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Agriculture News

Lawmakers jump on community's anti-Tyson bandwagon

Kansas City Business Journal | Posted on September 19, 2017

The four-person legislative delegation representing the Tonganoxie area didn't have to brood long about a proposed $320 million Tyson Foods Inc. poultry complex before coming out against it Friday evening. Surrounded by a Chieftain Park town hall crowd roughly half the size of Tonganoxie's 5,500 population, the lawmakers initially pledged to remain neutral on the proposal until more facts were known. But after more than an hour of public comment, including not one peep in favor of the plant, state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, made a well-received announcement on behalf of himself and two other state lawmakers who sponsored the event and fielded the crowd's questions and concerns."Given the response we've seen tonight," Holland said, "myself, Representative (Jim) Karleskint (R-Tonganoxie) and Representative (Willie) Dove (R-Bonner Springs) can unconditionally guarantee to you that we're going to work to defeat this proposal."State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth, was not part of the panel on Friday but addressed the crowd to voice his opposition to the Tyson complex.

Deere and Cargill say “Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto” – Artificial intelligence infiltrating agriculture and farming

Biofuels Digest | Posted on September 19, 2017

Artificial intelligence seems to be everywhere nowadays and not just in high tech labs, science centers, or nerdy dark basements. They are now in our agriculture industry and on our farms, and even in our yards with John Deere’s new robotic lawnmower.  In fact, the Mr. Roboto’s song lyrics eerily said “Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto, for doing the jobs that nobody wants to,” which is just what many of these smart agricultural machines are doing, like data collection, seeding, irrigating, crop analysis and other tasks that take humans too much time, energy and money to do.  John Deere announced they are buying Blue River Technology, a Sunnyvale, California company that specializes and is amazingly smart in artificial intelligence for agriculture. It isn’t coming cheap at $305 million, but Deere is focused on expanding their automation technologies and artificial intelligence product offerings.“We welcome the opportunity to work with a Blue River Technology team that is highly skilled and intensely dedicated to rapidly advancing the implementation of machine learning in agriculture,” said John May, President, Agricultural Solutions, and Chief Information Officer at Deere in their press release. “As a leader in precision agriculture, John Deere recognizes the importance of technology to our customers. Machine learning is an important capability for Deere’s future.”In particular, Blue River Technology applied machine learning to agricultural spraying equipment and Deere is confident that similar technology can be used in the future on a wider range of products, May said.Blue River designed and integrated computer vision and machine learning technology that will enable growers to reduce the use of herbicides by spraying only where weeds are present, optimizing the use of inputs in farming – a key objective of precision agriculture.Deere isn’t the only company expanding and investing in artificial intelligence. Cargill recently announced that dairy productivity increased in European markets that used their Dairy Enteligen application and they plan to expand it to the U.S. within the next several months. The tool helps farmers and consultants analyze tons of data and information on the cows via smart tablets and computers.“In today’s agricultural economy, dairy farmers are looking for real-time information and insights inpage-dairy-enteligen-screen to help them make the best decisions to run a profitable and efficient farm, while also ensuring their animals are properly nourished,” Ricardo Daura, global product line director in Cargill Animal Nutrition’s digital insights business said in their press release. “We believe Dairy Enteligen has the power to fundamentally transform the dairy industry by unlocking the power of data to guide farmers’ decision-making right from their fingertips.”Through the touch of a smart tablet or a computer keystroke, dairy consultants work with farmers to track key information, including milk productivity, animal health and comfort and feed formulation. The Dairy Enteligen data collection, management and analysis platform combines this information from multiple software programs into one system, allowing Cargill advisors and customers to make precise decisions on feed and farm management practices.

