Saturday, 30 March 2013

Jat to get partner, agriculture to get USD 400mn

Serbian Minister of Finance and Economy Mlđjan Dinkić, who is on a working visit to Abu Dhabi, made the announcement on Wednesday.

Dinkić also confirmed that the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development has approved USD 400 million for the development of Serbian agriculture.

Half of the money will be used for the construction of a network of irrigation canals across the entire Serbian territory, and the other half for the favorable long-term loans to farmers for purchase of equipment.

The partnership between Jat and Etihad implies a complete modernization of Jat's fleet, or the purchase of a number of new aircraft, an investment based on which Etihad will be able to take over a 49 percent stake in Jat and conclude a long-term contract to manage the company, the Ministry of Finance and Economy has said in a release.

Etihad has expressed its readiness to immediately help Jat to lease four new aircraft that the carrier should obtain before the beginning of the new tourist season in June.

The commercial cooperation between the two companies involves the introduction of daily flights from Belgrade to Abu Dhabi from mid-year, and, in cooperation with Air Berlin, Germany's second largest airline, of a Belgrade-Berlin-Chicago flight and also flights to and from three additional destinations in the United States.

Dinkić said that today's meeting with Etihad representatives was very successful, adding that they talked about strategic directions and details of future cooperation between Jat Airways and Etihad.
Original Article Here

USDA - United States Department of Agriculture : USDA Announces New Conservation Collaboration with DuPont to Promote Sustainable Harvesting of Bio-based Feedstocks for Cellulosic Ethanol

USDA Announces New Conservation Collaboration with DuPont to Promote Sustainable Harvesting of Bio-based Feedstocks for Cellulosic Ethanol

JOHNSTON, IOWA, March 29, 2013 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a new federal-private collaboration with DuPont to safeguard natural resources on private lands used to supply bio-based feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol production.

The joint agreement between USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and DuPont aims to set voluntary standards for the sustainable harvesting of agricultural residues for renewable fuel, and supports rural job creation, additional income for farmers, bio-based energy development, and the safeguarding of natural resources and land productivity.

"USDA and DuPont share a common interest in the wise use and management of soil, water and energy resources," said Secretary Vilsack. "Both organizations also share an interest in helping individual farmers adapt to new market opportunities in ways that are consistent with the wise use of these natural resources."

"Working with farmers is critical to maximizing the land's productivity and protecting natural resources," said Jim C. Borel, executive vice president of DuPont. "With this new collaboration, we have a partner in the Natural Resources Conservation Service to ensure that the collection of corn stover for the production of cellulosic renewable fuel makes sense for an individual grower's operation and the land they farm."

Today's announcement involves the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between NRCS and DuPont. USDA, through NRCS, will provide conservation planning assistance for farmers who supply bio-based feedstocks to biorefineries as the industry begins to commercialize. Conservation plan, written for individual operations, will ensure sustainable harvest of corn crop residues while promoting natural resource conservation and land productivity. A conservation plan is a voluntary document, written in cooperation with farmers, which helps them protect natural resources while promoting a farm's economic sustainability.

Through the MOU, DuPont will develop a process to work with cooperating farms on sustainable harvest practices that help keep soil in the field and out of rivers, streams and lakes; promote healthier soils which help reduce flooding through increased infiltration rates, and provide for the efficient use of nutrients.

The first plant involved in this national agreement is northeast of Des Moines, Iowa, near the town of Nevada where DuPont is building a 30 million gallons/year cellulosic facility. This plant will use harvested residues from a 30-mile radius around the facility.

"This agreement will support our Nation's effort to reduce dependency on foreign oil, while working to protect and improve the productivity of our soils-one of our most valuable resources," said Secretary Vilsack.
Original Article Here

Brighter prospects for fisheries sector seen

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is expecting brighter prospects on the country's fisheries sector this year after a two-year slump.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said with the lifting of a ban on tuna fishing at "Pocket 1" of the Pacific Ocean, Filipino fishermen have resumed their operations in 2012 in said area, resulting in more catch. Pocket 1 of the Pacific Ocean is bounded by Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

As a result, commercial catch of big eye and yellow fin tuna in 2012 totaled to 7,912 metric tons (MT) and 77,730 MT, respectively, according to the DA's Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS).

These were 31 and 13 per cent more compared to the total catch in 2011 of big eye tuna (6,021 MT) and yellow fin tuna (68,625 MT), respectively.

Exports of fresh and processed tuna in 2012 also rose by 41 percent to $411 million versus $292 M in 2011, said Director Asis Perez, of the DA’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

Alcala said another bright spot is the increase of domestic supply, particularly of Indian sardines or tamban, mainly due to conservation efforts and imposition of a "no fishing season" in waters off Mindanao and Visayas.

The DA-BFAR — in partnership with commercial and municipal fishermen, local government units, and other concerned agencies — has initially imposed a closed fishing season in Zamboanga Peninsula from December 2011 to February 2012, coinciding with the sardines' spawning season. The closed fishing season covered East Sulu Sea, Basilan Strait and Sibuguey Bay.

As a result, Perez said catch of sardines has initially increased by six percent to 156,150 MT in 2012 versus 146,835 MT in 2011.

The three-month "no fishing season" was again imposed this year in Zamboanga, from December 1, 2012 to February 28, 2013.

"We have also imposed a similar closed fishing season in the Visayan Seas," said Alcala. The ban started on November 15, 2012 and ended on March 15, 2013.

BFAR assistant director Drucila Esther Bayate said a "no fishing season" on said months in the Visayan Sea has been in existence since 1989, but it was only this year that the policy was vigorously implemented with the full cooperation of all commercial fishing operators, local government units, Philippine Coast Guard and other stakeholders. She said the Visayan Seas is a major source of sardines, herrings and mackerels.

As a positive consequence, Alcala said the DA-BFAR has reported that tamban is now caught abundantly in Gulf in Camarines Sur.

With the initial success in Zamboanga and Visayan Seas, he said the DA-BFAR is considering other major fishing grounds like Palawan, where a "no fishing season" could be imposed.
Original Article Here

Al-Dahra to invest $400m in Serbian agriculture

BELGRADE: Abu Dhabi-based firm Al-Dahra agreed to invest $ 400 million to buy eight Serbian farm companies and develop them to grow and process food and fodder for export, in the biggest investment in Serbian agriculture for decades.
The agreement between Belgrade and Al-Dahra came a day after the UAE Development Fund approved a separate $400 million loan for Serbian agriculture, Serbia’s Finance Ministry said.
“With $ 400 million from Abu Dhabi’s Development Fund ... and $ 400 million from Al-Dahra, we have secured a total of $ 800 million for agriculture,” Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic, Dinkic, on a visit to Abu Dhabi, was quoted as saying by the ministry.
Serbia is looking to potential investors such as Russia, China and the UAE, while its traditional trading partners in the euro zone struggle with a debt crisis.
Meanwhile, countries in the Gulf, one of the world’s biggest food importing regions, have stepped up efforts to buy and lease farmland in developing nations to secure food supplies since 2007-2008, when food prices rose to record levels.
Under the agreement, Al-Dahra will use a third of its investment to purchase eight bankrupt agricultural firms, mainly in Serbia’s fertile north.
The remainder will be invested in irrigation and the development of at least five fodder plants, Dinkic said.
“This is the biggest investment (in Serbian agriculture) in decades,” he said. “Al-Dahra will be a producer but also a buyer of Serbian agriculture products.”
Agriculture accounted for 20 percent of Serbia’s exports in 2012, but farms lack modern irrigation and suffer from floods and droughts. The government plans to increase agriculture subsidies this year by 25 percent from 2012 to reach 3.7 percent of the budget.
Serbia is targeting economic growth of 2 percent this year after a contraction of about 1.9 percent in 2012.
On Wednesday, Dinkic said Abu Dhabi’s Etihad airline could also become a strategic partner of Belgrade’s JAT Airways.
Original Article Here

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Recognized with 2013 Wetland Conservation Achievement Award Read more:

Washington, D.C. (PRWEB) March 29, 2013

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, was presented last Friday with the 2013 Wetland Conservation Achievement Award, one of Ducks Unlimited's highest honors.

"Senator Stabenow led the Senate in passing a comprehensive, bipartisan farm bill in 2012 – one of the few major pieces of legislation passed by the Senate last year," said DU CEO Dale Hall. "The Senate version of the 2012 Farm Bill was a shining example of prioritizing the long-term conservation of wetlands and waterfowl habitat."

Conservation provisions in the 2012 Farm Bill included a national Sodsaver program, re-coupling crop insurance with conservation compliance and a robustly funded easement program, which included permanent, 10-year funding. The bill was not passed in the House.

"It is an incredible achievement to have directed a bill to Senate passage with so many important conservation triumphs, especially in today's partisan atmosphere," said Dan Wrinn, DU director of public policy, who co-nominated Stabenow for the award. "Senator Stabenow continues to prove she is an effective leader and conservation champion."

The senator has also been a supporter of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act and is leading congressional efforts to keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes

"Senator Stabenow grew up in a rural area of Michigan and understands the economic importance of agriculture and of supporting sportsmen and women," said Pete Albrecht, DU Michigan state chairman. "She knows that farming and conservation must go hand-in-hand and she has continued to fight for farmers in Congress without losing sight of conservation priorities."

