As soon as stopping trucks to hold “vigils” at meat processing plants became the latest activist trend, I knew it was only a matter of time before an activist claimed to get injured. It’s pretty clear why a few people gathering around a semi full of livestock (usually at dawn) isn’t really the safest course of action. The Alliance has been working to notify meat companies about this trend and encourage them to take steps to protect not only their businesses and drivers, but the protestors as well.Members of an “Animal Save” group in California are claiming that a truck driver “hit” one of their members when they walked in front of the truck (a review of the video makes it clear that the protestor was not hurt). The activist group involved is affiliated with “The Save Movement,” a network of more than 100 similar local organizations who want to “bear witness” to livestock going to slaughter. “Bearing witness” means stopping trucks to stick their hands in and pet animals, as well as give them food and water. Group leaders have said their goal is to have a “vigil at every slaughterhouse” across the country.
Tariffs, oversupply and European policies may all be to blame for some Hoosier dairy farm troubles. The dairy industry is dealing with some tough times and that trickles down to Hoosier dairy farmers. You may have heard the story of one Indiana farm where milk will no longer be produced. Joe Kelsay said his troubles don't just come from the tariffs on exports, but from a long downward trend in the market. Deb Osza, CEO of the American Dairy Assoc. Indiana, said she believes overproduction may be caused by the tariffs, and that may be a reason Hoosier farmers are having trouble."It's a tough situation when there's too much supply and not enough demand," said Ozsa. "We consume the vast majority of what we produce. But, we don't consume every last bit of it. So, we hneed to be involved in the export market."And, there's another problem-nature."Cows can't just stop producing milk," she said. "They will produce milk for as long as their cycle, eight or nine or ten months, they can't just shut it off."Moving business elsewhereSo, people involved in the industry are trying to make sure that all the extra milk is used, even trying to encourage food companies to make it into cheese and other products, rather than it not being sold and going to waste. She said the tariffs may have stopped some of that because that production happens, to a large degree, outside the U.S."When the tariff situation is resolved things will balance out and we'll be able to get rid of this oversupply," said Osza.
In the era of climate change, record-setting fires are the new norm — something farmers are learning to adapt to. Delbar says it will be weeks if not months before the USDA compiles a comprehensive list of fire damage on Mendocino and Lake County farms, an area known for its vineyards, orchards and organic vegetable farms, in addition to a handful of large ranches. But she says early indications are that ranches, which typically consist of dry, hilly terrain, have had the worst of it, as most other farms are clustered in valleys that were kept safe by firebreaks, or in some cases by farmers’ own irrigation systems used as a last resort.Many ranchers in the area, even if they didn’t lose any livestock, will have heavy financial losses this year because their grazing areas have been reduced to charred earth, says Delbar. “We’ll have to buy a lot of extra hay from now through the winter, plus there are fences and watering systems to rebuild.”Emily MacNair, director of the B.C. Agriculture and Food Climate Action Initiative, says the situation is similar in her province, which is suffering through the worst fire season on record (the previous “record” was set last year). Other than ranch land, few farms have actually burned, she says, but that doesn’t mean that farmers aren’t impacted. MacNair offers a laundry list of secondary impacts, ranging from “smoke taint” making wine unsellable, to farmworkers being treated for respiratory problems as a result of laboring in smoky conditions.
News that China broke with African swine fever (ASF) generated great concern for many in the US swine industry, including Scott Dee, DVM, Pipestone Veterinary Services. “This is a very challenging situation,” Dee told attendees at a recent swine-health conference in Macomb, Illinois. “ASFV is a very tough virus…and difficult to clean up should it get into a premise.”No treatment or vaccines are available for ASF, which can cause up to 100% mortality. Surviving swine continue to shed the virus. The virus only affects swine and generally spreads through oronasal contact and not aerosol. It also is spread by a tick (not found in the US) and in contaminated feed, feces, water, meat and uncooked garbage.Along with Megan Niederwerder, DVM, Kansas State University, and Diego Diel, DVM, South Dakota State University, Dee worked on research that proved viruses, including ASFV, survive in feed products shipped from Eastern Europe to the US.Under the conditions of the study, ASFV survived in several feed ingredients, such as soybean meal, and pork sausage casings, as well as in an empty container during a 30-day trip across the Atlantic Ocean.With nearly 2 million metric tons of ag products including feed shipped to the US from China every year, the risk of spreading a virus like ASF in feed is significant, Dee added.
U.S. agriculture exports set a record in July. “It’s the best July that the U.S. has seen as far as agricultural exports go, the value total,” said Bryce Cooke, an economist with USDA’s Economic Research Service. The total value of U.S. agricultural exports in July totaled just over $11 billion. In the radio update, Gary Crawford pointed out that the USDA trade data showed U.S. agricultural exports at $122 billion for first ten months of the fiscal year (October – July), which is two percent ahead of last year.
It’s August in southern Idaho, and all is calm for the region’s dairy workers. But after four workers were picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE, in July, Latino families have mostly stayed inside, missing church and otherwise lying low. In dairy country, the anxiety is constant. The Idaho Dairymen’s Association’s website is clear about who those workers are today: “Of the 8,100 on-dairy jobs, 85-90 percent are filled by foreign-born labor.” They are also foundationally important: “Without those jobs, none of the 31,300 supporting jobs would exist.” According to a recent study, 40,000 workers in the milk, cheese, yogurt and related products industry have built a $10 billion yearly value in a state economy of $72 billion.Yet because “foreign-born” is too often a euphemism for “illegal,” many of these workers are vulnerable. Consequently, so is an industry that is far more important to Idaho than its famous potatoes.
The Organic Trade Association announced it will develop a voluntary, industry-invested checkoff program to fund research, promotion and education efforts. Organic stakeholders across the supply chain will collaborate to design and implement the program, the group said. The group has formed a steering committee to coordinate the process and address governance questions to maximize participation and good decision making, it said. It also aims to bring together multiple private efforts to foster coordinated organic research and promotion.
In a report titled “Help Wanted,” CoBank — a cooperative bank serving rural America — explores some of the factors influencing today’s agricultural labor climate. The report also takes a closer look at how poultry processor Case Farms, cattle feedyard operator Friona Industries and pork producer Schwartz Farms are addressing the issue.
In Massachusetts, a new law pertaining to abuse/cruelty reporting (HB 2419/S 2646) allows government employees to report known or suspected animal cruelty, abuse, or neglect to local authorities. If an employee makes such a report in good faith, he or she has immunity from civil or criminal liability. The Maryland Department of Agriculture proposed a regulation, Dept of Agriculture/18-196, that would allow a person to administer medically important antimicrobial drugs to livestock if a licensed veterinarian finds that the drug is medically necessary. However, this regulation would prohibit a person from administering antimicrobial drugs solely to promote weight gain or improve feed efficiency.
The early numbers from a new stock assessment of Gulf of Maine northern shrimp doesn't seem to bode well for the future of the long-shuttered fishery. The northern shrimp fishery has been shut down since the 2014 season because of historical lows in spawning and recruitment and escalating concerns over the warming of the Gulf of Maine waters — which researchers have said are warming faster than 99 percent of the world's other ocean waters.The news going forward does not appear much better.Results of the stock assessment "look fairly similar to what we've seen in previous years," said Megan Ware, a fishery management plan coordinator with the Atlantic States. "We're still seeing low trends for northern shrimp. Low abundance, low biomass."