Farm Progress is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Serving: United States

Sitemap


Articles from 2011 In January


Brazil -- Day 2

 

 

I stilll haven't been on a farm in Brazil. But I''m getting closer. I've met a couple farmers.

They are with Aprosoja, the organization that represents farmers in state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, like the Illinois Soybean Association represents farmers in the state of Illinois.

Over dinner I got in a couple really smart questions to the vice president who had driven in hundreds of miles to be at this meeting.

Have you started harvesting soybeans yet?

 

No, not yet.

 

Getting close?

Yes.

 

Then he had to go talk to some of the ISA farmer directors about what I hope was more important things than I could think of.

What I gathered through an interpreter is about 3% of the beans have been harvested and folks are really happy. Yields are good (not great) and the prices are good. Now if it doesn't start raining and not stop for a month they'll get their crop off and put profits in the bank.

 

I had a little better luck asking questions of a young man working for Aprosoja, whose father farms in Mato Grosso. He talked extensively about challenges his father faces – environmental restrictions to save the rain forest (even though the true Amazon rain forest is hundreds of miles away), lack of rail lines and highways, and absence of credit to name a few.

 

Despite the problems, he said he would like to return to the farm someday.
 
With a wife? I asked.

He said he has a girlfriend and has been seeing her for five years, but was not ready to think about marriage.

 

“I hoping I can extend ... this relationship for another five years before…,” he said, going silent as he tried to think of the right word in English for what he had in mind in Portuguese.

 

Sounds like some of the farm boys I know back in the states.

 

 

The Aftermath of Suzanne

So last week, I posted a blog letter to Suzanne Somers, hoping to shed light on the many agricultural inaccuracies she shared on national television. And you might say, it struck a chord. Oh, did it ever. I am humbled and awed.

As of this afternoon, more than 600 people have shared it on Facebook. Other people are sharing it on Twitter. (I am new to tweeting – twittering? – and I don't know how to measure this exactly, but it seems to be happening.) And as for the blog itself, it's gotten more page views in three days than it normally racks up in a month. Which, apparently, is something.

What all of this means is that conversations are happening. People in ag are sharing it, and their non-ag friends are asking questions. Sometimes they're calling me a liar. Or just plain ignorant. But I'm ok with that, because it means we have an opportunity. We can flex our down-on-the-farm-authority muscles and share the truth with these decidedly non-farm folks. We can also, simply by example, show why it's important to get their information from people who are actually growing their food. Not from, you know, say Michael Pollan. Or Food, Inc. Or Paul McCartney. Or Suzanne Somers.

Really, if you want a look at how the other half lives, take a look at Suzanne Somers' website, or her Facebook page. People listen to her. They buy her (many) products. They think she's pretty and if they just read her book or buy her stuff, they will be beautiful as well. Honestly, it's sad. People are desperate for something – anything – to believe in. Read the comments on her Facebook page (click on "most recent" at the top). You'll see what I mean.

And you'll see why we need to keep having conversations with these folks, every single chance we get. Because we may not get that many opportunities. Like for example, I have a wonderful friend in California, who spent some time in Illinois a few years back. So she gets what we do. She might have anyway, but now she has extra credibility when she says, "Hey I've been on these farms and these people know what they're talking about." She posted my blog on her Facebook page, and it immediately drew the condescension of one of her friends.

But my friend defended farmers as being a valuable source for truth, and I took the opportunity to share more, too. But her friend was very convicted about what she perceived as truth. She mentioned a variety of topics, including but not limited to: GM seed, cancer, grass-fed beef, dairy production and cow manure. She was absolutely wrong in every bit of what she was saying, though she said "tons of evidence" supported it. I tried to respond sincerely, and factually, and share exactly what we do and why we do it. The thing that got me, though, is that her take was that farmers are just ignorant. She doesn't blame them; they're just doing what they've been taught and are ignorant about the health issues.

Right-o. That makes it all better. (I apologize for the sarcasm, but that just really gets me. Like it's any better to say, "those poor farmers just don't know any better; they're just not smart enough to avoid being duped by xxxx company.")

