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Workshop series to focus on workforce development in animal agriculture | Posted on March 7, 2023

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The applicant pool for high-demand livestock production occupations is shrinking, lacks diversity and often falls short in critical animal husbandry skills, according to an interdisciplinary team of educators and faculty from Penn State Extension and Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. The team is investigating methods to improve skill sets and increase diversity in the livestock production workforce, with the goal of eliminating workforce barriers and enhancing secure food animal production.

As part of this work, Penn State Extension is offering a free monthly workshop series, from March to May, focused on workforce development in animal agriculture. The first and third workshops will be held virtually. Participants can attend the second session in person or via Zoom.

“These workshops focus on the critical issues around developing and retaining a modern workforce that will help feed a growing population,” said John Boney, Vernon E. Norris Faculty Fellow of Poultry Nutrition and assistant professor of poultry science.

The series is designed for agricultural and livestock employers, educators and faculty, high school teachers, mentors or aspiring mentors, and agricultural human resource managers.

“Recruiting, hiring and retaining skilled workers is essential,” Boney said. “One of the best kept secrets is the number of good-paying jobs available. We need to change the narrative and showcase the opportunities for long-term career success in animal agriculture.”

The first webinar, “People, Performance and Productivity: Mentoring to Retain Workers,” will take place from 1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. March 22.

This session will explore best practices for establishing a mentoring program. Mentorship opportunities demonstrate to employees that the company is actively investing in their careers, organizers noted, adding that workers who feel connected to their peers and supported in meeting their career goals are more likely to feel engaged in their work and stay at their company.

Attendees can learn about formal versus informal mentoring; the impact of mentoring programs on hiring and retention; components of a mentoring program; and mentor selection and training.

The second workshop, “People, Performance and Productivity: Using Workforce Development Practices to Enhance Business Performance and Longevity,” will occur from 11 a.m. to noon April 13 in 106 Animal, Veterinary, and Biomedical Sciences Building on Penn State’s University Park campus.

During this seminar, participants will hear about workforce development career connection strategies for diverse populations that enhance business performance and longevity. The key speaker will be Mark Threeton, professor of education and associate director of the Professional Development Center for Career and Technical Education within the Workforce Education and Development Program in Penn State’s College of Education. Threeton consults, teaches and conducts research in the areas of technical teacher education and workplace learning and performance.

The session will cover recruitment and retention in the workforce; career connection strategies; field-based work experience programs; and research-based development practices that enhance business performance and longevity.

The third event, “People, Performance and Productivity: Strategies to Hire and Retain a Strong Workforce in Animal Agriculture,” is scheduled for 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. May 11. Experts will discuss hiring and retention practices. Speakers include Emily Balcetis, associate professor of psychology at New York University, and Brian Ballard, corporate recruiter at Cal-Maine Foods.

This series is sponsored by a Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Strategic Networks and Initiatives Program grant. This program is designed to capitalize on the collective expertise within the college and to invest in faculty-driven initiatives that will strengthen existing programs and promote new interdisciplinary research.

The research team includes project investigators from animal science, veterinary science and rural sociology. Based on information from the workshop series, the team will develop on-farm interview questions to gather preliminary data from workers and employers, with an eye toward seeking a large-scale, external grant to expand the project.

Penn State Extension offers this workshop series free of charge, but participants must register by March 20 for the first webinar, by April 13 for the second workshop and by May 11 for the third event.

Inflation Reduction Act increases agricultural conservation program funds

| Posted on August 22, 2022

The Inflation Reduction Act recently signed into law by President Biden not only extended the Affordable Care Act, but also infused funding to several agricultural conservation programs familiar to producers. Economists with the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University in College Station have compiled a briefing paper evaluating the effects of the bill on agriculture.

