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Agriculture News

Cows Engineered with Human Genes Could Stop Our Next Disease Outbreak

MIT Technology Review | Posted on October 11, 2016

Cattle that can crank out human antibodies are being tested as a first line of defense against infectious diseases. SAB Biotherapeutics of South Dakota has genetically engineered cattle to produce large quantities of human antibodies—proteins that help remove harmful foreign pathogens from the body—in a rapid fashion that could be used to treat patients suffering from infectious diseases like Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), Ebola, and influenza. The World Health Organization recently recognized the company’s approach among six promising new technology platforms that could help respond to disease outbreaks worldwide.

Cyberbullying: The Strategy To Destroy Scientists

American Council on Science and Health | Posted on October 11, 2016

Years later I entered journalism. And I saw breathtaking ignorance and vitriol aimed at scientists like me coming from supposedly educated people. Never in a million years would I have anticipated that our passion for science would be used as a bludgeon or as a scarlet letter.  That is the milieu in which we find the current GMO "debate," which in actuality has devolved into a vicious, relentless assault by organic food activists against the biotechnology community. It doesn't matter if you are a professor, industry scientist, journalist, or private citizen; if you support biotechnology, anti-GMO activists will harass you using their keyboards as weapons of mass defamation. Their goal is straightforward: Biotech scientists must be destroyed professionally. Failing that, they must be destroyed emotionally.  There's actually a word for this. It's called cyberbullying. Once the weapon of choice for prepubescent teens, it is now deployed, with ruthless efficiency, against PhDs who have committed the unspeakable crime of conducting research on and publicly advocating GMOs. Even worse, these activists are abusing government transparency laws (e.g., FOIA) to harass law-abiding scientists. The University of Florida's Dr. Kevin Folta has become Public Enemy #1 among this deranged group of activists, who have viciously targeted him. Stephan Neidenbach, a middle school science teacher, has had enough. In an effort to "fight fire with fire," he has issued multiple FOIA requests for e-mails from anti-GMO professors, such as Dr. Hector Valenzuela from the University of Hawaii.

China’s $450 billion farm plan could determine our fate

Grist | Posted on October 11, 2016

Four hundred and fifty billion dollars. That’s the amount of money Chinese officials recently announced they would invest to improve the country’s farms over the next four years. The Agricultural Development Bank of China has created a fund to loan out at least that much money by 2020, according to state media. Experts that I talked to are skeptical — China has announced it would spend big money before and followed through with just a fraction — but even a fraction of $450 billion could be transformative. China’s choices, not to put too fine a point on it, will determine the fate of the world. If China were to follow the same path as the United States and Europe, by using inefficient fossil fuels to lift its 1.3 billion people to a comfortable standard of living, it could be pumping 30 gigatons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by 2030 — that’s three times as much as the whole world emits now. As the country feeding the largest population in the world, China’s policies on fertilizer use, genetically modified seed research, and agricultural regulations will matter to us all.

Farming fight: Pa. court reverses order banning chicken slaughterhouse

Penn Live | Posted on October 11, 2016

Yes, that's agriculture.  A Commonwealth Court panel reached that conclusion this week when it overturned a York County judge's ruling that blocked creation of a chicken slaughterhouse in Paradise Township. The ruling, issued in an opinion by Judge Anne E. Covey, means Balady Farms can start processing the organic, free-range chickens it raises on its 23-acre property along Moulstown Road near Abbottstown. In siding with Balady, Covey's court disagreed with findings by county Judge Andrea Marceca Strong and the township zoning hearing board that the processing facility isn't allowed in the township's rural conservation district.

Polluted water pours into sinkhole at fertilizer plant

The Washington Post | Posted on October 11, 2016

Hurricane Matthew’s heavy rains are predicted to soak much of Florida, and that could complicate efforts to manage the pollution flowing into a sinkhole that opened up beneath a fertilizer plant’s massive pile of toxic waste. The plant’s owner, Mosaic Co., is pumping out water through a well while preparing to plug the huge hole under one of its gypsum stacks. But million s of gallons of contaminated water have already drained into Florida’s main drinking-water aquifer. So far, the company and state environmental officials say no contamination has migrated off Mosaic’s property. The company says test results on 260 private wells have shown contaminant levels within legal drinking water standards. Still, more than 850 concerned neighbors want their wells tested for contaminants and radioactivity.

