Ind. bill would make undercover video at farms illegal

Not sure how to feel about this one. One the one hand, I certainly would be upset if I caught somebody prowling around my pastures with a video camera. But I'd be upset because they were prowling around my pastures, not because they had a video camera - and there are trespassing laws that cover that.

Despite the wording and legalese covering this, I think the main intent of this legislation is clear - to prevent people from documenting animal abuse. And that's a pretty ignoble intent, if you ask me.

I've let lots of customers take pictures (and video) of our critters - and they've never posted one to YouTube showing anyone kicking a chicken or stomping a sheep. You know why? 'Cause we don't kick chickens or stomp sheep! What a concept!

I'd like to suggest to Rose Acre Farms that if they wish to stop PR nightmares from showing up on the Net, the best place to do that is in their barns, by dealing swiftly and severely with any animal abuse they uncover. Otherwise it seems to me that their support for this bill backs up the case being made by the surreptitious videos. In any case, it's for consumers to decide, not the legislature.

A measure that would make it illegal to make undercover videos of a farm or business passed an Indiana Senate committee Tuesday.

(link) [USA Today]

22:27 /Agriculture | 3 comments | permanent link

Monsanto's Supreme Court Seed Fight

A vital case - it will be very interesting to try and puzzle out from the oral arguments why the court agreed to hear this, seeing as how both appellate courts had strongly upheld the original judgment. I can only hope that some semblance of reason prevails, and Monsanto is sent packing. If not, virtually any seed purchased or raised from any source could be subject to patent liability. It would, more or less, turn the same patent trolls that have been such a plague on the software industry loose in the garden - and if you think natural pests can destroy crops and wreck havoc wait til you see what unnatural ones (as in lawyers) can do...

On Tuesday morning, the justices will hear oral argument in a fascinating case that would very much have interested Guthrie were he alive today. The case is styled Bowman v. Monsanto and, technically, it's a conflict over seed-planning and federal patent law. It's a story about technology and innovation and investment, about legal standards and appellate precedent and statutory intent, about the nature of nature and how the law ought to answer the basic question of who owns the rights to the seeds of planted seeds.

(link) [The Atlantic]

Update:It don't look good.

22:11 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

To save this endangered breed, eat it

Nice article about a very endangered breed. I suspect, however, that the taste described has more to do with the way the cattle are raised on grass than it does wioth the breed itself. Savvy marketing.

Ask Joe Henderson any question and odds are he’ll give you a very thorough answer. But ask him how to save one of the most endangered breeds in the world, the Randall Lineback, he’ll give you a very short retort: You have to eat it.

(link) [Eatocracy]

23:50 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Christmas tree growers suffer from drought

More fallout from the past summer, in a crop most people don't think of as a crop. But it is, as surely as corn or beans. But unlike a row crop catastrophe, this one will take 8 years to roll through.

The drought has presented a tough year for Christmas tree growers, and it will continue to in the years ahead.

(link) [AgriNews]

09:10 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

In France, a Mission to Return the Military's Carrier Pigeons to Active Duty

Not only in France, but in China too! Who knew? Note the problems that modern breeding have induced: prettier (whiter) birds with limited range.

The French military boasts a powerful army with nuclear submarines, ballistic missiles and spy satellites. For lawmaker Jean-Pierre Decool, however, the country is neglecting one of its mightiest weapons: its flock of carrier pigeons.

(link) [Wall Street Journal]

11:07 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Who needs lawnmowers?

Not only is the grass nicely clipped, it's automatically fertilized...

The Near Eastside has an enormous number of vacant lots with overgrown grass and weeds, and almost as many abandoned houses. Instead of calling the city to take lawnmowers to those lots, or a letting a handful of good Samaritans do it themselves, the neighborhood association decided to buy sheep and let them graze.

(link) [Indianapolis Star]

08:15 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Ancient Scandinavian Urn Wrapped in Fabric Made of Nettles

I had no idea that nettles could be used for fiber, but it's apparently an ancient technique. Here's some stinging nettle history and here's how to process it for fiber - seems very similar to working with flax.

A textile which was wrapped around an ancient urn in Denmark, previously thought to be cultivated flax, was recently re-examined by scientists and verified as imported wild nettles.

(link) [Latinos Post]

16:57 /Agriculture | 2 comments | permanent link

The Driest Season

You won't hear many farmers around here denying that the climate is changing ... the cause may be debated, but the change is undeniable.

From Ukraine to Yellowstone, in Pakistan and Kazakhstan, the skies have stayed clear, and the earth has been parched. And on the world's commodity exchanges, the prices of corn, soybeans, wheat and tea are surging. The World Bank's food price index rose 10% in July.

