In the war against herbicide-resistant weeds, agricultural scientists are looking for new weapons. The worry, though, is what happens when the arms race crosses the border onto a neighbors sovereign land.
The folks with the biggest appetite for genetically modified wheat aren’t the world’s hungry – they are voracious seed companies, says Richard Oswald. GMO wheat offers few advantages, unless you hold the patent and pocket the fees farmers must pay to grow it.
[error processing image tag]Fig-02.png]USDA’s spending on nutrition programs climbed to historically high levels in 2013 for the 13th consecutive year. But the rate of growth in the food stamp program declined to its lowest level since 2007, a new report from the Economic Research Service says.
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Photo by Casey Page/Billings GazetteA couple seniors chat in the VFW Hall that serves as a community center for seniors in Worden, Montana.
A grassroot seniors group has joined forces with developers to sponsor a series of studies on the viability of creating senior housing in a seven-town area near Billings, Montana. Right now, the shortage of rural housing for seniors forces many people to leave their towns and move to Billings. “I just want to stay here. So why would I move to Billings?” asked one rural senior citizen.
A rural school task for is asking lawmakers in Wisconsin for more funding for schools in small communities. These schools are disproportionally struggling with budget shortfalls, understaffing, transportation costs, among other problems. Already working on shoestring budgets, the schools have stripped out all unnecessary elements, and then some, officials said. Direct votes from the electorate, including urban areas, are required for districts to continue exceeding statewide budgets, and the previous two votes, in 2005 and 2008, failed. "Eighty percent of school districts are not rural, so there's your de-equalizer right there," said Jerry Fiene, executive director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance.
The chart shows the change in the number of U.S. farms' principal operators who were "minorities," under the USDA Agricultura Census definition.
While the number of U.S. farmers decreased in the latest Census of Agriculture, the number of farmers who are ethnic minorities was on the rise.
The Department of Agriculture released its preliminary report on the 2012 ag census in February. We’ll have to wait until May to look at county-level data from the report, which comes out every five years. But the preliminary numbers show that an increasing number of people of color are farming.
The trend mirrors changes in the nation’s overall population figures.
The number of “minority” farmers (defined as principal operators who are Hispanic, American Indian, black and Asian) increased by about 21,000 farmers, or 15%, from 2007 to 2012. There were about 154,000 farmers who were minorities in 2012, the survey found.
Hispanics represented more than half of the increase in minority-operated farms. The number of Hispanic farmers increased by 11,000 from 2007 to 2012, a jump of just less than 22%. There were 67,000 Hispanic principal farm operators in 2012, the census showed.
A Native-American community foundation and small Native-American food company are teaming up on a project to get Indian ranchers involved in raising more buffalo. The market-based approach could help restore the land, the economy and the health of American Indian communities, they say.
For centuries, buffalo played a central role in the lives of Great Plains Indians. It was their biggest natural resource, providing food, shelter, clothing and spiritual enrichment.
Then – for reasons that have been well documented – buffalo disappeared from the Great Plains.
Many Native Americans yearn to re-integrate the buffalo into their lives. They say it could be a boon for health and nutrition in their communities and could be economically empowering for Native American ranchers. They note that bison have lower fat content and higher protein. They say a consistent diet that includes bison could be a potent weapon against ailments like diabetes and obesity that persist in their communities.
So the Indian Land Tenure Foundation and Native American Natural Foods, a small company based on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, have teamed up to launch a campaign to reintroduce large numbers of buffalo into several Great Plains states – including North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and pockets of Minnesota.
Between 1,000 and 2,000 buffalo would initially be introduced to graze, roam and live just like they did for thousands of years. Much of the money raised would be used to acquire land. The groups want to raise funds to assist producers in the purchase of 1 million acres in the Great Plains states – a task organizers expect will take years and plenty of capital.
Cris Stainbrook, who heads the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, based in Little Canada, Minnesota, says re-introducing buffalo in large numbers to the Great Plains would also be great for the environment. He says it could help restore the prairie and aid in the sequestration of carbon. Prairie grass typically grow roots to 15-18 feet deep with 80 percent of the plant’s carbon below the surface of the soil, making the storage of lots of carbon underground possible. Stainbrook says this could lead to enormous commercial possibilities in the carbon trade, which presently revolves largely around timber.
Maine residents most in need of food assistance live farthest from SNAP-participating markets •
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Source: USDA SNAP outlets
Maine residents who are most likely to qualify for food assistance through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are also the ones most likely to live farthest from a market that participates in the program, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
The study, released earlier this year, shows that households in rural Main ZIP codes are 1.3 times more likely to receive SNAP assistance. Such rural households also live an average of two miles farther from the closest SNAP outlet.
