When the worst of Irma's fury had passed, Gene McAvoy hit the road to inspect citrus groves and vegetable fields. McAvoy is a specialist on vegetable farming at the University of Florida's extension office in the town of LaBelle, in the middle of one of the country's biggest concentrations of vegetable and citrus farms. It took a direct hit from the storm. "The eyewall came right over our main production area," McAvoy says.The groves of orange and grapefruit were approaching harvest. But after Irma blew through, it left "50 or 60 percent of the fruit lying in water [or] on the ground," says McAvoy. Many trees were standing in water, a mortal danger if their roots stay submerged for longer than three or four days.About a quarter of the country's sugar production comes from fields of sugar cane near Lake Okeechobee, east of LaBelle. Harvest season for the sugar cane crop is only a few weeks away, but Irma knocked much of the cane down, making it more difficult to harvest. "We won't know the exact extent of the loss until it's harvested," McAvoy says.
Cargill Inc., one of the world’s biggest agricultural companies, is tapping big data to help U.S. farmers make their cows more comfortable -- and more productive. The 152-year-old Minneapolis-based company said that it plans to offer its Dairy Enteligen application in the U.S. in the next several months after introducing it in Italy and Spain. The platform lets consultants and farmers analyze reams of information, from cows’ living conditions to diet and milk productivity on smart tablets and computers. Cargill is part of the growing wave of companies looking to tap into the proliferation of data that’s sweeping across industries, from automotive to telecommunications and agriculture. Deere & Co., the world’s biggest producer of farm equipment, said that it closed on its $305 million acquisition of Blue River Technology Inc., a Silicon Valley-based company that specializes in smart machines. In its annual report last month, Cargill said it aspires to “change the game” within its industry with digitalization and analytics.
Out on the Columbia Basin, a system of worm feces, wood chips and river rocks could spell a new solution to the vexing issue of nitrate pollution and greenhouse gases.To deal with nitrate-laden wastewater generated by some 7,000 milk cows, the Royal Dairy in Royal City - about 25 miles northwest of Othello - commissioned a Chile-based company to build what is the largest treatment facility of its kind in the world. Whether the system can be, or should be, widely adopted by dairies remains to be seen. But in Yakima County, where dairy cows outnumber people, and in other places with mega-size dairies, the technology is being watched carefully.Austin Allred, who along with his father, Jerry, and brothers, Derek and Tyson, own and operate the Royal Dairy, was looking for a more environmentally sustainable way to dispose of the more than 1 million gallons of wastewater the dairy generates weekly. That’s when they heard about a system being used in Hilmar, Calif., that reportedly reduced gas emissions by 90 percent.Working with BioFiltro, a wastewater filtration company based in Chile, Allred initially ran a small, two-year pilot project. Results were so promising he moved ahead this summer with a full-scale system, costing him in the ballpark of something less than $2 million; he refused to reveal an exact figure.“I liked the simplicity of it,” he said. “I understand pipes and pumps, and this system made way more sense to me than other systems that use reverse osmosis or ultrafiltration and things like that.”The system is divided into three large boxes, each with a dense layer of soil permeated with worms — an average of 1,000 worms per cubic foot. Underneath is a layer of wood shavings, and at the bottom is a layer of river cobble.Worm feces, when mixed with other microbes, including bacteria, creates a sticky “biofilm” that clings to the wood chips and rocks. Nitrates and other contaminants stick to the biofilm as water percolates through the system, leaving them to be consumed by worms and microorganisms.After 4 hours, the now-cleaner water drips into drainage basins under the beds before being used for irrigation. The system, which encompasses 81,000 square fee
At $1.2248 per pound, protein fell to the lowest levels, as calculated by the Federal Milk Marketing Order system, since December 2000. Milkfat is back, however. That is welcomed news to struggling dairy farmers.At $2.9456 per pound, butter is now driving milk checks. With the August 2 federal order announcement, milkfat prices came close to previous highs posted in November 2015 ($3.1830 per pound) and September 2014 ($3.2467 per pound). A more in-depth review of butterfat prices also can be found at Understanding Dairy Markets.
