Friday, January 29, 2016

Just in

Allergens and security top list of food safety concerns 

WashingtonWith food recalls on the rise and the threat to food security growing, food manufacturers are going to want to know more details about farmers’ and ranchers’ food safety and security practices, according to Lance Reeve, senior risk management consultant-food safety for Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance Company.  
Despite manufacturers’ rigorous food safety protocols, they’re being outwitted by ever-evolving microbes.
“We’re finding bacteria in places we didn’t find bacteria 20 years ago,” Reeve said.   
A far greater problem—and a much big driver of recalls—are allergens. Eight foods account for 90 percent of food-allergy reactions in the U.S: eggs, shellfish, fish, milk, soy, wheat, peanuts and tree nuts. Under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, since 2006 all labels must list ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction. A significant portion of food recalls over the past decade are due to foods accidentally not being properly labeled for these allergens.   

Although food defense events—people purposely contaminating food products—are miniscule compared to accidental events like mislabeling, many food manufacturers jumped on food security a long time ago, Reeve explained. And they may soon be expecting farmers to be prepared with defense plans of their own.  

“I understand you can’t lock down a farm, but to say you can’t do anything isn’t true,” Reeve said. He urged farmers and ranchers to consider looking carefully at the procedures they have in place for securing commodities and feed and managing farm visitors.   

In light of the many changes related to food safety over the past 20 years, Reeve expects that far more are in store— many of which could affect farmers and ranchers directly.  
Allergens will continue to be a top concern, and GMO labeling, though not a food safety issue, would significantly impact everyone involved in the farm-to-table process.   

“How many grain elevators are set up to truly distinguish between GMO and non-GMO? At the farm-level, how many of you are really cleaning your trucks out as you go from one commodity to the next? How about your bins? I know you rinse them out, but can you tell me there’s no possible grain residue left?”  

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Mark Lynas: Pro-science means pro-GMO

Lynas-Annual Convention 2016-smallOrlando-World-renowned environmentalist Mark Lynas shared his experience of moving from anti-GMO activist to advocate for biotechnology at a featured workshop at the 97th American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show, Jan 10-13.  
Lynas told an audience of farmers and ranchers how he changed his mind on GMOs when he came face-to-face with the science supporting biotechnology. 

"As a scientist, you must have data to back up what you're saying," Lynas said. "And I realized I wasn't holding myself to the same scientific standards on GMOs as I applied to my research on climate change. You can't pick and choose where you use science to back up your argument: You have to be consistent."

He also asserted that we need more advances in technology, and that GMOs are critical to helping farmers around the world feed a booming population. 

"Science and technology need to keep progressing to preserve the resources we have left," he said. And Lynas is backing up his belief in GMOs with action: He is now working with Cornell University to help develop GM crops that will help farmers in developing countries grow better crops without pesticides. 

Even with clear scientific support, Lynas acknowledged, it's difficult to convince the general public on biotechnology because of the scare tactics employed by activists. But he believes transparency can go a long way in building trust with consumers: "Transparency on GMOs will help dispel fears because people assume something is risky if they think information is being withheld from them."   

But this is where farmers can help bridge the gap, he said. 
"People need a believable source of information. As farmers, you have credibility because you understand what you're doing and why. You can explain the real benefits GM crops have for both the land and consumers." 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Just in

USDA Announces No Actions Under Feedstock Flexibility Program

WASHINGTON–The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Commodity Credit Corporation announced today that it does not expect to purchase sugar under the Feedstock Flexibility Program in the first quarter of 2016. The Commodity Credit Corporation is required to announce quarterly estimates of sugar to be purchased for the Feedstock Flexibility Program based on crop and consumption forecasts.
Federal law allows sugar processors to obtain loans from USDA with maturities of up to nine months from when the sugarcane or sugar beet harvest begins. Upon loan maturity, the sugar processor may repay the loan in full or forfeit the collateral (sugar) to USDA to satisfy the loan.
The Feedstock Flexibility Program was reauthorized by Congress in the 2014 Farm Bill as an option to avoid sugar forfeitures. USDA’s Dec. 9, 2015, World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report ( projects that domestic fiscal year 2016 ending sugar stocks are unlikely to lead to forfeitures.
USDA closely monitors domestic sugar stocks, consumption, imports and other sugar market variables on an ongoing basis, and will continue to administer the sugar program as transparently as possible using the latest available data. The next quarterly estimate regarding the Feedstock Flexibility Program will occur prior to April 1, 2016.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Just in

Tackling Cattle Fever Ticks with Vaccines

El Paso--Despite a successful program to eliminate cattle fever ticks during the first half of the 20th century, these ticks still manage to cross the Mexican border into Texas. A new vaccine developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) could control these pests and help prevent a reinfestation of cattle fever ticks in the United States. These ticks can transmit pathogens that cause bovine babesiosis and anaplasmosis—diseases that can kill cattle.

