The agriculture industry isn’t waiting for the next farm bill to do something about the sinking farm economy. Its lobbyists have been laboring for months to try and score a series of quick fixes from the Agriculture Department and Congress, and leaning on farm-state lawmakers to advocate for their cause. The effort is working. More than 60 lawmakers from both chambers have asked USDA to provide emergency assistance to dairy producers, others are requesting USDA and the U.S. Agency for International Development to prioritize wheat in food aid shipments — both measures aimed at curbing commodity surpluses that are keeping prices low. And another effort is afoot to hike funding for USDA loan programs. But time is short. Congress returns for just four weeks in September, breaks for the presidential election and then comes back in November for roughly another four weeks — altogether a small amount of time during which lawmakers also will be juggling pressing issues like ensuring the entire government is funded in fiscal 2017, combating the Zika virus and overhauling the criminal
The southwestern Idaho labor market has tightened to the point agricultural producers are paying significantly more to find and keep farm workers. “It’s gotten really bad; it’s a tough labor market,” said Meridian farmer Richard Durant. “There just aren’t very many workers out there.” Durant has paid common farm laborers such as pipe movers $10 to $11 an hour in the past but has to pay them $12 to $14 an hour this year. He’s not alone. Other producers, such as Ron Bitner, who owns a vineyard and winery in Caldwell, is paying his workers about $1.50 an hour more this year, which costs him about $800 more a month in labor. He’s also had to keep people employed even when there’s no significant work for them to do just to ensure he has an adequate labor force when he really needs it at harvest time. If he doesn’t keep them employed, “They could easily go out and find something else,” he said. “I just go ahead and hire them and give them other things to do ... so I have a crew available when I need them.”
NASA predicts 2016 will be the warmest year on record for Earth, but forecasters offer a prediction of relief for 2017. Weather forecasters say a new annual record is unlikely in 2017 since the effect of El Niño is fading. That does not mean 2017 will be much cooler, however. Forecasters say the long-term trend is towards warming, but there is natural variability, bringing ups and downs to overall temperatures each year. La Niña, the cool counterpart to El Niño, is expected to be weak and develop late this fall or early winter. July of this year was the hottest single month since records began in the 19th Century.
With harvest bearing down, south Louisiana producers were looking to close out a difficult 2016 growing season in a positive manner. Then, August rains arrived and flooding soon followed leaving mandatory evacuation orders, road closings and crops underwater. Indeed, for southwest Louisiana agriculture, the flooding is especially devastating. “About 75 percent of our rice is located in southwest Louisiana,” says Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter rice specialist. “A lot of the area got 18 to 24 – even more than 24 – inches of rain. That caused a lot of flooding, including rice fields. Water from many of the initial rains actually did begin to recede before backwater flooding moved in from bayous, streams and rivers.”
Specifically, U.S. Right to Know is asking for correspondence between 10 UC Davis professors and businesses in the agrochemical industry. The group has sent similar requests to universities across the country, Ruskin said. The organization is trying to uncover collusion between the agrochemical industry, the food industry, universities and faculty members, he said. U.S. Right to Know has also requested public records it says will show how the World Food Center at UC Davis is funded. It received some records, but the documents arrived more than two months after the promised date, Ruskin said.
Deep in the heart of the U.S. grain belt, farm-equipment auctions are attracting bidders from as far away as South Africa as the agriculture rout makes used machinery more attractive. As farmers move away from buying new tractors and combines, it could mean more pain for Deere & Co., the world’s biggest agricultural equipment manufacturer, which is already struggling through an industrywide glut. To understand why, look no further than Matt Maring, owner of an eponymous Kenyon, Minn.-based auction operation. Buyers are driving more than 400 miles to attend his auctions, and online simulcasts are drawing participants from around the globe, boosting the bidding field, said Maring, who’s been an auctioneer for 36 years. Farmers are spending $50,000 on replacement tractors that would otherwise cost more than $100,000 new from Deere, he said. As a global grain glut is poised to reduce U.S. farmer incomes for a third straight year, growers are tightening their pocket books and increasingly turning to used machinery to trim spending. Adding to the picture, credit conditions have eroded and made it tougher to get a loan for new equipment. For Moline, Ill.-based Deere, farmers turning away from its dealerships could further pressure profits and underscores why Moody’s Investors Service downgraded this week its outlook on the company’s credit rating to negative from stable.
Agricultural leaders have established a not-for-profit Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation to catch up on nearly $200 million in needed maintenance. Combined, the fairgrounds have $180 million in overdue maintenance. The grounds in Springfield have 170 buildings - the oldest 124 years - on 360 acres. The oldest among 20 buildings at DuQuoin - which has 1,200 acres - is 93 years.
A stronger, unified governance body to oversee Pennsylvania's more than $1 billion equine racing industry began its work to strengthen horse and harness racing. The new State Horse Racing Commission now has two meetings under its belt. Governor Tom Wolf paved the way for the new commission and other needed reforms to the industry earlier this year when he signed Act 7. The law represents the first significant industry reforms in three decades — a period over which time the nature and breadth of racing in Pennsylvania changed dramatically, bringing with it new challenges and new opportunities. The new commission puts the oversight of Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing under one body, rather than the two separate commissions that existed previously for each breed.
Every farmer should ask if their biosecurity plan is strong enough. The most important part of any biosecurity plan is having the right attitude, according to Dr. Gregory Martin, educator and extension specialist at Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension. Having all the correct precautions in place doesn't do any good if workers and managers don’t follow the rules. Martin said operations should focus on establishing three disease barriers on their farm: a physical barrier, keeping disease and its vectors from making contact with the animals; a chemical barrier, killing the disease whenever possible by way of sanitation; and a logical barrier, ensuring farmers establish the correct management processes to minimize disease risk.
floodwaters continued to shift, causing fresh misery for Louisianans and state officials trying to get a handle on a lengthening list of concerns. “Flooding has no discretion as it affects everyone in all aspects,” says Mike Strain, Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) Commissioner. “I’m very proud of the team – the LDAF, the governor’s office, Homeland Security, everyone working together. We’re trying to stay abreast and keep up with the moving problems. As everyone knows by now, this is a record flood event. By now, says Strain, “more than 20,000 – perhaps more than 30,000 – homes have been affected. In Livingston Parish, 70 percent of all homes have been affected. Seventy to 80 percent of homes in Denham Springs have been, as well. This is very widespread with more than 8,000 people in shelters.” One of the major issues Strain and colleagues face is leapfrogging assets due to the moving floodwaters. “Now, we’re worried about parishes around Iberville, Ascension Parish and into Lafayette Parish. That has required great cooperation between agencies and private individuals.”