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Agriculture News

After Oranges

The Oxford American | Posted on July 2, 2017

We know that the orange is in fact green. The fruit changes to its namesake color when exposed to cool air. Yet, when the temperature drops below 28 degrees for longer than four hours, ice will form within an orange. The peel will show no injury, but the frozen flesh will turn mushy and the orange will fall from the tree, inedible. When the force that makes us can also ruin us, when a lethal irony is at play, we call the story a comedy or a tragedy, depending on the ending. Even if it is just an orange. 

By the time the brown fungus of Alternaria alternata is spotted on the leaves of a Minneola tangelo tree growing in a low, wet grove, it is probably too late. The tree will be helpless to do anything but drop the fruit. The eggs of the Mediterranean fruit fly are laid below the skin of a host orange. After seven days, the larvae will hatch and feed on the sweet flesh. The symptoms of citrus tristeza virus include small leaves and twig dieback. Beneath the bark, the tree’s trunk will resemble a honeycomb. A tree like that can’t support itself. That’s one way the story can end. Tristeza is the Spanish word for sadness.

Growing Chickens With One Wing Tied Behind Your Back

Lancaster Farming | Posted on June 29, 2017

Shoppers don’t have to go far to see the latest food trends.Grocery stores are filled with labels like non-GMO, organic and gluten-free.But the shift toward chicken grown without the use of antibiotics is posing some problems for Delmarva poultry growers.“A 1950s disease came back because we were made to change the way we grow chicken,” said Dan Bautista, a poultry health expert and director of the Lasher Laboratory at the University of Delaware’s Carvel Research & Education Center.“If this was the ’90s, we wouldn’t even be talking about necrotic enteritis,” he said at a June 19 commercial poultry growers workshop in Georgetown.It was the first Delaware-centric poultry workshop put on by University of Maryland Poultry Extension.Bautista said growers working with antibiotic-free birds must now rely on “elbow-grease” and semi-effective feed additives like oregano to combat a deadly disease.“The fact we have a lot of necrotic enteritis is because we haven’t been able to use the tools we have for decades,” he said. “This is a symptom of a social phenomenon.”

Agro-terrorism prevention bill lands on Trump’s desk

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on June 29, 2017

A bill designed to heighten preparedness of the nation’s food, agriculture and veterinary systems has been sent to President Trump’s desk for his signature. The U.S. Senate passed the Securing our Agriculture and Food Act unanimously on May 24, and the U.S. House voted last week to send this legislation to the president to be enacted into law. Sponsored by Rep. David Young (R-Iowa), the legislation addresses concerns highlighted by the 2015 avian influenza outbreak that wiped out millions of layer hens, turkeys and backyard flocks. Response efforts revealed problematic breaks in the federal government’s ability to communicate with stakeholders and react quickly to large-scale animal disease outbreaks. The disaster also raised concerns among farmers and producers about how well the country would be able to share information and respond to agro-terrorism threats and attacks.

Sen. Ritchie says bills she sponsored to help North Country farmers are headed to governor’s desk

North Country Now | Posted on June 29, 2017

Two measures sponsored by state Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, to help support the next generation of New York farmers have been approved by the Legislature and await the governor’s signature. Under the first measure, Senate bill 4021, a Young Farmers Advisory Board of 20 farmers from across the state would lend their expertise and insights on the impacts of potential legislation and programs on those new to the industry, according to a statement from the senator.The second measure, Senate bill 4900, would direct the commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the commissioner of the Office of General Services to work together to develop an inventory of state-owned real property that could be sold or leased for farming.“Agriculture is our state’s leading industry and if we want to ensure it remains as such, we need to take steps to encourage people to pursue farming careers,” said Ritchie, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee.“These two pieces of legislation will help those new to the industry overcome common roadblocks to success—like finding farmland—and ensure that the future of family farming in New York State is bright for many years to come.”

