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Food & agriculture - Nov 22

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In a regular pilgrimage, Slow Food members follow the path toward ethical eating to Turin

Virginia Phillips, Post Gazette
TURIN, Italy -- For Slow Food enthusiasts every two years, all roads lead to this Piedmont city.

In Turin, the center of a legendary regional cuisine, about 8,000 people took part late last month in talks and tastings. The point of Slow Food's global gathering was, as it has been since the first meeting in 1996, to reclaim markets for locally grown food and artisan producers all over the world.
(20 Nov 2006)

Orchard thieves
Almonds, avocados, citrus in demand -- thefts run into millions of dollars

George Raine, SF Chronicle
Manteca, San Joaquin County -- If the legendary Bonnie and Clyde were alive today, they might be stealing almonds instead of robbing banks.

Fourteen truckloads of almonds valued at $2 million, most packed into seagoing containers, have been stolen in the Central Valley in the past 18 months. Authorities believe the nuts, which bring growers about $2.50 per pound, were shipped to buyers overseas.

The thefts are a part of a rising tide of agricultural crime in California. About $10 million in commodities and equipment is reported stolen in the Central Valley annually -- although the true figure is believed much higher because many crimes are unreported. Many avocado groves are picked clean. Citrus vanishes from trees along freeways. Pipes and farm equipment are taken and sold for scrap.

"It's like anything else -- the more valuable it becomes, the more of a magnet for thieves,'' said Dave Kranz, spokesman for the California Farm Bureau in Sacramento.
(22 Nov 2006)

US: Up to 100 million acres needed for renewable energy crops

As many as 100 million acres of cropland and pastures would have to be dedicated to cultivating biomass fuels like switchgrass to support a national goal of 25 percent renewable energy use by 2025, a University of Tennessee study says.

Moreover, new commercial technologies will be needed to turn switchgrass, wheat, rice and forest products into ethanol fuel, now principally made from corn, and their byproducts into feedstock for power generation.

But the rewards could be great. The study projects $700 billion in new economic activity including: a $180 billion growth in net farm income over the next 20 years; creation of 5.1 million jobs to support renewable energy enterprises; and government savings of more than $15 billion in crop subsidies.

"I think what is important is the change in the mentality of the citizens of the United States to develop the attitude that, 'We can do it,'" lead researcher Burton English told The Associated Press. "If we develop that attitude, the goal may exceed 25 percent."

The report, released this week, concludes that not only could U.S. farmers, ranchers and foresters produce 25 percent of the nation's energy needs, but they could do it while still meeting the nation's demand for food, feed and fiber.

The report suggests that about 105 million acres of the nation's more than 800 million acres of agricultural land would need to be dedicated to switchgrass or other energy crops, with most of that coming from pastures. Hay acreage would need to nearly triple to 168 million acres.

Commercial technology to convert switchgrass to ethanol isn't available yet, but should be by 2012, the study said.
(17 Nov 2006)

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