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Chicken Industry Adds 21,000 New Jobs

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Greenwich, NY (MorningAg Clips, January 8, 2015):  The National Chicken Council (NCC) and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association (USPOULTRY) today have made available an updated economic impact study that highlights the increased positive impact the chicken industry has on jobs, wages, and federal and state revenue in the United States.

A dynamic and integral part of the national economy, the chicken industry increased from 2012 to 2014 its number of direct jobs from 259,000 to 280,800. Taking into account direct, supplier and induced impact, the chicken industry generates 1,339,875 jobs nationwide, according to the study.

The industry also increased from 2012 to 2014 its total amount of wages from $49.1 billion to $74 billion, total economic activity from $205.6 billion to $348.8 billion, and government revenue from $18 billion to $24.4 billion.

The data is hosted on an interactive website – www.chickenfeedsamerica.com – that can be sorted nationally, by state, congressional district, state house district or state senate district.

Nutrition Part Of Handling Cold Temps

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Columbus, OH (Ohio's Country Journal, January 8, 2015):  With the colder temperatures, wind chill factors and snow this winter, livestock producers need to pay close attention to livestock for the health of the animals and ultimately, the bottom line of the farm.

There are numerous factors to consider when managing for the cold.

"It depends on how the animals went into winter in the first place. Have they had time to develop their coats for winter?" said Bill Seglar, DVM, PAS and Sr. Nutritionist/Veterinarian for DuPont-Pioneer Global Forages. "And it is one thing to have cold temperature and another to have driving winds with it."

Mothers to be, in particular, need close attention as temperatures drop and wind speeds rise.

"I have seen beef cows that had gotten to February just fine but when they get to their third trimester without good quality feed they can die. If they are out there on corn stalks it just won't do it. They are covered with thick hair and you don't see how skinny they are," Seglar said. "They need to be transitioning to a higher quality hay source. They need to substantially increase energy with grain and forage."

Winter Limestone Application

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Applying lime during winter months has some limitations.

Greenwich, NY (MorningAg Clips, January 6, 2015):  Regular liming is critical to good crop production in our soils. However, of all of the soil test results, pH is the only one that is consistently below optimum in our annual soil test summaries for Pennsylvania. We need to give our liming programs the same priority as our fertilization and pesticide programs.

A common question producers ask is "When is the best time to lime?" Basically, liming can be done anytime the soil conditions are appropriate for heavy spreading equipment and when the current crop does not limit spreading. However, there are some helpful considerations for when to apply limestone.

First, lime on a regular basis. If soils are regularly limed so that the pH never gets too low, then the timing of maintenance liming is not very critical. Thus, regular liming provides maximum flexibility to lime when you have time and the conditions are right. In our soils, liming every 3-4 years will usually meet this goal. This also fits with our normal soil testing frequency.

Second, plan ahead. Even very high quality limestone takes some time to react and correct the acidity in the soil. Applying limestone at least 6 months ahead of when the desired pH is needed is a good guideline. This is especially important if the soil pH is very low. For example, if a new alfalfa seeding is planned liming should be considered the year before seeding or at least the fall before seeding.

Farmers Ready To Juggle Acreage Mix In 2015

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Greenwich, NY (Morning Ag Clips, January 8, 2015): Record crops and low prices have farmers embracing change in 2015, with acreage shifts continuing to move fields from corn to soybeans, according to the latest Farm Futures survey.

"Potential for big surprises in the January 12 USDA reports could put even more ground into play," says Bryce Knorr, Farm Futures senior market analyst.

The magazine's final survey of 2014 shows smaller corn and soybean crops due mostly to lower than previously reported acreage. Farmers harvested 14.197 billion bushels of corn in 2014, a record, but down 210 million from USDA's last estimate. Farmers reported harvesting more than 1 million acres less than the government currently estimates. Yields should be down a little as well, falling to 173 bushels per acre (bpa), 0.4 bpa less than USDA's last projection.

The survey showed a similar trend in soybeans. While total production was a record 3.844 billion bushels, that was 114 million less than USDA's estimate. Farm Futures put soybean harvested acreage down 1.3 million, with the yield at 46.8 bpa, compared to USDA's 47.5 bpa.

"Coupled with strong demand, especially for soybeans, the reduction in production should convince USDA to lower its estimate of 2014 crop ending stocks," says Knorr, who conducted the research. "That could trigger rallies as farmers finalize planting choices for this spring."

5 Food Processing Industry Trends In 2015

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Madison, WI (Food Manufacturing, January 9, 2015):  Each new year carries a fresh set of trends, opportunities and challenges. To celebrate the start of 2015, I've forecasted five trends I expect to drive food manufacturing in the months ahead.

1. Innovative Solutions to Drive Down Costs

With the advent of the Internet and pricing transparency for consumers, pressures are rising for food manufacturers to be low cost. They are trying to find ways to drive more value, looking for:

Innovations that can help maintain profitability

New products to bring to market

Modifications to product categories

Food manufacturers are also on the hunt for more cost-effective means of manufacturing, standardizing equipment and exploring automation to minimize labor costs.

For example, take Southwest Airlines' business model. Southwest has kept its costs down by only flying Boeing 737s, which reduces spending in areas such as training and spare parts. This same mentality can be applied to food processing.

Food manufacturers can move towards innovation and the standardization of certain product categories to drive down their own costs. First, food processors must rethink their manufacturing strategies, optimizing what makes sense and developing a new cost model. In the long run, they need to have the flexibility to run products with higher margins without taking away from their companies' "bread and butter."

Companies are trying to get better visibility into the true cost of manufacturing products. Whereas before they may have looked at the profitability of a plant, they're now diving deeper, examining the profitability of a product category, manufacturing line or even a particular stock keeping unit (SKU)

Can Organic Ag Feed The World's Hungry?

