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Agriculture News

Post-election export picture is bleak: analysts

Meatingplace (registration required) | Posted on November 10, 2016

With Donald J. Trump as the president-elect, meat analysts and lobbyists are anticipating rough seas for exports, on which a growing number of meat processors depend to thrive or even survive.

Biotech advances show human health linked to animal welfare

The Hill | Posted on November 10, 2016

Animal biotechnology is a rapidly growing field due to the vast benefits it can bring to both human and animal health. For example, by carefully modifying the genome of livestock to provide disease resistance, we simultaneously improve animal health, welfare and food safety.  This practice reduces the use of antibiotics in livestock, helping to preserve an antibiotic’s clinical efficacy in humans. By using biotechnology to reduce disease in livestock, we lessen the likelihood of microbes infecting humans. Indeed, six out of every 10 infectious diseases found in humans are spread by animals. Scientists have genetically modified chickens so they do not transmit avian influenza virus to other chickens. This advance could prevent the spread of avian flu outbreaks within poultry flocks and has the potential to reduce the threat of a bird flu epidemic in the human population.  Maryland-based Intrexon has created genetically modified mosquitoes whose offspring cannot survive. When released into high-risk areas, they decrease the number of invasive mosquitoes that carry diseases such as Zika and dengue fever. Last year in Piracicaba, Brazil, the release of these “friendly mosquitos” in two neighborhoods reduced the disease-carrying mosquito population by 90 percent. As a result, the number of annual cases of dengue fever in that area dropped from 133 to just one.

States to join federal probes of Dow-DuPont, Bayer-Monsanto mergers

St Louis Post Dispatch | Posted on November 10, 2016

U.S. state attorneys general have joined a federal antitrust probe of the planned merger between DuPont and Dow Chemical Co., according to three people familiar with the matter, heightening risks to a deal that could help reshape the global farm industry.  A separate group of state attorneys general are expected to join a probe of Bayer AG's $66 billion plan to buy Monsanto Co., one of the sources said. The involvement of the state attorneys general increases scrutiny of the mega-deals and will complicate what are already expected to be tough and lengthy reviews by U.S. antitrust enforcers.  About seven states, including California, have joined the probe of Dow's planned merger with DuPont, according to two people familiar with the matter. It was not yet clear how many states would join the Bayer-Monsanto merger investigation, one source said. The states are concerned that the companies may raise pesticide and herbicide prices for farmers following a merger, and have less incentive to compete to introduce better and cheaper products, two of the sources said.

Pennsylvania farmers struggle as milk prices remain low

Magic Valley | Posted on November 10, 2016

Dean and Suzanne Curtis paid a price in sweat, 14- and 16-hour workdays, scraped knuckles and vacations they never took.But together, the Venango Township couple built something. They own 515 acres, a herd of 150 dairy cows and the buildings and equipment needed to produce thousands of gallon of milk each year.In 2009, they were just months from having all of it paid off.Then came the recession and a historic tumble in the price of milk. Today, two refinanced mortgages and seven years of unreliable milk prices later, the idea of being debt-free seems like a distant memory, said Dean Curtis, who has been farming for 50 of his 64 years. Few places in Pennsylvania have seen a more dramatic decline than Erie County, where the number of dairy farms fell 57 percent between 2002 and 2012, sliding from 170 to just 73. That’s according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, which provides the most recent numbers available.

Low crop prices drag farm towns down with them

Marketplace | Posted on November 10, 2016

When farmers in the small farming town of Hallock, Minnesota have a bad year, as they have a few years in a row now, pretty much all the businesses in town suffer, including the grocery store.  “Look at the name of the store: Farmer's Store,” said Tom Swanson, the store's owner. “It was built by farmers to begin with. When the farmers have money in their pockets, everyone has money in their pockets around here.”  A few years ago, wheat, a big crop in these parts, sold for as much as $13 a bushel. Now it's closer to $4. Corn and soybeans have also tumbled.  Those changes have spelled trouble for Theresia Gillie, who’s been farming for 30 years. She’s one of the locals spending less money at the Farmer's Store.   Last year, Gillie and her husband lost $250,000 on their farm as crop prices plunged. They had to restructure several loans. Gillie said their time frame for paying off debts is now much longer. "Walking out of the debt I had planned for another three or four years from now is now 10 years down the road," said Gillie. "And it hurts."

Ag barometer points toward tough times

Farm and Dairy | Posted on November 10, 2016

If you talk to farmers at the town coffee shop, the local feed mill, the livestock auction — or about any other place — you’ll find they’re a little pessimistic about where the ag economy is headed. And now there’s statistical evidence that shows their concern is more than talk. The Ag Economy Barometer, a survey of 400 U.S. farmers by Purdue University, measures producer sentiment toward current and future expectations. The Nov. 3 release of data resulted in the second most pessimistic results since the survey began in October 2015.

Water Allocation in the West: Challenges and Opportunities

Kansas CIty Fed | Posted on November 9, 2016

W hen considering the role of water in an economy, it is useful to reflect on the “Diamond-Water Paradox” made famous by Adam Smith: “Nothing is more useful than water: but it will purchase scarcely anything; scarcely anything can be had in exchange for it. A diamond, on the contrary, has scarcely any use-value; but a very great quantity of other goods may frequently be had in exchange for it.”

The Challenge of Responding to Water Scarcity in Irrigated Agriculture

Kansas CIty Fed | Posted on November 9, 2016

Water scarcity is increasingly acknowledged to be a major risk in many parts of the world (World Economic Forum). Projections indicate that water-related problems may significantly worsen over the next several decades due to rising water demands as a result of demographic, socioeconomic, and technological changes, and due to the effects of climate change (World Water Assessment Program; Jiménez Cisneros and Oki). Significant advances in water management and more integrated policymaking, including increased investment in adaptation measures, will be necessary to reduce the risk of dramatic consequences for economic growth and environmental sustainability

Water Linkages beyond the Farm Gate: Implications for Agriculture

Kansas CIty Fed | Posted on November 9, 2016

This article provides an overview of water scarcity challenges in economic sectors beyond the farm gate that may affect agricultural water access and costs. The relative importance of other large, water-using sectors varies by region but includes municipal, energy and industrial uses. Energy-intensive sectors in particular need careful consideration due to the water consumption embedded in energy use.

Crop Yields, Farmland, and Irrigated Agriculture

Kansas CIty Fed | Posted on November 9, 2016

The specter of global food insecurity, in terms of capacity to meet food demand, will not be limited by water or even climate change but rather by inadequate and misdirected investments in research and development to support the required increases in crop yields. The magnitude of this food security challenge is further augmented by the need to concomitantly accelerate the growth rate in crop yields well above historical rates of the past 50 years during the so-called green revolution, and at the same time, substantially reduce negative environmental effects from modern, science-based, high-yield agriculture.