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Agriculture News

In Canada, animal welfare effort runs afoul of privacy laws

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

Efforts to end abuse of chickens at poultry farms in British Columbia are counter to Canada’s privacy rights laws, the province’s acting information and privacy commissioner, Drew McArthur, said in a report. Employees of chicken-catching contractor Elite Farm Services Ltd. were videotaped earlier this year stomping on live chickens and ripping the birds apart. The company fired the workers on the video and implemented video surveillance in the form of body cameras worn by a supervisor and at least two staff members during working hours. But McArthur said, “I was concerned that video surveillance was being used as a ‘quick fix,’ without thoughtful consideration of its privacy impacts.” In fact, Canada’s Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) governs the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. In his report, McArthur wrote, “We found that the company was not authorized to collect the information under PIPA because the purposes for which it was collecting and using personal information were not reasonable.” Not only would the body cameras capture employees who were not implicated in the original video, as those workers had been fired, but the cameras would also collect information about others, such as farmers, truckers and other contractors, who had not consented to being videotaped.

Oklahoma state beef checkoff referendum fails

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

A proposal to institute a state checkoff fund for Oklahoma’s beef producers was defeated. The vote was 2,506 against, 1,998 for. The campaign to institute the fee was controversial. Oklahoma members of the Organization for Competitive Markets and R-CALF USA had asked the state's Supreme Court to prohibit the department from certifying the Oklahoma beef checkoff program referendum. With the referendum defeated, the lawsuit will have to be withdrawn.

Delaware cites Mountaire Farms for waste treatment violations

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

Delaware has issued a notice of violation to Mountaire Farms for failing to comply with regulations governing its systems for wastewater treatment and land treatment of waste at the company’s poultry processing plant in Millsboro. Mountaire contacted the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control on Sept. 6 to report “significant permit exceedances at the facility, including very high levels of fecal coliform and high levels of total nitrogen, total suspended solids, and biological oxygen,” the department said.The state said it directed the company to take immediate actions including reducing the amount of acreage used for spray irrigation and collecting more frequent effluent samples. The state said it is working with Mountaire to develop and implement immediate and long-term actions to bring the facility into compliance with permit limitations.

Massachusetts Governor supports Administration Supports Urban Agriculture Projects Across State | Posted on November 14, 2017

 The Baker-Polito Administration today announced $343,079 in grants for eight urban agriculture projects across the state. The funding continues the Administration’s support for an emerging urban agriculture sector and a commitment to ensure city residents have access to fresh food. The announcement was made by Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Commissioner John Lebeaux during an event at UMass Lowell.

Massachusetts Governor Supports Agricultural Buy Local Organizations | Posted on November 14, 2017

The Baker-Polito Administration today announced $297,000 in grants to the Commonwealth’s regional Buy Local agricultural organizations for projects that will enhance efforts in western, central, northeastern and southeastern Massachusetts. These organizations work to generate consumer awareness and demand for locally grown food products while improving logistical access to these important food sources.

Saputo closing Fond du Lac cheese plant with 126 jobs

WBAY | Posted on November 10, 2017

A Fond du Lac cheese plant with 126 employees will be closed in seven months. Saputo, based on Montreal, announced Thursday it's closing the cheese manufacturing facility on East Scott Street next May.Saputo says it will save more than $5.5 million a year by moving the operations to a newly-built blue cheese factory in Almena in western Wisconsin, about 265 miles away.Employees will receive severance. Some will be offered a chance to work at other Saputo facilities, the company said.

