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Carbon farming works. Can it scale up in time?

Civil eats | Posted on June 12, 2018

Over the last two years, the Estills have started checking off items from a long list of potential changes recommended in a thorough carbon plan they created in 2016 with the help of the Fibershed project and Jeffrey Creque, founder of the Carbon Cycle Institute (CCI). The plan lists steps the ranchers can take to create carbon sinks on their property. And in the first two years, they’ve gotten started by making their own compost out of manure and woodchips and spreading it in several strategic places around the land.They’ve also planted more vegetation in the areas of the ranch that border on streams and creeks to help them absorb carbon more efficiently, and this year they’ll be putting in a 4,000-foot row of trees that will act as a windbreak, as well as a number of new trees in the pastured area, applying a practice called silvopasture.All these practices have allowed the Estills to market their wool as “Climate Beneficial,” which is a game-changer for them. They’ve also sold wool to The North Face, which used it to developed the Cali Wool Beanie—a product the company prominently touts as climate-friendly. Like the Estills, the owners of dozens of farms, vineyards, and ranches in 26 counties around California have drawn up ambitious carbon plans that take into account the unique properties of each operation and lay out the best, most feasible ways to absorb CO2 over the long term. In arid ranching counties like Marin, that might mean re-thinking grazing practices, while in Napa Valley it could mean building soil in vineyards by tilling less and planting cover crops, and in San Diego County, it may mean protecting existing citrus and avocado orchards from encroaching development and working with farmers to plant more orchards.

Trump's Canadian dairy program

DTN | Posted on June 12, 2018

President Donald Trump's tirade on Twitter over the weekend aimed at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has elevated dairy trade between the two countries to the top political issue in Canada.Dairy was once considered a lower-rung issue in the North American Free Trade Agreement talks, but President Trump tied high Canadian dairy tariffs to his own push for steel and aluminum tariffs. The U.S. held a dairy trade surplus with Canada in 2017 that ran anywhere from $113 million to $521 million, depending on the math of different agencies and trade associations. Canada and the U.S. both use tariff-rate quotas to allow trading partners to export a certain volume of cheese, butter fat, butter milk, dry milk, cream, yogurt, whey products and ice cream at lower tariffs. Then the tariff volumes spike once the quota limit is reached. In Canada, once those quotas are reached, tariffs can reach as high as 294% for some products. The 270% number President Trump uses comes from blended dairy powder over the tariff-rate quota, which is 3% for the U.S., according to Canada's customs tariffs schedule.  The U.S. held a dairy trade surplus with Canada in 2017 that ran anywhere from $113 million to $521 million, depending on the math of different agencies and trade associations. The U.S. Dairy Export Council cites that Canada was the third-largest market for U.S. dairy products in 2017, buying $636 million in products, up 1%. Comparatively, dairy trade ranging somewhere from $341 million to $751 million between the two countries still comes down to one-tenth of 1% of trade volume between the U.S. and Canada last year. U.S. exports to Canada were $341.2 billion in 2017 while Canadian exports to the U.S. were $332.8 billion.

Why Iowans should care about antitrust enforcement

Des Moines Register | Posted on June 12, 2018

But in 2012, ProSoy sold its germplasm assets to Bayer, the German agrochemical giant. Bayer was playing catch-up; its rivals such as Monsanto were already on an extended buying spree. From 2005 to 2007, Monsanto alone gobbled up more than two dozen smaller seed companies. Fast-forward to today. The giants are now consuming each other. During another three-year frenzy, agriculture’s Big Six have all merged or been acquired. ChemChina bought Syngenta. Dow and DuPont merged. And Bayer and Monsanto recently received final U.S. antitrust approval to merge. Their deal creates a $66 billion multinational conglomerate that will — despite the U.S. Department of Justice requiring them to sell off some assets — wield immense power over Iowa’s farmers and communities. While I was a practicing lawyer in the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, I took part in a handful of agricultural merger reviews. Farmers would occasionally voice public concerns about what they saw as increasing consolidation. In nearly every sector of the ag economy, the big kept getting bigger. Yet, to be honest, we didn’t take those farmers very seriously. Sure, DOJ held a national “listening tour.” It even brought a case — one case, mind you — to block a small chicken processor from buying a single plant in western Virginia. The case ultimately settled, though, when the buyer promised to install a new freezer and some deboning equipment. Hardly a resounding victory for the farm community. Most modern trustbusters have a very narrow view of the dangers posed by monopolies: slightly higher prices and slightly lower output. The real threat is much more serious. Loss of local control is a massive drag on local economies.

High-Speed Planter Wars

Janzen Ag Law Blog | Posted on June 11, 2018

John Deere recently filed suits in the Federal District Court of Delaware against AGCO and Precision Planting, claiming their high-speed planting technologies infringe on Deere's ExactEmerge planter patents. What are Deere's claims against Precision Planting and AGCO?  What are the possible outcomes?   One outcome is that Precision Planting and AGCO prevail, meaning nothing changes.Another outcome is that Deere prevails. If so, the court would award Deere damages that flow from the patent infringement (such as lost profits on sales). The court could also stop sales of vSet and SpeedTube products until a royalty agreement between Deere and AGCO is reached. There is no injunction in place now, meaning that dealers can continue to sell vSet and SpeedTube while the litigation proceeds to trial. Patents can be valid for up to 20 years, and Deere's ExactEmerge patents were filed in 2014. That means there is a lot of money at stake here and this suit is likely not going away any time soon. 

