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Serving: United States

USDA invests $7 million in 6 states to support specialty crops

Singkham/ThinkstockPhotos Tomato fruit with water drop and sunlight close up shot

USDA is spending $7 million to support 11 projects in six states to develop solutions to challenges affecting the specialty crop industries that cross state boundaries. The awards are managed through the Specialty Crop Multi-State Program administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service. 

“The best way to tackle many of the biggest challenges in food safety and to promote markets is to make it easier for a lot of stakeholders to work together,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach. “USDA’s Specialty Crop Multi-State Program provides the grease to help them leverage state and private sector resources across state lines—especially the knowledge and experience of farmers and the agricultural industry.” 

SCMP strengthens food safety; seeks new ways to address plant pests, disease, and other crop-specific issues; and increases marketing opportunities for specialty crops—fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and dried fruits to horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. Funding is awarded competitively to state departments of agriculture that partner with stakeholder organizations in two or more states. 

The 2018 SCMP projects include: 

California Department of Food and Agriculture will partner with:

  • The University of California's Western Institute for Food Safety & Security and Oregon State University for a food safety project to support food safety and honey bee health through veterinary education. Awarded $483,278.
  • The University of California and Oregon State University for a pest and plant health project to optimize phasmarhabditis nematodes for mitigating invasive gastropods in the western United States. Awarded $770,356.
  • USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Washington State University and the University of California-Davis for a pest and plant health project to better understand esca trunk disease in multiple grape-production systems. Awarded $348,991.
  • Indiana State Department of Agriculture and Purdue University will partner on a project to diversify sod production with sustainable turfgrasses. Awarded $495,635. 

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will partner with:

  • The Pennsylvania State University; collaborating with universities in Georgia, Maryland, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, North Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Louisiana, and Florida; on a pest and plant health project to develop a regional approach to cucurbit downy mildew prevention monitoring and management. Awarded $806,739.
  • The Pennsylvania State University, University of Maryland and the University of Florida on a pest and plant health project to develop a reliable, customized bio-control for fusarium wilt of the tomato. Awarded $770,360.
  • The U.S. Sweet Potato Council, Inc., collaborating with sweet potato commissions and councils in Alabama, California, Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina on a project to increase the market for sweet potatoes. Awarded $250,000.

Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection will partner with:

  • The University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Minnesota on a project to expand North American hazelnut production through the hedgerow hazelnut system. Awarded: $777,203.
  • The University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State University on a pest and plant health project to optimize disease management and yield in potato via microbiome-based prediction. Awarded $999,599. 

Texas Department of Agriculture will partner with Texas A&M University and the University of California on a project to improve nitrogen use efficiency and food safety in spinach production. Awarded $743,878.

Nebraska Department of Agriculture will partner with the University of Wisconsin and the University of Nebraska on a pest and plant health project to improve aronia berry sustainability and fruit quality. Awarded $479,751.

Source: USDA

Smithfield loses $50 million lawsuit

darcy maulsby/ThinkstockPhotos Hogs in pen in modern hog barn

Murphy Brown LLC, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods and hog producer, received a verdict last Thursday from a North Carolina jury that it must pay plaintiffs $50 million in damages as a result of a nuisance lawsuit. The jury ruled in a unanimous verdict each plaintiff should be awarded $75,000 in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.

Smithfield will appeal the decision.

The North Carolina legislature has also passed a law in the last year which will likely limit each plaintiff’s compensatory damages so it is unlikely any plaintiff will see the $5 million. The Wall Street Journal indicated, ”It is unclear if a state law that caps punitive damages at the higher of 3 times compensatory damages…would apply.”

This is the first of 26 cases to go to trial. The second case is slated to go to trial next month. A spokesperson for Smithfield stated, “These lawsuits are an outrageous attack on animal agriculture, rural North Carolina and thousands of independent family farmers who own and operate contract farms.”

What happened?

Murphy Brown was accused of failing to eliminate obnoxious, recurrent odors and large number of pests from a CAFO which plaintiffs claimed affected their homes. This was a dispute between adjacent property owners regarding how society views common law nuisance, environmental law and agricultural land use.

