Tag Archives | Farming

The Fiefdom Will Soon Be Complete: Wall Street Buying Up Farmland

PIC: LOC (PD)

PIC: LOC (PD)

Not merely satisfied with purchasing our foreclosed homes en masse and charging us to rent them back (thanks to a crisis they created), Wall Street has set their sights on America’s fertile soils. Sing it with me! This land is their land, this land is their land…

Via Tom Philpott at Mother Jones:

In a couple of posts last fall, I showed that corporations don’t do much actual farming in the United States. True, agrichemical companies like Monsanto and Syngenta mint fortunes by selling seeds and chemicals to farmers, and grain processors like Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill reap billions from buying crops cheap and turning them into pricey stuff like livestock feed, sweetener, cooking oil, and ethanol. But the great bulk of US farms—enterprises that generally have razor-thin profit margins—are run by independent operators.

That may be on the verge of changing. A recent report by the Oakland Institute documents a fledgling, little-studied trend: Corporations are starting to buy up US farmland, especially in areas dominated by industrial-scale agriculture, like Iowa and California’s Central Valley.

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The Difference Between a Farmer and a Global Chemical Corporation

500px-Dow_Chemical_logo.svgAndrea Brower writes at Common Dreams:

We are witnessing a strange, though remarkably predictable public discourse, where State lawmakers claim that those “truly serious about supporting local farmers” must abolish Counties’ rights “forever,” and transnational corporations call themselves “farmers.” Legislators attempt to contort the “Right to Farm” into a mechanism for chemical companies to evade health and environmental concerns, as water grabs by these same companies undermine the actual rights of farmers. Meanwhile, the Hawaii Farm Bureau advocates the interests of a few mega-corporations as synonymous with the interests of local farmers (despite never having asked the farmer members that they professedly speak for).

The intentional blurring in the difference between farmers, and the global corporations that use Hawaii as a testing ground for their new technologies, demands some clarity.

Dow is the largest chemical company in the US. Their list of manufactured goods includes napalm, chlorpyrifos (used as a nerve gas during World War II), plastics and Styrofoam.

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The High Price of Cheap Meat: Shocking Animal Cruelty

Rolling Stone.

Rolling Stone.

Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone occasionally delves deep into issues that most major publications would rather leave well alone. Case in point, its report on what it takes to provide America with cheap meat. Not for the faint of heart…

Sarah – let’s call her that for this story, though it’s neither the name her parents gave her nor the one she currently uses undercover – is a tall, fair woman in her midtwenties who’s pretty in a stock, anonymous way, as if she’d purposely scrubbed her face and frame of distinguishing characteristics. Like anyone who’s spent much time working farms, she’s functionally built through the thighs and trunk, herding pregnant hogs who weigh triple what she does into chutes to birth their litters and hefting buckets of dead piglets down quarter-mile alleys to where they’re later processed. It’s backbreaking labor, nine-hour days in stifling barns in Wyoming, and no training could prepare her for the sensory assault of 10,000 pigs in close quarters: the stench of their shit, piled three feet high in the slanted trenches below; the blood on sows’ snouts cut by cages so tight they can’t turn around or lie sideways; the racking cries of broken-legged pigs, hauled into alleys by dead-eyed workers and left there to die of exposure.

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How Monsanto Is Planning To Profit From Climate Change

Landscape

Not everyone is either worried or skeptical regarding man-made global warming. Mother Jones on how Monsanto is eagerly banking on it:

Data to help farmers grow crops in a changing climate. Climate Corporation, which Monsanto is acquiring, sells detailed weather and soil information to “help…manage and adapt to climate change.” Monsanto thinks the ag data business will be a $20-billion market.

Insurance for when it’s too hot, cold, dry, wet, or otherwise extreme outside. Climate Corporation currently sells both federally subsidized crop insurance and supplemental plans.

Drought-resistant corn. Monsanto lists the effects of climate change-related precipitation changes and droughts as a potential “opportunity.” This year, Monsanto started rolling out a new line of patented, first-of-its-kind genetically engineered corn seeds that are resistant to drought.

Cotton that needs less water to grow. The company is piloting genetically modified cotton that that can grow while using less water and survive drought.

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Peak Soil: Why Nutrition Is Disappearing From Our Food

Nitrogen cycle-caThe secret to good health may start with dirt says Monica Nickelsburg, writing for The Week:

The fountain of youth may be made of dirt.

So supposes Steve Solomon in The Intelligent Gardner: Growing Nutrient-Dense FoodHe asserts that most people could “live past age 100, die with all their original teeth, up to their final weeks, and this could all happen if only we fertilize all our food crops differently.” It’s a bold statement, but mounting evidence suggests that remineralization could be the definitive solution to our nutrient-light diet.

Concerns about the quality of our food tend to focus on the many evils of modern industrial farming, but 10,000 years of agriculture have created a more insidious problem. The minerals and phytonutrients historically derived from rich soil are diminishing in our produce and meat. It takes 500 years for nature to build two centimeters of living soil and only seconds for us to destroy it.

