New York, NY (Scientific American, October 15, 2014): The Environmental Protection Agency gave final approval on Wednesday to a new herbicide developed by Dow AgroSciences that has faced broad opposition, ordering a series of restrictions to address potential environmental and health hazards.
EPA said it was applying "first-time-ever restrictions" on its approval of the herbicide, called Enlist Duo, which is designed to be used with new genetically modified crops developed by Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical.
The herbicide was developed by Dow as an answer to severe weed resistance problems that are limiting crop production around the country.
EPA said the approval lays out a template of new requirements for future approvals of herbicides designed for use with genetically modified crops.
Dow will be required to closely monitor and report to EPA to ensure that weeds are not becoming resistant to Enlist Duo, the agency said. As well, EPA is ordering a 30-foot in-field "no spray" buffer zone around application areas. It has also banned use when wind speeds are over 15 miles per hour.
Elizabethtown, PA (LancasterOnline.com, October 24, 2014): Elizabethtown Area High School’s agriculture department recently received a $25,000 grant for its “Taking Agriculture Education and STEM Outside The Classroom” initiative. The grant was part of the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program sponsored by the Monsanto Foundation. A check presentation was held between the first and second quarters of the Bears’ home football contest on Oct. 17.
Growing the next generation of highly skilled students is very important to farmers, and they realize that educators are an integral part of that process. The America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program helps farmers positively impact their communities and support local school districts. America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education offers farmers the opportunity to nominate public school districts to compete for a grant of up to $25,000. To show their appreciation, farmers in the greater-Elizabethtown area nominated the high school to receive the grant.
After Elizabethtown Area High School’s grant application was submitted, it was reviewed first by math and science teachers from ineligible school districts, then by the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education Advisory Council, a group of 26 prominent farmers from across the country. The Advisory Council was impressed with Elizabethtown Area High School’s Agriculture Department's dedication to our students and our innovative ideas for improving their educational experiences.
Thanks to these local agriculture producers and the school district’s strong grant application the funds will be used to enhance math and science opportunities in the Ag program and help our students prepare for a wider range of career prospects in an increasingly technology-driven workforce.
Williamsport, PA (NorthCentralPA.com, October 16, 2014): In the biggest milestone yet for the nation's most successful farmland preservation effort, Gov. Tom Corbett and Agriculture Secretary George Greig Thursday commemorated the preservation of more than a half-million acres of prime Pennsylvania farmland for future development."Today we celebrate an important, unprecedented milestone – not just for Pennsylvania, but for our nation," said Corbett. "For more than a quarter-century our state has been investing in the future of its largest industry. Pennsylvania is leading by example by ensuring that the lands best suited for farming can be preserved for all time."The ceremony took place at Flinchbaugh's Orchard in Hellam.Four generations and 60 years after arriving in York County, the Flinchbaugh family of Flinchbaugh's Orchard and Farm Market preserved 235 acres of their 420 acre farm. The farm was identified for its fertile and productive soil, development pressure and use of conservation practices that safeguard the environment.The family operation is the quintessential modern Pennsylvania farm, blending the latest high-efficiency agriculture practices with homespun service that meets the demands of the region's East Coast consumers who want to buy fresh local products – complete with the logo of PA Preferred™, the official brand of products grown and made in Pennsylvania.Pennsylvania has invested nearly $1.3 billion in protecting 500,079 acres of the state's best farmland on 4,704 farms in 57 participating counties since its state program was established in 1988. The program boasts the most preserved farms and acres of production farmland in the country.The program's success is due to widespread support from taxpayers who, in a statewide vote, funded bond issues that put Pennsylvania on the fast track to preserving farmland. In 2001, American Farmland Trust recognized Pennsylvania as the national leader in number of farms preserved as well as total acreage preserved."Preserving farmland requires a number of partners including landowners, county program administrators, our state staff and the volunteer board," said Greig. "Because of this teamwork, we're ensuring the continued success of the cornerstone of our state's economy and keeping Pennsylvania growing for our next agriculturalists."Pennsylvania's more than 59,000 farms are within a day's drive of half of the United States' population. Since 2007, Pennsylvania, home to the nation's most productive non-irrigated soil, has lost more than 100,000 acres of farmland, and is down to 7.7 million acres in agricultural production. Agriculture is the state's largest industry, with $7.4 billion worth of products sold in 2012, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, and an estimated $74 billion in economic impact. One in seven Pennsylvania jobs are related to agriculture."We've ensured that this land will be able to provide its neighbors with fresh, local food for generations to come," said Gov. Corbett. "We're preserving a way of life for thousands of farm families."
