Monday, February 29, 2016

Agricultural News Monthly for March 1, 2016

photo credit: Kent Copeland

More U.S. farms close up shop as the remaining ones grow larger - Harvest Public Media, 2/19/16
"The U.S. has lost nearly 120,000 farms since 2008, and 18,000 last year alone, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The average farm size in the U.S. increased 5 percent over those 7 years, to an average size of 441 acres in 2015."

Indoor agriculture called next major enhancement to US food supply - Free Republic, 2/7/16
"'With a total addressable market of over $9 billion--or 17 times the current U.S. market size--indoor agriculture is poised to be the next major enhancement to the American food supply chain.' ... The white paper authors noted that at least $32 billion in venture capital-like funds were invested in indoor agriculture in 2014."

Four billion people face severe water scarcity, new research finds - The Guardian, 2/12/16
"Yemen could run out of water within a few years, but many other places are living on borrowed time as aquifers are continuously depleted, including Pakistan, Iran, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia."

FAO Food Price Index starts 2016 dropping to nearly 7-year low - FAO, 2/4/16
"The Food Price Index averaged 150.4 points in January, down 16 percent from a year earlier and registering its lowest level since April 2009."

Renewable Fuels Association Releases 2015 U.S. Ethanol Exports and Imports Statistical Summary Report - Biofuels Jrnl, 2/5/16
"The U.S. ethanol industry exported 836 million gallons of ethanol worth $1.8 billion in 2015, according to a new summary of ethanol trade statistics released today by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The final tally for 2015 was identical to the 2014 export total."

Ethanol pioneer ADM's struggle reflects deepening industry woes - Reuters, 2/3/16
"When Archer Daniels Midland opened two of the country's largest ethanol plants in Nebraska and Iowa six years ago, the biofuels market was on the cusp of a boom with prices and profits on the rise. Now, the plants are more of a headache for the Chicago-based company, considered an industry pioneer, amid crushed margins and weak prices as the financial success of its almost 40-year- old business fades."

Enough With Ethanol - Bloomberg View, 2/3/16
"With the Iowa caucuses now blessedly behind us, we can discuss a more serious subject: The engine-destroying, food-burning, anti-free-market program that is corn-based ethanol. Why we still subsidize turning food into an inefficient fossil-fuel substitute is anyone’s guess -- but mine is that the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus has been the main reason."

Cheating VWs Are Cleaner Than Ethanol - Bloomberg View, 1/20/16
"Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner in Iowa, is also an ethanol booster. Never mind that as a U.S. senator, she voted against ethanol 17 times. Last August, she said, 'We need to strengthen the Renewable Fuel Standard” and expand “the overall contribution that renewable fuels make to our national fuel supply.'"

Fishmeal Shortages Sparking M&A as Cargill Eyes Aquaculture - Bloomberg, 2/16/16
"A fifth year of fishmeal shortages is leading to a rush of mergers and acquisitions as companies including Cargill Inc. seek to meet demand for seafood that’s growing faster than for beef, poultry or pork. Cargill, the biggest grain trader, will keep expanding in aquaculture as world demand for food protein is seen growing 70 percent by 2050."

OPEC of Maple Syrup Under Fire as Farmers Turn to Black Market - Bloomberg, 2/25/16
"It’s boom time for Canadian maple-syrup producer Ray Bonenberg, who is expanding sap output from his tree farm near Pembroke, Ontario. About three hours away in the province of Quebec -- the Saudi Arabia of syrup -- producers like Jim Dempsey can only watch in frustration."

Canadian farmers return to vegetable patch - Reuters, 2/26/16
"Canadian farmers are cashing in on the highest vegetable prices in years, helped by the country's weak currency and soaring costs of U.S. imports that have made them unexpected winners in a bearish commodity world."

USDA awards $20 million to fight citrus greening - The Packer, 2/8/16
"A total of 15 U.S. states or territories are under full or partial quarantine due to the detected presence of the Asian citrus psyllid, a vector for HLB. Those states include California, Florida, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands."

Dalit women reap benefits of millet farming in India - UCA News, 2/25/16
"A small-seeded millet grain is providing benefits to thousands of Dalit women farmers in the southern Indian state of Telengana. Dalit women from 35 villages in the state's Medak district are reviving the cultivation of millet, a crop that is considered a staple food for indigenous communities in semi-arid areas of Asia and Africa."

