Boulder’s Dead Elk. Plus, Global Agricultural News from the Past Week.


This neighborhood resident elk got a little snack off of a local house on Mapleton Avenue here in Boulder New Year’s Day morning. Later that day, it would be shot by an on-duty police officer who runs a taxidermy website, and was assisted by a second officer who was off-duty because he had called in sick. This story has dominated the news in my town ever since, in a way in which it could only play out here in Boulder — complete with parades, candlelight vigils, letters to the editor saying that this story shows us why we should all be vegetarians, and an officer who is on paid leave while every possible angle of the story is considered by every possible authority. Photo credit: Sam Wagner.

Now, back to the topic at hand. Below, is a selection of recent agriculture-related news.

The FAO’s food price index dropped for a third consecutive month in December. The index was down 7 percent in 2012 from the previous year. The declines were in sugar (down 17 percent), dairy products (down 15 percent) and oils (down 11 percent). Price declines were much more modest for cereals (2 percent) and meat (1 percent).

Irrigation is expanding. Lindsay Corp., which makes irrigation systems, said that its net income grew more than fourfold in its fiscal first quarter, benefiting from drought conditions, strong irrigation orders and lower operating expenses.

This past year, Illinois fell behind Minnesota and Nebraska to become the fourth largest corn producing state. Iowa was No. 1, of course. Another headline told us that Nebraska and Wyoming each had their driest year on record. Though the article doesn’t say it, it’s obvious that since Nebraska irrigates its ethanol corn, it was able to overtake Illinois in corn production in the terrible drought year.

There was no shortage of headlines this week about current drought conditions in the U.S., the weather of 2012, and new climate change studies and predictions. A new study predicts losses of up to 12% for maize yields in the next 20 years. A second, longer-term study predicts that wheat and soybean harvests will fall by up to 30% by 2050 as the world warms.

In this Project Syndicate piece, Bjørn Lomborg denies that Climate Change will hurt agricultural production (much) and takes down the Newsweek article from a few weeks ago titled The End of Pasta. (I read that article at the time and never included it in my news links because its points simply didn’t add up. Nonetheless, the article was widely read and promoted, as doom in food security articles always are.)

Friday’s long awaited WASDE report showed corn ending stocks lower than previously forecast, partly due to the fact that the USDA underestimated demand for livestock feed earlier, and perhaps because more farmers sold their corn early because of their fear of aflatoxin. The final 2012 average corn yield per bushel per harvested acre was 123.4.

The USDA named the four states of Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas wheat disaster areas from drought.

Cargill’s profits surged, along with Monsanto’s.

A Colorado company is making drones to do crop-dusting.

See this 6-minute video of a Kinze autonomous harvest system running in an Illinois cornfield.

Ethicist Peter Singer discusses “land grabs”.

As Saudi is phasing out its own wheat production, its dairy and poultry production is increasing. And, Iran’s wheat production and exports are expected to be higher again next year.

There is innovation going on in Qatar for growing food in the desert.

Italy has donated 7 million euros to Mozambique to buy mechanized farm equipment including tractors.

This retired nuclear engineering professor is calling for an end to corn ethanol. He points out that activists who are upset about water used for fracking don’t realize that the amount used for fracking pales in comparison to the amount of water required to produce corn ethanol.

This NYTs article talks about Texas’ water problem. It is projected that they will be short 8.3 million acre-feet of water by 2060. (One million gallons of water equals 3.07 acre-feet.)

Investors are increasingly driving up farmland values in California’s Central Valley, for land used to grow nuts.

A Colorado State University professor writes on the subject of sustainable food production.

A Canadian farmer touts the advantages of growing flax, which include low input costs and the high demand for expensive omega 3 eggs.

Vilsack has announced another $25 million in R&D for bioenergy and bioindustry. $5 million will go to Kansas; $6.5 million to Ohio; $6.6 million to Utah; and $6.9 million to Pennsylvania. And, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that a team led by Ames Laboratory on the campus of Iowa State University has been selected for an award of up to $120 million over five years to establish an Energy Innovation Hub that will develop solutions to the domestic shortages of rare earth metals and other materials critical for U.S. energy security.

Hay, and other farm thefts are on the rise.

Two Brits are suspected of illegally importing 10m euros worth of Chinese garlic into the EU via Norway.

Activists have gone after the last sea turtle factory farm in the Cayman Islands. (video)

A Hopkinton, Massachussettes man is using hydroponics to grow vegetables and greens. (Includes a short video.)

It looks as if Vilsack will keep his job as Secretary of Agriculture.

Written and compiled by K. McDonald.

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