Stabenow was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996 and the U.S. Senate in 2000, when she made history by being the first female senator from Michigan. She was appointed to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in 2009 and has been the committee chair since 2011. She is also a member of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus.

DU's Wetland Conservation Achievement Awards recognize individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the restoration and conservation of North America's wetlands and other waterfowl habitat. To view all of the six 2013 Wetland Conservation Achievement Award winners, please visit

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 13 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit Connect with us on our Facebook page at, follow our tweets at and watch DU videos at

Original Article Here

Department of Agriculture refuses to release documents on horse meat scandal

The Department of Agriculture has refused to release a large number of records under the Freedom of
Information (FOI) Act that relate to test results taken during the horse meat controversy.

The Irish Times lodged an FOI request with the department on January 30th seeking all correspondence to and from the department regarding the investigation into the presence of horse meat in burgers from November 1st, 2012, onwards.

Under the FOI legislation, the department must provide a schedule of records giving a description of the record sought. In its response, the department said it had identified 28 records running to 257 pages. However, 17 of these records, or 222 pages, were refused.

Of these records, two queries, running to 144 pages of internal and external emails which included the results of DNA tests carried out on January 23rd and 24th were refused on grounds that their release might interfere with investigations and that the information was commercially sensitive.

Emails dated January 28th, which included a memorandum of legal advice on the horse meat investigation, were refused on law enforcement grounds.

Other records, including a series of emails on dates between January 22nd and 30th which included briefings prepared for Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney ahead of an EU agriculture committee meeting, were also refused on grounds that the records concerned matters relating to the deliberative processes of a public body.

Although in its correspondence the department noted that it was required to consider public interest arguments in favour of the release of documents under certain sections of the FOI Act, it held that, “on balance, there is no public interest in releasing the records”.

Urgent sampling
Records which were released show that the Food Safety Authority of Ireland wrote to the department on December 21st last seeking urgent meat sampling on certain consignments of meat from Silvercrest Foods and Liffey Meats to be sent to Identigen, a DNA-testing laboratory “as a matter of urgency”.

However, details of the sampled consignments were redacted by the department in its reply.

No further records of correspondence to or from the department on the issue are listed until January 18th, on which date an email including a “draft report for a meeting with meat plants”. However, access to this record was also refused. Other records, mainly correspondence relating to press queries, were either granted or part-granted.

One released record documents tests carried out on meat by Eurofins, a DNA-testing laboratory, on January 22nd. Of 27 of the samples listed, there was “no issue” with 12 samples while seven contained less than 1 per cent equine DNA.

orignal Article Here

Agriculture is big business in Southern Virginia

There's a good chance the milk in your refrigerator and the corn on your dinner table came from a farm in Southern Virginia.

"We milk 12 hundred three times a day here. We milk about 18 hours a day total," said Roy Vanderhyde, co-owner of Vanderhyde Dairy Farm in Pittsylvania County.

The dairy produces ten thousand gallons of milk per day.

"It can go anywhere on the east coast. Anywhere from Ohio to Florida," Vanderhyde said.

It's the third largest dairy farm in Virginia and one of the most self-sustaining farms.

"We grow our own forage, we still buy a lot of grains. We'll feed in an excess of a million and a half pounds of feed a week here," Vanderhyde said.

He won't say exactly how much money he's generating but a study released this week on agribusiness proves his farming method is generously helping the economy.

More than seven thousand farmers in the Dan River Region account for more than $1 billion in sales and revenue.

More than $30 million of that total returns to the state.Half going to the state government, the other half going to Danville and Pittsylvania County.

Researchers from the University of Virginia monitored the farming economy in Southern Virginia for eight months.

"The numbers are extremely impressive. I figured and felt like they would be large numbers I just didn't know how large and then when they came back I was really blow away," said Freddie Wynder, Pittsylvania County's Agriculture Development Director.

The study also found job growth.

For every 10 jobs created on a farm, four more were created in the community.

Farmers are as successful as the weather will allow.

Last summer's drought and this year's excessive rain caused farmers to lose crops and increase prices.
Original Article Here

FFA events an introduction to agriculture

ALBION — Hundreds of young students swept through the Albion FFA’s garage Thursday, eyes widening at each stop on a tour of animals and towering field equipment.

More than 500 elementary and middle school students poked their heads and hands through pens to fully experience a menagerie of farm animals. They were enraptured, their focuses broken up by the excited rush to the next stop.

The annual mini-farm event, held at the conclusion of Albion’s agricultural appreciation week, is a showcase an aspect of the local community not part of most student’s lives.

‘‘It’s awesome to have them come over,’’ Albion FFA President Jenny McKenna said. ‘‘Even in a rural community, this gives them the chance to see a cow up close.’’

This year the mini-farm also served as fun diversion for high school students focused for the past two years on planning the 2013 FFA State Convention.

‘‘This is a crazy day, but it’s also a nice little break for them,’’ FFA Advisor Adam Krenning said while FFA students shepherded classes in the swell of activity. He noted that many of those stepping up to plan the May 2-4 event are part of the growing number of FFA members that grew up away from farm life.

‘‘More and more they have never been involved in agriculture,’’ Krenning said. ‘‘They lack the agricultural background, but they want to be a part of it. It’s moving to see.’’

While McKenna and others have long been involved in the farm life, FFA Vice President Alison O’Hearn said she’s gotten a deeper connection to the wider agricultural community through projects like the convention and the school’s recently-launched land lab.

‘‘I recognized that agriculture was a huge part of our county and I wanted to be part of it. I didn’t expect to be this involved,’’ said O’Hearn, who had participated in 4-H clubs as a youth, but not to the degree of her fellow FFA students.

For the convention, O'Hearn has spearheaded the effort to line up local sponsors for the 1,200-student event. That has put her in contact with the farmers and businesses that populate the district.

‘‘The generosity of agribusiness in Orleans County has been overwhelming,’’ O’Hearn said.

Holding the state convention, which Albion last did in 2007, is a lengthy and involved process that has exhausted FFA members. But McKenna, who was overseen the planning of activities and events like a country music concert, believes the event will draw the school closer to the community.

‘‘They’ll get to see what we have and teach them what they haven’t known,’’ said McKenna, who is excited about the half-day that regular classes will see a wave of blue corduroy walking the halls. ‘‘It will hit home … and show how powerful the FFA is.’’
original Article Here

U.S. Acreage for corn highest since ’36

Iowa. Farmers intend to plant 97.3 million acres of corn this year, the most since 1936, the USDA’s spring planting survey said Thursday.

The overall corn acreage forecast is up slightly from last year’s 97.2 million acres and reflects a shift in where the grain is grown. Acreage in some states hit hardest by last year’s drought retreated, while Southern states such as Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas are shifting cotton acres to corn.

Chad Hart, an agriculture economist at Iowa State University, said Texas is a prime example. The state is changing more than 1 million acres normally planted in cotton for corn. Farmers there are in desperate need of grain to feed livestock after two years of debilitating drought, and are betting on a corn crop to replenish feed, Hart said.

Corn remains profitable, as prices are holding strong at around $7 per bushel because drought conditions left the grain in short supply. Corn stocks fell 10 percent from a year ago to 5.40 billion bushels, the lowest March stockpiles since 2003, the USDA said in a separate report Thursday.

Corn prices fell Thursday after the report was released, as it showed there was 7 percent more corn stockpiled than expected.

Record corn acreage is expected in Arizona, Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota and Oregon. Iowa, the nation’s leading corn producer, will plant an estimated 14.2 million acres in corn, the same as last year. And Minnesota is up 3 percent to 9 million acres.

But the states that suffered significantly during last year’s drought – the worst since the 1950s – expect to plant slightly less corn acreage: Illinois’ acres are down 5 percent to 12.2 million and Nebraska corn acres are down 1 percent at 9.9 million acres.

Darrel Good, an agriculture economics professor at the University of Illinois, said with plenty of land available for planting, the weather now becomes a focal point.

“The attention will focus very quickly on planting weather and thoughts of yield prospects,” he said. “The question is what kind of summer we’re going to have.”

Temperatures remain below normal throughout much of the Midwest. Missouri is weathering its coldest March in at least 17 years, and frozen soil persists in east-central Iowa and southwestern Wisconsin.

The U.S. Drought Monitor’s weekly report said Thursday that roughly half of the continental U.S. remains in some form of drought, with the most pronounced dryness lingering in the key Midwestern farm states.
Original Article Here

Iowa Supreme Court Upholds Limits on Agriculture Exemption

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- The Iowa Supreme Court today ruled that a Linn County couple's property is not exempt from county zoning laws because they did not prove their homes were primarily used for agriculture.

Daryl and Arelene Lang filed suit against the Linn County Board of Adjustment after it denied an agriculture exemption for two properties the Langs owned.

The first property was a 6.52 acre parcel that included a home where the Lang's lived. The Langs argued the home was a farmhouse for them to work on their land raising trees, fish and various fruits and vegetables for sale. The second property, a 49-acre parcel, had a house the Langs rented out to people they argued worked on the farm.

