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Agriculture News

Farmers, experts: solar and agriculture ‘complementary, not competing’ in North Carolina

Southeast Energy News | Posted on August 31, 2017

On a 120-acre farm in Biscoe, North Carolina, near the edge of the Uwharrie National Forest, a flock of hair sheep takes shelter from the summer sun beneath a row of solar panels.  They provide a valuable service to O2 emc – the Cornelius-based company that owns this solar installation – by preventing weeds that could block sunlight and decrease the panels’ efficiency.“What we’re trying to do is put agriculture and solar right next to each other,” says Brock Phillips of Sun-Raised Farms, who owns and manages the sheep. “It can be quite symbiotic if implemented correctly.” Building on an April analysis from the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association and the state’s agricultural agency, the latest study finds that less than a third of 1 percent of North Carolina’s 4.75 million acres of cropland now houses solar panels – belying criticisms that large-scale solar arrays are threatening the state’s traditional farms. With a new law adopted this summer expected to more than double the state’s solar capacity – mostly in the form of utility-scale installations – the numbers will undoubtedly increase.

Texas Farm Bureau Sets up Fund

DTN | Posted on August 31, 2017

Farmers and ranchers in eastern Texas and western Louisiana were coping with continued torrential downpours on Wednesday even as floodwaters receded in other areas of Texas hit by Tropical Storm Harvey. The Texas Farm Bureau on Wednesday created a relief fund focusing on agricultural producers in southeast Texas hit by the storm that first struck Texas as a Category 4 hurricane. "One hundred percent of everything we collect will go to them and we are setting up the infrastructure for implementing that right now," said Gene Hall, a spokesman for the Texas Farm Bureau.

1.2 million beef cows in 54 Texas counties affected by Hurricane Harvey

Farm Talk | Posted on August 31, 2017

The 54 Texas counties declared a disaster area due to Hurricane Harvey contain over 1.2 million beef cows, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture inventory report.“That’s 27 percent of the state’s cowherd,” said David Anderson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service livestock economist in College Station. “That’s a conservative estimate of beef cow numbers because 14 of those counties only have cattle inventory estimates.”Anderson noted since it is late August, a lot of calves in the affected areas are either close or ready to be marketed. The disaster area also includes a large number of livestock auction markets and Sam Kane meat processing.

Investment in innovation pays off for DuPont's agriculture unit

Delaware online | Posted on August 31, 2017

DuPont has charted Delaware's direction for more than 200 years. As the Wilmington-based corporation matured from a small gunpowder manufacturer on the banks of the Brandywine into a $71 billion company, Delaware grew with it. DuPont gave the state a luxury hotel, country clubs and a theater. Family members linked New Castle and Sussex counties by financing DuPont Highway's construction. They built more than 100 schools and even a well-known children's hospital. Now, DuPont is entering its final days as a stand-alone company. It will close a nearly $150 billion merger with The Dow Chemical Co. on Thursday. The deal, which has been in the works since late 2015, will create DowDuPont, a conglomerate with holdings in agriculture, materials sciences and performance materials.DowDuPont will maintain dual headquarters in Wilmington and in Midland, Michigan, where Dow is based. But within two years, DowDuPont will break apart, creating three independent, publicly-traded companies. The agriculture and specialty products spinoffs will be based in Delaware, while a third company focused on material sciences will be headquartered in Midland.Delaware needs the spinoffs to be successful. Their growth is critical to helping reduce a jobless rate that exceeds the national average. Issues like wage stagnation and foreclosures have plagued The First State in recent years. 

Alaska Growing: State’s small, but steady agriculture market improving

Frontiersman | Posted on August 31, 2017

There’s something happening in Alaska’s small agriculture industry. It’s little noticed by most, but there are signs. Farmers are selling all they produce. Many think they can sell more.“If farmers sell out, they’ll grow more,” state agriculture director Arthur Keyes said. That trickles through the economy, creating jobs.Several signs are positive: Grocery retailers like Safeway buy local produce during the summer and mount special promotions of Alaskan-grown vegetables, which prove popular.The company is expanding its purchases of Alaskan-grown products, including new products made with Alaska barley flour now being featured in several stores in the state, according to ReinoBellio, Safeway’s general manager for Alaska.New ways of marketing are developing, too. Farmer’s Markets that feature locally grown products are widely popular, and there are now about 40 statewide.There’s also growth of niche food suppliers for local foods. Several small operators work out of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough to supply customers in Anchorage with deliveries of fresh, local vegetables, poultry and eggs.

Maine governor calls for emergency legislative session after feds balk at Maine food sovereignty law

Bangor Daily News | Posted on August 31, 2017

Gov. Paul LePage has told legislative leaders that he will call an emergency legislative session to amend a food sovereignty bill that the federal government has criticized as unlawful. A separate issue LePage says needs fixing during a special session is a funding snafu involving the Maine Office of Geographic Information System, which was identified in early August. The food sovereignty bill, LD 725, proposed by Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, received strong support in the Legislature and was signed into law by LePage in June. It allows municipalities to regulate local food systems, including production, processing, consumption and direct producer-to-consumer exchanges, which are currently regulated at the state and federal levels.The law, which is the first of its kind in the country, will take effect Nov. 1, but LePage said that it needs to be amended immediately. Specifically, he wrote that meat and poultry must be excluded from the bill so that state officials can continue to regulate those products.

