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Agriculture News

Legal Issues Surrounding Prescribed Burning

Texas Agriculture | Posted on May 24, 2017

Prescribed burning (also called controlled burning) is a popular grassland management tool across the country. These burns, when conducted carefully, can serve to maintain and restore native grasslands, control weeds, improve forage quality and even prevent wildfires. When not conducted in a careful manner, however, disaster can strike, and damages can be severe and far-reaching.An important consideration for landowners considering the use of prescribed burning is their potential liability if the burn causes injury or property damage and to comply with any requirements included in prescribed burning statutes in their state.The legal approach to liability for prescribed burning varies by state. There are essentially three approaches: strict liability, ordinary negligence and gross negligence. This approach is the most concerning for the landowner conducting a burn. Under a strict liability approach, a burner is held liable for any injury or damage caused by an escaped fire, period.This standard does not take into account the reasonableness of the burner’s actions or any precautions taken to avoid injury. The mere fact that injury or damage is caused by a burn is sufficient for liability to attach.


As Syngenta deal closes, ChemChina and Sinochem press $120 billion deal

Reuters | Posted on May 24, 2017

Chinese state-owned Sinochem and ChemChina are in merger talks to create the world's biggest industrial chemicals firm, to be headed by Sinochem chief Ning Gaoning, four people with knowledge of the negotiations said. A deal could be announced by the end of the year, the people said, potentially just months after ChemChina completes its own $43 billion purchase of Switzerland's Syngenta (SYNN.S), China's biggest overseas deal to date.A consolidation of Sinochem and ChemChina would be worth around $120 billion, one of the people said, topping companies like industrial chemicals giant BASF.Talks to create a Chinese chemicals powerhouse were first reported last year, but were dismissed by both companies as rumor. Combining Sinochem and an enlarged ChemChina would put the group among the world leaders across the competitive chemicals, fertilizer and oil industries - a giant overseas and a major challenger domestically to Sinopec (0386.HK) and PetroChina (0857.HK).Sinochem is larger than ChemChina, but needs a long-term partner to expand globally market from its roots as an oil and chemical trader.Sinochem's growth in its energy business has stagnated, with more competition at home in trading from companies including Unipec and Chinaoil, while its overseas oil and gas assets have struggled amid prolonged weaker oil prices.


Canada not at fault for what ails US milk market

Oberver Today | Posted on May 24, 2017

In recent weeks, on the U.S. side of the border with Canada, much noise has been made about a festering dispute with our Canadian neighbors over ultra-filtered milk in U.S.-Canadian dairy trade. Ultra-filtered milk is condensed skim milk; a high protein, fat adjusted, reduced cost ingredient, used to fortify cheese and yogurt products. It did not exist at the time the North American Free Trade Agreement, (NAFTA) was signed. Ultra-filtered milk is an American contrivance deliberately designed to make a “trade loophole” to facilitate an end-run around Canadian negotiated NAFTA import tariff restrictions. An ever increasing amount of Canadian milk was being displaced in Canadian cheese and yogurt processing plants. From 2011 to 2016, U.S. exports of ultra-filtered milk to Canada increased from $33 million, (US) to $98 million; a threefold increase. As matters were progressing, either Canada could rollover and watch its dairy farms be forced out of existence or they could stand-up to what was seen as a gross injustice and protect a vital national interest. In 2016 the Canadian farmers devised a solution: changing their pricing structure to allow Canadian produced ultra-filtered milk and other milk protein products to be sold at world market price to Canadian dairy processors. The Canadian government did not impose any tariff restriction on U.S. sourced ultra-filtered milk, as has been erroneously claimed in some U.S. media reports; it merely allowed Canadian milk protein products to compete with U.S. products, head to head, on a level playing field. Once again, Canadians were buying Canadian.Canada’s contention that U.S. over-production of milk is the real cause of U.S. dairy farmers’ difficulties has a solid basis in fact. For the last three spring seasons vast amounts of U.S. milk have had to be dumped because milk supplies out stripped U.S. processing capacity. More than 400 tractor trailer loads of milk per month were dumped on several occasions in Federal Milk Marketing Order No. 1 alone.


