Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday April 21 Ag News

Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension Forage Specialist

Alfalfa should be greening up in most areas.  At least those plants that survived the winter.

Alfalfa usually comes through the winter in pretty good shape in our area, so rarely do I worry much about it.  And I hope we will avoid serious losses this year.

But — some fields went into winter in weakened shape because of the dry summer.  And, the lack of snow cover this winter could have permitted cold injury.  Or more likely, it enabled cold, dry winter winds to dry out and kill some exposed plants.

Evaluate your own stands early this spring.  Older, dryland fields that have fewer than 30 new shoots per square foot coming from 2 or 3 plants may need to be rotated soon to a different crop and new fields planted to alfalfa.  Very productive sites, such as irrigated and sub-irrigated fields, should have at least 40 shoots per square foot from 4 to 6 plants.  Anything less is a strong candidate for rotation.  We tend to lose about one tenth of a ton in yield potential for every shoot below these numbers.

Check for these densities in several areas of your fields when the early shoots are 4 to 6 inches tall.  Many fields should already have that kind of growth.  Since some shoots begin growing later than others, stands with enough plants but slightly low shoot density may be alright, especially if shoot height and distribution is fairly uniform.  But, if plant density is low, or shoot growth is not uniform, yields probably will be lowered.

Check your alfalfa stands as growth begins.  Then you will still have time to make any needed changes in your cropping plans.

Meat labeling terms – What do they mean?
No-added Hormones, No Antibiotics, and Humanely Raised

Lindsay Chichester, UNL Extension Educator, Saunders County

How many times have you been grocery shopping or watching your favorite television program and you see and/or hear that no-added hormones is better? Or that you should be consuming "no antibiotics" meat? It can be confusing, overwhelming, and frustrating – who do you trust? Below I will provide you with the facts and truth, as well as resources to do some homework of your own.

No-added Hormones

All cellular organisms contain hormones, they are naturally occurring – there is no such thing as hormone free! When something is labeled “hormone free” or “no hormones”, it is a misnomer (as they are naturally occurring). The correct wording should be “no-added hormones”, “raised without added hormones”, “no hormones administered”, or “no synthetic hormones” (Labels that tell you a little, n.d.).

Hormones are NOT allowed in hog, poultry, or bison production. The statement “no hormones added” CANNOT be used on any packaging for pork and/or poultry items, unless it is followed by a statement that says “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in poultry/pork” (Meat and poultry labeling terms, 2011; Labels that tell you a little, n.d.), so as not to mislead consumers into believing that these meat protein products were grown with additional hormones.

For other meat production animals, the term “no hormones administered” may be approved for use on the label if there is sufficient documentation indicating the producer has raised the animal without additional hormones (Meat and poultry labeling terms, 2011).

Labels indicating that no additional hormones were used can be used in any of the previously mentioned systems – organic, all-natural, naturally raised, grass-fed, grain-fed (organic and naturally raised are the only systems that do not allow for the use of additional hormones). These labels do not account for the diet of the animal, access to pasture, or how the meat was processed.

No Antibiotics

Is also referred to as “raised without antibiotics” or “no antibiotics administered”. The term “no antibiotics added” may be used on labels for meat and/or poultry products if the producer can provide sufficient documentation indicating the animal was raised without antibiotics (Meat and poultry labeling terms, 2011; Labels that tell you a little, n.d.). This indicates that no antibiotics were used on the animal in its lifetime. Antibiotics are used to prevent and treat disease in animals – just like in humans. If an animal does have to be treated with an antibiotic for illness, the meat, milk, and/or eggs cannot be sold in an organic or naturally raised system and cannot have a label with the wording “raised without antibiotics” (Meat and poultry labeling terms, 2011).

Labels indicating that no antibiotics were used can be used in any of the previously mentioned systems – organic, all-natural, naturally raised, grass-fed, grain-fed (organic and naturally raised are the only systems that do not allow for the use of additional hormones). The no antibiotic labels do not account for the diet of the animal, access to pasture, or how the meat was processed.

