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Agriculture News

Public thinks Des Moines Water Works was right to sue counties

The Storm Lake Times | Posted on April 19, 2017

The public would appear to have made up its mind about the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties over nitrate pollution of the Raccoon River. The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll reported Sunday that 60% of those surveyed believe the water works was right to sue drainage districts in the three counties for discharging polluted water into the river. Urban residents, small towners and even rural dwellers all show majority support for the water works position. This after a barrage of advertising in the Des Moines TV market sponsored by Farm Bureau, and a host of radio ads aiming to fire up rural residents against encroaching government. Anyone can see how filthy Storm Lake is, how the Des Moines River near Humboldt is a mud flow, how shallow lakes in Northwest Iowa have eroded into duck marshes. Anyone with eyes and a nose knows in his gut that Iowa has the dirtiest surface water in America. It is choking the waterworks and the Gulf of Mexico. It is causing oxygen deprivation in Northwest Iowa glacial lakes. It has caused us to spend millions upon millions trying to clean up Storm Lake, the victim of more than a century of explosive soil erosion. Everyone knows it’s not the city sewer plant causing the problem. And most of us recognize that this is not just nature at work busily releasing nitrates into the water. Ninety-two percent of surface water pollution comes from row crop production — an incontroverted fact from the court case. What’s more, the public probably suspects that it should not cost billions of dollars to fix the problem. It doesn’t. The solution demands that we quit farming into the ditch and over the fenceline. If we left 10% of Iowa’s marginal land fallow the nitrate problem would disappear. Iowa State University research proves it.

As hog feedlots grow, neighbors ask: What about our rights?

Minneapolis Star Tribune | Posted on April 17, 2017

A bitter three-year legal battle between a Todd County hog farm and neighbors forced out of their homes by foul smells has become a flash point in the larger fight over Minnesota’s expanding pork business and the power of rural residents to protect their tranquil way of life. The struggle has spilled over into the state Legislature, where pork producers are trying to limit so-called nuisance suits brought by feedlot neighbors.Together they illustrate how dramatically rural life in Minnesota has changed as farms grow bigger and more mechanized. Opponents to the proposed law point out that such lawsuits are exceedingly rare in Minnesota — there have been only a handful in the past 15 years — and say banning them would deprive rural residents of one of their last remaining protections against large livestock operations. Moreover, they say, it’s an attack on a centuries-old property right that protects citizens’ ability to use and enjoy their homes, one that could quickly extend to conflicts beyond feedlots.   Leaders in the Minnesota pork industry say it’s not the neighbors they fear as much as the attorney who represents them: Charlie Speer, a Missouri-based lawyer, who has built a career on winning tens of millions of dollars for clients in similar lawsuits across the country. And by his side is an attorney for the Humane Society of the United States, which has been involved in similar lawsuits across the country.In short, said FitzSimmons, the future of Minnesota’s hog industry could hinge on the Gourley brothers’ case. “That’s what’s changed — the players,” he said. “This is an attack on animal agriculture. You can’t stand down.”

Change to Idaho’s field burning program heads to EPA for approval

Capital Press | Posted on April 17, 2017

A proposed change to Idaho’s field burning program has been approved by state regulators and lawmakers and will now go to the Environmental Protection Agency for a final OK.  The change, which is meant to avoid a major reduction in allowable burn days for farmers, is opposed by some environmental and public health groups but supported by farm organizations.Farmers testified in favor of a bill that makes the amendment during Idaho’s recent legislative session and lawmakers supported it by a combined vote of 91-12.Sen. Mark Harris, a Republican rancher from Soda Springs, said he didn’t believe opponents’ claims that the change would endanger public health. He said it would actually increase the number of allowable burn days, which would spread field burning over a longer period and thus help protect public health.“I think it will be beneficial to everybody who burns crop residue across the state,” Harris said. “It gives growers more days to burn their crop residue and it gives (the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality) more days to manage their program.”Idaho farmers burn about 40,000 to 50,000 acres a year.DEQ can approve a burn request only if ozone and small particulate matter (PM 2.5) levels aren’t expected to exceed 75 percent of the national standard for those air pollutants.But the federal standard for ozone was tightened in October 2015, which will reduce the number of allowable burn days in Idaho by 33-50 percent, according to DEQ estimates.To avoid that, DEQ has proposed loosening Idaho’s ozone threshold to 90 percent of the federal standard. Environmental and public health advocate groups wanted to tighten the state’s PM 2.5 threshold to offset the loosening of the ozone standard.

Bird flu redirects trade flow of U.S. chicken, eggs, grains

Reuters | Posted on April 14, 2017

Global outbreaks of bird flu in poultry have altered the flow of U.S. chicken meat, eggs and grain around the world, adding to challenges faced by domestic exporters and giving a leg up to Brazil, which has so far escaped the disease. Different strains of avian flu have been detected across Asia, Europe, Africa and in the United States in recent months, leading to the culling of millions of birds and a flurry of import restrictions on eggs and chicken meat.U.S. grain traders such as Bunge Ltd and Cargill Inc have lost business because poultry deaths have reduced feed demand. Some domestic poultry producers, though, have managed to boost sales by taking advantage of trading bans that hurt rivals.Sanderson Farms Inc, the third-largest U.S. poultry producer, said it sold more chicken to Iraq when Baghdad backed away from Europe's poultry due to bird flu

Convoys and social media come to rescue after wildfires

Daily Yonder | Posted on April 13, 2017

Add instant communications to generosity and hard work, and what do you get? America's farmers and ranchers respond to the wildfire devastation in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado. While the national media response was quiet, local press and farmers' social media took the story and ran. Simultaneously, farmers in other parts of the country started organizing relief efforts. With little national notice, farmers around the country have been sending thousands of truckloads of hay and supplies to burned-out ranchers. Social media has been the key to this volunteer effort of relief. Reports of the wildfires flew through Facebook pages, shared nationally among those in more rural and farm-oriented communities. Through friends of friends of friends, informal information networks spread some of grief at the loss of young ranchers who died trying to save their livestock. Social media also raised the visibility of local press that turned out to cover the fires’ impact in their communities and states.

