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Agriculture News

Catfish Inspections on chopping block, fight continues

KNOE | Posted on June 8, 2016

Catfish inspections could be on the chopping block. After a heated debate, the Senate narrowly voted to stop the U-S Department of Agriculture from inspecting the fish.   Opponents of the inspections say there’s something fishy surrounding Wicker’s motives. They think he wants to squash competition from places like Vietnam, where the fish comes cheaper. They also believe an inspection program like this is waste of money. But Wicker claims it's cost-effective at just over $1 million a year.  The USDA said, “The Administration has always prioritized appropriate controls that result in a safe food supply for American consumers. The Administration also seeks to ensure regulatory certainty for those throughout the supply chain. "The USDA rule resulted from a clear congressional directive in the 2014 Farm Bill that required the USDA to act. The Administration will continue to work with Congress to continue to maintain the safety of food supply, while ensuring regulatory certainty.”

Texas high court sides with landowners in surface rights case

Feedstuffs | Posted on June 7, 2016

The Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of Coyote Lake Ranch LLC in its case against the city of Lubbock, Texas. The court ruled that the accommodation doctrine that applies to mineral estates shall also apply to surface estates — a decision praised by the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Assn. (TSCRA).   “The Supreme Court’s decision is a major victory for landowners across Texas,” TSCRA president Richard Thorpe said. “This ruling clarifies surface owners have protections against those who may own an interest in not only the mineral estate but also the surface estate.”

In 1953, the city of Lubbock bought the rights to Coyote Lake Ranch’s groundwater. In 2012, Coyote Lake Ranch took issue with the city's plan to drill an additional 20 groundwater test wells in the middle of the ranch, followed by 60 additional groundwater wells across the ranch. The owners of the ranch said the construction of these wells would have impeded the travel of their irrigation systems and destroyed grazing for their cattle. The ranch argued that the accommodation doctrine, used in the oil and gas industry, should also apply in this case.  Coyote Lake Ranch filed its case with the Bailey County District Court, where a temporary injunction against the city halted construction of the groundwater wells in November 2013. In response to the injunction, the city filed an appeal in the Amarillo Court of Appeals, and the court ruled in favor of the city in June 2014.

Ag Merger Mania

DTN | Posted on June 7, 2016

Neil Harl has been waiting for an uprising in the countryside that doesn't seem to be coming.  A professor emeritus in ag economics at Iowa State University, Harl has been watching the consolidation of companies selling agricultural inputs his entire career. He recalls in the early 1980s there were more than 400 seed companies around the country.  Consolidation in the seed industry intensified in the past three decades. Since 2010, two companies -- DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto -- have controlled 70% of corn hybrid sales, according to industry numbers. Harl is surprised by the lack of apprehension from farmers who have seen prices for inputs continue to go up.  "I would have expected uprisings over the last several months," Harl said. "Farmers haven't been able to organize against (seed) price increases so they have a take-it-or-leave-it kind of situation there.  Harl added, "It's probably going to have to get worse before there is enough of an awakening. There's so much at stake here that I wake up in the morning and wonder what else we can do to get people excited about this because I think it's worthy of that kind of attention."

The latest round of consolidation in the seed and chemical industry kicked off late last year as Dow Chemical and DuPont announced plans to merge in a deal then valued at about $130 billion. Dow-DuPont will spin off into three separate divisions, including a stand-alone ag division. Since Dow-DuPont, the state-owned China National Chemical Corp. (ChemChina) announced plans to buy Swiss-based Syngenta for $43 billion. That deal came after Monsanto Co. spent much of last year trying to woo Syngenta.  Now, Monsanto is on the other side of the sale block, with a $62 billion offer from Bayer AG rejected only because Monsanto wants a better deal for its shareholders.

Supreme Court Holds Wetlands Jurisdictional Determinations Are Appealable

OFW law | Posted on June 7, 2016

Peat miners, golfers, and landowners with real property containing or adjacent to Waters of the United States will benefit greatly from the Supreme Court’s May 31st decision in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v Hawkes Co.  Hawkes resolved whether an approved jurisdictional determination by the Army Corps of Engineers (“Approved JD”) involving wetlands owned by a peat mining company in Minnesota is an appealable final agency action under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”).  In a major victory for property rights, the Supreme Court unanimously held that landowners may appeal Approved JDs under the APA to federal district court.

Opinion: Make no mistake: The bank lobby wants to kill farm credit

Agri-Pulse | Posted on June 7, 2016

Because for years, both the American Bankers Association (ABA) and the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) have been doing everything in their power to undercut Farm Credit in the halls of Congress. And they both have gone on record over the past year advocating that Farm Credit be abolished.

Last year, for instance, then ABA President & CEO Frank Keating did a recorded interview in which he explicitly called for Farm Credit to be eliminated. “To have the Farm Credit System, an ossified anachronism, still in existence just makes no sense whatsoever,” Keating proclaimed. “It's time we have the debate [in Congress], which we are, and the next step of course is not just to have the debate but actually get rid of the Farm Credit System.”  Meanwhile, at the ICBA website, a list of policy priorities for 2016 includes the following: “ICBA urges Congress to either abolish the FCS, or at a minimum restrict the FCS to its historical mission of serving the agricultural marketplace.”

