Blog | July 21, 2014

Amanda’s Farm and Food Roundup

AmandaAs California enters its third year of drought, the state is experiencing what experts call “extreme” drought. Groundwater reserves have been helpful in keeping agriculture alive, but as the land continues to dry out, water is becoming increasingly difficult to retrieve. So far, farmers have pumped enough groundwater to immerse the state of Rhode Island 17 feet underwater. Estimations have put losses around $1.5 billion, and predictions show that 2015 could be another dry year for California.

Farming has always been an occupation and way of life for many, but it could soon become a right, spelled out in the Missouri Constitution. Currently, the measure exists in state law, but on August 5 voters will decide whether or not it finds a permanent place in the state constitution. Promising to protect the rights of “generally accepted” practices and the “ever-changing use of technology,” the bill has many people perplexed by its vague wording and what its actual implications might be. Many supporters of the proposed law are corporate agricultural interests who want to build a defense against animal welfare activists and those against GMOs. Supporters of the bill hope that it will protect their practices and keep animal rights and environmental organizations from telling them how to farm their own land. As the bill gains national attention, other states have begun to consider or draft similar measures.

The Kansas City Star weighed in on the Right to Farm measure in an editorial, urging voters to “say ‘no’ to this unnecessary and potentially harmful proposal.”

Today on the Civil Eats blog, John Ikerd gives us 10 reasons to oppose so-called Right to Farm amendments.

A recent poll of New York Times readers found that more than 90 percent favored labeling GMO foods. The work of state legislatures has begun to reflect these views as a surge of support for labeling GMO products moves through various levels of government. Connecticut, Vermont and Maine have already passed laws requiring GMO producers to label their foods as such. Now, 20 other states are considering the mandatory labeling of GMO foods. 35 bills across these states have already been introduced into state legislatures and the ballot initiatives are set in Colorado and Oregon for the midterm elections.

Still, a majority in Congress see GMOs as beneficial and remains against the mandatory labeling of GMO products.

Despite a decrease in the number of farmers across the country, a significant number of people are still taking up the profession – sometimes with little to no previous experience. The most recent Agriculture Census found that of America’s 2.1 million farmers, about 25 percent of them have been farming for less than 10 years. These new farmers are more likely to be women or minorities than their seasoned counterparts and have come to the world of agriculture for a variety of reasons. Some inherited family land, but many others were looking to feed themselves or for a fresh start after losing a job in the recession. About 63 percent of these newbies don’t consider agriculture their primary occupation, but still make a significant contribution to producing local foods.

Looking for an emoji to say organic, free range or locally grown? Thanks to the combined efforts of the Noun Project and the Grace Communications Foundation, you can say all of that and more with just a symbol. In the face of flashy advertisements and iconic images used by Big Food, designers and advocates sat down together to do some free marketing for the little guys. The result: a group of icons to represent non-modified, local or organic foods that will help small to medium sized farms market products in an easily identifiable way. These icons are now available to the public and free to download.

Construction of a natural gas pipeline from New York to Boston could soon begin, much to the dismay of property owners along the line. Kinder Morgan, the pipeline giant behind the plan, has estimated that the project will cost between $2 billion and $3 billion and lay 180 miles of pipe. Environmental restrictions and rising energy prices in New England put natural gas in high demand, but many farmers and other residents oppose the invasive installation process that will put a potentially dangerous pipeline in their own backyards and fields. Some experts claim that relying on backup stores of natural gas and improving efficiency could satisfy the energy needs of the area without a need for new pipelines. So far, only about half of the property owners on the pipeline’s route have agreed to allow their land to be surveyed for the project, but Kinder Morgan could turn to state regulators for permission if landowners block their access.

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