ANWR of the heartland, revisited

WaPo’s misguided call to scale back the Conservation Reserve Program

Back in April, it already seemed obvious: Spooked by skyrocketing prices for corn, soy, and wheat, policymakers would push to put as much land as possible in the Midwest under the plow, environmental consequences be damned. One of the first policy levers, I figured, would involve gutting the Conservation Reserve Program. The CRP is a federal scheme that pays farmers to take ecologically fragile land out of production — an act which benefits society but would otherwise not benefit farm owners, since idle land brings in no money. By gutting the CRP, we get more land planted in corn and …

Umbra on storing produce

Hi Umbra, Quick question: What is the best way to store vegetables in the refrigerator? I have a small crisper drawer and lots of vegetables from the CSA box. I don’t want to use plastic bags but unfortunately they work well. Any suggestions? Thanks! Kati N. Washington, D.C. Dearest Kati, Did you say CSA box? You mean, you subscribed to a Community Supported Agriculture farm and are receiving weekly boxes of delicious, fresh, local vegetables? And you need to store them properly so as to have tasty, vegetable-centered meals for every day of the week until you get your box …

Judge says Calif. salmon in trouble but offers no short-term solution

The dams and aqueducts that shuttle water from California’s Sacramento River Delta to the rest of the state will “appreciably increase jeopardy” to salmon and steelhead in the coming months, U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger said Friday. But while Wanger agreed with environmentalists that “the three salmonid species are not viable and are all in jeopardy of extinction,” he declined to order a short-term remedy. The National Marine Fisheries Service, in response to a successful lawsuit from the green groups, will by March come up with operational changes to California’s water-export system that will hopefully be less harmful to fish. …

Sick of algae-polluted water, Florida groups sue EPA

A flock of Florida green groups has sued the U.S. EPA, seeking state and national water-pollution standards for fertilizer runoff from factory farms. Nitrogen and phosphorus flow from agricultural operations into many Florida waterways (among other places), triggering algae blooms which suck oxygen from the water and kill off marine life. Exposure to the algae, which contaminates many drinking-water sources and popular swimming holes, can lead to a wide range of health ailments in humans. Both Florida and the EPA have let deadlines pass for setting specific limits for fertilizer runoff; the EPA recently said it would propose numerical standards …

Carrots, sticks, and crumbs

The farm bill is over, so what happens next?

In a stuffy room on Capitol Hill last week, I joined a couple dozen activists and farmers to discuss the farm bill. Why would we bother to meet in hot-as-an-oven Washington D.C. to discuss the legislative mess that recently sputtered to an all too drawn-out end? While the ink is barely dry on the new farm legislation, the campaign for the 2012 Farm and Food Bill has already begun. The group of grassroots advocates met in D.C. last week to wipe the sweat from their brows, roll up their sleeves, and begin to strategize a coordinated effort to ensure $14 billion of funding won in the new farm bill translates into real support for sustainable farmers, environmental stewardship, rural economic development, urban food projects, and other good food efforts. The $14 billion worth of programs can grow and nourish sustainable food and agriculture efforts around the country and in doing so, build the power of the 2012 Farm and Food Bill movement along the way. One of the keys is getting the word out about these new programs so that farmers and organizations can benefit from them.

If you’re going to eat meat, you can’t shy away from the whole beast

Ready to meat its maker. A few months ago, I decided to force myself to confront issues surrounding meat-eating head on — so to speak — by attending a hog-butchering class. Taught by Boston chef Jamie Bissonnette of KO Prime and offered through the Chefs Collaborative, the class focused on utilizing the whole animal, from head to tail. As usual, I was beset by the dilemma of what to wear. What looks attractive, creative, and professional — yet also looks good splattered in blood? I finally gave up trying to solve this particular sartorial puzzle and just decided to wear …

Ugandan coffee endangered by climate change

Uganda’s coffee industry could be basically kaput in 30 years, according to a new Oxfam report. Uganda is Africa’s second-largest coffee exporter after Ethiopia, but the report direly predicts that if “average global temperatures rise by two degrees or more, then most of Uganda is likely to cease to be suitable for coffee.” In the last two decades, inconsistent weather has reduced crop yields and plant varieties and increased drought, flooding, landslides, and erosion. “Rains may come early and then stop for long periods; they may come when it is supposed to be dry. People describe living through long periods …

Top of the crops

USDA scientist: Some crop residues may be too valuable for biofuels

Converting crop residues into cellulosic ethanol sounds to many people like a good idea -- certainly better than using food crops themselves. Yet according to respected USDA soil scientist Ann Kennedy, the stems and leaves left over after crops are harvested may have more value if they are left on the ground, especially in areas receiving less than 25 inches of precipitation annually. That includes most of the United States (click on link to see map) west of the 100th meridian, which runs roughly from Bismark, S.D. through Laredo, Texas.

Have you smelled the little piggies?

In eastern North Carolina, citizens and students rise up for environmental justice

Few places in the world have been pooped on more than Eastern North Carolina in the past 20 years. As jobs in textiles and tobacco moved out over the past few decades, the hog industry moved in, bringing with it the source of the poop: 10 million hogs on 2,300 farms, producing about 19 million tons of waste per year. This waste is stored in huge, open pits called lagoons and then sprayed on surrounding fields, which causes the stench to waft for miles around.

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