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State Ag and Rural Leaders


  • How robot farmers and artificial intelligence are changing agriculture |

    Smart agriculture is revolutionizing farming and creating opportunities for investors. Here are three innovations you should know about.


    Watch this video!

    Post date: Fri, 03/10/2023 - 10:55
  • Progressive agriculture groups rally for land access, climate-smart policies in farm bill |

    WASHINGTON — Farmers and leaders from more than 20 progressive agricultural groups gathered this week to march on the U.S. Capitol, and promote climate solutions and underserved producers as priority issues for lawmakers in the upcoming farm bill.

    “As farmers, we are close to the land. We love the land. We understand the sanctity and the sacredness of water. We understand the essence of life,” said Duane “Chili” Yazzie, a regenerative farmer in Arizona and member of Shiprock Chapter of the Navajo Nation, to dozens of demonstrators at Freedom Plaza Tuesday.

    “We demand that we — as small farmers, as the BIPOC farmers, as the farmers that need a helping hand — must have the provisions in the farm bill that make sense to us.”

    During the three-day “Rally for Resilience,” headed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, attendees met with lawmakers and hosted a demonstration at Freedom Plaza. Organizers called for sustainable practices, decreased industry consolidation, and improved land access for people of color and family farmers.

    The farm bill is a multiyear omnibus spending law which authorizes an array of agricultural and food programs, including federal crop insurance, food stamp benefits, international food aid and farm resource conservation.

    The roughly $500 billion bill is renewed close to every five years, and includes mandatory spending that must be in line with previous farm bills. The legislation is up for renewal in 2023.

    Sustainable agriculture and climate change

    Speakers at the Rally for Resilience lobbied for legislators to embrace regenerative agriculture in the upcoming farm bill, and help farmers become part of the climate solution amid worsening growing conditions.

    Regenerative agriculture is a set of farming and grazing practices that work to restore soil ecosystem health, and can sequester carbon dioxide while increasing resilience to climate change.

    “It makes me angry, and it makes me frustrated to see people in positions of power deny the reality and the severity of climate change,” said Marielena Vega, a farm worker organizer with the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils, at the Tuesday demonstration.

    Vega said that extreme heat is making summers increasingly difficult for farmworkers in Idaho, who face rising threats of heat stroke and dehydration along with the ever-present concern of pesticide exposure.

    Norysell Massanet, a farmer from Puerto Rico, spoke Tuesday about the devastation of the island’s agricultural community after two major hurricanes in 2017. She said that Puerto Rico’s basic infrastructure is still recovering, and these hurricane events will only become more frequent as the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean warm.

    “We need climate solutions that consider the well being of all lands, and all people,” Massanet said.

    She urged Congress to provide a farm bill that “follows the science” and places renewable agriculture and rural development at its forefront.

    David Senter, a founder of the American Agriculture Movement, which mobilized a 1979 Tractorcade in Washington for industry reform, lobbied for regenerative and small-scale family farmers as part of the climate solution.

    “Family producers care about the soil and water,” Senter said at the Tuesday rally. “Corporations care about the bottom line.”

    Yadi Wang, a first-generation regenerative farmer in Tucson, Arizona, said he among a growing number of farmers who believe land stewardship is more important than land ownership.

    Wang said regenerative practices have allowed his employer, Oatman Flats Ranch, to maintain a resilient and profitable grain-and-livestock operation in one of the driest climates in the country. 

    “Congress needs to invest more money on land management, on soil and water conservation so that we can truly have viable land and farmers can continue to grow food for the people,” Wang said at the Tuesday rally. “Regenerative agriculture is the way forward.”

    Antitrust and consolidation

    Democratic U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna of California joined rally organizers for a Wednesday media event, and said farmers’ ability to be a part of the climate solution has been muted by corporate consolidation of farmland and “monopolistic concentration of power.” He touted his just-introduced Farm System Reform Act as a potential tool to curtail some of these business models.

    “A lot of the people who are running a lot of these farms don’t live in the communities where those farms are,” Khanna said. They don’t care about the pollution. They don’t care if they’re destroying the land, but maximizing profits.”

