Wednesday Roundup: Squeezing the Amish Out

We throw away nearly half of our food • Romney says he needs 38 percent of the Hispanic vote • Why the rural vote will be important in this election

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The Amish in New York are finding they can’t compete with the mega-farms that are moving into the area, an article in The Atlantic says

Malcolm Burnley writes that Amish have made a living from small scale agriculture, but they are being pressured by larger scale agriculture moving into St. Lawrence County. “After generations of relative prosperity and seclusion, the (Amish) and their horse-drawn ploughs are losing territory to subsidized growers buying up St. Lawrence County’s clay-loam soil,” writes Burnley. He continues:

“They are not shy about saying that they can’t compete with large agribusinesses,” said Karen Johnson-Weiner, a lecturer of Amish studies at SUNY-Potsdam University, who has studied the group for 30 years. Over the course of her research, the county has transformed into a $100 million farming sector, as a sulfurous odor of synthetic manure has settled in, as if to circumscribe the Swartzentrubers. “It’s getting harder for young people to find farms in the area. People are having to move further afield because there is more competition for farmland.”

Burnley describes a system of tax incentives and subsidies that works against people who are working small scale agriculture largely for consumption. And with prices for land rising, young Amish are having to move away.

This would seem to be a place where urban foodies and Humane Society activists might find a way to help. 

Food Waste Galore — Americans throw away 40 percent of their food

The Natural Resources Defense Council figures that we toss $165 billion worth food a year. The environmental group says that European countries are much further along in identifying food waste than the U.S. The European Parliament is trying to cut food waste in half by 2020.

Since food prices are low here, nobody bothers much about waste, so Americans dump 10 times as much food as a person in Southeast Asia, a rate 50 percent higher than in the 1970s.

Half of our vegetables and seafood is thrown away, and 20 percent of our milk.

In this country, however, we appear to be more concerned with turning corn into fuel than the fact that we throw away more than a third of the grain we produce.

Bigger Than Connecticut — The American Prairie Reserve has just purchased the 150,000 acre South Ranch, doubling the amount of land the nonprofit now controls in eastern Montana.

The Reserve is assembling a wildlife preserve in eastern Montana that it hopes will be larger than Connecticut.

“Scientists familiar with the initiative describe it as an unprecedented attempt to restore an often-overlooked ecosystem that supports hundreds of species of birds, mammals, plants and insects,” according to the AP. “The ‘end-game’ is the free flow of wildlife — pronghorn antelope, predators and up to 10,000 bison — across three million acres or more of public and private land, organizers said.”

The effort is being opposed locally. “They keep saying they’re saving it. But it already looks beautiful. They’re not saving anything,” said Vicki Olson, a reserve opponent and third-generation rancher.

Montanans opposed an earlier effort to convert a large part of eastern Montana into a new national monument.

What’s a Farm Bill? — Rep. Todd Akin’s remarks about rape and pregnancy have the nation in a fit, but, really, this isn’t the first time the Missouri Republican has “misspoken.” 

The National Journal points out that Rep. Akin admitted not knowing what was in the Farm Bill and said he thought the federal school-lunch program was unconstitutional.

Tar Sands in Utah — The first tar sands mine in the U.S. could start soon in Utah. 

A Canadian energy firm has leased 32,000 acres in eastern Utah and hopes to have a bitumen mine open by 2014. The bitumen can be refined into petroleum products.

38 Percent — The Mitt Romney campaign says it needs 38 percent of the Hispanic vote, according to The Hill

In 2008, the John McCain campaign won 31 percent of the Latino vote. George Bush won 40 percent in 2004.

‘Rural Matters, A Lot’ John Nichols, writing in The Capital Times (of Wisconsin), asks why Romney and Ryan won’t talk about farm issues:

Presidential battleground states such as Iowa, Colorado, Ohio and Wisconsin have vast rural regions and long histories of voting with an eye toward farm, food and small-town issues. One of the keys to Barack Obama’s win in the 2008 presidential race was the significant increase in support — up 11 percent — that the Democratic ticket won from rural regions. In eight of the 10 states that shifted from backing Republican George Bush in 2004 to Democrat Obama in 2008, rural voters moved to the Democrats at even higher rates.

In 2010, rural regions swung hard to the right, providing big gains for the Republicans. Two-thirds of all U.S. House gains by the GOP came in the country’s 125 most rural districts.

So it is that rural matters, a lot, in 2012. Control of the Senate will be determined by contests in states such as Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin. To retake the House, Democrats must win back a substantial number of the 39 rural districts that shifted to Republicans in 2010. And the road to the White House runs through rural America, as Obama noted when he decided to spend three days last week campaigning in Iowa. That’s also why Ryan was there. 

 

 

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