobilize and seek federal inspection, effectively rekindling debate around the issue. Although funding has been left out of the 2014 bill, the industry is continuing to seek its reestablishment while lawsuits from animal welfare activists attempt to hinder their attempts Renewing horse slaughter in the United States would significantly decrease the number of horses sent to Mexican facilities, giving more horses a better chance at being slaughtered humanely and lowering the overall suffering endured by American slaughter horses. Congress could assess a user fee on animal slaughter to pay for the required meat inspectors, however. A similar pay-for-inspection program was utilized by horse slaughter firms until it was declared unlawful by the U.S. District Court in 2007.
Farm Credit East to Host Webinar on the Food Safety Modernization Act: Where We Stand in 2015 on Monday, March 9, at 11:00 AM on the FSMA’s current status and how it will affect your business. Participation is free.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of up to $8.7 million in funding for bioenergy research and education efforts as well as publishing the final rule for a program that provides incentives for farmers and forest landowners interested in growing and harvesting biomass for renewable energy. Both programs are made available through the 2014 Farm Bill.
No Texan should shy away from a T-bone steak or sweet tea based on a federal department’s suggestions, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is saying in response to a new report on dietary guidelines. Miller said that the recommendations are unfounded. “This report would take meat off the menu, and saying only lean red meat is healthy is inaccurate," said Miller, who has made clear his aversion to federal mandates since taking office last month. .
1. Eliminating red meat The committee has offered contradictory advice when it comes to red meat. First, they have endorsed the Mediterranean-style diet, which includes red meat, but they have also excluded red meat from their considerations of what makes up a healthy dietary pattern. 2. Allowing for more sugar than necessary . The committee must have a sweet tooth because its members have placed a 10% limit on sugar intake -- a shocking recommendation considering the World Health Organization recently passed a 5% cap on sugar intake. 3. Reprimanding Americans for not eating enough fruits and vegetables America is already consuming well over the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. Yet, many still struggle with obesity and health-related issues that go along with being overweight.
That depends on whom you ask these days. There are those critics who are focused on the packaging, signage and other implementation costs that will most certainly reach tens of millions of dollars. Then there are the critics with stakeholders who challenge the medical and nutritional findings and changes. There are also entire industries like eggs and produce that are giddy with joy. During the 45-day public comment period expect to hear the full spectrum. I do recommend that all of us, retailer, brand, food marketer or farmer do read the comments to get a glimpse of what people are really feeling about health and nutrition.
Facts, Figures & The Future
He says that giving more legal rights to those workers is probably bad for his business. He believes that some of these workers are in the Central Valley, working in agriculture, because it's a good place to hide from the authorities. If those workers gain legal status, "that pressure is off. Now they can go to the cities and look for construction jobs, or manufacturing jobs," he says.
Kathleen Merrigan, a former deputy secretary of agriculture, is joining Agree as one of four co-chairs. Merrigan, currently the executive director of sustainability at the George Washington University, will replace Gary Hirshberg, co-founder and chairman of Stonyfield Farm, who is stepping down after four years.
The USDA’s premier annual conference for an economic outlook is a popular item for thousands of commodity traders and farm producers across the country. The big news is in the forecast, The Outlook on U.S. Agriculture. Key points - consider short-run factors, increasing competition for export markets; record crops build carry–over stock levels (bad for price); record meat and dairy production expected in 2015; farm sector financial strength shown in low debt-to-asset ratio; food price inflation to remain low.
The 2015 corn crop is projected at 13.595 billion bushels, down from a record 14.216 billion bushels last year.Farmers are expected to plant 89 million acres (down from 90.6 million) and harvest 81.5 million acres (down from 83.1 million). Cash prices are seen average $3.50 per bushel for the crop year, down from $3.65. The soybean crop will total 3.8 billion bushels, down from 3.969 billion last year, with yields estimated at 46 bushels per acre, down from 47.8 bushels. The average cash price is estimated at $9 per bushel, down from $10.20 in the 2014-15 crop year.
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service will invest an additional $84 million through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program to help disaster recovery efforts through more than 150 projects in 13 states. EWP provides critical resources to local sponsors to help communities eliminate imminent hazards to life and property caused by floods, fires, wind-storms and other natural occurrences. EWP is an emergency recovery program. The funds support a variety of recovery projects, including clearing debris-clogged waterways, stabilizing stream banks, fixing jeopardized water control structures and stabilizing soils after wildfires.
