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Agriculture News

The next animal rights target

Brownfield | Posted on August 23, 2016

If our new friends in the eat-no-meat movement are to be believed, then which on-farm practice is the next target?  While I have no inside track on the strategies of the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) and its cohorts, I’m guessing the next target will be the broiler industry specifically and poultry production of all varieties broadly, if only because we raise and kill more than 9 billion birds a year for food. The list of shortcomings in the chicken industry as catalogued by HSUS and others is long.  It starts with ending genetic selection for growth, replacing birds which reach slaughter weight in five to six weeks with varieties which hit that mark at something closer to the 16 weeks it took a broiler to reach market weight in 1920. Once the genetics of the bird are reversed, stocking densities in the “warehouse-like sheds” in which they’re housed must be addressed, as in fewer birds in bigger houses, preferably with outside access.  This would also to a large extent solve the air quality issues animal rightists contend affect every bird barn in the country.  Then artificial “24-hour” lighting must be done away with in favor of lighting that does not wreak havoc on the bird’s natural circadian rhythms or artificially stimulate its appetite.

Genetically modified soil bacteria work as electrical wires

Science Daily | Posted on August 23, 2016

Scientists have genetically modified a common soil bacteria to create electrical wires that not only conduct electricity, but are thousands of times thinner than a human hair.

Pennsylvania calls on conservation districts to help with inspections

Farm and Dairy | Posted on August 23, 2016

As Pennsylvania continues its push to reduce the loading of farm nutrients into the Chesapeake Bay, the state is now calling on the 41 county conservation districts in the bay watershed to conduct on-farm inspections. It’s a decision that was announced in May, as part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s “Bay Reboot” strategy, that would shift conservation district staff from conducting 100 educational farm visits, to conducting 50 farm inspections a year. The goal is to inspect 10 percent of the state’s farms each year — eventually inspecting all the farms in the watershed.

Phosphorus levels trending lower in Ohio soils

Farm and Dairy | Posted on August 23, 2016

Agricultural soil phosphorus levels held steady or trended downward in at least 80 percent of Ohio counties from 1993 through 2015.  The findings, part of the college’s Field to Faucet initiative, represent good news for Ohioans concerned about protecting surface water quality while maintaining agricultural production, according to college researchers Elizabeth Dayton, Steve Culman and Anthony Fulford. “Soil phosphorus levels are strongly related to runoff water phosphorus levels. Less phosphorus in the soil should result in reduced phosphorus runoff risk,” Dayton said. “While there is still room for improvement where soil phosphorus levels are higher than crop needs, the fact that so many counties show soil phosphorus levels trending down indicates Ohio farmers are moving in the right direction.”

Dairy Farmers Seek U.S. Help to Cut Into Cheese Glut

Wall Street Journal | Posted on August 23, 2016

Dairy farmers drowning in cheap milk begged agricultural officials on Friday to buy up tens of thousands of tons of cheese to help bail them out. Jim Mulhern, chief executive of the National Milk Producers Federation, asked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to buy $150 million worth of cheese to protect struggling dairy farmers and provide 90 million pounds of food to needy Americans. “Dairy producers here in the United States need assistance,” Mr. Mulhern wrote to Mr. Vilsack. A spokesman for the Agriculture Department said the regulatory body “shares the concerns for our nation’s dairy farmers, who like many in the farm community are facing tight margins,” and that it would review the letter.

A radical vision for saving the family farm

Philadelphia Enquirer | Posted on August 23, 2016

a former dairy farm that, as of this year, is fully leased to nine small farmers, represents a new vision for farmland conservation and sustainable agriculture - and, its operators hope, a model for connecting small farmers with land trusts, which control more than 600,000 acres in Pennsylvania. "Underlying this is the concept of reinventing the family farm for the 21st century," said Marilyn Anthony, Lundale's executive director. "On a family farm back in the day, there would be livestock, fruit, and vegetables: a full diet. Now, farms have gotten way bigger, and they specialize in one or two crops. What the USDA calls 'the farm in the middle' - it's not 25 acres, and it's not 1,000 acres - is the thing that's disappearing from American agriculture. We looked at this as a way to recreate the family farm, using multiple families."  This particular family farm belonged to Samuel and Eleanor Morris, who bought the land in 1946. Eleanor, who died in 2011, specified in her will that the land be farmed organically and biodynamically. Their children, nonfarmers, had to get creative.  "There weren't good options," said Eleanor Morris Illoway, president of Lundale's board. "Large farming conservancies didn't want to take it unless it had a large endowment. . . . And it was unlikely to be sold as a piece because the land is under [conservation] easement." Besides, in a region where plenty of farmland is devoted to commodity feed crops, Morris Illoway and her family wanted to do something radical: "Our goal was to have a place where actual food would be produced." They realized they could accomplish that by removing two major barriers for farmers: access to affordable land and affordable housing. Growers could sublet an acre or 100 acres, depending on their needs, and some could live in the four historic farmhouses on the property. And they'd create a community, supporting one another as they grew. The family created a nonprofit and hired landscape architect Simone Collins to divide the property into parcels suited to various crops. There are about 300 tillable acres, including large swaths now devoted to cattle grazing and crops such as spelt.

