State Blocks Northern Wisconsin County Regulation on Animal Feedlot Pollution

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.

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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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.