“The bottom line is that there is an enormous infusion of funding for conservation programs,” said Bart Fischer, Ph.D., food policy center co-director in the Department of Agricultural Economics of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Bryan-College Station. “Much discretion about the distribution of that funding is left to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, so we will have to see how they implement the program before we know how everything will work.”

| Posted on August 17, 2022

One week after lawsuits challenging a Massachusetts law similar to the Proposition 12 law in California were stayed, a federal court issued a separate stay order to block enforcement of Question 3 for now.

The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts granted a joint motion stay enforcement of Question 3 until 30 days after the U.S. Supreme Court decides a similar legal challenge to California’s Prop 12 rules, according to court filings. Question 3 — originally passed in 2016 —  prohibits the sale of whole pork meat in Massachusetts that come from hogs that were raised in enclosures that do not meet new Massachusetts state standards.

It was scheduled to go into effect Aug. 15 and was the subject of a lawsuit filed Aug. 3 by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, among other related regional agencies. The plaintiffs last week agreed to hold off action on their suit until the NPPC’s challenge to California’s Prop 12 is heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The highest court in the land ended its session as scheduled at the end of June and is expected to resume work on Oct. 3, the traditional first Monday in October. The NPPC case against Prop 12 currently is scheduled to be argued in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 11, according to the latest court documents released this summer. However, there is no firm timetable on when any decisions by the Supreme Court on the Prop 12 issue can be expected.

California restaurants sue over law they say will drive up cost of bacon, pork | Posted on December 27, 2021

A coalition of California restaurants and retailers is suing the state to block a law scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 that they argue could drive up the cost of bacon and create supply chain backlogs for the pork industry. The lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court centers on Proposition 12, a 2018 ballot measure that prohibits the production or importation of pork raised from pigs kept in confined spaces. It requires in part that breeding sows be kept in a space no smaller than 24 square feet.

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Ransomware Disrupts Meat Plants in Latest Attack on Critical U.S. Business

| Posted on June 2, 2021

By Julie CreswellNicole Perlroth and Noam Scheiber

June 1, 2021

A cyberattack on the world’s largest meat processor forced the shutdown of nine beef plants in the United States on Tuesday, according to union officials, and disrupted production at poultry and pork plants. The attack could upset the nation’s meat markets and raises new questions about the vulnerability of critical American businesses.


The company, JBS, said the majority of its plants would reopen on Wednesday. But even one day’s disruption at JBS could “significantly impact” wholesale beef prices, according to analysts at Daily Livestock Report.

The breach at JBS was a ransomware attack, the White House said — the second recent such attack to freeze up a critical U.S. business operation. Last month, a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, which transports gas to nearly half the East Coast, triggered gas and jet-fuel shortages and panic buying.

JBS, which is based in Brazil and accounts for one-fifth of the daily U.S. cattle harvest, said in a statement late Tuesday that it had made “significant progress resolving the cyberattack.”


Dent Recognized Nationally For Work To Help Farmers, Ranchers, Pesticide Industry

| Posted on March 30, 2021

SARL would like to congratulate Representative Tom Dent on being selected as CropLife America’s State Leadership Award winner for 2020!  The State Leadership Award honors an individual who demonstrates outstanding leadership in the area of state legislative or regulatory issues and promotes initiatives that preserve, protect and advance the ability of farmers to provide a safe, affordable and sustainable food supply. This state legislator, agricultural commissioner or similar, has performed outstanding service by developing and/or implementing methods, programs or legislation to strengthen and improve the agriculture community. State Legislative Award Eligibility Requirements: Nominees must be a current state legislator, agriculture commissioner or similar.  Nominees must demonstrate service to the pesticide industry as well as exhibited professional achievement.  

We can not think of a more deserving person!

