The Nebraska Department of Agriculture is warning rabbit owners in Nebraska to be aware of a serious and highly contagious viral disease of rabbits that has recently been identified in multiple states.

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus has been diagnosed as the cause of death in wild and domestic rabbits in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Colorado, as well as domestic rabbits in Nevada and Utah and wild rabbits in California. To date, the virus has not been found in Nebraska.

“It is important that rabbit owners know about this disease so they can more closely monitor the health of their rabbits, particularly ones that may be comingling with other animals,” said NDA State Veterinarian Dr. Dennis Hughes.

Symptoms of RHDV include fever, anorexia, wasting, diarrhea and respiratory illness. RHDV can also cause sudden death in rabbits. The virus is spread directly between rabbits and can survive for weeks in contaminated environments.

Currently, there are no approved vaccines licensed in the United States for RHDV, although a foreign-produced vaccine is being made available in states where the virus has already been identified. RHDV does not infect humans, livestock or non-rabbit household pets.

Enhanced biosecurity helps prevent the introduction and spread of viruses and diseases including RHDV. In addition to thorough cleaning and sanitation practices, rabbit owners should consider restricting visitors to their rabbitries, and isolating new rabbit additions for 30 days.

RHDV is a notifiable Foreign Animal Disease, and practitioners who suspect RHDV should contact the Nebraska Department of Agriculture at 402-471-2351. Individuals who have concerns about unusual deaths of wild rabbit and hare populations are encouraged to contact Nebraska Game and Parks at 308-763-2940.

All rabbits entering Nebraska must be accompanied by a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection or health certificate. If you are considering moving an animal into Nebraska from an affected state, call 402-471-2351 to learn more.

Additional information on Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus can be found on NDA’s website at: nda.nebraska.gov/animal/diseases/rhd/index.html

Coalition challenges EPA rule on fuel efficiency in vehicles

A coalition of ethanol, agriculture and public interest groups this week challenged the Trump Administration’s recent fuel efficiency rule making for vehicles.

According to the coalition, the rule fails to recognize the benefits of mid-level ethanol blends for achieving higher octane levels.

“During the rule-making process, EPA asked for ways to increase gasoline octane levels. We told them that mid-level blends were an obvious, market-ready solution. They chose to ignore that advice and instead lowered the bar for fuel efficiency requirements,” said Mark Watne, president of North Dakota Farmers Union. “The decision is bad for the environment and bad for farmers who grow renewable energy, year after year.”

The rule in question, known as the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficiency Vehicle Rule, establishes vehicle fuel efficiency requirements for manufacturers. The previous rule called for a 5% increase in fuel efficiency for light-duty vehicles, which EPA reduced to 1.5%. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to reduce toxic substances in gasoline to the greatest extent possible when new technologies become available.

Farmers Union provided documentation showing the ability of mid-level ethanol blends, such as E-30, to reduce toxics. The organization believes the rule ignores the efficiency and health benefits of higher ethanol blends, downplays the harm from reduced emission standards, and fails to realize the promise of increased octane in gasoline.

The legal challenge is being led by National Farmers Union and includes other Farmers Union state and regional organizations, including the Governors Biofuel Coalition, the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, the Environment and Energy Study Institute, and Urban Air Initiative.

The legal petition asking for a review of the rule was filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

U.S. crude oil, natural gas production in 2019 hit records with fewer rigs and wells

Increases in drilling efficiency pushed U.S. crude oil and natural gas production to establish new records of 12.2 million barrels per day and 111.5 billion cubic feet per day, respectively, in 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

One factor that has contributed to the increase in production, according to EIA has been the ability to contact more of the formation using horizontal drilling. The average footage drilled per well was 15,000 feet per well in 2019, reflecting longer horizontal well lengths.

The number of U.S. oil and natural gas wells drilled each month per active rig has decreased since the peak in 1986 of 3.6 wells per rig per month. In 2019, an average rig drilled 1.5 wells per month. By drastically increasing the horizontal length of wells, producers have increased production despite using fewer rigs and drilling fewer wells.

Horizontal wells in the United States averaged about 10,000 feet of lateral length in the early 2000s but averaged 18,000 feet in 2019. Because horizontal wells now account for a larger share of new wells, the average linear footage per well increased from 6,000 feet to 15,000 feet during the same period.

The increased productivity of wells with longer horizontal lengths has more than offset the effects of rigs drilling fewer wells. Horizontal wells have more wellbore—the hole that forms the well—in contact with the producing formation, increasing the amount of crude oil or natural gas that can be recovered compared with a vertical well. The average rig was drilled 18,000 feet to 27,000 feet per month in 2019, almost twice as far as the active rigs in the early 2000s.

Horizontally drilled wells have become especially prevalent in shale and tight formations and have risen from about 2% of total wells drilled in 1990 to more than 75% in 2019. The number of new vertical wells drilled has decreased since its recent peak in 2008.

Horizontal wells have become the predominant way of drilling oil and natural gas wells in the United States, first outnumbering vertical and directional wells combined in 2015. In 2019, 75% of newly drilled wells were horizontal, and they averaged 18,000 foot wellbores compared with directional wells, which averaged 10,000 feet, and vertical wells, which averaged 4,500 feet.

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