#AgAlerts: Rural roads; herbicides; climate

More

A roundup of news, reports, and research on agribusiness and related issues.

Wearing bright safety vests, the county highway workers followed the scalding, red tar kettle as it pumped out liquid rubber bandages, thick as melted butter, to cover the pavement’s worst gashes. From above, it looked like the flip side of skywriting — as if yellow cursors on the ground were carefully spelling out a message for unseen readers in the clouds.

The farmers, truckers and others who traverse these rural roads, though, could quickly tell you what the hieroglyphics mean: Help.

Like hundreds of other small agricultural counties and towns around the country, Trempealeau County in central-west Wisconsin is overwhelmed with aging, damaged roads and not enough money to fix them.

Bayer AG said its scientists discovered the building block for a new herbicide, at a time when the company’s existing weedkillers face legal and regulatory challenges.

The German seed-and-pesticide supplier said it identified a chemical molecule that has proved effective against grasses that have evolved to survive other herbicides, including Bayer’s Roundup, the world’s top-selling weedkiller. 

The Department of Agriculture is looking to halve the U.S. farming industry’s environmental footprint by mid-century in a target that includes several climate and clean energy goals.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will announce the target, which also includes boosting agricultural production by 40% in that time frame, at the agency’s annual agricultural outlook forum Thursday. The production and environmental goals are a critical piece of the administration’s new Agriculture Innovation Agenda, which Perdue says will "better align" public and private research into new farming practices.

More than half of all Americans would eat more plant-based foods if they had more information about the effect of their food choices on the environment, said a survey released on Thursday.

“Americans by and large are not eating a plant-based diet — we know that,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Project on Climate Change Communication at Yale University, which released the survey with Earth Day Network. “On the other hand, they are very willing and interested in trying a plant-based diet and actually believe it would be better for their health.”

A lawsuit challenging an Arkansas law that groups say protects farm organizations from undercover investigations into animal welfare and environmental concerns was thrown out of court Friday by a federal judge.

The 2017 law — Arkansas Code 16-118-113 — has been dubbed the "Arkansas Ag-Gag Law" by groups promoting animal welfare and environmental concerns about industrial animal agriculture. It creates an avenue for civil litigation against anyone who releases documents or recordings from a nonpublic area of commercial property with the intent of causing harm to the owner. The civil penalties include damages of up to $5,000 a day.