While sequencing the cattle tick's genome, insect physiologist Felix D. Guerreroand his colleagues at the ARS Tick and Biting Fly Research Unit in Kerrville, Texas, identified several proteins that, when formulated as a cattle vaccine, could potentially kill cattle ticks. One of the proteins, aquaporin, was developed into a recombinant tick aquaporin protein vaccine. 

ARS researchers collaborated with their partners at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) to test the vaccine's ability to protect cattle against infestation. In two trials, animals infested with a known amount of cattle tick larvae were divided into two pens in Brazil. In each trial, one group was vaccinated with the aquaporin vaccine, and the other group was not. When scientists compared the groups, they found that vaccinated cows had 75 percent and 68 percent fewer ticks than unvaccinated cows. Results indicated that the aquaporin protein was effective as an antigen in cattle vaccines to help prevent cattle fever tick infestations.

Although a few chemicals are available to treat cattle, ticks have developed resistance to most of them, according to Guerrero. The ARS-patented aquaporin protein vaccine provides an alternative to chemicals to reduce the risk of tick infestation. ARS is exploring the possibility of producing a commercial aquaporin vaccine with a private company. 
ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Just in

Progress Report: USDA Investments Make Big Impact for Rural America in 2015

WASHINGTON–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today released a report detailing the tangible results across rural America that stemmed from investments by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA)  Rural Development team in local businesses, community infrastructure, housing and more in 2015.
"Over the past seven years, USDA has made record investments in rural America, including housing, infrastructure, business and nutrition, and 2015 was no exception," Vilsack said. "Through our Rural Development agencies alone, USDA was able to support more than 170,000 projects last year, spurring job creation and improving the quality of life for millions of rural Americans. These investments have helped people secure affordable housing and become first-time homeowners, connected America's remote towns with medical providers and business customers via telecommunications, improved critical water and other community facilities, lowered utility costs for residents and businesses through energy efficiency, bolstered local and regional food systems, and created and expanded small businesses. All of this has helped to strengthen local economies for the farmers, families and businesses who call rural America home, and for all Americans who rely on the food, fuel and goods these communities produce."
USDA Rural Development's 2015  Progress Report provides an overview of activities in 2015 that resulted in nearly $30 billion in investments in rural America. The report includes success stories from every state illustrating the many ways USDA helps finance infrastructure improvements and boosts economic development in rural areas. The Progress Report also highlights the success of the Obama Administration's and Secretary Vilsack's place-based initiatives,  Promise Zones and  StrikeForce, to address rural areas facing significant economic challenges. These initiatives and the emphasis on Community Economic Development (CED) are the cornerstones of USDA's efforts to combat rural poverty and deliver assistance to rural places most in need of the capacity and funding to jump-start or sustain economic development.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Just in

President’s veto of anti-WOTUS resolution salt in farmers’ wounds, Farm Bureau say 

 Washington-Calling President Barack Obama's veto of a resolution (S.J. Res. 22) to disapprove of the Waters of the U.S. rule "salt in the wounds of farmers and ranchers," American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said farmers and ranchers were mystified as to why Obama continues to support the fatally flawed rule. 

"The Government Accountability Office found the rule was issued with the help of illegal 'covert propaganda' by EPA. Ninety-two members of Congress, 22 states, numerous cities and counties and dozens of industry groups have all stood up and said no to this rule. Courts have ordered the rule temporarily halted because of the harm it will cause. But, somehow, the president and the EPA just keep pushing. But we won't stop either. We will not rest until this rule is gone," Duvall said in a statement.

