Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday June 23 Ag News

Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation - PAC Endorses Pete Ricketts for Governor

Pete Ricketts has received the official “Friend of Agriculture” endorsement by NFBF-PAC, Nebraska Farm Bureau’s political action committee. Ricketts is the Republican Party candidate seeking to win the Nov. 4 General election for Governor. 

“Nebraska needs leaders who understand the importance of agriculture to our state’s economy and the importance of keeping farmers and ranchers on the land. Pete Ricketts shares that vision and because of that we are pleased to support him for Governor,” said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president.

According to Nelson, Ricketts’ policy platforms match well with Nebraska Farm Bureau’s key policy issues, particularly tax policy.

“The property tax burden on Nebraska farm and ranch families is not sustainable. We need meaningful tax reform that provides a balanced approach to funding local schools and local government. Pete Ricketts understands the inequities in our property tax system and we believe he’ll lead on this issue,” said Nelson.

Ricketts has also championed other agriculture policies supported by Farm Bureau members.

“Pete has been successful in business because he understands when opportunities exist.  There is a world of opportunity to grow Nebraska’s agriculture economy in a way that will keep younger generations coming back to the farm. That means creating a climate that encourages growth in our livestock farming sector and growth in biofuel businesses; and working to build markets for agriculture commodities. Pete Ricketts understands those opportunities and he’ll move our state in the right direction in those areas,” said Nelson.

“He also knows that water resources are critical to agriculture and he’s committed to working for policies that will keep water available to meet the needs of all Nebraskans, including farmers and ranchers” said Nelson.

Farm Bureau’s process for making endorsements is a grassroots process determined solely from input from County Farm Bureaus.

“Pete was the clear-cut choice of our County Farm Bureaus. To his credit, he’s worked very hard to get to know the challenges that face farm and ranch families and to build relationships with Farm Bureau members across our state. That was evident in the selection process.  We are proud to lend our support to Pete Ricketts in his bid for Governor and we look forward to working with him in that capacity,” Nelson said.

ACE Denies Causing Missouri Floods

(AP) --- The federal government says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shouldn't be blamed for causing major flooding along the Missouri River.

The government filed its initial response last week to a lawsuit that more than 200 landowners filed in March.

The federal lawsuit claimed landowners should be compensated for the extensive damage they experienced --- particularly during the extended 2011 flooding that devastated hundreds of thousands of acres of mostly farmland in South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.

Landowners say the government is putting less emphasis on flood control while deciding how to manage Missouri River reservoirs because of efforts to restore habitat for endangered species.

Government lawyers filed a 56-page response Thursday denying the allegations.

The lawsuit is likely to take several years to resolve.

Flame Weeding Workshop, August 14, 2014, Haskell Ag Lab, University of Nebraska, Concord, NE 

Propane fueled Flame Weeding is an acceptable method of weed (pest) control in organic farming, which is also gaining interest among conventional producers due to increase in weed resistance and costs of GMO crop seeds. 

We will present results from the 7-years of research conducted by the Teams of Dr. Stevan Knezevic (Weed Science) and Dr. George Gogos (Mechanical Engineering). This work is also documented in about 20 scientific publications, 100 abstracts presented at many Regional, National and International meetings, and a patent for flaming equipment.

Propane doses for weed control and crop tolerance data will be presented. Research update on winter annual weed control with flaming will be also covered.  Flame Weeding Manual will be provided.  Four and 8-row commercial type flamers with patented hoods for broadcast and banded flaming will be demonstrated. Inter-row cultivation and intra-row flaming combined in a single operation will also be demonstrated. Several local organic farmers will share their experience with flame weeding on their farms. 

