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Gulf Coast Oil Spill May Be Largest Since 2010 BP Disaster

Bloomberg | Posted on October 19, 2017 in Energy News

An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last week may be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 blowout at BP Plc’s Macondo well that sank the Deepwater Horizon rig and killed 11 people.  LLOG Exploration Co. reported 7,950 to 9,350 barrels of oil were released Oct. 11 to Oct. 12 from subsea infrastructure about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Venice, Louisiana

FPF Analysis: New USDA Net Farm Income Figures Not Exactly What They Seem

Farm Policy Facts | Posted on October 19, 2017 in Agriculture, Federal News

A new analysis by Farm Policy Facts reveals that the USDA’s projected Net Farm Income (NFI) increase is not exactly what it seems.In fact, according to our analysis, the major takeaway from the report should not be the increase projected for 2017, but the downward adjustment to the 2016 number.The ERS had projected 2016 NFI to be $68.3 billion, but the August 30 update reduced it by 10% to $61.5 billion.

GIPSA, tramps and thieves

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on October 19, 2017 in Federal News

At least it’s one less thing for processors to worry about. Scuttling the proposed GIPSA rules that would have shifted the balance of power between livestock producers and processors simplifies the regulatory landscape a little — a very little, considering issues such as the renegotiation of NAFTA continue to roil the waters.

SARL Members and Alumni News

California becomes 1st state to require pet stores to sell rescue animals

ABC News | Posted on October 19, 2017

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law bill A.B. 485, making it illegal for pet stores to sell dogs, cats, and rabbits from any source other than a shelter or rescue group. The law will go into effect in 2019. Thirty-six cities in California, including Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, already had bans on mass breeding operations.

Drug epidemic drives increase in foster care numbers, West Virginia commissioner says

Charleston Gazette Mail | Posted on October 19, 2017

More and more West Virginia children are being placed in foster care because of drug-related issues, and the state is struggling to retain enough child welfare workers to keep up with demand, the head of the Bureau for Children and Families told lawmakers Tuesday. As of Oct. 1, more than 6,100 West Virginia children are in foster care, acting BCF Commissioner Linda Watts told members of the Joint Committee on Children and Families. Watts said the number of children in foster care has risen even since she last spoke to the committee in August — mainly because of opioids.

Study to explore Illinois' energy future

Dispatch Argus | Posted on October 19, 2017

The Illinois Commerce Commission has launched an 18-month study to explore the use of emerging technologies to improve the state's electric grid. The "NextGrid: Illinois' Utility of the Future" study is the collaborative effort of the ICC, Ameren Illinois, ComEd, and the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Illinois, the Herald-Whig reported.It's a "consumer-focused collaborative study to transform Illinois' energy landscape and economy," said ICC Chairman Brien J. Sheahan.

NH Governor Sununu nominates Jasper for N.H. agriculture commissioner

Concord Monitor | Posted on October 18, 2017

Republican House Speaker Shawn Jasper plans to pursue an open position as Commissioner of Agriculture, he announced Thursday, stunning lawmakers in both parties and setting off a scramble among potential suitors seeking to replace him. The decision came after Gov.

WSDA seeks study on dairy manure use

Capital Press | Posted on October 18, 2017

The Washington State Department of Agriculture proposes to study whether it should extend its oversight of dairies to include how cow manure is used at other farms WSDA monitors how dairies use manure, but the oversight ends when manure goes elsewhere. The department hopes to get a grasp on whether those manure applications threaten groundwater and waterways.

Agriculture News

FPF Analysis: New USDA Net Farm Income Figures Not Exactly What They Seem

Farm Policy Facts | Posted on October 19, 2017

A new analysis by Farm Policy Facts reveals that the USDA’s projected Net Farm Income (NFI) increase is not exactly what it seems.In fact, according to our analysis, the major takeaway from the report should not be the increase projected for 2017, but the downward adjustment to the 2016 number.The ERS had projected 2016 NFI to be $68.3 billion, but the August 30 update reduced it by 10% to $61.5 billion.

Agribusinesses Concerned About Farm Labor Shortage

Aldrich Advisors | Posted on October 19, 2017

In our 2017 Agribusiness Wage + Land Rent Survey, farmers expressed their top concern about the future of their businesses: the uncertainty surrounding their labor supply. This year’s survey data showed that 41% of respondents had 25 or more employees during peak employment, down from 57% in the prior year. Forty-nine percent of respondents employed seasonal workers for 12 or more weeks, down from 52% the prior year. It was a tough year for business and a tough year for finding workers.This trend is nothing new. U.S.

Salvation through Fermentation

Wisconsin Academy | Posted on October 19, 2017

Producing economically viable biofuels from biomass other than corn, however, is more complicated. Many biofuels researchers, including those at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) based at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, are now focused on making biofuels from low-input crops such as switchgrass and poplar.

