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Agriculture News

Washington dairy sued over Clean Water Act

Yakima Herald | Posted on April 13, 2017

A Lower Valley dairy is being sued over claims that it has violated the federal Clean Water Act for years, including contributing to the impact of a manure-related flood in the Outlook area earlier this year.The lawsuit against Snipes Mountain Dairy was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Yakima.The plaintiffs are Community Association for Restoration of the Environment, commonly known as CARE, and Friends of Toppenish Creek. Both nonprofits have been active critics of dairy practices in the Lower Valley. Charlie Tebbutt, a Eugene, Ore., lawyer who represents CARE, said the Outlook flood was only a small part of the overall lawsuit.Plaintiffs’ lawyers had been working on the case well before that.“That’s just one more problem that the facility has had over the years,” Tebbutt said. “This has been a recurring problem for many, many years, even over a decade or more.”The lawsuit claims that Snipes Mountain has polluted surface water and groundwater by discharging manure and other pollutants. The manure from the dairy cows is spread on farm fields.The dairy is classified as a concentrated animal feeding operation.Under that permit, it is prohibited from polluting groundwater, according to the lawsuit.

Big Worries In Vermont’s Dairy Industry

WBUR | Posted on April 13, 2017

Fears on the farm. How President Trump’s immigration crackdown could impact Vermont’s dairy industry. Vermont is probably not a state you’d think of in the conversation about immigration and border security. But the state’s multi-billion dollar dairy industry relies on undocumented agriculture workers to milk and more. President Trump’s executive orders and tough talk have undocumented workers scared. And farmers don’t know what they’ll do without a reliable workforce. This hour On Point, Vermont, agriculture, and immigration.

The questions no one is asking about raising food animals without antibiotics

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on April 13, 2017

Recently, I spent a morning with a country veterinarian. As he checked cattle for their health certificates, we talked about antibiotic use in cattle, sheep, pigs, turkeys and chickens. He’s observed a deeply concerning trend; many sick animals are not being treated with antibiotics because ranchers and farmers are required to keep their animals ABF (antibiotic free) for their large, socially driven corporate customers. When animals get sick, and many do, just like many kids get sick, they need antibiotics to get better. Most parents would never withhold antibiotics if their child had an infection that a medicine would help cure. That would be cruelly neglectful. Most in ag production would also gladly pay for the antimicrobials to help their animals heal from an infection. But over the last few years we’ve seen social paranoia needlessly demonize the right judicious use of antibiotics. Chick-fil-a declared they’ll end antibiotic use in their chickens by 2019. Last week, KFC announced that by the end of 2018 all their chicken will be raised without antibiotics “important to human medicine.” Chipotle, Panera Bread, and Subway have also received wide social media praise for going antibiotic free. Is this a scientifically justifiable reaction?

Trouble on the farm

Minneapolis Federal Reserve | Posted on April 13, 2017

District crop and livestock producers are struggling to cope with a sharp drop in commodity prices. For agricultural producers across the Ninth District, this has been the winter of their discontent. After reaping handsome profits earlier in the decade, producers are reeling from lower crop and livestock prices, the result of several years of high commodity production worldwide and a strong U.S. dollar that has limited farm exports.Many producers in the district are operating at a loss because revenues are not covering their costs. “I’m not sure I want to call it depression, but we’re getting into probably what is the third year of a downswing, and certainly there’s concern and anxiety,” said Keith Olander, dean of agricultural studies at Central Lakes College, a community and technical college in north-central Minnesota.

Canada says don't blame it for Wisconsin dairy woes

milw | Posted on April 13, 2017

Canada says it’s being wrongly blamed for a decision by a major dairy processor that could put some Wisconsin farms out of business in less than three weeks.At issue are changes in Canadian policy that make it harder for U.S. dairy processors — such as Grassland Dairy Products of Greenwood — to sell ultra-filtered milk, used to make cheese, in Canada.The policies are “choking off sales of American milk to the detriment of U.S. dairy farmers,” said Tom Vilsack, former U.S. Agriculture Secretary and now president of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. Grassland notified about 75 Wisconsin farms that as of May 1, it is canceling their contracts because it has lost its Canadian business.“The Canadian government has put in place several regulations to prevent this trade from continuing,” the company said in a letter to the farmers. "Canada isn’t taxing or levying tariffs on U.S. exports, but instead is changing the pricing structure of its own milk supply to provide preferential pricing treatment for domestic suppliers," Galen said.Not so fast on placing that blame, say Canadian farmers, who fault the U.S. for producing too much milk in a global marketplace flooded with it.“We don’t feel good about U.S. farms going out of business. But you know what? It’s not our responsibility. It’s your own responsibility, as a country, to manage your production,” said Isabelle Bouchard, director of government relations for the trade group Dairy Farmers of Canada.“We are a nation of 36 million people, less than the population of California. How do you expect us to (consume) your over-supply of milk when we already produce milk for our market?”

Your farm is trying to kill you

Politico | Posted on April 13, 2017

Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in America, with 22 of every 100,000 farmers dying in a work-related accident. Farmers are nearly twice as likely to die on the job as police officers are, five times as likely as firefighters, and 73 times as likely as Wall Street bankers. Farming death rates may be high, but the injury rates are even higher. In 2014, the most recent year for which data are available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were 58,000 adult farm injuries — nearly 6,000 more than the number of U.S. soldiers wounded in all the years since 9/11. Many of those injuries last a lifetime, driving up disability rates among rural Americans, who are 50 percent more likely to have some form of disability than their urban counterparts. Also contributing are high rates of injury in other professions rooted in rural areas, including logging, fishing and trucking. In fact, the jobs that provide the way of life in America’s iconic farms, fisheries and forests also tend to be the most dangerous in the country. As a result, occupational safety — or the lack of it — is a major and largely unexamined contributor to a cycle of disability, poverty and chronic poor health that makes life difficult for millions of rural Americans.

