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Agriculture News

The Canadian Dairy Dispute

Farm Credit East | Posted on June 15, 2017

Canada has been extremely protective of its dairy farmers for a long time. Governed by a supply management quota system, Canadian dairy producers have had higher and more stable milk prices than U.S. producers. Canada has about 11,700 dairy farms, and just under 960,000 cows.¹ Compare that to the U.S., which has about 64,000 dairy farms and 9.3 million cows. The Canadian government put a supply management system in place in the early 1970s in an effort to reduce production surpluses. A farm’s quota can be adjusted up or down on an as-required basis by the government, according to consumer demand. This system limits farm expansion and the limited supply affects consumers directly. Canadian consumers pay the equivalent of about $6.73 (USD) for a gallon of conventional whole milk, compared to about $3.20 in the U.S. Canada’s milk pricing formula and the subsequent loss of export markets has attracted national attention in the U.S., with federal and state lawmakers urging the Administration to find a way to get Canada to roll back its pricing scheme. Nonetheless, this will be a difficult fight for American trade negotiators. The U.S. still enjoys a substantial dairy products trade surplus with Canada, and there is no punitive tariff, per se, to fight against. Instead, Canada has manipulated the situation to position its domestic suppliers to undercut U.S. imports. For its part, Canada has argued this is strictly a domestic policy issue, and that it is not responsible for the oversupply situation in the United States.Meanwhile, U.S. dairy producers and cooperatives have been scrambling to come up with new markets for not only displaced exports, but production levels that continue to increase. While trade is absolutely critical to American agriculture, this situation is emblematic of the frustration that U.S. companies sometimes face – markets are developed by innovative businesses and then undercut by protective actions.

Millions of pounds of apparently fake ‘organic’ grains convince the food industry there may be a problem

The Washington Post | Posted on June 15, 2017

The organic industry is creating an anti-fraud task force in the wake of a Washington Post report that millions of pounds of “USDA Organic” soybeans and corn imported through Turkey appear to have been fraudulent. Organized by the Organic Trade Association, the task force would develop methods for companies to ensure that imports of organic products are actually organic.“There is a strong desire on the part of industry to stop the incidence of fraud in organic,” said Laura Batcha, director of the association. “The consumer expects that organic products are verified back to the farm. The industry takes that contract with the consumer very seriously.” Last month, The Post reported that three enormous shipments of “organic” corn and soybeans - large enough to constitute a meaningful proportion of the U.S. supply of those commodities - had reached the U.S. Documents and interviews indicated that the shipments were not really organic - in fact, some had been treated with pesticides en route to the U.S. All three shipments hailed from Turkey, one of the largest exporters of organic products to the United States, according to Foreign Agricultural Service statistics. With the "USDA Organic" designation, the value of the shipments rose by millions of dollars.The report confirmed the suspicions of many U.S. farmers, who have seen prices by as much as a third as the volume of imports of organic corn and soybeans have climbed rapidly in recent years.After the story appeared, one of the nation’s largest organic inspection agencies, CCOF, issued a notice to its clients indicating that it “lacks confidence in the organic status of foreign grain. ” The agency instituted rules requiring that organic grain shipments be traceable back to growers.

Heritage Foundation’s Farm Policy Proposal Would ‘Devastate’ U.S. Farmers & Prove ‘Ineffective’ in Advancing Free Trade in Agriculture