September Rural Mainstreet Index Reaches 2017 Low: More than Half of Bankers Restructured Farm Loans

Creighton University Economic Outlook | Posted on October 19, 2017

Survey Results at a Glance: The overall index sank to itslowestlevelsinceDecember 2016,and remained below growth neutral. For the 46th straight month, average farmland prices declined across the 10 state region. For the 49th straight month, the agriculture equipment sales index fell below growth neutral. As a result of falling farm income, more than 51 percent of bank CEOs, reported restructuring farm loans, and approximately 18.6 percent indicated increasing collateral requirements. Bank CEOs reported only a 2.1 percent increase in farm loan defaults over the past year

September Rural Mainstreet Index Reaches 2017 Low: More than Half of Bankers Restructured Farm Loans

Creighton University Economic Outlook | Posted on October 19, 2017

Survey Results at a Glance: The overall index sank to itslowestlevelsinceDecember 2016,and remained below growth neutral. For the 46th straight month, average farmland prices declined across the 10 state region. For the 49th straight month, the agriculture equipment sales index fell below growth neutral. As a result of falling farm income, more than 51 percent of bank CEOs, reported restructuring farm loans, and approximately 18.6 percent indicated increasing collateral requirements. Bank CEOs reported only a 2.1 percent increase in farm loan defaults over the past year

Federal News

FPF Analysis: New USDA Net Farm Income Figures Not Exactly What They Seem

Farm Policy Facts | Posted on October 19, 2017

A new analysis by Farm Policy Facts reveals that the USDA’s projected Net Farm Income (NFI) increase is not exactly what it seems.In fact, according to our analysis, the major takeaway from the report should not be the increase projected for 2017, but the downward adjustment to the 2016 number.The ERS had projected 2016 NFI to be $68.3 billion, but the August 30 update reduced it by 10% to $61.5 billion.

GIPSA, tramps and thieves

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on October 19, 2017

At least it’s one less thing for processors to worry about. Scuttling the proposed GIPSA rules that would have shifted the balance of power between livestock producers and processors simplifies the regulatory landscape a little — a very little, considering issues such as the renegotiation of NAFTA continue to roil the waters.

Nafta Talks Left Reeling After Aggressive U.S. Proposals Land

Bloomberg | Posted on October 19, 2017

U.S. negotiators in recent days put forth a string of bold proposals -- on auto rules of origin, a sunset clause, government procurement, and gutting dispute panels seen by the other nations as core to the pact. The moves were long-signaled, as was Canadian and Mexican opposition to them.  The proposals have spurred public warnings from prominent U.S.

EPA, herbicide makers agree to new limits on dicamba use

Des Moines Register | Posted on October 19, 2017

The Trump administration has reached a deal with three major agribusiness companies for new voluntary labeling requirements for a controversial herbicide blamed for damaging crops. The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday its agreement with Monsanto, BASF and DuPont regarding the application of dicamba, which is used to control weeds in fields of genetically modified cotton and soybeans.

USDA plan to axe livestock pricing rule divides meat producers

Reuters | Posted on October 19, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in a filing on Tuesday said it will dismantle Obama-era rules for buying and selling livestock, a move that has divided the U.S. meat industry. While some of the biggest meat companies opposed the rule, smaller producers fought to keep the regulation in place. Some felt intimidated by the larger processors, who control large segments of the country’s meat industry.

Rural News

Dollar General Hits a Gold Mine in Rural America

Bloomberg | Posted on October 19, 2017

In the poorest towns, where even Wal-Mart failed, the little-box player is turning a profit.The Decatur store is one of 1,000 Dollar Generals opening this year as part of the $22 billion chain’s plan to expand rapidly in poor, rural communities where it has come to represent not decline but economic resurgence, or at least survival. The company’s aggressively plain yellow-and-black logo is becoming the small-town corollary to Starbucks Corp.’s two-tailed green mermaid.

Wyoming wild horse roundup continues amid counting dispute

Minneapolis Star Tribune | Posted on October 19, 2017

 A roundup of wild horses continued Monday in the desert of southwestern Wyoming after a judge declined to stop it during a lawsuit over how the animals are counted.As of Sunday, U.S. Bureau of Land Management contract workers had rounded up 1,367 adult horses and 350 foals.The agency could reach its goal of capturing 1,560 adults plus the foals of captured mares this week, bureau spokeswoman Kristen Lenhardt said.The roundup is going on amid a dispute between horse advocates and federal officials over whether the foals should be included in the total count.U.S.

California becomes 1st state to require pet stores to sell rescue animals

ABC News | Posted on October 19, 2017

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law bill A.B. 485, making it illegal for pet stores to sell dogs, cats, and rabbits from any source other than a shelter or rescue group. The law will go into effect in 2019. Thirty-six cities in California, including Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, already had bans on mass breeding operations.

