Wise: Ohio natural gas boom sparks cautious OFU policy for now

Farmer shows dirty water which came from his well after fracking on his land

NE Ohio farmer shows OFU members one jar of fracking fluid and another jar of water he said came from his well after fracking on his land.

One of the issues sure to be on the radar of the Ohio Farmers Union for some time to come is the Ohio’s natural gas boom.

How long the industrial and economic activity lasts – and what the lasting environmental consequences will be — are just two of the many questions OFU and others are asking.

OFU’s current policy statement concerns the method by which natural gas drillers will extract gas from the ground. So-called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” will be used to exploit the Marcellus and Utica Shale gas formations. For now, drilling will occur primarily in Eastern Ohio.

Lying thousands of feet below the earth’s surface, natural gas is embedded in the pores of the shale. Fracking technology allows well drillers to bore vertically for hundreds or thousands of feet and then bore horizontally for up to a mile. At extremely high pressure, fracking fluid, also called drilling fluid, is forced down the well where it creates fractures in the rock, releasing the gas to be collected. The fluid is mostly water and sand but does include chemicals.

Fracking proponents say that their drilling activity is so far beneath the water table that the chances for them to pollute groundwater are slim to none. They also point to industry practices of hauling away drilling site waste water by the truckload to be recycled or for disposal. Opponents point to evidence of environmental havoc being created in states like Pennsylvania where the gas boom is already well underway. They complain of clear cutting, truck and machinery traffic wearing on rural roads and noise and water pollution.

OFU’s current policy on fracking states:

OFU calls on the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to assure that the oil and gas drilling practice known as “hydraulic fracturing” or “hydro-fracking” is regulated to protect the health of Ohio citizens and the quantity and quality of Ohio’s groundwater.

What this means going forward, and whether OFU bolsters the policy, hinges on several potential policy prescriptions which could be addressed by the Ohio General Assembly in the next several months.

“What the Farmers Union is looking for from the legislature and the Kasich Administration is twofold. We want transparency in place regarding what natural gas companies are putting into the ground and how they dispose of their waste, and we want to know that rural landowners are protected and dealt with fairly,” said Roger Wise, OFU president.

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VIDEO: Ohio Environmental Council Presentation to Farmers Union Members on Fracking

This video was taken at a September meeting sponsored by the Ashtabula, Lake, Geauga Counties Farmers Union. Joe Logan of the Ohio Environmental Council – and himself an Ohio Farmers Union member – discussed what hyraulic fracturing is, explained the Utica and Marcellus Shale natural gas play and outlined many of the environmental issues revolving around “fracking” for natural gas.

News Break – October 5, 2011 – Fracking, Biofuels, China Currency, Farm Bill

PA Governor supports tougher shale drilling regulations

Columbus Dispatch

Energy companies that drill into Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale for natural gas would have to pay an impact fee and would face tougher sanctions for violations under a plan Gov. Tom Corbett endorsed yesterday.

The announcement is part of an increasingly tougher stance the state has taken in recent months in response to its natural gas boom, in which more than 3,800 horizontal wells have been drilled and hydraulically fractured, or “fracked” in recent years. In April, Corbett ordered a halt to the dumping of brine, a salty, toxic wastewater from wells, into that state’s streams.

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Study says biofuels costly, their impact questionable

Des Moines Register

Next-generation biofuels are so expensive and difficult to make that the nation is unlikely to meet the government’s usage mandates, according to the National Research Council.

A congressionally requested study by the research council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, also warns the feedstocks needed to produce the advanced biofuels could increase food prices by competing with food crops for land,  a key criticism of the corn ethanol the next-generation biofuels are supposed to replace. Producing the future biofuels also could have unintended environmental consequences in some areas because of the fertilizer and water requirements and may not do as much to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as the government has estimated, the study found.

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Vilsack says USDA food safety programs likely to be cut

Bloomberg

Food-safety programs may be less vulnerable to cuts than other areas of U.S. Department of Agriculture spending because of the importance placed on the nutrition supply, Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

“I’m least concerned about the food-safety part than any other part,” Vilsack said today at a food-policy conference in Washington. Nutrition assistance for poor families may be more vulnerable, even as it helps reduce poverty, he said.

Funding for programs that protect the nation’s food supply are being pressured by congressional spending cuts. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service budget would be reduced by 3.4 percent to $972.7 million in the year beginning Oct. 1 under the appropriations bill the House of Representatives passed in June, while the Senate’s plan would leave funding unchanged.

