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Agriculture News

Puerto Rico's Push For Food Independence Intertwined With Statehood Debate

NPR | Posted on June 11, 2018

Hurricane Maria has reignited a small movement in Puerto Rico aimed at strengthening the local food system so the island can survive and thrive without dependence on the mainland U.S. Before the hurricane struck in September 2017, Puerto Rico imported about 85 percent of its food. And to make matters worse, Maria wiped out 80 percent of crops on the island. Local food supporters acted quickly, cleaning debris, helping to replant farms and spreading their belief that a self-sufficient Puerto Rico would be more resilient to future challenges.

America's Dairyland is hurting and Wisconsin seeks solutions

Fox News | Posted on June 11, 2018

Wisconsin lost 500 dairy farms in 2017 while the total number of milk-cow herds is down about 20 percent from five years ago. The dairy industry has been shifting toward larger, corporate farms over the last 15 years, creating conflicts with local residents and environmental activists because the farms produce massive amounts of waste. Announcement of the task force came on the same day that the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in favor of a massive dairy farm in central Wisconsin that was looking to expand but had been blocked over zoning concerns. Walker, a Republican who faces re-election in November, said the state agriculture department will join forces with the University of Wisconsin System to create the dairy industry task force. It is designed to bring industry experts together to create solutions to help farmers, processors and related industries. "We need to work together to develop a strategy to maintain our state's legacy as the Dairy State," Walker said in a statement.

Scott Walker says crisis team needed to help state's crippled dairy industry

Wisconsin State Journal | Posted on June 11, 2018

When larger and well-managed dairy operations in other parts of the country were threatening to steamroll Wisconsin’s sagging dairy industry about 30 years ago, it began making some radical changes recommended by a group of industry experts that made it more economically viable and ensured the state’s continued status as “America’s Dairyland.” With the state dairy industry at a crossroads once again, a new group of state experts will soon begin meeting and eventually make recommendations that the group’s leader is hoping will put the state dairy industry back on another strong track. But he also acknowledged it’s unfair to ask the group to match some of the spectacular recommendations made by the first group. An emphasis on making specialty cheeses — the cornerstone of the state cheese industry — and expanding product development of whey, a key dairy export, were two of the 75 recommendations made by the Wisconsin Dairy Task Force in a 1987 report. It also told dairy farmers to embrace some of the technology and methods that made the larger, well-maintained dairy operations in California so successful.

Lava Flow Takes Toll on Big Island Agriculture

Hawaii Public Radio | Posted on June 11, 2018

More than 2,500 acres on Hawaii Island are in papaya production. The majority is in the Kapoho area, which is now being affected by lava from Kilauea volcano. The Conversation's Catherine Cruz spoke with Scott Enright, the Director of the State Department of Agriculture,about the potential losses of an industry that is tied to hundreds of jobs. But papayas are not the only agricultural product being affected. Beekeepers were among those who fled the Puna area during the first weeks of the lava flow. Hawaii Island is a major exporter of Queen Bees. The honey and beeswax industry is estimated to be more than $10 million annually. The University of Hawaii's bee expert, Christina Mogren, also gives insight into the stressors the state's bee industry is under.

Preventing farm deaths from tractor rollovers is goal of state-funded grant programs

CSG Midwest | Posted on June 11, 2018

Rollovers kill almost 100 farmers a year, according to the National Safety Council, while even more people are permanently disabled from these incidents. Under Kulp’s proposal (AB 827), state funding would go to cost-share programs that help farmers purchase and install rollover protections. These types of structures (roll bars or roll cages), plus use of a seat belt, are 99 percent effective in preventing injury in the event of a tractor overturn. All tractors built since the mid-1980s have these structures, but about half of the tractors in use today were built before that time. According to Kulp, many farmers in his district, especially those with small operations, drive older tractors and plan to pass them on for use by the next generation of agriculture producers.Six U.S. states, including Minnesota, already have grant programs to encourage the installation of rollover protection structures. Over the past two years, Minnesota legislators have appropriated $250,000 and $150,000, respectively, and also helped raise private funds.

