July 14, 2007

Farm, Food and Biofuel Report

United States

Needlenose: It can be hard to remember in an abundant modern city, far from the extraction or production of the resources consumed in it, that supplies are finite. It might strike home a bit more to know that we're even using up the supplies that make our electronic things work, let alone our agricultural resources. I have a whole new level of belief in the need to recycle old computers:

... For example, if we continue to consume the following minerals at current rates, we'll exhaust:
* iridium (LCDs) - 13 years
* hafnium (computer chips) - 20 years
* silver (catalytic converters) - 29 years
* tin (cans, solder) - 40 years
* uranium (power) - 59 years ...

The Farm Bill contains Enron levels of corruption and rural Americans know it. It'd be a huge political coup for the candidate willing to try and get it into the conversation. Subsidies, as the diarist notes, are a symptom of the problems and not the cause.

Farm Policy: Other countries take aim at US subsidies, which continue to violate international trade agreements. An examination of a columnist's take on subsidies, that notes a high average income for farm households, though I'd be interested in knowing what the median farm income is and if the figure set in question takes farming expenditures into account.

Hamesfarmer says that the National Animal ID System (NAIS) won't stop the spread of Mad Cow, and it's hard to manage for the small farms that aren't usually the problem anyway.

Cornell professor, David Wolfe, warns of what climate disruption could mean for agriculture in the US:

... For example, he added, "Our analysis found that under the higher emissions scenario, parts of New York are projected to reach temperatures by late century that would reduce milk production up to 15 percent during summer months." Although farmers can better cool dairy barns, the extra costs involved could squeeze out small family farmers.

The apple industry also could be threatened as winters become so warm that the "winter chilling" period required for maximum flowering and yield is no longer met. "With a lower emissions scenario, apple and other affected tree fruit crop industries would have several more decades to adapt, possibly switching to different varieties or crops," he said.

Of perhaps greatest concern in the next few decades, he stressed, is increased pressure from aggressive, invasive insect, disease and weed pests. Many of the most aggressive weeds, research shows, grow faster with more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. ...

Farmerchuck on farm sustainability.

Pelosi says no to a 'status quo' Farm Bill, but a lot of resistance as coming from freshman Democrats standing with the old guard. But again, I think they make a mistake trying to tackle reform through the vehicle of subsidies. It would do nothing to halt or reverse the corporate consolidation and distributor market power that are so problematic in the first place.

Jillian has a food news roundup.

Organic produce is healthier for you than conventional produce.

Rep. Blumenauer has a netroots Farm Bill listening session.

USDA researchers set up an action plan to study Colony Collapse disorder in bees.

A Siegel reviews "When The Rivers Run Dry", a look at what's happening as agricultural and other uses strain the water supply. Interesting points included the note that a fifth of greenhouse gases are caused by reservoirs and that rainwater harvesting can restore even salty, desert soil so that food can be grown there.

Soy, corn and wheat futures down slighty, with soy dropping from a three year high.

Gjohnsit presents a history of privatization of the commons, which started mainly in the English countryside as a means to dispossess subsistence farmers of access to public land for agricultural uses.

Tests have begun in the US for a dry powder bird flu vaccine that could be self-administered.

Antigens to a low risk bird flu found in US turkeys. Though no turkeys were sick, over 50,000 were destroyed as a precautionary measure.

In The Nation, David Goldstein addresses the poison for profit mentality, unless you want to call it E. coli conservatism as Rick Perlstein does, wherein conservatives have assaulted our regulatory agencies for the greater glory of profit-taking until they can no longer protect our food supply.


Algae-generated biodiesel is where it's at:

... The most efficient oil source also happens to be the most efficient photosynthetic engine nature has to offer: algae. Some algea strains contain over %50 oil and grow extremely quickly, using salty or brackish water and consuming CO2. When it comes to comparing the per acre, per year productivity of algae to other crops the numbers are stunning. Soy produces about 48 gallons of oil per acre/year, mustard: 61, rapeseed: 127, oil palm: 635. The lowest estimate Iíve seen for Algea is 5,000 gallons per acre, per year. Estimates being made by researchers of highly efficient algae bioreactors is 15,000 gallons. Using no rainforest land, no agricultural land and no fresh water, we can produce between 8 and 23 times the Biodiesel we can by figuratively ripping out the earthís lungs to grow oil palm. ...

China challenges US meat shipments, with the two countries now playing at dueling food inspection. I suppose there are worse sorts of contests than those which result in agressively safeguarding consumer health.

The Dominican Republic challenges China over a claim that the US found pesticide contamination in shipments of produce from their country. Yet the New York Times says that food from India, Mexico and the Dominican Republic is stopped more often than food from China. Yet the New York Times doesn't mention the word melamine anywhere in their article, which seems a curious omission in a story about recent food safety issues.

A campaigning Tasmanian farmer who led a charge for better food labels retools his farm to account for being what he expects is a last generation farmer.

Uttar Pradesh to go organic in order to shore up soil fertility and production.

Palm oil prices are rising, sellers have defaulted on deliveries, and a British energy company takes a loss after failing to secure oil shipments it contracted for.

Canadian and Brazilian officials meet in Haiti for talks about promoting biofuel production in developing countries.

Snail farming grows in popularity in Africa.

Bird flu kills Indonesian 6 year old who was likely indirectly exposed near school.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is looking to fund vaccinations for pandemic bird flu in developing nations where most fatalities are likely to occur.

70,000 birds from two farms are destroyed in the Czech Republic because of a bird flu outbreak.

A drug made from transgenic rabbit milk is approved for production by the Dutch. I expect there's someone at that facility whose job is to be the rabbit milker, which disturbs me in this case more than the frankenrabbits somehow.

Taiwanese researchers claim to have developed transgenic, environmentally friendly pigs whose manure doesn't stink and could be herbivorous. Umm.

Posted by natasha at July 14, 2007 02:52 AM | Agriculture | Technorati links |