Livestock diversity crucial to ending global hunger - Bangkok Post, 2/5/16
"Intensive production of chickens, pigs and dairy cows is based on a few breeds worldwide. These developments are risky, as we and future generations are losing the potential to adapt livestock production."

Nebraska's Livestock Market Faces Death by Big Meat Lobbying - Fortune, 2/5/16
"A bill that safeguards small farmers might be nixed for one friendlier to multinational meatpackers. Few images are more emblematic of the American heartland than that of farmers taking their livestock to market. But if Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts signs a bill passed last month by his state’s legislature, one of the last of the country’s traditional open livestock markets may soon close forever."

Plants grow without soil in this Abu Dhabi farm - Khaleej Times, 2/19/16
"Hydroponics saves you 80 per cent of irrigation water and gives you crops for 10 months of the year."

TPP’s Threat To Multilateralism - IPS, 2/16/16
"By undermining WTO multilateral trade negotiations, bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements are the very antitheses of what they purport to do, namely advance trade liberalisation. In Southeast Asia, the TPP also undermines existing commitments, e.g. to the ASEAN Free Trade Area, and thus, the economic bases for regional solidarity and cooperation."

Cargill to invest $100 mln in Ukraine grain terminal - Reuters, 2/24/16
"U.S. agriculture giant Cargill will invest $100 million in building a new grain terminal at Ukraine's Black Sea port of Yuzhny."

In Istanbul’s Ancient Gardens, A Battle for Future Harvests - E360, 2/25/16
"Until the middle of the 20th century, highly productive market gardens known as bostan covered vast swaths of Istanbul, yielding enough vegetables and fruit to feed hundreds of thousands of people. Gardens on the banks of the Bosphorus Strait that divides the city between two continents were known for their sweet-smelling strawberries and tender figs; longtime residents still sing the praises of the buttery lettuce once grown in the Yedikule neighborhood around the old city walls. "

Rice: Africa’s Ticket Out of Poverty - IPS, 2/17/16
"Thanks to fast urbanising Africa, consumption of rice is growing by six per cent annually. “Rice is important for Africa food security and the reasons are clear,” AfricaRice Center, Deputy Director General, Marco Wopereis, told IPS, adding that “consumers like it and the consumption growth is just mind boggling as a result of population and change of preference as people in cities want food that can be prepared quickly and stored easily and rice is just perfect for that.” Projections are that in 25 years, the world will be eating 110 million tonnes more of milled rice and one third of that will be eaten in Africa, according to him."

$46 Million Farm Sale in Nebraska The Land Report, Feb 2016
"Farmers National Company announced the sale of a 13,440-acre Keya Paha County farm. The transaction closed in 2015. According to Brownfield Ag News, the $46 million sale price was a potential record for Northern Nebraska farmland. Dave Hickey and Robert Litz of Farmers National Company represented the seller, Summit Farms."

Solar-powered drones could deliver goods in rural areas, charged by micro-solar home systems - Treehugger, 2/9/16
"One company, which has already been making huge inroads in renewable energy in rural Africa, is looking to do just that, and to expand its business by coupling its micro-solar arrays with charging stations for delivery drones. The company, Mobisol, currently has more 30,000 of its home solar systems installed in Tanzania and Rwanda, which are distributed via a rent-to-own agreement that can be paid off in about 3 years (and which can be paid for using a mobile phone). By integrating some of these solar customers into a drone-charging network, Mobisol aims to leapfrog over "infrastructural deficits" in rural regions, and to offer these customers a financial incentive (credits on their account) for using some of their excess power to charge the drones."

Recapping the National Farm Machinery Show - Farm Industry News, 2/22/16
"One thing that I noticed at the show is the proliferation of small and medium size tractors from manufacturers all over the world. Final assembly of a lot of the tractors is in the United States."

FAO puts sustainability on the menu in the world’s fastest-growing food sector: fish - FAO, 2/22/16
"Dialogues over the week-long meeting in Morocco will help FAO, its member countries and industry representatives understand new trends, opportunities and challenges in the fishing sector, fostering the development of strategies that can "best position developing countries to develop their fisheries sectors in a sustainable manner and to maximize their economic benefit from the growth we expect to witness," Lem said. "

California's Top 10 Farm Commodities - KCRA, 2/9/16
"California's 76,400 farms recorded $53.5 billion in sales in 2014."

