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Agriculture News

Trump trade war delivers farm boom in Brazil, gloom in Iowa

Reuters | Posted on October 15, 2018

The Bella Vita luxury condominium tower rises 20 stories over the boomtown of Luís Eduardo Magalhaes in northeastern Brazil. Its private movie theater and helipad are symbols of how far this dusty farming community has come since it was founded just 18 years ago. Local soybean producers shell out upward of a half-million U.S. dollars to live in the complex. Nearby farm equipment sellers, car dealerships and construction supply stores are bustling.Nearly 5,000 miles to the north in Boone, Iowa, farmers are hunkering down. At a recent agriculture trade show, Iowa corn and soybean grower Steve Sheppard reflected the cautious mood.“I’m not buying any machinery, I’m not spending any money,” Sheppard said.Two countries. Same business. Two different fates. The reason: China.

5 ways drones will change agriculture

Knowable Magazine | Posted on October 15, 2018

Not long ago, drones on a farm meant male bees, essential for a healthy hive. But like catfishcloud and viraldrone has taken on a new meaning in the age of high tech. Drones — the small flying robot variety — are ushering in a new agricultural revolution, says information specialist Gerard Sylvester, editor of a new report on drones and farming by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the International Telecommunication Union. Estimates suggest the agricultural market for the machines will be in the billions of dollars in the coming years. As farmers try to adapt to climate change and deal with other challenges, Sylvester says, drones promise to help make the whole farming enterprise more efficient. When outfitted with cameras and other data-gathering devices, drones provide an “eye in the sky,” scouting for plant pests or dry spots in need of more attention. In some countries, drones are already regularly used to deliver fertilizers or pesticides; an estimated one in three bowls of rice served in Japanese homes is grown with the help of pesticide sprayed from an unmanned helicopter. Other tasks have yet to become mainstream. US farmers, including grape growers in California and New York, have been experimenting with drones to survey for areas of “low vigor” where water may be lacking or soil isn’t up to snuff.While drones aspire to be all-seeing, there are still blind spots: Discerning a weed from a crop, for example, requires particular powers of perception. And earthly challenges remain, including how to analyze and interpret the reams of data gathered by the gliding gadgets, and how and with whom such data will be shared. Nonetheless, drones will probably soon become a standard piece of farm machinery. Here are some examples of the many potential jobs for these flying robots


Migrant workers in Indiana: They harvest our food, but risk labor trafficking

Indianapolis Star | Posted on October 15, 2018

The migrant workers, still soaked with sweat, lumber off an old school bus an hour before midnight and slowly file toward a cluster of mobile homes set back from the highway that cuts through this Knox County farm town. It is the peak of harvest season, and days filled with picking cantaloupe and watermelon for 12 hours or more in the August heat are routine.A young man, his feet bare, limps past me carrying a pair of tattered shoes. He grimaces in pain and fatigue.Each year, thousands of migrant workers follow the harvest from Florida, Georgia and other parts of the South to Northern states such as Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. They pick and pack asparagus, melons, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables that grace Americans' dinner tables. They settle, sometimes for months, into roadside motels, apartment buildings and mobile home parks in farm towns across the country.Yet they are largely unseen and often isolated from the communities where they live and work. They're vulnerable to exploitation, including wage theft and labor trafficking. And their health and safety are at times put at risk for the sake of the harvest.

Billionaire-Backed Fund Invests in Pivot Bio’s $70m Series B to Address ‘One of Largest Sources of GHGs on Planet’

Ag Funder News | Posted on October 15, 2018

Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the $1 billion fund focused on accelerating the world’s transition to clean energy, has invested in the $70 million Series B round for Pivot Bio. Pivot Bio is an agtech startup producing microbes that are applied to crops to make nitrogen available to them and could reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers. Singapore state fund Temasek also joined the round as a new investor. Noticeably absent from the investor line-up was Bayer Growth Ventures, the post-merger version of Monsanto Growth Ventures, which invested in Pivot Bio at Series A. Last year, Bayer created a joint venture with microbe-farming group Ginkgo Bioworks — Joyn Bio — to find microbes that might also reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizer, according to a press release.Breakthrough Energy Ventures is backed by a consortium of leading entrepreneurs, investors, finance institutions and corporations including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, and Salesforce founder Marc Benioff.

