In February 2011, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) partially deregulated Monsanto’s genetically engineered Roundup Ready (RR) sugar beet. Deregulation occurred under the requirement that crop growers obtain regulatory permits and follow mandatory guidelines for growing the root crop. APHIS continued to conduct a plant pest risk assessment and consider numerous public comments. Late last week, under the advice of APHIS, the US Department of Agriculture fully deregulated the sugar beet.
The Fruit and Vegetable Program, also known as FVRx, has expanded its reach to the District of Colombia. The program was designed as a preventive measure against illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. FVRx grants one dollar subsidies daily to buy fruits and veggies from local farmers markets. Each member of a family gets the $1 prescription so, for example, a family of five would end up getting $35 per week to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables. Currently, the Fruit and Vegetable Program is only offered in eight states. Wholesome Wave, the nonprofit organization behind the program is hoping to expand to more states. According to the organization, the Fruit and Vegetable Program provides health benefits to consumers and is profitable for farmers markets. Many consumers, farmers and doctors are rallying behind the program.
In the last several days, UK farmers have been in protest against price cuts in the dairy industry. The price cuts would allow milk processors to pay 25 pounds a liter for milk even though the cost of production is 29 pounds per liter. Following two nights of protests, the government organized a summit meeting. After much debate, dairy processors and farmers have finally reached an agreement. One of the new provisions for dairy contracts calls for processors to involve farmers in discussions before a price change occurs.
As a result of severe drought conditions, all 114 counties in Missouri have been designated as natural disaster areas. In addition to low interest emergency loans, Missouri farmers are now eligible to receive funding for water well projects. The new emergency program covers 90 percent of the cost to drill or deepen wells, with a maximum award amount of $20,000. Well production must not harm the public water supply and applications must be submitted by August 6th. For more information on the application process visit the State of Missouri website at www.mo.gov.
Experts are now calling this drought the worst in nearly half a century. Counties throughout the United States are being rapidly declared as natural disaster areas. On Wednesday alone, 76 counties were added to the list. Farmers are struggling with the dehydration of crops and livestock. The USDA expects the drought to also affect consumers, specifically in 2013. Grocery prices will soar up to a projected 4 percent. But in the meantime, small farmers and livestock farmers will bear the brunt of this drought, with lost crops that are not reimbursed by crop insurance, burnt pastures where their animals can no longer graze, and skyrocketing feed costs.
It’s fire season in the West. This year’s wildfires have been especially damaging because of their locations. Fires are erupting on grasslands and in pastures, and other areas where livestock populate. An estimated 200 cattle have died in Wyoming and about 225 in Oregon. These numbers are likely to increase as livestock are dying from injuries and illnesses sustained from the fires. In addition to dealing with the drought, farmers and ranchers must worry about saving their animals from wildfires. Transporting the animals to safer lands is not always easy, especially because emergency grazing lands are often miles away.