As Congress prepares to reauthorize the Surface Transportation Bill, (also known as the Highway Bill), the Soy Transportation Coalition is urging Congress to include increased truck capacity. A recent study looked at the impact of increasing truck weight limits on federal roads and bridges from the current 80,000 pounds with a five axle configuration to 97,000 pounds with the addition of a sixth axle. “The research shows, if you did that, it would actually have a positive impact on infrastructure wear and tear,” he says. “The additional axle displaces weight so the imprint on the road is less.”
Nearly every state across the country has areas in need of routine veterinary medical and emergency services to prevent and monitor for diseases, protect our food supply, and promote the health and welfare of livestock. Since the VMLRP’s inception in 2010, 286 veterinarians have been selected to practice in 45 states, Puerto Rico and on U.S. federal lands. Had the 39% withholding tax from the program been removed, 100 more veterinarians out of the nearly 860 applicants could have filled more of the vacancies in the designated shortage areas without increasing the program’s annual congressional appropriations.
The White House Rural Council has developed a number of new executive actions to further encourage increased goods and services from rural America including: A series of reverse trade missions and outreach events for rural businesses to meet foreign buyers, partners, and trade experts and facilitate access to additional foreign markets. An effort to double the number of rural businesses attending international trade shows and missions with the help and sponsorship of partners. A new National Rural Export Innovation Team to help more rural businesses access export-related assistance, information and events. A new partnership with community banks to educate local lenders on the needs of rural exporters and the federal export resources available to them and their customers. A new partnership with the United States Postal Service to host “Grow Your Business” Day workshops at 75 U.S. Postal Service locations throughout rural America to provide rural businesses an opportunity to learn about exporting and e-commerce. An effort to develop better financial indexing and metrics for rural infrastructure projects. A new effort to promote an entrepreneurial ecosystem mentorship program for rural communities. Launching an i6 Rural Challenge, which will focus on providing funding to rural communities to build capacity for commercializing technology.
The proposed rule is aimed at improving the submission process for insurance policies to the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. The Federal Crop Insurance Act allows private individuals and groups with crops or livestock to develop insurance products for consideration and approval by the FCIC board of directors. The proposed rule requires the board to first consider underserved and uninsured commodities. The second consideration must be policies for commodities that have inadequate coverage or low levels of participation under existing insurance products. Policies that do not fit into the first two categories may then be considered.
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced the availability of $9 million in funding to assist low-income individuals and communities in developing local and independent food systems. NIFA is funding the grants through the Community Food Projects program. Projects are funded from $10,000 to $400,000 and up to 36 months. All grants require a dollar-for-dollar match in resources.
The House passed legislation directing the EPA to study how to test drinking water for algal toxins. Passed 375-37, the bill would require the EPA to submit a strategy to Congress within 90 days about how it will manage health risks caused by the presence of algae in water systems used by the public.
Release of 2014 county production data allows more precise estimates of 2014 Agricultural Risk coverage - county option (ARC-CO). In this article, maps show expected county payments for corn, soybeans, and wheat. Corn is projected to make payments over $40 per acre in many counties, except for a band of counties from eastern Kansas through southern Indiana. Soybeans are expected to pay in some counties. Wheat will make payments, particularly in Kansas and Oklahoma. These payments are compared to Price Loss Coverage (PLC) payments. In 2014, PLC may make modest per acre payments for corn but will not make payments for soybeans and wheat.
The National Research Council committee for the study, “Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects” will hear about the current state of knowledge on the safety of foods made with genetically engineered ingredients. The meeting will be held on Thursday, March 5.
National Academy of Sciences
There is a marked decline in the availability of British food as farmers convert their land to stay afloat.
A West Australian Senator has introduced a bill to Federal Parliament in an attempt to make it illegal for video footage of animal cruelty to be displayed if it has not already been shown to authorities. The bill was intended to minimise unnecessary delays in reporting malicious cruelty to authorities. If passed, incidents would need to be reported immediately, and any recorded material handed over within five business days. Senator Back said the bill was not designed to censor the media and did not restrict the ability of journalists to protect sources. The second part of the bill seeks to protect those involved in an "animal enterprise", any business or centre which stores animals or animal products. It would also create a new offence of "causing fear of death or serious bodily injury if a person engages in conduct involving threats, vandalism, property damage, criminal trespass, harassment or intimidation to ... persons connected with a lawful animal enterprise".
