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.
Ohio’s livestock care standards take effect today
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.
ISU meteorologist says expect cold winter
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.”
Report: Emergency food pantries have become a mainstay in many people’s diets
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.
Crackdown on excessive speculation in commodities markets stymied at CFTC
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.
Farmers group backs plan to overhaul dairy policy
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.