Appropriations Committee Approves Ag Funding Bill

 

The House Appropriations Committee Thursday approved the fiscal year 2014 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which will now head to the House floor for consideration. The proposed legislation funds important agricultural and food programs and services, including food safety, animal and plant health programs, rural development and farm services, marketplace oversight and nutrition programs.

The bill totals $19.5 billion in discretionary funding, which is $1.3 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level and approximately equal to the current level caused by automatic sequestration spending cuts. This total is $516 million below the president’s request for these programs.

“I applaud the Committee approval of this bill. From keeping our food and drug supply the safest in the world, to supporting our farmers and ranchers who create millions of American jobs, to helping our most vulnerable families put meals on the table, the funding in this bill is critical to our nation’s economy,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said.

“The bill reported out of Committee today will help America’s agricultural research remain cutting edge, maintain vibrant rural communities, provide nutrition to those most vulnerable, keep our markets competitive in the global economy, and maintain the safest food and drug supply in the world. And, it does this while cutting spending by $1.3 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level, ”Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt said.

Below are some of the amendments to the FY 2014 Agriculture Appropriations bill approved:

  • An amendment adds report language on several topics within the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration.  
  • An amendment adds bill language to establish a Congressional Commission on Hunger.
  • An amendment prohibits funding for the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) to implement certain regulations that would adversely impact livestock producers.
  • An amendment adds report language on reducing food-borne illness with regard to poultry inspections. The amendment was adopted on voice vote.
  • An amendment prohibits funding in the bill from going to states unless their SNAP and WIC participants are deemed eligible in compliance with current law.
  • An amendment adds language expressing a sense of Congress that Congress should not pass laws that would increase hunger in the United States.
  • An amendment prohibits funding to reclassify "rural" areas as it relates to certain rural housing programs.
  • Anamendment prohibits funding for inspections of horse slaughter facilities in the United States.

For the text of the bill and report, visit:http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/bills-113hr-sc-ap-fy2014-agriculture-subcommitteedraft.pdf and http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/hrpt-113-hr-2014-agriculture.pdf.

 

North American Manure Expo Planned for Aug. 21 in Ontario

The 2013 North American Manure Expo will be held at the University of Guelph Arkell Research Station on Aug. 21. The theme for the Expo is “Getting it Right – Precision Manure Management.”  The show includes educational seminars, exhibit booths and field demonstrations.

A half-day bus tour will be held on the day prior to the Expo. Attendees will be able to watch lagoon agitation equipment demonstrations, stop at a dairy-based anaerobic digester and tour Husky Equipment in Alma, Ontario. Dinner will be served at the Alma Community Center. Tour buses will depart from the University of Guelph Arkell Research station at 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 20.

There is no charge to attend the North American Manure Expo or pre-Expo tour, but pre-registration is required.  Limited seating is available for the tour, early registration is encouraged. Learn more at http://www.agannex.com/manure-manager/manure-expo/program

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Dairy Chain’s Carbon Footprint

Researchers at the University of Arkansas are attempting to help the U.S. dairy industry decrease its carbon footprint, according to a report in Feedstuffs.

In 2007, Americans consumed approximately 17.4 million metric tons (19 million tons) of fluid milk — not including milk used in dairy products such as cheese, yogurt and ice cream. The dairy industry has set a goal of 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

The University of Arkansas researchers' "cradle-to-grave" life-cycle analysis of milk will provide guidance for producers, processors and others in the dairy supply chain and will help these stakeholders reduce their environmental impact while maintaining long-term viability.

"Based in part on growing consumer awareness of sustainability issues in our food supply chain, the U.S. dairy industry is working to further improve the environmental performance of its production processes and supply chain in a way that is also economically sustainable," says Greg Thoma, professor of chemical engineering at the University of Arkansas. "Our analysis provides a documented baseline for their improvement efforts. It is a source for understanding the factors that influence environmental impact."

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Thoma and an interdisciplinary team of Arkansas researchers looked at all facets and stages of milk production, from the fertilizer used to grow the animal's feed to waste disposal of packaging after consumer use. Specifically, their life-cycle analysis focused on seven areas:

1. Farm production and processes;

2. Farm-to-processor transportation;

3. Processor operations, packaging and distribution;

4. Retail operations;

5. Consumer transportation and storage;

6. Post-consumer waste management, and

7. Overall supply-chain loss and waste.

The researchers found that for every kilogram of milk consumed in the United States annually, 2.05 kg  (4.5 lb.)of greenhouse gases, on average, are emitted over the entire supply chain to produce, process and distribute that milk. This is equivalent to approximately 17.4 lb./gal., the team notes. The greenhouse gases were measured as carbon dioxide equivalents and included methane, refrigerants and other gases that trap radiation. The largest contributors were feed production, enteric methane — gas emitted by the animal itself — and manure management.

