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Agriculture News

Activists say: Broiler houses would threaten endangered species | Posted on August 8, 2016

Activist groups in Arkansas have filed a notice of intent to sue three federal agencies, claiming they failed to identify the impact of a proposed poultry operation on seven animal and plant species. The Arkansas Rights Koalition and the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Farm Service Agency and the Small Business Administration over the environmental impact on endangered or threatened mussels, bats and plants, the article said.  The activists are taking aim at six new broiler chicken houses planned near Evening Shade, Ark., in the northern part of the state that are among hundreds of such operations being developed

Idaho organic dairies growing rapidly

Capital Press | Posted on August 8, 2016

Ben Pulsipher was managing a 2,000-cow conventional dairy in Raft River when he decided it was time to start his own operation.  With conventional dairies struggling to cope with low milk prices, Pulsipher reasoned the organic price premium would make it economical for him to start with a small herd and gradually grow.  A few months since entering the organic industry, Pulsipher said his contract still justifies the extra hassle, but he’s begun to worry too many other Idaho producers have reached the same conclusion and may be gradually flooding the niche market.  He and his partner, Evan Israelson, sell milk to Sorrento Lactalis in Nampa for organic string cheese production, operating as Anhder Organic Family Dairy, LLC. They bought their dairy, which switched to organic production under the previous owner last November, in May and milk 200 cows.

Wisconsin scales back manure rules after industry complaints

Capital Press | Posted on August 8, 2016

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has scaled back proposed rules regulating factory farms’ manure spreading amid complaints from the dairy industry.  The DNR last month completed scope statements to update manure spreading regulations for factory farms statewide, the Wisconsin State Journal reported Monday. Scope statements are broad summaries of agency proposals for regulations. Under a 2011 state law, the governor must sign off on the scope statements before the agency can start drawing up the rules.  The manure scope statements were designed to update spreading rules in light of widespread drinking water contamination in Kewaunee County, research on the hazards of airborne manure spraying and complying with other related state and federal regulations. The plans laid out reasons for changing standards on factory farm manure spreading.  They called for defining sensitive areas where shallow soil and porous bedrock leave groundwater especially vulnerable to manure contamination and setting up extra precautions for such areas. Public notification would have been required when manure-spreading plans significantly change.

Industrial Hemp: PA Governor Approves Growth and Cultivatio

Penn State Law | Posted on August 8, 2016

On July 20, 2016, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed Act 92 which permits the growth and cultivation of industrial hemp for research purposes in Pennsylvania. Under Act 92, either the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture or an institution of higher education is permitted "to conduct pilot programs to research and study the growth, cultivation and marketing of industrial hemp products in the state." Sites which are selected "to grow hemp must be certified and registered with the department and authorized to oversee and enforce all regulations pertaining to the program." According to Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture, Pennsylvania "lost a promising and lucrative market for the last half-century, as a result of guilty association with marijuana." The Secretary stated that "[t]here are all sorts of products that use hemp today – it's estimated to be a nearly $600 million industry in the U.S. – but those dollars are going to growers in other countries rather than our producers." According to the Secretary, the department will form a public/private member industrial hemp research advisory committee which will advise the department in the development of policies and procedures regarding the implementation of the pilot programs. The department estimates that "[f]ull implementation could take up to a year."

Pennsylvania Agriculture Affected by Changes to State Tax Code

Penn State Law | Posted on August 8, 2016

On July 13, 2016, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed into law Act 84 which amends the Pennsylvania Tax Reform Code of 1971 and includes three changes relevant to agriculture. First, Act 84 amends the inheritance tax exemption available to family farms engaged in the business of agriculture. Previously, if certain conditions were met, Pennsylvania exempted from state inheritance tax the "transfer of real estate devoted to the business of agriculture between members of the same family" (emphasis added). Significantly, on November 20, 2014, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue issued an information notice stating that the department interpreted the language of the agricultural inheritance tax exemption to "apply specifically to transfers between individuals" and that the exemption did "not extend to real estate held in business entities." Under Act 84, providing certain conditions are met, Pennsylvania now exempts from state inheritance tax the "transfer of real estate devoted to the business of agriculture to or for the benefit of members of the same family" (emphasis added). Second, Act 84 provides that the sale and transfer of agricultural conservation easements are now exempt from Pennsylvania realty transfer taxes. Third, Act 84 provides that timbering operations (defined as primarily engaging in the business of harvesting trees) are now exempt from paying sales and use taxes on property and services purchased and used directly for timbering operations.

