Brace yourself. According to a new study from CoBank, the drop in farm income over the past three farming seasons has been the biggest plunge since the Great Depression. "The drop in farm income over the past three years is the steepest decrease since the Depression," says Tanner Ehmke, CoBank senior economist covering, the grains, oilseeds and ethanol, and farm supply sectors. "Producer incomes have fallen more than 50% from 2013 to today and their debt-to-income ratio is on the rise.” When cash flow becomes an issue, farmers tend to put off whatever bills can wait. It’s not a surprise that total accounts receivable for ag retailers has also increased. “[Accounts receivable] posted an 11% gain for 2015, and that's expected to grow in the year ahead due to ongoing farmer cash flow challenges," Ehmke says.
A federal judge in the Eastern District of Oklahoma has dismissed a poultry grower's breach of contract claim against OK Foods after the company severed ties with the grower amid concerns over animal welfare standards.
Although U.S. poultry industry optimism about current conditions remained high during the third quarter of 2016, expectations for future conditions and profits took a tumble. Oversupply was the primary reason cited for a weakening of future conditions. As one respondent noted, “(We’re) waiting on a surplus of total meat to roll through, especially pork and imported beef. Chicken egg sets are still too high.”
A federal lawsuit affecting over 600 Yakima Valley farm workers will head to trial. the lawsuit originally filed in 2014 says that Mercer Canyons out of Alderdale, Washington failed to inform previous local employees about higher paying jobs. Mercer Canyons, one of the largest fruit and vegetable growers in the state applied for a federal temporary agricultural worker program called H-2A that allows employers to bring in foreign workers if they can prove that there are no local or U.S. workers that can do the job. Federal Judge Stanley Bastian ruled in an earlier decision in 2015 that the lawsuit could proceed as a class action suit, representing the hundreds of people that may possibly be affected by the practices. Bacilio Ruiz and Jose Amador, two farm workers representing the suit said they tried to get work at Mercer Canyons in 2013. They argued the corporation failed to inform them of vineyard jobs paying $12 an hour according to the release.
Cows outnumber people 2-to-1 in New Zealand, but when 500 bovines go missing it’s sure to draw attention. That’s what happened to a dairy farmer in the town of Ashburton.
Four investors have signed on to support a new startup business accelerator that will further establish Central Iowa’s reputation as a global leader in cutting-edge agriculture technology. The Greater Des Moines Partnership and the Cultivation Corridor announced today that they will form an Ag Tech Accelerator (The Accelerator) with the support of investors DuPont Pioneer, Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Company, John Deere and Peoples Company. Each investor company has committed to support the Accelerator in the amount of $100,000 for the first year. The Accelerator is designed to build upon one of the state’s key industries of agriculture and the entrepreneurial activity that can advance technology in the industry. The Accelerator will be modeled after the Global Insurance Accelerator, which The Partnership launched in 2014. The Global Insurance Accelerator has graduated two classes of six startup companies that are advancing technology in the insurance industry. The Ag Tech Accelerator will bring that same level of focus to another key industry.
The California Assembly on Monday sent Gov. Jerry Brown a hard-fought and historic expansion of overtime rules for farmworkers, but it remains uncertain whether the Democratic governor will sign off on the measure. A nearly identical bill fell three votes short of passage on the Assembly floor in May, with 15 Democrats voting against the measure or declining to vote. But on Monday, an amended version of the measure, now contained in Assembly Bill 1066, passed on a 44-32 vote. Agricultural workers already receive some overtime pay under California law thanks to a 2002 state directive that entitles them to extra wages if they work more than 10 hours in a day or more than 60 hours in a week. AB 1066 would expand that to bring it more in line with other industries, offering time-and-a-half pay for working more than eight hours in a day or 40 in a week and double pay for working more than 12 hours a day. The pay boosts would kick in incrementally over four years, and the governor could suspend them for a year if the economy falters.
Ty Lawrence still talks about it as his “lightbulb” moment. He was in a Texas slaughterhouse in 2010 when two absolutely beautiful beef carcasses rolled by. Each was the pinnacle of USDA grading: “Prime” and “Yield Grade One.” Only 2 to 5 percent of U.S. beef is graded Prime, and Yield Grade One meant there was lots of it. By Lawrence’s estimate, only 1 in 3,300 beef carcasses will have those two attributes simultaneously. And here went two of them within a couple minutes of each other. What happened next was either scientific breakthrough or unnecessary genetic fiddling, depending on your perspective. Lawrence, a professor of meat science at West Texas A&M University, called his department head that night and proposed forming a research team. Here’s what he wanted to do: Clone a herd of superior cattle by working backwards from superior beef. ViaGen created a bull, named Alpha, from the steer carcass, and three heifers — Gamma One, Gamma Two and Gamma Three — from the cow carcass. Artificial insemination of the Gammas with semen from Alpha has resulted in 13 calves, the first bovine offspring of two cloned parents. Seven of the offspring, all steers, were raised in a conventional manner, including finishing time at a grain feedlot, and slaughtered. Lawrence said the results are promising, especially given the small sample size. The offspring tended to produce better grade beef than average, and yield grades were ones and twos. The carcasses had 9 percent larger ribeye steaks than average and 45 percent more marbling, the desirable white specks of intramuscular fat. They had 16 percent less “trim” fat, the waste fat that doesn’t improve taste. The work is continuing.
Among the many issues on the ballot this November, Missourians will vote on whether to renew the state’s tenth-of-a-cent parks, soils and water sales tax. The sales tax was first approved in 1984 and reapproved by voters in 1988, 1996 and 2006. It is currently set up to have a renewal vote every 10 years. The tax splits its revenues 50-50, with half going to fund the state’s parks and half going to fund the Missouri Soil and Water Conservation Program, which provides cost-share money for conservation practices implemented by landowners. According to the ballot language, the sales tax would generate $90 million annually. Butler says in 2011, Missouri had 18 million visitors to its state parks and historic sites, generating an estimated $778 million for the state’s economy.
Three years ago,Joshua Morgenthau found himself facing a situation that is every farmer’s nightmare. It was time to prepare his 100-acre fruit and vegetable farm’s cherries and strawberries for harvest, but the workers he’d hired for the job weren’t there to help. His employees were many miles away in Jamaica, waiting for the green light to enter the U.S. and get to work. Without enough hands to weed and prune the delicate crop, Morgenthau’s berries were at risk of rotting on the vine. Worse, he knew there was little he could do but wait and hope he didn’t lose his whole crop in the meantime. Each year, Morgenthau employs eight seasonal migrant workers who travel to his farm in New York’s Hudson Valley through the labor department’s H-2A temporary worker program. The process of obtaining their H-2A visas had been relatively painless for the previous five years. But this time, he says the department changed the file number of his application without any warning.