We will teach you how to do proper flaming to control over 10 major Midwestern weeds in 7 agronomic crops (field corn, sweet corn, popcorn, soybean, sorghum, sunflower and wheat). Workshop is limited to 30 people, at the cost of $100 (lunch provided). 
AGENDA (tentative):

09:30 – 10:00 - Registration
10:00 – 10:15 – Introductions and overview of the program (Dr. Stevan Knezevic)  
10:15 – 10:30 – Basics of Flame Weeding and Equipment (Dr. Stevan Knezevic)
10:30 – 10:45 - Propane dose response for control of various weed species (Dr.Stevan Knezevic)  
10:45 – 12:00 - Field Demonstration of Flame Weeding Equipment and Procedures (Chris Bruening)
12:00 – 1:00 - Lunch (provided)
1:00 – 2:00 – Development of flaming hoods and torches (Dr. George Gogos )   
2:00 – 2:30 – Crop tolerance to single and multiple flaming (Dr. Stevan Knezevic)
2:30 – 2:45 – Break
2:45 – 3:15 – Flame weeding and cultivation in corn and soybean (Dr. Stevan Knezevic)
3:15 – 3:45 – Experience from local producers (Randy Fendrich, Larry Stanislav, Mike Ostry)
3:45 – 5:00 – Field Tour of flame weeding research and pertinent discussions 
5:00 - Adjourn

Partial scholarships available to certified organic farmers from Nebraska. For more information and registration contact Wendy Winstead, Ph: 402-584-3837,

2014 Nebraska Manure Demonstration Day

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
8:30 AM - 5:00 PM Central
Noon speaker and free meal (with registration)
Dawson County Fairgrounds
Lexington, NE

What is the Manure Demonstration Day?
It combines 3 attractions into 1 event.
-    See the latest manure handling equipment
-    Watch live demonstrations
-    Learn up-to-date information on manure management*

The 2014 Manure Demonstration Day, a smaller version of the North American Manure Expo, will focus on the needs of the manure industry in Nebraska. Participants can view vendors, demonstrations and will have opportunities to learn more about manure management and handling.

What you should know:

-    Nebraska hosted the North American Manure Expo in Norfolk, NE in July of 2011 and this event was very well received, attracting an estimated audience of about 1200 people.
-    Custom Manure Applicators in the state of Nebraska have requested another Manure Expo in Nebraska leading the Animal Manure Management Team to begin planning for this Nebraska Manure Demonstration Day based on the North American Manure Expo, but focusing on Nebraska.
-    The 2014 North American Manure Expo ( will be held on July 9, 2014 in Springfield, Missouri and in Pennsylvania in 2015.

Location and Facility:
-    The Dawson County Fairgrounds is located just North (3 miles) off Interstate 80 in Lexington, NE so it is easy to find.
-    Large indoor, arena building with restrooms nearby and outdoor space for larger exhibits.
-    20 acres of land application demonstration area immediately adjacent to the fairgrounds.

-    Livestock and poultry producers and professionals
-    Professional manure handlers, applicators and brokers
-    Handlers of both liquid and solid manures
-    Crop consultants and nutrient management specialists
-    Compost managers
-    Custom operators
-    Agricultural support industry
-    Extension and agency personnel

Planned Education Topics:
-   PEDV, composted manures, using manure on crops, mortality composting, soil health following manure application

For more information:
Exhibitor and Sponsor Registration:
Sandi Karstens
402-472-1772 or 800-328-2851

All other information requests:
Leslie Johnson

Landowner’s Nebraska Supreme Court Brief Filed in Lawsuit v. Governor

Landowners filed their written arguments (available here) with the Nebraska Supreme Court late Friday, June 20. Randy Thompson, Suz Straka and Susan Dunavan filed the case in May 2012 to challenge the validity of LB 1161. The law was passed by the Unicameral during the 2012 Presidential election when the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline was gaining early notice as a political issue. The landowners claim the law was passed as a partisan act and special favor to the foreign pipeline company to allow it to condemn land and take it from private owners.

