Just a month after holding its first auction, the online Fed Cattle Exchange has ceased holding auctions. “Effective June 29th, 2016, the Fed Cattle Exchange website will not be hosting auctions for an indefinite period of time,” said a posyed notice. “We encountered some technology obstacles that were in part, due to our attempt to quickly address a long recognized need of cattle producers. We have also received valuable input from buyers, sellers, and registered sellers that have not yet sold through the Exchange, which we will be sorting through and implementing,” the website notice explained. “The Exchange will be back in a stronger and more reliable format in the future.” Producers had hoped the online auction would add liquidity to a diminished cash market for fed cattle, which has been cited by some as a reason for increased volatility in the cattle futures markets.
Frank Mitloehner, an animal science and air quality specialist at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) will show you two pictures from either side of a California fence. There are 40 acres on one side occupied by a 3rd generation dairy with 1,000 cows. On the other are 40 acres occupied by a 5-year-old residential development with 1,000 homes. The residential development sued the dairy over environmental quality — and won. It didn’t matter that a subsequent comprehensive life-cycle assessment — an assessment of all environmental footprints — conducted by UC Davis researchers showed that converting farmland to residential land is 70 times more harmful to the environment. It mattered not that the U.S. has the most environmentally friendly livestock industry in the world, as measured with scientific fact by its carbon footprint.
Mike Schuldt has been shearing sheep for 28 years, and a grant through the Growth Through Agriculture program last November made his vision of a mobile sheep shearing operation a reality. Governor Steve Bullock and the Agriculture Development Council announced twelve agricultural businesses and organizations were awarded a portion of the $290,000 in grants through the program, which was established by the legislature to strengthen and diversify Montana’s agricultural industry by developing new agricultural produces and processes. Schuldt Services was awarded a $20,000 grant for a mobile sheep shearing trailer. The funds have purchased a gooseneck trailer with materials to construct a modern shearing trailer and a hydraulic wood press.
More than 100 Nobel laureates have signed a letter urging Greenpeace to end its opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The letter asks Greenpeace to cease its efforts to block introduction of a genetically engineered strain of rice that supporters say could reduce Vitamin-A deficiencies causing blindness and death in children in the developing world.
Paul Mastronardi and Louie Chibante, principle owners of Golden Fresh Farms in Wapakoneta, have announced a $100 million capital investment over the first four phases, potentially expanding to more than 200 acres of greenhouses with a $250 million investment throughout an eight-phase build out. Phase One will start in the spring of 2016 with construction of a 20-acre (871,000 SF) greenhouse with a capital investment of $22.5 million. The greenhouse will produce locally grown vegetables throughout the winter months using high-pressure sodium lights. Phase One will bring 52 new full-time jobs with an annual payroll of $1.9 million.
State-hired scientists continued to state that research shows no evidence that C&H Hog Farms is polluting its surrounding environment in the Buffalo River watershed, and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality announced it would commission a study of the facility as requested by opponents of the hog farm. With permission from C&H ownership, the Department of Environmental Quality will contract with a new research team within the next 60 days to assess the clay liners on hog manure storage ponds at C&H in Mount Judea after opponents of the facility expressed concern they were leaking. The department set aside $50,000 for the study but expects to spend between $20,000 and $30,000 for it. The study will consist of drilling in a single spot on C&H grounds to extract samples. The money will come from environmental settlement funds received for water studies and will be used at the discretion of department Director Becky Keogh with permission from Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Keogh said Friday that the research would be conducted in an "open and transparent manner" to supplement and investigate existing research. The announcement by the department comes as C&H opponents question whether researchers hired by the state are biased and as C&H ownership questions whether volunteer researchers working with opponents of the hog farm are biased.
If not treated, the invasive varroa mite will almost certainly show up in a honeybee hive, latching on to the pollinators, feeding off their internal fluids and threatening to weaken the colony to the point of collapse. Western bees never evolved defenses to the Asian parasite, brought to North America about 30 years ago. Many of the existing treatments are mite-targeting pesticides that can damage the bees or their honey. It’s a problem Monsanto scientists think they can help solve by tailoring a treatment with far more specificity than synthetic chemicals, one that uses the language of DNA to target genes unique to only the varroa mite. And the agriculture giant thinks it can do it by simply feeding the bees a sugar solution full of RNA, the molecule that transcribes DNA’s instructions. Monsanto has already signed up 2,500 colonies around the country for trials of its bee health product, which started this year. The tests could prove significant, not only for honeybees crucial for pollinating the food supply, but for a technology platform that has potential applications far beyond beekeeping. It isn’t alone. Startups with operations in the St. Louis region are looking at their own products using the technology, and other large agribusiness companies are racing to commercialize it. The mechanism, known as RNA interference or RNAi, has stoked excitement among researchers and industry since its discovery won two scientists a 2006 Nobel Prize.
It’s a foregone conclusion amongst food and ag writers that there is something wrong with the way we grow food in America. Paging through the best-selling volumes by Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Dan Barber, and others will lead you to one conclusion; there’s a better way to farm out there, and they’ve found it. After you close the book/put down your NYTimes, you’re inevitably left to wonder, if these journalists and chefs found these solutions, farmers must be willfully ignoring them. Sure, these authors tell the farmers’ sad tale about the inheritance of industrial agriculture and the industries and policies that entrench it. But, we wonder, if farmers were smart enough, hard-working enough, and truly the environmentalists they claim to be, they should be putting away their John Deere tractors and their Monsanto seeds en masse to plant heirloom tomatoes alongside their grass-fed beef. Right? Reducing farmers and agribusiness to stooges and villains is a good way to sell books and documentaries, but it’s no part of a meaningful solution. If we want farmers to take our goals around ecology and sustainability seriously, we have to stop believing that they’re either holy or evil; they’re people, people who are more than their jobs.
Perdue plans sweeping changes in how it breeds, raises and slaughters its chickens as consumers demand to know more about their food sources and animal-rights activists have stepped up efforts to uncover abuses in the poultry industry. Perdue, the nation's fourth-largest poultry producer, and its contract farmers will stop raising chickens in crammed, windowless sheds, and instead install windows and increase space to encourage resting, playing and other natural behaviors. The privately held company also will study doing away with genetic modification that creates fast-growing but injury-prone birds. And it plans to install "stunning" systems that render the birds unconscious before they're unloaded at processing plants.
The price of corn was about $3.25 Friday as agricultural lenders huddled to discuss the industry in today's low-price environment. National estimates are calling for an average price of $4.20 for wheat planted this year, a 16 percent decrease from last year, and soybeans are expected to bring an average of $8.50.Ed Schafer, former North Dakota governor and U.S. secretary of agriculture, said loan officers will face pressure in ag lending, but the industry is cyclical.“We’ve lived through these before,” he said of the downturn.And Schafer said he believes most farmers will be able to handle it. As of 2015, producers were about 75 percent debt-free. Schafer told lenders to watch land values, which are sinking after several years of drastic increase. Land value accounts for most of farmers’ assets, and major decreases could cause those once steady balance sheets to erode.