The Iowa Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings siding with the Board of Adjustment that the Lang's did not show the land was primarily used for agriculture.

"The manorial residence on the 6.52 acres was a residential tail wagging a farmland dog," the justices wrote in their ruling.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruling notes that a farmhouse must be "primarily adapted to agriculture use" to qualify for an exemption. It finds the board can deny exemptions when "the agricultural activities are basically a sideline designed to obtain an agricultural zoning exemption for the owners’ residence."
original Article Here

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Perennial agriculture' to be explained

AUSTIN — Flood mitigation and watershed are ongoing issues in southern Minnesota, especially in Austin and surrounding communities with the presence of the Cedar River.

The Jay C. Hormel Nature Center in Austin will host a presentation on the subject Monday night in the Ruby Rupner Auditorium.The event, "A Watershed Approach to Fewer Floods, More Productive Farms, Cleaner Water, and More Wildlife," will start at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The presentation will feature author and nature photographer Larry Stone and environmentalist Bob Watson. The two will present an approach known as perennial agriculture.

"It's about trying to keep soil on the land where it's born," said nature center conservationist Larry Dolphin. "The more buffers there are, the less prone they are as far as moving the soil."

Perennial agriculture re-creates the complex "sponge" of vegetation that historically absorbs and holds rainwater on and in the land, reducing the use of levees, dams, and other structures. The simple change could help municipalities protect their pocketbooks as well as the environment.

"We put a lot of money into infrastructure to protect lakes and streams," Dolphin said, adding perennial agriculture could also cut down on clean-up costs after a flood. "It's a different approach. Don't get me wrong, it's an approach that's being done."

The presentation will illustrate the benefits of perennial agriculture, and incentives that could be used to get farmers to use the system of more sustainable crops.

"We're always trying to speed things up. Perennial ag is a way of slowing things down," said Dolphin. "We're hoping to get the farmers there. Most of what's done in Mower County is not (perennial ag)."

Stone and Watson are both from Iowa. Stone has written five books and his work has appeared in many conservation magazines. Watson works in the wastewater industry for Iowa and surrounding states, and is a member of the Iowa Water Environment Association, an organization committed to public education and the advancement of water quality and pollution control.
Original Article Here

YAPs tackles image of agriculture

Convening at Victorian State Parliament yesterday, four young professionals shared their story and pathway into the industry.

While a number of issues were addressed, ranging from the need for mentors, employment practices and career pathways for young people, the key message to come from the day was centred on the need for a positive image overhaul, VFF vice president David Jochinke said.

VFF public affairs officer and co-founder of digital platform AgChatOZ Tom Whitty said that the industry needed to focus on connecting consumers to food and the science behind it.

"Instead of looking at agriculture and thinking of one defining image, we should try and connect agriculture to everything else,'' he said.

"Food can create an emotional connection for many people and this is where we can capitalise.

"As one commentator said on Tuesday night’s AgChatOZ discussion on this very issue, agriculture is science that you can eat, and there is nothing more awesome than that.''

Former VFF Young Agribusiness Professionals chair Prue Addlem spoke about the challenges she faced entering farming at a primary production level.

Prue said she was talked out of being a farmer from the beginning of her career because she was a woman - but that didn’t stop her.

Ms Addlem said that as a rural community, farmers need to lead from the front and be vocal.

Minister for Agriculture and Food Peter Walsh said government would no longer just talk about change, and instead facilitate it.

"As a government, we often do a lot of talking. But today and during this entire process its about listening to you, the industry and empowering you to be the facilitators of change,'' Mr Walsh said.

"We have identified clear problems with the image, perception and pathway towards careers in agriculture, and you are here to fix it. Lets achieve the deliverables.''

The Generation F campaign, launched in May 2012, looked at developing practical policies and strategies on how to attract - and keep - young people in agriculture, by running a series of events and forums that utilised the ideas and opinions of those currently in the food and fibre supply chain.

To register for the upcoming YAPs "Yoghurt grows on trees'' conference, visit
Original Article Here

Boonsong calls for early meet on agriculture, industry

Srirat Rastapana, director-general of the International Trade Promotion Department, said the minister had asked the department to hold a meeting with operators making agricultural and industrial products in order to discuss the impact of the baht's appreciation and the government's relief measures for exports.

Thai export growth this year is targeted at 8-9 per cent, with shipments worth US$250 billion (Bt7.32 trillion).

"The department sees a high possibility for [achieving] the export target of 8-9 per cent, given a more stable baht. If relevant organisations monitor the baht closely and the unit does not appreciate further, a minimal impact on exports is expected. In May, the department will convene with commercial counsellors from across the world to revise the export target," Srirat said.

Risks to the export sector include the baht's strengthening, global oil prices, export market contraction, global trade and economy, domestic political problems, natural disasters and non-tariff barriers (NTBs).

The highest risk in the department's view is the baht's appreciation, which has begun to affect exports. However, there is expected to be only a short-term impact, said the agency chief. Other concerns include the increasing use of NTBs by other countries and long periods of negotiation for problem resolution.
Original Article Here

India’s Agriculture on the Brink

NEW DELHI: After decades on the sidelines of international agricultural trade, India was poised last year to become a major food supplier, overtaking traditional exporters of food grain and meat. This could prove to be flash in the pan. The sudden rise and fall of India as food exporter is of its own making: populist calculation by the ruling coalition, sacrificing sustainable policy. India’s shining as a grain exporter could also signal general decline of the country’s agriculture industry, with falling aquifer levels and degradation of soil.

India has long been the sleeping giant of global agriculture. Despite being the world’s second largest producer of agricultural goods, including rice and wheat, it’s been slow to integrate into global markets, preferring instead to maintain a relatively restrictive trade policy. The country limits imports to products such as oilseeds and high-protein seeds known as pulses, which cannot be produced domestically in adequate quantities. India tends to curb exports to safeguard domestic supplies.

That has changed. India overtook Thailand to become the world’s biggest rice exporter – shipments accounted for 25 percent of global exports. Wheat exports also rose sharply, with India’s share reaching 5 percent; the country also overtook Brazil to become the world’s biggest exporter of buffalo, capturing 24 percent of the global beef market.

India’s newfound position as leading food exporter will be short-lived, however. Government policies that prioritize the production of rice and wheat and a new right-to-food law that’s now before the parliament will not increase food security. Instead, policies will drive food inflation, accelerate India’s transformation into a net grain importer and increase its dependency on global markets for non-cereal foods. India will be forced into the global food marketplace and not on its own terms.The main driver of India’s unusually large grain exports last year, and of its coming shift into a major food importer, is the government’s food procurement and distribution system, set up to provide subsidized rice and wheat to the poor.

The system is supposed to work like this: The government provides farmers production incentives by committing to open-ended purchases of rice and wheat at annually specified minimum support prices, or MSPs, with farmers free to sell either to the government at the MSP or at market prices, whichever is higher. MSPs are supposed to be floor prices, designed to provide farmers with a safety net in case of a collapse in market prices. The grain procured by the government, by individual states and also by the Food Corporation of India, FCI, is then added to a central pool managed by the FCI. Grain stocks in the central pool are then distributed to the poor via the so-called Public Distribution System, PDS.

In reality the system leads to a series of dysfunctional outcomes, including food inflation, overproduction of rice and wheat relative to non-cereal commodities, accumulation of excess grain stocks and rapid erosion of the country’s agricultural productive capacity.

Seeking to shore up its popularity, the government has rapidly increased MSPs of rice and wheat over recent years. The result: MSPs tend to exceed market prices during the procurement season. Selling to the
government is the first rather than the last resort for farmers – especially in major grain-producing states such as Punjab and Haryana, where the government now procures almost all grain arrivals.

The pro-cereal policy has been successful in boosting output, but at a cost. Production of non-cereal foods such as pulses, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables – in increasingly high demand as incomes increase – has lagged, driving up prices and benefiting those countries that meet India’s growing demand.The government’s commitment to open-ended purchases of wheat and rice at ever-higher MSPs has led to a cycle of ever-increasing procurement. The government buys approximately one-third of total cereal production. This also contributes to food inflation. Elevated MSPs and state taxes keep private traders out of the grain market and discourage high stock levels. So open market availability of wheat and rice falls after the end of the procurement season – thus boosting prices. Wheat and rice prices rose 23 percent and 10 percent year on year, respectively, through November 2012, even as the country was exporting.

High levels of procurement have resulted in rapid accumulation of grain stocks, now 66 million tons, more than double the required buffer. To place this in perspective, India’s wheat stocks are equivalent to Australia’s entire annual production of the grain, while its stocks of rice are 50 percent more than Thailand’s yearly output.

The level of stocks far exceeds the government’s storage capacity and results in significant wastage. The government has estimated preventable post-harvest losses of food grain at about 20 million tons per year, equivalent to 10 percent of total production. Faced with excess stocks and need to make room for the next harvest, the government is forced to resort to exports.