The Landowners’ Brief argues that LB 1161 violates the Nebraska Constitution because the law; a) improperly lets the Governor approve a route for the pipeline when this duty is conferred strictly on the Public Service Commission;  b) improperly allows the Governor to confer the power of eminent domain on a private company; c) requires the State to pledge its credit and money to finance a route investigation for a private party; and d) denies citizens proper legal procedures because LB 1161 contains no legal standard for decisions and no provision for judicial review. 

In February, the District Court in Lincoln ruled for the landowners and declared LB 1161 invalid.  Gov. Heineman and the Attorney General appealed.  Summarizing the appeal, and responsive arguments, the Landowners’ argue:

Heineman’s argument for reversal and for a decision upholding LB 1161 as a lawful delegation of authority to the Governor turns on what is a “common carrier”.  He contends  LB 1161 does not regulate common carriers. [He is wrong.]  LB 1161 contains telltale admissions that it does apply to common carriers. First, in §1 (E3, p3) it refers to “transporting or conveying” products “through or across” Nebraska. Second, §1 confers the power to extend eminent domain authority to approved pipeline carriers though this term does not appear until later. Third, the term used in LB 1161 is “Commission”  [and this means  the PSC.]  Fourth, [LB 1161] uses the term “pipeline carrier”. Fifth, the power of eminent domain is only exercisable when a taking is for a “public purpose”. Unless TransCanada is a common carrier that carries goods for others, it is just a private company doing nothing for the public, and there is no public purpose.

Dave Domina, the Landowners’ lawyer commented:
“Our clients defense of the Constitution continues. Protecting individual liberties and property rights while guarding against expedient political shortcuts for big oil favors continues to be the focus of this case. The Attorney General’s office has the opportunity to file a final reply brief and to answer our cross appeal raising more issues about this law. We will then get the final word. I suspect the case will be heard by the Supreme Court in September or perhaps October.”

On April 18, 2014, the U.S. Department of State extended the timetable for its decision on the proposed KXL pipeline project citing the Nebraska constitutional challenge lawsuit correctly noting the outcome of the case will affect the Nebraska route. After this announcement Domina stated “I am not surprised. The President has insisted that he have all the facts about the pipeline and the route before making his Executive Decision.  Nebraska’s Supreme Court must decide a state law question. The decision bears directly on where, when, and if the pipeline company will be permitted to operate across Nebraska. The President knows the current route may change. And it should… it still crosses the Ogallala aquifer.”

“My landowner clients are standing up for the Nebraska Constitution in the face of an attempt by big oil and politicians to run over it,” added Domina.

If the district court’s decision in favor of the landowners is upheld by the Nebraska Supreme Court, any pipeline route review would go to the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC). The PSC review process could take approximately 7 months.

Landowner Supreme Court Brief:

Third Annual Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit Focused on New Market Drivers   

As intense summer storms continue to trek across the state, Iowa farmers know that weather is one factor they can’t control, but emerging technology is helping today’s farmers scout fields, spot and fix rain-washed areas of their field and can even help them make more efficient use of fertilizer or pesticides.  The upcoming 2014 Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit, ‘Finding the Next Set of Market Drivers for Agriculture,’ brings the nation’s leading drones, big data and agriculture technology and marketing experts to the Scheman Center, July 21-22, in Ames to help Iowa crop and livestock farmers make the most of emerging technology.           

“We are on the cusp of change in a lot of technologies and we don’t know all of its potential yet.  In fact, in a lot of cases, we don’t even know yet what questions to ask about technology, so it makes sense to bring in some of the experts at the IFBF summit to provide insights into the potential opportunities and pitfalls of the drone and big data technology,” says IFBF Director of Research and Commodity Services Dave Miller.   

