Thursday, December 31, 2015

Agricultural News Monthly for January 1, 2016

US leadership at Paris climate talks critical to future of agriculture - The Hill, 12/4/15
"Beyond farmers, the stability of entire nations depends on productive, sustainable farms. In 2008, when drought, among other factors, caused global food prices to spike, at least 30 countries fell prey to civil unrest."

EPA Ruling for RFS -, 12/4/15
"EPA bumped up its effective mandate for corn ethanol from 13.4 billion gallons for this year, set last June, to 14.05 billion gallons in the final rule. Its mandate for 2016 is 14.5 billion gallons, up from 14 billion gallons in June. 'It’s a higher number than a lot of people were expecting.'"

Soy, an Exotic Fruit in Brazil’s Amazon Jungle - IPS, 12/8/15
"In the northern Brazilian state of ParĂ¡, the construction of a port terminal for shipping soy out of the Amazon region has displaced thousands of small farmers from their land, which is now dedicated to monoculture."

Renewable Fuels Assoc. Asks EPA to Clear way for E15 - DTN, 12/8/15
"In a letter to Christopher Grundler, director of EPA's office of transportation and air quality, the Renewable Fuels Association Tuesday asked the agency to consider changing the Clean Air Act provision to clear the way for E15 -- which would be a critical step toward the biofuels industry cracking the E10 market and achieve industry expansion called for in the Renewable Fuel Standard."

Grain Sorghum May Be More Profitable Than Corn In High Plains -, 12/4/15
"As a nongenetically modified crop, grain sorghum has found favor in the U.S. export market. China imported some 6 million metric tons (nearly 300 million bushels) of grain sorghum in the 2013-2014 crop year, according to the U.S. Grains Council, up from just over 1 million metric tons the year before."

Battling climate change—with worms -, 12/5/15
"The fields have changed in appearance—goodbye regular ploughed furrows, hello earthworm "cabins", tiny piles of earth formed by their excretions. Also gone is the regular washing away of soil in storms, as the rain is now able to filter down into the fields instead of over its surface thanks to the tiny tunnels dug by the worms."

Burkina Faso's farmers are turning away from industrial farming and embracing agroecological techniques - Aljazeera, 12/10/15
"Agroecology which finesses traditional farming techniques with scientifically researched concepts has one simple aim: to help farmers to grow more healthy food by rehabilitating their land using sustainable techniques."

Historic Corn Prices - Tiwa Farms Journal, 12/10/15
"The lowest price for Iowa corn was 23 cents a bushel (1932) and the highest price (2012) was $6.67. These three price periods reflect basic shifts in American and Puebloan agriculture."

More fertilizer plants come online and bring their baggage: CO2 - Harvest Public Media, 12/10/15
"The fertilizer industry is taking the extra wide profit margin and investing it in expansions and new plants. Since 2012, nearly two dozen projects have been announced, which would double the number of facilities currently in operation in the U.S., according to NPKFAS. Many of those projects have stalled in the permitting and financing stage. It takes more than a billion dollars to build a new, world-scale plant."

Beehive Fences in East Africa Protect Farms from Elephants - This is Colossal, 12/7/15
"There are now active beehive fences in Kenya, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Sri Lanka. Not only do the fences help pollinate crops and safely deter elephants, they also become an additional revenue stream for farmers who harvest honey and sell it locally, a fascinating example of interspecies landscape engineering."

Iowa land values, tumbling for second year, fall 3.9% - DesMoines Register, 12/14/15
"Iowa farmland values dropped 3.9 percent this year to a statewide average of $7,633 an acre, and the outlook for a near-term rally is dim, according to an Iowa State University survey."

Farming requires less energy than it used to. That's a big deal. - Vox, 12/15/15
"Food production is trending up steadily, while the energy required for each unit of food is trending down."

