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Clean water jacked

While industrial agriculture fouls the Mississippi, the EPA cowers in the corner

Industrial agriculture thrives on its ability to skulk away from -- or, to use economist's argot, "externalize" -- the costs of its considerable ecological messes. Often, it does so with the tacit approval of the federal government, in direct violation of federal law. In Iowa, for example, the state's 2,100 CAFOs (confined-animal feedlot operations) regularly violate the Clean Water Act by failing to adequately dispose of the 50 million tons of waste they produce each year, the Washington-based Environmental Integrity Project showed in a 2004 report. Three years later, the EPA -- the federal agency charged with enforcing the Clean …

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On Being a Second-Class Iowa Citizen

A frustrated resident speaks out

The following letter was mailed anonymously to Marian Kuper, whom we featured in last week's "A Tale of Two Counties." She shared it with Tom Philpott so we could give readers a sense of the frustrations brewing in CAFO country. We welcome responses from other perspectives. I know that others still believe the United States and Iowa are sound democracies. I cannot be one of those. For about a dozen years I have fought for what I thought were my rights to a life without health hazards from vertically integrated confined-animal feeding operations (CAFOs), a life where my property rights …

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Barack Obama unveils agriculture plan

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama unveiled his agriculture plan yesterday on the campaign trail in Iowa. The plan includes all kinds of proposals that the Obama camp hopes will excite rural Americans -- particularly those who reside in early-primary states. Obama's ag plans include increasing funding to help farmers transition to organic, reforming the USDA's crop-insurance program so it doesn't penalize organic farmers, requiring country-of-origin labeling on meat products, enforcing stricter pollution regulations for CAFOs (concentrated animal-feeding operations), increasing use of ethanol and other biofuels by requiring 60 billion gallons of biofuels in the nation's fuel supply by 2030, and …

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It's World Food Day

Time to think about the global food system

An excellent article, "The Globalization of Hunger," appears over at the Madre website on the absurdities (as in moving food all over the globe) and injustices (kicking people off their land so agribusiness can grow exportable crops) of the global agricultural system.

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How the nation’s breadbasket is poisoning its own water supply

In late September, the corn and soybean fields of the lower Missouri River floodplain are a lovely dull brown, nearly ready for harvest. The row crops sprawl as far as the eye can see, their regimental march broken only by levees, gravel roads, the occasional band of cottonwoods, and the endless tracks of the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe. The scenery is pastoral and soothing. But this abundance, and the security it evokes, has a darker underside. The nation's breadbasket, it turns out, is poisoning the water. Farmin' is harmin' the water. Photo: EPA The Mississippi River basin, which includes …

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Beasty boy

A wonderful dinner celebrating Fergus Henderson at Manhattan’s Savoy

Fergus Henderson Photo: Savoy. To certain vegans -- the sort who recently saw fit to flay a chef who supports small farmers in the middle of Iowa (see comments below Kurt Michael Friese's wonderful piece in Grist) -- Fergus Henderson will be an object of derision. Feeling "a little dented"? Henderson would prescribe a bit of a dish he calls "rolled pig spleen" -- not endearing advice for those who worship at the altar of soy (and demand that you do, too). Yet in terms of promoting a truly sustainable food culture, Henderson -- owner of St. John restaurant, just …

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An interview with sustainable-food advocate Diane Hatz

Ever dreamed of eating your way across the country? This summer, Diane Hatz did just that on the Eat Well Guided Tour of America. Convinced there was more to the sustainable-food movement than met the eye (i.e., it ain't just happening on the coasts), Hatz and her colleagues from Sustainable Table partnered with several other organizations to organize a 25-city tour that stretched from West Hollywood, Calif., to New York's Hudson Valley. Hopping aboard a biofueled bus, the group set out to discover the true tastes of American eaters. Diane Hatz. Ambitious, yes, but that's hardly a surprise. This is …

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'Free' market religion kills

Noticing the elephant stomping Africa

Bob ("Prisoner of Trebekistan") Harris notices how often U.S. media aids and abets counterproductive U.S. foreign "aid" policies. The same people whose worship of the so-called free market allows them to demolish countries are the ones leading the Bush Administration's efforts to ensure that the global response to global heating doesn't adopt any heresies. Which is why our policy response to global heating has been zilch. That's the headline of this front-page story in today's Globe and Mail, Canada's largest national newspaper, concerning how the African nation of Malawi has rapidly transformed its food economy from famine to surplus, saving …

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A conversation with Michael Pollan

  In his 1996 book Tasting Food, Tasting Freedom, the great food anthropologist Sidney Mintz concluded that the United States had no cuisine. Interestingly, Mintz's definition of cuisine came down to conversation. For Mintz, Americans just didn't engage in passionate talk about food. Unlike the southwest French and their cassoulet, most Americans don't obsess and quarrel about what comprises, say, an authentic veggie burger. But if cuisine comes down to talk, things are looking up a decade after Mintz cast his judgment. Now, more and more people are buzzing about food: not only about what's good to eat, but also …

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'The ABCs of rainforest destruction'

Raising a ruckus about agrofuels at the Chicago Board of Trade

From the The Chicago Tribune: Police this morning arrested five people who scaled the Chicago Board of Trade building in the Loop and unfurled a banner to protest the destruction of the world's rain forests. The demonstrators, members of the Rainforest Action Network ... displayed a 50-foot banner protesting three U.S. agriculture companies. The protest was part of a campaign to "halt agribusiness expansion in the rain forests of South America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific," according to a statement by the group. The protest targeted agribusiness firms Archer Daniels Midland Co., Bunge and Cargill. Yes.