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Agriculture News

Despite tweaks, dairy insurance program not saving Wisconsin farmers

LaCrosse Tribune | Posted on February 20, 2018

Western Wisconsin dairy farmers praised tweaks to a price insurance program Monday but told U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin they face much larger problems, primarily too much milk. Baldwin, D-Wis., met with farmers to talk about legislative tweaks to the program, which was introduced in the 2014 Farm Bill.Known as the Margin Protection Program for Dairy, the MPP allows farmers to purchase insurance that pays out when the cost to produce milk gets too close to their selling price. But farmers complained the formula doesn’t fully account for feed costs, nor does it factor in the cost of transportation and feed supplements.“It’s not a true reflection of costs,” said Tom Jandt, a small dairy farmer from Barre Mills who said he’s yet to receive any benefits from the program. The MPP was a great idea, said Frank Ponterio, a small dairy farmer from Melrose, but lawmakers changed the feed cost calculations and stripped production limits.“There’s no way of stopping all this milk from being produced,” he said.Despite spending about $10,000 a year for coverage in 2015 and 2016, Ken Wunderlin said he received only about $5,000 in payouts from the MPP.


Arkansas judge tosses out Monsanto dicamba suit

Politico | Posted on February 20, 2018

An Arkansas judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by Monsanto seeking to block the state's plan to ban the warm-weather use of the herbicide dicamba. Monsanto and the Arkansas Plant Board have been engaged in a monthslong fight over the use of the herbicide in the state. The plant board — which is made up of farmers, agricultural business representatives, pesticide officials and weed scientists — voted last year to prohibit the use of the herbicide from April 16 through Oct. 31 after widespread complaints from farmers that the herbicide drifted from neighboring fields and damaged their crops.In response, Monsanto not only sued the board, but also sued the board's 13 members individually. Arkansas lawmakers, however, upheld the plant board's decision in January.The Pulaski County Circuit Court judge threw out the case based on an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that makes it difficult to sue state agencies."We are disappointed in the court’s decision to dismiss our legal challenge of the plant board’s restrictions, and we will consider additional legal steps that might be appropriate," Scott Partridge, vice president of global strategy for Monsanto, said in a statement. "We look forward to the day when Arkansas growers can benefit from the latest weed-control technology on the market."

MD:Lawmakers propose study to begin tracking air pollution from Maryland chicken farms

Baltimore Sun | Posted on February 20, 2018

Maryland lawmakers are weighing a study of whether huge chicken farms are polluting the air around them — a new front in an ongoing debate over how the state’s expansive poultry industry affects the environment. The proposal is stirring conflicts pitting economic development against public health, and scientific research versus political activism. The poultry industry dominates state agriculture, and its representatives say farms have had to grow in response to the rising costs of complying with environmental regulation and animal welfare concerns. Modern chicken houses hold thousands of birds to supply poultry giants such as Perdue, Tyson and Mountaire Farms. In recent years the poultry industry has responded with “good neighbor” policies intended to buffer the sights, sounds and smells of modern chicken farming and to prevent water pollution. But critics say that isn’t enough, and are calling for state environmental regulators to more closely monitor what, if any, pollutants livestock farms are blowing into communities’ air — and whether they pose a threat to human health.The proposal in Annapolis would put Maryland ahead of other states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has spent more than a decade considering livestock farms’ emissions without establishing a reliable way to estimate such potential air pollution.

Senators would exempt farms from emergency waste reporting and superfund laws

The Progressive Farmer | Posted on February 15, 2018

A bipartisan coalition of 20 senators on Tuesday introduced a bill that would exempt farmers from reporting requirements for animal waste emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).  The bill was organized by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. In a news release, Fischer noted that in 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a final rule exempting most livestock operations from the laws' reporting requirements, but that last April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled EPA did not have the authority to create this exemption for agriculture.

Basics of Texas Water Law

Texas A&M | Posted on February 13, 2018

Water law is one of the most contentious and frequent legal issues Texas landowners face. As the adage goes, “Whiskey is for drinkin’ and water is for fightin’.” Texas property owners need to understand the basics of Texas water law as well as their rights and legal limitations related to the use of water on their property. Texas water law divides water into two broad categories: groundwater and surface water. Different legal frameworks and regulatory structures apply to each category, making Texas water law more complex than other states that follow a single legal approach for all waters.

Iowa farmer sentenced to prison for bank, bankruptcy fraud

Des Moines Register | Posted on February 13, 2018

A Lake City farmer has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for committing fraud to get bank loans, crop insurance proceeds and ease a bankruptcy burden. Federal prosecutors say 36-year-old Clint Devries was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty in September to two counts of making false statements and one count of bankruptcy fraud.Prosecutors say he lied from 2013 through 2015 to a bank about the amount of crops he had in storage and other things to obtain farm operating loans. He later defaulted on more than $400,000 in loans from the bank. Officials say he also lied to the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation to fraudulently obtain crop insurance proceeds, and that in 2015, he lied to a bankruptcy trustee about sales of his crops.

New techniques can boost yields, improve animal welfare. But are you ready?

AgWeek | Posted on February 13, 2018

The process of producing better food, protecting the environment and improving animal health is advancing at a seemingly breakneck pace.These advancements are driven in part by new scientific discoveries, genetic research, data science, enhanced computational power and the availability of new systems for precision breeding like CRISPR—an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. With the new techniques, they are "doing the same things that breeders have always done, but very precisely," she said.The outcomes possible with different types of gene editing today might have seemed impossible just a few decades ago. And now, these new opportunities have strong implications for both producers of crops and livestock, as well as consumers.

The beef industry has fired its first shot in the fight against cell-cultured meat

Quartz | Posted on February 13, 2018

A major sector of the American meat industry is finally taking aim at cell-cultured meat, sparking what promises to be a spirited debate over the future of high-tech meat and how people will buy it. The US Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) has filed a 15-page petition(pdf) with the US Department of Agriculture, asking it to differentiate conventional meat from the cell cultured—known in the industry as “clean meat”—by creating a formal definition.

Health Insurance and National Farm Policy

Choices magazine | Posted on February 13, 2018

In the midst of national healthcare debates, there has been little discussion of how health, healthcare costs and access, and health insurance fit into national agriculture policy efforts to build a more vibrant and resilient farm economy. Yet Inwood (2015) found that 65% of commercial farmers identified the cost of health insurance as the most serious threat to their farm, more significant than the cost of land, inputs, market conditions, or development pressure. In order to grow the next generation of farmers and increase rural prosperity, there is a need to understand how healthcare costs, access, and insurance affect both agriculture and rural development.About one out of five farmers (19%) of farmers shared that marketplace health insurance options available after 2010 allowed them to sign up for health insurance for the first time. For example, a ranch family with five children explained how ACA health insurance legislation changed their access to healthcare. Their three oldest children had never gone to the doctor because they had no health insurance. After the ACA implementation, the two younger children had preventative well-child visits and the family had access to a wider range of health services.

Investigation into Davie Dairy animal rights video finds no crimes

Okeechobee News | Posted on February 13, 2018

The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office announced last week that after carefully reviewing the raw video footage taken by an animal rights group, detectives found no crimes at Davie Dairy in Okeechobee. No arrest warrants will be issued in connection with the case. The Animal Recovery Mission, based in Miami, sent undercover investigators into Okeechobee in August and September 2017. The ARM agents posed as dairy workers.Some video from Davie Dairy was posted online on Dec. 20. All of the video taken by ARM agents was turned over to the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office for investigation.