Agriculture News October 30 2012

“Red Umbrella Man at Chautauqua” photo by Russ Croop

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances —Shakespeare

All the world’s our human stage, but sometimes a stagehand takes control and we are quickly reminded of what is real, of what is possible. More and more, we players are controlling the stagehand. Please know that my thoughts and best wishes are with those affected by this storm. I hope that the distribution of food and water goes smoothly to all who need it in this densely populated region of our nation which now faces massive repairs.

Prior to the headline weather of the past day, I’d been celebrating what a fabulous fall we’ve had in Boulder this year for enjoying our great outdoors. Last Tuesday afternoon my stage was Chautauqua Park. We players entered and exited the trails, each with our own version of reality, each trying to hold on to the last of our long Indian Summer. It didn’t matter. By Thursday, the scene looked like the photograph.

But, this being Boulder, the snow quickly melted and now the temperature is 65 degrees for the foreseeable future. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars I get to live here.

Here are my chosen news links for this week….

Argentine storms seen cutting corn crop by 20 percent and soybean crop by 10 percent. It is the world’s No. 3 soybean exporter and No. 2 corn supplier and has been hit by a year’s worth of rain since September. (Reuters)

The big are getting bigger in the grain markets. (Reuters)

Andersons to buy 12 grain elevators from Green Plains (Reuters)

Storm Sandy damages crops in Haiti, fuelling food price woes (Reuters)

Singapore seeks answers to rising food prices (BBC)

Farming equipment – lease or purchase (theclevelandcurrent) K.M. Note: This article discusses whether farmers should buy or lease expensive new equipment. Included in the decision is their overall distrust of the new tractors which they don’t think will last because of the electronics. Problems can’t be diagnosed when one wire gets chewed by a mouse and the whole machine shuts down as compared older tractors which last for decades and can easily be repaired. I personally think this is an important subject because industrial agriculture is focusing on a future of precision agriculture right now in planning productivity gains, but yet, these machines have to survive weather and storage conditions unlike a new electronic car stored in a tight attached garage.

India’s Escort Powertrac tractors are more powerful and more fuel efficient (thehindubusinessline)

Cash rents for Midwestern farmland (agriview)

Silos Loom as Death Traps on American Farms (NYT)

Problem piles of rotting corn in North Dakota this year (agweek)

2,000 sheep led through streets of Spain’s capital (AP)

Syngenta’s Force herbicides have tripled in sales due to resistance to corn rootworm seed trait in Monsanto’s corn. (Desmoines register)

Rabobank Report: Demand Growth for Vegetable Oils for Food Use to Slow, but Supplies Will Struggle to Keep Up (PRNewswire)

GMOs and pesticide use (Marginalrevolution)

BC’s Fraser Valley farm values in a league of their own – High-value crops, scarcity of land and development pressures cited as reasons Quality Fraser Valley farmland sells for $40-60,000 per acre (vancouversun)

Two pieces of Sioux County Iowa farmland sell for over $21,000 and over $19,000 per acre (kcautv)

Progress made in stopping decline of livestock genetic diversity – Indigenous breeds critical to food security now getting government attention – Indiginous livestock breeds, many originating the the Near East must be preserved as survivable traits for harsh conditions compare to trying to preserve heirloom seeds for the same reason. (FAO)

Biodiesel demand is dropping suddenly as RINs credits are a third of what they were earlier this year. (desmoines register) K.M. Note: Expect the industry to lobby for higher mandated use and the $1 tax credit to be reinstated.

● ENERGY: Shale becomes $2 diesel using gas-to-liquids plants – the article goes on to express doubts about biomass projects and mandates (anchorage daily)

● ENERGY: Freight rail transportation is gradually gaining momentum over trucks as fuel becomes more expensive. This is happening even though the trucking industry is highly subsidized and rail is not. (sciam)

● ENERGY: Goldman Sachs Predicts End to High Oil Prices (oilprice)

Mexico could go back to being self-sufficient in maize in ten to fifteen years. Investing in irrigation and infrastructure projects in the southeast and providing financing for small- and medium-scale farmers would allow this Latin American country to regain its self-sufficiency in maize production … Mexico has some eight million hectares of arable farm land that are not being used and which “offer an opportunity to start from zero to confront the food crisis and high food prices. (

Land deals in Africa have led to a wild west – bring on the sheriff, says FAO – Food and Agriculture Organisation chief José Graziano da Silva demands high noon on land grabs that jeopardise food security. In Africa today, efficiency means better seeds rather than big tractors. The two models have been there forever in agriculture. Sometimes big-scale will provide exports, but local markets are based on small-scale agriculture. (Guardian)

An expensive water highway project in Chile is to supply agriculture, mining, and sanitation (waterworld)

Related to Prop 37: When we asked the open ended question, ‘what food ingredients are you avoiding?’ no one in the entire sample answered biotech or GM. Forty percent of respondents said they avoid sugars, 15% answered carbs and 26% said animal protein. When asked a separate question, “What food ingredients are you concerned about?” only 3% answered biotechnology. (farmfutures)

In the UK red diesel thefts are common on farms. The thieves use a screwdriver to drain the tank (to avoid the law). (farmersguardian)

More and more farmers are starting to raise goats and sheep because they require less space and maintenance than larger farm animals. (Purdue)

Value of Iowa’s 2011 organic products $60 million (Ames Tribune)

Infographic: How big a backyard would you need to live off the land? (mnn)

Urban gardening is also taking off in Mexico City where many rooftops are flat and food can be grown all months of the year. (mcclatchydc)

Morning Fresh Dairy in Fort Collins to deliver milk in electric truck (ncbr)

● The reasons this 100 year old Pennsylvania produce farm is getting out of the business apply to many other small scale farmers…. high health insurance, off-farm jobs, earnings get reinvested into the farm, no retirement savings, competition in the grocery stores… (lancasterfarming)

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