Archive for April, 2010

RFID Dairy Cattle Learn to Tweet

A herd of dairy cows from the University of Waterloo might be the first of the bovine species to use Twitter. The cows brag about milk production, RFID transponder glitches, eating habits, technical issues with the “Mr. Terminator” milking machines and the specific nuances of which teats perform best.

The tweets are actually a project from the University’s Critical Media Lab. Members Ron Broglio, Marcel O’Gorman and Pouya Emami have teamed up with dairy farmer Chris Vandenberg and a dozen of his favorite milk cows on Buttermine Farms in Brant, Ontario.

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It’s Official: Climate Bill Coming Before Immigration

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made it official Wednesday: The Senate will consider a climate change and energy bill before an immigration bill.

“I am going to move forward on energy first,” Reid said. However, the Senate’s top Democrat said he is committed to passing immigration reform this year.

Meanwhile, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) have sent a draft of their new climate change bill to the Environmental Protection Agency for an economic analysis, a sign that the senators are continuing to prepare for possible floor debate even though the bill has stalled on Capitol Hill and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a key supporter of the legislation has withdrawn his support . The EPA analysis is expected to take roughly five weeks and will yield forecasts of effects such as predicted household costs.

NRI Shows Increased Ag Productivity, Improved Environment

The Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service released a major report Tuesday that illustrates how agricultural productivity has increased while farming’s impact on the environment has shrunk.

USDA released the 2007 National Resources Inventory (NRI) for Non-Federal Lands at an event marking the 75th Anniversary of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The report is science-based and relies on actual farm surveys.

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USDA Releases Comprehensive Transportation Report

On Tuesday, USDA released to Congress a comprehensive report on agricultural transportation in the United States, the first ever of this magnitude. The report, “Study of Rural Transportation Issues,” was mandated by the 2008 farm bill and covers the four major modes of transportation commonly used by agriculture in the United States—truck, rail, barge and ocean vessel.

“Agriculture is the largest user of freight transportation in the United States, with 31 percent of all ton-miles recorded in 2007 being used in the movement of agricultural products,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This report provides vital information needed to make strategic policy decisions to meet rural America’s transportation needs, now and in the future.”

The report examines some of the major issues facing agricultural transportation, including: the dramatic effect of deregulation on the rail industry, a growing gap for funding the inland waterways and highway systems, availability of containers and ocean vessel capacity, and the infrastructure that may be needed to support a projected increase in biofuel transportation.

(Image: K2D2vaca)

Justices Skeptical of Lower Court’s Biotech Alfalfa Decision

Supreme Court justices on Tuesday sharply questioned a lower court’s decision that has prohibited Monsanto Co. from selling biotech alfalfa seeds, possibly paving the way for the company to distribute the seeds for the first time since 2007.

Several justices appeared skeptical that the lower court had the authority to fully ban the sale of the product because of a pending environmental review. Chief Justice John Roberts questioned why the court issued the injunction instead of simply sending the matter back to USDA.

Justice Antonin Scalia appeared even more wary, questioning the idea that genetically modified crops could contaminate other crops. “This isn’t the contamination of the New York City water supply,” he said. “This isn’t the end of the world, it really isn’t.”

Monsanto argues that the ban was too broad and was based on the assumption that their products were harmful. Opponents of the use of genetically engineered seeds say they can contaminate conventional crops, but Monsanto says such cross-pollination is unlikely.

(Image: Bruce (bioflyer))

“Son of Ref. O” Resolution Proposed

Senate Concurrent Resolution – 003 (“Ballot Initiatives to Amend Constitution”) was recently brought forward to the legislature by Sens. Tapia and White and Rep. Court.

The measure is being coined as the “Son of Referendum O” (from the 2008 General Election), which was a measure to reform the ballot initiative process. Colorado Farm Bureau actively worked in support of Ref. O, which was defeated on the ballot. With much work over the past two years, many voices have come together to make a second attempt on the ballot to change the initiative process for citizen backed consitutional amendments.

This legislation proposes to implement the initiative reforms recommended by over 90% of the 1,200 civic leaders who convened statewide. It makes the following changes related to a proposed constitutional initiative:

  • Requiring that 5% of the signatures gathered to place the initiative on the ballot come from each Congressional District
  • Requiring a 60% super-majority voter approval on the ballot for future amendments to the constitution
  • Allowing anything that is already in the constitution to be amended out with the same simple-majority by which it got in prior to 2011
  • Requiring a super majority vote of the people to repeal future constitutional amendments passed after 2011

Spring is Here, Time to Avoid Fatigue

Spring is here and with it come longer work days for those in Agriculture. Getting back into shape after winter and dealing with longer days is made more difficult with an increased chore list and workload.  So it’s not surprising that many will brush fatigue aside to get the job done.

But that’s when injuries can sneak in. Non-stop activity, long work hours and stress can increase chances of fatigue and injuries, and as levels of fatigue increase, regard for caution and personal safety take a backseat. Fatigue can cause slower reaction times, reduced concentration, or even falling asleep on the job and can lead to injuries.

Injuries can include equipment pinches, entanglement, burns, tractor rollovers and livestock related accidents.

Tips to avoid fatigue:

  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Avoid thinking about work once you have finished for the day. Engage in an activity that will get your mind off of the tasks ahead.
  • Pace yourself and plan out your activities.
  • Eat healthy and maintain a normal eating schedule.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Dehydration can cause fatigue.
  • Take short breaks throughout the day.
  • Get some exercise after sitting over long periods of time. Stretching or even a short walk will get your body moving and re-energized.
  • To reduce stress, take a minute to watch wildlife or enjoy nature to help take your mind off of work.
  • Take advantage of a rainy day to rest and re-energize.
(Image: rahego)
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