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Agriculture News

As High-Tech Farms Take Hold, Can Farm Towns Hold On?

KCUR | Posted on June 15, 2017

That means farms on the Great Plains and in many other parts of the country have had to grow in size and adopt new technologies to make ends meat. He can’t just farm 80 acres and make a living, he says. “I wish you could. I think life would be a lot simpler, easier,” Biesemeier says. “And there’d be a lot more people out here if that was the case.”About a hundred years ago, farming was the way a third of the country made its living. It used to be the most common occupation in America.As more farmers adopt new technology, they become more efficient, drive down prices on the crops they produce, and “that means the people who have not adopted find themselves with high costs and find it very difficult to make any money, and many of them wind up deciding to get out of the business,” MacDonald says.All that has led to the trends that have shaped all of American agriculture: The average farm is growing larger, fewer farmers are doing the job and midsize farms are disappearing. University of Missouri rural sociologist Mary Hendrickson says sometimes small towns in Middle America are written off, discarded in national discussions as “throwaway places.” But, she argues, there is a lot of value held not only in rural communities, but also in the surrounding farms and ranches. Farmers manage a huge swath of America’s land mass. If we want a healthier environment, she says, farmers who manage land and water need support to reverse some of the negative economic trends plaguing the small towns they live in and rely on.“Farmers can’t do it on their own,” Hendrickson says. “So it’s going to take some investments from rural development agencies, from potentially people outside the region as well.”

Forget GMOs. The next big battle is over genetically ‘edited’ foods

The Washington Post | Posted on June 15, 2017

The goal is to avoid the sort of public backlash that rocked Monsanto in the late 1990s and still plagues agriculture two decades later. In the United States,  consumer skepticism of genetically modified crops has forced biotech companies into long, costly battles over issues such as whether these foods should be labeled; elsewhere in the world, the public outcry has prevented seeds from winning government approval. “It’s more about social science than science,” said Neal Gutterson, the vice president of research and development at DuPont Pioneer. “[It’s] ultimately about getting social license for this technology.”Odes to plant technology are ubiquitous in DuPont Pioneer’s Iowa offices, where even the conference space boasts glossy, museum-like exhibits devoted to genetically modified foods. Plus-sized photos show farmers standing idly in golden corn fields, and mystery hands reaching into overflowing bowls.But the problem for DuPont Pioneer, and agribusiness generally, is that large swaths of the public do not share this sunny vision of biotech. Since the late '90s, when Monsanto botched the introduction of genetically modified crops in Europe, consumers have treated the term “GMO” as if it were a dirty word. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 40 percent of Americans believe GMOs are bad for their health. This assertion is not supported by science, which has concluded that the genetically modified crops on the market are safe for consumption.

Dicamba Drift Complaints Heat Up

DTN | Posted on June 15, 2017

Pucker up is taking on a specific meaning across the soybean belt as reports of dicamba injury start to mount in several states. The slightest whiff of dicamba herbicide causes sensitive soybean leaves to cup and pucker. As of June 12, there had been 41 drift complaints implicating dicamba registered with the Arkansas State Plant Board, according to Adrianne Barnes, communications director for the Arkansas Department of Agriculture.Tennessee Department of Agriculture officials said three complaints have been received so far -- two in Dyer County and one in Shelby County. Weed scientists in Missouri and Mississippi have also been walking fields to inspect potential injury. Across the Midwest, there are urgent pleas for applicators to follow proper protocols and to respect neighboring crops and other sensitive areas as spraying ramps up.University of Arkansas weed scientist Tom Barber told DTN dicamba injury symptoms are widespread in his state. "We already have more complaints than the 32 total cases in 2016, and we're a week or more ahead of the first complaint last year," he said. "That northeast Arkansas crop is still pretty young because of weather and replant -- so we've got a ways to go on spraying."

PETA confirms what we all knew – they are not above “fake news”

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on June 15, 2017

This isn’t exactly breaking news: PETA is willing to lie and fabricate things to advance its mission of animal liberation. While this doesn’t come as a surprise to those of us who are used to being maligned by this group, you may be shocked at just how far PETA has revealed itself to be willing to go. This Mashable headline from last week says it all (although I’d strike the “new” part): “PETA”s new formula: deception, manipulation, and fake animal abuse.” According to the article, PETA was working with a PR firm to pitch an animal abuse story to media outlets. The story included a video of a man abusing a cat – “a disturbing new video that depicts a cat suffering at the hands of its owner. It’s difficult to watch. It’s also completely fake.” The video was produced using computer animation, and looks convincingly real. The agency and PETA were going to release the footage and were asking media outlets to cover it without including the fact that it is fake. After the video went viral, PETA would come forward and admit that it was fake (yeah, I’m sure they’d be working really hard to spread that message). Somehow, using logic that I am not following, this fake video was supposed to bring awareness to actual animal abuse.

Stark County animal seizure worries agriculture officials

West Fargo Pioneer | Posted on June 15, 2017

While a district court judge decides whether a Gladstone, N.D., man gets to keep his cattle and horses, agriculture groups want to make sure his due process rights — and those of other livestock producers in the future — are protected.Gerald "Gary" Dassinger of Gladstone, N.D., is accused of abusing or neglecting his horses and cattle and faces several felony and misdemeanor charges related to the accusations. Dassinger says he plans to plead not guilty to the charges. He also says he has veterinarians willing to back him up in court that his animals were not abused or neglected. The Stark County Sheriff's Department in May filed petitions to seize horses and cattle from Dassinger after local veterinarians said the animals were thin and had problems with parasites and lice. Some of the animals already were on trucks when Dassinger's attorney, Thomas Murtha, filed for a temporary restraining order to stop them from being seized before Dassinger could defend himself. Southwest District Judge Rhonda Ehlis granted the restraining order and will decide whether Dassinger can keep the animals.

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.