Thursday Roundup: Marty Two Bulls

Marty Two Bulls wins national award for his cartoons • Antibiotics in farm animals restricted • GAO reports on crop insurance program • What teachers say they need

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In a column about what teachers think would best help public education — more family involvement; better principals, fewer students in each class — Diane Ravitch reports that survey finds that the proportion of those teachers thinking of leaving the profession has risen from 17 percent to 29 percent in just two years. 

What won’t do much good? The teachers say monetary rewards for teachers or a longer school day.

• Story here from the Washington Post on hunting and cooking squirrel. 

West Virginia officials are trying to get young people to begin hunting squirrel before moving on to deer:

West Virginia game officials would like young hunters to be introduced to squirrels first, so they open squirrel season two weeks before deer season — not because they have something against squirrels but because squirrels teach neophytes about the woods in a way that other game doesn’t.

“Squirrel hunting requires a fairly good degree of woodsmanship — especially tree identification — where deer hunting does not,” Curtis said. “You can climb up in a stand and not know one tree from another.”

Curtis said that in places where it’s legal to bait deer, some parents will spread corn, stick their kid in a tree stand and come back at dark.

“What has the kid learned?” he sighed. “Nothing.”

• Citing a USDA study, an environmental group says it now costs more than $4.8 billion a year to remove nitrates from drinking water. The Environmental Working Group says the Farm Bill should become “a referendum on America’s commitment to protecting our drinking water supplies.” 

The EWG follows the Farm Bill closely. The group wants Congress to end direct subsidy payments and, instead, “lawmakers should help farmers when they suffer deep losses in yields and provide options for them to purchase additional crop and revenue insurance at their own expense.” 

Chris Clayton has all the details here about EWG’s interest in using the Farm Bill as a way to clean up the nation’s waters, particularly through the Farm Bill’s conservation title.

• While we’re on the Farm Bill….The federal government could save $1 billion a year by capping the amount that farmers receive to subsidize crop insurance at $40,000, according to a Government Accountability Office report. 

Crop insurance is bought through private companies, but the federal government pays about 62 percent of premiums. The cost of the program has increased from $951 million in 2000 ($1.2 billion in today’s dollars) to $7.8 billion in 2011. There is no income or payment limit on the insurance subsidy. 

Last year, the $40,000 cap on the insurance subsidy would have affected only 4 percent of farmers, but these farmers account for about a third of the total subsidy, according to the GAO.

“High premium subsidies have hurt small and beginning farmers because the subsidies themselves have distorted the market,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican who asked for the GAO study. “For instance, high subsidies have artificially increased the value of land and have created other barriers to entry and expansion.”

• After more than three decades of trying, the Food and Drug Administration yesterday finally adopted a new rule that will require farmers and ranchers to obtain a prescription from a veterinarian before using antibiotics in farm animals. 

Farmers and ranchers feed antibiotics to hogs, fowl and other animals to grow them larger. But widespread use of antibiotics allows drug-resistant bacterial to develop. In the new regulation, using antibiotics simply to grow animals larger won’t be allowed.

• The Humane Society will release a new report today on factory farmed eggs. Here’s a preview

• The Missouri legislature is considering legislation that would lock in current methods of raising farm animals.

The bill reads in part:  “It shall be the right of persons to raise livestock, in a manner adhering to state and local laws and ordinances as enacted on Aug. 28, 2012, or at the commencement of operations, whichever is later.” The bill has passed the House and is pending in the Senate.

The bill is in response to animal rights advocates who contend that certain factory farm techniques are inhumane, writes Harvest Public Media. (See item above.) But writer Jessica Naudziumas says that the market for humanely-grown food may be more powerful than any state legislature. 

• Extension of broadband into rural areas of Massachusetts is moving slowly, legislators heard yesterday. 

• Bloomberg is reporting that gains in U.S. farmland prices may begin to drift away as crop prices decline and farm input costs (fuel, fertilizer) increase.

An economist at Farm Credit Services sees declining profit on the farm, and that will result in few high bids for farmland. 

 

 

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