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Agriculture News

Mysterious ‘zombie bee’ scourge reaches southern U.S.

Capital Press | Posted on June 27, 2016

The mysterious “zombie bee” parasite that kills honeybees has reached the southern United States after scientists confirmed a case in Virginia about an hour outside Roanoke, researchers announced this week.  The discovery suggests the phenomenon is more widespread than previously thought, although researchers still know little about how many bees it actually kills.  Flies attach themselves to the bees and inject their eggs, causing erratic “zombie-like” behavior in the bees such as flying at night and toward light. The bees often die within hours. Fly larvae burst out of their carcasses days later.

Washington Ecology to write guide to ‘best’ ag practices

Capital Press | Posted on June 27, 2016

The Washington Department of Ecology will develop voluntary “best management practices” for agricultural activities, responding to what federal regulators say is a shortcoming in the state’s plan to protect waterways.  The Environmental Protection Agency last year demanded Ecology undertake the initiative to continue to qualify for federal funding for water-quality projects.  The EPA, along with conservation groups and tribes, accused the state of being too vague about how it will prevent pollution from agriculture. In response, Ecology has hired a Seattle consultant, Ross Strategic, to interview farmers and ranchers to begin identifying ways to prevent pollution.  Ecology officials say they plan to spend several months contacting interested parties and likely won’t get down to actually writing what they are calling a technical guide until early next year.  The officials say the practices described in the guide won’t be mandatory, but following them would shield producers from being fined for an event that caused pollution. That is the benefit the producer would receive for using the guidance, according to an agency spokeswoman.

Agriculture will be affected by Britain's brexit vote

UK Farmers Weekly | Posted on June 24, 2016

For more than 40 years, UK farmers have relied on subsidies from the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP) and significant export markets in Europe with free access to 500 million consumers.  But the dramatic outcome of the referendum has created huge uncertainty about the future of farm support, regulation and access to the single market and migrant labour, which UK agriculture heavily depends on. Polls carried out by Farmers Weekly have consistently shown strong farmer support for the “leave” campaign. In April, a poll of 577 farmers found 58% said they wanted to leave, while just 31% said they wanted the UK to remain in the trade bloc.  Mr Murray called on government to offer an early guarantee that CAP support to UK farmers would continue “unbroken and unchanged” until at least the end of December 2020.  And he said UK government must lobby for a “barrier and tariff-free” trading relationship with the EU. “Whatever happens, the UK government must not allow a poor trade dynamic that leaves UK agriculture at a disadvantage.”

EU regulators to rule on $130 billion Dow, DuPont deal by July 28

Reuters | Posted on June 24, 2016

EU antitrust authorities will decide by July 28 whether to allow the $130 billion merger of U.S. chemical company Dow Chemical Co and its rival DuPont, one of several large agribusiness deals. The EU competition enforcer can approve the deal with or without concessions or it can open a full-scale investigation of about five months should it have serious concerns about the merger's impact on consumers and rivals.

Farm Bureau president says labor rights would disrupt NY agriculture

North Country Public Radio | Posted on June 24, 2016

New York's Farm Bureau announced this week it will fight to block bargaining rights for tens of thousands of agricultural workers. The group hopes to intervene in a court battle over the issue sparked by a labor dispute here in the North Country.  Farm Bureau president Dean Norton argued farming is different from other industries that have unions and collective bargaining. "Mother Nature decides our schedule for us," Norton said on the public radio program Capital Pressroom. "When we have to get our crop in the ground, we may have only a certain window of time to get it in. We could be facing a strike or a shutdown or a labor shortage at an inopportune time when we're trying to put crops in the ground or we're trying to harvest our crops."  The New York Civil Liberties Union is suing to overturn a state law that prevents farm workers from organizing. Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State's Attorney General have announced they won't defend the law. Norton described their decision as "disappointing."

Plowing is polluting? Wheat farmer loses clean water case

Farm Futures | Posted on June 23, 2016

Judge Kimberly Mueller on June 10, 2016 in the U.S. Eastern District Court of California found that John Duarte, a nursery operator and wheat farmer, plowed wetlands, four to six inches deep, and therefore violated the Clean Water Act.  The Judge found Mr. Duarte, by chiseling a pasture, discharged fill material into a water (vernal pool) of the United States. Get this! The Court wrote “In sum, soil is a pollutant. And here, plaintiffs instructed [a contractor] to till and loosen soil on the property.”  This plowing, according to the Court, caused “…the material in this case soil, to move horizontally, creating furrows and ridges.” You will not believe this.    The Court wrote, “This movement of the soil resulted in its being redeposited into waters of the United States at least in areas of the wetlands as delineated...” In sum, the Judge found that chiseling no more than a few inches of soil constituted an addition of a pollutant to a wetland.

New Insights on the Impacts of Public Agricultural Research and Extension

Choices magazine | Posted on June 23, 2016

In order to feed the growing population of the world, expected to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050—a 29% increase over 2013—without causing immense environmental damage and human hunger, society must increase agricultural productivity. Two ways of achieving this are to invest in public agricultural research and to invest in public extension delivery. The importance of the need for increased investment is widely recognized.   Developed countries like the United States have been leaders in science-based agricultural productivity increases for most of the 20st century. However, after growing rapidly from 1960-1982, growth in public, productivity-oriented, agricultural research investment in the United States slowed considerably from 1980-1995, and then declined over 1995-1998 by 20% before turning around and showing some growth to 2006, before declining again during the Great Recession. In contrast, rapidly developing countries, such as Brazil and China, are investing heavily in agricultural research, putting future international competitiveness of U.S. agricultural exports at risk (Fuglie and Wang, 2012). Furthermore, consumers worldwide will be worse-off if future investments in public and private agricultural research and extension are not large enough to deliver declining real world food prices in the 21st century.

Canada publishes new chicken handling code | Posted on June 22, 2016

The revised “Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Hatching Eggs, Breeders, Chickens, and Turkeys are nationally developed guidelines to ensure sound management and welfare practices that promote animal health and well-being. The guidelines are used as educational tools, reference materials for regulations, and the foundation for industry animal care assessment programs, the groups said. Updates to the Canadian poultry code were led by a 15-person committee comprising poultry farmers, animal welfare and enforcement representatives, researchers, hatcheries, transporters, processors, veterinarians, and government representatives. Helping them was a five-person scientific commitee that included research and veterinary expertise in poultry behavior, health and welfare. A public comment period was held in the fall of 2015. 

GMOs at issue north of the border

Meatingplace (registration required) | Posted on June 22, 2016

A bill that would require the labeling of all genetically modified foods in Canada has been introduced in that country’s Parliament.  Bill C-291, proposed by MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault, is not the first to be put forth for consideration. All previous attempts have fallen short.

Dairy farmers fighting economic struggles

WXOW | Posted on June 22, 2016

If you've ever wondered just how big of a role dairy farming plays in Wisconsin, consider this... last year, the dairy industry contributed more than 43 billion dollars to Wisconsin's economy. The majority of these farms providing us with all the milk, cheese, and butter that we crave are owned by individuals and families.  However, this year farmers have been feeling a bit of an economic squeeze. In April of this year, the price of milk dropped more than forty percent since September of the previous year, causing many farms to operate at a loss.