Thursday, March 14, 2019

13 Farmer Stories That Bring Honesty and Hope to Sustainable AgricultureFood Tank

This multigenerational farming family tells Food Tank about the challenges and opportunities facing sustainable agriculture.

Since last year, Food Tank’s Farmer Friday series has been telling the stories of farmers and ranchers focusing on sustainable farming practices. These practices include crop rotation, grassy waterways, preserving reconstructed wetlands, and farming on the contour. Many of these farmers are part of Niman Ranch, a network of over 720 family farmers and ranchers across the United States who focus on raising livestock traditionally, humanely, and sustainably. 
Food Tank is excited to share the stories of 13 remarkable farmers.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Aaron Williams is a second generation Niman Ranch producer on Williams Family Farm in Villisca, Iowa. After graduating from Iowa State University in 2013, Williams pursued his passion for caring for pigs, and Niman Ranch allowed him to do what he loves and make a living doing it. Williams Family Farm practices no-till farming to preserve the ground soil and, as a sixth-generation hog farmer, Williams emphasizes the importance of taking better care of the land so that it can be passed on to the next generation in an even better condition than when it started.
The Gilberts are recognizing their responsibility not only to their land and the animals they raise, but also to their neighbors, everyone who eats Niman Ranch products, and everyone who wants to eat food and use the land in the future. Since 1998, the Gilberts have been selling hogs to Niman Ranch, a company that they feel truly appreciates their efforts as farmers, genuinely cares about their individual interests, and ensures their welfare. The Gilberts emphasize the importance of working together towards providing maximum nutrition in the most sustainable way, even if it means starting small and slowly gaining skills and knowledge from established farmers.
April Wilson is a third-generation hog farmer on her family farm, Seven W Farm, and she stands by Niman’s philosophy that animals should be raised using humane practices. Being part of the Niman Ranch family has brought Wilson a new community that understands her hard work and values, and she appreciates the opportunity to give consumers a choice in how their animals were raised. Wilson actually moved away from her family farm after graduating college, but city life brought on the realization that farming is a part of who she is, and she decided to move back and carry on her family’s legacy of taking care of animals and the land.
Integrity is what pulled Steve Peterson back to the Peterson Family farm in Decatur, MI in 1973, determined to reach a sustainable food system and treat the fields and woodlots with integrity. Jan and Steve have created a family of sustainable advocates, with their son Ted working on the farm part-time and their oldest son Luke, who received a Mina Ranch Next Generation Scholarship Award in 2008, now working as a conservation biologist in California. The Peterson family has always farmed hay and corn sustainably and raised their pigs naturally. Now, they are excited that the rest of the world is following suit at every level of the food system.
Fulfilling their ‘personal farm legacy,’ Deleana and Tim Roseland of Roseland Family Farms use sustainable farming practices such as grassy waterways and terracing on their land so that their farm can be carried on for generations. With unpredictable market conditions, the Roselands joined Niman Ranch in 2005 and radically changed their pig raising techniques, adjusting to the Niman Ranch’s high standards. Tim believes family farmers dedicated to how they raise their livestock are leaders in protecting people, animals, and environmental health.
Since 1969, the Crowe family has raised hogs on the Crowe Family Farms in Monroe City, MO. Adair Crowe is a sixth-generation farmer, and does everything he can to preserve and build better soils for the future. The Crowes practice sustainable agriculture by rotating cropscontour farmingbuilding terraces, and using composted manure from the hogs. While Crowe does raise hogs the ‘old fashioned’ way, he also credits innovative technologies that help improve every aspect of farming and give him the responsibility to affect the food system long after he is gone. Niman Ranch allows Crowe to feel valued, understanding all of the hard work and reinforcing his ‘all in this together’ mentality.
