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Articles from 2012 In March


Senators work to keep energy title in new farm bill

 

Four senators have introduced a "marker" bill aimed at keeping the energy title in the 2008 Farm Bill viable in a new farm bill being drafted by Congress.

Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) hope to see new farm legislation that would reauthorize and provide mandatory funding for programs set to expire with the 2008 farm legislation on September 30, reports the 25x25 Alliance (www.25x25.org). This would include the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) and Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP).

A marker bill is used to introduce specific measures or issues into a larger legislative debate. While not intended to ever come to a vote on the floor, it serves as a “placeholder" for specific aspects of a larger bill.

 

Week in Puerto Rico series: 3rd Millennium Genetics offers seed nursery, DuraYield non-GMO genetics

3rd Millennium Genetics (3MG) offers seed nursery services from its location in Puerto Rico. The company has more than 100 clients in 11 different countries. It has worked with 19 different crops — from corn and soybeans to sunflowers and sesame.

3MG is offering its own line of non-GMO genetics that has been developed from native traits under extreme environmental, insect and disease stress. 3MG founder Ed Baumgartner says the new genetics are available for licensing to the company’s seed customers who are interested in non-GMO options.

One customer is Spectrum Seed Solutions of Crawfordsville, Ind. Scott Johnson with Spectrum Seed explains that the company is marketing non-GMO seed to growers who either do not want market restrictions for their grain or are on the fringe of the Corn Belt and do not need expensive traited technology in their hybrids.

For more information, call 3MG at 787/845-4600 or visit www.3mgpr.com.

This is the 7th piece in our "Week in Puerto Rico" series. Check back for more videos, photo galleries and stories in the series at www.farmindustrynews.com.

Piece 1: Video: Soybean, seed nursery business thrives in Puerto Rico

Piece 2: Video: New corn genetics line launched with non-GMO stress, insect tolerance

Piece 3: Photo gallery: Major rice company uses Puerto Rico for seed research, nursery

Piece 4: Video: Spectrum Seed Solutions uses DuraYield genetics for non-GMO markets

Piece 5: Gallery: Bayer CropScience expands seed research, nursery in Puerto Rico

Piece 6: Story: Move over Hawaii: Puerto Rico takes over U.S. winter seed work

 

Corn+Soybean Digest

Corn, Soybean Planting Photos

Every spring farmers take to the fields to plant their corn and soybean crops. Here are photos by CSD staff of planting activities around the Upper Midwest from the last few years. We'd love your contributions to our gallery, so if you have planting pictures, past or present, feel free to email them to csd@csdigest.com and we'll add them to our lineup.

Huanglongbing citrus disease confirmed in California

Huanglongbing citrus disease confirmed in California

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) March 30 confirmed the state’s first detection of the citrus disease known as Huanglongbing (HLB), or citrus greening.

The disease was detected in an Asian citrus psyllid sample and plant material taken from a lemon/pummelo tree in a residential neighborhood in the Hacienda Heights area of California’s Los Angeles County.

HLB is a bacterial disease that attacks the vascular system of plants. It does not pose a threat to humans or animals.

The Asian citrus psyllid can spread the bacteria as the pest feeds on citrus trees and other plants. Once a tree is infected, there is no cure; it typically declines and dies within a few years.

“Citrus is not just a part of California’s agricultural economy; it’s a cherished part of our landscape and our shared history,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross.

(For more, see: Western citrus growers face spreading psyllid numbers)

“CDFA is moving swiftly to protect the state’s citrus growers as well as our residential trees and the many prized citrus plantings in our parks and other public lands. We have been planning and preparing for this scenario with our growers and our colleagues at the federal and local levels since before the Asian citrus psyllid was first detected here in 2008.”

Officials are making arrangements to remove and dispose of the infected tree and conduct treatment of citrus trees within 800 meters of the find site. By taking these steps, a critical reservoir of disease and its vectors will be removed which is essential.

More information about the program will be provided at an informational open house scheduled for April 5 at the Industry Hills Expo Center, The Avalon Room, 16200 Temple Avenue, City of Industry, from 5:30 to 7:00 pm.

Treatment for HLB will be conducted with the oversight of the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal-EPA) and will be conducted safely with advance and follow-up notices provided to residents in the treatment area.

An intensive survey of local citrus trees and psyllids is underway to determine the source and extent of the HLB infestation.

(For more, see: Scent of infection draws citrus psyllids)

Planning has begun for a quarantine of the infested area to limit the spread of the disease by restricting the movement of citrus trees, citrus plant parts, green waste, and all citrus fruit except what is commercially cleaned and packed.

