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Robot berry picker being developed

September 30, 2012 --

Researchers test robotic berry harvester
By California Farm Bureau

What has 10 arms and has intrigued strawberry farmers? The answer is a robotic harvesting machine being tested at the Monterey Bay Academy. The machine uses sensors to choose strawberries of the right color and size. Next, robotic arms gently pluck the ripe fruit from vines, and deposit the berries on a conveyer belt that drops the berries into containers. The machine remains in the experimental stage.

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Bill to help farm bakruptcies introduced in Congress

September 29, 2012 --

By National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Al Franken (D-MN) introduced the Family Farmer Bankruptcy Tax Clarification Act of 2012 (S.3545).  The Act is intended to overturn the ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court case Hall v. United States, a case that addressed the status of government claims for taxes in a Chapter 12 bankruptcy proceeding.

Chapter 12 is a section of the Bankruptcy Code that provides special provisions for family farmers and fishermen who run into financial trouble and file for bankruptcy.  Chapter 12 was enacted in 1986 and amended in 2005 with the overall goal of allowing family farmers to use the bankruptcy process to reorganize their finances and operations in order to pay off some debt over a period of time and avoid paying other debt approved as dischargeable debt by the Bankruptcy Court.

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Where Obama & Romney stand on Ag issues

September 28, 2012 --

By American Farm Bureau Federation

President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney recently spelled out their positions on agriculture issues for the American Farm Bureau Federation. In a questionnaire, both candidates went into detail about their positions on energy, environmental regulations, farm labor and more.

Every four years, the American Farm Bureau Federation asks the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees to address the issues that concern farmers and ranchers most. This election, energy issues and farm policy are the driving forces in the candidate’s responses.

“Our rural communities, farmers and ranchers can increase our energy independence and boost the transition to a clean energy economy,” Obama responded. “Last year, rural America produced enough renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel to meet roughly 8 percent of our needs, helping us increase our energy independence to its highest level in 20 years…and the new Renewable Fuel Standard helped boost biodiesel production to nearly 1 billion gallons in 2011, supporting 39,000 jobs.”

Romney, too, supports the RFS and other agriculture-derived energies.

“I have a vision for an America that is an energy superpower, rapidly increasing our own production and partnering with our allies, Canada and Mexico, to achieve energy independence on this continent by 2020,” said Romney. “The increased production of biofuels plays an important part in my plan to achieve energy independence. In order to support increased market penetration and competition among energy sources, I am in favor of maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

On farm policy, Obama said he understands the need for a strong farm safety net. “That’s why I increased the availability of crop insurance and emergency disaster assistance to help over 590,000 farmers and ranchers keep their farms in business after natural disasters and crop loss,” he said. “My administration expanded farm credit to help more than 100,000 farmers struggling during the financial crisis…and as farmers continue to go through hard times because of this drought, we are expanding access to low-interest loans, encouraging insurance companies to extend payment deadlines and opening new lands for livestock farmers to graze their herds.”

Romney said he supports passage of a strong farm bill “that provides the appropriate risk management tools that will work for farmers and ranchers throughout the country.” He also pointed out that his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), voted for drought relief – a bill which the Senate never took up.

When asked why farmers should vote for them, Obama said he is committed to strengthening rural America through growing products that the world wants to buy and restoring middle class values of hard work and play. He further said, “I am the only candidate that is committed to strengthening the farm safety net, strengthening rural economic growth and supporting rural investments in clean energy.”

Romney said if he were elected, he would give farmers relief from hefty environmental regulations, as well as “a commonsense energy policy that develops our resources right here at home; a renewed focus on opening new markets; and a pro-growth tax policy that encourages investment and recognizes that death should not be a taxable event.”

To view the full questionnaires and responses, click here.

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OR Farm Bureau takes full page ad for death tax, labor fight

September 27, 2012 --

Natural Resource News Note:

The Oregon Farm Bureau has done a full-page ad insert into the state’s agriculture newspaper The Capitol Press.  The ad leads with many of the stirring issues going on right now including the statewide debate over to repeal the estate tax and the recent outrage over United States Department of Labor using “Hot Goods” crop seizure  threats over its pursuit over labor findings.

The ad also highlights the key agriculture issues in the Legislature that Farm Bureau has championed.