(link) [CNN]

15:27 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Organic food takes a semi-hit to its image

This is not news. The real issue here is labeling and certification. Same as it's been for years.

A mega-study by Stanford doctors has hit devoted foodies like a punch in the gut: Organic edibles, it turns out, are no more nutritious than conventionally farmed vegetables, milk and meat. All that extra cost and fussing over produce at the farmers' market doesn't count when it comes to vitamins and minerals.

(link) [SFGate]

19:46 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

After the drought, seeking long-term solutions for farmers

This fellow pretty much nails it: the chief beneficiaries of government subsidies and "farm" programs are large corporations. If it's honesty in government we're after, "farm" subsidies should be renamed "agribusiness" subsidies and be done with it. Let's see how quickly those bills pass.

The news of the devastating drought of 2012 has overwhelmed the press with stories of hardship, despair, pain and suffering. Now federal and state governments are stepping in to "help the farmers."

(link) [CNN]

08:16 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

For the Amish, Big Agribusiness Is Destroying a Way of Life

It seems as though big agribusiness has some help:

...when I spoke with Brent Buchanan, the county's agriculture team leader for Cornell's Cooperative Extension, he said New York's regulations slant the game against the Amish. As Buchanan explained, tax exemptions go exclusively to farms selling over $10,000 in product. And while Swartzentruber farmers might grow a qualifying amount, they preserve more of their harvest for subsistence living, thus decreasing their nominal profit. "If they can't enjoy the same taxes as Englishmen, that's inherently not a sustainable business model," said Buchanan.

Ah, yes, government is involved in playing favorites. I'm shocked, shocked I tell you! OK, well, maybe not so much...

At first glance, the Swartzentruber Amish of St. Lawrence County, New York, look to be self-reliant stewards of a bucolic and unchanging landscape. Although their daily chores demand Olympic stamina -- regiments of mugwort-weeding and hay-bailing -- the Swartzentrubers still pause and wave politely to 18-wheelers passing through the county, which stretches from the Adirondacks to the suburbs of Montreal.

(link) [The Atlantic]

Update:The St. Lawrence Co. local paper has a tale to tell on the article. They left in in a comment and since I don't allow links in there I figured I be nice and move it up here for easier access. See the writebacks section for more.

20:48 /Agriculture | 2 comments | permanent link

Weather Gone Wild

More theories about the changing weather patterns. This one places blame in the Pacific, while I posted earlier about a possible Atlantic culprit. My opinion? I think there's too much data and the system is too complex for us to figure out why - the best we can hope for is to get the how right, and then figure out how to mitigate.

For ourselves, out here in west central Indiana, I think the Great Drought of 2012 is over. There's more rain headed our way today, and the pattern seems to have shifted back towards something like it has been for the past century. Whether this is a temporary shift remains to be seen. But I'd be willing to bet we're in for an extended period of some pretty wild weather.

Rains that are almost biblical, heat waves that don’t end, tornadoes that strike in savage swarms—there’s been a change in the weather lately. What’s going on?

(link) [National Geographic]

08:57 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Pitchfork-wielding Virginia farmers rally against birthday party fine

For all of the wailing in Federal political campaigns about "small government" and "excessive regulation", this little piece nicely (if unintentionally) points out that most of the overbearing, obnoxious and nit-picking regulatory shenanigans that go on are at the very local level, not anything Federal (or in many cases even State) officials have anything to do with or say about. And given that this is in Virginia, I'd be willing to bet even money that the local morons causing this uproar are members of the party of smaller government and less regulation.

Those talking the talk would be well advised to begin walking the walk.

Pitchfork-wielding Virginia farmers rallied to support a woman who claims local officials came down on her for, among other things, hosting a children's birthday party on her spread.

(link) [Fox News]

09:22 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

Drought-hit U.S. busts heat record from Dust Bowl days

I don't have records on the farm before we bought the place, but I can certainly assert that this was the hottest July here in the last decade. There is some potential rain on the horizon - we'll see. And we did take a hay delivery today, so we're set for winter, although the price had gone up by a third from last year.

What worries me is next year. If this pattern continues, it will be pointless to stay - we can't possibly make an operational profit or even break even on 10 acres if our pastures dry out and we can't produce any of our own feed. My fingers are crossed.

In the throes of a historic drought in the United States, a government agency said on Wednesday that it broke a heat record in July that had stood since the devastating Dust Bowl summer of 1936.

(link) [Reuters]

16:22 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link

For flock's sake

Clever idea, but I daresay that a guard dog would be cheaper and more effective over the long haul.

Swiss boffins have been testing SMS-equipped sheep to see if they can send a warning text message when the big, bad wolf approaches, and it looks like they can.

(link) [The Register]

07:02 /Agriculture | 0 comments | permanent link