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Agriculture News

It’s been a ‘calving season from hell’

The Western Producer | Posted on May 30, 2018

Veterinarians say many producers across the Prairies experienced higher than normal calf deaths this year, pointing to the long winter, a vitamin shortage and poor forage quality as the main culprits.While prairie- and province-wide data is unavailable, some veterinarians saw calf deaths range anywhere from normal to 10 percent. There was also at least one case where calf loss reached 25 per cent.Typical death rates average two to three percent, according to previous surveys by the University of Saskatchewan, therefore making this year the “calving season from hell” for some producers, said Dr. Eugene Janzen, a veterinarian and professor with the University of Calgary. “That’s what some producers were saying and I’ve never heard it phrased like that,” he said.“We could expect our calf crop to be severely affected.”Janzen said of the 12 to 15 herds he helped, he saw calf death rates reach 10 percent and go as high as 25 percent. Other veterinarians, however, didn’t see calf mortality reach that high.

Judge: USFWS illegally denied bi-state sage grouse listing

Capital Press | Posted on May 30, 2018

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acted illegally in 2015 when it denied Endangered Species Act protection for a distinct population of bi-state sage grouse in California and Nevada, a federal judge ruled.  U.S. District Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero in San Francisco said in an 85-page opinion that the agency ignored its own best scientific evidence when it reversed course three years ago on its 2013 proposal to declare the bird threatened.The bi-state sage grouse found along the California-Nevada border in the Mono Basin along the Sierra’s eastern front is related to but distinct from the greater sage grouse, which lives in a dozen western states and is at the center of a disputed Trump administration plan to roll back protections adopted under President Obama.The judge said the service wrongly concluded voluntary conservation measures in the works were legally adequate to stem the loss of bi-state grouse habitat resulting from urban sprawl, livestock grazing, wildfires, invasive plants, mining and other development.


'False Alarms’ by Seneca Valley virus trigger costly FMD investigations

Pig Health Today | Posted on May 30, 2018

A growing number of Seneca Valley virus (SVV) outbreaks wastes the time and money of people who investigate suspected foreign animal-disease outbreaks, reported Fabio Vannucci, DVM, assistant professor at the University of Minnesota.SVV clinically mimics foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). As a result, an outbreak of SVV must be treated like a foreign animal disease until the government can rule out FMD.The FMD diagnostics take up the time of laboratories, veterinarians and state officials. Because it looks like FMD, it is very scary for the industry and public. It is a huge inconvenience and burden,” Vannucci told Pig Health Today.

Midstate dairy farmers struggle to find greener pastures

WITF | Posted on May 30, 2018

Along stretches of farmland on South Lincoln Avenue in Lebanon, you will notice yard signs with bright orange letters that read, "Save Our Local Dairy Farms." Alisha Risser owns one of those farms.Seventeen years ago, Risser and her husband started a contract with Swiss Premium, a brand of the national distributor Dean Foods. In those days, Risser said business was good.But lately, the dairy industry across the country has been struggling with declining consumption of liquid milk and many farmers are having a tough time turning a profit.Three decades ago, Americans drank 247 pounds of milk on average in one year, but by 2016, consumption dropped to 154 pounds per capita, according to the USDA. The decline is attributed to a series of factors including the prevalence of more milk substitutes, medical debates over milk's health value, and ethical debates about production.With fewer people drinking milk, competition among producers has grown increasingly harsh. When Dean Foods announced in March that it was ending contracts with more than 100 dairy farms nationwide, that included the Rissers farm in Lebanon and 41 others in Pennsylvania.They received termination notices saying their contract with Dean would end by June. The company says the decrease in sales left them no option.Risser said the decision came as a surprise and left farmers very little time to react."If you lose your milk market, there is just not options out there," Risser said.The Rissers considered selling their farm and their 80 cows. But, by the beginning of April, Harrisburg Dairies offered a life-line, announcing that it would pick up nine of the farms, including the Rissers."We're nervous about the direction the dairy industry is going to go," Risser said. "But this immediate crisis -- to have that burden lifted off of our shoulders is tremendous."

Stop saying farm animals are our friends

Watt Ag Net | Posted on May 30, 2018

When the agriculture and food industries depict overly cute and happy images of farm animals, it gives consumers unrealistic visions of how animals for food production should be raised.  As the American public increasingly becomes further removed from the farm, expectations of livestock and poultry production increasingly become more unrealistic. However, the agriculture and food industries are partly to blame for those inaccurate perceptions, said Frank Mitloehner, PhD, professor and air quality and extension specialist, University of California-Davis (UC-Davis). Mitloehner, speaking at the 2018 Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit, used the city in which he works as an example. While UC-Davis is renowned as a strong agricultural school, most who live in Davis or who are enrolled at the university have a very limited knowledge of animal agriculture. To many, 20 cattle on a farm is “pushing it,” and “50 cattle is a factory farm.” A farm that has 200 chickens is “unacceptable” in their minds, Mitloehner said.This same segment of the population also thinks of pets as part of the family.“That’s the association most millennials have with animals,” Mitloehner said.

