The planting of a new experimental crop of genetically modified (GM) wheat will take place this spring after the UK government gave the final go ahead. The GM wheat has been engineered to use sunlight more efficiently and has boosted greenhouse yields by up to 40%. Researchers in Hertfordshire now want to see if they can replicate these gains in the field.
A new audit that potato growers some growers will complete this season seeks to provide a common standard for sustainability. A small number of U.S. growers were picked last season for a trial run with the new Potato Sustainability Audit. This season, the Integrated Pest Management Institute of North America will roll out the audit on a large scale. Growers doing business with major potato buyers — including Lamb Weston, J.R. Simplot, McCain Foods, Cavendish Farms, Basic American Foods, McDonald’s and Sysco — will be asked to complete a 104-question survey assessing the sustainability of their operations. Twenty percent of growers surveyed will be audited in person. During the audit, growers will be asked for more in-depth explanations and records pertaining to 13 mandatory questions from the list and 27 optional questions of the auditor’s choice. Based on performance, growers will be ranked as basic, steward, master or expert.
Russia plans to ban temporarily imports of beef and beef products from New Zealand from Feb. 6 after finding the feed additive ractopamine in some samples, Russia's agriculture safety watchdog said. The watchdog, known as Rosselkhoznadzor in Russian, said it was also considering banning fish imports from New Zealand due to traces of mercury in some supplies. New Zealand is not covered by a wider ban on most Western food imports which Moscow introduced in 2014 in retaliation for Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.
Swiss pesticides and seeds group Syngenta (SYNN.S) pushed back the expected closure of its agreed $43 billion takeover by ChemChina [CNNCC.UL] to the second quarter of 2017, but said it was making progress in winning regulatory approval for the deal. The transaction is important for China, the world's largest agricultural market, which is looking to Syngenta's portfolio of chemicals and patent-protected seeds to help bolster food supplies for its huge population.
Former chicken farmers in five states have filed a federal lawsuit accusing a handful of giant poultry processing companies that dominate the industry of treating farmers who raise the chickens like indentured servants and colluding to fix prices paid to them. The farmers located in Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas allege that the contract grower system created by Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue Farms, Koch Foods, and Sanderson Farms pushed them deep into debt to build and maintain chicken barns to meet company demands. They say the companies colluded to fix farmer compensation at low levels to boost corporate profits, making it difficult for the farmers to survive financially. They are seeking class action status for the suit filed in federal court in Muskogee, Oklahoma
The Farm Belt is hurtling toward a milestone: Soon there will be fewer than two million farms in America for the first time since pioneers moved westward after the Louisiana Purchase. Across the heartland, a multiyear slump in prices for corn, wheat and other farm commodities brought on by a glut of grain world-wide is pushing many farmers further into debt. Some are shutting down, raising concerns that the next few years could bring the biggest wave of farm closures since the 1980s. The U.S. share of the global grain market is less than half what it was in the 1970s. American farmers’ incomes will drop 9% in 2017, the Agriculture Department estimates, extending the steepest slide since the Great Depression into a fourth year. “You keep pinching and pinching and pretty soon there’s nothing left to pinch,” said Craig Scott, a fifth-generation farmer in this Western Kansas town. Farming has always been a boom-and-bust enterprise. Today, the swings are sharper and less predictable now that the farm economy has become more international, with more countries growing food for export as well as for their own populations. American farmers’ share of the global grain trade has fallen from 65% in the mid-1970s to 30% today, giving them less sway over prices. More producers and more buyers around the world also mean more potential disruptions from bad weather, famine or political crisis.
When the New York Farm Bureau released its 2017 priorities last week, the state's largest agricultural lobbying/trade organization painted a dire picture. New numbers just released by National Agricultural Statistics Service show the value of farm production in New York dropped by $1 billion in 2015 to $5.33 billion, NYFB stated in announcing its annual lobbying agenda. "That is a significant loss in farm income, and anecdotally Farm Bureau members are saying that farm income will likely drop even further when 2016 numbers are released," NYFB stated.
Animal rights groups want to destroy animal agriculture, and the industry needs to be proactive to protect its future. Animal rights activists have changed their tune and their tactics to seem more mainstream and moderate in recent years, but their objective remains the same. Thompson-Weeman said the goal is dismantling animal agriculture by discouraging consumers to buy meat and farmers to raise animals. Those who doubt the credibility and prowess of the activists groups should look no further than the cage-free movement spurring chaos in the US egg industry. Activist groups are also involved in the push for antibiotic-free production and the emerging slower growing broiler movement. Poultry is a favorite target for activist groups, Thompson-Weeman said, because of its prominent position in the global diet. Activist groups use four main tactics to advance their agenda: direct pressure on retailers and restaurants; trespassing and breaking into facilities to shoot images and videos; targeting youth and college students through animal-rights focused education programs and using religious organizations to legitimize animal rights doctrine.
A HumaneWatch.org ad airing moments before Super Bowl kickoff ripped the Humane Society of the United States, mocking the group's emotional ads often featuring sickly animals in shelters. "Every day thousands of lawyers and lobbyists around the country find themselves out of work and unemployed," a woman says to scenes of lawyers in cages. These lawyers don't have a vacation home," the ad continues. "For just $19 a month you can join the Humane Society of the United States in our fight to hire more lawyers. People often think we run pet shelters but that simply isn't true. We don't run a single one."
A bill approved by the Senate would allow state inspectors to carry out warrantless inspections of hundreds of Virginia produce farms to ensure compliance with federal regulations. “It’s one of those bills you don’t like, but someone’s got to carry it,” said the legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Westmoreland County. He said that if the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services doesn’t conduct the inspections, “then the federal government will come in and do it for us.” But some farming representatives argued that the inspections would violate their constitutional rights. “If the government has free access to your property, that’s in violation of the Fourth Amendment,” Richard Altice of the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association told legislators. “You are mandated to kill this bill.”