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Agriculture News

Commentary: How to Win an Argument on Biotechnology

Hoosier Ag Today | Posted on November 14, 2017

Dr. Keven Folta is an international advocate for biotechnology in agriculture. He is a scientist and educator who has been outspoken about the safety and benefits of genetic engineering and, as a result, has become a target for those who oppose this technology. Folta maintains that, for the most part, we, in agriculture, have been going about it all wrong. He notes that most who try to defend biotechnology always lead with the facts and the science. He says most consumers don’t want to hear the facts and don’t trust the science. He observed that opponents of GE food use emotion and, for anyone besides a scientist, emotion will always trump the facts.Another suggestion Folta makes is to choose your battles. Arguing with an activist whose organization exists because of their opposition to biotechnology is not worth the time. They will never accept your position because, if they did, they would lose their job or at least their social standing. Face it folks — we are never going to convince everyone. Focus on those who are willing to listen and who do not have a vested interest in opposing biotechnology.

Animal rights groups demand action against Iowa fur farm

Des Moines Register | Posted on November 14, 2017

Federal inspectors have repeatedly ordered a southeast Iowa fur farm to improve the grim living conditions for ferrets, foxes, raccoons and skunks it sells to government laboratories and pet stores. So far no charges or enforcement action has been taken against the Ruby Fur Farm near New Sharon, 65 miles southeast of Des Moines. However, animal rights groups are calling for rescue of the animals, revocation of the farm's federal license and fines for neglect.The farm is licensed to Randy Ruby as a registered federal dealer by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and it holds state permits as an animal dealer and a pet shop.Mahaska County Sheriff Russ VanRenterghem said he accompanied a USDA inspection team to the fur farm three or four times in July."I don't see any violations," he said, describing the farm's owners as "very reputable, very good people."

SARL member, Senator Sheila Harsdorf becomes first woman Secretary of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture

Wisconsin Public Radio | Posted on November 14, 2017

 Gov. Scott Walker has appointed Republican state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.The appointment announced Friday makes Harsdorf the first woman to lead the agency. She will replace Ben Brancel, who retired in August.Harsdorf, of River Falls, is resigning her northwestern Wisconsin state Senate seat Friday and beginning the new job Monday. Walker is expected to call a special election to fill her seat for the same date as two others for vacancies in the state Assembly.

Consumers may not recognize costs, consequences of demand for ‘clean’ food

Iowa State University | Posted on November 14, 2017

 Eating “clean” is all about avoiding foods with additives, preservatives or other chemicals on the label. Considering the numerous studies linking certain foods with health ailments, clean eating makes sense, right? While it may seem well intentioned, Ruth MacDonald and Ruth Litchfield, professors of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University, warn of the consequences in terms of food waste, safety and cost. Clean food advocates suggest avoiding foods with ingredients you cannot pronounce. MacDonald says several food manufacturers, restaurants and grocery stores have responded by removing additives to fit the definition of clean.  The ISU professors say just because an ingredient or additive has an unfamiliar name does not automatically make it bad for you. The decision to remove additives appears to be driven more by market demand than consideration of the benefits these additives provide and the potential food safety risk, they said. Removing nitrates from deli meats and hot dogs is just one example.

MD: Key vote on chicken manure plant delayed until January

WBOC | Posted on November 14, 2017

After months of debate, the public was expecting a vote at Wednesday night's Crisfield City Council meeting.  But that won't happen now until January 2018.  People in Crisfield have been adamant about their rejection to the Carvel Hall project.  The city must make a decision to lift the existing ordinance that keeps Clean Bay Renewables from opening a chicken manure energy plant in Crisfield. Neighbors have concerns like odor, noise, traffic and pollution.  John Davey Wilson lives next door to the old Carvel Hall building where the plant could potentially set up shop.  He says the idea keeps him up at night. 