Bogus ‘organic’ foods reach the U.S. because of lax enforcement at ports, inspectors say

The Washington Post | Posted on September 19, 2017

Bogus “organic” products may be reaching the United States because of lax enforcement at U.S. ports, according to a new audit by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General, a finding that helps explain previous reports that millions of pounds of fraudulent “organic” corn and soybeans had reached American ports. The USDA lacks procedures to check that a shipment meets organic standards, the report found.The USDA “was unable to provide reasonable assurance that … required documents were reviewed at U.S. ports of entry to verify that imported agricultural products labeled as organic were from certified organic foreign farms,” according to the report released Monday. "The lack of controls at U.S. ports of entry increases the risk that nonorganic products may be imported as organic into the United States and could create an unfair economic environment for U.S. organic producers.” The inspector general's report adds that the confusion at the ports is so deep that some “organic” shipments — legitimate or not — are fumigated after arrival with pesticides prohibited under USDA organic rules. The investigators visited seven U.S. ports and discovered, through documents and interviews, that if an organic shipment shows evidence of a pest or disease and “the shipment’s owner elects to treat the organic agricultural products, they are treated using the same methods and substances used for conventional products. There are no special treatment methods for organic products. This practice results in the exposure of organic agricultural products to” prohibited substances.The report from the inspector general comes as the USDA faces growing doubts about whether food granted the "USDA Organic" label actually meets organic standards.

Maryland residents push back on proposed chicken manure plant

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on September 14, 2017

Residents in Crisfield, Md., have persuaded local officials to table discussion on a proposal for a plant that will convert chicken manure into reusable energy, according to local media reports. City officials voted to table the discussion Wednesday after having heard many residents’ concerns, which include potential odor problems, increased traffic, flooding issues and its location in a town whose economy relies on tourism.  

US West's wildfires spark calls to thin tree-choked forests

ABC News | Posted on September 14, 2017

Wildfires that are blackening the American West in one of the nation's worst fire seasons have ignited calls, including from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, to thin forests that have become so choked with trees that they are at "powder keg levels." The destruction has exposed old frictions between environmentalists and those who want to see logging accelerated, and it's triggered a push to reassess how lands should be managed to prevent severe wildfires.Zinke's directive Tuesday for department managers and superintendents to aggressively prevent wildfires was welcomed by Ed Waldron, fire management officer at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.Waldron was exhausted after fighting two fires that have been burning since late July in or near the park, whose centerpiece is a lake that fills the remains of an erupted volcano and is the deepest in the United States. But he wondered where the additional resources would come from to hire contractors to thin the fuel.For now, Waldron and other firefighters have been too busy fighting blazes that forced the closure of a road into the park to thin vegetation elsewhere.

Climate Change Could Make Great Lakes A 'Sweet Spot' For Dairy

Wiscontext | Posted on September 14, 2017

Climate change may give a big boost to dairy farming in the Midwest, including Michigan and northern Wisconsin, a new study of the future for U.S. dairy farms reports. "Dairy production in North America will shift to areas with sufficient rainfall and adequate growing seasons, primarily migrating from the West and Southwest to Great Lakes regions and into the Canadian prairies," according to Jack Britt, a former Michigan State University professor and now a North Carolina-based industry consultant."Dairy farms will relocate to regions that have ample rainfall and suitable climates," he said in a recent study that looks at dairy farming in 2067.

Lawsuit challenges USDA organic livestock standards delay

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on September 14, 2017

The Organic Trade Association has filed a lawsuit demanding that USDA officials “keep up with the industry and the consumer in setting organic standards,” the group said in a statement. The suit alleges that USDA violated the Organic Foods Production Act and illegally delayed the effective date of the final livestock standards that were developed by the industry in accordance with processes established by Congress. USDA also is accused of abusing its discretion by ignoring an “overwhelming” public record established in support of the organic standards.The group contends that the Trump administration’s regulatory freeze order issued to federal agencies on Jan. 20 should not apply to organic standards because they are voluntary and are only required of farms and businesses that opt in to be certified organic. The final rule was released on Jan. 19 and published on the las

Florida's Farmers Look At Irma's Damage: 'Probably The Worst We've Seen'