Should Iowa Beef Checkoff be reinstated?

KMAland | Posted on October 11, 2016

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association today announced that eligible beef producers can request an absentee ballot to participate in the referendum on whether the $.50 per head Iowa beef checkoff should be reinstated. The referendum will be held on November 30, 2016.  Any individual, firm, corporation, partnership or association that has owned or acquired cattle during year prior to the referendum (December 1, 2015 – November 30, 2016) is an “Eligible Beef Producer” for the purposes of this referendum. If the referendum passes, collection will begin March 1, 2017. The Iowa beef checkoff will be mandatory, but refunds will be available to interested producers. The federal beef checkoff of $1 per head remains in place and would not be affected by the Iowa vote.

Effingham school board buys cattle farm for ag students

Savannah Now | Posted on October 11, 2016

he Effingham County Board of Education is buying a working cattle farm for $1.2 million to use as an agriculture center.  Honey Ridge Plantation is three miles south of Guyton, less than a mile off Georgia Highway 17 in Pineora, on paved Honey Ridge Plantation Road.  The 310-acre farm will be paid for with education sales tax dollars.  The board voted 4-0 on Aug. 18 to purchase the property. The school system has 60 days from the contract date to inspect it and do a new survey, title search and environmental study. Closing will take place within 30 days of the inspection period. “Honey Ridge Plantation is a living, breathing farm,” said school Superintendent Randy Shearouse. “All types of farming activities, such as raising and showing livestock, row crops, forestry and numerous other farming opportunities will be available for students.”

Animal Liberation philosopher headlines HSUS conference

Agri-Pulse | Posted on October 7, 2016

Animal Lib philosopher headlines HSUS conference. Peter Singer, the controversial Princeton University philosopher, will headline a conference hosted by the Humane Society of the United States.  Singer, whose book “Animal Liberation” shaped today’s animal rights movement, applauds changes in the way that livestock and poultry are being raised. But he has made it clear that he wants to see people stop consuming animal products altogether.  The conference will focus on state initiatives as well the changes in corporate policies for which HSUS has been pushing. As a result of those efforts, egg producers are now facing a sweeping transition to cage-free systems at an estimated cost of at least $5.6 billion.

New Zealand commodity prices at 17-month high as dairy rallies

New Zealand Herald | Posted on October 6, 2016

New Zealand commodity prices rose for a fifth month in September, driven by dairy, although the strong kiwi dollar limited the benefits for local producers.  The ANZ commodity price index increased 5.1 per cent last month, bringing it to a 17-month high. In New Zealand dollar terms, prices rose 3.9 per cent in the month and are 5 per cent lower than in the same period last year. The release of the commodity price index follows the results of the latest GlobalDairyTrade auction thi s morning, where dairy prices posted their first fall since July. The GDT price index fell 3.0 per cent to US$2,880, while the price of whole milk powder, the biggest product New Zealand sells by volume, dropped 3.8 per cent to US$2,681 a tonne. Dairy price gains dragged the index higher in September, up 15 per cent in the month, led by butter which increased 24 per cent and skim milk powder, up 16 per cent.

California marijuana legalization faces unlikely foe: growers

Reuters | Posted on October 6, 2016

Hezekiah Allen is a third-generation marijuana farmer in this Northern California county, where the cool coastal fog pours off the Pacific Ocean, coaxing pot plants to heights of 20 feet. The executive director of the California Growers Association trade group, Allen has long sought an end to what he calls "prohibition" and has looked forward to a day when he and the thousands of pot farmers here would no longer be outlaws. But he said he can't bring himself to vote for Proposition 64, a referendum on California's November ballot that would legalize cultivation, sale and recreational use of marijuana. While pot purveyors might seem to be likely Prop. 64 supporters, Allen's ambivalence is widespread within the industry. The California Growers Association took a neutral stance after a recent poll among its 750 farmers, distributors and retailers found a split: 31 percent supported, 31 percent opposed, and 38 percent were undecided.