‘Struggling to tread water’: Dairy farmers are caught in an economic system with no winning formula

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Posted on May 23, 2019

A worldwide surplus of milk has driven down the price farmers receive to the point where many have lost money for months, or even several years, at a time. Nearly 3,000 U.S. dairy farms folded in 2018, about a 6.5% decline, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures.Wisconsin lost nearly 700 last year — almost two a day — as even dairy farmers used to enduring hard times called it quits in a downturn now headed into its fifth year.The fallout continues as farmers, on the cusp of spring planting, decide whether to invest in seed, chemicals, fertilizer and other supplies needed to raise the crops they feed to their cattle. More than 300 Wisconsin dairy farms shut down between January and May, including 90 — three a day — in April alone.Some will find the decision is out of their hands as banks refuse to extend them credit. “It’s enough to test even the most optimistic farmer limping out to the fields,” said Ronald Wirtz, regional outreach director for the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis, which regulates banks in parts of six states, including northwest Wisconsin, and keeps close tabs on agricultural lending trends. In 2018, for the third straight year, Wisconsin led the nation in farm bankruptcies. The state's smaller average farm size, particularly in dairy, is at least partly the reason, Wirtz said. The farm economy in the Upper Midwest "might generously be described as struggling to tread water," he added. Some dairy farmers say they've been getting around $15 for every hundred pounds of milk they produce — roughly 12 gallons — but their costs are between $17 and $22. Many families have exhausted their savings and credit to remain in business; a large number have at least one non-farm income to help meet the needs of their families. 

Small group of America’s big farms gets bulk of Trump bailout

Financial Times | Posted on May 23, 2019

A tenth of US farm operators have received more than half the money from a federal bailout designed to offset the costs of the Trump administration’s trade battles, data show. Some use legal loopholes to collect multiples of a $125,000 cap on payments. The government had doled out $8.5bn ahead of last Friday’s application deadline for farmers, the US department of agriculture said. The White House launched the Market Facilitation Program in September after China, Mexico and other countries fought back against US tariffs by raising duties on American farm goods, depressing their price. The payments reflect the farm sector’s political clout in Washington. No other US industry has received direct payments to relieve losses caused by tariffs.  Between September and mid-April, $4.5bn of MFP payments went to 10 per cent of recipients, according to records the Financial Times obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act. The government limited payments to $125,000 per person or legal entity in each of three commodity categories. Farmers were also ineligible if their adjusted gross income topped $900,000. The records showed that more than 3,000 farm businesses got paid in excess of $125,000 within a single category, however. More than 100 received at least $500,000 and a handful collected almost $1m.


Over 200 Farm, Food and Rural Groups Support Agribusiness Merger Moratorium Bills

Tri State Livestock News | Posted on May 23, 2019

A broad-based coalition of 219 farm, food, rural, faith and consumer advocacy organizations delivered a letter to Congress endorsing food and agribusiness merger moratorium bills introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Jon Tester (D-MT) and Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI). The Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2019 would initiate a moratorium on large agriculture, food and beverage manufacturing and grocery retail mergers to allow time to assess the impact corporate consolidation has on farmers, workers, consumers and communities. It also recommends improvements to antitrust enforcement. The bills were also introduced in the House and Senate in 2018.

Egg farmers, animal welfare groups clash in Sonoma County

Peninsula Press | Posted on May 23, 2019

But ever since a May 2018 demonstration by Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE, an animal welfare group founded less than 50 miles away in Berkeley, California, Weber is concerned about his safety as he moves through his daily routine. A parked car sits at the edge of the farm.  A drone flies overhead. Weber wonders if he and his brother are being watched, if DxE is preparing for an ambush. The protest began on a Spring day in 2018. Around 500 demonstrators led by DxE protested outside Weber’s farm. Dozens of activists removed chickens they described as sick or dying.In an interview with the Peninsula Press, Weber said, “they basically rushed onto the property, rushed through all the entrances … nobody could stop them.”Hours later, Sonoma County law enforcement arrested 40 activists for trespassing. Weber says the demonstration halted egg production.“It affected every aspect of our operation,” he said.That demonstration made it difficult to retain employees who were worried about harassment by activists, said Weber. Poultry workers were shoved or cursed at during the demonstration.