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Agriculture News

Are the anti-GMO and anti-vaccine movements merging?

Cornell | Posted on December 7, 2017

Visit the March Against Monsanto website and you'll see a strange ad peppering the pages, among the usual dubious stories about the evils of Monsanto, GMOs, pesticides and so on. It's an advert for a "docu-series" called Vaccines Revealed, claiming that it is "Exposing the biggest public health experiment... ever!". Click through and you'll be confronted with typical anti-vaccine conspiracist propaganda, alleging sinister corporate "experiments," huge damage done to so-called "vaccine injured" people, and entreaties not to go around "blindly jabbing lab made cocktails into our bodies." This ad is no accident — March Against Monsanto now carries explicitly anti-vaccine stories on its site.What struck me about Vaccines Revealed in particular was the list of so-called experts featured in the documentary. Here, sandwiched between lead anti-vaxxers Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Andrew Wakefield (of MMR-autism infamy), is Stephanie Seneff, listed as a Senior Research Scientist, MIT. )The most influential anti-GMO group in the US, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), has also been directly involved in anti-vaccine campaigning. Earlier this year, OCA — alongside anti-vaxxer groups the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota, the Minnesota Natural Health Coalition and the Minnesota Vaccine Freedom Coalition — organized a meeting targeting Somali-Americans in the state, among whom vaccination rates have plunged.According to National Public Radio, the activities of OCA and other anti-vaccine groups have led directly to a resurgence of measles among the Somali-American community. The measles outbreak resulted from myths spread by OCA and other groups about vaccines supposedly causing autism. As the Washington Post reported, discredited doctor Wakefield was another of those featured at events in the state. Wakefield's theories about MMR vaccine and autism have led to a worldwide resurgence in preventable childhood diseases, leading inevitably to the deaths of some young children.

FDA Releases Annual Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed in 2016 for Use in Food-Producing Animals

FDA | Posted on December 7, 2017

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today published its annual report summarizing sales and distribution data for all antimicrobial drugs approved for use in food-producing animals. The 2016 report shows that antimicrobial sales decreased from 2015 to 2016, with domestic sales and distribution of all antimicrobials decreasing by 10 percent and domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials decreasing by 14 percent. In previous years (between 2009 and 2015), overall sales volumes increased annually.

Coping with fire loss, looking for solutions

Capital Press | Posted on December 7, 2017

The owner of one small ranch in Washington state is trying to educate firefighters on the value of rangeland and change policy that allows them to disregard it.Like many ranchers throughout the West, Molly Linville is trying to recover from a horrific fire season, but she’s also is trying to change how firefighters view rangeland and a state wildfire policy that allows them to let it burn.“Firefighters look out here and they don’t see anything. It’s wasteland in their minds. I thought they didn’t care. I said I lost everything and I got blank looks. What I’ve learned is they literally don’t understand the value of rangeland,” says Linville, 42, who operates the 6,000-acre KV Ranch, mostly by herself while her husband works overseas.

Large animal vets are sparse but serve vital role in economic vibrancy of rural America

West Fargo Pioneer | Posted on December 7, 2017

North Dakota has 521 licensed veterinarians, about 270 who live in the state, Boyce said. That number hasn't changed much in the last 10 years, he added."The new licensees have pretty much replaced those who move away, die or otherwise do not renew their license," he said.The University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine, the closest to Grand Forks, has 104 openings each year, and between 800 and 900 people apply, said Laura Molgaard, academic and student affairs associate dean for the college.The rarity of large animal vets in rural areas is an issue ranchers have faced for years, she said. In one snapshot that she said was representative of other years, 60 percent of graduates from the college go into small animal care. About 14 percent go into food animal care — cattle, hogs, sheep and other animals used for consumption.States and the federal government have tried to encourage vets to come to rural areas with loan repayment programs. North Dakota selects at least three vets each year who will receive up to $80,000 if they work in the state, though a preference is placed on doctors who move to rural areas, said Dr. Beth Carlson, deputy state veterinarian for the ag department. Minnesota has a similar program for vets who go to rural areas whose work involves at least 50 percent with the care of food animals, Molgaard said.

