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Agriculture News

NOAA Issues La Nina Watch

DTN | Posted on September 21, 2017

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center (CPC), a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), says that the Pacific Ocean equator temperatures have at least a 50% chance of cooling to La Nina values by December. Accordingly, the CPC issued a La Nina watch Sept. 14. In issuing the watch, CPC details noted an emphasis on subsurface cooling in the equator region waters of the Pacific.

How Agriculture Came to Be a Political Weapon—And What That Means for Farmers

Smithsonian | Posted on September 21, 2017

In his new book, Ted Genoways follows a family farm and the ways they’re impacted by geopolitics. Trade wars with China. Arguments over a border wall with Mexico. Strained relations with South Korea. They all might sound like issues for politicians and the CEOs of multinational corporations, but among the Americans who have a vested interest in foreign affairs are a more unlikely group: family farmers in rural Nebraska. Rick and Heidi Hammond and their daughter, Meghan, are one such Nebraskan family. The fifth and sixth generation of a miniature farming dynasty, they raise corn, soybeans and cattle while dealing with the uncertainties of the weather, farming machinery—and national and international politics. Along for ride is journalist Ted Genoways, who recounts the challenges the family has faced since they first arrived in the Cornhusker State in the 1860s in his new book, This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm.


Syngenta chief calls for debate on 'sustainable agriculture' | Posted on September 21, 2017

Swiss agrochemicals giant Syngenta, recently taken over by ChemChina, said there should be a wide-scale debate on what constitutes "sustainable agriculture" in face of a number of current controversies over pesticides.


European court sides with Italian farmer pushing GM crops

Winnipeg Free Press | Posted on September 21, 2017

The European Union court ruled in favour of an Italian activist farmer who has defied his nation's laws by planting genetically modified corn. Italy has prosecuted Giorgio Fidenato for cultivating the corn on his land, citing concerns the crops could endanger human health. But the European Court of Justice ruled Wednesday that a member state such as Italy does not have the right to ban GM crops given that there is no scientific reason for doing so. It noted the European Commission in 1998 authorized the use of the specific maize seeds Fidenato planted, finding "no reason to believe that that product would have any adverse effects on human health or the environment."Fidenato, whose fields lie in Pordenone, northeastern Italy, became persuaded of the benefits of genetically altered crops during a visit to the United States in the 1990s, seeing that they require fewer chemicals than traditional crops and produce higher yields and profits.But he has faced huge opposition in Italy, where many are fearful that genetically altered foods are less natural than traditional crops and could be dangerous. He has faced both fines from the government and the wrath of anti-GM activists who have destroyed his crops.The current case dates to 2013, when Italy asked the European Commission to adopt emergency measures prohibiting the planting of the seeds, which are produced by U.S. company Monsanto, on the basis of Italian scientific studies.

Genetically Modified Moths Come to New York

The Atlantic | Posted on September 21, 2017

A diamondback moth with altered DNA is being tested to control pests on cabbages.  If the experiment works, it could herald a new era for pest control.The insects in this case are diamondback moths, notorious among farmers as pests that cause $4 to $5 billion of damage a year worldwide. The moth especially likes to munch on Brassica plants, which include cabbages, cauliflower, and broccoli. And it has become increasingly resistant to available insecticides. So Shelton’s cabbage patch in Geneva, New York, is the site of a long-awaited field test to see if genetic engineering could control the diamondback moths. The test began in August and will run until the cold starts killing the moths off.

Could Papayas Help Hawaii Become Energy Independent?

Sierra Club | Posted on September 21, 2017

Papayas are big business in Hawaii. In 2016, the islands produced nearly 20 million pounds of the tropical melon, valued at an estimated $10 million. The Hawaiian papaya is also highly controversial. After the papaya ringspot virus decimated the island’s crop three decades ago, much of the fruit grown there today has been genetically modified to be resistant.  For Hawaiian farmers, selling the papayas can be difficult. Countries are often reticent to import genetically modified crops. Farmers also face an uphill battle because of the high cost of imported fertilizers. But even more problematic is waste. Approximately a third of the Hawaiian papaya crop is discarded because it’s bruised or misshapen. Farmers throw out these otherwise saleable crops when margins are already thin. Lisa Keith, a plant pathologist with the USDA in Hilo, Hawaii, may have a solution. Keith and her team of researchers have been gathering leftover papayas from local packing houses and turning them into a fuel that’s used to produce biodiesel. It’s a surprisingly simple process that includes adding algae to large tanks that contain a sterile pureed papaya solution, where a process called heterotrophic growth takes place—in the absence of sunlight, algae feed on the sugar in the papaya. When the algae becomes starved of nitrogen after depleting the nutrients in the puree, it stimulates lipid production, which causes the lipid cells to balloon up with oil in just under two weeks’ time. These oils can be used for biodiesel production after the glycerol present in the cells is extracted.

