Weekly livestock news: March 6, 2023

Iowa lawmakers consider proposal to ban drone surveillance of livestock facilities

Lawmakers in the Iowa House of Representatives are considering a bill that would curtail aerial surveillance of livestock facilities. But some business owners say it would damage their ability to use drones for land surveys, advertise agricultural real estate and evaluate storm damage. The legislation, advanced by a subcommittee last week, would prohibit drones from flying within 400 feet of a homestead or areas where agricultural animals are kept, unless pilots get permission from their owners. It has exemptions for public employees, public utilities, weather observers and those who pilot their drones above 400 feet. It’s similar to a bill in the Iowa Senate, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reports.

Ohio train derailment didn’t cause animals’ deaths, governor says

Test results on several animals don’t indicate poisoning occurred after the early February train derailment in Ohio, the state’s governor said. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources brought three birds and an opossum to the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory on February 21. The animals died following the East Palestine train derailment and controlled burn of vinyl chloride. A nearby cattle farmer said one of his calves died of smoke inhalation following the incident, but Gov. Mike DeWine didn’t say if test results from the calf were available, WDTN reports.

Illinois reports first commercial bird flu case since 2022 outbreak began

Illinois has reported its first commercial case of avian influenza since the onset of the virus in February 2022. The case occurred in a turkey flock of 18,200 birds in Wayne County. About 58.5 million birds have died in the current U.S. bird flu outbreak, compared to 50.5 million in the 2014-2015 outbreak, Feedstuffs reports.

EPA to update water pollution rules for meat plants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to update its water pollution rules for slaughterhouses for the first time in nearly 20 years, the agency announced. This follows a lawsuit from environmental groups arguing current standards are too weak. Communities near meat and poultry plants have increasingly complained plant discharges have dirtied their environment and drinking water. The EPA’s move to update meat and poultry industry standards is part of a proposed consent decree that would settle litigation with community and environmental groups who sued the agency late last year over the issue, Reuters reports.

Agriculture industry leaders push for relaxed regulations and new markets in farm bill

Agribusiness executives last week pushed the U.S. House Agriculture Committee for relaxed regulations, reinforced crop insurance programs and federal investment in new markets as lawmakers draft the next farm bill. Committee members indicated they would try to address challenges facing U.S. farmers including high costs, industry consolidation and inadequate disaster loss compensation, the Ohio Capital Journal reports.

U.S. farm agency to distribute $2.2 billion in discrimination payments this year

Shortly after releasing a report on inequity in its programs, the USDA said it will distribute billions of dollars by the end of this year to farmers who faced discrimination by the agency, Reuters reports. Historical discrimination in the agency’s lending programs contributed to Black farmers losing $326 billion worth of land in the 20th century, a study found last year. The agency’s latest initiative is the distribution of $2.2 billion funded by the Inflation Reduction Act to farmers who have experienced discrimination in USDA lending programs. The agency will contract with vendors and community groups to administer the payments by the end of 2023, it said.