Washington Insider --Wednesday

UN Food of the Year

Here’s a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN’s well-placed observer.

South Korea Renews Ban on All US Poultry

South Korea has re-imposed its ban on imports of all U.S. poultry in the wake of USDA confirming highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in an Indiana commercial turkey flock and eight cases of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI).

Eight of the nine H7N8 avian influenza detections announced on January 16 have been confirmed as low pathogenic avian influenza, with additional testing ongoing for the ninth flock, according to USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

The detections Jan. 16 were identified as part of surveillance testing in the control area surrounding the initial HPAI H7N8 case in that state, identified on January 15.

The pathogenicity of a virus refers to its ability to produce disease. Birds with low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) often show no signs of infection or only have minor symptoms. HPAI viruses spread quickly and cause high mortality in domestic poultry. H7 LPAI viruses have been known to mutate into HPAI viruses in the past.

“It appears that there was a low pathogenic virus circulating in the poultry population in this area, and that virus likely mutated into a highly pathogenic virus in one flock,” said Dr. John Clifford, USDA Chief Veterinarian. “Through cooperative industry, state and federal efforts, we were able to quickly identify and isolate the highly pathogenic case, and depopulate that flock. Together, we are also working to stop further spread of the LPAI virus, and will continue aggressive testing on additional premises within the expanded control area to ensure any additional cases of either HPAI or LPAI are identified and controlled quickly.”


ERS: No-Till and Strip-Till Techniques Popular on US Crop Acres

No-till and strip-till methods are used on a large portion of U.S. crop acres often as part of conservation compliance for federal agricultural programs, due to the reduced soil erosion and better maintenance of soil carbon they provide, according to the Economic Research Service (ERS).

A total of 39% of the combined corn, soybean, wheat and cotton acreage utilized no-till-strip-till tillage in 2010/11, or nearly 89 million acres per year. Crops viewed as best suited for no-till/strip-till techniques, such as soybeans, saw the greatest acreage using the techniques, while crops seen as less suited to no-till/strip-till, such as corn, saw less acreage using the techniques.

Conservation requirements, including those tied to conservation compliance for most federal agricultural programs, are responsible in part for the amount of no-till/strip-till acreage seen. As of 2014, crop insurance premium subsidies also adopted eligibility requirements that include conservation compliance


Washington Insider: UN Food of the Year

It is common for governments worldwide to honor various objects by creating national or state trees, flowers, and many, many other designations. So, you might not be especially surprised to find that the United Nations sometimes decrees a “food of the year” and has designated 2016’s food to be pulses.

The Washington Post is reporting this week that in an effort to improve both global health and nutrition the UN has organized a campaign to promote the “promise of pulses in feeding a growing population.” Two previous designations were quinoa in 2013 and potatoes in 2008, but in 2015 the two subjects were soil and light/light-based technologies. Among other things, current campaign is asking member nations to submit recipes for signature dishes using pulses in an effort to teach consumers how to use the products.

According to the Post, pulses are especially nutritious foods—and include soybeans and peanuts along with nine other U.S. crops. However, the primary UN focus is dry products such as drybeans, peas, lentils and chickpeas and fava beans as well. Pulses are mainly dry, not fresh, and are really defined by their low oil content compared with the other legumes.

Legumes fix much of their own nitrogen in the soil from the air, and pulses in particular are very good at fixing nitrogen, the Post says, which means they require “none to very little fertilizer” to produce substantial crops.

In addition, from the UN’s perspective, pulse crops offer super high protein and an excellent source of dietary fiber; they also give consumers a longer feeling of well-being and help with weight management. Not only are they crucial to food security in many cases, but they are more environmentally sustainable than many other crops, the Post says.

One reason for the UN’s current focus is the fact that they were neglected in the Green Revolution efforts of a generation ago, which focused on cereals which are valuable for their calories and the energy they provide. Yields were tripled, so that now the world has “enough calories to feed everybody,” the Post says but that emphasis on pulses and plant proteins has lagged.

Now, the UN campaign is attempting to raise awareness of the importance of these crops to human health and to food security. It also sees pulses as helping farmers diversify their crop rotations, especially since they pulse crops are both low-input and low water-use crops.

Future water availability is a special concern, and pulse crops use a tenth of the water of other protein sources—a critical feature of efforts to help support the growing global population as it heads toward 9 billion people. The UN also argues that greater use of pulses is critical, and that both developing and developed countries need to be able to rely more on pulses and that better science is necessary to make them more productive and more competitive.

The Post notes that consumption of pulses in the United States, as well as in many other countries, is low mainly because consumers don’t know how to prepare and serve them but that the younger generation is more willing to take the additional time to integrate them into meal plans. As a result, the UN effort is focusing on gathering recipes from around the world and making them available.

The Post thinks this is doable and says that split peas and lentils are as fast to cook as pasta, quinoa and rice. “If you’re willing to cook rice, then lentils and split peas, you can cook those as well. But people don’t know. That’s the beauty of having this designation. It gives us an opportunity to tell people how versatile these products are, how to cook them, how they really assume the flavors, the spices, that you put in them. That’s what we’re hoping, that we can get that message out: Don’t be intimidated,” it says.

It is true that modern consumers are more accepting of new food choices than their parents were, and that use of pulses is growing. And, it seems like a good idea to attempt to emphasize use of plants that require less water as climates change. So far, the UN food recommendations don’t seem to have had much impact, but, if water shortages make cereals and meats more expensive, water efficiency may have greater impacts on consumption in the future than it did in the past, Washington Insider believes.

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