We’ve been reading up on climate change and how it might affect agriculture and food processing. First, you should be happy to know that Iowa State University and its associated labs have taken the lead in research and reporting. Deserving special note are Drs. Gene Takle, Jerry Hatfield and Rick Cruse, who have contributed substantially to the national discussion; Takle shared in a Nobel Prize for his work on climate modeling. These are top-flight scientists, agronomists and climatologists who have issued sober analysis about climate impacts. We were going to say “potential” impacts.They are not potential. They are here.You recognize it when reading Takle’s summary of the 2014 White House Report on Climate Change and Agriculture, on which we reported at the time. But we missed this important part: Soil is carrying more moisture than before 1980. That is the first impact.The Des Moines lobe region where Storm Lake sits — that great flat expanse that grows the most corn in the world — has witnessed a big increase in drainage capacity over the past 30 years, Takle and Cruse note. They argue that the biggest driver is the more extreme rainfalls we have witnessed in recent years. Cruse documents the more severe rains at his daily erosion website.Farmers and landowners have to get rid of that water immediately because the ground is too expensive and the stakes are too high to leave it wet. Google it and the numbers are all there: Drainage tile pays for itself and then some.There are other factors, but increased rainfall onto the Des Moines lobe’s thick glacial remains is the main contributor to increased, and more efficient, drainage.That more efficient drainage system delivers nitrate to the Raccoon River in increasing amounts. Which caused the Des Moines Water Works to sue Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties. The case was dismissed by a federal judge because the districts only have authority to remove water. Under state law, they must remove water under petition from the landowners of the drainage district.
According to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded study, lack of access to affordable health insurance is one of the most significant concerns facing American farmers, an overlooked risk factor that affects their ability to run a successful enterprise. Three of four farmers and ranchers (73 percent) in the survey said that having affordable health insurance was an important or very important means of reducing their business risk. And just over half (52 percent) are not confident they could pay the costs of a major illness such as a heart attack, cancer or loss of limb without going into debt. Insights from the interviews supported the survey results. "During the course of interviews with farmers, many relayed stories about their family members or neighbors who had lost their farms or dairies due to catastrophic illness or injury when they were uninsured," Knudson said. Two out of three farmers and ranchers (64 percent) reported having a pre-existing health condition. With an average age of 58, farmers and ranchers are also vulnerable to higher insurance premiums due to age-rating bands. And among farmers and ranchers 18 to 64 years old, one out of four (24 percent) purchased a plan in their state's insurance marketplace.
President Donald Trump has nominated Stephen Censky, chief executive officer of the American Soybean Association, to be deputy secretary of Agriculture. The announcement came late Thursday. Censky has been CEO of the soybean association in St. Louis, Mo., since 1996.Ag lobbyists and others had anticipated Censky was a frontrunner for the deputy position, a role that largely oversees the day-to-day operations at USDA, a department with a budget of roughly $155 billion and staff of 97,800 employees. Still, agricultural groups have been calling on the Trump administration to begin announcing more nominees for positions at USDA.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture has recommended a dairy build a berm to keep manure from washing off the farm again. The Washington State Department of Agriculture has ended its investigation into the release of fecal coliform-laced water that flooded a Yakima County community last winter, recommending that a dairy block off a manure compost pile or move it to higher ground.
Urea and other forms of nitrogen fertilizer are hitting the lowest price levels seen in more than a decade. Urea is selling for roughly $170 per short ton along the Gulf of Mexico wholesale market, which is the cheapest it’s been for roughly 15 years, said Glen Buckley, chief economist with the Fertilizer Advisory Service.
Crops and pastures continue to suffer in North Dakota as drought persists. The weekly crop report from the federal Agriculture Department says some farmers have started haying small grains crops that aren’t worth harvesting.Forty percent of North Dakota’s staple spring wheat crop is rated poor or very poor. Many other crops are in the same situation.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is authorizing the use of additional Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands for emergency grazing and haying in and around portions of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota affected by severe drought. USDA is adding the ability for farmers and ranchers in these areas to hay and graze CRP wetland and buffer practices. “We are working to immediately address the dire straits facing drought-stricken farmers and ranchers,” said Perdue. “USDA is fully considering and authorizing any federal programs or related provisions we have available to meet the immediate needs of impacted producers.”For CRP practices previously announced, including those authorized today, Secretary Perdue is allowing this emergency action during and after the primary nesting season, where local drought conditions warrant in parts of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota that have reached D2, or “severe”, drought level or greater according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. This includes counties with any part of their border located within 150 miles of authorized counties within the three states, and may extend into Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wyoming. All emergency grazing must end Sept. 30, 2017 and emergency haying must end Aug. 31, 2017.
“The trend towards Hispanic dairy workers was started in New York in the late 1990s,” said Thomas Maloney, farm management extension specialist in the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. He explained that dairy farms began to grow, but there wasn’t much of a workforce who was willing to do the work. “[American workers] were not that interested and they didn’t stay very long and the workers who were good seemed to be few and far in between, and if you lost one it was hard to get another one,” Maloney said. At this point, most produce farms, as well as vineyards in the area, were employing Hispanic workers, mostly of Mexican descent. Dairy farmers needed a more stable workforce, one that wouldn’t get tired after a few months and that could stand the 24/7 model of a dairy farm, and immigrant workers wanted a non-seasonal, year-round job. Seeing that half of all dairy workers in the U.S. are immigrants, it is safe to say that there are many people in the area who find themselves in a constant fear of deportation and who are both geographically and systematically isolated from the outside world. According to a study done in 2016 by Maloney along with the College of Agriculture and Life science at Cornell, about 70 percent of the farms surveyed in upstate New York had Latino immigrants make up 50 to 100 percent of their workforce. Latinos occupy the grunt work; milking cow and moving rocks to cover the fields, protecting the cows’ food supply. Most Americans on the farms are mechanics, provide veterinary services or are the diary owners themselves. Juan said that he had never seen an American worker endure the harsh hours and conditions of milking cows for more than a month and that there is an apparent divide between the Americans and the Mexicans on the farm. It’s not a trend unique to New York: Nationwide, the U.S. dairy industry has a has a deep dependency on immigrant labor, enough so that 79 percent of the nation’s milk supply is immigrant-produced,according to a study done by the Center for North American Studies at Texas A&M University. As much as we depend on immigrant labor, we also find it indispensable: The same study highlighted that eliminating immigrant labor would reduce the U.S. dairy herd by 2.1 million cows and retail milk prices would increase by an estimated 90.4 percent, reducing US economic output by $32.1 billion and reduce employment by 208,208 jobs.
The American Horse Council Foundation announced July 19 it will be extending the deadline to complete its horse owner and supplier survey to Aug. 18. The results of the survey will be used to update the AHC's National Economic Impact Study. "The survey has been open since the beginning of June, and unfortunately we have only had around 9,000 responses," said AHC president Julie Broadway. "We decided to extend the deadline for respondents to take the survey to ensure that we are getting as many responses as we can—we estimated that the survey link should be reaching approximately 900,000 people, and the 2005 Study had over 18,000 responses itself. The industry has waited a long time for this study to be updated and we want to be sure we are getting the full picture of the impact of the vast equine industry."
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today applauded President Donald J. Trump’s declaration of intent to nominate Ted McKinney for Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs and Dr. Sam Clovis for Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics.