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Agriculture News

Wyoming ranchers gain new option as plant gets USDA certification

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on June 7, 2017

Wyoming Legacy Meats has persevered in its efforts to obtain USDA certification to process meat, and now Wyoming ranchers no longer have to leave the state to have their cattle processed. The Cody, Wyoming-based company began updating its facilities after Frank Schmidt acquired the former Cody Meat operation last fall.The work included remodeling, new floor installations and cooler and freezer upgrades to qualify for USDA certification.

Can America’s farms survive the threat of deportations?

The Atlantic | Posted on June 7, 2017

“My ancestors are Irish and they were called all sorts of names,” Pete, a 58-year-old farmer, told me. He said the country has swung back around to how it was a century ago. “Now people say Hispanics are taking their jobs,” Pete said. “Come on. You can’t get a kid who can flip a burger to come here and do this job for $15 an hour. If we had a workforce that was willing to do this work, I’d hire them, but we don’t.” A 2014 American Farm Bureau study backs that up: It shows that unemployed Americans regularly shun farm work, even preferring to stay unemployed.Which is one reason why Pete told me he’s anticipating a rough year: He’s not sure he’ll have the hands to do the work on his berry, apple, and vegetable crops. “Word of mouth used to bring guys to the farm during the harvest, but now I don’t know,” he said. He wouldn’t agree to let me use his name because he said even talking to a reporter had him worried about repercussions from zealous ICE agents. (While we were talking, Pete’s wife yelled at him to hang up the phone. He didn’t.) Pete pointed to an ICE arrest of five farmworkers in western New York who did not have criminal records. He said it’s just that kind of unpredictability that adds another layer of uncertainty to a business already fraught with pressures farmers cannot control—like the weather or consumer appetites.Pete points out that the undocumented community is a net contributor to taxes. It’s true: A recent report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that undocumented immigrants contribute billions of dollars to state and local taxes across the country. Deporting them, Pete added, will only hurt Americans. “If they just stopped contributing to the workforce, we’d have a major crisis,” he said. “Pretending [deportation] fixes the system that’s broken only means less food; it doesn’t fix how this works.”The official, legal policy solution for farmers who need extra help has been in place in one form or another since World War II. The H2-A visa program asks farmers to apply to bring in foreign workers for the harvest season. Many farmers use the program, and some of the owners of the smaller farms I talked to use it exclusively. That knock on the door of Luis’s trailer at one in the morning? It was the arrival of an H2-A worker fresh off a flight from Jamaica. But the program was created in the 1950s, and it isn’t well suited to farm labor today—and for most farmers, it has become a bureaucratic nightmare.The annual slog through red tape puts farms at risk. Every farmer I talked to about H2-A mentioned delays in getting workers—which imperils the harvest. In 2015, for instance, a computer glitch held up hundreds of workers from Mexico, partially ruining Washington state’s cherry crop that year. Yet, none of the Hudson Valley farmers I interviewed for this story who use H2-A would go on the record to criticize it. The farmers are scared they won’t get the workers they need if they do. Farmers told me that it seems like just about any pretext is used to prevent them from getting their labor supply legally. One farmer told me she’d critiqued the program in a blog post a few years back, and she was paranoid that’s why she didn’t get her workers that year. A vegetable producer told me: “One year I didn’t get an H2-A worker because I didn’t use the word drive, as in, ‘Must drive a tractor.’ I used operate on the application.” Apparently, the farmer’s wording was not precise enough. Add the recent deportations to the existing H2-A delays and application concerns, and you’ve got one nervous farming community. (When I asked the Department of Labor about these H2-A problems, a spokesman told me the Trump administration was still too new to have a policy position on the program or about the concerns farmers have voiced about the system.)This year, the fear of not having enough undocumented labor or enough H2-A workers has farmers planting fewer crops across the Hudson Valley. “Farmers are afraid they won’t be able to harvest what they plant,” said Steve Ammerman of the New York Farm Bureau. Ammerman told me there’s a disconnect in Washington, D.C., between what the Trump administration thinks immigration enforcement means for America and what it really means. “It means food prices are going to go up, hurting national security,” he said. Ammerman pointed to a recent study that estimates the consequences if all undocumented New York agricultural workers are deported: There would be a 24 percent fall in farm production (amounting to $1.37 billion in commodity value lost) and a knock-on effect of nearly 45,000 lost jobs across the state.

Cattle Producers Call Nebraska Brand Rules Obsolete

Courthouse News | Posted on June 7, 2017

Challenging a Nebraska law that requires all cattle to be branded, operators of cattle feedlots cast the practice as obsolete and costly in a federal complaint.The Nebraska Beef Producers Committee, a nonprofit that filed the lawsuit at hand Tuesday in Lincoln, notes that the regulations hearken to a bygone era.Back when the Nebraska Legislature formed a committee to investigate stolen cattle in 1941, livestock operations “were often located in large, open, rural settings with limited human oversight,” the 13-page complaint states.Today, however, the Brand Act’s relevance is waning, and the cattle producers say their members deserve credit.“Members of the NBPC have implemented multiple means of improving cattle security, reducing the risk of theft or loss, and identifying cattle beyond the branding process,” the complaint states.In addition to branding and ear tags, ranchers say electronic identification devices or EIDS have been critical in reducing the risk of theft.“In particular, EIDs and other identification methods have enabled a thorough inventory system with detailed records of each animal including origin, location on the facility, health issues, statistics, and other pertinent information,” the complaint states.The NBPC notes that its members also use multiple layers of fencing to reduce the chance of a breach or stray, and that federal guidelines have made the state branding law redundant.