Those exports, and the entire cycle of events making them necessary, are unsustainable. India’s breadbasket states are reaching the limits of productive capacity.The overproduction of grains due to ever-rising MSPs has rapidly depleted underground aquifers and sharply reduced soil fertility. With the government concentrating procurement activities and agricultural investment in terms of capital, fertilizers and infrastructure in northern and western states, productivity in the country’s eastern states, primarily rain-fed, has stagnated despite attempts to raise yields. The government will have no alternative but to increasingly depend on international markets when output in the major grain-producing states starts to lag demand. Perversely, the government’s planned National Food Security Bill will only accelerate this process. The bill creates a right to food for two-thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people and requires the government to distribute heavily subsidized food grain on a massive scale. The law is a major plank of the governing UPA coalition’s electoral strategy for 2014, and the government is pushing it despite well-documented failures of the public distribution system to get food to the right people. Almost 40 percent of the grain in the public system – which distributed 24 million tons of wheat and 32 million tons of rice in 2011-12 – does not reach intended recipients and is diverted to open markets.

The food security bill will increase procurement targets and require higher MSPs, further skewing farmer incentives towards cultivation of grains. The law will reduce exportable surpluses over the next two years because it will require the FCI to carry higher stocks of grains in order to avoid having to resort to large, expensive imports in case of a drought. The law will also hasten India’s transformation into a net grain importer by putting additional pressure on already overstressed farmland.

The end result of these policies will be India’s forced integration into global agricultural markets, not only as a grain importer, but also as a leading buyer of non-cereal commodities. This will benefit grain exporters in the Americas, pulse producers such as Canada, Australia and Myanmar, and palm oil exporters in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Indians will lose out. Food inflation, primarily driven by protein-rich foods such as pulses, dairy, meat and eggs, in addition to post-harvest shortages of grains in the open market, will continue to weigh on incomes. And price volatility will increase as the country’ import dependency increases exposure to the vicissitudes of global markets. The sleeping giant of global agriculture may be waking to a nightmare.
Orignal Article Here

Forum demands waiver of agriculture loans

The Tamizhaga Eri Mattrum Attru Pasana Vivasayigal Sangam has demanded the waiver of all agricultural loans sanctioned through the primary agricultural cooperative societies and nationalised bank in view of the drought conditions prevailing in the State.

A resolution adopted at a farmers seminar organised by the association here on Wednesday also urged the State government to increase the procurement price to Rs.3,000 a tonne of sugarcane, Rs.1,750 a quintal of paddy and Rs.75 a kg of cotton.

The government should also introduce a separate budget for agriculture and sanction a monthly pension of Rs.5,000 to all farmers.

While thanking Chief Minister Jayalalithaa for her efforts to get the final award of the Cauvery Tribunal notified, the association also urged her to take steps to ensure the formation of the Cauvery Management Board at the earliest.

The State government should order sanction of loans for digging open wells for farmers.

The procurement price of milk should al
so be increased in view of the steep rise in the prices of cattle feed.

All farmers who have registered under the Farmers Protection Scheme should be issued identity cards immediately, it demanded.

Expressing its opposition to the National Water Policy, it urged the Centre to discard the same.

P.Viswanathan, president of the association, and others spoke.
Original Article Here

Viral ‘agvocacy’ videos serve to educate public about agriculture

For decades, country music and agriculture have gone hand-in-hand — a match made in heaven joined by a common love of tractors. Recently, K-State’s agricultural students past and present have been shaking things up by tossing hip-hop in the mix and uploading the videos to YouTube. The results have gone viral.

In the last six months, YouTube parodies with catchy titles such as “I’m Farming and I Grow It” and “Farmer Style” have exploded on social networks. These videos are the brainchild of Greg Peterson, senior in agricultural communications, and his brothers Nathan, freshman in agricultural technology, and Kendal, a Southeast of Saline High School student.

But the convergence of agriculture and popular songs hasn’t ended with current students. Recently,K-State alum Derek Klingenberg produced and released “Ranching Awesome,” a parody on the recent hit “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore. Since it was posted on March 11, the video has accrued more than 158,00 views on YouTube.

Klingenberg, who graduated from K-State in 2001, said he enjoys making ag-related videos not just for the entertainment value but because he sees it as a means of raising awareness of agriculture in a more mainstream outlet.

“I wanted to do a parody of something popular, so I just searched the No. 1 pop song,” Klingenberg said. “I want to promote agriculture and educate people about it.”

While this is Klingenberg’s first viral parody, it is not his first YouTube video.

“I’ve done original videos before, and they don’t take off,” Klingenberg said. “So, I thought I’d do a parody.”

Klingenberg’s video, as well as other ag-focused parodies, have received an enthusiastic response from the agricultural community.

Johanna Ryckert, senior in agricultural education, said that she thinks these “agvocacy” videos are a fun, yet on-point new way to shed a positive light on the industry.

“These videos are proof that agriculturalists are proud of their product and what they do for a living,” Ryckert said. “My father is a third-generation farmer, and he loves the videos and feels like they accurately describe his job in feeding the world.”

Ryckert added that she hopes the videos help individuals who are less familiar with the industry understand just how much agriculturalists contribute to society.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that, without agriculture, the world would lack the food, fiber and other sources we need to survive,” Ryckert said. “I think the videos do a great job showing how important agriculture is to everyone.”

Perhaps some of the biggest stars in the agriculture parody craze are the Peterson brothers, who host their own YouTube channel: “ThePetersonFarmBros.” Overall, the trio has received over 23 million hits since the channel’s creation in November 2011. More than 21 million of those views come from two of the brothers’ most popular agriculture parodies, “I’m Farming and I Grow It” and “Farmer Style,” which parody LMFAO’s hit “I’m Sexy and I Know It” and PSY’s “Gangnam Style,” respectively.

Much like Klingenberg, Greg Peterson said the element of education was a huge motivator in the brothers’ inspiration to keep making videos.

“I’m in ag communications, so I’m familiar with issues in agriculture,” Peterson said. “I have friends who are from Johnson County, and they just don’t know a whole lot about farming. My goal was to educate consumers and people from the city, but I had no idea it was going to go on such a large scale.”

Since the production of the videos, the Peterson brothers have been invited to share their experience at numerous agriculture conferences all across the nation, from Orlando, Fla., to San Antonio, Texas.

“When people bring us in, they want us to give advice on how to share their story and advocate agriculture,” Peterson said. “People in ag have been trying to do this for years, but we just kind of stumbled onto it.”

He said the agriculture community has had much to do with the success of the productions.

“The ag community has been great,” Peterson said. “From the very first video, they’ve all supported us. I don’t think it would have gone viral as quickly if it weren’t for them.”
Original Article Here

Nawaz pays Rs 2.7 million tax on agriculture income in three years

PML-N Quaid Mohammad Nawaz Sharif paid Rs 2.7 million tax on his agriculture income during the past three years on Friday to become eligible for contesting 2013 general elections, sources toldBusiness Recorder here on Wednesday. They said Nawaz Sharif had earned Rs 18.64 million agriculture income but had paid only Rs 85,250 as a land based tax during the past three years.

He paid Rs 23,500 in 2010, Rs, 23,500 in 2011 and Rs 38,000 in 2012. Sources said it was only after addition of a new condition in the nomination form to pay tax on agriculture income that Nawaz Sharif had to pay tax on his agriculture income. Shahbaz Sharif paid Rs 2.43 million on agriculture income of Rs 16.45 million during 2012 besides Rs 22,500 land based tax.

It may be added that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has made it mandatory for the candidates of National and Provincial Assemblies to give a statement about the agricultural income tax paid by the candidate during past three years. Tax experts said the new nomination form has paved the way for payment of agriculture tax by the large land holders on their income instead of land based nominal tax and promote the tax culture in the country. The agriculture sector contributes nearly 22 percent to the GDP but its contribution to the tax net is insignificant.

Sources said that the candidates are finding it difficult to fill the forms and are thronging the office of tax lawyers for help since most of the candidates are not known to filing their tax returns and obtain national tax number. The candidate would have to give details of immovable, moveable property, including bonds, shares, certificates, securities, insurance policies and jewellery. The immovable property includes open plots, houses, apartments, commercial buildings, under construction property. The candidate would also have to give details of his immovable property in Pakistan and outside Pakistan, and business capital in and outside Pakistan, assets brought to Pakistan or remitted from a country.

Political observers said that the candidate would also have to administer oath to fulfils the qualifications specified in Article 62 of the Constitution and he is not subject to any of the disqualifications specified in Article 63 of the Constitution or any other law for the time being in force for being elected as a member of the National Assembly/ Provincial Assembly and that no case of criminal offences was pending against him six months prior to filing of nomination form.

The ECP has set the period of filing of nomination papers from March 24 to 29 while the process of scrutiny of the candidates would be done from March 30 to April 05. The candidates would be able to file appeal from April 06 to 09, in case, their nomination papers were dismissed. The ECP would dispose of all the appeals by April 16. The candidates could withdraw their nomination forms till April 17. The final list of the candidates would be issued on April 18. The polling will be held on May 11, 2013.
Original Article Here

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Land market will not solve redistribution issue, says professor

AN ASTOUNDING R69bn, rising to R83bn by 2016, has been spent on land reform since 1994, with only about 8% of land redistributed, University of Stellenbosch professor Nick Vink said on Monday.

