COVID-19’s impact on the economy has broadened to include one particularly susceptible area of agriculture: fur farming. Mink farms in various states have begun to report high mortality rates including: 2,000 dead livestock on one farm in Medford, Wisconsin; “several” mink in Lansing, Michigan; and nearly 10,000 deaths throughout the state of Utah. It appears that mink are susceptible to contracting COVID-19 through human contact, though there does not appear science to support the reverse (human infection from animal).
Arizona makes a bold move that lays the foundation for the federal legalization of industrial hemp growth. On February 23, 2017, Senate Bill 1337 was passed. The bill language states that the “director may not prohibit or adopt a rule that prohibits a person from growing industrial hemp based on the legal status of industrial hemp under federal law.”
Arizona joins several other states, including Vermont, California, Oregon, Colorado, Maine, and Massachusetts, in this push to grow and reap the economic benefits of commercialized hemp. Interesting to note that a 2005 Congressional Report found that the United States is the sole developed nation that has not developed industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity for food, bio-fuel, cosmetics, plastics, and more – an industry with a potential earning of $600 million or more.
As an anecdotal aside, Wisconsin has notoriously had higher standards when it comes to care and quality of animal byproducts – in particular when it comes to dairy farming. Wisconsin has been fairly resistant to the animal feedlot / massive factory farming movement and has done so by controlling things like antibiotic use, square footage available per animal, etc. That’s why this news from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is especially shocking.
Pursuant to a statute allowing local Wisconsin governments to create water quality standards and regulations that are more strict than existing state law, Bayfield County passed a one year moratorium in February 2015 on large scale, factory farms to block an Iowa based company from creating a 24,000-26,000 head hog farm (a controlled animal feeding operation, or “CAFO”). At the expiration of the moratorium, Bayfield County then passed two ordinances in February 2016 that gave the County massive oversight of farm operations and water pollution.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources blocked these ordinances, essentially siting that they were not tailored enough to the actual water pollution problems in the watersheds of the County.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin vetoed SB1142 ((final version link)), the Feral Swine Control Act, on May 20, 2016. The proposed bill allows the hunting of all wild hogs without a hunting license. Additionally, the following, often regulated or prohibited activities, would also be allowed when for hunting wild hogs, also without a hunting license: use of ATVs or other land vehicles to pursue or follow ferile swin; use a vehicle mounted spotlight; and use night-vision equipment or thermal-imaging technology.
Feral swine are deemed invasive species by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS for a more manageable name) and “cause cause damage to agricultural crops and livestock and threaten native wildlife and habitats” with its income impact estimate alone at $2 billion. SB1142 seeks protect Oklahoma’s agribusiness and natural lands.
Opponents of the bill note that it would make it exponentially easier for poachers and exponentially harder for game wardens to effectively do their jobs in keeping the wildlife ecosystem in Oklahoma in balance and preventing illegal poaching. License free hunting on public land also creates a public safety issue. Moreover, there is nothing to show that hog hunting actually reduces the feral swing population and USDA research shows that controlled hog trapping, done by game management specialists, is the most effective population control system (source).
Personal opinion: this all really highlights the tedious balance of wildlife population control.
In a controversial move, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed a widely supported bill that would give farmers $40 million in aid after a massive two foot/12 hour rainfall in October.
Ohio is looking to pass Senate Bill 75 which will amend current agritourism laws to provide landowners additional protection from lawsuits. Agritourism can include, for example, you-pick orchards, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and petting zoos. In the United States, income from agritourism has increased by 40% from 2007 to 2012. In an attempt to promote this economic benefit to Ohio, Senate Bill 75 protects landowners from costly lawsuits if patrons get injured from “inherent risks” of agritourism. A good example of this is a corn maze having naturally occurring dips or puddles or a petting zoo goat biting a patron. If you live in Ohio, you can contact your Senator here to express any support or concerns.
Reaching the groundbreaking Paris Agreement was arguably the easy part. Implementation in the United States is going to require bureaucratic participation from more than just the EPA.
Listen to US Department of Agricukture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s comments on implementing climate change iniatives here.
On Thursday, July 23, 2015, the United States House of Representatives passed the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act” (or, as opponents call it, the “Deny Americans the Right to Know” Act) with 275 representatives voting in favor of the bill and 150 opposed. This bill makes the labeling of food that contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs) voluntary, and is applied nationally. This has the effect of preempting and overruling the states that are attempting to or have passed laws that require that all GMO containing food-products be labelled accordingly (Maine and Connecticut, for example).
Many food and agricultural companies lobbied for the bill, stating the requirement that some states put on them (or would put on them, should individual states pass label requirement laws) would be heavily burdensome. Conversely, those opposed to GMOs continue to cite that science is unclear on the effects that GMOs have on the environment and on the consumer.
The Department of Agriculture, through the Secretary of Agriculture, has authority to issue “marketing orders” that require growers of food goods to give up percentages of their crop to the government for free. In this case, specifically, it was raisins.
The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution protects individuals constitutional right to personal property and prevents the government from taking people’s property without compensating them fairly.
In 2002-2003, raisin growers were required to turn over 47% of their crop to the government without any compensation, and in 2003-2004, raising growers were likewise required to turn over 30% of their annual growth yield. Marvin and Laura Horne refused, bringing this suit all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court held that the government, specifically the Department of Agriculture, must fairly compensate raising growers that are affected by the “market orders.”