U.S. bacon prices rise after virus kills baby pigs

MILWAUKEE >> A virus never before seen in the U.S. has killed millions of baby pigs in less than a year, and with little known about how it spreads or how to stop it, it’s threatening pork production and pushing up prices by 10 percent or more.

Estimates vary, but one economist believes case data indicate more than 6 million piglets in 27 states have died since porcine epidemic diarrhea showed up in the U.S. last May. A more conservative estimate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the nation’s pig herd has shrunk at least 3 percent to about 63 million pigs since the disease appeared.

Scientists think the virus, which does not infect humans or other animals, came from China, but they don’t know how it got into the country. The federal government is looking into how such viruses might spread, while the pork industry, wary of future outbreaks, has committed $1.7 million to research the disease.

The U.S. is both a top producer and exporter of pork, but production could decline about 7 percent this year compared to last — the biggest drop in more than 30 years, according to a recent report from Rabobank, which focuses on the food, beverage and agribusiness industries.

Already, prices have shot up: A pound of bacon averaged $5.46 in February, 13 percent more than a year ago, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

BIO Attends HCIA/Hawaii Chamber “Biotech Week”

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Monday, March 17 marked the beginning of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association (HCIA)/Hawaii Chamber “Biotech Week” in Honolulu. Well-attended by employees of the seed companies and many farmers at the state capital and elected officials, the event reminded everyone of the importance of biotechnology in the agricultural community of Hawaii. During my time there, I was able to hear first-hand accounts of the role that biotech has played in the survival of the papaya industry and the impact of the current Hawaii County ban of GM crops on papaya farmers and ranchers.

The Rainbow Papaya Story is still very much familiar to not only the papaya famers of Hawaii but to the general public as well.  In the 1950s, a devastating papaya ringspot virus spread on island of Oahu causing severe economic loses. Papaya production then had to move to the Puna area of the Big Island in the 1960s, but, by 1997, the virus had almost destroyed the industry. Production of Hawaii’s fifth largest crop fell by nearly 40 percent, farmers were going out of business, and Hawaii’s once $17 million papaya industry was struggling to survive.

Then biotechnology becomes the island’s lucky charm. In 1997, the U.S. government concluded its regulatory review of the first genetically engineered papaya variety named Rainbow, which includes a gene that makes the papaya plants resistant to the ringspot virus. Commercialized in 1998, the genetic improvement had not only begun to show promise for the Hawaii papaya industry, but production actually began to return to levels near where they were before the papaya ringspot virus invaded.

USDA Encourages Early Registration for FSA Programs

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USDA Encourages Early Registration for FSA Programs

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2014 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Juan M. Garcia today recommended that farmers and ranchers who plan to participate in FSA programs register in advance. Producers are encouraged to report farm records and business structure changes to a local FSA Service Center before April 15, 2014.

Enrollment for the disaster programs authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, including the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) will begin by April 15, 2014.

“We expect significant interest in these programs,” said Garcia. “Early registration should help improve the sign-up process and allow us to expedite implementation of the programs. I strongly encourage producers to complete their paperwork ahead of time.”

Examples of updates or changes to report include:

  • New producers or producers who have not reported farm records to FSA.
  • Producers who have recently bought, sold or rented land. Those producers need to ensure that changes have been reported and properly recorded by local FSA county office personnel. Reports of purchased or sold property should include a copy of the land deed, and if land has been leased, then documentation should be provided that indicates the producer had/has control of the acreage.
  • Producers that have changed business structures (e.g. formed a partnership or LLC) need to ensure that these relationships and shares are properly recorded with FSA. Even family farms that have records on file may want to ensure that this is recorded accurately as it may impact payment limits.

Farm records can be updated during business hours at FSA Service Centers that administer the county where the farm or ranch is located. Producers can contact their local FSA Service Center in advance to find out what paperwork they may need. In addition, bank account information should be supplied or updated if necessary to ensure that producers receive payments as quickly as possible through direct deposit.

