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Agriculture News

Groundwater contamination devastates a New Mexico dairy – and threatens public health

New Mexico Politcal Report | Posted on February 20, 2019

For months, Clovis dairy farmer Art Schaap has been watching his life go down the drain. Instead of selling milk, he is dumping 15,000 gallons a day – enough to provide a carton at lunch to 240,000 children. Instead of working 24/7 to keep his animals healthy, he’s planning to exterminate all 4,000 of his cows, one of the best herds in Curry County’s booming dairy industry. The 54-year-old second-generation dairy farmer learned last August that his water, his land, his crops – even the blood in his body – were contaminated with chemicals that migrated to his property from nearby Cannon Air Force Base.The toxins, collectively known as PFAS, have caused rampant pollution on military installations, something the Department of Defense has known about for decades but routinely failed to disclose. Now the state’s dairy industry is ground zero in an unprecedented crisis. For the first time ever, PFAS is threatening the U.S. food supply.“This has poisoned everything I’ve worked for and everything I care about,” Schaap (pronounced ‘skahp’) said. “I can’t sell the milk. I can’t sell beef. I can’t sell the cows. I can’t sell crops or my property. The Air Force knew they had contamination. What I really wonder is, why didn’t they say something?”

Missouri Court Holds Crop Dusting Not Inherently Dangerous Activity

Texas A&M | Posted on February 19, 2019

A case out of Missouri, Keller Farms, Inc. v. Stewart,  recently caught my attention as it addressed an interesting question, is crop dusting an “inherently dangerous activity?”  This is an important question as the answer can greatly impact the potential liability of a landowner or producer hiring someone to apply pesticides. The reason is that a person is generally not liable for the acts of his or her independent contractor.  An exception to that, however, is that a person may be liable for the acts of his or her independent contractor if the activity involved is deemed “inherently dangerous.”  So, assume a  sorghum farmer hired an aerial spray company, as an independent contractor, to spray for sugarcane aphids and drift occurred.  If the activity is not inherently dangerous, the farmer is not liable.  If the activity is inherently dangerous, the farmer can be liable for the pilot’s actions.

Gov. Tom Wolf proposes tax breaks, loans in new Pa. Farm Bill

Lehigh Valley Live | Posted on February 19, 2019

The agriculture industry is facing a workforce shortage and Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration hopes to address it with the Pennsylvania Farm Bill, a proposal that is being described as historic. This multi-faceted $24 million package includes a variety of measures aimed at cultivating future generations of farmers and providing assistance to help new and beginning farmers. Lawmakers hailed the Farm Bill proposal as the first time in generations that agriculture was given some focused attention in a governor’s budget proposal. The package includes low-interest loans, grants, tax breaks and other measures to attract a new crop of farmers in Pennsylvania.Wolf said his administration doesn’t have all the answers to filling the nearly 75,000 job vacancies in the agriculture and food industries over the next 10 years. But he said engaging in a conversation with experts in the agricultural industry could produce some.

Conservation group buys ranch, sells it back to Montana landowners

Billings Gazette | Posted on February 19, 2019

North-central Montana ranchers and an international conservation group have collaborated to acquire a neighbor’s 5,000 acres in a unique partnership.“There was a ranch next to us we wanted to buy and didn’t have the funding to do so … without becoming a financial casualty,” said Dale Veseth, a Malta-area rancher. “So we enlisted The Nature Conservancy, and we’re going to put a conservation easement on the property we bought and our home place as well.” Veseth said his family has been on their ranch since 1943, although family members have been “running around the community” since 1886.The Nature Conservancy bought 4,340 acres scattered across 10 parcels. “The land, which runs along sections of Second Creek, is a rich mix of native prairie and big sagebrush grassland as well as more than 155 acres of freshwater wetlands,” according to a Nature Conservancy press release. “It harbors several important and/or disappearing species including greater sage grouse, burrowing owl, ferruginous hawk, long-billed curlew and chestnut-collared longspur. It is also important winter and summer range for pronghorn.”

Land purchase paves way for Idaho Research Dairy

Feedstuffs | Posted on February 19, 2019

 A plan to create the nation’s largest research dairy advanced Feb. 14 with the Idaho State Board of Education’s vote to allow the University of Idaho to buy land for the $45 million project. The University of Idaho and Idaho dairy industry-led effort will create the Idaho Center for Agriculture Food & the Environment (CAFE). The project took a major step forward with the go-ahead to finalize purchase of land in Minidoka County near Rupert, Ida.The University of Idaho and the Idaho Dairymen’s Assn. (IDA) will jointly purchase 540 acres from members of the Whitesides family, who will in turn donate another parcel of land. The university will pay $2.5 million and IDA will pay $2 million toward the purchase


EPA published rule redefining WOTUS

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on February 19, 2019

The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published a proposed rule defining the scope of waters regulated under the federal Clean Water Act, opening a public comment period through April 15. The document, published in the Federal Register, revises the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) in line with a February 2017 executive order directing the agencies to review the 2015 WOTUS rule, the agencies said. Under the new rule, traditional navigable waters, tributaries to those waters, certain ditches, certain lakes and ponds, impoundments of jurisdictional waters, and wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters would be federally regulated.The rule also spells out what are not “waters of the United States,” including features that only contain water during or in response to rainfall (ephemeral features); groundwater; many ditches, including most roadside or farm ditches; prior converted cropland; storm water control features; and waste treatment systems.

Research Proves African Swine Fever Can Spread to Pigs Through Feed

Ag Web | Posted on February 19, 2019

A Kansas State study confirms that African swine fever can be easily transmitted through the natural consumption of contaminated feed and liquid. This first-of-its-kind study emphasizes the critical need for feed biosecurity in the swine industry.

'Zombie' deer disease: What is it, and could it affect humans?

USA Today | Posted on February 19, 2019

CWD was first observed in the 1960s at a research facility in Colorado. It has now been confirmed in 24 states and two Canadian provinces as of January, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.CWD was first observed in the 1960s at a research facility in Colorado. It has now been confirmed in 24 states and two Canadian provinces as of January, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Farming's next generation has nowhere to grow

Talk Poverty | Posted on February 18, 2019

The aging of the American farmer raises some big questions: Who will grow our food when these farmers are gone? And what will happen to the farmland currently managed by elderly farmers? Unless America’s fertile fields wind up in the hands of a new generation of independent farmers, they’re likely to become housing developments, fracking sites, or simply gobbled up by big agribusiness. The primary reason young farmers can’t enter the industry is land: High land costs effectively price them out, whether or not they come from a farming background. Between 2004 and 2018, farmland inflation rates increased by approximately 150 percent. While the national average was $3,040 per acre, some states had averages well over $10,000. Rhode Island has the highest average cost per acre at $13,800.

U.S. Soy Exports Won't Reach Pre-Trade War Levels for Years

Bloomberg | Posted on February 18, 2019

U.S. soybean exports won’t return to their pre-trade war peak levels until the 2026-2027 season as competitors in South America gain global market share.Demand for American soy has taken a hit after China slapped tariffs on a host of U.S. farm goods as part of the nations’ trade war. At the same time, production has increased in rival producers including Brazil, the world’s largest exporter.