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Agriculture News

Deere buying $5 billion road improvement business

Ottumawa Courier | Posted on June 7, 2017

There’s big growth in a different direction for Deere & Company: But the move, a release from the company states, could help diversify and solidify their business. The manufacturer is buying the Wirtgen Group, a privately-held international company that is the world’s leading manufacturer of road construction equipment, the release from Deere states.The total transaction value is about $5.2 billion. The Wirtgen Group had sales of $2.9 billion last year.According to the Deere press release, detailed financial information is in an investor presentation at in Germany, the Wirtgen Group has five premium brands across the road construction sector, the release says.“The acquisition of the Wirtgen Group aligns with our long-term strategy to expand in both of John Deere’s global growth businesses of agriculture and construction,” said Samuel R. Allen, Deere & Company Chairman and CEO. Max Guinn, President of Deere’s Worldwide Construction & Forestry Division, said it’s clear that society is spending more on road construction and transportation projects; the sector has grown at a faster rate than the overall construction industry — and, he said, it tends to be less cyclical.

Chicken snuggling: A dangerous trend that must end

Chicago Tribune | Posted on June 7, 2017

America has a chicken snuggling problem. That's right, snuggling. Not smuggling. Chicken smuggling is an entirely different — albeit equally despicable — problem that I'll address in a future column.The pressing poultry issue for today is that too many Americans are pressing poultry to their faces, giving pet chickens or adorable, fuzzy chicks a hug or a kiss.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with a number of state departments of health and agriculture are investigating a multistate outbreak of salmonella infections "linked to contact with live poultry in backyard flocks." As of May 25, there were 372 people from 47 states infected, and 71 of those people were hospitalized. About a third of the victims were from the key chicken snuggling demographic: children under 5.Last year set the record for salmonella infections caused by interactions with backyard poultry flocks. The CDC recorded 895 people infected, with 209 of them hospitalized. Three of the people who were hospitalized died.

How an experiment turned Canadian farmers into cooking oil kings

Frederick News Post | Posted on June 6, 2017

In the heart of Canada's bread basket, a Richardson International Ltd. processing plant stands as a testament to what may be the country's most successful agricultural experiment.Farmers across the Prairie Provinces are planting a record acres of canola, a crop that didn't exist about four decades ago but now is the nation's biggest, sown on more land than spring wheat. Richardson was the first company to market canola oil. It has since expanded capacity at factories like the one in Lethbridge, Alberta, as global demand exploded and Canada became the top exporter of an oilseed used in everything from salad dressing to french fries.Richardson's facility now spans six square blocks -- a warren of crushing machines, conveyor belts, railroad links and grain silos devoted entirely to canola. After a C$120 million ($89 million) upgrade to expand capacity by 55 percent, it will be able to process 700,000 metric tons annually, boosting exports of oil and related products including margarine and buttery popcorn topping."It's almost a constant turnover" of jugs, barrels and bottles of oil shipped to grocers, fast-food restaurants, hospitals and bakers every day of the work week, said Steve Scott, the plant's maintenance manager. Pointing to a tanker car capable of hauling 80 tons, he said, "a big potato-chip plant will be taking a couple of these a week."Canadian scientists invented canola in 1974 by breeding out undesirable traits from the rapeseed plant, though it didn't get the name "canola" until 1978.The seed has more than twice as much oil as a soybean, and canola oil has become popular in cooking and deep frying. It's rich in heart-healthy fatty acids found in salmon and tuna that lower bad cholesterol and help control blood sugar, with no artery-clogging trans fats. Canola oil has about 7 percent saturated fat, about half as much as olive oil and a fraction of what's in palm oil, according to the Canola Council of Canada."The healthy oil profile that canola enjoys is going to keep it popular," said David Reimann, a market analyst in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for Cargill Ltd., the world's largest agricultural company. "It's a huge, huge market and can certainly tolerate a lot more acreage and production."Farmers are doing just that. While planting is a little behind schedule because of wet weather, Canadian growers eventually will sow 22 million acres of canola this year, the most ever, government data show. The planting season will end in a few weeks.