An excerpt of my response: 


"I think you raise some excellent questions and I can tell you are passionate about what you eat - which is awesome, because I think we've gone far too long in this country with people not really thinking about what we farmers are doing to supply food. I think, though, I take umbrage to being called ignorant. Farmers are not ignorant. They are very aware of how genetically modified corn and soybeans were developed and are produced. In fact, I'm an editor for a farm magazine that works very hard to share information about technology (and biotechnology) that makes modern agricultural production safer and more efficient. …farmers have been studying the science behind RoundupReady soybeans (for example) since they came out back in the late '90s. Did you know that before RR beans, we farm kids used to walk fields with a hoe and chop down weeds? That was after the beans got too big to drive over with a tractor; before that, my dad would make several passes across the field with the tractor and rotary hoe or field cultivator and tear up the weeds. So now, with RR beans, we are burning far less diesel and using far less equipment. Plus we're conserving soil by reducing erosion (working the ground loosens it and makes it more likely to wash away in a heavy rain). Again, it's a tradeoff. Roundup is unbelievably safe and effective. I choose that over more tillage and more erosion…You mentioned Bt corn; did you know that Bacillus thuringiensis is a naturally-occurring soil microbe? Really, you don't get much more natural and organic than Bt. They found it in the dirt. When you insert the Bt gene into the corn plant, it makes a plant that kills off those nasty corn borers as soon as they start chewing on it. Which is truly amazing, when you consider how quickly a flush of corn borers can decimate a crop. Bt corn, with is naturally-occurring Bt gene, saves farmers from having to spray insecticides over the top of plants to kill the corn borers. So again, a better option, in a very complex system." 

Anyhoo, this is but one little example of what has proven to be a fascinating conversation. When I sat through a social media seminar last fall at the Commodities Conference, one of the things the researchers had discovered was that farmers were among the most believable sources of information, and farm wives in particular. The key, in just about any conversation, though, is to avoid being defensive. Ask the person what it is they are questioning and why they think that. Find a way to explain what you do in their terms. Be understanding of their concerns. Be friendly. No one wants to be made to feel stupid.

So, we'll see where this conversation leads. Also, no word yet from Suzanne. I sent the letter to the Today Show and our local NBC affiliate, too. No word from them either. But I'm not really holding my breath. The real conversations are happening right here, across the web.

General sign-up for CRP program begins March 14

Speaking at National Pheasant Fest 2011, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the next general sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will begin on March 14, 2011, and continue through April 15, 2011. This is the second consecutive year that USDA has offered a general CRP signup.

"Over the past 25 years, support for CRP has grown thanks to strong backing from farmers, ranchers, conservationists, hunters, fishermen and other outdoor sports enthusiasts," said Vilsack. "Not only has CRP contributed to the national effort to improve water and air quality, it has preserved habitat for wildlife, and prevented soil erosion by protecting the most sensitive areas including those prone to flash flooding and runoff. Today's announcement continues the Obama administration's effort to conserve sensitive areas and improve wildlife habitat."

Through CRP, eligible landowners receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource conserving covers on eligible farmland. Land can be enrolled for a period of up to 15 years. During the general signup period, farmers and ranchers may offer eligible land at their county Farm Service Agency (FSA) office. Land currently not enrolled in CRP may be offered in this signup provided all eligibility requirements are met. Additionally, current CRP participants with contracts expiring this fall may make new contract offers. Contracts awarded under this signup are scheduled to become effective Oct. 1, 2011. The general sign-up for CRP will not affect cropped acres for this growing season. Acres will be enrolled in the program in the fall.

To help ensure that interested farmers and ranchers are aware of the signup period, USDA has signed partnership agreements with several conservation and wildlife organizations that will play an active role in USDA's 2011 CRP outreach efforts. They include; Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, National Association of State Foresters, Playa Lakes Joint Venture (Lesser Prairie Chicken/Sage Grouse), and the Longleaf Incorporated Bobwhite Conservation Initiative.

