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Agriculture News

Does Revenue Diversification Improve Small and Medium-Sized Dairy Farm Profitability?

Choices Magazine | Posted on November 8, 2018

Dairy farmers are well acquainted with managing volatile input and output prices. In the past 5 years, dairy farms experienced record high milk prices in 2014 followed by devastatingly low milk prices. In Minnesota, farms that contribute financial information to the FINBIN farm financial database reported the lowest average accrual net farm income, $407, in 2009, while the same sample reported an all-time average high of $236,544 just 5 years later in 2014 (FINBIN, 2018a). Even though cow-level milk production has increased since 2007 (FINBIN, 2018b); consolidation and a rapid increase in the average number of cows per farm are commonplace in the industry, as evidenced by the total number of U.S. licensed dairy farms, which decreased from 59,135 in 2007 (USDA, 2008) to 40,219 in 2017 (USDA, 2018a). Regardless of changing farm structure, dairy farmers today know that commodity prices are projected to be depressed for several more years (USDA, 2018b). Low prices are not conducive to generational farm transition plans, replacing or updating equipment, or exploring innovative technology adoption. This has caused many dairy farmers to ask, “Is it financially sustainable to remain in the dairy industry at my operation’s current herd size?” More specifically, dairy farmers are trying to determine whether now is an appropriate time to expand, consolidate, or exit the industry. However, these are not the only options. Many small to medium-sized dairy farms in the Upper Midwest have revisited diversification strategies incorporating alternative revenue sources into their farm operation to stabilize whole farm profitability, meet debt obligations, and provide cash flow for family living expenses. Examples of alternative revenue sources to combat volatile milk prices include crop income, custom work, crop insurance, government program payments, and off-farm income. This analysis uses 11 years of consecutive financial data from Minnesota dairy farms to examine how revenue diversification strategies have been implemented and affected the financial success of dairy farms from 2007 to 2017.

Washington Ecology proposes new fees on wineries

Capital Press | Posted on November 8, 2018

New wastewater-disposal regulations imposed by the Washington Department of Ecology will collectively cost 68 of the state’s larger wineries more than $200,000 the first year, under a department proposal. Beginning July 1, the wineries must obtain permits to use wastewater on land or discharge to most sewer plants. Ecology can’t cite any case of a winery polluting groundwater, but the agency says water laced with cleansers, stems, leaves and wine sediment has the potential to pollute.

Water buffalo meat sparks labeling concerns

Capital Press | Posted on November 8, 2018

The appearance of imported water buffalo meat on U.S. retail shelves has alarmed U.S. bison producers, who worry the product isn’t being inspected or properly labeled. The National Bison Association has requested an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after discovering Australian water buffalo meat sold simply as “wild ground buffalo” through a 200-store grocery chain along the East Coast.In North America, the word “buffalo” commonly conjures up images of native bison roaming the prairies, not foreign livestock, said Dave Carter, the NBA’s executive director.The mislabeling problem is worrisome for the bison industry because there are only about 400,000 native bison in the U.S. and Canada, compared to nearly 100 million water buffalo in India alone, Carter said.

Connecticut farm gets $244K for manure digester

The Hartford Courant | Posted on November 8, 2018

A $244,000 USDA Rural Energy for America Program grant has been awarded to Fort Hill Farm AG-Grid LLC. The announcement followed a visit to Fort Hill Farms by US Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Oct. 30. The grant will be used for the purchase and installation of a 450kW anaerobic digester.The 850,000 gallon digester will process manure and food waste into biofuel to be converted into electricity. The project is expected to generate power for farm operations with about 90 percent sold to three municipalities. This will be Connecticut's first digester to convert waste to energy. The state has two digesters now, one in Southington and another in East Canaan.

Family gets into dairy business after claiming donkey milk saved daughter's life

KOCO News | Posted on November 8, 2018

From promises of beautiful skin to allergy relief and healthier digestion, it all comes from the prized producers at the Oklahoma Donkey Dairy. The Traywick family, from Luther, started the journey four years ago when their daughter, Hannah, started getting sick with no explanation. "One of the girls was sick. She actually got strep throat," Saundra Traywick said. "All of a sudden, she woke up with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), all kinds of behavior things that had never been an issue."At just 6 years old, Hannah was diagnosed with pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections, or PANDAS."We did antibiotics. I'm not telling anybody not to," Traywick said. "We did three weeks of antibiotics for the strep throat, and then I was like, 'We've got to find alternatives for this.'"The Traywicks turned to a naturopath, who recommended using donkey milk."Within 24 hours, she was overcoming things that she hadn't been able to do since she'd gotten sick month and months before," Traywick said.The Traywicks aren't alone."Donkey milk is an age-old natural product used in cosmetic and healthy beverages since ancient times," Pierluigi Orunesu said.Orunesu, the Switzerland-based founder of a donkey milk company called Eurolactis, explained how donkey milk works."Donkey milk is the closest milk to human breast milk. That is a fact," Orunesu said. "It's a fact that nobody can contest in terms of protein."Orunesu sells donkey milk and is an advocate for its healing properties.

