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Agriculture News

The future of food production amid global change

Massachusetts Institute of Technology | Posted on November 22, 2018

When it comes to impacting global change, agriculture cuts both ways. Subject to the vicissitudes of global climate change, population, and economic growth, the cultivation of crops and livestock alters atmospheric concentrations of planet-warming greenhouse gases and ]contributes to pollution of freshwater and coastal areas. Assessing the risks to and from the agriculture sector — and identifying opportunities for the sector to thrive amid global change — is both urgent and essential.To explore challenges and opportunities for the sector, the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change convened a one-day workshop, “Agriculture and Global Change: Driving Forces, Contributions to Global Change, and Climate Risks.”Joint Program Research Scientist Kenneth Strzepek showed that how much water a society allocates for agriculture is a reflection of its climate, level of economic development, and evolving value system. Observing that 70 percent of today’s freshwater withdrawals are for irrigation, and that by 2050 about 17 percent of all water now used in agriculture will be at risk from reallocation to nonagricultural economic growth, population and urban growth, and environmental protection, Strzepek highlighted several trends that pose a growing threat to such withdrawals, including the adoption of clean energy generation through hydropower at the expense of water for irrigation.

Dairy farmers refuse £6,000 to allow filming of milk production in Denmark

Independent | Posted on November 22, 2018

Dairy farmers in Denmark have refused an offer of nearly £6,000 to let animal-rights campaigners film the production of milk, butter and cheese. The country’s farmers, who supply dairy products for the firm behind British brands Anchor and Lurpak, have not accepted the cash incentive to let cameras in to record how cows and calves are treated every day.

India is about to become the world's biggest sugar producer

Business Times | Posted on November 22, 2018

Brazil, traditionally the world's top sugar producer, is poised to cede the crown to India for the first time in 16 years. Production in the Asian country this season may rise 5.2 per cent to a record 35.9 million metric tons on increasing acreage and improving yields, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service said Tuesday in a report. Brazil's output may tumble 21 per cent to 30.6 million tons because of adverse weather and a shift to produce more cane-based ethanol.Global production is forecast to fall 4.5 per cent to 185.9 million tons, trailing the May estimate of 188.3 million, after the outlooks for Brazil, Thailand and the European Union were revised lower.

Monsanto appeals $78M verdict in California weed killer suit

AP | Posted on November 22, 2018

Agribusiness giant Monsanto on Tuesday appealed a $78 million verdict in favor of a dying California man who said the company’s widely used Roundup weed killer was a major factor in his cancer. The company filed a notice of appeal in San Francisco Superior Court challenging a jury verdict in favor of DeWayne Johnson. In August, the jury unanimously found that Roundup caused Johnson’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and awarded him $289 million.Last month, Judge Suzanne Bolanos slashed that award to $78 million. Monsanto had sought a new trial or judgment in its favor.

U.S. judge selects first case in federal Monsanto weed-killer litigation

Reuters | Posted on November 22, 2018

A U.S. judge overseeing the federal litigation against Bayer AG’s Monsanto unit over glyphosate-based weed-killers allegedly causing cancer on Tuesday selected the first case to be tried in federal court in February 2019. U.S. District Judge Vince Chaabria in San Francisco in an order said the case of California resident Edwin Hardeman will be the first out of more than 620 cases pending in the federal litigation to go to a jury.Hardeman’s case will mark the second trial in the U.S. litigation over glyphosate, after a California state court jury in August awarded $289 million to a school groundskeeper, finding Monsanto liable for the man’s cancer.

