| November 21, 2014

Amanda’s Farm & Food Roundup

AmandaFor now, those living along the line of the Keystone XL pipeline can breathe a sigh of relief. After passing in the House, a vote on the TransCanada sponsored project came to the Senate for the first time this year where Democrats defeated the bill by one vote. Unwilling to accept the bill’s demise, Republicans say that they plan to propose the legislation again once they have control of Congress. While President Obama has voiced his stance against the pipeline, some experts speculate that he may approve the bill in exchange for cooperation from the GOP majority Congress in 2015.

As more veterans make their way from the battlefield to the farm fields, the USDA is taking notice and taking action. This week, the USDA announced a new position, the Military Agriculture Liaison, an individual who will coordinate leadership and provide information, resources and support for active military and veterans interested in either returning to or starting a career in agriculture. For many veterans, returning to civilian life poses a daunting challenge and a life in agriculture can become a therapeutic transition. The new position, created with funding from the 2014 Farm Bill, comes in addition to funding for housing, job training and financial assistance the USDA has provided for veterans in past years.

In Russia, necessity for food could steer the world’s largest country into the locavore movement. Three months into Putin’s yearlong western food import ban, lack of competition has brought consumers to organic and local food sources. For the first time, shoppers are taking notice of where their food comes from and find themselves willing to pay a higher price tag for homegrown goods. Still, local food sources cannot support the entire nation. Russia has taken major agriculture hits throughout its stormy 20th century history and local operations are few in number. Many hope that this transition to buying locally will inspire more to take on farming and encourage citizens to support Russian agriculture even after Putin’s sanctions expire.

As technology becomes more prevalent on the farm, big data becomes another issue to tackle. Tractors and combines record data and upload it to the cloud, but what happens next? The amount of fertilizer used, type of soil and yield can all be found here, and farmers worry about leaks of that data. Top agriculture companies, including Monsanto and John Deere, have moved into the information businesses and extended their hand in an offer to collect, store and analyze data, but some are skeptical about the roles these groups will play. While many initially worried about exploitation, for now big businesses and farmers have come to an agreement: farmers have full ownership of their data and can determine who uses it and prevent unwanted sharing.

You might be having a bad week, but for Syngenta, it’s been a rough year and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM), the world’s largest corn processor, has filed a lawsuit against the manufacturing company for the irresponsible practice of selling genetically modified corn seeds that China has banned. The farmers who bought and planted the corn then had their export crops refused by China.  ADM isn’t the first company to fire back at Syngenta – more than 100 farmers and exporters have already sought damages from the Swiss company. China has rejected over 1 million tons of imported foods in the past year, resulting in an estimated loss of $1 billion for U.S. farmers.

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