Robust demand for processed foods, animal feed and biofuels isn’t keeping up with a record glut of crops in the U.S. and around the world, after several years of bumper harvests and largely benevolent weather. To sell the surplus, farmers and trade groups are wooing new customers, from car makers to toy companies. In recent years, corn and soybeans have been added to the recipes for Ford Motor Co. seat cushions, IKEA mattresses, Danone SA’s yogurt cups and Procter & Gamble Co.’s Olay moisturizers. Adidas AG’s Reebok brand recently unveiled sneakers made with corn. Lego A/S earlier this year said it was toying with using grain-based materials to mold its famous bricks. Industry groups also are calling for more research into new ways that the crops could replace petroleum as a raw material in industrial and construction applications.Argo Genesis Chemical LLC of Illinois recently developed its own highly flexible, soy-made plastics for use in products like road-paving materials, cardboard and diapers adhesives. The company says such compounds can help shield manufacturers from volatile oil prices.“Long term, we see this being the way the plastics industry moves,” says Steve Davies, spokesman for NatureWorks. “There’s tremendous potential to grow.”
A provision inserted into the tax code during Senate and House negotiations in December gave farmers more lucrative deductions when they sell agricultural products directly to the farm cooperatives he competes against rather than to businesses like his own.Mr. Tronson, whose four storage facilities handle 17 million bushels of grain a year, said the competition could spell the end of his 76-year-old family-owned business.“We’ve made a big investment. And this law, if they don’t change it, the scenario is that we’ll go broke,” he said.Farm groups and agricultural cooperatives battled last year to preserve a deduction on domestic U.S. production, which manufacturers also received. That deduction went away in the tax rewrite, but lawmakers including Sen. John Hoeven (R., N.D.) won the inclusion of a new deduction. The new provision allows farmers to deduct up to 20% of their total sales to cooperatives, letting some farmers reduce their taxable income to zero. It is a more generous version of a deduction that owners of pass-through businesses, such as partnerships and S-corporations, get in the law.Farmers would get a smaller deduction—about 20% of income—if they sell grain or other farm products to privately held or investor-owned companies like Mr. Tronson’s.Tax lawyers and accountants said the new law will give cooperatives a significant edge over competitors. That stands to benefit co-op giants including American Crystal Sugar Co., Land O’Lakes Inc., CHS Inc. and Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc.
The Arkansas Plant Board decided to stick with the same proposed dicamba regulations it first passed last fall. The second go-around with the regulations became necessary when, in December, state lawmakers asked the board to reconsider a mid-April spraying cutoff date along with the possibility of establishing spraying zones. The lawmakers, as part of the Arkansas Legislative Council (ALC), said the Plant Board should consider revising those rules using “scientific-based evidence, a dividing line to create north and south zones, and ambient temperature and humidity applicable to temperature inversion during night-time hours.”
The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) and Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) have created a new, informational blog about sustainability and food security for the general public. Sustainable, Secure Food can be found at https://sustainable-secure-food-blog.com/. The blog will be published twice a month. Gary Pierzynski, Kansas State University, and John Shanahan, Fortigen, worked with teams from each society to create the blog, along with staff from the societies. “Reaching out to the public with relatable topics about sustainability and food security is one of our key goals,” says Pierzynski, who is also president-elect of ASA. “Our member scientists and practitioners are looking forward to the interactions we can have in this public space.”
A Michigan dairy farmer is to spend a couple of years in federal prison and owes a six-figure fine for hiring undocumented immigrants. U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Ludington on Thursday, Jan. 4, sentenced Denis Burke to two years in prison, followed by two years of supervised release. Ludington did not order Burke taken into custody on Thursday, but gave him time to self-report to the U.S. Marshals Services.The judge also ordered Burke to pay a fine of $187,500 and an assessment fee of $100.
Farmers have maintained that retention of a quota program was a critical component in adopting the federal milk marketing order system. California dairy producers have voted in favor of a plan to retain their quota program if a federal milk marketing order is established for the state. The California Department of Food and Agriculture released the results of a producer referendum on the quota Friday afternoon, showing that 87.2 percent of eligible voters voted in favor of the plan.
Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles today unveiled an initiative that will open a new front on combating food insecurity: summer meals for Kentucky children. The Kentucky-grown Fruit and Vegetable Incentive Program will create an economic incentive for summer meal programs to buy fruit and vegetables produced in Kentucky by Kentucky growers. the Kentucky-grown Fruit and Vegetable Incentive Program will create an economic incentive for summer meal programs to buy fruit and vegetables produced in Kentucky by Kentucky growers.
The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit issued a ruling on the constitutionality of Idaho’s Interference with Agricultural Production (commonly referred to as an “ag gag”) statute. The Court affirmed in part the lower court decision holding a portion of the statute unconstitutional but upheld two specific statutory provisions. This case is important as it is the first time a federal appellate court has found a constitutional right to record images on private property like a farm. Animal rights groups are hailing this is a major victory, despite the fact that other provisions in the law were upheld.Moreover, this opinion offers insight into the type of provisions that are allowable and those that are not when drafting farm protection laws. In addition to focusing on whether provisions involving misrepresentation were limited to situations involving legally cognizable harm or material gain, the Court also seemed to really focus on the true intent behind creating each provision. So, provisions like section (d) where the purpose appeared clearly to be prohibiting investigative journalism did not fare well, whereas provisions like section (b) where there was an articulated purpose in the record like protecting breeding records were upheld. This may serve as an important lesson to legislators drafting future statutes in other states.
The State of Missouri’s FY18 budget signed by Gov. Eric Greitens made available $660,000 to fund a dairy risk management program created by the Missouri Dairy Revitalization Act. The Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority (MASBDA), housed within the Missouri Department of Agriculture, will begin accepting applications for the program in early 2018. The Margin Insurance Premium Assistance program was established to assist Missouri dairy farmers with the cost of their participation in the federal margin protection program by the Missouri General Assembly. Eligible dairy farmers may be reimbursed up to 70 percent of their federal premium, excluding the USDA Farm Service Agency administrative fees. Dairy farmers applying for reimbursement will be required to submit full proof of federal premium payment for each year that reimbursement is requested.
The high court hears arguments Monday in the long-running dispute between Florida and neighboring Georgia over the flow of water in the Apalachicola River, which runs from the state line to Apalachicola Bay and the nearby Gulf of Mexico. Florida sued Georgia in the Supreme Court in 2013, blaming farmers and booming metro Atlanta for low river flows that harmed the environment and fisheries dependent on fresh water entering the area. Florida portrays the case as its last chance to “stem Georgia’s inequitable consumption” of water from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers in Georgia, leaving too little by the time the rivers come together and pass into Florida.“It is effectively strangling the Apalachicola Region and killing or threatening its animal and plant life,” Florida said in its Supreme Court brief. Although the justices usually hear appeals, lawsuits between states start in the Supreme Court.