Charles Baron has a story he likes to tell about the time that farmers in North Dakota saw his data. Baron’s startup, Farmers Business Network, pools data from farmers and shares insights from the group back with its members. And for one corn crop across thousands of acres in North Dakota, the data said that Baron’s customers were planting the lowest yielding, highest priced seed on the market. “The difference was a lot of money,” Baron says. “So we said, don’t shoot us as the messenger. But what’s going on?” A farmer finally raised his hand, the cofounder explains. “And he says, they took me elk hunting. And then a couple of others raise their hands…” Longtime relationships and free trips to Disney; a heavily consolidated market of suppliers that thrives on a lack of information – that’s how sales have operated for decades in U.S. agriculture, the startup cofounder argues. It’s also why Farmer’ Business Network’s data-driven, pro-transparency approach has taken off so fast since launching just two years ago. And it’s why some of agriculture’s leading players would like to see the controversial business fail.
Last week, a vegan “animal advocate” in Georgia intentionally crashed into a truck hauling live chickens – not once, but twice. She claimed to be concerned about the safety of the birds and wanted to prevent them from reaching their ultimate destination – the processing plant.Luckily, the driver of the truck was not injured and maintained control, preventing what could have been a massive accident. Apparently, this “animal advocate” didn’t think about what could happen to the driver of the truck and other drivers – not to mention the birds on the truck – if her efforts had been successful.
Kansas rancher Greg Gardiner got into some of his scorched pastures for the first time Wednesday and surveyed what he likened to a battle zone: carcasses of dead cattle everywhere. "It's pretty much a catastrophe," Gardiner said as he looked out on his ranch near Ashland, charred by wildfires that have burned through hundreds of acres in four states. "It's as bad as a mind can make it."Gardiner cries when he talks about how thankful he is that none of his family members were lost in wildfires that that have led to the deaths of six people. Gardiner's brother Mark lost his home — like dozens of other people in largely rural areas of Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado — but he is safe.Gardiner figures he lost 500 cattle. Any badly burned animals found still alive are mercifully shot. "A lot of people have gone out and run out of shells and come back to get more shells," said Gardiner, speaking by cellphone. "It's pretty grisly work out here right now, to be honest." He saw a coyote's carcass and wryly stated that there's not even coyotes left to clean up the dead. No wildlife is left as far as he can tell.While cattle producers like Gardiner spent much of Wednesday assessing their losses, fire crews were attempting to extinguish the blazes. Most of the burned land is in Kansas, where more than 1,000 square miles has been consumed in a series of blazes, including one believed to be the largest in the state's recorded history.It is too soon to know yet how many animals perished. In Clark County, where Gardiner lives, ranchers so far have lost about 2,500 adult cattle and at least 1,000 calves, said Randall Spare, co-owner of Ashland Veterinary Center."It is just horrendous," rancher David Clawson said from his home near Englewood, a Kansas town of about 50 residents where a fire destroyed 12 homes.Ranch hands were among those who have been killed in the fires. In the Texas Panhandle, three ranch hands died trying to save cattle from fires that have burned nearly 750 square miles.Gray County Judge Richard Peet said it appears 20-year-old Cody Crockett was on horseback and his girlfriend, 23-year-old Sydney Wallace, was nearby on foot as fire and smoke swirled around them. Peet says Wallace died of smoke inhalation. Crockett suffered burns, as did 35-year-old Sloan Everett who also was on horseback. Their bodies were found near each other.