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Asheville, NC (The Cheat Sheet, January 6, 2015):  The verdict is in: According to projections released this past fall, the world's population is expected to hit more than 9.5 billion in 2050, and continue climbing up to 11 billion or more by 2100, if the current trend continues. But as research on world population growth and climate change moves forward, farmers, economists, and policymakers are still struggling to address a major concern: How will the Earth feed all these people? Further, can we do so without destroying the remainder of the planet's resources?

As it turns out, happily, the planet already produces enough food to feed everyone, but the problem of unequal distribution and poverty remains, leading to two of the leading causes of illness across the world: Chronic hunger and obesity.

Scientists and experts of all sorts have weighed in with potential solutions to the ongoing problem of feeding a growing population and ending world hunger. Up until recently, most of these solutions have focused on utilizing conventional agricultural technology to produce more food. Solutions have ranged from embracing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to indoor farming, among other, technology-based fixes. On the flip side, small farmers and organic agricultural methods have hardly been researched, or even considered, because, as previous experts have noted, these farms simply cannot compare to their conventional counterparts when it comes to production. Or can they?

According to recent research conducted by scientists at the University of California Berkeley, small farmers could play an important role in saving world hunger, after all. The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society earlier last month found that when organic farmers utilized certain diversification methods, the yield gap between organic and conventional producers essentially vanished, proving what organic food devotees the world over already suspected — that organic food can help to feed the world. The UC Berkeley study "found relatively small, and potentially overestimated, differences in yield between organic and conventional agriculture, despite historically low rates of investment in organic cropping systems."

One of the most important merits of organic agriculture on a global scale is that, unlike conventional methods, organic agriculture doesn't rely on synthetic chemical inputs, and is therefore much easier on the environment than conventional farms. Since agriculture is one of the largest contributors to climate change, the idea that organic agriculture could compete with its conventional counterparts is monumental.

The report notes that while our current, conventional agricultural system is "tremendously productive," it also "causes many environmental problems, often trading off long-term maintenance of ecosystem services for short-term agricultural production."

The UN Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO) also points out that while experts may have a tendency to ignore the small farmer's contributions, "the world's smallholders produce 70 percent of the world's food on 25 percent of the land." So while one small farmer may not seem to make much of a difference, the reality is that they absolutely do. And further, because small farmers are often important members of smaller, local communities, they have one of the biggest roles to play in helping to curb world hunger.

Professor Hilal Elver, the UN's Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, would agree. In her first public speech in September, Elver noted that the focus on small farmers and alternative agricultural models "is critical for future agricultural policies. Currently, most subsidies go to large agribusiness. This must change. Governments must support small farmers." According to the UN, 80% of subsidies and 90% of research funding in the European Union goes to supporting conventional industrial agriculture.

Despite the fact that organic agricultural methods are just now beginning to gain traction as a viable solution to world hunger and climate change, in actuality the UC Berkeley's study isn't the first to suggest that the "yield gap" between conventional and organic agriculture may be much smaller than previously thought, although the study has found new clues as to why organic agriculture has historically been less productive.

The study notes that agroecology, more so than simply "organic" practices are among the key differences which help to narrow the "yield gap" between conventional and organic farming. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, "agroecology" has been defined by the UC Berkeley as "a scientific discipline that uses ecological theory to study, design, manage, and evaluate agricultural systems that are productive but also resource conserving." Organic agriculture, notes FoodFirst, an activist group advocating for a sustainable food system, isn't inherently synonymous with agroecological methods of farming, but, in the same way that a rectangle isn't always a square, many organic farms utilize agroecological methods and philosophies as a sort of natural extension or byproduct of their organic practices.

Agroecology isn't a new philosophy of farming, though it is just beginning to find greater support and traction amongst the scientific (and political) community. Agroecology, the report explains, is "a traditional way of using farming methods that are less resource oriented, and which work in harmony with society." The study adds that "further investment in agroecological research has the potential to improve productivity of sustainable agricultural methods to equal or better conventional yields."

In September, the UN's FAO launched a new agroecology initiative, calling on governments to invest more money on researching alternative agricultural models, such as agroecological ones. In a speech, Dr. David Fig, who serves on the board of Biowatch South Africa said, "we are being far too kind to industrialized agriculture. The private sector has endorsed it, but it has failed to feed the world, it has contributed to major environmental contamination and misuse of natural resources. It's time we switched more attention, public funds, and policy measures to agroecology, to replace the old model as soon as possible."

There are proponents of both conventional agricultural and agroecological solutions to world hunger and climate change within the food systems community, but the two camps approach the planet's problems in very different ways. According to FoodFirst, one of the profound benefits of agroecological methods is that "unlike genetically engineered crops (GMOs) which attempt to build resilience into the genomes of specific cultivars one trait at a time, agroecology strengthens the resilience of the entire ecosystem."

The UC Berkeley study concurs, noting that it found the most effective management practices for increasing yields were practices "that diversify crop fields in space or over time," such as "multi-cropping and crop rotations," though the study also found that "these results suggest that polyculture and crop rotations increase yields in both organic and conventional cropping systems" (emphasis added).

Overall, the UC Berkeley study is reason for optimism; more and more experts seem united in viewing the problems inherent in today's agricultural systems as obstacles with plausible and achievable solutions, and agroecology seems like a viable way forward for future research. FAO scientists recently described agroecology as a "well-grounded science, a set of time-tested agronomic practices and, when embedded in sound socio-political institutions the most promising pathway for achieving sustainable food production."

It seems, in other words, that in order to solve today's food crisis, we may need to look to the past, as well as into the future, embracing both traditional, ecosystem-conscious methods, as well as investing in new research and breeding for tomorrow's farms.


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