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Agriculture News

Equipment Manufacturers Launch "I Make America Town Hall Tour"

AEM | Posted on May 16, 2018

With six months left before the midterm elections, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) is hitting the road to educate and engage manufacturing voters about the policies that are critical to the future growth and success of their industry. The initiative, which is part of the AEM’s grassroots advocacy campaign “I Make America,” will feature a series of events at equipment manufacturing facilities across the country. At a time when too many of the policy debates that directly impact the future of the equipment manufacturing industry take place in Washington, D.C., AEM is bringing policy and industry experts to shop floors for engaging and productive discussions with the men and women who help make America. The goal is to engage with supporters and inspire to help move a pro-manufacturing agenda forward. “From much-needed investment in infrastructure and continued regulatory reform to the future of free trade agreements and the long-term prosperity of agricultural communities, there are certainly enough issues at play to make the midterm elections critical to the future of manufacturing in this country,” said AEM President Dennis Slater. Announced events:Thursday, May 17 – Jackson, MN (AGCO Corporation)Thursday, August 16 – Bismarck, ND (Doosan-Bobcat) Thursday, September 20 – Redmond, WA

Farmworkers must be paid for more than just picking the crops, says Washington Supreme Court

TDN | Posted on May 16, 2018

The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that farmworkers who were paid a piece rate as they labored in fields and orchards must get additional wages for their other tasks during the course of a workday.The 5-4 decision released Thursday affects wages in a vital part of the state’s economy: the agricultural industry that produces more than $10 billion of crops and livestock annually while employing nearly 100,000 farmworkers.While the ruling is considered a victory for farmworkers, its practical effect is far from clear. The plaintiffs’ attorney says it will raise the pay of thousands of people who perform hard work in the fields and orchards. Some industry representatives questioned whether the workers would end up seeing any net increase in take-home pay.The ruling puts new scrutiny on a farm-labor practice — piece rates — that ties wages to job productivity and are in widespread use during the fruit harvest season. The state Supreme Court found that the other tasks of piece-rate workers, such as unloading equipment at the day’s end or traveling between fields, should be tracked and then compensated through an hourly wage.“It should not come as a surprise to growers that you have to pay workers for all their work,” said Marc Cote, a Seattle-based attorney who filed the proposed class-action lawsuit in February 2016 on behalf of two Dovex Fruit Co. workers that led to the decision. Cote said employers already are compensating for such time.

China's multi-story hog hotels elevate industrial farms to new levels

Reuters | Posted on May 16, 2018

 On Yaji Mountain in southern China, they are checking in the sows a thousand head per floor in high-rise “hog hotels”. Privately owned agricultural company Guangxi Yangxiang Co Ltd is running two seven-floor sow breeding operations, and is putting up four more, including one with as many as 13 floors that will be the world’s tallest building of its kind.Hog farms of two or three floors have been tried in Europe. Some are still operating, others have been abandoned, but few new ones have been built in recent years, because of management difficulties and public resistance to large, intensive farms.Now, as China pushes ahead with industrialization of the world’s largest hog herd, part of a 30-year effort to modernize its farm sector and create wealth in rural areas, companies are experimenting with high-rise housing for pigs despite the costs. The “hotels” show how far some breeders are willing to go as China overhauls its farming model.

The Effect of Conservation Payments on Farmer Adoption Varies Across Conservation Practices

USDA | Posted on May 16, 2018

Sometimes, farmers adopt conservation practices without assistance from a conservation program. Conservation practices provide benefits to society at large (through improved environmental quality) and to the farmers themselves. Conservation tillage, for example, reduces labor and fuel costs—and may be profitable for some farmers if crop yields can be maintained or improved. Conservation tillage can also help improve water quality by reducing the loss of sediment and nutrients. To the extent that conservation practices are profitable, government support is not needed to encourage their adoption. Because the profitability of conservation practices can vary across farms, however, it is not always clear whether financial assistance for a practice will result in additional conservation on that farm. ERS research shows that payments leverage additional conservation, but the extent of additionality varies widely across conservation practices. Using data from 2009 to 2012, an ERS study estimated that more than 90 percent of producers who received payments for “structural off-field” practices (such as field borders and filter strips) would not have adopted the practices without a payment. Since these practices largely focus on keeping nutrients and sediments from leaving the farm, the farmers themselves receive little direct economic benefit.