The FSA implements CRP on behalf of Commodity Credit Corporation. FSA will evaluate and rank eligible CRP offers using an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) that shows the environmental benefits to be gained from enrolling the land in CRP. The EBI consists of five environmental factors (wildlife, water, soil, air and enduring benefits) and cost. Decisions on the EBI cutoff will be made after the sign-up ends and after analyzing the EBI data of all the offers.

In addition to the general sign-up, CRP's continuous sign-up program will be ongoing. Continuous acres represent the most environmentally desirable and sensitive land. For more information, visit http://www.fsa.usda.gov/crp.

CRP protects millions of acres of American topsoil from erosion and is designed to safeguard the Nation's natural resources. By reducing water runoff and sedimentation, CRP protects groundwater and helps improve the condition of lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams. Acreage enrolled in the CRP is planted to resource-conserving vegetative covers, making the program a major contributor to increased wildlife populations in many parts of the country. Through the 2008 farm bill, CRP is authorized for a maximum enrollment of 32 million acres. USDA estimates that contracts on 3.3 million to 6.5 million acres are scheduled to expire annually between now and 2014.

Forces affecting change in crop production agriculture

Forces affecting change in crop production agriculture

A number of factors are significantly reshaping crop production agriculture in the United States. Consider the following:

• Concentration has been on a steady rise for several decades. Today, 75 percent of the value of primary field crop production — corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, rice, sorghum, and barley oats — is produced by 40 percent of U.S. farms (USDA-NASS, Census of Agriculture, 2007).

• Productivity increases have been significant. Corn yields increased from an average of 55 bushels per acre in 1960 to 165 bushels in 2009 — a 300 percent increase in 50 years. Wheat and soybean yields have seen 215 percent and 169 percent increases, respectively, over the same period. Meanwhile, according to the cost and returns survey of USDA's Economic Research Service, variable costs of corn production have declined on a real basis from $0.94 per bushel in 1975 to an estimated $0.63 per bushel in 2005.

• Producers are adopting larger pieces of equipment and more sophisticated technologies. Some estimate the time to plant and harvest the crop, two of the most time consuming operations, has been cut in half in the last decade, allowing producers to effectively manage more acres within one operation.

Crop agriculture is clearly no stranger to change. This article examines the key forces affecting change in U.S. crop production. We describe some of the major industry drivers of change and use Porter’s Five Forces analysis to examine the economic conditions, opportunities, and threats facing this industry (Porter, 1979). Through this discussion, we describe how major crop production businesses are adapting to a changing competitive landscape. We begin with an overview of the drivers of change for the industry and then discuss the factors influencing profitability and the implications for the future.

Drivers of Change for the Industry

There are several key factors shaping the economic conditions of the crop agriculture industry. Four dominant forces are currently at work—Growing and Diversified Demand; Technology; Resource Availability; and Societal Influences. Each in isolation, and also in combination, has implications for the structure of crop production, including farm size, the business models used, and relationships to other parts of the industry.

Growing and Diversified Demand

The food, feed, and fiber industries are being challenged to meet a growing and diversified demand. According to the Population Reference Bureau’s 2010 Population Data Sheet, the global population is expected to reach almost 9.5 billion by mid-2050, with the majority of the additional 2.6 billion people located in developing countries where the need for affordable, abundant supplies of basic plant and animal based nutrients is greatest.

In addition to growing demands for food, feed and fiber, industrial applications for agricultural production are emerging as well. The energy, polymers, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals industries are increasingly looking to the agricultural sector to supply renewable raw materials for their processes.

Technology

Monitoring and information technology, biotechnology, and a variety of other technologies are converging in agriculture to fundamentally change the way crops are grown. Today, yield monitors and GPS, global information systems (GIS), satellite or aerial photography and imagery, weather monitoring and measuring systems, and plant and soil sensing systems are commonly used tools.

Biotechnology applications shorten the cycle time to develop new hybrids and varieties with higher yield potential and stronger resistance to pests and environmental conditions. By combining biotechnology with mechanical and other technologies to control the growth environment—moisture, pest and disease infestation, etc.—the process control approach that defines the traditional mechanical manufacturing assembly line also transforms agriculture into a biological manufacturing industry.