China battles to control African swine fever as it reports 50th case

Reuters | Posted on November 8, 2018

China confirmed a new case of African swine fever on Monday, in southern Hunan province, marking the 50th outbreak of the highly contagious disease in the world’s top pork producer. The disease, which can be deadly for pigs and has no vaccine, has reached 14 provinces and municipalities in China since it was first detected in early August. Most of the recent cases have been in the south, which has the country’s highest pork consumption per capita.

Court grants R-CALF’s motion to expand beef checkoff lawsuit

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on November 8, 2018

The federal district court in Montana on Monday granted independent rancher group R-CALF USA’s motion to expand its lawsuit against the USDA and the beef checkoff program to include at least 13 states in addition to Montana, the group announced in a news release. R-CALF contends that funds collected from its cattle producer members through the checkoff have been used illegally to fund the private speech of the Montana Beef Council. The Montana district court previously granted, and an appellate court upheld, a preliminary injunction against the USDA.The district court ruling does not apply that injunction to the additional 13 states (Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin). But it allows R-CALF to continue its original case seeking a permanent injunction against the USDA and, if successful, each of the new states.

By 2050, more than half of meat, dairy, and eggs in high-income countries could be animal-free.

Fast Company | Posted on November 8, 2018

By the end of the year, you may be able to walk into a restaurant and order chicken grown from chicken cells in a bioreactor rather than from an animal. It’s already possible to buy plant-based burgers more realistic than anything available in the past. It raises a question: What would it take to fully replace meat from animals? In a new book, The End of Animal Farming, Jacy Reese, the research director and cofounder of the nonprofit think tank Sentience Institute, argues that it’s something that could feasibly happen by the end of the century.Reese studied past shifts, such as how long it took women to get the right to vote and how long it took for cars to be widely adopted, and then made adjustments based on the difficulty of the problem, how motivated people are to tackle it, and what tools are available.Increasingly, he argues, people are aware of the giant environmental footprint of producing meat, and problems with factory farms. And now it’s becoming more practical to actually replace it.

Meet Mestic, the company that makes fabric out of cow poop

The Next Web | Posted on November 8, 2018

Would you wear a shirt if the label said it was made of shit? Chances are you’re currently wearing something made of cotton. Ever since the fifth millennium BC, people have used the natural fiber derived from the cotton plant in textile production, and it’s now an enormous industry. Currently, the plant is growing on about 2.5 percent of the world’s arable land to supply the world with 25 million tons it uses every year. Cows are famous for having four stomachs (in fact, they have one, consisting of four compartments, but whatever right) to be able to digest tough grass. One way to look at this is that they’re eating grass, extracting the nutrients they need to survive, and dropping waste.Another way would be to see that they’re ingesting a rough source material that’s high in cellulose content, taking out all the material useless to textile production, and producing a base material that mostly consists of the cellulose needed.Jalilia Essaidi developed a method to turn cow manure into cellulose fiber. “Our solution turns an acute agricultural problem of waste into a sustainable source of raw material for the textile industry,” she told us. 


Winnowing farm programs

Ag Policy | Posted on November 8, 2018

The 2018 Farm Bill is being written in an intensely partisan environment. We see it in the campaign rallies, we see it in the ads on television, we see the results of partisanship in day to day interactions when neighbors are afraid to talk to each other if they are on opposite sides of the divide. That partisanship is clearly evident when it comes to the nutrition title of the farm bill where some want to make critical changes in the Supplemental Nutrition Program and others don’t. But when it comes to the commodity title, no partisanship is evident. Members of both parties are in agreement.Generally, that would be good news as members of both parties pull together to support farmers in their districts and states. But in this case, it is bad news because neither side has the best interest of crop farmers in mind. The enhancements that the leadership of the Congressional agriculture committees have generally agreed on will do little for farmers who soon will be facing reluctant bankers in tense discussions over 2019 farm operating loans.Right now, the three most important problems crop farmers are facing price, price, and price. Get the price near or above the full cost of production and the other farm challenges become manageable.The problem: no one in Congress wants to touch the price issue with a ten-foot pole. There is no farm income supplementation program that will provide farmers with the revenue they need to survive.Crop insurance won’t work. The lower the price goes, the lower the level of protection farmers are offered. ARC and PLC won’t work no matter how enhanced they are because even though the reference price is at historic levels, the payments will be paid on only a portion of production. And, that will not work for a large number of farmers.The trade supplementation program will not work. There is not enough money in the program to get farmers through one year, let alone multiple years.Any other kind of program that would shovel enough money to farmers to make them near whole would a) break the bank (federal budgetary limits), b) exceed the US Yellow Box limits under World Trade Organization rules, and c) result in the massive dumping of US crops on world markets at prices well below the full cost of production.Talk about trade disputes, supplementing US Farm income at the level needed would trigger more trade challenges than you can shake a stick at.