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Agriculture News

Farm Economy Softens Further

Kansas CIty Fed | Posted on August 22, 2017

A prolonged downturn in the agricultural economy continued in the second quarter of 2017, but recent data suggest conditions in the farm sector may be stabilizing. Although farm income and farm real estate values continued to decline, and credit conditions weakened further, the pace of deterioration has slowed. With the fall harvest approaching, agricultural lenders and borrowers remain concerned about prospects for the farm economy in the Federal Reserve’s Tenth District, particularly in regions with limited potential for high crop yields. However, bankers were generally less pessimistic about economic conditions in the farm sector in the second quarter than in each of the past two years.

Is Vegan Farming the Next Plant-Based Phenomenon?

Civil eats | Posted on August 22, 2017

But there’s a new contender looking for members, offering something unique, something more than just its cheeky name: Lazy Millennial Farms. The founders of the Salinas-based farm believe it is the only farm in the Bay Area that’s growing crops veganically. That means no animal fertilizers, fish emulsions, blood or bone meal (dried animal bones and blood that is processed from the remains at slaughterhouses) that are relied upon so heavily in organic farming. Matthew and Brittany Loisel started their farm because they felt that the little steps many eco-conscious people take, like recycling, just wasn’t going to have enough impact.“I was the kind of vegetarian that hated vegans,” said Matthew. “I said many times ‘I will never be vegan,’ among other pejorative statements about vegans. But halfway through ‘Cowspiracy,’ I was sure I was going to have to go vegan for environmental reasons.” Once they began to consider not using animal byproducts, “I was in a panic as I hadn’t heard of veganics, and my initial concern was that soil microbes would suffer without organic matter to feed them,” said Matthew.So he did what he’s done often in his life, he said; he asked someone more knowledgeable than himself on the subject.Matthew reached out to an expert who had spoken to their class.“His answer was that soil microbes are much more resilient than you give them credit for,” he said.While the veganic movement is so small most haven’t heard of it, it is growing, said Mona Seymour, Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Director of Environmental Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.Seymour said she believes there are about 50 farms in the United States doing so, but because there’s no official body, it’s very hard to track.

U.S. produce growers deeply divided over NAFTA

Politico | Posted on August 22, 2017

The produce industry is at war with itself over a protectionist proposal the Trump administration is preparing to submit in the NAFTA talks that exposes a deep regional fault line among growers. Southeastern produce growers struggling to compete with cheaper Mexican imports have long lobbied for relief under NAFTA, with little to show for it. Now, with few agricultural groups calling for significant changes to the pact, the “America First” Trump administration has seized on the plight of southeastern produce growers, putting their concerns at the forefront of the national trade agenda.U.S. trade negotiators had been expected to come to the table during the first negotiating round with a proposal that would make it easier for American growers to make the case that Mexico is selling produce at unfairly low prices when crops like blueberries or tomatoes are in season in a particular region. Growers would be able to bring anti-dumping and countervailing duty cases by domestic region and draw on seasonal data, a departure from current trade law, which requires a majority of the industry nationwide to wield at least three years of annual data to prove injury.



U.S. seeks WTO dispute panel on China's grain import quotas

Reuters | Posted on August 22, 2017

The United States has requested a World Trade Organization panel be set up to investigate Chinese tariff-rate quotas for agricultural products, the WTO said on Monday, setting up a showdown between the two largest economies. The row, which includes tariffs for wheat, rice, and corn, was initiated under the Obama administration which sought consultations on Dec. 15, but now the Trump administration has moved ahead with a formal request. The item appears on the formal agenda of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body meeting set for Aug. 31, issued on Monday. China can block this first formal request, but upon a second request at a later DSB, the panel will be set up unless all WTO members agree to block it. In December, the U.S. Trade Representative said that China's administration of the programme breached its WTO commitments and hurt U.S. farm exports. The USTR said global prices for the three commodities were lower than China's domestic prices, yet the country did not maximize its use of TRQs, which offer lower duties on a certain volume of imported grains every year. The USTR said that limited market access for shipments from the United States, the world's largest grain exporter, and other countries. Since then, Australia, the European Union, Canada and Thailand have joined the dispute as third parties.

