Friday, October 23, 2015

World Health Organization agency report expected to label red meat as cancer-causing agent

Red and processed meats pose cancer risks to consumers, according to a report expected to be released Monday by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Spencer Chase reports for Agri-Pulse. The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) "said the organization's conclusion on meat defies 'both common sense and dozens of studies showing no correlation between meat and cancer and other studies showing the many health benefits of balanced diets that include meat.'"

Barry Carpenter, NAMI's president and CEO, said in a statement: “Red and processed meat are among 940 substances reviewed by IARC found to pose some level of theoretical ‘hazard.' Only one substance, a chemical in yoga pants, has been declared by IARC not to cause cancer. Scientific evidence shows cancer is a complex disease not caused by single foods and that a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle choices are essential to good health.” He listed the numerous items IARC says can cause cancer, such as aloe vera, grilled food, sunlight and air. "He said IARC reviews fail to consider the health benefits derived from meat consumption, so it fails to address the bigger picture."

"If the report does indeed label red and processed meats as carcinogens, it wouldn't be the first time an IARC ruling had an impact on agriculture," Chase writes. "In March, the panel ruled that glyphosate, one of the most widely-used herbicides in agriculture, was 'probably carcinogenic to humans.' Monsanto strongly rejected IARC's conclusion. On its website, Monsanto says 'all labeled uses for glyphosate are safe for human health and supported by one of the most extensive worldwide human health databases.' In addition, it says IARC's finding on glyphosate 'is not supported by scientific data.'" (Read more)

Farm-to-school program has increased consumption of healthier food and reduced waste

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that its Farm to School Grant Program, created under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, has increased the number of school meals sold, improved consumption of healthier foods in schools and helped to reduce plate waste, Whitney Forman-Cook reports for Agri-Pulse.

"Farm to school is one of many tactics and resources that USDA makes available to help schools successfully serve healthier meals to kids," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release. "Farm to school partnerships have a proven track record of encouraging kids to try, like and eat more healthy foods and creating new market opportunities for the farmers that grow them."

Nationwide, more than 42,000 schools have farm-to-schools programs, according to the release.

Farm-to-school programs work in conjunction with school meal programs, and according to preliminary results from the USDA Farm-to-School Census, 17 percent of school districts that participate have reduced plate waste; 28 percent are more accepting of healthier school meals; 17 percent have increased participation in school meals; 21 percent have lowered the school meal program costs and 39 percent have more support from parents and their community for healthier school meals.

The Census report also found that since the inception of the program two years ago, there has been a 55 percent increase in the local purchase of foods, to $598.4 million in 2013-14 from $385.8 million in 2011-12, with almost half of the respondents planning to increase their local food purchases in the coming years.

“Congress should act quickly to reauthorize the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to build on the success of Farm to School and the healthier school meals and continue our momentum towards a healthier next generation of Americans," Vilsack said in the release.

EPA publishes Clean Power Plan rules; 24-state coalition immediately files lawsuit

The Environmental Protection Agency published its Clean Power Plan rules today in the Federal Registry, "a much-anticipated milestone because it clears the way for objecting states to file lawsuits aimed at killing the regulation," Elizabeth Harball and Rod Kuckro report for ClimateWire. "Also published in the Federal Register today are the final rule regulating carbon dioxide for new, modified and reconstructed power plants and the proposed federal implementation plan, which would be imposed on states that don't submit a compliance plan to EPA."

"The proposed federal implementation plan will be the subject of four public hearings in November, EPA acting air chief Janet McCabe said," Harball and Kuckro write. "Its publication triggers a 90-day comment period that will end Jan. 21. With the regulation, EPA aims to curb U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 32 percent by 2030."

"Since the rule was first proposed last year, roughly half of U.S. states have indicated they may sue EPA to fight the regulation once the rule is formally published," Harball and Kuckro write. "Many states have already attempted to challenge the rule, including an effort led by West Virginia in August seeking an emergency stay, but their efforts were rebuffed by the courts. EPA and its supporters, however, have repeatedly insisted that the final rule will withstand legal challenges."

A coalition of 24 states are suing to stop the initiative, while North Dakota and Oklahoma are suing independently, Jesse Paul reports for The Denver Post. Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said a "lawsuit to block the plan was filed in a Washington, D.C., federal court as soon as the rules were published." (Advanced Energy Economy graphic)

Study says 283 rural hospitals in danger of shuttering; closings could cost 86,000 rural jobs

Already 50 rural hospitals have closed this decade, and another 283 are in danger of closing, says a report from iVantage Health Analytics. The report found that if these hospitals close, "700,000 Medicare patients would have to seek care farther from home, 86,000 jobs could be lost in rural communities and it would result in an estimated $10.6 billion loss to the gross domestic product." The main reasons for rural hospital vulnerability are failure to expand Medicaid under federal health reform and reimbursement cuts as a result of sequestration.

Researchers, who analyzed 2,224 rural hospitals, found that among states that didn't expand Medicaid, Mississippi had the highest percentage of at-risk hospitals, at 33.8 percent. That was followed by Louisiana (28.1 percent), Texas (27.5), Tennessee (26.8), Georgia (24.3), Florida (21.9), Alabama (20.9) and Oklahoma (20.5). Among states that did expand Medicaid, Arizona had the highest percentage of at-risk hospitals at 27.5 percent, followed by California (19.6), West Virginia (18.2) and Hawaii (15.4). Eleven states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Alaska, Utah and Wyoming—have no rural hospitals at risk of closing, according to the report. (iVantage map)

Colorado mine spill caused by EPA mistake was preventable, says government review

"The release of three million gallons of toxic wastewater from a defunct southwestern Colorado gold mine that was triggered by the Environmental Protection Agency was preventable," said a report released on Thursday by the U.S Bureau of Reclamation, Keith Coffman reports for Reuters. "Nearby mining operations and tunneling beneath the century-old stake led to changing groundwater conditions that the EPA failed to anticipate when it reopened a portal on the site in recent years, the report said." (EPA photo: Yellow mine waste water is seen at the entrance to the Gold King Mine in San Juan County, Colorado)

"An excavating crew under contract with the EPA to slow seepage from the site inadvertently breached a tunnel wall, unleashing a torrent of wastewater that had backed up behind the mountainside," Hoffman writes. "The water, carrying heavy metals, poured into Cement Creek and then downstream into the Animas and San Juan rivers, turning the waterways a bright orange. The plume ultimately emptied into Lake Powell in Utah nine days after the spill. The governors of Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, the three states affected by the spill, all declared a state of emergency in its aftermath."

