Thursday, December 28, 2006

Register Foresees Decline In Hog Prices

Today's Des Moines Register foresees that there is an increase in pork production in the state that may push prices down in the not too distant future. Agricultural economist John Lawrence of Iowa State University gives figures that suggest that although pork producers have made money in the last three years, increases in the cost of feed and new productive capacity coming on line will produce red ink for hog farmers in the near future.

It's sobering reading. Although it is not known what effect this might have on niche producers, certainly the price they receive for product that is spun back into commodity pork will net them no more than the industrial operators will get, and that's going to hurt.

Stay tuned.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Takes A Bullet For the Team

Commonwealth v. Lower Oxford Twp. Board of Supervisors, 2006 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 670 (Comm. Ct. Pa. December 12, 2006)

The state Attorney General filed suit against the township under chapter 2 of the Agricultural Code (3 Pa. S.S. sections 311-318 also known as 'ACRE') which took effect in 2005, allowing for review of local zoning ordinances at the behest of a local mushroom composter. The local ordinance sought to regulate composting and the attorney general argued that they were invalid and preempted by various provisions of law.

The township demurred, arguing that the attorney general had not pleaded sufficient facts to show authority to act, as the ordinance complained of had never been enforced. The Court agreed, finding that section 313 of ACRE applied only to the enforcement of such statutes that predated the adoption of ACRE.

Enforcement Action Against Composter Goes Forward

Coconino County v. Antco, Inc., 2006 Ariz. App. LEXIS 158 (Ariz. Ct. App December 19, 2006).

The Twidwells owned 20 acres in Coconino County and leased five acres to Antco for composting septage and restaurant grease. Under scrutiny by the county, Antco attempted to take advantage of Ariz. Rev. Stat. section 11-830(A)(3) that restricted local regulation of land used for 'agricultural composting'. Antco notified the county that its activities now constituted agricultural composting. The county filed a complaint and this appeal followed dueling motions for summary judgment.

The trial court dismissed the county's petition on the basis of the doctrine of primary jurisdiction in deference to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ).

The court dispensed with an exhaustion of remedies argument that figured in some of Antco's briefs by observing that because there was an existing agreement between ADEQ and the county that empowered it to initiate enforcement actions, exhaustion was not relevant.

In considering Antco's argument on the doctrine of primary jurisdiction, the court found no precedent anywhere in which the doctrine had been applied to prevent a governmental unit from exercising its public health enforcement power.

With respect to possible preemption, the court held that the trial court was remiss in applying the doctrine of primary jurisdiction when the facts of the case called for a preemption inquiry.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Water, Water Everywhere-But Will They Drink It?

I got this article this morning from the fine folks at AnimalNet, which is at the University of Guelph in the great nation of Canada. It's well worth a look if you have cattle that water from sources on the farm such as streams, ponds and sloughs.

Thanks for this update. Nothing escapes your attention.

Cattle watering issues
Yorkton This Week

Cattle producers are being urged to keep an eye on their water resources this winter.Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food Livestock Development Specialist Bob Klemmer said weather conditions over the course of the spring and summer have impacted the quality of surface water sources.The cause can be broken down into two main factors: too much water, and not enough. Klemmer said, while both situations can result in poor water quality and reduced cattle productivity, the prognosis for improvement is much better for the former."Flooding and run-off has led to increased nutrient loading in dugouts, dams, sloughs and lakes in some parts of Saskatchewan last summer. Combined with our hot summer weather, this situation resulted in rapid and recurrent algae blooms," said Klemmer.

Treatment during the summer takes care of this growth, but leaves behind the dead organic material, which ends up decaying on the bottom over the winter months as the water becomes anaerobic.This nutrient loading also encourages the growth of water weeds, which adds to the build-up of organic matter on the bottom. Left unchecked, this scenario leads to brackish/odorous water in mid-winter due to the anaerobic break-down of the accumulated organic matter.