Appeals court blocks Wisconsin mega-farm

Wisconsin Rapids Tribune | Posted on April 13, 2017

An appeals court has blocked key parts of a proposed large-scale dairy farm that has been the subject of controversy for years in central Wisconsin. The owners of the proposed farm, known as Golden Sands, do not have the right to use more than 6,000 acres of land for agriculture and manure spreading, according to the Wisconsin District IV Court of Appeals in a ruling issued Thursday morning.The ruling overturns an earlier ruling in Wood County Circuit Court that stated the Wysocki Family of Companies' application for dairy buildings on 100 acres of Saratoga land allowed it to use additional land associated with the proposed dairy for agricultural purposes.The appellate judges who issued the ruling found that Golden Sands "fails to support" its claim to have a right to use the land as planned.Under the new ruling, the company will have the right to proceed with construction on 10 buildings for the cows, feed and other dairy operations, said Paul Kent, town of Saratoga attorney. . The court decision blocks Wysocki from planting crops or spreading manure on the land. The potential impact on water from manure spreading from approximately 4,000 cows and watering more than 6,000 acres of crops is the town's primary concern.

Washington dairy sued over Clean Water Act

Yakima Herald | Posted on April 13, 2017

A Lower Valley dairy is being sued over claims that it has violated the federal Clean Water Act for years, including contributing to the impact of a manure-related flood in the Outlook area earlier this year.The lawsuit against Snipes Mountain Dairy was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Yakima.The plaintiffs are Community Association for Restoration of the Environment, commonly known as CARE, and Friends of Toppenish Creek. Both nonprofits have been active critics of dairy practices in the Lower Valley. Charlie Tebbutt, a Eugene, Ore., lawyer who represents CARE, said the Outlook flood was only a small part of the overall lawsuit.Plaintiffs’ lawyers had been working on the case well before that.“That’s just one more problem that the facility has had over the years,” Tebbutt said. “This has been a recurring problem for many, many years, even over a decade or more.”The lawsuit claims that Snipes Mountain has polluted surface water and groundwater by discharging manure and other pollutants. The manure from the dairy cows is spread on farm fields.The dairy is classified as a concentrated animal feeding operation.Under that permit, it is prohibited from polluting groundwater, according to the lawsuit.

Big Worries In Vermont’s Dairy Industry

WBUR | Posted on April 13, 2017

Fears on the farm. How President Trump’s immigration crackdown could impact Vermont’s dairy industry. Vermont is probably not a state you’d think of in the conversation about immigration and border security. But the state’s multi-billion dollar dairy industry relies on undocumented agriculture workers to milk and more. President Trump’s executive orders and tough talk have undocumented workers scared. And farmers don’t know what they’ll do without a reliable workforce. This hour On Point, Vermont, agriculture, and immigration.

The questions no one is asking about raising food animals without antibiotics

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on April 13, 2017

Recently, I spent a morning with a country veterinarian. As he checked cattle for their health certificates, we talked about antibiotic use in cattle, sheep, pigs, turkeys and chickens. He’s observed a deeply concerning trend; many sick animals are not being treated with antibiotics because ranchers and farmers are required to keep their animals ABF (antibiotic free) for their large, socially driven corporate customers. When animals get sick, and many do, just like many kids get sick, they need antibiotics to get better. Most parents would never withhold antibiotics if their child had an infection that a medicine would help cure. That would be cruelly neglectful. Most in ag production would also gladly pay for the antimicrobials to help their animals heal from an infection. But over the last few years we’ve seen social paranoia needlessly demonize the right judicious use of antibiotics. Chick-fil-a declared they’ll end antibiotic use in their chickens by 2019. Last week, KFC announced that by the end of 2018 all their chicken will be raised without antibiotics “important to human medicine.” Chipotle, Panera Bread, and Subway have also received wide social media praise for going antibiotic free. Is this a scientifically justifiable reaction?

Trouble on the farm

Minneapolis Federal Reserve | Posted on April 13, 2017

District crop and livestock producers are struggling to cope with a sharp drop in commodity prices. For agricultural producers across the Ninth District, this has been the winter of their discontent. After reaping handsome profits earlier in the decade, producers are reeling from lower crop and livestock prices, the result of several years of high commodity production worldwide and a strong U.S. dollar that has limited farm exports.Many producers in the district are operating at a loss because revenues are not covering their costs. “I’m not sure I want to call it depression, but we’re getting into probably what is the third year of a downswing, and certainly there’s concern and anxiety,” said Keith Olander, dean of agricultural studies at Central Lakes College, a community and technical college in north-central Minnesota.