Machines take over for people at Napa vineyard

Capital Press | Posted on May 16, 2018

In the heart of the Napa Valley, a vineyard produces fine Cabernet Sauvignon with virtually no help from laborers. The 40-acre “touchless vineyard” was established by Kaan Kurtural, a University of California Cooperative Extension specialist who has devoted much of his career to improving production efficiency in vineyards as labor shortages have worsened. “We set this up to be a no-touch vineyard,” he said. “All the cultural practices are done by machine.”The vineyard is mechanically pruned once with a mechanical pruner manufactured by the Fresno-based V-MECH LLC, which Kurtural says cuts the vines without fraying the shoot tips. The pruner is equipped with telemetry and GPS sensors to enable variable management of the vineyard. An array of sensors scans the vineyard as the shoots push out. The grapes are harvested by a machine that sorts them as it goes, he said.

The Linkages between Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Regional Food Networks

Choices magazine | Posted on May 15, 2018

Entrepreneurship has been the key driving force in developing and designing innovative food strategies at local and regional levels. Food strategies include methods and procedures of production, aggregation, distribution, transportation, marketing, and resource management. The three pillars of creating and establishing a successful venture involve entrepreneurial mindsets/attributes, entrepreneurial knowledge/skills, and entrepreneurial opportunities. The links between entrepreneurship and food strategies become more obvious in the recent “local food” movement as local farmers and producers develop and adopt innovative methods to connect with consumers. The local-to-regional food strategies emerging across the country have stimulated discussions around the social, economic, and ecological impacts of food production and consumption. Proponents of both global and regional/local scales argue about their relative benefits for market development and food security. The fact is that we need to feed a growing population with healthy food. More importantly, the priority of agriculture has evolved beyond the focus of production. Some suggest that local/regional production and marketing can enhance food security and quality of life. Others argue that our dependence on the commodity food system may, in fact, undermine food security and the ability of regions to provide for themselves.

Bee colonies stable despite steep annual losses

Capital Press | Posted on May 15, 2018

While beekeepers have experienced severe annual colony losses for more than a decade, they’ve managed to keep total hive numbers stable, the USDA has found. More than a decade since the appearance of the mysterious “colony collapse disorder,” beekeepers still face abnormally high levels of bee die-offs, according to USDA.Despite the greater annual mortality rate, however, beekeepers have kept the total number of hives stable and generally haven’t sharply hiked up their pollination service fees, the agency found.

United States Issues First-Ever WTO Counter Notification Against India’s Market Price Support

USDA | Posted on May 15, 2018

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that the United States submitted a counter notification in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Committee on Agriculture (COA) on India’s market price support (MPS) for wheat and rice. Filed on May 4, 2018, this is the first ever COA notification under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture regarding another country’s measures. Based on U.S. calculations, it appears that India has substantially underreported its market price support for wheat and rice. When calculated according to WTO Agreement on Agriculture methodology, India’s market price support for wheat and rice far exceeded its allowable levels of trade distorting domestic support. The United States expects a robust discussion on how India implements and notifies its policies at the next COA meeting, which is scheduled for June 2018.

2018 First Quarter Farm Economy Conditions in the Midwest

Illinois Farm Policy News | Posted on May 15, 2018

David Oppedahl, a Senior Business Economist at the Chicago Fed, explained in The AgLetter that, “Agricultural land values for the Seventh Federal Reserve District showed signs of stabilizing in the first quarter of 2018, as farmland values were unchanged from a year ago. On average, ‘good’ farmland values in the first quarter of 2018 rose 1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2017, according to the survey responses of 181 District agricultural bankers.”  “Additionally, cash rental rates for District farmland decreased again in 2018; however, their year-over-year decline of 5 percent was smaller than the decline recorded for 2017.”The Fed report explained that, “District agricultural credit conditions tightened further during the first quarter of 2018. Once more, repayment rates for non-real-estate farm loans were down from a year ago, and renewals and extensions of these loans were up from a year earlier…Average nominal and real interest rates on farm loans increased in the first quarter of 2018 from the previous quarter.

Dairy farmers form cooperative to generate more ways to bring milk to market

High Plains Journal | Posted on May 15, 2018

In reaction to changing market conditions, a group of dairy farmers, who have previously marketed their milk independently, have formed Appalachian Dairy Farmers Cooperative and expect to begin operations on June 1. The new organization has entered into an agreement with Piedmont Milk Sales, LLC to market the cooperative’s members’ milk and manage its day-to-day business under the direction of the cooperative’s Board of Directors. “This new structure became necessary because of the current imbalance between the milk supply and the demand for milk, which has driven milk prices received by dairy farmers to levels that are below the cost of production,” said Gary MacGibbon, Appalachian Dairy Farmers Cooperative Board President. “Events over the past few months in the dairy industry have shown just how vulnerable dairy farmers are to changing market conditions. While formation of this new cooperative will not improve prices received by dairy farmers for their milk, it will help members of ADFC retain markets for their milk.”