March 18, 2007

Farm and Biofuel Reports

United States

Many U.S. school cafeterias either don't get health inspections or get too few.

The 2007 Farm Bill is going to focus an awful lot on food crops, a.k.a. specialty crops, rather than the usual industrial input staple crops, a.k.a. program crops, that normally get funding and attention. Last Tuesday, at the House Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Connor went so far as to describe nutrition program spending on fresh fruits and vegetables as "unprecedented," the department having noticed that there's food beyond dairy and grain.

A Farm Bill initiative by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) would allow subsidized staple crop producers to grow fruit and vegetables. The previously linked article notes that this specific provision has led to specialty crop producers to argue that it will create unfair competition and that they don't want their industry affected by government subsidies and price supports, only a reasonable share of research and education funding. But good for Pence on at least one count: we should just say 'no' to monoculture folks, just say no.

More on the possibility of turning manure into fiberboard for home construction.

Carl Flatow at Grist says that promoting urban agriculture is good not only for promoting local food purchase, but educating people about where food comes from and how it's grown.

Henderson County, North Carolina, is looking for ways to keep their farms. Developers continue to find the area's farms to be attractive places to set up tract housing.

Why organic farm practices should be an important part of wildlife conservation, family farm preservation and nutrition strategies:

Years ago, when Bill Arnold's father began farming with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, he noticed fewer rabbits hopping around on his Sipesville farm.

Earlier this week, however, Bill Arnold saw five rabbits in one morning on the dairy farm. On the same day, he almost stepped on a dove. He's crediting the resurgence in wildlife to organic farming practices he's implemented at Dormel Farms.

... The most immediate financial benefit of selling organic milk was the high price Horizon pays its producers for their milk. Organic milk brings a price of twice as much as regular milk. Horizon is paying Arnold $30 per 100 weight of milk, while conventional dairy farmers receive an average of $12 to $15 per 100 weight.

... For his wife, Lori, the issue is simple. As a mom, she said she likes to know she's feeding her children good food. Other moms she talks to feel similarly, she said. ...

The Seven Springs organic farm in Virginia supports an on-premise community garden and provides organic gardening supplies. Considering the vast amount of chemicals that are put on the nation's laws, this part seemed particularly interesting:

... This business caters to backyard gardeners, landscapers, vineyard and orchard owners and farmers. “They buy our products because they want to have cleaner food or need to be certified organic, and they need a source,’’ explained Juftes. One such person is Clark Vest, who owns All Phase/Affordable Lawns in Christiansburg and has offered an organic lawn care service for about a decade.

Vest found that attending seminars in his industry was frustrating when it came to garnering organic information. “Ron educated me about what it took to become certified,’’ he said. But more importantly, Vest said he has found that his organic program has been a success. “We found that when we started applying organic material to lawns, it greatly reduced the need for herbicides and insecticides. It increased root depth and made sick grass better. Chemical fertilizers tend to bring roots to the surface, and organics increase root depth and make them stronger and more drought resistant.’’

... Juftes feels strongly about organic gardening. “This whole business of lots of people applying lots of chemicals to their lawns is absolute nonsense. They are poisoning pets and their children, and affecting the groundwater.’’ He said the shame is that there are so many alternatives. “Having two dandelions in your yard is not the end of the world. Cancer can be.” ... Looking for advice on selecting a closing disk? Planting estimates have corn plantings up by around 9 million acres and soy down about 5 million acres over last year. NOAA is predicting a high chance of flooding in the upper Midwest and drought in most of the rest of the country. This week in ag notes that around $15 billion in additional spending might be included in the Senate version of the Farm Bill and that soybean rust has hit Iowa. John Phipps thinks that cellulosic ethanol is just a hustle. President Bush tells Brazil that the U.S. ethanol tariff will stay. The estimated daily livestock slaughter. The Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) has been extended for FY 2007.

What confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and bare row crop soil do to watersheds.

Des Moines Register: An ethanol Q&A, just the facts, ma'am. The challenges of commercializing cellulosic biomass ethanol lie mainly in the storage and transport of the high-bulk, low-energy feedstock.

IndyCar is switching to 100% ethanol.

Biodiesel from chicken fat is supplying 5 megawatts of power to the Texas electricity grid.

In Illinois, the Quincy/Adams County Enterprise Zone may be expanded for a new biodiesel plant near the Mississippi river.

Soybean farming representatives are as enthusiastic about biodiesel as corn farmers are about ethanol.


Paraguayan women work for sustainable agriculture and gender equity as they face the encroachement of corporate agriculture that uses poisonous chemicals banned for use in the U.S. and a local culture steeped in poverty and machismo.

The Canadian government in British Columbia looks into enforcing stricter farm worker safety rules after an overloaded truck crashed, killing three of its occupants.

