Rocky Mountain Ag Notebook: Environmentalists file suit against Western Sugar; Farm-to-food-bank bill signed; DEA approves hemp seed import | TheFencePost.com

Rocky Mountain Ag Notebook: Environmentalists file suit against Western Sugar; Farm-to-food-bank bill signed; DEA approves hemp seed import

Environmental group files suit against Western Sugar

WildEarth Guardians filed suit Thursday in federal court against the Denver-based Western Sugar Cooperative, citing pollutants being illegally discharged into the South Platte River near the Fort Morgan sugar-beet processing facility.

Western Sugar responded that afternoon, with officials of the company saying in a news release they believe the allegations are without merit, and that the "grower-owned cooperative will vigorously defend against this case."

According to the WildEarth Guardians complaint, the Western Sugar facility, which operates from September to March each year, produced about 1.5 million pounds of sugar per day and, in doing so, discharged millions of gallons of wastewater per day into unlined ponds located adjacent to the river.

"It is time this facility stops discharging dangerous pollutants into the South Platte River and starts complying with the mandates of its Clean Water Act permit," said Jen Pelz, wild rivers program director at WildEarth Guardians.

Western Sugar — which processes nearly all sugar beets grown in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Nebraska — stressed in its news release that the company does not discharge wastewater directly into the South Platte River and that it has "diligently worked with the Water Quality Division of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment to comply with new requirements in Western Sugar's permit under the federal Clean Water Acts."

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— Staff reports

Colo. Farm Bureau President: Science only basis for resolving trade issue

The ability to expand trade opportunities is vital to America's farmers and ranchers, but using scientific standards as the basis to address barriers erected by trade partners also warrants action, according to a cattle rancher from Colorado.

Colorado Farm Bureau President Don Shawcroft, a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors, today told the House Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade that Farm Bureau supports increased market access for agriculture. However, trade-related issues of concern to agriculture include long-standing barriers against conventionally raised U.S. beef, ongoing restrictions against U.S. poultry and pork, and actions that limit U.S. exports of farm goods produced using biotechnology.

Further, "It is imperative that TTIP be a high-standard trade agreement that covers all significant barriers in a single, comprehensive agreement," Shawcroft said.

Scientific standards are the only basis for resolving these issues, Shawcroft explained.

In describing how imposing non-tariff trade barriers can cause economic harm to U.S. agriculture, Shawcroft pointed to Mexico's past use of sanitary-phytosanitary measures to block the importation of U.S. potatoes. That issue has since been resolved through negotiations.

— Colorado Farm Bureau

CSU entomologists predict above average number of miller moths for the Front Range

It will be a well-above average year for miller moths across the northern Front Range, according to CSU entomologists Whitney Cranshaw and Frank Peairs.

The prediction is based on earlier reports that the caterpillar stage of this insect, known as the army cutworm, has been unusually abundant this spring and damaging to crops.

The "miller moth" stage of the army cutworm occurs later as the caterpillars transform to moths and begin their annual migration from the plains to the mountains.

"The rainfall and good soil moisture of the northeastern part of the state will allow this year to be unusually good for blooming plants," said Cranshaw. "If so, that will have an effect of spreading out the moths, rather than having them concentrated in irrigated yards. This may suppress, a bit, the incidence of them in/around homes."

The moths already began to emerge in mid-May, earlier than normal, but are not expected to peak until the middle of June.

Warm, clear, calm nights accelerate migration activity and moths are often most noticeable on days that follow a night favorable to flight. Army cutworm caterpillars were not unusually abundant in southeast Colorado where there has been an extended drought, according to Cranshaw.

Cranshaw and Peairs have produced an information sheet with questions and answers about miller moths that can be found at col.st/1n9VXzp.

— Colorado State University

Organic farms declining, even as sales soar

The number of certified organic farms has declined dramatically in northern Colorado and the Boulder Valley since 2007, driven in part by rising water prices, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Organic product sales, however, have risen sharply, according to censuses taken in 2007 and 2012 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Weld County had 27 certified organic farms in 2012, the same as in 2007. The number of organic farms in Larimer County declined by about half to 12, down from 23 during the same period. In Boulder County, the number of organic farms slipped to 15 from 34. The decline or flat growth of farms in the region comes amid an industrywide consolidation in agriculture, in Colorado and nationwide.