China’s 2001 accession to the WTO lowered barriers to agricultural imports, and its economic growth has generated new demands for agricultural commodities. An agricultural trading relationship of mutual importance is developing between the US and China. The US accounted for over 24% of the value of China’s agricultural imports during 2012-13, a larger share than any other country. U.S. agricultural sales to China doubled from 2008 to 2012, reaching nearly $26 billion in annual sales. China has overtaken Japan, Mexico, and Canada to become the leading export market for U.S. agricultural products
Energy and Renewables
SB 2013, $1.1 billion package designed to address critical road and infrastructure needs primarily in North Dakota’s Oil Patch but also across the state. It includes $450 million for DOT, $128 million for non oil-producing areas and the rest for cities and counties in oil producing counties.
The Dickinson Press
A Travis County judge has ordered the state’s case against the city’s ban on hydraulic fracturing to move to Denton County. Because the land office sought an injunction — an order that Denton lift the ban if it is found unconstitutional — Texas rules of civil procedure typically require a case be heard where injunctive relief is sought. Denton voters overwhelmingly approved a proposition in November that banned fracking in the city limits.
An effort to provide local natural gas service to un-served and under-served areas of Pennsylvania was overwhelmingly supported by the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. SB 214, sponsored by Senator Yaw and known as the Natural Gas Expansion and Development Initiative, would seek to foster the extension and expansion of natural gas service to residential, commercial and industrial sites. This bill will provide the opportunity for residents to obtain gas service should they choose that source of energy.
After a natural-gas boom in the Powder River Basin here petered out several years ago, few energy companies were interested in the leftover wells pockmarking the prairie. Then Ed Presley came along. The burly, bearded speculator acquired roughly 3,000 idle wells, many for a few dollars. But Mr. Presley’s plan never produced any gas. He says he couldn’t raise enough money for his company, High Plains Gas Inc., to follow through. Last year, Wyoming seized most of his wells to ensure they didn’t pollute groundwater or soil, declaring them abandoned. State officials say the responsible parties never paid enough in regulatory fees to reclaim the wells. Wyoming’s troubles with Mr. Presley’s wells are a cautionary tale for states amid the energy rush. Drilling booms historically leave legions of idle wells that become state or federal wards. Yet agencies in some states, and federal regulators, aren’t adequately equipped to clean up so-called orphaned sites at a time when shale drilling is raising the prospects of still more.
Wall Street Journal
Market projected to drive up prices by 30 cents a gallon in weeks ahead. Iowa’s first gas tax increase in 25 years — 10 cents more per gallon coincides with projections that prices at the pump will “climb aggressively” over the next few weeks.
Mike Plesher is looking to the N.J. Department of Agriculture to help fend off the PennEast pipeline. He owns one of the township's first preserved farms. His 90-acre spread, Chalfont Farm, is on the Rosemont-Ringoes Road. In 1987 he sold its development rights to the state, thereby preserving it as farmland. Plesher points out that the good soil and open space of the preserved farmland are also ideal for burying pipelines. And that puts his land and many other preserved farms right in its latest proposed path. However, he says, deed restrictions on preserved farmland say the property can only be used for agriculture. He's hoping that means the state Department of Agriculture will figuratively join him and other owners of preserved farmland in the trenches. And he's hoping the added clout can prevail against the PennEast Pipeline Co..
An Ohio Supreme Court justice lamented that “the oil and gas industry has gotten its way” in a decision that says local governments can’t regulate drilling. “What the drilling industry has bought and paid for in campaign contributions they shall receive.” The dissenting opinion of Justice William M. O’Neill in a fracking case was not without factual basis: Ohio’s oil-and-gas industry poured about $1.4 million into the campaign coffers of legislators and other state officials in 2013-14 — including about $8,000 for the justice who wrote the pro-industry ruling and $7,200 for another who concern. O’Neill is one of the only public figures on Capitol Square who can criticize the influence of campaign contributions and not come off sounding like a hypocrite. He raised only about $5,000 in his 2012 campaign, all from his own pocket. He did not take a single outside campaign contribution.
Wall Street Journal
More than two dozen property owners who signed oil and gas leases in 2008 have been permitted to re-negotiate certain details of their lease, following a lengthy four-year battle in court.
Farm and Dairy
Willie Soon, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, a prominent academic and climate change denier’s work was funded almost entirely by the energy industry, receiving more than $1.2m from companies, lobby groups and oil billionaires over more than a decade
A report by the American Energy Innovation Council, comprised of six heavy hitters ranging from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt found that federal government investments in energy research, development and demonstration projects have been flat for the past five years. Meanwhile, 10 major countries are investing more in energy R&D, as a percentage of their economies, than the U.S. Chinese investment in new energy technologies is three times that of the U.S. as a share of GDP.
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