The customer-owners of the Farm Credit System include over 525,000 farmers, ranchers, cooperatives and other rural borrowers across the country. They rely on Farm Credit every day for loans and other financial services that help their businesses succeed and their communities stay viable. As customer-owners of Farm Credit institutions, they have a direct say in how their institution accomplishes its mission to support rural communities and agriculture. And because they are owners, they know that Farm Credit will be there to meet their needs in good times and bad. 

Glyphosate unlikely to pose cancer risk through diet, WHO says

Agri-Pulse | Posted on June 7, 2016

“Glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet,” a World Health Organization/Food and Agriculture Organization panel has concluded.

The Joint WHO/FAO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) came to the same conclusion about malathion and diazinon, two other pesticides evaluated along with glyphosate by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in March 2015.

IARC concluded that all three chemicals were probable human carcinogens. The glyphosate finding has since become a rallying cry for glyphosate foes and an object of derision for Monsanto and other pro-glyphosate forces.

Florida city bans commercially bred animals from pet stores

Sun Sentinel | Posted on June 6, 2016

Hollywood, Florida commissioners voted 6-1 in favor of the ban before a packed house, with Commissioner Patty Asseff casting the lone dissenting vote. Under the ban, pet shops will be forced to sell dogs and cats from animal shelters and rescue groups. The controversial proposal drew more than 55 speakers, including Judy Norford, the owner of Puppy Palace, the only store in Hollywood that sells commercially bred animals.  "My puppies are my life," Norford said. "I eat, sleep, drink puppies. No one loves animals more than I do." Ron Book, attorney for Norford, argued dog lovers should have the right to choose purebred puppies from pet shops.  But dozens of speakers urged city leaders to put the squeeze on what they say is a cruel industry that forces animals to live out their lives in tiny cages without toys, human attention or even basic medical care.  They listed several cities nationwide that have passed similar bans, including Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.  But several speakers — many of them employees and relatives of Norford — defended Puppy Palace, saying it has been in business for 32 years and has a long list of happy customers.


Farm Bureau files suit over corporate farming law

Grand Forks Herald | Posted on June 4, 2016

A lawsuit challenging the state's corporate farming law, which was described by the North Dakota Farm Bureau as unconstitutional as well as discriminatory, was filed in federal court. The lawsuit comes less than two weeks before voters weigh in on a ballot measure to determine whether or not to uphold exceptions to corporate farming law passed by lawmakers last session. Senate Bill 2351 passed last session following a lengthy debate. It provided exemptions to allow for corporate dairy and swine operations numbering at least 50 cows or 500 swine on a farm of up to 640 acres.

For more information on the law see our article in Stateline Midwest - Future of corporate farming bans in doubt in three states.

Farm Confessional: I Hope My Family’s Farm Doesn’t Become a Golf Course—But I Won’t Take it On

Modern Farmer | Posted on June 4, 2016

When I asked him why he didn’t want to take over his family’s farm, he rubbed his thumb against his index and middle fingers. Money. I couldn’t blame him. As a senior in high school, I applied to every need-based scholarship I could to go to college, receiving many. One of the organizations that awarded me a scholarship, however, thought I doctored our tax returns. They called me on the phone, unwilling to believe a family could survive on such little money. “We want people who are needy, not greedy,” they said. “People are used to a paycheck every other Friday,” my mother tells me as we discuss the future of this farm and others in the country. “They don’t know how to live on a paycheck that comes a few times a year.” She’s right. I couldn’t do what she does—and I feel a wave of regret, as if I am betraying her.  The story of the American farm is a strange one. With a romantic tendency to focus on small, family farms and vilify vast, corporate farms, we leave out the stories of crucial, mid-size farms. In a bizarre echo of our country’s current class structure, these operations in the middle disappearing, while the small and large ones continue to grow. Even if I was strong enough to endure the physical demands, I would be crippled by the lack of clarity that comes with farming. I can’t handle not knowing what the weather will be like, what machine will break, what animal will die. I went into teaching where I savored the control and the crystal-clear knowledge that came with planning a syllabus months in advance.

CDFA orders long-term change on milk pricing

Ag Alert | Posted on June 4, 2016

Milk prices paid to California dairy farmers, specifically the portions related to dry whey, will continue to be calculated based on a state milk pricing formula that's been in use since last August. The California Department of Food and Agriculture ordered a permanent change to the dry-whey scale used to determine the whey-factor value in the state pricing formula for Class 4b milk, which relates to milk used to manufacture cheese and its byproduct whey. The decision comes after CDFA held a hearing in April to consider changes to the dry-whey scale. The department held a similar hearing last June, after which it implemented a temporary change to the dry-whey scale that was to be in place for one year, expiring in August. The current decision makes that temporary scale a permanent part of the formula, effective in June. In her letter to stakeholders, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross said she still believes modifying the state's milk pricing formula is not an adequate way "to address long-term structural challenges facing the dairy industry," but that the department "must continue to respond to changing conditions in our industry by using the only tools available through the current milk pricing system." "Once dairy product markets improve, this adjustment will provide a needed increase in revenue to producers to promote a stable milk supply," she said. Ross further noted that strong global milk production, high inventories of dairy products and decreased dairy-product sales to key importing countries have dropped milk prices and eroded incomes for producers in California and across the nation