USDA Seeking Public Input on GMO Labeling

Hoosier Ag Today | Posted on June 29, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking public input on GMO labeling. The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service posted 30 questions for the public this week regarding labeling food items containing genetically modified ingredients. The feedback will help the agency develop a proposed rule governing how food manufacturers disclose when products contain genetically engineered ingredients. Questions include: What terms should be interchangeable with “bioengineering”; whether AMS should require disclosures for foods containing highly refined products, such as oils or sugars derived from bioengineered crops; and the amount of a bioengineered substance needed to deem it bioengineered.

New U.S. Ambassador to China Touts Agricultural Trade

Wall Street Journal | Posted on June 29, 2017

Newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad touted trade as he took the helm of an important diplomatic mission that has been mired in uncertainty under the Trump administration. China’s Foreign Ministry refers to Mr. Branstad as an “old friend.” Chinese government advisers say Beijing hopes his agricultural background and ties with Mr. Trump will make him a strong voice in favor of trade inside the administration.Mr. Branstad concentrated most of his brief comments Wednesday on trade, saying he hoped to help reduce trade barriers in a way that would both benefit Chinese businesses and increase U.S. jobs.

House Subcommittee Funding Bill for USDA Cuts Less Than Trump Budget Plan

DTN | Posted on June 29, 2017

Agriculture isn't likely to see the kind of federal budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration if the discretionary appropriations bill approved Tuesday by a subcommittee is any indication. The House Appropriations Subcommittee for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies advanced a bill funding fiscal year 2018 discretionary programs for USDA and other agencies at just more than $20 billion, cutting $1.1 billion from last year's bill, or about 5.2% less than current funding levels.If the appropriations hold, USDA would receive about $876 million less than this year's discretionary budget. The funding bill, which was approved in a voice vote, advanced to the full committee. The committee is advancing multiple appropriation bills this week.Yet the $1.1 billion spending cut, if it holds, will be $3.7 billion less than President Donald Trump's proposed spending cut just for USDA. The Trump budget calls for a $4.8 billion cut from USDA discretionary programs, which the White House intended to use to offset spending increases in defense and homeland security, including funding for a border wall.

Washington Ecology seeks advisers on farm practices

Capital Press | Posted on June 29, 2017

The Washington Department of Ecology will appoint an advisory group to evaluate ways farmers and ranchers can prevent water pollution, an exercise viewed warily by the state Farm Bureau. Ecology is seeking experts for the group, which is expected over the next year to help the department develop a set of best management practices. Ecology says the measures will be voluntary and won’t become new regulations.“I think it will be useful guidance for people,” said Ben Rau, Ecology’s manager of the effort.The initiative stems from criticism the Environmental Protection Agency made in 2015 about Ecology’s plan to control pollution from urban and rural runoff. The EPA said Ecology’s plan to prevent pollution from agricultural lands needed “greater specificity.”

Hits keep coming for the circus – and it matters for meat

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on June 29, 2017

The animal entertainment industry took another hit last week when the New York City Council voted to ban the use of wild or exotic animals in circus performances. The pricey lawsuits and emotional rhetoric are very familiar to those of us in animal agriculture and the meat industry. The New York Daily News posted an editorial expressing concerns with the ban, pointing out that zoos could be next on the chopping block. Unsurprisingly, the move was applauded by the usual suspects – PETA, HSUS, Direct Action Everywhere, etc. A Direct Action Everywhere rep called it “just the beginning,” saying the ban is the “beginning of the end” of “the use and abuse of all animals” (which includes using them for food – the author includes a reference to slaughterhouse walls “crumbling to the ground”). Some may wish to keep quiet while activist groups target zoos and circuses – after all, every moment they focus on someone else is one they aren’t focusing on agriculture and the meat industry. That viewpoint is misguided and the sense of security will be short-lived. Any victory that activists can achieve in eliminating humans’ ability to use animals will provide them further ammunition in their mission to promote animal liberation. Burying our heads in the sand will not work for us.

Optimism growing faster than supply in dairy industry

Feedstuffs | Posted on June 29, 2017

Higher farm-gate prices and more favorable weather conditions are providing much-needed relief for the world’s dairy farmers after a three-year decline in milk values, according to the “Rabobank Dairy Quarterly Q2 2017” report.