The domestic dairy industry in Canada has proved to be a strong economic driver increasing its GDP from C$15.2bn ($11.6bn) in 2009 to C$19.9bn ($15.2bn) in 2015, according to a new report from the Dairy Farmers of Canada titled “Update on the Economic Impacts of the Dairy Industry in 2015.”
Genetic modification will be extended to many more crops. It will be used to enhance the nutritional value of rice—such as with Golden Rice, which is fortified to provide vitamin A—as well as cassava, two major staples. Insect resistance will be conferred on more crops and widened to protect against more pests, reducing food waste and spoilage, especially in the developing world. The strides that GMO crops have already made against drought and heat stress will accelerate. Yields and yield stability will increase for plantation crops like palm, coffee, cocoa and trees for paper.
Carter Chavez saw plenty of online job platforms for produce executives, but little to help harvesters find work. So he started QuickHarvester.com. Chavez, CEO of San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based Quick Harvester Inc., started the company within the past year and the website went live this summer. “I worked for Talley Farms in Arroyo Grande for a while and realized they never had enough labor, like the majority of farms,” he said. “I realized there was no online, easy way for the farmers to connect with the workers.” The project remains in beta, but growers and workers alike use it, he said. Chavez plans to expand the service beyond the Central Coast region, which includes Santa Maria, to other major production areas, starting with Fresno and Oxnard. “We’re still adding features and eliminating bugs,” he said. “We’re looking for feedback, so it’s free to use.” At the website, a grower signs up and posts job descriptions. Workers who’ve signed up are notified — usually in Spanish — by text message or e-mail. If interested, they click. The grower receives their information and calls to schedule an interview.
Drug resistant bacteria is showing its face around the world and causing worry that the golden age of antibiotics is coming to a close. At the University of Melbourne in Australia researchers have been working on something called structurally nanoengineered antimicrobial peptide polymers (SNAPPs), tiny microscopic devices that are able to damage bacterial walls without using any drugs. Shaped like tiny stars, it is their shape that seems to be the mechanism that helps destroy cell walls and let ions move across the membrane without any regulation, eventually leading to cell death. Remarkably, the SNAPPs work equally well on all the Gram-negative bacteria trialed, including ESKAPE and colistin-resistant and MDR (CMDR). The investigators showed that the engineered polymers have low toxicity and that bacteria doesn’t seem to develop a resistance to them.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recently awarded the National Corn Growers Association and its Soil Health Partnership a $1 million Conservation Innovation Grant to help farmers better understand and adopt farming practices that help reduce climate change impacts. As a result, Monsanto announced it also intends to make an additional investment of $1.6 million in this collaborative effort to help provide expertise, tools and needed resources to further develop a system that will help verify and quantify greenhouse gas reductions from carbon smart farming practices.
The upper echelons of America’s modern agricultural prowess are betting that massive mergers will allow it to seize powerful new gene editing technologies to fuel much needed growth. All but one of the “Big Six” seed and agrotechnology companies, including number one ranked Monsanto Co., saw revenue declines in 2015. Farmers are buying less seed and fewer chemicals as U.S. farm income has plummeted 30 percent from a 2013 high. Mounting pest and weed resistance to genetically engineered (GE) seeds has also begun to worry farmers, as crop yields have begun to flatline in the last few years. For the first time since biotech seeds were introduced, in 2015 the area of acreage planted globally declined by 1 percent, according to a nonprofit that tracks the data.
A private member’s bill entitled the “Modernizing Animal Protections Act” will receive second reading on September 28, 2016. While the off-the-hop goals of avoiding shark harvesting in Canadian waters and shutting down puppy mills seem in line with the title, the bill, put forward by Liberal MP for Beaches-East York Nathaniel Erksine-Smith, goes much further than that. Bill C-246 leaves enough to translation that it could, potentially, criminalize not just livestock agriculture, but hunting and fishing as well. Section 182.1 (1) states: Everyone commits an offence who, willfully or recklessly, (b) kills an animal or, being the owner, permits an animal to be killed, brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately. That’s just one area of the bill the Ontario Federation of Agriculture takes issue with. There’s no clarification on what “brutally or viciously” means, and, like similar bills that have gone before this one, animal activists have stated they plan to use the bill in costly court cases to test the legal applications.
The U.S. pork industry wants Congress to fully fund a foot and mouth disease vaccine bank in the next farm bill. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack told the Senate Ag Committee last week it would take more than the $150 million livestock groups want for the bank. National Pork Producers Council President John Weber agrees with that assessment and says while they projected $150 million over five years, the U.S. livestock industry is not prepared for any possible FMD outbreak. He says the two foreign laboratories the U.S. could source vaccine from are getting high demand from other countries. Weber says the vaccine problem is being felt by more than the U.S., and in fact, it’s a North American problem.
David Thomas is looking over his life's work at the Spooner Agricultural Research Station in northern Wisconsin. After 26 years with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the professor of sheep genetics and management is retiring and the research station's dairy sheep program is going along with him. The university's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences decided to end the program after being dealt a nearly $3 million cut as part of reductions in state funding to UW System.The Spooner Ag Station has been home to the only land-grant university in the nation researching dairy sheep. Thomas helped start the dairy sheep program in 1993 when the first European dairy sheep breed was imported to the United States.
Eleven years ago, voters were at the center of a food fight over whether genetically engineered crops should be banned in Sonoma County. Proponents sought to scare voters with claims that GMO foods jeopardized the health of children while opponents argued that, given how the ballot measure, Measure M, was worded, it put children at risk by preventing common vaccinations. As we noted at the time, both arguments pandered more to fears than facts. In the end, voters rejected the measure by some 17,000 votes — 55 percent to 45 percent. But the GMO ban is back, and it is once again on the ballot as Measure M. Adopting such a tactic for marketing purposes would appear to have merit, if not for three fatal flaws. First, there’s no evidence that GMO crops are actually being used in Sonoma County. Second, while a GMO ban may not have much of an impact on current operations, it could tie the hands of local farmers or grape-growers in being able to take advantage of future technologies such as the development of a rootstock that protects vineyards from Pierce’s disease. Finally, a GMO ban simply isn’t supported by the science. Earlier this year, the National Academies of Sciences & Engineering & Medicine released a report that found, based on a two-year study involving 20 experts in academia, there is no evidence of people or animals being harmed by genetically engineered crops.