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Food & agriculture - Apr 23

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Biofuels starving our people, leaders tell UN

Allegra Stratton, Guardian
The leaders of Bolivia and Peru have attacked the use of biofuels, saying they have made food too expensive for the poor.

Speaking at the United Nations, the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, said the increased use of farmland for fuel crops was causing a "tremendous increase" in food prices.

The Reuters news agency reported that the Peruvian president, Alan Garcia, called on developed countries to grow more food. In the last few months, food prices in Peru have run ahead of the country's general rate of inflation.

Their attack coincided with a report published today by the environmental group Friends of the Earth warning the EU of the perils of expanding biofuel use in Latin America. Last year the EU agreed on a target of 10% biofuel use for transport by 2020.
(22 April 2008)
Related: Chavez says food prices "massacre" of world's poor.


Green Acres II: When Neighbors Become Farmers

Kelly K. Spors, Wall Street Journal
Suburban Arugula Is
Organic and Fresh, but
About That Manure...

BOULDER, Colo. -- When suburbanites look out their front doors, a lot of them want to see a lush green lawn. Kipp Nash wants to see vegetables, and not all of his neighbors are thrilled.

"I'd rather see green grass" than brown dirt patches, says 82-year-old Florence Tatum, who lives in Mr. Nash's Boulder neighborhood, across the street from a house with a freshly dug manure patch out front. "But those days are slipping away."

Since 2006, Mr. Nash, 31, has uprooted his backyard and the front or back yards of eight of his Boulder neighbors, turning them into minifarms growing tomatoes, bok choy, garlic and beets. Between May and September, he gives weekly bagfuls of fresh-picked vegetables and herbs to people here who have bought "shares" of his farming operation. Neighbors who lend their yards to the effort are paid in free produce and yard work.

... Environmentalists embrace the practice because it cuts the distance -- and the carbon dioxide -- needed to get food from farm to consumer. It also means less grass to water and fertilize and fewer purely ornamental plants. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that nearly a third of all residential water use goes to landscaping. Why not use it to grow food instead?
(22 April 2008)
Video at original. Poster "olepossum" at TOD Drumbeat points out that this article shares the front page with an article admitting that "the easy oil is over in Saudi Arabia, and that we can't count on them to grow any further." He adds, "I think we all know how these [two articles] relate."


Many Wisconsin dairy farmers switch to grazing

John Harzell, Associated Press
Bob and Karen Breneman found it difficult to accomplish all that had to be done around their southern Wisconsin dairy farm, but they didn't want to hire more help.

So they joined the growing number of farmers in America's Dairyland who broke with tradition by turning to grazing - saving them money and freeing up time.

... Most milking operations in the state during the latter half of the 20th century used the so-called confinement approach: Animals that were milked twice a day mostly were kept inside, feed was brought to them, and manure was carted away.

"Farmers had been taught that was the way to go for a long time," Breneman said.

But after careful consideration, the couple switched to an updated version of the grazing approach that had previously predominated, and they haven't looked back.

That's allowed them to reduce the labor involved in growing crops to feed their animals, and they can let the manure remain in the field.

...Confinement became popular when more machinery was becoming available to farmers, and equipment, fuel and labor were cheaper, said Tom Cadwallader, a University of Wisconsin Extension agent in Lincoln and Marathon counties.

"But the cost of fuel and equipment are much higher now, and many farmers sent their kids to college and many of them subsequently didn't stick around on the farms," he said.
(22 April 2008)

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