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Reid sets stage for next vote on China currency bill

The Hill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed a cloture motion on Tuesday night to end debate on the pending Chinese currency bill.

The legislation, designed to pressure the Chinese government to stop undervaluing its currency, already cleared one important hurdle on Monday night, advancing to the first stage of debate by a vote of 79-19. That strong show of support indicates the bill could very well clear the upper chamber by week’s end.

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Thune touts bipartisan Farm Bill proposal

Indiana Prairie Farmer

The Aggregate Risk and Revenue Management program, or ARRM Farm Bill proposal has been introduced by a bipartisan group of farm state Senators including Senator John Thune, R-S.D. So far it’s getting positive initial reaction among the agricultural community.

Thune says it builds on the Average Crop Revenue Election and the crop insurance program to provide a safety net in crop years where prices are low. However, he says it’s less complicated and less restrictive than either ACRE or SURE.

“It does away with direct payments, it does away with counter-cyclical payments, and it sort of reforms the ACRE program and acts as a compliment to crop insurance,” Thune said. “So for example if a farmer takes a crop insurance program, this would allow them to fill the gap between what crop insurance covers and what their 90% of revenue would be in any given year.”

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Video: Nat Gas boom – busy laundromats & increased homelessness

I spent a few hours at the Farm Science Review at Ohio State University’s Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London last week. Along with OFU President Roger Wise and OFU Executive Director Linda Borton, I attended a panel discussion put on by four OSU faculty members whose research and teaching revolve around rural economics, development and environmental issues. I hope to post, in this space soon, the entirety of the panel discussion after I get a few audio things fixed with the recording.

After the panel, I asked OSU Assistant Prof. Mike Lloyd who is based in Noble County as part of the OSU Extension Service. Lloyd has seen the natural gas boom begin in Ohio with an increase in mineral rights lease activity. Since he and others knew the gas rush was coming, he has also observed what has happened on the other side of the border in Pennsylvania and has spent time talking to local officials there about the economic impacts of the gas industry. Lloyd has also been providing some educational opportunities for eastern Ohio landowners on what to expect from the process of negotiating mineral rights on their land.

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Ag News Update – September 29, 2011 – Fracking, Big Ag, & Other Matters …

Dispatch does in-depth on Ohio natural gas drilling

The Columbus Dispatch has just finished a three-day series on the natural gas boom that is just beginning in Ohio. As politicians are hellbent for jobs at seemingly any cost and friendly representatives from multinational oil and gas corporations knock at rural landowners’ doors, precious few of us are taking a moment to consider the long view regarding the exploitation of the Marcellus and Utica natural gas formations deep below much of the eastern half of Ohio. As evidence that some newspapers are still willing to expend resources on investigative or in-depth coverage of an important issue, the Dispatch has run a series of stories shedding light on the gas industry and its record in other states, what’s happening in Ohio with mineral rights and leasing, the hows and whys of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking,’ and what oversight (actually, lack thereof) we can expect from state and federal officials.

Click Here for The Columbus Dispatch Series: Deep Pockets – Oil and Gas Deposits in Ohio

Ohio’s livestock care standards take effect today

Hannah Report

Comprehensive livestock standards created by the 13-member Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board will become effective Thursday, Sept. 29 when Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Jim Zehringer signs the final administrative order at a special ceremony starting at 2:30 p.m. in Fort Recovery. This will conclude two-months of outreach efforts by the agriculture department and Ohio’s farm organizations to inform Ohioans raising or caring for livestock about the new rules.

The Ohio Constitution required the establishment of comprehensive livestock care standards following passage of state Issue 2 in 2009. The ballot initiative specified creation of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board with the responsibility of obtaining industry and public input in developing livestock rules for alpacas, beef, dairy, goats, horses, llamas, pork, poultry, sheep and veal.

The board sought to create comprehensive livestock care standards that also support the state’s overarching policies to promote safe and affordable food, help prevent the outbreak of both animal and human diseases, and encourage local food production.

Members of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board and representatives of Ohio’s agricultural community devoted 18 months to developing and vetting the most comprehensive livestock care standards in the nation, said Zehringer.

“States from around the country are now looking towards Ohio’s leadership in developing these new standards,” he said.

All rules affecting the care of dairy, beef, swine, turkeys, broilers, sheep, goats, alpacas, llamas, and equine standards were approved by the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) before the summer legislative recess.

Group fighting “Big Ag” label is — Big Ag

New York Times

LAST week, a new public-relations campaign about agriculture got off to a splashy start. With full-page ads in newspapers and panel discussions live-streamed on the Internet, the newly formed U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance began what it called a bid to “reshape the dialogue” about the American food supply.