The government’s target is to redistribute 30% of agricultural land by this year, a goal that is regarded as important to achieving redress of apartheid and building a politically stable future.

At the Mangaung conference in December, the African National Congress recommitted itself to accelerate the pace of land reform in the country.

The ruling party’s resolutions on land included replacing the "willing buyer, willing seller" concept with the "just and equitable" principle in the constitution immediately, where the state is acquiring land for land reform purposes. Another resolution said the promulgation of the new Expropriation Act must be expedited.

Prof Vink said the failure was a result of the insufficient resources government has allocated for farmer-support programmes, together with a mistaken focus that the best way to achieve redistribution was through the land market. He was speaking at the Land Divided Conference at the University of Cape Town, hosted by academic research groups to reflect on the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Land Act.

"The biggest problem is that we have been trying to solve this by using the land market. That is wrong: we need to get around it by using farmer-support programmes," he said.

While support for farmers during the apartheid years was way beyond what the country could really afford, that support has tapered off to almost nothing, with the national budget pushing increasing resources towards redistribution. Prof Vink said that support to commercial farmers — regarded as subsidies — peaked at R12bn in 1970, which was on a par with countries such as Australia and New Zealand. This has since dropped to R250m a year, excluding special programmes for emerging farmers.

However, it was a fallacy that targeted support for emerging farmers could make the sector succeed, he said. Farmer-support programmes were needed across the board to support emerging farmers and the whole sector. Land reform policy advisers to the government in the early 1990s had discouraged farmer support as these were seen as subsidies.

"The World Bank should certainly take some of the blame. They did not want government providing support to farmers. To them support meant subsidies. Spending money on land reform though, was considered the right thing to do politically," he said.

Prof Vink, an agricultural economist, said that a second alarming trend could be seen in the great reduction in state resources for "conservation works" such as soil rehabilitation programmes and fencing. In 1970, R8.2bn (in 2005 prices) was spent on conservation, but by 2000 this had dropped to R176m. "That is something we are going to be paying for in the future," he said.

Several contributors to the conference noted the increasing concentration of commercial farmers with the resulting larger farms and lower employment.

For instance, while in 1996 there were 60,000 farming units, this had shrunk to less than 40,000 by 2007 and to less than 35,000 by last year.
Original Article Here

Trade pact could help service sector, hurt agriculture: official

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) could have a serious impact on Taiwan's agricultural sector, but it could also significantly boost the nation's industrial sector,

“A study shows that the value of Taiwan's agricultural production could be decreased by US$2.4 billion if we joined the TPP,” Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Cho Shih-chao (卓士昭) said yesterday in the Legislative Yuan.

But at the same time, Taiwan's industrial sector will see a major boost from TPP participation, with production values for textile and chemical industries expected to increase by US$4.4 billion and US$2 billion respectively, he noted.

The service sector's production value, Cho said, will also benefit from the TPP with an US$11 billion growth forecast.

The TPP is a multilateral free trade agreement that aims to liberalize economies in the region. The government hopes to join the TPP.

Joining the TPP should add an extra 1.46 percent of growth to Taiwan's gross domestic product (GDP), Cho added, citing a study conducted by the Taipei-based Chung-Hua Institute for Economic Research (中華經濟研究院).

“The advantages (of joining the TPP) outweigh the disadvantages,” Cho said, adding that Taiwan's export-led economy makes its participation in regional economic integration imperative.

In response to the possible impact on the nation's agricultural sector, Cho said the Economic Ministry will work with the Council for Agriculture to come up with measures to offer assistance to farmers.

Cho made the comments in response to lawmaker inquiries into the TPP during a question-and-answer session in the Legislative Yuan yesterday.

Singapore, New Zealand Trade Deals to be Sealed Soon: Lin

Meanwhile, fielding questions in the same legislative session with Cho, Foreign Minister David Lin (林永樂) said yesterday that talks with Singapore and New Zealand on respective proposed economic partnership agreements are expected to be sealed soon.

“I am optimistic that the deals with the two nations will be finalized by the first half of this year,” he noted.

Since both Singapore and New Zealand are founding members of the TPP, Lin said signing a trade agreement with the two countries will give a huge boost to Taiwan's bid to join the TPP.a Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) official said yesterday.
Original Article Here

Inspiring the agriculture students of the future

This week Tasmania is hosting a dozen Deans of Agriculture from Universities across Australia.

The heads of the Schools of of Agriculture have been meeting in Hobart and today are touring Tasmanian farms and wineries.

They've been debating investment in research, the future of farming and Australia's capacity to 'feed the world'.

Iain Young from the University of New England in New South Wales is president of the peak body that represents the academics, the Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture.

He argues that their five year campaign to raise the profile of agriculture is paying dividends, with the first significant increase in enrolments in agriculture this year.
Original Article Here

Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme CAADP

CAADP partnership platform meeting underway in Ethiopia - The ninth edition of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) partnership platform meeting opened here Monday with a call on stakeholders to sustain and improve on the achievements recorded in the last decade of the programme.

“Significant achievements have been made by CAADP -- It created platform for stakeholders and provided a model for the rest of the continent. It also served as platform for agriculture transformation agenda on the continent,' African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Rhoda Peace Tumusiine, told African delegates at the opening ceremony.

“We now see greater cooperation, mobilization of resources to improve agriculture. There is increased Regional collaboration; CAADP has equally enhanced the Peer Review Mechanism and accountability. However, there is still more to be done. The systems for inter-agricultural trade will play a key role in economic integration. The political imperative to create jobs and economic opportunities for the growing young men and women in Africa is increasing”, she added.

The Executive Officer of NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency, Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, in his message, read by the Director of Programmes, Estherine Fotabong, said within the last decades, over 40 countries across the continent and 30 others have signed the CAADP Compact, with many of them in various stages of development of their National Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plans(NAFSIP).

“There is also a clear consciousness that the realization of the desired results of CAADP implementation can only be attained by moving beyond establishing plans and processes.
There is the need to concentrate on implementation through the creation of enabling policy and institutional framework. Forming partnership with non-state actors, particularly the private sector, greater collaboration and increased diversified sources of funding,' Mayaki advised.

A Representative of the Pan African Farmers Organisation (PAFO), Chief Alangeh Romanus Che, called for incentives for the remaining African countries that are yet to sign into the CAADP platform and for those still foot dragging on the issue.

He pledged the continued support of the organisation to the realisation of CAADP objectives, adding that there was the need to review the current technology platform, invest more in farmers capacity, researchers and provide enabling environment for members to operate.

The minister of state for Agriculture in Ethiopia, Prof. Tekalign Mamo, said his country had invested heavily in the agriculture sector, having taken the issue of agriculture seriously since the creation of CAADP in July 2003.

Ethiopia is one of the few countries that are investing more than 10% of their national annual budget on agriculture. It is presently putting close to 18% of the budget on agriculture. The country has also made significant progress on the 6% target for agricultural production growth.

“Ethiopia has made tremendous efforts and witnessed strong economic performance. The country’s multi-sect oral plans have contributed to strong progress across a wide spectrum of development areas. From human development, economic infrastructure and agriculture to rural development, building institutions and devolving government”, the minister added.

About 500 delegates, including 31 members states, four of the five Regional Economic Communities (REC) researchers, policy makers, farmers group, private sector, donor agencies, Development partners and the media are participating in the three day brainstorming, which ends on Wednesday.

'Sustaining the CAADP Momentum, Implementation, results and Impact' is the theme for this year’s meeting.

CAADP was set up in 2003 as a framework for achieving food security, nutrition and overcoming poverty.
Original Article Here

Unmanned Drones May Have Their Greatest Impact on Agriculture

Talk about beating swords into plowshares. The mention of drones may conjure up images of Star Wars-like spacecraft or hell-fire war machines. But the controversial technology may prove to have its greate“It’s a simple economic equation. The biggest potential for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles is aerial images and data acquisition. You can take a simple UAV and rewire imagery for a farmer’s field for cents on the dollar
compared to using traditional aircraft. That’s the holy grail of aerodynamics,” said Rory Paul, CEO of Volt Aerial Robotics, a St. Louis-based company.

A recent study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) predicts that in a matter of years, the drone, or UAV, industry in the U.S. could produce up to 100,000 new jobs and add $82 billion in economic activity between 2015 and 2025. A federal law mandates that the Federal Aviation Administration open up the National Airspace System by 2015. As the restrictions that currently prohibit individuals from flying drones for commercial purposes melt away, drone manufacturers could see their fortunes skyrocket.

The change will open new markets for sales. And the agriculture sector is expected to benefit the most. “Every farmer will benefit,” Paul said. Drones “will allow small farmers to [farm] economically and it will allow large farmers to acquire data when they want it.”

The market for agricultural drones lies in the technology’s ability to provide farmers with a bird’s-eye view of their land. Historically, farmers have walked their land to survey it—looking for areas that need more fertilizer or water. More recently many have begun using small passenger planes to look at their lots from the air. But since airplane rental and fuel costs can quickly run into five figures, there’s strong demand for cheaper alternatives.

