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Agriculture News

Genetically Modified Pigs Could Ease Organ Shortage

Wall Street Journal | Posted on December 6, 2016

There are more than 120,000 people in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant and not enough donors. The dire shortage has led some researchers to consider an unusual solution: They are breeding genetically modified pigs whose organs could be compatible for human transplant.  Researchers have been trying for decades to make animal-to-human transplants work, a process known as xenotransplantation. Pigs are a particularly promising source of organs. They produce big litters. Organs such as the kidney and liver are similar in size to those of humans. “Nobody has come up with a better animal,” says Joseph Tector, a professor of surgery who runs the xenotransplantation program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

GMOs Have Had A Good 2016, But Teachable Moments Lie Ahead

Forbes | Posted on December 6, 2016

Despite the political rancor of the election season just past, 2016 has turned out to be one of the most peaceful and positive years ever when it comes to the discussion and science around GMOs. Consider this: The debate over labeling foods produced through biotechnology has raged for some 15 years. But this year, with the implementation of a new, nationwide standard, we now turn the page to educating consumers about the implications. No longer will consumers and food producers face the nightmare of a patchwork of labeling laws at the state level. Unfortunately, it seems as if consumers are being constantly bombarded with changes to food labels. While intuitively we might think that more information means a better-educated consumer, IFIC Foundation research often finds that our best intentions can backfire, as we fall victim to “information overload.” This is also potentially the case with forthcoming Nutrition Facts labels that will add a line for added sugars.

New North America Production Challenges Fertilizer Outlook

DTN | Posted on December 5, 2016

New North American nitrogen production is beginning to hit the world market in 2016 during a time of oversupply, and it could take the global market a few years to balance out this new production.  New capacity, lower energy prices and currency devaluations have all combined to put significant pressure on nitrogen fertilizer prices, according to a fertilizer industry consultant. Hoadley said world nitrogen production for 2015/2016 is expected to be just over 165 million tons, which is up from closer to 143 million tons in 2009/2010. Roughly about 20% of the market accounts for industrial uses, he said. World nitrogen demand shows a consistent growth of about 2% a year. The world nitrogen capacity growth should slow after 2017 once the new North American production is on the world market, he said.

Christmas Trees Are Dying From Drought

Huffington Post | Posted on December 5, 2016

For 23 years, Curtis Abbott and his family have been growing and selling Christmas trees on their farm in the town of Charlton, Massachusetts. Photos from previous harvests show picture-perfect trees — towering evergreens with sturdy branches dusted with white snow. But this year, Abbott Tree Farm has shared no photographs.Instead, a couple of days before Thanksgiving, the farm posted an unexpected message on Facebook: “Sorry we are closed.” Drought, said Abbott, had forced the farm to shutter its doors this year — only the second time it’s done so in over two decades. “We feel it would be best to keep the farm closed,” he wrote on Nov. 22.Massachusetts has been plagued by drought for months. As of last week, more than 60 percent of the state was suffering severe drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The dry weather has wreaked havoc on the state’s wildlife, water and vegetation. 

Time of Change for Cuban Agriculture

DTN | Posted on December 5, 2016

President Barack Obama shook Raul's hand last March and for two years has used executive orders to begin ending a nearly 60-year-old embargo. President-elect Donald Trump, meanwhile, has said he wants more concessions from the Cubans before relations can move forward. USA Today quoted Trump's vice president Mike Pence telling a Miami audience just before the election: "Let me make you a promise. When Donald Trump is president of the United States, we will repeal Obama's executive orders on Cuba."  What will replace those executive orders and what engagement will the Trump administration make with Cuba? The answers are of interest to U.S. farmers and companies wanting to sell sugar, meat and farm inputs to Cuba.DTN/The Progressive Farmer last fall visited Cuba to assess where Cuban and American agricultural interests might connect. In some ways it seems, Cuban farming is stuck in a time capsule. Old and new contrast here in part because of a half-century-old embargo by the United States. The Cubans refer to it as the "blockade" because it has been so effective at cutting off Cuba from trade and credit with much of the world. But the Cubans also can blame the socialist system, which even Fidel Castro admitted has failed the people.Meanwhile, Cubans improvise. They keep old tractors and old cars running while also looking for modern solutions to longstanding problems. In the meantime, Raul is unlikely to lead Cuba into another sugar daddy situation. Instead, he is reaching out to several potential partners. Europeans, especially Spanish companies, are building resorts, and Brazil has helped with new port facilities. In September, the president of Iran visited Havana, and observers speculate that the oil-rich Middle East country is shopping oil. China also sent a delegation to Cuba in the fall. If they follow a pattern they have established in other developing regions, the Chinese will invest in Cuba's infrastructure to help build another market for its manufactured goods.

