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Agriculture News

Drones and federalism

The Washington Times | Posted on July 13, 2017

Last week, drone industry executives told President Trump they needed more regulation, not less, before they could expand further — a man-bites-dog story if ever there was one. But the answer isn’t to keep waiting on Washington. It’s to make use of one of our nation’s founding principles: federalism. For now, the drone industry is grounded because the Federal Aviation Agency hasn’t written guidelines for drones that fly beyond the operator’s line of sight. Rules are also absent for drone flights at night. It will take years for this bureaucratic behemoth to pass through all the procedural hoops and hurdles necessary to produce a comprehensive regulatory scheme. The agency itself predicts drones won’t be fully integrated into our nation’s airspace until 2025.

Pa. farmer sues government for $8.1 million

Farm and Dairy | Posted on July 13, 2017

A Pennsylvania grain and produce farmer is suing the federal government for $8.1 million in damages and lost crop revenue that he says is the result of flooding caused by the government’s drainage management decisions. Robert Brace, 78, of Erie County, is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He argues that decisions made by those entities cost him more than $8 million that he would have realized from growing the most profitable combination of either cabbages, potatoes or onions. Brace has been in an ongoing battle with the federal government since 1990, when the U.S. EPA sued him for constructing drainage ditches on one of his farms without a permit. He believed he was justified in doing so, because of a “prior converted cropland” exclusion granted to wetlands converted to croplands prior to Dec. 23, 1985.

Washington Dept. of Ag report identifies ‘gaps’ in dairy manure rules

Capital Press | Posted on July 13, 2017

Washington’s oversight of dairies could be toughened by stiffer penalties and more control over manure exported to other farms, according to a new Washington State Department of Agriculture report. The report doesn’t make policy recommendations, but broaches “strategies” for plugging “gaps” in how the state’s some 375 dairies manage manure to protect water.WSDA compiled the report at the direction of state lawmakers and with the advice of a 15-member committee, which included several producers.“I don’t see that there’s going to be a huge amount of regulations coming out of this,” said Whatcom County dairyman Larry Stap, a committee member. “I see this as accountability — proving we’re doing a good job.”Lawmakers ordered the study two years ago to identify “gaps” in manure-handling regulations.

How cats and cows protect farm children from asthma

Science Daily | Posted on July 13, 2017

It is a known fact that microbes on farms protect children from asthma and allergies. But even non-microbial molecules can have a protective effect. Immunologists have shown that a sialic acid found in farm animals is effective against inflammation of lung tissue. This study opens up a wide variety of perspectives for the prevention of allergies.

Vertical farming startup RoBotany sets up in old Pittsburgh steel mill

Trib Live | Posted on July 13, 2017

Robots could grow your next salad inside an old steel mill on Pittsburgh's South Side.  And the four co-founders of the robotic, indoor, vertical farming startup RoBotany could next tackle growing the potatoes for the french fries to top it.“We're techies, but we have green thumbs,” said Austin Webb, one of the startup's co-founders.It's hard to imagine a farm inside the former Republic Steel and later Follansbee Steel Corp. building on Bingham Street. During World War II, the plant produced steel for artillery guns and other military needs. The blueprints were still locked in a safe in a closet in the building when RoBotany moved in.Graffiti from raves and DJ parties once held in the space still decorate the walls. There's so much space, the RoBotany team can park their cars indoors.But in this space, Webb and the rest of the RoBotany team — his brother Brac Webb; Austin Lawrence, who grew up on a blueberry farm in Southwest Michigan; and Daniel Seim, who has pictures of his family's farm stand in Minnesota, taped to the wall above his computer — see a 20,000-square-foot farm with robots scaling racks up to 25 feet high. This farm could produce 2,000 pounds of food a day and could be replicated in warehouses across the country, putting fresh produce closer to the urban populations that need it and do it while reducing the environmental strain traditional farming puts on water and soil resources.

