Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Farm News Roundup

Almost 90 years ago, Congress passed the Packers and Stockyards Act with the intent to force competition in the livestock industry. The basic idea: competition in the industry results in fair markets for farmers. At that time there were five big meat-packers who dominated the markets and were accused of manipulating prices to the detriment of farmers. The act solved many of those problems, and farmers benefited from packers bidding against one another for their livestock. Now it's 2007, and competition in livestock markets is not what it used to be.
In an article in the Des Moines Register this week, Philip Brasher reported on efforts in Congress to add new competition provisions to the 2007 Farm Bill. Independent hog producers have long fought for new laws to weaken the power of large meat-packers in the marketplace. Many want an outright ban on meat-packer ownership of livestock, and are watching closely as the U.S. Senate prepares to write its version of the 2007 Farm Bill. They hope the Senate will insert such a ban in the bill.

Chris Peterson, the hog farmer Brasher mentioned in the story above, will be busy next week raising a stink in Pleasantville. Peterson is president of the Iowa Farmers Union, which is holding a forum on Oct. 1 with Peterson as the keynote speaker. Click here to get the Coalition for Iowa's Farmers' take on the forum.

Also in the Register this week, we learned of the passing of one of Iowa's great agriculture journalists of the 20th century. Don Muhm was the farm editor at the Register for more than 30 years, and had an enormous impact on agriculture in Iowa and beyond during that time.

As harvest comes into full swing in Iowa, extra caution is urged on Iowa's roads. Farm vehicles will be hauling in what is expected to be a record corn crop. The Fort Dodge Messenger reports on the situation.

Iowa State University's Bioeconomy Conference will be held Nov. 5 and 6. Wallaces Farmer reported that the keynote speaker will be Vinod Khosla, one of the world's leading proponents of renewable biofuels. Khosla is co-founder of Sun Microsystems and has invested in many renewable fuels operations around the world.

The Washington Post has a big story today on farm subsidies.

As ethanol usage grows, another alternative to petroleum is coming closer to viability. Bio-based butanol is being studied by DuPont and BP, as reported in the Des Moines Register.

Wallaces Farmer has a story about former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack taking a position with Iowa State University's Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products.

Brownfield Network is reporting this afternoon that soybean rust has been found in Iowa. Iowa State University has confirmed that a soybean sample taken from Dallas County has the disease. Soybean rust can often cause significant losses to crop yields, but it may be too late in the season for it to have caused much damage this year.

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