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Agriculture News

MN: Young farmers score victory at Legislature

Detroit Lakes Online | Posted on June 28, 2017

A first-of-its-kind newly signed budget bill is a win-win for the future of farming in Minnesota. And it's thanks in part to Andrew Barsness, a 27-year-old grain farmer from Hoffman. Through the bill, landowners receive a state income tax credit when they sell land or rent land or agricultural assets to a beginning farmer, which is someone who has been farming for fewer than 10 years, said Barsness. According to the Young Farmer's Coalition, which was formed in 2016, the credit equals 5 percent of the sale price, 10 percent of the cash rent or 15 percent for a cash share agreement. In turn, the beginning farmer must take a farm management course to qualify for the tax incentive and would be eligible for a tax credit covering the full cost of the training. The tax credit will be available on a first-come, first-served basis with maximum statewide limit of $5 million in tax year 2018 and $6 million per year after that. Barsness said the bill, signed by Gov. Mark Dayton at the end of May, helps create an incentive to sell land. Land access is an issue for beginning farmers.

Sanderson Farms sued over '100 percent natural' label claim

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on June 28, 2017

Three consumer groups on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Sanderson Farms Inc. accusing the company of falsely advertising that its chicken is “100 percent natural.” The groups suing Sanderson Farms are the Organic Consumers Association, Friends of the Earth and Center for Food Safety. In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in California, the groups said testing in 2015 and 2016 by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service found 49 instances in which samples of Sanderson products tested positive for residues of synthetic drugs.Sanderson Farms Chief Financial Officer Mike Cockrell said the company does not administer the substances cited in the lawsuit. Cockrell said the company would vigorously defend the lawsuit and take specific steps to make sure its position is clear.  “We can unequivocally state that Sanderson Farms does not administer the antibiotics, other chemicals and pesticides, or “other pharmaceuticals” listed in the complaint with one exception. To suggest otherwise is irresponsible,” Cockrell said.

California to list herbicide as cancer-causing; Monsanto vows fight

Reuters | Posted on June 27, 2017

Glyphosate, an herbicide and the active ingredient in Monsanto Co's popular Roundup weed killer, will be added to California's list of chemicals known to cause cancer effective July 7. Monsanto vowed to continue its legal fight against the designation, required under a state law known as Proposition 65, and called the decision "unwarranted on the basis of science and the law." Earlier this month, Reuters reported that the scientist leading the IARC’s review knew of fresh data showing no link between glyphosate and cancer. But he never mentioned it, and the agency did not take the information into account because it had yet to be published in a scientific journal. The IARC classed glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen,”  the only major health regulator to do so.

EPA, U.S. Army Move to Rescind 2015 "Waters of the U.S."

EPA | Posted on June 27, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Army, and Army Corps of Engineers (the agencies) are proposing a rule to rescind the Clean Water Rule and re-codify the regulatory text that existed prior to 2015 defining "waters of the United States" or WOTUS. This action would, when finalized, provide certainty in the interim, pending a second rulemaking in which the agencies will engage in a substantive re-evaluation of the definition of "waters of the United States." The proposed rule would be implemented in accordance with Supreme Court decisions, agency guidance, and longstanding practice. "We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation's farmers and businesses," said Administrator Scott Pruitt. "This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine 'waters of the U.S.' and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public." This proposed rule follows the February 28, 2017, Presidential Executive Order on "Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the 'Waters of the United States' Rule." The February Order states that it is in the national interest to ensure that the Nation's navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of Congress and the States under the Constitution. To meet these objectives, the agencies intend to follow an expeditious, two-step process that will provide certainty across the country.The proposed rule would recodify the identical regulatory text that was in place prior to the 2015 Clean Water Rule and that is currently in place as a result of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit's stay of the 2015 rule. Therefore, this action, when final, will not change current practice with respect to how the definition applies.

Arkansas Tries To Stop An Epidemic Of Herbicide Damage

National Public Radio | Posted on June 25, 2017

Arkansas's pesticide regulators have stepped into the middle of an epic battle between weeds and chemicals, which has now morphed into a battle between farmers. Hundreds of farmers say their crops have been damaged by a weedkiller that was sprayed on neighboring fields. Today, the Arkansas Plant Board voted to impose an unprecedented ban on that chemical.

The tension — which even led to a farmer's murder — is over a weedkiller called dicamba. The chemical only became a practical option for farmers a few years ago, when Monsanto created soybean and cotton plants that were genetically modified to survive it. Farmers who planted these new seeds could use dicamba to kill weeds without harming their crops.

The problem is, dicamba is a menace to other crops nearby. It drifts easily in the wind, and traditional soybeans are incredibly sensitive to it. "Nobody was quite prepared, despite extensive training, for just how sensitive beans were to dicamba," says Bob Scott, a specialist on weeds with the University of Arkansas's agricultural extension service.

Arkansas Plant Board Votes to Ban Dicamba

Arkansas Matters | Posted on June 23, 2017

The Arkansas State Plant Board (ASPB) has voted to ban the sale and use of in-crop dicamba, with an exemption for pastureland. The decision came in a meeting Friday to consider an emergency rule on the herbicide.The Agriculture Council of Arkansas says the 9-5 vote Friday morning also calls for expediting enforcement of new penalties."The proposed rule is the first step in the process of establishing an emergency rule. The next step includes a review of the proposed rule by the Governor before being submitted to the Executive Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council for approval," according to Adriane Barnes, Director of Communication with the Arkansas Agriculture Department.