Tapeworm could jump to humans with potentially deadly consequences, veterinarian warns

The Star Phoenix | Posted on December 7, 2017

Saskatoon veterinarian says "there's a very good chance" Saskatchewan could see human cases of a potentially lethal tapeworm in the foreseeable future. About one-quarter of wild dogs in North America are infected with Echinococcus multilocularis. Pet dogs exposed to infected coyote feces can become infected and possibly infect their owners as well.Humans can inadvertently consume tapeworm eggs if they handle the excrement of infected dogs and then touch their own food, or if they eat things — such as berries, mushrooms or herbs — that are contaminated by infected dog or cat droppings.If that happens, tapeworm cysts can spread throughout the person’s liver and other organs like a tumour.Emily Jenkins, a professor of veterinary parasitology and public health at the University of Saskatchewan, said unless the disease is identified and treated quickly, the mortality rate is between 50 and 75 per cent. Treatment involves surgery to remove the cysts and years of drug therapy.

AVMA leads broad coalition supporting Public Service Loan Forgiveness

AVMA | Posted on December 7, 2017

More than 110 national and state animal health organizations have joined forces with the AVMA to urge Congress to preserve an important program that provides debt relief to veterinarians and others working in the nonprofit and public sectors. This broad animal health coalition, representing nearly all major veterinary groups, is mobilizing in response to efforts by some lawmakers to reduce or eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.Led by the AVMA, and with key support from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), the coalition sent a letter Monday to the chairpersons and ranking members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce. 

AVMA to Supreme Court: Level the playing field between veterinarians and online retailers

AVMA | Posted on December 7, 2017

The AVMA has joined an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to level the playing field between online retailers and veterinarians by requiring online retailers to collect sales taxes.The brief, filed in the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair, notes the impact of the case on veterinarians and asks the court to require online businesses to collect sales tax.Online retailers without an on-the-ground presence don’t currently have to collect sales tax because of a 1992 Supreme Court decision, Quill v. North Dakota. Instead of sales tax being collected and remitted by retailers, individuals are supposed to remit the sales taxes they owe for online purchases themselves. This system does not work as intended.The South Dakota state legislature passed a state law in opposition to this ruling, requiring companies that do more than $100,000 worth of business in online sales in the state to collect sales taxes. Wayfair, an American company that sells home goods online, challenged the state law. The case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where its outcome will decide whether online retailers can be required to collect sales tax.

Book review: This Blessed Earth

Daily Yonder | Posted on December 7, 2017

Journalist Ted Genoways is an award-winning author who has received prestigious fellowships from both the NEA and Guggenheim Foundation. Ted lives in Nebraska, where he grew up on his father’s farm. He is also author of This Blessed Earth, a real life tale of a year in the life of a Nebraska family farm.Family farms have changed with successive generations, with diversification of many raw food enterprises shrinking into less variety and more dependence on industrial grain and livestock—raw materials refined by corporate-owned factories where grains and oilseeds are processed into exports, ethanol, feed, protein, and fat.It hasn’t been long since corn and cattle were synonymous on family farms—one hand washing the other into a beefy end product. Not much of that has changed in the minds of farmers like Rick Hammond, his daughter Meghan, and her fiancé Kyle Galloway, but the processes taking place on farms today merely resemble a past when farm work truly covered the bases all the way from field to table.

Idaho housing shortage for H-2A workers

US News and World Report | Posted on December 7, 2017

Some housing authorities in southwestern Idaho are struggling to keep up with a rising demand for affordable housing that is the result of a large increase in farm businesses seeking temporary foreign guest workers under the H-2A visa program.Agricultural producers who use the program are required to provide housing for the workers.The Capital Press reports the Caldwell Housing Authority, which operates the Farmway Village public housing complex for domestic farm workers and low-income individuals, received its first request to house H-2A workers three years ago.Two years ago, the village housed 25 H-2A workers in eight units. The following year, that total grew to 80 people in 19 units. Next year, Farmway Village will house 214 H-2A workers in 35 units."We are scrambling to get all the units together for this next year," said CHA Executive Director Mike Dittenber.Local farmer Sid Freeman, a member of the CHA board of directors, warned the housing authority three years ago that the need for H-2A housing would soon become a tidal wave."I think we are at the (beginning) of that tidal wave," Dittenber said.

New, troubling ways activists are using social media as a megaphone

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on December 7, 2017

Social media is one of the sharpest double-edged swords in modern communication. On one hand, it allows farmers and ranchers to amplify their voices and share stories, videos and photos directly with consumers across the country. On the other, animal rights activists have used social media platforms to make a few outlier voices sound like a much bigger crowd and attempt to silence anyone with opinions that don’t align with theirs.As one example, a group of determined extremists have created a Facebook page where they refer to themselves as “hunters” and select certain farmers or ag businesses to target (referred to as “missions”). Followers will flock to the selected farm pages and bombard them with one-star reviews (despite never visiting or purchasing from the business), nasty comments and aggressive messages.Activist groups will also send scripts out via email and urge supporters to copy and paste them on company Facebook pages.