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Agriculture News

Washington Ecology defends dairy rules as hearing ends

Capital Press | Posted on June 8, 2018

An eight-day hearing on the Washington Department of Ecology’s new manure-management rules ended Thursday with the agency defending itself against varied attacks by the dairy industry and environmental groups. Ecology’s attorney, Phyllis Barney, asked the Pollution Control Hearings Board to uphold rules that will require dairies with more than 200 cows to obtain pollution-control permits from Ecology. The Washington State Dairy Federation and Washington Farm Bureau, and a coalition of environmental groups are appealing aspects of Ecology’s rules. The board is the first stop to challenge Ecology decisions.Farm groups allege some rules are unnecessary and burdensome, particularly one that would prohibit manure lagoons built to federal standards. Environmental groups say Ecology’s faults include failing to require synthetic liners in lagoons and on-farm wells to monitor whether manure is polluting groundwater. The hearing continued the long-running and high-stakes battle between dairies and environmental groups in Washington.

Dairy farmers are struggling as they are squeezed out of a changing milk market

CNBC | Posted on June 5, 2018

Dean Foods canceled contracts with about 100 dairy farmers in eight states. It's part of a larger trend as the dairy market is getting hurt by competition among retailers, low milk prices and shrinking milk consumption. At a national average of $3.23 a gallon, retail milk prices are lower now than ten years ago.

Farm and Biofuel Coalition Demands that EPA Account for Lost Volumes

Ag Net West | Posted on June 5, 2018

A coalition of biofuel and agriculture groups petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to change its regulations to account for lost volumes of renewable fuel resulting from the unprecedented number of retroactive small refinery exemptions from Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) obligations recently granted by EPA.  This petition comes days after several ethanol and farm groups challenged three specific small refinery exemptions granted by EPA. While the lawsuit in the Tenth Circuit challenged those exemptions as wrongly decided, this petition to EPA seeks a broader, forward-looking remedy to account for the collective lost volumes caused by the unprecedented number of retroactive small refinery exemptions. “EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has had a fire sale on small refiner exemptions for anyone with a stamp and an envelope, making a mockery of the President’s commitment to a 15-billion-gallon RFS for conventional biofuel. This must end. We take no pleasure in having to litigate to protect the integrity of the RFS, but it appears we have no other recourse,” said RFA CEO Bob Dinneen.

USDA Will Not Recognize Third-Party Inspections Regarding Animal Welfare

Ag Net West | Posted on June 5, 2018

The Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will not establish new criteria for recognizing third-party inspection and certification programs when determining the Agency’s own inspection frequency under the Animal Welfare Act. USDA says stakeholders on all sides of the issue expressed concern about APHIS’ ability to maintain responsibility for inspections and Animal Welfare Act compliance should third-party inspections be taken into account when determining APHIS inspection frequencies.

Trade, Trust and Trump

DTN | Posted on June 5, 2018

Regardless whether you're a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or a card-carrying Mugwump, I think we can all agree that President Donald Trump is a man not afraid to change his mind. Of course, that's not to say that everyone would characterize this unique flexibility in the same way. But while I'm glad President Trump is not demonically possessed by an irrational need to strictly "stay the course" for its own sake, I am increasingly troubled by the reckless way he likes to shoot from the hip in matters of global trade.The seeds of mistrust now being sown among many of our major trading partners makes me wonder if the White House truly understands the evolutionary nature of the international marketplace, a networking process that slowly improves over time as "non-zero" relationships (i.e., net import and export sums that benefit both sides of a trade) proliferate and compound. But if this criticism is too harsh on the Trump administration, I feel more confident in saying that the president and his entire motley crew (given the extremely short truce in the trade war with China declared just last week, it seems clear that not every team member is rowing in the same direction) could benefit from a season or two of demanding fieldwork and farm management. As far as I'm concerned, the great and abiding ethos of agricultural marketing has always been summarized by the pledge "my word is my bond." Many may think this sounds quaint and unrealistic. But I still think it's the fundamental nail that guarantees 95% or more of the country's farm business. Nevertheless, I would have no qualms testifying before Congress (or perhaps more to the point, chatting over drinks at Mar-a-Lago) about agriculture's extraordinarily high commitment to honor and trust in matters of commerce. Maybe I'm hopelessly naive. But I've seen too many unhedged farmers dutifully deliver contracted corn dollars under the spot market and too many unhedged feedlot managers accept delivery on fall calves tens of dollars above the spot market to think otherwise.