As part of the quarantine, citrus and closely related plants at nurseries in the area will be placed on hold.

Residents of quarantine areas are urged not to remove or share citrus fruit, trees, clippings/grafts, or related plant material. Citrus fruit may be harvested and consumed on-site.

CDFA, in partnership with the USDA, local agricultural commissioners, and the citrus industry, continues to pursue a strategy of controlling the spread of Asian citrus psyllids while researchers work to find a cure for the disease.

HLB is present in Mexico and in parts of the southern U.S.

Florida first detected the pest in 1998 and the disease in 2005, and the two have now been detected in all 30 citrus-producing counties in that state. The University of Florida estimates the disease has tallied more than 6,600 lost jobs, $1.3 billion in lost revenue to growers and $3.6 billion in lost economic activity.

The pest and the disease are also present in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina. The states of Arizona, Mississippi, and Alabama have detected the pest but not the disease.

The Asian citrus psyllid was first detected in California in 2008. Quarantines are now in place in Ventura, San Diego, Imperial, Orange, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties.

If Californians believe they have seen evidence of HLB in local citrus trees, they are asked to please call CDFA’s toll-free pest hotline at 1-800-491-1899.

For more information on the Asian citrus psyllid and HLB visit: http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/acp/

(For more, see: EPA and USDA regulations hinder citrus greening cures)

La Nina predictions miss the mark

Paul Yura, with the National Weather Service, San Antonio and Austin, says predictions of continued widespread drought into this summer appear to have missed the mark.

Back in February, Yura spoke at a Bayer CropScience Crop Consultant’s Conference in San Antonio and indicated that much of the Southwest was still in line for “persistent drought,” into summer.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes since February,” Yura said in a Farm Press interview. “Forecasts were off,” he said. “The climate models were predicting a pretty dry spring.”

He said North Texas, in particular, has defied predictions. “North Texas is pretty well off and is currently not in drought status.”

He said a corridor to the east and running from Dallas to Tulsa is currently not in drought. “But as you go west into the Oklahoma Panhandle, and into Southwest Oklahoma, we’re still seeing moderate to severe drought conditions.” Wichita Falls also remains dry as does the Texas Panhandle and much of South Texas, especially the San Angelo area.

The Hill Country (in Central Texas) has received rain, he said. But lakes remain at perilously low levels. “Travis is from 40 feet to 50 feet low,” he said. Other lakes are equally low. O.C. Fisher Lake near San Angelo is extremely low. “They need a flood out that way,” he said.

“A lot of other lakes have not come up at all. We’ve had two or three widespread rains in the Hill Country and lake levels rose only 2 or 3 feet.”

Low lake levels could spell trouble for a lot of towns and cities. “We need rain into this summer or a lot of places will run out of water,” Yura said.

Recent rains that dropped several inches on Central and North Texas didn’t completely miss West Texas, he said, but amounts were considerably less. The Texas High Plains received only about a half-inch from a March 18 and 19 rainfall that covered much of the region. Another one-tenth fell a day later.

“South Texas and West Texas remain in exceptional drought status,” Yura said. “The Lubbock area is still exceptionally dry. But we’re better off then we have been. Instead of a bulls eye over the region for the next three or four months, we seem to be headed back to a more typical rainfall pattern. La Nina is about gone or is gone so we expect more normal rainfall into the summer.”

That doesn’t mean no drought, he warned. “We can always have drought conditions in some areas but a widespread drought is less likely. We expect a more typical weather pattern, whatever that is.”

Projections indicate a more normal hurricane season as well with 11 or 12 named storms. “We depend on those for summer rain along the Texas Coast.”

He said short-range predictions are promising for the part of the Texas wheat crop that had ample rainfall to produce good stands and good growth through the winter (mostly North and Central Texas). “The 6- to 10-day outlook indicates normal temperatures. So does the 8-to 14-day projection. We don’t expect a massive late Arctic cold snap. We also see an above average outlook for rain over the next 8- to 14-day periods.”

Yura said climate science may have missed the long-range weather outlook and if so it was a good time to miss one. Long-term weather predictions are difficult with available science. “We sometimes still have difficulty predicting 7 to 10 days out and with El Nino and La Nina, sometimes it’s a crap shoot. The science is simply not there yet. Anything can change.”

House Agriculture Committee Continues Farm Bill Field Hearings

House Agriculture Committee Continues Farm Bill Field Hearings

The House Agriculture Committee convened its third farm bill hearing in Arkansas on Friday. After holding hearings in New York and Illinois, the committee heard from farmers in the Mid-South, although much of what they had to say echoed the comments the committee has heard in other areas. According to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., the main focus was on an effective safety net, choice of risk management tools and certainty when it comes to regulations.

