Tag Archives | Farming

Half Of U.S. Counties Are Now Disaster Areas

America: it was good while it lasted. After a summer of extreme weather patterns, half of the country is classified as disaster zones, Yahoo! News reports:

Nearly 220 counties in a dozen drought-stricken states were added Wednesday to the U.S. government’s list of natural disaster areas as the nation’s agriculture chief unveiled new help for frustrated, cash-strapped farmers and ranchers grappling with extreme dryness and heat.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s addition of the 218 counties means that more than half of all U.S. counties — 1,584 in 32 states — have been designated primary disaster areas, the vast majority of them mired in a drought that’s considered the worst in decades.

As of this week, nearly half of the nation’s corn crop was rated poor to very poor, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. About 37 percent of the U.S. soybeans were lumped into that category, while nearly three-quarters of U.S.

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Vast Majority of Americans Want Meat Raised Without Antibiotics

Consumer Reports has created a campaign, Meat Without Drugs, and a promo video narrated by Bill Paxton and directed by Robbie Kenner (Food, Inc. and the disinformation doc When Strangers Click):

We typically don’t like to regurgitate press releases, but the following statistics from Consumer Reports show Americans to be so overwhelmingly in favor of eliminating the use of antibiotics in factory food animals that it seemed worth sharing:

A majority of Americans want meat raised without antibiotics to be sold in their local supermarket, according to a new national poll conducted by Consumer Reports. The poll is part of a report released today, “Meat On Drugs: The Overuse of Antibiotics in Food Animals and What Supermarkets and Consumers Can Do to Stop It,” available online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, has simultaneously launched a new marketplace campaign, urging supermarkets to sell only meat raised without antibiotics─starting with Trader Joe’s, one of the leading national chains best poised to make this commitment.

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Farmers & Food Co’s Rally Against GM Seeds & Chemicals

SOCC_logoThe dangers of using bio-engineered seeds and chemical pesticides in agriculture have been warned against by activists for many years, but now many farmers and food companies are sounding the alarm too, calling for government intervention. From Reuters via Yahoo Finance:

A coalition of more than 2,000 U.S. farmers and food companies said Wednesday it is taking legal action to force government regulators to analyze potential problems with proposed biotech crops and the weed-killing chemicals to be sprayed over them.

Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical, and Monsanto Co. are among several global chemical and seed companies racing to roll out combinations of genetically altered crops and new herbicides designed to work with the crops as a way to counter rapidly spreading herbicide-resistant weeds that are choking millions of acres of U.S. farmland.

Dow and Monsanto say the new chemical combinations and new crops that tolerate those chemicals are badly needed by corn, soybean and cotton farmers as weeds increasingly resist treatments of the most commonly used herbicide – glyphosate-based Roundup.

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Factory-Farmed Chickens Fed Prozac, Caffeine and Banned Antibiotics

Factory-Farmed ChickensSara Novak writes on Treehugger:

It’s no surprise that conventionally factory farmed chickens aren’t fed the best diet. We already knew that they were routinely fed arsenic. In fact, a 2004 study from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy showed that more than half of store-bought and fast-food chickens contained elevated levels of arsenic. Roughly 2.2 million pounds of it are being used every year to produce 43 billion pounds of poultry. It’s called roxarsone and it’s used to fight parasites and increase growth in chickens.

New research not only confirms use of arsenic, but finds the addition of a frightening elixir of drugs that includes caffeine, banned antibiotics, and even Prozac. Researchers started off testing just for banned antibiotics but went ahead and looked for other substances because it didn’t add to the cost of the test. What they found even surprised them, according to a story in The New York Times.

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Is Your Favorite Ice Cream Made with Monsanto’s Artificial Hormones?

Ice Cream dessert 02Monsanto has been in the news again, with a U.S. District Court ruling that the USDA has to at least go through the motions of regulating the company’s genetically engineered sugar beets. Monsanto, you may know, is not likely to win any contests for the most popular company. In fact, it has been called the most hated corporation in the world—which is saying something, given the competition from the likes of BP, Halliburton, and Goldman Sachs.

This has gotten me thinking about, of all things, ice cream, and of how Monsanto’s clammy paws can be found in some of the most widely sold ice cream brands in the country. These brands could break free from Monsanto’s clutches. So far they haven’t, but maybe this is about to change.

Ben & Jerry’s gets all their milk from dairies that have pledged not to inject their cows with genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH).… Read the rest

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Midwestern Hog Farms Keep Mysteriously Exploding

6506284705_6ed9d1801a_bHog farming is even grosser than you imagined. Farms keep spontaneously blowing  up due to chemical interactions involving bacteria-laden gas and a brown goop of sketchy origin. Ars Technica writes:

Since 2009, six farms have blown up after methane trapped in an unidentified, pit-topping foam caught a spark. In the afflicted region, the foam is found in roughly 1 in 4 hog farms.

