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Agriculture News

The context-dependent performance of organic agriculture

Science Advances | Posted on March 22, 2017

Organic agriculture is often proposed as a more sustainable alternative to current conventional agriculture. We assess the current understanding of the costs and benefits of organic agriculture across multiple production, environmental, producer, and consumer dimensions. Organic agriculture shows many potential benefits (including higher biodiversity and improved soil and water quality per unit area, enhanced profitability, and higher nutritional value) as well as many potential costs including lower yields and higher consumer prices. However, numerous important dimensions have high uncertainty, particularly the environmental performance when controlling for lower organic yields, but also yield stability, soil erosion, water use, and labor conditions. We identify conditions that influence the relative performance of organic systems, highlighting areas for increased research and policy support.

Judge moves ABC 'pink slime' lawsuit to trial

Feedstuffs | Posted on March 22, 2017

South Dakota circuit court Judge Cheryle Gering of the Union County Circuit Court in Elk Point, S.D., this week advanced a potential $5.7 billion defamation lawsuit against American Broadcasting Companies Inc. (ABC) that alleges that ABC damaged Beef Products Inc. (BPI) by referring to its signature product, lean finely textured beef (LFTB), as "pink slime" in an ABC news series. The judge did dismiss claims against anchor Diane Sawyer but said ABC and reporter Jim Avila must present a defense against the allegations.

The Mushroom Sustainability Story | Posted on March 22, 2017

The mighty mushroom not only is healthy on the plate, it's also gentle on the planet – according to a new study measuring the water, energy and carbon emissions required to grow and harvest fresh mushrooms in the United States. The study finds production of a pound of mushrooms requires only 1.8 gallons of water and 1.0 kilowatt hours of energy, and generates only .7 pounds of CO2 equivalent emissions. In addition, the annual average yield of mushrooms is 7.1 pounds per square foot – meaning up to 1 million pounds of mushrooms can be produced on just one acre. The Mushroom Sustainability Story: Water, Energy and Climate Environmental Metrics 2017 study is the result of a two-year initiative to document mushroom production environment metrics.

Milk Men Documentary Delivers

Daily Yonder | Posted on March 22, 2017

Milk Men: The Life and Times of Dairy Farmers: Simplistic notions about dairy farming melt like butter in a frying pan in Jan Haaken’s documentary “Milk Men.”  The 2016 film allows viewers into the barns, businesses, and family rooms of a range of dairy farmers in the Pacific Northwest. From the 100-cow organic operation of Mesman Farm in La Conner, Washington, up to the 36,000-cow farm of Threemile Canyon Dairy in Oregon, Haaken looks at the complexity of business, family, and the modern food-production system.Unlike a lot of documentaries about food, the film does not definitively answer the question of what’s the “best” for farmers, animals, and consumers. Rather, it prepares the viewer to have an intelligent conversation about the business, ethics, and culture of dairy farming. And it ensures that the farmer’s voice is front and center.Haaken is a clinical psychologist and emeritus professor of psychology at Portland State University. She uses documentary filmmaking as a way to bring community psychology issues into the classroom. Her work has focused on jobs that cause unusual amounts of stress. That dairy farmers fall into the category of stressed workers should be a pretty big hint that things are not what they may seem to be in the countryside.Though the farmers and their families are universally calm in demeanor, the strains of their work show. There’s the competition and business decisions that have wide ranging implications, such as “will I own the farm this time next year.” There’s the demanding and absolutely rigid schedule of milking, though technology is helping with that, in some cases. There’s pressure to “get big or get out.” There are long-term capital needs, short-term bills, and intermediate-term issues of succession and family relationships.

What makes farmers try new practices?

