The Ohio Department of Agriculture announced that nine land trusts, four counties, one township and 11 Soil and Water Conservation Districts will receive funding to help preserve farmland across the state. These organizations will receive allocations from the Clean Ohio Fund to select, close and monitor easements under the Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program
VTT has developed a solution for converting even small sources of methane-rich biogas into raw materials for animal feed or bioplastic on farms, landfills and wastewater treatment plants. This emission-reducing solution is based on the ability of methanotrophic bacteria to grow on methane in gas fermentors. The methanotrophic bacteria and (depending on the growth conditions) cell mass may also contain polyhydroxybutyrate plastic (PHB) - a natural substance in the cells that enables them to store conserve energy. For example, PHB can be used as a raw material for biodegradable packaging material, instead of oil-based and non-biodegradable plastics such as polypropylene (PP). The cell mass may contain 50% half of the PHB, in which case the protein content is around 30%.
transcripts show that farm policy hasn’t come up even once during a presidential debate for the past 16 years. For more than a hundred years before that, however, the hyperbolic praise of American farmers was a campaign mainstay. So much so that Charles Warren of Mutual News opened his moderation of a 1960 presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon by stating, “It’s a fact, I think, that presidential candidates traditionally make promises to farmers.” He then queried the candidates, “Why this constant courting of the farmer?” Well, it’s 2016, and the courtship is clearly over. How did we get from there to here? American farms are still hugely important. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the gross output of American farms is $393 billion. That’s more than eight times the figure for coal mining, an industry that held the spotlight several times during the presidential campaigns. The Farm Crisis of the early 1980s is considered to be the worst financial crash that the United States farming sector had experienced since the Great Depression of the 1930s; it completed the boom-and-bust cycle that had begun with a steep rise in agricultural speculation during the early 1970s. Out of its aftermath emerged a new permanent reality that has changed the entire concept of farming in America: the end of the self-supporting family farm.
New and stiffer Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) training requirements for farm workers using chemicals, specifically pesticides in an agricultural setting, are set to take effect beginning in January of 2017. As it stands now, and as it has been in the past, workers who handle pesticides on the farm must receive specialized training every five years to conform to EPA regulations. But effective Jan 2, 2017, that and many other rules change, and EPA says it is critical that everyone working in agriculture and handling pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals must conform to the new regulations.
Ethanol was a factor in both the price run-up that began in 2006 and the price run-down that began in 2013. Tepid growth replaced explosive growth. The question for the future is, “What is ethanol’s organic growth rate (growth without government policy stimulus)?” Recent history suggests growth will continue in the corn ethanol market, but it likely will be notably lower than the growth in yields. Thus, upward pressure on corn prices is less likely.
Federal law does not pre-empt state or local governments from banning genetically engineered crops that have been deregulated by USDA, according to a federal appeals court. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed an earlier ruling that held Maui County in Hawaii was prohibited from banning commercialized genetically modified organisms in 2014 because the ordinance was pre-empted by federal rules for biotechnology. Because the USDA lacks jurisdiction over biotech crops once they’re deregulated, there is no conflict between local regulations and federal rules and laws, the 9th Circuit said. Prohibiting states and local governments from regulating crops that were once considered plant pests would have a “backwards effect” because they can still regulate conventional crops that “raise fewer concerns,” the 9th Circuit held.
A USDA official, Alexis Taylor, has been nominated to head the Oregon Department of Agriculture, replacing former director Katy Coba. Taylor is currently the USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services and will begin serving as ODA director on Jan. 23, once confirmed by the Oregon Senate.
It is an argument that comes up every Thanksgiving season: using corn for ethanol drives up food prices. Another study proves this is simply not true. Year after year, study after study continues to show that the renewable fuels sector does not impact the price or availability of food. Again this year, an independent analysis shows food prices are not impacted by commodity prices. Jeff Cooper, vice president of the Renewable Fuels Association, says it is really hard to notice any impact on consumer food prices from the expansion of the ethanol sector. The study, done by Informa Economics, indicates that food prices were not impacted by the prices of corn or soybeans. “In fact, the inflation rate for grocers is about half of what it was before the RFS started in 2010,” said Cooper. Prior to 2010, grocery prices were averaging a yearly increase of 3.2%; since 2010 that has dropped to 1.8%.
Farms are getting bigger and the smallest farms aren’t real farms — that’s what I told you last week in a story about how the official definition of “farm” in the national Agricultural Census obscures the consolidation that the farming industry has experienced over the last 30 years. But there’s another important part to this story: Consolidation isn’t the same thing as the loss of family farms. Ninety-seven percent of US farms are family-owned, according the most recent Agricultural Census. Even big farms are usually family owned. Of farms with gross annual sales of $1,000,000 or more, 94 percent are family farms. Of farms with 10,000 acres or more, 86 percent are family businesses. Nor is this a situation there a tiny fraction of non-family farms own most of the land or produce an outsized portion of our food. For both stats, non-family farms represent less than 10 percent of the total. What’s more, the balance of power between corporate and family farms hasn’t changed much during the decades when farms got more and more massive. Even mega-farms, in other words, aren’t being run by faceless corporate elites. Instead, it’s more like Old MacDonald got himself a bigger, GPS-enabled tractor and now farms land that used to belong to three of his neighbors.
Twenty years from now, the most important tool for putting food on your table won’t be a harvester, combine or a plow. It will be a piece of software. Agriculture is in the process of transitioning into a fully high-tech enterprise. This is a long-overdue revolution in the way things have been done for centuries. To put it in perspective, if we keep doing farming the old-fashioned way, two billion more people will go hungry by the year 2050. World population growth is driving the urgent need for a radical boost in farm productivity. Incremental advances in output simply won’t cut it. The challenge in 2050 will be unprecedented — equivalent to growing enough food to feed everyone who is alive today, plus everyone who was alive in 1920. Simply put, the techniques that got us through the 20th century won’t get us very far into the 21st. And whatever solutions we come up with will to solve this dilemma will also have to take into account that land and water continue to be scarce resources, and environmental sustainability remains paramount.