EPA goes after Times on chlorpyrifos

Agri-Pulse | Posted on August 22, 2017

The EPA is pushing back against a New York Times report that describes some of the internal deliberations leading up to the agency’s decision to deny a petition that sought to ban the widely used pesticide chlorpyrifos. In its story, published in the paper’s print edition Saturday, the Times cited emails obtained through a Freedom of Information request that it said “show how the EPA's new staff, appointed by President Trump, pushed the agency’s career staff to draft a ruling that would deny the decade-old petition by environmentalists.” The article also described a meeting with Washington state Farm Bureau officials at which EPA chief Scott Pruitt said the administration understands the significant economic impact agriculture has in the U.S., and that he was looking forward to working with the farm community. EPA, however, took exception to the article, accusing the Times of reporting “false facts” and “never letting the facts get in the way of a good story.” For good measure, the agency threw in a recent flub where the Times mistakenly said it was the first to report on a draft climate change report that had actually been posted online for months.

US beef struggles in China

Journal Gazette | Posted on August 21, 2017

At the Sam's Club store in Beijing's Shijingshan district, the chilled beef on offer is so dominated by Australian cuts – such as marbled rib-eye steaks and fatty oxtail chunks – that many customers are oblivious to the few packs of U.S. meat available. “I haven't noticed the U.S. beef here,” said Hui Xue, who was shopping for steaks that he cooks once a week. Even if he had spotted the produce, it probably wouldn't have gone into his cart. The American meat – back in China after 14 years as part of a trade deal hailed by the Donald Trump administration – was only available in little strips meant to be stir-fried rather than in larger hunks that can be sizzled on a cast-iron skillet.Viveca Zhang, another shopper at the store, also bypassed the American supply. “I would like to try the U.S. beef, but there are only a few options to choose from,” she said.Their reluctance emphasizes the barriers that U.S. beef faces on its re-entry into the world's second-biggest consumer after being barred in 2003 due to concerns over mad cow disease.While the return prompted fanfare from the Trump administration and promises that shiploads of meat would start arriving at China's shores, producers may have to endure a long slog back into the market. That's because rivals from nations including Australia and Brazil rushed in to dominate sales when the Americans were shut out.“Trade will grow gradually, but I don't think it will increase to the extent that would affect China's beef market, because of its limited supply,” Chenjun Pan, an analyst at Rabobank International, said of the U.S. meat.

Examining Farm Sector and Farm Household Income

USDA | Posted on August 21, 2017

Farm sector net cash income is expected to decline 35 percent between 2013 and 2016, following several years of record highs—though it will remain near its recent 10-year average.  Starting in the late 1990s, the median household income for farm households has exceeded the median income of all U.S. households; in 2015, farm households had a median total household income of $76,735, a third greater than that of all U.S. households but less than that of U.S. households with a self-employed head. Federal Government payments—including disaster assistance programs and commodity program payments—are expected to be about $13 billion in 2016, and buffer swings in farm income.

“Eat this and die.” Two Steps to Outsmart Media Marketing of Fear

Huffington Post | Posted on August 21, 2017

By publishing anything claiming to have a whiff of scientific basis, assigning it a nefarious headline and relinquishing responsibility to verify its legitimacy, media counter their own noble pursuit by contributing to consumer confusion instead of being a beacon of clear, reliable information.“Carcinogenic pesticide found in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream” and “Chemical in mac and cheese tied to birth defects” are among the latest alarming headlines.Often, media outlets hungry for content and short on staff simply post news releases verbatim – no scrutiny applied – from an author, company, advocacy group or public relations firm. One recent example is “These 7 foods are scientifically proven to put you in a bad mood” article, which was picked up by many media outlets including AOL, MSN and Glamour.With a simple 10-minute search for the science behind each claim (if scientific studies were even provided), I discovered the article didn’t “prove” much of anything. As is the case here, so often science “suggests” a link or claims consuming a certain ingredient (in unrealistic, outrageous amounts in many cases) “may” cause various health conditions.The mere presence of a chemical in a food doesn’t make it harmful, but often stories lead us to believe otherwise.

DuPont Buys Granular Ag Software Company

Ag Web | Posted on August 21, 2017

DuPont announced it will buy Granular Inc. software company for $300 million. This agreement will solidify the company’s investment in the ag tech space and is expected to close at the end of the third quarter. The acquisition gives DuPont ownership of Granular’s Farm Management Software and that together serve 250 farms on two million acres in the U.S. as well as farms in Canada and Australia.

Monsanto adds another CRISPR platform to genetic toolbox

Farm and Dairy | Posted on August 21, 2017

 Monsanto Company has forged an agreement with ToolGen, Inc., a biotechnology company specializing in genome editing, to use ToolGen’s CRISPR technology platform to develop agricultural products. The companies announced Aug. 16 that they have reached a global licensing agreement for Monsanto to access ToolGen’s suite of CRISPR intellectual property for use in plants.