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News Briefs: Chesapeake Bay | New farmers markets | Higher interest rates?
Flaws in Chesapeake Bay analysis
An updated report on the science surrounding Chesapeake Bay water quality confirms that serious and significant differences exist between the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Bay Model” and the model authored by the Agriculture Department. Left unchanged these differences could lead to farmers in the watershed paying a steep price for nutrients and sediments that have been mistakenly attributed to them, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The analysis shows there are vast differences between the EPA and USDA Chesapeake Bay models in the areas of land use, total acreage of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and data and assumptions about farmer adoption of conservation and farming practices.
“It is clear to us that the EPA’s TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) water regulations are based on flawed information,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Due to the fact that farmers and others in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed are being directed to incur extreme costs and even take land out of production to comply with EPA’s harsh new regulations, those regulations must be based on reliable information. Currently that is not the case.” As a result of the disagreement in key areas, there is a wide discrepancy in the nutrients and sediments being attributed to agriculture. Given USDA’s superior knowledge of agriculture and farming practices, Stallman said EPA’s disregard for USDA information is not acceptable.
New farmers markets recorded in USDA directory
More than 1,000 new farmers markets have been recorded across the country, according to results released by the USDA’s 2011 National Farmers Market Directory. The annual report indicates a total of 7,175 farmers markets operate throughout the United States as more farmers are marketing their products directly to the consumers than ever before. That is an increase of 17 percent over 2010 records. “The remarkable growth in farmers markets is an excellent indicator of the staying power of local and regional foods,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. “These outlets provide economic benefits for producers to grow their businesses and also to communities by providing increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables and other foods. In short, they are a critical ingredient in our nation’s food system.”
Rating drop may mean higher interest for farm credit
The downgrading of the United States Credit rating by Standards & Poor’s also means that the credit rating for Farmer Mac, the bonding agency for the Farm Credit system, has dropped also. American Farm Bureau Chief Economist Bob Young said that in the short run the lower rating may not have a big impact on agriculture, but in the long run farmers and ranchers may have to pay higher interest rates than they would otherwise pay. “Many people don’t realize the important role credit plays in growing the nation’s food and fiber,” Young said. “It’s not just credit associated with buying land or credit associated with buying equipment, it’s credit associated with the operating costs it takes to produce that crop and protect that crop. It’s all those things that farmers are going to have to pay more for as we move forward.”
FCC review of broadband network
The American Farm Bureau Federation feels that it is important to farmers and ranchers that the Federal Communication Commission reviews possible interference with Global Positioning Systems that could be created by an open wireless broadband network being developed by LightSquared. This network will operate on a wholesale basis.
“High-speed broadband services have great potential to bring opportunity to rural Americans but should not jeopardize the Global Positioning System,” said AFBF president Bob Stallman. “Many of our farmer and rancher members rely on GPS for precision agriculture." AFBF submitted comments to the FCC in July urging the agency to ensure there is no interference with GPS receivers prior to granting permission to LightSquared to operate its high-powered base stations.