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Agriculture briefs

California State Fair closes piglet exhibit: A devastating virus that has killed millions of piglets across the country and caused a spike in pork prices now is disrupting one of summer’s most beloved annual events: the California State Fair.

The State Fair, which opened Friday, has shut down its popular piglet exhibit this year and stepped up veterinary inspections of adult pigs in response to a viral epidemic that has affected 5,000 farms and killed more than 8 million piglets.

County and state fairs across the country are taking similar precautions as farmers struggle to manage the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or PED, which is believed to have originated in China and was discovered in the United States in May 2013.

Pork producers are predicting a significant jump in retail prices due to an expected drop in the number of hogs going to slaughter.

In response, agricultural officials have issued recommendations this year for handling and displaying pigs during fair events. The result was the State Fair’s livestock nursery this year won’t feature live births of piglets.

Farm groups pushing 'right-to-farm' measures

In response to voter initiatives by animal-welfare activists and opponents of genetically modified crops, some Midwest farm groups have pushed their own “right-to-farm” ballot measures.

Supporters hope the wording of such measures provides a legal shield against initiatives that would restrict particular farming methods, such as those modeled after a California law setting minimum cage space for hens or policies in Florida and Ohio that bar tight pens for pregnant pigs.

Others hope to preempt any proposals to ban genetically modified crops similar to ones recently passed in southern Oregon.

Right-to-farm measures already have won approval in North Dakota and Indiana.

Missouri voters on Aug. 5 will consider a ballot measure. Similar measures passed both chambers of the Oklahoma Legislature earlier this year before dying in a conference committee.

Online resource for urban farmers

Urban farmers now have an online resource for information on raising livestock, crop production, marketing and policies for agriculture in cities and suburbs.

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