Drug epidemic drives increase in foster care numbers, West Virginia commissioner says

Charleston Gazette Mail | Posted on October 19, 2017

More and more West Virginia children are being placed in foster care because of drug-related issues, and the state is struggling to retain enough child welfare workers to keep up with demand, the head of the Bureau for Children and Families told lawmakers Tuesday. As of Oct. 1, more than 6,100 West Virginia children are in foster care, acting BCF Commissioner Linda Watts told members of the Joint Committee on Children and Families. Watts said the number of children in foster care has risen even since she last spoke to the committee in August — mainly because of opioids.

Farms, vineyards assessing damage from wine country fires

Capital Press | Posted on October 19, 2017

Farms in California’s iconic wine country are either picking up the pieces or counting their blessings as crews gain an upper hand on wildfires that devastated the area.Among those operations is Oak Hill Farm in Glen Ellen, Calif., whose 700 acres of produce and flowers nestled against the western slope of the Mayacamas Mountains sustained damage. Wiig has been trying to get the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department to allow farmer David Cooper and others access to the ranch to water the crops that weren’t burned, he said.

Energy News

Gulf Coast Oil Spill May Be Largest Since 2010 BP Disaster

Bloomberg | Posted on October 19, 2017

An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last week may be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 blowout at BP Plc’s Macondo well that sank the Deepwater Horizon rig and killed 11 people.  LLOG Exploration Co. reported 7,950 to 9,350 barrels of oil were released Oct. 11 to Oct. 12 from subsea infrastructure about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Venice, Louisiana

Salvation through Fermentation

Wisconsin Academy | Posted on October 19, 2017

Producing economically viable biofuels from biomass other than corn, however, is more complicated. Many biofuels researchers, including those at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) based at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, are now focused on making biofuels from low-input crops such as switchgrass and poplar.

Study to explore Illinois' energy future

Dispatch Argus | Posted on October 19, 2017

The Illinois Commerce Commission has launched an 18-month study to explore the use of emerging technologies to improve the state's electric grid. The "NextGrid: Illinois' Utility of the Future" study is the collaborative effort of the ICC, Ameren Illinois, ComEd, and the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Illinois, the Herald-Whig reported.It's a "consumer-focused collaborative study to transform Illinois' energy landscape and economy," said ICC Chairman Brien J. Sheahan.

Wind power to overtake coal power in Texas

Washington Examiner | Posted on October 19, 2017

Wind energy is expected to overtake coal in Texas after Friday's news that two large coal-fired power plants are set to close in the next year. The utility firm Luminant announced that it would close the Sandow Power Plant and the Big Brown Power Plant in early 2018.

Trump orders EPA to back off RFS changes

Bloomberg | Posted on October 19, 2017

President Donald Trump intervened personally with the Environmental Protection Agency amid pressure from Republicans in the politically important state of Iowa who worried the agency was poised to weaken biofuel quotas, three people familiar with the discussions said.

Food News

The future of meat

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on October 19, 2017

Unsurprisingly, the session that left me with the most questions was one titled “The Mystery of Meat,” featuring speakers from Beyond Meat (plant-based burger company), Mosa Meat (cultured meat) and Memphis Meats (cultured meat). The speakers (aided by representatives in the audience from HSUS and The Good Food Institute, which is a spinoff of Mercy for Animals focused on promoting meat alternatives) pushed the term “clean meat” for their products. If you follow my blogs, you know I have a bone to pick with that word choice.

Dairy industry group continues to attack food companies over alleged 'fear-based' labeling

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Posted on October 19, 2017

A dairy industry group with strong ties to Wisconsin has added more examples to its list of what the group says is “fear-based” food labeling.

50,000 line up outside Tropical Park seeking post-hurricane food assistance

Miami Herald | Posted on October 19, 2017

Tens of thousands of wilting South Floridians stood hours in the sweltering, soggy heat Sunday at Tropical Park, waiting to apply for special food stamps available only to victims Hurricane Irma, stunning state officials who were expecting just a fraction of that response. “We’ve been dealing with about 10,000 people a day,” said Ofelia Martinez, the Miami site manager for the state Department of Children and Families (DCF). “But when we opened the doors this morning, the police told us there were already 50,000 people waiting outside.”

Crowdsourcing website identifies foodborne illness outbreak

Food Safety News | Posted on October 19, 2017

For at least the third time this year, the crowd-sourced website iwaspoisoned.com has identified a foodborne illness outbreak, this time among students who ate at a Georgia Tech dining hall. The “North Avenue Dining Hall” at the university in Atlanta started showing up in reports on the foodborne illness website in the past couple of days. When such clusters of reports at one foodservice location pop up, Patrick Quade keeps a close eye on the website he launched in 2009.

This Steak-Sharing Startup Targets Foodies Looking for High-End Beef

Bloomberg | Posted on October 18, 2017

Crowd Cow delivers premium beef from small, independent farms to foodies nationwide. “People are looking for more clarity about what they’re eating,” says co-founder Ethan Lowry. The company sells one cow at a time, offering shares to customers who’ve signed up for email alerts.