If bad enough, cattle may not drink as much, which will result in a reduction of feed intake and lower productivity (lower gains, weight loss, lower milk production). Fortunately, this situation can be remedied by the installation of a properly sized aeration system.On the other hand, Klemmer said a lack of surface water can impact water quality as well."There are parts of Saskatchewan that experienced very little snow and zero run-off, and therefore no recharge to surface watering sites. Adding insult to injury, the hot, dry and windy weather last summer increased the amount of water cattle required, and caused a much higher evaporation rate, which has led to very low surface water reserves in some areas," said Klemmer.The resulting issues range from uncertainty of water supply/quality, to bringing old wells with questionable water quality back on-stream.

In some cases, this has forced producers to haul water to the cattle. Hauling water is expensive, time consuming and unsustainable; however, because the quality of the water may actually be higher, the cattle may be better off than drinking water from a depleted slough, dugout or dam.As water evaporates off the surface of these water bodies, minerals dissolved in the water remain, and, over time, may accumulate to levels of significance to cattle productivity and health. Even in a year of normal rainfall, one study demonstrated that mineral concentration in a dugout can double. This should be a "red flag" to those in this situation to make sure they test for water quality, especially when water levels fluctuate.Klemmer said knowing your water quality is the first step in ensuring your herd remains productive and healthy."The main minerals of concern are iron (Fe), sodium (Na), magnesium (Mg) and sulphur (S) in the form of sulphates. While iron levels are a nuisance for household use, and can cause problems inside your water distribution system, it is only when iron becomes excessive that it can affect the amount of water cattle will drink and, thereby, reduce productivity," explained Klemmer.Sodium and magnesium are most often of concern when they are associated with high levels of sulphates. High levels of magnesium sulphate have been shown to reduce water intake by cattle. If the water your cattle are fed contains high levels of sulphates, many problems can show up over time.Cattle on high sulphate water tend to have loose stools, due to its laxative effect. While this, in itself, is not a production problem, it may be an early sign that something is up "so check that water. Concerns with sulphates and productivity and health relate to interference in the absorption of trace minerals from the diet (primarily copper, zinc, and manganese) and, in extreme cases, cattle death due to polioencephalomalacia (thiamine deficiency).Solutions to these water quality problems range from installing costly water treatment systems, to initiating a special mineral supplementation program, to re-development of your water source over time.The levels of minerals in surface water can fluctuate widely over time, depending on precipitation, recharge, cattle use and evaporation, and the concerns/solutions can also be long-term, depending on these same environmental factors. Consequently, Klemmer said, a good first step to ensuring your cattle remain healthy and productive is testing the quality of water from all of your water sources."Testing and then monitoring quality over time is very important. Solutions to water quality problems, such as aeration, can be simple and inexpensive or costly and complex, such as treatment systems.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

8th Circuit Finds Nebraska's Corporate Farming Ban Unconstitutional

Last week, a three judge panel of the 8th Circuit held that Nebraska's corporate farming prohibition an unconstitutional restraint of interstate commerce. The law which was written into the Nebraska Constitution as Article XII section 8 (Initiative 300) was seen as one of the tougher corporate farming prohibitions.

Taking into account the ruckus that erupted here in Iowa over our state's packer feeder statute and how it ran afoul of Smithfield, it's a fair bet that this issue is headed for the Supremes in Washington. The 8th doesn't much like populist stuff like the Podunk States (that's us) telling the likes of Corporate America that we'd like to have a say in the matter before they run us over with their stretch limo Hummers. How the conservatives on the Court will treat the issue is anyone's guess.

For those of us who are concerned about vertical integration doing to the pork and beef markets what vertical integration did to the independent poultry producer (and, it may be said, a real and substantial decline in the viability of our rural towns), the issue is well worth getting up to speed on and contacting your legislators in Washington.

If you decide to contact your legislator, for heaven's sake write them a letter. Emails and phone calls are quick, easy, and forgettable. Letters are like oatmeal-they stick to the ribs.

