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Congressional posturing: House Republicans (No Democrats) pass farm bill without food stamps

Marion Nestle,
Ordinarily, writing about bills introduced and passed in either the House or the Senate isn’t worth the trouble because they are so likely to be changed later on in the legislative process.

But this one is over the top. House Republicans, joined by not one Democrat, passed H.R. 2642 — New Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 — its version of the farm bill yesterday. The shocker? For the first time since the 1970′s, the farm bill is not linked to food stamps (SNAP), thereby breaking the deal between urban and rural America…

(12 July 2013)
You can link to the House bill here.

Can an urban food growing project cure a ‘sick city’?

Rachel Williams, The Guardian
High up on the desolate fairways of the old Parkhall golf course, the view stretches right across to Stoke-on-Trent’s skyline, long robbed of the bottle kilns that once symbolised the Potteries’ prosperity.

Dogged by trenchant unemployment, an unenviable set of health and deprivation statistics, Stoke is still struggling to shake a two-decade-old "sick city" tag.

…Making her way down the golf course, Young outlines her vision for a two-pronged attack on the city’s woes. Urbivore is Young’s new social venture, which aims to bring urban agriculture to Britain’s cities on a grand scale, offering jobless young people apprenticeships in horticulture and catering that will help them get full-time work, while boosting the health of local communities by selling locally grown, affordable fruit, vegetables and simple dishes made from them…

(11 July 2013)

Hipster hen dump: The issue of urban chicken abandonment

Matt Hickman, Mother Nature Network
In addition to high-rent dwellings, celebrity animal husbandry, and completely unnecessary accessorizing, the topic of urban chicken abandonment/retirement has (naturally) been tackled before here on MNN.

However, it’s apparently an issue greater in scope than imagined as, according to NBCNews, “hundreds” of chickens across the country are flooding animal shelters and farm sanctuaries by “disillusioned city dwellers” and “hipster farmers” who have no interest in hanging on to the “noisy, messy, labor-intensive, and expensive” pets once they’ve passed their egg-laying prime (hens only lay eggs for a couple of years, if that, and can, if healthy, live as much as a decade longer).

It’s also an issue that’s put proponents of urban agriculture and backyard chickening at odds with overwhelmed hen foster parents left to deal with the cast-off domestic fowl once they’ve been unceremoniously dumped by their owners because they’re no longer cute, have fallen ill, and/or are no longer capable of putting delicious omelets on the table…

(9 July 2013)

Small-scale producers key to attaining food security and ending hunger

Denis Herbel, Nora Ourabah and Eve Crowley, The Guardian
Empowering small-scale producers to participate fully in development is one of the main components of the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s efforts to improve food security and reduce hunger and poverty. As individual farmers are often dispersed, they may have little power to seize economic opportunities, or influence policies that affect them. Too often they are excluded from decision-making, whether in markets or in social and political fora.

However, when rural producers come together in producer organisations, they can shape their own paths out of poverty, and make their voices heard. Well-functioning rural organisations, such as POs and co-operatives, are crucial for rural people to address the complex challenges they face today: improving agricultural productivity, accessing input and output markets, overcoming asymmetries in information and knowledge, accessing financial services, accessing and managing natural resources sustainably, and adapting to climate change.

In the past decade, a wide range of institutional innovations have emerged that have helped to overcome the barriers small producers face in integrating into markets, while also improving policy-making. These institutional innovations arise when small producers build strong relations: among themselves within the same organisation (bonding), with similar organisations (bridging), and through their organisations, with external actors (market actors, policy-makers, researchers, NGOs) in the framework of institutional arrangements.

(10 July 2013)