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Agriculture News

Arkansas Plant Board Votes to Ban Dicamba

Arkansas Matters | Posted on June 23, 2017

The Arkansas State Plant Board (ASPB) has voted to ban the sale and use of in-crop dicamba, with an exemption for pastureland. The decision came in a meeting Friday to consider an emergency rule on the herbicide.The Agriculture Council of Arkansas says the 9-5 vote Friday morning also calls for expediting enforcement of new penalties."The proposed rule is the first step in the process of establishing an emergency rule. The next step includes a review of the proposed rule by the Governor before being submitted to the Executive Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council for approval," according to Adriane Barnes, Director of Communication with the Arkansas Agriculture Department.

Troxler defends NC milk inspection program following alarming audit

WRAL | Posted on June 23, 2017

North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler on Thursday responded to recent criticism by state auditors who say his agency's inspectors aren't tough enough on dairies when handling out grades on their milk.According to an audit released Wednesday, inspectors rarely took action when they noted repeated violations. In one case, for example, the inspector marked violations of the same two requirements for six successive inspections without suspending the dairy's permit to market its milk as Grade A.Troxler mostly spoke about what he called "inaccuracies" in the audit. He talked about the processes milk producers go through and the work of inspectors to make sure they are being followed.During the years the audit took place, Troxler said there were nearly 13,000 tests on milk samples. He said only one showed unacceptable bacteria levels, and Troxler claims that facility was suspended from producing Grade A milk."I can tell you I am very upset and disappointed," Troxler said. "I want to make it clear that we have a safe milk supply that is inspected. Milk is the most regulated commodity sold in the United States, and it's because of the processes involved."

Ag Lenders Take Caution

DTN | Posted on June 23, 2017

The winter/spring of 2017 did not see the financial shake-out many financial experts expected after three consecutive years of declining net farm income. In fact, lenders and other ag industry representatives at the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank's annual Ag Symposium last week were not wringing their hands -- yet. There are pockets of more severe financial strain, such as dryland wheat country in the western Plains and in the Southeast U.S., though lenders at the symposium did not report an excessive amount of troubled loans."We've had to rely on equipment equity and land equity as farmers re-balanced their loan portfolios [this winter]," reported Rob Keil, senior vice president and chief credit officer with Dacotah Bank in Aberdeen, South Dakota. "Working capital has disappeared," said Keil, "as we are in our fourth year of [cash flow] bleeding." Land values are staying relatively stable -- on highly productive ground. For example, central Iowa land sales in May brought $10,000 to $10,500 per acre on highly productive (CSR2 above 90) 80-acre parcels, according to Peoples Company, based in Clive, Iowa. This, despite farm incomes that are about half of their peak of 2013, said Nate Kauffman, assistant vice president and Omaha Branch Executive, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.Kauffman reported, "Despite increases in financing needs by farmers and ranchers, we're not seeing delinquencies rising much" in the 10th Federal Reserve Bank district. That district covers Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Colorado and parts of Missouri and New Mexico."Soybeans paid the bills last year," noted White Cloud, Kansas, farmer Ken McCauley, president of the Kansas Corn Growers. "As for corn, I'm still trying to sell last year's crop."Lower input expenses helped, McCauley said. "Fertilizer was the big one; seed costs were stable for a change, and cash rents declined some. Our cash input costs this year went down $50 an acre compared to last year. That really helped, especially with our banker," McCauley added.

Ranchers sue to return country-of-origin labeling

Greensburg Daily News | Posted on June 23, 2017

Ranchers on Monday sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture, seeking a return of labels that clearly identify meat produced in other countries and imported to the United States. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Spokane, seeks to overturn a March 2016 decision by the Department of Agriculture to revoke regulations requiring imported meat products to be labeled with their country of origin. That change allowed imported meat to be sold as U.S. products, the lawsuit said.“Consumers understandably want to know where their food comes from,” said David Muraskin of Washington, D.C., an attorney for Public Justice, which filed the lawsuit. “With this suit, we’re fighting policies that put multinational corporations ahead of domestic producers and shroud the origins of our food supply in secrecy.”

Farm family leaves for Mexico amid questions over immigration crackdown

Wisconsin State Journal | Posted on June 23, 2017

Hernandez worked on the Knoepkes’ farm in Pepin County for 16 years. He shared that home with his wife and two young sons, Thomas, 5, and Liam, 4. That day, at Thomas’ last day at Noah’s Ark Preschool, he cried as he told his classmates that he will not be starting kindergarten with them in the fall. He had never been to Mexico.Earlier this month, Hernandez and four other men, who for years had milked and cared for cows on dairy farms among the hills of western Wisconsin, drove away in the direction of their mountainous hometown of Texhuacan. A few days later, Tepole and the children flew out of Chicago.The Hernandez family left, in part, because of the threat of deportation — which could ban them from returning to the United States for 10 years — and what they described as increasingly harsh rhetoric by President Donald Trump and others toward immigrants, especially those here illegally.They moved here to America’s Dairyland, the nation’s top cheese state and No. 2 milk producer, attracted by a dairy industry dependent on undocumented immigrant labor to keep cows milked three times a day, year-round. They have raised their children in communities where American workers stopped answering “help wanted” ads for cow milkers long ago.And now, they have gone home.“Miguel has been our right hand,” Knoepke said. “He treated (the farm) like he owned it. We’re really saddened, scared. I don’t know. It’s sad.”In Wisconsin, farmers like Knoepke depend heavily on workers like Hernandez. Seeing him and the other workers leave worried this first-generation farmer with 650 cows.“I don’t know where the industry would be without (immigrant labor) right now,” Knoepke says.There are temporary visas for seasonal agricultural workers, but year-round workers who make up the vast majority of the labor force on Wisconsin’s large dairies have no special protections, and many are in the country illegally. Knoepke says Congress “better do something … because (workers) are leaving. You see it right here. They’re packin’ up.”Hernandez’s brother, Damaso, who also works at a western Wisconsin dairy farm, says many workers he knows plan to leave because, “They’re scared of the government.”“It’s strange, it’s difficult because all the Hispanic people knew the Americans here in Wisconsin were supporting Donald Trump. I think they made a mistake, because a lot of people are fleeing for precisely that reason.”

With Dow-DuPont merger, food ‘editing’ gets fresh start

Greenwich Time | Posted on June 23, 2017

In the past year, the GMO debate has faded as attention has shifted to the promise of genetically “edited” foods in which producers trim existing DNA in foods rather than introducing new DNA, as the case in GMO-based genetic engineering. DuPont has emerged as a major innovation in genetic editing with a new unit called CRISPR-Cas, designed to improve seeds without incorporating DNA from other species. DuPont describes the innovation as a continuation of what people have been doing since plants were first domesticated — selecting for characteristics such as better yields, resistance to diseases, shelf life and nutritional qualities.Research on CRISPR — and acronym for “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats” — is being extended to mice used by Jackson Laboratory in Farmington and Maine for medical research, with one staffer calling the technology “a tremendously versatile tool” in engineering genetic alterations. In March, Jackson Lab received a $450,000 federal grant to improve genome editing for research, drug testing and potential future therapies.It is one thing to tinker with DNA for medicine, it is another to do it for everyday food people put on their table. To date, genetic editing has yet to spark the universal outcry that Monsanto incurred with its early efforts to produce GMO foods, with activists still absorbing the implications of the emerging technology.

Enlist corn trait approved for import to China, available for 2018

Successful Farming | Posted on June 23, 2017

Enlist corn will be available for farmers in the U.S. starting in the 2018 growing season. Dow AgroSciences made the announcement after China approved the import of corn grown with the new trait. The announcement was made along with approval for Monsanto’s Vistive Gold soybeans and renewed approvals for 14 other GMO crops.

Trump Cuba Actions Raise Ag Concerns

DTN | Posted on June 23, 2017

Several ag groups on Friday expressed concern over President Donald Trump's announcement that his administration will make it harder for Americans to travel to Cuba and restrict some business activities with the island nation location only 90 miles from Florida. The Republican-leaning American Farm Bureau Federation, the Democratic-leaning National Farmers Union, the U.S. Grains Council and wheat groups all said that the changes, while not related directly to agriculture, could hurt U.S. exports.Trump said on Friday he was rolling back some of President Barack Obama's steps to liberalize relations with Cuba because they had not led to more liberal social policies and democracy there."We will very strongly restrict American dollars flowing to the military, security and intelligence services that are the core of Castro regime," Trump said."They will be restricted. We will enforce the ban on tourism. We will enforce the embargo. We will take concrete steps to ensure that investments flow directly to the people, so they can open private businesses and begin to build their country's great, great future -- a country of great potential."But Trump did not move to close the U.S. embassy in Cuba or the Cuban embassy in Washington, and did not end direct commercial airline flights or cruise ship stops.American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall urged the administration to exercise caution in rolling out any new restrictions on doing business with Cuba that would limit U.S. agricultural export opportunities.

Supreme Court asked to reverse GMO cooking oil class action

Capital Press | Posted on June 22, 2017

A legal dispute over labeling vegetable oil as “natural” even though it contains genetically engineered ingredients could have repercussions for other food-related class action lawsuits.Earlier this year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed a lawsuit against the Conagra food processing company to proceed as a class action, which means numerous consumers who bought its Wesson vegetable oil can join in the litigation.The complaint alleges that Conagra deceived consumers with labels claiming the oil was “100% Natural” despite being derived from genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, which aren’t considered natural.Conagra now wants the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the class action designation because there’s no way to “efficiently and reliably identify” the millions of people who’ve bought Wesson oil over the past decade.“That left only one other possible source of information about the transactions — consumers’ memories of low-value grocery store purchases, recalled years later in hopes of a cash reward,” Conagra said in its Supreme Court review request.Apart from having implications for foods containing GMOs, the lawsuit is seen by food manufacturers as emblematic of a broader problem with litigation over labeling.

Food Evolution Movie Challenges Public Fear Of GMOs

Forbes | Posted on June 21, 2017

The Food Evolution documentary, directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Scott Hamilton Kennedy and narrated by pop astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, navigates the thorny landscape of a debate that often casts GMOs as a scapegoat for myriad perceived ills of modern agriculture. With the gap between public opinion and consensus on the safety and benefit of GMOs wider than with any other scientific issue, the average consumer may have more questions than answers on these technologies. Are genetically engineered crops harmful to human health or the environment? Aren’t these crops instrumental to the corporate control of our food supply? Don’t GMOs perpetuate monoculture, toxic pesticide use, and the transformation of life into intellectual property? With nations all over the world rejecting either imports or cultivation of genetically engineered crops, is it possible that they all got it wrong? The film draws strongly on viewers' emotions but it doesn't skimp on science. Marrying incisive explanations of the scientific nitty-gritty of agriculture and plant breeding with compelling discussion of why people seem wired to trust gut feelings over facts, Food Evolution adds crucial psychological, social, and moral context, without which discourse on the subject often devolves to fruitless blows. The goal is to “reset the conversation on GMOs, and the importance of science on how we feed our children and shape policy,” said Kennedy.