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10 things you should know about Texas agriculture

10 things you should know about Texas agriculture

By Mike Barnett

Everything’s bigger and better in Texas. Even agriculture.

Most Texans know our ranchers herd more cattle and farmers grow more cotton than those in any other state. But you are probably not aware of many other fascinating aspects of agriculture in the Lone Star State.

Here’s my Top 10, gleaned from the 2012 Agriculture Census .

10) Fun on the farm.

Texas farms and ranches account for 19 percent of agri-tourism and recreation dollars in the U.S.  That means $133 million flows into rural areas as Texans enjoy wineries, hunting, ranches and other experiences.

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GMO state labeling initiatives are shut out

GMO state labeling initiatives are shut out

By Gene Hall

There were two mandatory labeling issues for GMOs on state ballots Tuesday. Both were defeated.

In Oregon, the labeling measure was barely turned back with a 51 percent “no” vote. In Colorado, it was much more decisive with a 66 percent “no.”

In Hawaii—Maui to be exact—there was a local initiative to ban growing GMO crops altogether. It passed. As yet unexplained is the rationale, because these votes are not based on anything rational. GMO papaya is resistant to ringspot virus, and the non-GMO kind probably can’t be grown there. But hey, that’s someone else’s problem, right?

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When we say grassroots, we really mean it

When we say grassroots, we really mean it

By Gene Hall

Fall is my favorite time of the year, even if I have to deal with allergies and even if my favorite football teams struggle a bit.

“Crispness in the air” greets me in the morning. The robe feels good for coffee on the back porch. Then there are the county Farm Bureau annual meetings.

The good folks in five of these county organizations made me part of their conventions this year. That’s about average for me. I get to go and eat good barbecue, sometimes catfish or other fare. I speak on issues and hopefully humorous stories. There was a dessert contest in one county. I ate too much. There are door prizes. There are discussions about how to use Texas Farm Bureau, “The Voice of Texas Agriculture.”

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Federal judge in Hawaii bars county from excessive regulation

Federal judge in Hawaii bars county from excessive regulation

By Gene Hall

It’s always refreshing to see a legal matter settled on the basis of law and fact rather than emotion, overheated rhetoric and political theory. This was the case in Hawaii a few days ago when a federal judge ruled against Kauai County’s aggressive and anti-farmer Ordinance 960.

It’s not that silly laws never win in court, but this one, sillier than most, was turned back, though on more narrow grounds than I believe were justified.  Kauai County Ordinance 960 was passed some months ago with very strict curbs on many agricultural practices and the agribusiness firms that operate there. Included were restrictions on pesticide use and biotechnology, or GMOs if you will. The trouble is, that’s the state’s job—one that Hawaii performs aggressively.

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‘Mega-farming’ contaminates Toledo water supply: not exactly

‘Mega-farming’ contaminates Toledo water supply: not exactly

By Jay Bragg

Recently, 500,000 residents of Toledo, Ohio were without drinking water due to dangerously high levels of cyanotoxin in Lake Erie, produced by excessive amounts of blue-green algae.  National news outlets were quick to point their fingers at agriculture, picking up on the talking points of local politicians, activist groups, and pseudo-scientists.

Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins was quoted by the Los Angeles Times: “Once we clear this problem up, that is not going to eliminate the algae problem in the western basin of Lake Erie; that is not going to eliminate the agricultural runoff; that is not going to eliminate mega-farming.”

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GMOs: It’s all in the name

GMOs: It’s all in the name

By Mike Barnett

Genetically modified organisms. GMOs.

I’m not sure who thought up the nomenclature for this biotech wonder, but the acronym GMO probably contributes more to public fear and misunderstanding than anything else.

GMO. It sounds scary. Genetically Modified Organisms. That’s even more frightening. Those are words and phrases activists can hang their hat on, and let me tell you, they’ve done one fine job of hanging hats.

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