We must do more to protect our farms from terror threats

Des Moines Register | Posted on July 13, 2017

Less than four years later, however, after U.S. special forces raided an al-Qaida cave complex in eastern Afghanistan and found documents on sabotaging American farms through the intentional introduction of diseases that could infect livestock and crops, securing our nation’s food supply became a government priority.  In fact, the Department of Homeland Security, which was created in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was charged with implementing a series of Homeland Security Presidential Directives to safeguard agriculture. HSPD-7, issued in December 2003, added agriculture to the list of industries for critical infrastructure protection, and a month later HSPD-9 established a national policy to protect against terrorist attacks on agriculture and food systems. The Securing Our Agriculture and Food Act, sponsored by Iowa Congressman David Young, directs DHS to coordinate efforts to defend U.S. food, agriculture and veterinary systems against terrorist attacks and “high-risk” events and to collaborate with other federal agencies in bolstering the government’s prevention and response capabilities.Young, who first introduced his legislation in the 114th Congress after the 2015 outbreak of avian influenza killed millions of Iowa’s laying hens, turkeys and chickens, said the response to that outbreak from the federal government, including its communications with farmers, was lacking.

Robots, artificial intelligence and automation are reshaping Iowa's workforce. Is your job at risk?

Des Moines Register | Posted on July 13, 2017

If one machine goes down inside the Country Maid plant, the whole operation devoted to churning out Butter Braid pastries comes to a screeching halt. The stainless steel giants that make up the automated production line constantly talk with each other. When something goes wrong at one station, an alert is instantly sent to the next in line, effectively cutting workers out of the mix.Over the years, the work of making Butter Braid pastries — frozen desserts sold through nonprofit fundraisers across the country — increasingly has shifted from human to machine labor.Employees in the northwest Iowa plant keep watch over the sophisticated equipment, but it's up to machines to mix the dough, fold in giant blocks of butter and cut precise loaves of pastry.Across Iowa, companies are making massive investments in automation that are raising productivity but require fewer workers. Since 2000, Iowa has shed nearly 39,000 manufacturing jobs, a 15 percent loss.In addition, the rise of artificial intelligence is creating jobs and eliminating others far beyond the factory floor.Fifteen years ago, 70 percent of the workers at Principal Financial handled paper transactions or customer interactions. Today, just 30 percent do.

US government agrees to help Maine wild blueberry industry

The Seattle Times | Posted on July 13, 2017

The federal government is again trying to prop up the wild blueberry industry in Maine, where sagging prices jeopardize one of the state’s longest-standing agricultural industries.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved up to $10 million to purchase surplus Maine blueberries, the members of Maine’s congressional delegation said. Wild blueberries are one of the most important crops in Maine, but the industry is struggling with a steep decline in the prices paid to farmers.

Single beetle may have brought lethal tree disease now across Southeast

SFGate | Posted on July 13, 2017

A lone female fungus-farming beetle inadvertently imported to Georgia may have been the source of a disease that has killed some 300 million redbay trees and threatens Florida's avocado groves, researchers from Mississippi and Florida say.  Clones of the beetle and her fungus have spread west into Texas and north to North Carolina over the past 15 years

North-east dairy farmers rally together to safeguard future

edairynews | Posted on July 13, 2017

Dairy farmers in the north-east have rallied together to form a new organisation with a view to potentially building a new milk processing plant for the region. The North-East Milk Producers Organisation comprises 26 farmers who produce a combined total of 54million litres of milk every year.The group’s chairman Roy Mitchell, who farms at Drimmies Farm near Inverurie, said the organisation was formed in response to dairy giant Muller’s decision to close its Aberdeen milk processing plant last summer. Mr Mitchell said the new farmer organisation was the natural next step on from work carried out by economic development agency Opportunity North East and Aberdeenshire Council into market options for north-east milk and the feasibility of building a new processing plant.“Now it’s time to see if the farmers are interested,” said Mr Mitchell.“All the farmers have put money in to help finalise the business plan. We want to look into the potential of building a new plant if the market is there for it.”