House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas conducted the field hearing in Arkansas.

"As we visit with producers from different regions of the country, the overriding message we're hearing is just how important it is to provide a choice of policy options in the next farm bill," Lucas said. "In order for our farmers to be successful and continue to provide the quality food and fiber that we all expect and enjoy, we need to give them the necessary tools to manage risk no matter what type of crop they're growing."

Cotton and rice producers were well represented at this field hearing, but their concerns were much the same as producers of other commodities. Randy Veach, President of the Arkansas Farm Bureau and a farmer from Manila, spoke about the importance of agriculture to the country.

"We must as a nation get our house in order, and agriculture is ready to do it part in that effort," Veach said. "We feel across-the-board cuts are the fairest way to reduce our country’s spending. We cannot balance the federal budget on the backs of agriculture, and the cuts should not be so severe that eliminate the safety net that helps ensure adequate supplies of food and fiber. I feel, in fact, that agriculture is critical to our national security."

Veach went on to discuss the need for the next farm bill to be crafted to benefit all sectors of agriculture and the need for it to be written this year. Bowen Flowers, a producer from Clarksdale, Miss., shared that view.

"With respect to production agriculture, I encourage this committee to take into consideration the diversity of production practices, cost structures, and risk profiles; a one-size-fits all farm program can not address this diversity and I hope the eventual farm bill will offer a range of programs structured to address the needs of different commodities and production regions," Flowers said. "I also urge the committee to complete the farm bill this year in advance of the expiration of current legislation. We need some certainty regarding farm programs as we look at the long-term investments necessary to keep our farming operations economically viable."

The final House Agriculture Committee field hearing on the farm bill is scheduled for April 20, 2012 in Dodge City, Kan.

Ag Committee holds third farm bill hearing

Ag Committee holds third farm bill hearing

The House Agriculture Committee conducted the third of four ’12 farm bill field hearings in Jonesboro, Ark., to enable its members to hear first-hand how farm policy is affecting farmers before the next farm bill is developed. The hearing was hosted by Committee Chairman Lucas (R-Okla.) and Committee Member Crawford (R-Ark.). They were joined by Committee members Neugebauer (R-Texas) and Stutzman (R-Ind.).

Eight of the 10 witnesses were multi-row crop producers, and included cotton producers: Dow Brantley, England, Ark., and Randy Veach, Manila, Ark.; Walt Corcoran, Eufaula, Ala.; Tim Burch, Newton, Ga.; Bowen Flowers, Clarksdale, Miss.; Paul Combs, Kennett, Mo.; and John Owen, Rayville, La.

With cotton as their primary focus, the testimonies of Corcoran and Flowers emphasized the need for completion of a farm bill this year as those involved in production agriculture make long-term investment decisions based on federal farm policy. It was noted that the combination of the marketing loan, Direct Payments and Counter-cyclical Payments has provided a good safety net, and in recent years, has required minimal federal spending. The need for sound crop insurance and risk management tools in new farm legislation was conveyed along with support of the NCC’s innovative Stacked Income Protection Plan. Known as STAX, that revenue-based crop insurance product would replace the direct and counter-cyclical payments for cotton, thus directly addressing one of the programs found to be at fault in the World Trade Organization dispute with Brazil.

Corcoran testified that, “In the opinion of the U.S. cotton industry, this structure (STAX) will best utilize reduced budget resources, respond to public criticism by directing benefits to growers who suffer losses resulting from factors beyond their control, and build on the existing crop insurance program, thus ensuring no duplication of coverage and allowing for program simplification. I strongly urge that crop insurance not be weakened during this farm bill. In today’s environment of volatile prices and high input costs, effective risk management has never been more important.”

Flowers implored the Committee not to impose any further restrictions on payment eligibility including lower limits or income means tests in the ’12 farm bill saying “effective farm policy must maximize participation without regard to size or farm income.” He reminded the Committee that the ’08 farm law contained significant changes with respect to payment limitations and payment eligibility – and included the most comprehensive and far-reaching reform to payment limitations in 20 years.

Cotton: economic driver

Flowers also noted that while he was a diversified producer, “it is important to note that cotton production is the most significant economic driver in my area. It means jobs on the farm, in gins, warehouses and on through the production and processing cotton cycle. The spin-off impact on rural communities in the Delta and other regions for input suppliers, equipment dealers and others is also significant. Even a moderately–sized city such as Clarksdale is very dependent upon agriculture. Therefore, a viable cotton farm policy is especially critical to our rural economy.”

Both producers also called for continued assistance for US textile mills (introduced in the ’08 farm bill) along with adequately funded export promotion programs, including the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) Program, which are important in an export-dependent agricultural economy.