You can view the full ad here or below or for a small version.

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Oregon paychecks rise for farmers & ranchers

September 26, 2012 --

By Oregon Department of Agriculture

Oregon farmers and ranchers enjoyed one of the best bottom lines in recent times last year thanks to a combination of strong agricultural production and good prices for many of the state’s crops and livestock. Despite concerns over historically high expenses, Oregon’s net farm income in 2011 continues to show recovery from the impact of the recession.

“Overall, it was a great year,” says Brent Searle, analyst with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “Oregon net farm income last year nearly doubled from 2010 and was the highest it has been since 2004. The industry has come out of the trough and many sectors appear to have turned a corner.”

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Kitzhaber’s new salmon & BPA plan

September 25, 2012 --

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber laid out his views on solving the salmon vs. dam battle in a guest opinion to the Oregonian.  Here is what he said:

If you look only at the courtroom record, environmentalists are winning the war to save salmon in the Northwest. A year ago, U.S. District Judge James Redden sent the federal plan for managing the Columbia hydro system back to the drawing board — marking the fourth time in the past 20 years that federal agencies have failed to present a defensible program for saving salmon.

But wins in court don’t keep our salmon and steelhead from going extinct. At almost the same time as Judge Redden’s decision, the federal government released its most recent review of wild salmon in the Northwest. That review found that many runs remain at high risk of extinction and that the level of risk is not changing for most species. Federal agencies, including the Bonneville Power Administration, are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to stem the decline, but they are losing in court and they are losing in our rivers and streams.

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60 Ag groups fight California Prop. 37

September 24, 2012 --

By Cindy
Corn Commentary
National Association of Wheat Growers

A growing number of organizations are coming out against a ballot initiative in California that would require labeling of many products containing genetically-engineered (GE) food.

While those in favor of Proposition 37 include trial lawyers,  those urging Californians to vote No on Prop 37 include nearly 60 agricultural organizations. San Joaquin valley diversified farmer Greg Palla says the initiative would effectively ban the sale of tens of thousands of common grocery products only in California, unless they are relabeled or made with more costly ingredients. “We feel that it’s a very deceptive initiative,” he said, noting that it has a “whole host of exemptions that fly in the face of common sense.”

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Wall Street Journal Editorial touts Oregon estate tax repeal

September 23, 2012 --

Wall Street Editorial,
9-14-2012

Small business owners and farmers have been some of the hardest hit by the tough economy, and those who stay afloat increasingly worry they won’t be able to pass on their enterprises to the next generation. In liberal Oregon, of all places, a measure will be on the ballot this November to ease the burden by eliminating the state’s death tax.

Last year, after Oregon farmer Pauline Andrews’s grandparents died, her family had to pay several thousand dollars in death taxes to keep land that had been in the family for over 100 years, and they’ll have to pay again when her parents die. “My family has paid taxes our whole lives,” Ms. Andrews says. “We would definitely have to sell property just to be able to pay the death tax for the third time.”

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Ethanol lobby blasts oil industry

September 22, 2012 --

New Oil Industry Paper Favors Gasoline Imports, Higher Diesel Prices Over RFS
Renewable Fuels Association

A report released this week by EPRINC, an oil industry-funded research group, suggests a multi-year suspension of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) could reduce U.S. ethanol use by more than half. To offset this loss in ethanol supplies, the EPRINC paper suggests a variety of economically impractical and politically infeasible options could be pursued—ranging from ramping up gasoline imports to reducing diesel fuel and heating oil production in an attempt to extract more gasoline from crude oil. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) pointed out that in attempting to tear down the RFS, the EPRINC report actually underscores the importance of the program and highlights the lack of sensible or economic options available to refiners if ethanol use is severely curtailed.

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Farm Union: Congress failed rural America!

September 21, 2012 --

By National Farmers Union

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement following U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s announcement of the remaining votes in the House, which does not include the 2012 Farm Bill:

“The 2008 Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30. Congress is well aware of its expiration, and sadly leadership has succumbed to political pressure and will leave with unfinished business. Aside from politics, there is no reason that the House doesn’t bring the farm bill to a floor vote. Leadership has chosen to cancel all votes in October.

Read the full article and discuss it »
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