The rights of neighbors vs. hog production goes back to the 1600s in England. A famous case we all learn about in law school, William Aldred’s case, dates back to 1611. This is the first case on record which tried to rectify an alleged environmental harm. The court in 1611 stated “[a] an action on the case lies for erecting a hogstye so near the house of the plaintiff that the air thereof was corrupted.” Ever since this case, upset landowners have sought to protect their right to the enjoyment of their property. 

Nuisance is a result of some conduct that is intentional, negligent or subject to strict liability. Nuisance as a cause of action seems fairly simple.  However, virtually every state in the Union has passed a Right to Farm Statute to protect farmers because it can be alleged farming is a nuisance to a neighbor because farms generate dust, noise, pesticide drift and odors.

In this case, plaintiffs alleged Murphy Brown and its hogs placed on a contract farmer’s land created an unlawful interference with a neighbor’s use and enjoyment of their land. (Pretty simple.)

The jury instructions provided by the court provides interesting insight. The court instructed the jury to base its view on the law given to it by the Court and instructed the jurors they must not be swayed by bias or prejudice towards either party.

The court stated, “Our system of law does not permit jurors to be governed by prejudice or sympathy or public opinion” (impossible). He also told the jurors they were the sole judges of credibility and believability of each witness.

After going through the preliminary instructions, he identified 10 plaintiffs by name and told the jurors to decide the case based on the issues presented to them. The first issue the Court directed jurors to consider was, “Did the defendant substantially and unreasonably interfere with the plaintiffs’ use and enjoyment of his or her property?” The judge further instructed that an inference could be drawn and stated, “Inference is substantial when it results in significant annoyance, material physical discomfort or injury to a person’s health or property.”

The court then defined the term “substantial interference” and whether that interference would be unreasonable to a person of ordinary prudence and discretion. The Court went on to define substantial interference being unreasonable and listed several factors, such as suitability to the location of the defendant’s property; the nature, utility and social value of the plaintiffs’ use and enjoyment of his property, and had that been invaded.

The Court then said if the answer to issue one is yes, then his second instruction was, “What amount of damages, if any, is plaintiff entitled from the defendant?” Then the Court explained to the jurors that if they awarded actual damages, they should ask “Is the defendant liable to the plaintiff for punitive damages?”

The Court told the jurors that the plaintiff had to prove by clear and convincing evidence there was malice or willful or wanton conduct exhibited by Murphy Brown (I found this instruction amazing).The court explained, “Malice means a sense of personal ill will toward the plaintiff that activated or incited the defendant to perform the act or undertake the conduct that resulted in harm to the plaintiff.”

The Right to Farm statute in North Carolina played no role in the jury trial. Without this defense, defeat was almost certain.      

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.

UC endowed chair to fund full-time rice researcher

California rice harvest delayed by rain
Rice is harvested in Butte County, Calif. A $1 million endowed chair will fund a full-time University of California Cooperative Extension technician to study weedy rice.

The $1 million UC Cooperative Extension Presidential Chair for California Grown Rice has been awarded to Whitney Brim-DeForest, UCCE rice advisor for Sutter, Yuba, Placer, Sacramento and Butte counties.

Brim-DeForest said she will use the funds generated from the endowed chair to hire a full-time technician to monitor a research study at UC Davis on weedy rice. Weedy rice is the same species as cultivated rice and it produces rice, however the grain falls off the plant before harvest.

She is part of a team of UC scientists that includes UCCE advisors Luis Espino and Michelle Lindfelder-Miles, and UCCE specialists Bruce Linquist and Kassim Al-Khatib who are conducting the five-year demonstration project to help farmers manage the problem.

“We don't know where weedy rice came from,” Brim-DeForest said. “It's a weed in every major rice growing area around the world. We were among the last areas to see it.”

Weedy rice strategies

In the UC Davis experiment, the scientists plan to demonstrate two potential weedy rice management strategies: rotate the rice crop with sorghum and create a “stale seed bed,” in which the field is irrigated and plants allowed to germinate, and then killed with an herbicide before the desired rice is planted.

“We want to demonstrate this in the field,” Brim-DeForest said. “In theory, it works. We want to show growers how long it will take to get weedy rice out of their fields.”

Half the funds for the endowed chair was provided by UC President Janet Napolitano; the other half was donated by the California Rice Research Board.

