sustainable agriculture

Middling support for helping farmers adopt sustainable practices

Americans agree that federal aid to farmers during a disaster is important. They are less likely to support federal assistance to help producers adopt sustainable farming practices, according to the quarterly Gardiner Food and Agricultural Policy Survey.

U.S. to look at alcohol, sustainability separately from Dietary Guidelines

In a first step toward a new edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the government proposed a list of questions for experts to consider, addressing such issues as obesity, the consumption of ultra-processed foods, and strategies for diet quality and weight management. Two hot-button issues — alcoholic beverages and sustainable food production — will be considered separately, it said.

‘The truth is California does not have enough water’

California’s San Joaquin Valley is getting drier, hotter and more polluted as climate change intensifies, and its communities will need to embrace more equitable agricultural strategies in order to survive, according to local experts and political leaders.(No paywall)

Report: Food-system change ‘startlingly absent’ from countries’ climate change commitments

Food systems account for roughly a third of global greenhouse emissions worldwide, yet a new analysis finds that strategies to reform how food is grown, processed and consumed are “startlingly absent” from most countries’ plans to tackle climate change. (No paywall)

USDA to put $1 billion into climate-smart pilot projects

The USDA will spend $1 billion on climate-smart pilot projects, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Monday, delivering on a pledge made last September to help farmers develop a market for sustainably produced commodities. The demonstration projects could change the shape of U.S. farm policy, but the clock already is ticking toward the 2023 farm bill and funding for climate mitigation is not certain.

Experts: Congress must treat poor nutrition, climate change, and biodiversity loss as interconnected

Addressing the interlinked crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and diet-related disease will require coordinated action, systems thinking, and much more public funding, a panel of scientists, farmers, and advocates told Congress on Wednesday.(No paywall)

Report: Fertilizer responsible for more than 20 percent of total agricultural emissions

As the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) gets underway in Glasgow, a new report finds that synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than previously thought, outpacing even the commercial aviation industry. The report, from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Greenpeace and GRAIN, urges a swift transition toward more sustainable food production in order to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change.(No paywall)

International contest of ideas: Farm to Fork vs. productivity coalition

The United States will launch a "coalition for productivity growth" to promote the use of high-tech tools such as gene editing and precision agriculture to build a more sustainable food system, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday. The coalition would stand in contrast to the EU's Farm to Fork Strategy of greatly reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides and putting 25 percent of European farmland into organic production.

World Conservation Congress takes aim at agriculture as key to addressing the biodiversity and climate crises

The urgent need for systemic change in order to avoid biodiversity collapse and further climate catastrophe echoed across the opening weekend of the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille, France. In a speech to kick off the congress on Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron stressed the importance of addressing both biodiversity and climate change in an integrated way, saying, “There is no vaccine for a sick planet.”(No paywall)

Cover crops grow in popularity, but still a niche

Extolled as a defense against erosion and nutrient loss during fallow seasons, cover crops are being planted on a larger portion of U.S. cropland than before, said USDA economists. Plantings expanded 50 percent in a five-year period, but still only 5 percent of cropland is sown with them—and incentive payments are an important factor in adoption of the practice.

She stakes her claim: the story of the Ladies Homestead Gathering

The notion of living self-sufficiently off the land has long been an American ideal, particularly in times of crisis. So it’s no surprise that the turmoil of recent decades— from 9/11 and the breakdown of the financial system to continuous war and the existential threat of climate change—has spurred another such movement. In FERN's latest story, published with Virginia Quarterly Review, Michael Meyer takes us inside the National Ladies Homestead Gathering, which Cyndi Ball founded in 2011 at her home in Georgia. The organization has since grown to 34 chapters in 17 states located all across the country, and the goal is someday to have a chapter within 30 minutes of every woman in America.(No paywall)

In ‘final report card,’ world fails to meet biodiversity goals, says UN

In 2010, global leaders set 20 goals for preserving biodiversity worldwide in the decade ahead. Today, none of the targets has been met fully and only six are even partially achieved, said the United Nations in "a final report card" on the effort. "Biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate,” said the Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 report, “and the pressures driving the decline are intensifying." Still, the UN said, "it is not too late to slow, halt, and reverse current trends." (No paywall)

With industrial meat hobbled, small producers are seeing a surge in sales. Can it last?

With industrial meat operations struggling to stay open, consumers are turning in droves to smaller producers to keep them in beef, pork, chicken and lamb, as Stephen R. Miller reports in FERN's latest story, published with HuffPost. Miller's story takes a close look at one operation, SkyPilot Farm in Longmont, Colorado, which is run by Chloe Johnson and her husband Craig Scariot. Since the outbreak, sales at SkyPilot have increased about 400 percent and the customer base has tripled.(No paywall)

Shift to ‘climate neutral’ agriculture, urges small-farm group

Climate change poses a serious threat to farmers as well as the rest of society, said the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition in a report, released today, that calls for action “to make U.S. agriculture climate-neutral.” Steps would range from requiring farmers to meet minimum standards …

Farming plays key role in UN climate push on land restoration

When the UN Climate Summit gets underway next week, it will be the focal point of mass protests and media coverage, but another global climate initiative is revving up that focuses on large-scale land restoration as a way to counter the advent and impact of climate change.(No paywall)

As dairy industry reels, new film details one family’s struggle to make it work

“Farmsteaders” is a new documentary that tells the story of Celeste and Nick Nolan and their four young children, who run Laurel Valley Creamery in southeastern Ohio. The 110-acre dairy farm belonged to Nick’s grandfather, who died in an accident on the farm in 1994. In the years since, agriculture has continued to move away from small operations like the Nolans’ to the sprawling industrial farms that dominate today. The dairy industry, in particular, has been decimated by consolidation, resulting in the collapse of family farms and a spate of suicides as farmers become increasingly desperate. In 2001, Celeste and Nick moved to the farm to raise their kids. They hobby-farmed for a few years, but when Nick lost his job they began farming full-time, turning to cheesemaking to sustain the operation.(No paywall)

Eating tomorrow: A conversation with Timothy Wise

Timothy A. Wise spent four years researching the industrialization of agriculture and the influence of agribusiness on policy creation around the world. Everywhere he traveled, he saw how governments and philanthropies have committed to a vision of hunger eradication that heralds industrial, large-scale agriculture. His new book, Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food, details how this vision has largely failed to bring countries closer to food security even as it has imperiled our water, soil, and farming communities.(No paywall)

Rep. Pingree highlights role of farmers in fighting climate change

Maine Democrat Rep. Chellie Pingree rolled out a five-point plan to “support farmers in the fight against climate change,” offering a contrast to the Green New Deal announced earlier this year, which largely sidestepped agricultural issues and came under criticism for not engaging with farmers.(No paywall)

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