While any producer may report farm records and business structure changes, it is especially important for producers who suffered livestock, livestock grazing, honeybee, farm-raised fish, or tree/vine losses for 2011, 2012, 2013 or 2014, and may be eligible for assistance through one of the four disaster programs.

Invasive species bill has good intention, serious consequences

A Maui coffee farmer said controlling invasive species such as the notorious coqui frog and fire ant is a Big Island problem.

“They already have them, we don’t. Why put the cost on us?” asked Bobbie Becker, owner of Maui Mountain Coffee Farm. “They’ve got it there.”

Becker is a supporter of state Senate Bill 2347, which soon will be taken up by the House Finance Committee.

The legislation, written as an attempt to control the interisland spread of invasive species to the local agriculture industry, was amended last Friday. Parts of the bill would prohibit the transportation of the pests and establishes penalties for violations, including language that would require any commercial entity that transports the invasive species to pay a fine equal to the value of the infested shipment.

Eric Tanouye, president of Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association and vice president of Green Point Nurseries, called the bill “a detriment to the Big Island.”

“They are distracting, and distracting all of us from the main objective,” he said. “How do we make ag thrive on the Big Island and in the State of Hawaii?”

Springer Kaye, manager of the Big Island Invasive Species Committee, said the committee agrees with the intent of the bill, but does not support SB 2347 and thinks it puts the Big Island at a disadvantage.

Invasive species bill stirs debate

A Maui coffee farmer said controlling invasive species such as the coqui frog and fire ant is a Big Island problem.

“They already have them, we don’t. Why put the cost on us?” asked Bobbie Becker, owner of Maui Mountain Coffee Farm. “They’ve got it there.”

Becker is a supporter of state Senate Bill 2347 — written as an attempt to control the spread of invasive species to the local agriculture industry — which soon will be taken up by the House Finance Committee.

Parts of the bill would prohibit the transportation of the pests and establishes penalties for violations, including language that would require any commercial entity that transports invasive species to pay a fine equal to the value of the infested shipment.

Eric Tanouye, president of Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association and vice president of Green Point Nurseries, called the bill “a detriment to the Big Island.”

“They are distracting, and distracting all of us from the main objective,” he said. “How do we make ag thrive on the Big Island and in the State of Hawaii?”

Springer Kaye, manager of the Big Island Invasive Species Committee, said the committee agrees with the intent of the bill, but does not support SB 2347 and thinks it puts the Big Island at a disadvantage.

“Unfortunately, SB 2347 specifically targets the already struggling horticulture and agriculture economy on the Island of Hawaii, without providing any appropriation to re-establish the state programs required to effectively stop the spread of invasive species,”

What does Monsanto Hawaii do to help small farmers?

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Each week, we will answer a question from our readers regarding our operations and community outreach in the State of Hawaii. Submit your question by visiting the contact page. Thanks for reading. Mahalo!

Q: I’ve heard that Monsanto Hawaii wants to put smaller farmers out of business. Is this true?

This is absolutely not the case and, in fact, the exact opposite is true. Monsanto Hawaii is 100% focused on agriculture and our mission is to help fellow farmers succeed through the use of innovative practices and tools that empower farms to produce more food, fiber and fuel, while at the same time conserving natural resources and operating more sustainably.

As an agriculture company, we believe we have a responsibility to work collaboratively with our fellow farmers to promote a strong and successful Hawaii ag industry. Some of our efforts to help other farmers throughout Hawaii include:

  • The Hawaii Agricultural Foundation Ag Park at Kunia promotes sustainable local farming by making land and other resources available to small local farms growing a variety of produce and other crops. The Park was created through an innovative partnership between Monsanto Hawaii, Island Palms Communities and the Hawaiian Agricultural Foundation.

Nut workshop attracting participants abroad

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Calls have been coming in from PNG and Solomon Islands, wanting to send participants to attend the upcoming South Pacific Nut (SPN)nangae and natapoa nut training workshop from August to November, after alerted through the Daily Post website issue of 8th March, 2014.

But it is exclusive targeting Ni Vanuatu potential nut farmers. The harvesting of natapoa has started and with the first 100 kilo coming from Ambae and Emae, it involves many farmers, but mostly women.