Sustainable farming systems in Bangladesh and Japan receive global recognition - FAO, 12/15/15
"Four traditional farming systems in Bangladesh and Japan have been designated today by FAO as 'Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems.' They include Bangladesh's floating gardens, a unique hydroponics production system constructed with natural grasses and plants, which have been developed in flood areas; and a trio of sites in Japan: the sustainable river fisheries utilizing Sato-kawa system in Gifu, the Minabe-Tanabe Ume approach to growing apricots on nutrient-poor slopes in Wakayama; and the Takachihogo-Shiibayama mountainous agriculture and forestry system in Miyazaki which allows agricultural and forestry production in a steep mountainous area."

Sales from U.S. Horticulture Operations Up 18 Percent in Five Years, USDA Reports - Agcensus.usda, 12/14/15
"Horticulture operations sold a total of $13.8 billion in floriculture, nursery and specialty crops in 2014, up 18 percent since 2009. The number of horticulture operations in the United States increased 8 percent during this time to 23,221."

USDA issues rule to allow unlimited subsidies for mega farms - NSAC, 12/15/15
"In writing the final rule to implement the 2014 Farm Bill, the Obama Administration chose to accommodate mega farms instead of choosing a path to real reform. This was the second bite at the apple for the Obama Administration. They issued a previous final rule on payment limitations in 2010 to implement the 2008 Farm Bill. That rule, like this one, kept payment limit loopholes in place, allowing big farms to easily avoid the statutory subsidy cap intended to limit subsidy abuse that gives the biggest farms unfair advantages in the marketplace. The new rule goes a considerable step further, however, by directly writing the loopholes into regulation."

Corporations flock to cage-free eggs - DesMoines Register, 12/4/15
"With more consumers and corporations such as McDonald's demanding eggs from birds raised under more spacious conditions, Iowa-based Rembrandt Foods realized the company's future had to change. Rembrandt, the nation’s No. 3 egg producer, announced in October that cage-free egg production would become its “standard,” with the company focusing most of its growth and investment on a production practice many view as more humane for the country's nearly 300 million egg-laying hens."

Millions of ‘organic’ eggs come from industrial scale chicken operations, group says - Wonkblog, 12/15/15
"The USDA relies on private certifying companies, hired by the farms, to ensure that organics standards are being met. Critics have complained that the private certifying companies have a financial incentive to approve the operations at the farms that hire them."

Japan's Pampered Cows Eat Cheap Feed to Get Profit on $250 Steak - Bloomberg, 12/15/15
"a plunge in shipping rates during the global commodity slump is allowing Japanese beef producers to import the most European barley ever, because it is far less expensive than the crops from Australia the cattle normally eat."

2015 Hop Production Up 11 Percent From Last Year - USDA, 12/17/15
"Production for Idaho, Oregon, and Washington in 2015 totaled 78.8 million pounds, up 11 percent from the 2014 crop of 71.0 million pounds."

Hawaiian harvest: Exotic agriculture, pineapple wine - USA Today, 12/18/15
"Hawaii is known for its stunning beaches and resorts, but beyond the surf and sand, there's an abundance of agricultural land that many travelers don't think to explore. ... The state has 7,000 farms and more than 1.1 million acres of land in production, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition to cattle and coffee, these farms produce such goods as vanilla, mushrooms, lavender and even pineapple wine."

Resurgence in global wood production - FAO, 12/18/15
"In 2014, growth in wood products, including industrial roundwood, sawnwood, wood-based panels and pulp and paper, ranged from 1 to 5 percent, surpassing the pre-recession levels of 2007. The fastest growth was registered in Asia-Pacific and Latin America and Caribbean."

Fungi may help drought-stressed wheat - Science Daily, 12/17/15
"Certain drought-stressed wheat cultivars perform better when their roots are in symbiosis with beneficial fungi, research demonstrates. Experts predict that drought stress in crops will become increasingly serious in the future. Globally, wheat yield is only 30-60 percent of its potential."

Wheat Growers Opens Innovation Center - CropLife, 12/21/15
"The lnnovation Center will help the producers in the state learn first-hand what precision ag tools are available and provide them the necessary training to get the most out of their investments."