When trying to decide which meat option is best for you, it is important to purchase meats that support your values and beliefs, as well as meats that fit into your budget. Shopping around is always advisable too. You have many options when it comes to purchasing meat, you may be able to purchase meat directly from a producer, a small or local butcher shop, your local retailer, or a bulk retailer. Finally, you may decide you prefer the taste of one of the meat types over another, and purchase based on taste and your family preference.

Humanely Raised

It can be difficult finding a clear and accurate definition of “humanely raised”. A list of possible criterion that a livestock producer would need to provide to his/her livestock to be considered “humanely raised” has been generated below from several sources.

Humanely raised can be:
- Produced in an ethical and humane fashion
- Raised with minimal stress
- Access to ample feed and water
- No antibiotics
- No additional hormones
- Are not fed animal products/byproducts
- Anything that doesn’t come from a factory farm
- Animals raised on pastures
- Animals allowed to act naturally
- Product traceability back to the farmer
- Certified by a trustworthy, independent organization
- Processed in a conscience manner

First, the humane label varies in its definition from program to program. These labels are not regulated under any USDA programs (USDA, 2012). This means that humane certification programs are provided through third-party, independent verifications – and the standards of each of these programs vary and are frequently arbitrary. The established standards for each of these programs are generally created, reviewed, and updated by an advisory committee. The members of this advisory committee are persons who may or may not be “experts” in food production, animal health, animal behavior, and/or animal care. Again, this advisory committee is chosen at the discretion of each humane certification program. Each of the humane certification programs should list and provide more information on the scientific advisory committee members; it is always advisable to investigate members and what organizations they represent. Are they from a university (in which they should be providing research based, unbiased information) or are they from an industry group? Some of the humane certification programs have used the “Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare” (Farm Animal Welfare Council, 2009) to guide their standards.

To be enrolled in a voluntary humane labeling program the livestock producer will pay a fee for the humane certification program organization to come out and conduct audits/site visits on his/her farm. The humane labeling program may provide feedback and guidance to the producer on ways they can better meet the standards. A follow-up audit or visit may be necessary before the livestock producer receives official “humane labeling” capabilities. Additionally, the producer may have audits/farm visits at regular intervals to ensure he/she is staying in compliance to the program standards.

The programs are so numerous I won’t explore all of the possible programs, their standards, fees, and criterion here as there are many of them. But I do want to highlight a couple of the ones I thought provided interesting or useful information.

The American Humane Association (American Humane Association, 2013) claims to be the first welfare certification program in the U.S. to ensure the humane treatment of farm animals, with history dating back to 1877! Not only do they protect farm animals from abuse and neglect, they also protect children and pets.

Certified Humane has actually done a pretty good job of comparing some of the standards for chicken beef, and pigs in comparison to other organizations (Humane Farm Animal Care Standards: Chickens, Beef Cattle, and Pigs, 2013). They have also provided one that is unique to just laying hens (Humane Farm Animal Care Standards: Laying Hens, 2013). These can be handy tools as there can be a large number of organizations offering humanely labeled certifications, making it a daunting task to compare and contrast the benefits of each.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), is responsible for verifying the humane treatment of livestock in harvest (slaughter) facilities. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) was originally passed in 1958; in 1978 the USDA’s FSIS passed the Humane Slaughter Act. This Act requires the proper treatment and humane handling of all food animals harvested in USDA inspected slaughter plants. However, it does not apply to chickens or other birds (

You may be thinking why don’t all livestock producers enroll in a humane certification program? Some livestock producers choose to enroll in a voluntary, fee-based humane certification program to be able to offer a choice to consumers at the meat counter. As with most other special labeling claims, there is usually a price difference in meat products with the humane label versus meat products without the humane label. If “humanely raised” is important to you, you have the choice to purchase that product.

The important thing you should know is that farmers and ranchers do their very best to provide humane care to their animals. Unfortunately, there are rare occasions when a producer is not humane to the animals he/she is raising. That is not ok and not acceptable!