That’s where drones come in.

Weighing less than 50 pounds and often the size of a child’s toy-plane, agricultural drones can drastically reduce the cost of land surveying. The price of a typical fully capable farming drone is around $9,000, but it’s a onetime purchase that many say will easily pay for itself.

“If we could save farms 1 percent on inputs and increase yields by 1 percent, you are looking at multibillion dollar savings,” says one drone manufacturer.

“Eighty percent of the utilization, once we are allowed to have Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the national airspace, in the first 10 years is going to be in precision agriculture,” said Michael Toscano, CEO of AUVSI. “You will have a situation where you can spray crops by a UAS that flies 2 or 3 feet above the plants. You can control the downwash because you can put the pesticides on the plants and not in the ground where it gets to the groundwater.”

“It sounds trivial but those numbers really add up a lot,” said Rory Paul of Volt Aerial Robotics. “If we could save farms 1 percent on inputs like herbicide and pesticide and increase their yields by 1 percent, you are looking at multibillion dollar savings.”
Orignal Article Here

Robert Blair, the owner of a wheat, barley and cattle farm in Idaho that was established in 1903, says he uses his own UAV for multiple purposes, including providing proof for insurance claims.

“In 2008, reintroduction of wolves and a drought year caused elk and deer to congregate on my farm. It was $50,000 in damage and I was able to get reimbursed because I had documentation,” he said. “I had a visual view of what the damage was instead of just dots on the map.”

Blair built his own UAVs, one a small rotor-plane, after purchasing a drone years ago and feeling it wasn’t well equipped for his farm. Nowadays he maintains and flies his own drones without the FAA’s permission, something he has so far gotten away with because of the remoteness of his land. Blair is unwavering in his support of UAV technology for farms and considers himself a national leader in promoting their use, even penning a blog called the Unmanned Farmer, in spite of U.S. regulations.

Despite the potential benefits, UAV use by commercial farmers is currently prohibited under FAA regulations. Although the majority of drones fly under 400 feet, the FAA worries about complications with the national airspace. And there are other obstacles to widespread UAV use. So far 30 states have tried pushing forward legislation limiting drones in fears they may be used for citizen surveillance come 2015. In Virginia, a two-year moratorium on UAVs is sitting on the governor’s desk waiting for a signature.

Such restrictions could change the job numbers set forth by the AUVSI report, which expects that states of California, Washington and Texas to be among the top economic beneficiaries of an open airspace. “Those estimates from the AUVSI are the best case scenario but there are so many kinks to be figured out in the next few years. It’s kind of an area where the law and technology will have to grow together,” says a spokesperson for the Unmanned Systems Caucus, chaired by Congressmen Buck McKeon and Henry Cuellar.

UAV advocates worry that the restrictions will cause the U.S. to fall behind other countries that can openly test and use the technology, and ultimately causing the U.S. to lose its edge and industry potential. “We are ahead and damn well should be given how much more we spend on the military than every other nation in the world. The U.S. is still the leader of drone technology and production, but it may not be forever,” said Peter Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence said. “There is a rule in technology and war: there is no such thing as a permanent first mover advantage. There are 87 countries that have military robotics programs.”

According to the AUVSI study, the US loses $10 billion for every year drone production sales are delayed.

Idaho farmer Robert Blair says farmers are already feeling the competition from other countries that can freely use UAV technology. “Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Australia, they are some of our biggest competitors on the agriculture side and now we are playing catch up to them because the government on all levels doesn’t want to open up regulations [for drones],” he said.

Japan is another country where UAVs have found a permanent foothold among the rice paddies. The country has been utilizing UAV-like technology for its crops since 1990.

Proponents of UAVs say now is the time to invest but are cognizant of the challenges drones will face among a population that views them as a threat.

“It’s a game-changing technology on par with the introduction of the horseless carriage or the computer,” Singer said. “It will create huge business opportunities but also huge policy, legal, and ethical questions that we will be wrestling with for decades.”st impact in a peaceful endeavor: farming.

Stagnation in Punjab’s agriculture

According to these figures, during the first four years of the incumbent government (2007-2010), the province either kept losing acreage of all major crops, or witnessed productivity (per acre yield) going down.

Holding the Punjab government responsible, the association maintains that precisely because of its failure, food insecurity has increased in the country. The World Bank has put the percentage of ‘malnourished and food insecure’ Pakistanis at a whooping 51 per cent. This compares with 22 per cent five years ago, and shows an increase of 131 per cent.

According to the association’s figures, the area under wheat in Punjab increased by 0.20 per cent during these four years, but overall productivity declined by 9.7 per cent. The per acre yield fell by 9.90 per cent. On the other hand, when compared with Punjab, area under cultivation for wheat in Sindh expanded by 4.75 per cent. Its production increased by 13 per cent and the per acre yield by 8.25 per cent.

Meanwhile, area under cultivation of rice in Punjab grew by 4.07 per cent, with production increasing by 2.31 per cent. But its per acre yield declined by 1.76 per cent. In Sindh, the area under cultivation of rice went up by 9.96 per cent, while production
increased by 12.84 per cent and per acre yield by 2.88 per cent.

For cotton, the area under cultivation in Punjab reduced by 2.34 per cent. Production went down by 11.81 per cent and the per acre yield declined by 9.47 per cent. On the other hand, in Sindh, the area under cultivation for cotton increased by 1.53 per cent, while production went up by 28.57 per cent and the per acre yield by 27.04 per cent.

Sugarcane performed relatively better, mainly because of better seeds. While the area under cultivation for the crop in Punjab reduced by 0.94 per cent, its production increased by 2.48 per cent. The per acre yield for the crop also increased by 3.42 per cent. However, Sindh remained better off, as the area under the crop there increased by 14.49 per cent, and production by 12.98 per cent.

Meanwhile, for maize, area in Punjab declined by 0.94 per cent, but productivity and per acre yield increased by 2.48 per cent and 2.48 per cent respectively. On the other hand, Sindh saw a reduction in the area for the crop by 6.66 per cent, but its productivity still increased by 11.11 per cent and per acre yield went up by 17.77 per cent.

Meanwhile, the area under other crops in Punjab, like gram, lentil, mung, mash, canola and sunflower, declined by 0.85, 55.60, 17.12, 29.46, 45.79 and 16.67 per cent respectively.

Due to declining performance of the sector, as well as increasing cost of inputs and resulting inflation, the cost of food per head in the province has gone beyond Rs3,000 per month. For an average-sized family (5.5 persons), every household needs Rs16,500 per month only for ensuring the provision of basic food. How can people be expected to spend Rs16,500 only on food every month, given that the minimum monthly wage is only Rs8,000? The people would also be neglecting education, health, and social obligations. That is where the province has landed in the last few years, the association maintained.

These five years also saw two international spikes in food prices, which pushed over 900 million people worldwide down the poverty line. It was hard to insulate Pakistan from the consequences. But this should not have been an excuse for the failure to form an effective farming policy. The present Punjab government is certainly guilty on this account.

With changing international innovations (technological and awareness), agriculture has become an almost exact science and industry, which now needs equally precise policies and production standards. It applies to the entire agriculture sector, including all its sub-sectors, like livestock and horticulture
Original Article Here

Monday, 25 March 2013

Stagnation in Punjab’s agriculture

According to these figures, during the first four years of the incumbent government (2007-2010), the province either kept losing acreage of all major crops, or witnessed productivity (per acre yield) going down.

Holding the Punjab government responsible, the association maintains that precisely because of its failure, food insecurity has increased in the country. The World Bank has put the percentage of ‘malnourished and food insecure’ Pakistanis at a whooping 51 per cent. This compares with 22 per cent five years ago, and shows an increase of 131 per cent.

According to the association’s figures, the area under wheat in Punjab increased by 0.20 per cent during these four years, but overall productivity declined by 9.7 per cent. The per acre yield fell by 9.90 per cent. On the other hand, when compared with Punjab, area under cultivation for wheat in Sindh expanded by 4.75 per cent. Its production increased by 13 per cent and the per acre yield by 8.25 per cent.

Meanwhile, area under cultivation of rice in Punjab grew by 4.07 per cent, with production increasing by 2.31 per cent. But its per acre yield declined by 1.76 per cent. In Sindh, the area under cultivation of rice went up by 9.96 per cent, while production
increased by 12.84 per cent and per acre yield by 2.88 per cent.

For cotton, the area under cultivation in Punjab reduced by 2.34 per cent. Production went down by 11.81 per cent and the per acre yield declined by 9.47 per cent. On the other hand, in Sindh, the area under cultivation for cotton increased by 1.53 per cent, while production went up by 28.57 per cent and the per acre yield by 27.04 per cent.

Sugarcane performed relatively better, mainly because of better seeds. While the area under cultivation for the crop in Punjab reduced by 0.94 per cent, its production increased by 2.48 per cent. The per acre yield for the crop also increased by 3.42 per cent. However, Sindh remained better off, as the area under the crop there increased by 14.49 per cent, and production by 12.98 per cent.

