water quality

Maine pulls plug on controversial salmon farm project

The Maine Department of Marine Resources on Thursday killed a proposal by a Norwegian-backed company to build two massive salmon farms in the middle of pristine Frenchman Bay, next to Acadia National Park. The decision ended a long-running saga that had generated considerable opposition in the community over fears that the farms would foul the water and ruin the local fishing and shellfish industries.

Study: Ag’s ammonia emissions rose 78 percent over last 40 years

Agricultural intensification and a lack of regulations drove a 78-percent increase in the farm sector’s ammonia emissions between 1980 and 2018, according to a paper published by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday. 

Report: agriculture runoff is leading cause of water pollution in the U.S.

Last week, water experts marked the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act with a dire warning: After evaluating over 700,000 miles of rivers and streams across the country, they concluded that half of those waters are too polluted to fish or swim in—and agriculture is often to blame.(No paywall)

Report: farms in Chesapeake Bay watershed must ‘urgently accelerate’ conservation efforts

In a new report, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation calls on farms in the bay’s watershed to “urgently accelerate and scale up” their conservation efforts, not only to reduce water-borne pollution — a federal mandate — but to slash their greenhouse gas emissions and stoke local economies.

Study: Nearly 400,000 Californians lack safe drinking water, often due to ag pollution

Drinking water for more than 370,000 Californians is contaminated with arsenic, nitrate, and other chemicals, according to an extensive analysis by researchers at UC Berkeley and UCLA. In many cases, the state’s agricultural industry is to blame. (No paywall)

Report: Intense pressure on land and water for agriculture

One-third of agricultural land worldwide, more than 2 million square miles in all, suffers from soil degradation caused by human use, said an FAO report on the mounting pressure on land and water for food production. "The pressures on soil, land and water are now intense and many are stressed to a critical point," wrote FAO director general Qu Dongyu in a foreword.

FDA proposes water rule for produce growers

Fruit and vegetable growers would be required to conduct annual assessments of their water supplies to identify and mitigate threats of contamination for their crops under a rule proposed by the FDA on Thursday. The assessments would replace a requirement that growers conduct tests of water quality.

Voters to decide constitutional ‘right to food’ in Maine

Maine enacted the country's first food sovereignty law in 2017 to encourage food self-sufficiency. Now, its voters will decide whether to declare a first-in-the-nation constitutional right to food "including the right to save and exchange seeds and the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing."

Conservation Reserve shrinks to smallest size since 1988

Lawmakers decided as part of the 2018 farm policy law to expand the voluntary Conservation Reserve, which pays landowners an annual rent in exchange for idling fragile farmland for 10 years or longer. Although the expansion was expected to be popular — offering steady income after years of low commodity prices — it hasn't panned out. Enrollment continues a decline that began in 2007.

When the West Coast wildfires are out, can mushrooms help with the cleanup?

When the worst wildfire season on record in the West finally subsides, it will give way to another potentially devastating environmental crisis: toxins from charred and melted plastics, electronics, and other household materials leaching into watersheds, endangering residents, agriculture, and ecosystems.(No paywall)

Cargill to support regenerative agriculture on 10 million acres

Agricultural processor Cargill said on Wednesday that it would support the adoption of regenerative agriculture practices on 10 million acres of North American farmland over the next 10 years.

USDA pilot offers 30-year contract for Conservation Reserve

Since 1985, the Conservation Reserve has paid landowners an annual rent to idle environmentally fragile land under contracts that last for 10 or 15 years. Now a pilot program will offer a 30-year contract in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay regions.

Legislation calls for measuring conservation results

For the first time, the USDA would assess the results of its land stewardship programs, such as tons of carbon sequestered in the soil or reductions in nutrient runoff, under companion bills filed in the House and Senate on Wednesday.

Water reuse may become part of USDA programs

As part of an administration initiative, the USDA will consider including reused water, also known as recycled or reclaimed water, in its land stewardship and community development programs. "Water reuse is going to be how agriculture continues to increase productivity while decreasing our environmental footprint," said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Thursday.

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)

Central figure in Iowa nutrient runoff case, Bill Stowe, dies of cancer

Bill Stowe, a central figure in the 2015 lawsuit by the Des Moines Water Works that tried to hold drainage districts in three northwest Iowa counties responsible for nutrient runoff from farms, died of cancer on Sunday at age 60. He retired as general manager of the utility on April 2 because of the illness, said the Des Moines Register.

FDA to delay ag-water rule until 2022

The FDA will soon announce a two-year delay on a rule setting water-quality standards for large produce farms, said Frank Yiannas, the agency’s deputy commissioner for food safety, on Thursday.

FERN Q&A: Beaver-created wetlands could be a farmer’s best friend

In his new book, Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, FERN contributor Ben Goldfarb makes the case that this widely vilified rodent, which was trapped nearly out of existence in the U.S., is not only making a comeback but could play a major role in mitigating the effects of climate change and other problems afflicting farmers. (No paywall)

Napa voters lean toward limit on vineyard development

Voters in the heart of California wine country, by a slim, 42-vote margin, would restrict the planting of new vineyards in order to protect oak trees and waterways, according to the unofficial results of a Napa County referendum.

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