3-D printers are the talk of the farm

Portland Press Herald | Posted on June 11, 2018

These kinds of printers melt various kinds of filaments, including plastic, and build objects one thin layer at a time, using blueprints written in code that users either create themselves, or get from sharing services. The first farm use for the 3-D printer came from agriculture major Sarah Fallon, who figured out a way to make the nipples used for giving chickens water. (In addition to row crops, the school raises sheep, chickens, pigs and turkeys.) The chicken waterers cost pennies on the dollar compared to the ones the school had been buying. And the inexpensive filaments they use are made from corn syrup, and thus biodegradable. It’s been a learning curve for the faculty members, from soldering to looking for other uses for the printer. Crockett focused on making a series of tubes that they hope will serve as housing for pollinators in the college’s orchard. Bees, whether mason or bumblebees, tend to burrow into rotten wood to lay eggs and hibernate. If you take a piece of wood, drill holes in it and put it out for the bees, theoretically they’ll find it, mark it by filling the holes with mud, and then anyone who wants to keep them safe – from the harshest winter temperatures or from hungry predators, like bears – could pick up the wood and move it into a shed or some such

U.S. Supreme Court ties, allowing landmark culvert order to stand in Washington

Capital Press | Posted on June 11, 2018

The U.S. Supreme Court today split 4-4 and will let stand a lower-court order requiring Washington to remove hundreds of culverts to protect tribal fishing rights, an order that farm groups warn will bolster legal challenges to dams and irrigation systems. The tie, made possible by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s recusal, is a victory for 21 Western Washington tribes that had previously prevailed in U.S. District Court and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.Washington appealed the case to the Supreme Court, arguing the order misinterpreted the Stevens Treaties, which the tribes signed in 1854 and 1855.Several Western states, including Idaho, had filed briefs urging the high court to overturn the culvert-removal order. The Washington, Oregon and Idaho Farm Bureaus also filed briefs, echoing the states’ concerns.Former Justice Department lawyer Nathanael Watson, who litigated tribal cases, said the tie vote improves the negotiating position

Trade war breaks out: Will it reach chicken and turkey?

Watt Ag Net | Posted on June 11, 2018

Something that nobody wanted has started – a trade war. At least nobody on the south side of the Rio Grande wanted it, because on the other side it seems that it was wanted. In response to tariffs on steel and aluminum, the Mexican government has decided to impose several tariffs on various American farm products.  For many, that was a lukewarm response, or even timid, very timid, since Mexico "punished" the U.S. with tariffs on cranberries (how many cranberries do Mexicans eat?) and bourbon (maybe we do consume more this, but I doubt it is consumed more than tequila). Corn?  In 2016, Mexico imported 54,500 metric tons of corn from Brazil. By 2017, this figure increased to 583,200 metric tons, and in the first quarter of 2018 it is already at 107,000 metric tons.

Economic challenges of converting to cage-free eggs

Watt Ag Net | Posted on June 11, 2018

The number of eggs consumed per person has to do with the retail price of the product. When consumers are presented with various prices of eggs, they tend to choose the lowest-priced option, explained Maro Ibarburu, business analyst, Egg Industry Center.  "This is the reason why conventional eggs are still 84% of the market.  The U.S. has one of the world's lowest egg production costs, which has helped the U.S. maintain egg exports of 5% annually.  This helps maintain the market. A relatively small change in supply can result in a large change in price.  Since cage free eggs are costlier to produce, as the U.S. industry converts to cage free, it will lose its low cost position in the world market.  This means that egg export volume will decrease,

AEM hosts EPA and USDA for ag equipment demonstration on nutrient management

AEM | Posted on June 9, 2018

On May 9th, AEM hosted its 3rd annual agricultural equipment demonstration for officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture at the University of Maryland’s Wye Research Farm.