Michigan Accepting Public Input on Agriculture Management Practices

EIN Newsdesk | Posted on October 15, 2018

The Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development today announced a public comment period on the state’s 2019 Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs). The public comment period begins now and ends at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, October 29, 2018. Public comment will be accepted on the following GAAMPs, which have proposed changes for 2019: Manure Management and Utilization; Care of Farm Animals; Site Selection and Odor Control for New and Expanding Livestock Facilities; and Irrigation Water Use. The GAAMPs regarding the Nutrient Utilization, Cranberry Production, Farm Markets, and Pesticide Utilization and Pest Control have no proposed changes for 2019.

USDA provides new certificates for imported organics

USDA | Posted on October 15, 2018

The National Organic Program (NOP) facilitates international trade for U.S. organic farms and businesses wanting to export organic products. Some foreign governments require specific documents, such as export certificates, before accepting organic products from the U.S. USDA organic certifiers provide export certificates for certified organic products shipped outside the U.S. Export certificates provide key information for farm-to-market traceability of traded organic products. To support this process, USDA launched a new organic module in the Electronic Trade Document Exchange System (eTDE) to:  Make export certificates available electronically.  Offer a wide range of certificate requirements, from paper with wet signatures to electronic paperless transactions.  Allow U.S. organic farms and businesses to request and obtain copies of organic export certificates from their certifier.  Allow authorities in the participating foreign countries to receive electronic export certificates, review information about shipments leaving the U.S., validate printed export certificates, and pull electronic certificates directly into their own systems. Who can use eTDE? Accredited certifiers, USDA certified organic farms and businesses, and exporters to participating countries: Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Mexico. Additional countries may be added in the future, as more governments begin to accept electronic data into their import systems.

3 Nebraska farmers to plead guilty in $10.9 million organic grain fraud scheme

Omaha World Herald | Posted on October 13, 2018

Three Nebraska farmers will plead guilty to knowingly marketing non-organic corn and soybeans as certified organic as part of a lengthy, multi-million-dollar fraud scheme.Tom Brennan, his son James Brennan and family friend Michael Potter have each agreed to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud. Their plea hearings are scheduled for Friday in federal court in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.Prosecutors allege that the three conspired with the owner of a large Iowa-based company to dupe customers nationwide who thought they were buying grains that had been grown using environmentally sustainable practices.All three operated an organic farm in Overton, Nebraska, that was certified through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program, which requires crops to be grown without the use of fertilizers, sewage sludge and other substances. They also farmed other fields that weren't certified.

As milk prices decline, worries about dairy farmer suicides rise

KAKE | Posted on October 13, 2018

Kansas dairy farmers are used to dealing with hard times, but as they struggle through the fourth year of depressed milk prices, they too have become down.Orville and Mary Jane Miller have been dairy farmers their entire lives. Mary Jane's father passed the farm in Reno County down to them, and they plan to pass it on to their son. “It's very demanding, my wife starts at 1:30 a.m. milking cows. There's a calf born nearly every other day. There's just a lot happening all the time,” said Orville Miller. The Millers milk 170 cows a day, a process that takes four hours at a time.  While they know the business is cyclical, times are really tough right now."Here a couple of weeks ago, I went to sit at my desk to pay the bills, and I started crying, because I didn't know how I was going to pay the bills," Mary Jane told KAKE News.Farmers are making less per gallon of milk now than they did 20 years ago, and they blame an increase in milk production combined with sharply lower exports. The cost to produce a gallon of milk is higher than what a farmer sells a gallon for, meaning most dairies can't even break even."The numbers just don't work out for us. Every month we borrow money to pay the bills and think it's going to get better next year," said Miller.In fact, milk prices have been so low over the last five years, the number of dairy farms in Kansas has dropped from 400 to 290.

N.C. extends hog farm buyout program

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on October 13, 2018

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has partnered with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to extend its program to buy out swine operations within the state’s 100-year floodplain, the state agency said in a news release. Using funding grants from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the state will be able to institute permanent conservation easements to the farms.The program began in 2000 after Hurricane Floyd. It offers an opportunity for swine production operations with a high risk of flooding to convert to other forms of agriculture more compatible with floodplain locations.A total of 42 swine operations from the 100-year floodplain have been bought out so far for $18.7 million.To qualify for the voluntary buyout, the hog farms must be in the 100-year floodplain and must have been in operation on Oct. 8, 2016 or have resumed operation between Oct. 8, 2016 and Sept. 14, 2018.

Guided by CRISPR, prenatal gene editing shows proof-of-concept in treating disease before birth

Science Daily | Posted on October 11, 2018

For the first time, scientists have performed prenatal gene editing to prevent a lethal metabolic disorder in laboratory animals, offering the potential to treat human congenital diseases before birth. Researchers offer proof-of-concept for prenatal use of a sophisticated, low-toxicity tool that efficiently edits DNA building blocks in disease-causing genes.