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The jobless rate for veterans remains high, but a Missouri program is making inroads in changing that.

Business Beat: Govenors Back Beef Trimmings

Apr 6, 2012

This week: U.S. farmers made over 98 billion dollars last year, and consumers are upset about "lean beef trimmings," but governors are trying to diffuse the situation.

It’s a long way from Forget-Me-Not Farms to the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka.

Business Beat: March 21, 2012

Apr 6, 2012

This week: A Fulton developer plans to break ground on a biodiesel factory this spring. The project’s been in the works for five years, and find out why U.S. farmers are pushing for state sanctioned work programs for illegal immigrants. 

The risk of a pathogen release at the controversial National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility being built in Manhattan, Kan., is much less than originally calculated, according to a new, much-anticipated report from the Department of Homeland Security.

No matter your personal opinion on the subject, talk of climate usually conjures up images of warming, floods and rising sea levels.  Those are some ecological changes predicted from coast to coast.

In the Midwest, the few degrees of warming has actually benefited agriculture, on average. But in California – where they grow more than 200 crops, including perennials such as walnuts and apricots – some crops could be adversely affected.  Plus, California farmers also have new climate change regulations to contend with, which worry many growers more than the weather.

Rising temperatures

To produce a robust walnut crop, you need the right weather, according to California walnut grower Russ Lester, whose family has been farming in the state since the 1860s.  He is concerned about how the rising temperatures could affect his walnut crops.

Climate change predictions in his neck of the woods show 1 to 2 degrees of warming. And much of that warming is happening in the winter. That could be a problem.

"Walnuts actually do need a certain amount of what we call chilling hours," Lester said.

He's referring to the thousand or so hours of temperatures below 45 degrees that the trees need for winter dormancy. The cold weather actually triggers the plant to bloom vigorously in the spring. Unlike with some trees, in walnuts, the male and female flowers are separate, so having the blooms all open at once is vital.   

"If we don’t have it overlapping during the right time period, then the pollen won't pollinate the female flower or floret," Lester said. "That's why the chill is important, that's the trigger. If we don't get adequate chilling, what happens is then you get this staggered bloom."

Chill hours are a real concern for walnuts and almonds, some fruit trees like apricots and even for wine grapes, which are grown in various parts of California.  Not only that, Lester said that he's concerned about what he calls "weather weirdness" he's been observing.  For example, he said last year there was a freak frost in early June, which is a good month-and-a-half later than the region has had frosts in many years. Many of his walnut buds were damaged and Lester had lower yields.

Weird weather

As Lester indicated, warmer winters aren’t the only concern climate change could bring to the region. Plant and environmental scientist Louise Jackson of the University of California Davis said models also predict higher levels of carbon dioxide in the air. The combined effect of all these possible changes is unclear.

"Mean temperature increases might be easier to cope with than with extreme events,” Jackson said. “Heat waves and heat waves at elevated carbon dioxide levels are kind of an unknown."

But climate scientists aren’t just focusing on temperatures.

"Another issue that we really have to face in California is drought, whether or not we're dealing with gradual drought or a combination of drought plus heat wave," Jackson said.  "So there are a lot of unknowns."

Most farmers in California irrigate their crops, but there is concern that warming and less snow would reduce the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  That would mean less melt to replenish reservoirs.

Fears bigger than the weather

Scientists are probing for more information. But the question is: Are farmers worried about these climate change predictions?

"All the predictions about what the future climate change is going to do to agriculture are just that –predictions, at this point," said farmer Bruce Rominger. "I'm one that believes we have affected the climate and it is getting warmer, but I'm not sure what the effects will be on my operation, so I'm not doing things right now in anticipation of this. I mean there's so much natural variation in weather here."

Romginer farms about 5,000 acres with his brother, Rick, in Yolo County near Davis. They don't like to put all of their eggs in one basket, so they grow processing tomatoes, rice, wheat, alfalfa, corn, sunflowers, safflower, wine grapes, seed onions and they're even starting to raise sheep. 

Like many farmers in California, Rominger already made changes to improve water efficiency. He has installed underground tubes with drip irrigation in many of his fields. That can greatly reduce both water use and fertilizer use, because it sends the water and nutrients right where they're needed.

Still, that was an economic decision.

“The reality is farmers follow the markets,” Rominger said. “We look at annual profit loss, that's what drives us."

Starting this year, businesses in California with high emissions can be charged for their contributions to greenhouse gases.  A new law, passed as AB 32, is similar to cap and trade legislation that failed at the national level. This kind of system taxes polluters who emit greenhouse gases and pays industries that suck up carbon dioxide, like forests. 