Walmart intends to push sustainability goals to the farm levels

Walmart | Posted on May 23, 2017

Agricultural practices have economic and environmental impacts for farmers, ranchers and buyers of their products. The adoption of best-in-class agricultural practices, including precision agriculture and feed optimization, can help reduce farmer input costs, improve water quality and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. With almost 92 million cattle, 71 million swine and millions of acres of farmland in the U.S. alone, there is an important opportunity to scale solutions in agriculture.By pursuing best practices in areas such as manure management, enteric emissions and feed inputs in animal agriculture, we estimate there is a potential to reduce 300 million metric tons (MMT) of GHG emissions by 2030; while at the same time reducing waste and improving yield. In addition, we believe that through supporting fertilizer optimization and sharing best management practices with farmers in our agriculture supply chain, we estimate that there is a potential to reduce 25 MMT of GHG emissions by 2025.We are working with many of our suppliers to support efforts to optimize fertilizer use on a targeted 76 million acres of land by 2025. In addition, we are working with stakeholders across the beef, dairy, pork and poultry industries to adopt best practices that reduce enteric and manure emissions, optimize feed production and improve soil health. We hope you will join us in committing to reduce GHG emissions from agriculture. Your company should set a goal to reduce emissions at the farm level.


US officials note surprise record in New Zealand milk production

Forex Live | Posted on May 23, 2017

he USDA said it believes that New Zealand milk output will rise to a surprise record.  No impact from the headlines on the kiwi, at least not yet.


New York farmers close to dumping milk over Canadian trade dispute

Politifact | Posted on May 23, 2017

Rep. Chris Collins says a trade dispute with the Canada has forced New York state farmers to dump their milk "into ditches" because they can no longer sell it across the border. "They’ve now taken something they call ultra-filtered milk. They effectively with a pricing move, our dairy farmers are no longer able to get that product into Canada," Collins said in an interview with Bloomberg. "They are now dumping milk into the ditches. The travesty there is beyond belief to see tankers of milk being dumped because there’s no market to sell them in."The dispute began last year when the Canadian dairy industry created a new pricing class for ultra-filtered milk, a protein-heavy version of the milk you buy at the supermarket. It’s typically used to produce yogurt and certain cheeses.The new pricing class lowered the price of ultra-filtered milk from Canadian dairy producers, making it cheaper for companies in Canada to buy the product domestically instead of importing it from New York state. The new pricing class took effect at the beginning of April. But is Collins right that the dispute has forced farmers to dump milk into ditches?A spokesman for Collins’ office could not point to any farms that have dumped milk because of the trade dispute, but did say the congressman was talking about farmers in New York state.


Can Delaware’s poultry industry get along?

Delaware Business Times | Posted on May 23, 2017

Jesse Vanderwende has worked as a contract grower for the last 11 years. His farm in Bridgeville raises hundreds of thousands of chickens from hatchlings to full-grown birds every year. Perdue Farms provides the feed and expertise, and then processes and ships the finished product to supermarkets across the country. “If I have a question or a problem, they help you work through it,” Vanderwende said. “I never get the feeling that I’m out there fighting for myself.”Not all growers would agree. In recent years, stories about farmers struggling within the contract system have sparked a national debate. Advocacy groups have rallied for more protections for farmers, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has stepped in with new regulations designed to overhaul how growers and processors do business. Late-night host John Oliver even did a segment on the industry in 2015 that has since become a viral hit and a touchstone for activists.“I really didn’t know that feeling was out there,” said Vanderwende, who’s also the president of the Sussex County branch of the Delaware Farm Bureau, a trade group for farmers. “The way this industry is, financially, the processors are necessary for the farmers, and the farmers are necessary for the processors.”In addition to providing feed and guidance, companies like Perdue determine payment based on how many pounds of chicken are produced for the least amount of money. It’s an intentionally competitive system designed to increase efficiency — but some feel it puts too much pressure on the growers.“Based on the folks that I’ve talked to, the sentiment of frustration is there,” said Sally Lee, program director at Rural Advancement Foundation International. She added that it can be difficult to find farmers who will speak out against the contract system, as many fear reprisal from their business partners. Her contacts in Delaware, for example, wouldn’t speak on or off the record to a reporter.Along with the state’s biggest processors, such as Perdue, Mountaire and Allen Harim, a network of independent growers, breeders, suppliers, and shipping companies generate $4.6 billion in economic impact for the state, according to the National Chicken Council and the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.