    Johanna Chao Kreilick, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said at the Wednesday press event that farmers live and work on the front lines of the climate emergency.

    She added that corporate farms, and the resource-intensive inputs they depend on, are a key driver of this increased volatility in farming.

    “We need to be super clear about the role that corporate agriculture, Big Ag, has played in our agricultural system and how it’s contributing to the climate crisis,” Chao Kreilick said.

    Angela Dawson, a fourth-generation reclamation Black farmer from Sandstone, Minnesota, said at the Tuesday rally that people are aware that over the last 50 years, the farm bill has set the stage for a highly consolidated food system. Dawson defines reclamation farming as reclaiming and working the farm her family lost two generations ago.

    She added that five major egg corporations control the grocery sector, four large companies control the beef industry, and two companies control the bulk of the commodity seed market.

    “We’re calling on Congress to create a farm bill that puts community over corporations, people over profits, and reduces and repairs the harm that has been done to the environment,” Dawson said.

    Lindsay Klaunig, who runs a regenerative produce-and-livestock farm near Athens, Ohio, spoke at the Wednesday event and added that more work must be done to reduce consolidation in seed sales, especially as overseas supply chains experience disruption and regenerative regional agriculture grows.

    “We need publicly supported, farmer-driven breeding and research to ensure that all growers at any scale, in any setting, have access to locally adapted seeds without the restrictions of privately owned companies,” Klaunig said.

    Land access, support for underserved producers

    Other speakers pointed to the opportunity for the farm bill to rectify historical injustices, including land access for farmers who are people of color, and increased health protections for farmworkers.

    Dorathy Barker, a Black dairy farmer from Oxford, North Carolina, spoke at the Wednesday press event to advocate for land access and increased technical assistance for farmers of color.

    Barker said she does not believe there has been a farm bill “written with Black people in mind,” amid a “bleak climate” for these producers. She said Black farmers are often manipulated by predatory buyers and legal advisers into lowering prices for their goods and problematic land sales.

    “We as Black women, we speak up for our rights,” Parker said. “But over years and years — in some states for over 400 years — we have been traumatized and marginalized. Always the lack of markets.”

    Julieta Saucedo, a small-scale farmer from El Paso, Texas, spoke at the Tuesday rally about a lack of land access for marginalized farmers. She said that oftentimes, these underserved producers only have land that has been ruined by decades of mismanagement and extractive farming.

    “When I see soil erosion by wind and water, when I see depleted soil, depleted lands from monocropping, soil so compacted that it will break your shovel, I also see it as the consequences of old and modern slavery,” Saucedo said.

    She advocated for increased access to farmland for small producers and people of color, along with holding corporations accountable for the damage done to the land.

    Klaunig said a theme she heard repeatedly during the event resonated: farmer-led solutions should come first.

    “Too often farmers are handed directives from — maybe well intentioned — institutions, but they’re out of touch,” she said. “Farmers know how to find cheap, effective and adaptable solutions to our climate crisis, let them and help them.”


    Post date: Fri, 03/10/2023 - 10:47
  • Workshop series to focus on workforce development in animal agriculture |

    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.

    Post date: Tue, 03/07/2023 - 20:19
  • Rural agriculture needs reliable communication: Josh Peschel launches new technology in ag hotspots |

    Mobile communication has changed the world around us nearly overnight.

    Yet still, with much progress in this realm of technology, remote, rural areas are still struggling to connect with the outside world. These remote areas are hotspots for agriculture, with acres upon acres of crops and animals.

    That’s why Josh Peschel, assistant professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering, is linking agriculture and technology together in a nationwide research project funded by the National Science Foundation. The team, led by Hongwei Zhang, a professor in electrical and computer engineering, is launching a test bed for experimentation to develop new, wireless networking tools that would serve remote areas – especially ones here in Iowa.

    The test bed takes place in the form of a wireless living lab across Iowa State University, the city of Ames and surrounding farms and rural areas.

    With this new wireless infrastructure, the team is also launching an application with a focus on agriculture – and that’s where Peschel comes in.