Cargill teams up to save water in beef production

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on May 30, 2018

Cargill has teamed with the Nature Conservancy and Nestlé Purina to launch a three-year water project to improve the sustainability of the beef supply chain, the company and the organization said in a joint news release. The project is aimed at reducing the environmental impact of row crop irrigation in Nebraska, as more than 50 percent of water used in U.S. beef production is dedicated to irrigating the row crops that become feed.The Nebraska project enables farmers to install smart weather sensors in crop fields and use Internet of Things (IoT) technology on sprinklers connected to a smart phone app to better manage their water use. 

Implement Dealer Financing and Farm Financial Stress

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on May 30, 2018

In a series of recent articles, we show that farmers' use of implement dealer financing has increased substantially since 2003 (farmdoc daily May 9, 2018). Implement dealers currently provide nearly one-third of the agricultural sector's long-term non-real estate debt. We also found that implement dealer financing is more common for smaller farms. Some industry observers have expressed concern that implement dealer financing may lead to increases in financial risk for participating farms. This post compares the financial risks between farmers with and without implement dealer financing for long-term non-real estate debt (i.e., machinery and equipment loans). We find that farms that use implement dealer financing have similar indicators of potential financial stress than those that do not.While many lenders, such as commercial banks or the Farm Credit System, report aggregate lending to farmers, it is difficult to measure other lending relationships, such as borrowing from individuals. For these types of lending relationships, economists typically rely on surveys of farm operators. The best source for national-level aggregate farm debt is the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) jointly produced by USDA Economic Research Service and National Agricultural Statistics Service. The annual ARMS survey asks farmers detailed information on the terms, age, interest rate, and lender type for (up to five) outstanding loans. It is important to note that the lender type is reported by ARMS' farmer-respondents. Thus, we define implement dealer financing as loans for which respondents report the lender as "implement dealers and financing corporations." As a result, we are unable to identify the financial institution providing the line of credit, which takes a variety of forms, but instead are only able to identify farmers' definition of the credit supplier.

Last gasp for hog farm suit: ‘We don’t want to be hostages’

AP | Posted on May 30, 2018

When the wind blows a certain way, residents know to head inside. Quickly. They claim the stench from an industrial hog farm on the edge of town is unbearable. The gigantic “finishing” barn confines as many as 4,800 hogs. That many animals produce a lot of waste, and it’s what Will-O-Bett Farm does with the liquid manure — applying tens of thousands of gallons to nearby farm fields — that prompted a nasty legal dispute with neighbors. Pennsylvania law shields farms from most suits making a nuisance claim, helping Will-O-Bett prevail in the lower courts. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court must now decide whether it will hear the case after plaintiffs filed a last-gasp appeal this month.“People spent their entire life working to pay the mortgage and they can’t go outside now and sit on their own deck and have a glass of wine because it’s putrid here,” said Malcolm Plevyak, a recycling company owner so upset over the hog farm that he ran for and won local office.Will-O-Bett’s owner, Paul Dagostin, declined comment, citing the pending litigation. His lawyer, Lou Kozloff, called the plaintiffs’ claims hyperbolic and unsubstantiated in a legal filing that asked the Supreme Court to decline the case. State regulators have found the farm to be in compliance and said it voluntarily implemented an odor-control plan even though it wasn’t legally required.

Big Island agriculture hit hard by sulfur dioxide laced fog from Kilauea

Hawaii Tribune | Posted on May 30, 2018

A week and a half after the earth split open in Puna and the hazards of Kilauea began devouring and toxifying everything in their path, 67-year-old Garuda Johnson looked out his window. Seeing through the sulfur dioxide-laced haze of vog — which has measured quantities of SO2 as high as 10 parts per million (ppm) on Johnson’s personal monitor — is nearly impossible at distance. But at close range, he could see well enough to make out just how extensively volcanic emissions had ravaged his 20-acre Pahoa farm on Kamaili Road, just a few miles from the doorstep of Kilauea’s destruction.“The vegetables were dead, they died first,” said Johnson, owner and operator of Johnson Family Farms. “The vegetables just started turning white and they were just gone. All of them.”Tomatoes, lettuce, beets, radishes, more — all were wiped out. Next were most of Johnson’s 400 avocado trees, first their leaves and then their fruit. Tens of thousands of seedlings in the farm’s start room perished as well.His business in ruins and any hope of a profit this year squandered, Johnson, his family and roughly a dozen employees had no choice but to abandon the property, which is home to seven people. The only hope to which Johnson continues to cling, albeit tenuously, is that lava won’t slide down from the volcano to claim what’s left.“We lost where we lived,” Johnson said.

Farm groups launch voluntary 'Farmers for Monarchs' effort

High Plains Journal | Posted on May 30, 2018

As monarch butterflies flutter on their 3,000-mile trek north to New York and Canada this spring, the nation’s farmers are being asked to help provide respite along the way. Farm groups, along with several agribusiness companies and conservation organizations, launched Farmers for Monarchs earlier this winter as part of a voluntary effort to restore the diminishing butterfly’s habitat.Through the winter, monarchs live in the forested mountains of Mexico, said Ryan Yates, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation. But last year, monarchs clumped in those forests covered just 2.2 hectares, he said. “It’s 20 percent of the size of what they were, on average, in the past 20 to 30 years,” he told a group of Kansas Farm Bureau members during a lobbying trip to Washington D.C. this spring.The voluntary push by farm groups stems from growing concerns about a potential listing of the butterfly. In August 2014, environmental groups petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, asking that the monarch be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.