“When did agriculture become a dirty word?” the Alliance asks on its Web site.

Chris Galen, a founding member of the group and head of communications for the National Milk Producers Federation, said, “There is a feeling across the board in agriculture that Americans have concerns about the food supply, and those are best addressed by farmers.”

To assure Americans that food is safe, abundant and affordable, farmers can use their voices and faces to fight the label “Big Ag,” the organization’s leaders say. But the group’s members include the largest agriculture marketing groups in the country, with billions of dollars to spend. They include the American Egg Board (“The Incredible Edible Egg”), the National Milk Producers Federation (“Got Milk?”) and the National Pork Board (“The Other White Meat”).

Its $11 million annual budget will come partly from mandatory marketing fees that the Department of Agriculture helps collect from farmers, and from corporations like Monsanto, the producer of genetically engineered seed, and DuPont, a major producer of chemical pesticides. Each company has committed to an annual contribution of $500,000.

Yet Bonnie West, a spokeswoman for the American National Cattlewomen, a booster group for beef consumption, said her members felt like “small potatoes” in the national debate over food.

The “big potatoes” for the group seem to be advocates and authors like Eric Schlosser (“Fast Food Nation”) and Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”), and the filmmaker Robert Kenner (“Food, Inc.”), whose work has criticized industrial agricultural practices like huge feedlots, tight confinement of animals, the widespread use of hormones and antibiotics and the billions of dollars in federal subsidies that they say support an otherwise unsustainable system.

It is a source of pride for their allies that there is now a perceived need for an organized response to their critiques.

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ISU meteorologist says expect cold winter

agriculture.com

It’s not far off…and, if you were a fan of last winter’s weather, you’re in luck. But, if your snowblower needs repairs, you might want to get those taken care of before Old Man Winter arrives.

Many signs point to a likely repeat of last winter’s conditions, with cold temperatures and above-average precipitation in much of the Midwest and drier conditions in the Plains, says Don Keeney, meteorologist with MDA EarthSat Weather. Look for one difference from last year, though.

“It should be noted that the coldest conditions should occur earlier in the winter, with December and January being the colder time periods,” Keeney says.

The reason for the repeat in the winter outlook: The La Nina system that was supposed to be gone by now will likely stay in place through March, says Iowa State University (ISU) Extension Ag meteorologist Elwynn Taylor. La Nina is characterized by colder winter temperatures and the potential for a lot more volatile swings in the mercury than normal.

“A year ago, we had one of the 3 strongest La Ninas in the last 100 years. It did a lot of the things we expected it to do, both in the summer and winter,” Taylor says. “Now, we’re seeing it restrengthening. Not as harsh or extreme, but similar to last year.

“So yes, the probability looks like a replay of last year, maybe just not as extreme. But, let’s just say it wouldn’t be smart to do without your snowblower if you are a person who gets tired of shoveling snow.”

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Report: Emergency food pantries have become a mainstay in many people’s diets

Associated Press

Rosalinde Block receives $241 a month in food assistance for her and her 18-year-old son, to add to the money coming in from the piano lessons she teaches and the art commissions she gets. In one of the world’s most expensive cities, it’s not enough.

“That goes pretty fast,” said Block, 59, of the amount she got for September, “it was already gone by the 12th or the 15th.”

So Block, who lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, adds to it with visits every other month to a food pantry in nearby Harlem, where she’ll get some chicken or milk, or some ingredients for soup or a few other meals. It’s been like this for a couple of years.

A report released Wednesday by Feeding America, a hunger-relief organization, finds that food banks that were originally created to serve as stop-gap emergency food providers are now taking a long-term, chronic role for Americans turning to them routinely to get enough to eat.

The organization’s Hunger in America 2010 report, the “Food Banks: Hunger’s New Staple,” found through data compiled in 2009 that 18 percent of those surveyed said they used food pantries six to 11 months of the previous year, while 36 percent they used them every month.

The survey also found that among those 65 years and older, 56 percent went to a food pantry every month. And even those receiving aid in the form of supplemental nutrition money still needed more help, with 58 percent of them being frequent or monthly users. “Those dollars don’t go very far,” said Vicki Escarra, president of the Chicago-based Feeding America.

