It appears the effort to eradicate the notorious brown tree snake on Guam and keep it from infesting Hawaii will not fall victim to congressional budget tightening – at least for now.
The program was on the verge of being canceled this week because the fiscal year is ending and Congress has imposed a moratorium on the type of earmark funding that has kept it running for years.
At the last minute, the Defense and Interior departments agreed to pitch in $2.9 million to rescue the effort to secure ports and kill off the snakes for the next nine months, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The brown tree snake was introduced on Guam following World War II and has since decimated native bird species and plagued the island with electrical blackouts caused by snakes infesting transformers. Meanwhile, scientists fear the pest could be accidentally imported to Hawaii and severely damage the island environment and cost hundreds of millions of dollars – or even billions – in economic losses.
“We don’t want a break in service, obviously, and so that’s why there was very much concern over the budget situation,” said Mike Pitzler, who oversees the program as the Hawaii, Guam and Pacific Island state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s wildlife services section, according to The Associated Press.
The departments are committing to only nine months of funding because they are concerned over the annual $5 million cost of the program at a time when all parts of federal government are grappling with budget cuts, the AP reported. The Department of Defense is contributing $2.4 million and Interior is pitching in $500,000.
They’re expected to discuss in coming months how to continue the program for the last quarter of the fiscal year and beyond.
Pitzler told the AP on Thursday that he would look for ways to restructure and cut costs, but he’s not sure how he can do this without affecting the scope of the work.
“My job will be to make sure that our work isn’t compromised, our ability to prevent snakes from leaving Guam is not compromised,” he said.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and others have questioned over the years why the Pentagon should pay to control snakes on Guam.
The program has been the target of fierce critics of earmarks. In 2009, the Citizens Against Government Waste included brown tree snake control in its “Congressional Pig Book” highlighting alleged examples of government pork barrel spending. Continue reading
The listeria outbreak that has killed up to 16 people and sickened more than 70, could get worse according to health officials, who are still in the process of trying to determine where contaminated cantaloupes might have been shipped. As AP reported :
Federal health officials said Wednesday more illnesses and possibly more deaths may be linked to an outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe in coming weeks.
So far, the outbreak has caused at least 72 illnesses — including up to 16 deaths — in 18 states, making it the deadliest food outbreak in the United States in more than a decade.
The heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said consumers who have cantaloupes produced by Jensen Farms in Colorado should throw them out. If they are not sure where the fruit is from, they shouldn’t eat it.
Neither the government nor Jensen Farms has supplied a list of retailers who may have sold the fruit. Officials say consumers should ask retailers about the origins of their cantaloupe. If they still aren’t sure, they should get rid of it.
“If it’s not Jensen Farms, it’s OK to eat,” said Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC. “But if you can’t confirm it’s not Jensen Farms, then it’s best to throw it out.” Continue reading
IN YOUR FRIDGE / Farmers’ market managers, Pamela Boyer and Annie Suite have joined hands with local farmers to create Oahu Agri-Tours. There’s no fancy farmhouse or massive farm machinery; what you see is what you get. You’ll experience first-hand how farmers are committed to practicing clean, organic farming.
Poamoho Farms is one of the farms on tour, and guests learn how the fruit orchard uses natural pest management and fertilization methods. Tin Roof Ranch farmers Luann Casey and Gary Gunder butcher their chickens the day before selling them at the market.
Na Mea Kupono wetland taro farm practices old school taro farming methods that most locals don’t even know about. Here you can also watch a traditional poi-pounding demonstration.
At Mohala Farms you’ll see how simple and natural farming is still possible (and still exists). After a tour of their herb garden, guests enjoy farm-made treats in the hale. And if that simply isn’t enough to get you excited about organic farms, there’s of course, chocolate. Waialua Estate Cacao, a local chocolate and coffee farm that serves up world class chocolate and coffee, rivals that of our neighbor Island.
Yes, all the hype of organic produce at chain markets may sound a little cliché, and the truth is, it is simple and true to Hawaii’s history. Continue reading
Dig farm-fresh foods? Be part of growing interest on Maui
Maui County Farm Bureau’s on a mission to honor its future leaders, cook up tours, demos and contests for Agricultural Month in September
September 25, 2011
By CARLA TRACY – Dining Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org) , The Maui News
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Mauians love his ripe, juicy Kula strawberries and his sweet, round Kula onions. He’s even launching a pumpkin patch in October, complete with a corn maze or labyrinth, for those in the Halloween state of mind.
