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Agriculture News

Low pathogenic avian flu detected in 3 US states

Watt Ag Net | Posted on July 18, 2016

Birds test positive for low pathogenic avian influenza at live poultry markets in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.

Animal health authorities are conducting trace-back and testing at markets that have epidemiologic links to the affected markets, Hayden said. APHIS manages a joint system with states and the poultry industry to control low-pathogenic H5 and H7 in live-bird market systems and that states participating in the program have APHIS-approved response plans, she added.

GMO labeling bill heads to the president

Meat + Poultry | Posted on July 18, 2016

The US House of Representatives passed by a vote of 306 to 117 a bill that establishes mandatory, nationwide labeling requirements for food products containing bioengineered ingredients. The Senate passed the bill by a 63 to 30 vote on July 7. The bill was sent to President Barack Obama for his signature. It was expected the president will sign the bill into law. The bill nullifies the Vermont mandatory GMO labeling law that took effect July 1. The bill requires food manufacturers to disclose the presence of bioengineered ingredients in one of three ways: text on the package, a symbol on the package or a link to a web site (a quick response code or similar technology).

U.S. corn yields set to plummet

Weather Trends 360 | Posted on July 18, 2016

Everything was humming along in the U.S. Corn Belt in middle July 2011 up until the 3rd week of July when a major heat-wave and dry spell hit much of the Eastern half of the U.S. and the U.S. Corn Belt. Let's compare 2016 with 2011. First, let's compare meteorological Summer 1 June - 13 July here in 2016 compared to the same period in 2011. Eerily similar only this Summer has been hotter/drier than 2011 so far, except in Texas. Actually the extreme June temperatures in the Western and Southern Corn Belt in June this year were much worse in 2016 than they were in 2011. The chart below shows the 25 year temperature and rainfall trends for the Corn Belt as a whole. 2016 was very near 2012 in terms of temperatures and much drier than 2011. This has taken the top line yields out of the equation for 2016 as many crops in S-W Iowa, Missouri and S. Illinois rolled for 3-4 weeks during the hot/dry June.

Support Agriculture By Supporting New Growers

Growing Produce | Posted on July 18, 2016

The Young Farmer Success Act isn’t a handout. It’s a repayment plan, where those entering the agriculture industry are making income-based repayments consistently for 10 years, prior to qualifying for debt forgiveness. That means they have to make a 10-year commitment to agriculture before benefiting from such a program. If in 10 years, a grower has outstanding student debt, it’s forgiven.

This act may not have a lot to do with you, on the surface, but if you want agriculture to have a seat at the table in the future, we need dedicated young people willing to give a agriculture a chance. And they need all of our support.

Adaptation, Climate Change, Agriculture, and Water

Choices magazine | Posted on July 18, 2016

Critics of water markets and efficient allocations in general claim that this flexibility is dangerous because high-income households and profitable firms could enjoy all the water they want, leaving low-income households to die of thirst. Would this happen if water was allocated by a market?  Drinking is one of the highest valued uses of water in the entire market. A market for water is going to place a very high priority on getting people drinking water precisely because it is a high-valued use. In the absence of markets for water in many developing countries, poor people currently pay the highest price for water in the country (WUP, 2003). Rich households and firms enjoy low cost water from their utility connections, but poor households must pay much higher prices for water from tankers.  Markets for water would even out these price differences and likely reduce the price of drinking water for the poor. Higher prices may be a burden for the poor and they may cause the poor to use less water.  But it is not inevitable that markets would prevent people from having access to drinking water.      A more serious concern with reallocating water is that there are often incidental beneficiaries of water withdrawals.  When a farmer exercises his right to withdraw water, a great deal of that water flows off the farmer’s land into neighbors lands either over the surface or in shallow aquifers. The neighbors get access to water from the primary farmer’s withdrawal. If the primary farmer sells the right to withdraw his water to a distant user, the neighbors will no longer get this incidental benefit. The neighbors therefore have a stake in preventing the primary farmer from selling. The water market would benefit from effective ways to grant part of the proceeds from a water sale to the neighboring users of existing withdrawals.

