Skip to content Skip to navigation

Agriculture News

Plowing is polluting? Wheat farmer loses clean water case

Farm Futures | Posted on June 23, 2016

Judge Kimberly Mueller on June 10, 2016 in the U.S. Eastern District Court of California found that John Duarte, a nursery operator and wheat farmer, plowed wetlands, four to six inches deep, and therefore violated the Clean Water Act.  The Judge found Mr. Duarte, by chiseling a pasture, discharged fill material into a water (vernal pool) of the United States. Get this! The Court wrote “In sum, soil is a pollutant. And here, plaintiffs instructed [a contractor] to till and loosen soil on the property.”  This plowing, according to the Court, caused “…the material in this case soil, to move horizontally, creating furrows and ridges.” You will not believe this.    The Court wrote, “This movement of the soil resulted in its being redeposited into waters of the United States at least in areas of the wetlands as delineated...” In sum, the Judge found that chiseling no more than a few inches of soil constituted an addition of a pollutant to a wetland.

New Insights on the Impacts of Public Agricultural Research and Extension

Choices magazine | Posted on June 23, 2016

In order to feed the growing population of the world, expected to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050—a 29% increase over 2013—without causing immense environmental damage and human hunger, society must increase agricultural productivity. Two ways of achieving this are to invest in public agricultural research and to invest in public extension delivery. The importance of the need for increased investment is widely recognized.   Developed countries like the United States have been leaders in science-based agricultural productivity increases for most of the 20st century. However, after growing rapidly from 1960-1982, growth in public, productivity-oriented, agricultural research investment in the United States slowed considerably from 1980-1995, and then declined over 1995-1998 by 20% before turning around and showing some growth to 2006, before declining again during the Great Recession. In contrast, rapidly developing countries, such as Brazil and China, are investing heavily in agricultural research, putting future international competitiveness of U.S. agricultural exports at risk (Fuglie and Wang, 2012). Furthermore, consumers worldwide will be worse-off if future investments in public and private agricultural research and extension are not large enough to deliver declining real world food prices in the 21st century.

Canada publishes new chicken handling code | Posted on June 22, 2016

The revised “Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Hatching Eggs, Breeders, Chickens, and Turkeys are nationally developed guidelines to ensure sound management and welfare practices that promote animal health and well-being. The guidelines are used as educational tools, reference materials for regulations, and the foundation for industry animal care assessment programs, the groups said. Updates to the Canadian poultry code were led by a 15-person committee comprising poultry farmers, animal welfare and enforcement representatives, researchers, hatcheries, transporters, processors, veterinarians, and government representatives. Helping them was a five-person scientific commitee that included research and veterinary expertise in poultry behavior, health and welfare. A public comment period was held in the fall of 2015. 

GMOs at issue north of the border

Meatingplace (registration required) | Posted on June 22, 2016

A bill that would require the labeling of all genetically modified foods in Canada has been introduced in that country’s Parliament.  Bill C-291, proposed by MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault, is not the first to be put forth for consideration. All previous attempts have fallen short.

Dairy farmers fighting economic struggles

WXOW | Posted on June 22, 2016

If you've ever wondered just how big of a role dairy farming plays in Wisconsin, consider this... last year, the dairy industry contributed more than 43 billion dollars to Wisconsin's economy. The majority of these farms providing us with all the milk, cheese, and butter that we crave are owned by individuals and families.  However, this year farmers have been feeling a bit of an economic squeeze. In April of this year, the price of milk dropped more than forty percent since September of the previous year, causing many farms to operate at a loss.

Virginia-Legal hemp in July? Not exactly

The Northern VIrginia Daily | Posted on June 22, 2016

No matter how much progress is made on the research level, it may be a while before farmers can get the industry running. There is legislation working its way through Congress to remove hemp from the definition of marijuana, thereby legalizing its industrialization.