Ohio Legislature approves orphan well plugging bill

Farm and Dairy | Posted on June 11, 2018

Ohio landowners who have an idle or orphaned well on their property may have a greater chance of getting some relief, following recent votes by the state legislature. The House and Senate both voted in favor of H.B. 225 — a bill that requires the Department of Natural Resources to spend at least 30 percent of the state’s Oil and Gas Well Fund on plugging orphan wells.The bill appropriates a total of $15 million for plugging wells in fiscal year 2019, an increase of $7 million.

Court applies Building Permit Rule to large dairy farm

Daily Reporter | Posted on June 11, 2018

Wisconsin state Supreme Court removed a regulatory hurdle Tuesday for a large dairy farm in central Wisconsin, ruling that the right to use thousands of acres for crops was locked in when project officials applied for a building permit.Wisconsin is the nation’s second-leading milk producer. Dairy operations in the state account for nearly 80,000 jobs. But the industry has been struggling with declining milk and other commodity prices the past three years, largely because of an abundance of milk on the market. Wisconsin lost 500 dairy farms in 2017.The industry has been shifting toward larger, corporate farms over the last 15 years. The state has added 229 large-scale farms, which are defined as farms with 1,000 animals or more, since 2002. Such farms generate tremendous amounts of manure and are the cause of tension with local residents and conservationists.Golden Sands Dairy has been looking to open a 6,400-acre farm in Wood County since 2012. The land was zoned unrestricted when the dairy asked the Town of Saratoga for a building permit that year. The permit application identified 100 acres as the building site and 6,388 acres within the town for agricultural use.The town re-zoned the land for preservation four months after the application was filed, barring agricultural use.The dairy sued the town. A state appeals court ruled last year that the mere filing of a building-permit application hadn’t locked in the right to use 6,388 acres for agriculture.The Supreme Court reversed that ruling Tuesday.

Lawsuit Over Smelly Hogs Shows PA Law Makes It Near Impossible To Sue Over Nuisance Farms

WESA | Posted on June 11, 2018

For several years, a hog farm in Luzerne County has been under legal fire for emitting a stench that people say can make the surrounding area almost unlivable. A lawsuit is now awaiting consideration before the state Supreme Court.But the outlook isn’t good—and that’s largely because Pennsylvania law makes it near-impossible to sue farms for nuisances like smells.Will-O-Bett Farm’s hog feeding operation—which is causing the smell—began in 2013 in Salem Township. People living nearby sued in county court the following year, and the legal volleys have been ongoing since.Those disgruntled neighbors have repeatedly lost in lower courts, because the commonwealth’s Right to Farm Act effectively prohibits nuisance lawsuits if a farm is complying with the law and not causing any health issues. The law also keeps municipalities from passing their own regulations to override it.Every state has some form of Right to Farm law.Rusty Rumley an attorney with the National Agricultural Law Center, said Pennsylvania’s is somewhere in the middle in terms of strictness.

Puerto Rico's Push For Food Independence Intertwined With Statehood Debate

NPR | Posted on June 11, 2018

Hurricane Maria has reignited a small movement in Puerto Rico aimed at strengthening the local food system so the island can survive and thrive without dependence on the mainland U.S. Before the hurricane struck in September 2017, Puerto Rico imported about 85 percent of its food. And to make matters worse, Maria wiped out 80 percent of crops on the island. Local food supporters acted quickly, cleaning debris, helping to replant farms and spreading their belief that a self-sufficient Puerto Rico would be more resilient to future challenges.

America's Dairyland is hurting and Wisconsin seeks solutions

Fox News | Posted on June 11, 2018

Wisconsin lost 500 dairy farms in 2017 while the total number of milk-cow herds is down about 20 percent from five years ago. The dairy industry has been shifting toward larger, corporate farms over the last 15 years, creating conflicts with local residents and environmental activists because the farms produce massive amounts of waste. Announcement of the task force came on the same day that the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in favor of a massive dairy farm in central Wisconsin that was looking to expand but had been blocked over zoning concerns. Walker, a Republican who faces re-election in November, said the state agriculture department will join forces with the University of Wisconsin System to create the dairy industry task force. It is designed to bring industry experts together to create solutions to help farmers, processors and related industries. "We need to work together to develop a strategy to maintain our state's legacy as the Dairy State," Walker said in a statement.

Scott Walker says crisis team needed to help state's crippled dairy industry

Wisconsin State Journal | Posted on June 11, 2018

When larger and well-managed dairy operations in other parts of the country were threatening to steamroll Wisconsin’s sagging dairy industry about 30 years ago, it began making some radical changes recommended by a group of industry experts that made it more economically viable and ensured the state’s continued status as “America’s Dairyland.” With the state dairy industry at a crossroads once again, a new group of state experts will soon begin meeting and eventually make recommendations that the group’s leader is hoping will put the state dairy industry back on another strong track. But he also acknowledged it’s unfair to ask the group to match some of the spectacular recommendations made by the first group. An emphasis on making specialty cheeses — the cornerstone of the state cheese industry — and expanding product development of whey, a key dairy export, were two of the 75 recommendations made by the Wisconsin Dairy Task Force in a 1987 report. It also told dairy farmers to embrace some of the technology and methods that made the larger, well-maintained dairy operations in California so successful.