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Agriculture News

Even Mega-Farms Are Mostly Family Owned

fivethirtyeight Science | Posted on November 23, 2016

Farms are getting bigger and the smallest farms aren’t real farms — that’s what I told you last week in a story about how the official definition of “farm” in the national Agricultural Census obscures the consolidation that the farming industry has experienced over the last 30 years. But there’s another important part to this story: Consolidation isn’t the same thing as the loss of family farms. Ninety-seven percent of US farms are family-owned, according the most recent Agricultural Census. Even big farms are usually family owned. Of farms with gross annual sales of $1,000,000 or more, 94 percent are family farms. Of farms with 10,000 acres or more, 86 percent are family businesses. Nor is this a situation there a tiny fraction of non-family farms own most of the land or produce an outsized portion of our food. For both stats, non-family farms represent less than 10 percent of the total. What’s more, the balance of power between corporate and family farms hasn’t changed much during the decades when farms got more and more massive. Even mega-farms, in other words, aren’t being run by faceless corporate elites. Instead, it’s more like Old MacDonald got himself a bigger, GPS-enabled tractor and now farms land that used to belong to three of his neighbors.

The tech that will feed the world

Tech Crunch | Posted on November 22, 2016

Twenty years from now, the most important tool for putting food on your table won’t be a harvester, combine or a plow. It will be a piece of software.  Agriculture is in the process of transitioning into a fully high-tech enterprise. This is a long-overdue revolution in the way things have been done for centuries. To put it in perspective, if we keep doing farming the old-fashioned way, two billion more people will go hungry by the year 2050.  World population growth is driving the urgent need for a radical boost in farm productivity. Incremental advances in output simply won’t cut it. The challenge in 2050 will be unprecedented — equivalent to growing enough food to feed everyone who is alive today, plus everyone who was alive in 1920. Simply put, the techniques that got us through the 20th century won’t get us very far into the 21st. And whatever solutions we come up with will to solve this dilemma will also have to take into account that land and water continue to be scarce resources, and environmental sustainability remains paramount.

USDA ExpandsSpecial Use Valuation in Texas

Texas Agriculture Law Blog | Posted on November 22, 2016

This blog post will focus on the rules related to Open Space Valuation (“OSV”).  Passed in 1978, more than a decade after Agricultural Use Valuation, this method is governed by Article VIII, Section 1(d)(1) of the Texas Property Code and Sections 23.51-59 of the Texas Tax Code.  This valuation method may also frequently be referred to as “1(d)(1) valuation.”  A one-time application must be filed with the County Appraisal District. In order to qualify, a landowner must show the following:(1) The land must be currently devoted to agricultural use; (2) of the degree and intensity generally accepted in the area;(3) for at least 5 of the last 7 years, the land must be devoted principally to agricultural use, timber, or forest products.

Police raid Florida horse slaughter facility

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

A Florida man has been arrested in connection with illegal horse slaughtering in an unlicensed rural slaughterhouse in western Miami-Dade County.

Southern States selling feed business to Land O’Lakes

Watt Ag Net | Posted on November 22, 2016

Second-largest U.S. animal feed producer Land O’Lakes Inc. plans to acquire Southern States Cooperative Inc.’s animal feed business.  Southern States Cooperative is one of the largest U.S. farmer-owned cooperatives, supplying animal feed in 23 states through its network of eight feed mills. “This is an excellent opportunity to expand our relationship with Southern States and increase our animal feed business in the eastern U.S.,” said Chris Policinski, president and CEO, Land O’Lakes Inc. This year, Southern States entered into a supply agreement with Land O’Lakes Inc. through its WinField United crop inputs and insights unit. Distribution of Southern States’ branded products will continue uninterrupted.

