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Agriculture News

Farm Babe: What are you really getting from organic apples?

Ag Daily | Posted on October 8, 2018

A lot of people buy organic foods because they believe organic means free from chemicals and pesticides. But the truth is much different! There are 5,500 branded chemical substances and pesticide products for use in organic farming. Why, might you ask? Pests don’t discriminate. There are some things farmers and growers can do to mitigate pest pressure, but at the end of the day, there are 30,000 species of weeds and 10,000 species of insects that they have to compete with. Bugs don’t just fly into a field and say, “Woah, guys, this field is organic! We can’t go in here!” They’ll do whatever they please to invade your flavorful honeycrisp apple. We think they’re delicious, and those little critters think so, too!And these bugs are nasty. Do we want to eliminate or reduce pest pressure and chemical use in orchards? Of course we do! And the growers do especially. Every time they spray, it’s money out of their pocket. It is exposure, it is stress. But currently, the pest pressure makes it to where the average organic apple orchard must spray their fields 32 times in a growing season, according to the experts in Michigan. Thirty-two! This is primarily due to the fact that organic pesticides are naturally derived, so they’re often not as effective. Copper sulfate is a popular product used in organic agriculture, which is more toxic than many products used in non-organic farming, but it is “natural” so it’s allowed in organic.

Lawsuit Filed Over Genetic Test

DTN | Posted on October 8, 2018

Gelbvieh cattle breeders Jerry and Karen Wilson have filed a lawsuit against Jonathan Beever, a University of Illinois professor and founder of Agrigenomics, a livestock genetic testing company. The registered breeders say they culled more than 70 animals based on genetic tests that found the animals positive for the genetic defect Contractural Arachnodactyly (CA). According to the suit, the Wilsons were later told the CA test was not accurate. One of the animals the Wilsons culled was the most heavily used sire in the Gelbvieh breed at the time, Post Rock Granite 200P2.CA is commonly known in the industry as "fawn calf syndrome." It is a genetic condition caused by a mutation affecting Angus and Angus-influenced cattle. Carriers can be indistinguishable from those free from the condition without genetic testing.Beever is well known in the industry for developing DNA tests based on the CA mutation back in 2010. The Wilsons, based at Ava, Illinois, said they relied on the CA test developed by Beever, and sold through a Nebraska-based genetics company, to cull the herd of carriers in October 2013.

Devin Nunes Isn’t the Only Dairy Farmer Souring On California

Bloomberg | Posted on October 7, 2018

You may notice a dip in California milk production since 2014, though. It’s not a fluke! Earlier this week came the news, for example, that the family of Tulare County’s most famous dairy farmer, U.S. Representative Devin Nunes, had quietly moved its operations to northwestern Iowa a decade ago. But while traveling through Iowa and South Dakota last month, I heard enough about the recruiting and arrival of California dairy farmers beset by drought and other hassles to know that it is of agricultural and economic significance.It is also of technological significance, given that new and improved ways of ventilating dairy barns have been among the biggest drivers of the move. 

Rise of the ‘megafarms’: how UK agriculture is being sold off and consolidated

The Conversation | Posted on October 7, 2018

If you were to visit the English countryside 15 years ago, you would have found nine times as many small farms as you do today – and twice as many different farms in general. For years, farmers across the UK have received subsidies on a per-hectare basis without any requirement to use that land to actually produce food as part of the European Common Agricultural Policy. This means that wealthy owners of large estates have been given large sums of taxpayer money simply for owning land, without necessarily farming it. It’s a system that has long been criticised – and rightly so. With Brexit looming, the UK government’s Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) has recently introduced an Agriculture Bill and draft policies. It proposes paying landowners for delivering environmental benefits such as improved air quality or habitats for wildlife, an approach that has been understandably praised by environmental groups.There has been a rapid increase in the number of these farms in recent years – for both animals and crops. Britain’s first intensive poultry farm was approved in 2003 – and there are now more than 1,400 permits for these operations, the largest of which can “process” more than a million chickens per week. Similarly, the number of high-intensity horticulture operations is increasing, with government grants supporting efforts to produce vegetables without soil.

Court denies USDA motion to dismiss organic lawsuit

Capital Press | Posted on October 7, 2018

A ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will allow a lawsuit by the Organic Trade Association against USDA over its withdrawal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule to proceed. U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on Thursday denied USDA’s petition to dismiss the lawsuit and granted OTA’s request for oral arguments at a date and time to be determined.The rule, finalized in the waning days of the Obama administration, included new standards for raising, transporting and slaughtering organic animals.USDA withdrew the rule in March, stating the rule exceeds the agency’s statutory authority under the National Organic Program and could have a negative effect on voluntary participation in the program.

Michigan dairy farmers either exit or eat up equity

Michigan Farmer | Posted on October 4, 2018

Exhausting. That’s how Hank Choate describes the last three years in Michigan as dairy farmers there have continued to receive the lowest milk price in the country. “The impact, the economic toll it is having on many producers is heart-wrenching,” he says. The fifth-generation dairy farmer from Cement City operates Choate’s Belly Acres in partnership with his family. The Centennial farm can trace back its roots in southern Jackson County more than 180 years.Choate says that strong foundation and an incoming generation with a desire to farm are helping him push through one of the most challenging economic times of his career. “It’s not fun to sit down and try to pay the monthly bills with our current milk check,” he says.Choate says he is deeply saddened by the suffering that’s taken place in Michigan’s dairy industry and questions what it will look like in just five years.“Because of the dairy economy, we’ve made a decision that we were going stop our building mode, pay down some debt and just try to hold our own,” he says.

Ohio has lost 172 dairy farms in 12 months

Farm and Dairy | Posted on October 4, 2018

Since June 25, 66 more Ohio dairy farms have ceased milking cows. In three months, 3 percent of Ohio’s dairy herds are gone. Since October 2017 — when there were 2,312 operating, licensed dairy farms in Ohio — 172 farms have quit milking, a decline of 7.4 percent of dairy farms in one year.

Washington cattle industry in searing debate over brand program

Capital Press | Posted on October 4, 2018

Brand inspections, a way to catch rustlers, will end next year in Washington unless the cattle industry fully funds the inspections, according to the state Department of Agriculture. The department says it loses $38,000 a month checking brands on cattle that are being sold. If the Legislature doesn’t bring fees in line with expenses, inspections will cease in July, according to a budget plan submitted Monday.“We do not take this lightly at all. We understand the seriousness of it,” department spokesman Hector Castro said Wednesday. “It would be irresponsible for the department to not prepare for this because the department can’t continue to operate a program that loses money every month.”The deficit has been building for several years as segments of Washington’s livestock industry have debated the scope, value and expense of brand inspections. State lawmakers set the fees, which were last raised in 2006. The department says the fees have not kept up with rising government costs.

Public Lands Grazing Helps Ranchers, Sage Grouse, Study Says

Capital Press | Posted on October 4, 2018

Grazing restrictions on public lands may have unintended consequences for greater sage grouse, according to a recent study. The imperiled birds depend on habitat on both public and private lands, and much of that habitat can be lost when ranching operations go under. “We found that as the restrictions to public lands increased, (private) landowners have historically made decisions to alter their land use. Then there’s trigger points where they may sell those lands to higher intensity uses that would be bad for sage grouse,” said David Naugle, study co-author and professor at the University of Montana.

Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on modernizing standards of identity and the use of dairy names for plant-based substitutes

FDA | Posted on October 4, 2018

The wide variety of plant-based foods that are being positioned in the marketplace as substitutes for standardized dairy products has been the subject of much discussion in our initial work on the Nutrition Innovation Strategy. The rising demand for plant-based products, like soy-based alternatives to cheese and nut-based alternatives to milk, has created a growing number of new food choices in supermarket aisles. However, these products are not foods that have been standardized under names like “milk” and “cheese.” The FDA has concerns that the labeling of some plant-based products may lead consumers to believe that those products have the same key nutritional attributes as dairy products, even though these products can vary widely in their nutritional content. It is important that we better understand consumers’ expectations of these plant-based products compared to dairy products. Many dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and certain cheeses, have standards of identity established by regulation, which require certain components and ingredients in these foods. Names such as “milk”, “yogurt” and “cheddar cheese” have long been recognized by the American public as identifying the dairy foods described in the standards. More recently, these names have appeared in the labeling of plant-based products as part of the name of the product. Some examples include “soy milk” or “almond milk” and “vegan mozzarella cheese.” These plant-based products are sometimes packaged very similarly to those used for milk or yogurt, for example, and sold in the dairy section of grocery stores. However, these plant-based products may not be satisfactory substitutes for all uses of dairy. And some may not be nutritionally equivalent.