Chobani grows in ‘Silicon Valley of food’ despite turmoil

AP | Posted on November 10, 2017

The founder and CEO of Chobani has no regrets about moving his Greek yogurt company to south-central Idaho, a region embroiled in the national debate over refugee resettlement that spread to company boycotts by far-right bloggers and conspiracy theorists. “I hear the conversations here and there, but it’s a peaceful community that we all love,” said Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant. “It’s the home of Chobani.”Ulukaya spoke to The Associated Press before a Thursday announcement of a $20 million expansion of the company’s facility in the city of Twin Falls — the world’s largest yogurt plant — to serve as its global research and development center tackling how yogurt is made and consumed.It’s a project Ulukaya says he’s been planning for several years. As to what innovations the company plans for the 70,000-square-foot facility, Ulukaya isn’t sharing yet. He said the focus will be on offering natural and non-synthetic products.The project follows a series of expansion efforts by Chobani since opening its Idaho plant in 2012. The $450 million, 1 million-square-foot plant is the company’s second after Ulukaya started Chobani in New York. The company employs 2,000 workers, including 300 refugees.However, Chobani’s time in Idaho also has taken a darker turn as anti-immigrant advocates have seized on the company’s open stance on refugees. Fringe websites have falsely claimed that Ulukaya wanted to “drown the United States in Muslims.” Other websites, like Breitbart News, falsely attempted to link Chobani’s hiring of refugees to an uptick in tuberculosis cases in Idaho. To counteract the hateful rhetoric, Chobani sued right-wing radio host Alex Jones earlier this year, saying that Jones and his InfoWars website posted fabricated stories linking Ulukaya and the company to a sexual assault case involving refugee children in Twin Falls. Jones originally promised to never back down in his fight against the yogurt giant but eventually retracted his statements in a settlement.Ulukaya declined to comment on the Jones lawsuit but said the rise in anti-refugee sentiment has never delayed a project he wanted to pursue. And he says he is committed to being a welcoming company.“Don’t leave anyone out,” he said. “At Chobani, we believe in second chances.”During Thursday’s expansion launch, Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter praised Chobani’s impact on the community.“This new investment in Twin Falls reflects Chobani’s commitment to Idaho and to the people who have responded so positively to its corporate citizenship,” Otter said in a prepared statement. “Congratulations to all those who are contributing to Chobani’s growth, just as Chobani is contributing to ours.”

Larson Dairy responds to abuse allegations

WPTV | Posted on November 10, 2017

The owners of Larson Dairy are defending themselves after the release of a disturbing video showing employees pushing and even kicking cows.  Jacob Larson is in charge. "This is what we do," as he points to about 2,000 cows."Very disappointing to me," said Larson.He fired one employee shown in the video, two others have been suspended.Larson says this is the first time he's ever heard of an employee treating a cow this way. "We take good care of our cows. It's extremely important our cows are cool, they're comfortable and they're clean because that's what makes high-quality milk," said Larson.He says if any employee sees this kind of abuse, they are to report it to their supervisors. In this case, Larson says that did not happen.Federal investigators with OSHA have never investigated Larson farms and in their most recent inspection, the Florida Department of Agriculture gave the farm a score of 96%.

Wisconsin passes AB 353 on Cooperatives

Wisconsin State Farmer | Posted on November 9, 2017

Cooperative Network applauds the bipartisan support delivered yesterday in both the Wisconsin State Assembly and Senate in the approval of Assembly Bill 353. The leadership of Representative Gary Tauchen (R – Bonduel) and Senator Patrick Testin (R – Stevens Point) was crucial in the success of this legislation. Also known as the Cooperative Statute Modernization Bill, this legislation was drafted with the goal of providing the state statute that governs cooperatives, Chapter 185, with its first update in over 30 years.“By voting in favor of this bill, our legislators have shown that they believe members of cooperatives and their elected boards should be trusted to make the right decisions for the future of their cooperatives,” says John Manske, Cooperative Network’s Senior Government Affairs Director.The legislation was designed to provide member cooperatives with the freedom and flexibility to best serve their member-owners by allowing for outside director perspectives on a minority basis, an opportunity to consider patronage-based voting for the one cooperative holding company in the state and updates on the process for notification of unclaimed capital, among other provisions.

California accepting proposals for Healthy Soils Program

Lake County News | Posted on November 9, 2017

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation, or OEFI, in coordination with the agency’s Environmental Farming Act Science Advisory Panel, is now accepting new proposals for soil carbon sequestration management practices for inclusion in its Healthy Soils Program, or HSP. As part of program development, CDFA identified specific soil management practices eligible for initial funding through the HSP. Some of these practices include no or reduced tillage, planting cover crops and compost application.