Resource Availability

The availability and cost of natural resources for the agricultural sector has a significant impact on its capacity to respond to growing demand. In some cases, higher prices will be required to bring additional supplies onto the market or to use existing resources more intensively. This is the case for resources such as land, fertilizer, and irrigation. In contrast, supplies of phosphorus and potash are nonrenewable. As agricultural product demand increases, the owners of land, water, and fertilizer resources will benefit.

Societal Influences

The development of the “bioeconomy” and the growing use of renewables have intensified the discussion of the complementary or competitive nature of the economic motivation of creating value and the social motivation of environmental responsiveness and sustainability. Likewise, societal concerns over the use of genetically modified organisms have shown that public opinion can significantly influence the ability of agricultural operations to utilize new technologies in crop production.

Agribusinesses that rely heavily on natural resources cannot ignore the environmental and social issues that are prevalent today. Faced with increasing government regulations and strengthening public opinions, businesses are ever more accountable for their impacts on society and more transparent in their corporate social responsibility activities. In fact, Rankin (2010) found that 68 percent of agribusiness firms surveyed were either planning or actively implementing broad sustainability initiatives.

Factors influencing Crop Production Profitability

The above drivers will significantly shape the U.S. farming sector. The potential profitability of farmers is influenced in part by the economic characteristics of the industry. These economic characteristics can, in large part, be examined using Porter’s five forces model. Porter posits that the key economic features of an industry can be identified by examining how suppliers, buyers, rivalry, substitution, and barriers to entry affect it. We use this framework to analyze the economic characteristics of crop production agriculture.

Suppliers 

The major supplies, or inputs, for grain/oilseed producers are genetics, crop chemicals, equipment, fertilizers and land. Nonfamily labor on farms is becoming a more important input as well. However, in general, producers are able to substitute capital equipment for labor.

Input suppliers to grain/oilseed production tend to be dominated by large agribusiness firms that compete vigorously for farmer business. The substantial investment required to develop new genetics, crop protection chemicals, and automated equipment necessitates that the firms competing in this sector must achieve substantial economies of scale. The investments required to breed and engineer new crop varieties and traits require significant time and substantial costs for regulatory approval. In the short run, intellectual property rights may allow some firms to capture a significant amount of the value created by their technologies. However, the similarity of many competing seed traits and chemistries allows producers to switch products at relatively low costs, thus reducing the bargaining power of input suppliers.

Recent large price increases have drawn attention to consolidation in the fertilizer industries. In particular, the potash market has relatively few raw input suppliers. Grain/oilseed producers are subject to substantial price shocks as suppliers are able to pass cost increases in the short-term on to farmers. In the longer-term, there are alternatives that have the potential to reduce this supplier control. There is substantial potential for grain/oilseed producers to better recycle and more efficiently utilize livestock waste nutrients for crop production. However, those crop producers without access to these alternatives will likely continue to face pressure from volatile fertilizer markets.

Capital is a critical input to modern agricultural production. The U.S. capital markets are extremely efficient and competitive. This presents U.S. producers with a significant advantage over many of their foreign competitors. The establishment of the Farm Credit System was a strategic response to the competitive situation in agricultural lending. Today, agricultural credit is widely available to creditworthy producers.

Buyers

The grain/oilseed sector markets its products to three major sets of customers: grain merchants and handlers, livestock producers, and renewable energy/industrial users. While exports are also critical to the sector, we focus on the domestic and international markets where grains/oilseeds are used.

The first key customers are grain merchants and handlers that aggregate farm output into meaningful quantities that can be delivered to end users and processors. These customers also have the key role of storing a crop that is harvested in a few months and consumed over the course of a year. These firms are typically private companies and traditional farmer cooperatives. Today, there is substantial concentration among the private grain handling and merchandising companies. Crop producers, however, are still able to market their products on reasonable terms. And, the U.S. Department of Justice has shown a willingness to eliminate potential market power advantages in this industry segment when necessary. Overall, the economic structure of this portion of the grain/oilseed supply chain is unlikely to adversely impact the profitability of grain/oilseed producers because they can easily switch between competing handlers and/or invest in their own storage and handling facilities.