An EPA document released after the spill said EPA knew of the dangers of a polluted water blowout. While EPA chief Gina McCarthy has said the agency is taking full responsibility for the spill, the report said "that there are no uniform protocols among the government agencies charged with cleaning up the estimated 100,000 abandoned mines that dot the western U.S." (Read more)

Walmart removes 'Made in the U.S.A' logo from website after origin of products questioned

Retail giant Walmart has been forced to remove "Made in the U.S.A." labels from its website, under suspicion that some of those products were made in other countries, Phil Wahba reports for Fortune.

The Federal Trade Commission, which had conducted an inquiry into Walmart, said "that it would not pursue action against Walmart because the retailer had taken voluntary steps to 'prevent consumer deception,'" Wahba writes. "Those included removing 'Made in USA' logos from product listings on its website and removing U.S. country of origin claims that appeared in product descriptions or titles. In some cases it is also making more detailed disclosures regarding the percentage of U.S. content contained in the product."

Walmart announced in 2013 intentions "to source an additional $250 billion worth of U.S-made goods over the following decade, part of a campaign to improve its reputation as a corporate citizen," Wahba writes. "The strategy also has a sound business case: a Consumer Reports survey this year found 80 percent of Americans prefer to buy Made-in-the-USA products when possible." But watchdog group Truth in Advertising "said it found more than 100 examples of items labeled with a 'Made in the U.S.A' logo on Walmart’s web site that misled consumers." A Walmart spokesman said some of the items were mislabeled because of coding errors. (Read more)

Legalization of pot creating a 'gold rush' type atmosphere in rural Oregon

Now that marijuana has been legalized in Oregon, rural residents in the southern part of the state say an influx of marijuana growers are turning the area into a veritable "gold rush" type atmosphere, Vickie Aldous reports for the Mail Tribune in Medford. Residents complain that marijuana growers are buying up land—displacing landowners—using up water sources in an area in the middle of a drought and creating an unfriendly environment that consists of increased traffic, loud noises, unpleasant smells and an impending fear of violence in once quiet, remote neighborhoods. (Tribune photo by Jamie Lusch: Large marijuana plants line a hillside in the Applegate Valley)

Residents also say marijuana growers seem to have "little regard for the community and long-time residents," Aldous writes. Homeowner Jim Reiland told Aldous, "Growers are not bad people, but they don't have the same commitment to the area. They're just looking at it as an opportunity to make a boatload of money in a hurry. Their issue is getting it grown and getting it out."

Residents say "they think marijuana growers should instead obtain legal water rights and use water from irrigation districts," Aldous writes. They also worry "about woodlands being cleared for marijuana plants, and they say grow lights and industrial fans are disturbing." Residents have called "on Jackson County officials to develop more regulations governing marijuana grows." Having marijuana growers in the neighborhood has led some residents to put their homes up for sale. (Read more)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Foreign demand for wood pellets damaging forests, habitats in Southeast, says environmental report

Increasing foreign demand for fuel made from American trees harvested in the Southeastern U.S. is a largely unregulated business and is threatening critical habitats and forests, says a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental group. Wood pellet exports from the U.S. increased from 1.6 million tons in 2012 to nearly 5 million in 2014 and are expected to reach 5.7 million tons this year.

"Wood pellet manufacturing in the Southeast is expected to reach as high as 70 million metric tons by 2020," states the study. "Wood pellet manufacturers and their major customers claim that pellets from these mills are composed entirely of sawdust and other mill residues, tree trimmings and diseased or 'problem' trees not suitable as timber. However, studies have concluded that logging residuals alone are unlikely to meet biomass fuel market demand and that healthy, whole trees (e.g., pulpwood) will be needed. Our research, along with the research of other organizations, shows that the harvest of whole trees is already taking place—and that these trees are coming not only from plantations."

Researchers said "80 percent of forests in the South are privately owned, leaving them not fully protected," Brittany Patterson reports for ClimateWire. "The report pinpoints three 'hotspots' especially at risk: the Virginia-North Carolina border, southeastern Georgia and the Alabama-Mississippi border . . . The report suggests Louisiana could be developing into a high-risk area."

Wood pellet manufacturers challenged the report's numbers, Patterson writes. "Kent Jenkins, vice president of communications for Enviva, said the vast majority of wood used by the company's production plants in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina comes from upland forests and mixed stands." A Drax spokesperson said in an email: "We source from commercially owned forests in the U.S. where wood grown has consistently exceeded the harvest for each of the last 50 years and there is no evidence of deforestation."

Companies have also said the report's projected growth of the industry are too high, Patterson writes. Robert Farris, director of the Georgia Forestry Commission and chairman of the Southern Group of State Foresters, told Patterson, "A more reasonable projection puts it around 25 million tons of wood pellets in the future. Pellets represent only 1 to 2 percent of total forest product market share." (Read more)

Tennessee investing $8M in rural counties to boost local economies, tourism, broadband

Tennessee is launching the Rural Economic Development Fund, which will invest $8 million to help rural counties "get industrial and commercial sites 'shovel ready' for development and will provide grants to help local tourism programs, small town redevelopment and high-speed broadband," reports the Times Free Press in Chattanooga. "State officials hope the program can bring more of the prosperity and jobs being developed in the state's biggest cities to rural areas of the Volunteer State."

"In the most recent unemployment report for counties in Tennessee, highest jobless rates in August were all in small rural counties, including Hancock County at 10.7 percent, Henderson County at 9.9 percent, Lauderdale County at 9.3 percent and Scott County at 9.2 percent," reports the Free Press. "Employment growth has been fastest in Tennessee—and the jobless rate lowest in August—in the state's biggest metropolitan areas." (Read more)

September was fifth straight month to have record warm temperatures

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said last month was the warmest September since records began being kept in 1880, Gayathri Vaidyanathan reports for ClimateWire. September was also the fifth straight month to have record warm temperatures. The Tokyo Climate Center found the past month to be the warmest September on record, while NASA found it to be the second-warmest month. The centers use differing analyses to arrive at their results. It was also the second warmest September in the U.S.

