Having enough base acres to enroll in commodity title programs is a challenge, young farmers told a Senate Agriculture subcommittee Tuesday.

Mississippi farmer Christian Good and Minnesota farmer Tessa Parks both asked lawmakers to consider ways to create new base acres for beginning farmers in the upcoming farm bill, though Good also warned against making base updates mandatory. 

As one solution, he pointed to language in the House farm bill framework allowing producers that currently do not have base or whose average planted or prevent plant acres exceed current base acres a one-time opportunity to establish base acres.

“For young farmers, this change would be monumental,” Good said.

Take note: The House Ag Committee’s farm bill would allow up to 30 million acres in new base. The acreage would be pro-rated if demand exceeds 30 million acres. Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow’s farm bill proposal would allow for a more limited base update targeted to underserved producers. During the hearing, she called addressing the issue “very important”.

Demographic changes threaten to worsen labor shortage

As tough as the farm labor market now, it could get a lot tougher over the next 20 years. The problem is the demographic changes occurring in key regions of the world where U.S. farms source workers. Falling birth rates and rising incomes mean there will be fewer young workers available to work on farms. 

Speaking at the Agri-Pulse Food and Ag Issues Summit West in Sacramento, economist Roland Fumasi said the decline in young working-age population becomes especially challenging by 2040 and will be notable in the Caribbean and Central and South America.

“Our runway to figure some of this stuff out isn't quite as long as we think. It's not going to start being a problem in 2050. Right? It's already a challenge,” said Fumasi, head of RaboResearch Food and Agribusiness for North America.

Alexandra Hill, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, said farmworkers in that state already are harder to find, in part because there are fewer new immigrants to take jobs. Workers also are more settled than they used to be and less willing to travel, she said. She noted that the average farmworker in California is about 41 years old, up from 31 in 2000. 

Trump position on environmental agencies garners criticism

A union representing 8,000 EPA employees is slamming Donald Trump for criticizing environmental agencies.

In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Trump first said he’d get rid of the Department of Education and indicated federal environmental agencies also are in line for cuts.

“One of the things that is so bad for us is the environmental agencies.” Trump said. “They make it impossible to do anything.”

“Donald Trump has made it clear that a second Trump term would look worse than his first – with broader attacks on science and the environment driving the day,” said Marie Owens Powell, President of AFGE Council 238.

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She called his term as president “a fiasco for the agency bargaining unit workers whose mission it is to protect human health and the environment during this climate emergency, with cuts to the workforce, rollbacks of regulations and more. Trump has made it clear that a second term would be catastrophic for the environment and reverse the progress made against climate change.”

First seedless blackberry developed 

A company has developed the world’s first seedless blackberry using gene-editing CRISPR technology, predicting it will transform the industry and accelerate progress in removing seeds from other fruits. 

The seedless blackberry, developed by Pairwise, used a number of tools and techniques to remove the hard pits in berry fruit and create soft, small seeds like those found in grapes, according to a company press release, which noted that the blackberry is the first seedless caneberry in the world. Pairwise is backed in part by Bayer. 

Data shows that over 30% of berry buyers do not like the seeds, and may avoid purchasing the fruit because of them, according to the release. 

“A key challenge in our food system is helping people eat more high-quality, healthy foods. As part of our drive to increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables, we’re working to provide consumers with new, highly nutritious food options with improved flavor and convenience,” says Pairwise Co-Founder and CEO Tom Adams. 

In addition to the seedless innovation, Pairwise has edited the same variety to eliminate thorns and create a more compact plant. The more compact trait creates smaller plants and allows for higher density per acre. These traits allow more efficient fruit harvesting and improved productivity for growers. 

EPA announces local foods program recipients

Six communities will receive funding for environmental protection and local community strengthening projects through EPA’s Local Foods, Local Places program. The projects that are being funded include farmers market expansions, the creation of community gardens, and food education programs.

The recipients include Braxton County, West Virginia; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Turner Station in Baltimore County, Maryland; Spring City, Tennessee; Rabbit Valley Farmers Market in Ringgold, Georgia; and the City of Wellston, Ohio. 

He said it: “It kind of smells like as you’re going by an old pizzeria or something.” – Justin Petit, co-founder of Santa Carota Beef in Bakersfield, California, on cattle that are fed waste from a garlic processor. His company feeds cattle waste carrots from Grimmway Farms. He was speaking at the Food & Ag Issues Summit West in Sacramento on Tuesday.

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