Midwest Briefs: Farm Aid 2017 highlights farm opportunities

Wisconsin State Farmer


Deere & Company completes Blue River Tech acquisition

Deere & Company announced on Sept. 12 that it completed its acquisition of Blue River Technology. Earlier in September, Deere said it signed a definitive agreement to purchase the Sunnyvale, California company to enhance John Deere's leadership position in precision agriculture. 

Blue River has designed and integrated computer vision and machine learning technology that will enable growers to reduce the use of herbicides by spraying only where weeds are present, optimizing the use of inputs in farming – a key objective of precision agriculture.

Machine learning technologies could eventually be applied to a wide range of Deere products. 

Blue River Technology is a pioneer in applying machine learning to help farmers optimize every plant in their fields. By providing equipment that can see and manage each plant, Blue River helps farmers reduce inputs, increase profitability and care for the land. 


Fremont biodigester reopens after shutting down two years ago 

A Michigan biodigester that turns food scraps into green energy has reopened after shutting down two years ago over financial problems. 

The new owner, Generate Capital Inc., wants the revamped Fremont Regional Digester to start running at capacity later this fall. The digester is expected to turn 165,000 tons of organic waste a year into enough green energy to power at least 2,500 homes. 

The original $22 million plant opened by Novi Energy in 2012 produced energy to power about 1,500 homes annually. That plant closed in 2015 in a dispute over ownership. 

Generate Capital is working with Dynamic Systems Management to run the plant. 

"We are working with nearby food processors and agribusinesses to help divert thousands of tons of waste from landfills," said Daniel Meccariello, chief operating officer of Dynamic Systems. "We will be able to accept and process just about any type of organic material and turn it into an immediately usable, environmentally-friendly form of energy for local families." 

Dynamic Systems said it upgraded the plant with "state-of-the-art controls" that will minimize odors. 

In digester tanks, microorganisms convert ground-up organic waste into biogas, which is used to generate power. Leftover solids are used as organic fertilizer for local farms. 

"The digester not only benefits our local economy by supporting food and agricultural producers in west Michigan by recycling food waste to produce electricity, but will also create a lasting impact on the Fremont community and our natural environment," said Todd Blake, city manager for Fremont. 


Experts say increase in Iowa farmland values not permanent 

Values of Iowa farmland have increased this year, reversing several years of declines, but industry experts say the change likely isn't a signal that the agricultural economy is improving. 

Steve Bruere is president of Peoples Co., a farm management and brokerage firm. He told The Des Moines Register that a lack of farms on the market has driven up the value. 

Farmland values climbed nearly 3 percent to almost $6,700 an acre for the year ending in September, according to the Realtors Land Institute's Iowa chapter. 

The state's increase in farmland value may be temporary, said Chad Hart, an agriculture economist at Iowa State University. Agriculture values typically increase because a farmer can generate more income from the land, he said. However, agriculture income in the state is under stress, he said. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicted last month that U.S. farm income would increase about 3 percent this year because of a predicted increase in profits for cattle, pigs, poultry and other livestock. 

Hart said he's unsure if Iowa will see such improvements because of this summer's drought conditions. Farmers will likely have a hard time making profits this year and next year, he said. 

Bruere said if a downturn in the farm economy continues, farm sales may increase and values would be reduced. 


Farm Aid 2017 highlights farmers growing rural and urban opportunities

Recognizing that the hard work of family farmers and their allies is revitalizing local economies and bringing rural and urban people together, Farm Aid 2017 highlighted the great promise of farmers and the food they produce to grow strong communities. The annual festival took place today at KeyBank Pavilion in Burgettstown, Pa.

The sold-out event celebrating family farmers brought more than 23,000 supporters together to celebrate the success and ingenuity of Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia farmers.

Across the country, low prices for commodity crops, including livestock and dairy, are putting farmers at risk. Dairy is a leading agricultural product in Pennsylvania, and dairy farmers are going off the land here as a result of the downturn.

Farm Aid highlighted area dairy farmers who are developing relationships with customers through direct markets. Attributes of the region's agriculture create resilience, including Pennsylvania's farm diversity, a focus on organic and sustainable agriculture, and, as noted, direct markets. Pennsylvania is the birthplace of organic agriculture in the U.S. and ranks fourth in the country for direct farm sales.

Farm Aid's day-long festival kicked off with a conversation between local farmers and Farm Aid board members Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews. From the Farm Aid stage, they talked about the urgency of investing in family farm agriculture and the efforts to invigorate local food economies.

Following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Farm Aid board members also reminded attendees that farm policies and programs must support and protect farm families.

Farm Aid has activated its Family Farm Disaster Fund and distributed grants to Texas and Louisiana farmers and ranchers who have lost their crops, livestock, pasture, barns, equipment and other essentials to maintaining their livelihoods.

In Florida and the Southeast, Farm Aid is already working with long-term partners to assess the needs of impacted farmers and ranchers. 


Over 1 million fish evacuated due to Columbia gorge fire

State officials say more than 1 million fish are being evacuated from the Cascade Hatchery because of the threat of debris from a wildfire burning in the Columbia River Gorge.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports (https://goo.gl/Y3y2r8 ) Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said about 1.65 million coho salmon and 132,000 spring Chinook salmon would be evacuated Friday and Saturday.

Officials say rain in the Columbia River Gorge over the coming days could cause mudslides and increased debris in the water that could clog screens on the hatchery's water intake and cut off water to the fish.

About a million coho salmon will be moved to the Leaburg Hatchery where they will remain until they are released into rivers next spring. The remaining fish will be sent to the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, Willard National Fish Hatchery and Sandy Fish Hatchery.