Ag Today December 26, 2019

Struggling dairy farmers building a future with hazelnuts, specialty milk, and creative thinking [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

Paul Jereczek doesn’t want to be the one who loses his family’s farm, not after four generations before him made it work. He and his father, Ken, milk about 200 cows on land in Trempealeau County that’s been in the family since 1873. The last few years have been challenging, and not just because milk prices have been stuck in an economic valley. The Jereczeks have difficulties finding hired help, too, which means the barn and the fields take over what could be family time. “Five or 10 years from now, I don’t think we will be milking cows anymore, realistically,” the 35-year-old farmer said. “Financially we are fine, but I have four young children who I don’t spend nearly enough time with.” Jereczek is trying to build a bridge to the future even as he crosses it. He has planted more than 1,000 hazelnut trees on 3 acres previously used to grow hay — a small piece of the farm that someday could pay off well if the perennial crop takes hold.


Opinion: How a bipartisan bill in Congress could save farms like mine [Los Angeles Times]

As a child, I picked melons in California’s San Joaquin Valley alongside my dad. Now, decades later, I own a 2,000-acre farm, employ a full-time staff of 25 and hire up to 300 more people at peak harvest. Most of them are immigrants. As both a laborer and an owner, I understand how important immigrant labor is to American agriculture — and the critical problem we’ve reached with worker shortages. Without providing farmers a consistent, legal workforce, our entire agricultural economy is at risk. That’s why I applaud the House of Representatives for passing the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act this month. This timely legislation, supported by a majority of Democrats and 34 Republicans, would give legal status and a pathway to citizenship for more than 325,000 undocumented farmworkers. It’s not the definitive solution to our labor problems, but it’s an important start. Now we need the Senate to join the effort and stand up for pragmatic reform.


One eccentric socialite is to blame for California’s wild pig problem [San Francisco Chronicle]

California’s wild pigs are massive and ubiquitous. They can grow into 200-pound ripping machines. They tear up lawns and destroy hillsides. Their gruesome teeth can even threaten humans and pets. And they’re here, rooting up our landscaping, because of one mercurial millionaire. Today’s wild pigs are a hybrid breed, a mixture of two animals that have no place in California. The first is the standard domesticated pig, introduced by Spanish colonizers in the mid-1700s. Russian immigrants also apparently let some loose near Fort Ross in Sonoma in the 1800s. And as Gold Rush settlers flowed into the state, they killed the hogs’ biggest predator, the bear. So the once-domestic pig spread, becoming a feral pig out in the wild. But it wouldn’t meet its love match until the 1920s, when George Gordon Moore imported the first European wild boar.


Supermarkets pick fruits, vegetables for healthy growth [Wall Street Journal]

Grocers are freshening up their produce sections to draw in more health-conscious shoppers. Fruits and vegetables are an increasingly important source of sales growth for U.S. food retailers eager to capitalize on rising consumer demand for fresh food. Grocers are expanding produce sections, stocking them with new and exotic varieties, and adding such services as juice bars and precut fruit and vegetable packs. Produce sales in the U.S. rose to $62 billion this year from $60.8 billion in 2018, according to research firm Nielsen. Those sales are a bright spot for an industry facing myriad challenges. Heavy investment in delivery is straining an already-low-margin business model. Cereal, canned soup and other packaged products that historically drove profits are fading out of popularity, forcing grocers to find new ways to attract customers….Kroger’s organic-produce business reached $1 billion in sales last year, making the supermarket chain one of the largest organic-food sellers in the country. The Cincinnati-based grocer is offering more seasonal products such as Cosmic Crisp apples, which made their debut this fall. Kroger is also working with startups on plans to grow herbs at its stores and make produce last longer.


At each end of Pacific, skepticism over China farm purchases [Associated Press]

President Donald Trump likes to joke that America’s farmers have a nice problem on their hands: They’re going to need bigger tractors to keep up with surging Chinese demand for their soybeans and other agricultural goods under a preliminary deal between the world’s two largest economies. But will they really? From Beijing to America’s farm belt, skeptics are questioning just how much China has actually committed to buy — and whether U.S. farmers would be able anytime soon to export goods there in the outsize quantity that Trump has promised. It amounts to $40 billion a year, according to Trump’s trade representative, Robert Lighthizer. If you ask the exuberant president himself, though, the total is actually “much more than’’ $50 billion. To put that in perspective, U.S. farm exports to China have never topped $26 billion in any one year. What’s more, since Trump’s trade war with Beijing erupted last year, China has increased its farm purchases from Brazil, Argentina and other countries. As a result, Beijing may now be locked into contracts it couldn’t break even if it intended to quickly increase its purchases of American agricultural goods to something approximating $40 billion.


Trade-court lawsuits take on Trump’s tariff campaign [Wall Street Journal]

The White House’s tariff strategy faces a potential threat from a series of lawsuits challenging whether the administration has followed the law closely enough in imposing new customs duties. Recent court victories by steel and energy companies have emboldened legal foes of the administration’s nearly-two-year campaign to wield tariffs as leverage in trade talks, and the decisions could lead to further challenges to President Trump’s tariff authority. The court cases involve Section 232 and Section 201 tariffs, known by their places in the U.S. legal code. The levies affect goods, imported from almost all U.S. trading partners, such as steel, aluminum and solar panels. So far, none of the active cases challenge the tariffs directly against China, but trade attorneys say that could change. The cases have been filed in the U.S. Court of International Trade, based in New York, the body in the U.S. judicial system that has jurisdiction over all cases dealing with customs and international trade laws.