There are corn and soy fields as far as the eye can see around Kyle Schwarting’s home in Ceresco, Nebraska. The 36-year-old farmer lives on a small plot of land peppered with large agricultural machines including tractors, planters and a combine harvester. Parked up in front of his house is a bright red 27-ton Case tractor which has tracks instead of wheels. It’s worth about $250,000, and there’s a problem with it: an in-cab alarm sounds at ten-minute intervals to alert him to a faulty hydraulic connector he never needs to use. Because farm machinery is now so high-tech, the only way to silence the error message is by plugging in a special diagnostic tool – essentially a computer loaded with troubleshooting software that connects to a port inside the tractor – to identify and resolve the problem. Only manufacturers and authorized dealers are allowed that tool, and they charge hundreds of dollars in call-out fees to use it. For a fifth-generation farmer in an increasingly squeezed industry, whose family has spent decades fixing the equipment they paid for, it’s a tough pill to swallow. He’s coped with the intermittent alarm sound for almost a year. Kyle is one of many farmers in the US fighting for the right to repair their equipment. He and others are getting behind Nebraska’s “Fair Repair” bill, which would require companies to provide consumers and independent repair shops access to service manuals, diagnostic tools and parts so they aren’t limited to a single supplier. They have an unlikely ally: repair shops for electronic items like iPhones, tablets and laptops who struggle to find official components and information to fix broken devices. This means the bill could benefit not just farmers but anyone who owns electronic goods. There’s also a benefit to the environment, as it would allow for more refurbishment and recycling instead of sending equipment to the landfill.
State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven in Pierre confirmed bovine tuberculosis has been found in a South Dakota beef herd. Oedekoven says meat inspectors initially identified the suspect animals in February during routine slaughter inspection of otherwise healthy appearing cattle. The cattle were traced to a herd in Harding County. Testing of the herd revealed additional infected animals.Oedekoven says his office is working with the herd owner and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials to evaluate the extent of the disease. He says adjacent herds will be tested, and that bovine TB is not a food threat, because of milk pasteurization and meat inspection programs.
Hormel-owned natural and organic meat brand Applegate announced that by 2024, the company intends to elevate and third-party verify its standards for broiler chickens to be consistent with Global Animal Partnership (GAP). These changes will require, among other things, using broiler chicken breeds that are scientifically proven to have improved welfare outcomes.
Despite continued challenges within the farm sector, Land O'Lakes Inc. reported record net earnings for the year ending Dec. 31, 2016, which it said was powered by growth in core businesses and the unification with United Suppliers.
Highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza has been detected in a Tyson breeder flock in Tennessee. In a follow-up on the avian influenza situation in Tennessee, USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) has confirmed the full subtype for the highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza reported in Lincoln County, TN. The virus has been identified as North American wild bird lineage H7N9 HPAI based upon full genome sequence analysis of the samples at the NVSL. All eight gene segments of the virus are North American wild bird lineage. This is NOT the same as the China H7N9 virus that has impacted poultry and infected humans in Asia. While the subtype is the same as the China H7N9 lineage that emerged in 2013, this is a different virus and is genetically distinct from the China H7N9 lineage.
2014 Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL) survey-Details about agricultural land for 25 States, 6 regions, and the contiguous United States.USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and Economic Research Service (ERS) jointly conducted the 2014 Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL) survey to shed light on the 911 million acres of agricultural land—held by both operator and non-operator landlords—in the contiguous 48 States.
The President said in September that undocumented immigrants are costing the U.S. more than $113 billion annually. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) was reportedly the source of that number, and they noted that state and local governments pay the vast majority of that amount at $84 billion a year, but also reported that the actual net cost incurred by undocumented immigrants residing illegally in the U.S. is closer to $99 billion. But officials in various segments of the agricultural industry, including dairy, meat and produce, all seem to agree on one thing: the foreign-born workforce is vital to American agriculture, and in many ways it is still in need of enhancement. As for the local economy, Lona DuVall, president of the Finney County Economic Development Corporation, said the presence of foreign-born workers, undocumented or otherwise, has been a boon to the community.“We caution our community members and our business owners to realize that a lot of things they hear about in the national news just simply aren’t happening here,” DuVall said. “When they tell the stories of immigrants who may or may not be taking advantage of the system in some communities, we don’t feel like that’s happening here.” DuVall said 5,000 jobs have been created in Finney County over the last few years, adding that the current level of job creation would not be sustainable without the immigrant influx. “I think it’s just important for people to ask the questions locally,” she said. “Don’t buy into the rhetoric. Don’t believe everything you hear or see that is happening in other places, because that’s not the situation in our community.” Kristi Boswell, the Washington, D.C.-based director of congressional relations on labor and immigration at Farm Bureau, said more than 80 percent of the agricultural workforce in the U.S. is foreign-born, and more than half are presumed to be undocumented.