But Chauncey Monden, 38, of Kula Country Farms, is not your typical farmer.
In fact, the average age of a Maui farmer is 62.5. Before they age more and retire, we’d better get the younger generation excited about that field, or Maui’s farming lifestyle may just go the way of the dinosaurs.
“It’s a hard life,” says Monden. “With weather, bugs, water bills, taxes, rocky soil, sloped ground, farmlands being sold off, houses encroaching, dust and competition with Mexican and other farmers, it’s tough.”
“There’s a lot of regulations that are difficult to comply with, then you have to market yourself. I don’t have all of the answers. I just know, you’ve got to love it.” Continue reading
We all love chocolates, in all kinds and flavours. They’re there to comfort you when you’re sad, to satisfy your sweet tooth, to show the one you love how much you miss them and to give you a pat on the back when you truly deserve it. No matter how much we love chocolate, we still take it for granted, MSN News reports. We uncover it and start eating it so fast that we don’t sit and indulge the magical taste.
1. White chocolate isn’t really chocolate. Being made of butter and milk, it does not contain any chocolate liquor and so Under Federal Standards of Identity, “white chocolate” is just a misnomer.
2. The reason why chocolate literally melts in your mouth, is because the melting point of cocoa butter is just below the human body temperature.
3. Hawaii is the only US state that grows cacao beans to produce chocolate. Whereas American chocolate manufacturers use on average 1.5 billion pounds of milk, which is only exceeded by cheese and icecream.
4. Chocolate scientifically makes you happy. It contains phenylethylamine (PEA), a natural substance that is known to stimulate serotonin release (the happy hormone) acting as a natural anti-depressant.
5. Chocolate contains Theobromine, which suppresses coughing activity.
6. On average, a chocolate bar in the US contains eight insect pieces. “The Food Defect Action Levels”, a book published by the US Department of Health, lists unavoidable food defects allowed by FDA – like bug parts. That means that your chocolate may contain traces of nuts, and bugs. Continue reading
Federal officials have taken two dozen endangered songbirds from Nihoa in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and moved them to Laysan 650 miles north in the hope they will establish a new population there and prevent the extinction of the species.
Nihoa Millerbirds are currently only found on Nihoa, where there is a population numbering between 500 and 700. A related subspecies once lived on Laysan but went extinct there after introduced rabbits destroyed the island’s vegetation.
Officials hope establishing a new population will reduce the chances a hurricane or disease outbreak at Nihoa will wipe out the species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its public and private partners moved the birds earlier this month. Officials said Monday the project took five years to plan and cost about $850,000.
DENVER — A multistate Listeria outbreak linked to a Colorado farm has the state’s melon farmers worried that their prime selling season has been ruined.
In Rocky Ford, farmer Greg Smith this week laid off his lone farm stand employee because he said customers all but vanished when news of the outbreak spread.
The outbreak has killed as many as four people. Colorado officials said Friday the contaminated melons were whole fruit from a Jensen Farms in the Rocky Ford region and have been recalled.
Angry at reporters and camera crews reporting on the tainted melons, Smith said, “You’ve basically put a .30-caliber bullet between our eyes.”
Mike Bartolo, a Rocky Ford-based vegetable crops specialist for Colorado State University, has been fielding questions from the two dozen or so farmers who make a living selling Rocky Ford cantaloupes. He said the Listeria outbreak is a major blow to the farmers, but it would have been worse if it occurred a few weeks ago.
“If this thing had happened at the beginning of the season, instead of the end, it would have been just devastating,” Bartolo said. “As it is, I think it’s too soon to know what will happen next year.”
Bartolo said the “Rocky Ford cantaloupes” name has no legal protection, such as the strict legal definition of a Vidalia onion, to prevent farmers outside the region from using the name. In fact, he said, Rocky Ford was a major melon-seed producer from the 1900s to 1940s, selling melon seeds nationwide under the name “Rocky Ford” or “Rocky Sweets,” so there may be cantaloupes from far away sold under the name.