The 2014 IFBF Economic Summit brings in national experts to help Iowa farmers explore a number of areas which have potential to greatly influence profitability of Iowa-grown commodities.   The two-day IFBF Economic Summit features several national experts, including: David Oppedahl, economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago; Mary Kay Thatcher, farm policy expert for the American Farm Bureau Federation; Kevin Price, a national expert on the use of drones in agriculture; and Will Zhang, an Iowa-based expert on China.  Summit registration, which includes access to all presentations and lunch on both days, is $50 for Farm Bureau members.  For non-members, registration completed before July 11 is $150.  Registration costs increase after July 11 to $75 for Farm Bureau members and $175 for non-members. 


Egg  production  in  Iowa  during May  2014 was  1.31  billion eggs, up 5 percent from last month, and up 3 percent from last year, according  to  the  latest Chickens and Eggs  release  from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. 

The  total  number  of  layers  on  hand  during  May  was 54.5 million, up 1 percent  from  last month  and up 3 percent from  the  53.1 million  last  year.  Eggs  per  100  layers  for  the month of May were 2,395; up 4 percent from last month, and up fractionally from 2,384 last year.

US Egg Production Up 3 Percent

United States egg production totaled 8.24 billion during May 2014, up 3 percent from last year. Production included 7.15 billion table eggs, and 1.09 billion hatching eggs, of which 1.01 billion were broiler-type and 78 million were egg-type. The total number of layers during May 2014 averaged 352 million, up 2 percent from last year. May egg production per 100 layers was 2,337 eggs, up slightly from May 2013. 

All layers in the United States on June 1, 2014 totaled 352 million, up 2 percent from last year. The 352 million layers  consisted  of  296  million  layers  producing  table  or  market  type  eggs,  53.6  million  layers  producing broiler-type hatching eggs, and 3.08 million  layers producing egg-type hatching eggs. Rate of  lay per day on June 1, 2014, averaged 74.9 eggs per 100 layers, down slightly from June 1, 2013.

USDA Cold Storage Highlights

Total red meat supplies in freezers on May 31, 2014 were down 3 percent from the previous month and down 16 percent from last year. Total pounds of beef in freezers were down 6 percent from the previous month and down 21 percent from last year. Frozen pork supplies were down 1 percent from the previous month and down 13 percent from last year. Stocks of pork bellies were up 3 percent from last month and up 57 percent from last year.

Total frozen poultry supplies were up 8 percent from the previous month but down 15 percent from a year ago. Total stocks of chicken were up 5 percent from the previous month but down 12 percent from last year. Total pounds of turkey in freezers were up 13 percent from last month but down 19 percent from May 31, 2013.

Total natural cheese stocks in refrigerated warehouses on May 31, 2014 were up 3 percent from the previous month but down 7 percent from May 31, 2013.  Butter stocks were up 11 percent from last month but down 40 percent from a year ago.

Total frozen fruit stocks were down 7 percent from last month and down 5 percent from a year ago.  Total frozen vegetable stocks were down 8 percent from last month and down 4 percent from a year ago.

New York Hog Farmers Thank Legislature For Supporting Humane Farming Rights

The New York Pork Producers, the National Pork Producers Council and America’s hog farmers today hailed the New York Legislature for not taking up ill-advised legislation banning the use of individual maternity pens for pregnant sows. The pens are approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.

If passed, the legislation would have had a devastating effect on local sustainable farming in New York by forcing farmers to abandon the humane animal housing practice. New York family farmers use individual maternity pens because they allow for personalized animal care and eliminate pregnancy aggression from other sows. Banning the practice could have resulted in financial damage and, potentially, destroyed a sustainable and affordable food source for New Yorkers.

“New York hog farmers are pleased the legislature realized there are far more critical issues to consider than attacking small family farms in rural New York,” said Ed Keller, president of the New York Pork Producers.

The legislation was pushed by well-funded animal-rights lobbying groups, which have dramatically increased their legislative efforts in the last few years, organizing in as many as six states at a time. While extreme animal-rights proponents have expended and wasted significant resources in many states, 41 states have refused to pass similar legislation into law. The victory in New York marks two years since a state legislature has been misled into passing similar misguided legislation against family farmers.