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Space Farming: The Final Frontier

VEGGIE1

Vegetable Production System (NASA)

What do you do next when you’ve successfully screwed up the Earth? Screw up Space too! Agricultural science is approaching its next frontier reports Modern Farmer:

Last year, an astronaut named Don Pettit began an unusual writing project on NASA’s website. Called “Diary of a Space Zucchini,” the blog took the perspective of an actual zucchini plant on the International Space Station (ISS). Entries were insightful and strange, poignant and poetic.

“I sprouted, thrust into this world without anyone consulting me,” wrote Pettit in the now-defunct blog. “I am utilitarian, hearty vegetative matter that can thrive under harsh conditions. I am zucchini — and I am in space.”

An unorthodox use of our tax dollars, but before you snicker, consider this: That little plant could be the key to our future. If — as some doomsday scientists predict — we will eventually exhaust the Earth’s livability, space farming will prove vital to the survival of our species.

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Neo-Colonizing Africa Through GMO Crops

african_farm

Via This Is Africa, Paula Akugizibwe on conquering the world through the food chain:

While the science of GMOs may remain murky, the economics are crystal clear. The most obvious and direct of these is the matter of seed ownership and control.

Unlike traditional agriculture, in which seeds are the property of nobody in particular and nature at large, GMO farming places the ownership of seeds firmly in the hands of corporations, and entitles them to a share of profits from crop sales. GMO farmers are not allowed to save seed produced through their crops for use in the coming season, as they have always done.

Meanwhile, in some African countries such as Nigeria, genetically modified cotton is viewed as an ideal entry point for GMOs. “We don’t eat our clothes, so people are less concerned about cotton. This would be the first way in for GMOs,” explained Kola Masha, a Nigerian agribusiness advisor, earlier this year.

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Texas Police Raid Farming Commune After Mistaking Tomato Plants For Marijuana

tomatoesPerhaps to be on the safe side, we should prohibit growing plants in general. NBC 5 Dallas–Fort Worth reports:

A small organic farm in South Arlington is demanding an apology from police who raided the property in early August. Officers raided the Garden of Eden, a 3.5-acre farm, searching for marijuana in the gardens, according to search warrants. Police did not any drugs.

Quinn Eaker, a resident, told NBC 5 that the six adults who live at the farm were handcuffed when SWAT officers from the Arlington Police Department came to their home with weapons drawn. According to a statement posted on the Garden of Eden’s website, the raid of the farm lasted for an estimated 10 hours.

Code compliance officers mowed the grass on the property and removed wild, cultivated plants including blackberries and okra. Eaker said that the plants police mistook to be marijuana were likely tomatoes: “They can’t even tell the difference between tomato plants and a marijuana drug cartel.”

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Inside Monsanto’s Rural Police State

monsanto

Truthout on the regime of rural surveillance and suspicion instituted by multinational seed companies:

The GMO regime has initiated a “new era of feudalism,” by powerful multinationals who have consolidated their control over the lives and practices of farmers everywhere.

Monsanto boasts one of the largest corporate security operations in the world, with agents working both openly and undercover in rural counties throughout the United States and Canada. Monsanto’s investigators show up at front doors, and in some cases in the middle of farmers fields, making accusations, brandishing surveillance photos and demanding to see the farmer’s private records or to be handed over their hard drives.

Monsanto also has its own toll-free tip-line (1-800-ROUNDUP) where farmers are invited to inform on their neighbors, as thousands have reportedly already done. “Instead of helping each other with barn-raisings and equipment sharing,” a CFS report states, “those caught saving seed, a practice that is hundreds of years old, were turned into ‘spies’ against their neighbors, replacing the atmosphere of cooperation with one of distrust and suspicion.” Critics accuse the company of fraying the delicate social fabric which holds farming communities together.

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These Awful Food Practices Are Banned In Europe But Normal In The United States

toxic_atrazineJust great, ruin my lunch. Alternet has a sampling of some of the poisons prominent in the American food supply:

Atrazine. A “potent endocrine disruptor,” Syngenta’s popular corn herbicide has been linked to a range of reproductive problems at extremely low doses in both amphibians and humans, and it commonly leaches out of farm fields and into people’s drinking water. Europe banned it in 2013.

Arsenic in chicken, turkey, and pig feed. Arsenic is beloved of industrial-scale livestock producers because it makes animals grow faster and turns their meat a rosy pink. Arsenic-based compounds “were never approved as safe for animal feed in the European Union, Japan, and many other countries.”

Ractopomine and other pharmaceutical growth enhancers. Fed to an estimated 60 to 80 percent of US hogs, ractopomine makes animals grow fast while also staying lean. Unfortunately, it does so by mimicking stress hormones, making animals miserable. Pigs treated with it suffer from ailments ranging from hyperactivity and trembling to broken limbs and the inability to walk.

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