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Agriculture News

As milk prices stall, Wisconsin dairy farmers disagree on how to turn market around

Wisconsin Public Radio | Posted on December 18, 2017

"There’s just a lot of dairy product on the marketplace and I don't see farmers cutting back very quickly, unless prices really go south and I don't expect that to happen," said Mark Stephenson, director of dairy policy analysis for the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "So I just think that there’s more like this longer, slow bleed this time."If Wisconsin farmers want better prices, they need to tip the scales of supply and demand back into their favor. But producers don’t agree which side of the equation they should focus on."I think the quick fix would be access to more markets and have some good export numbers happening," said Gordon Speirs, a third generation dairy farmer from Brillion.Speirs said farmers are constantly improving their cost of production and increasing the amount each cow can produce. That's why milk production has continued to grow around 2 percent each year even with low prices.

Tax reform bills will affect Iowa’s farmers and ranchers

The Gazette | Posted on December 18, 2017

At Iowa Farmers Union’s annual convention earlier this month, if tax reform was raised, it was out of concern over who would benefit, and at what cost. IFU’s family farmer members had greater concern for low crop prices, increased corporate consolidation, and efforts to improve on-farm conservation practices. And their alternative priorities track with broader American sentiment, as the rest of America seems resigned to accept that current tax reform efforts just aren’t for them. A recent Quinnipiac poll found Americans oppose current tax bills by a margin of two to one, and CBS found that 70 percent of respondent don’t think tax reform should be a priority.With so many challenges facing the country and rural America in particular, you, like me, might be asking what is Washington thinking? The next congressional agenda item appears to be entitlement reform out of concern over the skyrocketing national debt. At the same time and by Congress’s own estimate, these tax reform bills will add between $1-$1.45 trillion to the debt even after economic growth is factored in. As an American, its alarming to me that we will cut programs like Medicaid, social security, and nutrition programs to offset tax cuts that analysts predict will be a windfall for corporations and the wealthy.


States sue Massachusetts over animal confinement law

Watt Ag Net | Posted on December 18, 2017

Indiana and 12 other states are suing Massachusetts over its farm animal confinement law, which is set to take effect in 2022. The lawsuit, which was filed by the State of Indiana in Supreme Court of the United States, takes exception to the future law, which makes it illegal for farmers to keep sows in gestation crates, layer hens in cages, or calves in veal crates. The law will also make it illegal for products raised in other states and not in accordance with those standards to be sold in Massachusetts.The law was approved through a ballot initiative, known as Question 3, in 2016, gaining approval from about 78 percent of Massachusetts voters.Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin joined Indiana in the suit. The states allege that the Massachusetts law is an effort to regulate farming in other states, which is a violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Forest resilience declines in face of wildfires, climate change

Science Daily | Posted on December 18, 2017

The forests you see today are not what you will see in the future. That's the overarching finding from a new study on the resilience of Rocky Mountain forests.Researchers analyzed data from nearly 1,500 sites in five states -- Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, Idaho, and Montana -- and measured more than 63,000 seedlings after 52 wildfires that burned over the past three decades. They wanted to understand if and how changing climate over the last several decades affected post-fire tree regeneration, a key indicator of forest resilience.They found sobering results, including significant decreases in tree regeneration following wildfires in the early 21st century, a period markedly hotter and drier than the late 20th century. The research team said that with a warming climate, forests are less resilient after wildfires.

CRISPR-Cas9 technique targeting epigenetics reverses disease in mice

Science Daily | Posted on December 18, 2017

Scientists report a modified CRISPR-Cas9 technique that alters the activity, rather than the underlying sequence, of disease-associated genes. The researchers demonstrate that this technique can be used in mice to treat several different diseases.

