Ag Notebook: USDA grants to benefit Colo. vegetable and fruit growers |

Ag Notebook: USDA grants to benefit Colo. vegetable and fruit growers

Sen. Bennet Announces $684,000 in USDA Grants for Colorado

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet announced this week that the Colorado Department of Agriculture has been awarded $684,488.50 in competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support eleven specialty crop projects across the state.

The grants, which come from the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, will help support and promote local and regional fresh fruit and vegetable production.

“These grants will help Colorado fruit and vegetable farmers increase production and more effectively market their products in local communities,” Bennet, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said. “This grant program is an important part of the Farm Bill for Colorado’s specialty crop producers and is at risk if the Farm Bill expires next week. It’s just one more example of why Congress needs to pass this bipartisan bill.”

Little-used charges employed in listeria outbreak

It took two years for federal prosecutors to bring criminal charges against the owners of a southeastern Colorado cantaloupe farm linked to a 2011 listeria epidemic that killed 33 people.

The charges against the owners of a southeastern Colorado cantaloupe farm linked to a 2011 listeria epidemic that killed 33 people are little-used misdemeanor counts of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce, according to the Associated Press.

According to the AP report, only four other people have faced such charges in the past decade.

Moments before brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen arrived in federal court in shackles Thursday to enter not-guilty pleas, a spokesman for federal prosecutors defended the slow-moving case.

Jeff Dorschner called the misdemeanor charges the “best, most serious charge we could find.”

Asked why the Jensens were charged when few food-poisoning cases end up in criminal court, Dorschner said prosecutors in this case were compelled to act because the outbreak was so serious and widespread.

The Jensens were released on unsecured bonds. Trial is scheduled for Dec. 2.

Colo. inmates raising birds, bison and sheep

From eggs to full-grown fowl, inmates are raising 6,300 game birds in a correctional industries pullet operation here.

“We are raising 6,000 chukars which are game birds for hunting,” said Steve Smith, director of Colorado Correctional Industries. “They grow to a size between a pheasant and a quail and they are good eating.”

Inmates not only care for the chukars from egg to adult, they have built all the fencing for the birds.

The chukars and 300 pheasants will be sold to hunting clubs throughout Southeastern Colorado and also will be sold to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife for release on public lands, said Jeff Seley, a correctional industries supervisor.

Inmates also care for big horn sheep and a few bison displaced by the June 11 Royal Gorge Fire.

“The owner of the sheep paid for the fencing and pays for the feed and care,” Smith said. “They mostly go to zoos.”

The bison, which have the rare white gene, will be bred and offered for sale.

“We had an opportunity to get into the bison business and we like that niche market — it is perfect for our business model,” Smith said.

Smith said all correctional industries businesses operate without tax money and proceeds from sales are used to fund the operation’s expenses.

National Farmers Union: A farm bill extension costs taxpayers

Officials with the National Farmers Union made the following statements recently in reference to the farm bill, which expires Monday, Sept. 30. With issues still being debated, some wonder if another extension of the existing farm bill is on the way.

“An extension costs tax payers. Extending current farm programs would mean continuing the costly direct payment program. Direct payments will cost $8 to $10 billion over the next two years. Farmers receiving payments, regardless of commodity prices, is an indefensible, outdated, and ineffective policy. A new five-year farm bill would end these payments and implement a safety net that provides support in the event of natural disasters or long-term market collapse, not when economic conditions are strong.

“In addition, the United States is currently paying a $147 million annual settlement to Brazil as part of a long-running trade dispute over cotton programs. The United States agreed to pay the money to Brazil in 2010 in order to prevent retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods based on a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling against current cotton program payments to U.S. farmers. The pending House and Senate farm bills would bring the program into compliance with WTO rules, thereby eliminating the need for this unnecessary use of taxpayer funds. However, without a new farm bill, the United States has no choice but to keep paying the settlement or face costly consequences imposed by our competitors.”

EPA Backs off on fuel storage rule

The Environmental Protection Agency has assured Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., that it will not start enforcement of its Spill, Prevention, Containment and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule for fuel storage on farms.

EPA had been prevented from enforcing the rule until Sept. 23, under a provision in HR 933, the continuing resolution that funded the federal government until Sept. 30. As the deadline neared, farm-state lawmakers were concerned the EPA would start enforcing SPCC with farmers.

Even so, Huelskamp says the delay will give the House time to act on the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act (HR 311) that would specifically prevent SPCC rules from being applied to farmers and ranchers.