The researchers identified many areas where the industry can reduce impact within feed and milk production, processing and distribution, retail and the supply chain. They focused on farms, where processes for feed production, handling of enteric methane and manure management varied greatly and, therefore, represent the greatest opportunities for achieving significant reductions.

The University of Arkansas researchers — Rick Ulrich, professor of chemical engineering; Darin Nutter, professor of mechanical engineering; Jennie Popp, professor of agricultural economics and agribusiness; and Marty Matlock, professor of biological and agricultural engineering, in addition to Thoma — partnered with researchers at Michigan Technological University. Their study was published as a special issue, "Carbon & Water Footprint of U.S. Milk, From Farm to Table," of the International Dairy Journal in April.

Learn more at http://feedstuffsfoodlink.com/story-researchers-focus-dairys-carbon-footprint-71-98766

Minnesota Launches New Agricultural Water Quality Pilot Program

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton recently launched a new agricultural water quality pilot program designed to enhance the state’s water quality. The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification program is the first of its kind in the nation and is the product of a state-federal Memorandum of Understanding signed by Governor Dayton, Secretary Vilsack and former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in January 2012.

Under the certification program, farmers who implement and maintain approved conservation plans will be certified and, in turn, assured that their operations meet water quality goals and standards for the term of the certification agreement which lasts up to 10 years.

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Minnesota Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Matt Wohlman says farmers in four Minnesota watersheds will have the opportunity to be part of the three-year pilot program.

“Agriculture is a cornerstone of our state’s economy. We also value the health of our rivers, lakes and streams. We believe this collaborative, historic program presents enormous opportunities to achieve measurable water quality outcomes,” Wohlman says. “We look forward to working with producers in these watersheds to demonstrate to the public that farmers care about our water quality and are committed to adopting conservation practices.”

Watershed areas across the state were invited to apply to participate in the Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification pilot program. This was a competitive process and interest was high with more than a dozen groups submitting applications.

The four watersheds selected are the Whitewater River Watershed located in parts of Olmsted, Wabasha and Winona counties; the Middle Sauk River Watershed, which covers more than 50% of Stearns County; the Elm Creek Watershed located in south central Minnesota in parts of Jackson, Martin, and Faribault counties; and, the Whiskey Creek Watershed in northwestern Minnesota’s Wilkin and western Otter Tail counties.

The Minnesota legislature appropriated $3 million in Clean Water Legacy funding to launch this program. The funds will leverage $6.5 million in federal funding previously announced by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack.

Learn more at http://www.mda.state.mn.us/en/news/releases/2013/nr-2013-06-10-water.aspx

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Reaches New Agreement with EPA

Meatingplace.comreports that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have reached a new agreement to reduce pollution from animal operations in the Delmarva region of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

The agreement,  spurred by the 2010 settlement of a CBF lawsuit, will provide additional certainty that the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint (the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, or “TMDL,” and State Watershed Implementation Plans, or "WIP") will achieve its goal of reducing pollution throughout the six-state, 64,000 square-mile bay region with full implementation by 2025.

In the 2010 settlement, the EPA agreed to a new national Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) rule to address pollution discharges from livestock and poultry farms.

The American poultry industry – including the National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation and U.S. Poultry & Egg Association – recently praised the move.

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The poultry industry coalition supports “EPA’s collection of more data to verify the efficacy of the current regulatory program rather than developing further regulations that are not needed. This will help to assure that no false assumptions are made about the potential contribution of livestock production to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay,” the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association notes in a recent press release. “By EPA’s own admission, the agricultural industry has made tremendous progress in reducing potential runoff and improving the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay and other watersheds throughout the country.”

The poultry industry coalition cited a study by the University of Delaware which found that the amount of nutrient runoff in the Chesapeake Bay supposedly caused by chicken litter was less than EPA’s estimates. In May, scientists at the University of Delaware reported that the EPA vastly overstated the poultry industry’s contribution to pollution in Delmarva. One scientist was quoted as saying the multi-state study involving thousands of manure tests discovered that actual nitrogen levels in poultry-house manure are 55% lower than EPA’s decades-old, lab-based standards.

According to the new agreement, EPA will assess — by no later than June 30, 2018 — whether revisions to its CAFO regulations under the Clean Water Act are necessary to achieve the objectives of the animal agriculture commitments in the watershed implementation plans as part of the overall Chesapeake Bay TMDL.

