Remarks made last week by the chairman of Nestle about the use of corn for biofuels production were not only wrong but dangerous, the president of the National Corn Growers Association said.
“It is scandalous, ludicrous and highly irresponsible for the chairman of a global conglomerate that tripled its profits last year to talk about higher corn prices forcing millions into starvation,” said NCGA President Bart Schott. “Perhaps if Nestle is so concerned about food prices, its board will consider putting more of their $35.7 billion in 2010 profits back into poor communities. Just their profits alone represent more than half the entire farm value of the 2010 U.S. corn crop.”
Schott was reacting to comments by Nestle Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe at a meeting last Tuesday of the Council on Foreign Relations. Schott also challenged Brabeck-Letmathe to take the time to study facts and figures before making ridiculous comments about an industry that he clearly knows little about, nor bothered to study up on.
In a major court victory for AFBF and other farm organizations, a unanimous federal court of appeals has ruled that EPA cannot require livestock farmers to apply for Clean Water Act permits unless their farms actually discharge manure into U.S. waters.
The ruling was welcomed by Farm Bureau, the National Pork Producers Council and several other agriculture groups that filed suit against EPA in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
“For the second time, a U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that EPA’s authority is limited by the Clean Water Act to jurisdiction over only actual discharges to navigable waters, not potential discharges,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “We are pleased that the federal courts have again reined in EPA’s unlawful regulation of livestock operations under the Clean Water Act. The court has affirmed that EPA, like other federal agencies, can only regulate where it has been authorized by Congress to do so.”
In the ruling issued Tuesday, the 5th Circuit concluded: “The CWA provides a comprehensive liability scheme and the EPA’s attempt to supplement this scheme is in excess of its statutory authority.”
The U.S. Grains Council received initial reports that Friday’s earthquake and the subsequent tsunami may have caused significant damage to many of Japan’s agricultural facilities and production areas. While the extent of the damage is not yet known, it will likely impact grain trade.
“Some ports in northern Japan, Kushiro, Hachinohe, Ishinomaki and Kashima, were hit by the tsunami. We’ve heard some feed mills and livestock operations have also been damaged by the tsunami. Those facilities were not severely damaged by the earthquake itself but were affected by the tsunami,” said Tommy Hamamoto, USGC director in Japan. “It is too early to tell what effect this will have on Japan’s agricultural sector, but it could be of significance.”
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman wrote to members of the House today urging them to support passage of H.R. 872, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, and sign on as co-sponsors.
“In addition to agricultural producers, a significant number of stakeholders will be impacted by a new federal requirement under which the Environmental Protection Agency and delegated states must issue Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System general permits for certain pesticide applications,” Stallman told lawmakers in his letter. “This unprecedented action is the result of a 2009 decision of the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.”
Stallman called on Congress to take action before the permit requirement becomes final.
“We are concerned that due to unrealistic deadlines for state-delegated implementation and compliance many states will not meet the court ordered deadline of April 9, 2011,” Stallman wrote. “Adding to the uncertainty, EPA has yet to release a final permit. This leaves pesticide users without time to fully understand or come into compliance with the permit and further increases their potential liability.”
Colorado is one of 10 new states that can now ship seed potatoes to Thailand, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Tuesday.
The newly eligible states are Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming. In 2009, Thailand announced it would accept seed potatoes from California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
“This is a promising development for U.S. seed potato producers who will now be able to compete in Thailand, the largest potato growing country in Southeast Asia,” Vilsack said. “Southeast Asia is one of the fastest growing markets for U.S. agricultural products, and exports there are expected to grow by more than 25 percent this year. This action by the government of Thailand will provide buyers with additional supplies of high-quality seed potatoes.”
The number of honey-producing bee colonies in the U.S. rose 7.4 percent last year and honey production was up 20 percent, according to a report released Friday by the Agriculture Department.
About 2.684 million colonies were reported by beekeepers with five or more hives in 2010, USDA reports. Honey production rose to 65.5 pounds per colony, up 12 percent from 2009, with overall output at 176 million pounds.
