USDA undersecretary tours fire damage

On his second tour through farm country in his capacity as USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation, Bill Northey stopped in Leedey, Okla., recently to meet with producers affected by recent wildfires. Northey said he was proud to get out of the office and meet with farmers and ranchers firsthand, part of a “boots on the ground” mission Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and President Donald Trump have encouraged among USDA leadership and other members of the administration.

During his visit, Northey said changes to USDA disaster assistance programs were being made to insure the programs’ effectiveness.

“Prolonged severe drought and wildfires have impacted the availability of adequate forage and water sources for livestock and, in some cases, impacted 2018 cropping decisions for ranchers and farmers,” Northey said. “USDA offers several disaster programs intended to provide relief to producers affected by severe weather conditions, and we want to make it easy for producers to use these tools to recover.”


Fire ant warning reissued

With hay being donated to help feed livestock after recent wildfires in northwest Oklahoma, the state Department of Agriculture is urging producers to be vigilant in preventing the spread of red imported fire ants.

The red imported fire ant has an estimated economic impact of $1.2 billion annually in Texas alone and has already infested more than 260 million acres of land in 11 southeastern states. Fire ants can devastate urban, agricultural and wildlife areas and pose a serious health threat to plants and animals, including humans.

As a result, the ag department and Oklahoma State University Extension announced that they will survey sites for the red imported fire ant where donated hay is being stored and encourage producers to familiarize themselves with restrictions under which hay must remain quarantined. One piece of advice they recommend is to accept only hay bales that have been stored in a manner that prevents contact with the ground.


Hemp legislation introduced

Colorado’s two U.S. Senators, Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, have co-sponsored the bipartisan Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which would legalize and clearly define hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from the list of controlled substances. The legislation also would give states the opportunity to become the primary regulators of hemp, allow hemp researchers to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ensure hemp growers in the West can access water and make hemp farmers eligible to apply for crop insurance.

“It’s past time for Washington to recognize the growth of hemp as an agricultural commodity and legalize it nationwide,” Bennet said. “This bipartisan legislation builds on the successful pilot program we created in the 2014 Farm Bill, eliminating federal barriers and providing certainty for states and hemp growers. We’ll continue working with Senate leadership on behalf of Colorado’s hemp farmers and entrepreneurs to pass this bill.”

Gardner called it “a commonsense move, which would create jobs and get the government out of the way of Colorado’s farmers and agricultural industry.”


New initiative promotes land grant research

Colorado State University, K-State, the University of Nebraska and 13 other public and private universities launched a new effort to boost federal investment in agricultural research, called FedByScience. The initiative, timed to coincide with the release of the 2018 House Farm Bill, focuses on demonstrating to the public and policymakers the many ways that USDA-funded universities and researchers are creating a safer, healthier and more productive food system.


New hire announced

Arielle Quintana is the new education and outreach coordinator for the Quivira Coalition, headquartered in Santa Fe. A tribal member from the Cochiti Pueblo, which is one of twenty-three tribes in New Mexico, Quintana was raised to steward the land and cultivate strong ties between people and nature, according to the coalition. She is a graduate of Colorado State University with a bachelor’s degree in rangeland ecology. The majority of her work has involved engaging youth in nature and educating all ages on the importance of conserving natural resources. In the past, she has worked for her tribe’s Department of Natural Resources and on riparian restoration, wildlife habitat improvement and garden education at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden.


Soybean farmers would struggle to replace Chinese sales

U.S. soybean exports could drop as much as 65% if the back-and-forth trade battle between the two largest economies causes China to slap on retaliatory tariffs. Politico says that number comes from a soon-to-be-published report out of Purdue University. Earlier this month, China said it would place a 25% tariff on U.S. soybeans if President Trump follows through on his plan to punish China for forced technology transfers by implementing American tariffs on Chinese goods. If the trade war actually happens and tariffs are put in place, China has said it will rely on Brazilian soybeans to fill the gap. Brazil is currently the largest soybean exporter to China. Even if the U.S. increases exports to other markets, such as the European Union, Mexico, Indonesia, and Japan, it still won’t make up for the loss of business with China, which is worth nearly $14 billion.


Dicamba legal battle continues in Arkansas

Nearly 200 farmers have obtained temporary restraining orders against the Arkansas in-season ban on dicamba use. A DTN report says judges in three counties have granted restraining orders in response to last-minute complaints filed by farmers. The office of State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is filing appeals of those decisions to the state Supreme Court. In the meantime, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office says those farmers are free to use dicamba while the orders are in place. Nicole Ryan, communications director for the attorney general, says the state Plant Board will enforce the federal label requirements for the farmers who are spraying dicamba while the restraining orders are in place. In spite of the temporary restraining orders, Monsanto has opted not to sell its XtendiMax herbicide with Vapor Grip Technology in Arkansas, even though it’s registered for use on soybeans and cotton. Spokesman Kyle Richards says the company needs a stable and predictable environment before they’re able to make their product available to growers.