Learn more at http://www.meatingplace.com/Industry/News/Details/42620.

Tools to Help Deal with Climate Change

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed the National Press Club recently to announce several ways that USDA will work with farmers to help them adapt to climate change.

Vilsack announced that USDA will establish seven new regional “climate hubs” that will help the department carry out regionally appropriate climate change risk and vulnerability assessments. The hubs also will be able to provide advice and information to farmers, ranchers and forest owners in each area.

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Another USDA effort will focus on providing cover crop guidance based on local conditions. The new guidance model uses local climate data, tillage management and soil data to account for daily crop growth and the use of soil moisture. Using this information, experts determined the latest possible time to terminate a cover crop. This will allow the maximization of carbon sequestration benefits, while at the same time minimizing the risk to the cash crop yield.

See Vilsack’s speech on YouTube.

New Online Tool Estimates Greenhouse Gas Reduction

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced the release of COMET-Farm™, a free, online tool created by Colorado State University (CSU) and the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) to help producers calculate how much carbon their land's soil and vegetation can remove from the atmosphere.

The tool also will also help producers calculate and understand how land management decisions impact energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

"With the help of NRCS' conservation technology and efforts, agriculture and forestry have the unique opportunity to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it permanently in healthy soils," Vilsack says. "COMET-Farm is a user-friendly tool that will make it easy for any conservation-minded landowner to evaluate their soil's carbon-holding potential."

To use the tool, producers input information about their location, soil characteristics, crop rotations, tillage, fertilization and other management practices. COMET-Farm™ then estimates carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emission reductions associated with conservation practices for cropland, pasture, rangeland, livestock operations and energy.

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"The unique thing about COMET-Farm is that it allows the people who know the most about what is happening on the land -- the farmers -- to use very sophisticated technology to quantify greenhouse gas emissions but with an easy-to-use online system," says Keith Paustian, professor in CSU's Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and leader of the COMET-Farm™ development team.

With record-breaking concentrations of carbon dioxide now in the atmosphere, agricultural conservation -- especially soil and crop management - - can help remove carbon dioxide from the air. Agricultural soils present an opportunity to absorb a significant amount of carbon. Carbon-rich soils are healthy soils, and healthy soils are more productive and resilient to extreme weather events, such as drought, Paustian explains.

"Producers benefit, the environment benefits, and long-term agricultural productivity benefits," Vilsack says. "Through programs and other innovations offered by NRCS, our country has an opportunity to take an aggressive stance on reducing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while arming our nation's agricultural sector with proactive climate change adaptation strategies."

COMET-Farm™ is applicable to all agricultural lands in the lower 48 states. The tool is available for use at www.comet-farm.com. Future model releases are planned by USDA as new methods for calculating greenhouse gas emissions become available.

Wet Weather Causes Manure Management Headaches

Wet weather has caused headaches when it comes to manure use this spring

An extended period of wet weather this spring has led to manure management concerns for many midwestern livestock producers. Iowa State University (ISU) officials say manure storage has been a challenge this spring, and advise that the primary management goal should be to keep concentrated manure contained.

Open manure storage structures should be monitored closely to prevent over-topping. The over-topping of bermed earthen-storage ponds and lagoons could result in breaching and loss of the structures. Although concrete and steel structures are not in danger of breach failures, they should also have manure levels lowered if they are in danger of over-topping.

ISU experts say producers should transfer manure from full storage structures to alternative storages if available, as land application of manure during saturated conditions presents the risk of manure nutrient runoff into surface waters. If no alternative manure storage is available, producers should contact their local Department of Natural Resources (DNR) office to discuss emergency wet-weather land application options before allowing a storage tank or pond to overflow. If manure levels reach 1 ft. below the top of a concrete or steel structure, or within 2 ft. of the top of earthen berm structures, producers should contact their local DNR field offices.

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Wet soils will take in manure and water at a slower rate because much of their capacity to hold liquids is already used. Wet soils are prone to compaction and surface runoff. If emergency manure application is necessary, after notifying the DNR, ISU experts recommend hauling a few loads to lighter, well-drained soils that may support manure application equipment. Consider filling tankers to less than full capacity to limit weight. Avoid fields with a high risk of runoff or flooding, and apply to fields with flatter slopes and lower phosphorus index scores.

Because many areas in Iowa experienced delays in corn planting due to the wet soil conditions, ISU experts remind producers that fields that have had liquid manure applied at rates intended for growing corn can be switched to soybeans after June 1 with no penalty of over-application of manure nitrogen in the state. Producers should document the changes in the crop rotation, application methods and other changes in their annual manure management plan forms, prior to planting or making changes in application method.

