Blog | February 13, 2015

Emily’s Farm & Food Roundup

Emily_EaganThe Farm Aid Drought Summit was held at the end of January in San Antonio, Texas. The event drew hundreds of organic farmers to unite them in the quest for assistance from federal programs and drought relief options. Scott Marlow, of Rural Advancement Foundation International, proclaimed the serious nature of droughts, as “an isolating experience,” as there is no identifiable end to the disaster. Texas farmers are continually struggling, as 60% of the state remains in abnormally dry to exceptional drought conditions. The Summit sparked optimism among attendees, as state and federal governments are beginning to invest in Texas organic farms. Read writer and CEO of LocalSprout Mitch Hagney’s account of the recent summit, along with a history of organic farming in Texas.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are calling on the USDA to review and update their animal welfare strategy as serious allegations of animal cruelty came pouring out of an investigation of the US Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska. Dubbed an “American horror story” by Michael Bershadker, CEO and President of the ASPCA, this research center’s activities have taken full advantage of the laws outlined in the Animal Welfare Act, riding on the loophole that farm animals used in agricultural experiments are exempt from protection. The USDA assures concerned citizens and organizations that they are taking action, and expect to update the animal welfare strategy within 60 days.

Using NPR’s interactive map of each state’s most common job, this article from Grist.org takes notice of the immense decrease in farming as an occupation over the past 30 years. Their reasoning? Farmers are “aging out” – the younger generation is leaning toward other professions, causing a significant decrease in farmers, but interestingly enough, not an overall decline in the farming industry: “The rise of high-tech equipment, an increase in pesticide use, and the implementation of government-issued subsidies all are larger than ever,” Liz Core of Grist.org tells us, “except the number of farmers.” Click through NPR’s interactive map to see the farmer decline for yourself.

Women farmers received acknowledgment from the National Farmers Union for their growing contributions to the family farmer community. NFU President Roger Johnson recognized and appreciated the roles of women in the family farmer community: “thankfully, the future of family farming in America is in good hands, and that is due in no small part to the growing contributions of women in agriculture.” With a growing interest in continuing their farming education and skills, but also facing barriers to land ownership, there is quite a bit of work to be done for women to fully establish themselves as vital partners in the farming community. The National Farmers Union assures us that they will support and encourage women to farm, as they are already estimated to produce up to 80% of the world’s food.

Around 8,000 protesters marched on the streets of their Governor Jerry Brown’s hometown of Oakland, CA, demanding the official continue his trend of fighting against climate change by putting a stop to the environmentally detrimental act of fracking. LA Climate reporter Mark Hertsgaard recognizes Governor Brown’s actions in the fight for climate change as being significant, but believes that in order to maintain his title of “climate action champion,” the official must reject fracking. The protesters came far and wide, and included environmental justice organization reps, students, health activists, and citizens concerned about fracking’s negative impacts on drought, health, and climate change. New York and Vermont put a stop to fracking – will California follow in their environmentally conscious footsteps?

I’d say after weeks of snowfall, it’s time for a little Boston weather report. This article from Chris Mooney at the Washington Post puts the snowy chaos into a climate change context, attempting to answer the dreaded question: is this all because we’re warming the world? Climate researcher Michael Mann over at Penn State offers the explanation, “there is [a] direct relationship between the surface warmth of the ocean and the amount of moisture in the air. What that means is that this storm will be feeding off these very warm seas, producing very large amounts of snow as spiraling winds of the storm squeeze that moisture out of the air, cool, it, and deposit it as snow inland.” The strength of the storms is also increased when they hit the East Coast due to the temperature contrast from the warming oceans. Global warming is playing a lead role in making this winter a particularly bad one, and we can expect there’s worse to come: a recent study claims that this increase in precipitation will continue to grow in the coming decades.

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