Farm Policy Facts | Posted on June 15, 2017

The new report entitled, “The Heritage Foundation’s Farm Policy Proposals: Harmful to U.S. Farmers and Ranchers and Ineffective in Advancing Free Trade,” addresses what the author believes are fundamental flaws in Heritage’s “blueprint” for agricultural policy, which calls for unilaterally eliminating U.S. farm policy.  John Gilliland, an international trade consultant at Akin Gump Straus Hauer & Feld LLP and author of the study, explains how that would not only hurt America’s farmers and ranchers, but would also be an “ineffective tool in securing global free trade in agriculture.”The Heritage Foundation argues that eliminating farm policy would give the U.S. “moral authority to demand more of its trading partners,” but Gilliland suggests this would only weaken U.S. negotiating power to reverse rising foreign protectionist behavior. He writes:“Trade negotiations proceed in a uniquely transactional environment. Member countries give defensive concessions in order to secure offensive gains. To succeed in this environment, the United States needs bargaining power – tangible, offensive leverage that will convince other countries to come to the table.”Gilliland cites cotton as an example. He notes that while the United States has significantly reduced its support for American cotton growers in the farm bill, China ramped up “massive subsidization and stock-building programs” that created a glut in the global market, depressing cotton prices “to the detriment of farmers in the United States, Africa, and elsewhere.”Gilliland believes this experience is instructive for U.S. policymakers as he writes:“[A]ny ‘moral’ high ground U.S. farmers gained from the repeal of their farm support had virtually no impact on China’s willingness to devote billions of dollars in new subsidies for its own cotton industry.”In the face of this lopsided global playing field, Gilliland observes:“Eliminating the farm safety net and already low U.S. agriculture tariffs would further expose U.S. farmers to the manifold distortions of dozens of foreign governments… The U.S. farm economy is strong, innovative, and competitive. But it is not invulnerable against foreign treasuries and high market access barriers.”

New Uses for Field Corn as Feedstock for Making Sustainable Chemicals

National Corn Growers Association | Posted on June 15, 2017

Field corn production makes incredible contributions to human nutrition as a primary source of feed for cattle, hogs and poultry; to cleaner air and reduced greenhouse gases as the source of ethanol fuel; and to the economy. The Consider Corn Challenge invites innovators, entrepreneurs, scientists and academics to redefine the role of corn and explore the broad horizon of opportunity for corn as a feedstock for making sustainable chemicals.Today’s sustainably produced, consistent supply of renewable corn makes it an optimal resource to drive research and accelerate society’s shift to a thriving bio-based community.NineSigma, on behalf of The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), invites proposals for new uses of field corn as a feedstock for producing sustainable chemicals which have market demand.This challenge is about finding new uses for field corn, the type of corn grown to feed animals and create a variety of products. 

USDA Posts Final Requirements for Exporting US Beef to China

DTN | Posted on June 15, 2017

U.S. beef shipping to China will have to come from cattle that are under 30 months of age, are born in the U.S., Canada or Mexico, and are traceable back to a U.S. farm with a unique identifier. Those were some of the main ground rules laid out Monday as the U.S. Department of Agriculture spelled out the specific requirements China expects for reopening its beef market to the U.S. for the first time since 2003. The release of the technical requirements marks some of the final steps for U.S. packers to send beef to China.According to the North American Meat Institute, beef products processed after May 24 can be exported to China once a packing plant is approved by USDA as eligible to ship to China.

Court Rules Chimpanzees Are Not Persons

JD Journal | Posted on June 15, 2017

An appeals court ruled that chimps are not legal persons but are they missing something? The New York State Appeals Court rejected an appeal by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) seeking rights for a pair of chimpanzees. The group is not going to let this setback stop them for finding a way to give highly intelligent animals legal rights. The captive chimpanzees in question – Tommy and Kiko – will remain in their cages for now until the NhRP can find a way to help them. The New York appeals court unanimously found that the chimps are not persons so they do not deserve the same protections afforded to humans. The NhRP lawyers were fighting to have the chimps released and placed in a sanctuary. Tommy is held at a trailer dealership in a warehouse in Gloversville, NY while Kiko get a storefront cage in Niagara Falls, NY.Efforts have been underway for a number of years to achieve legal personhood for a select group of nonhuman animals like apes, dolphins, whales, and elephants. The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Techologies (IEET) has established a Rights of Nonhuman Persons Program and there is a world conference focused entirely on the subject.

Retailers may struggle to fulfill cage-free egg vows

Watt Ag Net | Posted on June 15, 2017

Foodservice businesses may have an easier time living up to their promises to source only cage-free eggs than retailers, Cal-Maine Foods CEO Dolph Baker said.Baker pointed out that for now, there is currently an oversupply of cage-free eggs. He said that following the avian influenza outbreak of 2015, many of the egg producers that did not have flocks affected by avian influenza and did not have restocking expenses, “plowed a lot of money back into the market, particularly the cage-free market, so currently it is overproduced today.The difference in retail prices of cage-free eggs and the less expensive eggs produced with the use of cages has been noticed by consumers, and reports have indicated that many shoppers are not willing to pay extra for cage-free eggs.

Many people think a cage-free life is better for hens. It’s not that simple.