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Crackdown on excessive speculation in commodities markets stymied at CFTC

Reuters

The U.S. futures regulator delayed a final vote on controversial measures to crack down on excessive speculation in commodity markets because it lacks the three votes needed for approval, sources familiar with the situation told Reuters on Wednesday.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced on Tuesday it was delaying by another two weeks to October 18 its meeting to consider the long-awaited rule on position limits. It was the second time a vote had been postponed.

The disagreements hinge on some of the smaller, seemingly less-contentious elements of the plan, not on the areas in which the CFTC has yielded to industry complaints.

This may suggest that Chairman Gary Gensler does at least have in principle an agreement on the need to impose limits on energy and metals markets, something several commissioners have questioned.

Two sources familiar with the agency’s rule-making said the CFTC commissioners and staff were working on ironing out a myriad of differences, including details of conditional limits — which allow for a higher limit in the spot month in a cash-settled contract than in a physically deliverable contract — as well as the timing of imposing the limits.

“He doesn’t feel like he has the votes,” one source familiar with the CFTC’s thinking told Reuters.

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 Farmers group backs plan to overhaul dairy policy

Associated Press

A leading dairy farmers group threw its support Monday behind a proposed overhaul of federal milk subsidies after its creator agreed that participation in a program limiting milk production in hard times would be voluntary.

The plan developed by Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson would replace current federal dairy programs with new ones intended to do a better job of protecting farmers from the kind of crisis they suffered during the recession in 2009, when milk prices plunged, feed costs skyrocketed and hundreds were forced out of business.

Peterson’s original plan called for limits on how much milk farmers could produce when the difference between milk prices and the cost of producing milk, as determined by feed prices, fell to a certain level. The intent was to balance supply and demand.

Some farmers objected to the federal government limiting how much milk they could produce, saying the answer to problems facing the dairy industry was less government interference, not more.

After getting feedback for several months, Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, agreed to make participation in the so-called dairy market stabilization program voluntary.

But, farmers would have to participate in that program to qualify for another, more popular one that works like an insurance system. In effect, dairy producers would pay premiums in good times that would enable them to collect more generous government payouts in bad times. If they chose to pay nothing, they would get a minimal subsidy.

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NE Ohio Farmers Union Leaders to Hold Informational Meeting on Fracking Tonight

Family Farmers Sponsor Public Meeting on Fracking in NE Ohio

COLEBROOK – Leadership of the Ashtabula, Geauga and Lake Counties Farmers Union and the Trumbull County Farmers Union will hold an information sharing meeting tonight on the subject What Fracking Will Mean to Us.

The meeting will be held at the Colebrook Community Center at the corner of SR 322 and SR 46 in Ashtabula County from 7 to 9 p.m. There will be a question and answer period. The event is free and open to the public.

Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing – a drilling method employed to extract natural gas or oil from wells in hard rock strata thousands of feet below the ground. Fracking will be used during the drilling of the Marcellus and Utica shales in Eastern Ohio for natural gas extraction.

Joe Logan, Trumbull County Farmers Union president and director of agricultural issues for the Ohio Environmental Council will discuss possible impacts of fracking on agriculture and natural resources with a focus on fresh water supplies.

Vanessa Pesec, president of the Network for Oil and Gas Accountability and Protection (NEOGAP), will present a detailed lecture on what fracking will mean to us as individuals, landholders and communities. Pesec will also talk about what landholders should look for in a fair lease should they decide to lease their mineral rights.

 

Event: NE Ohio Farmers Union Members to Hold Fracking Information Meeting

What Fracking will Mean to Us

Monday, September 26, 2011

7-9pm

Colebrook Community Center

Colebrook (northeast corner of state routes 322 and 46)

Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake Counties Farmers Union and Trumbull County Farmers Union are presenting a joint educational meeting: What Fracking will Mean to Us? Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing – a drilling method employed to extract natural gas or oil from wells in hard rock strata thousands of feet below the ground. Fracking will be used during the drilling of the Marcellus and Utica shales in Eastern Ohio for natural gas extraction.

[Read more...]

Ag News Roundup – September 23, 2011 – Harvest, Fracking among topics

A few things of interest from the national & Ohio media:

Kasich advocates switching state vehicles to nat gas, says “We cannot stop fracking”

Columbus Dispatch

Ohio might join with neighboring states and convert government vehicle fleets to run on natural gas, which would boost demand for gas from the region’s shale formations, Gov. John Kasich said yesterday.

The governor spoke about the plan in the closing address of his two-day energy conference. He also said his office will announce a comprehensive energy policy by spring, although he gave few details about what it might include.

Kasich said he spoke with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett about the natural-gas-fueled vehicle idea, and members of his staff have brought up the idea with counterparts in Indiana and Michigan.

