Today, if you’re a farmer in the heartland of America who wants to keep planting it, growing it and harvesting it with the help of your trusty tractor, nothing is simple anymore — especially if your tractor breaks down. That’s when your new best friend may turn out to be a shadowy software hacker living in the Ukraine. A thriving crop of black-market hackers in Europe is creating and selling software hacks to John Deere software, which local mechanics in America’s breadbasket are downloading and using to repair the company’s tractors. Nebraska is one of eight states that are considering right-to-repair legislation that would invalidate John Deere's license agreement, which also prevents farmers from suing for "crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment … arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software." John Deere, predictably, is opposing such legislation.
Big data is moving into agriculture in a big way. Need proof? Several well-known investors recently dropped a combined $40 million into Farmers Business Network, a data analytics startup. Venture capital has flooded the ag tech space, with investment increasing 80% annually since 2012, as investors realize big data can revolutionize the food chain from farm to table. Sensors on fields and crops are starting to provide literally granular data points on soil conditions, as well as detailed info on wind, fertilizer requirements, water availability and pest infestations. GPS units on tractors, combines and trucks can help determine optimal usage of heavy equipment. Data analytics can help prevent spoilage by moving products faster and more efficiently. Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, can patrol fields and alert farmers to crop ripeness or potential problems. RFID-based traceability systems can provide a constant data stream on farm products as they move through the supply chain, from the farm to the compost or recycle bin. Individual plants can be monitored for nutrients and growth rates. Analytics looking forward and back assist in determining the best crops to plant, considering both sustainability and profitability. Agricultural technology can also help farmers hedge against losses and even out cash flow.
Unprecedented summer warmth and flooding, forest fires, drought and torrential rain -- extreme weather events are occurring more and more often, but now an international team of climate scientists has found a connection between many extreme weather events and the impact climate change is having on the jet stream.
JBS S.A. decided to suspend operations in 33 out of 36 beef slaughter plants in Brazil for three days, after more than a dozen countries temporarily banned Brazilian meat imports this week. The company aims to adjust production to demand as a consequence of the embargoes imposed by importers, after the country's Federal Police announced an operation to dismantle an alleged bribery scheme involving 33 federal sanitary inspectors and 21 meat processing plants. Since the investigations were announced last Friday, Brazil's daily meat exports fell to $74,000 on Tuesday from an average of $63 million before the probe was made public.
Princess Anne has said genetically-modified crops have important benefits for providing food and she would be open to growing them on her own land. Her brother, the Prince of Wales, has previously warned GM crops could cause an environmental disaster.But Princess Anne said: "To say we mustn't go there 'just in case' is probably not a practical argument." In an interview with the rural affairs programme to be broadcast on Thursday, the 66-year-old Princess Royal said she saw no problem with modifying crops if it improved their ability to grow.
The Oregon Court of Appeals has upheld a $1.5 million judgment against Land O’Lakes Purina Feed for selling defective feed to an Oregon dairy. Neal and Nancy Kaste, who own a dairy farm near Tillamook, Ore., won $750,000 in a lawsuit that accused the manufacturer of supplying feed containing hazardous levels of proteins, phosphorous and copper.The plaintiffs claimed the defective feed sickened or killed many of their cows, causing the dairy to spend money on veterinary treatments and sustain financial losses for which Land O’Lakes was liable.After a jury found in favor of the dairy, Tillamook County Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Hill ordered the feed manufacturer to pay $750,000 in compensation for damages and another $760,000 in attorney fees.Land O’Lakes challenged the decision before the Oregon Court of Appeals, which has now rejected the manufacturer’s arguments that the judge should have issued a “directed verdict” in its favor.