“The establishment of this endowed chair strengthens the long-standing public-private research partnership UC Cooperative Extension has had with the California rice industry,” said UC Agriculture and Natural Resources associate vice president Tu Tran, when the endowment was announced in 2016. “Continued research advancements will help the rice industry maintain its reputation for supplying a premium product for domestic and world markets.”

The chair appointment will be for a five-year term, and then reviewed and renewed or offered to another specialist or advisor working on California rice.

Brim-DeForest joined UCCE in 2016 after serving as a graduate student researcher in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, working at the California Rice Experiment Station in Biggs. She managed the UC Davis Weed Science field and greenhouse trials, and worked with industry and academic scientists to design field and greenhouse trials for weed management in rice.

Source: University of California Cooperative Extension

Perdue announces Florida citrus hurricane recovery funding

Citrus-photo

USDA will provide $340 million through a block grant to Florida for Hurricane Irma losses to citrus production expected during the 2018 through the 2020 crop year, reimbursement for the cost of buying and planting replacement trees – including resetting and grove rehabilitation, and for repair of damages to irrigation systems among other things.

The Florida Department of Citrus is estimating the lowest citrus forecast in decades because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma last year. In October, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said Florida citrus sustained more than $760 million in damages because of the hurricane.

In total, USDA’s Farm Service Agency will deploy up to $2.36 billion that Congress appropriated through the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 to help producers with recovery of their agricultural operations in at least nine states with hurricane damage and other states impacted by wildfire.

“Last year our nation experienced some of the most significant disasters we have seen in decades, some back-to-back, at the most critical time in their production year. The Florida citrus industry was likely hit the hardest, and with such a high-value crop, they face a steeper financial burden and as a whole, have less coverage through our traditional insurance options. Under the direction of President Trump, my office has been working directly with Governor Scott and Commissioner Putnam in Florida to put a process in place that will ensure the Florida citrus industry maintains its infrastructure and can continue to be the signature crop for the state,” said Sonny Perdue, secretary of agriculture. “Our team is working as quickly as possible to make this available to farmers in need and continues to provide excellent customer service, which began the day the storm hit through a successful recovery within local communities.”

Following the USDA announcement, Florida Governor Rick Scott said, “Since Hurricane Irma hit our state, I have been fighting for Florida’s citrus growers to get the relief they need to rebuild their livelihoods, including taking immediate steps to provide relief from the state. Our citrus growers have had many challenges over the last few years, including fighting citrus greening, which was compounded by the ravaging effects of Hurricane Irma. Florida prides itself on our incredible and iconic citrus industry and this funding will help ensure that Florida remains synonymous with citrus.”

“While no amount of relief can make the farmers who suffered damages from Hurricane Irma whole, this much-needed disaster relief will help Florida agriculture get back on its feet. I thank Secretary Perdue, Governor Scott, our federal leaders and the agriculture industry for their collaborative efforts to provide this relief. Florida’s $120 billion agriculture industry is a pillar of our economy, and we must continue to give our farmers and ranchers the support they need to thrive,” said Adam Putnam, Florida’s commissioner o agriculture.

Agri-giants launch pilot facility to make bio-based plastic from corn

DuPont ADM-DuPont program
The ADM-DuPont pilot program will produce 60 tons of FDME per year.

Decatur, IL - Agribusiness giants ADM and DuPont today launched a pilot project to produce recyclable bio-based FDME (furan dicarboxylic methyl ester), a polymer that could replace millions of pounds of fossil-fuel-based packaging in coming years.

One challenge using oil-based plastic is that a thicker bottle is needed to avoid carbonation loss in soft drink packaging. That’s why you see water sold in thin-walled plastic bottles, but not so for carbonated beverages. One of the first FDME-based polymers under development is “PTF”, a DuPont product that could help companies reduce plastic in soda bottles by 25%. Research shows that PTF has up to 10 to 15 times better CO2 barrier performance compared to traditional plastic, resulting in longer shelf life.

“We think this will shrink the amount of petroleum and plastic going into that soda bottle,” says Greg Webb, vice president of government relations at ADM.

Plants not petroleum

Nearly one-tenth of the world’s oil is used to make the plastic products humans use every day. From shampoo bottles to frozen food containers, fossil-fuel-based plastics are virtually impossible to avoid because of a lack of commercially available alternatives — a significant gap in the marketplace that DuPont and ADM’s FDME hopes to address.

