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Farm bill agonistes

After all the fuss, looks like we might get an extension of the 2002 farm bill

Photo: iStockphoto Remember the farm bill -- the omnibus federal legislation that generated so much sound and fury last year? Like a downer cow slouching toward its executioner, the farm bill still lives, sort of. The House, Senate, and president are haggling over it, squabbling over the bill's price tag and how it will be funded. If they don't hash something out by March 15, they may just extend the 2002 farm bill. Here's what Tom Harkin, chair of the Senate Ag Committee, told Brownfield News: "I'd say at this time, at this point, an extension of the present farm …

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On the Ball: Steroids side effects

Roger Clemens doesn’t know what a vegan is

This is a couple of weeks old, but it is still awesome:

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The agricultural lobby vs. the public interest, part 5435

Factory farms fight to avoid reporting on toxic emissions

This article in the WaPo shows yet again how insidious the agricultural lobby in this country is, and how we need leadership that will take it on. This time it's the factory farms fighting laws that mandate that they provide information on their emission of toxic gases (from animal waste). Breaking the power of the agricultural lobby should be a top priority for the environmental community; at every turn it fights for corporate welfare and against environmental progress and the public good.

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‘Doomsday’ seed vault opens in Arctic, awaits doom

A so-called "doomsday" seed vault opened in the Arctic today that's designed to store up to 4.5 million seeds as a backup for the world's food crops (and other seed banks) just in case something ultra-tragic happens. The $9.1 million Svalbard Global Seed Vault was built into the side of a mountain some 620 miles from the North Pole on one of the Svalbard Islands; designers say it can withstand large earthquakes and a direct nuclear strike. Its remote location is an additional safeguard from wars and similar events that have destroyed seed vaults in other parts of the world. …

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Like calves to the slaughter

The beef recall shows yet again that the USDA doesn’t protect schoolchildren

The USDA recently took action to force the recall of 143 million pounds of beef dating back two years -- the largest beef recall in our country's history. More than 25 percent of the recalled beef was distributed free of charge through the USDA's commodity food program to about 150 school districts across the nation. Undoubtedly, most of this potentially tainted beef has already been eaten by the 30 million children who participate in the National School Lunch Program every day. Clearly, the USDA is not protecting our children. In essence, the agency slammed the barn door shut after the …

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Meat Wagon: Cow-feed misdeeds

More trouble with ethanol waste as cow chow

In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages from the meat industry. Remember the good old days, when gigantic meat and dairy producers stuffed cows into feedlots and fed them corn? Sure, cows evolved to eat grass, and corn wears out their livers (and makes their digestive tracts friendly to E. coli 0157, a strain harmless to cows but deadly to humans). Yet we may soon look back fondly on those days. The government-mandated spike in ethanol production has made corn a pricey luxury for feedlot operators. To cut costs, they're scrambling to substitute scarce corn for abundant distillers …

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Garbage in, garbage out

Survey of ‘experts’ on genetic food tampering leaves out farmers

This is sad. Billed as a survey of what "farmers" think of genetic tampering with food crops, the survey left out one important group: farmers. Restricting itself to large-scale commodity growers, the survey is garbage in, garbage out. I doubt that such notables as Gene Logsdon, Wendell Berry, and Joel Salatin would qualify as "experts" to these folk.

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World fisheries still in danger of imminent collapse, says U.N.

When last we checked in on the world's commercial fish stocks, they were in danger of collapsing within decades. And, sorry to say, they still are, according to a United Nations Environment Program report ominously titled "In Dead Water." Factor in climate change, overfishing, and pollution "and you see you're potentially putting a death nail in the coffin of world fisheries," says UNEP head Achim Steiner. To give a sense of the scale (ho ho) of the problem, our finned friends are the main protein source for some 2.6 billion people.

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Fire and rain

The ‘hell’ before the ‘high water’ in the U.S.

I just wanted to alert Grist readers to an excellent post at The Oil Drum called "Fire and Rain: The Consequences of Changing Climate on Rainfall, Wildfire and Agriculture." The author points out that "Current climate change predictions for much of the West show increased precipitation in the winter or spring, along with earlier and drier summers." To summarize his post, the drier summers will have profound impacts on the forests, grasslands, and agricultural areas. It seems that many kinds of trees are very delicately attuned to particular patterns of precipitation and temperature; changes lead to weakening, disease, and then …

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Bread-line time?

With wheat stocks at all-time lows, a fertilizer magnate utters the F-word

Famine. For us Americans, the word conjures images of heart-rending scenes from distant shores: the kind of images a sad-eyed Sally Struthers busts our chops about on late-night cable TV. Famine is an abstract concept, a specter haunting not us, but distant ancestors and exotic-looking people in faraway lands. Of course, as Richard Manning drives home in his book Against the Grain, famines have riddled human society since the rise of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Teasing sustenance out of the land is tricky work; sometimes things go wrong. Since the rise of industrial agriculture after World War II, no industrialized …

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