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Agriculture News

Opposition to proposed Tyson complex brewing in Kansas

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on September 12, 2017

The announcement of a new $320 million Tyson Foods Inc. poultry complex in Leavenworth County, Kan., was the focus of protests by local residents, according to regional reports. Several residents of nearby Tonganoxie, Kan., shouted their objections to the plant, hatchery and feed mill during the official announcement, despite the 1,600 jobs expected to be created when production launches in mid-2019. The protesters expressed concerns about several issues, including potential air and water pollution, animal cruelty and the potentially disruptive influx of schoolchildren to the district when new workers move into the area. Some residents also objected to what they felt was secrecy about the plans among city, county and state officials before the announcement, the report added.

Study warns USDA of biotech disclosure challenges facing consumers

Agri-Pulse | Posted on September 12, 2017

Despite the widespread availability of smartphones, a study says consumers face a number of technological challenges in using the devices to get information about bioengineered foods, the key method for disclosing GMO ingredients under a 2016 law.  The study, which was required by the law and conducted by the consultant group Deloitte under contract with the Department of Agriculture, said that an extensive educational campaign will be needed to implement the law and that USDA should consider developing or endorsing user-friendly scanner apps for consumers to use. The study also suggests development of “offline alternatives,” including the use of text messages, to enable consumers to get information on biotech ingredients. The law said that If additional disclosure methods were needed USDA is required to provide them after consulting with food retailers and manufacturers. The study said that while 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone and 94 percent have adequate broadband access to scan a digital code on a food label, consumers aren’t aware of the digital links and many would face challenges in using the codes that they’re not even aware of.

Thousands of Texas cattle may have died in wake of Harvey

ABC News | Posted on September 11, 2017

Texas agricultural officials fear thousands of cattle may have died in the aftermath of Harvey, resulting in losses to ranchers of tens of millions of dollars. The counties that sustained damage when Harvey first came ashore Aug. 25 were home to 1.2 million head of cattle, representing 1-in-4 of all beef cows in Texas, the nation's largest producer.

Utah isn’t appealing the demise of its 2012 “Ag-Gag” law

Food Safety News | Posted on September 11, 2017

Utah will not appeal a federal court ruling that the state’s 2012 law against agricultural operation interference violates the U.S. Constitution. It is the only one of several state “Ag-Gag” laws which resulted in someone’s arrest and brief jailing.A spokesman for Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said there would be no appeal. Reyes assistants previously told the court they won’t be filing a Notice of Appeal with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. The winners of the case, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) put out a press release celebrating their victory. Federal Judge Robert J. Shelby with the U.S. District Court for Utah in July ruled the state’s law was unconstitutional. The Utah attorney general’s spokesman, Daniel Burton, passed on the opportunity to say why the state is not appealing the decision.Idaho also lost a district court ruling on its “Ag-Gag” law, and currently is pursuing an appeal in the liberal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Both sides made oral arguments before a three-judge panel in Seattle in May. The appellate court could rule any day.“Utah’s decision not to appeal its loss is a signal to other states that these unconstitutional Ag-Gag laws are indefensible,” said ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Should Utah’s legislature try to pass a new Ag-Gag law to replace the last one, we’ll see them back in court.”

Maine law allowing local meat oversight is rebuffed by USDA

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on September 11, 2017

A new law in Maine allowing municipalities to regulate local food production and processing has prompted USDA to warn the state it will take over all meat and poultry inspections there unless the rule is fixed. Maine has five state-licensed facilities, 30 custom facilities, 51 small poultry processing facilities and 2,714 small retail processing facilities.

'Big Chicken': The Medical Mystery That Traced Back To Slaughterhouse Workers

NPR | Posted on September 11, 2017

Reimert Ravenholt, a physician at the Seattle Department of Public Health, was puzzled. It was the winter of 1956, and for weeks now, local doctors had been calling him, describing blue-collar men coming into their offices with hot, red rashes and swollen boils running up their arms. The men were feverish and in so much pain they had to stay home from work, sometimes for weeks. The puzzle was not what was afflicting them. That was easy to establish: It was Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, a common cause of skin infections. Ravenholt happened to have a lot of experience with staph. He was the health department's chief of communicable diseases, the person who recognized and tracked down outbreaks, and for the entire previous year, he had been dealing with a staph epidemic in Seattle's hospitals. The organism had infected 1,300 women immediately after they gave birth, and more than 4,000 newborn babies, killing 24 mothers and children. It was a dreadful episode.The thing that was keeping Ravenholt up at night now was not the cause of this apparent new outbreak: It was the victims. Medicine already knew that staph could spread rapidly through a hospital, carried unknowingly by health care workers as they went from patient to patient. But outside of hospitals, it was equally taken for granted that staph infections occurred individually and by happenstance. Unless there was an explicit health care connection — a shared nurse or doctor, a crib in a nursery shared by many other newborns — there was no reason to suppose two staph cases were linked. The men coming down with the bug, several a month for five months in a row, were not linked by any hospital or doctor, yet they all had the same pattern of lesions in the same places on their arms and hands.