State denies permit to Arkansas hog farm near Buffalo River

Minnesota Star Tribune | Posted on November 22, 2018

An Arkansas environmental regulatory agency denied a permit for a hog farm Monday because of concerns that pig waste might be contaminating the nearby Buffalo River. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality issued a final decision that C&H Hog Farm in Vendor can no longer operate. Its decision followed a period of public comment after the department initially denied the permit for the farm in September.The department first denied the farm's permit in January, but the farm appealed to the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, which sent the decision back to the department in August. The farm appealed that decision as well, and in October a judge ordered a stay on the department's decision to deny the permit in September.In its report, the department said it was denying the permit because of concerns that waste produced by the farm was contaminating the nearby Big Creek and Buffalo River. It tested two areas of each body of water close to the farm and found that all four "failed to meet water quality standards" under the department's regulations. Additionally, testing revealed higher levels of nitrates in the water and phosphorous in the soil.

USMCA will cause US ag exports to decline by $1.8B

Watt AgNet | Posted on November 22, 2018

A new report says the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will expand U.S. agricultural exports by $450 million, but those gains will be negated by retaliatory tariffs by Canada and Mexico against the U.S. The study, “How U.S. Agriculture Will Fare Under the USMCA and Retaliatory Tariffs,” was commissioned by agricultural policy institute Farm Foundation and completed by Purdue University agricultural economists Dominique van der Mensbrugghe, Ph.D., Wallace Tyner, Ph.D., and Maksym Chepeliev, Ph.D.The analysis says retaliatory tariffs will cause U.S. agricultural exports to decline by $1.8 billion and that, with continued tariffs from China and other trading partners, “the United States would see a decline in agricultural exports of $7.9 billion, thus overwhelming the small positive gains from USMCA.”

Poultry processor, USDA to probe animal abuse allegations

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on November 22, 2018

A Maryland-based chicken processor is weighing its options after an animal advocacy group released an undercover video purportedly showing workers punching, throwing and otherwise abusing birds on the line. Amick Farms released a statement saying that some of the actions depicted in the video “are clear violations of our animal welfare policies and our company values.” President Ben Harrison says the company is considering additional training, disciplinary action and a more aggressive approach to making sure that workers at the facility in Hurlock, Md., are following its policies.The group Compassion Over Killing took responsibility for filming the video as part of its campaign to end high-speed processing that allows for line speeds of 175 birds per minute. On its website, the organization said USDA granted waivers to 24 poultry processing plants this year allowing them to speed up their lines.

Immigration and the dairy industry

Daily Sentinel | Posted on November 22, 2018

As dairy operations increase animal numbers, they have also increased dependence on a larger labor pool. That labor pool has become less dominated by family members, and more dependent on foreign born labor. There undoubtedly would be benefits, however, there is significant risk for the dairy industry in any immigration legislation.The most recent significant immigration legislation was the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. In 2013, the full U.S. Senate passed the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” a bipartisan, comprehensive reform bill (S 744).This bill was never given a vote in the House even though it was widely viewed as having sufficient support to pass. The agricultural portion of S 744 was negotiated between agricultural organizations and farm labor representatives to address the needs of agriculture.One more recent proposal was the 2018 “AG and Legal Workforce Act,” HR 6417. This bill would have eliminated the H-2A visa and created an H-2C visa encompassing not only agricultural jobs, but also meat processing and food manufacturing. The bill would have authorized employers to pay below the FLSA minimum wage by imposing deductions and charges on workers.

USDA launches new biosecurity campaign

USDA | Posted on November 22, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is launching a new outreach campaign focused on preventing the spread of infectious poultry diseases in both commercial and backyard poultry.  Considering the devastating impact of the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in 2014-2015, as well as this year’s outbreak of virulent Newcastle disease, the timing is right for everyone in the poultry community to work together to protect the health of our nation’s flocks.  The “Defend the Flock” campaign to promote biosecurity combines and updates two previous campaigns that were each targeted at a specific segment of the poultry population.  Having experienced several poultry health issues over the last couple of years, the poultry community knows how important biosecurity is to protecting the nation’s flocks.  “We’ve seen great strides in biosecurity since 2015, but biosecurity is an every day, every time effort,” said Dr. Shere.  USDA launched a new web page for the campaign at anyone can find important information about protecting their flocks from disease.