Just in

Crapo Relief Bill Approved by EPW Committee

Washington–Legislation introduced by Senators Mike Crapo and Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) was approved as an amendment today in a business meeting held by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.  
The amendment would eliminate a costly and redundant EPA regulation affecting pesticide users by clarifying congressional intent and codifying longstanding interpretation of  statutes after a court ruling imposed needless red tape on farmers.  The amendment was based on the standalone bill S. 1500, the Sensible Environmental Protection Act.
For more than 30 years, the EPA has implemented a comprehensive and rigorous regulatory structure for pesticide applications under what is commonly known as FIFRA, or the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.   FIFRA governs the sale, distribution and use of pesticides, with the goal of protecting human health and the environment.  The statute requires pesticides to be evaluated (undergoing more than 100 tests) and registered with EPA, and for users to comply with agency-approved, uniform labeling standards.  Unfortunately, despite this federal regulatory framework already in place, a 2009 court decision forced EPA to begin requiring Clean Water Act (CWA) permits for certain applications of pesticides in or near water.  This duplicative regulatory requirement went into effect in 2011. 
“The Sportsmen’s Act business meeting provided an important forum to advance this regulatory relief issue,” said Crapo.  “Pesticides are a tool utilized by property owners, land and wildlife managers to combat invasive species, manage vegetation and promote healthy forests, rangelands and waterways which provide habitat for fish and wildlife.  Healthy habitats support the hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation activities we cherish in Idaho and millions of Americans participate in each year.  Eliminating regulatory burdens will free up time and resources for our land and wildlife managers to do their jobs and execute on the ground management objectives, which will benefit all sportsmen and women.  .”
“This bill cuts through the unnecessary red tape our farmers are currently forced to navigate—redundant regulation that doesn’t make us any safer,” McCaskill said. It’s commonsense, and it makes the overall permitting process more efficient and effective for the folks who are working to protect our health and the environment.

SEPA clarifies that CWA permits are not required for pesticide applications in or near water.  The bill also requires EPA to report back to Congress on whether the FIFRA process can be improved to better protect human health and the environment.
As a result of this dual regulation, EPA has estimated an additional 365,000 pesticide users—including farmers, ranchers, state agencies, cities, counties, mosquito control districts, water districts, pesticide applicators and forest managers that perform 5.6 million pesticide applications annually—will be required to obtain CWA permits.  This is nearly double the number of entities previously subjected to permitting requirements, costing more than $50 million a year.   
The amendment was adopted by the committee by a 12-8 vote.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Just in from Washington

American Farm Bureau Expresses Support for Senate Child Nutrition Legislation Goals

WASHINGTON– The American Farm Bureau Federation told Senate Agriculture Committee leaders today that it supports the goals of the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016.

In a letter to Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), AFBF said the legislation “improves flexibility for school lunch programs and reinforces dietary guidelines which include dairy, meat, fruits and vegetables, and grains.”

“Lifelong healthy eating habits begin with children having healthy choices—and school food programs are pivotal in shaping those healthy dietary habits,” Farm Bureau’s letter stated. “This child nutrition legislation will enhance efforts of federal nutrition programs to provide nutritious meals and teach healthy eating behaviors.”

The letter stated that Farm Bureau is pleased that the proposed legislation includes provisions to boost milk and dairy product consumption through the National School Lunch Program.

“The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends three dairy servings per day and offering milk with each school meal helps to meet that goal,” Farm Bureau said. “School meal offerings should include milk or dairy products for the essential nutrients they provide to growing children, such as protein, potassium, vitamin D and calcium.”

The letter also highlighted AFBF’s long-established support for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, expressed support for provisions allowing schools to transition to the program standards under the hardship exemption and emphasized support for the “Buy American” provision of the federal school lunch program.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Just in

U.S. Hogs and Pigs Inventory Up 1 Percent
New Data Collection Supports the White House National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators
WASHINGTON- As of January 1, there were 68.3 million hogs and pigs on U.S. farms, up 1 percent from December 2014, and up slightly from September 1, 2015, according to the Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report published today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). 

Other key findings in the report were:
  • Of the 68.3 million hogs and pigs, 62.3 million were market hogs, while 6.00 million were kept for breeding.
  • Between September and November 2015, 30.3 million pigs were weaned on U.S. farms, down 1 percent from the same time period one year earlier. 
  • From September through November 2015, U.S. hog and pig producers weaned a record high average of 10.53 pigs per litter.
  • U.S. hog producers intend to have 2.84 million sows farrow between December 2015 and February 2016, and 2.85 million sows farrow between March and May 2016.
  • Iowa hog producers accounted for the largest inventory among the states, at 20.8 million head. North Carolina and Minnesota had the second and third largest inventories with 8.80 million and 7.95 million head, respectively.
To obtain an accurate measurement of the U.S. swine industry, NASS surveyed over 11,100 operators across the nation during the first half of December. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Just in from Washington

USDA Releases 2014 Annual Summary for Pesticide Data Program: Report confirms that pesticide residues do not pose a safety concern for U.S. food

 WASHINGTON– The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has posted data from the 2014 Pesticide Data Program (PDP) Annual Summary, which confirms that overall pesticide chemical residues found on the foods tested are at levels below the tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and do not pose a safety concern.

