How an Iowa hog baron accrued power and built a CAFO empire that transformed his state

"Since Iowa Select Farms was founded in 1992, the state’s pig population has increased more than 50 percent — while the number of farms raising hogs has declined over 80 percent," as Charlie Mitchell and Austin Frerick explain in FERN's latest story, published with Vox. "In the last 30 years, 26,000 Iowa farms quit the long-standing tradition of raising pigs. As confinements replaced them, rural communities have continued to hollow out." (No paywall)

Biden links climate change, jobs and environmental justice

Introducing his climate team, President-elect Biden said his administration would respond to the existential threat of climate change "by building a modern, climate-resilient infrastructure and a clean energy future" that would put millions of Americans to work. "And we are committed to facing climate change by delivering environmental justice." 

Trump runs in rural America on ethanol, tax cuts, regulatory relief

President Trump is ending his re-election campaign in rural America on the same issues that boosted him in 2016: Promises of tax cuts, fewer federal regulations and support for corn ethanol. In addition, farmers are wealthy from $23 billion in trade-war payments, said Trump in Dubuque, Iowa, on Sunday; "That's why you're all here and you're all happy."

Balance safety, innovation in gene-edited animals, says FDA chief

Gene editing has enormous potential to improve health and food production, but innovation must be governed by well-rooted standards of safety and effectiveness, said FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. "The agency is a trusted global regulator and we are committed to overseeing this space in a manner that fosters innovation, protects consumer confidence and protects the public health."

USDA approves state hemp production plans

For all its cachet as a potential money-making crop for American farmers, industrial hemp ranked midway between safflower and flaxseed in plantings, with an estimated 230,000 acres in 2019, and industry leaders disagree whether 2020 will be a year of expansion or retrenchment. But the USDA is approving state plans to regulate hemp production and offering crop insurance for hemp growers, steps that could help establish the crop.

With Costco chicken plant set to open, Nebraskans want more oversight of poultry farms

The arrival of a Costco chicken processing plant in Fremont, Nebraska, spurred the introduction of the state’s first industrial chicken farms in 2018. With the plant set to begin operations after Labor Day, some residents are pushing for stronger — or any — oversight of large poultry farms in the state.(No paywall)

Missouri bill that would end local control of CAFOs heads to governor’s desk

A bill in Missouri that would eliminate local regulation of CAFOs has passed in the state Senate and House and is headed to the desk of Gov. Mike Parson, who is expected to sign it into law. Opponents of the bill say it favors the interests of the largest livestock farms while exposing communities to greater health and environmental risks.

In Missouri, lawmakers are poised to eliminate local regulation of CAFOs

Communities in Missouri have been fighting the expansion of large-scale livestock operations in the state for years. But a controversial pair of bills moving through the state legislature would make community oversight of those farms even harder. The bills would eliminate local ordinances that regulate industrial animal farms in the state, or make it impossible to enforce those ordinances. The bills mirror trends in other states where legislators have moved to undermine local control of large-scale livestock farms.(No paywall)

Beto O’Rourke releases climate plan, includes ag measures

Former congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke unveiled a $5-trillion climate plan Tuesday that calls for reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and includes a number of agricultural initiatives to reduce and mitigate greenhouse-gas emissions on farms and deal with extreme weather events.

Author of ‘Freedom to Farm’ law, Pat Roberts, to retire after 40 years in Congress

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, the only lawmaker to chair the Senate and House Agriculture committees, will retire in 2020 after four decades in Congress. Roberts was the author of the landmark Freedom to Farm law of 1996 that removed most federal controls over what crops farmers grow.