The map shows the average distance to an outlet that participates in SNAP. Darker areas have longer average distances.
More than 1 million New England residents live in rural areas and small towns, the report says. Maine accounts for 43% of New England’s rural residents.
The rural poverty rate in New England rose from 10.5% to 12.6% in 2001, the report says. That’s 2.1 points higher than the region’s overall poverty rate.
In Maine, the state with the highest percent of rural population in the nation (61.3%) the rural poverty rate was more than 15% in 2011.
Are today’s independent farmers beholden to corporations in the same way that yesteryear’s tenant farmers were accountable to their landlords? A farm advocate argues that farmers must strike a balance between making money and making a life.
Photo by John Vachon/U.S. Farm Security AdministrationThis photo, taken in 1938, shows farmer Jack Gardinier. Gardinier bought a farm under the tenant purchase program in Ottawa County, Kansas.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This column is from Tom Giessel, historian of the National Farmers Union. The NFU holds its 112th anniversary convention this Saturday through Tuesday in Santa Fe.
The 20th Biennial Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture was published in 1917. The very first chapter was dedicated to the topic of “rural welfare” and began with an article by George E. Putnam, associate professor of economics in Lawrence, Kansas. He devoted the first 20 pages to the topic of farm tenancy in Kansas.
The concern of farm tenancy was a front-burner issue of the day. His report was a rather extensive document of the percent of land ownership versus rented lands.
Coupled with those numbers was an equally thorough examination of the overall evils of tenant farming and its impact on rural communities. In those early days, tenant farmers were under the thumb of outside interest and money.
“A new factor is being introduced into the agricultural situation through the development of huge estates, owned by corporations and operated by salaried managers upon a purely industrial system,” he wrote.
The tenant was seldom equipped for cultivating a large farm intensively. The tenant could cultivate a large farm extensively, or a small farm intensively. All of these factors resulted “in a decay of initiative, independence and citizenship,” Putnam wrote.
Other consequences of tenancy included an absence of, or backward educational facilities, little incentive to improve his temporary home, depopulation of rural communities and the prevalence of land speculation.
Trask’s comment is one of about 500 posted responding to a USDA proposal to import beef from Brazil.
U.S. ranchers, beef packers and others worry that fresh beef from Brazil could carry foot and mouth disease to the United States. The U.S. hasn’t had an outbreak of the economically devastating disease since 1929. But the disease is still active in Brazil.
An outbreak in the U.S. could cost the industry billions of dollars, reports the Kansas City Star. Meanwhile the economic benefits of importing Brazilian beef would be minimal, critics of the plan say.
One U.S. critic has a theory of where the proposal originated:
Bill Bullard, head of the Montana-based Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, said he thinks the real driver behind the proposal is JBS, S.A., a Brazilian beef company that has set up shop in the U.S.
Bullard, whose group believes big packers and foreign beef are driving small ranchers out of business, said the USDA is just “kowtowing” to JBS, the world’s largest beef producer and the third largest U.S. beef packer.
“JBS wants to import higher-risk cattle and beef into the United States, without regard to the well-being of the U.S. cattle industry and the safety of U.S. consumers,” Bullard said.
He thinks JBS, which contributes large amounts to U.S. and Brazilian politicians and which benefits from Brazilian government loans, is at least partly behind the Brazilian government’s push for the proposal.
USDA officials said JBS did not lobby them over the issue, and the company denies they are behind the initiative.
The USDA says JBS didn’t lobby the agency over the proposal. And the company says it’s not behind the initiative, the Star reports.
Photo by Brennan Linsley/APWorkers tend a well head during hydraulic fracturing at a gas well near Rifle in Western Colorado.
On New Years Day, Coloradans waited in line for hours to become the first Americans to legally buy recreational marijuana. Six weeks later, on February 23, the state is claiming another significant first: limiting the amount of methane that seeps from oil and gas wells.
The methane rules are part of a larger package that aims to combat air pollution from oil and gas drilling. Now, companies will have to find and fix methane leaks and install technology to capture 95% of emissions from methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene.
Natural gas production has doubled in Colorado in the past decade, largely thanks to the same advanced drilling techniques (hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling) that have made western North Dakota boom. Oil production is up, too, and Colorado now supplies one out of every 50 barrels of oil drilled in the U.S.
Historically, much of the oil and especially gas drilling took place in the rural Western and Southwestern parts of the state, where few people were around to complain. But now the industry has moved east of the Rockies into the Niobrara Shale formation, which underlies some of the most densely-populated parts of the state. Now, oil and gas wells share space with suburban homes along the Front Range, the urbanized corridor at the foot of the Rocky Mountains where 80% of Coloradans live in cities like Boulder, Fort Collins, Denver and Colorado Springs.