The Pennsylvania Agricultural Land Preservation Board safeguarded an additional 1,926 acres on 26 farms in 16 counties through the state’s nation-leading farmland preservation program during Thursday’s June board meeting. Since the program began in 1988, federal, state, county and local governments have invested more than $1.3 billion to preserve 522,545 acres on 4,977 farms in 57 counties for future agricultural production. The board preserved farms in 16 counties including Berks, Chester, Cumberland, Lancaster, and York. The Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program identifies properties and slows the loss of prime farmland to non-agricultural uses. It enables state, county and local governments to purchase conservation easements, also called development rights, from owners of quality farmland.
In an industry that’s lost over half of its jobs in the past decade, Mississippi’s catfish farmers have by no means given up to heated competition from abroad. Rather, the state’s catfish farmers, which produce over half of U.S. farm-raised catfish, labor daily under strict safety inspection laws while fighting to make sure their industry rivals in Asia are held up to the same standards. After an eight-year battle, American catfish farmers rejoiced when the U.S. Department of Agriculture took over the catfish inspection program from the Food and Drug Administration in March to increase food safety of Asian catfish-like species imports, mostly from Vietnam and China. The program was first authorized in the 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills but struggled to receive funding from Congress. It wasn’t implemented until March.
North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm has fined an insurance firm that sold crop insurance in that state and ordered restitution to farmers. The North Dakota Insurance Department announced the multi-layered disciplinary action against The Climate Corporation a/k/a The Climate Insurance Agency (formerly known as Weatherbill), a licensed business insurance entity that sold crop insurance products in the state from 2011 to 2014. The commissioner’s consent order requires a total of $738,106 be credited to approximately 150 farmer customers in the form of premium return and premium waivers. Farmers will receive $485,948 to return previously paid premiums and any that still owe premium will be given waivers totaling $252,158. Additionally, the company must pay a $150,000 fine.
The National Corn Growers Association urged farmers to submit comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, following publication of the Agency’s draft Ecological Risk Assessment for atrazine, an herbicide used for weed control in growing corn and other crops. If it stands, EPA’s recommendation would effectively ban the use of atrazine in most farming areas in the U.S. Atrazine is a widely used herbicide proven to combat the spread of resistant weeds, while also reducing soil erosion and improving wildlife habitats. When farmers have access to atrazine, they do not have to do as much tilling, or turning up of the soil – a practice that erodes soil and leads to water and nutrient loss. Studies suggest farming without atrazine could cost corn farmers up to $59 per acre.
Since over half of Pennsylvania lies within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, farmers and forest landowners play a major role in helping to clean up the Bay by installing water quality conservation practices that assist the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania meet its Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) goals in the watershed.
Since 2008, NRCS has provided more than $268.5 million in financial assistance to Pennsylvania farmers and forest landowners in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed through a number of Farm Bill Programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI) program and Conservation Stewardship Program (CStP), among others. In the Bay Watershed, these funds have been utilized primarily for nutrient reduction, erosion and sediment control, stream corridor protection, and overall landscape health. On average 80-85 percent of Pennsylvania’s funds are devoted to livestock producers and those cropland producers who apply manure on cropland. From 2008-2015, PA-NRCS applied nutrient management to more than 157,000 acres and installed 759 waste storage facilities, more than 6 million square feet of heavy use area protection, and over 3 million linear feet of fence to improve pasture and stream conditions.
Indiana could be headed for another drought this summer, according to the Indiana State Climate Office. Some northern Indiana counties already are abnormally dry. It depends on the strength of a developing La Niña weather pattern. Stronger La Niña conditions in summer typically result in hotter and/or drier Midwest summers, such as what happened during the historic drought in the summer of 2012. Changes in large-scale weather patterns such as the demise of El Niño and strong possibility of La Niña conditions in coming months are leading to local scale impacts of reduced rainfall and hotter landscapes
Nitrogen fertilizer is a major input in corn production and anhydrous ammonia is a widely used nitrogen fertilizer. In recent years, questions exist whether ammonia prices have decreased enough to reflect the decreases in corn and natural gas prices. Over time, anhydrous ammonia prices and corn prices are positively correlated. A major input in ammonia production is natural gas. As a result, natural gas prices also are positively correlated with anhydrous ammonia prices. From 2014 to 2016, anhydrous ammonia prices appear high relative to historical relationships between ammonia, corn, and natural gas prices.
Monsanto, the patented seed and pesticide agriculture behemoth, was under scrutiny due to their failed offer to buy Syngenta, the Swiss agricultural chemicals and seed company. Now Monsanto itself is the target of a buyout. German drug corporation Bayer has offered Monsanto stock holders a $122 per share. Big business history reads a little like the spiritual hymn “Them Dry Bones.” From the toe bone all the way up to the head bone, everything is connected. Take Monsanto for instance.
The chemical company Monsanto was founded in 1901. One of its first products was calorie-free sweetener made from coal tar — saccharin. Through its steady acquisitions of other companies, Monsanto has also manufactured chemicals like PCBs, DDT, Agent Orange, and salicylic acid–the primary ingredient in Bayer aspirin. They ran the Dayton Project doing research for the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb. Monsanto also patented a boiler pipe cleaning compound called glyphosate to be used as a nonselective herbicide named Roundup, netting billions in profits over the patent’s 20-year lifespan. By the time that patent ran out, Monsanto was well on its way to patented genes that made crops like corn, soybeans, cotton, and canola impervious to Roundup. See how “Them Bones” are connected?
For as long as agriculture has relied on chemical pesticides and fertilizers, we’ve been equally dependent on chemical companies to supply those needs. But competition among a number of chemical companies traditionally has been reduced or eliminated over the years as one consolidated company hooks up with another.
Highest concentrations found in Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois. Drought periods followed by rainfall caused nitrate levels to increase to the highest ever measured in some Midwest streams during a 2013 study. The USGS and the Environmental Protection Agency collaborated in 2013 to sample 100 small streams across parts of 11 states in the Midwest. Scientists tested for a broad range of water-quality and habitat characteristics and assessed organisms living in the stream, including algae, invertebrates and fish. The study did not look at treated drinking water. The nitrate analysis included comparing 2013 findings to 20 years of nitrate results from multiple state and federal agencies for more than 1,000 streams across the region.
American farmers who expanded production using rented land during the commodity boom a few years ago are now struggling to repay loans. A crop glut has eroded prices and sent profit to a 14-year low, but rents have barely budged and debt levels are the highest in more than three decades, government data show. Bankers are cutting back on loans that aren’t secured by land, so more farmers are tapping into a U.S. Department of Agriculture program designed to be the lender of last resort.