Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.
The New Yorker
In an alternately stomach-turning, delightful, and despairing read, Kathryn Schulz details the rise in the U.S. of the brown marmorated stinkbug, from its arrival on a shipping pallet from China in 1996 to its current residence in 44 states. Because stinkbugs will pretty much eat anything, stinkbug invasions have increasingly come to threaten agricultural crops. “In orchards, they were crawling by the hundreds on every tree; so many had invaded corn and soybean fields that farmers had to turn on the windshield wipers in their combines while harvesting,” she writes. But the stinkbug’s power won’t continue to grow unchallenged; millions of dollars of research are being poured into finding a way to nix this household and farm pest.
Dave Dahl, the storied founder of Dave’s Killer Bread, has been reclusive for the past several years, barely speaking at all about his most recent arrest and the $275-million sale of his company to Flower Foods. But he finally broke his silence to Tove K. Danovich, who guides us through the troubled entrepreneur’s path to success, and resulting breakdown. “Those who have read only what’s printed on the back of bread packages” don’t know Dahl’s whole story, Danovich writes. “Everyone likes a success story; everyone wants to talk about the guy who pulled himself up by the bootstraps, worked hard, and became a multimillionaire. No one wants to see someone achieve all those things and then fall prey to the same problems that haunted them their entire lives.”
In December 2016, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing to confront allegations of rampant sexual harassment and assault in the Forest Service. At the time, Rep. Jason Chaffetz swore to the women that Congress would “go to the end of the earth to protect you.” But an investigation by PBS NewsHour reveals that not much has changed for women Forest Service workers. “In interviews with 34 current and former U.S. Forest Service women, spanning 13 states, the women described a workplace that remains hostile to female employees,” write Elizabeth Flock and Joshua Barajas. “The retaliation they described took different forms: verbal threats, bullying notes, duties stripped, negative performance reviews, and demotions.”
As the big food manufacturers struggled to respond to an invasion of startups offering the healthier options consumers wanted, their lobbying group, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), fought the new consumer trend and the policies it spawned, such as mandatory GMO disclosure and listing added sugar on nutrition labels. Finally, the food companies decided that the GMA was a bigger problem than consumers, and began leaving the association. In less than a year, Campbell Soup, Nestlé, Dean Foods, Mars, Tyson, Unilever, Hershey, Cargill, Kraft Heinz, and DowDuPont all pulled out, leaving the most powerful force in food reeling. As a lobbyist for one former GMA member put it, “The whole world changed in a five-year period, and they don’t realize it.”
The New York Times
Since two farming families offered their land to the federal government as storage sites for nuclear waste, the residents of Kimba, Australia, a tiny town in a southern grain-growing region, have fractured, with some touting the much-needed jobs, grants and subsidies the sites would bring, and others saying all that money has blinded them to the health and environmental risks. “Kimba is so polarized,” writes Jacqueline Williams, “that families who have been friends for generations now stare at the ground as they walk past each other on the street. Businesses have been boycotted, locals say. Some people have even left the town because of it.”