Fifty-eight percent of U.S. consumers are more concerned about food animal welfare than they were just a few years ago, according to market research firm Packaged Fact’s recent report, “Animal Welfare: Issues and Opportunities in the Meat, Poultry, and Egg Markets in the U.S.” In the report, “animal welfare” encompasses key areas including housing, handling, feeding and slaughter.The rising interest in animal welfare issues is in part an outgrowth of increased concerns about the safety of the food supply, and a growing consumer conviction that food animals raised in healthier circumstances will yield meat, poultry, and dairy case products that are higher quality across the board–safer, healthier, more nutritious, and even more flavorful, the Packaged Facts report.U.S. consumers have many concerns about how farm animals are being raised, including handling, slaughtering, housing, feeding, and antibiotic use. Correspondingly, the number of companies engaging in animal welfare advances and announcing plans to meet new standards has reached critical mass. Food companies at every level of the production and delivery spectrum, aware of both consumer and investor concerns, are taking significant steps to improve the quality of life of the animals in their supply chains. In addition to humanitarian concerns, corporate decisions to engage progressively in animal welfare issues is grounded in the mandate to be competitive in a changing marketplace and among a new generation of Millennial and Gen Z Consumers, the report said.Consumers have different levels of understanding and trust when it comes to product claims associated with animal welfare. The Packaged Facts survey data reveal that 19 percent of consumers only have a general idea of what ‘grass-fed’ means, with another 19 percent reporting they don’t have a good idea of what the term ‘certified humane’ means.
A Central Washington irrigation district and an employee have been fined for misapplying an herbicide that blew into a pear orchard and caused an estimated $220,000 to $300,000 in damage, according to the state Department of Agriculture.The Cascade Irrigation District was fined $1,100, the maximum penalty for a first-time offense, while the employee, Kelton Montgomery, was fined $450 and will have his applicator’s license suspended for seven days in mid-July, according to orders issued June 1 by WSDA.The Ellensburg-based district irrigates some 12,500 acres in Kittitas County by drawing from the Yakima River.
A large Sunnyside dairy has sold and another apparently sold thousands of dairy cows indicative of tough times for Lower Yakima Valley dairies.DeRuyter Bros. Dairy planned to sell 3,100 head of Holstein in a May 31 auction, according to Toppenish Livestock Commission. But in an email to dozens of potential buyers late May 25, the commission apologized for canceling the auction, saying the whole farm, equipment and cows had been sold.Genny DeRuyter, owner of the dairy with her husband Jake, said the auction of 3,100 head was planned to reduce their herd by half but that a deal was reached to sell the 1,000-acre dairy to an out-of-state dairy. She said she could not reveal the buyer or price.“We feel fortunate the sale of the entire herd will keep the strong genetics and quality of our Holstein cows intact and that a full labor force will continue to operate the farm,” DeRuyter said.Selling half the herd would have meant laying off some the dairy’s 80 workers but their full employment means a continuing contribution to the local economy, she said.
The Oregon Water Resources Department is facing two new lawsuits related to water rights, one from Klamath-area irrigators and the other from environmental groups opposed to a new dairy in the eastern part of the state. Several irrigators are challenging the agency’s order shutting down irrigation from Wood River and its tributaries in the Upper Klamath Basin due to a water call from the Klamath Tribes in April.The tribes have “time immemorial” water rights under an OWRD determination, giving them priority over the irrigators, whose oldest water rights date back to 1864.OWRD determined that flows in the Wood River have fallen below the tribes’ in-stream water right of 323 cubic feet per second, which is intended to preserve fish and riparian health.However, the irrigators’ lawsuit claims that OWRD’s water flow gauge is inaccurate or incapable of measuring the full amount of water in the Wood River.Other measurements of the river have gauged flows of 427 to 502 cubic feet per second, but OWRD’s local watermaster has refused to recognize these reports, according to the petition for judicial review.The irrigators have asked Marion County Circuit Court Judge Courtland Geyer to overturn OWRD’s final order prohibiting water diversion and to issue an injunction against enforcement of future water calls until proper measurements are taken.Aside from the Wood River, other water calls in the Upper Klamath Basin were also validated by OWRD for the Williamson and Sprague rivers. Irrigators in the region estimate the orders have affected roughly 300,000 acres.
