Skip to content Skip to navigation

Agriculture News

Minn. farm groups welcome aid but say end to trade war would be better

Minnesota Public Radio | Posted on July 26, 2018

Help is on the way for Minnesota farmers suffering lost income from the trade wars. The U.S. agriculture department announced on Tuesday a $12 billion assistance package. Farm groups welcome the aid, but they say an end to the trade disputes would be a better solution. China, Mexico, Canada and the European Union have all placed tariffs on different U.S. farm exports in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on their products. The trade disputes are reducing sales of U.S. farm products overseas and sending the prices of those products lower. Other sectors facing red ink in the trade wars include dairy and pork. Rob Larew with the National Farmers Union says the Trump administration's aid program is a good start, but said what farmers really need is an end to the trade war. "It's really not going to be adequate," said Larew. "And we are going to be pushing the administration for a long-term solution. Because we are going to be facing price challenges across all of agriculture for I think several years."


California farms' water use still unclear, despite new reporting rules

News Deeply | Posted on July 26, 2018

A new program in California aimed at tracking agricultural water consumption is off to a bumpy start, highlighting the challenges of monitoring an industry that has historically enjoyed limited oversight.Agriculture is the biggest consumer of water in the West, with many states using more than 70 percent of developed freshwater supplies for agriculture. So you would think state governments watch water consumption on farms carefully to look for conservation opportunities. In fact, some do not.California generates more farm revenue than any other state. Yet until recently there was no requirement to report agricultural water consumption. That changed in 2007, when a new state law required irrigation districts to file annual reports on water delivered to their farm customers, beginning in 2012.The program became known as “farm-gate” reporting, because irrigation districts must document monthly deliveries to the diversion gates where water leaves the district’s distribution canal and moves onto private farmland.However, follow-up laws confused the rules, and there has never been any penalty for failing to comply.

Too much pork, tariffs mean too few buyers

Journal Gazette & Times-Courier | Posted on July 26, 2018

The pork industry appears to be headed for a period of large losses in which excess pork supplies force prices below costs of production, according to Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt.“Demand will likely be weakened by reduced exports with tariffs in place on U.S. pork exports to China and Mexico. On a positive note, Chinese tariffs on U.S. grains and soybeans are helping to erode feed prices along with favorable growing season weather,” Hurt says.The industry has expanded the breeding herd by 3 percent according to a recent USDA producer survey. This is the highest rate of breeding herd expansion since this expansion phase began in 2015. Hurt explains that a breeding herd of this magnitude is likely to be a primary contributor to excess supplies in 2018 and 2019.The market herd was up 3 percent and farrowing intentions for this summer and fall were up 2 percent. With the breeding herd up 3 percent, Hurt says there is concern that actual farrowings this summer and fall could be higher than the 2 percent increase recorded by survey respondents.According to Hurt, pork supplies will also be large.

Trump has no idea what his tariffs have unleashed for farmers

The New York Times | Posted on July 26, 2018

The cost of being shut out of overseas markets for soybeans, beef, pork, chicken and more will be in the billions. Once those markets are gone, they will be difficult to recover. Commodity prices continue to drop, and good weather suggests an excellent crop is in the making, which will drive prices further down. Brazil is ready to step in with increased soybean production, and China has already shifted its purchasing power there. Rural America is about to undergo a major demographic shift. President Trump didn’t start it, but he has accelerated a crisis that might have taken a generation or two to play out. Now it might take only a few years.Rural America is going to be hollowed out very quickly. Farms will become consolidated, and towns that are already in trouble will certainly die.Iowa’s farmers are aging, and younger farmers aren’t replacing them proportionately. Sixty percent of Iowa farmland is owned by people 65 years or older, and 35 percent of farmland is owned by people 75 or older. Another casualty: our community banks. As farms get larger, farm loans are less likely to be local. A big operation with farms in dozens of counties that maybe even cross state lines probably won’t use local banks for credit. At a certain point, populations won’t be enough to support rural hospitals and clinics, and they, too, will be gone. Rural hospitals are one of the major employers in the community. Even if you have a good manufacturing company in town, if you lose the hospital, they won’t be able to attract the employees they need.

Why record-breaking trade aid for farmers could fail

Politico | Posted on July 26, 2018

The government will pay some farmers directly and buy food from others to blunt the impact of a trade war entirely of the president’s own making. Despite the massive size, it won’t offset the sweeping damage to markets as other countries slap penalties on U.S. farm goods in retaliation to Trump’s tariffs on imports. And ultimately, efforts by past presidents to manipulate global trade have ended up boosting farmers in other countries at the expense of U.S. agriculture, no matter how much the federal government spends to buoy local markets.The Nixon administration in 1973 embargoed exports of soybeans and cottonseed to shield U.S. meat producers from skyrocketing costs for feed. And former President Jimmy Carter in 1980 blocked U.S. grain exports to the Soviet Union to punish the country for its military occupation in Afghanistan.These actions were a “stimulus to U.S. competitors” like Brazil, now a top exporter of soybeans, which increased agricultural production to meet the demand American farmers couldn’t fill, said Scott Irwin, an agricultural economist at University of Illinois.“Based on a couple historical episodes, farmers’ biggest fear is this could put the United States in category of an unreliable supplier,” Irwin said.