    “A lot of agriculture as we know it is very remote and disconnected,” Peschel said. “If we want to have better wireless connectivity for these remote outposts of agriculture, we need something as powerful as this.”

    Peschel is installing cameras that are connected to the wireless test bed in pig barns and cattle pens around the area.

    “When we put cameras in pig barns and cattle pens to monitor their behavior in real-time, those videos can be electronically transported back from very remote locations,” Peschel said. “Whereas now, you wouldn’t even be able to get a text message at those remote locations. But with this project, you could perhaps have streaming, high-definition video coming from those places, from the cameras.”

    The cameras, intentionally linked to the team’s wireless network, wirelessly transmits information back to the team using their experimental technologies to help them better understand bandwidth requirements, minimum video quality and more.

    Post date: Tue, 03/07/2023 - 20:14
  • USDA Proposes New Requirements for the “Product of USA” Label Claim |

    WASHINGTON, March 6, 2023 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today released a proposed rule with new regulatory requirements to better align the voluntary “Product of USA” label claim with consumer understanding of what the claim means. The proposed rule allows the voluntary “Product of USA” or “Made in the USA” label claim to be used on meat, poultry and egg products only when they are derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States. Today’s announcement delivers on one of the key actions in President Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, and a commitment made in the Biden-Harris Administration’s Action Plan for a Fairer, More Competitive, and More Resilient Meat and Poultry Supply Chain. The increased clarity and transparency provided by this proposed change would prevent consumer confusion and help ensure that consumers understand where their food comes from.

    “American consumers expect that when they buy a meat product at the grocery store, the claims they see on the label mean what they say,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These proposed changes are intended to provide consumers with accurate information to make informed purchasing decisions. Our action today affirms USDA’s commitment to ensuring accurate and truthful product labeling.”

    USDA’s proposed rulemaking is supported by petitions, thousands of comments from stakeholders, and data. In July 2021, USDA initiated a comprehensive review to understand what the “Product of USA” claim means to consumers and inform planned rulemaking to define the requirements for making such a claim. As part of its review, USDA commissioned a nationwide consumer survey. The survey revealed that the current “Product of USA” labeling claim is misleading to a majority of consumers surveyed, with a significant portion believing the claim means that the product was made from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States.

    USDA’s comprehensive review shows there is a clear need to revise the current “Product of USA” label claim so that it more accurately conveys U.S. origin information.

    Under the proposed rule, the “Product of USA” label claim would continue to be voluntary. It would also remain eligible for generic label approval, meaning it would not need to be pre-approved by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) before it could be used on regulated product, but would require supporting documentation to be on file for agency inspection personnel to verify. The rulemaking also proposes to allow other voluntary U.S. origin claims we see on meat, poultry and egg products sold in the marketplace. These claims would need to include a description on the package of all preparation and processing steps that occurred in the United States upon which the claim is made.

    USDA encourages stakeholders, both domestic and international, to comment on the proposed rule. The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 60 days after publishing in the Federal Register. Public comments can be submitted at

    USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit

    Post date: Tue, 03/07/2023 - 20:11

The State Ag and Rural Leaders group was formed as a 501 c(3) non-profit in 2006 at the 5th Annual Legislative Ag Chairs Summit in Tempe, Arizona.
The first Legislative Ag Chairs Summit was in Dallas in 2002.

Ag and Rural Leaders

STATE AGRICULTURE AND RURAL LEADERS is dedicated to promoting and fostering cooperation, leadership and educational opportunities among and for state and provincial legislators that are passionate about agriculture and rural communities.

STATE AGRICULTURE AND RURAL LEADERS is organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes, to provide and promote educational opportunities for state officials and others on technology, policy, processes and issues that are of concern to agrculture and rural communities.

STATE AGRICULTURE AND RURAL LEADERS produces the national agriculture and rural enewsletter - Ag Clips, webinars, white papers and the annual Legislative Ag Chairs Summit.

STATE AGRICULTURE AND RURAL LEADERS is managed by an elected board of state and provincial legislators.

STATE AGRICULTURE AND RURAL LEADERS is where state leaders find the answers they need on agriculture and rural policy issues.


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