NOAA scientists said September "deviated from the 20th-century average by 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit, the largest such monthly deviation recorded," Vaidyanathan writes. "The oceans, which are experiencing a strong El Niño, were 1.42 F above average in September. NOAA noted that the last time a strong El Niño occurred in 1997, ocean temperatures were 0.45 F lower than they are now." (NOAA map)

Study suggests Oklahoma has had earthquakes linked to oil and gas industry since 1920s

An Oklahoma study on seismic activity and the oil gas industry suggests that most of the significant earthquakes recorded in the state since the 1920s "were likely triggered by drilling activity," Joe Wertz reports for StateImpact. Susan Hough, a U.S. Geological Survey seismologist who co-authored the peer-reviewed paper published on Tuesday in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, told Wertz, “There’s a very, very, very small chance that it was just a fluke that these earthquakes happened to pop off where these wells were going in." (The Nation graphic)

Researchers say data suggests that "two high-profile Oklahoma earthquakes in the 1950s likely were induced: the 5.7-magnitude El Reno temblor that toppled chimneys and smokestacks and left a 50-foot crack in the state Capitol in 1952 and a 3.9-magnitude quake that shook Tulsa County in 1956," Wertz writes. Hough told Wertz, "All but one of the earthquakes recorded that decade were located 'close to an injection well that was permitted prior to the earthquakes.'"

"While the study suggests oil and gas-linked shaking is nothing new, Hough says the intensity of the recent earthquake boom, which started in 2009, far surpasses any seismic activity recorded before in Oklahoma," Wertz writes. She told him, “They’re not some new boogeyman that’s emerged since 2009. Things have ramped up. These earthquakes might not be new, but the rate and hazard has certainly increased.” (Read more)

Drought-plagued residents replacing lawns with milkweed are helping revive monarch butterflies

The drought out West could help revive monarch butterfly populations, Gillian Flaccus reports for The Associated Press. "Suburban homeowners ripping out thirsty lawns are dotting their new drought-tolerant landscapes with milkweed native to California's deserts and chaparral—plants that have the potential to help save water and monarchs at the same time because the female monarch will only lay her eggs on milkweed."

Monarch numbers are estimated to have fallen by 90 percent in recent years after reaching 1 billion in 1996. Insecticides are largely blamed for the deaths. Last month the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced the first round of grants totaling $3.3 million from its recently launched Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund.

A small portion of the millions of monarch butterflies that travel from the eastern and central U.S. and Canada to Mexico each winter travel through the western U.S. to winter along California's Central Coast, Flaccus writes. Tom Merriman, who sells native plants in California, said he didn't sell any milkweed—the main source of food for monarch butterflies—five years ago but has sold more than 14,000 plants this summer, shipping throughout California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. (Read more)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

DEA told to stop harassing medical marijuana providers; paper calls for end of war on research

A federal court in California ruled that the Drug Enforcement Administration cannot interpret marijuana laws as it sees fit and needs to stop harassing medical marijuana providers, Christopher Ingraham reports for The Washington Post. The issue is an amendment to last year's government spending bill that "lists the states that have medical marijuana laws and mandates that the Justice Department is barred from using federal funds to 'prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.'"

"When the legislation was passed, advocates and lawmakers on both sides of the issue agreed that the bill basically prevented the DEA from going after medical marijuana dispensaries, provided that such dispensaries were acting in compliance with state law," Ingraham writes. "The DEA, however, didn't see it that way. In a leaked memo, the Justice Department contended that the amendment only prevents actions against actual states—not against the individuals or businesses that actually carry out marijuana laws. In their interpretation, the bill still allowed them to pursue criminal and civil actions against medical marijuana businesses and the patients who patronized them."

The federal court said DEA's interpretation of the rule "defies language and logic," "tortures the plain meaning of the statute" and is "at odds with fundamental notions of the rule of law," Ingraham writes. "The ruling could have a broad impact on the DEA's ability to prosecute federal medical marijuana cases going forward."

Researchers John Hudak and Grace Wallack have written a paper for the Brookings Institution in  which they "argue that it is time for the federal government to recognize the serious public policy risks born from limited medical, public health and pharmaceutical research into cannabis and its use." The paper, "Ending the U.S. government's war on medical marijuana research,” says that "as medical marijuana becomes increasingly accessible in state-regulated, legal markets, and as others self-medicate in jurisdictions that do not allow the medical use of cannabis, it is increasingly important that the scientific community conduct research on this substance," Hudak and Wallack write for Brookings.

"However, statutory, regulatory, bureaucratic and cultural barriers have paralyzed science and threatened the integrity of research freedom in this area," Hudak and Wallack write. In the paper they "explore the specific federal government policies that limit medical marijuana research and detail the consequences of those policies for the medical community and for public policy. They also examine some of the existing proposals that seek to ameliorate these challenges, concluding that some are meaningful and would make substantive changes that advance medical research, while others are narrow-sighted, misunderstood and fail to provide the type of large-scale change necessary to achieve reformers’ desired goals."

"Analyzing the efficacy of one often-proposed solution, the rescheduling of marijuana from a Schedule I narcotic, Hudak and Wallack argue that this specific policy proposal is limited in its ability advance constructive medical research," Hudak and Wallack write. "Ultimately, the authors recommend a more comprehensive set of policy reforms that will liberate the medical community in its pursuit of research into marijuana." (Read more)

Pair of studies say fracking boom has been good for rural economies

While the oil and gas boom has caused its share of problems in rural communities, a pair of studies say hydraulic fracturing has been, for the most part, good for rural economies, Bill Bishop reports for the Daily Yonder. One study examines the effect of the boom on local economies, while the other looks at the impact on employment and income.