Dow-DuPont merger closes Thursday. How will Pioneer, Iowa fare?

The Des Moines Register | Posted on August 31, 2017

With Dow-DuPont's $150 billion merger closing Thursday, the newly combined business's first spin-off could be the agribusiness formed by Johnston-based seed giant Pioneer and Indianapolis' Dow AgroSciences, experts say. "It makes sense, from my view, that agriculture" could be the focus of the first company formed, said Seth Goldstein, an analyst at Morningstar in Chicago. Here's why: Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont, which initially proposed creating three independent, publicly traded spin-offs — agribusiness, material science and specialty products — are facing intense investor pressure to create more, smaller companies. "There’s less debate about what would fall into ag and what doesn’t," said Matt Arnold, an analyst at Edward Jones in St. Louis. "For the most part, that should be pretty straightforward." Dow and DuPont have yet to say which company will first leave the nest. Investors are pushing for as many as six companies. In 2016, Iowa economic development leaders reached a deal with Dow-DuPont that will help cement its 2,600 employee workforce in the state. Most of those jobs are located in Johnston. Altogether, the company will receive $17 million in incentives, including $14 million in state tax credits and a $2 million forgivable loan.

Dole selling resources before IPO

The Los Angeles Times | Posted on August 31, 2017

Dole Food Co. is planning to sell its sprawling corporate headquarters and uproot its strawberry operations in Southern California as it seeks to sweeten its books ahead of yet another public stock offering. The world’s largest fresh fruit and vegetable company, owned by Los Angeles billionaire David H. Murdock, is nearly $1.3 billion in debt and operates with low margins and declining revenue. That makes the sale of some of its vast real estate holdings in Hawaii and the U.S. mainland a near imperative, according to regulatory filings and analysts.Dole reported $4.5 billion in revenue last year, a decline of nearly 3% from the previous year, and a net loss of $23 million. “They don’t want to do these things after the IPO,” said Kathleen Smith, principal of Renaissance Capital, an initial public offering investment advisor. The company has pledged in its prospectus to redraw its multinational real estate footprint by “rationalizing” its patchwork of facilities and selling off unproductive land, including nearly 15,000 acres in Hawaii. The company also has been mum about whether it can close a deal to sell its 10-acre headquarters complex in Westlake Village in exchange for an ersatz Hawaiian plantation theme park, which tells the 166-year-old company’s foundation story.

HSUS pushing new farm animal ballot initiative in California

San Francisco Chronicle | Posted on August 31, 2017

On Tuesday, the Humane Society of the United States introduced a ballot initiative called the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act, which calls for a requirement that all pork and veal sold in California be produced without restrictive crates, and that all eggs produced and sold in the state be cage-free. It would make California the only state other than Massachusetts, which passed similar legislation last year, to have such regulations on farm animal welfare. The biggest potential impact of the initiative could be on pork. California does not have a large pork industry, and most of the pork sold here comes from out-of-state producers who would have to comply with the regulations when selling their product here.The next step is for organizers to get more than 365,000 signatures within 180 days in order for the initiative to be placed on the statewide ballot in November 2018.

Texas hurricane exposes flaws in flood protections

High Country News | Posted on August 31, 2017

“Today, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America estimates that homeowners covered by federal flood insurance pay just half of the “true-risk cost” to insure their properties. In the highest-risk areas, they pay just a third.” A series of disasters has left the NFIP struggling financially. Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy devastated the flood insurance program’s budget and today, the program is about $24 billion in debt. As climate change fuels an increase in disasters, storms of the same caliber may become the norm.“There is actually a 50 percent chance within a 10-year period the NFIP will once again experience Hurricane Sandy-size losses,” Roy Wright, the director of the NFIP, wrote.Financial concerns aside, there are other problems as well. The program encourages people to build and stay in areas that flood constantly. There’s no incentive to leave because taxpayer subsidies rebuild homes and buildings, even if those structures have repeatedly flooded.Attempts to overhaul the NFIP have not been successful and repeatedly have been met with backlash. In 2012, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) introduced the Biggert-Waters Act, a law that would increase the rates for business properties in special flood zones and properties that experience repeated flooding. These proposed increases would have led to an enormous spike in premiums. According to a 2013 RAND Corporation study, premiums in flood prone areas in New York City would have increased by $5,000 to $10,000 a year. Even Rep. Waters was outraged once the numbers came in and was part of a bipartisan effort to draft a bill to make sure premiums wouldn’t suddenly spike. In 2014, Congress passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, which delayed the Biggert-Waters reforms for two years. Today, premiums now have slowly begun to increase. The current White House proposal for the program would certainly lead to more financial headaches. As part of deciding which areas are riskier, FEMA creates flood maps—but many of them are out-of-date. Funds had been previously allocated to update them, but Trump’s proposed 2018 budget included cutting $190 million from this effort. Without that money, FEMA would be forced to find money from somewhere else to fund mapping.Financial solvability aside, the NFIP is must be reauthorized by September 30.