 This information, along with an explanatory guide for consumers, can be found at The 2014 PDP Annual Summary shows that over 99 percent of the products sampled through PDP had residues below the EPA tolerances. Residues exceeding the tolerance were detected in 0.36 percent of the samples tested.

The PDP pesticide residue results are reported to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and EPA through monthly reports.  In instances where a PDP finding may pose a safety risk, FDA and EPA are immediately notified.  EPA has determined the extremely low levels of those residues are not a food safety risk, and the presence of such residues does not pose a safety concern. Each year, USDA and EPA work together to identify foods to be tested on a rotating basis.

 In 2014, surveys were conducted on a variety of foods including fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, oats, rice, infant formula, and salmon. AMS partners with cooperating state agencies to collect and analyze pesticide chemical residue levels on selected foods.  The EPA uses data from PDP to enhance its programs for food safety and help evaluate dietary exposure to pesticides.

 “Each year, the Pesticide Data Program uses rigorous sampling and the most current laboratory methods to test a wide variety of domestic and imported foods.  Again, the resulting data in this year’s report gives consumers confidence that the products they buy for their families are safe and wholesome,” said Dr. Ruihong Guo, Deputy Administrator of the AMS Science and Technology Program.

 Susan Mayne, Ph.D. and Director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, noted “The PDP plays an essential role in ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply. Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the FDA has authority to take enforcement action when a food bears or contains unlawful pesticide chemical residues.

By providing an accurate assessment of pesticide levels in the most commonly consumed commodities in America, the PDP generally confirms the US food supply is safe with respect to pesticide chemical residues,” said  Jim Jones, EPA’s Assistant Administrator Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.  “The EPA is committed to a rigorous, science-based, and transparent regulatory program for pesticides that continues to protect people’s health and the environment."

  The PDP is an important part of basis for our work to evaluate pesticide exposure from residues in food.” Since its inception, the PDP has tested 113 commodities including fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, dairy, meat and poultry, grains, fish, rice, specialty products, and water. The data are a valuable tool for consumers, food producers and processors, chemical manufacturers, environmental interest groups, and food safety organizations.

 The findings of the Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary, Calendar Year 2014 can be downloaded at Printed copies of can be obtained by contacting the USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service, Science and Technology Program, Monitoring Programs Division by e-mail request @  

Monday, January 18, 2016

Just in

USDA Seeks Public Comment on 2016-2020 Environmental Justice Strategic Plan

WASHINGTON–The U.S. Department of Agriculture invites public comment on the draft update of the Department's Environmental Justice Strategic Plan. The four-year plan establishes goals to increase outreach and participation by historically underserved communities for the years 2016-2020 and outlines the ways each USDA agency plans to accomplish them.
"This revised environmental justice strategy builds on the existing USDA plan by addressing resilience in the context of climate change, improving access to USDA financial and technical assistance programs through the StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity, and other outreach to underserved communities," said USDA Deputy Undersecretary Arthur 'Butch' Blazer. "We encourage feedback on this USDA Environmental Justice Strategy and look forward to hearing from the people impacted by our policy decisions."
USDA works to meet the needs of historically underserved communities by reducing environmental burdens and increasing access to environmental benefits that help make all communities safe, vibrant, and healthy places to live and work. USDA is committed to achieving environmental justice throughout every community in America.
To meet its goals and deliver measurable results, USDA staff periodically update the strategic plan outlining key priorities and tactics to increase capacity building, public participation, and opportunities for minority, low-income, American Indian and Alaska Native Communities, and Tribal governments.
The draft USDA Environmental Justice Strategic Plan is available here:  USDA Environmental Strategic Plan.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Just in

Farm Bureau urges House support for resolution disapproving EPA’s WOTUS rule

Washington-The American Farm Bureau Federation is urging members of the U.S. House of Representatives to support S.J. Res. 22, a resolution to disapprove the Waters of the U.S. rule finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers. 

"The EPA rule poses a serious threat to farmers, ranchers and private landowners by permitting EPA to regulate well beyond limits authorized by Congress and affirmed by the Supreme Court," AFBF President Bob Stallman wrote in a letter to House members. 

"Simply put," Stallman continued, "EPA's rule significantly expands the scope of 'navigable water' subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction. With that expansion comes the threat of citizen lawsuits. As a practical matter, EPA's proposal will mean increased enforcement against farmers, greater expenses for permitting, potential delays in managing agricultural operations and the unquestioned exposure of legal liability attendant with lawsuits from activists." 