We're not completely without friends inside the beltway, however-Senator Grassley of Iowa is, by all reports, the only senator in the United States who is an active farmer, as well as a former factory worker. For that alone, he is worthy of praise, aside from being a genuinely likable guy.

The political winds are changing in Washington-it's time to be heard about this issue, at every opportunity.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Farmers' Failure to Mediate Deprives Small Claims Court of Jurisdiction

Klinge v. Bentien, No. 04-0843 (Iowa Dec. 15, 2006).
Klinge and Bentien had an oral agreement concerning raising feeder pigs. Bentien bought the pigs and Bentien fed and raised them. Klinge sued Bentien in small claims court in Clayton County alleging insufficient compensation. Bentien countersued, arguing that Klinge's negligence caused a loss of 100 pigs. Neither party requested mediation under Iowa Code sec. 654B.

The small claims court entered judgment for both parties on both claims and counterclaims. Klinge appealed to the district court but Bentien did not. The district court dismissed Klinge's claim but since Bentien did not appear the court let the judgment stand.

Bentien then hired a lawyer. The next day the lawyer requested a dismissal, arguing that neither party had requested mediation as is required. The district court washed its hands of the entire matter, and this appeal followed.

The Supreme Court found that Iowa Code section 654B1 was applicable to the controversy. Therefore, Klinge's failure to file a mediation request and obtain a mediation release before filing his complaint deprived the small claims court of jurisdiction of the subject matter.

Section 654B.3 requires a 'farm resident' to file a request for mediation with the far mmediation service and obtain a release before filing suit if the matter involves a livestock 'care and feeding contract."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Race Is Not Always To The Swift: La Migra Raids Packing Plants UPDATE

In an article published today in the Greeley Tribune we're starting to get a clearer picture of what went on yesterday. Greeley, Colorado is the home of one of the larger Swift meatpacking plants where the aptly named ICE rounded up 261 packing house workers. It is said by authorities that at least 10 people in the roundup were detained on identity theft warrants, and the balance were held on immigration violations.

In addition, we now know where at least some of the detainees are being held-Camp Dodge, Iowa.

I have problems with a lot of this stuff.

Yeah, I don't like illegal immigration, but I like cheap beef and bacon on my table. I also don't like seeing the government beat up on working folks. I don't like seeing the government depriving kids of their hard working parents and throwing families to the four winds and acting as if they're protecting the rest of us from terrorism.

It's taking on all the hallmarks of a pogrom. There. I said it.

Whatever their status, the illegal immigrants who work for Swift, almost exclusively hispanics, provide a valuable service and are in the main, working stiffs with families and kids here in the states and down below the border who depend on that paycheck for a modest existence. We're targeting people who may be technically guilty of some statutory offense, but are morally and ethically blameless for trying to make a better life for their families.

They may have crashed the party, but in the main they've got sweat equity and have earned their place at the table.

There's a qualitative difference between these folks and those who seek to do this country great harm by slipping under the radar screen.

And I'm willing to bet my last Confederate dollar that there are a fair number of folks serving proudly in our military, standing up for this country, whose parents came here illegally from Mexico.

For all those who are busily getting all self righteous, what the hell would you do if you were from Mexico? You'd do what you had to to feed your family and worry about the long term consequences later.

That's what people do who love their families.

Here's a note from one of our correspondents. It sums up my feelings about the entire subject pretty neatly.

Thank heavens for men like Mr. Chertoff who stand up for these poor victims (of identity theft, that included a murderer serving life in prison and a dead guy). But if specific victims are not enough, remember 911: “Chertoff called the trafficking of false and stolen documents a serious national security issue because terrorists can use such phony papers to try to get on airplanes.”

Why didn’t I realize these poor schmucks bustin their butts in our nation’s packing plants might actually be aiding the 911 terrorists? How did I miss that connection? Again thank heavens for Mr. Chertoff.

There are three people who don't know that ICE, the less kind and less gentle version of La Migra raided a number of packing plants operated by the Swift folks yesterday in a flying razee that the old time Tuaregs would have approved of. One of those plants happened to be in Marshalltown, Iowa. The folks who did not hear about it are probably on a dogsled somewhere north of Thule where the radio waves don't go.