University of Illinois | Posted on March 21, 2017

Change is never easy. But when it comes to adopting new agricultural practices, some farmers are easier to convince than others. A group of researchers at the University of Illinois wanted to know which farmers are most likely to adopt multifunctional perennial cropping systems—trees, shrubs, or grasses that simultaneously benefit the environment and generate high-value products that can be harvested for a profit.“We surveyed farmers in the Upper Sangamon River Watershed in Illinois to learn their attitudes about growing MPCs on marginal land. We then looked at their demographic data to classify people into different categories related to their adoption potential,” says University of Illinois agroecologist Sarah Taylor Lovell.Using statistical clustering techniques, the team discovered that survey respondents fell into six categories. The “educated networkers” and “young innovators” were most likely to adopt MPCs. On the other end of the spectrum, survey respondents classified as “money motivated” and “hands-off” were least likely to adopt the new cropping systems.  The goal of categorizing farmers was to tailor strategies for each group, given their general attitudes. “If they’re very unlikely to adopt at all, we probably wouldn’t spend a lot of time worrying about those groups,” Lovell explains.

Oklahoma wildfires kill thousands of pigs at Smithfield, Seaboard farms

Reuters | Posted on March 19, 2017

Wildfires devastated a Smithfield Foods Inc hog farm in Laverne, Oklahoma, killing at least several thousand pigs, company and local officials said on Friday.  The exact number of swine killed in the Oklahoma fire, which began on Monday, was not immediately known. Smithfield did not say how many died in the blaze, but said no workers were harmed. The Smithfield farm housed about 45,000 sows, according to the company's website.Luke Kanclerz, spokesman for the Oklahoma Forestry Services, said on Friday that several thousand hogs "were lost.""Such a large area was impacted by these fires, it's taking time to collect information," he said. "There are no accurate numbers yet."Kanclerz said state officials were at the Smithfield farm on Friday, collecting information on how many animals had died and other data.

Third case of avian influenza in southern Tennessee

Watt Ag Net | Posted on March 19, 2017

A third case of avian influenza has struck southern Tennessee, confirmed the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on March 16. The highly pathogenic H7N9 infection occurred in a commercial breeder flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee, where the state’s first 2017 case occurred. 

Plains Wildfire Update

DTN | Posted on March 18, 2017

The enormous damage wrought by the wildfires that tore across the Southern Plains last week has spurred an outpouring of donations and aid from farmers and ranchers across the country. "We've been overwhelmed by the love of the ag community," said David Clawson, president of the Kansas Livestock Association and a rancher and farmer himself. "The hay started rolling in before the fires were even out," he told DTN. In a matter of minutes and hours, the fires destroyed homes, farms and ranching operations that some producers had spent decades building in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. An estimated 1.5 million acres were affected there, and fires also burned in Nebraska and Colorado. The most pressing needs for livestock that survived the fires are hay and fencing. Clawson said enough hay has been donated in his area to last a week, but grass won't show up for another 45 to 60 days -- and that's only if the region receives rain.Clawson said ranchers continue to monitor their cattle. Some cattle are turning up blind and singed and must be euthanized."Hats off to those ranchers and vets who had to euthanize cattle last week" Clawson said. "We had to get them (cattle) out of their misery."

Another case of H7N9 High Path Avian Influenza has been confirmed in a Tennessee

NTF | Posted on March 16, 2017

There is confirmation that a second case of H7N9 HPAI has been detected in a commercial broiler breeder flock in Tennessee. This flock was located one mile from the index case reported early last week. On Tuesday, March 14th, 144 birds were dead and yesterday 200 more perished. A sample was sent to NVSL yesterday and depopulation of the flock began.

Glyphosate not carcinogenic, European chem agency says

Agri-Pulse | Posted on March 16, 2017

Glyphosate is not a carcinogen, the European Chemicals Agency has concluded, setting the stage for the chemical – the active ingredient in Roundup – to receive long-term approval in Europe. ECHA's Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) found that “the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or as toxic for reproduction,” ECHA said in a news release. The RAC said, however, that the chemical causes “serious eye damage” and is “toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects.”