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Agriculture News

Commission seeks more oversight, surveillance on antibiotic use in food animals

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on August 31, 2017

A new commission supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has issued a report calling for more surveillance, oversight and restriction of antibiotic use in food animals.  

Broiler welfare: Who is behind Global Animal Partnership?

Watt Ag Net | Posted on August 31, 2017

Foodservice and restaurant companies following the recent trend of adopting broiler welfare standards have typically been pledging to adopt standards set by the Global Animal Partnership (GAP) by 2024.GAP standards call for the following:Using broiler breeds scientifically proven to have markedly improved welfare outcomes,Providing chickens with more space (maximum stocking density of 6 lbs./sq. ft.) and improved environments, including lighting, litter and enrichments. Eliminating live shackling and dumping and ensuring birds are rendered unconscious through multistep controlled atmospheric stunning. But other questions commonly asked are what is GAP and who are the people that make decisions on behalf of the GAP? GAP is presently governed by a seven-member board. None of the board members are involved in broiler production, although one is involved in pork production and another is involved in beef production. Also present on the board is a Whole Foods Market representative and leaders from four animal rights or animal welfare organizations, including Wayne Pacelle, head of HSUS.

India, China jointly propose removal of US, EU farm subsidies

Live Mint | Posted on August 31, 2017

China and India have jointly proposed the elimination of $160 billion of trade-distorting farm subsidies in the US, European Union and other wealthy nations, a move that has come as a game changer in global farm trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization, say trade envoys familiar with the development. As the WTO’s 164 members prepare for the crucial eleventh ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires starting on 10 December, China and India have turned the tables by calling for the elimination of what is called the Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS) or “the most trade distorting element in the global trade in agriculture.”

Maine blueberry crop falls with disease, lack of pollination

The Seattle Times | Posted on August 31, 2017

 Maine’s wild blueberry crop is likely to be much smaller this year than in recent summers because the industry is contending with troubles such as disease and a lack of pollination. The New England state is the wild blueberry capital of the U.S., and in recent years crop sizes have soared and prices have plummeted, bringing uncertainty to a key state industry. The crop grew a little less than one percent last year to almost 102 million pounds, while prices hit a 10-year low of 27 cents per pound to farmers.But it’s apparent as the summer harvest nears its end that that’s all changing this year, University of Maine horticulture professor David Yarborough said. He said “mummy berry” disease, a crop-killing ailment caused by a fungal pathogen, and other factors could cut the crop as much as 36 percent this summer.

An odd trend in wheat country: not much wheat

ABC News | Posted on August 31, 2017

An odd thing has happened in wheat country — a lot of farmers aren't planting wheat. Thanks to a global grain glut that has caused prices and profits to plunge, this year farmers planted the fewest acres of wheat since the U.S. Department of Agriculture began keeping records nearly a century ago.Instead of planting the crop that gave the wheat belt its identity, many farmers are opting this year for crops that might be less iconic but are suddenly in demand, such as chickpeas and lentils, used in hummus and healthy snacks."People have gone crazy with chickpeas. It's unbelievable how many acres there are," said Kirk Hansen, who farms 350 acres (142 hectares) south of Spokane in eastern Washington, where wheat's reign as the king crop has been challenged.American farmers still plant wheat over a vast landscape that stretches from the southern Plains of Oklahoma and Texas north through Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas as well as dry regions of Washington and Oregon. However, this year's crop of 45.7 million acres (18.49 million hectares) is the smallest since 1919.North Dakota harvested wheat acres are down 15 percent, Montana 11 percent and Nebraska 23 percent, to the state's lowest winter wheat acres on record.

The rise of the machines: robots and the future of farming

Swiss Info | Posted on August 30, 2017

Drones, milking robots, driverless vehicles, intelligent sensors, bio-surveillance, data-sharing – the Swiss economics ministry is calling for farmers to embrace a “digital revolution”, marking a turning point in agricultural practices that is not without risk. Far from being science-fiction, modern tools which enable precision farming are already indispensable in delivering greater efficiencies and boosting productivity.Switzerland is at the heart of developments which have seen drones equipped with cameras capable of detecting disease or estimating the precise nutritional needs of large-scale crops, hydroponic lettuce grown in a soil-free environment fed by a cloud of 100% organic nutrients, or solar-powered robots that can target individual weeds and reduce pesticide use.

Local farmers say immigration reform should not hurt their operations

Tribune Democrat | Posted on August 30, 2017

With a presidential administration that continues to call for immigration reform and secured borders, local farmers say any solution should consider the potential effects on the agriculture industry’s workforce.  “Americans don’t want to do a lot of the things farmers need done,” said Marty Yahner, of Patton, who owns a sixth-generation farm with his brother, Rick, that produces corn, oats, wheat, hay and soybeans. “You can’t pay them to do it,” added Jim Benshoff, another sixth-generation vegetable farmer, calling much of the work on his farm “stoop labor,” which requires stooping down to hand-pick peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbage. “We have to have this labor.” Not every migrant worker “is a violent criminal or a drug mule,” Benshoff added, saying they are often reliable and experienced. 

Hop broker bankruptcy may signal industry turbulence

Capital Press | Posted on August 30, 2017

The bankruptcy of a Washington hop merchant may signal renewed turbulence in the hops market, with lower-than-expected demand for the crop raising oversupply concerns. 47 Hops of Yakima, Wash., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which shields the company from creditors while it develops a restructuring plan to repay debts and remain operational.The hop broker has more than $7.4 million in debt and $4.3 million in assets, according to the filing. In 2016, the company earned $10.6 million in revenues, up from $7.1 million the previous year.

Judge gives preliminary approval of $600,000 wage settlement for Yakima Valley dairy workers

Yakima Herald | Posted on August 30, 2017

A Yakima County Superior Court judge has given preliminary approval for a $600,000 settlement for a group of dairy workers at a Lower Valley dairy.Jose Martinez-Cuevas and Patricia Aguilar, on behalf of the group of nearly 300 workers, filed a class-action lawsuit against the DeRuyter Brothers Dairy of Outlook in December claiming the company failed to provide adequate meal and rest breaks and that workers were not paid for all time worked.They said they worked at the 5,000-herd dairy nine to 12 hours a day, six days a week without rest breaks, meal periods or overtime pay.

Harvey’s toll on Texas’ $100 billion ag industry still unknown

My San Antonio | Posted on August 30, 2017

Losses to Texas’ $100 billion agriculture industry had not even begun to be tallied Tuesday, with farmers and ranchers still unable to get out to find stranded livestock or survey how many acres of grain, rice and cotton was destroyed by Harvey’s once-in-a-millennium downpours. Texas A&M University agricultural economist David Anderson said it was too soon to even ballpark the monetary extent of the damages.“I haven’t even tried,” he said. “It’s going to be a big number.”Texas leads the nation in production of cattle, cotton, sheep and goats and hay, and it also produces a sizable amount of wheat and corn. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the 54 Texas counties declared a disaster area contain more than 1.2 million beef cows, or about 27 percent of the state’s herd. Anderson said that was a conservative census, as 14 of the counties only have estimates.