Colorado Chief Medical Officer Chris Urbina said he understands the anger of other farmers who feel tarnished by the outbreak. Continue reading
The largest dam demolition in the nation’s history will begin Saturday when an excavator claws away at the concrete supports for Washington’s 108-foot Elwha River Dam, a ceremonial act of destruction that will signal not only the structure’s demise but the latest step in a broad shift in the way Americans are managing rivers.
Faced with aging infrastructure and declining fish stocks, communities are tearing down dams across the country in key waterways that can generate more economic benefits when they’re unfettered than when they’re controlled.
“What once seemed radical is now mainstream,” said American Rivers President Bob Irvin, whose group has advocated dam removal for environmental reasons. “All of these are experiments in how nature can restore itself, and the Elwha is the biggest example of that.”
The pace of removal has quickened, with 241 dams demolished between 2006 and 2010, more than a 40 percent increase over the previous five years. Many of them are in the East and Midwest, having powered everything, including textile mills and paper operations at the turn of the 20th century.
A drumbeat of litigation by tribes and environmental groups has pushed federal officials to dismantle some dams that otherwise would have remained in place. Although this has led to political fights in regions where dams matter the most, such as the Pacific Northwest, it has also forged historic compromises.
“The Elwha River restoration marks a new era of river restoration in which broad community support provides the bedrock for work to sustain our rivers and the communities that rely on them,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement. Continue reading
A wind farm has been paid £1.2 million not to produce electricity for eight-and-a-half hours.
By Edward Malnick and Robert Mendick
9:00PM BST 17 Sep 2011
The amount is ten times greater than the wind farm’s owners would have received had they actually generated any electricity.
The disclosure exposes the bizarre workings of Britain’s electricity supply, prompting calls last night for an official investigation into the payments system.
The £1.2 million will go to a Norwegian company which owns 60 turbines in the Scottish Borders.
The National Grid asked the company, Fred Olsen Renewables, to shut down its Crystal Rig II wind farm last Saturday for a little over eight hours amid fears the electricity network would become overloaded.
The problem was caused by high winds buffeting the country in the wake of Hurricane Katia.
In total, 11 wind farms were closed down last week, receiving a total of £2.6 million. The money – detailed in calculations provided by National Grid – will be added on to household bills and paid for by consumers.
As Britain pushes for more and more wind farms, critics claim the size of the ‘constraint payments’ will grow accordingly – raising serious concern about the long-term suitability of wind power to meet Britain’s energy needs.
Crystal Rig received by far the largest single payment because the National Grid runs an auction, inviting energy companies to say how much they want in compensation for switching off.
Crystal Rig’s owners asked for £999 per megawatt hour of energy they would have produced had they been switched on. Incredibly, the figure Crystal Rig had bid was accepted by the National Grid. Continue reading
NEW YORK — Northeastern states are facing a jack-o’-lantern shortage this Halloween after Hurricane Irene destroyed hundreds of pumpkin patches across the region, farmers say.
Wholesale prices have doubled in some places as farmers nurse their surviving pumpkin plants toward a late harvest. Some farmers are trying to buy pumpkins from other regions to cover orders.
Many area farms have fared well through the wet weather while some Northeastern states face a pumpkin shortage.
“I think there’s going to be an extreme shortage of pumpkins this year,” said Darcy Pray, owner of Pray’s Family Farms in Keeseville, in upstate New York. “I’ve tried buying from people down in the Pennsylvania area, I’ve tried locally here and I’ve tried reaching across the border to some farmers over in the Quebec area. There’s just none around.”
Hurricane Irene raked the Northeast in late August, bringing torrents of rain that overflowed rivers and flooded fields along the East Coast and into southern Canada. Pray saw his entire crop, about 15,000 to 20,000 pumpkins, washed into Lake Champlain.
But pumpkin farmers had been having a difficult year even before the storm. Heavy rains this spring meant many farms had to postpone planting for two or three weeks, setting back the fall harvest, said Jim Murray, owner of the Applejacks Orchard in Peru, N.Y.
A late harvest can be fatal to business because pumpkin sales plummet after Halloween on Oct. 31. Wholesalers need to get pumpkins on their way to stores by mid-September.
Another spate of rain about two weeks before Irene caused outbreaks of the phytophthora fungus —a type of water mold — in many fields, said Jim Stakey, owner of Stakey’s Pumpkin Farm in Aquebogue, on New York’s Long Island. Continue reading