Zoonotic rat lungworm infection spreading through US

Smart Brief | Posted on April 11, 2017

Six human cases of rat lungworm brain infestations of humans have been reported on the Hawaiian island of Maui in three months, compared with two cases over the previous decade, and health officials are concerned. The parasite, which is endemic in parts of the contiguous US and spreading, likely came from Asia via ships, and globalization still plays a role in its spread. It's transmitted to humans via intermediate snail or slug hosts.

Agriculture is depleting world aquifers, new satellite measurements show

Minnesota Post | Posted on April 11, 2017

Agriculture’s heavy demand on the world’s freshwater resources is well understood from the output end — of all water consumption for all uses, the United Nations estimates, 70 percent goes to produce food. But the problem has been more difficult at the sourcing end, which requires distinguishing between perpetually replenished surface water from lakes and streams on the one hand, and essentially nonrenewable underground reserves on the other.Quantifying the impact of withdrawals from aquifers has become a little easier since the introduction about 15 years ago of the satellite program known as GRACE, for Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, developed in a collaboration of the U.S. and German space programs. But where is the water going?To answer that question, the team made what appears to be the first effort to overlay depletion data with country-by-country statistics on agricultural output, to see how much of the loss could be attributed to food production.They called the resulting measurement GWD — groundwater depletion for irrigation — and the numbers were rather grim in terms of the acceleration rate. Of course, agricultural depletion is not uniform across the globe. About two-thirds of the GWD calculated for 2010 was in just four countries: India (7.35 km3), Iran (3.33 km3), Pakistan (2.75 km3) and China (2.40 km3). Almost 85 percent occurred in 10 nations — the top four plus the United States (1.62 km3), Mexico (1.11 km3), Libya (.25 km3), Turkey (.20 km3), and Italy (.20 km3).During the decade that ended in 2010, the acceleration of GWD was most rapid in India (23 percent), China (102 percent) and the United States (31 percent).

Why one Smiths Falls farmer is giving away his land | Posted on April 10, 2017

If you love animals, are prepared to work hard and long for the bucolic lifestyle, Stephen Overbury has a proposition for you. Overbury is looking for someone to take over his farm near Smiths Falls, Ont., as he prepares to return to Japan, where he had lived for about 15 years.But instead of selling it or renting it out, the 62-year-old is offering it up to the right person, in perpetuity — and it won't cost a dime to take it over."[Selling] is conventional thinking, the prudent way of thinking about yourself and what's best for yourself," Overbury told CBC News on Friday."By selling the farm, first I'd have to dispose of the animals. And a number of them are older, and a few are special-needs. And that's what I call reckless abandonment." "Thirty below zero, slugging around and feeding the cows? This is sheer hard work, and it is not for everybody," Overbury said. Overbury wasn't on his own when he took over the farm three years ago, but he is now, and said the upkeep has simply become too onerous. He briefly looked into finding new homes for his animals, but said it would take "decades" to find appropriate accommodations for all of them.

Farms could slash pesticide use without losses, research reveals

The Guardian | Posted on April 7, 2017

Virtually all farms could significantly cut their pesticide use while still producing as much food, according to a major new study. The research also shows chemical treatments could be cut without affecting farm profits on over three-quarters of farms.  The new research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Plants, analysed the pesticide use, productivity and profitability of almost 1,000 farms of all types across France. By comparing similar farms using high or low levels of pesticides, the scientists found that 94% of farms would lose no production if they cut pesticides and two-fifths of these would actually produce more. The results were most startling for insecticides: lower levels of pesticides would result in more production in 86% of farms and no farms at all would lose production. The research also indicated that 78% of farms would be equally or more profitable when using less pesticide.“It is striking,” said Nicolas Munier-Jolain, at France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research, and one of the team who conducted the new study. He said the results show that pesticide reduction is possible today for most arable farmers, without losing money: “Our results are quite consistent with the UN [myth] report.”“But [the research] does not mean pesticides are useless or inefficient,” he said. The farmers using low levels of chemicals employ other methods to control pests, he said, such as rotating crops, mechanical weeding, using resistant varieties and carefully managing sowing dates and fertiliser use. “It’s a big change, but not a revolution,” he said.“If you want real reduction in pesticide use, give the farmers the information about how to replace them,” said Munier-Jolain. “This is absolutely not the case at the moment. Graeme Taylor, a spokesman for the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) which represents pesticide manufacturers, said: “Characterising it as an argument between using more or less is unhelpful as it ignores the reality that any genuine commitment to sustainable agriculture means giving farmers access to a variety of tools. Pesticides are not a panacea, but are one of the most important tools available to the farmer to fight pests and diseases.”He said a recent consultancy report commissioned by the ECPA indicated that French farmers would lose €2bn of grape production without access to certain pesticides. The new research showed that the type of farms most sensitive to cuts in pesticide use are potato and sugar beet farms, because they use high levels of pesticides and are highly profitable. But it showed that most arable farms could cut pesticides by over 40% without losses. The researchers wrote: “The reduction of pesticide use is one of the critical drivers to preserve the environment and human health.”