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Greensburg, Kansas Rebuilds

Massive spring tornado destroys this rural town, but not its spirit — we list a variety of ways to help residents rebuild

On the morning of May 4, Greensburg, Kansas, was like the small towns in which many of us live and work – a vibrant business community with locally owned small businesses serving the town and neighboring farms and ranches, strong schools and churches serving as the heart and soul of the community, and unique and interesting examples of rural culture and tourism. By late that evening all had changed in Greensburg as a massive tornado destroyed most of the town and many nearby rural homes.

essay: Influencing the Farm Bill Debate

The opportunity to shape a debate that focuses on investing in the future and reforming excessive payments is at hand—be part of it

Congress has begun writing a new farm bill, and each of us who cares about rural America has a responsibility to help shape the outcome. The stakes are high.

The farm bill can foster new vitality for rural communities, small businesses, and family farms. There are three key principles. The farm bill must invest in our future. It must reform excessive payments that subsidize concentration and drive smaller producers off the land. And citizens of conscience must enter the fray.

Beginning Farmer/Rancher Bills

Act calls for financial and entrepreneurial training, apprentice programs, and new financing options for beginners

On May 16, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act, a comprehensive set of policy options designed to meet the unique challenges and opportunities of today’s beginning farmers and ranchers, was introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Sponsors include Senators Harkin (D-IA), Grassley (R-IA), Brown (D-OH), and Baucus (D-MT) and Representatives Hereseth Sandlin (D-SD), McCollum (D-MN), and Walz (D-MN).

The need for the 2007 farm bill to include such an initiative could not be clearer. Farmers over the age of 65 outnumber those under 35 by more than two to one. A majority of farmland and farm business assets is owned by those over 65 as well. In 1978, 350,000 farmers aged 34 or younger claimed farming as their primary occupation. By the 2002 Census of Agriculture, just over 70,000 people aged 34 or younger made the same claim.

CORPORATE FARMING NOTES

Smithfield merger completed; bills introduced on packer ownership of livestock

Smithfield Foods, the nation’s largest pork packer and producer, announced on May 7 that the acquisition of Premium Standard Farms, the second largest producer and sixth largest packer, is complete. The merger brings Smithfield’s holdings to well over 1.1 million sows, over 20 percent of U.S. hog production and 31 percent of pork packing.

Initially, with the urging of farmers, farm and rural organizations, and members of Congress, the acquisition was put on hold while the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division investigated the impact of the transaction on competition in the pork sector. On May 4 Justice announced the closing of its investigation and their finding that the merger would not harm competition, consumers, or farmers.

Research Updates

Calif. district judge halts planting genetically altered alfalfa seed; proposal for USDA research institute gains ground

On May 4, 2007, a California federal district court judge banned any further planting of GE “Roundup Ready” alfalfa seed until USDA conducts a complete Environmental Impact Statement on Monsanto’s patented seed. This is the first time a commercialized genetically-altered crop has been halted in the United States.

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