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Agriculture News

Washington cattle industry in searing debate over brand program

Capital Press | Posted on October 4, 2018

Brand inspections, a way to catch rustlers, will end next year in Washington unless the cattle industry fully funds the inspections, according to the state Department of Agriculture. The department says it loses $38,000 a month checking brands on cattle that are being sold. If the Legislature doesn’t bring fees in line with expenses, inspections will cease in July, according to a budget plan submitted Monday.“We do not take this lightly at all. We understand the seriousness of it,” department spokesman Hector Castro said Wednesday. “It would be irresponsible for the department to not prepare for this because the department can’t continue to operate a program that loses money every month.”The deficit has been building for several years as segments of Washington’s livestock industry have debated the scope, value and expense of brand inspections. State lawmakers set the fees, which were last raised in 2006. The department says the fees have not kept up with rising government costs.

Public Lands Grazing Helps Ranchers, Sage Grouse, Study Says

Capital Press | Posted on October 4, 2018

Grazing restrictions on public lands may have unintended consequences for greater sage grouse, according to a recent study. The imperiled birds depend on habitat on both public and private lands, and much of that habitat can be lost when ranching operations go under. “We found that as the restrictions to public lands increased, (private) landowners have historically made decisions to alter their land use. Then there’s trigger points where they may sell those lands to higher intensity uses that would be bad for sage grouse,” said David Naugle, study co-author and professor at the University of Montana.

Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on modernizing standards of identity and the use of dairy names for plant-based substitutes

FDA | Posted on October 4, 2018

The wide variety of plant-based foods that are being positioned in the marketplace as substitutes for standardized dairy products has been the subject of much discussion in our initial work on the Nutrition Innovation Strategy. The rising demand for plant-based products, like soy-based alternatives to cheese and nut-based alternatives to milk, has created a growing number of new food choices in supermarket aisles. However, these products are not foods that have been standardized under names like “milk” and “cheese.” The FDA has concerns that the labeling of some plant-based products may lead consumers to believe that those products have the same key nutritional attributes as dairy products, even though these products can vary widely in their nutritional content. It is important that we better understand consumers’ expectations of these plant-based products compared to dairy products. Many dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and certain cheeses, have standards of identity established by regulation, which require certain components and ingredients in these foods. Names such as “milk”, “yogurt” and “cheddar cheese” have long been recognized by the American public as identifying the dairy foods described in the standards. More recently, these names have appeared in the labeling of plant-based products as part of the name of the product. Some examples include “soy milk” or “almond milk” and “vegan mozzarella cheese.” These plant-based products are sometimes packaged very similarly to those used for milk or yogurt, for example, and sold in the dairy section of grocery stores. However, these plant-based products may not be satisfactory substitutes for all uses of dairy. And some may not be nutritionally equivalent.

Chronic Wasting Disease Found in Quebec

Valley News | Posted on October 4, 2018

 A deer in Quebec has tested positive for chronic wasting disease, the closest that the equivalent of “mad cow disease” for deer and moose has been found to New Hampshire and Vermont, increasing concern from wildlife officials about keeping the fatal ailment out of the state. According to New Hampshire Fish and Game, a red deer from a captive facility in the Laurentides region of Quebec, north of Montreal, recently tested positive for chronic wasting disease, the province’s first confirmed case. This finding represents the closest confirmed case of CWD to date, which “poses a much greater threat to the state’s deer and moose populations than past cases of the disease elsewhere in North America,” according to a statement from Fish and Game.Chronic wasting disease is an ailment of the brain and spinal column roughly similar to “mad cow disease.”Quebec now is legally classified as a CWD-positive jurisdiction, meaning that hunters cannot bring whole carcasses of cervids (members of the deer family including moose, deer, elk and caribou, as well as any species of captive deer) killed in Quebec back to the states.

New Iowa law provides more funding to control nutrient runoff

CSG Midwest | Posted on October 4, 2018

Iowa and other states in the Mississippi River basin have been the focus of national attention lately due to soil nutrients that drain to the Gulf of Mexico. Efforts in Iowa to reduce and limit the amount of nutrients that are delivered to the Gulf have been numerous. Senate File 512 was passed at the start of our 2018 legislative session and signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds on Jan. 31; it provides significant, long-term funding to support implementation of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The new law dedicates $282 million over 12 years for water quality and soil conservation — $156 million to address point sources of water pollution and $126 million for nonpoint sources. SF 512 does not supplant or change any of our state’s existing programs; rather, it simply enhances our Nutrient Reduction Strategy. In 2017, $420 million was spent in Iowa to further the goals of this strategy. We will now be able to add to that amount, with targeted investments leveraged by a mix of public and private dollars.