On a block in San Francisco’s SoMa district, near LinkedIn’s headquarters and dozens of startups, a 180-year-old company best-known for making tractors has a gleaming new Silicon Valley office. But inside, instead of building the latest app, John Deere is focused on how to use artificial intelligence to make farming equipment that can meet modern sustainability and food production challenges.John Deere Labs, which opened its doors in the spring, made its first major deal on September 6. The company spent $305 million to acquire Blue River Technology, a startup with computer vision and machine learning technology that can identify weeds–making it possible to spray herbicides only where they’re needed. The technology reduces chemical use by about 95%, while also improving yield.
New Hampshire Department of Agriculture Commissioner Lorraine Merrill of Stratham has announced her retirement from the post. “It has been a real privilege to serve the people of New Hampshire as commissioner of Agriculture,” Merrill said. “These 10 years have brought challenges, but also opportunities, and renewed awareness of the importance of local farms and foods for our communities and our state. I will especially miss the dedicated, hard-working team of professionals I have had the honor of serving with at the Department of Agriculture.”
Building on a controversial USDA reorganization rolled out in May, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced further steps to realign “a number of offices within the U.S. Department of Agriculture in order to improve customer service and maximize efficiency.”Among several steps, the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) will be merged into the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Currently, both GIPSA and AMS carry out grading activities and work to ensure fair trade practices, the USDA said. Grain inspection activities will become a separate area within AMS; the Packers and Stockyards Program will be merged into a new structure that is part of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. The National Grain and Feed Association, along with the North American Export Grain Association, applauded moving the grain inspection service into AMS. “We strongly support this much-needed realignment … which we believe will help the agency better fulfill its statutory obligation to provide reliable, accurate, timely, impartial, and cost-effective services,” said NGFA President Randy Gordon and NAEGA President and CEO Gary Martin. To comment on the proposed reorganization review the guidelines for public comments at the federal register, comments are due October 7.
Whether they’re part of the mainstream media’s 24-hour news cycle or not, disasters are hitting multiple parts of the United States right now. States in the Pacific Northwest are fighting scores of wildfires, while Hurricane Irma’s rise through Florida has drawn most of the attention over the weekend. And though Harvey itself may no longer be an acute threat to Texans, there’s is plenty of relief that needs to be done there. We’ve brought together many of the major ways you can help our brothers and sisters in agriculture in these devastated regions. If there are others that you know of, we invite you to include them in the comments to help raise awareness for any organization or fund that’s hoping to help people, as well as reaching all of those in need of help.If you are considering donating to a group you haven’t heard of before or to a fund that isn’t administered by a reliable source, please check out the list of legitimate charities on Charity Navigator or GuideStar to make sure that you’re not getting scammed.
Call it Tinder for grazing. A new online tool helps cattle producers seeking feed for their livestock hook up with crop farmers who have fields of crop residue to offer. Created by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Extension, the Crop Residue Exchange is designed to assist both crop and livestock producers with crop residue needs.The service works like this: Farmers set up a log-in account and list cropland available for grazing by entering basic information about the type of residue, fencing situation, water availability and dates available as well as contact information. Those with land to graze can even draw out the plot of land using an interactive map. Livestock producers then log into the tool and can search the database for cropland available for grazing with an established radius of a given location.
Wayne Pacelle, the author of those few, strange words, does not officiate over a pitbull-fighting ring or binge-watch cartoons of Jerry torturing Tom. Pacelle delivers the keynote at the annual conference of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) later this week in Indianapolis. “We invited Wayne because AZA’s reputation and the reputation of our 230 members is dependent upon the public confidence that they provide exceptional care to the animals in aquariums and zoos,” Dan Ashe, president and chief executive officer of the AZA, tells Breitbart News. “Animal welfare and care is a foundational issue. We believe it’s important that they hear from the leading voices in the animal-welfare community.”