Animal rights group steals chickens from farm to 'free' them

The Coloradoan | Posted on September 19, 2017

When four people asked to hold some chickens at a Colorado farm this week, an 8-year-old girl readily agreed to assist. She's proud of the birds she helps raise, and she loves to teach people about them. Sunday's event at the farm was no different, her mother said. The little girl had no idea the adults would tuck three of the birds under their arms and walk off the farm, where a group of some 40 animal rights activists wearing matching T-shirts waited."I'm really rattled and unnerved," said Kristin Ramey, who owns Long Shadow Farm in Berthoud, Colo., with her husband, Larry. "They walked right onto my property and grabbed the birds. I don't feel safe." Ramey said when she confronted members of animal rights group Denver Baby Animal Save and Direct Action Everywhere Colorado, they said, "We have taken your birds to a sanctuary, where they can be free." Aidan Cook, an animal rights activist, said he was at the farm Sunday and was one of the people who went on the property and removed birds.Cook said the group targeted Long Shadow Farm in part because it markets itself as a place where animals are treated humanely, given free range over pastures, fed appropriate diets and slaughtered away from large, so-called factory farms. "We seek out places that are selling what we call the 'humane myth' or 'humane lie,' " he said. "It's this idea that if you treat them the right way then there is an ethical way to exploit and kill animals. ... We want to show that no matter how well you treat someone during their life, that doesn't give you the right to kill them." After the group took the chickens, Ramey contacted the Larimer County (Colo.) Sheriff's Office, which is now investigating several felony allegations including trespassing, attempted theft of livestock and theft of livestock, said sheriff's office spokesman David Moore.

Ag committee chairs push Idaho farm commission leaders to talk about challenges

Capital Press | Posted on September 19, 2017

The chairs of the Idaho Legislature’s House and Senate ag committees are encouraging the directors of the state’s commodity commissions to do a better job talking about the issues and challenges their industries face when speaking to lawmakers. Some of the presentations are more on the “here’s what we did last year” side and not enough on the “here are the issues our industry is struggling with” side, said Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, chairman of the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee.Rice said he is trying to push those commission leaders to share their challenges so legislators can figure out how to help them or at least not get in their way.“Some of the presentations seem too much of cheerleading presentations and we don’t talk enough about the challenges that they’re facing, the things that are causing their industry problems,” he said.“I’m trying to ... make sure that we improve those presentations by addressing problems, challenges, areas where we may be falling behind or where we are headed down a road that’s going to be a problem,” Rice said.Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, chairwoman of the House Agricultural Affairs Committee, said that’s something she’s also trying to do.“We want to know what the issues they are facing are,” said Boyle, a rancher. “That’s really the value of commissions to the legislature.”Boyle said she has told commission leaders to share their challenges and encouraged them to bring their growers and commissioners and let them speak as well.

Rollover protection offered for farm tractors

LaCrosse Tribune | Posted on September 19, 2017

The Wisconsin Rollover Protective Structure rebate program has been funded for a sixth consecutive year, enabling Wisconsin farmers to retrofit rollbars onto their tractors at a reduced cost. The program is run by the National Farm Medicine Center at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute with financial support from the Auction of Champions. A ROPS is an operator compartment structure (usually cab or rollbar) intended to protect farmers from injuries caused by overturns or rollovers. More than half the tractors in Wisconsin do not have ROPS protection. ROPS did not become standard on U.S.-manufactured tractors until 1985. A ROPS, when used with a seatbelt, is reported to be 99 percent effective in preventing injury or death in the event of an overturn.

IRMA: Manatee dairy farm losing thousands of gallons of milk each day

Bay News 9 | Posted on September 19, 2017

At a Manatee County dairy farm, the toll from Irma is causing about $30,000 to go down the drain each day. Workers say they're throwing away thousands of gallons of milk. "The milk that is produced now, there's just no stores open. All of our milk usually goes south of us," said Jerry Dakin. In the 16 years he has owned the business, he has never seen so much milk go to waste. Stores aren't taking it because the milk needs to be refrigerated.Even though the farm can't sell most of its milk, the cows need to continue pumping for their health. That means more and more milk going to waste."We've watched 60,000 gallons of milk go down the drain in the form of skim, and that's just an unbelievable amount of money," said plant manager Tony Wahl. "And there's just so much that milk could do to feed people and help people. Just a huge financial loss."On top of the thousands of dollars lost each day is the structural damage the business suffered during Irma. But not everything was a total loss.