Farm Bill

Farm Bill

Farming with a smaller footprint: Why it matters

Conservation is an important part of federal farm funding — the laws that shape what, where, and how we grow our food. And yet, if the negotiations around the 2012 Farm Bill go as predicted, funding for conservation is in grave danger. Why does conservation on farms matter? Well, for starters, most large-scale agriculture is a disruptive endeavor. It requires farmers to plow under native flora and replace it with giant monocultures of annual crops, and then coddle those crops by irrigating them and applying fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides — all ecologically damaging technologies. There are ways to farm better, …

Farm Bill

Quick and dirty: Congress may rewrite the Farm Bill in two weeks

Brace yourselves, food advocates: The congressional supercommittee charged with reducing the national debt considers making cuts to the nation's most important food and farming legislation.

Wall Street and ethanol cause starvation, say scientists

Today's supervillains are soooo boring. If only they'd wear tights and touch entrapped damsels’ hair in a way that made us uncomfortable, we'd be up for patriotically pistol-whipping them, Captain America style. Instead we find out that Wall Street and ethanol -- a diffuse network of trading computers and a colorless inebriant, respectively -- are the reason billions are going hungry in the developing world. How are we supposed to launch a hideously expensive vendetta-war against that?

Farm Bill

GOP's tiny cuts wound small farmers

A $2 million cut to the USDA's budget by the GOP-controlled House makes little difference to the nation's bottom line. But it brings big hurt to small farmers by undercutting efforts to reform the meatpacking industry.

Corn

Gary Taubes’ sugar article makes an excellent case for diversifying agriculture

In last week’s New York Times Magazine, the science writer Gary Taubes argues forcefully that a range of chronic health problems — heightened rates of obesity, heart disease, and even some forms of cancer — can be blamed on overconsumption of refined sweetener. It isn’t just the surge of empty calories that sweeteners provide that’s making us sick, Taubes argues; it’s also — and mainly — the way our bodies process them. Taubes acknowledges that the science around sugar metabolism isn’t fully settled. But he brings highly suggestive evidence to bear, and I find it convincing, with a couple of …

Industrial Agriculture

The American diet in one chart, with lots of fats and sugars

This is a non-interactive version of the chart. Also check out the interactive version, by Civil Eats and the UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism News21 course.Over on Civil Eats, Andrea Jezovit has put together a terrific interactive chart on the U.S. diet. Using USDA data for “average daily calories available per capita, adjusted for spoilage and waste,” it tracks our eating habits since 1970, separating our foodstuffs into basic categories: grains, dairy, vegetables, fruits, proteins (“meat, eggs, and nuts”), added sugars, and added fats. For me, the most interesting categories are the latter two. They represent what could be called …