Stallman also pointed out that EPA unlawfully manipulated the rulemaking process through an unprecedented marketing campaign designed to generate public support and discredit anyone who had serious concerns, as well as hoping to influence Congress. 

"GAO's recently issued opinion states unequivocally that EPA violated the law," Stallman wrote. The GAO opinion came on the heels of a judgment by the Small Business Office of Advocacy that the agency had violated its obligations under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

AFBF Annual Meeting Wrap

Farm Bureau delegates chart a course for 2016

Orlando--Delegates from all 50 states and Puerto Rico today elected new leaders and approved policies that will help determine the future of agriculture, during the American Farm Bureau Federation's 97th Annual Convention.

Renewable fuels, governmental reform, farm policy, risk management and international trade were among the most important matters slated for action over the next 12 months. Delegates elected Zippy Duvall to serve as the new president of AFBF and Scott VanderWal as vice president.

Vincent "Zippy" Duvall is a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, and served as president of the Georgia Farm Bureau for 9 years. Duvall has held numerous leadership positions in Farm Bureau and his local community. He is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. Scott VanderWal is a third-generation family farmer from Volga, South Dakota, and has been president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau since 2004.

Risk Management
Delegates approved new policies that covered a wide range of agricultural topics. Among other things, they: · Supported the addition of cottonseed to the list of oilseed crops eligible for farm programs; · Supported voluntary risk management products for poultry growers that would provide assistance during disease outbreaks; and · Reaffirmed support for programs that provide emergency assistance for livestock and tree producers not covered by federal crop insurance programs. 

Regulatory Review and Reform
Delegates addressed recent malfeasance by establishing a new policy that opposes governmental attempts to sway public opinion regarding rules that are open for public comment, whether by social media or other means. International Trade Delegates reaffirmed support for fair and open world trade that benefits agriculture. In particular, AFBF voted to support the Trans Pacific Partnership, which promises to expand opportunities for U.S. farm goods to some of the fastest-growing markets around the world.

Delegates reaffirmed their support for the use of genetically modified plant varieties and other innovative technologies. Delegates also called for a voluntary and uniform labeling system for products designated as genetically modified organisms. They denounced mandatory labeling of food products containing GMOs at the local, state and federal levels. Law Enforcement Delegates approved new policy related to forfeiture reform that requires that individuals be convicted of a federal crime before their property is seized.

 Delegates reaffirmed support for flexibility in the H-2A program that would allow workers to seek employment from more than one farmer. They also called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform to assist in solving the continuing shortage of agricultural workers. Big Data Delegates reaffirmed support for the protection of proprietary data collected from farmers, as well as fair compensation for farmers who choose to sell their data to third parties including other farmers. Energy The delegates maintained their strong support for biofuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard. They also called for continued tax incentives to benefit biodiesel and other advanced biofuels.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Just in

Statement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Expanded Market Access for U.S. Poultry, Pork and Beef Exports to South Africa

WASHINGTON-- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today released the following statement: 
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in collaboration with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), reached agreement with South African officials to allow most U.S. exports of poultry, pork and beef and their products to re-gain access to the South African market, pursuant to an out-of-cycle review of South Africa conducted under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The agreement was reached following intense U.S. government engagement with South African officials over the last year. Only a limited number of U.S. poultry and meat products have been exported to South Africa in recent years, due to unwarranted sanitary requirements by the South African authorities, with most poultry exports blocked for the last 15 years. With this renewed access for U.S. red meat and poultry products, U.S. exports to South Africa could generate $75 million of shipments annually.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today made the following statement regarding this announcement:
"This is good news for American farmers, ranchers and poultry, pork and beef companies. We welcome this move by South Africa and will continue our efforts to break down barriers and expand access for high-quality, safe and wholesome U.S. food and agricultural products around the world. With this agreement, South Africa reaffirms the scientific soundness and integrity of the U.S. system for ensuring animal health and food safety, and this will result in high-quality U.S. meat and poultry being available for South African consumers. 
The regained access for American meat and poultry exports we're announcing today is the culmination of many months of hard work by USDA and USTR staff. The past seven years have been the strongest in history for agricultural trade, with U.S. agricultural product exports totaling $911.4 billion since 2009. Strong agricultural exports contribute to a positive U.S. trade balance, create jobs and boost economic growth. Those exports supported approximately 1 million U.S. jobs last year. The economy is strengthened in rural communities and throughout the entire country from the additional economic activity that flows from the expanded farm and processing business."

