Atrazine, simazine and propazine are currently under EPA registration review, which is required for all pesticides every 15 years to update and modernize the science and risk assessments. As part of the review process, on June 2, 2016 EPA released its draft ecological risk assessments, which drew conclusions based on a number of scientific errors and flawed interpretations. The future of some essential crop protection tools are at stake. It is important for our industry to weigh in with EPA to ensure they are following sound science and accurate data prior to making any final decisions. The agency needs to learn about the importance of these products to your customer's crop production. The comment period closes on October 5, 2016. The best science and data need to remain part of the EPA's registration review process. The agency's draft ecological risk assessment is inconsistent with a number of their previous conclusions and assessments by other regulartory agencies around the world. After review all public comments, EPA has indicated it will revise the ecological risk assessment, if necessary, and hold a Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) in 2017. Please take a few moments to submit personalized comments to EPA.
The U.S. farm economy weakened further in the third quarter despite an upward revision to farm income projections. Following a brief rebound in crop prices in the second quarter, profit margins for crop producers deteriorated in August and September. Profit margins also remained poor in the cattle and dairy sectors. Agricultural credit conditions have weakened further as loan repayment problems have picked up steadily, and bankers throughout the Tenth Federal Reserve District have expressed increasing concerns about the softening farm economy spilling over to Main Street business activity in rural areas.
The Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO) announced on Sept. 19 that it will offer the first in a series of training courses to certify auditors to conduct the Common Swine Industry Audit (CSIA). The first two sessions are scheduled for Oct. 25-27 and Dec. 6-8 at the Univ. of Minnesota Southern Research Outreach center in Waseca, Minnesota. “The training represents an important opportunity for PAACO to help the pork industry respond to the high level of interest in training auditors and employees in the area of animal care and handling,” PAACO Vice Chair, Angela Baysinger, DVM, said.
For all the international furor over genetically modified food, or GMOs, the biotech industry has really only managed to put a few foreign genes into food crops. The first of these genes — actually, a small family of similar genes — came from a kind of bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. Those genes make plants poisonous to certain insect pests. These genes are a pillar of the entire industry. But that pillar is wobbling. Three of the four Bt genes that are supposed to fend off one particularly important pest, the corn rootworm, are showing signs of failure. Corn rootworms have evolved resistance to them. But the biotech companies say not to worry. More genes are on the way. This week, a team of scientists from DuPont Pioneer announced in the journal Sciencethat they'd discovered a new rootworm-killing gene. They found it by searching through the countless bacteria that live in the soil, looking for one that is lethal to the corn rootworm. Many have carried out such searches and failed. The DuPont Pioneer team, however, succeeded. They first found a protein that killed rootworms, then worked backward to find the bacteria and the gene that produced that insecticidal protein. Then they inserted the gene into corn plants. As they'd hoped, it worked. The genetically modified corn plants killed rootworms.
Ground zero in the fight against Zika is now at the National Institutes of Health in suburban Washington. NIH scientists are testing a vaccine that could prevent people from acquiring the virus. Trials of a similar vaccine successfully immunized monkeys. Good news, right? Apparently not. Earlier this month, at another NIH facility just 3 miles away, a different group of scientists gathered to debate whether it's appropriate to conduct medical research — like the kind that's delivered this promising Zika vaccine — in primates at all. The NIH workshop on Sept. 7 convened experts in science, policy, ethics and animal welfare and was conducted, in part, in response to congressional interest in reviewing how research is conducted. That question shouldn't even need to be asked. Research in nonhuman primates has been essential to the development of cures for everything from polio to forms of cancer. And it's our best hope for cures for modern scourges like Zika, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
I was stunned to see the headline on ABC Eyewitness news website “Feds warn people to stop kissing chickens or they'll risk illness.” Silly me, I thought that would be obvious, but then today kissing pets seems to be a generally accepted behavior. And chickens are becoming a common pet and not just in the backyard. I follow an organization of people with backyard chickens and am continually amazed at the posts regarding the chickens in the family home. Last summer I read a blog which opened with a statement about how chickens don’t bite, bark or require walks and even offer eggs in return. The stories of chickens in the home are everywhere on the internet and probably in your neighborhood.