The law definitely affects dairies, where manure emits greenhouses gases, and many food processing plants, like tomato canning factories, will likely be taxed.

"They burn lot of natural gas to evaporate off a lot of water that comes in tomato, to make it into paste, or salsa, or ketchup, so they're going to have significant costs under AB 32 when comes into effect for ag processors," Rominger said.

If high operating costs drive out tomato plants to other states – or drive down the price plants can pay farmers – it won't be worth it for many California farmers to grow tomatoes.  It'll be cheaper for food companies to buy processing tomatoes from China and elsewhere. (It won’t necessarily affect eating tomatoes. Most farmers that grow tomatoes for eating are in Florida.) 

Right now, California farmers aren't so much worried about the warming weather, as they are the political winds of legislators and the regulations they pass.

A silver lining?

The new law could have some positives.  If farmers can show that adopting certain practices help reduce greenhouse gases, they could get paid for it. 

This week: Another update in the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, and climate changes doesn't ease troubles for farmers. 

Porta-King Building Systems, a manufacturing company, announced an expansion in Montgomery City.

By Frank Morris

Thanks to high commodity prices and surging productivity, U.S. farmers earned a net income of nearly $98 billion last year — a record, according to the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute.

Governors Back Beef Trimmings

Apr 4, 2012

By Sandhya Dirks

The consumer uproar over “pink slime” has now got the beef industry roaring back.

The Federal Trade Commission approved the $29.1 billion merger between Express Scripts and Medco.

As part of its regular meeting, the Boone County Commission held a second public hearing Tuesday night about renaming the Boone County Fairgrounds.

Mexico auto parts manufacturer plans to add jobs

Mar 27, 2012

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon was in Mexico Tuesday to announce more job creation in the state.

Jefferson City memorial airport gets funding

Mar 23, 2012

The Jefferson City memorial Airport has received a grant that will offset the operating costs and pay for the resurfacing of the main runway.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has agreed to spend $1.25 million to settle claims over a southwest Missouri contractor's disposal of unsold products such as charcoal, potting soil, herbicides and pesticides.

More changes to columbia's blight zone

Mar 16, 2012

The Enhanced Enterprise Zone Advising Board considered two options for reducing the size of the zone in Columbia at its meeting Friday.

City of Columbia implements new parking meters

Mar 15, 2012

The city of Columbia is trying out a new type of parking meter that gives drivers more options for how to pay.

The St. Louis Zoo Association plans to purchase the site of the former Forest Park Hospital, which sits across Interstate 64 from the zoo.

Some Joplin residents and postal service workers are upset with changes in mail delivery in sections of Joplin hardest hit by last year's tornado.

Columbia makes changes to its EEZ proposal

Mar 9, 2012

The ongoing debate over the Enhanced Enterprise Zone in Columbia prompted a change today. The proposed blight zone for Columbia is now a little bit smaller.  The Enhanced Enterprise Zone Advisory Board unanimously voted in favor of eliminating six portions of the original blight zone. 

The Missouri Senate has given final approval to legislation changing the rules for lawsuits over workplace discrimination.

Opponents of blight designation voice concerns

Mar 8, 2012
Tax Credits / Flickr

In Columbia, civic leaders and residents continue to voice concerns about plans to classify nearly half of the city as an "enhanced enterprise zone," designed to attract business.

Cole County has the highest American Legion veteran membership rates in the entire state. But the numbers are still lower than the legion would like to see.

Report shows growth in state revenue

Mar 5, 2012

The Missouri Office of Administration has released the General Revenue report for February and general revenue collections have increased 2.4 percent in the 2012 fiscal year.

The Columbia Regional Airport will expand its reach beginning in June. 

Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid says offering additional air service to travel hubs like Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta is a major goal of city and regional planners.

Missouri January unemployment numbers dip

Mar 1, 2012

Missouri ‘s unemployment rate fell by half a point to 7.5 percent in January - the lowest level in over 3 years, according to the latest state report.

Business Beat: February 29, 2012

Feb 29, 2012

This week: NBAF opponents are gaining strength in their fight against the Disease Laboratory.  Plus, the American Soybean Association is looking for fewer restrictions from the European Union on genetically modified soybeans.

The American Soybean Association is pushing for U.S. trade representatives to negotiate better trading terms with Europe, looking for the European Union to ease the strict restrictions it imposes on genetically modified soybeans. The group petitioned a U.S. trade representative who is part of a new working group with the European Union to work on its behalf. 

Opponents of a controversial Kansas lab designed to study and combat biological diseases have recently found new momentum, as work on the Department of Homeland Security project stalled.

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