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Agriculture News

U.S. 'Ham Capital' Proves Chinese Investment Can Be a Good Thing

Bloomberg | Posted on July 7, 2016

When Chinese suitors took over the pork producer in Smithfield, Virginia, it sent tremors through the tiny town that calls itself the Ham Capital of the World.  Three years on, residents and union leaders who represent workers at Smithfield Foods Inc. say the initial fears about the buyer from a Communist-ruled nation proved unfounded. The happy marriage so far belies the rhetoric on the U.S presidential campaign trail that depicts China as an untrustworthy business partner, and serves as an example of Chinese investment that can benefit both countries.

At the time, the $4.7 billion acquisition of Smithfield Foods in 2013 by Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd. marked the biggest purchase of an American firm by a Chinese company. It was also controversial. U.S. senators expressed concern the deal would jeopardize the security of America’s food supply, and residents of the town of 8,300 people worried Shuanghui would cut jobs or move the company from Smithfield, where it was founded in 1936. Instead, the U.S. workforce under the Chinese owners now known as WH Group Ltd. has expanded by more than 1,000 people, to almost 39,000, and rather than cutting back investment, capital spending by the Chinese-owned unit has climbed -- rising 24 percent last year, to $313 million.

California marijuana legalization measure on November ballot

Sacramento Bee | Posted on July 7, 2016

Californians’ November ballot will include an initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, with the coming campaign likely to reverberate nationwide given the state’s size and implications for similar efforts elsewhere.


June hogs and pigs report shows slight expansion, low prices

Farm and Dairy | Posted on July 7, 2016

n the June hogs and pigs survey, pork producers told USDA they had increased the size of the breeding herd by one percent relative to year-ago levels. The breeding herd began to increase in the fall of 2014 after producers had record profitability due to reduced production due to the PED virus.  Basically, the industry has been in a slow expansion since that time. Declining feed prices were also a stimulus to expansion until this spring when feed prices began to rise once more.

The latest inventory report also found somewhat more young pigs than had been expected. The spring pig crop was 2.5 percent larger as a result of 1.5 percent more farrowings and one percent more pigs per litter. This means a bit higher pork supplies later this year than had been anticipated. Several states had a large increase in their breeding herd numbers over the last year. These included Illinois, with an increase of 40,000 animals, Oklahoma, up 30,000, and South Dakota, up 20,000.

Homeopathy can kill pets and should be banned, say vets | Posted on July 6, 2016

Vets are calling for a ban on homeopathy for pets claiming animals cannot benefit from the placebo effect because they are unaware they are being treated.

The Next Phase For Agriculture Technology | Posted on July 6, 2016

Agriculture technology is no longer a niche that no one’s heard about. Agriculture has confirmed its place as an industry of interest for the venture capital community after investment in agtech broke records for the past three years in a row, reaching $4.6 billion in 2015. the opportunity to bring agriculture, a $7.8 trillion industry representing 10% of global GDP, into the modern age has caught the attention of a growing number of investors globally. In our 2015 annual report, we recorded 503 individual companies raising funding. This increasing interest in the sector coincides with a more general “Third Wave” in technological innovation, where all companies are internet-powered tech companies, and startups are challenging the biggest incumbent industries like hospitality, transport, and now agriculture.

HSUS says some aviary systems not good enough to be labeled cage-free

HSUS | Posted on July 4, 2016

HSUS has ruled out a cage-free system they consider unacceptable.  Big Dutchman's Natura 60 cage-free system is not acceptable says HSUS.  While the Humane Society of the United States generally recognizes this as one possible cage-free system, that hinges on the system actually being used properly—something that may be hard for a producer or retailer to guarantee. Some producers may want to confine birds for longer lay periods in the morning; some may extend “training times” beyond what is actually needed. Other producers (or even barn managers) may choose to never allow the birds free access to the entire barn—which would certainly disqualify the system from being considered cage-free. Even with written guarantees in place, it may be hard to account for all of these variables at the individual barn level. (On the other hand, floor-based cage-free and standard aviary cage-free systems offer no possibility for cage confinement of any kind.)

Activism at the altar | Posted on July 4, 2016

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church was considering a resolution regarding consuming animal products from large-scale farms. The original recommendation asked the Presbyterian Mission Agency to “advocate wherever possible in favor of alternatives to CAFOs and IFAPS, commonly known as factory farms, and to advocate against measures that support industrialized animal farming” and encouraged “all levels of the denomination to purchase only meat that carries the minimal certification of “Certified Humane Raised & Handled.” Animal Ag Alliance submitted a letter to the moderator of the committee expressing concerns with demonizing farmers and farms based solely on size and emphasizing the entire animal agriculture community’s commitment to animal care. The updated version adds a line “recognizing that large scale farming is necessary for producing the large amount of food needed to sustain our growing population” and strikes the recommendation for all levels of the denomination to purchase “Certified Humane Raised & Handled” meat products.  Perhaps most meaningfully, the new text asks the Church to “recognize that damage is done to the Body of Christ when we vilify those who work in good faith in an industry that undergirds most of modern life; encourage collaboration with the many individuals in the food industry who seek to engage food production in positive and creative ways.”

Tight Times Bring Changes for Farmers

Hoosier Ag Today | Posted on June 30, 2016

This year has been one that has seen many farming operations making some significant changes due to tight profit margins.  One Indiana grower who made major changes to his operations this year for financial reasons is Dan Gwin. Gwin farms near Linden in Montgomery County. Until this year, he has been growing primarily specialty crop corn that went to make tortilla shells and other food grade products. But declining specialty crop premiums prompted Dan to take the major step of switching crops, “Looking at what commercial corn was and having an ethanol plant in my back door, I felt it was more profitable for me to raise commercial corn and market it locally.” While many growers this year moved away from GMO hybrids to cut costs, Gwin moved to Biotech crops as a way to cut production costs, “With GMO corn I did not have as much herbicide management and it gave me more flexibility than my non-GMO white corn.” Along with his wife Donya Lester, Gwin did careful analysis before any decisions was made. “It takes a lot of courage to make big decisions,” he said.

Online cattle auction site closes after a few sessions | Posted on June 30, 2016

Just a month after holding its first auction, the online Fed Cattle Exchange has ceased holding auctions.  “Effective June 29th, 2016, the Fed Cattle Exchange website will not be hosting auctions for an indefinite period of time,” said a posyed notice.   “We encountered some technology obstacles that were in part, due to our attempt to quickly address a long recognized need of cattle producers. We have also received valuable input from buyers, sellers, and registered sellers that have not yet sold through the Exchange, which we will be sorting through and implementing,” the website notice explained. “The Exchange will be back in a stronger and more reliable format in the future.”  Producers had hoped the online auction would add liquidity to a diminished cash market for fed cattle, which has been cited by some as a reason for increased volatility in the cattle futures markets. 

Sustainable beef? U.S. has most environmentally friendly livestock industry in the world

Beef | Posted on June 30, 2016

Frank Mitloehner, an animal science and air quality specialist at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) will show you two pictures from either side of a California fence. There are 40 acres on one side occupied by a 3rd generation dairy with 1,000 cows. On the other are 40 acres occupied by a 5-year-old residential development with 1,000 homes.  The residential development sued the dairy over environmental quality — and won. It didn’t matter that a subsequent comprehensive life-cycle assessment — an assessment of all environmental footprints — conducted by UC Davis researchers showed that converting farmland to residential land is 70 times more harmful to the environment. It mattered not that the U.S. has the most  environmentally friendly livestock industry in the world, as measured with scientific fact by its carbon footprint.