Before the day was through, Solorio would make the same pitch to dozens of men and women, approaching a taco truck, a restaurant and a homeless encampment. Time was short: He needed to find 100 workers to fill his ranks by April 1, when grapevines begin to grow and need constant attention. Solorio is one of a growing number of agricultural businessmen who say they face an urgent shortage of workers. The flow of labor began drying up when President Obama tightened the border. Now President Trump is promising to deport more people, raid more companies and build a wall on the southern border. That has made California farms a proving ground for the Trump team’s theory that by cutting off the flow of immigrants they will free up more jobs for American-born workers and push up their wages.So far, the results aren’t encouraging for farmers or domestic workers.Farmers are being forced to make difficult choices about whether to abandon some of the state’s hallmark fruits and vegetables, move operations abroad, import workers under a special visa or replace them altogether with machines.Growers who can afford it have already begun raising worker pay well beyond minimum wage. Wages for crop production in California increased by 13% from 2010 to 2015, twice as fast as average pay in the state, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Today, farmworkers in the state earn about $30,000 a year if they work full time — about half the overall average pay in California. Most work fewer hours.Some farmers are even giving laborers benefits normally reserved for white-collar professionals, like 401(k) plans, health insurance, subsidized housing and profit-sharing bonuses. Full-timers at Silverado Farming, for example, get most of those sweeteners, plus 10 paid vacation days, eight paid holidays, and can earn their hourly rate to take English classes. But the raises and new perks have not tempted native-born Americans to leave their day jobs for the fields. Nine in 10 agriculture workers in California are still foreign born, and more than half are undocumented, according to a federal survey.
The way farmers communicate with consumers is changing. For far too long, farmers have been apprehensive to talk about what they do, but Dr. Emily Buck, associate professor at The Ohio State University, says that approach is no longer working. “We are in an age today that consumers want to understand farming,” Buck stated. “And the way we are built we’ve just never really done that, so there’s a need for us to start telling those stories and sharing what we do on a daily basis because people don’t get a chance to see the things we see and why we do the things we do.”
Zaro Bates operates and lives on a 5,000-square-foot farm on Staten Island, which may make her the city’s only commercial farmer-in-residence. But instead of a shingled farmhouse surrounded by acres of fields, Ms. Bates lives in a second-floor studio in a midrise apartment complex built on the site of a former naval base overlooking New York Bay. The farm itself sits in a courtyard between two buildings at Urby, a development with 571 rental apartments that opened in Stapleton last year. Ms. Bates draws a modest salary and gets free housing, which sounds like a good deal until you discover how much work she has to put in.The 26-year-old oversees a weekly farmstand on the complex premises from May through November and donates to food banks. In her repertory? Some 50 types of produce — greens, summer vegetables, flowers, herbs and roots. She does this with help from her business partner and husband, Asher Landes, 29.Let the doubters doubt.“A lot of people instinctively call it a garden, but we really try to manage it for a commercial market,” Ms. Bates said. “It’s funny that people have different kinds of notions of what a farm is. Some people think it needs to have animals, that it needs to have acreage. We intensively crop this space so that we can produce for market, and that’s why we call it a farm.”
We discovered that organic farming does matter – just not in the way most people think. What’s good: Organic farms provide higher biodiversity, hosting more bees, birds and butterflies. They also have higher soil and water quality and emit fewer greenhouse gases. What’s not-so-good: Organic farming typically yields less product – about 19-25% less. Once we account for that efficiency difference and examine environmental performance per amount of food produced, the organic advantage becomes less certain (few studies have examined this question). Indeed, on some variables, such as water quality and greenhouse gas emissions, organic farms may perform worse than conventional farms, because lower yields per hectare can translate into more environmentally damaging land-clearing. Consumer benefits The jury’s still out on whether the comsumer is better off, too.What’s good: For consumers in countries with weak pesticide regulations, like India, organic food reduces pesticide exposure. Organic ingredients also most likely have slightly higher levels of some vitamins and secondary metabolites. What’s not-so-good: Scientists can’t confirm whether these minor micronutrient differences actually matter for our health. Because the difference in the nutritional value of organic and conventional food is so small, you’d do better just eating an extra apple every day, whether it’s organic or not. Organic food is also more expensive than conventional food at present and therefore inaccessible to poor consumers. The takeaway. In short, we cannot determine yet whether organic agriculture could feed the world and reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture while providing decent jobs and giving consumers affordable, nutritious food.