DuPont Pioneer and the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) announced that Pioneer will award $175,000 in grants to agriscience educators to fund training and classroom resources that will help them implement advanced agriculture curriculum. Grant recipients are teachers who are implementing Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE) in their classrooms. CASE is a multi-year approach to agriscience education with rigorous educator training requirements and hands-on, inquiry focused learning activities. Teachers will use the grants to attend training, purchase equipment and materials, and conduct end-of-course assessments through CASE Online.
FarmStart, an innovative Northeast program to help young people get started in farming, is pleased to announce the approval of its 175th investment. Since the first investment approved in August of 2006, FarmStart has invested more than $7.5 million with 175 participants throughout New York, New Jersey and New England. The program’s 175th investment was to Brookby Dairy, LLC in Dover Plains, N.Y. Owner William Vincent comes from a sixth generation family farm, and after graduating from college returned home to take over the farm which had been inactive for close to 30 years. After two years running the farm, Will had the opportunity to expand on 750 acres of leased land, but didn’t have the necessary capital. FarmStart, LLP was initiated by Farm Credit East and CoBank as part of Farm Credit’s long-term commitment of helping young individuals get started in farming. Yankee Farm Credit joined the program in 2011. The program invests working capital of up to $75,000 to help beginning northeast farm businesses and cooperatives become operational. Each FarmStart participant is required to complete a business plan and monthly cash flow which serves as a roadmap for their startup business. A FarmStart advisor works with each participant to help the new business stay on track toward achieving their business objectives.
The five company executives were literally elbow to elbow, but they all fit at the narrow table where they sat facing a stern semi-circle of U.S. senators. They were in D.C. representing five of the "Big Six" agricultural companies and testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in defense of the two massive mergers and a key corporate purchase underway. Squeezed in next to them were four other representatives from the American Antitrust Institute, the American Farm Bureau, the National Corn Growers Association and the National Farmers Union. A number of senators remarked on how tightly the Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, DuPont and Dow AgroSciences executives were squeezed in. "I don't think I've been at a hearing of the Judiciary committee where there have been this many witnesses at one table," marveled Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, at one point. From my perch at the press table, he was incredulous about the wrong thing. Together, those five men in one room represented the majority of the global seed and agro-chemical industry. If BASF (who, from the outside, must look like the only girl at the dance without a date these days) had been there, the picture would be pretty much complete. Soon -- if the Department of Justice gives Dow and DuPont the go-ahead to merge and approves Bayer's purchase of Monsanto -- just four executives (and their stockholders) will have great control of that industry.
Nebraska farm leaders hailed a ruling from D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that rejected efforts by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to apply stricter handling rules to retailers of anhydrous ammonia without first going through a formal rule-making process.Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson called it a “mark on the win column for Nebraska farmers and fertilizer suppliers.” “Nebraska Farm Bureau and others have challenged the flawed logic OSHA used to justify additional regulations on fertilizer suppliers which ultimately would drive up fertilizer costs for Nebraska farmers and could possibly limit access to anhydrous ammonia fertilizer product,” Nelson said in a news release. OSHA began to tighten anhydrous ammonia handling requirements for retail facilities that were exempt following an April 2013 explosion of 40 to 60 tons of fertilizer at a plant in West Texas. Caused by a fire, the explosion killed 15 people, injured 160 and damaged or destroyed 160 buildings. When OSHA dropped the retail sales exemption, it didn’t first request public comment, which the Agricultural Retailers Association and the Fertilizer Institute used as a lever for their lawsuit seeking to roll back the regulations. The ruling orders OSHA to reinstate the exemption for retailers because the federal agency failed to provide notice and offer comment periods as required by law. Experts say going through the rule making process could take years.