On July 20, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded 34 grants totaling $15.1 million for research on renewable energy, biobased products, and agroecosystems. The grants, which are funded through the agency’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), are expected to help develop the next generation of renewable energy, bioproducts, and biomaterials; protect the ecosystems that support agriculture; and improve the agricultural systems and processes that help feed the nation.
The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on cover crop systems for biofuel production:
- USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) received $494,000 for the development of lupin, cereal rye, and carinata winter cover crops for biomass in the southern coastal plain;
- Purdue University received $498,000 for the development of cover cropping for the development of sustainable co-production of bioenergy, food, feed (BFF) and ecosystem services (ES);
- Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $498,378 for the development of perennial cover crop systems for maize grain and biomass production;
- Louisiana State University Agricultural Center received $387,000 to study the feedstock production potential of energy cane-sweet sorghum rotation with a winter cover crop system; and
- University of Nebraska received $500,000 to assess innovative strategies to maximize cover crop yields for biofuel across a precipitation gradient.
The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on the socioeconomic implications and public policy challenges of bioenergy and bioproducts market development and expansion:
- Auburn University received $499,886 to identify the economic barriers to biomass production, to evaluate the effectiveness of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in stimulating biomass market expansion, and to explore the economic and ecosystem service implications of biomass production;
- Colorado State University received $499,000 to produce a unified atlas of marginal lands in the U.S., and provide insight on the costs, potential environmental benefits, and overall practical likelihood of using those lands for biomass feedstock production;
- Purdue University received $492,099 to develop a dynamic theoretical model on rejuvenating coal-power plants with biomass;
- Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $499,622 to provide an integrated model-based assessment of the socioeconomic, policy, and market implications of sustainable bioenergy derived from cellulosic biomass; and
- University of Missouri received $498,441 to evaluate impacts on forest resources surrounding power plants using woody biomass, assess economic impacts of wood biopower systems, and quantify tradeoffs between cost, carbon reductions, and renewable energy generation obtained by the increased use of wood biopower.
More information on the grants is available at the NIFA website.
This post was written by Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D. of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.
Read more legal analysis at the National Law Review.
In early May, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced the Agricultural Worker Program Act (AWPA), a piece of legislation that will provide undocumented workers with heightened protection from deportation and aid them in obtaining legal status and citizenship. Specifically, the AWPA allows farmworkers who have worked in agriculture for at least one hundred (100) days of the past two years to earn lawful “blue card” status. Farmworkers who maintain this “blue card” status for five years may then become eligible to adjust to permanent residency or to a “green card” status. In a press release, Feinstein stated, “By protecting farmworkers from deportation, our bill achieves two goals – ensuring that hardworking immigrants don’t live in fear and California’s agriculture industry has the workforce it needs to thrive.” Bennet remarked that, “The failure to fix our broken immigration system has had real economic consequences for our farmers and ranchers. This bill serves as a necessary step until we can enact a long-term solution by passing comprehensive immigration reform.”
Advocates for the bill include Arturo Rodriguez, United Farm Workers (UFW) President, stating that “the United Farm Workers strongly supports and cheers Senator Feinstein’s introduction of the Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2017 because the act recognizes that the people who feed our nation should be able to earn the opportunity to gain legal status.” Nonetheless, others remain less optimistic for the Act, and project that the Act is unlikely to be passed under the Trump administration. The Colorado Springs Gazette remarked that the bill “has virtually no chance of becoming law, however, with President Trump in the White House and his fellow Republicans in charge of the House and Senate.” The complete text of the bill is available on Feinstein’s website.
This post was written by Aaron M. Phelps of Varnum Law.
Farmers represent a small portion of our population, but feed the entire country and most of the world. Despite advances in agricultural technology, however, farming remains one of the most dangerous occupations. To exacerbate matters, the injury of a farmer often hurts his or her entire family, as entire families often work together and feel the pain when one of their loved ones is unable to contribute and must be cared for by the others. It is for this reason that they must be extremely mindful of safety and constantly devising safer ways of accomplishing their goals.
Over Two Million Workers are employed on Farms Each Year
According to NIOSH, over 1.8 million people are employed full-time in the agricultural field every year, with over 200,000 part time workers. Many of these workers are under the age of 20 and working for their families’ farms. Of these workers, there are a recorded 374 deaths per year on average due to agricultural related injuries, with the most common cause of death being tractor overturns.
Nonfatal injuries are far more common— 167 workers are injured every single day. Many of these workers are injured severely enough to suffer a disability for life. The rate of permanent disability is estimated at about 5% of all injuries while 50% of accidents are as minor as a strain or contusion. Over 2,700 workers under the age of 20 are injured every year as well.
Young People Represent a Third of Farm Deaths
Of the 374 deaths reported annually, an average of 113 are under the age of twenty. This is likely due to the fact that younger workers are more likely to make mistakes and lack the safety training and awareness to avoid serious injuries. Almost one quarter of the youth deaths were due to tractor related accidents and 19% involved the use of motor vehicles such as ATVs.
NIOSH began the development of a special program in the 1990s to help agricultural workers reduce their risk of serious injury through education and research. This organization has conducted research over the last two decades on injuries that include repetitive use, exposure to toxic substances, hearing loss, stress and machinery accidents in an effort to create new safety programs that can help entire farming families. These programs are based out of universities located in ten different states across the country.
For over a year, the Michigan Ag Commission has considered expanding the scope of the “site selection” GAAMPs in order to bring even small livestock facilities within its scope. The site selection GAAMPs have traditionally applied to very large livestock production facilities, such as those that have at least 5,000 laying hens, 35 mature dairy cattle or 50 feeder cattle, and required those farms to be sited in agricultural areas. Consequently, because there were no siting requirements for small farms, these farms could be in urban areas – often contrary to zoning, which resulted in some conflict.
The Michigan Ag Commission recently voted to revise the site selection GAAMPs to eliminate the minimum animal threshold. Thus, the site selection GAAMPs now apply to all farms, and to comply with those GAAMPs, farms must be located in areas where local zoning allows for agricultural uses. Thus, the GAAMPs and local zoning are now in harmony rather than conflict.
According to Trevor Meachum, Vice-Chair of the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development, “Local control is about being a good neighbor, and these GAAMPs – if farmers follow them – help people remain good neighbors. Different communities have different ideas about what they want, and this accommodates those communities.” The changes to the GAAMPs were also endorsed by Michigan Farm Bureau. According to Matt Kapp, Government Relation Specialist with Michigan Farm Bureau, the new GAAMPs do not forbid livestock; they just allow for local decision-making. “While we think that will remove some conflicts, and if this new GAAMP does that, then it creates good neighbors. That’s what right-to-farm is all about, and that’s good public policy.”