While the pilot project will produce 60 tons of FDME a year, company officials predict big things for the corn fructose-based product. “The first commercial plant will be 500 to 1,000 times bigger than this one and there will be many plants,” predicts Michael Saltzberg, global business director for biomaterials at Dupont.

While no one is predicting FDME will impact grain demand at the same level as DDGs or ethanol, the technology is positive for corn farmers. “This helps improve demand through a more diversified portfolio,” says Webb.

It takes about two pounds of fructose to produce one pound of FDME.

“It may not be as significant as ethanol but this has the potential to have significant uptake,” says Saltzberg. “It’s not just pop bottles – we believe this could have an impact on a lot of plastic products, from fuel tanks to packaging. Our goal is to bring this game-changing technology to commercial scale as quickly as possible.”

U.S. Congressman Rodney Davis, R-IL, attended the ribbon-cutting in Decatur, delivering remarks and touring the facility.

“Illinois has always been a hub of agricultural innovation and scientific discovery, and both DuPont and ADM have been an important part of the fabric of our local farming communities,” says Davis. “This facility is a testament to the vitality and vibrancy of my district’s workforce and the critical importance of manufacturing in and revitalizing our rural communities.”

USDA crop progress: Corn pace picks up but remains below average

DevidDO/ThinkstockPhotos planter close up

Corn planters have been rolling this past week – but how much progress did they make? According to the latest reports from USDA, 17% of the crop is now in the ground. That’s a modest jump from the prior week’s total of 5%, but planting progress remains slower than typical for now.

 

That’s about in line with trade analyst expectations. A recent survey by 14 industry analysts – including Farm Futures – estimated on average that 18% of the corn crop had been planted as of April 29. Farm Futures’ estimate was also 18%.

State to state, results were uneven, with three southern states leading the way with over half of their planting complete, including Texas (70%), North Carolina (63%) and Missouri (52%). Other states aren’t as far along, but some have made tremendous progress, such as Illinois (moving from 4% complete a week ago to 32%) and Iowa (moving from virtually 0% up to 17% complete).

Across the 18 top production states, only 3% of the corn crop is emerged at this time.

Soybean planting progress, at 5%, is more in line with the five-year average (also 5%), but a bit behind the pace from a year ago (9%). Louisiana (40%), Mississippi (35%) and Arkansas (26%) have made the most planting progress at this time. Industry analysts expected a planting progress to be a bit further along, with an average guess of 7%, meantime, although Farm Futures’ estimate of 5% was on the nose this week.

 

Spring wheat’s planting pace, on the other hand, is significantly behind normal, thanks in part to pervasively cold weather in Minnesota and the Dakotas that have kept relatively fewer planters rolling in those states. Total planting progress has reached 10%, versus 30% a year ago and a five-year average of 36%. It was also even slower than industry analysts expected, offering an average guess of 13%.

Winter wheat’s progress continues to move slowly toward heading, with 19% of the crop reaching that stage last week, versus the prior week’s total of 13%. Last year, 41% of the crop reached heading by the end of April; the five-year average is 30%.

 

USDA suggests winter wheat crop conditions are slightly improved from a week ago, rating 26% of the crop in good condition and another 7% of the crop in excellent condition. Last week, the agency labeled 25% of the crop in good condition and 6% of it in excellent condition.

Cotton planting has reached 12% as of April 29, not making much progress over the past week (planting was 10% complete as of April 22), but staying close to last year’s pace and the five-year average, both of which are 14%. Sorghum planting (26%) is also right in line with last year’s pace (27%) and the five-year average (26%).

Click here to see more state-by-state analysis as well as USDA’s planting progress for other crops such as peanuts, rice, oats and barley.

USDA crop progress: Corn pace picks up but remains below average

DevidDO/ThinkstockPhotos planter close up

Corn planters have been rolling this past week – but how much progress did they make? According to the latest reports from USDA, 17% of the crop is now in the ground. That’s a modest jump from the prior week’s total of 5%, but planting progress remains slower than typical for now.

 

That’s about in line with trade analyst expectations. A recent survey by 14 industry analysts – including Farm Futures – estimated on average that 18% of the corn crop had been planted as of April 29. Farm Futures’ estimate was also 18%.

