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Agriculture News

Scientists may have found the key ingredient for a universal flu vaccine, and it comes from llamas

Los Angeles Times | Posted on November 8, 2018

A team from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla and their international colleagues have taken a major step toward the long-sought goal of developing a universal vaccine against influenza.First, they vaccinated llamas against a number of A and B strains of influenza. Then they took blood samples to collect the antibodies the llamas produced in response.Among them were four uniquely small antibodies that showed an ability to destroy many different strains of influenza. In a nod to their size and function, they called their creations “nanobodies.”From those multitasking little powerhouses, the researchers engineered a single protein capable of squeezing into spaces on a virus’ surface that are too small for most proteins. The resulting “multidomain antibody MD3606,” with its “impressive breadth and potency,” could confer protection against pretty much any strain of flu that nature could throw in humankind’s way, the study authors said.When they tested their intranasal formulation in mice, it quickly conferred complete protection against a raft of human flu strains adapted to mice. Those include A viruses, such as the H1N1 “swine flu” that touched off a global pandemic in 2009, and B viruses, which occur only in humans.Against H1N1, a dose of the experimental vaccine was shown to protect for at least 35 days — a span of time equivalent to more than a single flu season for humans.

Bayer Now Faces Roundup Issues at Home

Bloomberg | Posted on November 8, 2018

Germany’s Environment Ministry laid out a plan Tuesday for a step-by-step retreat from glyphosate, the weedkiller that has been a thorn in Bayer AG’s side since its $63 billion acquisition of Monsanto Co. The plan calls for a ban on the chemical, the active ingredient in Bayer’s Roundup herbicide, in areas that are environmentally sensitive or important for groundwater. The new rules would also make it tougher for farmers to use similar chemicals that kill a broad range of plants and insects, requiring them to reserve acreage for pesticide-free planting as well.

Canada joins support for gene editing

Western Producer | Posted on November 8, 2018

The Government of Canada believes gene edited crops can help farmers produce “safe and affordable food, feed, fibres, and energy in the 21st century.” The quote comes from a statement released in early November and was delivered during a World Trade Organization meeting.The United States and 12 other nations — Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Jordan, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Vietnam — issued a joint statement on agricultural applications of precision biotechnology.

Gene editing – boon or curse for the agriculture industry?

iam-media | Posted on November 8, 2018

Imagine if we could create crops that were more resistant to abiotic stresses (eg, drought, excessive watering, extreme temperatures, salinity and mineral (metal and metalloid) toxicity) or more nutritious; we could be able to solve the problem of food scarcity and malnutrition around the world. However, the extent to which gene editing could benefit this industry depends on how genetically modified (GM) food is regulated around the world.China – a country with nearly 19% of the world’s population and only 7% of the world’s arable land – does not allow for the cultivation of GM foods, except papaya and cotton. According to data published by the Ministry of Agriculture on 27 April 2013, as of 2010, China had grown 3.3 million hectares of the approved GM cotton and a few hectares of the GM papaya, while no other GM crops had been cultivated, according to the ministry.  The European Union also imposes strict requirements on approving and labelling GM foods, demanding a risk assessment for all new products before marketing and compulsory labelling.

Growing view is China will stretch soybean supplies until early Brazilian harvest

DTN | Posted on November 7, 2018

Archer Daniels Midland's chairman and CEO said Tuesday during an earnings call that it's possible China may not need to buy U.S. soybeans before early harvest arrives for Brazil's soybean crop.Juan Luciano, responding to an analyst's question about possible U.S. soybean exports to China in the next few months, said there remains a question of whether China will need to come in and buy U.S. beans before Brazil can start supplying with its new crop."The reality is the window is getting shorter, and China is finding ways not to use U.S. beans," Luciano said. Early harvest in Brazil could make it so China doesn't need to shift to the U.S., he added. "Maybe China will hold off buying beans until they can overlap with Brazil."Luciano's comment reiterates a similar take last week by Bunge Ltd. CEO Soren Schroder who also told analysts China has lowered protein inclusion in livestock meal and China could "wiggle through into new-crop supplies in Brazil" and supply themselves with Brazil and Argentina "without having to return to the U.S. in case there is no resolution to the trade situation."Those views come after USDA's office in China lowered China's overall soybean import estimate 9.5% to 85 million metric tons.

California makes cage-free hens a state law

AP | Posted on November 7, 2018

California voters overwhelmingly approved a measure Tuesday requiring that all eggs sold in the state come from cage-free hens by 2022. Proposition 12 also bans the sale of pork and veal in California from farm animals raised in cages that don’t meet the new minimum size requirements. That means the Golden State’s new rules will apply to farmers nationwide whose eggs, veal and pork are sold in California.Supporters say the measure is a big step toward more humane farming practices, while opponents say it is misleading and maintains cruel practices for animals.Dubbed the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act, Proposition 12 builds on an earlier ballot measure, Proposition 2, that passed in 2008 and banned keeping hens, calves and pigs in tiny cages so cramped they couldn’t stand up, lie down or turn around.The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office says Proposition 12 would likely result in an increase in prices for eggs, pork and veal partly because farmers would have to remodel or build new housing for animals.It could also cost the state as much as $10 million a year to enforce and millions of dollars more a year in lost tax revenues from farm businesses that choose to stop or reduce production because of higher costs, the office said.

