Protestors spurred on by the environmental group Deep Green Resistance gathered at dusk in front of the Alfred A. Arraj Courthouse in downtown Denver Friday. High above their heads, the words "Colorado River Rights of Nature" loomed, lit by a spotlight projector placed outside the protester circle.The activists had come in support of a first-of-its-kind lawsuit in the U.S., the Colorado River Ecosystem v. the State of Colorado, which seeks to grant direct rights to nature in the United States. If successful, the case would allow anyone to file a lawsuit on behalf of the Colorado River ecosystem, including all the river's tributaries.And even as the protestors gathered on Friday, the attorney general's office filed a second motion with the federal court to dismiss the lawsuit. A Dec. 1 deadline to do so had been set by the court in response to an amended complaint filed by the plaintiffs on Nov. 6.
Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, and Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell participated in the grand opening of the first Head Start center in Philadelphia to use agriculture and environmental lessons for teaching science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts to young children. The School District of Philadelphia welcomed Wolf Administration officials, local leaders and families to celebrate the opening of the Agricultural and Environmental Learning Center with Outdoor Engagement Learning Gardens. The Pratt Head Start Center facility, which serves 150 pre-school children, will become a model for the district’s other 100 Head Start facilities.
A federal court has sided with a group of New Mexico ranchers in a case involving a dispute over stock watering rights in the Lincoln National Forest.The US Forest Service (USFS) manages federally owned land within the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico. As part of that management, since 1910, the USFS has issued grazing permits to ranchers to graze cattle on the federally owned forest land. Each year the USFS determines the number of cattle that may be grazed on various portions of the forest, including the Sacramento Allotment.In 1983, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed designating the Sacramento Mountains Thistle as a threatened species pursuant to the Endangered Species Act. A year later, the USFWS determined that “limiting or excluding livestock and humans from the critical habitat areas would help the Sacramento Mountains Thistle to recover.” Thus, the USFS planned to construct fences around 29 water bodies that had been designated as critical habitats for the Thistle.
But this fall, bakers faced a crisis getting the right kind of bread to delis and sandwich shops locally and across the United States.Gonnella Baking Co - which supplies the buns to Major League Baseball’s Wrigley Field - faced an unusual problem in October when flour from this year’s U.S. wheat harvest arrived at their factories containing low levels of protein.That meant bakers couldn’t produce bread with the airy texture customers demand, setting off two weeks of tinkering with temperatures and the mixing process, and the eventual purchase of gluten as an additive. By the time the alchemy was done, Gonnella had thrown away more than $20,000 worth of substandard bread and buns, said president Ron Lucchesi.“That really was a headache,” Lucchesi said.The problem spans the $23 billion U.S. bread market and highlights a paradox in the global wheat trade. Despite a worldwide grains glut, high-protein hard wheat is scarce after two years of poor U.S. harvests. The shortage hurts bakers and millers who prize high-protein wheat, along with the farmers who grow it.Two years of heavy spring rains in Kansas, the largest producer of hard winter wheat, have sapped the protein levels of a crop that thrives in arid conditions.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is nearing the end of an eradication program targeting feral hogs that have been rooting up New Mexico and other parts of the country. The program is set to end in September 2018 and more funding will be needed to continue fighting the pests, USDA District Supervisor for Wildlife Services Brian Archuleta said.
USDA Racks Up Cost Savings by Dialing Back Indemnity Potential for Prevented Planting Claims. Farmers in Northern Plains states and parts of the Corn Belt will lose the prospect of larger potential payouts under prevented planting claims following a crop-insurance change announced earlier this week by USDA's Risk Management Agency.For years, the Obama administration repeatedly sought a $1.4-billion cost savings over 10 years by asking Congress to reform prevented planting coverage by eliminating the option of buying 10% higher coverage for prevented planting. Without calling on Congress, the Trump administration made multiple changes to prevented planting insurance this week in line with spending cuts proposed in the Obama era.On Monday, in a memo sent out to insurers and USDA Risk Management Agency field offices, USDA eliminated the Prevented Planting +10 Percent Option for the 2018 crop year and future crop years. USDA kept the 5% option for farmers, though analysis shows very few farmers have taken the 5% option. The 10% option paid out more than $4 billion in indemnities from 1994-2013.
U.S. agricultural cooperatives are building new soybean crushing plants at the fastest rate in two decades as farmers in the world’s top producer prepare to sow another record area with soy.U.S. processors are expected to open plants with capacity to process at least 120 million bushels of soybeans in 2019, up around 5 percent from existing capacity of an estimated 1.9 billion bushels.
While Florida oranges have long occupied iconic status in American life, if Congress does not act promptly, Florida’s agricultural industry, including its treasured citrus growers and the communities that depend on it, could mark the end of Florida orange production and the state’s vital agricultural sector. Hurricane Irma caused enormous damage to Florida’s citrus growers. Of the $2.5 billion in damages inflicted by Hurricane Irma on Florida’s agricultural industry, Florida’s orange crop suffered the most — at $760 million, according to Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Compounding the struggles of Florida’s citrus growers, the storm struck just a few weeks before harvest, wiping out the crop in hardest hit areas. Irma’s impact not only decimated more than half of this year’s orange crop, it also affects future harvests. The latest crop of oranges from Florida’s growers was the lowest in 75 years.It will take years for Florida agriculture and citrus growers to recover from Hurricane Irma’s catastrophic impact.
In order to move this needle, Pingree in May introduced the Organic Agriculture Research Act of 2017 (H.R. 2436), which proposes more than doubling the program’s funding to $50 million per year through 2023, with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. Support for the legislation has been picking up steam, with more than 50 new co-sponsors (47 Democrats, 4 Republicans) signing on between September and November 2017. Organizations like the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), and Beyond Pesticides are all lobbying for its passage, and Rodale Institute’s Organic Farmers’ Association included it in the group’s first round of policy positions.But at a time when the administration is largely focused on cuts to agricultural funding, will lawmakers be able to gain enough support to get the increased funding into the 2018 Farm Bill?At this stage in the process, the legislation has strong bipartisan support and Tencer says she’s “cautiously optimistic.” Although it’s not clear where the money will come from, Gandhi says, since the overall tenor of conversations is on paring down costs, “in the big scheme of things, this ask is not that drastic. Its impact on the people who apply for these grants, however, is huge.”
Better make that back to the court we go—and this time with a bigger posse: Last week, 12 states banded together to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block the “egg sales law,” alleging that it cost consumers upwards of $350 million in higher egg prices and is unconstitutional because it violates the interstate commerce clause—meaning that it’s preempted by federal law.This suit cites a study from a University of Missouri economist, which, the L.A. Times reported in a December 4 article, had found that “the national price of a dozen eggs has increased between 1.8% and 5.1% since January 2015 because of the California cage requirements.”Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (who is seeking the Republican nomination in Missouri’s 2018 senate election), called the regulations discriminatory against farmers, announcing in a December 4 press release that they are “a clear attempt by big-government proponents to impose job-killing regulations on Missouri.”In addition to Missouri—which was part of the 2014 complaint—Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin have joined the challenge.