The Washington Post | Posted on June 15, 2017

Indiana egg farmer John Brunnquell’s 1.3 million hens don’t live in cages. They also get to go outside, making his company, Egg Innovations, the nation’s largest free-range operation in the industry. It wasn’t always so. Brunnquell, 54, grew up on a traditional chicken farm, and he says he “could argue all the benefits of cages.” That changed in the early 1990s, when his first glimpse of a cage-free barn convinced him that the freer system was better for the birds. He spent the next decade overhauling his own.Along the way, he admits, things weren’t always better for his flocks. He had to figure out how to prevent a barn full of newly mobile chickens from pecking, or cannibalizing, each other. He went through seven perching designs to find one that kept the birds from crowding on the floor. He also needed to find ways to lower the rate of a very common injury to laying hens: damage to the keel bone, an extension of the sternum.It was a steep learning curve on a pretty small scale. And it has made Brunnquell worry about the large-scale change now facing the U.S. egg industry, which is racing to meet the demand of hundreds of companies that have pledged to switch to cage-free eggs by 2025. Egg producers and researchers caution that the switch is not as simple as just opening those cage doors — and that mobility brings with it a new set of concerns for chickens’ welfare that most farmers have never confronted. A major 2015 study of three different hen-housing systems found that mortality was highest among birds in cage-free aviaries and that they also had more keel bone problems.

How Does The Richest Nation Solve A Milk Shortage? By Airlifting 4,000 Cows

NPR | Posted on June 14, 2017

How do you start a dairy industry overnight in a wealthy desert nation with its transport links closed? You buy 4,000 cows from Australia and the U.S. and put them on airplanes. That is what Qatari businessman Moutaz Al Khayyat told Bloomberg he is doing. The airlift will require as many as 60 flights on Qatar Airways, but Al Khayyat said, "This is the time to work for Qatar."Last week, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates all cut ties to Qatar. While it's very wealthy because of its oil and gas reserves, Qatar imports 80 percent of its food from bigger neighbors, like the UAE and Saudi Arabia.Or rather, it did until last week. Qatar is a peninsula in the Persian Gulf, and it shares its only land border with Saudi Arabia — a border that is now closed.The news sent people rushing to grocery stores, with reports of long lines and empty shelves.After they land, the cows will make a home in the Wisconsin of Qatar "on a site covering the equivalent of almost 70 soccer fields, (where) new grey sheds line two strips of verdant grass in the desert with a road running through the middle up to a small mosque," according to Bloomberg.Al Khayyat, chairman of a company called Power International Holding, told Bloomberg that he had already been planning on importing the cows by boat. But when Qatar was cut off by Saudi Arabia and four other countries, he picked up the pace. He expects milk production to begin by the end of June and to meet a third of Qatar's milk demand by mid-July. He told the publication that shipping the cows by air raised the transport cost five times over, to $8 million.Qatar's "National Vision 2030" aims to create "a diversified economy that gradually reduces its dependence on hydrocarbon industries." Becoming less reliant on foreign foodstuffs is a key part of that effort.

The Trump budget threatens funds that turn farmers into foodmakers. Rural communities should care.

New Food Economy | Posted on June 14, 2017

Value Added Poducer Grantss were authorized as part of the Agriculture Risk Protection Act of 2000, which amended the Federal Crop Insurance Act to strengthen the safety net for agricultural producers by providing greater access to more affordable risk management tools and improved protection from production and income loss. It was later amended by the 2002 farm bill. Housed within USDA Rural Development’s Business and Cooperative Programs division, the new program became a key ingredient to the secret sauce of the farmer-owned enterprise development sector.VAPG funds and services were critical to supporting the growth and development of entire industries. The early days of the program, for instance, saw its largest investments flow to planning efforts for ethanol and biodiesel facilities. Multiple millions of federal dollars were granted to farmer-led groups to hire consultants for feasibility and business planning efforts. Numbers were crunched. Engineering studies were drafted. Navigation maps for obtaining other incentives and fuel price agreements were created.At the time, politicians from both parties promoted the renewable fuels sector almost unanimously. Republicans could justify program investments and subsidies through a national security lens: developing domestic energy production. Democrats could wave the patriotic flag while also supporting job growth in rural communities. And many farmers, now investor-owners of energy plants, often made more money as investors than they did raising the corn or soy that fed the plants.