Paying for the privilege of milking cows

Farm and Dairy | Posted on November 7, 2018

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sadly, dairy farmers feel like they are living a flashback to 2016. Through September this year, the average Class III price plus the Federal Order 33 Producer Price Differential (the Statistical Uniform Price or SUP) is $15.03 per hundredweight (cwt.), which is exactly the average for all of 2016.Last year, 2017, provided a small measure of relief, with the SUP averaging $16.57.How much are you paying for the privilege of milking cows?Sadly, more cows and more milk in domestic and foreign markets, as well as a relatively strong dollar and uncertain policy, have wreaked havoc on milk markets. Controlling expenses continues to be an important factor in the search for short- and long-term profitability of dairy farms. The challenge continues to be controlling costs without negatively affecting production, reproduction, growth, animal and personnel welfare. With that in mind, regular review of overall costs is in order.

Fieldale seeks $2.25 million exit from chicken price-fixing litigation

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on November 5, 2018

Fieldale Farms has filed a motion asking a federal judge in Illinois to give final approval of its $2.25 million settlement with chicken buyers suing the nation’s top broiler companies for an alleged price-fixing scheme. As part of the “icebreaker” settlement, Baldwin, Ga.-based Fieldale Farms agreed to cooperate with the plaintiffs in their prosecution of the remaining 13 defendants, including industry leaders such as Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms, and Perdue Farms. The plaintiffs, in turn, agreed to release claims against Fieldale Farms.The lawsuit filed in September 2016 by Falconer, N.Y.-based foodservice distributor Maplevale Farms claims the chicken processors manipulated poultry supplies to boost prices since 2008. The suit accuses the companies of working with market intelligence firm Agri Stats Inc. as a cartel, by sharing confidential information, including news on plant closings, hatching egg export levels and destroying breeder hens.Multiple similar lawsuits have been filed since Maplevale’s complaint, and they have been folded into what is referred to collectively as the “Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litigation” under the U.S District Court for Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.Fieldale’s settlement in the matter stipulates that the company will share documents it gave to the Office of the Florida Attorney General as part of its inquiry into the broiler industry’s possible anticompetitive conduct; produce Agri Stats reports, phone records, ESI and other documents; make five current or former employees available for interviews and depositions; and make an attorney proffer to describe the principal facts known to Fieldale Farms that are relevant to the alleged conduct at issue in the litigation.Fieldale Farms and the plaintiffs first entered into the settlement agreement in July 2017. Still pending before the court at the time were defendants' motions to dismiss.

Is It Time To Sell The Farm?

Forbes | Posted on November 5, 2018

This harvest season, American soy farmers are missing their biggest customer. “They can’t get rid of the beans,” said Joe Ericson, president of the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association, because China will not accept the usual soybean and soy product exports under a 25 percent tariff.Unpredictable weather and fluctuating commodity prices already mean slim margins for the small family farms that comprise 90 percent of all U.S. farms. Trade wars atop so much uncertainty may be a death knell for the next generation of small family farms, an unintended consequence of a trade policy aimed at protecting national security and IP rights. In this environment, the threat to family farms brings up important questions: How can farmers retain economic autonomy instead of being beholden to political swings? How can farming, in general, become a more independent and autonomous economic force?Once the ag community shifts focus to the future, to what works — R&D, investment and free trade — I am convinced the farm can, in fact, be saved.

What’s Next for Antibiotics in Agriculture?

Animal Agriculture | Posted on November 5, 2018

In the future, Smith sees feedyards demanding more preconditioned calves that are less likely to become sick. And, with imminent pressures from consumers and national beef chains, he suggests producers may see more change in how they’re able to administer antibiotics. “Currently, we have antibiotics that are classified as over-the-counter and those classified as prescription. I would not be surprised to see regulations in the future where if you want to go down and buy a bottle of penicillin or tetracycline that will be a prescription product rather than over the counter,” Smith suggests. Antibiotic resistance is a real issue that concerns all livestock producers, he says. “We have the responsibility of judicious antibiotic usage but also we have a responsibility to treat animals when they are sick just as physicians have a responsibility to treat children and the adults when they become sick with a bacterial infection,” Smith says. “If resistance continues to develop to these antibiotics then we could have not only costly losses in companion animals, costly losses in livestock but also we could have loss of life on the human side if we have nothing left to treat them with.”