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Just in

ORLANDO – Delegates at the 97th American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention elected Zippy Duvall to serve as the new president of AFBF and Scott VanderWal as vice president.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall is a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, and served as president of the Georgia Farm Bureau for 9 years. Duvall has held numerous leadership positions in Farm Bureau and his local community. He is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. Last month he attended the Idaho Farm Bureau Annual Meeting at Fort Hall.

Scott VanderWal is a third-generation family farmer from Volga, South Dakota, and has been president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau since 2004.

Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, was most recently president of the Georgia Farm Bureau.
A Farm Bureau member since 1977, Duvall has held numerous leadership positions in the Greene County Farm Bureau, including president and vice president. Duvall has served on numerous GFB Commodity Advisory Committees, the GFB Policy Development Committee and, as past chairman, the GFB Young Farmer Committee. He has represented Georgia as a voting delegate at the American Farm Bureau Federation convention since being elected to the state board and served on the AFBF Board of Directors in the 1980s as chairman of the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. He also served as member of former Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Agricultural Advisory Council.

In addition to his Farm Bureau leadership, Duvall is chairman of the Greene County Board of Commissioners and is a member of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia. He has served on the Rayle EMC board of directors for 16 years. Duvall is a member of the Greensboro Farmers Bank Board of Directors and is a member of the Greensboro/Greene County Chamber of Commerce. Duvall and his wife, Bonnie, have four children: Vince, Corrie, Zeb and Zellie.
Scott VanderWal is a third-generation family farmer from Volga, South Dakota. On their farm, Scott and his wife, Michelle, raise corn soybeans and do custom cattle-feeding and some custom harvesting.

Scott has been a member of the South Dakota Farm Bureau board of directors since 1997, including three years as Vice President. He was elected president in 2004 and has held the office since.

Scott and Michelle are both graduates of South Dakota State University and served on the South Dakota Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers committee for several years, including one year as Chairs. The couple also served on the American Farm Bureau Federation YF&R committee from 1992-1994, where Scott was elected Second Vice Chairman.  Scott and Michelle are active in their church and community.  They have two sons, Kyle and Austin.
Scott’s agricultural background includes an exchange trip to Germany in 1996, tours of the soybean “frontier” in Brazil in 2001 and 2006, and an agricultural trade mission to Cuba in 2004.  More recently Scott has had the opportunity to travel to China and Switzerland to promote agriculture. He is a graduate of the South Dakota Agriculture and Rural Leadership Program.

Just in

ORLANDO– World-renowned environmentalist Mark Lynas shared his experience of moving from anti-GMO activist to advocate for biotechnology at a featured workshop at the 97th American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show.
Lynas told an audience of farmers and ranchers how he changed his mind on GMOs when he came face-to-face with the science supporting biotechnology.

“As a scientist, you must have data to back up what you’re saying,” Lynas said. “And I realized I wasn’t holding myself to the same scientific standards on GMOs as I applied to my research on climate change. You can’t pick and choose where you use science to back up your argument: You have to be consistent.”

He also asserted that we need more advances in technology, and that GMOs are critical to helping farmers around the world feed a booming population.

“Science and technology need to keep progressing to preserve the resources we have left,” he said. And Lynas is backing up his belief in GMOs with action: He is now working with Cornell University to help develop GM crops that will help farmers in developing countries grow better crops without pesticides.

Even with clear scientific support, Lynas acknowledged, it’s difficult to convince the general public on biotechnology because of the scare tactics employed by activists. But he believes transparency can go a long way in building trust with consumers: “Transparency on GMOs will help dispel fears because people assume something is risky if they think information is being withheld from them,” Lynas said.

But this is where farmers can help bridge the gap, he said.

“People need a believable source of information. As farmers, you have credibility because you understand what you’re doing and why. You can explain the real benefits GM crops have for both the land and consumers.”

Monday, January 11, 2016

Just in

Trade Agreements Bring Big Benefits to Nation’s Farmers and Ranchers

ORLANDO, FLORIDA– U.S. agriculture has a lot to gain from trade, was the central message Ambassador Darci Vetter, chief agricultural negotiator, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, had for workshop attendees at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 97th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show.

Vetter’s conversation with farmers and ranchers focused on the advantages of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and how its passage is essential to opening new markets for U.S. farmers. “The TPP is an agreement that unites 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific in a comprehensive trade agreement, with 40 percent of global gross domestic production on the table,” Vetter said. “It is one of the largest, and the highest standard, trade deals in history.”

 U.S. agriculture already has deep roots in the area involved in the TTP with 42 percent of U.S. agriculture products being shipped to the area. Vetter contended that this region will only continue to grow in importance.