At the same time, though, statewide organic product sales have risen to $68.2 million from $50.6 million, a 35-percent rise.

Organic farmers say they have succeeded because of the elevated demand, but the farming method remains challenging. Organic farming consumes more resources, such as water and fuel, than traditional methods because farmers must till their fields more often, local growers said. The scarcity and higher prices of water also have made organic farming operations even more difficult.

— Northern Colorado Business Report

State loans help close water gap

The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved more than $100 million in loans to help water districts and some farmers in the area increase storage in Chatfield Reservoir and to expand a pipeline that will make their systems more efficient.

In a 2007 study, the group identified the Arkansas and Colorado river basins as areas where future pipelines might bring more water to the communities south of Denver.

In recent years, other efforts to consolidate and boost resources have been identified, at least delaying more costly plans to import water.

One of those ways is a $145 million plan to add 20,600 acre-feet of storage accounts in Chatfield. The reallocation project to use the flood-control reservoir for supply storage has been in the works 20 years.

The CWCB approved $84 million in loans to the Centennial, Castle Pines and the Castle Pines North water and sanitation districts, as well as the Center of Colorado (Park County) and the Central Colorado (agricultural wells between Denver and Fort Morgan) water conservancy districts.

For the urban users, the new accounts will allow greater ability to stretch existing supplies.

For the agricultural users, it could mean turning on some of the wells that were shut off nearly a year ago.

— The Pueblo Chieftain

Tyson Foods Battling Colorado Company in bid for Hillshire Brands

Hillshire Brands is at the center of a barnyard brawl.

Tyson Foods, the largest U.S. meat processor, on Thursday made a $6.2 billion offer for the maker of Jimmy Dean sausages and Ball Park hot dogs, topping a bid made two days earlier by rival poultry producer Pilgrim's Pride.

Based in Greeley, Pilgrim's Pride is owned by Brazilian meat giant JBS.

According to The Associated Press, the takeover bids for Hillshire by the two major meat processors are being driven by the desirability of brand-name processed products like Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches.

The convenience foods are more profitable than fresh meat, such as chicken breasts, where there isn't as much wiggle room to pad prices.

— Staff reports

Farm-to-food-bank bill to be signed in Durango

Farmers will soon have an incentive to donate much needed produce to Colorado food banks.

According to the Associated Press and Durango Herald, Gov. John Hickenlooper is scheduled to sign a bill Friday that will give farmers a tax credit for a quarter of the wholesale market price of the food. He'll hold a signing ceremony on a truck bed at Adobe House Farm in Durango with farmers, ranchers and food bank operators.

The tax credit can be used for donations of fruit and vegetables as well as dairy and meat products and big game. It's capped at $5,000.

Oregon has a similar program. Based on its experience, around 130 farms are expected to claim the credit in Colorado a year.

— Staff reports

After DEA approves hemp seed import, Kentucky plants a landmark crop

The week after a quick legal battle came to an end, Kentucky researchers sank hemp seeds into the earth and began an anxious wait for green sprouts to surface as part of the state's first legal crop of cannabis since the World War II era.

The state-sponsored planting of hemp Tuesday at a University of Kentucky farm was the second of seven expected to take place before the end of the month.

Authorities sharply curtailed hemp growing in the U.S. in the 1930s because cannabis plants produce both the flower referred to as marijuana and the fibers known as hemp. While the flower secrets a chemical compound that produces an intoxicating high, the seeds and stalk do not. Still, until February, the ability to legally cultivate hemp was limited.

A new federal law now allows for states to run pilot projects aimed at figuring out how much profit there is in growing hemp, which can be used to make food, fuel or material.

The Kentucky ceremony marked the first planting in the U.S. of imported industrial hemp seed as part of the new program.

This month, Kentucky's Murray State University planted seeds bought from California.

— The Los Angeles Times