In response to Colony Collapse Disorder, beekeepers are keeping more bees on hand during the year to withstand higher losses in the winter dormancy season, which is helping the honeybee population recover.
Environmental groups failed to show that seed plants for Roundup Ready Sugar Beets would cause irreparable harm, a federal appeals court said Friday. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a previous injunction that called for the destruction of the plants.
“We conclude the district court abused its discretion in granting a preliminary injunction requiring destruction of the steckling plants,” the court wrote. “Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that the … plants present a possibility, much less a likelihood, of genetic contamination or other irreparable harm. The undisputed evidence indicates that the stecklings pose a negligible risk of genetic contamination, as the juvenile plants are biologically incapable of flowering or cross-pollinating before February 28, 2011, when the permits expire.”
The Obama Administration last week proposed a new rule that would give local national forest directors more control over their natural resources. The proposed rule overturns a decades-old policy that leaves forest management decisions to officials in Washington.
The planning rule would allow forest managers additional control over the development of Forest Service land management plans. The proposed change is made with an eye to increasing forest and watershed restoration and resilience, habitat protection, sustainable recreation, and management for multiple uses of the National Forest System, including timber.
“The proposed rule will provide the tools to the Forest Service to make our forests more resilient to many threats, including pests, catastrophic fire and climate change. Healthy forests and economically strong rural communities form a solid foundation as we work to win the future for the next generation,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Debate continues today on the Continuing Resolution in the U.S. The bill would fund the government for the rest of the current fiscal year. Many amendments have been proposed and AFBF has taken a position on 22 of them.
Today an amendment was approved that would cut $2 million from the Bureau of Land Management’s budget in protest over the agency’s wild horse roundups. Indiana Republican Dan Burton says his amendment is intended to send a signal to BLM officials that most Americans want the mustangs treated more humanely on public lands. Virginia Democrat Jim Moran says Congress passed a law 40 years ago to protect the horses on the range, but that today there are more than 40,000 in holding pens and only 30,000 in the wild.
Wyoming Republican Cynthia Lummis was among those opposed. She says the well-meaning horse advocates are “loving the creatures to death” by fueling overpopulation of herds that damage the rangeland they depend upon.
The overall mix of crop production across the country this year is likely to be the same as last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Prices of all commodities are soaring, and there shouldn’t be a big shift from one crop to another.
Analysts expect next month’s planting intentions report by the Agriculture Department will show only minor changes, which could help the price rally for farm commodities.
It will also prove difficult to put more cropland into production. Gerald Bange, chairman of USDA’s World Agricultural Outlook Board, signaled at AFBF’s annual meeting in Atlanta in January that 10.7 million acres could move into production this year, but some analysts believe this land won’t move into use because it is often less productive.
The USDA Forest Service unveiled its proposed Forest Planning Rule on Thursday to establish a new national framework to develop land management plans in the National Forest System.The proposed rule includes new provisions to guide forest and watershed restoration and resilience, habitat protection, sustainable recreation and management for multiple uses of the National Forest System, including timber.
Publication of the proposed planning rule in the Federal Register will kick off a 90-day public comment period, ending May 16. The Forest Service will use comments to develop a final rule.
The Pulse will feature a more in depth look at the proposed rule next week.
Egg producers in Washington are working to prempt HSUS and its planned ballot measure to limit the food choice of citizens in the state. Two bills which carry bipartisan support are working their way through the Washington legislature would establish minimum standards for egg laying hen farms.
The bills would codify the United Egg Producer production and housing standards into Washington law. The program addresses such issues as hen space requirements, air quality, handling standards, hen treatment and facility requirements.
Kiasa Kuykendall, of Stiebrs Farms in Yelm, Wash., told the senators the HSUS asked her farm to go 100 percent cage-free. About 5 percent of her farm’s eggs are from cage-free hens.
“The proposed ban (on cages) would go against the customers. We would not survive,” she said.
The Agriculture Department’s dramatic 9 percent cut in the estimate of corn stocks puts the stocks-to-use ratio at the lowest level since the Great Depression, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he believes there will be enough corn for food, feed, fuel and exports.