$100-mln joint-venture beef plant opens in Idaho

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on June 7, 2017

A cattle harvest and processing plant first announced by partners Caviness Beef Packers and J.R. Simplot Co. in early 2015 has opened for business in Kuna, Idaho, about six months after it originally was scheduled to begin operations.  The CS Beef Packers joint venture near Boise is a 370,000-sq.-ft. facility that is expected to eventually process as many as 1,700 head per day, eliminating the need for local ranches and farms to move their herds hundreds of miles to other packing plants. The new plant also is expected to bring a total of 700 jobs to the area when it reaches full capacity.

A Farm Journalist Tells Farmers What They'd Rather Not Hear About Climate Change

NPR | Posted on June 7, 2017

Does it make you nervous, as a reporter at a farm publication, talking about climate change? All the time. I feel like the guy who has to tell people things they don't want to hear. But if I simply ignore the topic or ignore the issues, am I doing anybody any favors?You decided to write a book on climate change during a Farm Bureau convention in 2011, when you were hearing lots of climate change skepticism.Oddly enough, we were at a convention in Atlanta, where a freak ice storm shut us in. I was stuck at a bar, a Trader Vic's, and got into a long conversation with friends who were analysts and lobbyists for Farm Bureau. [The group represents mainstream commodity farmers.] And I felt like the issue was not being fully addressed by farm groups.The attitude you were hearing at the convention was 'efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emission are a bad thing and we're just against them?'es, cap-and-trade specifically, the Waxman-Markey bill as it was called. Farm Bureau came out very aggressively against that bill, after pushing cap-and-trade throughout the decade before. During the Clinton administration, Farm Bureau was really one of the leaders in helping pitch the concept of a cap-and-trade plan that also partially would have paid farmers for sequestering carbon in soil, using the kind of practices that build organic matter. Farm organizations helped pitch this idea to the Clinton administration. By the time you get around to the debate in 2009, Farm Bureau takes a very skeptical attitude, and then starts inviting some of the strongest climate critics to become speakers at its convention.

Nation’s second-largest school district pilots vegan lunches

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on June 7, 2017

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second-largest public school district in the country, has launched a pilot program to test plant-based vegan options for its school lunches during the 2017-2018 school year. LAUSD board members last month approved a resolution developed by freshman Lila Copeland, who is youth director of the nonprofit group Earth Peace, according to a news release issued by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which helped her develop the proposal.Dr. Neal Barnard, PCRM board president, helped make the case to LAUSD leaders and, along with Dr. Jay Gordon, has made recommendations to the district for modeling healthful eating templates for its 650,000 students spanning kindergarten through 12th grade.

Brazilian court freezes $800 million of JBS' owner Joesley Batist

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on June 7, 2017

A Brazilian court issued an injunction to freeze BRL800 million (US$246 million) in the banking accounts of JBS' controlling shareholder Joesley Batista on Tuesday, in reference to alleged gains obtained in the foreign currency market hours before his plea bargain deal revealing a bribery scheme was made public.

New York Governor Announces Over $1 Million to Support Agricultural Development Across the State

New York State | Posted on June 7, 2017

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced over $1 million for seven research, promotion, and development projects to strengthen New York State's diverse agricultural industry and spur economic growth across the state. The funding, approved by the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, supports the continuation of malting barley research, enhances the processing capacity at a regional food hub, and assists with renovations to the New York Wine and Culinary Center, among other initiatives.

Cargill acquires Pollos El Bucanero in Colombia

Watt Ag Net | Posted on June 7, 2017

Cargill has acquired Colombia-based Pollos El Bucanero S.A.(Bucanero Chicken), one of Colombia’s leading producers of chicken and processed meats products. The acquisition marks Cargill’s first introduction of its global protein business into Colombia. Pollos Bucanero has more than 30 years of experience and its products are the preferred choice of food service companies and retailers in multiple regions of Colombia. The company works with more than 170 farms across the country to deliver high-quality protein options to its customers.Jorge Ivan Duque will serve as general manager of Cargill’s Pollos Bucanero business. He has spent the past 12 years working in the poultry sector in Central America and Colombia.  Pollos Bucanero will operate as part of Cargill Protein Latin America, which includes businesses in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.“Cargill is starting a new stage in Colombia, under the Bucanero brand, which is recognized and preferred by millions of customers across the country,” said Duque. “Just like Cargill, this is a family business. We are confident that this will be a smooth integration and will lead to numerous benefits for our employees, customers and communities.”

Are Organic Pesticides Safer Than Synthetic Counterparts?

Wisconsin Ag Connection | Posted on June 7, 2017

Homeowners use a lot of pesticides. Statistics show that homeowners use three times more pesticides per acre than commercial agriculture producers. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the number to be even higher; their reports claim pesticide use in lawns is 10 times higher than in commercial agriculture.Though not quite ready to ditch the bug and weed killers, homeowners are seeking alternatives to conventional pesticides. Many homeowners are turning to organic pesticides due to the growing perception that these pesticides are safer. But are organic pesticides safer than their conventional cousins?"That is a good question," says University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Chris Enroth. "First we should define what makes a pesticide organic. In most circumstances, an organic product, whether it is a pesticide or a fertilizer, is derived from the remains or byproducts of a living or once-living organism. Typically these products are marketed as natural, which reinforces the image these products are from nature and are therefore harmless."Enroth cautions, "Just because something is labeled organic or natural does not mean it is safer to the homeowner or unable to cause harm to the environment. Botanically derived pesticides are not always safer; in fact, some can be more dangerous."