The farmworkers in California’s fire zones

In August, 2020, a flurry of dry lightning strikes sparked over 900 fires across California. “You could smell the smoke and everything,” says Benjamín, a pseudonym for an undocumented farmworker. “It was very close.” Benjamín milked cows during the graveyard shift at Bucher Farms, a dairy farm and vineyard in Sonoma County, and he lived… » Read More

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Can rock dust be a climate fix for agriculture?

On a hot and humid August day near Geneva, New York, Garrett Boudinot stands in a field of hemp, the green stalks towering a foot or more over his 6-foot, 4-inch frame. Today, the mustached Cornell University research assistant will harvest six acres of the crop, weigh it in red plastic garbage bins, and continue… » Read More

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USDA wants to make farms climate-friendly. Will it work?

What if all it took to make a dent in agriculture’s contribution to climate change was to pay farmers not to farm? That’s the theory behind the recent expansion of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a decades-old initiative that has emerged as a central tool in the Biden administration’s effort to achieve net-zero emissions in… » Read More

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    The American Prospect

In the Amazon, farming the forest to save the forest

Open a new road in the Amazon and deforestation most often follows, creating a landscape of big sky, white cows, and green pastures. But on back roads around the frontier town of Nova Califórnia, in a remote corner of northwestern Brazil, a renewed verdant canopy closes in.  As we crawl down a slick, red-mud road… » Read More

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    National Geographic

Farmworkers face a life-and-death commute to Arizona’s lettuce fields

It’s one in the morning and the stars are out as hundreds of people shuffle slowly along the wall that marks the U.S. border in the small Mexican city of San Luis Río Colorado. In heavy boots and wide-brimmed straw hats, most everyone here is headed to work in the vegetable fields of Yuma County,… » Read More

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    The Nation

Vilsack’s checkoff problem

When Joe Biden nominated Tom Vilsack to run the Department of Agriculture late last year, the former Iowa governor had a somewhat paradoxical political liability. After eight years as Barack Obama’s agriculture secretary, Vilsack was easily the most qualified politician for the job — only one person in U.S. history has served longer as agriculture… » Read More

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The hog baron

Jeff Hansen, who owns Iowa’s largest hog operation, brought about 5 million pigs to market last year. Each one spent its entire life in a windowless metal shed called a confinement. Passing clusters of the massive sheds on the rural highways, you wouldn’t imagine that a standard confinement holds almost 2,500 pigs — unless the… » Read More

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Mapping Covid-19 outbreaks in the food system

Since April 2020, FERN has been closely tracking the spread of Covid-19 at meatpacking plants, food processing facilities, and farms. This dashboard is home to our latest reporting on Covid-19 cases and food system workers, and is updated each weekday. According to data collected by FERN, as of September 2 at 12pm ET, at least… » Read More

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