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Food & agriculture - Jan 11

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Storms on US Plains stir memories of the 'Dust Bowl'

Reuters staff, NBC News
Real estate agent Mark Faulkner recalls a day in early November when he was putting up a sign near Ulysses, Kansas, in 60-miles-per-hour winds that blew up blinding dust clouds.

"There were places you could not see, it was blowing so hard," Faulkner said.

Residents of the Great Plains over the last year or so have experienced storms reminiscent of the 1930s Dust Bowl. Experts say the new storms have been brought on by a combination of historic drought, a dwindling Ogallala Aquifer underground water supply, climate change and government farm programs.

Nearly 62 percent of the United States was gripped by drought, as of Dec. 25, and "exceptional" drought enveloped parts of Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor...
(30 December 2013)

Significant article on this topic with a slideshow of drought images. -KS



The Battlefront in the Front Yard

Stephen Kurutz, New York Times

JASON HELVENSTON was at work on his second crop, spreading compost to fertilize the carrots, bok choy, kale and dozens of other vegetables he grows organically on his property in Orlando, Fla., when the trouble began.

Mr. Helvenston spent last Super Bowl Sunday planting the garden outside his 1940s cottage, in a neighborhood of modest houses close to downtown. Orlando’s growing season is nearly year-round, and Mr. Helvenston, a self-employed sustainability consultant for the building trade, said he saw the garden as “a budget thing” — a money-saving supplement to the chicken coop he and his wife, Jennifer, installed a few months later behind their house.

Then, in September, Pedro Padin, who lives in Puerto Rico but owns the rental property next door, visited with his wife and cast a displeasing eye on his neighbor’s front yard. “All the houses are pretty much kept neat,” Mr. Padin said, “but his house looks like a farm.”...

19 December 2012)


Congress Includes Awful 2008 Farm Bill Extension in Fiscal Cliff Deal

Staff, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
On New Year’s Eve, the Senate passed a simple extension of the 2008 Farm Bill through September 30, 2013, as part of a much bigger legislative package to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. The House approved the Senate bill late on New Year’s Day and President Obama signed it into law on January 2.

The fiscal cliff deal was the final death knell for the 2012 Farm Bill that the full Senate passed in June and that the House Agriculture Committee passed in July. The deal was also a very sudden death knell for the reasonable modified farm bill extension measure that NSAC worked diligently to promote over the past several months...
(3 January 2013)

But see this as well. -KS


Up to 50% of food is wasted worldwide, report says

Staff, e360 Digest
As much as half of the food produced globally is wasted each year as a result of inefficient agricultural practices, inadequate storage facilities and transportation systems, and wasteful consumer habits, a new report says. While the world community produces about 4 billion metric tons of food annually, roughly 1.2 to 2 billion metric tons of that food — or 30 to 50 percent — is never consumed, according to the UK-based Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The causes of waste vary from region to region, the report says. In developing nations, much of the waste occurs at the local level as a result of inefficient harvesting, lack of transportation, and poor infrastructure and storage. In richer nations, the waste is often triggered by customer and retail behavior. For example, as much as 30 percent of UK vegetables are never harvested because their appearance doesn’t meet consumer standards. “This level of wastage is a tragedy that cannot continue if we are to succeed in the challenge of sustainably meeting our future food demands,” the report says. The report’s calculations do not include the amount of water and energy used in the production of wasted food.
(10 January 2013)

The report can be accessed here. -KS


Post-Prop. 37 Poll Shows the Future of GE Food Labeling is Alive, Well and Living in California

Rebecca Specter, Civil Eats
I’m part of the camp that was thrilled that Proposition 37 registered a full 48.6 percent of the California vote last November. More than 6 million voters saying “yes” to labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods was a huge victory in my book, especially given that the No campaign (with major funding from chemical companies and packaged food giants such as Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, PepsiCo and Kraft) outspent the initiative’s supporters by more than $35 million dollars.

Naturally, I would like to have seen Prop. 37 win, despite the mountain of money against it, providing us with a model for more robust and honest food labeling. But the run we made at it was historic — and it is hardly the last time we’ll see GE labeling on state ballots and in legislatures. The showing California’s “right to know” initiative made is proof-positive that we are only an election (or two) or legislative victory from a different kind of understanding of both how we are producing our food and what we are eating and feeding our families. Prop. 37 was a breakthrough, not a moment of doubt.This is why it came as no surprise when I learned that an independent post-election poll (commissioned by our sister organization Center for Food Safety Action Fund) shows that California voters continue to strongly support the labeling of GE foods. The choice is overwhelming, with 67 percent of voters continuing to support labeling of GE foods. What I find really heartening is that 21 percent of those who voted against Prop. 37 say they still support requiring labeling of GE foods....
(10 January 2013)


Farmers Rally at White House to Protest Monsanto's GMO Empire

Jon Queally, Common Dreams
Hundreds of small farmers and advocates for organic seed growers gathered outside the White House Thursday, calling on President Obama and other lawmakers to come to their aid as they continue their fight against Monsanto, one of the world's largest, most powerful—and to them sinister—industrial agriculture corporations.

The farmers and citizens assembled demanded the end of Monsanto's "campaign of intimidation against America's family farmers" and their relentless push for GMO (or genetically engineered-GE) crops. The rally followed a court hearing earlier in the day in the ongoing and landmark Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al. v. Monsanto case, in which OSGATA and other plaintiffs sued the biotech firm for its continual and aggressive harassment of organic farmers and independent seed growers...
(11 January, 2013)

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