“Sure, the animal-rights groups had some early successes, but now that legislators are hearing both sides of the issue, they are choosing to allow the farmers to care for their animals the best way they can,” Keller said.

CHS Inc. files $2 billion shelf registration statement

CHS Inc. announced Friday it has filed a shelf registration statement on Form S-3 with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC"). Under the shelf registration, upon being declared effective by the SEC, CHS may offer and sell, from time to time, up to $2 billion of its Class B cumulative redeemable preferred stock over the next three years.

The shelf registration statement is intended to give CHS additional flexibility to finance future business opportunities by accessing the capital markets on a timely and cost-effective basis. At the present time, the Company has no specific plans to issue preferred stock under the registration statement. The specifics of any future offering, along with the prices and terms of any such preferred stock and the use of proceeds of a particular offering, will be determined at the time of any such offering and will be described in a prospectus supplement filed in connection with such offering.

CHS President and Chief Executive Officer Carl Casale said the filing was a strategic move intended to provide flexibility. "The shelf registration statement provides us financial flexibility for general corporate purposes. In addition, it streamlines the process in the event we identify strategic opportunities that may require additional capital."

The shelf registration statement relating to the preferred stock has been filed with the SEC but has not yet become effective. The preferred stock may not be sold nor may offers to buy be accepted prior to the time the shelf registration statement becomes effective. Any offering of the preferred stock will be made solely by means of a prospectus and an accompanying prospectus supplement relating to that offering. A copy of the prospectus included in the registration statement may be obtained on the SEC's website at

First Participants in Conservation Stewardship Program Can Renew for Five More Years

Producers with expiring U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) contracts have from July 11 until Sept. 12, 2014 to renew and add conservation activities that will support their natural resource improvement activities and fine-tune their conservation plans.

“CSP farmers are conservation leaders and go the extra mile to conserve our nation’s resources,” said Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Jason Weller. “The 2014 Farm Bill continued that strong commitment and heightened the program’s focus on generating conservation benefits.  This program allows landowners to reach the next level of conservation and opens the door to trying new conservation activities.”

About 20,000 CSP contracts are reaching the end of their initial five-year contract period and may be renewed for an additional five years when participants agree to take additional conservation actions.

The program provides opportunities for farmers and ranchers who are already established conservation stewards, helping them improve water quality and quantity, soil health and wildlife habitat.  Renewal applications will be accepted beginning on July 11, 2014. There will also be another signup in fiscal year 2015.

More than 58 million acres were enrolled in the program – an area the size of Indiana and Wisconsin combined, following the launch of the program in 2009.  CSP participants boost their operations’ conservation benefits by installing new conservation activities that make positive changes in soil, water, air quality and wildlife habitat.

For example, the program helped Kentucky cattle farmers, Jake and Jondra Shadowen, improve the health of their cattle as well as the surrounding environment.

Through CSP, the Shadowens send manure samples to a laboratory for analysis six times a year to gauge cattle health and see how their cows are responding to forage. They also built wildlife-friendly fences, escape routes in water troughs, and added pollinator habitat to the farm.

The farm is now a model for the community and has been used for soil health demonstrations to help others see the benefit of rotational grazing and added conservation practices.

To learn about technical and financial assistance available through CSP, visit, the Conservation Stewardship webpage or local USDA service center. For more on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit

USDA Announces New Support for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden today announced the implementation of new Farm Bill measures and other policy changes to improve the financial security of new and beginning farmers and ranchers. Harden also unveiled, a new website that will provide a centralized, one-stop resource where beginning farmers and ranchers can explore the variety of USDA initiatives designed to help them succeed.

"New and beginning farmers are the future of American agriculture," said Deputy Secretary Harden. "The average age of an American farmer is 58 and rising, so we must help new farmers get started if America is going to continue feeding the world and maintain a strong agriculture economy. The new policies announced today will help give beginning farmers the financial security they need to succeed. Our new online tool will provide one-stop shopping for beginning farmers to learn more about accessing USDA services that can help their operations thrive."