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Nat Gas industry says 200,000 jobs could result from Ohio shale gas

 Dayton Daily News/AP

Natural gas trapped in two shale formations beneath Ohio could mean thousands of new jobs, if activity in other states is any indication.

In Pennsylvania, which sits on one of the same shale formations as Ohio, gas and oil industries hired 72,000 people between the fourth quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2011, according to Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry statistics.

The number of new hires for the core gas industries — extraction, drilling and pipeline work — is smaller but still doubled to 18,837 from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2010.

Tim McElhinny, an analyst with the Pennsylvania Labor Department, said all hires can’t be attributed to new drilling, but there are so many of them that a portion must be caused by work on the Marcellus shale.

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Industry says gas boom could produce economic miracle

The Plain Dealer

… The new jobs study, contained in a 92-page economic impact analysis, was prepared by economic research company Kleinhenze & Associates of Cleveland for the Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Association.

The conclusions are based on propriety information obtained from large gas and oil corporations that jockeyed for months to lease mineral rights from rural land owners. Marietta College, Ohio State University, Central Ohio Technical College and Zane State College contributed to the data analysis.

Among the study’s main conclusions:

• Over the next five years, oil and gas producers are expected to spend $34 billion in exploration and development, pipelines, royalty payments to landowners and other leasing expenditures.

• New jobs would start slowly — 4,614 jobs this year, increasing to 22,297 next year — and then mushroom by tens of thousands from 2013 through 2015, culminating at an estimated 204,520 jobs by 2015.

• Wages, salaries and personal income attributable to the production would soar to an estimated $12 billion per year, including $1.6 billion in royalties, by 2015.

• Annual tax revenues, including income, property, commercial activity and “severance” taxes or royalties tied to the production would total $478.9 million by 2015.

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Corn Yields Coming in Mixed

agriculture.com

Combines are rolling in the Corn Belt. So, what’s the crop making so far?

Yields are all across the board as harvest gets rolling in corn and soybean country. Corn moisture levels are still on the high side in a lot of areas, though, keeping harvest progress a little on the slow side.

“Things are moving slow. Corn is not drying down very fast, if at all it seems,” says Benton, Illinois, farmer Kelly Robertson. “Working on odds and ends between trying to haul some corn out and it doesn’t seem like I am getting much accomplished.”

But, where harvest activity has been able to pick up, the results are mixed.

“We are running here in northeast Kansas. Corn is pretty good — above average from what I was expecting,” says Seneca, Kansas, farmer Rod Tangeman says. “So far, we have had fields go 168 [bushels/acre], 170, 105, 142, 163 and 158.”

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Obama would cut ag programs

agriculture.com

When it comes to farm policy, Congress often ignores White House proposals. It passed the 2008 Farm Bill over President George W. Bush’s veto and it’s possible both parties will ignore some of the ideas put forth Monday in President Barack Obama’s Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction Plan,

Obama didn’t ignore agriculture, however. He wants to eliminate or reduce these ag programs:

  • Eliminate Direct Payments. The White House says they’re not needed at a time of high farm income, adding that “Economists have shown that direct payments have priced young Americans out of renting or owning the land needed to enter into farming.” It would save $3 billion per year.
  • Crop Insurance. The Administration is looking for more cuts here. It says currents costs are $8 billion per year, with $2.3 billion going to insurance companies and $5.7 billion to farmers as premium subsidies. USDA has already trimmed $600 million a year from support for insurers and hasn’t touched subsidies of farmer premiums. Obama’s deficit cutting plan would trim another 200 million a year from insurance companies, arguing that they would still have a return on investment of 12%. Farmer premium subsidies for coverage at the 50% catastrophic level would not change but premium subsidies on higher levels over coverage would be shaved by two basis points, or $200 million per year (a 3,.5% cut from current levels).
  •  Conservation. Obama would cut conservation programs by $200 million a year “by better targeting conservation funding to the most cost-effective and environmentally- beneficial programs and practices.” Even with those cuts, conservation assistance is projected to grow by $60 billion over the next 10 years.

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Farm lobby’s power withers as programs face cuts

Politico

Washington’s debt crisis brings American agriculture to a crossroads this fall and no other sector of the economy may have more to gain or lose from the debate in Congress over deficit reduction.

