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Food & agriculture - June 4

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Breaking the grass ceiling: On U.S. farms, women are taking the reins

Lori Rotenberk, Grist
For 56-year-old Tammy Burnell, who lost everything she owned in the 2008 Iowa floods, it’s the freedom to stand in the verdant fields of Burnell Farms in Royston, Ga., and call out to the heavens — and know no one can hear her.

Hannah Breckbill, 25, walked from a career as a mathematician and settled in Elgin, Minn., planting Humble Hands Harvest “to work in something real and be the change I want to see happen in this world.”...

Meet three of America’s female farmers, the most rapidly growing segment of the nation’s changing agricultural landscape...
(3 June 2013)


The USDA’s Latest Report on Energy Use in Agriculture

K. McDonald, Big Picture Agriculture
It has been just shy of two years since the USDA came out with its last report on energy use in agriculture. The title of this month’s new report is, “Agriculture’s Supply and Demand for Energy and Energy Products.” This time they presented the subject by saying that energy inputs no longer have a linear relationship with agriculture since commodities are now used for the production of biofuels, and that farmers adapt in other ways to rising energy costs.

The agriculture sector in the U.S. uses less than 2 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. However, energy and energy-intensive inputs account for a significant share of agricultural production costs. For example, corn, sorghum, and rice farmers allocated over 30 percent of total production expenditures on energy inputs in 2011...
(28 May 2013)
Link to report


More Than Honey

Markus Imhoof, PUB
Oscar-nominated director Markus Imhoof (THE BOAT IS FULL) tackles the vexing issue of why bees, worldwide, are facing extinction. With the tenacity of a man out to solve a world-class mystery, he investigates this global phenomenon, from California to Switzerland, China and Australia. Exquisite macro-photography of the bees (reminiscent of MICROCOSMOS) in flight and in their hives reveals a fascinating, complex world in crisis. Writes Eric Kohn in Indiewire: "Imhoof captures the breeding of queen bees in minute detail, ventures to a laboratory to witness a bee brainscan, and discovers the dangerous prospects of a hive facing the infection of mites. In this latter case, the camera's magnifying power renders the infection in sci-fi terms, as if we've stumbled into a discarded scene from David Cronenberg's THE FLY." This is a strange and strangely moving film that raises questions of species survival in cosmic as well as apiary terms.


(June 2013)


Is the US About to Become One Big Factory Farm for China?

Tom Philpott, Mother Jones
The small number of companies that dominate global meat production is about to get smaller. The Chinese corporation Shuanghui International, already the majority shareholder of China's largest meat producer, has just bought US giant Smithfield, the globe's largest hog producer and pork packer, in a $4.7 billion cash deal...

In an ironic twist, China appears to be taking advantage of lax environmental and labor standards in the US to supply its citizens with something it can't get enough of. Industrial pork: the iPhone's culinary mirror image....
(29 May 2013)


Peak Water, Peak Oil … Now, Peak Soil?

Stephen Leahy, IPS News
Reykjavík, Iceland - Soil is becoming endangered.This reality needs to be part of our collective awareness in order to feed nine billion people by 2050, say experts meeting here in Reykjavík.

And a big part of reversing soil decline is carbon, the same element that is overheating the planet. “Keeping and putting carbon in its rightful place” needs to be the mantra for humanity if we want to continue to eat, drink and combat global warming, concluded 200 researchers from more than 30 countries.

“There is no life without soil,” said Anne Glover, chief scientific advisor to the European Commission.

“While soil is invisible to most people it provides an estimated 1.5 to 13 trillion dollars in ecosystem services annually,” Glover said at the Soil Carbon Sequestration conference that ended this week...
(2 June 2013)

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