USDA's New Farmers website has in depth information for new farmers and ranchers, including: how to increase access to land and capital; build new market opportunities; participate in conservation opportunities; select and use the right risk management tools; and access USDA education, and technical support programs. These issues have been identified as top priorities by new farmers. The website will also feature instructive case studies about beginning farmers who have successfully utilized USDA resources to start or expand their business operations.

Today's policy announcements in support of beginning farmers and ranchers include:
-    Waiving service fees for new and beginning farmers or ranchers to enroll in the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) for the 2014 crop year. NAP provides risk management tools to farmers who grow crops for which there is no crop insurance product. Under this waiver, announced via an official notice (PDF, 171KB) to Farm Service Agency offices, farmers and ranchers whom already enrolled in NAP for the 2014 crop year are eligible for a service fee refund.
-    Eliminating payment reductions under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for new and beginning farmers which will allow routine, prescribed, and emergency grazing outside the primary nesting season on enrolled land consistent with approved conservation plans. Previously, farmers and ranchers grazing on CRP land were subject to a reduction in CRP payments of up to 25 percent. Waiving these reductions for new and beginning farmers will provide extra financial support during times of emergency like drought and other natural disasters.
-    Increasing payment rates to beginning farmers and ranchers under Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) (PDF, 288KB). Under this provision, beginning and farmers can claim up 90 percent of losses for lost livestock, such as bees, under ELAP. This is a fifty percent increase over previously available payment amounts to new and beginning farmers.

In the near future, USDA will also announce additional crop insurance program changes for beginning farmers and ranchers – including discounted premiums, waiver of administrative fees, and other benefits.

These policy announcements are made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit

The Deputy Secretary made these announcements at the inaugural meeting of the reconvened Beginning Farmer and Rancher Advisory Committee held at the University of California Davis, California. This Advisory Committee, composed of 20 members, including Extension agents, lenders, farmers, ranchers and academics will meet through 2015 to learn, discuss, and formulate recommendations to USDA on how to support new and beginning farmers.

A fact sheet outlining significant USDA efforts to support beginning farmers and ranchers, and other Department-wide accomplishments, are available on

Monsanto Mulled Bid for Swiss Rival Syngenta

Seed giant Monsanto Co. considered a takeover of Syngenta AG, a Swiss rival, in part driven by the possibility of relocating Monsanto's tax location to Switzerland, Bloomberg News reported Monday on its website, citing people familiar with the matter.

The two companies in the past few months held preliminary talks with advisers about a deal. However, Syngenta management nixed negotiations and a combination now is defunct, the people said.

Lee Quarles, a spokesman for Monsanto, told Bloomberg that the company is "not in discussions on this particular matter," and a spokesman for Syngenta declined comment.

UC Davis MIND Institute study finds association between maternal exposure to agricultural pesticides, autism in offspring

Pregnant women who lived in close proximity to fields and farms where chemical pesticides were applied experienced a two-thirds increased risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental delay, a study by researchers with the UC Davis MIND Institute has found. The associations were stronger when the exposures occurred during the second and third trimesters of the women’s pregnancies.

The large, multisite California-based study examined associations between specific classes of pesticides, including organophosphates, pyrethroids and carbamates, applied during the study participants’ pregnancies and later diagnoses of autism and developmental delay in their offspring. It is published online today in Environmental Health Perspectives.

“This study validates the results of earlier research that has reported associations between having a child with autism and prenatal exposure to agricultural chemicals in California,” said lead study author Janie F. Shelton, a UC Davis graduate student who now consults with the United Nations. “While we still must investigate whether certain sub-groups are more vulnerable to exposures to these compounds than others, the message is very clear: Women who are pregnant should take special care to avoid contact with agricultural chemicals whenever possible.”

