Ag News Briefs

Quick Hits on Issues Affecting Ag From Around the World

The following are news briefs on issues affecting agriculture from around the nation and world.

(LAST UPDATED: 3/18/2019 AT 11:07 a.m. CDT)

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Officials Seize 1 Million Pounds of Pork Amid Virus Concerns

(AP) -- Federal authorities say 1 million pounds (0.45 million kilograms) of pork products allegedly smuggled from China have been seized at a New Jersey port.

Troy Miller, field operations director for the Customs and Border Protection in New York and New Jersey, says it's the largest agricultural seizure ever made in the United States.

Officials feared the meat could be contaminated with African swine fever virus, which has killed more than a million pigs in China. It's not dangerous to humans, but officials say an outbreak in America could cause $10 billion in damage to the pork industry in just one year.

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China Sets Aside Crops for Wild Elephants to Spare Farmers

AP) -- China said it plans to grow crops specifically for wild elephants to graze on in an effort to spare the livelihoods of local farmers.

The southwestern province of Yunnan will set up the special farm in a habitat protection area in Menghai county where 18 of the animals frequently raid the crops of farmers from villages in the area. The 51-hectare (126-acre) farm will grow corn, sugarcane, bamboo and bananas.

The official Xinhua News Agency quoted an unidentified official with the local forestry bureau as saying protecting local residents was key to Asian elephant conservation

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Farmers Sue to Stop Measure Giving Lake Erie Legal Rights

(AP) -- An unusual ballot measure approved by voters in Ohio's fourth-largest city to give legal rights to Lake Erie is being challenged by farmers in a federal lawsuit that was filed Wednesday.

The lawsuit names the city of Toledo, where voters overwhelming approved the Lake Erie Bill of Rights during a special election on Tuesday. The measure seeks to add new protections for Lake Erie by allowing people to file lawsuits on its behalf.

The plaintiffs, members of a fifth-generation farm family in Wood County, call the measure an assault on the fundamental rights of farmers in the Lake Erie region.

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Farm Loan Delinquencies Highest in 9 Years as Prices Slump

(AP) -- The nation's farmers are struggling to pay back loans after years of low crop prices and export markets hit by President Donald Trump's tariffs, with a key government program showing the highest default rate in at least nine years.

Many agricultural loans come due around Jan. 1, in part to give producers enough time to sell crops and livestock and to give them more flexibility in timing interest payments for tax filing purposes.

"It is beginning to become a serious situation nationwide at least in the grain crops — those that produce corn, soybeans, wheat," said Allen Featherstone, head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University.

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Israeli Startups Join Firms Making Lab-Grown 'Clean Meat'

(AP) -- Several Israeli start-ups have joined a handful of companies around the globe trying to develop lab-grown meat, something they see as a solution to the needs of the world's ever-growing population and burgeoning demand for food.

The product has been known under different names, including cultured meat, in-vitro or artificial and "clean meat" -- a term advocates say underscores its environment-friendly nature. It's basically made of animal muscle cells grown in a culture in a lab, a technology similar to stem cells.

And while "synthetic steaks" are perhaps not a candidate for everyone's favorite dish, they could someday compete with conventional chicken or beef, an affordable price tag permitting.

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Cattlemen Envision Climate-Friendlier Herds

(Dow Jones) -- Cattle ranchers play up a new paper from Oxford researchers that questions whether cell-cultured meat technology -- growing burgers from bovine cells, for instance -- will remain a better environmental bet than traditional livestock production as the global population swells in the centuries ahead. "It is critical to understand that cattle's impact on climate is not static -- U.S. beef producers have lowered their total greenhouse gas emissions over the past four decades by producing the same amount of beef today with one-third fewer cattle," says Sara Place, head of sustainable beef production research for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. She says cattle ranchers' continued improvement is "part of the climate change solution."

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30 Acres in Illinois Once Owned By Lincoln Head to Auction

(AP) -- A plot of Illinois farmland once owned by President Abraham Lincoln is heading to auction.

A retired farmer in the central Illinois city of Charleston is selling his family's 590-acre farm, which includes a 30-acre plot once owned by the nation's 16th president.

The retired farmer, Ron Best, tells the (Charleston) Times-Courier and Mattoon Journal-Gazette that he knows some people might think of the land's historical significance during Tuesday's auction.

He says the land has been farmed the entire time, adding: "It's not like Lincoln's stove pipe hat, that you can put on a shelf and say this was Lincoln's."

(BE)