Joe Glauber, USDA’s chief economist, said corn stocks will remain tight until 2012 and it will take time to rebuild. The stocks-to-use ratio for the 2010-2011 marketing year, which runs through Aug. 31, is estimated at 5 percent, the lowest since 1995-1996. In 1936-1937, during the Great Depression, the stocks-to-use ratio was the lowest ever at 4.5 percent. The average ratio is 13 percent.
According to a Denver Post examination, Colorado could increase its water storage capacity by the equivalent of four Chatfield Reservoir’s if the state’s water project funds were adequate. Many dams in the state are far from full capacity, limited by safety concerns from the Department of Natural Resources. The department says it lacks the funds to repair existing dams that have been deemed unsafe.
Over the last five years the state loaned $80.5 million to landowners to help rehabilitate 35 dams. But since 2009, lawmakers have siphoned off $120 million from the states water project fund to help close the budget gap.
Lawmakers this year alone attempted to take another $10 million from the fund, but Rep. John Becker (R- Ft. Morgan) told members at the CFB Legislative Conference that he was able to block the joint budget committee from taking the full amount. Thanks to his efforts, the JBC only raided $5 million from the fund.
All of this comes at a time when water managers across the state are looking for ways to increase water storage capacity in the face of a growing population. Repairing existing dams requires much less money and does not require the long regulatory approval process that is necessary to build new dams.
Lower supplies and higher demand continue to play a major role in price increases for wheat and corn in the Agriculture Department’s February crop report released today. USDA made no changes in the wheat, soybeans and cotton stocks estimates, but corn stocks were reduced to 675 million bushels from 745 million bushels in the January estimate.
This puts corn stocks at a very tight level of 5 percent, the same as the record level of 5 percent that occurred in the 1995-96 marketing year. Tight supplies are driving up corn prices, with USDA projecting the 2010-11 marketing-year average farm price to be $5.05 per bushel to $5.75 per bushel, up from $4.90 to $5.70 in the January report.
“After conducting an environmental assessment, accepting and reviewing public comments and conducting a plant pest risk assessment, APHIS has determined that the Roundup Ready sugar beet root crop, when grown under APHIS-imposed conditions, can be partially deregulated without posing a plant pest risk or having a significant effect on the environment,” said Michael Gregoire, deputy administrator for APHIS’ biotechnology regulatory services.
More than half of the nation’s granulated sugar has in recent years come from Roundup Ready beets. The other half comes from sugar cane.
Sugar beet growers welcomed the decision.
“The decision is a win for consumers,” said Duane Grant, a beet farmer in Rupert, Idaho, and chairman of the farmer-owned Snake River Sugar Company. “It assures a full beet crop will be planted in 2011.”
The Colorado Water Conservation Board released Wednesday its Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) 2010 report. The SWSI report finds that if water use follows current trends, large supplies will inevitably be shifted away from agricultural uses, resulting in significant loss of farmlands, economic damage to the state’s agricultural regions and potential environmental harm. The report concludes that between 500,000 and 700,000 irrigated acres could be dried up by 2050.
The Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on Thursday announced its decision to grant non-regulated status for alfalfa that has been genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide commercially known as Roundup.
“After conducting a thorough and transparent examination of alfalfa through a multi-alternative environmental impact statement and several public comment opportunities, APHIS has determined that Roundup Ready alfalfa is as safe as traditionally bred alfalfa,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “All of the alfalfa production stakeholders involved in this issue have stressed their willingness to work together to find solutions. We greatly appreciate and value the work they’ve done so far and will continue to provide support to the wide variety of sectors that make American agriculture successful.”
After releasing a final environmental impact statement in December 2010, USDA took another step to ensure that this issue received the broadest examination before making its final decision. USDA brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss feasible strategies for coexistence between genetically engineered, organic and other stakeholders. The stakeholders helped to identify areas of consensus; issues where the group disagreed and opportunities for further dialogue; and areas where USDA could—or should—play an important and helpful role.
Farm Bureau is pleased with the announcement, as it clears up uncertainty for producers and allows them to move forward with planting decisions.