A study by Dartmouth College "found that the new oil and gas activity led to an increase in aggregate national employment of 725,000 and a half-a-percentage point decline in the unemployment rate, all coming in the midst of a steep recession," Bishop writes. "Much of that gain stayed in the counties where the wells were drilled," researchers found. "The bigger the population of the county, the more benefits stayed close by." Researchers found that "13 percent of the total value of oil and gas production stayed within the county in the form of higher incomes" from wages and royalties and "36 percent of the value production stayed within 100 miles of the well." (Dartmouth graphic)
The other study, from Duke University, looked at how local governments in eight states—Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota, Texas, Pennsylvania and Wyoming—"fared in capturing tax dollars from oil and gas production," Bishop writes. The authors wrote: "Most local governments in these states have experienced net positive fiscal effects from recently increased oil and gas development. However, most counties and municipalities in the Bakken region of North Dakota, municipalities in eastern Montana and certain counties in Texas are currently facing fiscal challenges managing oil- and gas- related growth." (Duke graphic)
“Broadly speaking, large-scale oil and gas development tends to create the greatest fiscal needs in very rural areas with limited existing infrastructure. . . . In most regions, this has been managed through increased government revenue and/or collaboration with industry," researchers wrote. Bishop notes that "a recurring theme in the report is that taxes from oil and gas production are not sufficient to repair and build roads. In North Dakota, local governments 'are not receiving sufficient revenue to manage the infrastructure demands associated with Bakken development.' In Pennsylvania, however, local governments have 'experienced net positive fiscal impacts from Marcellus shale development.'” (Read more)

Researchers at a loss to explain why sugar maple trees are in decline

Researchers are at a loss to explain why the trees that produce maple syrup are in decline, Glenn Coin reports for Syracuse Media Group. The study by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry published in the online journal Ecosphere shows that sugar maples "are growing more slowly since 1970 than they were before, even though growing conditions have gotten better." (Post-Standard photo by Michelle Gabel: Sugar maples in the Adirondacks are growing more slowly than they used to.)

Researchers studied 76 northern hardwood stands in northern Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire, concluding "that acid deposition induced changes in soil nutrient status that crossed a threshold necessary to sustain sugar maple growth during the 1970s on some sites."

Since the 1990s, "new regulations have dramatically reduced acid rain and its effects," Goin writes. Professor Coin Beier, who oversaw the study, told Goin, "Given these changes, we would expect these trees to be thriving, but they are not." Graduate student Daniel Bishop, who led the study, told Goin, "Given their relatively young age and favorable competitive status in these forests, these sugar maples should be experiencing the best growth rates of their lives. It was a complete surprise to see their growth slow down like this." (Read more)

Rural Pa. residents say shale drilling has made water undrinkable for four years; officials disagree

Some residents in the Woodlands (City Data map), a rural community in Butler County in northwest Pennsylvania shale country, have gone four years without running water, mostly because the water they do get is brown or black and smells like rotten eggs, Wallace McKelvey reports for The Patriot News in Harrisburg. Even worse, residents haven't gotten any help from the Department of Environmental Protection, which says there is no link between polluted wells and nearby fracking sites. But residents say the undrinkable water has caused their gardens to wither, sickened pets and caused some people to get cancer.

"DEP says an increase in demand for water stressed the local aquifer that supplies groundwater," McKelvey writes. Communities "surrounded on all sides by newly completed gas wells have been left to fend for themselves. Residents said DEP officials were slow to respond to complaints here and, once inspectors arrived, they provided sporadic and contradictory advice to residents." While representatives from local oil and gas operator Rex Energy did not respond to requests from The Patriot News for comment, several resident have filed lawsuits that are pending.

Residents like Denny "Uncle Denny" Higgins and his family "shower in the state park to conserve the 1,500 gallons of water they buy every two weeks for $100," McKelvey writes. "That's $200 a month for 3,000 gallons—a stark difference from the average monthly water bill in Pennsylvania of about $30 for 3,000 gallons, according to the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate." (News photo by Dan Gleiter: Stains caused by tainted well water)

Some also worry about the water's impact on property values, McKelvey writes. Norma Jean Kudamik, whose well water has repeatedly changed in color and taste, was diagnosed with lung cancer last August. She told McKelvey, "Our property we paid for all these years is worthless because who in their right mind would want to buy this three-quarter-acre sitting right next to a cesspool?"

"Everyone at the Woodlands has a story of a DEP inspector," McKelvey writes. "To some, they were frank, saying that the resident's suspicions were valid but that there was nothing to be done. Woodlands resident Janet McIntyre said she was told that her water problem was the result of slugs becoming ground up in her pump. Uncle Denny said he was told that because his property was north of the closest well site, it was impossible his well would be impacted. Gas wells have since been drilled north of him, as well. The DEP concluded that nearby wells had nothing to do with Higgins' orange tap water."

Connoquenessing Township, home of the Woodlands, had received $788,846 through Act 13—a fee on drillers that goes to infrastructure projects and social services—by the end of 2014, according to the Public Utility Commission, McKelvey writes. "Butler County received nearly $6 million. Residents of the Woodlands, however, say they haven't seen any of that money: The roads remain unpaved, which in turn complicates ambulance service and requires them to retrieve mail and haul trash to the blacktop as far as a mile from home. In the winter, some throughways become impassable for weeks or months at a time." (Read more)

Clinton's changing stance on rural issues could cost her votes in those areas

While trying to woo rural voters during her 2016 presidential bid, Hillary Clinton's past stance on rural issues could come back to haunt her and affect her chance to win the Democratic nomination and a White House bid, Matt Barron reports for The Hill. As a senator, Clinton opposed three issues "near and dear to rural voters." Though she has since reversed her opinions, that might not be enough to swing voters who remember how she voted the last time around.

"In 2003, Clinton was one of only 12 senators to vote against an amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that altered Medicare payment formulas to increase payments to providers in rural areas, bringing them in line with urban areas," Barron writes. "However, during Clinton's last run for the White House, she stated that she 'will work to make Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements fair so that all communities in our country—including those in rural areas that traditionally have lower reimbursement rates and, as a result, have difficulty recruiting doctors—have qualified doctors.'"

"As a freshmen senator, Clinton opposed three measures to expand ethanol production and establish a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)," Barron writes. "Beginning in 2002, she voted against an energy bill that created a national renewable standard to increase the use of agricultural commodities for energy. In each case, her votes were the opposite of the position of the Democratic-leaning National Farmers Union, which used them as key votes in their ratings for 2002-2004. Clinton's position on renewable fuels began to change at the start of her last presidential bid, when she voted for a bill in 2007 that doubled ethanol and expanded the RFS to include biodiesel and cellulosic sources."