Distilling Food Safety Facts from Fiction

Senator Mike Johanns

An agreement between otherwise-unlikely business partners has helped to keep our livestock fed and landfills empty. Brewers, looking for a place to dispose of spent grains, such as oats, barley and hops, provided the nutrient-rich mash to livestock producers, who used it for fodder to nourish their animals throughout the year. The environmentally-friendly practice caught on, and still exists in many places today, including right here in Nebraska.
Ethanol producers have gotten in the mix. Their byproduct, distillers grain, often has semis lined up for hours at ethanol plants to haul loads off to local feed yards. It’s a mutually beneficial, sustainable partnership that provides cost-effective, high-quality feed for livestock and reduces waste management expenses for byproduct producers, all while preventing countless tons of usable material from clogging our landfills each year.

In Nebraska, where we produce more red meat than any other state in the nation and are second in ethanol production, this relationship is especially important. We produce a large amount of distillers grain and we have a lot of livestock to feed. So when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a proposal earlier this year that could put an end to this symbiotic relationship, frustration began brewing.

Food safety is a top priority, and it is always important to be proactive. But, tinkering with time-tested, safe and eco-friendly practices that benefit producer and consumer alike defies common sense. That’s why I am urging the FDA to exempt distillers grain, raw ag commodities and other food byproducts used for animal feed from proposed regulations as FDA works to protect a safe and healthy food supply.

Preventative measures rooted in science and common sense are a core part of our efforts to mitigate risk and maintain high-quality food standards at every point in the production process. Unfortunately, proposals like this livestock feed rule, as originally drafted, only burden businesses with rigid requirements that provide little, if any, benefit, and do nothing to protect our food supply.

FDA’s original proposal would require businesses like ethanol producers and breweries to prepare and package byproducts from natural food and commodities used for animal feed. This would syphon away time and money from the primary mission of these businesses. Complying would mean purchasing expensive drying and packaging equipment that would make the endeavor cost prohibitive and inefficient.

Halting the practice altogether would create a bottleneck in the supply chain for livestock producers, who would be forced to seek new, and likely more expensive avenues to feed their animals. Businesses generating spent grains would also take a hit. Some ethanol producers report sales of distillers grain account for a quarter of their profits. Disposing of the byproduct would result in higher waste management expenses, and a perfectly safe and usable product would be left to rot in landfills.

FDA has promised to revise the proposed rule, and I will keep a close watch to ensure these exemptions are part of the final product.  It’s also important that FDA focus its efforts on rules that sustain a safe food supply rather than prevent its expansion.

Nebraska Livestock Expansion White Paper

(from UNL)

The “Nebraska Advantage” is comprised of an interrelated system of crops, livestock and biofuel production capacity that is basically unmatched anywhere in the country. Nebraska is ranked 1st in irrigated acres, commercial red meat production, and tied with Texas for cattle on feed, 2nd in corn-based ethanol production, 3rd in corn for grain production, 4th in soybean production, 5th in all hay production, 6th in all hogs and pigs, and 7th in commercial hog slaughter. The relationship between corn, soybeans and biofuels along with livestock production has been branded the “Golden Triangle.” The Golden Triangle is an interconnected system that leads to synergistic opportunities and outcomes as wells as value-added economic activity.

The Golden Triangle production cluster relies on the strength of all the component industries to survive and thrive and there are concerns that the Nebraska Advantage is not operating to its full potential and may even be slipping in rigor in recent years. Despite economic advantages for livestock production in Nebraska, the industry has not grown in the past two decades at rates comparable to neighboring states.

A paper recently released, “Nebraska Livestock Expansion White Paper” explores the issues and policies that have constrained the livestock development in the state and the economic benefits that accompany livestock expansion. The paper can be found at:

Osborn Releases plan for American Energy Independence In Five Years

U.S. Senate Candidate Shane Osborn today released his plan for American Energy independence in five years. 

“The best way we can grow this economy is through North American energy independence,” said Shane Osborn.  “We have access to a diversified energy portfolio right here at home, which includes fossil fuels, biofuels and nuclear power, amongst other energy sources.  Becoming energy independent will create millions of jobs and will help get America back on track.”

