February 12, 2007

Farm and Biofuel Reports

United States

Online forums are connecting farmers to each other and allowing them to share a wealth of timely business advice, on issues ranging from crop management to equipment purchasing, amongst themselves.

Colony Collapse Disorder is devastating thousands of honey bee colonies in 11 states, and threatening the multi-million dollar cropping industries that depend on their pollination services. Some apiculturists are concerned that the problem may have been around for years, but is only now showing its full effects.

A report indicates that migrant workers lack health care and are prevented from getting it from a web of poverty issues, the language barrier and fear of deportation. And some people might say that we shouldn't be paying for health care for foreigners, but if it wasn't enough for them that they're a critical part of our economy (a topic for another time,) if an epidemic disease ever hits America, it will spread like wildfire through this and every sector of society that has been deemed unworthy of healthcare until the whole country is ill.

Biodegradable polymers and other green packaging could change a lot for the better about the way food is handled in the U.S., but cost concerns have prevented wider adoption.

As a novel way of dealing with manure disposal, researchers are investigating particleboard made from dried manure, or more properly, the fiber solids extracted from it. The fiber solids are separated out in the process known as anaerobic digestion, which produces methane, or biogas, which can itself be used as a fuel.

The discovery of hundreds of starving animals has led to over 100 counts of animal cruelty being filed against a Georgia couple.

From the USDA, world agricultural supply and demand estimates.

The American Soybean Association's 2007 Farm Bill proposals. Notably, while corn growers strongly favor national ethanol initiatives, soybean growers are calling for more support for biodiesel, which can be made from soybeans. On the environmental front, they're also calling for full funding and open national enrollment in the Conservation Security Program (CSP), permission to remove non-sensitive land from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and more funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which subsidizes the restoration of environmental damage to farmland.

Fueled by tax subsidies to the petrochemical industry, demand for corn to process into ethanol has skyrocketed and is affecting the price of corn for both livestock and people. The tortilla price crunch in Mexico has been making the news lately as an example of what happens when one country's staple food crop becomes another country's environmental fashion accessory, but U.S. meat producers are feeling the pinch as well, coming soon to a grocery near you.

Beef prices are up, with the USDA projecting that high feed costs will drive down production next year. Also, Canada has reported its 9th BSE case.

Farmer Gary Mast of Ohio will be the new chair of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the USDA department that oversees on-farm conservation programs.

Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) is working with California's Farm Bureau to draft federal disaster relief to farms and workers affected by the California freeze.

Kansas farmers will soon be eligible for carbon sequestration credits, which they would earn money from by agreeing to offset a specific industry carbon emission.

Texas authorities near Austin urge conservation, prepare for water restrictions in the face of a two year spell of drought and unusual rainfall that have left reservoirs lower than they've been since 1942.

Mississippi Delta cotton growers are unhappy with proposed subsidy caps that would end eligibility for farmers grossing over $200,000 per year, saying that cotton is substantially more expensive to grow than other commodities in the program and that their overseas competitors are heavily subsidized.

Several US universities are working on developing biodiesel from algae oils, after years of painstaking work to identify a suitable species of algae, as well as culture and processing methods, though technological challenges remain that price algal biodiesel and ethanol out of market viability. Researchers point out the much smaller land footprint algal culture would require to supply the nation's fuel needs when compared to typical crop production methods, the potential for water filtration, and the potential to use sewage and industrial waste as production feedstock.


The Bush administration hopes that cooperating with Brazil on biofuel production, based on trade for Brazil's plentiful, sugar cane-based ethanol, will decrease the regional influence of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and improve its own image.

A DailyKos diarist discusses how Cuba survived Peak Oil by restructuring agriculture, a situation they've already had to face following the collapse of the Soviet Union. For an in-depth, inside look at the changes they made, you could also read Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming Food Production in Cuba.

France's trade minister says the US Farm Bill contains too many subsidies to permit the Doha round of world trade talks to move forward again, the article noting that the EU countries have said they'd reduce their agricultural subsidies if the US did.

In India, girls are taking up the male-dominated agricultural professions.

South Korea's refusal to accept US beef shipments with bone chips has again stalled trade talks between the two countries.

Bird flu found on S. Korean farm, in the sixth recent outbreak of the virus in that country. Around 240,000 birds in the vicinity of the farm will be destroyed according to quarantine procedures, no word on how this will affect the subsistence farmers planning on eating or selling the birds, because a person has to wonder if there are cases that go unreported out of fear that a family's livelihood will be destroyed.

A bird flu outbreak in Hungary that contaminated a UK farm is at the center of an international row, with the UK Environment Secretary saying that a ban would have violated EU trade rules.

Pakistan confirms a third bird flu case , the country has seen periodic outbreaks since 2003.

Indonesia records its 64th death from bird flu, while two of the dead woman's neighbors have been hospitalized after showing signs of infection.

The fair traders at Green Mountain Coffee have signed a coffee accord with the Ethiopian government to work with the country in promoting their coffee internationally.

India still has 60% of the population directly reliant on agriculture, a proportion much closer to pre-industrial employment breakdowns, and this year they're planning a major budgeting increase to improve both yields and confidence.

The Sultanate of Oman holds a sustainable agriculture forum, with the second day focusing on resources and their usage, particularly water issues.

Australia's worst drought in 100 years opens up opportunities for investors in a position to back civic infrastructure and water efficiency improvements, though part of drought-stricken southeastern Australia are seeing dry weather replaced by floods.

Natasha is currently an intern with the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, an organization dedicated to outreach and education in sustainable agriculture and food systems issues. The opinions expressed in this post are her own and are not representations on behalf of MFAI. For regular legislative alerts about food sustainability issues, sign up with the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture.

Posted by natasha at February 12, 2007 08:08 AM | Agriculture | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |