Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.
USDA wants to make farms climate-friendly. Will it work?
The Conservation Reserve Program, which will pay farmers more than $1.8 billion this year to take land out of crop cultivation, has become a linchpin of the Biden administration’s climate mitigation program for agriculture. But critics question just how effective the program is in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions generated by agriculture, writes Leah Douglas. “At the heart of the controversy around CRP is a philosophical question: How much do farmers owe the broader public when it comes to tackling the climate crisis?”
The New York Times
“Over the past century, ethnic diasporas from all over the world have labored in these fields, as people from Armenia, Mexico, Southeast Asia, China and many other places have built lives and families rooted in Central California’s fertile soil,” writes Ryan Christopher Jones. “It’s a place whose economy and lifeblood are defined by the land and the people who work it. Punjabi Sikhs are among the most recent migrants to try their luck.”
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“A handful of powerful companies control the majority market share of almost 80% of dozens of grocery items bought regularly by ordinary Americans, new analysis reveals,” write Nina Lakhani, Aliya Uteuova and Alvin Chang. “In fact, a few powerful transnational companies dominate every link of the food supply chain: from seeds and fertilizers to slaughterhouses and supermarkets to cereals and beers.”
The Washington Post
“More than a third of Black-owned land in the South is passed down informally, rather than through deeds and wills, according to land use experts. It’s a custom that dates to the Jim Crow era, when Black people were excluded from the Southern legal system,” writes Hannah Dreier. “Without formal deeds, families are cut off from federal loans and grants, including from [the Federal Emergency Management Agency], which requires that disaster survivors prove they own their property before they can get help rebuilding…in parts of the Deep South, FEMA has rejected up to a quarter of applicants because they can’t document ownership, according to the Post analysis.”
“Caused by the bacteria Erwinia amylovora, fire blight infects trees via new buds or nicks on leaves and branches, which then develop oozing cankers and turn a necrotic red-brown as though burned. If left untended, the bacteria grows just beneath the bark toward the core of the tree, killing it,” writes James Dinneen. “However, some wild apple varieties, distant cousins of the ones we eat, have genes that make them resistant or less susceptible to fire blight…Khan’s breeding project aims to combine several of these wild genes in an apple line that can resist fire blight without the need for chemicals or other management strategies.”