Minnesota tax credit provides relief to farmers, greater chance for rural schools to build

Stateline Midwest | Posted on June 5, 2017

In Minnesota, the chances of a local school district getting the money it wants to build a new facility or improve existing buildings can depend greatly on where it is located: In metropolitan areas, most school construction projects get approved by local voters; in rural districts, these proposed tax increases tend to fail. This discrepancy led to legislative action this year. As envisioned under a section of HF 1 (Minnesota’s omnibus tax bill that still needed final approval as of late May), new state tax credits would offset 40 percent of a school district’s bond debt load that is attributed to agricultural property-tax payers. Some 240,000 parcels of land would qualify for the credit.By providing relief to farmers, lawmakers hope that this group of local taxpayers will be more likely to vote “yes” on local referenda and less burdened by the costs of approved school projects.In some districts, farm families make up only a small percentage of the taxpayers and a local school’s students, but their land accounts for a majority of the tax base that must pay for a project. As a result, individual farms may wind up paying several hundred thousand dollars in additional taxes over the life of a 30-year construction bond.

Supreme Court declines to hear Proposition 2 challenge

| Posted on June 5, 2017

The United States Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to California's Proposition 2 law that was filed by six other states. The law, which took effect in 2015, requires that eggs produced and sold in the state are laid by hens that have adequate room to stand up, sit down, turn around and extend their limbs without touching another bird or the sides of the cage.The recent challenge to California’s law was led by Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who stated he believed the law imposes onerous new regulations on Missouri poultry farmers and would drive up the cost of eggs for Missouri consumers.Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and Oklahoma joined in the appeal.The law had been legally challenged by other states before. Hawley’s predecessor, Chris Koster, in 2014, filed a lawsuit that challenged the California egg law, months before it was to be enacted. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Fresno, California. That challenge also involved the other five states.

World Milk Day - 10 Amazing things you didn't know about milk

Dairy Good | Posted on June 1, 2017

1. A Trendsetter: Milk really is a trendsetter – it’s one of humanity’s first foods. People drank cow’s milk even before they started practicing agriculture – more than 10,000 years ago.
2. “Food of the Gods”: Throughout history, different cultures have embraced milk as a staple. From Greeks and Romans to Egyptians and Sumerians, ancient mythology valued milk as the “food of the gods.”
3. A Family Affair: Did you know that 97 percent of dairy farms are family owned and operated – often by multiple generations.
4. A Nutrient Powerhouse: To get the same amount of calcium in an eight-ounce glass of milk, you’d need to eat ten cups of raw spinach!
5. Who Knew?: It takes more than 21 pounds of whole milk to make a single pound of butter and 12 pounds of whole milk to make a gallon of ice cream.
6. The United States of Milk: Forget state birds or state flowers. Did you know 28 states have a “state beverage”? And 21 of those states choose milk.
7. Chocolate Milk for the Win: Low-fat chocolate milk makes a great post-workout recovery drink. 

Lawmakers vote to fund veterinary medicine at Texas Tech

Texas Tribune | Posted on June 1, 2017

Texas Tech University's on-again, off-again plans to open a veterinary school in Amarillo might just be on again. Buried in the 900-plus page budget approved Saturday by state lawmakers is $4.1 million allocated to Tech for "veterinary medicine." That money appears to be start-up funding for a new vet school — even though Tech started the legislative session saying that plans for the school were "on pause."Tech originally announced in late 2015 that it wanted to open a school in Amarillo 2019. But the idea was met with fierce resistance by Texas A&M University, which has the only veterinary school in the state. Despite the "on pause" declaration, lawmakers from the Lubbock area never gave up. A line providing the funding was included in the House's version of the budget — but not the Senate's. The budget conference committee tasked with crafting a compromise decided to leave it in. 