Are Your Truck Drivers in Compliance?

DTN | Posted on August 23, 2016

With farms sharing equipment, expanding their reach and offering services to other farms, it's critical to know the federal and state regulations applicable to trucking. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations (FMCSR) provide exemptions from some compliance for farm vehicle drivers. However, too often farm businesses make wrong assumptions about their exemption from the rules. For example, if your driver(s) goes over 150 air miles to haul equipment, if you are being hired by another farm, or you are hauling anhydrous ammonia tanks to the field, you are no longer exempt and must comply with FMCSR regulations including drug testing, driver qualification files and more. A few key requirements to note:-- No cellphone use while driving unless hands-free. CB radios allowed to be used.-- Annual vehicle inspections for each truck. Sticker on truck or inspection sheet must be with the vehicle.-- Post-trip inspection written report is required at the completion of the each day a vehicle is operated.-- Pre-trip inspections must be completed. Any repairs noted on the prior driver's post-trip must be signed-off that it has been repaired prior to operating.-- Accident records must be kept three years.-- Identification and marking of USDOT on vehicles.
Farm Exemptions - In order for a person who operates a commercial motor vehicle to be exempt from some of the FMCSR under the Farm Vehicle Driver exemptions, all of the following must be met:1. The vehicle is controlled and operated by a farmer, their employee or family member;2. It is being used to transport agricultural products, farm supplies, or farm machinery to or from a farm;3. It is not being used in a for-hire operation;4. It is not carrying hazardous materials in an amount that requires placarding; AND 5. It is being used within 150 air miles (173 statute miles) of the farm.

Saskatchewan Agriculture Releases Preliminary Yield Estimates

DTN | Posted on August 23, 2016

According to Saskatchewan Agriculture's Aug. 18 crop report which covers the recent week ending Aug. 15, provincial yields for most crops are expected to be well-above long-term averages. The notable exceptions are chickpea and lentil crops which fared poorly given the excessive moisture received over many areas of the province. As of Aug. 17, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada maps show a significant area of southwestern and west-central Saskatchewan receiving 150% to 200% of average precipitation in the April 1 through Aug. 17 period, while a small area in and around the South Saskatchewan River has received greater than 200% of average precipitation over this same period.

Ag industry seeks three quick fixes to prop up farm economy

Politico | Posted on August 23, 2016

The agriculture industry isn’t waiting for the next farm bill to do something about the sinking farm economy. Its lobbyists have been laboring for months to try and score a series of quick fixes from the Agriculture Department and Congress, and leaning on farm-state lawmakers to advocate for their cause.  The effort is working. More than 60 lawmakers from both chambers have asked USDA to provide emergency assistance to dairy producers, others are requesting USDA and the U.S. Agency for International Development to prioritize wheat in food aid shipments — both measures aimed at curbing commodity surpluses that are keeping prices low. And another effort is afoot to hike funding for USDA loan programs. But time is short. Congress returns for just four weeks in September, breaks for the presidential election and then comes back in November for roughly another four weeks — altogether a small amount of time during which lawmakers also will be juggling pressing issues like ensuring the entire government is funded in fiscal 2017, combating the Zika virus and overhauling the criminal 


Southwestern Idaho farmers raise pay to keep workers

Capital Press | Posted on August 23, 2016

The southwestern Idaho labor market has tightened to the point agricultural producers are paying significantly more to find and keep farm workers.  “It’s gotten really bad; it’s a tough labor market,” said Meridian farmer Richard Durant. “There just aren’t very many workers out there.” Durant has paid common farm laborers such as pipe movers $10 to $11 an hour in the past but has to pay them $12 to $14 an hour this year. He’s not alone. Other producers, such as Ron Bitner, who owns a vineyard and winery in Caldwell, is paying his workers about $1.50 an hour more this year, which costs him about $800 more a month in labor. He’s also had to keep people employed even when there’s no significant work for them to do just to ensure he has an adequate labor force when he really needs it at harvest time. If he doesn’t keep them employed, “They could easily go out and find something else,” he said. “I just go ahead and hire them and give them other things to do ... so I have a crew available when I need them.”