The strategy is built upon the following principles:
·         Build The Keystone XL Pipeline
·         Entrust The States To Regulate Offshore Drilling & Fracking
·         Export Natural Gas Resources To Ensure National Security
·         Rely On North American Energy Partners Until American Energy Independence Is Reality
·         Halt The EPA’s Over-Regulation of Coal
·         Expand Our Use Of Nuclear Power
·         Allow The Free Market to Invest In Wind, Solar, Hydroelectric, And Geothermal Power

The full plan can be viewed at:

USDA Reports Total Red Meat Production Down Slightly in 2013

Total red meat production for the United States totaled 49.3 billion pounds in 2013, slightly lower than the previous year.  Red meat includes beef, veal, pork, and lamb and mutton.  Red meat production in commercial plants totaled 49.2 billion pounds.  On-farm slaughter totaled 95.6 million pounds.

Beef production totaled 25.8 billion pounds, down 1 percent from the previous year.  Veal production totaled 118 million pounds, down 6 percent from last year.  Pork production, at 23.2 billion pounds, was slightly below the previous year.  Lamb and mutton production totaled 161 million pounds, up slightly from 2012.

Commercial cattle slaughter during 2013 totaled 32.5 million head, down 1 percent from 2012, with federal inspection comprising 98.4 percent of the total.  The average live weight was 1,314 pounds, up 12 pounds from a year ago.  Steers comprised 50.1 percent of the total federally inspected cattle slaughter, heifers 28.6 percent, dairy cows 9.8 percent, other cows 9.8 percent, and bulls 1.7 percent.

Commercial calf slaughter totaled 762,000 head, 1 percent lower than a year ago with 98.6 percent under federal inspection.  The average live weight was 250 pounds, down 10 pounds from a year earlier.

Commercial hog slaughter totaled 112.1 million head, 1 percent lower than 2012 with 99.3 percent of the hogs slaughtered under federal inspection.  The average live weight was up 1 pound from last year, at 276 pounds.  Barrows and gilts comprised 97.0 percent of the total federally inspected hog slaughter.

Commercial sheep and lamb slaughter, at 2.32 million head, was up 6 percent from the previous year with 91.4 percent by federal inspection.  The average live weight was down 8 pounds from 2012 at 135 pounds.  Lambs and yearlings comprised 93.7 percent of the total federally inspected sheep slaughter.

Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas accounted for 49% percent of the United States commercial red meat production in 2013, similar to 2012.

Commercial Cattle Slaughter

Nebraska ....:   2013 - 6,868,900 head;  2012 - 6,731,800 head
Nebraska ...: Total Live Weight:  2013 - 9,389,899,000 pounds; 2012 - 9,164,435,000 pounds
Nebraska ....Average Live Wt:  2013  - 1,368 pounds; 2012 - 1,362 pounds

Commercial Hog Slaughter

Nebraska ...: 2013 -  7,595,600 head;   2012 -  7,890,800 head
Iowa ..........: 2013 - 29,593,700 head;  2012 - 30,158,500 head
Nebraska ...:  Total Live Weight - 2013 - 2,076,000,000 pounds;  2012 - 2,155,431,000 pounds
Iowa ..........:  Total Live Weight - 2013 - 8,185,368,000 pounds;  2012 - 8,291,508,000 pounds
Nebraska ...:  Average Live Weight - 2013 - 273 pounds;  2012 - 273 pounds
Iowa ..........:  Average Live Weight - 2013 - 277 pounds;  2012 - 275 pounds 

There were 831 plants slaughtering under federal inspection on January 1, 2014 compared with 826 last year.  Of these, 638 plants slaughtered at least one head of cattle during 2013 with the 13 largest plants slaughtering 55 percent of the total cattle killed.  Hogs were slaughtered at 606 plants, with the 12 largest plants accounting for 57 percent of the total.  Likewise, 5 of the 209 plants that slaughtered calves accounted for 62 percent of the total and 3 of the 516 plants that slaughtered sheep or lambs in 2013 comprised 57 percent of the total head.   