Meanwhile, for maize, area in Punjab declined by 0.94 per cent, but productivity and per acre yield increased by 2.48 per cent and 2.48 per cent respectively. On the other hand, Sindh saw a reduction in the area for the crop by 6.66 per cent, but its productivity still increased by 11.11 per cent and per acre yield went up by 17.77 per cent.

Meanwhile, the area under other crops in Punjab, like gram, lentil, mung, mash, canola and sunflower, declined by 0.85, 55.60, 17.12, 29.46, 45.79 and 16.67 per cent respectively.

Due to declining performance of the sector, as well as increasing cost of inputs and resulting inflation, the cost of food per head in the province has gone beyond Rs3,000 per month. For an average-sized family (5.5 persons), every household needs Rs16,500 per month only for ensuring the provision of basic food. How can people be expected to spend Rs16,500 only on food every month, given that the minimum monthly wage is only Rs8,000? The people would also be neglecting education, health, and social obligations. That is where the province has landed in the last few years, the association maintained.

These five years also saw two international spikes in food prices, which pushed over 900 million people worldwide down the poverty line. It was hard to insulate Pakistan from the consequences. But this should not have been an excuse for the failure to form an effective farming policy. The present Punjab government is certainly guilty on this account.

With changing international innovations (technological and awareness), agriculture has become an almost exact science and industry, which now needs equally precise policies and production standards. It applies to the entire agriculture sector, including all its sub-sectors, like livestock and horticulture.
Original Article Here

Reinflating the Housing Bubble: Department of Agriculture Edition

Established in 1949, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Guaranteed Loan program is meant to provide home loans to folks of modest means in rural areas. But, according to a recent Reutersinvestigation, the USDA isn’t hewing to either the rural or the modest part of its mandate.Seattle-based mortgage broker Dan Keller says that since 2009, he has arranged 50 to 60 loans a year for people buying houses in the suburbs, near the corporate campuses of Boeing, Microsoft and
Top homebuilders like DR Horton, Lennar and Pulte have pushed USDA-guaranteed loans hard, plastering advertisements for them on their websites and coaching first-time buyers who can't get conventional bank financing on how to qualify for the program.
Midsize Florida builder Southern Homes says that nearly 90 percent of its business is in USDA-backed loans, most of them for houses near freeways, shopping malls and multiplexes.
The rural housing program backed over 50,000 zero-down loans to borrowers in urban areas from 2003 and 2011. Another 300,000 such loans went to borrowers on city peripheries over that same period.
Reuters also found:
more than 180 loans to borrowers making more than $500,000, including dozens of millionaires, in apparent violation of the program's income guidelines. It found loans in Cape Cod's Hyannisport, home to the Kennedy family compound, and tony Healdsburg, in California's Sonoma County wine country. There were loans for second homes, and loans to people who could have obtained conventional financing—each a breach of the program's rules.
…[R]ecent audit reports from the USDA's inspector-general fault the program for laxity at the other end of the income scale, citing numerous instances of loans to borrowers with subpar credit scores or incomes that were too low. A February audit report said that in 2012, the program paid $496 million in loss claims, up from $295 million the previous year—mirroring what's happening on a much larger scale at the Federal Housing Administration, where defaults on billions of dollars in loans threaten the agency with insolvency.
The inspector-general found that more than 37 percent of the loans it examined were ineligible for one or more reasons, including borrowers whose incomes exceeded program limits, who didn't meet repayment guidelines or who already owned homes and could have gotten credit without the government guarantee. At one lender alone, 46 mortgages had been made to ineligible borrowers. Of those, 33 were in default, resulting in more than $1.75 million in claims.
Under current law, some 900 neighborhoods—that now account for 40 percent of the program’s loans—would become ineligible for the program later this year. However, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Ne.) has introduced a bill to keep the money flowing until 2023.
Original Article Here

Agriculture Productivity is Inversely Proportional to Political Fraud

(CHENNAI) - Vile and crafty King Sisyphus, so the Greek myth goes, thought he was as smart as God. Zeus being smarter punished him to roll a boulder up the hill only to repentantly watch it roll down the other side. Since Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh and his Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar also believe they are smarter than God, they deserve the same Sisyphean punishment.
Man Mohan and Sharad Pawar have been advancing their pseudo-scientific vision of productivity growth through the Gene revolution based on Genetically Engineered [GE] seeds. [1] Their faith in Monsanto scripted New Gospel is akin to that of any religious fundamentalist. Both need tutoring in Agronomy and Supply Chain Management but the problem is that unhinged minds can't be tutored.
Few notable exceptions aside, majority of agricultural scientists under the spell of charlatans like Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, [2] also believe that our farmers are unscientific, primitive and must adopt modern technology. The gangsters who pushed the failed Green Revolution are now advancing the failed Gene Revolution techno-fix. They reject any evidence based science that undermines their faith in the New Gospel. High on Monsanto opiate, they have chosen to ritually genuflect to the eugenicists, the Global Chemical, Food and Seed Cartel who have weaponized food. Without objective appraisal of traditional Indian agriculture they continue to discredit Indian farmers like the old colonialists did. If Indian farm practices had stagnated for centuries and caused hunger, malnutrition and poverty the ancestors of these scientists would be dead.

Historical trends and the state of affairs now

Although India has thousands of manuscripts on agriculture management from the times of Rig Ved [8000 BC to 6000 BC] to Arthshastra [Around 320 BC] and throughout the medieval period, the British colonialists relied more on anecdotes of roving pseudo-scientists without truly understanding soil management practices. Britain's insatiable food-for-endless-wars appetite necessitated stealing surplus from India; for cash the best lands were diverted to opium and indigo. After decades of research and field trials starting 1905, Sir Albert Howard concluded that there was nothing wrong with India's farmers and that organic fertility management was superior. His endorsement of organic method wasn't Luddite romanticism but science based refutation of inorganic chemical based fertility management despite yield gains in the West, given in Table 1. [3]

The average yield in major growing areas of Europe was way behind that of central Uttar Pradesh and the Gangetic plains where farmers were averaging 56 bushels [3628 kg] per hectare in 1890- exactly double the British yield-without inorganic fertilizers. Yields in all the western countries were less than half of the best growing areas of India. British records [1760-64] show that in Chengalpattu area, villages were regularly achieving 12 MT [MT=Metric Tonnes=1000 kilogram] yield of rice per hectare. [4] Was it not the primary job of Agricultural scientists to study these records and replicate 1760s methods evolved over thousands of years that led Sir Howard to conclude that the method was "primordial like the prairies and the oceans"?
And what yields Swaminathan and his gang achieve? The decadal yield increase for potato, rice and wheat with 1961 as base year from UN-FAO database is given in Table 2. Green Revolution technologies were introduced in a big way in India and China during the 1960s when the western countries had over six decades of experience. By 1961 India also had fairly extensive research facilities and she achieved 313%, 229% and 351% yield increases in potato, rice and wheat, respectively. [5] The yield increase should be seen against nutrition dilution effect known since 1980s; the yield gain was achieved at a huge social cost of nutrition-deficient foods.[6] Some of the observations from Tables 1 and 2 taken together are:
While India's rice yield more than doubled since 1961, it was far below that of Australia, US and China despite rice being India's most important food grain and focus of agricultural scientists;
  • Australia shows consistently lowest yield of wheat since 1971 among the six countries. India's yield is comparable to that of the USA and China; UK and Germany out-perform USA;
  • Despite comparatively low yield, both US and Australia are major exporters of wheat which means they are essentially producing for global market; USA is a major exporter of rice for geo-political reasons;
  • India achieved 313% and China 164% increase in Potato yield but both lag far behind US, UK and Australia.
  • India's yield in these three major crops was lowest as compared to China, UK, US and Australia except in wheat.
It may further be noted that
  • India's average yield of wheat in 2011 was significantly below the yield from its best lands in 1890. Increasing wheat yield has been the Indian scientists focus of effort, which implies that they have consistently short-changed the farmers and wasted public money without showing any results;
  • India's average rice yield of 3.53 MT is nowhere near 12 MT per hectare in the 18th Century in rain-fed Chengalpattu; even Australia's 9.54 MT and USA's 7.92 MT haven't matched past yields in India. USA achieved over five MT in 1971 when GE seeds were not available?
While the non-performing scientists lived off public money, India's farmers continued to feed the nation. Many radical farmers achieved record breaking yields from moderately good lands and many marginal hill farmers achieved huge yield gains yet their innovations neither discussed during national planning exercises nor properly studied. Table 3 is a short summary of current yields that the world should know. [7]

When Albert Howard came to India in 1905 his first observation was that Indian Ag-scientists were behaving like bureaucrats. In 2013 the truth is that Indian bureaucrats behave like 'know-alls' and the scientists behave like petty bureaucrats.
Neither Green nor Gene revolution technologies have matched the yields of traditional Indian farmers in the 18th and 19th Century in rice and wheat, or any food crop, or any crop for that matter.

Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz meets Nalanda farmersNobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz called them "scientists." He met the farmers at Sohdih village where 2,000 farmers are growing vegetables and was amazed that the farmers were "prospering with traditional methods in farming ... getting high yields as well." [8] Stiglitz also met Rakesh Kumar, [Cell phone: 92343 37 444] one of the thousands who adopted SCI method in 2008-09. From his 2-acre farm Rakesh's potato yield of 72.9 MT set a new world record. His onion yield of 66 MT per hectare equivalent was close to world record of 67 MT set by Korean farmers. In addition, from his roughly 4080 square feet [0.037 hectare] he got an additional 7 to 10 MT green vegetable. The yields have steadily gone up each season. Another farmer Sumant Kumar, already much written about, set the new world record at 22.4 MT for rice paddy. Their main problem now is shortage of scientific storage facility. A French company ECOCERT certified that the produce was organic.

The District Agriculture Officer [DAO, Cell phone: 94318 18731] says that since 2008 the SCI method have been adopted by around 25 to 30 thousand farmers and these are "operational yield," not "intrinsic yield." My first question to him was how the yield was measured? He said that if the plot was less than one acre [<0.4 hectare] then one unit of 50 square metres was sampled from the centre of the plot and the yield was weighed to calculate per hectare equivalent. If the farm size was greater than one acre two to three sampling units were selected. Majority of farmers in Bihar are small or marginal with fewer than two hectare holding. [9] The DAO also told me that agricultural labour was retrained at Government expense in sowing, tending and harvesting. The farmers revived the traditional green manuring based of 'Dhainch' [10] and cow dung and adopted vermi-compost to keep the soil nutrient buffer at optimum level. This is one example of what Agriculture Extension can achieve with a bit of commitment.
The key point is that these small farmers are producing roughly 30-35 MT of food grains per hectare equivalent per year if only two crops-rice and wheat- is taken into consideration. India's farmers have yet again shown that "maximum sustainable threshold of yield" [MSTY], that is the long term average yield under variable climate forcing without Green or Gene racketeers.
Soil is the soul of infinite life: the science behind nutrient buffer power
Back in the early 1980s while evaluating Green Revolution achievement, Dr Prabhakaran Nair had coined the term "nutrient buffer power," a vital concept that combined soil science with plant life. The problem with majority of scientists was that they either worked with soils or with plants, in isolation, and it was Dr Nair who came up with the idea of combining the two that led to the revolutionary concept. [11] According to him, plants select whatever nutrients they need. It means that soil-the medium that supports plant life-must have all the nutrients in optimum proportion. Since plant uptake of nutrients will deplete the available nutrient, the man task of farmers is to ensure optimum nutrient buffer level. That in essence is the nutrient buffer power concept and that is why he asserted that "Soil is the Soul of Infinite Life." Dr. Nair's scientific explanation of India's primordial agriculture system, just as Sir Albert Howard's five decades earlier, would have insured plentiful nutritious food for all at all times. However, their valuable contribution to soil health and scientific explanation of soil as the soul of infinite life was discarded while the spineless scientists destroyed soil health, aquatic life, underground aquifers, people's health, and the planet's health.

Productivity is inversely proportional to wastivity

Wastivity is an important concept in System's theory which essentially means that systemic productivity should factor in wastivity to arrive at net productivity. If a farmer produces 4000 kg of rice every season per hectare, his productivity is recorded as 4000 kg/hectare. However, if the net availability/usability to consumers is only 2000 kg, the net systemic productivity is 50% and wastivity is 50%. Wastage occurs at harvesting, transportation, storage, processing, and delivery to retail chains like Wal-Mart. Around 15% is wasted by the households largely due to marketing gimmickry of multi-brand super stores enticing them to buy more than what they need.
Therefore, from the time a farmer sells his produce to the market and up the value chain to the end user, wastage at each point in the value chain should be known to estimate the net productivity.
And therefore systemic productivity is inversely proportional to wastivity. Every farmer keeps some food grain for his consumption and sells the surplus in the local wholesale market. Farmer's role is over after that. He has produced what he could; the rest is up to public or private sector transportation, handling and storage system to manage. The Government of India has failed consistently since 1947 despite a brilliant research based recommendations by Indian economists and statisticians in 1946 that India's farmers need scientific storage facilities with a system of protection from market manipulations. [12]
Government estimates peg post harvest losses at around 20% for food grains and 40% for horticulture produce in India. Ministry of Food Processing Industry [MoFPI] estimated that food worth Rs. 580 billion is wasted post harvest but erroneously concluded that “food processing industry” can reduce waste. If that had been true, USA and UK would be setting standards! [13]
A recent report from UK shows that 50% of the food produced by farmers is wasted from the time it is harvested to the belly of the most wasteful beast and mainland Europe is nearly as wasteful. Some years ago an American scientist had calculated that Britain and USA alone waste over Rs. 5,500 billion worth of food every year. [14] China wastes Rs. 176 billion worth of food every year when 128 million Chinese remain hungry. [15] Estimate of global waste is not known because waste data is not rigorously gathered. The irony is that richer countries are more wasteful and, as some analysts say, ‘western countries have no culture of respecting food’ and that is true for the affluent in China and India as well. Should we then blame the farmer for not producing enough?

The lies of agricultural bio-technology industry

Biotechnology industry's website [16] makes fraudulent claims that biotechnology can heal the world, fuel the world and feed the world. Twenty years of compulsive and habitual lying stood exposed when Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman saidtransgenic herbicide-tolerant soybeans and corn have not increased operational yields."[17] Plant pathologist Dr. Don Huber warned that the use of glyphosate, a lethal pesticide but vital for genetically engineered plants, cansignificantly increase the severity of various plant diseases, impair plant defence to pathogens and diseases, andimmobilize soil and plant nutrients rendering them unavailable for plant use." [18] In an interview Dr. Huber further elaborated that micronutrients such as manganese, copper, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc are essential to human health. All of them can be reduced in availability by glyphosate; mineral nutrients are less in glyphosate treated plants. We are seeing a reduction in nutrient quality (in food crops).Years ago Dr. Nair had warned that "an alien gene in a plant cell may adversely impact the concentration of a specific nutrient on its roots and it is the mean concentration of the specific nutrient on the surface of the root that decides its uptake process." Essentially, the alien gene disrupts nutrient uptake and because plant roots and soil biota have symbiotic relationship, GE plants and glyphosate kill the living soil. Dr. Huber has explained sterility and aborted foetus in animals brought up on genetically engineered fodder and food. [19]
Driven by globalist-corporatists-eugenicists, agriculture biotechnology is essentially a military agenda of Monsanto and its cohorts, the US Government, US-Department of Defence, US-AID, the vampire Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [BMGF], and the Ford and Rockefeller foundations to destroy and take control of world's food system. At least 300,000 farmers have already committed suicide and 148 million farming households are in their cross-hair in India. [20] The grain bowls -Punjab and Haryana- are now dead zones with stagnant yield, increasing costs, stressed natural resources, poisoned land and dying farmers.
Reports of farmers' suicides are pouring in from all parts of India and many parts of the world.
The world doesn't need modern technology of poisonous pesticides, destructive fertilizers and patented GE seeds that can't match 1890 or even 1760 AD yields in India. Modern technology has actually destroyed the nutrition in common foods. Failing to set any yield or nutrition standard in any food crop, an insane industry has muddled through.
Historically, Indian farmers have shown the world that all the food that is needed can be grown sustainably and honest scientists have explained that it can be done in perpetuity! Life flows from the soil and soil supports all life forms on earth; plants transfer soil nutrients to other living beings. Farmers keep us alive and hold up the sky; they alone have the solution to hunger and malnutrition. Endnotes:
[1] Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh and Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar are forcing Ag-Biotechnology on India despite unanimous rejection by members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture in the Parliament. The full report here:
[2] Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, aka MS Swaminathan, reminds me of a 1978 story "Maneater of Manatu" by a colleague that described how one criminal landlord of Bihar used to brutalize the Dalits who worked his lands. Mankombu is man-eater of honest scientists.
[3] Indian agriculture before modernization; Centre for Policy Research; Chennai;
The data comes from the records of the Department of Revenue, Agriculture and Commerce gathered for tax purpose, British Indian Government
[4] India's Once Plentiful: Records reveal British schemes diminished crops and dismantled a native system of abundance.
It should be noted that many rice varieties collected by an eminent rice expert Dr Richharia gave 8-9 MT per hectare yield. These germplasm were stolen by Syngenta.
[5] FAO database, 2013
[7] This summary is based on various reports appearing in national and international media. Researchers should also refer to a vital publication "FOOD FOR ALL" by Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai, which is a compilation of discussions by India's top leaders.
[8] Joseph Stiglitz was in Patna, the state capital of Bihar in January 2013. He took time to visit these villages where new world records are being established. See here:
[9] In my opinion, this sampling unit is inadequate when probability of variation is high. Ideally, from a plot of one hectare about 0.4 hectare should be sampled by dividing the plot into a grid of 10 x10 metres and then randomly selecting sub-plots totalling 0.4 hectare, particularly because it is a system based on integration of traditional and vermi-compost based soil management. Also, the edges of the plot are frequently subjected to human traffic. The Chinese Professor Yuan Longping's main reservation is on the method of weighing which is understandable. See here: "India's Rice Revolution: Chinese scientist questions massive harvest" ; The Guardian; Feb 23 2013;
Orignal Article Here


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