Skip to content Skip to navigation

Agriculture News

Australia set to block sale of massive ranch to Chinese firm

CNN | Posted on April 30, 2016

The Australian government said Friday that the deal for China's Dakang Australia to take control of the Kidman beef company is "contrary to the national interest."

Dakang has until Tuesday to respond to the government's concerns, but the announcement means the deal is likely to be blocked.

The Chinese company and its local partner, Australian Rural Capital, want to buy Kidman and 77,300 square kilometers (30,000 square miles) of its land for $370 million Australian dollars ($283 million). Dakang brought on board ARC, which was planning to take a 20% stake, in an effort to overcome opposition to selling so much land to foreigners.

But that wasn't enough to sway Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison.

He said he was worried that selling the Kidman property in one huge chunk had made it hard for Australian bidders to compete.

Coexistence Plan for Alfalfa Hay in Western Canada now available

Seed Quest | Posted on April 30, 2016

Recognizing that GM development of alfalfa and other crop kinds will continue, the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) agreed to facilitate a value chain process to develop a coexistence plan for conventional, organic and GM alfalfa production, first in Eastern Canada in 2013, and now in Western Canada.

Many experts contributed to the development of the Western coexistence plan and voluntary Best Management Practices (BMP’s), including forage specialists, alfalfa producers, seed companies and honey producers. The group reviewed the biology of alfalfa in Canada and alfalfa hay production systems, and tailored the BMP’s to the specific needs of Western Canada. The plan does not advocate for or against the commercialization of GM alfalfa, or favor any one system. The result is a science-based document designed to help farmers understand and incorporate the voluntary BMP’s into their crop management system, whether conventional, organic or GM.

Saving the planet, one cow burp at a time

Newsworks | Posted on April 29, 2016

Hristov and his team study ways to reduce those emissions, so they have gotten very good at quantifying the amount their cows exhale. Prompted by some extra snacks, cow number 2050 ducks her head into a hooded machine that records the amount of methane, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide in her burps. During experiments, the scientists take eight measurements from each cow over several days. In a few months, this gives a snapshot of just how much methane the animals churn out -- and whether particular interventions work to slash that pollution.

One way to reduce the environmental impact of cow digestion is to chemically block the creation of methane in the gut. Hristov's group has been testing an inhibitor made by DSM Nutritional Products that is added to cow feed to do just that. It's called 3-nitrooxypropanol, or 3NOP, and prevents an enzyme in bacteria from powering the last step of methane formation.

So far, the compound appears to work. In Penn State's study, which was partially funded by DSM, methane emissions fell by 30 percent, compared to controls. The decrease persisted for the entire 12-week period the cows were on the drug, and milk production didn't suffer. Hristov, who previously evaluated a variety of natural herbs and oils for similar effects, sees 3NOP as a breakthrough.

Dry La Niña period likely to follow El Niño

San Francisco Chronicle | Posted on April 29, 2016

The monthly climate outlook released this week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects that most of California will remain in drought over the next several months. The forecast reverses last month’s projection that nearly half of the state would begin seeing relief.

Kirsty Perrett (l to r), pushes Zephina Robertson, 7 months, in a stroller as Graham Robertson walks alongside while out for a walk at Dolores Park on Thursday, April 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.

The change reflects the results of a disappointing El Niño, which didn’t deliver the wetter-than-average winter that many had hoped for, and the increased odds of a La Niña emerging this fall — now at 70 percent.

While El Niño represents a warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean and is associated with jolts in global weather that often bring more rain and snow to California, La Niña is marked by cool equatorial waters and has virtually the opposite effect on weather.

“There is a trend for drier-than-normal conditions across the southern United States,” said Jon Gottschalck, chief of the operations branch of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

U.S. animal ag has some work to do

Feedstuffs | Posted on April 29, 2016

America’s livestock and poultry farmers have some work to do.

More than half the people in a recent nationwide survey by The Center for Food Integrity strongly agree with the statement, “If farm animals are treated decently and humanely, I have no problem consuming meat, milk and eggs.” Only one in four people in the same survey strongly agree with the statement, “U.S. meat is derived from humanely treated animals.”

See the gap?

Judge tosses chicken growers’ $500 million complaint against Pilgrim’s Pride | Posted on April 29, 2016

A federal judge in Texas dismissed with prejudice a lawsuit filed by chicken growers claiming Pilgrim’s Pride violated federal law by wielding market power to manipulate pricing when it closed several plants amid the economic recession in 2009.

The plaintiffs were more than 200 poultry growers, most selling their chickens to two Pilgrim’s plants — El Dorado, Ark., and Farmerville, La. — that the company closed in early 2009 as part of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The company filed for bankruptcy, it said, because its own overproduction was causing major financial losses. The company had an estimated 50 percent share of the market at the time.

Chesapeake Bay 'pollution diet' working, but it's expensive

Richmond News | Posted on April 29, 2016

The Chesapeake Bay’s pollution levels are dropping — but the so-called “pollution diet” has not been cheap.

Virginia has spent $767.4 million to help localities upgrade wastewater treatment plants that discharge pollutants into the bay and its tributaries, said James Davis–Martin of the state Department of Environmental Quality.

“It’s a huge investment, and it’s been an important part of our strategy and our success,” he said.

Labor in the Food System, from Farm to Table

Journal of Ag, Food Systems and Community Development | Posted on April 29, 2016

Labor is at the heart of the food system—economically, politically, and ethically. This JAFSCD issue brings concerns about labor economics, politics, and ethics to contemporary food systems praxis. In so doing, we build upon the work of Cesar Chavez, Carey McWilliams, Deborah Fink, Dolores Huerta, Don Villarejo, Frank Bardacke, John Steinbeck, William Friedland, and countless others. Their activism and scholarship, set in an earlier context, has not always translated into the promise of the new sustainable or alternative agrifood movement, which, asBiewener states, has often focused more on "good food" than "good jobs." As someone who has worked as a farm laborer, food factory worker, and food service worker and written about social justice, racism, labor, gender, and localism in sustainable and alternative food systems for more than 25 years, I am honored to introduce the work of scholar-activists in this journal issue.

     The articles collectively address a wide range of labor issues, and in this introduction I highlight three themes that emerge: the need to see labor issues and solutions as social rather than individual problems; the reproduction of disenfranchisement; and the need to create new political economic systems. The articles in this issue demonstrate in a number of ways that labor problems are not so much the result of individual choices, but rather part of an entire system that extracts value from those who are the most vulnerable and allocates it to those who are the most powerful. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the agrifood system, where jobs are low-wage, dangerous, and contingent. Workers are often treated as instrumental factors of production and are commodified (Clayton, Ikerd) rather than as people with feelings, intellect, and aspirations....

Missouri producers reject creating state beef checkoff

Fox 2 | Posted on April 29, 2016

Missouri beef producers have soundly rejected an effort to establish a $1 per head beef checkoff fee.

he Missouri Beef Industry Council proposed the $1 fee, which would have been in addition to an existing $1 per head federal beef checkoff fee. Supporters said the revenue would be used to combat declining beef prices and to promote the health benefits of beef.

Scientists advance disease resistance in 3 of world's most important crops

EurekaAlert | Posted on April 29, 2016

The Nature Biotechnology reports focus on wheat stem rust, Asian soybean rust, and potato late blight, diseases that are difficult to control, and each capable of causing yield losses over 80%.

They report the isolation of novel disease resistance genes and the successful transfer of resistance into wheat, soybean, and potato. The 2Blades Foundation supported the development of these efforts as part of the organization's mission to discover, advance, and deliver genetic improvements in crop disease resistance.