"In June 2005, Clinton voted against an amendment to ban MTBE and require refiners to use 7.5 million gallons of renewable fuels annually by 2012," Barron writes. "MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether, was a gasoline additive that was widely used in the 1990s to help refiners comply with clean air standards. MTBE is highly water soluble, meaning that leaks from underground gasoline tanks spread quickly to water supplies, where it can persist for decades. In addition to making drinking water smell and taste like turpentine, MTBE has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals when inhaled. It is also expensive to remove," costing between $1 billion and $3 billion. "Rural towns with small tax bases can't afford expensive environmental remediation bills that put a huge strain on their municipal budgets." (Read more)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Oil and gas bust leaving states and taxpayers to foot bills to plug abandoned wells

When the oil and gas boom goes bust and companies leave town, the state—and taxpayers—are often left to foot the bill for cleanup costs of abandoned wells, Stephanie Joyce reports for NPR. "Companies put up bonds to cover their cleanup costs in the event they go bankrupt. But the bonds they pay upfront are almost never enough. Right now, companies only have to pay $75,000 for all of their wells on private land in Wyoming."

The methane industry collapse in Wyoming left the state with 4,000 abandoned wells, Joyce writes. Jeff Campbell and Jeff Gillum of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission are in charge of making sure the abandoned wells get cleaned up and plugged. But first, Gillum says, they have to find them."

"Workers begin the plugging process with bentonite, a kind of super absorbent clay that gets poured down the well to seal it," Joyce writes. "Once the bottom of the well is filled with bentonite, a cement crew comes in and then, a pipe cutting crew. Campbell, who said it takes 20 workers to plug a hole, told Joyce, "It's a lot more work than a lot of people realize." It's also costly, amounting to about $10,000 apiece to plug. With "so many orphaned wells, it could cost up to $30 million over the next decade to clean them all up."

But $10,000 is small change to fill the shallow holes compared to much steeper costs anticipated to fill deeper oil and gas wells recently drilled when that business goes bust, Joyce writes. "These deeper wells will cost tens of thousands of dollars each to clean up." (Read more)

Recreational drone users will soon be required to register aircraft with government

Recreational drone users will be required "to register their aircraft with the government for the first time in an attempt to track rogue flying robots that are increasingly posing a threat to aviation safety," Craig Whitlock reports for The Washington Post. The basic details of the registration system still need to be worked out but could be in place within two months, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta announced on Monday.

Foxx and Huerta said a task force will be created composed of 25 to 30 representatives from Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and manned aviation industries, the federal government and other stakeholders, Sara Wyant reports for Agri-Pulse. "The group will advise the department on which aircraft should be exempt from registration due to a low safety risk, including toys and certain other small UAV. The task force also will explore options for a streamlined system that would make registration less burdensome for commercial UAV operators."

Foxx told reporters, “Registering unmanned aircraft will help build a culture of accountability and responsibility, especially with new users who have no experience operating in the U.S. aviation system. It will help protect public safety in the air and on the ground.” Huerta added, “Registration will help make sure that operators know the rules and remain accountable to the public for flying their unmanned aircraft responsibly. When they don't fly safely, they'll know there will be consequences.”

Under current rules drone operators are not supposed to fly above 400 feet or within five miles of an airport, but FAA has been mostly powerless to enforce the rules, leading some states to create their own regulations. Fear of unregulated drone use has been widespread. In June 2014, the National Park Service banned drones in all parks and areas it manages. In August 2014, a tourist crashed a drone into Yellowstone National Park. Also in August 2014 drones were banned over the Appalachian Trail and in parks in Utah and Colorado, and a drone was reported flying over an NFL game. In July, a rural Kentucky man shot down a drone flying over his house.

Charleston Gazette-Mail story examines how opiate addiction came to infest Appalachia

Addiction to opiates and drug overdoses have become an epidemic in Appalachia. It hasn't always been like that. A perfect storm consisting of the introduction of OxyContin, coupled with the region's high rate of unemployment, job-related injuries and low-education levels have made Appalachian a perfect spot for opiates to thrive, David Gutman reports for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

"The statistics are numbing," Gutman writes. "West Virginia leads the nation in overdose deaths. We take more prescription drugs, per capita, than any state except Kentucky. Wholesale drug distributors—not even including the two largest distributors—shipped 200 million pain pills to West Virginia over a recent five-year period. That’s about 111 pills for every man, woman and child."

Dr. Carl “Rolly” Sullivan, who has run the Addiction Program at West Virginia University Hospitals since 1985, said during the 1990s about 90 percent of patients were treated for alcoholism, Gutman writes. Sullivan, who said he only treated three patients for heroin addiction in the entire 1990s, said that by 2002 the number of patients being treated for prescription painkillers was 90 to 95 percent and the waiting list for the clinic is now more than one year. (National Prescription Audit map of 2012)
"In late 1996, Purdue Pharma introduced a new drug—OxyContin, a controlled-release version of the pain killer oxycodone," Gutman writes. "It’s designed to slowly release its active ingredient over the course of a day, so a patient in chronic pain needs to take only one or two pills a day, instead of five or six, as was the case for other types of oxycodone medications. That also meant, though, that each OxyContin tablet had much more of its potent active ingredient than other painkillers available at the time. OxyContin also came with two quirks on its FDA-approved label, one that made it ripe for abuse and one that made it easy to prescribe." The label read: “Swallowing broken, chewed or crushed OxyContin tablets could lead to the rapid release and absorption of a potentially toxic dose of oxycodone.”

"Of the six states hit hardest and earliest by OxyContin abuse—West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maine—five are Appalachian," Gutman writes. Sullivan told Gutman, “West Virginia was ripe for the picking. We had a lot of blue-collar workers who were in farming and timbering and coal mining and things that were likely to produce injuries.”