Opponents of a 30,000-cow dairy farm in Morrow County are pressuring state regulators to change their minds on a recently approved water pollution permit for the facility, or risk taking the matter to court. A coalition of groups has filed what’s known as a petition for reconsideration, asking the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Department of Environmental Quality to take a closer look at Lost Valley Farm and either tighten protections or reject the dairy outright. Lost Valley Farm received its confined animal feeding operation permit on March 31. At the time, ODA and DEQ claimed they had crafted “the most protective of any (CAFO) permit issued to date,” requiring 11 groundwater monitoring wells on site — seven more than usual — and a minimum of three annual inspections, versus one every 10 months.The permit became effective on April 20, and a spokeswoman for Lost Valley said the dairy is now up and running at the former Boardman Tree Farm. There are currently 16,000 animals at the farm, with about 8,700 being milking cows.Regulators anticipate Lost Valley will build up its herd to a full 30,000 cows over the next three years, making it the second-largest dairy in Oregon. Only Threemile Canyon Farms is larger, with 70,000 head of cattle just 25 miles away in Morrow County.
Rabobank analysts say when California dairy producers see clearly on their milk check that the majority of them are losing money in the state’s quota program, the tide will turn on support.
U.S. exports of beef and pork moderated in April from March but were still significantly higher year over year, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. At 99,786 metric tons, valued at $550.4 million, beef exports were down 5.2 percent in volume and 6.4 percent in value from March. But they were up 13 percent in volume and 14 percent in value from April 2016.Pork exports, at 203,864 metric tons, were valued at $517.5 million and were down 10.9 percent in volume and 11.8 percent in value from record-breaking levels in March. But they set a record for April in volume, up 8 percent from a year ago, and were up 11 percent in value from April 2016.
California is an example of a state where climate change action has helped fuel the state’s recovery from the Great Recession. In 2006, California passed the country’s most comprehensive climate change law, adopting ambitious greenhouse gas reduction measures. But instead of lagging behind, California surged ahead thanks in large part to our action on climate change mitigation. Since those laws went into affect, the state’s GDP growth has significantly outpaced the national average, and California now leads the country in job growth. There is no doubt that we owe a more than a small measure of this success to the state’s embrace of a new clean energy economy. California’s farmers have played an important role in our state’s climate change adaptation and mitigation successes. As US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue has suggested in many of his recent remarks, farmers have always adapted to new challenges. Climate change, however, requires a level of adaptation few have experienced before. Whether it’s more frequent floods, extreme droughts, new pests and disease, wildfire, heat waves or loss of winter chill hours, climate change requires a new way of doing business. And it requires doing all we can, now, to avoid the worst impacts.Many California farmers and ranchers are responding to climate change. Our state’s farms and ranches produce more renewable energy, mainly solar, than farms in any other state. We also have new climate change and agriculture programs aimed at providing the financial and technical assistance farmers need to make the transition to a way of growing that not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions and sequesters carbon, but also builds resilience in the face of greater weather extremes.
Last week, the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) released a new report indicating that changes to the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) made in the 2014 Farm Bill have been well-received by farmers and have led to a doubling of NAP applications – from 66,000 in 2014 to 138,000 in 2015. While this is great news for farmers and for NAP, there are still thousands of farmers that don’t have access to federal risk management support. The upcoming 2018 Farm Bill provides an opportunity for Congress to continue to improve NAP so that the program is more effective, efficient, and better serves historically underserved farmer groups (e.g., beginning, specialty crop, highly diversified, and organic farmers). As part of our farm bill work, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has developed several proposals to continue improving NAP by expanding access and addressing some of the growing pains the program has experienced following its increased popularity.Because the federal crop insurance program does not adequately address the needs of all farmers, it is important that NAP be able to fill the coverage gap; by expanding farmers’ risk management options we can protect family farm livelihoods, as well as create a more secure and stable food supply.
Called Undeniably Dairy, the website and campaign combine facts and features about all things dairy.Up to this point, the industry’s efforts to set the record straight have met with varying degrees of success.A new effort aims at improving that record.It’s called Undeniably Dairy and combines some new features and others that have been around for awhile that are upbeat and non-defensive. Some are informative, and others are just for fun. They avoid the air of self-righteousness and, in sum, portray dairy farms as the fascinating places they are.For example, a news story last winter mentioned that Skittles are fed to dairy cows. A video featuring dairy farmer Laura Daniels on the Undeniably Dairy website offers a complete and science-based explanation that leaves viewers with only one question, whether cows like Skittles or Gummy Worms best.FYI, the sugar in the candy is fed to cows in small portions in their winter rations to help them digest their feed.