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Blanching Out

Farm lobby’s lawyer appointed as Ag Committee’s counsel

Here's object lesson No. 452 in the ongoing corrosive handover of government power to corporate interests. And no, I don't think I'm exaggerating. Over at Mother Jones, Kate Sheppard details the high-speed revolving door permanently located between the offices of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and several top energy lobbying outfits. But Sheppard also drops in this little-noticed fact: The door to Lincoln’s office also spins the other direction ... In December she hired Julie Anna Potts to serve as her chief counsel for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, which Lincoln chairs. …

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500 Words for Change in America

Folks across the country know something is wrong.  There’s just something about the system we’ve created over several decades that is inherently flawed. Some blame the government, others big banks, still others blame political parties, but all agree that there’s something that’s just not quite working the way it should.  People are losing homes, jobs, and health coverage at an alarming rate because of the societal turbulence in the enormous yet formless thing we call the economy. Enter Change.org and their 10 Ideas for Change in America.  Taking advantage of the concept of “the wisdom of crowds,” Change.org launched a …

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We just wanna French in the morning

Tasting five organic French roasts leads to buzzkill

Photos: Jason Houston To say that I love coffee is a big, fat lie. I need coffee in a chemically dependent way. Its effect upon me is essentially the reverse of those faces-of-meth photos. There are two things that can really screw up a good coffee buzz (OK, three if you count skim milk). First is the fact that conventionally grown coffee is an environmental bummer. To quote Umbra Fisk, "Conventional coffee production involves chemicals, deforestation, and mistreated workers and dead birds." So to avoid songbird blood on your hands first thing in the morning, buy coffee with organic, fair …

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meet me at the food court

A Cleveland mall turns lost retail space into farm stand

Photo: Fast CompanyShopping malls, those bastions of American consumerism, have not been immune to the recent economic downturn. In a recent piece by our own Greg Lindsay, we looked at the impending decline of the mall, which is part of the "single-use environment" category of real estate development that will slowly disappear over the next thirty years, according to one developer. But what will replace these environments, and more importantly, what will happen to the massive malls of today?   One possible solution can be seen in Cleveland's Galleria mall. The mall lost many of its retail shops over the …

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N'Everglades

Florida Everglades restoration now a bailout for U.S. Sugar

Cypress trees in the Everglades. Photo: National Park ServiceThe New York Times published a monster investigative piece Monday on the disaster that is the Everglades Restoration Project. In some ways, it distills much of what's wrong with both corporate and government culture in this country. Fun fact: the key beneficiary of the restoration plan will not be the Everglades, any of your favorite charismatic mega-faunae that live therein, nor certainly Floridians. The big winner in the deal will be American oligopolist extraordinaire U.S. Sugar. The deal as originally proposed would have bought out U.S. Sugar's land in the Everglades to …

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Bye-Bye American Pie

What’s driving our favorite fruit into decline?

The Calville Blanc d'Hiver, an heirloom variety dating from 15th-century France, will not be showing up in your supermarket, nor will the others in the slideshow below. Photo: Michaela/The Gardener's EdenYou've heard the hackneyed phrase "as American as apple pie." But America is not taking care of the apples -- or the orchard-keepers -- that have nourished us for centuries. In 1900, 20 million apple trees were growing in the U.S.; now, not even a fourth remain in our orchards and gardens. Today, much of the apple juice consumed in the U.S. is produced overseas. Of the apples still grown …

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Getting aggro

Blowin’ in the wind: The true meaning of ‘ag unity’

Of the 50 or so food and farm conferences I've attended in the last several years, the Drake Forum for America's New Farmers: Policy Innovations & Opportunities held March 4-5 in Washington, D.C., rises to the top. Actual farmers -- not just commodity crop growers but innovative "agripreneurs" like Xe Susane Moua from Minnesota and Rosanna Bauman from Kansas -- got to tell the USDA what they needed to survive. But were policymakers listening? Many of the invited speakers with a political row to hoe seemed to be concerned about one segment of farmers in particular. Farm building in southwest …

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Can Farming Save the Motor City?

Demolishing density in Detroit

Photo: Fast Company So it's come to this: Unable to provide basic services for all of his constituents, Detroit mayor Dave Bing is drafting plans starve his city down to a manageable size. Using proprietary data and a survey released by Data Driven Detroit, Bing and his staff will pick "winners and losers" amongst the city's neighborhoods and seek to resettle residents from the losers, those deemed most unlivable. With Detroit's tax base withering from the implosion of two-thirds of the Big Three, the housing crisis, and an ongoing exodus, Bing believes he has no other choice. "If we don't …

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Good, butter, best

Meryl Streep more of a food activist than Julia Child ever was

Big bird: Meryl Streep as Julia Child in "Julie & Julia."(Sony Pictures)On Sunday, veteran actress Meryl Streep has a chance to take home her third Oscar, for portraying Julia Child in Nora Ephron's film "Julie & Julia." (It's Streep's 16th nomination.) As charming as Streep is as the towering, funny-voiced woman who revolutionized American cooking, she deserves more accolades for another role she has played in the history of food in America: that of longtime activist. Over at the Natural Resource Defense Council's site Simplesteps.org, Wendy Gordon interviews Streep about her involvement in the environmental and food movements. The two …

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Risky agribusiness

Are GMOs the ‘financial innovations’ of agriculture?

(Photoillustration by Grist)Financial blogger Felix Salmon has an essay in Foreign Policy called "How Locavores Can Save the World" -- expanded, by the way, from a wonderful blog post he wrote after attending a panel discussion on world hunger at the Davos World Economic Forum in the company of Blue Hill Farm's Dan Barber. Salmon usually focuses on issues involving economic crises, monetary policy, complex derivatives, macro-economics, and governmental oversight of the financial markets, but here he's talking monocultures, sustainable agriculture, and transgenic seeds. Tom Philpott has in the past opined on the similarities between financial and food crises, so …

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