Dealing with Water Scarcity: Need for Economy-Wide Considerations and Institutions

Choices magazine | Posted on July 18, 2016

A simple metric of water scarcity is the water availability per capita. We calculate it for both water-endowed and water-short countries. Under ideal conditions of water resource management and with no external shocks, such as climate change, both affecting the availability and variability, respectively, over time and across landscape, our world faces increased scarcity of water.  This scarcity under ‘ideal conditions’ is by itself devastating.  Different regions and countries lost 50-75% of the available water per capita in the past 100 years.  Add to that the loss due to mismanagement and external climate change shocks, and we face a catastrophic situation, especially in some parts of the world.

The substantial reduction in the available renewable water resources, on the one hand, and the increase in the water-consuming economic activities—for example for food production, increases in standards of living—on the other hand, lead to a widening gap between the water quantities supplied and demanded.  Usually, such a gap is bridged in the short run by increasing the overdraft of available water stocks—namely groundwater aquifers.  Indeed, 21 of the world’s 37 largest aquifers around the world extracted more water than was recharged during a recent 10-year study period ending in 2014


Water Scarcity, Food Production, and Environmental Sustainability—Can Policy Make Sense?

Choices magazine | Posted on July 18, 2016

Confusion exists about water scarcity, but much more confusion and disagreement prevails about policies and the means to address water scarcity.  In an article published at the beginning of the millennium, Glieck (2003) compares 20th century water policies and those needed for the 21st century. Policies developed in the previous century were based on development of physical means, such as pipes and reservoirs. But the fact that many unsolved water problems, including in particular scarcity, remain or even worsened calls for a paradigm shift.  Glieck’s term “soft path” calls for development and adoption of policies with non-structural means to allow for complementing of physical infrastructure with lower cost management systems, decentralized and transparent decision-making, use of pricing and water markets for water allocation, development and use of technological means, and incorporation of incentives for environmental protection considerations.  While the list of possible routes for a policy reform that addresses water scarcity and its implications is quite long, there have been attempts to follow it, some with more success and some with less success. The five articles in this special theme issue of Choices represent a subset of the issues at stake:

  • The role of economy-wide policies, policies that consider all types of water, and investment in technological vs. behavioral research;
  • Adaptation of the agricultural and water sectors to climate change;
  • Incorporation of environmental consideration in cost-effective conservation policies;
  • Challenges of agricultural water productivity for coping with scarcity; and
  • Role of water institutions.


Farmers ‘frustrated’ with public perception of ag

Agri-news | Posted on July 18, 2016

A new survey conducted by Dow AgroSciences shows a widening gap between agriculture and consumers. The survey questioned 155 growers, between 35 and 65 years old, in the Midwest.  Less than 2 percent say policymakers understand the impact of regulations on their businesses.  Nearly 80 percent contend policymakers don’t understand the ag industry overall. Seventy-nine percent contend a more-informed consumer benefits U.S. agriculture. Only one in 10 say farmers can influence food company decisions on ag inputs used in their products. Less than 19 percent believe consumer preferences now influence how they farm.  Ninety percent have implemented practices to improve soil health, conservation and water quality.

Maple Leaf Foods plant gets $90K boost | Posted on July 14, 2016

Maple Leaf Foods has received $90,380 in federal and provincial government grants to bolster employee training at the company’s Hamilton, Ontario, processing plant.

Yet another documentary aims to skewer animal ag on the fork | Posted on July 14, 2016

Following in the footsteps of “Food, Inc.” and “Cowspiracy” before it, the latest film to use entertainment as a tactic to plant questions in consumers’ heads about their food supply is set to premiere this week. "At the Fork" positions itself as a “refreshingly unbiased look at how farm animals are raised for our consumption” —but I can’t see how that’s possible when the film was produced in partnership with HSUS, an organization with a vegan CEO and a 15-member “meatless transition team” working to take meat off the menu at restaurants and in schools and institutions. I’m also not sure how a film can be considered “unbiased” when it is accompanied by the “At the Fork challenge,” which claims to offer participants a way to “improve the lives of farm animals” by receiving 21 days’ worth of “higher-welfare” and plant-based recipes. You can bet the definition of “higher welfare” will include the GAP program used by Whole Foods — which is also a “partner” in the film. This isn’t sounding very unbiased to me.