February 20, 2007

Farm and Biofuel Reports

United States

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle announces a new healthcare plan for Wisconsin farm families, allowing them to pool together with other family farmers and small business owners to take advantage of group health insurance rates.

California's organic farmers are asking for a greater share of farm bill proceeds, especially to the producers of specialty crops, saying that benefits should be spread more widely than to the traditional commodity farming recipients in the nation's grain belt.

Tom Philpott at Grist argues that even though the Bush administration's farm bill proposals do offer more support for conservation and diversified farm production than might have been expected, the bulk of the bill is a continuation of support for large agribusiness and unrestrained monocropping.

Darryll Ray, Director of Agricultural Policy at the University of Tennessee looks at the payment structures in the commodity title of the administration's farm bill proposal, explaining that it would "... generate more payments to crop producers when prices are "high" and reduced payments when prices are extremely "low." ..."

A Delta Farm Press editorial notes that, not only is the farm bill hard to understand, but that it obfuscates the strong dependence of large farming businesses on government payments.

A coalition of environmental and farm groups from the U.S. are globalizing their criticisms of U.S. agricultural trade policy.

The Center for Food Safety notes that U.S. courts ruled against USDA approval of genetically modified alfalfa and bentgrass, saying that the environmental reviews conducted were insufficient to guarantee that field trials wouldn't have a negative impact.

IATP Rural Communities Blog: Biomass gasification might provide a way to make the biomass production required to sustain a cellulosic ethanol industry viable even before suitable enzymes are identified for cellulosic fermentation. Participants at the "Pathways Toward a Renewable Energy Future" conference tout the potential of carbon-negative biofuels and supply-side market reforms to move the economy towards sustainability.

The USDA's 7,500 meat and poultry inspectors made 9.2 million food safety inspection visits last year. This year, the agency has proposed an inspection resource allocation program that would decrease the number of inspections at processing plants with good track records and increase them at high-risk facilities and those with poorer food safety records.

The University of Missouri's Extension service is reaching out to the state's minority farmers to provide the business and marketing support that bridges the gap between growing food and selling it.

Fred Kirschenmann of Iowa State University challenges the assumptions of industrial agriculture and encourages widespread transition to biologically diverse farming systems.

Allendale commodity researchers offer their view of the big ethanol picture, but market analyst opinions are a mixed bag.

Frontier Oil buys an ethanol plant for $3.1 million to ensure an in-house supply of ethanol to add to their gasoline and possibly enable future moves into biodiesel production.

Biofuel researchers are looking to a perennial grass, miscanthus, as a future ethanol feedstock. Miscanthus provides more biomass per acre than even switchgrass, while requiring only about a third as much water.

University of Iowa enthusiasts evangelize for biodiesel.

Sarah Rich at WorldChanging writes about the need to connect transit planning to urban food security efforts in order to address the poor availability of nutritious food in low-income urban neighborhoods.


UK farmers can attend a workshop to help them navigate and comply with farm waste regulations.

Construction is soon to begin on the Svalbard International Seed Vault in the Norwegian mountains, proposed as a doomsday safehouse for agricultural genetic diversity. The vault, sited near the North Pole and far above the highest likely rise in sea levels, will serve as a backup site for the world's 1400 seed banks starting later this year.

The Phillipines ban British poultry imports following an outbreak of bird flu in the UK.

Genetically modified crops are getting a warm reception in Asia, with leaders in the field identifying the region as an up-and-coming center of agricultural biotechnology research.

A USDA official speaking at an agribusiness trade and investment conference with East African officials says that biofuels will revolutionize farming in both the US and Africa, benefitting farmers with higher prices for sugar, oil crops and cereals, and allowing the US to drop subsidy supports for crops that are now paying for themselves at market rates.

A Spanish company with ethanol plants in Nebraska and Kansas would like to build a third ethanol plant in Illinois.

Mexican corn producers are boosting production to take advantage of the demand for ethanol.

A harbor association in Iceland looks at turning a fish meal factory into a biodiesel plant stocked by Canadian corn.

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 20, 2007 01:28 PM | Agriculture | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |