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Agriculture News

AFIA refutes study calling for reduction in meat, dairy consumption

World Grain | Posted on January 23, 2019

A new study calling for drastic reductions in meat and dairy products and for policy measures to disincentivize production of these food products is wrong and an attack on animal agriculture, said the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA). “Let’s call the EAT-Lancet Commission’s report what it is — yet another organized attack on animal agriculture that is not reflective of the current and accurate science on the industry’s substantial sustainability advances,” said Joel Newman, president and chief executive officer of the AFIA. “We agree with the report’s authors that there is a need to continue producing sufficient food that both feeds our growing population and protects the planet.”Newman said the commission, made up of 30 scientists trying to define a “healthy and sustainable” diet, made three critical and erroneous assumptions: that there is consensus on the science behind their recommendations; that the advance of new technologies will not contribute to further reducing the environmental impact of animal protein production; and that all sources of protein provide equivalent nutritional value for human diets.

Judge 'increasingly doubtful' of feds' lawsuit against West Virginia hemp farm

The Charleston Gazette-Mail | Posted on January 23, 2019

A federal judge voiced doubt this week over the U.S. government’s civil prosecution of a Mason County hemp farm and related parties.U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers lifted a stay in the case caused by the partial federal government shutdown and dissolved an injunction that prevented the farmers from transporting or selling their hemp.But after U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart and his office made a motion seeking to test the hemp, Chambers delayed his lifting of the injunction until Wednesday, to give defendants a chance to respond to Stuart’s request.While Chambers noted that his Thursday order is not a final judgment, he said he has “become increasingly doubtful of the government’s case on the merits” and mentions the passage of the federal Farm Bill, which legalized industrial hemp.“Despite being enacted after the issues in this case arose, the 2018 Farm Bill expresses congressional intent that current public policy supports states exercising primary control over hemp production,” the order states.West Virginia legalized production of industrial hemp for commercial purposes in 2017 under an earlier iteration of the farm bill.Stuart and his lawyers argued previously that the passage of the farm bill had no impact on the case because it happened after the alleged offenses. They also argued the farmers “created the problems of which they now complain” regarding contractual deadlines to process the hemp because they did not adhere to their original project description.

Ag Lending Variables and Farmland Values

Farm Policy News | Posted on January 23, 2019

“Rounding out a year characterized by lower farm incomes, uncertainties about agricultural trade and the growth of lending volumes, interest rates on agricultural loans trended higher. The mounting combination of higher leverage and rising rates could put additional pressure on some farm operations.” Today’s update looks at the Kansas City Fed update in more detail with a particular focus on agricultural lending variables and farmland values.“Non-real estate lending continued to increase in the fourth quarter, according to the National Survey of Terms of Lending to Farmers. Total non-real estate farm loans were up nearly 8 percent from a year ago.”“The increase in farm financing also continued to be driven by lending to fund current operating expenses. The volume of operating loans reached a historical high for the fourth quarter, increasing more than $10 billion, or 22 percent year overyear,” the Fed report said.

African Swine Fever confirmed in products brought to Australia

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on January 23, 2019

Officials in Australia have identified the African Swine Fever (ASF) virus in six pork products tested under recent routine border checks at Australian airports and mail processing centers as they were about to enter the country. Two weeks of testing by the Australian Animal Health Laboratory uncovered six pork products among 152 seized and tested that were contaminated with the ASF virus. Authorities said the detection of the virus at the border does not change Australia’s ASF-free status, the report added. The nation’s pork producer organization, Australian Pork Ltd. (APL), said the discovery serves as another warning that the threat of ASF spreading to Australia remains serious.

Nebraska farmer denied poultry permits

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on January 23, 2019

A Nebraska farmer looking to add chickens to his operation, in order to supply Lincoln Premium Poultry with broilers for Costco’s rotisseries, has been denied the permits to do so. he spate of chicken farms being built in an area traditionally known for cattle and crops has spurred opposition from neighbors concerned about pollution, traffic and pests. 

Mountaire proposes street closure, offers town $1 million

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on January 23, 2019

Mountaire Farms could donate $1 million to Selbyville, Del., as part of a plan to address increasingly congested traffic near its chicken processing plant in town. The plan could involve permanently closing a portion of the street leading to the facility to thru traffic.