Iowa GOP pushes for quick action on water quality bill that environmentalists call flawed

Des Moines Register | Posted on December 18, 2017

Republican leaders are pushing Iowa House members to get behind a $27 million water quality bill the state Senate passed last session, calling it the Legislature's most viable option for long-term, sustainable funding. "I feel pretty strongly that it’s a good bill. Nothing is perfect, but it's a good bill," said Sen. Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee chairman."I'd be delighted if we could pass what we have in the House and move on," he said.Gov. Kim Reynolds says she wants water quality to be the first bill she signs into law next year.And getting legislation passed to clean Iowa's water could be critical to Reynolds' and other lawmakers' re-election efforts, with pressure mounting for state action, political watchers say.The House also approved a water quality bill last session, and even though it doesn't carry over to the new session, Republican members want some of its features built into the Senate legislation.

EU seeks to simplify and make farm policy fairer in sweeping changes

Farming UK | Posted on December 18, 2017

The European Union is looking to simplify farming policy rules and boost farmers' bargaining power against supermarkets in a list of sweeping changes announced. They also looked at rules for farmers to cope with market and production risks better, and more flexibility for member states to help young farmers.The reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which is to take effect next year, was approved by 503 votes in favour to 87 against, with 13 abstentions.New rules will allow all recognised farmers’ organisations to plan production and negotiate supply contracts on behalf of its members without falling foul of the EU’s competition rules. Collective negotiations have so far been allowed only in a few sectors such as milk, olive oil, beef or cereals.

New equity funds ignite rural renaissance and some renewables

Agri-Pulse | Posted on December 18, 2017

New private investment funds financed by the Farm Credit System and rigorously vetted by USDA are capturing some of the equity capital that typically ignores rural America. Led by St. Louis-based Advantage Capital Agribusiness Partners, which USDA licensed as a Rural Business Investment Company (RBIC) in 2014, current and prospective RBICs could deliver over $1 billion in capital earmarked for rural business financing. Advantage Principal Tim Hassler sees compelling need to pump this new investment capital into rural America. “People in rural America have a hard time finding the right capital resources that a business needs,” he tells Agri-Pulse. “So, it certainly holds back the rural economy and that’s exacerbated by younger generations moving to urban areas because of the shortage of quality jobs in their rural areas.” Hassler says that with the East and West coasts controlling 80 percent of venture capital, Middle America is seriously shortchanged, especially in rural areas. He explains that as an RBIC, “We’ve met with a tremendous number of companies seeking capital . . . which tells me there’s significant pent-up demand for capital.”Hassler sees an urgent need not only for today’s RBICs but plenty more. That’s because each RBIC has its own niche, with Advantage being a private equity fund focused on “established companies, to help grow them.” Its parent, Advantage Capital, has been doing that since 1992, targeting rural businesses with significant growth potential.

NYC passes new urban agriculture bill

Metro | Posted on December 18, 2017

The bill will create a new digital hub will help organize urban farmers throughout the city. The New York City council passed a bill today that will create the city’s first centralized digital hub meant specifically for urban agriculture. This hub will be run entirely by the city and will hopefully be seen as a resource for both new and established businesses. This bill, entitled 1661-A, is sponsored by council member Rafael Espinal, at the request of Eric L. Adams, the Brooklyn Borough President, and passed overwhelmingly with a 47-0 vote in the City Council. According to Espinal, this bill will bring a new excitement to New Yorkers who are looking to go green and healthy with the expansion of the urban agriculture sector.  The website will be run by the New York City Parks and Recreation Department in collaboration with educators and representatives from existing community gardens. The site, which will go live on July 1st, 2018,  will act as a one-stop-shop database for those looking to get involved with local urban gardens and farms and to help aid those who are looking to start their own. The site will also provide guidelines by the New York City Department of City Planning and New York City Department of Small Businesses to assist prospective urban farmers to develop new centers in their communities. 

Young people returning to farming

Daily Yonder | Posted on December 18, 2017

A new survey of young farmers finds these entrepreneurs have plenty of energy and ambition, but not nearly enough capital. Access to land, student debt, costs of labor and healthcare raise big questions for the next generation of farmers.