Online Chinese Pork Promotion Draws Rave Reviews

A recent online promotion for U.S. pork the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) conducted with China’s leading business-to-consumer platform,, drew rave reviews from Chinese consumers and strong results for U.S. pork suppliers.

The seven-day promotion, developed with support from the Pork Checkoff, highlighted’s nationwide 24- to 48-hour delivery service and gave thousands of Chinese consumers the opportunity to learn about U.S. pork through videos and recipes developed by master chefs, and to order U.S. pork for home delivery.

Within the first five days, the three participating U.S. suppliers had sold nearly 3,000 one-kilo orders (2.2 pounds per kilo) — 6,600 pounds — of U.S. pork. Within five more days, total orders jumped to 7,000. Equally impressive were the consumer reactions posted on the website:
-    ”I got delivery on the next morning. The pork looks red and fresh. The pork tasted very tender and far better than the normal pork. Several minutes later, we finished the pork.”
-    “The delivery was so fast that it was sent to my home the next morning around 9 o’clock. I couldn’t wait until dinner, so I had the U.S. pork for lunch. The pork was thin and tender. I finished all the pork very soon.”
-    “The pork looks very fresh – different from the pork on the wet market. I can’t wait to put the pork on the electric grill and make barbecue pork. The barbecue pork was very fresh and tender – very good taste.”
-    “The pork is fresh and of good taste. It’s a good choice to make barbecue with U.S. pork. I would strongly recommend you taste it.”

“This shopping channel creates different buying experiences for consumers,” said Joel Haggard, senior vice president for USMEF-Asia-Pacific. “It opens up sales of U.S. pork to the whole of China.”

Haggard also noted that the enthusiastic comments made by shoppers serve as a positive reference for U.S. pork, and quick feedback from the first satisfied shoppers likely helped inspire some of the subsequent purchases.

“The expanded brand recognition certainly helps boost the confidence level of retail and food service distributors of U.S. pork,” he said. And the convenience of being able to order and ship products online is expected to boost the sales of meat products during the holiday season. Gifts of meat are popular in many Asian countries, including China.

USMEF-China and are exploring additional collaborative efforts. While U.S. pork was the first imported pork to take advantage of the e-commerce channel, competitors from Australia, New Zealand and other markets are also beginning to utilize it for their sales and marketing.

Sales from online shopping in China last year reportedly reached an estimated 1.84 trillion yuan (nearly $296 billion) in gross merchandise value, according to iResearch, an increase of 39.4 percent over 2012. is the leading business-to-consumer e-commerce platform in China, with more than 50 percent market share, according to iResearch.

The China/Hong Kong region was the third-largest export market for U.S. pork in 2013, according to USMEF, purchasing 417,306 metric tons (920 million pounds) valued at $903.4 million, an increase of 2 percent in value on 3 percent lower volumes versus 2012 levels. In the first two months of 2014 the region has purchased 72,197 metric tons (159 million pounds) of U.S. pork (down 6 percent) valued at $166.8 million (up 4 percent).

House Lawmakers Want Japan To Eliminate Tariffs

Ahead of President Obama’s April 24 meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Abe, more than 60 members of the House urged the administration to press Japan to eliminate tariff and non-tariff trade barriers for U.S. agricultural products as part of the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks. The National Pork Producers Council praised the lawmakers and reiterated that its support for the TPP is contingent on Japan removing those obstacles to free trade.

The TPP is a regional negotiation that includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which account for nearly 40 percent of global GDP.

In a letter sent last night to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, 63 House members, led by Reps. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., Ron Kind, D-Wis., Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., and Jim Costa, D-Calif., said they are concerned that Japan has not made a comprehensive offer on market access for agricultural goods.

Japan is demanding special treatment for its agricultural sector, including exclusion from the agreement of certain “sensitive” products, including pork. The United States never has agreed to allow a trading partner to exempt as many tariff lines as Japan is requesting – 586. In the 17 free trade agreements the United States has concluded since 2000, 233 tariff lines have been exempted from having their tariffs go to zero.

