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Drought-stricken farmers pay the price for failed climate bill

Most Americans are smart enough to think we should give this guy some tips.

Even as extreme drought wreaks havoc on crops and communities across the Midwest, government officials are now confident that they can link recent bouts of extreme weather to man-made climate change. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration underscored that point in early July when it released research conducted by 378 scientists from 48 countries that “provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on land, sea, ice and sky.”

Deputy NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan Ph.D. summed it up this way:

Every weather event that happens now takes place in the context of a changing global environment.

Just a day after NOAA released its findings, in coordination with the American Meteorological Society, Reuters’ Chuck Abbott reported on the Department of Agriculture’s dire forecast for this year’s corn crop:

The worst Midwest drought in a quarter century is doing more damage to U.S. crops than previously expected, with the government on Wednesday slashing its estimate for what was supposed to be a record harvest.

Climate change affects agriculture more directly and profoundly than most other economic sectors. The Washington Post’s Brad Plumer has pointed out that while it’s hard to pinpoint climate change by itself as the cause of any particular drought, it’s certainly a big factor in how severe it gets. Meanwhile the danger from climate change-fueled droughts will only increase as America dithers about and polluting special interests continually block solutions.

The Dangerously Counterproductive Industrial Agriculture Lobby

It’s a sad irony to recall that three short years ago, the industrial agriculture lobby and its patrons in Congress helped scuttle the nation’s first attempt at serious climate legislation -- the cap-and-trade proposal titled the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.

Read more: Food

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Why the 2012 Farm Bill is a climate bill

U.S. Department of AgricultureLand that is currently being farmed doesn’t capture carbon in the soil. As a possible 2012 Farm Bill looms, the ag committee leaders and their industrial agriculture lobby remoras are sorting through the smoking ruins of the 2011 "Secret Farm Bill" process. They hope to come up with a unified position from which to begin deliberations on a new bill. Sadly, one thing they've all agreed to cut is 7 million acres from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The CRP is administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and pays farmers to keep highly erodible land out …

Read more: Farm Bill, Food

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Big Ag is pissing away our nation’s rich topsoil

Midwest farmland is more scarred and eroded then previous reports suggested.Photo: Environmental Working GroupBad federal policy and intensifying storms are washing away the rich dark soils in the Midwest that made this country an agricultural powerhouse and that remain the essential foundation of a healthy and sustainable food system in the future. That's the alarming finding of a new Environmental Working Group report that highlights innovative research by scientists at Iowa State University (ISU). The report is titled "Losing Ground," and it shows in stark terms what industrial-scale crop production is doing to our soil and water in the Corn …

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First we'll take Manhattan

Plotting the food revolution at TEDx in New York City

Laurie David delivers inconvenient truths on the food system at TEDx Manhattan.Photo: Jason Houston, via FlickerAttending the TEDx Manhattan event on the future of food and farming was a day-long drink from a fire hose of cutting-edge ideas, sobering realities, and sincere enthusiasm about how America can eat better and farm more sustainably. Since Time's Bryan Walsh offered a comprehensive write-up of the day's highlights here and here, I'm focusing my coverage on conversations I had with attendees and speakers as they came off the stage. Much of the offstage discussion centered on the looming farm bill, the critical legislation …

Read more: Farm Bill, Food

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Crop circles

The only thing 'green' about NASCAR's switch to corn ethanol is the cash

Round and round they go, when such conspicuous energy waste will stop, nobody knows. Photo: Amplified-PhotographyIn a move that USA Today says "could be regarded as economically motivated as well as environmentally aware," NASCAR will adopt an ethanol blend of fuel beginning with the 2011 Daytona 500. This bit of news was welcomed heartily by the corn ethanol lobby, which is facing the prospect of the ethanol tax credit subsidy expiring at the end of the year as well as consumer confusion at fueling stations across the country, as ethanol blends increase only for specific model-year vehicles. Like the ethanol …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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Sugar rush

Corn subsidies make unhealthy food choices the rational ones

Photo courtesy of Overduebook via FlickrA big reason that food products derived from corn are so pervasive in America's diet today is that for decades taxpayers have given corn growers incentives to grow as much as possible through the skewed federal farm subsidy system. The $73.8 billion lavished on corn since 1995 has helped to churn out a host of cheap and unhealthy foods -- from chips to sugary sodas to high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Hold on: Make that "corn sugar." With consumers souring on HFCS, the Corn Refiners Association has embarked on a re-branding effort, as Tom Laskawy mocked, …

Read more: Food, Politics

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Shall we Sundance?, video

The best green films at Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival has long been a celebrated venue for environmental documentaries, due in part to Sundance founder Robert Redford's green sensibilities. An Inconvenient Truth, The Cove, and Who Killed the Electric Car? all attracted critical buzz at Sundance before they made their way into theaters around the country. The festival's 2010 lineup continues this trend with a handful of well-crafted, compelling films that address crucial environmental themes not yet in the public consciousness. Gasland Avant garde filmmaker Josh Fox grew up in Pennsylvania on a pastoral stretch of the Delaware River, which happens to sit on the natural …

Read more: Living