With record exports predicted for 2011, farmers begin with a proven self-interest in stable world markets, but their very success makes them all the more vulnerable now to deep cuts from the federal subsidies so synonymous with agriculture for decades.
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Ohio EPA working on ‘general permit’ for shale gas drilling site air quality

EPA Director Nally touts permitting process to take as little as two weeks

Ohio EPA Director Scott Nally announced yesterday that his department has a draft “general permit” for air quality around shale gas production sites.

In a news release Nally said that Ohio EPA has several types of general permits that are meant to streamline the regulatory process for businesses involved in activities that do not differ substantially from site to site.

“A general permit for shale gas production will streamline the process, giving producers the tools they need to comply with Ohio’s air pollution regulations,” said Nally.

From Ohio EPA’s news release:

Since most shale gas operations will be similar, Ohio EPA is developing a general permit that will create consistent standards for the sites. This will allow most applicants to apply for and receive a permit in as little as two weeks. Ohio EPA’s air division currently offers 47 general permits which serve a variety of business sectors.

The draft general permit includes emission limits, operating restrictions, and monitoring, testing and reporting requirements. It will cover a variety of emissions sources found at most shale gas production sites including internal combustion engines, dehydration systems, truck-loading racks, storage tanks, flares and unpaved roadways. The permit will not cover activities that occur during the drilling and fracturing phase as the resulting air emissions are considered temporary and exempt from air pollution permit regulations.

The draft general permit and qualifying criteria have been reviewed by interested parties to ensure all common shale gas production operations are covered under the permit. Ohio EPA will incorporate comments received before finalizing the draft general permit and making it available for a 30-day public comment period. Ohio EPA will issue another news release to announce the beginning of the public comment period.

The draft permit may be viewed here.

Food & Ag News Roundup – August 11, 2011

Dept. of Energy panel seeks stronger rules on drilling of gas wells, fracking

New York Times

A federal Department of Energy panel issued recommendations on Thursday for improving the safety and environmental impact of drilling in shale formations for natural gas.

In a report on the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that is used currently in most oil and gas wells, the seven-member Natural Gas Subcommittee called for better tracking and more careful disposal of the waste that comes up from wells, stricter standards on air pollution and greenhouse gases associated with drilling, and the creation of a federal database so the public can better monitor drilling operations.

The report also called for companies to eliminate diesel fuel from their fracking fluid because it includes carcinogenic chemicals, and for companies and regulators to disclose the full list of ingredients used in fracking.

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Farmers Markets on the Rise

USA Today

The newly released 2011 National Farmers Market Directory shows a total of 7,175 farmers markets in the U.S. this summer, up from last year’s 6,132.

These markets allow farmers to sell their produce directly to consumers and often bring fresh fruits and vegetables into neighborhoods that lacked them.

There could be even more than the 7,000-plus on USDA’s list, says agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. The USDA’s list is compiled as part of a voluntary, self-reporting system by the Agricultural Marketing Service. It used information from farmers market managers collected April 18 through June 24, 2011.

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USDA has new scheme to trace animal disease

Food Safety News

For most of the past decade, the U.S. Department of Agriculture tried to get farmers and ranchers to accept the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) without success. NAIS was to be a high tech solution, with top down coverage of nearly every critter on the land. But, as everybody in rural America knows, NAIS is dead. Still U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has every reason to worry about tuberculosis, brucellosis, scabies, pseudorabies, hog cholera and like animal diseases. So to improve the traceability of U.S. livestock moving through interstate commerce when animal diseases do strike, Vilsack Tuesday rolled out a new, decidedly low tech tracking system.

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Renewable Fuels Standard emerges as ethanol’s Sacred Cow

National Journal

You wouldn’t know it from the political cloud over ethanol, but the federal government will keep propping up the industry even if Washington eliminates its three-decade-old tax subsidies.

A newer law quietly ensures ethanol’s sustained growth. And that mandate isn’t going anywhere.

By year’s end, the congressional “super committee” charged with reducing the federal deficit likely will topple the $6 billion in annual ethanol industry tax credits and a corresponding government tariff on imported ethanol. But another prong of ethanol’s government support – the “renewable fuels standard” – will remain. And it may ultimately be more important to corn farmers and the ethanol industry.

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U.S. DOT: No changes to road rules

agriculture.com

If you haul grain as part of a crop share agreement with your landlord, you’re not going to have to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

That’s what the Department of Transportation says in an official guidance issued today, hoping to calm members of Congress and farm groups who feared a new set of burdensome regulations.

Instead, the Department is not changing any federal rules that apply to requirements for CDLs for farmers.

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http://www.agriculture.com/news/policy/dot-no-chges-to-road-rules_4-ar18218