The key to gaining a competitive foothold is to reduce or eliminate tariffs. “This Asian-Pacific region is one of the most dynamic regions in terms of population growth, but also income growth in that population,” Vetter explained. “By 2030, 66 percent of the world's middle class will be in Asia, and 59 percent of middle classes purchasing power will be from this region. What we want to do now is to cement that preferential trade access to those economies and become their partners of choice as they grow.”

 Vetter encouraged attendees to visit, where the entire TPP proposal has been posted. The website also has summaries of the proposal along with infographics on how TPP will affect individual commodities and states. Everyone is encouraged to share infographics with friends, member of congress and on social media to help get the word out on why this deal is important to U.S. farmers and ranchers.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Just in

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Announces 2015 Wildfires Burned Record Acres, Urges Congress to Pass Wildfire Funding Fix

WASHINGTON-- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that in 2015, wildfires burned a record 10,125,149 acres across the United States, surpassing the previous record set in 2006. The Secretary renewed the call for Congress to pass the bi-partisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act.
In 2015, there were more than 50 fires that exceeded 50,000 acres each; of those, 20 fires exceeded more than 100,000 acres each. In 2015, more than 4,500 homes and other structures were destroyed by wildfires and a total of 13 wildland firefighters, including 7 U.S. Forest Service firefighters, lost their lives in the line of duty.
Since 2000, fire seasons have grown longer, and the frequency, size and severity of wildland fires has increased. The 2015 fires stretched across federal, state and private land with Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington being especially hard hit. While the West saw the brunt of the fires, it is agency resources across the country-from New York to Arkansas to Florida-that feel the brunt of a Forest Service budget subsumed by firefighting costs. The cost of the Forest Service's wildfire suppression reached a record $243 million in a one-week period during the height of suppression activity in August. With a record 52 percent of the Forest Service's budget dedicated to fire suppression activities, compared to just 16 percent in 1995, the Forest Service's firefighting budget was exhausted in 2015, forcing USDA to transfer funds away from forest restoration projects that would help reduce the risk of future fires, in order to cover the high cost of battling blazes.
"These fires have very real human costs, as we lost seven members of the Forest Service firefighting team in the line of duty, and 4,500 homes were lost. We take our job to protect the public seriously, and recently, the job has become increasingly difficult due to the effects of climate change, chronic droughts, and a constrained budget environment in Washington. Congress must fix the fire budget to stop an ever-increasing amount of the operating budget going to fire suppression. Failing to do so will result in more deadly and devastating fires in the future," said Secretary Vilsack.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Just in

Supreme Court justice Dan Eismann addresses the Reversing the Tide water conference on Wednesday--Putnam photo

Reversing the Tide conference draws big crowd

Boise--More than 80 concerned farmers, ranchers and Idahoans attended the Idaho Farm Bureaus Reversing the Tide conference Wednesday at the Red Lion Riverside in Boise.

In one of his first duties at Idaho Farm Bureau President, Bryan Searle of Shelley welcomed the crowd and urged those attending to know their property rights and to protect them.

The Honorable Dan Eismann of the Idaho Supreme Court gave insight into the thought and reasoning behind the landmark Joyce Livestock water rights case.

It started as bad dream for ranchers Paul Nettleton and Tim Lowry more than a decade ago when the Bureau of Land Management hauled the two Owyhee County ranchers into state court to determine who owned the water rights on grazing allotments used by the ranches since 1864. 

"The U.S. Grazing Service, which eventually became the BLM, was not established until 1934. This turned out to be a key factor in the court decision," said Eismann.

"Bottomline those water rights are pertinent to the deeded land and those rights go with the land unless they're expressively reserved and the Federal government did not own the water rights," said Eismann. "They couldn't prove that they'd put the water to beneficial use."

Eventually, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled for the ranchers nullifying the attack on state water rights by the BLM. While the fight was successful, the legal defense of the ranchers cost a small fortune.

Eismann told the crowd that water rights were recognized long before there was statutory recognition of water rights in Idaho.

Randy Parker, the CEO of the Utah Farm Bureau brought a wealth of experience to the conference working on water right cases is Utah for decades. He warned "It is Forest Service policy to claim water rights and they're aggressively going after it. I would argue that they’re dismantling the US cattle industry; they’re doing it by going for the water rights," he said.

Parker says Utah codified the Joyce water rights decision in that state years ago and urged Idaho to do the same adding another level of water rights protection to ranchers.

Ramona Hage Morrison told the Reversing the Tide conference about the famous Wayne Hage public lands case.