Land Wealth Plugs the Profit Gap

DTN | Posted on November 21, 2016

U.S. farmland is the savings account that is propping up ag borrowers today. Its stability is the mitigating factor keeping both borrowers and farm lenders in relatively good standing despite three back-to-back years of negative farm incomes, a growing number of ag economists and lenders say.  While some land experts forecast as much as a 25% to 30% drop from recent peak land values, most doubt a correction of that size would cause the kind of contagion that infected the farm economy in the 1980s. They believe safety valves are in place to keep any farmland distress to a minimum.  Crop and livestock incomes have plunged in unison this year, but "land values have been a blessing," University of Minnesota economist Dale Nordquist told ag bankers assembled in Indianapolis this week. He cited Minnesota Department of Revenue reporting a mere 1% drop in the state's farmland values over the past year. Likewise, when appraisers sorted through actual land sales in Farm Credit of Mid-America's four-state region at mid-year, they found real estate had barely budged from 2015 levels.

How the vegan movement broke out of its echo chamber and finally started disrupting things | Posted on November 21, 2016

The American vegan movement was always its own worst enemy.  Members of the movement made their first impressions bellowing into bullhorns, desperate to make a difference by willing it with a loud enough voice. But actual engagement was a weakness as people tended to ignore the passionate subculture with a rigid gospel prohibiting use of any and all animal products. For the most part, the only marks left by their efforts throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s were those scuffed into their shoes as police officers dragged them off the streets.  And then, with little warning, something changed. A small clan of seven people—most of them in Washington, DC—considered a different tactic. In doing so, they cleaved the vegan movement in two, sowing bitter resentment but also a bold path forward. A 2001 schism splintered the vegan community into two camps: absolutists who tout veganism as an all-or-nothing moral imperative, and pragmatists who quietly advocate for incremental change. The vegan movement’s brain finally outgrew its heart, and in less than two decades the pragmatic vein of the movement has morphed into one of the biggest disruptors of the American food system. At the core of the pragmatic effort is the Humane Society of the United States, which has managed to consolidate enough political power to leave its fingerprints on public and corporate policy changes across the federal, state, and local levels.

DNA evidence from 5,310-year-old corn cob fills gaps in history

Science Daily | Posted on November 21, 2016

Researchers who have sequenced the genome of a 5,310-year-old corn cob have discovered that the maize grown in central Mexico all those years ago was genetically more similar to modern maize than to its wild ancestor. For example, the ancient maize already carried genetic variants responsible for making kernels soft, a common feature of modern corn.

A record September for Colorado’s marijuana shops

The Denver Post | Posted on November 17, 2016

The streak continues for the Colorado cannabis industry.  Colorado marijuana shops in September reeled in $127.8 million in sales of medical and recreational cannabis, notching a new revenue record for the third consecutive month, according to newly released data from the Colorado Department of Revenue.  So far this year, sales have topped $974.3 million in nine months, about $22 million shy of the $996.2 million revenue totaled for the entirety of 2015. This time last year, September monthly sales were $94.7 million — $38.3 million from medical marijuana and $56.44 million from recreational marijuana — and year-to-date sales were nearly $733.8 million.


SD cattle producers and sales barns working to avoid what happened to state’s sheep industry

Capital Journal | Posted on November 17, 2016

South Dakota’s sheep population peaked in 1943 at 2.4 million head. Now there are only 255,000 sheep in the state, a 89 percent drop, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s South Dakota office of ag statistics.The reasons for the decrease are several, but key ones have to do with U.S. trade policies that have given other countries more access to America’s meat-loving consumers, says Bryan Hanson. But he thinks those numbers could change down the road, like sheep numbers have declined, Hanson says.Until 1978, the Fort Pierre Livestock Auction held sheep sales regularly, as well as cattle sales, Hanson said. But there are too few ewes around anymore, he said.Now, as president off R-CALF USA - Ranchers-Cattlement Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America, he’s working to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to cattle producers, Hanson said. With members in 46 states, R-CALF promotes the interests of those who have herds of beef cows raising calf crops every year. It’s main concerns lately are what Hanson says is an uneven playing field that gives foreign producers to many advantages, too much access to U.S. grocery store shelves.