Troxler defends NC milk inspection program following alarming audit

WRAL | Posted on June 23, 2017

North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler on Thursday responded to recent criticism by state auditors who say his agency's inspectors aren't tough enough on dairies when handling out grades on their milk.According to an audit released Wednesday, inspectors rarely took action when they noted repeated violations. In one case, for example, the inspector marked violations of the same two requirements for six successive inspections without suspending the dairy's permit to market its milk as Grade A.Troxler mostly spoke about what he called "inaccuracies" in the audit. He talked about the processes milk producers go through and the work of inspectors to make sure they are being followed.During the years the audit took place, Troxler said there were nearly 13,000 tests on milk samples. He said only one showed unacceptable bacteria levels, and Troxler claims that facility was suspended from producing Grade A milk."I can tell you I am very upset and disappointed," Troxler said. "I want to make it clear that we have a safe milk supply that is inspected. Milk is the most regulated commodity sold in the United States, and it's because of the processes involved."

Ag Lenders Take Caution

DTN | Posted on June 23, 2017

The winter/spring of 2017 did not see the financial shake-out many financial experts expected after three consecutive years of declining net farm income. In fact, lenders and other ag industry representatives at the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank's annual Ag Symposium last week were not wringing their hands -- yet. There are pockets of more severe financial strain, such as dryland wheat country in the western Plains and in the Southeast U.S., though lenders at the symposium did not report an excessive amount of troubled loans."We've had to rely on equipment equity and land equity as farmers re-balanced their loan portfolios [this winter]," reported Rob Keil, senior vice president and chief credit officer with Dacotah Bank in Aberdeen, South Dakota. "Working capital has disappeared," said Keil, "as we are in our fourth year of [cash flow] bleeding." Land values are staying relatively stable -- on highly productive ground. For example, central Iowa land sales in May brought $10,000 to $10,500 per acre on highly productive (CSR2 above 90) 80-acre parcels, according to Peoples Company, based in Clive, Iowa. This, despite farm incomes that are about half of their peak of 2013, said Nate Kauffman, assistant vice president and Omaha Branch Executive, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.Kauffman reported, "Despite increases in financing needs by farmers and ranchers, we're not seeing delinquencies rising much" in the 10th Federal Reserve Bank district. That district covers Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Colorado and parts of Missouri and New Mexico."Soybeans paid the bills last year," noted White Cloud, Kansas, farmer Ken McCauley, president of the Kansas Corn Growers. "As for corn, I'm still trying to sell last year's crop."Lower input expenses helped, McCauley said. "Fertilizer was the big one; seed costs were stable for a change, and cash rents declined some. Our cash input costs this year went down $50 an acre compared to last year. That really helped, especially with our banker," McCauley added.

Ranchers sue to return country-of-origin labeling

Greensburg Daily News | Posted on June 23, 2017

Ranchers on Monday sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture, seeking a return of labels that clearly identify meat produced in other countries and imported to the United States. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Spokane, seeks to overturn a March 2016 decision by the Department of Agriculture to revoke regulations requiring imported meat products to be labeled with their country of origin. That change allowed imported meat to be sold as U.S. products, the lawsuit said.“Consumers understandably want to know where their food comes from,” said David Muraskin of Washington, D.C., an attorney for Public Justice, which filed the lawsuit. “With this suit, we’re fighting policies that put multinational corporations ahead of domestic producers and shroud the origins of our food supply in secrecy.”

Farm family leaves for Mexico amid questions over immigration crackdown

Wisconsin State Journal | Posted on June 23, 2017

Hernandez worked on the Knoepkes’ farm in Pepin County for 16 years. He shared that home with his wife and two young sons, Thomas, 5, and Liam, 4. That day, at Thomas’ last day at Noah’s Ark Preschool, he cried as he told his classmates that he will not be starting kindergarten with them in the fall. He had never been to Mexico.Earlier this month, Hernandez and four other men, who for years had milked and cared for cows on dairy farms among the hills of western Wisconsin, drove away in the direction of their mountainous hometown of Texhuacan. A few days later, Tepole and the children flew out of Chicago.The Hernandez family left, in part, because of the threat of deportation — which could ban them from returning to the United States for 10 years — and what they described as increasingly harsh rhetoric by President Donald Trump and others toward immigrants, especially those here illegally.They moved here to America’s Dairyland, the nation’s top cheese state and No. 2 milk producer, attracted by a dairy industry dependent on undocumented immigrant labor to keep cows milked three times a day, year-round. They have raised their children in communities where American workers stopped answering “help wanted” ads for cow milkers long ago.And now, they have gone home.“Miguel has been our right hand,” Knoepke said. “He treated (the farm) like he owned it. We’re really saddened, scared. I don’t know. It’s sad.”In Wisconsin, farmers like Knoepke depend heavily on workers like Hernandez. Seeing him and the other workers leave worried this first-generation farmer with 650 cows.“I don’t know where the industry would be without (immigrant labor) right now,” Knoepke says.There are temporary visas for seasonal agricultural workers, but year-round workers who make up the vast majority of the labor force on Wisconsin’s large dairies have no special protections, and many are in the country illegally. Knoepke says Congress “better do something … because (workers) are leaving. You see it right here. They’re packin’ up.”Hernandez’s brother, Damaso, who also works at a western Wisconsin dairy farm, says many workers he knows plan to leave because, “They’re scared of the government.”“It’s strange, it’s difficult because all the Hispanic people knew the Americans here in Wisconsin were supporting Donald Trump. I think they made a mistake, because a lot of people are fleeing for precisely that reason.”