Read about more tips for dealing with wet weather manure challenges at http://www.extension.iastate.edu/CropNews/2013/0529rieckhinzandersen.htm.

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Forego Hog Expansion Plans for Now

Forego Hog Expansion Plans for Now

With delayed planting and uncertainty about this fall’s corn harvest, pork producers who are currently enjoying a return to breakeven levels should forego any expansion plans for now, advises Purdue University Extension agricultural economist Chris Hurt.

Pork producers were among some of the hardest hit financially when the drought of 2012 decimated grain supplies and sent feed prices skyrocketing. But hog prices have rallied this spring, from the mid-$50s per hundredweight in March to the low-$70s, and feed prices have fallen somewhat on the heels of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's March Grain Stocks report that showed more grain than expected.

Even so, late spring planting has brought on some worries about hog production costs, Hurt says.

“Delayed planting has most recently sent corn and soybean meal prices trending upward, raising concerns that hog production costs will not drop as much as some had anticipated,” he says.

Current production costs are about $67 per live hundredweight. Hog prices for the third quarter are expected to remain about the same, leaving producers at breakeven levels for the foreseeable future, Hurt says.

 

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Breakeven means that all of a producer's costs are covered, including depreciation and family labor. According to Hurt, most producers could continue their operations under break-even conditions, but they aren't likely to expand.

While corn and soybean meal prices are expected to decrease in late summer and into fall as the new crop supplies become available, Hurt says hog prices also would fall, continuing the breakeven trend.

“Current forecasts are that fourth-quarter corn prices will be $1.25 lower per bushel than third-quarter prices and soybean meal prices will be $40 lower per ton,” he says. “That means costs will drop from about $67 per live hundredweight this summer closer to $60 for the final quarter of the year.

“Hog prices are expected to be near the $60 level for the final quarter of 2013 and 2014, thus continuing breakeven conditions.”

Hurt advises producers to keep expansion plans on hold until they see how this year’s crop sizes and prices pan out and how they will affect hog production costs. More information about the crop will become available over the next 60 days, as the growing season progresses.

“In general, if corn prices stay below $6 per bushel, the pork industry will be able to survive another year of low crop production,” he says. “Corn prices above $6 would push the outlook back to losses.

“The opposite would be true of $5 or lower corn prices. Some expansion could be expected with low $5 corn prices, and a more aggressive expansion would be expected with corn prices dropping below $5.”

With that in mind, Hurt says expansion of the U.S. hog herd isn't likely until at least this fall. Any expansion at that time would begin with gilt retention and wouldn't increase pork supplies until late summer and fall of 2014. 

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‘Chew on This Tour’ Visits World Pork Expo

‘Chew on This Tour’ Visits World Pork Expo

The “Chew on This Tour,” which visited World Pork Expo last week in Des Moines, IA, featuring its highly visible, shiny red tractor trailer, is spreading the message about food safety and quality, and sharing information about the use of technology in food production on the Drive to Feed the World.

The Chew on This Tour is a unique, interactive road show traveling the nation to heighten awareness about one of the biggest problems facing the world today: hunger. The tour will be stopping at feedmills, universities, fairs and civic events around the country.

Spokesman is Bill Goldberg, former NFL lineman and champion wrestler, who answers questions about world hunger and sustainable food production. Goldberg is accompanying the Chew on This Tour on various stops around the country.

Here is a list of Chew on This facts:

  • It is estimated that by 2050, the world will need 70% more food when the global population will be nine billion.

 

  • Already, about 870 million people worldwide don’t get enough food. Hunger kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. It kills more people than all forms of cancer combined.

 

  • There’s no nutritional difference between milk labeled organic and milk produced conventionally.

 

  • There are no nutritional benefits to free-range eggs compared to traditional eggs, according to USDA.

 

  • There are no nutritional benefits to eating organic or all-natural foods compared to traditional meats, fruits and vegetables.

 

  • There are numerous human food safety studies done by the Food and Drug Administration to ensure the safety of all antibiotics used in food animal production.
  • Agriculture continues to become more efficient as evidenced by the fact that the carbon footprint of a gallon of milk has decreased by 63% since 1944. One cow produces as much milk today as five cows did back in 1944.

 

Sponsors of the Chew on This Tour are Nutra Blend, a leading U.S. distributor and blender of quality micro-ingredients, and Elanco, a world leader in developing products and services that enhance animal health, wellness and performance.

For more information, go to www.drivetofeed.com.