The harvesting of natapoa will continue till July and nangae harvest from August to November. SPN estimates a production of four tons of natapoa kernel sun dry at Vt800 vatu per kilo and 10 ton nangae kernel with testa at Vt700 per kilo.

Tongoa women are the champions when it comes to cracking nangae nuts, with 82 kilos of nut in shell in 18 kilo kernel using two (laplap) stones. The islands of Paama and Tongoa are small, but 10 years ago buyers were buying nangae at a quantity of several millions annually and SPN had to stop due to quality.

SPN expects participants mainly from Malekula, from the south, Aulua, Tisman, Sarmeth, Wala, Worwor and north west Malekula, Hog Harbor nangae, south, north east areas on santo, Ambae Father E Mala from Longana with potential nuts ,Paul Ren, ex member Parliament from Maewo will send a team, Pentecost, Ambrym, Nguna and Shefa Islands. Again many have been refused, in particular if they are not potential nut farmers.

Every farmers coming in the training workshop can airfreight nuts every day during their stay to supply fresh crack nangae will to help the farmers offset the cost of transport, accommodation and food.

Nut workshop attracting participants abroad | Vanuatu Daily Post

Farmer claims ag bill morphs into something else

Howard Green thought he was helping farmers, like himself, sell more of their products directly to customers.

Instead, the bill he offered to lawmakers has raised concerns the state Legislature may again be trying to undermine county regulations on genetically modified crops and pesticides for the second time this session.

The legislation Green, an Oahu farmer and lawyer, said he wrote changes only a few words in a section on agriculture districts in the Hawaii Revised Statutes.

But the addition of “without further limitations or restrictions” in a sentence regarding allowed uses has some worried it could significantly limit the ability of counties to regulate agriculture, and pass laws, as Hawaii and Kauai counties did last year, addressing the use of modified crops and chemicals in agriculture.

Former Mayor Harry Kim, a critic of attempts by the Legislature to limit county home rule, said the companion legislation, Senate Bill 2777 and House Bill 2467, would have significant implications.

“I think a lot of people will be very surprised and maybe even stunned by it,” he said.

Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, called it a “sneaky … cynical attempt to take away home rule,” adding he has received email from constituents concerned about the legislation.

“I think the (genetically modified organism), pesticide issue is the motivation for it,”

Kauai County Council authorizes $75K for attorneys

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LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) — The Kauai County Council has authorized spending $75,000 to hire attorneys to defend a new law regulating the use of pesticides and genetically modified crops by large agricultural businesses.

The 5-0 council vote, taken Wednesday with two members absent, will allow the county attorney to hire outside legal services to answer a lawsuit filed in federal court last month by Syngenta Seeds, DuPont Pioneer and Agrigenetics Inc., which does business as Dow AgroSciences.

County officials will select special counsel from a pre-qualified list of 17 attorneys, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

The county had initially planned to rely on donated services, and several firms had previously offered pro bono legal help.

But the county said it received only one response to its formal request for pro bono services. The county rejected that attorney’s submission, partly because of a lack of relevant qualifications.

Friday is the deadline for the county to notify the court of its legal representation.

Some council members expressed concern the initial allocation would fall short.

"Is $75,000 sufficient for the Syngenta v. County of Kauai case?" Councilman Mel Rapozo asked First Deputy Attorney Jennifer Winn, The Garden Island (http://bit.ly/1gAiVbt ) reported. "I can tell you, just looking at what we went through last week, that is going to be used up in a week or a month."

Rapozo said the council should create a budget to prevent outside attorneys from extending the county’s costs.

In the lawsuit, the companies claim the new law is "fatally flawed" and pre-empted by state and federal laws that regulate pesticides and genetically modified organisms. They contend that the ordinance will increase risks of commercial espionage, vandalism and misappropriation of trade secrets, and inhibit farming activities.

BASF, a fourth seed company that operates on Kauai, is not part of the lawsuit. A company representative has said it is still reviewing the situation and exploring its options.

Kauai County Council authorizes $75K for attorneys