The House lawmakers pointed out in their letter that acquiescing to Japan’s demands would be inconsistent with U.S. requests in previous trade deals and “could undermine the careful balance of concessions the other eleven economies have achieved. If Japan is allowed exemptions, other TPP countries could demand similar treatment, and the entire agreement would be at risk of unraveling.”

“The U.S. meat industry strongly supported Japan’s entry into the TPP talks, as did most of American agriculture,” said NPPC President Dr. Howard Hill, a pork producer from Cambridge, Iowa. “But our expectation was that Japan would eliminate tariffs on our products.

“If it remains unwilling to do that and to eliminate other forms of protection, such as the gate price system for pork, we will urge the Obama administration to conclude the TPP agreement without Japan.”

The Asian nation is an important market for U.S. agriculture – the fourth largest – which shipped $12.1 billion of food and agricultural products to the island nation in 2013.

“Our support for both the TPP and Trade Promotion Authority – used by Congress to consider trade deals – hangs in the balance,” Hill added.

USDA:  March Milk Production up 1.1 Percent

Milk production in the 23 major States during March totaled 16.7 billion pounds, up 1.1 percent from March 2013. February revised production at 14.9 billion pounds, was up 1.3 percent from February 2013. The February revision represented a decrease of 18 million pounds or 0.1 percent from last month's preliminary production estimate.  Production per cow in the 23 major States averaged 1,959 pounds for March.  The number of milk cows on farms in the 23 major States for March was 8.51 million head, 1,000 head more than February 2014.

Iowa Milk Prod - March 2014: 393 million pounds,  -3.4% from March 2013

January - March Milk Production up 1.0 Percent

Milk production in the United States during the January - March quarter totaled 51.1 billion pounds, up 1.0 percent from the January - March quarter last year. The average number of milk cows in the United States during the quarter was 9.22 million head.

1st Quarter 2014 Milk Production (% change from Q1-2013)

Nebraska ......:   291 million pounds, -2.3% LY
Iowa .............:  1.137 billion pounds, -2.9% LY 

New Stover Study is Deeply Flawed and Out of Step with Current Science

A new study published in Nature Climate Change that argues biofuels from corn residue (stover) may be worse for the climate than gasoline is deeply flawed and contradictory to current science. It shows a complete lack of understanding of current farming practices.

Commenting on the study, Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), said, “The study’s methodology is fundamentally flawed and its conclusions are highly suspect. The results are based on sweeping generalizations, questionable assumptions, and an opaque methodology. The authors offer no robust explanation for why their findings contradict other recent, highly regarded research. Ultimately, this paper should be seen for what it truly is – a modeling exercise of a hypothetical scenario that bears no resemblance to the real world.”

Dinneen goes on to highlight several key areas of contention with the Liska et al study. “Stover removal rates are currently in the 10-25% range, which well documented research demonstrates is sufficient to replenish soil. But this study assumes 60-70% stover removal, a level that nobody believes is sustainable.”

“This study lacks sophistication and contradicts without explanation a larger highly–regarded, credible body of science. Other recent studies have examined the carbon impacts of using corn residue for bioenergy. For instance, an analysis conducted by the University of Illinois and Argonne National Laboratory showed 30% residue removal resulted in no additional direct or indirect carbon emissions. Furthermore, it showed certain levels of corn stover can be removed without decreasing SOC. Initial results from research at South Dakota State University showed that SOC levels remained constant from 2008-2012 in a harvest system with relatively high residue removal rates.”

Dinneen concluded, “Last week there was a study suggesting the carbon impact of fracking may be 1,000 times greater than previously thought. Curiously, that report was largely ignored by the media. Folks need to stop manufacturing scenarios to make biofuels look bad, and begin focusing on the true carbon menace – oil.”

AEC: More Questions Than Answers With New Corn Stover Study

Brooke Coleman, Executive Director of the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC), released a statement today in response to a new study questioning the climate benefits of using corn stover to make ethanol. The study alleges that taking corn stover off the field to make ethanol could significantly reduce its climate change benefits. The Associated Press (AP) covered the article this weekend.

“What we have here is an article trying to package itself as saying something completely new; that removing corn stover from the field has newly quantified impacts that would change our perception of making advanced ethanol out of corn stover. In reality, the study confirms what we already know; that excessive agricultural residue removal is bad for the soil and has negative impacts on climate. The article says little about real world stover-to-ethanol fuel because it uses corn stover removal rates far exceeding those used in the field. The analysis also models a one-size-fits-all approach to managing soil carbon that, by definition, ignores how farmers manage their land. While it’s fair to model whatever scenario you want in the hypothetical, if it’s not happening in the real world then the modeling outcomes are something times zero. Our industry is more than willing to engage in important discussions about the climate impacts of using agricultural residues to make fuel, but the headline-chasing strategy of trying to sell extreme modeling assumptions as the norm does not facilitate that process. If you look at the full spectrum of peer-reviewed work, cellulosic biofuel is the lowest carbon fuel in the world.”

Ag Groups File Motions Challenging Kauai's GMO Regulations

Syngenta Seeds, Inc., Syngenta Hawaii, LLC, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., Agrigenetics, Inc. and BASF Plant Science LP filed motions for partial summary judgment in their challenge to Kaua'i County Ordinance 960, which seeks to place unnecessary, burdensome and arbitrary local pesticide and GMO regulations on these companies' farming operations.

One motion seeks summary judgment on substantive grounds, involving both state and federal preemption and violations of state and federal constitutional rights.

A second motion seeks summary judgment on procedural grounds, citing violations under Hawai'i statutes and Kaua'i law stemming from the county's flawed legislative process in enacting the ordinance and procedural flaws in the ordinance itself.

The companies request to nullify Ordinance 960 before it takes effect on August 16, 2014.

Idaho Dairy Organization to Join in Farm Video Lawsuit

(AP) -- The Idaho Dairymen's Association is asking a federal judge to intervene in a lawsuit challenging a new law that makes it illegal to secretly film animal abuse at agricultural facilities.

The industry group filed a motion to become a defendant in the lawsuit late last week.

A coalition of animal activists, civil rights groups and media organizations sued the state last month, asking U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill to strike down what they call an "ag gag" law. The coalition contends that the law curtails freedom of speech and makes gathering proof of animal abuse a crime with a harsher punishment than the penalty for animal cruelty itself.

Proponents of the law say it prevents animal rights groups from unfairly targeting agricultural businesses.

Farmers Donate Nearly Half A Million Eggs for Easter Holiday

Egg farmers across the country are helping in the fight against hunger by donating nearly half a million fresh eggs to food assistance organizations coast-to-coast during the month of April.

According to Feeding America, one in six Americans is faced with hunger and can't afford to buy groceries. Members of the United Egg Producers (UEP) are contributing to food banks all across America to ease the struggle of putting food on the table during the Easter holiday. UEP is encouraging other companies and individuals to join the fight against hunger and support the 49 million Americans who live in food insecure homes, 15.9 million of which are children.

Sources of high quality protein like fresh eggs are among the most needed items at food assistance organizations. USDA claims that one large egg delivers six grams of protein and 13 essential nutrients such as choline, folate, iron and zinc. Additionally, the USDA concluded in 2011 that the average amount of cholesterol was 14 percent lower and vitamin D content was 64 percent higher than previously thought.

"Our generous farmers donate fresh eggs to their local food assistance organizations year-round," stated Chad Gregory, president and CEO of United Egg Producers. "We come together during the Easter season to give a little extra and make fresh eggs available to food insecure families across the country."

This marks the seventh consecutive Easter season the United Egg Producers have organized a nationwide effort to give food insecure families a helping hand, bringing the total number of fresh eggs donated by U.S. egg farmers since 2008 to nearly 70 million.


An Iowa State University researcher has found an unexpected source of fiber in food waste that increases its potential for making renewable fuel: napkins.

