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USDA Announces $19 Million in Grants to New Farmers

USDA Announces $19 Million in Grants to New Farmers

Earlier this month, the USDA announced $19 million in grants for young farmers. The grants, managed by the National Institutes of Food and Agriculture, are aimed at those trying to break into farming and those who have been at it for fewer than 10 years.

The grants will help train producers through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), the USDA said in a statement in mid-April. Those competitive grants help beginning ranchers, farmers and foresters through the extension of training and technical assistance.

Legislation Roundup – Alaska

What sort of agricultural laws is your state considering to pass?  Legislation Roundup highlights the laws that each state’s legislative branch is considering in session.  Never forget the importance of public political participation.  If you live in any of these states and support or oppose any state legislation, never hesitate to contact your assembly(wo)man/representative/senator and voice your opinion!  We pay their salaries in taxes.

  • HB215 – Would require all genetically engineered food products to have a label indicating it was “produced with genetic engineering” or “partially produced with genetic engineering.” Unpackaged food, such as produce, would have to have a label visible on the shelf or bin they are being sold in. This bill would bar any product from being labelled as “natural,” “naturally grown,” or “all natural” if it contains or was processed with genetically engineered food products.
  • HB224 – Prohibits the application of any neonicotinoid pesticide to any seed, foliage, or granular form to soil unless it is applied entirely within a greenhouse.
  • HB249 – Would prohibit the use of genetically engineered seeds and plants for agricultural product production.
  • HB248 – Establishes May 15 as ‘Think Local Day’ to raise awareness of use of local businesses, food, and products.

Legislation Roundup – Alabama

What sort of agricultural laws is your state considering to pass?  Legislation Roundup highlights the laws that each state’s legislative branch is considering in session.  Never forget the importance of public political participation.  If you live in any of these states and support or oppose any state legislation, never hesitate to contact your assembly(wo)man/representative/senator and voice your opinion!  We pay their salaries in taxes.

Alabama

  • HB98 – Would change the state insect to queen honey bee.
  • SB362 – Creates the Alabama Poultry Revolving Loan Fund; would allocate state bonds to finance farms that want to transition from using propane-fueled heating sources to using wood-fueled heating sources.
  • SB335 – Will require that all catfish and catfish products be labeled if they were imported from any country other than the US.  The labels must clearly indicate country of origin.  Restaurants will also have to list country of origin for imported catfish on their menus.
  • SB69 – Exempts retail sales of agriculture machinery from state taxes but not local sales tax.
  • HB5 – Repeals Section 3-1-20 of Alabama’s criminal code.  Currently, it is illegal to sell or buy domestic animals/fowl [livestock] between sunset and sunrise.  HB5 would repeal that law and make it legal.

FDA’s Voluntary Program to Address Antibiotic Overuse in Animal Byproduct Industries

Modern methods of livestock care focus on the use of antibiotics – it fattens livestock up fast and, when used as non-therapeutic supplement, it prevents the spread of infectious viruses among cattle.  Overcrowding of livestock in factory farm settings creates a huge risk of viruses, infections, and diseases among the animals that can spread fast.  Antibiotics, when used supplementary in animal feed, prevent this and allow for more crowded quarters and ultimately a higher yield in animal byproducts.

This use of antibiotics in this manner is detrimental to human health and medical science.  When overexposed to antibiotics through ingestion of animal byproducts, people develop a resistance to antibiotics, rendering them ineffective to treat common ailments – the flu, injury infections,etc.  The CDC issued a threat report at the end of 2013 that found that 23,000 people in the United States die annually from antibiotic resistance – deaths that should have been avoided with effective antibiotic treatment.  The CDC warns that the continued use of antibiotics in animal feed creates a risk of death for simple infections such as strep throat.