The second key set of customers for grain/oilseed producers is the animal agriculture sector. Feed use currently accounts for roughly half of grain/oilseed demand. Although livestock farms, too, have undergone dramatic consolidation in recent decades, they remain, by and large, unable to exert significant pressure on grain/oilseed producers. However, the expansion of animal protein markets is important for expanding demand for grain/oilseed production. Beef, pork, and dairy producers have all recently experienced significant financial hardship as feed costs escalated from increasing overall grain/oilseed demand. In the future, a healthy and vibrant animal agriculture sector is critical to the long-term profitability of grain/oilseed producers.

The renewable energy and industrial food manufacturing sector is the third key customer of grain/oilseed producers. This sector has recently undergone dramatic growth and also significant concentration, with a number of mergers and acquisitions among ethanol and food manufacturers. However, because grains/oilseeds are traded as commodities, the ability of the sector to exert significant buyer power over producers is limited.

Customers likely will not exert significant, negative influences on industry profitability in the future due to traditional concerns over concentration. Instead, the impact of these industries will be driven by their fundamental profitability. Here, there is some cause for concern. The large increases in demand associated with renewable energy production, for example, are largely policy driven. Should the policy become less attractive to renewable energy production, there could be significant declines in biofuel demand. Likewise, these industries are highly competitive and dependent upon energy prices. Sustained low, energy prices would significantly reduce demand from these customers. Animal agriculture should significantly benefit from rapid population and economic growth in China and India. However, animal protein is generally a higher cost source of protein, and slowing economic growth in these countries would significantly reduce demand for animal protein and hurt grain/oilseed producers.

Rivalry

Agricultural production is characterized by a high degree of competitive rivalry. Efforts to develop branded or specialized products are quickly and effectively copied, and meaningful differentiation is difficult to achieve. The competitive rivalry plays out most clearly in bidding for productive resources. Here, producers typically bid most of their long-term potential profitability into the price of fixed assets such as farmland. As a result, rivalry has a very detrimental impact on individual profitability in the sector. However, it also encourages firms to be extremely efficient and productive as cost competition is the most likely source of competitive advantage. Rivalry has also clearly manifested itself on the global stage as South American agricultural production has rapidly increased to the point where Brazil and Argentina are key world soybean producers. Further, continuing genetic improvements, such as drought resistance, are allowing production of crops in regions once not suitable.

Substitute Goods

There are important substitution considerations for grain/oilseed producers. Movements away from or towards animal proteins in the diet can have a significant impact on grain consumption. Grain products also compete in a variety of industrial based markets, such as energy and bioplastics where they serve as a substitute for petroleum-based products. These markets are quite large, but are also highly competitive. The large quantities of these available substitutes will limit producer profitability.

Barriers to Entry

There are few meaningful barriers to entry in production agriculture. While the capital requirements can be substantial to a young person trying to begin a career in farming, these requirements are not prohibitive for most businesses considering large-scale entry. For larger investors and pension funds considering entry into agriculture, the barrier in the United States is typically finding enough land in one geographic area to make a significant investment. While still limited in number, there are more farm management companies pursuing large scale farmland investments operated through both internal and external management arrangements. Funding for these enterprises increasingly comes from equity markets. The relative ease with which parties with access to capital can enter crop production will limit the upside profitability potential for current producers.

Conclusions and Implications

An increasing and diverse demand, rapid adoption of new technologies, limitations on global agricultural resources, and a society with increasing expectations of agriculture to produce a safe, abundant, affordable — and now "sustainable" — supply of food, fiber, feed, and energy will all shape the future environment for crop producers. In addition, crop producers' ability to generate profits will change with the profitability prospects of input suppliers, customers, competitors, substitutes, and new entrants.