USDA Announces $3.4 Million in Funding Available Through International Wheat Partnership Research Program - USDA NIFA, 12/14/15
"The new International Wheat Yield Partnership program seeks to enhance agriculture research that can benefit the global community and support the G20 nations’ Wheat Initiative with the key aims of enhancing the genetic component of wheat yield and developing new wheat varieties that are adaptable to different geographical regions and environmental conditions. The programs priorities will focus on breakthroughs for wheat breeding using new technologies and also discoveries that lead to significantly greater yield; further, applications that demonstrate coordination and collaboration with international partners are encouraged."

It’s practically impossible to define “GMOs” - Grist, 12/21/15
"Debates rage over what to do about genetically modified organisms, but we rarely stop to ask a more basic question: Do GMOs really exist? It’s an important question, because no one in this debate can tell you precisely what a GMO is. I’ve come to the conclusion that “GMO” is a cultural construct. It’s a metaphor we use to talk about a set of ideas. It doesn’t map neatly onto any clear category in the physical world."

World Trade Organization strikes 'historic' farming subsidy deal - BBC, 12/20/15
"Countries in the World Trade Organization (WTO) have agreed to abolish subsidies on farming exports. Developed countries agreed to stop the subsidies immediately and developing nations must follow by the end of 2018. The WTO, which represents 162 countries, called it "the most significant outcome on agriculture" since the body's foundation in 1995."

Iowa Farm Outlook - Iowa State, NOV 2015
"The 2015 calendar year will likely set a record for corn conversion to ethanol. USDA’s demand projections indicate the same as we look at marketing year demand for 2015/16 with 5.25 billion bushels of corn processed into ethanol."

The report also has an updated graph on corn and soybean profitability (loss) margins:

Fort Bend developer hopes to cash in on gardening trend - Chron, 12/22/15
"...Harvest Green, a master-planned community in Fort Bend County that touts built-in backyard gardens for fruits and vegetables and features an onsite farm."

Big news for biodiesel - Farm&Ranch Guide, 12/24/15
"Christmas came early this year for the biodiesel industry with the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement of final Renewable Fuel Standard volumes on Nov. 30. The domestic level of biodiesel use is mandated to increase to 2 billion gallons a year by 2017, double the minimum amount required by the original law."

USDA Trade Mission Spurs Record Ethanol Exports to China -, 12/23/15
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced a significant jump in ethanol exports to China this year, following a USDA-led trade mission to the country last year. Representatives from nine state departments of agriculture and 28 U.S. companies, including renewable fuels businesses, traveled to northeast China to explore opportunities for trade in the region."

Unique in Spain: 10 hectares of high wire snack cukes - Hortidaily, 12/24/15
"This way we can guarantee a constant, year-round supply. We started growing snack cucumbers at one-sixth of the company, but now the entire greenhouse is full."

Chinese medicinal herbs provide niche market for US farmers - AP, 12/27/15
"Expanding interest in traditional Chinese medicine in the United States is fostering a potentially lucrative new niche market for farmers who plant the varieties of herbs, flowers and trees sought by practitioners."

Why Asia Craves America’s Pig DNA - Bloomberg, 12/21/15
"Buying elite DNA—either frozen or chilled semen, frozen embryos or live animals—is a logical next step, jump-starting a process that normally takes decades of selective breeding. It’s the farm equivalent of upgrading software or technology, betting that the long-term gains outweigh the short-term costs. The animal genetics industry, valued at $2.5 billion, is expected to increase an average 9 percent per year through the end of the decade, fueled by growing meat and dairy consumption and improved breeding technology, according to MarketsandMarkets, a research firm."

VIDEO: Seaweed farming is a booming business in Maine (1.5 minutes) - Globe and Mail, 12/4/15

Readers Note: This concludes this blog's monthly agricultural and farming "News Magazine". Best wishes for a new year that is filled with many nice surprises. If you know anyone who you think might enjoy these monthly news posts, please share this link with them, or, help promote it on your favorite social media outlet. Thanks.--K.M.