Now, for the first time in over 35 years, the FDA is seeing some control over the practice of feeding antibiotics to livestock through a new voluntary program.  While the FDA is not directly regulating the practice, they have issued guidance documents and recommendations (see #209, #213). THe FDA asks veterinary antibiotic manufacturers to alter the drug labels to no longer provide antibiotics over-the-counter, thus rendering the drugs unavailable for use in animal feed.

On March 26, 2014 the FDA published a list of 25 companies that agreed in writing to no voluntarily comply and no longer allow their antibiotics to be sold over-the-counter.

For more information, see this article.

Midwest Most Product Region in the World

Illinois State Climatologist

According to a press release from NASA …

Data from satellite sensors show that during the Northern Hemisphere’s growing season, the Midwest region of the United States boasts more photosynthetic activity than any other spot on Earth, according to NASA and university scientists.

They determined this by measuring the fluorescent glow that healthy plants give off when they grow. It is not visible to the human eye but can be picked up by special sensors on satellites. The press release has a lot more details.

If you click on the map, you can see the full version. While they don’t have any state boundaries, you can make out Lake Michigan. Based on that, it looks like one of the brightest areas is across central and northern Illinois – no surprise there.

The magnitude of fluorescence portrayed in this visualization prompted researchers to take a closer look at the productivity of the U.S. Corn Belt. The glow represents fluorescence measured from land plants in early July, over a period from 2007 to 2011. Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The magnitude of fluorescence portrayed in this visualization prompted researchers to take a closer look at the productivity of…

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Why Food Law is an Important Growing Field

Why Food Law is an Important Growing Field

To quickly summarize the importance behind Harvard’s new push to open a Food Law Lab:

  • “Sell by” and “best by” dates on food have no relationship to safety and are not federally regulated.  Americans throw 160 billion pounds of food a year.
  • World’s biggest pork producer was purchased by a Chinese company with a jaded history.
  • Some countries are now rejecting American grown products outright because of the controversial safety of genetically modified foods
  • Agribusiness and meat industry are polluting air and groundwater
  • Food workers don’t earn enough to feed their own families.

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Drones and Agriculture

Drones and Agriculture

Will commercial agriculture be the largest beneficiary of unmanned aircraft? 

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are controlled by GPS and have a variety of uses when it comes to agriculture.  For example, UAVs can aid in scouting pests, collecting information on plants with high growth, locating livestock, and tracking precipitation damages.

From a regulatory standpoint, UAVs are not allowed commercially by the FAA.  Farmers must therefore follow guidelines applicable to hobbyist UAV use.

An interesting extension of this is the argument that agriculture is growing too industrial, too focused on growth yield, and too far from sustainability.  Conversely, drones are battery operated and can eliminate emissions from other aircraft and motor vehicles.

COOL appeal denied

Global News

Another delay for livestock producers who want the U.S. to change country of origin labeling on meat.
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On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals denied an appeal by North American meat industry groups to overturn mandatory Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling legislation.
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The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, producers and other groups are disappointed. They say producers will continue to lose money because of it.

It’s been an uphill battle for cattle and hog producers.

“We produce as good or higher quality product as the Americans,” said feedlot owner Leighton Kolk. “yet when we go to ship it to the American consumer we’re getting paid five to 10 percent less than what it’s worth, the exact same animal except across the border. You know, those are significant dollars.”

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association is disappointed with the appeal court’s ruling.

John Masswohl, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association’s director of…

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Labor Law and Poultry Processing Plant

The Seventh Circuit released a recent opinion on a labor law issue at a poultry processing plant.  In Mitchell v. JCG Industries, employees of a poultry processing plant sued for payment for time spent “doffing” before and after lunch breaks.  Employees in the poultry plant are required to wear protective gear and uniforms.  The employees claimed the process of robing and de-robing for breaks was taking 10-15 additional minutes of time for which they should be paid.  The employer processing plant claimed the process took only 2-3 minutes.

Out of curiosity, Judge Posner ordered the poultry plant protective clothing and had three court staff go through the process.

In the end, the court found for the employer poultry plant.  Apparently the court staff only took about three minutes to don the protective gear.