Ted Turner 2,000,000+ Acres - The Land Report, Feb 2016
"The owner of the world’s largest private herd of bison just acquired the world’s best loved bison habitat: the historic Standing Butte Ranch, which was featured in the Academy Award-winning Western Dances with Wolves (1990)."

Voluntary Conservation Practices Are A Fool’s Errand - EWG, 2/7/16
"Touting the acres of new conservation practices farmers adopt without accounting for losses is meaningless and misleading,” said Soren Rundquist, EWG director of landscape analysis. “It’s like trying to balance your check book by looking only at deposits and ignoring withdrawals."

Buy Crop Insurance, Double Your Money - NPR The Salt, 2/11/16
"It's called an insurance program, and it looks like insurance. Farmers buy policies from private companies and pay premiums (which are cheap because of government subsidies) to insure themselves against crop failures and falling prices. It's mainly used by corn, soybean, cotton and wheat farmers. Defenders of the program call it a safety net."

Can USDA Support for transitioning organic crops spur the market? - NSAC, 2/19/16
"Interest in organic products has boomed over the last several years, between 2004 and 2016 sales of organic food more than tripled (from $11.1 billion to $39 billion), but farmers are finding it difficult to keep up with demand. Part of this difficulty stems from the time and expense of transitioning farmland from conventional to organic, and the challenges non-traditional farmers can face in securing financing. Thanks to a recent expansion of crop insurance options by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), however, farmers interested in transitioning to certified organic can now insure their crops for a fairer price."

Thrive Market: 'We are capturing a new consumer, not the Whole Foods shopper, but middle-class, middle America’ - Food Navigator, 1/26/16
"Whole Foods products at wholesale prices, delivered to your door? It sounds almost too good to be true, and at the beginning, that’s certainly how many potential investors viewed Thrive Market. But with a run-rate approaching $100m and hundreds of thousands of paid members, a lot of people are now taking the Los Angeles-based natural and organic online marketplace considerably more seriously."

Cellulosic Ethanol Falls A Few Billion Gallons Short - Energy Trends Insider, 2/13/16
"It’s simple really. This is a technical issue and an economic issue that has been known for 100 years. Ethanol can be produced from cellulose. The technology has been around a long time. This isn’t even the first time over a million gallons of cellulosic ethanol have been produced. It was done in 1910. But it’s very costly to produce fuel grade ethanol from cellulose. Thus, there have been many attempts to commercialize cellulosic ethanol since the early 1900′s, and every 20-30 years or so we forget why this already failed. So we saddle up and attempt to do it again. People think they are the first to discover fire, and they sometimes convince Congress to give them tax dollars to commercialize their “invention.”"

The most interesting supermarket in the world W-P Wonkblog, 2/26/16
"WeFood, which opened in Copenhagen this week, stocks only food that is past its official expiration date or unworthy of other supermarket shelves because of aesthetic imperfections and damaged packaging. The grocer, opened by Danish NGO Folkekirkens Nødhjælp, is hoping to lure shoppers of all socioeconomic backgrounds by selling its food at steep discounts — somewhere between 30 to 50 percent cheaper than other standard supermarkets."

Rabbit Farming Now a Big Hit in Zimbabwe - IPS, 2/2/16
"Tichaona Muzariri, 44, a villager based at Range in Chivhu, a town 143 kilometers south of Harare, the Zimbabwean capital, quit his job as a teacher in 2009 to start a rabbit farm on a small scale with three does (female rabbits) and one buck (male). With around US$30 as capital, Muzariri waded into rabbit farming back then. Today, his rabbit farm breeds nearly 3,000 rabbits every year and slaughters up to 120 every week for sale to grocery stores, restaurants and hotels."

What 5 popular fruits and veggies looked like before — and after — we domesticated them - Business Insider, 2/4/16
"Fruits and vegetables are delicious. We can't live without them. But they haven't always looked the way they do today. That's because long before modern genetic modification techniques were invented, humans were carefully selecting the sweetest, juiciest, or tastiest crops and breeding them over thousands of years. The process gave us everything from bright-red, seedless watermelons to soft, juicy corn."