The drivers of change suggest it will be critical for crop producers to be diligent in their pursuit of ever increasing productivity. To meet the demands of a growing global population with limited natural resources and increasing societal requirements, producers will need to continue to increase yields per acre at increased rates. At the margin, total production can be increased by bringing new lands into production, but those available, productive lands are limited. Thus, technology adoption will continue to play a crucial role in enhancing the sector's productivity. The pace with which these technologies are developed and adopted will depend on both the economics of crop production and society’s willingness to accept the new technologies. We believe it is not a matter of if new technologies will be adopted, just a matter of the speed with which they are adopted.

An analysis of Porter's Five Forces that affect profitability indicates that scale efficiencies will continue to be a critical driver of a crop producer’s competitive position. In particular, while customer buying power and input supplier power are not considered to be major deterrents to profitability, inter-firm rivalry and the relative ease of entry into the sector will continue to place pressure on the industry. While competition in the customer segments will keep buyers from significantly influencing the general market, the number of producers in a given crop producing area and the lack of differentiation make bargaining against customers very difficult without significant scale. Bargaining power usually requires some form of scale which allows the amount of product controlled to be significant in the marketplace. This is either done through scale within the operation or formal collaborations with other firms to appear bigger to the marketplace. This may be in the form of cooperatives, partnerships, LLC’s, etc. and may include local, regional, national, and/or international collaborations.

In addition, the competition for limited, available land is fierce, and those producers with greatest efficiency are at a competitive advantage in acquiring those resources. While scale efficiencies normally suggest expansion of the farming operation size, producers will also have to purposefully improve the productivity of the land they manage. This will require the adoption of technologies that allow producers to drive down costs per unit, including a combination of information, biologic and other technologies.

In the future, crop producers likely will also have increased opportunities to differentiate their businesses and commodity production. Synergistic activities including marketing fertilizer from livestock waste, providing services to other producers including grain storage and trucking, and even off-farm employment all could become viable business opportunities. Producers able to meet unique contract specifications or negotiate preferred supplier contracts may ultimately increase their profitability by reducing their reliance on traditional commodity production and markets.

For More Information

Land O’Lakes Member Services Interview with Great Lakes Manufacturing Experts. (2008).

Porter, M.E. (1979, March/April). How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy, Harvard Business Review, 57(2), 137-147.

Porter, M.E. (1980). Competitive Strategy. New York, New York. Free Press.

Porter, M.E. (2008, January). The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy. Harvard Business Review, 86(1), 78-93.

Population Reference Bureau. (2010). World Population Data Sheet. Available online: http://www.prb.org/pdf10/10wpds_eng.pdf.

Rankin, A. (2010). Sustainability Strategies in Agribusiness: Understanding Key Drivers, Objectives, And Actions. Unpublished Thesis. Purdue University.

United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA-NASS). (2007). 2007 Census of Agriculture-United States Data. Available online: http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2007/Full_Report/usv1.pdf.

 

Elizabeth A. Bechdol (beth.bechdol@icemiller.com), is Director of Agribusiness Strategies, Ice Miller LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana. Alan Gray (gray@purdue.edu) is Professor Department of Agricultural Economics and Director of the Center for Food and Agribusiness and MS-MBA program, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. Brent Gloy (bgloy@purdue.edu), Associate Professor Department of Agricultural Economics and Associate Director of Research of the Center for Food and Agricultural Business, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.

Western legislators call for withdrawal of Secretarial Order on Wild Lands

Outgoing Western Caucus Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and Senate Western Caucus Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., along with 47 House Members and eight Senators, sent a letter to Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar requesting that he withdraw Secretarial Order 3310, which creates a new Wild Lands classification for public lands. The letter cautions that the DOI’s Wild Lands policy will destroy jobs and severely handicap local economies.

“I am increasingly concerned by Secretary Salazar’s and the current administration’s ongoing efforts to circumvent Congress when it comes to creating new public lands policies. The DOI’s unilateral decisions regarding the management of our public lands and resources are detrimental to communities and businesses throughout the West. Their lack of regard for the impact this will have on local economies is unacceptable. It is time that they start taking into consideration the people that will be hurt by their decisions to operate in a vacuum, starting with the withdrawal of Secretarial Order 3310,” said Congressman Bishop. ““Why would anyone who wears a cowboy hat and boots in public work in private to hurt ranchers, outdoorsman and other western industries that depend upon access to our public lands. It makes no sense.”

Excerpts of the letter:

This directive will significantly impact western economies and rural communities, which depend on multiple-use access to federal lands.

We are also concerned that because this action was taken without input from Members of Congress and local officials, who would be affected by the order, the prospects of a cooperative working relationship about wilderness have been damaged.

We believe this order represents a considerable departure from the method for designating lands as "Wilderness Areas" specified in the Wilderness Act of 1964. 

As you know, the Wilderness Act gives the U.S. Congress -- and only the U.S. Congress -- the power to designate public lands as protected "Wilderness Areas."  Secretarial Order 3310 appears to be an underhanded attempt by DOI to circumvent Congress and the federal rulemaking process…

We believe public lands should be managed in a way that provides the greatest benefit to the public. 

Multiple-use has been the bedrock for many rural western economies for decades.

This new “wild lands” policy introduces more uncertainty and will arbitrarily delay the reasonable use and development of our public lands.  In order to prevent a collapse of several rural economies in the West and forestall continued uncertainty and job loss in western public land states, we urge you to withdraw Secretarial Order 3310 and work with Congress to devise balanced policies for our public lands.

View the full list of Representatives and Senators who supported the letter here.

Northern Cal Entomology Society to meet Feb. 3

Northern Cal Entomology Society to meet Feb. 3

 Entomologist/integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, will discuss the identification and biology of the light brown apple moth (LBAM) at the next meeting of the Northern California Entomology Society, set for Thursday, Feb. 3 in Sacramento.

Zalom also will highlight two studies that he and his lab conducted on commercial caneberry and strawberry fields in 2009 and 2010 to “evaluate the efficacy of ground-applied mating disruption products for LBAM management.”

The meeting begins at 9:15 a.m. with registration and coffee in the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Plant Diagnostic Lab, 3288 Meadowview Road, Sacramento.

Zalom, who will speak at 9:45 a.m., is the first in a line-up of five speakers.

Zalom, who directed the UC Statewide IPM Program for 16 years, is a newly elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for “distinguished scholarly, educational and administrative contributions that have significantly advanced the science and application of integrated pest management in agriculture nationally and internationally.” He is also a fellow of the Entomological Society of America and the California Academy of Sciences.

Zalom focuses his research on California specialty crops, including tree crops (almonds, olives, prunes, peaches), small fruits (grapes, strawberries, caneberries), and fruiting vegetables (tomatoes), as well as international IPM programs.

The NorCal Society agenda also includes:
 
10:30 a.m. “Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies) of Argentina,” Natalia von Ellenrieder, associate insect biosystematist, Plant Pest Diagnostics, CDFA
 
11:15 a.m.: “Using New Biologically Produced Pesticides in Crop Pest Management,” Christopher Strutz, Crop Production Services, Sacramento
 
12 Noon: Lunch
 
1:15 p.m.: “Recent Developments in Controlling Olive Psylla, Euphyllura olivina (Costa),” Charles Pickett, Environmental Research Scientist, Biological Control, CDFA.
 
2 p.m.: “Impacts of Scale Insects on Humanity,” Gillian Watson, Senior Insect Biosystematist, Plant Pest Diagnostics, CDFA.
 
The Northern California Entomology Society is comprised of university faculty, researchers, pest abatement professionals, students and other interested persons. Newly elected president of the society is Leann Horning, an ag technician with the CDFA Biocontrol Program since 1990.

Luncheon reservations ($15 for a chicken meal from Poco Lollo) should be made by Feb. 1 with secretary-treasurer Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty. Mussen may be reached at ecmussen@ucdavis or (530) 752-0472.

The entomology group meets the first Thursday in February at the CDFA complex, Sacramento; the first Thursday in May at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility; UC Davis; and the first Thursday in November at the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District office, Concord. Membership dues are $10 per year.