Dec. 14 Agriculture News Briefs


Lawsuit challenges cancellation of farmer fair practice rule

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Farmers in Alabama and Nebraska have joined a Nebraska-based fair trade group to sue the U.S. Department of Agriculture over the agency’s cancellation of rules that would have made it easier for farmers to demand better treatment when contracting with meatpacking companies.

A lawsuit filed Thursday in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seeks to reverse the October USDA decision vacating the rules.

The rules would have made it easier for farmers to sue over contracts deemed unfair, discriminatory or deceptive. They were proposed during President Barack Obama’s administration and canceled after Donald Trump took office.

Nonprofit-based legal group Democracy Forward sued on behalf of Lincoln, Nebraska-based Organization for Competitive Markets; Nebraska farmer James Dinklage; and Alabama farm couple Jonathan and Connie Buttram.

A USDA spokesman declined comment.


Washington state man accused of stealing dairy farm’s cows

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — A Washington state dairy farm worker is accused of selling his employer’s cows.

Yakima County investigators say the Sunnyside dairy farm’s owner became aware of the thefts on Nov. 18 after a livestock yard told him his employee was trying to pass off the farm’s branded cows as his own. Livestock yard records showed that since 2014 the man was paid $30,000 for more than 30 of the dairy’s cows.

The Yakima Herald reports that the man was arrested Monday on suspicion of first-degree livestock theft. He has since been released.

Detectives said the man was a longtime employee of the dairy and was involved in taking cattle to market.


USDA reduces expectations for Florida’s citrus crop harvests

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) — Federal agriculture officials have reduced expectations for Florida’s citrus crop for the coming year.

The Ledger reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture reduced the projected Florida orange harvest to 46 million boxes, an 8 percent decline from the agency’s November estimate.

The declines are expected among orange varieties picked from October to March and Valencia oranges harvested from March to June.

The USDA also reduced the expected tangerine and tangelo harvest by 4 percent to 910,000 boxes. Grapefruit crop estimates remain at 4.65 million boxes.

Florida Citrus Mutual CEO Michael Sparks said the reductions show the need for a federal citrus-relief package to help citrus growers recover from Hurricane Irma. The fatal bacterial disease citrus greening also continues to plague Florida’s groves.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Florida’s growers need support “as quickly as possible.”


NOAA wants to fund more fish farming to offset trade gap

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Federal marine regulators are making $450,000 available to try to foster more seafood farming on the East Coast.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it’s providing $450,000 to expand aquaculture operations and production off the eastern states. The agency says it wants to offset the U.S.’s $14 billion seafood trade deficit.

NOAA saying it’s looking to fund pilot projects for fish, shellfish, seaweed and other facets of the domestic aquaculture industry that it considers “newcomers.” It also wants to help develop environmentally sustainable ocean farming.

The money will be distributed through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. NOAA also is making money available for aquaculture projects in the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific.


Nevada officials vote to transfer management of mustangs

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Over the objections of wild horse advocates, Nevada’s Board of Agriculture has voted to transfer control of as many as 3,000 free-roaming mustangs in northern Nevada to a non-profit group.

The board announced in October it was terminating an existing agreement with the American Wild Horse Campaign to manage the herd in the Virginia Range south and east of Reno.

More than 100 critics of the move lined up in opposition to the action before the board voted 8-1 on Tuesday to begin accepting proposals from other groups to assume that responsibility.

Board member Dave Stix said the change is necessary because the state isn’t capable of managing the animals that are considered feral horses not subject to U.S. protection on adjacent federal lands.

Opponents said it could ultimately put the horses at risk of slaughter.


Meeting set for potential 

industrial hemp growers

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota’s Agriculture Department is hosting a meeting later this week for people interested in growing industrial hemp.

Next year will be the third year of the state’s industrial hemp research program. Its goal is to determine whether hemp can be a successful crop in North Dakota, and which varieties work best in the state’s climate.

Producers planted more than 70 acres of hemp in 2016 and more than 3,000 acres this year.

The meeting is 10 a.m. Friday in the Brynhild Haugland Room at the state Capitol in Bismarck.
Grower proposals for next year’s program are due at 5 p.m. on Dec. 29. Proposals will be ranked by a committee appointed by Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, who will make the final choices.