Funded by a grant from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture,  Stephanie Jung explored fermentation of the sugars, starches and fibers in food waste to make bioethanol.  An associate professor of food science and nutrition, Jung works to make food processing technologies more sustainable by reducing the amount of energy used or waste produced, adding value to the production cycle by collecting food byproducts, and converting food waste into bioethanol.

The project was conducted in collaboration with ISU Dining, which has implemented its own measures to sustainably process food and recover waste.  They use a trayless dining system, which results in less dishware to wash, and raises students’ awareness of how much food they’re loading onto their plates.

The dining service also composts its food waste, first removing inorganic materials such as waxed cups, soda bottles and foil packaging. The organics are washed through a pulper to remove most of the liquid waste and reduce the volume—and transportation cost—of the solid remains. The reduced particle size of the pulped solids also makes it easier to compost.

Jung says typical solid food waste includes fruit and vegetable peels, cereal grains and meat scraps. This raw material is composed of sugars, starches, fibers, proteins and fats, of which the first three may be fermented into ethanol. But there was an additional, unexpected source of fiber—used paper napkins.

“I was looking at these plates coming from the students with these huge amounts of napkins,” says Jung.

She asked the dining service to separate the napkins from the waste so she could compare fermentation results for food waste alone, food waste combined with napkins, and napkins alone. She found that more ethanol is produced from napkin fermentation than just food waste.

Jung’s fermentation process involves tweaking the enzyme-to-yeast ratio to match the sugar-to-fiber ratio of the pulped raw material. To maximize ethanol production, Jung suggests that along with silverware, students also can remove napkins from their plates for separate processing. Like the trayless system, this has the added benefit of raising students’ consciousness of how much paper they waste with their meals.

The biggest limiting factor for the food waste-to-fuel conversion cycle is the cost of enzymes, which are expensive to procure. Jung hopes to conduct a more detailed life cycle assessment of the process. She said she also would like to see an overall reduction in food waste, estimated to be between 30 and 50 percent of total food production. Much of the food waste in the United States ends up in landfills, where it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The research was a special project of the Leopold Center’s Cross-Cutting Initiative that looks at energy use and a systems approach to solving complex ecological problems.

“Food waste represents one of the largest portions of solid waste going into municipal landfills,” says Malcolm Robertson, who leads the Cross-Cutting Initiative. “With rising energy prices and environmental concerns, we need to minimize the impacts of food waste, especially since it has the potential to be converted into clean energy. This research looks at how effectively and efficiently we can do that.”

For more information about Jung’s project and related issues, see the Spring edition of the Leopold Letter:

Syngenta Agrisure Duracade™ ‘Right to Grow’ program on track with growers, acres and grain buyers

Syngenta announced today that its “Right to Grow” program, launched on February 20, is rolling out as planned with growers and grain handlers. The program is on track to meet grower and acre expectations—and is generating interest from additional facilities willing to accept Agrisure Duracade grain at harvest.

“Two months into our ‘Right to Grow’ program, as we approach planting, we can say the program is so far a success,” said Chuck Lee, Syngenta head of corn in North America, “We have the growers and acres we wanted for our limited launch, and as we had hoped, more grain buyers are agreeing to accept Agrisure Duracade grain beyond those of our partner, Gavilon. Our goal from the outset was a collaborative effort to give growers the choice to adopt new technology with the confidence of knowing they have options for marketing their grain.”

Growers, especially those in areas of high corn rootworm pressure, are eager for new tools to combat this potentially devastating pest.

For growers participating in the innovative “Right to Grow” program, Gavilon will accept Agrisure Duracade grain at market price while providing stewardship and distribution services for producers if the producers’ standard grain marketing outlets are not an option. In addition, since the launch of the program, many other grain buyers have agreed to support their customers by accepting this grain.

Agrisure Duracade is Syngenta’s next-generation CRW trait, offering unmatched corn insect control in two trait stack options for above- and below-ground insect control. Agrisure Duracade technology features the industry’s first hybrid Bt protein and is the first trait technology to be launched with trait preservation in mind.

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