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.

A whole new kind of local

Urban homesteading in Washington, D.C.

Today's slow yet steady movement towards sustainable foods has a decidedly urban feel to it. This morning, sitting at my backyard patio table and drinking my morning coffee, I looked appreciatively out into my backyard and took a satisfying breath. The highway behind my house roared with the morning rush hour traffic, the high rise apartments across the street were bustling with people hurrying off to school and work, and I was sitting in my own piece of urban heaven. In the past three months, my small yet robust rhombus-shaped backyard has turned into a garden oasis rarely found in even the fertile soils of rural areas. Three raised beds and several fence-side beds later, I was staring at the most satisfying seeds I had ever sowed -- and all of this in the middle of Washington, D.C.

Free from the tree

Urban fruit: An untapped resource

Photo: Fallen Fruit. Here's a great local food/art initiative, Fallen Fruit, a map project of neighborhoods where one can collect unwanted fruit in Los Angeles. Humans should be making use of these urban apples, avocados, pomegranates, etc. as much as possible, not raking them up into a garbage bag or compost pile. The folks at LocalEcology have started one for Berkeley, and folks with the Portland Fruit Tree Project collect fruit that grows on neighborhood trees for drop-off at local food banks (check out the links section of their site for other projects like it in Philadelphia, Vancouver, and more). Their harvesting parties look to be very fun and take place on Saturdays, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., beginning August 2. Is there free fruit by you?

Bam! Planet Green is cookin' tonight

Catch the premiere of Emeril Green

As previously reported (and punned) TV chef Emeril Lagasse is kicking it up a notch with a new cooking show on Planet Green that addresses viewers’ kitchen-related dilemmas. Catch the premiere of Emeril Green — which may or may not actually be very green (this brief convo with participants suggests a hit-and-miss) — tonight at 8 p.m. Here’s a short preview:

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