Food and Agriculture News: 10/27/22

Food and Agriculture News: 10/27/22

Fertilizer or pollutant? Soil amendments cause stir in rural Georgia - AJC 

Contentious farm law sparks debate in race for agriculture commissioner - Georgia Public Broadcasting

These two articles are broadly about the same thing. Basically, they’re about farms who spray chicken manure over their crops and fields as a soil amendment. 

On one hand, animal manure is beneficial for the soil, particularly in adding nitrogen which is a critical element for plant growth. There’s really no argument there.

What these articles are about is what you might call the fine print. 

For starters, the manure is supposed to be treated to remove viruses and pathogens. However, opponents say regulation is patchy at best. The result is toxic waste that attracts bugs, smells terrible, and poisons waterways – in one instance, 1,700 fish were killed in Little River. Numerous farms have been fined for falling afoul (ahem) of the rules, but it remains a widespread practice.

Where things get a bit more interesting is that Georgia State Senator Tyler Harper sponsored a bill called the “Freedom to Farm” Act, which sounds like a great thing. However, the end result has made it difficult, if not impossible, for neighboring farms or residents to complain or stop manure from being sprayed. 

Harper is one of the candidates running for Agriculture Commissioner. He’s told farmers that he would act to do something about this problem. The problem is, current Ag Commissioner Gary Black says he’s pretty much powerless to change it due to the law that Harper passed originally. 

Harper’s opponent Nakita Hemingway hammered Harper on the issue, who turned around and said she didn’t know what she was talking about. 

My take – Harper’s talking out both sides of his mouth here. He made the problem worse, promised to fix it even though he’ll be powerless to do so, and then said his critics didn’t know what they were talking about. 

Goats and sheep graze to restore native prairie at Minnesota Capitol - Minnesota Star Tribune 

Now this is what nature intended! Take the same principal as above – animal manure helps improve the soil. However, it’s significantly better when the animals are actually on the land, rather than stuck in a cage having their manure pumped through a hose (I mean seriously, it just sounds wrong on all levels). 

In this case, goats and sheep are grazing land around the Minnesota Capitol, which remove invasive species while creating fertile ground for native species to grow. Plus, the animals are cute, don’t require gas to fuel them, and don’t leave behind poisonous herbicides. We should do more of this in more places.

Fun fact: goats used to maintain the White House lawn. 

U.S. farmers receive nearly $800 mln in loan relief from agriculture agency - Reuters 

This is the first wave of payments coming from the Inflation Reduction Act that passed earlier this year. This round targeted farmers who, for lack of a better term, had more straightforward financial issues to solve – for example, farmers who were 60 days behind on loan payments had their next payment covered. Money went to about 13,000 farmers in total. There is still more than $2 billion to be dispersed but mechanisms for how to distribute that funding are still being determined.

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