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Conservation land in flood zone opened to grazing

Livestock grazing will be allowed on thousands of acres of Midwest land that had been set aside for conservation, Department of Agriculture Secretary Ed Schaeffer announced this week. Under the federal Conservation Reserve Program, landowners are paid to let their acreage just chill out and be wildlife habitat. But after the region's recent spate of flooding, Schaeffer gave in to the requests of several state and federal officials to allow grazing on CRP land in counties designated as presidential disaster areas. "Flood waters inundated thousands of acres that cannot be salvaged for production this growing season," explains Schaeffer, "and it …

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Salmon lesson

Atlantic Salmon restoration efforts face grim realities

Stocks of wild salmon in the North Pacific are in trouble. That's news. What isn't news is that the spring has passed us by in Massachusetts again without returning more than a handful of wild Atlantic Salmon. The river closest to me, the Connecticut, saw just 132 salmon return, nearly all of which were captured at either of two dams and whisked away by biologists working for the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Restoration program. The fish are bred at hatcheries so next spring the young can be released back into the river, hopefully to grow, go to sea, and return …

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Nuts to you

The unshelled story on the nutty side of our food supply

This post marks the launch of our new food-advice column Checkout Line, by talented, funny, and food-obsessed Lou Bendrick. Ever get confused in the supermarket, wondering which "all-natural" label is legit? Ever wonder what you'd actually say to a farmer at a farmers market, or whether organic is better than local, or how you can stretch your dollar when you're buying for the whole family? Lettuce know what food worries keep you up at night by writing us at groceries@grist.org. Dear Checkout Line, I love nuts, but I am always wondering what their origin is, since it rarely says on …

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The Obama-vore's Dilemma, video

Alice Waters: Dem candidate gets it on food issues

I read once that during the 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy met Norman Mailer, already a lion of American letters. If I remember correctly, Kennedy let slip that his favorite novel was Mailer's The Deer Park -- thus establishing his impeccable taste and intellectual rigor in the eyes of that mercurial novelist. Mailer went on to write about Kennedy as a kind of existential hero, doing his bit to burnish the Camelot mystique. A similar event has evidently happened regarding Barack Obama and the sustainable-food movement. Check out the video below -- Berkeley icon Alice Waters regaling a crowd …

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The <em>Guardian</em> uncovers a 'secret' World Bank biofuel report

Economist says biofuels have pushed up global food prices by 75 percent

The "Republican war on science" has evidently opened a new front: economics, a discipline often fetishized by the right. In a startling article published July 4, the Guardian reports that in a "secret" study, a World Bank senior economist concluded that the recent explosion in biofuels use has driven global food prices up by 75 percent -- a number much higher than estimates from other major sources. The USDA -- which has vigorously defended President Bush's seemingly bottomless support for crop-based fuels -- claims biofuels account for only 3 percent of recent food price hikes. The World Bank study's author, …

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Organic carrots, or a new iPhone?

What people cling to when the going gets tough

Things are getting rough here in the land of cheap food. Corn and soy -- building blocks of the industrial-food system -- are trading at or near all-time highs. And that's rippling through the food chain, from feedlots and food factories to the supermarket shelf. Here's the latest: [B]y next year, the price of a pound of chicken breast would climb to $2.63; beef round roast to $4.22, both up 10 percent. And the price of a pound of pork chop could be up to $4.78 -- a 30 percent increase. Some folks see opportunity for reform in this situation: …

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Revisiting Malthus

Robert Kaplan: Nevertheless, if Malthus is wrong, then why is it necessary to prove him wrong again and again, every decade and every century? Perhaps because a fear exists that at some fundamental level, Malthus is right. For the great contribution of this estimable man was to bring nature itself into the argument over politics. Indeed, in an era of global warming, Malthus may prove among the most-relevant philosophers of the Enlightenment.

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Chipotle grilled

When will the conscientious burrito giant pay up for less exploitative tomatoes?

Tomato pickers in Florida: To earn $50, fill and carry 125 buckets. Photo: Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Chipotle Grill has received a lot of good press over its efforts to support local food systems in the areas where it operates. Even I've gotten into the act. In a post back in March, I reported on a conversation I had had with a Chipotle PR person: I told her that as long as Chipotle was committed to paying a fair price to farmers -- and not merely using them them for marketing leverage -- I thought the company could play a …

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How author Betsy Block convinced her finicky family to mend their dietary ways

In her new book The Dinner Diaries: Raising Whole Wheat Kids in a White Bread World, Betsy Block writes compellingly about trying to feed one's family and oneself in a nutritious, sustainable, economical, and harmonious way -- and dealing with various likes and dislikes within the family dining unit. Betsy Block Photo: Andrew Pockrose I imagine reviewers will liken the experience of reading this book to sitting and talking at the kitchen table with a trusted friend, and they'll be right. How do I know? Because Betsy is my trusted friend, and I am sitting at the kitchen table of …

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Milking sustainability

Sustainability goals for the U.S. dairy industry

Last week, we witnessed the dairy industry hold their first ever Sustainability Summit for U.S. Dairy. The week long conference culminated in the announcement of an industry-wide commitment and action plan to reduce milk's "carbon footprint" while simultaneously increasing business value (translation: profit) from farm to consumer. But how truly "green" are their efforts? Sustainability -- ah, it sounds so good doesn't it? In recent years it has become the buzz word among businesses. Most large corporations have sustainability officers and are taking huge strides to become "greener." In part, these initiatives are driven by consumer and public demand for …