Portland, OR (Capital Press, October 17, 2014): Biotechnology giant Monsanto is ramping up its spending toward trying to defeat a November ballot measure that would require labeling of genetically modified foods in Oregon.
Filings with the Secretary of State's office show Monsanto contributed $2.5 million to labeling opponents last week. Thus far, the St. Louis, Missouri-based company has contributed $4 million in Oregon.
The anti-labeling camp has so far raised $10 million, compared to $5.4 million for the pro-labeling side.
The measure would require manufacturers, retailers and suppliers to label foods produced by genetic engineering.
In Colorado, where GMO labeling is also on the ballot, Monsanto has contributed nearly $5 million to the anti-labeling campaign.
Labeling measures in California and in Washington state failed in recent years after millions of dollars were spent, mostly by opponents.
Washington, DC (The Atlantic, October 14, 2014): Apple sold over 10 million iPhone 6s in a single weekend—a record. Google is under pressure from European authorities on two fronts: concerns over anti-competitive practices and privacy violations, following an EU court ruling recognizing citizens' "right to be forgotten" by the web. Amazon is embroiled in a commercial dispute with Hachette and retaliated by discriminating against writers working with the publisher. In reaction, many prominent authors have signed an open letter denouncing Amazon's behavior.
Information-technology and Internet companies are magnets for media attention. But we hear far less about the companies that produce the food we eat—especially those involved in agriculture. And yet agricultural activity is breaking records in ways that will have huge consequences for hundreds of millions of people. Did you know that worldwide wheat production is the highest it's ever been? And that despite growing consumption, farms and granaries are overflowing with excess production?
The International Grains Council estimates that inventories of soy, wheat, barley, and corn are reaching their highest volume in 30 years. In the United States, this year's corn harvest is expected to top last year's, which was also unprecedented. Europe is setting records with its wheat and corn harvests, and Canada is doing the same with wheat, barley, and oats. "The new abundance will have broad effects, weakening incomes of farmers and companies that supply them, fattening profit margins at food and biofuel companies and—eventually—slowing food price inflation for consumers in rich and poor countries alike," writes Gregory Meyer of the Financial Times.
And what has caused this explosion in grain supplies? Prices. They've been unusually high in recent years and have encouraged farmers to pour money into boosting production. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, from 2005 to 2013 the land used to cultivate wheat, soy, and corn grew by 11 percent globally. Never before has such a large swath of the earth been tilled.
There are four main factors behind these rising prices: world population growth; increased food consumption in poor countries (in large part due to rising middle classes and their disposable income); the use of grains in the production of fuels like ethanol; and the greater frequency of extreme climatic occurrences that have the potential to destroy harvests or limit farm yields. High prices served as an enormous incentive to invest in agriculture and more investment propelled production to unprecedented levels, which in turn is now pushing prices down.
Northampton, MA (Gazette.net, October 3, 2014): For most of the past 15 years, Seth Wilner was the go-to guy for any and all questions about growing plants and animals in Sullivan County, N.H.
"Used to be, someone in my county called up and said, 'I have a llama and two goats, can you come out and look at my pasture?'" Wilner said of his former role as an educator with University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, his state's version of a century-old, national effort to spread the latest livestock and agriculture knowledge from universities to farmers.
But after New Hampshire legislators cut the extension's budget by 23 percent in 2011, UNH revamped it.
Today, Wilner works out of an office in Sullivan County, but he travels all around the state advising farmers on the business of farming. He and the other field specialists still drive to farms to build relationships, but they also rely on technology like Google Chat and Skype and offer online tutorials and webinars.
Similar transformations are happening across the country as state cooperative extensions work to stay relevant in a time of smaller budgets, fewer farmers, a more diverse population and modern technology.