Ag Today February 3, 2020

In fight to survive, US dairy farmers look for any tech edge [Associated Press]

…Technology has played an important role in agriculture for years but it’s become a life and death matter at dairy farms these days, as low milk prices have ratcheted up pressure on farmers to seek every possible efficiency to avoid joining the thousands of operations that have failed….Technology can mean survival, but it involves a perilous gamble: Will the machines produce savings fast enough to cover the debt they incur?…The dairy industry is caught in a vise between consumer trends and competition….With dairy prices outside farmers’ control, they have to focus on controlling costs. That’s where technology comes in.


Opinion: Starbucks: Do your homework before bashing dairy for political points [Modesto Bee]

Well, Starbucks, I wasn’t expecting you to proclaim that you’re looking to transition more of your customers away from dairy to plant-based drinks for sustainability purposes. I think targeting the most locally sourced item on your menu, traveling less than 100 miles from the dairy to your store, completely misses the mark when you consider the greenhouse gases emitted by the airplanes your buyers take to visit your coffee farms in Latin America, Africa and Asia….As a California dairy farmer, I want to tell you dairy’s impressive sustainability story as well as the nutritional story of dairy. My fellow California dairy farmers and I have coined the term “planet-smart dairy” which means producing more with less — less water, less energy, and fewer fossil fuels.


Opinion: If you think about it, animals can’t be the only way to transform plants into meat [USA TODAY]

…Making meat directly from plants could end our reliance on intensive animal farming operations, which are a hotbed for disease emergence….Removing animals from our food system also removes slaughterhouses, the source of much food contamination….Plant-based meat is also vastly more efficient. It takes over 10 calories of crops fed to a pig to produce just one calorie of pork. By removing animals from the process and making meat directly from the crops themselves, we are able to produce more food per acre, increasing sustainability and decreasing environmental impacts, including climate change.


Editorial: Whose water is being carried by Trump’s latest environmental rollback? [San Francisco Chronicle]

…The old rules prized water quality and made it a responsibility of property owners, meaning it was up to farmers, oil and gas drillers, and developers to head off pollution. To these groups, the rules were a financial burden that violated their property rights….But the rollback carries major consequences for the nation’s waters. It permits more landowners to disregard pesticides and fertilizers that end up in waterways, harming wildlife and polluting drinking water sources….By gutting the nearly half-century-old Clean Water Act, Trump has furthered an extremist, anti-government, anti-scientific ideology to the benefit of polluters and the detriment of Americans.


U.S. EPA unveils new pesticide rules, pleasing farmers but upsetting environmentalists [Palm Springs Desert Sun]

In a move heralded by farmers but panned by environmental groups, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to reapprove the use of neonicotinoids, or “neonics,” pesticides linked to declining populations of bees and other pollinators. The EPA also published a final interim decision allowing the continued use of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s heavily used Roundup herbicide….The agriculture industry cheered the announcements last week, saying they would give farmers more tools to protect crops, while environmentalists raised alarms about impacts on human health and wildlife….Janell Percy, the executive director of Growing Coachella Valley, which advocates on behalf of agriculture, said it would be “devastating” if farmers lost access to these chemicals.


Opinion: Farm overproduction, hungry families is today’s paradox of the Central Valley [Fresno Bee]

Did you know the Central Valley ranks third in the nation for food insecurity, while a third of our crops are decaying in the fields?…“Food loss” is the new label, but the problem of overproduction is as old as Steinbeck’s book itself — one so scathing in its condemnation of industry that it was initially banned….Today there are many men — and women — who are dedicated to social innovation and social enterprise, both relatively new terms for an old business notion of “doing well by doing good.”…I am confident that we will find a way to feed hungry families with our so-called “unmarketable produce,” and I hold great admiration for the men and women who are working so hard to make it happen.