Lawsuit challenging N.C. 'ag gag' law dismissed

Agri-Pulse | Posted on June 1, 2017

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging a North Carolina law designed to discourage undercover investigations at animal facilities, including farms. The plaintiffs, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, could not show that the law has in any way injured them, a requirement for demonstrating legal standing, U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder said in his opinion, released Tuesday. The law allows an employer to sue an employee who goes into non-public areas and “captures or removes” documents from the premises or records images or sound, and then uses those materials “to breach the employee’s duty of loyalty to the employer,” said the judge, who sits in the Middle District of North Carolina. But the lawsuit “contains not a single allegation” that the defendants – the state and the University of North Carolina – “has ever sued or threatened to sue PETA or ALDF for investigatory conduct,” the judge said.“PETA uncovered unethical conduct at animal laboratories at UNC/Chapel Hill from 2001 to 2003,” Schroeder said. But the judge added that “it is purely speculative” whether the state or UNC will invoke the law, called the Property Protection Act, in a lawsuit against any of the eight plaintiff groups.Those groups said they “strongly disagree with” the decision and are leaning toward appealing it.Noting that Schroeder dismissed the case on standing, they said, “The court’s decision should not be perceived as a judgment on our argument that North Carolina’s Anti-Sunshine law is designed to intimidate whistleblowers, in violation of the First Amendment.”Plaintiffs’ attorney David Muraskin, who is with the public interest law firm of Public Justice, said Schroeder “crafted a never-before-heard-of rule: that the government can pass a law making it so whistleblowers risk steep monetary sanctions if they expose abuse in nursing homes, daycares, agricultural facilities or laboratories, and the courts won’t even consider that law’s constitutionality unless the whistleblower first puts him or herself in harm’s way.”

Sneakers Made from Corn? Seat Cushions From Soybeans?

The Wall Street Journal | Posted on June 1, 2017

Facing overstuffed silos and forecasts for another huge harvest this year, U.S. farmers are trying to find new uses for their corn and soybeans.Robust demand for processed foods, animal feed and biofuels isn’t keeping up with a record glut of crops in the U.S. and around the world, after several years of bumper harvests and largely benevolent weather. To sell the surplus, farmers and trade groups are wooing new customers, from car makers to toy companies.In recent years, corn and soybeans have been added to the recipes for Ford Motor Co. seat cushions, IKEA mattresses, Danone SA’s yogurt cups andProcter & Gamble Co.’s Olay moisturizers. Adidas AG’s Reebok brand recently unveiled sneakers made with corn. Lego A/S earlier this year said it was toying with using grain-based materials to mold its famous bricks. Industry groups also are calling for more research into new ways that the crops could replace petroleum as a raw material in industrial and construction applications.

Labor Shortage Hits Pennsylvania’s Mushroom Country

The Wall Street Journal | Posted on June 1, 2017

“This is the worst it’s ever been,” said Tim Hihn, Mr. Pantoja’s boss and co-owner of C.P. Yeatman & Sons, Inc., which supplies Whole Foods Market stores under the Mother Earth brand. Mr. Hihn says he has 20 percent fewer workers than he needs to fully harvest his crop. To try to solve the labor shortage, growers have been increasing wages. Yeatman & Sons in January raised piece rates at one of its farms to $1 for every five-pound box of mushrooms from 82 cents for large mushrooms and 80 cents for medium.  
Phillips Mushroom Farms recently upped the bonus harvesters get after picking 55 pounds in an hour from 11 cents a pound to 16 cents, said general manager Jim Angelucci. Good pickers, who start at $8.75 an hour, can collect 100 pounds an hour, he said, so the extra nickel can yield a $2.25 bump to $15.95 an hour. The change helped Phillips fill five jobs and resume full production, he said.Still, Mr. Angelucci worries it may not be enough to stop workers from peeling off for summer landscaping or construction jobs. “It’s one of the things that keeps you awake at night,” he said. “Are you going to go in the next day and find nobody’s there?”