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Ag Industry Brief: Big Strides in Cannabis Legalization, Organic Farmland Hits New Highs, Trimble’s Precision Ag Products, more

November 11, 2016

Veterans Can Look to Agriculture

On November 11, 1918, the First World War ended and that date is marked by countries across the globe as Remembrance Day or Armistice Day in Europe and the Commonwealth, or Veterans Day in the US.

In the US, the USDA maintains a nationwide database of resources to support veterans who are interested in farming, whether as a first-time endeavor or the continuation of a pre-service career. In honor of Veterans Day, here are some organizations dedicated to helping veterans see whether farming is the right career for them after their time in uniform.

Inaugural AgFunder Innovation Awards Now Open for Nominations!

The election may be over, but it’s time to cast a few more votes. To ensure the innovators driving the industry forward get the recognition and encouragement they deserve, we are launching the AgFunder Innovation Awards. These are peer-selected awards based on nominations from our network. For the 2016 AgFunder Innovation Awards, there are five categories, looking for the most disruptive startups in various areas and the most beneficial accelerator program. To ensure you have your say and to submit nominations in each of these categories, please fill out this short form. It takes less than 2 minutes to complete!

Cali, Nevada, Maine and Mass Legalize Recreational Cannabis Use

On Tuesday, California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts legalized recreational marijuana, while voters in Arkansas, North Dakota, Florida, and Montana passed medical marijuana legislation. Arizona voters were the only ones to down-vote a pro-marijuana state proposal. While the industry and supporters celebrate, however, some have started asking about the viability of recreational or medical marijuana laws in a Trump administration. The substance remains illegal at the federal level despite instructions from the Obama Administration to the Department of Justice urging them to only pursue and enforce the federal drug statutes against marijuana offenses in states with medical marijuana laws.

US Organic Farmland Hits New Record

Mercaris, the startup facilitating the trade of organic commodities, has released a report detailing an 11% increase in the number of organic acres in the US over the past two years. There are now 4.1 million acres of organic farmland, and the top five organic producing states are California, Montana, Wisconsin, New York, and North Dakota. The US has also seen an increase in the number of certified organic farms to the tune of over 6%, or 1k more farms between 2014 and 2016. For all the details on the report, head over to Civil Eats. Mercaris founder Kellee James featured on a podcast about consumer trends and the role of women a few months ago. Check it out here.

Trimble Consolidates Precision Ag Software Products

Amid the current shift toward precision agriculture practices, farmers are also running into hurdles with technology integration. When farmers mix precision ag hardware and software with third-party vendors, the results can lead to lost time due to data re-entry, USB data transfer or multiple support entities. To try and combat these barriers, Trimble announced this week that it is consolidating three of its agriculture software products—Connected Farm, Farm Works Software and Agri-Data solutions—into one farm data management platform. Now called Trimble Ag Software, this tool aims to offer customers a complete desktop, web-based and mobile-enabled agricultural software solution that simplifies farm data management for farmers, crop advisors, ag retailers and food processors.

Bay Area Tech Companies Donate their Savvy to Help #HackHunger

The SF-Marin Food Bank is tapping the local tech scene to raise money and to help address food insecurity in the region, where one in four folks go hungry. The #HackHunger Challenge tasks participating tech gurus and startups to raise $500k to help end hunger in San Francisco and Marin between November 7-18. Companies or teams of tech-savvy folks can use a variety of fundraising tips to rack up points for every dollar donated and every pound of food collected. The top three teams will have their name plastered on a truck as the top hunger hackers.

General Mills & Organic Valley Expand Organic Dairy Businesses

Perhaps as a result of all the new organic farmland reported above, General Mills and Organic Valley are increasing their organic dairy production in the United States. General Mills has entered into a new sourcing partnership with Organic Valley, which is the largest organic cooperative on the planet. The partnership will help roughly 20 dairy farms add around 3k acres to their production over the next three years. With 90 popular food brands in its portfolio like Yoplait, Pillsbury, and Cheerios, this could account for some big organic shifts on store shelves. Currently, General Mills holds itself out as the third largest maker of natural and organic foods with nine popular brands: Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, LÄRABAR, Liberté, Mountain High, Food Should Taste Good, Immaculate Baking, Annie’s and EPIC Provisions.

USDA Reports Continued Decline in Midsize US Farms

According to a new USDA report, mid-sized family farms, which include those with gross cash farm income between $350k to $1 million, have declined five percent between 1992 and 2012. In 2014, midsized ag operations accounted for roughly 21 percent of total US agriculture production and six percent of total US farms. This is contrasted with the significant jump in farms that have very low sales, and farms with over $1 million in sales during the same period. The report notes that most mid-sized farm operators draw their primary income from the farming business, leaving them highly susceptible to fluctuations in the market as well as policy shifts.

Sonoma County in California Passes Measure to Ban GMO Crops

On election day, Sonoma County voters approved an ordinance that bans the cultivation of genetically-engineered crops within its borders by a 12 percent margin. This marks the sixth county in California to pass a similar measure, with Santa Cruz, Humboldt, Marin, Trinity, and Mendocino also on board. With Humboldt, Trinity, Mendocino, and Marin sharing boarders, there is now a 13,734-square-mile region in the major agricultural state where growing GMO crops is illegal. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for all GMO bans, however, with courts invalidating other measures in Hawaii and elsewhere on the basis that they do not comply with state law.

GrubHub CEO Tells Trump Supporters to Resign

In an email to the company’s 1,000 plus employees, GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney said: “If you do not agree with this statement, then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here.” The statement reads:

Further, I absolutely reject the nationalist, anti-immigrant and hateful politics of Donald Trump and will work to shield our community from this movement as best as I can. As we all try to understand what this vote means to us, I want to affirm to anyone on our team that is scared or feels personally exposed, that I and everyone else here at GrubHub will fight for your dignity and your right to make a better life for yourself and your family here in the United States.

The CEO has also said that had any of his employees said some of the things that Trump has said during the last 18 months of election season; they will be met with a swift termination. According to the CEO, some 20 percent of his employees expressed their gratitude for his email.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew:

  • Trump has already selected someone to lead his EPA transition, Myron Ebell, which many folks believe will lead to dramatic shifts in US climate policy, on Scientific American.
  • India’s government is backing technologies that can help address food waste in the country, on Business Standard.
  • The FDA is taking a new look at how nut butter should be quantified on serving size labels, but Nutella has an important point to make, on Boston Globe.
  • There’s a new agtech accelerator program in India, on Entrepreneur India.

Have news or tips? Email [email protected]

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