“Ag Gag” Litigation Update

Texas A&M | Posted on January 23, 2019

From a recent finding of unconstitutionality in Iowa, to an award of attorney’s fees in Idaho, to a new legal challenge in Kansas, “ag gag” laws have continued to be in the news recently.  “Ag gag” laws are generally designed to prohibit a person from entering an agricultural operation without permission or by fraudulent means and obtaining video or photographs of the operation.  Although nearly half of the states have attempted to pass this type of provision, only eight have done so.  Those states are:  IA, ID, KS, MO, MT, NC, ND, and UT.Although each state’s law differs, generally, two types of provisions are present.  First, most laws prohibit entering an ag operation and obtaining unauthorized video or photographs of the operation.  Second, some laws prohibit an applicant from making false statements on a job application in order to gain entry to an agricultural operation with the intent to video or photograph.Just this month, an Iowa federal court held the Iowa statute unconstitutional. The court took a three-step approach to analyzing this legal challenge.First, the judge held that this statute did apply to “speech.”  Because the statute requires speech–either false or misleading statements–it falls within the definition of speech.  Next, the court considered whether the false statements prohibited by the statute are protected speech.  Not all falsehoods are protected; only those that do not cause a “legally cognizable harm” or provide “material gain” to the speaker fall within the protections of the First Amendment.  The court found the falsehoods at issue under the statute do neither, meaning the First Amendment is applicable.

Trump trade policy: Playing a game of chicken with American agriculture

The Hill | Posted on January 22, 2019

Not withstanding, the president’s rhetoric, after 14 months of what appeared to be stressful negotiations, the new NAFTA (the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA) ended up looking a lot like the old NAFTA with relatively small changes in the agricultural provisions. The good news was not really that that there was promise of additional access to Canada’s dairy, poultry and eggs sectors (the benefits from which have been estimated to be small, increasing NAFTA exports by about 1 percent). Nor was it that the new agreement contains many modernization features (many of which had been negotiated in the TPP agreement). Far more significantly, the new agreement maintained the tariff concessions that had been negotiated in 1992 under the original NAFTA that substantially expanded access to Canadian and Mexican markets for U.S. agricultural producers. However, even the benefits from the original and new NAFTA agreements are currently being compromised by other trade actions initiated by the Trump administration. In response to the so-called Section 232 tariffs imposed against exports of steel and aluminum to the United States, Canada and Mexico have imposed retaliatory tariffs against a variety of U.S. agricultural products including pork and cheese. Those actions are estimated to reduce U.S. agricultural exports by as much as $2 billion, more than offsetting any gains associated with the changes embedded in the new NAFTA agreement.

Farms, More Productive Than Ever, Are Poisoning Drinking Water in Rural America

The Wall Street Journal | Posted on January 22, 2019

Chuck Wagner has given up on drawing clean water from his faucets. When he moved, 23 years ago, to 80 acres situated between dairy farms in northeastern Wisconsin, he built a home and drilled a 123-foot well. The water tested clean, and his family drank it. Five years later, tests showed it was contaminated with bacteria and nitrates, potentially harmful and often derived from nitrogen in manure and fertilizer.One in seven Americans drink from private wells, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Nitrate concentrations rose significantly in 21% of regions where USGS researchers tested groundwater from 2002 through 2012, compared with the 13 prior years. The greatest increases were in agricultural areas. More recent sampling shows the pattern is continuing, at a potentially greater rate.Meanwhile, more than 16% of groundwater from wells sampled between 2002 and 2012 topped the federal nitrate limit of 10 parts per million, versus 12% in the 1990s. The percentage above the limit fell slightly in the wells sampled after 2013 but remained elevated.“The worst-kept secret is how vulnerable private wells are to agricultural runoff,” says David Cwiertny, director of the University of Iowa’s Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination.Land researchers are urging farmers to change cultivation practices to cut water contamination. That includes sowing “cover crops” to hold soil in place between plantings and adding buffers of fallow land along field edges.

Cornell professor shares 2019 dairy economy predictions

Edairy News | Posted on January 22, 2019

Famers’ earnings for their milk, determined by milk prices, have remained relatively low in recent years, and as production costs continue rising, several struggle to keep up with their expenses. Many have widely blamed low milk prices on an international oversupply of dairy goods.The average milk price is expected to rise slightly this year from $16.20 per hundredweight in 2018 to $16.80, but could rise as much as one or two dollars.Mr. Novakovic said that growing demand for fat-based dairy products, including cheese, ice cream and butter, domestically will improve milk prices slightly, although it will not cure problems fueled by the marketplace glut. Domestic use for fat-based products is projected to jump from 212 billion pounds in 2018 to 216.3 billion pounds this year. Farmers may not experience the uptick in price until later in the year.“I also think in 2020, we’ll continue to see an increase” in prices, Mr. Novakovic said.