NPR | Posted on September 14, 2017

When the worst of Irma's fury had passed, Gene McAvoy hit the road to inspect citrus groves and vegetable fields. McAvoy is a specialist on vegetable farming at the University of Florida's extension office in the town of LaBelle, in the middle of one of the country's biggest concentrations of vegetable and citrus farms. It took a direct hit from the storm. "The eyewall came right over our main production area," McAvoy says.The groves of orange and grapefruit were approaching harvest. But after Irma blew through, it left "50 or 60 percent of the fruit lying in water [or] on the ground," says McAvoy. Many trees were standing in water, a mortal danger if their roots stay submerged for longer than three or four days.About a quarter of the country's sugar production comes from fields of sugar cane near Lake Okeechobee, east of LaBelle. Harvest season for the sugar cane crop is only a few weeks away, but Irma knocked much of the cane down, making it more difficult to harvest. "We won't know the exact extent of the loss until it's harvested," McAvoy says.

Cargill’s Big Data Makes Happier—and More Productive—Cows

Bloomberg | Posted on September 14, 2017

Cargill Inc., one of the world’s biggest agricultural companies, is tapping big data to help U.S. farmers make their cows more comfortable -- and more productive.  The 152-year-old Minneapolis-based company said that it plans to offer its Dairy Enteligen application in the U.S. in the next several months after introducing it in Italy and Spain. The platform lets consultants and farmers analyze reams of information, from cows’ living conditions to diet and milk productivity on smart tablets and computers. Cargill is part of the growing wave of companies looking to tap into the proliferation of data that’s sweeping across industries, from automotive to telecommunications and agriculture. Deere & Co., the world’s biggest producer of farm equipment, said that it closed on its $305 million acquisition of Blue River Technology Inc., a Silicon Valley-based company that specializes in smart machines. In its annual report last month, Cargill said it aspires to “change the game” within its industry with digitalization and analytics.

Washington state dairy wows with innovative water treatment system

Yakima Herald | Posted on September 14, 2017

Out on the Columbia Basin, a system of worm feces, wood chips and river rocks could spell a new solution to the vexing issue of nitrate pollution and greenhouse gases.To deal with nitrate-laden wastewater generated by some 7,000 milk cows, the Royal Dairy in Royal City - about 25 miles northwest of Othello - commissioned a Chile-based company to build what is the largest treatment facility of its kind in the world. Whether the system can be, or should be, widely adopted by dairies remains to be seen. But in Yakima County, where dairy cows outnumber people, and in other places with mega-size dairies, the technology is being watched carefully.Austin Allred, who along with his father, Jerry, and brothers, Derek and Tyson, own and operate the Royal Dairy, was looking for a more environmentally sustainable way to dispose of the more than 1 million gallons of wastewater the dairy generates weekly. That’s when they heard about a system being used in Hilmar, Calif., that reportedly reduced gas emissions by 90 percent.Working with BioFiltro, a wastewater filtration company based in Chile, Allred initially ran a small, two-year pilot project. Results were so promising he moved ahead this summer with a full-scale system, costing him in the ballpark of something less than $2 million; he refused to reveal an exact figure.“I liked the simplicity of it,” he said. “I understand pipes and pumps, and this system made way more sense to me than other systems that use reverse osmosis or ultrafiltration and things like that.”The system is divided into three large boxes, each with a dense layer of soil permeated with worms — an average of 1,000 worms per cubic foot. Underneath is a layer of wood shavings, and at the bottom is a layer of river cobble.Worm feces, when mixed with other microbes, including bacteria, creates a sticky “biofilm” that clings to the wood chips and rocks. Nitrates and other contaminants stick to the biofilm as water percolates through the system, leaving them to be consumed by worms and microorganisms.After 4 hours, the now-cleaner water drips into drainage basins under the beds before being used for irrigation. The system, which encompasses 81,000 square fee