In Washington, the U.S. Department of Energy, through the Bioenergy Technologies Office, announced the selection of three projects to receive up to $8 million, aimed at reducing the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts. These projects will deliver high-impact tools and techniques for increasing the productivity of algae organisms and cultures. They will also deliver biology-focused breakthroughs while enabling accelerated future innovations through data sharing within the research and development community. This funding supports the development of a bioeconomy that can help create jobs, spur innovation, improve quality of life, and achieve national energy security.Algal biomass can be converted to advanced biofuels that offer promising alternatives to petroleum-based diesel and jet fuels. Additionally, algae can be used to make a range of other valuable bioproducts, such as industrial chemicals, bio-based polymers, and proteins. However, barriers related to algae cultivation, harvesting, and conversion to fuels and products need to be overcome to achieve the Department’s target of $3 per gge for advanced algal biofuels by 2030.
A Pennsylvania grain and produce farmer is suing the federal government for $8.1 million in damages and lost crop revenue that he says is the result of flooding caused by the government’s drainage management decisions. Robert Brace, 78, of Erie County, is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He argues that decisions made by those entities cost him more than $8 million that he would have realized from growing the most profitable combination of either cabbages, potatoes or onions. Brace has been in an ongoing battle with the federal government since 1990, when the U.S. EPA sued him for constructing drainage ditches on one of his farms without a permit. He believed he was justified in doing so, because of a “prior converted cropland” exclusion granted to wetlands converted to croplands prior to Dec. 23, 1985.
The new head of the FCC is interested in undoing rules that protect free speech, fairness, and privacy on the internet. Digital rights advocate Karen Fasimpaur asks for your help in stopping this rollback.
A Russian government news release says the ban, first enacted in August 2014, includes products from the U.S., European Union member countries, and Canada, Australia, Norway, Ukraine, Albania, Montenegro, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The ban had been set to expire Jan. 1, but Russia extended it after the EU extended its trade sanctions on Russia through Jan. 31.Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in a news release that the policy of mutual economic restrictions “does not have a future.”
Less than four years later, however, after U.S. special forces raided an al-Qaida cave complex in eastern Afghanistan and found documents on sabotaging American farms through the intentional introduction of diseases that could infect livestock and crops, securing our nation’s food supply became a government priority. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security, which was created in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was charged with implementing a series of Homeland Security Presidential Directives to safeguard agriculture. HSPD-7, issued in December 2003, added agriculture to the list of industries for critical infrastructure protection, and a month later HSPD-9 established a national policy to protect against terrorist attacks on agriculture and food systems. The Securing Our Agriculture and Food Act, sponsored by Iowa Congressman David Young, directs DHS to coordinate efforts to defend U.S. food, agriculture and veterinary systems against terrorist attacks and “high-risk” events and to collaborate with other federal agencies in bolstering the government’s prevention and response capabilities.Young, who first introduced his legislation in the 114th Congress after the 2015 outbreak of avian influenza killed millions of Iowa’s laying hens, turkeys and chickens, said the response to that outbreak from the federal government, including its communications with farmers, was lacking.
The federal government is again trying to prop up the wild blueberry industry in Maine, where sagging prices jeopardize one of the state’s longest-standing agricultural industries. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved up to $10 million to purchase surplus Maine blueberries, the members of Maine’s congressional delegation said. Wild blueberries are one of the most important crops in Maine, but the industry is struggling with a steep decline in the prices paid to farmers.
We’re now halfway through 2017, and this serves as a good reminder that the US Department of Agriculture is a tad late in submitting its annual report to Congress on the dairy and fluid milk promotion programs. Several years late, in fact. The Dairy Production Stabilization Act of 1983, which created the National Dairy Promotion and Research Program, requires USDA to submit an annual report to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees on the dairy promotion program. The enabling legislation for the Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Program, the Fluid Milk Promotion Act of 1990, also requires such a report.But the most recent report posted on the website of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (which has oversight responsibility for both dairy promotion programs as well as a number of other promotion and research programs covering everything from eggs and cotton to popcorn and softwood lumber) covers 2012 program activities. That’s practically ancient history.
A judge has accepted a guilty plea in an investigation of illegal labor at dairies in Michigan’s Thumb region. Madeline Burke pleaded guilty to hiring people without verifying that they were eligible to work in the U.S. The government says the workers were in the U.S. illegally.Burke and her husband are natives of Ireland. They operate two dairies near the tip of the Thumb. Burke has agreed to pay a fine of $187,500, which adds up to $1,500 per illegal worker.
US dairy farmers tend to be conservatives, but many depend on immigrant workers to keep their operations running. Republicans' tough stance on immigration has created a political rift between some farmers and their representatives. This disconnect highlights the complicated place farmers hold in American politics.
A federal court denied a request from the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association (USPOULTRY) seeking a rehearing following a recent ruling issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit requiring additional waste emissions reporting requirements for concentrated animal feeding operations. The court’s ruling rejected an exemption from reporting under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA), two programs that are meant to inform the National Response Center and local first responders of hazards that may call for emergency action.