The more important question is what it means for the people who are involved.

It is alleged by La Migra that a significant number of the detainees have been using purloined social security identification information that was lifted from other folks, are undocumented, facing criminal charges or otherwise have paperwork problems.

What's unknown is if ICE simply grabbed everyone in sight whose name ended in -ez, or had some idea of who it was they needed to interview and for what reason. A cloak of secrecy uhas descended as ICE is not disclosing where the detainees have been moved to.

There's reason to believe that a fair number of people who are legal residents in the US have been swept up because they weren't carrying their documents, according to Jim Benzoni, an immigration law practicioner in Des Moines. This is understandable. If I had a document that was the most important piece of paper in my life, it would be in a safe place like a safety deposit box and not in my pants pocket while I was working in a slaughterhouse.

For producers who have delivery commitments, problems are going to be experienced as long as Swift is unable to acommodate them because of lower staffing levels.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Unhealthy Appetites: Deer and Damage to Crops

John Carlson had a pretty extensive article in the Sunday Register about one producer's struggle with protecting his crop of nursery trees from deer. As we've been noticing, there's an increasing population of the critters, and sometimes they can and do eat nursery stock and corn.

It seems that the owner of a tree farm near Tipton has gotten frustrated with what he sees as the Department of Natural Resources' inadequate response to his complaints about the deer damaging his nursery stock. As something of a riposte, he's taken to carrying a rifle and shooting the critters every now and again as the spirit moves him. He's been issued a summons but he believes that he's on pretty solid authority in his course of action, and he relies on State v. Ward, 152 N.W. 501 (Iowa 1915) as his backstop.

The DNR does not seem to be overly impressed with the tree farm owner, saying he qualifies for a program that would issue him permits to destroy deer if he comes up with $1,000 worth of damage. He isn't interested, and looks forward to his day in court in Tipton on March 19 of next year.

I may make time in my schedule for a road trip that day. It should prove interesting to follow this case.

Interestingly, the case of State v. Ward he relies on says much about the defense of necessity, which was not allowed by the lower court. And that is why the case was reversed and remanded.

Ward does not set out some sort of general rule of conduct that all must adhere to, or allot rights and responsibilities as the tree grower would like. It merely points to the fact that a defendant in such cases could advance justification of the killing so as to avoid substantial injury to his property. It specifically does not rule on what the outcome might be if the deer was not in the very act of destruction of property at the time of the shooting.

Stay tuned.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Curbing the Urge to Fence

Newport v. Dulin, No. 6-669/05-1233 (Iowa Ct. App. Nov. 30, 2006).

(Note. This case makes perfect sense if one draws a picture).

The Newport family owns land in Cedar Rapids and has so for many years, operating a greenhouse and florist business on the premises. Part of the land was platted, including what came to be known as Newport's Third Addition.

Access to lots 1 and 2 of Newport's Third Addition was by a driveway running from Wilson Avenue SW along the boundary of Newport's First and Third Additions.

Dulin purchased the business from the Newports and a part of the property, which included the driveway. The title opinion furnished to Dulin at that time noted the existence of a utility easement but did not mention the access easement that had been described in the final plat of Lot 1 in Newport's Fourth Addition and other documents.

Dulin erected a fence that blocked the driveway in 2002, and the Newports sued to enjoin Dulin from blocking their access to the property. The District Court found that the Newports had an express access easement by virtue of the language in the plats, and that they also had easements by necessity and implication to part of the driveway.

The Court of Appeals held that an easement granted in a plat (as this surely was) has the same effect as if explicitly granted in a deed or conveyance. Turning to the issue of an easement of implication or necessity, the record showed ample evidence of a preexisting use that manifestly was intended to be a permanent use that was beneficial to the enjoyment of the retained land. In addition an easement of necessity was found based on the general layout of the land and in the difficulty of accessing it absent an extremely costly construction job.