Blog | September 26, 2014

Amanda’s Farm & Food Roundup

AmandaSure, Russia can grow its own fruits and vegetables, but can it make fine Italian cheeses or supply salmon on a budget without the help of Europe? As the food ban enters its sixth week, niche restaurants that depend on luxury-imported goods are hurting more than the average consumer. The solution: just slap a new label on them. Some Russia neighbors who haven’t been blocked by the ban, such as Belarus, are importing the European goods and relabeling them, letting contraband parmesan slip past the borders and onto the plates of Russia’s foodies. Many prices have doubled for local items, leading restaurants to rely on these sneaky imports to keep customers coming.

In light of the recent climate change chatter buzzing at the UN in New York, agribusiness giant Cargill has agreed to stop chopping down forests and do their part to cut down on carbon. The promise comes in a pledge to abide by the New York Declaration on Forests, a product of the UN summit on climate change that vows to halt loss of forests by 2030. The initiative is a big one, cutting between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tons of carbon emissions – the equivalent of taking all of the world’s cars off the road. Other big brand names have jumped aboard as well, including Kellogg’s, Nestle and even Walmart. The summit is non-binding, so we’ll have to wait to see if Big Food keeps their word in the coming years.

In North Carolina, the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission has awarded more than $2.3 million to agriculture and economic projects in the state. The grants are aimed at boosting local agriculture initiatives and providing scholarships for students living in tobacco-dependent communities. Since 2000, the fund has awarded 220 grants to North Carolina organizations, facilitating the transition from tobacco following the Master Settlement Agreement.

When you think about up-and-coming areas of real estate, blustery, rural northern Vermont may not immediately come to mind. But if you’re a first time farmer looking to get your hands dirty, it could be the place for you. Here, young farmers can find affordable land priced as low as $3,000 an acre and an expanding food-systems network that supports local agriculture. In the last 14 years, $68 million in grants has made its way to the area and the USDA promised $2.3 million more last month. The combination of these factors has allowed newcomers to afford a life on the farm and drawn more young people into agriculture.

As Eric Holder announced his resignation as Attorney General, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said he’d remain in his position, making him just one of two original Obama administration members still in office and bringing him within just two months of the record set by Dan Glickman as the longest-serving agriculture secretary since the Kennedy-Johnson years.

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