There’s nothing farmers can do except be very careful. Researchers aren’t even sure what the foam is. “This has all started in the last four or five years here. We don’t have any idea where it came from or how it got started,” said agricultural engineer Charles Clanton. “Whatever has happened is new.”

A gelatinous goop that resembles melted brown Nerf, the foam captures gases emitted by bacteria living in manure, which on industrial farms gathers in pits beneath barns that may contain several thousand animals. The pits are emptied each fall, after which waste builds up again, turning them into something like giant stomachs: dark, oxygen-starved percolators in which bacteria and single-celled organisms metabolize the muck.

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Willie Nelson Says We Must Occupy Our Food Supply

Photo: Larry Philpot (CC)

Photo: Larry Philpot (CC)

Willie and co-author Anna Lappe write at Huffington Post:

Our food is under threat. It is felt by every family farmer who has lost their land and livelihood, every parent who can’t find affordable or healthy ingredients in their neighborhood, every person worried about foodborne illnesses thanks to lobbyist-weakened food safety laws, every farmworker who faces toxic pesticides in the fields as part of a day’s work.

Over the last thirty years, we have witnessed a massive consolidation of our food system. Never have so few corporations been responsible for more of our food chain. Of the 40,000 food items in a typical U.S. grocery store, more than half are now brought to us by just 10 corporations. Today, three companies process more than 70 percent of all U.S. beef, Tyson, Cargill and JBS. More than 90 percent of soybean seeds and 80 percent of corn seeds used in the United States are sold by just one companyMonsanto.

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Removing Consciousness From Farming

04detailcananrnr9Every year, billions of animals suffer in the name of cultivating food for humanity. But, suppose none of them had minds? A nightmare or a solution? Via We Make Money Not Art:

Each year, the UK raises and kills 800 million chickens for their meat. Rearing [is] unethical and unsustainable… chickens spend their 6-7 week lives in windowless sheds, each containing around 40,000 birds. André Ford proposes to adopt a ‘headless chicken solution’:

By removing the cerebral cortex of the chicken, its sensory perceptions are removed. It can be produced in a denser condition while remaining alive, and oblivious. The feet will also be removed so the body of the chicken can be packed together in a dense volume. Food, water and air are delivered via an arterial network and excreta is removed in the same manner. Around 1000 chickens will be packed into each ‘leaf’, which forms part of a moving, productive system.

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Black Farmers Suffer At The Hands Of Monsanto

drboydAn interesting take on the disastrous effects on agriculture resulting from Monsanto’s control of seeds, by Dr. John Boyd of BlackFarmers.org, at Roland Martin Reports:

Black farmers in the United States are disappearing. Their numbers shrank from approximately 900,000 in the 1920s down to about 43,000 in the last U.S. Census — down to less than 1 percent of America’s farmers.

But the staggering 98 percent decline in Black farm ownership does not tell the whole story. With each farm closure, those farmers, their families and their employees all lost a way of life that had existed for generations. Despite the horror stories behind Black Americans’ link to the land throughout our national history, these losses represent an erosion of cultural, geographic and heritage bonds far greater larger than the Black farmers’ small presence in American agriculture…

For most of the NBFA’s history, racial discrimination was the biggest threat to Black farm ownership.

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The Mother Of All Herbicide Marketing Plans

Roundup_herbicide_logoDow Agrosciences plans to double the trouble caused by Monsanto’s Roundup with a compelling marketing pitch to farmers. Tom Philpott reports for Mother Jones:

During the late December media lull, the USDA didn’t satisfy itself with green-lighting Monsanto’s useless, PR-centric “drought-tolerant” corn. It also prepped the way for approving a product from Monsanto’s rival Dow Agrosciences—one that industrial-scale corn farmers will likely find all too useful.

Dow has engineered a corn strain that withstands lashings of its herbicide, 2,4-D. The company’s pitch to farmers is simple: Your fields are becoming choked with weeds that have developed resistance to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. As soon as the USDA okays our product, all your problems will be solved.

At risk of sounding overly dramatic, the product seems to me to bring mainstream US agriculture to a crossroads. If Dow’s new corn makes it past the USDA and into farm fields, it will mark the beginning of at least another decade of ramped-up chemical-intensive farming of a few chosen crops (corn, soy, cotton), beholden to a handful of large agrichemical firms working in cahoots to sell ever larger quantities of poisons, environment be damned.

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