Round-Up Ready alfalfa? When I first heard about this I was puzzled why a company would risk so much investment in a crop that is characterized by taking care of itself when it comes to weeds. Sure it takes a while to get it established, but cover-cropping, extra care weeding before planting, planting into stubble, nurse cropping, can all help minimize weed pressure while getting started.
As for prolonging alfalfa stands, I think there is a misconception that weeds kill out alfalfa. If an alfalfa stand begins to thin, it’s because of soil imbalances, not weeds, otherwise weeds would take over immediately.
Honestly, contamination is a serious issue. So what is the answer to the dilemma?
Environmental groups are seeking protection of the Arroyo Toad and other endangered species from EPA approved ag chemicals.
Two environmental groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Pesticide Action Network North America, have sued the Environmental Protection Agency, challenging the agency’s overall ag chemical regulatory program.
According to the suit, EPA did not consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service regarding the effects of EPA-registered pesticides on endangered species. The groups claim in a 400-page complaint that EPA is in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The groups are asking EPA to retroactively consult FWS and re-write current regulations, after putting restrictions on ag chemicals.
Virtually every ag chemical in use today is listed in the suit, which seeks protection for 214 endangered and threatened species throughout the U.S. including the Florida panther, California condor, piping plover, black-footed ferret, arroyo toad, Indiana bat, bonytail chub and Alabama sturgeon.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is saying that the supplemental draft environmental impact statement for the Northern Colorado Integrated Supply Project — or NISP — is being pushed back into the latter part of this year.
Army Corps Projects Manager Chandler Peter said more time is needed to weigh the complexity of NISP.
“This has turned into a complex and time-consuming process,” Peter said.
Brian Werner of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the entity proposing NISP says that the “delay” isnt a delay at all and that his organization has been anticipating a final decision by the end of this year.
“What we’ve found in the now 8 years of the EIS process is that the end point is a moving target,” said Werner. “The supplemental DEIS is scheduled to be made available for public comment sometime in 2011. The Army Corps is still telling us they see no fatal flaws and we still anticipate receiving a permit to build the project.”
A workshop entitled “CORRALing a Foreign Animal Disease” will help inform cattlemen on the implications of a foreign animal disease outbreak and what the response efforts by state and local authorities might look like. The workshop is also intended to help better prepare cattlemen for responding to and preventing a disease or other emergency incident.
The workshop is sponsored by the El Paso County Farm Bureau and CSU Extension along with Calhan Veterinary Clinic and El Paso Soil Conservation. Speakers will include officials from the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the Colorado Rapid Response for Agriculture and Livestock (CORRAL) system.
The event will take place on February 5th at 10:00 am at the El Paso County Fairgrounds. Please RSVP to the Calhan Vet Clinic by Feb. 3rd. Call 719-347-2702.
Jason and his wife Rachel farm south of Limon where they raise wheat, sunflowers, proso, sorghum feed, grass hay, cattle and show pigs.
Jason Vermillion, Vice President of the Lincoln County Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors, has been appointed to the AFBF Swine Commodity Advisory Committee by AFBF President Bob Stallman. Vermillion, a fifth generation farmer, will represent the interests of hog producers in the western region of the United States throughout his two year term.
He and his wife, Rachel, recently won the Excellence in Agriculture award and will travel to the AFBF Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, in January to represent Colorado Farm Bureau in the national Excellence in Agriculture competition.
Vermillion is the second Colorado Farm Bureau YF&R members to be appointed to an AFBF Committee. Nathan Weathers was appointed to the AFBF YF&R Committee earlier this month.
Now, the deregulation of Roundup Ready alfalfa could be accompanied by restrictions on seed production and, in some cases, cultivation of the hay itself, should USDA decide on implementing one of two preferred alternatives presented in a court-ordered environmental review of the crop.
The Wall Street Journal has strong words about the decision to “invite representatives from the biotech and organic industries to USDA in the coming days to discuss how the two farming methods may coexist.”
By suggesting that industry and activist groups negotiate compromises in advance of the final ruling on whether to deregulate, Mr. Vilsack is using the Department’s regulatory authority as leverage against businesses whose products are overwhelmingly regulated by USDA.
