Roundup: Farmers and the Food Movement

Putting farmers above foodies • Missouri's "right to farm" amendment passes • Fracking could affect drinking water • Cable/satellite merger worries RFD-TV viewers • Indiana contest encourages rural students to think about communities.

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An op-ed in the New York Times looks at the challenges, which are considerable, of running a small, family-owned farm and calls for farmers to organize and take charge of their future instead of relying on the whims of "foodies."

The food movement — led by celebrity chefs, advocacy journalists, students and NGOs — is missing, ironically, the perspective of the people doing the actual work of growing food. Their platform has been largely based on how to provide good, healthy food, while it has ignored the core economic inequities and contradictions embedded in our food system…..It’s not the food movement’s fault that we’ve been left behind. It has turned food into one of the defining issues of our generation. But now it’s time for farmers to shape our own agenda.

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Missouri voters narrowly supported a “right to farm” constitutional amendment last week, passing the measure by about 2,500 votes out of the 995,000 that were cast – a margin of about 0.2%.

A rural vote in favor of the amendment led to its passage, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported.

“The measure was strongly supported in rural counties, many of which approved it by a three-to-one margin,” the paper reported. “Majorities in all of the state's larger counties opposed the amendment, with the City of St. Louis leading the way with a 73.5 percent ‘no’ vote, according to unofficial returns.”

Because the vote was so close, a recount is guaranteed if one side requests it. Any recount will require waiting about three weeks for the vote to be certified.

Proponents of the measure said the amendment will protect farmers from infringement by groups supporting animal rights and opposed to genetically modified crops.

Opponents of the amendment said that the measure will encourage foreign ownership of Missouri farms and that farmers’ rights were already guaranteed under existing legislation.

Both sides said outside interests were a factor in the vote. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says pro-amendment forces spent more than $1 million on their campaign, including a last-minute ad-buy of $230,000. The paper did not report spending by opponents of the amendment.

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The Los Angeles Times reports on a fracking study that raises concerns over how the practice could affect drinking water.

Energy companies are fracking for oil and gas at far shallower depths than widely believed, sometimes through underground sources of drinking water, according to research released Tuesday by Stanford University scientists.

The study hasn’t found actual contamination, but the shallow depths at which some companies are fracking is troublesome, the study says. 

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Proposed mergers in the cable and satellite-TV business have viewers of the cable channel RFD-TV worried.

“About half of the thousands of letters the FCC has received about Comcast's proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable and AT&T's planned acquisition of DirecTV have come from viewers who want their RFD-TV,” reports FierceCable.Com.

The viewers are worried that a merger between bigger companies will squeeze out a channel that focuses on things they want to watch, like Classic Tractor Feverand All-American Cowgirl Chicks. It's not the sort of programming that draws big audiences in urban and suburban markets, and that's the concern: those markets are where big companies like Comcast and AT&T put their major focus.

"Quite frankly there are no other TV stations out there that carry the programming that RFD carries," Carl Saveley, an attorney from Sparks, Nev., said in a Wall Street Journal story. "If the big city boys decide to drop them, as some have already done, that programming is gone."

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High school students in Indiana are being asked to share their ideas about how to improve the quality of life in their rural communities and small towns through the “My Community, My Vision” program.

The program invites students to submit essays outlining plans for encouraging positive changes in their home communities, based on the students’ own research and consultation with local leaders.

Five applicants will be selected to develop more detailed plans with assistance of graduate students from the Ball State University School of Urban Planning and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority. The five finalists will each receive a $500 award for their sponsoring organization, according to a press release. The lieutenant governor’s office is sponsoring the essay contest.

 

 

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