After low hog prices hit in 1998, Paul and Andrea, who started Alderland Farm in New Providence, IA, were drawn to sell their hogs to Niman Ranch. Niman Ranch’s premium guarantee allowed them to bring their oldest son back to the farm—awarding him the Niman Ranch Next Generation Scholarship Award twice—and allowing the Browns to keep their entire family together. The Browns have a passion for educating their community, and Paul’s passion for the community won him the 2014 Niman Ranch Farmer of the Year Award.
Scheer began farming by growing hay, corn, and soybeans while working other jobs in the city to support his passion for farming. As the farming community began to change and Scheer saw farms growing larger with fewer farmers running them, he joined Niman Ranch to secure his family farming lifestyle. He believes family farmers are the future of communities and agriculture. Scheer wants to inspire young and beginning farmers to get started, starting with his son Anthony, who is currently the youngest farmer to work with Niman Ranch.
For Steve Howe, treating livestock humanely is a tradition that spans generations. Howe raises corn and alfalfa, all of which is used internally to feed the pigs, which then provide manure to fertilize the crops. Essentially, Howe cannot think of any reason to not farm sustainably, because it allows him to move forward and keep maintaining progress for multiple generations. Similar to other farmers, Howe joined Niman Ranch after the falling prices in the pig market. Now, Niman Ranch is like a family to him, and he believes mentorships and human connections such as this partnership is what will create opportunities for young farmers in the future.
Phil Kramer’s father was a Niman Ranch Hog Farmer of the Year Recipient and, for the past fifteen years, Kramer has been fulfilling his career dream of working with livestock and being outside. He emphasizes the consumer’s role in agriculture and their ability to decide how they want their food to be produced. Kramer prides himself on farming delicious, safe, and wholesome hogs, and, just as he enjoys gaining knowledge from other Niman ranchers, Kramer continues to encourage consumers to educate themselves on what they are purchasing.  
As a first generation hog farmer, Randy, along with his wife Gina and their two kids, run Gadient Farms in Northeastern Iowa. Niman Ranch has brought Randy a community of like-minded farmers who understand that animals come first and helps him instill the value of life in his kids at an early age. His daughter, Elle, was the first Phyllis Willis Founders Scholarship recipient, awarded by Niman Ranch as an opportunity for young people to get an education and also be awarded for their hard work and passion for sustainable agriculture.
Sibbel Family Farm, south of Carroll, Iowa, has been in the Sibbel’s family since 1919, and since 2006, as an independent rancher and farmer, Scott has been committed to raising hogs and cattle according to Niman Ranch’s high standards and protocols. Scott’s hard work paid off in 2016 when he won the Farmer of the Year Award from Niman Ranch. Sibbel Family Farm builds a better food system simply by its method of farming—antibiotic free with no added hormones, good husbandry practices, and sustainable farming practices. Thanks to Niman Ranch, SFF can get their story to the consumer and receive positive feedback that keeps the family motivated and excited.
Ron grew up in a farming community, saw the potentials a farm life could offer, and now stands by the belief that his children would “not be the people they are today if they had not grown up on the farm.” Ron protects his land using sustainable farming methods such as crop rotationminimum tillage, and grassy waterways. For Ron, Niman Ranch perfectly aligned with his livestock care and philosophy, while simultaneously allowing him to be his own boss and ensure stable prices. Niman Ranch cuts out the worries of marketing and allows Ron to concentrate on taking better care of his pigs and maintaining his farming practices.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Trump Again Seeks Deep Cuts in Renewable Energy Funding/Bloomberg