State to state, results were uneven, with three southern states leading the way with over half of their planting complete, including Texas (70%), North Carolina (63%) and Missouri (52%). Other states aren’t as far along, but some have made tremendous progress, such as Illinois (moving from 4% complete a week ago to 32%) and Iowa (moving from virtually 0% up to 17% complete).

Across the 18 top production states, only 3% of the corn crop is emerged at this time.

Soybean planting progress, at 5%, is more in line with the five-year average (also 5%), but a bit behind the pace from a year ago (9%). Louisiana (40%), Mississippi (35%) and Arkansas (26%) have made the most planting progress at this time. Industry analysts expected a planting progress to be a bit further along, with an average guess of 7%, meantime, although Farm Futures’ estimate of 5% was on the nose this week.

Spring wheat’s planting pace, on the other hand, is significantly behind normal, thanks in part to pervasively cold weather in Minnesota and the Dakotas that have kept relatively fewer planters rolling in those states. Total planting progress has reached 10%, versus 30% a year ago and a five-year average of 36%. It was also even slower than industry analysts expected, offering an average guess of 13%.

Winter wheat’s progress continues to move slowly toward heading, with 19% of the crop reaching that stage last week, versus the prior week’s total of 13%. Last year, 41% of the crop reached heading by the end of April; the five-year average is 30%.

 

USDA suggests winter wheat crop conditions are slightly improved from a week ago, rating 26% of the crop in good condition and another 7% of the crop in excellent condition. Last week, the agency labeled 25% of the crop in good condition and 6% of it in excellent condition.

Cotton planting has reached 12% as of April 29, not making much progress over the past week (planting was 10% complete as of April 22), but staying close to last year’s pace and the five-year average, both of which are 14%. Sorghum planting (26%) is also right in line with last year’s pace (27%) and the five-year average (26%).

Click here to see more state-by-state analysis as well as USDA’s planting progress for other crops such as peanuts, rice, oats and barley.

Animal Health Notebook

The unorthodox discipline of building a cow herd

Alan Newport cows on pasture
The author says create the genetics you need and then close your herd to pollution from genetics that destroy the quality you've created.

I spend a good amount of time reading and studying what other people write in the farm press and I'd say most of it is well put, but often incorrect or at least misses my present day targets.

Y'all probably know that I shoot for the center of the bullseye of the natural model and annual profitability on a per acre basis.

In the past I have written about choosing replacement heifers and bulls by utilizing what nature has taught us. These animals need to be home grown and hopefully have the genetics and epigenetics that fit and work in our environment. I tend to want to close the herd from outside influence as soon as we locate animals that work. This might take a while but I never foresee moving far away from this principle.

I believe that many of us producers and consultants are bound too tightly in pride to actually realize that we cannot pick replacements to the degree that nature can choose them. We can learn to identify the freaks and the dinks, but are guilty of constantly working to force the middle to where we want it to be. In doing this we are normally mistaken.

Recently, I read an article by a young man who attempted to open the entire tool bag. He wanted to use EPDs, indexes and DNA profiles and said that these should shape everyone's decisions. He did warn against single-trait emphasis, and I don’t know what he has in mind but I think it is likely headed way over my head.

I love diversity, but one place I would like to see it stop is in the cow herd. Truth is, it would suit me to a tea if every cow I owned were the same color and size, shed their hair together, milked the same, and calved in a 21-day window. This is likely not only possible but may be feasible. I realize that every animal is an individual, but when I look at the deer population in a given area the does are really close together in size and looks. Fawns are born in a very short period of time.

It was brought up to think that selecting cattle on environment and physical characteristics alone would create deficiencies in economic value traits. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. The same is true for selecting for feeding efficiency (feedyard gains).

Truth of the whole matter is that cattle that perform well on grass year around will perform positively on a TMR in a feed yard, although not the highest gainers. Cattle that are people broke and friendly to trucks and horses have no problem with feedlot routines.

Hard, long yearlings that are healthy and capable of handling the ride west and going quickly onto feed will always be in demand during August and September. I suspect it will not change in the near future.

Make up your mind about what you would like to have to offer when it comes sale time. I bet that it will be yearlings 14 to 18 months old and weighing close to 800 pounds.

It might likely require some discipline, but when we stay close to home and produce and market yearlings, the profitability per acre moves upward.