The public doesn’t trust GMOs. Will it trust CRISPR?

Vox | Posted on July 25, 2018

Is it possible that new gene editing techniques like CRISPR — along with new applications, new players, and a new way of talking with the public — give science the chance to press the reset button on genetic modification? We can argue about the impact of the genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, already in our system, modified to be toxic to insects, resistant to herbicides, or both. It’s been a mixed bag, with decreases in insecticide and our most toxic herbicides on the plus side, and an increase in herbicide-tolerant weeds on the minus side.But the argument against GMOs has never been just about the GMOs themselves. It is about a corporate-dominated, industrialized food system that’s focused on animal feed, processed foods, and biofuels and insufficiently attentive to soil health, environmental degradation, and biodiversity. GMOs have been a convenient handhold on a big, slippery problem.Enter CRISPR, a powerful new gene editing tool that’s everything GMOs aren’t.For one, CRISPR is academic where GMO is corporate. The technology was born at the University of California Berkeley and the Broad Institute at Harvard and MIT. Most of the GM

Drought Deepens In Missouri, Plains States; Ranchers Trim Herds

Harvest Public Media | Posted on July 25, 2018

There are few places better to see the effects of an intensifying drought than a hulking, 200-plus-acre complex just off of Interstate 44 in southwest Missouri. This is the Joplin Regional Stockyards, one of the biggest in the country, selling more than 430,000 head of cattle in 2017 alone. Usually, they’ll have 800 to 900 cows on the block at weekly Wednesday sales. On July 11, they had double that. “Everybody's a little short on hay, everyone's a little nervous,” co-owner Skyler Moore said. “We're getting into some water issues in certain areas. And the weather's real spotty.”About a quarter of the state started 2018 in a drought, and it’s only gotten worse from there. The Midwestern Regional Climate Center said Joplin has received 9.65 inches of rain since April — on track to be in the 10 driest periods of the last 100 years.

As processor shutdown looms, nonprofit funds another month of SNAP at farmers markets

The Fern | Posted on July 25, 2018

A national farmers market advocacy group has stepped in to fund the processor’s operations for another month. The emergency funds will give markets across the country a few more weeks to figure out how to process SNAP once the Novo Dia Group ceases operations. The National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP) will provide 30 additional days of funding to Novo Dia, while advocates and farmers try to figure out a permanent solution to replace the processors’ services. The additional funding will allow 1,700 farmers markets across the country to continue processing SNAP through the end of August.

New Water Restrictions to Leave California Farmers High and Dry

Growing Produce | Posted on July 25, 2018

Following nine years of research and extensive public outreach, the State Water Resources Control Board today released a final draft plan to increase water flows through the Lower San Joaquin River and its tributaries—the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers—to prevent an ecological crisis, including the total collapse of fisheries.  Release of the third and final draft of the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan update for the Lower San Joaquin River and Southern Delta, and an accompanying Substitute Environmental Document, follows a nine-year process during which the Board studied and analyzed options, conducted extensive public outreach, including public hearings in the area, and reviewed more than 1,400 comment letters. The Board will begin consideration of the final draft plan in August. The State Water Board also announced further progress on its effort to update flow requirements for the Sacramento River, its tributaries, and the Delta and its tributaries, including the Calaveras, Cosumnes and Mokelumne rivers. This update is at an earlier stage procedurally than the Lower San Joaquin River/Southern Delta plan update; a draft proposed plan and staff report analyzing alternatives will be released later this year for public review and comment.

Pushing Back on President Trump's Trade Team

DTN | Posted on July 25, 2018

Republican lawmakers and the American Farm Bureau Federationare no longer holding their powder when it comes to criticizing Trump Administration leaders about trade. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, fired off a news release Thursday after White House trade advisor Peter Navarro told CNBC that the economic impact of the trade war is a mere "rounding error" and that the Trump Administration is playing a broader game of chess.“Mr. Navarro, America’s farmers are caught in the crosshairs of this game of ‘chess.’ Offhand comments like the ones that Mr. Navarro made in his interview with CNBC today disregard the people whose livelihoods depend on global trade," Ernst said. "In Iowa alone, more than 456,000 jobs are supported by trade, and these new tariffs are threatening $977 million in state exports. That is no ‘rounding error.’ Those are real people – Iowans – who are waiting for terms to be negotiated, for new deals to be finalized. We need to lessen the pressure on these hard-working farmers, and let them sell their goods."