Feb. 1 Agriculture Briefs

North Dakota winter wheat and livestock faring well

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Winter wheat and livestock in North Dakota appear to be weathering the winter fairly well, though dry conditions persist in the state.

The Agriculture Department says in its monthly crop report that all but 15 percent of the state's winter wheat crop is rated fair, good or excellent.

Cattle and calf conditions are rated 78 percent good to excellent, with death losses average to light.

Hay supplies are rated 64 percent adequate to surplus, and stock water supplies are 73 percent in those categories.

However, only about half of the topsoil and subsoil moisture supplies in the state are rated adequate to surplus. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor Map shows that nearly all of central and western North Dakota remains in moderate-to-severe drought.

South Dakota winter wheat faring well but moisture short

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Winter wheat in South Dakota appears to be weathering the winter fairly well, but dry conditions persist in the state.

The Agriculture Department says in its monthly crop report that three-fourths of the state's winter wheat crop is rated fair or good. However, only about one-third of the topsoil and subsoil moisture supplies in the state are rated adequate to surplus.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor Map shows that much of central and western South Dakota remains in moderate-to-severe drought.

University of Idaho seeks dairy research center funding

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — Fundraising in the next few months will be vital to constructing a world class dairy-centric research and teaching facility in southern Idaho.

Dean of the University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Michael Parrella says the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment would be the largest research dairy in the country and the only one addressing milk production in an arid climate.

The state Legislature has appropriated $10 million for the $45 million project, and the university is hoping for another $5 million. The university is selling some of its assets to supply another $15 million. The remaining $15 million needs to come from outside sources.

Parrella says the university needs to secure funding commitments by the end of June.

Volga farmer convicted of
disturbing protected wetlands

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — An eastern South Dakota farmer faces up to six months in prison and a $10,000 fine after being convicted of disturbing protected wetlands.

A federal jury recently convicted Kevin Mast, 61, of Volga.

U.S. Attorney Ron Parsons says Mast installed drain tile on some of his property despite selling an easement to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that prohibited draining any wetland areas on the property. Parsons says Mast was warned against the project but went ahead with it in 2013.

Budget rebound may restore locally grown school food

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico lawmakers are taking steps to revive funding for public schools to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from local farms.

Republican Rep. Jimmie Hall of Albuquerque said Thursday that $400,000 is likely to be included in this year’s House appropriations bill for the farm-to-school program. Spending was cut off last year as New Mexico struggled to fill a budget gap amid a downturn in the oil sector.

Public school districts across the state, from Taos to Deming, have relied for nearly a decade on earmarked state funding to purchase produce directly from local farmers.

Republican Rep. and livestock rancher Candy Spence Ezzell of Roswell wants the state to add locally raised meat and dairy products to the effort. She walked out on a committee vote Thursday that recommended refunding.

LePage says feds block a ban on food stamps for junk food

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Republican Gov. Paul LePage says the Trump administration is blocking his latest effort to prevent the use of food stamps to purchase soda and candy.

LePage spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz said last month that the U.S. Department of Agriculture informed Maine of the news in a phone call. The governor plans to revise and resubmit his request.

A USDA spokesman says the agency doesn’t want to pick winners and losers in the marketplace or pass judgment on the benefits of individual food.

The fiscally conservative governor has pointed to Maine’s high rates of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease as justification for his efforts.

Scientists get grant for water, energy consumption project

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Scientists at Michigan State University are leading a $2.5 million grant to help improve agricultural consumption of water and energy.

The funding from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture is meant to better manage the resources and define more sustainable ways for irrigated agriculture to meet current and future food demand.

Hydro geologist and grant lead investigator David Hyndman says “global change is expected to place additional pressure on these systems as U.S. climate warms and becomes more variable, and demand for food increases due to global population growth and diet shifts.”
The project team will focus on the High Plains, California’s Central Valley and Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.