The epidemic has since expanded to all corners of the U.S., Gutman writes. "In 1992, about 30,000 people nationwide were admitted to hospitals for overdoses or other problems related to prescription opioids, according to data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. By 1997, it was about 35,000—a slight increase, but nothing major. But then, hospital visits for opioid problems took off. By 2002, there were about 80,000 admissions a year. In 2006, it was 130,000." (Read more)

Ohio newspapers run blank page to show what coverage without a local paper looks like

A pair of community newspapers in Ohio last week twice ran house ads that consisted of the newspapers' logo and a blank page to show the news coverage communities without a local paper can expect to receive, Jason Sanford reports for the Ohio Newspaper Association. The Evening Leader, a six-day afternoon paper in Saint Marys, and The Wapakoneta Daily News, in Wapakoneta, ran the ads as part of National Newspaper Week.

Deb Zwez, group publisher for both papers, told Sanford, “I’ve been threatening to run this kind of ad for years because I get so frustrated when readers—and especially nonreaders—complain that there's never anything to read in the paper and use that as a reason to not subscribe.”

Zwez said "the papers received about a half dozen calls from people complaining that the page was blank," Sanford writes. "Her favorite response, though, was a voice mail from a reader who didn’t want to pay for that paper because he was missing a page. The reader wanted someone to call him and tell him what news he’d missed on the blank page. A subsequent phone call brought his attention to the words at the bottom of the ad. Zwez invites all newspapers around the country to create their own version of the ad." She told Sanford, “It makes for a pretty powerful statement." (Read more)

Mail carrier, meter reader, farmer, newspaper reporter are most endangered jobs in U.S.

Mail carrier is the most endangered job in the U.S., and farmer and journalist are not far behind, according to CareerCast's list of the most endangered jobs in 2015. Mail carrier is a profession expected to lose 28 percent of its workforce by 2022. Meter reader and farmer are expected to lose 19 percent of workers by 2022, newspaper reporter 13 percent, jeweler 10 percent, logger 9 percent, flight attendant 7 percent, drill-press operator and insurance underwriter 6 percent and seamstress/tailor 4 percent. (Fortune graphic)

"Every year, CareerCast takes a look at the jobs that are vanishing, and this year, the list clearly shows the steady march of technology, as professions have been shedding jobs at a fast clip," Christina Austin reports for Fortune. If you're in one of the careers listed above, "you may want to explore a career switch. If you’re a new college grad, you might want to consider healthcare and STEM jobs, which aren’t being eliminated due to our robot overlords."

Calif. drought a nightmare for small agri-tourism businesses that once thrived at Halloween

The California drought is forcing many small agri-tourism businesses to skip Halloween festivities this year that require water, such as pumpkin patches and corn mazes, Geoffrey Mohan reports for the Los Angeles Times. "The travails haunting some of the state's small farms this Halloween come even as large-scale growers of the ornamental gourds in the San Joaquin Valley say they've had a bumper crop that is in high demand because of rain-damaged harvests in the Midwest, Texas and East Coast. The divergent fates illustrate a paradox of California's drought: farmers with recourse to deep wells can reap a tidy profit. Those who don't might not farm again." (Times photo by Kirk McCoy: Bob Lombardi, owner of the shut-down Lombardi Ranch, looks at one of the baby bear pumpkins he was able to grow on only two acres because of the drought)

"Statewide, growers have gambled on crops that give them the best yield per drop, agriculture experts say," Mohan writes. "Despite the drought's estimated $1.5-billion toll on the agriculture economy last year, many of California's vegetable crops, and a few fruits, have had increased yields, according to University of California Davis and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Pumpkin harvests were up 16 percent last year."

"Meanwhile, farms with few choices have withered: the state lost about 1 percent to 2 percent of its dairy industry from 2010 to 2014, according to Lesley Butler, a dairy economist at UC Davis," Mohan writes. "And while farm revenues for vegetable crops in the San Joaquin and Sacramento regions are expected to rise by $4 million to $8 million this year, they probably will plummet by more than $100 million in Tulare County, according to UC Davis' Center for Watershed Sciences." (Read more)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Rural newspaper series localizes impact of concussions on high school athletes

Dr. Andy Gilliland, a sports medicine specialist who does baseline concussion tests for 26 local high school football teams in Eastern Kentucky, has diagnosed 43 concussions this season, Ben Nandy reports for The Daily Independent in Ashland as part of a series on concussions and high school athletes. "A baseline test measures a player’s mental processing, concentration and memory prior to the season. Following any hard impact to the player’s head during the season, the test is administered again and the results compared to baseline results from before the season. If the results of the latest test show a decline in brain function, the player may be diagnosed with a concussion and temporarily sidelined to avoid a second hit, which could do irreversible damage."

Gilliland said "he has seen a significant change in attitudes toward head injuries," Nandy writes. He told Nandy, “Two years ago, we were in the midst of the fight. Now, I don’t see any culture of negativity in schools around here. We sense a culture change is taking place . . . There was a reactive stance before. Everyone’s proactive now. What we started doing five years ago is becoming the standard worldwide.” (Biological Conclusions graphic)

It's not just full-contact sports like football that need to be more aware of concussions but all sports activities, Nandy writes in another story for the series. Last year Whitney Nicole Porter, a high school cheerleader in Ashland, suffered a concussion after a fall, leading to new rules this year requiring cheerleaders to go through "the same concussion testing and protocol that have been required of football players for the last four seasons."

During a basketball game, Porter "went into a backflip and snagged her foot on another cheerleader’s arm, causing Porter to fall about 5 feet with her face hitting the gym floor," Nandy writes. "Porter’s injury was difficult to treat since she did not take a comprehensive baseline concussion test before the season. She did not have baseline results for brain function, which could have been compared to results from a similar test taken after the injury. After the more obvious outward symptoms (vomiting, dizziness and slurred speech) of a concussion subsided, Porter was medically cleared to return to cheerleading. But soon after her return, it became frighteningly apparent to Porter and her family that her brain had not completely healed."

Her mother Eva Porter told Nandy that Whitney had "mood swings, difficulty sleeping and depression.” While Porter returned to the squad this fall and says she feels “normal” again, her mother hopes the school's "new baseline testing policy becomes the norm for cheerleaders nationwide."