The question has been asked many times if renewables can sustain growth without govt incentives.  We are heading into those choppy waters as Washington continues to look at major cuts in tax incentives and other financial credits.

Programs have financed research into electric cars, wind power

2020 budget would be cut to $700 million, from $2.3 billion

Wind farm in Colorado, U.S., 

The Trump administration is again seeking severe cuts to the U.S. Energy Department division charged with renewable energy and energy efficiency research, according to a department official familiar with the plan.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see its $2.3 billion budget slashed by about 70 percent, to $700 million, under President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget request, which is set to be released on Monday.
The request is unlikely to be granted by Congress, especially with Democrats in charge of the House, but the figure represents an opening bargaining position for negotiations by the White House.
The Energy Department declined to comment and the White House Office of Management and Budget didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
“It’s a shutdown budget,” said Mike Carr, who served as the No. 2 official within the division under President Barack Obama. “That’s apparently what they want to signal to their base -- they still want to shut these programs down.”
The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which provides hundreds of millions of dollars a year in grants and other financial assistance for clean energy, has financed research into technologies ranging from electric vehicles to energy projects powered by ocean waves. It has been credited with financing research to help make the cost of wind power competitive with coal, and cutting the costs of LED lighting.
The Trump administration has tried to gut the program before, only to be rebuffed by Congress. Last year, the White House proposed cutting the agency’s funding by nearly two-thirds, but Congress instead provided $2.3 billion for the agency, more than three times the White House’s request.
“By pushing these ‘message budgets,’ they’re making sure that appropriators in both parties completely dismiss them,” said Jeff Navin, who served as acting chief of staff for Ernest Moniz, President Barack Obama’s energy secretary. “They’re so far out of the mainstream that they don’t actually influence the budget debate.”
In the past, Trump administration officials have defended the cuts, arguing they are justified by the falling costs of renewables and other emerging 
In testimony before a House panel Thursday, Daniel Simmons, the Energy Department assistant secretary who heads the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said he couldn’t talk about the budget proposal. But he noted the division had recently completed funding announcements for research into hydrogen and batteries for heavy-duty trucks among other technologies.
Michigan Republican Representative Fred Upton told him at the hearing that lawmakers expects the office “to carry out the law as Congress intended and utilize the resources Congress provides.”
Meanwhile, conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation have called for the office to be eliminated entirely, saying energy innovation is best left up to the private sector.
The budget for energy efficiency and renewable energy “is completely out control and even with the reduction it would still be one of the largest budgets in the Energy line,” said Tom Pyle, who led Trump’s Energy Department transition team and serves as president of the American Energy Alliance, a free-market advocacy group.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Kansas Corn Farmers Awarded Nearly $218M In Suit Over GMO Corn

Kansas Corn Farmers Awarded Nearly $218M In Suit Over GMO Corn

A federal jury in Kansas City, Kansas, awarded nearly $218 million to Kansas corn farmers after finding seed giant Syngenta AG was negligent when it introduced strains of genetically engineered corn seed into the marketplace that were not approved for import by the Chinese government.

The eight-member jury returned its $217,700,000 verdict after an 18-day-long trial, the first of eight certified class actions lawsuits against Syngenta brought in state court.

“We think the verdict shows that this jury wanted to send a very strong message to Syngenta,” says Patrick Stueve, a partner with Stueve Siegel Hanson, a Kansas City law firm representing farmer-plaintiffs in the case. That message, Stueve says, is that Syngenta should not put new genetically engineered seeds on the market until key export markets have approved them.

Switzerland-based Syngenta issued a statement saying it was disappointed with the verdict “because it will only serve to deny American farmers access to future technologies even when they are fully approved in the U.S.”

The case concerned Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera and Agrisure Duracade, corn seeds containing genetically engineered traits. Thousands of farmers sued the company after Chinese officials rejected grain shipments containing traces of the strains in 2013.

“The case is without merit and we will move forward with an appeal and continue to defend the rights of American farmers to access safe and effective U.S.-approved technologies,” Syngenta said.
China is a major importer of U.S. corn. Farmers claimed the loss of the Chinese market caused corn prices to plummet, resulting in total losses to them of more than $5 billion.

The jury awarded full compensatory damages, Stueve says, indicating jurors understood that “access to export markets is critical for farmers. It drives their prices higher.” The jury declined to award punitive damages.

Stueve says the judge is likely to rule soon on whether to group multiple state cases into one trial this winter or to let them proceed individually.

A separate but related case in Minnesota state court was set to begin in April but a mistrial was declared on the opening day and postponed until July 10.

Other class action cases in state court are pending in Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota. Yet other lawsuits are waiting to be certified as class actions.