To increase farmers’ insurance options, two Midwest states try ‘coop,’ ‘association’ models

CSG Midwest | Posted on October 4, 2018

Residents living in more than half of the nation’s counties have only one insurer to choose from on their state’s Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange. This lack of options is most prevalent in rural areas: 41 percent of enrollees in non-metro counties vs. the overall rate of 21 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.Could the creation of agricultural cooperative health plans help fill insurance gaps, offer more choices for consumers and lower costs? Minnesota lawmakers hope so, and their passage of SF 1 in 2017 marked the start of that state’s policy experiment with this type of health insurance option. “Farmers can join together in self-insured plans like those used by large employers,” explains Rep. Tim Miller, who helped guide the legislation through the House. By the start of this year, two agriculture cooperatives, 40 Square and Land O’ Lakes, had jumped into the market and enrolled more than 1,700 people.

Immigrant farm workers forced off Hermon dairy farm

Watertown Daily Times | Posted on October 4, 2018

Eight days ago, Gebarten Acres, a large dairy farm on East DeKalb Road, was forced to lay off 17 farm workers from Guatemala and Mexico after an investigation by federal officials showed the immigrant farm workers lacked documentation to legally work in the United States. Greg J. Coller, co-owner of the 2,800-cow farm, said Friday that three other immigrant workers were allowed to stay, but they decided to leave with the other 17. Some had worked and lived at the farm for the past seven years, handling milking and other chores.“They gave us a few days warning so we had time to contact family and friends to help us out,” Mr. Coller said. “Many of us have been working 17-hour days to get the cows milked.”He said he believes many of his former farmhands are already working at other farms, creating a situation where the dairy farm owners suffer the most harm.“I guarantee they’re working. To make them leave is crazy, as we’re the only ones who suffer,” Mr. Coller said.Echoing a problem faced by many other north country dairy farmers, Mr. Coller said it’s increasingly difficult to find Americans who are willing to put in the hard work to keep a farm running.

A tale of two economie: Farmers struggle despite strong US economy

Kansas City Federal Reserve | Posted on October 4, 2018

At a time when the overall U.S. economy continues to boom, the U.S. agricultural sector has continued to struggle amid falling farm income and deteriorating agricultural credit conditions. Over the past five years, U.S. economic growth has continued to strengthen. The growth in U.S. real gross domestic product (GDP) has averaged 2.4 percent per quarter since 2013. Down on the farm, though, conditions have been far from robust. From 2013 to 2017, net farm income—considered to be a broad measure of farm profitability—fell 39 percent, from $123.8 billion to $75.5 billion. The farm economy does not always run counter to the rest of the overall economy, but unique conditions this past year— amplified in the Midwest—continue to curb agricultural growth. In 2012, commodity prices began to soar as a severe drought that summer lingered in the main growing areas of the Midwest, leading to a jump in land values and farm income. Strong domestic and export demand also fueled gains. Following this 2013 peak, though, crop prices dropped amid increased plantings, good growing conditions and higher crop yields. 

N.C. estimates crop, livestock losses from Hurricane Florence

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on October 4, 2018

Crop and livestock losses from Hurricane Florence are expected to exceed $1.1 billion, including $23.1 million in livestock, poultry and aquaculture losses, according to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.The agency noted that the losses were expected to be significant because the storm hit at harvest time and Florence hit the state’s top six agricultural counties especially hard. Crop losses alone were estimated to reach a total nearly $987 million, NSDA&CS said.The agency added that the estimated toll on animals raised for food in North Carolina remain at 4.1 million poultry and 5,500 hogs across the state. Florence also caused forestry losses of $69.6 million, green industry losses of $30 million and vegetable and horticulture crop losses of $26.8 million.

Activists arrested after entering poultry farm and taking chickens

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on October 4, 2018

Members of the organization Direct Action Everywhere, which promotes a vegan lifestyle, were arrested on Saturday after entering a poultry farm near Petaluma, Calif., taking chickens out of their barns and attempting to take them off the farm’s property. The group live-streamed on Facebook what they called a “funeral procession” down a country road to the farm, then took some chickens they said needed medical attention. Event organizer Wayne Hsiung said the group believes that under California Penal Code 597e, they have the right to enter a facility and rescue animals that are being abused.