Wisconsin DNR reviews farm regulations

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Posted on August 8, 2016

The Department of Natural Resources took the first steps in a state rule-making process aimed at safeguarding manure-spreading practices in areas prone to water contamination.  But environmental groups pushed for a faster response by the agency and complained the measure was weakened from an initial draft under pressure from farm groups. DNR officials initially took a stronger measure to Gov. Scott Walker for approval. But after objections by farm groups, the agency re-worked the regulations and removed some specific requirements for the state’s largest farms.

U.S. Protein Producers Seeing Record Growth in Demand, But Prices Predicted to Fall, Rabobank Says

Washington Report | Posted on August 8, 2016

U.S. protein producers are currently seeing record growth in demand; however, prices over the next couple years are predicted to fall. These findings are part of “Chickens, Cows, and Pigs… Oh My!  Implications of Record U.S. Protein Expansion,” a new report from the Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory group, that explores the impact of growth on the future of the market.  Production of protein in the United States is projected to grow at a rate of 2.5-percent annually. However, after a 5-percent jump in consumption within the domestic market, there are still many questions about demand at home.   “While we don’t foresee margins falling to the lows of 2008 and 2009 as prices decline through 2018, any producer considering a possible sale or divestiture should move quickly, as the outlook for margins and valuation multiples is notes moving in their favor,” Will Sawyer, the report author and Rabobank’s senior analyst said.

British farmers prepare for end to direct subsidies after Brexit

Financial Times | Posted on August 8, 2016

The future of farming after Britian leaves the EU is likely to see an end to direct subsidies to farmers, many of whom are calling instead for measures to support a profitable market. Farmers receive 2.1 Bn pounds in direct subsidies and 600 M pounds in rural development payments through the Eu's Common Agricultural Policy. 

Opinion: The Freedom of Not Having to Farm

El Paso Herald Post | Posted on August 5, 2016

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently said: “Every one of us that’s not a farmer is not a farmer because we have farmers.”  That’s a lot of “farmer” in one sentence. And the powerful statement makes sense.  There aren’t many farmers among us. Less than two percent, as a matter of fact. Even more telling, 85 percent of what’s grown in our country is produced by less than one-tenth of one percent of our population.  Vilsack is right. We delegate the responsibility of feeding our families to a small percentage of this country. It’s an incredible freedom that we often take for granted.  Something’s happening, though, in this current age of mistrust.  Some folks are a little unsure about the actual practices of farming. That’s because we’re two, three and sometimes four generations removed from the farm or ranch. And getting further away every day. But they still trust the farmer. Surveys continue to point to that fact. The efficiencies of U.S. agriculture have given us a luxury. We don’t have to grow our own food. Someone else can. And does so safely. That’s a freedom we

Antibiotic Resistance: A Human Health Perspective

Animal Agriculture | Posted on August 5, 2016

The last century saw history’s most dramatic improvements in medical care and health, fueled to a great degree by the development and widespread use of antibiotics. However, in the conflict between bacterial evolution and human ingenuity, many reports suggest that in this century, the bacteria seem to have gained the advantage. Maintaining our dominance over bacterial infections will require more than just the application of scientific advances in fields like microbiology, bacterial and human genomics, biochemistry and information technology. We will need the broadest societal engagement and an acceptance of the need both to rethink how antibiotics are used and to create effective global partnerships since drug-resistant bacteria have no respect for national boundaries. No simple or magical solutions exist, and the necessary changes in beliefs, attitudes and practices can only be achieved with sustained effort and open, transparent communication.