A series of workshops on farm diversification will soon be held for farmers in Norfolk, England.

I, for one, welcome our new biodiesel monoculture overlords.

Isn't this just the cutest little Canadian biodiesel co-op you ever heard about? Okay, it's probably the only one you've ever heard about. But there are 16 people in it. On an island. Just adorable.

Bird Flu News: A 65th human victim dies in Indonesia, where the virus is widespread among birds, and the World Health Organization confirms the death of a second human victim in Laos. Nigeria's Ministry of Information is planning a mass public awareness rally to educate people about bird flu. A 54th bird is diagnosed in Kuwait, though no human victims as yet. Strontium in bird feathers might be useful in tracking migration patterns and hence, the travel of avian influenza. Burma culls 1,500 chickens after several dozen poultry deaths, though the government has as yet found no human cases.

Natasha is currently an intern with the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, an organization dedicated to outreach and education in sustainable agriculture and food systems issues. The opinions expressed in this post are her own and are not representations on behalf of MFAI. For regular legislative alerts about food sustainability issues, sign up with the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture.

Posted by natasha at March 18, 2007 10:00 AM | Agriculture | Technorati links |

Cool business re urban farming in Seattle:
A landscaping company of a sort, but what they do is set up an organic vegetable garden in your yard and even provide all or some of the maintenance.
In addition to food, urban farms would also provide the benefits that come from any urban planting--decreased heat island, improved air quality, and improved perception of liveability of the area (which also results in improved sales in local businesses).
I have a crazy idea that would probably get a lot of opposition: Plantable area is a resource consumed by construction. Given the (documentable) benefits to a community of plants, it isn't unreasonable to request compensation for the reduction of this resource. My idea is that any *new* urban development must include a certain percentage of planted space or trees, or the developer must pay a compensation into a fund for planting and plant maintenance in the local planting district. The planting districts would be set up in a similar way to water districts. In this way, infill (which is a good idea) would not reduce the liveability of neighborhoods and might even improve it.

Posted by: tjewell at March 18, 2007 02:42 PM

See, we need more creative thinking like that, so thanks for sharing. And yes, it would be great if we could expand urban farming like that. Just imagine if most of those bland, tedious stretches of lawn were replaced with an edible landscape. Mmmm...

Posted by: natasha at March 18, 2007 03:39 PM

French election

Teens and twens wearing tee-shirts colored white, orange, red or green, holding up signs "the young people with Sarko" or stickers "I (inhale) kiffe Sarko", nothing was left out for the great "youngsters" appointment in the countryside 4 Nicolas Sarkozy. And thats why it happened : according to polls that were noticed by the ministry of the interior, the UMP candidate suffers from an image deficit among young people .
Sunday March 18, at the time of a meeting with several thousands of young people at the Zenith in Paris, the UMP candidate depicted (declined) his proposals for the youth: "if I am elected, I will implement a great Marshall plan for all the young people of our districts, so that none is left aside, so that each one has a chance, so that each one has an employment".
"It rests only on you to more be mislead and I wont incite and wont propose , as it happened the past 40 years, to prepare the youth for a future despair", het added. "I do not want to help you to remain young, I want to help you to become adults who achieve their dreams of youth." On an almost paternalist tone, he also spoke with love 2 his audience - "I have sufficient experience of life (...) for you the statement with certainty: to like, it is the only thing at the bottom which really counts."
The Minister of Interior Department did not repeat his propostion, which he had created eith polemic, to create a "ministry for immigration and national identity" . But he reconsidered this topic, fustigating (nurtured his slur) the "execrable fashion of the repentance" and estimating that "since decades, we let disparage the Nation and the Republic, we even excuse ourselves to develop a national identity, republican, French".
The young people who came 2 listen to their champion were accomodated by Laurent Wauquiez, the youngest of the deputies, who criticized Ségolène Royal with the microphone strongly. "U can agitatedon a platform by stressing ' youth, youth, jeunesse', but that does not mean anything at all", e associated secretary-general of UMPstarted out, covered by a tide of whistles launched to the address of the candidate PS (socialist party).
Lynda Asmani, candidate with legislative in Paris, praised "Sarkozy, the large humanistic one". With the end of her speech, Nicolas Sarkozy received the support of the Faudel singer, who went to the platform to him to say: "You created interest among the young people for listening to the policies (...) You were not afraid to expose the real truths. Your open-speaking is famous. I hope that with your energy, you will be able to give again (to the young people) the desire to continue chasin their dreams." Then the candidate of UMP and the singer yielded the place to the DJ Martin Solveig which made dance techno during nearly two hours,1-0@2-823448,36-884696@51-884429,0.html

Posted by: ccoaler at March 18, 2007 05:21 PM