With the rising popularity of craft beers and the explosion of microbreweries in California, a San Francisco brewer says he plans to open the state’s first craft malting facility — a move that could revive grower interest in barley, a crop that has seen downward trends in production for years. Compared to fruits, vegetables and nuts, barley is considered a minor crop in California, with most of it grown for animal feed. When grown as malting barley for brewing beer, the grain fetches a much higher price. But farmers have not had much reason to grow malting barley after the state’s last malt house closed years ago. Ron Silberstein, the head brewer at Thirsty Bear Brewing Co., says he wants to change that. His brewery-restaurant already buys much of its ingredients from local farms. Now he wants the barley used in making his beers to be locally grown, too. “I am certain that other (malt houses) will come along after — possibly before — us,” he said. California is home to more than 450 microbreweries, more than any other state, according to the California Craft Brewers Association. There are 27 craft malt houses in the U.S., but none in California.
As California egg producers continue to adapt to new cage size rules, their industry in neighboring Nevada is experiencing a boom. Poultry and egg production cash receipts in the Silver State have risen 200 percent since 2010 — from $5.32 million that year to $15.96 million in 2014, according to USDA statistics. The jump comes as the state’s overall agriculture production value rose by 50 percent during the same period, from $636 million to $952 million, the Nevada Department of Agriculture reported. Driving the growth were cow-calf, milk and hay production, according to the agency. Tatjana Vukovic, an education and information officer for the department, chalks Nevada’s egg and poultry production increases up to rising demand, although she didn’t rule out that California’s Proposition 2 may have enticed a few producers to move operations here.
A global grain surplus will continue to pressure crop prices as this year’s harvest will expand to the second-highest on record. The International Grains Council says world grain production will be nine million metric tons more than forecasted in April as wheat crops improve in the European Union, the United States, and Russia. The International Grains Council expects grain stocks will likely grow again, with much of the increase in China. Crop prices have dropped in the past three years on increased production, and the IGC expects global grain production will reach 2.015 billion tons in the season starting in July, up 0.6 percent from a year earlier. Global stockpiles will expand to a record 474 million tons, with China accounting for about 40 percent. The report predicts farmers around the world will gather 722 million tons of wheat, 0.7 percent higher than the April forecast but down 1.9 percent from a year earlier. Meanwhile, corn production is predicted at 1.003 billion tons, 3.3 percent larger than the last growing season.
The most worrying environmental threats facing the world today range from the rise in diseases transmitted from animals to humans to the increasing accumulation of toxic chemicals in food crops as a result of drought and high temperatures, according to a U.N. report. The U.N. Environment Agency's Frontiers report also highlighted the threat to human health posed by the alarming amount of plastic waste in the oceans, and scientific evidence suggesting that losses and damage from climate change are inevitable, with "profound consequences" for ecosystems, people, assets and economies. The report emphasizes "the critical relationship between a healthy environment and healthy people," and stresses the importance of combatting global warming by moving to a low-carbon future. According to the report, the 20th century saw dramatic reductions in ecosystems and biodiversity — and equally dramatic increases in the numbers of people and domestic animals inhabiting the Earth.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has responded to the concerns of agribusiness by loosening its restrictions on the type of hedging strategies that can be exempted from position limits. A supplemental proposal released by the CFTC would ensure that anticipatory hedging practices could qualify for a “bona fide” hedging exemption. The proposal also would provide flexibility to commodity exchanges to recognize certain positions as bona fide hedging, subject to CFTC oversight.
Utah's law banning secret filming of agricultural facilities is unconstitutional and should be struck down just as Idaho's measure was last year, argue animal welfare activists in a new court filing. The so-called "Ag-gag" law, passed in 2012, has a chilling effect on groups trying to expose unsafe and illegal practices at slaughterhouses and factory farms, said attorneys for a group of plaintiffs that include the Animal Legal Defense Team and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Utah state officials defend the law in their own filing, saying it doesn't violate any constitutional protections and still allows for filming from public places and for whistleblowers to report abuses. The state argues that it promotes workplace safety by barring unskilled undercover operatives from slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants. "These illegal acts cannot be justified by the plaintiffs' bare desire to get a story they want to tell," wrote Kyle Kaiser of the Utah attorney general's office.
The National Pork Board has selected Bill Even to serve as the organization's next CEO. Even is currently global industry relations lead with DuPont Pioneer, where he has worked in some capacity since 2010. Before then, he served as South Dakota agriculture secretary for three years.
A study by U.K.-based PG Economics finds that farmers around the world who use genetically modified (GM) seeds reaped economic benefits averaging more than $100 per hectare (about 2.5 acres) in 2014 while at the same time improving the environmental sustainability of their operations. “Two-thirds of these benefits derive from higher yields and extra production, with farmers in developing countries seeing the highest gains,” said Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics and co-author of the report. “The environment is also benefiting as farmers increasingly adopt conservation tillage practices, build their weed management practices around more benign herbicides and replace insecticide use with insect resistant GM crops.” Worldwide economic benefits of GM crops have reached $150 billion, according to the report, “GM Crops: Global Socio-Economic and Environmental Impacts 1996-2014.”
June 17, 2016 Webinar on unmanned aircraft and animal agriculture
Unmanned aircraft systems are rapidly becoming available to the public. Drones are a tool that can assist with many tasks, and animal agriculture is no exception. Drones can make tasks such as visual inspections, data collection, and small payload operations easier. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates drone use, and requires that drones weighing over 0.55 pounds be registered with the FAA. Before operating a drone, one should be familiar with the FAA guidelines and restrictions. An overview of the capabilities of drones, the potential for drone use in animal agriculture, and the current FAA regulations will be presented. An application for continuing education credit for Certified Crop Advisors (CCAs) and members of the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists (ARPAS) has been submitted
At the Capitol, lawmakers are divided on how far to go to fix the problems. Gov. Mark Dayton has made water quality an issue central to his legacy. He's pushed to boost the number of buffer strips along Minnesota lakes and rivers to help trap farm runoff, although he stepped back from some of those efforts amid pressure from some lawmakers and farm groups. In southeastern Minnesota, about 45 minutes from Rochester, farming and water quality are regular topics for debate. Statewide, the Minnesota Department of Health has detected nitrate pollution in more than 8,000 new drinking water wells. More than 1,000 had nitrate levels deemed unsafe for infants and pregnant women. And there's a lot of bad news. In urban and farm areas less than half of the lakes are considered "fully" swimmable because of phosphate and bacteria contamination. Agriculture may be the biggest culprit, but it is not the only one. Leaking septic systems, mercury in rain and urban runoff also contribute.