USDA: Test for bird flu before interstate transport of cattle

Michigan officials said the H5N1 bird flu virus has infected three additional dairy herds in the state, just as the USDA recommended farmers test their herds for the virus before moving cattle between states. The tests "should both give us more ... information and should mitigate further state-to-state spread between herds," said the USDA's animal health agency.

Nutrition, conservation advocate Stabenow to retire in two years

Senate Agriculture chair Debbie Stabenow, who rejected Republican attempts to slash SNAP in the 2014 and 2018 farm bills, said on Thursday that she would retire from the Senate in two years — enough time to enact another farm bill. Stabenow, the first woman elected to the Senate from Michigan, is serving her second stint as Agriculture chair and has said for months that “we’re not going backwards” on SNAP in the new farm bill.

Bird flu is found in seventh state

On Thursday, the Agriculture Department confirmed an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a non-commercial backyard flock in southwestern Michigan, the seventh state with the viral disease in a domestic flock in a little over two weeks.

‘SNAP gap’ for meals narrows as benefits expand

The Biden administration boosted SNAP benefits by $36 per person per month in October in a move expected to help millions of Americans avoid hunger. “This increase helped close the gap between SNAP benefits and meal costs, but it did not close it for everyone,” says the Urban Institute. …

Michigan law calls for cage-free eggs by 2025

Under a law signed on Thursday, Michigan will become the largest egg-producing state to require farmers to switch to cage-free egg production. The Humane Society of the United States said the decision “shows just how rapidly American views on the treatment of farm animals are evolving.”

Federal protection of Great Lakes wolves is upheld by appeals court

In the latest court ruling in a 20-year tussle over gray wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the U.S. Appeals Court for the DC Circuit put the predator back on the endangered species list, says MLive Media Group. The Interior Department delisted the Great Lakes wolves in 2011, saying the wolf population had recovered enough that federal protection was no longer needed and states could take over management of the animals.

Co-chair of Trump campaign in Michigan will challenge Stabenow

Lena Epstein, co-chair of the Trump presidential campaign in Michigan last fall, says she will run against third-term Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee. The 2018 race is rated as "likely Democratic" at present by political tipsheet Sabato's Crystal Ball.

Green groups sue EPA to force action on Lake Erie algae

Environmental groups in Michigan and Ohio filed suit against the EPA, seeking a court order for the agency to decide whether water quality in western Lake Erie is impaired. The designation would lead to pollution regulations aimed at preventing algae blooms, which can be toxic, said the Associated Press.

Urban farmers would get a hand from USDA under Stabenow bill

Urban agriculture, a comparative newcomer to the American food system, would gain wider access to loans and farming advice from USDA experts under a bill announced by Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the lead Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee. The legislation is an early, if not the first, entry for inclusion in the 2018 farm bill.

Rural job growth is less than half of urban. Do elections play a part?

Cities are creating jobs faster than rural areas with a 13.3 percent growth rate in the past year, compared to 4.8 percent in rural counties, says a Daily Yonder analysis of Labor Department statistics. "Unemployment remains a bigger problem in rural counties than metro areas," says the Yonder, which tried to gauge local conditions in battleground states.

USDA pledges $41 million to clean up Lake Erie

The USDA will invest $41 million over three years to clean up the Western Lake Erie Basin, which supplies water to farmers in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this week.

More public support for climate-change aid to agriculture

A poll of Michigan residents suggests there would be high public support for government assistance to help farmers adapt to climate change, according to three researchers from Michigan State U.

Vegetable pest spreads to Michigan

The Swede midge, an insect that damages cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and other crucifers, was found in five organic production fields in Sanilac County on the "thumb" of Michigan's lower peninsula - the first discovery of the plant pest in Michigan, said the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

USDA pricetag for bird-flu epidemic may top $500 million

In a Bloomberg interview, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the government may spend more than half a billion dollars to fight the avian-influenza epidemic and to compensate poultry producers for their flocks.

House ag panelist Benishek facing re-election challenge

Michigan Rep. Dave Benishek, a House Agriculture Committee member who had a fairly easy path to winning his third term in 2014, already has a challenger for 2016 - Lon Johnson, the chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.

Corn and soybean harvests enter final stages

Only a fraction of the corn and soybean crops are still in the field, says the weekly Crop Progress report. It says 89 percent of corn and 94 percent of soybeans have been harvested.

House tax chief Camp will retire at end of this year

Michigan Republican Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he will retire at the end of this term.