Ag Today April 2, 2019

As Trump threatens to close border, experts warn of billions in economic damage [Los Angeles Times]

…The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business organization, warned Monday of “severe economic harm on American families, workers, farmers, and manufacturers across the United States” if Trump closes the border….Nearly $13.7 million in agricultural products move through the port of entry at Nogales, Ariz., every day, for example, said Veronica Nigh, an economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington. Because those products are perishable, even a short closure could hurt farmers and consumers on both sides.


White House immigration plan may call for commission on future visas [McClatchy News Service]

The White House is nearing completion of a proposal to revamp the legal immigration system that could include the creation of an independent blue ribbon commission that would help decide how many future visas will be allocated and what kind of workers should receive them, according to two sources familiar with the talks. The draft proposal, which follows several West Wing meetings hosted by senior advisor Jared Kushner with dozens of interest groups important to the Republican Party, could be presented to President Donald Trump as early as this week after being approved by key Cabinet leaders and department heads….The proposal also looks to potentially increase caps on employment-based visas, raising the number of temporary guest worker visas while ensuring immigrants in the United States on temporary visas don’t automatically get permanent ones.


Growing corn is a major contributor to air pollution, study finds [NPR]

…Air pollution is the largest environmental health risk factor in the United States, and agriculture contributes in a number of ways. Fertilizer application, gas use, pesticide production and dust kicked up from tilling all affect air quality. But the sort of accounting done for the carbon footprint of foods hasn’t been done for their air pollution footprint. That changed Monday with a study published in Nature Sustainability. It modeled how the production of a single crop, corn, contributes to air pollution in the United States. The researchers found that corn production accounts for 4,300 premature deaths related to air pollution every year in the United States. Ammonia from fertilizer application was by far the largest contributor to corn’s air pollution footprint.


What causes cancer? It’s complicated [Wall Street Journal]

…For glyphosate, the scientific evidence is decidedly mixed. A direct link to cancer is still debatable, but even if one accepts the high end of the reported risks the effects are, at best, modest….My principal concern isn’t the liability of the companies involved. The most important ramification of these lawsuits is their impact on the public psyche, suggesting that there is a definitive explanation for every case of cancer.


U.S. disaster aid won’t cover crops drowned by Midwest floods [New York Times]

The Black Hawk military helicopter flew over Iowa, giving a senior U.S. agriculture official and U.S. senator an eyeful of the flood damage below, where yellow corn from ruptured metal silos spilled out into the muddy water. And there’s nothing the U.S. government can do about the millions of bushels of damaged crops here under current laws or disaster-aid programs, U.S. Agriculture Under Secretary Bill Northey told a Reuters reporter who joined the flight. The USDA has no mechanism to compensate farmers for damaged crops in storage, Northey said, a problem never before seen on this scale.


How AI might be used to battle wildfires [Wall Street Journal]

…Computer programs powered by artificial intelligence are being deployed on the ground and in space to do everything from mapping wildfire risks more accurately to sounding the alarm when a fire breaks out—hours earlier than it would have otherwise….For example, the Nature Conservancy is working with county, state, federal and nonprofit partners to thin and use controlled burning on vast areas of California’s Sierra Nevada that are susceptible to catastrophic wildfires. Mr. Smith says this summer, on a 28,000-acre plot near Lake Tahoe, the group plans to test an AI program designed to quickly assess whether a thinning regimen that will begin on roughly 100-acre parcels will leave enough open space to help prevent massive fires.