California is the top agricultural producing state in the nation, grossing $38 billion in revenue from farm crops in 2010. Statewide, approximately 200 million pounds of active pesticides are applied each year, most of it in the Central Valley, north to the Sacramento Valley and south to the Imperial Valley on the California-Mexico border. While pesticides are critical for the modern agriculture industry, certain commonly used pesticides are neurotoxic and may pose threats to brain development during gestation, potentially resulting in developmental delay or autism.

The study was conducted by examining commercial pesticide application using the California Pesticide Use Report and linking the data to the residential addresses of approximately 1,000 participants in the Northern California-based Childhood Risk of Autism from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) Study. The study includes families with children between 2 and 5 diagnosed with autism or developmental delay or with typical development. It is led by principal investigator Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a MIND Institute researcher and professor and vice chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences at UC Davis. The majority of study participants live in the Sacramento Valley, Central Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

Twenty-one chemical compounds were identified in the organophosphate class, including chlorpyrifos, acephate and diazinon. The second most commonly applied class of pesticides was pyrethroids, one quarter of which was esfenvalerate, followed by lambda-cyhalothrin permethrin, cypermethrin and tau-fluvalinate. Eighty percent of the carbamates were methomyl and carbaryl.

For the study, researchers used questionnaires to obtain study participants' residential addresses during the pre-conception and pregnancy periods. The addresses then were overlaid on maps with the locations of agricultural chemical application sites based on the pesticide-use reports to determine residential proximity. The study also examined which participants were exposed to which agricultural chemicals.

“We mapped where our study participants’ lived during pregnancy and around the time of birth. In California, pesticide applicators must report what they’re applying, where they’re applying it, dates when the applications were made and how much was applied,” Hertz-Picciotto said. “What we saw were several classes of pesticides more commonly applied near residences of mothers whose children developed autism or had delayed cognitive or other skills.”

The researchers found that during the study period approximately one-third of CHARGE Study participants lived in close proximity – within 1.25 to 1.75 kilometers – of commercial pesticide application sites. Some associations were greater among mothers living closer to application sites and lower as residential proximity to the application sites decreased, the researchers found.

Organophosphates applied over the course of pregnancy were associated with an elevated risk of autism spectrum disorder, particularly for chlorpyrifos applications in the second trimester. Pyrethroids were moderately associated with autism spectrum disorder immediately prior to conception and in the third trimester. Carbamates applied during pregnancy were associated with developmental delay.

Exposures to insecticides for those living near agricultural areas may be problematic, especially during gestation, because the developing fetal brain may be more vulnerable than it is in adults. Because these pesticides are neurotoxic, in utero exposures during early development may distort the complex processes of structural development and neuronal signaling, producing alterations to the excitation and inhibition mechanisms that govern mood, learning, social interactions and behavior.

“In that early developmental gestational period, the brain is developing synapses, the spaces between neurons, where electrical impulses are turned into neurotransmitting chemicals that leap from one neuron to another to pass messages along. The formation of these junctions is really important and may well be where these pesticides are operating and affecting neurotransmission,” Hertz-Picciotto said.

Research from the CHARGE Study has emphasized the importance of maternal nutrition during pregnancy, particularly the use of prenatal vitamins to reduce the risk of having a child with autism. While it’s impossible to entirely eliminate risks due to environmental exposures, Hertz-Picciotto said that finding ways to reduce exposures to chemical pesticides, particularly for the very young, is important.

“We need to open up a dialogue about how this can be done, at both a societal and individual level,” she said. “If it were my family, I wouldn't want to live close to where heavy pesticides are being applied.”

Other study authors include Estella M Geraghty, Daniel J. Tancredi, Lora D. Delwiche, Rebecca J. Schmidt, Beate Ritz and Robin L. Hansen, all of UC Davis.

The work was supported by grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences R01-ES015359, P01-ES011269 and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grants R833292 and 829338. The study is available free of charge at:

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