USDA delays organic livestock rules for the third time

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on November 14, 2017

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is delaying the effective date of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule, published in the Federal Register on Jan. 19, 2017, until May 14, 2018. This is the third effective date delay of the rule, which amends the organic livestock and poultry production requirements of the USDA organic regulations by adding new provisions for livestock handling and transport for slaughter and avian living conditions; and expands and clarifies existing requirements covering livestock care and production practices and livestock living conditions.

Criminal investigation opened into abuse of cows at dairy farm

Sun Sentinel | Posted on November 14, 2017

A criminal investigation has been opened into the mistreatment of cows at an Okeechobee dairy that supplies Publix, after an undercover video released Thursday appeared to show workers beating cows with metal rods and engaging in other abuse. Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephen said he assigned an investigator to the case after his office received materials showing apparent acts of animal cruelty by workers at Larson Dairy Farm.

Climate-smart agriculture ‘faces severe challenges without #glyphosate’

Euroreporer | Posted on November 14, 2017

One area that is often overlooked is agriculture. In the European Union alone, agricultural activities generated 470.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2012, corresponding to about 10% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While agriculture is clearly a big part of the problem, new research shows that it can also be a part of the solution, turning agricultural soils into a carbon sink instead of a source of CO2 emissions.A new report by the European Conservation Agriculture Federation (ECAF) found that a production system called Conservation Agriculture (CA) can sequester almost 200 m tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere across the EU annually, equivalent to closing 50 coal-fired power plants. Conservation Agriculture involves three key principles: minimum soil disturbance (no-tillage), permanent organic soil covers through crop residues or cover crops, and practising rotation or diversification in annual crops. The combination of these methods results in greater yields, fewer inputs, greater biodiversity, improved soil structure, reduced CO2emissions, carbon sequestration, less water run-off and greater profitability for farmers.The EU will host a critical vote on the re-authorisation of glyphosate on 9 November. If it fails, the huge potential of Conservation Agriculture to mitigate the negative effects of climate change is put at risk.According to Basch: “If glyphosate is banned, we lose the most effective tool in the box for farmers wishing to be more environmentally sustainable and forcing our farmers to return to less climate-smart practices.

Banker Comments from the Third District

Kansas City Fed | Posted on November 14, 2017

Yields on fall crops in 2017 significantly higher, should result in improved cash flow and liquidity even with current prices. – Southcentral Kansas. With low commodity prices we expect most of our farm customers to lose money or at best breakeven. – Southcentral Nebraska. We have seen consecutive "No-Sale" on land auctions. – Northeast Nebraska. Poor commodity prices and very little moisture are going to lead to another difficult renewal season. – Northeast Colorado. Overall the health of our Ag portfolio is healthy with experienced operators. – Southwest Oklahoma. Customers have been adjusting living expenses and slowed purchasing upgrades in machinery and equipment. – Northeast Kansas. Through our area we expect some wonderful yields that will make up for some of the price drops, but it may not be enough for the highly leveraged borrower. – Southeast Nebraska.
The cow/calf industry is seeing slightly higher revenues over last year; however, expenses have also increased. Overall financial performance should be steady. – Southeast Wyoming. We have a big concern the current corn and bean prices will not cash flow enough to pay off operating loans as well as make payments on term debt. – Southwest Missouri. Livestock prices are helping to hold heads above water right now. Soybean prices are at break even, but corn prices are below cost of production. – Southeast Kansas. The farming conditions are very challenging as crop prices continue to drift south and working capital is stressed during these times – Northwest Wyoming

Farm Economy Seeks Footing

Kansas City Fed | Posted on November 14, 2017

Farm income in the Federal Reserve’s Tenth District decreased in the third quarter, but at a slower rate. For the 13th consecutive quarter, a majority of bankers reported that farm income was lower than a year ago, but that the pace of the decline was less significant than recent quarters (Chart 1). In fact, only 52 percent of bankers reported that farm income had fallen from a year ago, the lowest share in two years. Moreover, slightly less than half of survey respondents expected farm income to decrease in the fourth quarter. Similarly, bankers expected capital and household spending in the farm sector to continue to decline in the third quarter, but also at a slower pace.