Vermont GMO law would turn back clock, ASA leader says

Watt Ag Net | Posted on June 22, 2016

CEO of American Soybean Association says if Senate doesn’t act to stop Vermont’s GMO labeling law, years of technological advances would be lost.  According to Censky, 90 percent of all soybeans, corn, sugar beets and cotton have been produced with the use of biotechnology, which has been proven safe to the consumers. That is because they offer so many benefits.“Ag biotechnology has helped farmers to make both insect pest control and weed management safer, while safeguarding crops against disease. It has allowed for a significant reduction in the use of pesticides, and promoted no-till or reduced tillage agriculture systems that helped preserve topsoil from erosion, and enhanced water quality,” he said.

Others concerned about the law include Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association; Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives; and Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of the Food Marketing Institute, all of which are urgently requesting the U.S. Senate to pass a bipartisan solution. “Our coalition is backed by over 800 organizations from all 50 states, and we have never been this united on any issue,” explained Conner. “We are all united in opposition to Vermont’s mandatory, on-package GMO labeling law, and the need for a federal solution to prevent a patchwork of costly and confusing state laws.” Conner added that Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, also had said he had never seen a more united opinion on any one agriculture issue. Roberts’ congressional career started in 1981 as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Elanco making good on antibiotic stewardship promises

Watt Ag Net | Posted on June 22, 2016

Roughly one year ago, Elanco Animal Health participated in the White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship and also released its 8 step plan for antibiotic stewardship.  On June 16, the company dedicated its new Vaccines Innovation Center, and at the dedication, Elanco’s president talked about the company’s past, present and future commitment to doing its part to battle antibiotic resistance. So far, the company is working diligently toward meeting the goals it set out to achieve. Simmons stated that the company is doing away with all growth promotion uses of shared-class antibiotics. This is not just an initiative taking place in the U.S., but globally. While antibiotics will continue to play an important role in Elanco’s business, it is also looking to become a leader in developing antibiotic alternatives.

Are cage-free eggs more sustainable than conventional?

Watt Ag Net | Posted on June 22, 2016

Cage-free eggs are winning support because of concerns about animal welfare, but the former specialty product may be less environmentally sustainable than conventionally raised eggs. After his remarks at the Egg Industry Center's Issues Forum, Carlos Saviani, vice president of the World Wildflife Fund's food team, fielded questions from the audience.  “It’s going to require a lot more acres of soybean and corn (and) a bigger footprint for the actual farms themselves. I remember Dr. Jason Clay (WWF’s senior vice president of food and markets) telling us several times that intensification is going to have to feed the growing population by 2050, when we have 9 to 10 billion people … We’re actually being forced to do just the opposite,” Gregory said. “I’d like to know your opinion … about what that means to feeding the world’s growing population … when we’re actually being forced to take steps back and harm the environment.”

Saviani replied it’s important to consider the natural resource impact of food production and that includes when certain types of livestock housing, such as cages, are removed from the equation. He referred to the Coaltiion for Sustainable Egg SUpply's 2015 report – which gathered research on conventional, cage-free and enriched colony housing – and said from a scientific, rather than emotional, perspective, “it’s hard to defend cage free” as it is today.

Combination cage-free hen housing, solution or compromise?

Watt Ag Net | Posted on June 22, 2016

Combi, or combination, -style housing can offer the best of both worlds to producers uncertain about the long-term appeal of cage-free eggs. However, the systems run the risk of eventual rejection by North American welfare certifying bodies or consumers. As the U.S. egg industry weighs housing changes spurred by the rapid shift to cage freee production, Egg Industry is publishing a series of articles discussing the pros and cons of three types of cage-free housing systems: aviaries, floor systems and combination, or combi, systems. This article focuses on combi systems. Combi systems, also called convertible systems, typically provide aspects of both an enriched cage and an aviary housing system. The systems are multi-tiered with doors that can be opened, allowing birds to roam about like in an aviary system, or closed, effectively making it an enriched cage. Closed, the stocking density is comparable to conventional cages. Combis also provide egg and manure belts underneath housing tiers, nest areas for the hens to lay, and feeding and watering systems.