Delores McQuinn knew her city of Richmond, Va., had challenges with access to healthy foods well before she was elected to Virginia’s House of Delegates in 2008. “This little kid … would come to my house almost every other day to see if we had food for (him) and his siblings," she said. I realized … that there were some serious issues of people having access to food.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as a census tract with a substantial share of residents who live in low-income areas that have few grocery stores or healthy, affordable food retail outlets.

In Horne v. Department of Agriculture the Supreme Court held 8-1 that the federal government violated the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause by physically setting aside a percentage of a grower’s raisin crop each year without pay. At least six other agriculture set aside programs are in trouble as a result of this case. But what about its impact on state and local government?

Horne is a complicated case with four issues. The holding most...

To paraphrase Mark Twain, “the reports of Rural America’s death are greatly exaggerated.” In fact, at least four major trends are helping improve the future of rural America: broadband, telemedicine, job training and new methods to attract young people to farming all offer hope.

U.S. farms exported $144.4 billion worth of agricultural products in 2013, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. California exported the most of any state – $20.1 billion – followed by Iowa ($10.4 billion) and Illinois ($8.0 billion). The biggest U.S. agricultural export in 2013 was soybeans, worth nearly $22 billion. Just three states – Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota – made up over one-third of the soybean export market, with Illinois alone exporting almost $3.1 billion of crop. The American Farm Bureau Federation says one in three U.S. farm acres is planted for export.  

The story behind emerging technologies in agriculture begins with a simple truth. Everybody needs to eat. With an estimated global population of more than 9 billion by 2050 and with no commensurate growth in arable land, that means farmers and ranchers will need to find new ways to produce more food on the same amount of land. New advances in agricultural technology may help the producers, but the ag tech startups that create those advances haven’t been getting a lot of support themselves.

A highly contagious strain of of avian influenza, or “bird flu”, hit the United States this year, leading at least 11 states—including Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—to ban all bird shows this summer where birds might co-mingle, such as county or state fairs, in the hopes of stopping the spread of the disease. As of late-May, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the highly pathogenic H5 virus has led to the deaths of more than 40 million birds in 15 states.

CSG Midwest
A highly contagious strain of “bird flu” hit the United States this year, and parts of the Midwest have been the epicenter of the outbreak. As of early May, highly pathogenic avian influenza, H5N2, had been identified in 17 states, with outbreaks at more than 60 farms in Minnesota alone and the loss of more than 28 million birds. Bird flu has also been reported on farms in Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Ontario.
CSG Midwest
Earlier this year, a headline in The New York Times set off a firestorm in both the livestock industry and the research community. “U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit,” the headline read. The laboratory at the heart of the story was a U.S. Department of Agriculture facility in southeast Nebraska where research is conducted on farm animals. The goal of the USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center is to improve the efficiency of production while also maintaining the quality of meat products.
 
But the article raised questions about whether the welfare of animals at the facility was being compromised — for example, by breeding research that has led to “weakened or deformed” calves and crowded conditions that are causing piglets to be crushed.
 
In response, animal-welfare organizations called for shutting down the facility and even ending all animal agriculture research across the country. And federal legislation was introduced to include farm animals under the Animal Welfare Act, the law that governs research use of laboratory animals.
 
CSG Midwest
Less than a year after a harmful algal bloom temporarily cut off the city of Toledo’s drinking water supply, Ohio lawmakers have passed groundbreaking legislation to keep pollutants out of Lake Erie. SB 1, signed into law in early April, establishes several new provisions to prevent nutrient runoff.
 
CSG Midwest
A bill approved this year by the North Dakota legislature will provide new exemptions to the state’s decades-old ban on corporate farming, but it might also face a future challenge at the ballot box.
 
 

Pages