Blog | March 14, 2013

Toni’s Farm and Food Roundup

ToniIf American agriculture had to be summed up in four letters, it very well might be c-o-r-n. An entire region in the nation was even named after the vegetable, dubbed the Corn Belt states. An agricultural scientist from the University of Minnesota, Jonathon Foley, argues that while corn may be a convenient crop in America, it may not be beneficial to the overarching food system. Foley sites four reasons why the nation’s corn production should change:


  • The American corn system is inefficient at feeding people.
  • The corn system uses a large amount of natural resources.
  • The corn system is highly vulnerable to shocks.
  • The corn system operates at a big cost to taxpayers.

To counteract these negative impacts, Foley discusses long-term changes that could be made. He points to an ideal system with greater crop diversity and a culmination of best practices that focus on sustainability with fair government subsidies. No matter what happens and when, it seems that corn will always be a major player in American farming.

An article in Grist explores Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s plan to balance these issues by steering away from monocropping. In so doing, the USDA would support multi-cropping operations that would, in turn, reduce the amount of genetically engineered crops planted. Though multi-cropping would greatly reduce corn yields in the US, this method would diversify America’s food supply and build a more resilient system.

Studies show that eating processed meat can be detrimental to a person’s health. It has long been known that a vegetarian diet is better for a person’s heart, but new research demonstrates that large quantities of processed meat can increase risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Further, BMC Medicine published a study showing that people across Europe that consume large amounts of processed meat are more likely to engage in other detrimental activities regularly such as smoking or drinking heavily. Still, after isolating meat consumption from other considerations, the study found that about 3 percent of all premature deaths could be prevented if consumption of processed meat were reduced to less than 20 grams each day.  The study also found that poultry and rabbit consumption did not have a negative impact on health. Continuing to complicate matters, however, the study found that a vegetarian diet  lacked the vitamins in red meats, resulting in a greater all-cause mortality risk than a diet with moderate red meat consumption.

“The End of the Day (Quitting Time)” by Beezy Bailey and David Matthews from the Robert Miller Gallery

Dave Matthews, one of Farm Aid’s Board Artists, showed his first art exhibit at the Robert Miller Gallery in New York City. The Itica Pritica exhibit featured silk-screened works made by Matthews and his friend, Breezy Bailey. The themes of the works range from a stance against rhino poaching to whimsical messages of entertainment, with repeated images of the “fat man” sprinkled throughout. Matthews said the jump might just be the beginning for his career as a visual artist.

China is facing yet another food safety crisis. Approximately 6,000 dead hogs were removed from the Shanghai River after the Chinese government began enforcing stricter regulations regarding the sale of diseased pigs. In response to the situation, farmers fled to the river to get rid of any hog that didn’t meet the requirements. The situation may sound gross, but it’s isolated to China, right? Actually, Chinese hog production was modeled after US production. In Iowa, which has the most hogs in America, the amount of toxic-filled manure in hog producing regions is greater than sewage in metropolitan areas around the nation. This is in addition to the beef cattle, dairy cows and chickens that are raised in the state. This becomes a problem in the face of disaster. For example, a flood in 2008 swept an estimated 1,500 pigs into the waterways of Iowa. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has collected data showing that the amount of waterways polluted in Iowa has steadily increased since 1998.

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