Mexico pork tariff threats push Iowa losses to $560 million

Des Moines Register | Posted on June 4, 2018

Iowa pork producers already dealing with a 25 percent tariff on U.S. pork exports to China could face another trade hit, with Mexico considering a 20 percent tariff on hams and pork shoulders.Growing trade worries have cut pork prices in recent weeks, costing Iowa producers about $560 million, said Dermot Hayes, an Iowa State University economist.Mexico is the largest export market for U.S. pork, based on volume.Mexico bought $1.5 billion of U.S. pork last year, followed by China-Hong Kong at nearly $1.1 billion.The tariffs are "potentially devastating news for Iowa’s pig farmers and the rural Iowa economy," said Gregg Hora, president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

Human Trafficking Uncovered On Ohio Egg Farm

Plant Based News | Posted on June 4, 2018

The victims, predominantly Guatemalan minors, were told by a trafficker that a better life awaited them in the US and were brought to Trillium Farms to pay off $15,000 of imposed debt.There, they were forced to work in poor conditions, allowed to keep only a fraction of their pay checks, and met with death threats in the event of protest.They were given such little freedom that one teen was at Trillium for four months before he managed to call his uncle in Florida for help. In response to his nephew's pleas, fear, and desperation - the uncle contacted the Collier City Sheriff's office.Two months later, federal and local authorities raided the trailer park where the workers were held, uncovering at least 10 victims of human trafficking.Senator Robert Portman - who was Chairman of the investigatory committee - said what authorities uncovered during the investigation that followed was 'flat out wrong'.

Carbon farming isn’t worth it for farmers. Two blockchain companies want to change that

The New Food Economy | Posted on June 4, 2018

When the price of Bitcoin skyrocketed at the end of 2017, analysts crunched the numbers and concluded that the cryptocurrency was set to consume the entire global energy supply by the end of 2020. “Mining” Bitcoin involves solving increasingly complex mathematical equations that secure the network in exchange for newly-minted cryptocurrency—which incidentally requires lots of energy. Huge server farms have popped up around the world for the express purpose of generating the virtual cash, from China to upstate New York, where one town put a moratorium on new commercial cryptocurrency mining operations to protect “the City’s natural, historic, cultural and electrical resources.” But in spite of Bitcoin’s eco-unfriendly reputation, some organizations propose using blockchain, the technology that makes the cryptocurrency possible, to power a regenerative agricultural revolution. The ultimate goal is to reverse the flow of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere until atmospheric levels fall to a degree that scientists agree will stabilize the climate. So where does the blockchain come in? Well, there are two major hurdles standing in the way of widespread carbon farming. The first is that farmers are not necessarily incentivized to radically change their land management practices.“There’s really no value in carbon and the best practices that improve soil,” says Torri Estrada, executive director of the Carbon Cycle Institute, which advocates for carbon farming and regenerative land management. “I think if there was, farmers would be integrating that, but there isn’t really. Like one of our farmers said, ‘If I got paid to grow carbon I would grow the heck out of it.'” Technically, many farmers can already get paid to “grow carbon”—they just don’t get paid very much, either because the value of the credit is too low, or because intermediaries and fees eat into their profit margins. Maybe a more competitive market would help.


The latest blow to struggling family farms: Rising interest rates

The Washington Post | Posted on June 4, 2018

Shane Merrill lives in a small town in South Dakota that’s 1,400 miles from Wall Street, but he watches the numbers as avidly as the traders. Merrill isn’t an investment manager. He’s a family farmer. Right now, as he drives a tractor and planter to get soybeans in the ground, he’s also checking financial news on his smartphone. He’s worried, he says, about interest rates shooting up. To keep his farm going, he has to borrow about $1 million a year from the bank, a common scenario for family farmers. Merrill takes out a loan in the early spring to buy seeds, fertilizer and fuel and aims to pay it back, with interest, after the fall harvest. His local bank currently charges him 5.75 percent interest on the loan, a bit higher than the national average on a home mortgage. But his rate is almost certainly going to rise, an extra expense as farmers are getting the lowest prices in years for their crops. The Federal Reserve has signaled that it will probably raise its benchmark interest rate at least five more times by the end of 2019. As the Fed boosts rates, banks charge more for credit card debt, car loans and home mortgages. Farmers like Merrill could soon face rates of more than 7 percent. Younger farmers are especially vulnerable because they tend not to have as much land in their names, so they have less to offer the bank as collateral.

SARL member, Mike Parsons, becomes Missouri Governor

River Front Times | Posted on May 31, 2018

On Friday, Missourians will bid a final farewell to Eric Greitens, who has an exciting post-gubernatorial life waiting for him in various courtrooms. Replacing the former political wunderkind is Lt. Governor Mike Parson, a fellow Republican, but one cast in a far different mold. Parson is a devout Baptist, an Army veteran, a farmer, a former sheriff and a longtime presence in the state legislature in both the House and Senate. Whatever kind of governor he'll turn out to be, he'll have to work to establish a legacy outside of Greitens' jagged shadow. Parson grew up in a rural town of 356 people. He's a farmer and small-business owner. He talks with an authentic twang. Parson will be tasked with filling five vacancies on the eight-member board, which oversees K-12 education in the state. He must also decide if one of the three existing members — whose term expires July 1 — will stay or go.