 "We had hundreds of titled documents showing pre-existing water rights, we had to prove we were not trespassers! Every property has to prove their water right, they must work their title, Id argue its more important than commissioning a range study. When we don't establish that we were there first in time, in terms of water rights we forfeit first time right, its vitally important," said Morrison.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Just in

USDA Begins Surveys to Assess Honey Bee Colony Health, Impact on Agriculture
WASHINGTON- The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is reaching out to beekeepers and farmers across the nation in December 2015 and January 2016 to gather information on the number and health of honey bee colonies, honey production and stocks, and the cost to farmers of pollination services. 
The surveys will be used to develop baseline data and additional goal metrics for winter, summer, and total annual colony loss in support of the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. Among its goals, the Strategy aims to reduce honey bee colony losses during winter to no more than 15% within 10 years.
“These new data will be crucial to measuring and understanding the current state of the pollinator industry in the United States,” said NASS Administrator Joseph Reilly. “Honey beekeepers are encouraged to participate in the surveys so that policy makers have a robust data source to make informed decisions and protect our struggling pollinators.” 
Pollinators are critical to the nation’s economy, food security, and environmental health. Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year, and helps ensure that our diets include ample fruits, nuts, and vegetables. This tremendously valuable service is provided to society by honey bees, native bees and other insect pollinators, birds, and bats. But pollinators are struggling. Last year, beekeepers reported losing about 40% of honey bee colonies, threatening the viability of their livelihoods and the essential pollination services their bees provide to agriculture.
Beekeepers should expect to receive two surveys from NASS. They will receive the existing Bee and Honey Inquiry, which surveys beekeepers about honey production, price, and stocks, but not colony health. NASS will continue to conduct that survey, the results of which are slated for release in March 2016, and which are archived at Beekeepers will also receive a new survey from NASS, which the agency will use to publish state-level estimates on key topics, including number of colonies, colonies lost, colonies added, and colonies affected by certain stressors. The first results of these surveys will be published in May 2016.
In addition to surveys being sent to beekeepers, NASS will survey farmers about crops pollinated, number of colonies needed for pollination, and the cost for those colonies. NASS plans to publish results of those surveys in December 2016. 
These surveys and corresponding data are part of the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, prepared by the Pollinator Health Task Force, which USDA co-chairs. The Strategy is a comprehensive plan to work across the Federal government and with partners to address the research, education and management challenges we must overcome to sustain healthy pollinator populations. One of the three overarching goals of the National Strategy is to reduce honey bee colony loss and to develop additional baseline data using the NASS data.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Just in

Farmers’ year-long push results in congressional action on tax incentives

Washington-Congress' recent passage of legislation making permanent or extending several tax provisions important to agriculture is a great example of how the groundwork farmers and ranchers have laid all year can pay off. Over the past 12-plus months they have been explaining to their lawmakers how tax provisions like section 179 small business expensing and bonus depreciation make the difficult business of running a farm more manageable. 

In the past, Congress had approved one- or two-year extensions-sometimes retroactively-of these critical provisions. Though that was helpful, not knowing from one year to next whether key small business tax provisions would be available made it extremely challenging for farmers and ranchers to make the best decisions about equipment purchases and other farm and ranch improvements and investments. 

This year though, lawmakers made permanent a number of Farm Bureau-supported tax incentives, including Section 179 small business expensing, with a maximum amount of $500,000 and indexed for inflation. Also made permanent are provisions related to the donations of conservation easements, food donations (expanded for people using cash accounting), deductions for state and local sales taxes and charitable contributions to ag research organizations.  

Congress also provided for an additional 50 percent bonus depreciation for the purchase of new capital assets, including agricultural equipment, through 2017, 40 percent for 2018 and 30 percent for 2019. For the first time, trees, vines and plants bearing fruits or nuts are included. 

Provisions for home-grown, renewable fuels, which expired at the end of 2014, are extended through 2016.

Alongside the package of tax provisions, lawmakers on Capitol Hill headed off more than $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs from Canada and Mexico by repealing mandatory country-of-origin labeling for beef, chicken and pork sold in the U.S. Farm Bureau was one of the leading voices in calling for action on COOL when the World Trade Organization announced its decision to allow Canada and Mexico to impose the tariffs. 

Looking to 2016, farmers and ranchers will continue to build on the foundation they've laid this year on issues related to voluntary GMO labeling, Endangered Species Act reform, agriculture's labor needs and more.  

House Passes Interior Bill with Idaho Priorities

Simpson authored provisions would benefit Idaho and the West Washington,- The House of Representatives passed the fiscal year 2019 Inter...