Chairman Lucas stated, ‪"As we visit with producers from different regions of the country, the overriding message we're hearing is just how important it is to provide a choice of policy options in the next Farm Bill. In order for our farmers to be successful and continue to provide the quality food and fiber that we all expect and enjoy, we need to give them the necessary tools to manage risk no matter what type of crop they're growing.”

Lucas said he recognized that even within commodities, different programs work better for different regions.

“That’s why it is vitally important that the Commodity Title give producers options so that they can choose the program that works best for them,” he said. “I also am committed to providing a strong crop insurance program. Now, I know that crop insurance—while a valuable tool for many producers—doesn’t work as well for producers down here. That’s why offering an array of programs is important and why we must work with the Risk Management Agency to improve crop insurance products for rice, peanuts and other crops that do not have higher buy-up levels.”

The Committee’s next farm bill hearing is scheduled for Friday, April 20, at 9 a.m. CDTin the Magouirk Conference Center in Dodge City, Kan.

Stabenow says MF Global bonuses ‘outrageous’

Stabenow says MF Global bonuses ‘outrageous’

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Senator Pat Roberts, the Committee’s Ranking Member, introduced and passed a bipartisan resolution opposing bonuses for MF Global executives, with unanimous support in the Senate. According to news reports, Louis Freeh, the trustee overseeing the bankruptcy of MF Global Holding Ltd, may submit a plan in the coming weeks asking a bankruptcy judge to pay bonuses to top MF Global executives—even though the company is now bankrupt and thousands of its customers’ money is still missing. MF Global’s bankruptcy last year, the eighth largest in U.S. history, resulted in a loss of as much as $1.6 billion for the firm’s customers. Thousands of farmers, ranchers and small business owners are still owed tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

(For more, see: Corzine denials continue as MF Global scandal deepens)

“It’s absolutely outrageous to suggest that bonuses should be paid to the same people who were in charge when the company went bankrupt and lost its customers’ money,” said Stabenow. “This was a terrible failure of leadership. The people in charge should be held accountable, not rewarded with bonuses.”

“This is not your ordinary Chapter 11 bankruptcy,” Roberts said. “The process to return customer funds to their rightful owners will take years. This unprecedented loss of segregated customer funds may well have occurred at the direction of MF Global officials. Any recovered funds should go to customers instead of winding up in the hands of those who mismanaged the funds in the first place.”

On March 15, Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Roberts sent a bipartisan letter with all of their colleagues on the Agriculture Committee to Mr. Freeh urging him to drop any proposal to award bonuses to top executives. Mr. Freeh responded on March 16 and declined to commit to the Committee’s request. Last December, the Agriculture Committee convened a hearing to investigate the collapse of MF Global, where top executives testified and indicated that they didn’t know where customer money had gone.  Two of those very executives are among those who may receive bonuses.

War on ‘pink slime’ a media creation

 “Congratulations, ABC World News.  Your relentless coverage and uninformed criticism of a safe and wholesome beef product has now delivered a hook for yet another nightly news broadcast.

Today, a three-week war waged on a beef product called lean finely textured beef came to a painful head as hundreds of people lost their jobs when one of the primary processors shuttered three plants.  While lean finely texture beef was given a catchy and clever nickname in 'pink slime,' the impact of alarming broadcasts about this safe and wholesome beef product by Jamie Oliver, ABC News and others are no joke to those families that are now out of work.     

Lean finely textured beef has been processed for two decades, blended into ground beef at very low levels to enhance the leanness of ground beef and safely consumed. But the frenzy of misinformation that has swirled during the last several weeks gives new meaning to Winston Churchill’s great quote, 'A lie gets half way around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.'

Those who have tried to inject reason and facts  -- many of whom are from the meat science community and in the best position to deliver accurate information -- have been attacked as so-called 'slimewashers' because their characterization is different from the popular misconceptions. 

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it one more time:  Lean finely textured beef is a safe and nutritious beef product that has been used for two decades.  It is produced according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules and under USDA inspection.  USDA’s confidence in the product is evidenced by the fact that it buys the product for its feeding programs.  Its safety and wholesomeness is further bolstered by support from leaders in the consumer and food safety communities.

In the end, today’s developments are a sad day for the families of those who lost their jobs.  Other American families will also pay the price at the checkout counter as they see the price of ground beef begin to rise while we work to grow as many as 1.5 million more head of cattle to replace the beef that will no longer be consumed due to this manufactured scare.”

For more information, about lean finely textured beef, go to http://www.meatsafety.org/ where you will see a complete list of resources.