Also see: Protecting teeth may prevent concussions

Rural SOS: Des Moines Register documentary focuses on rising number of shuttered rural schools

The plight of one shuttered rural school has been captured in a documentary by The Des Moines Register as part of year-long project to highlight the continued struggles of America's rural schools. The documentary "is a window into the 4,315 other Iowa school districts that have been permanently closed since 1950," Jason Clayworth and Rodney White report for the Register. "It’s also a wakeup call, some say, to the state’s remaining 336 public school districts. Rural Iowa—and most of rural America for that matter—is sending an SOS with each closed school, they say." (Register photo: Rippey Elementary School in Rippey, Iowa was torn down in 2014)

Jon Hueser, superintendent of the district whose high school was the focus of the documentary, told the Register, "I probably have 12 or 14 years of being a (superintendent), and this probably won’t be the last building that I close . . . You talk about the plight of the farmers back in the 1980s when farm prices crashed, but there’s a problem in rural Iowa now.”

In Iowa the rate of rural residents has fallen from 75 percent in 1900 to a little more than 33 percent in 2010, writes Clayworth and White. "Nationally during that span, the percentage of rural residents fell from 60 percent to less than 20 percent." Since 1930 the U.S. has lost 100,000 school districts, dropping the overall total to less than 20,000. (Best Places map: The school that is the subject of the documentary is in Corwith, Iowa.)

"Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson believes there’s no turning back," writes Clayworth and White. He told the Register, “It’s not just the economic erosion—it’s the erosion in social capital. It’s the ability to get things done, count on social leadership, to facilitate any kind of innovation in allocation of community resources. All of that has eroded at a very slow but fixed pace over this time period, and it’s not going to change.”

The documentary premiered on Sunday in Des Moines and will be shown this week on Iowa Public Television. (Read more)

Oct. 29 Al Smith Awards Dinner will honor Ky. Book Fair founder and New Mexico newspaper family

Two giants of community journalism will be honored Oct. 29 in Lexington at the annual Al Smith Awards Dinner of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and the Bluegrass Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Carl West, editor emeritus of The State Journal in Frankfort and founder of the Kentucky Book Fair, is the winner of the 2015 Al Smith Award for public service through community journalism by a Kentuckian.

Also at the dinner, the Trapp family of The Rio Grande Sun in Española, N.M., will accept the institute’s 2015 Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, tenacity and integrity in rural journalism.

Carl West
Carl West, who still lives in Frankfort, was editor of The State Journal from 1979 to 2012. He came to the paper after winning major awards as an investigative reporter in Washington. He chaired the National Press Club Library Committee, which established a highly successful book fair and authors’ night, and he took the idea to Frankfort, creating and heading the Kentucky Book Fair Committee.

West kept the Book Fair going partly by persuading the newspaper’s owners to cover much of the cost, according to the award nomination by retired journalist Richard Wilson. The vast majority of the time he spent on the fair was voluntary, after long days in the newsroom. The fair has generated thousands of dollars for Kentucky libraries and created a cultural opportunity for Kentuckians that has touched thousands of book lovers.

As editor of the state capital’s daily newspaper, “Carl oversaw numerous improvements,” Wilson wrote, “and frequently became a mentor to young journalists, many of whom have gone on to distinguished careers in journalism and other endeavors.”

West, a Campbell County native, is a 1966 journalism graduate of the University of Kentucky. He reported for The Kentucky Post in Covington, Frankfort and Washington before joining Scripps Howard News Service as an investigative reporter in 1973. He reported on the Watergate scandal and was named by Washingtonian magazine as one of the capital city’s leading investigative reporters. In 1976 he won the Scripps Howard Foundation’s Raymond Clapper Memorial Award for exceptionally meritorious Washington-based reporting.

The Al Smith Award is named for Albert P. Smith Jr., who published newspapers in rural Kentucky and Tennessee, was founding producer and host of KET’s “Comment on Kentucky,” and federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission. He was the driving force for creation of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and headed its national advisory board for many years. He remains active on the board as chairman emeritus and will speak at the dinner.

The Tom and Pat Gish Award is named for the couple who published The Mountain Eagle at Whitesburg, Ky., for more than 50 years and became nationally known for their battles with coal operators and corrupt politicians and the firebombing of their newspaper office by a Whitesburg policeman. The Eagle, now published by son Ben Gish, and the Rio Grande Sun have exchanged subscriptions for many years, said Sun Publisher Bob Trapp, who will accept the award on behalf of his family. His parents, Robert and Ruth Trapp, died in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Robert, Ruth and Bob Trapp
The Sun, now in its 60th year of Trapp family ownership, is likewise nationally known for fighting “the crooks and the crooked politicians, the declining health and educational systems in one of the poorest counties in the country, and the fight for open records and open meetings in a county where political shenanigans is the rule,” Ben Daitz, producer of “The Sun Never Sets,” a 2012 documentary about the newspaper, wrote in a nomination.

Robert Trapp “did not care what advertisers thought, and neither does his son, and the paper still sells out every week.” The Sun claims the largest paid circulation of any New Mexico weekly. “Its success shows that robust community journalism can be good business,” said Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and an associate extension professor of journalism at the University of Kentucky.

But a good newspaper often makes enemies. “A geologic feast of rocks, all thrown through the Sun’s windows over almost 60 years, is displayed on shelves around the pressroom,” Daitz wrote. “This April, the Sun was firebombed, but luckily, damage was contained and the presses ran.”

The Al Smith Awards Dinner is an annual fund-raiser for the Institute and the SPJ chapter, which conceived the Smith Award. But it is also “a grand gathering of people who believe in journalism as an essential element of our democratic processes and want it to observe high standards; who recognize the importance of rural America to the rest of the country; and who agree with us that rural Kentucky and rural America deserve good journalism just as much as the rest of the state and nation, to help our democracy work,” Cross said.

For information on the dinner, to be held at the Marriott Griffin Gate Resort, contact Al Cross at 859-257-3744 or; or SPJ Bluegrass Chapter Treasurer Patti Cross at 502-223-8525 or Online registration and payment is also available at

Essay contests to award rural property creating headaches for owners and claims of cheating

A growing rural trend of using an essay contest to sell off property is creating big cash rewards for owners—who rake in the dough from entry fees—but is creating headaches for winners, who say they are being harassed from losing entrants who claim the contests were rigged, Katie Rogers reports for The New York Times. (Associated Press photo by Robert F. Bukaty: The Center Lovell Inn in Maine was won in an essay contest.)