USDA help available for flood-damaged land

Victoria Advocate | Posted on September 11, 2017

The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service in Texas has established two special Environmental Quality Incentives Program sign ups to help farmers and ranchers that suffered damage to working lands and livestock mortality as a result of Hurricane Harvey. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program is available to help farmers and ranchers treat the on-farm/ranch problems caused by the high winds, rainfall and flood waters due to Hurricane Harvey along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Does it make sense to use poultry litter as fuel?

Watt Ag Net | Posted on September 11, 2017

One of the disadvantages of industrial-scale use of poultry litter as a fuel is the high cost of hauling litter off the farm, because litter is high in moisture and isn't as energy dense as coal. Excel Energy plans to buy the Fibrominn 55-megawatt poultry litter-burning power plant in Benson, Minnesota, and shut it down. The plant has been in operation for 10 years and it is still the only one of its kind in the U.S. I have lost track of the number of other similar projects that have been proposed in just about every major poultry growing area of the country that were never developed.The bottom line is that other forms of alternative energy, like wind, can generate electricity for a fraction of the cost of operating a large-scale litter-burning plant. But what about on-farm use of poultry litter as a fuel? Global Re-Fuel is a start-up company that is betting that on-farm furnaces for heating poultry houses with poultry litter will prove to be an economical alternative for growers. The 500,000-British-thermal-unit-per-hour furnace that the company has developed is being marketed for $100,000. One furnace should be able to heat two poultry houses.Burning poultry litter on-farm eliminates the hauling cost issues faced when litter is aggregated from multiple farms to serve an industrial user. Unlike industrial-scale facilities, poultry farms have had to rely on propane as the primary fuel to heat houses. Propane is not as economical a fuel as are coal and natural gas.I have covered several biomass-burning furnaces for poultry houses over the years. Furnaces have been designed to burn everything from poultry litter to hay to corn to heat poultry houses. One drawback of these systems has been that they require more attention than do propane powered systems, because feeding the fuel into the furnace requires human intervention. With propane, the grower just has to monitor the amount of fuel left in the tank and remember to order more.Biomass furnaces, including ones that burn poultry litter, are located outside the poultry house and exhaust outside the poultry house. Combustion inside the poultry house, as is the case with propane heaters, introduces carbon dioxide and water vapor into the air of the house. Research has shown that bird performance is improved when external furnaces are used because the ammonia level in the house is reduced, litter moisture is lower and ventilation rates in the house can also be reduced.

This New Housing Complex Has A Bonus: A 23-Acre Farm

Fast Company | Posted on September 11, 2017

In the St. Clair neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s South Side–a community struggling with poverty and filled with vacant lots–it can be hard to attract new residents. A development in planning now will try something new to achieve that: a housing complex will come with its own 23-acre urban farm.

What’s so bad about making food easier to produce?

Brooklyn Paper | Posted on September 11, 2017

The friend politely declined, which set Kennedy to thinking. His family drank conventional milk. Did that make him a dad who didn’t care about his kids’ safety, or the environment? That would be odd, since he was nominated for an Oscar for his film about a community garden blooming in South Central Los Angeles. So it’s not like he didn’t care about food, or farming, or bettering the world.It was fortuitous, then, that just as he was processing these ideas about how organic produce had become almost like a secret handshake among his “well-educated and well-intentioned” friends — something they all shared, and trusted — he was approached by the Institute of Food Technologists, a group of 18,000 food scientists. They wanted him to make a movie celebrating their 75th anniversary.The idea was to somehow illustrate the intersection of food and science. Eventually Kennedy and his fellow producer, Trace Sheehan, a Brooklynite, decided to delve into a single issue: GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. That is, plants where a geneticist has taken DNA from one organism and inserted it another to make a food easier to grow, or healthier, or hardier.Like Kennedy’s organic-only neighbor, many folks consider GMOs “Frankenfood.” The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart called G-M-O the three scariest letters in the language. With emotions running so high, Kennedy made sure he and Sheehan would have complete control over the movie. And then they started wading into the debate.What they found was a war.“People were losing their minds on both sides and I didn’t know that much about it,” said Kennedy. But as he began interviewing scientists, he realized one thing quickly. There’s a huge disconnect between the science world, which overwhelmingly believes that GMOs are safe, and the public, which does not.