Here are a few items of note collected by me and the National Farmers Union:
Ohio River basin part of pilot water quality trading market
Farm & Dairy
WASHINGTON — American Farmland Trust has received a $1 million Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) from the USDA to develop the first U.S. interstate water quality trading market for agriculture.
In this second phase of the project, the collaborators will launch pilot water quality trades between farmers and public utilities in the Ohio River Basin.
Utilities or manufacturers that face high pollution control costs can buy nutrient reduction credits from farms with lower costs. Farms will be able to sell nitrogen and phosphorus, potentially generating greenhouse gas reduction credits from on-farm conservation practices that result in new income for their operations.
The Ohio River Basin is an area that spans 14 states, with phase-two of this project focusing on Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Illinois. The overall goal of the collaborators is to improve water quality in the Ohio River Basin and reduce hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.
Friend and Foe: Nitrogen fertilizer and pollution
American Chemical Society – press release
DENVER, Aug. 28, 2011 — Billions of people owe their lives to nitrogen fertilizers — a pillar of the fabled Green Revolution in agriculture that averted global famine in the 20th century — but few are aware that nitrogen pollution from fertilizers and other sources has become a major environmental problem that threatens human health and welfare in multiple ways, a scientist said here today.
“It’s been said that nitrogen pollution is the biggest environmental disaster that nobody has heard of,” Alan Townsend, Ph.D., observed at the 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), being held here this week. Townsend, an authority on how human activity has changed the natural cycling of nitrogen to create a friend-turned-foe dilemma, called for greater public awareness of nitrogen pollution and concerted global action to control it. He spoke at a symposium on the topic, which included almost a dozen reports (abstracts of each presentation appear below) by other experts.
“Awareness has grown, but nitrogen pollution remains such a little-recognized environmental problem because it lacks the visibility of other kinds of pollution,” Townsend explained. “People can see an oil slick on the ocean, but hundreds of tons of nitrogen spill invisibly into the soil, water and air every day from farms, smokestacks and automobile tailpipes. But the impact is there — unhealthy air, unsafe drinking water, dead zones in the ocean, degraded ecosystems and implications for climate change. But people don’t see the nitrogen spilling out, so it is difficult to connect the problems to their source.”
Good times return for ethanol, but for how long?
Des Moines Register
With ethanol, something always happens to ruin the party.
Ethanol demand is up as much as 6 percent this year over 2010, largely due to exports to Brazil and Europe that are expected to top 1 billion gallons.
Most ethanol plants are operating in the black despite corn prices that reached above $7.40 per bushel last week. High gasoline prices this year have made it economical for refiners, pipelines and other wholesalers to blend cheaper ethanol with gasoline.
“The whole commodity complex has gone up in sync during the last year, and as long as there is a favorable spread between ethanol and unleaded gasoline, we will be able to make our margins,” said Jim Gillingham, senior vice president for alternative energy of Texas-based Valero Energy as he toured Valero’s 110-million-gallon ethanol plant at Albert City.
Needed: Dairy legislation – not rhetoric
As the National Milk Producers Federation held the last of its information meetings on dairy reform proposals Aug. 22 in Nashville, House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., was making plans to introduce his bill with the co-sponsorship of Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.
Peterson has said Congress should take up the bill as soon as possible, but House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., has said he will not move a dairy bill separate from the farm bill unless all sectors of the industry including processors are in agreement. Such agreement is elusive.
U.S. House Republicans gear up for regulatory revamping
House Republicans are planning votes for almost every week this fall in an effort to repeal environmental and labor requirements on business that they say have hampered job growth.
With everyone from President Obama to his Republican challengers in the 2012 campaign focusing on ways to spur economic growth, House Republicans will roll out plans Monday to fight regulations from the National Labor Relations Board, pollution rules handed down by the Environmental Protection Agency and regulations that affect health plans for small businesses. In addition, the lawmakers plan to urge a 20 percent tax deduction for small businesses.
“It is essential that the House continue our focus on the jobs crisis,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) wrote in a memo to be sent to GOP lawmakers Monday.
The push for a jobs agenda comes as Obama, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and others plan to present their own jobs agendas just after Labor Day.
FDA on a dangerous diet
The Daily Cougar
An unfunded law for practical purposes is an unenforceable law, so it defies logic that the federal government is calling its recent package of food safety laws an enhancement to its regulatory power. Rather than expanding the Food and Drug Administration’s already meager budget, Congress has implemented severe austerity measures and is considering additional budget cuts in wake of the recent deficit debate. As a result, the agency that is charged with overseeing the quality of much of the nation’s food supply will be rendered a little more than a toothless watchdog, unable to meet its previous obligations let alone these new mandates.
In addition, even if funded, these new laws do nothing to address the fractured nature of the country’s system of food inspection. Ultimately, consumers will pay for the FDA’s impotency by encountering more frequent and larger scale occurrences of contaminated food along with the associated healthcare costs.