It gets worse. Mr. Vilsack’s authority in the regulatory decision-making process is based on the assumption of sound scientific data. But according to people who attended the meeting last Monday, the USDA Secretary told the assembled groups that science itself is subjective, and that he could have three different groups bring him three different supposedly scientific opinions.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has abandoned plans to pass omnibus lands legislation but is working to pass certain pieces of the bill before the end of the session.
The omnibus bill, titled “The Great Outdoors Act of 2010,” included the Rep. Polis sponsored Hidden Gems bill and more than 110 land and water bills from across the U.S.
Will Rousch, the Gems campaign outreach coordinator, said they are confident Polis will re-introduce the bill — which he called the Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act —this spring, in the next session of congress.
Charlie Bartlett, Merino area farmer and current board member of the Colorado Corn Administrative Committee, was recently elected Chair of the Colorado Ag Water Alliance (CAWA). John Stencel, former president of Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union, was elected Vice-Chair. Both will serve a one-year term.
The CAWA is unique in that its membership is comprised of producers and executives of agricultural organizations who are committed to the preservation of irrigated agriculture, spanning all watersheds, and most agricultural sectors in Colorado.
When asked about his involvement Bartlett responded, “I’m excited to help educate people about water usage in Colorado. CAWA is an organization that represents all facets of agriculture. It provides and promotes a cooperative venue for industrial, municipal, and agricultural water users to come together in order to protect this important natural resource.”
On Sunday, the Senate passed the food safety bill by unanimous consent. The bill now goes to the House where passage is expected this week. President Obama has pledged to sign the bill. The bill will overhaul the nation’s food safety laws for the first time since the Great Depression.
The Senate originally approved food safety legislation last month, but it became a victim of congressional pingpong because of congressional rules that all funding measures must begin in the Senate. The technicality was corrected, and the bill will likely be signed into law this year.
The measure would require manufacturers and some farmers to take steps to prevent food contamination and to continually test to make sure it is working. It also would give the Food and Drug Administration new authority to recall food. The measure is expected to cost $1.4 billion over the next four years; this includes the expense of hiring 2,000 new FDA inspectors.
Kelli Ludlum, AFBF food safety specialist, said the legislation won’t impact most farmers and ranchers.
Techies in California have launched an insurance service for farmers seeking insulation against the largest source of crop loss — bad weather.
It’s called WeatherBill, and the company’s deep-pocketed investors are betting that they’ve caught lightning in a bottle.
The San Francisco company, which already sells insurance against nasty weather to clients such as the U.S. Open tennis tournament, is in the midst of shifting 80 percent of its focus to agriculture.
“Clearly we think there’s a big market for this,” said Greg Smirin, vice president of marketing and product for WeatherBill.
On its face, the sales pitch to farmers is simple: Insure against bad weather during key times of year such as the planting season — a protection that goes beyond what is available through federally subsidized crop insurance.
“I think farmers will be interested in this product, but I think they’ll be hesitant as well,” said Ray Massey, a crop insurance expert with the University of Missouri in Columbia. “There’s going to be an issue of trust.”
But Massey added that in a boom year like this, farmers might be willing to roll the dice on added protection against a temperamental Mother Nature.
While the state “needs serious conservation” efforts, the needs of agriculture also have to be met when it comes to water, Hickenlooper told a crowd of close to 200 at the 2010 Colorado Ag Classic at the Embassy Suites in Loveland.
The soon-to-be governor was asked where he stands on the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, which includes a new reservoir northwest of Fort Collins that would supply 40,000 acre-feet of water annually to 15 water providers in Larimer and Weld counties.
“I have seen a presentation, and I think I’m inclined to support it. But I want to see the results of the environmental study first,” Hickenlooper said.
Takeaway? Hickenlooper is learning about water. While he still touted Denver’s conservation efforts during his tenure, he now realizes that what is good for cities is not always good for agricultural users. We hope the Hickenlooper team continues to leverage Ag groups as they learn more about water and other rural issues.