Another Species Of Mite Threatens Honeybees

Growing Produce | Posted on December 4, 2016

A sister species of the Varroa destructor mite is developing the ability to parasitize European honeybees, threatening pollinators already hard pressed by pesticides, nutritional deficiencies, and disease.  Researchers found that some populations of Varroa jacobsoni mites are shifting from feeding and reproducing on Asian honeybees, their preferred host, to European honeybees, the primary species used for crop pollination and honey production worldwide. To bee researchers, it’s a grimly familiar story: V. destructormade the same host leap at least 60 years ago, spreading rapidly to become the most important global health threat to European honeybees.

Environmental Working Group getting percentage of sales of products?

Growing Produce | Posted on December 4, 2016

First came a shocking bit of insight into how EWG racks up some of its revenue. For example, EWG annually evaluates sunscreens, rating them on a 1 to 10, best to worst. I clicked on one of the top-rated sunscreens, which I’m sure is a fine product. It must be, as it not only provides UVA/UVB protection, it’s “gluten-free.” (No, I’m not making that last bit up.) I scrolled down the page and clicked on an Amazon link that would have allowed me to buy the product. What people may not know, said Hayes, is EWG gets a chunk of change when you buy through Amazon. It’s not insignificant either.

Review Shows Low Risk To Aquatic Invertebrates From Neonicotinoids

Growing Produce | Posted on December 4, 2016

A study, published in the October issue of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, said crop and non-crop uses of imidacloprid in the U.S. are of minimal risk to aquatic invertebrates. The neonicotinoid imidacloprid is one of the most widely-used insecticides. Imidacloprid is a systemic insecticide which acts as an insect neurotoxin which act on the central nervous system of insects.  This ecotoxicological review and risk assessment details the body of research, the careful selection and use of the best available data, and the probabilistic risk assessment. The probabilistic approach better predicts the effects to sensitive species, the relevant exposures and the potential risks to aquatic invertebrates in terms of the actual label use directions, and the natural environment for these crops and treated landscapes.

Schumer to Canadians: Your milk policies hurt NY, eh?

Times Union | Posted on December 4, 2016

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer huddled with Canadian officials on Thursday to discuss policies that are said to be harmful to New York milk producers, Schumer’s office said in a release.  Schumer met with new Canadian Consul General Phyllis Yaffe and Canadian Ambassador David McNaughton to urge them to reverse “the protectionist and restrictive trade policies that are currently threatening the upstate New York milk industry.”  Ontario has implemented a new provincial pricing policy said to discourage imports of ultra-filtered milk from the United States. Schumer’s office noted that Canadian importers have long enjoyed duty-free access for ultra-filtered milk under the North American Free Trade Agreement.The federal government is considering a similar national policy, which has stoked fears dairy product producers will use Canadian milk suppliers instead of New York suppliers they have relied on in the past.Implementation of the national ingredient strategy already has been pushed back from Nov. 1 to Feb. 1.

Companies bid for struggling Alaskan meat plant

Meatingplace (registration required) | Posted on December 4, 2016

Two meat companies have put in bids to buy financially strapped Mt. McKinley Meat and Sausage, the only USDA-inspected meat plant in southcentral Alaska.  Mike’s quality Meats of Palmer, Alaska, and Mt. McKinely Meat Co-op of Delta Junction, Alaska, responded to the state’s latest request for proposals (RFP) to lease or purchase the long struggling plant.