How Animal Rights Activists And Environmentalists Became Unlikely Adversaries

Fivethirtyeight | Posted on May 23, 2017

The Humane Society and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families seem like two groups that could, conceivably, coexist in adjoining booths at your local Earth Day festival. But these organizations have instead ended up on opposite sides in a debate over how the Environmental Protection Agency should go about regulating thousands of potentially harmful chemicals that Americans come into contact with every day. This disagreement between the people who would like to help you adopt a puppy and the people who would like to help you avoid hormone-altering deodorant — and conversely, a spot of agreement between the Humane Society and trade associations for the petrochemical industry — goes beyond the details of a specific EPA proposal. Instead, experts say, it reflects a long-standing (and maybe impossible-to-solve) difference of opinion about risk, data collection and the role that animal sacrifice plays in keeping humans safe.From early 20th century factory workers poisoned by radioactive paint to growing concerns that flame-retardant chemicals used on sofas and pillows could be linked to birth defects and cancer, the history of American industry is rife with cases of workers and consumers learning that a product they thought was safe actually wasn’t. In some instances, the effects of a toxic exposure play out in quick and obvious ways — those factory workers who painted watch dials with glow-in-the-dark paint made from radium began to sicken and die in gruesome ways after just a couple of years on the job. But some health impacts — an increase in lifetime risk of cancer, say — are harder to spot. And the links between those effects and exposure to a specific amount of a specific chemical are harder to prove.That difficulty is compounded by the fact that, much of the time, we don’t even know what chemicals we’re being exposed to, at what amount, or what risks those chemicals are associated with. The EPA has had the authority to regulate the chemicals used in household products since 1976, but it had no control over chemicals that were already being manufactured and sold before that year: a collection that includes 62,000 substances. Moreover, the EPA isn’t even always aware of what all’s in the stuff you buy. The trade publication Chemical and Engineering News recently wrote about a study in which EPA researchers ground up 100 consumer products, including cereal and baby toys, and found 3,800 chemicals — only 200 of which were chemicals the EPA had expected to turn up.


NC lawsuit shows hog waste contaminates nearby homes

Daily Yonder | Posted on May 22, 2017

Hog feces particles are likely getting inside North Carolina homes that are close to a large hog operation, a university study shows. The report, presented as evidence in a federal lawsuit, may contradict claims that hog operations don't transmit pathogens to nearby properties. The bacteria, called pig2bac, are a marker for pig feces, which contains hundreds of other pathogens many of which can make people sick.The evidence was filed in federal court last Friday and comes as state Republicans are pushing forward a bill to shield large-scale farms from many of the legal claims that seek to recover damages from lost property value, health effects and overall suffering from living near hog farm pollution and smells. The evidence was from a study by Shane Rogers, a professor and researcher at Clarkston University in New York, who tested the air and land and exterior walls of 17 homes near a Smithfield Foods hog confinement operation. The testing was done was done in 2016.


Most California farm-water suppliers are breaking this law. Why doesn’t the state act?

The Sacramento Bee | Posted on May 22, 2017

During California’s epic five-year drought, most of the state’s irrigation districts didn’t comply with a 2007 law that requires them to account for how much water they’re delivering directly to farmers, a Bee investigation has found. State regulators are largely powerless to stop them, but they don’t seem too bothered by it. They say they’d rather switch to a different form of reporting.Farm-advocacy groups say irrigation districts have been bombarded with a confusing slew of state and federal laws and regulations that often have overlapping reporting requirements, so it’s no wonder their compliance rates are low.“I’m not surprised there’s confusion in this among districts on what their requirements are because it’s been a moving target going back to ’07,” said Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition. “There have been so many changes and so many things being asked of them.”A decade ago, California lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 1404 with the goal of keeping better track of farm-water use in a state where some 80 percent of the water used by people goes to agriculture. The law called for collecting “farm-gate” data to allow the state to monitor surface water delivered to farmers’ irrigation ditches. The idea was the reports could help regulators and the public better understand how much water is being used and where it’s going.


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