Two measures sponsored by state Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, to help support the next generation of New York farmers have been approved by the Legislature and await the governor’s signature. Under the first measure, Senate bill 4021, a Young Farmers Advisory Board of 20 farmers from across the state would lend their expertise and insights on the impacts of potential legislation and programs on those new to the industry, according to a statement from the senator.The second measure, Senate bill 4900, would direct the commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the commissioner of the Office of General Services to work together to develop an inventory of state-owned real property that could be sold or leased for farming.“Agriculture is our state’s leading industry and if we want to ensure it remains as such, we need to take steps to encourage people to pursue farming careers,” said Ritchie, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee.“These two pieces of legislation will help those new to the industry overcome common roadblocks to success—like finding farmland—and ensure that the future of family farming in New York State is bright for many years to come.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking public input on GMO labeling. The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service posted 30 questions for the public this week regarding labeling food items containing genetically modified ingredients. The feedback will help the agency develop a proposed rule governing how food manufacturers disclose when products contain genetically engineered ingredients. Questions include: What terms should be interchangeable with “bioengineering”; whether AMS should require disclosures for foods containing highly refined products, such as oils or sugars derived from bioengineered crops; and the amount of a bioengineered substance needed to deem it bioengineered.
Newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad touted trade as he took the helm of an important diplomatic mission that has been mired in uncertainty under the Trump administration. China’s Foreign Ministry refers to Mr. Branstad as an “old friend.” Chinese government advisers say Beijing hopes his agricultural background and ties with Mr. Trump will make him a strong voice in favor of trade inside the administration.Mr. Branstad concentrated most of his brief comments Wednesday on trade, saying he hoped to help reduce trade barriers in a way that would both benefit Chinese businesses and increase U.S. jobs.
Agriculture isn't likely to see the kind of federal budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration if the discretionary appropriations bill approved Tuesday by a subcommittee is any indication. The House Appropriations Subcommittee for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies advanced a bill funding fiscal year 2018 discretionary programs for USDA and other agencies at just more than $20 billion, cutting $1.1 billion from last year's bill, or about 5.2% less than current funding levels.If the appropriations hold, USDA would receive about $876 million less than this year's discretionary budget. The funding bill, which was approved in a voice vote, advanced to the full committee. The committee is advancing multiple appropriation bills this week.Yet the $1.1 billion spending cut, if it holds, will be $3.7 billion less than President Donald Trump's proposed spending cut just for USDA. The Trump budget calls for a $4.8 billion cut from USDA discretionary programs, which the White House intended to use to offset spending increases in defense and homeland security, including funding for a border wall.
The Washington Department of Ecology will appoint an advisory group to evaluate ways farmers and ranchers can prevent water pollution, an exercise viewed warily by the state Farm Bureau. Ecology is seeking experts for the group, which is expected over the next year to help the department develop a set of best management practices. Ecology says the measures will be voluntary and won’t become new regulations.“I think it will be useful guidance for people,” said Ben Rau, Ecology’s manager of the effort.The initiative stems from criticism the Environmental Protection Agency made in 2015 about Ecology’s plan to control pollution from urban and rural runoff. The EPA said Ecology’s plan to prevent pollution from agricultural lands needed “greater specificity.”
The animal entertainment industry took another hit last week when the New York City Council voted to ban the use of wild or exotic animals in circus performances. The pricey lawsuits and emotional rhetoric are very familiar to those of us in animal agriculture and the meat industry. The New York Daily News posted an editorial expressing concerns with the ban, pointing out that zoos could be next on the chopping block. Unsurprisingly, the move was applauded by the usual suspects – PETA, HSUS, Direct Action Everywhere, etc. A Direct Action Everywhere rep called it “just the beginning,” saying the ban is the “beginning of the end” of “the use and abuse of all animals” (which includes using them for food – the author includes a reference to slaughterhouse walls “crumbling to the ground”). Some may wish to keep quiet while activist groups target zoos and circuses – after all, every moment they focus on someone else is one they aren’t focusing on agriculture and the meat industry. That viewpoint is misguided and the sense of security will be short-lived. Any victory that activists can achieve in eliminating humans’ ability to use animals will provide them further ammunition in their mission to promote animal liberation. Burying our heads in the sand will not work for us.
Higher farm-gate prices and more favorable weather conditions are providing much-needed relief for the world’s dairy farmers after a three-year decline in milk values, according to the “Rabobank Dairy Quarterly Q2 2017” report.
A UK-based startup called BioCarbon Engineering thinks they have an answer. CEO Lauren Fletcher and his team have a plan for using fixed-wing and multiple-rotor drones to plant 1 billion trees per year. The process begins by deploying fixed wing drones to assess areas in need of replanting and create 3-D maps.Using the mapping data, multiple-rotor shoots seed pods at specific locations - much like a paintball gun shoots pellets, according to the startup's team.Later, drones will swing back around to audit the status of growth, information that will be used to assess the ecosystem and improve planting methods going forward. BioCarbon Engineering won best startup at the Hello Tomorrow Challenge and was awarded €100,000 as the Orange Grand Prize.They've recently committed to planting trees on a plantation in South Africa.
Michigan native Matt Mika has been discharged from George Washington University Hospital just over a week after he was shot at the GOP baseball team practice. Mika, who is the director of government relations for Tyson foods, underwent multiple surgeries after he was shot multiple times.A relative told 7 Action News that Mika suffered broken ribs, a sternum injury and some type of injury to his lungs.
According to city officials, when agriculturally zoned land is developed for residential purposes – like Barnes’ farm – residential standards apply, which includes limiting the numbers of livestock someone can have. “Are they going to then enforce that all over the entire city for every 3-, 5-, 7-acre place?” said Tom Freeman, chairman of the Chesapeake Agriculture Advisory Commission and member of the Farm Bureau Federation.In a May 4 memo to the City Council, Jay Tate, director of development and permits, said it was a “common misconception” that agricultural properties can have all the available uses listed in zoning ordinances. That’s not the case for agriculturally zoned land developed for residential purposes, he said.“There are limitations on keeping animals because of the close proximity to other residents,” Tate wrote to council members. In Virginia Beach, if a property is zoned agricultural, regardless of whether it’s developed for residential use, the city allows livestock and the numbers are unspecified, said zoning administrator Kevin Kemp.Suffolk’s code includes mini-farms, which are allowed in zones designated for agriculture, rural residential and rural estate. Livestock can be kept in all three with regulations relating to fencing and proximity to neighbor’s homes.The Chesapeake City Council recently paved the way for more farmers markets, but if residential rules are applied to agricultural properties, that could discourage small farmers, Barnes said. That’s why she formed the Chesapeake Small Farmers Coalition. As many as 50 others want to join, she said, and the first meeting is July 6.Councilwoman Debbie Ritter said the Barnes family made a reasonable decision when they purchased their property and set up their farm. She wants the city to clarify and correct provisions about keeping livestock in agricultural and residential estate districts, but the enti