National Briefs - New manure rules questioned
Maine blueberries could be in school lunches more often
Maine's famous wild blueberries might start turning up in school lunches more often in the future.
The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is giving the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine $50,000 to perform a marketing initiative promoting the blueberries as a good school food.
The commission says school sales of frozen Maine wild blueberries have been flat despite recent years of high harvests. It says increased interest among schools could boost sales and create a stable new market for the berries.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said last April it would buy up to $13 million in wild blueberries to help with falling prices and over-supply. The wild blueberry industry has seen prices slip in recent years in the wake of big harvests and competition from Canada.
LITTLE ROCK, AR
Study: No evidence of manure leak at Arkansas hog farm
A study at a hog farm located 6 miles from the Buffalo River has found no evidence of a manure leak at the operation.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/2jjNn1h ) that the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality made the conclusion this week on the study conducted at C&H Hog Farms.
The department hired a firm to conduct the drilling at C&H to detect whether one of the manure ponds had been leaking after concerns were raised by the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance.
C&H Hog Farms Inc., near Mount Judea, sits on Big Creek about 6 miles from where it converges with the Buffalo National River.
It's the only federally classified large hog farm in the river's watershed and is permitted to house up to 6,000 piglets and 2,503 sows.
Concerns as new rules aim to curb manure pollution
Washington environmental regulators have released new permit rules aimed at reducing the amount of manure pollution that gets into rivers, lakes and other bodies of water from large dairy farms and other animal feedlots.
The rules will change the regulatory landscape for the state's 230 dairies with more than 200 cows, as well as other so-called concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. Embracing the rules may shield dairies from government fines or lawsuits by environmental groups, but will mean taking on new obligations with uncertain costs, The Capital Press reported (http://bit.ly/2k96YkK).
"Every farmer will look at this very differently," Jay Gordon, policy director for the Washington State Dairy Federation, told The Capital Press. "Some will sleep better at night knowing they won't get sued, or at least are less likely to get sued. Others will say, 'Why do I need this?' It means more regulations, more paperwork and more burdens. We're very concerned about that."
But environmental groups say the rules don't go far enough and fail to protect drinking water. Environmental groups had pushed for dairies to line manure lagoons with synthetic material and install wells to monitor groundwater, steps the Washington Department of Ecology was unwilling to take, The Capital Press reported.
DES MOINES, IA
Farmer gets 15 months in prison for false statements
A Waukee farmer has been sentenced to 15 months in prison and must repay the U.S. Department of Agriculture more than $321,000 after pleading guilty to making false statements to obtain a farm loan.
Donald Lynn Embree pleaded guilty in September in federal court in Des Moines acknowledging he obtained three loans from the Commodity Credit Corp. in March 2015 by falsely certifying he had corn and soybeans stored on his farm to serve as collateral for the loans.
U.S. Attorney Kevin VanderSchel says Embree entered a plea agreement that says he had sold much of the grain before the loans were approved and did not have the grain to pledge as collateral. Embree also must serve three years of probation after his sentence.
Dairy farmers spray EU HQ to push demands for better prices
Dairy farmers from across the European Union have sprayed the EU's headquarters with milk powder to protest the crisis in their sector.
Many farmers have been driven to the brink of bankruptcy as their sector has been hit with sagging prices and production costs squeezing profits.
The EU's executive Commission has approved some support measures over the past year, but the farmers fear that releasing more milk powder on the market would further complicate their plight.
The EU did away with a complicated milk quota system two years ago, allowing for an increase in production at a time when sanctions against Russia also hit the sector. Russia imposed a ban on EU food imports in tit-for-tat retaliation after the 28-nation bloc set economic sanctions against Moscow for its annexation of the Krim peninsula in Ukraine in 2014.
"Our farmers have been so rattled by the crisis that only a real price increase and long-term stability on the market can save milk production across the EU from extinction," said Erwin Schopges, a leader of the European Milk Board alliance of dairy farmers.