Dispatches From the Fields: The risks of farming for 'non-farmers'

No government disaster assistance for alternative farmers in Iowa

In "Dispatches From the Fields," Ariane Lotti and Stephanie Ogburn, who are working on small farms in Iowa and Colorado this season, share their thoughts on producing real food in the midst of America's agro-industrial landscape. ----- Now that Iowa has started to dry out from record flooding, farmers are looking to their fields and feeling the uncertainty of this year's crop. For conventional commodity crop farmers, that feeling is fleeting; they can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that government-backed crop insurance and disaster assistance programs [PDF] will cover their losses. For Iowa's alternative farmers, government-backed crop insurance is a pipe dream that requires them to be innovative in their risk management strategies.

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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.

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