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.
Puerto Ricans are buying rice produced on the island for the first time in nearly 30 years. They are also eating locally grown mushrooms, kale and even arugula, along with more traditional crops such as plantains and pineapples. The U.S. territory is seeing something of an agricultural renaissance as new farms spring up across the island, supplying an increasing number of farmers’ markets and restaurants to meet consumer demand for fresher produce. Farming has become one of the few areas of growth on an island struggling to emerge from a 10-year-old recession and a still-unfolding debt crisis. The most recent statistics from the governor’s office show farm income grew 25 percent to more than $900 million in 2012-2014. The amount of acreage under cultivation rose 50 percent over the past four years, generating at least 7,000 jobs.
Up to $1 million in micro-loans will now be available to Massachusetts farmers struggling under the impacts of a widespread and historic drought. The launch of the Drought Emergency Loan Fund, announced Wednesday, is one of a series of steps Gov. Charlie Baker and his administration are taking in response to five months of abnormally dry weather. Comparing it to a similar effort that made loans available to assist businesses after record snowfall in 2015, Baker said in a statement that the fund "will provide affordable working capital to small businesses grappling with the aftermath of extreme weather." Massachusetts has been under its own official drought declaration since July 1 and the arid conditions have been blamed for contributing to wild fires, an outbreak of gypsy moths, higher rates of ant infestation, smaller than usual apples, loss of crops, and an elevated population of mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus. Loan amounts range from $5,000 to $10,000 and are available to Massachusetts-based family farms and "farm related businesses," according to the application. Businesses "involved in real estate investment, multi-level marketing, adult entertainment or firearms" are ineligible.
To find solutions to protect bees and pollinators and also food supplies and human health, the U of M has built a new state-of-the-art Bee and Pollinator Research Lab on the St. Paul campus that opens in October. Two-thirds of the nearly $5 million cost was covered by state-funded bonding, with the balance coming from private gifts and donations. Mann Lake Ltd. is one of several major private funders of the Bee Lab. Jack and Betty Thomas, who founded Mann Lake over 30 years ago, took part in September 2015 in the groundbreaking ceremony and will attend the Lab’s Grand Opening next month.
Digitalisation, insects and 3D food printing will shape tomorrow’s industry. o enable this new era of innovation, Bakas said the farming industries should give more room to “outsiders” and “use more craziness”. “Watch people who are doing things differently and learn from them,” he said. “We are living in pre revolutionary times. Be aware of it all, you will do it but you will only do it if you embrace change.” As technology continues to develop, Bakas said consumer engagement and the role of the media will also see a step change. He said the industry should address the ‘underground media’ much more than the mainstream and traditional outlets. “We need to be more assertive on social media, and answer back to that. We shouldn’t invest so much in the mainstream media,” he added.
Bayer CropScience has decided to drop any further attempts to challenge cancellation of its registration for the insecticide flubendiamide, which it had sold under the trade name Belt.
The governments of Canada and Manitoba will invest more than $366,000 in organic grain research at the University of Manitoba. This new initiative will be funded through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a five-year (2013-18) policy framework for Canada’s agricultural and agri-food sector. GF2 is a $3 billion dollar investment by federal, provincial and territorial governments and the foundation for government agricultural programs and services. GF2 programs focus on innovation, competitiveness and market development to ensure Canadian producers and processors have the tools and resources they need to continue to innovate and capitalize on emerging market opportunities.
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. farmers have been granted class action status for their lawsuits against seed company Syngenta over sales of biotech corn seeds not approved for import by China. A judge in the U.S. District Court of Kansas certified a nationwide class and statewide classes in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota. At least 440,000 farmers sued after grain shipments containing traces of Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera corn were rejected by China, which had not approved the variety for import before it was launched. The plaintiffs in the case did not plant the Viptera corn, but claim they suffered $5 billion to $7 billion in losses of current and future revenue when China’s rejections – beginning in November 2013 – disrupted trade and negatively affected corn prices.
Atrazine, simazine and propazine are currently under EPA registration review, which is required for all pesticides every 15 years to update and modernize the science and risk assessments. As part of the review process, on June 2, 2016 EPA released its draft ecological risk assessments, which drew conclusions based on a number of scientific errors and flawed interpretations. The future of some essential crop protection tools are at stake. It is important for our industry to weigh in with EPA to ensure they are following sound science and accurate data prior to making any final decisions. The agency needs to learn about the importance of these products to your customer's crop production. The comment period closes on October 5, 2016. The best science and data need to remain part of the EPA's registration review process. The agency's draft ecological risk assessment is inconsistent with a number of their previous conclusions and assessments by other regulartory agencies around the world. After review all public comments, EPA has indicated it will revise the ecological risk assessment, if necessary, and hold a Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) in 2017. Please take a few moments to submit personalized comments to EPA.