For instance, Janice Sage, who gained ownership in 1993 of the Center Lovell Inn in Maine from an essay contest in which she paid $100, decided to use the same method to sell it, Rogers writes. Sage netted more than $906,000 from the contest from more than 7,000 entries, with Prince Adams getting the property for a $125 essay entry fee.

"The announcement of a winner drew so many accusations that the contest was rigged that a Facebook group called the Center Lovell Contest Fair Practices Commission was established," Rogers writes. "Fifteen complaints were lodged with the Maine attorney general’s office, which led to an inquiry by the State Police. The agency spent four weeks reviewing the rules, the selection process and complaints about the 1993 contest, which had prompted its own inquiry. It determined that Sage had run a game of skill, which is legal in the state, and not a game of luck like a lottery, which is not."

While Sage's problems have ended, the same can't be said for Adams, Rogers writes. He said he is "still being harassed by people who thought that they should have won the inn or that he had broken the rules." He also said losing entrants have bombarded websites with poor reviews of the inn.

Despite the troubles Sage and Adams endured, the trend doesn't seem to be coming to an end any time soon, Rogers writes. "Bil Mosca, the host of the 1993 contest for the inn, said he had fielded up to 12 phone calls a month from homeowners who wanted advice" on similar endeavors. Karim Lakhani, an associate professor who studies online communities and contests at Harvard Business School, said the risk is low and the reward is high. Lakhani told Rogers, “This looks like a lottery. From the participation point of view, it’s ‘I can put in a few hundred bucks and get a chance to get a house.’ Who wouldn’t want to do that?” (Read more)

Be wary of companies selling DirtGlue for road repairs; product cost rural Virginia county big time

If your county government is approached by a company selling something called DirtGlue for gravel roads, what happened in Montgomery County, Virginia, (Family Search map) may interest you and your local officials.

In an attempt to save money from "the usual $1 million per mile cost of building a new paved road, or $500,000 per mile cost of improving one to 'rural road rustic' standards," the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors pushed for a company that uses DirtGlue to pave the mile-long stretch of Old Sourwood Road, Mike Gangloff reports for The Roanoke Times. The polymer was designed to "fuse the road’s unpaved surface into a hard material similar to asphalt." The road "would not be officially classified as paved, but it wouldn’t have the maintenance costs typical of unpaved routes."

The move was approved, and Montgomery County and the Virginia Department of Transportation split the $183,365 cost of the DirtGlue treatment, Gangloff writes. Board chairman Jim Politis told Gangloff, "We invested a little money to see if we could save a lot of money."

Trying to save a few dollars cost the county big time when the gluing didn't take on most of the road, Gangloff writes. "Potholes and washboarding quickly developed. There was heavy dust, according to residents and the highway department. Residents’ complaints set off a round of finger-pointing between company, county and state officials. DirtGlue blamed a contractor for applying their product during a rainstorm and said that VDOT did not prepare the surface properly. VDOT said that a company representative had been present when the DirtGlue was spread." (Times photo by Matt Gentry)

"Residents said that they endured an increasingly bumpy ride to and from their homes as officials wrangled about what to do next," Gangloff writes. "Earlier this year, the company said that it planned to apply more DirtGlue but needed to coordinate with the county." Instead, in August, the county and VDOT split the $16,000 cost to have "the road de-glued, grinding up the remaining DirtGlue and covering it with new stone," returning the road to its original gravel state. (Read more)

Final free workshop on antibiotic use in animals set for Oct. 22 in Lexington, Ky.

The last of 12 free Farm Foundation workshops on the stewardship of antimicrobial drug use in livestock will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 22 at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington, Ky. The workshop "is targeted to all pork, cattle, poultry and sheep producers, as well as veterinarians and feed suppliers in Kentucky, Indiana, Eastern Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee, Michigan and Eastern Missouri."

Officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will attend the event to review policies and answer questions. Comments from the workshops will be used to compile a report "assessing the economic and physical challenges facing producers as they implement the Guidance for Industry (GFIs) and revised Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD)," states Farm Foundation. Workshops were previously held in Raleigh, N.C.; Dover, Del.; Albany, N.Y.; Birmingham, Ala.; Flagstaff, Ariz.; Amarillo, Texas; Ames, Iowa; Denver; Davis, Calif.; Rapid City, S.D.; and Twin Falls, Idaho. For more information or to register for the Lexington workshop, click here.

FDA re-opening comment period for Nutrition Facts Label; will be open Tuesday through Friday

Beginning on Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration "will re-open the comment period for its Supplemental Proposed Rule for Updating the Nutrition Facts Label," reports Agri-Pulse. "The FDA said that technical problems with its website had prevented some people from filing comments electronically on the proposed rule and on consumer studies associated with the rulemaking." The comment period, which originally closed on Oct. 13, will remain open through Oct. 22. (Read more)

Genetic engineers trying to create hornless cows

Scientists in Minnesota are attempting to genetically create hornless cows, "a development that supporters say could improve cow well-being in the dairy industry," Amanda Proscia reports for Great Lakes Echo, a project of the journalism department at Michigan State University. Supporters say genetic altering would "eliminate the need for painful removal of horns from young calves. But some critics say the technique is just a high-tech way to continue miserable conditions for cows on large-scale farms."

Scientists at Recombinetics say their "technique introduces no 'foreign' DNA to the cow," Proscia writes. "Instead, researchers copy the DNA of polled or hornless cattle that resulted from a genetic mutation." Mark Walton, chief marketing officer for Recombinetics, told Proscia, "Our method exactly replicates the DNA of these cattle. Two to three percent of dairy cattle already carry the same version of that gene.” He said that "since some cattle already carry the gene, Recombinetics’ process is a kind of accelerated selective breeding technique."

"Calves are often dehorned with hot-irons or a chemical paste," Proscia writes. "In the hot-irons method, the farmer or veterinarian performing the procedure heats the donut-shaped irons and then places them over the horn nubs. The heat cauterizes the horns and prevents further growth. In the other method, a chemical paste is applied to the horn nubs and causes a chemical burn that destroys horn-producing cells and stunts the horn growth." (Read more)