Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended the White House reduce the size of four national monuments in the West, and change the management of those lands and six other monuments to allow "traditional uses," such as grazing, logging, mining and commercial fishing, according to a leaked memo. Conservation and environmental groups denounced Zinke for ceding the future of invaluable federal lands to, as the Sierra Club said, "the goodwill of polluting industries."
The 2017 growing season was supposed to be the year of “spotless” soybean fields after Monsanto introduced a new generation of soybeans – the largest single biotechnology launch in the company’s history. The new soybeans can tolerate the use of dicamba, a traditional herbicide used on corn that spreads easily and has historically harmed soybeans. But the Illinois Department of Agriculture has received 368 complaints so far in 2017, which are more alleged pesticide misuse complaints than in the previous three years combined, according to a review of a statewide database of complaints by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.
The senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, said in a letter to supporters that she opposes the nomination of Sam Clovis to be the USDA's chief scientist, "and I call on President Trump to withdraw it immediately," reported Hill Heat, which covers global warming. Stabenow is the first member of the agriculture committee to formally oppose Clovis, a co-chair of Trump's presidential campaign and his chief political liaison at the USDA.
Consumer demand for organic food is booming, with sales topping $43 billion a year, creating the opportunity for importers to claim, fraudulently, that their goods deserve the premium attached to organics, according to a report by the office of the USDA's inspector general (OIG). "Without controls in place at U.S. ports of entry to verify the authenticity of organic import certificates, non-organic products may be imported as organic if unscrupulous parties are willing to use fraudulent organic import certificates," says the OIG.
A plague of parasitic sea lice has spread through salmon farms globally, causing an estimated $1 billion in losses and sending prices of farm-raised salmon up 50 percent, according to the Washington Post. "The lice are actually tiny crustaceans that have infested salmon farms in the U.S., Canada, Scotland, Norway and Chile, major suppliers of the high-protein, heart-healthy fish," the Post said. As a result, the industry has contracted by about 10 percent.
A rebound in cotton plantings and yields in 2016 resulted in a dramatic surge in exports in the trade year that ended Aug. 1, according to USDA's monthly Cotton and Wool Outlook. "A large supply of high-quality cotton pushed shipments to the second-highest on record."
Farmers taking part in a survey about cover crops reported a nearly 3-percent increase in wheat yields when cover crops are used in the offseason, says the Conservation Technology Information Center. This was the first time the survey compiled enough responses to calculate the impact on wheat; past surveys associated cover crops with higher corn and soybean yields.
A year ago, Washington D.C.’s Capital Area Food Bank — one of the largest food banks in the country — decided to turn away junk food, joining a growing trend of food banks who are trying to offer healthier options to low-income Americans. From soda to chips, the CAFB has reduced the junk food it supplies to its 444 nonprofit partners, including soup kitchens and food pantries, by 84 percent.
The report on global hunger was the first since the UN set a goal of eradicating hunger by 2030. UN agencies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization, have cited the role of warfare in hunger. According to the new UN report, 60 percent of the world's hungry people "live in countries affected by conflict," some 489 million people. But even in regions that are more peaceful, droughts or floods linked in part to the El Niño weather phenomenon, as well as the global economic slowdown, have also seen food security and nutrition deteriorate, said the report.
In Trinity county, California, food can at times be painfully scarce. "It’s a beautiful, remote, rural part of northern California. It’s also one of the state’s most food insecure places, where many people don’t know where their next meal is coming from," reports Lisa Morehouse in FERN's latest story in partnership with KQED's The California Report.