Smithfield's European strategy

The hog giant CAFOizes Poland and Romania to gain access to Western Europe

Farmers in Iowa and North Carolina — the two states that together house nearly half of U.S. hog production [PDF] — won’t be surprised by this report, from the International Herald Tribune: The American bacon producer, Smithfield Farms, now operates a dozen vast industrial pig farms in Poland. Importing cheap soy feed from South America, which the company feeds intensively to its tens of thousands of pigs, it has caused the price of pork to drop dramatically in the past couple of years. Since E.U. membership, the prices [paid to farmers for] pork and milk have dropped 30 percent. As …

Climate change affects — noooooooo! — beer

If dire warnings about the fate of global health and security don’t move you to care about climate change, maybe this will: Climate change could make beer more expensive. (No! Anything but that!) Malting barley will likely be harder to grow in a warming world, especially in Australia, says climate scientist Jim Salinger. He warned at an Institute of Brewing and Distilling convention Tuesday that within the next 30 years, “either there will be pubs without beer or the cost of beer will go up.” Now that’s something that Foster’s fear.

This is sure to end well

What is it that we learn from history again? Oh, right, nothing: Out on the farm, the ducks and pheasants are losing ground. Thousands of farmers are taking their fields out of the government's biggest conservation program, which pays them not to cultivate. They are spurning guaranteed annual payments for a chance to cash in on the boom in wheat, soybeans, corn and other crops. Last fall, they took back as many acres as are in Rhode Island and Delaware combined. I'm reading J.K. Galbraith's book on the Crash of '29 -- uncomfortable to start reading again about pulling conservation reserve land into production ...

New vision for global agriculture

‘IPCC for agriculture’ has little teeth, but great timbre

Some are calling it a project that will transform global agriculture as we know it. Others are calling it a utopian dream. One thing is for sure, however: When the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAAST) releases the final draft of its report on April 15, sparks will still be flying. Instigated in 2005 by the United Nations and the World Bank, among others, the IAAST was supposed to be an IPCC for agriculture. (Indeed, the project's leader, Robert Watson, was former chair of the IPCC.) Its goals were impressive: How can we reduce hunger and poverty, improve rural livelihoods, and facilitate equitable, environmentally, socially and economically sustainable development through the generation, access to, and use of agricultural knowledge, science, and technology? With such lofty aims, the participants necessarily included not only farmers and policy makers, but also academics, industry scientists, social justice NGOs, environmental advocacy groups (Greenpeace, to name one), and agribusiness representatives. As you might imagine, this motley crew had plenty to fight about, and in October, Syngenta and Monsanto walked out of the talks.

<em>Vanity</em> is Green

Digging into the relationships between business and environmentalism

Admittedly, this is more of a link dump than a true blog post, but sometimes the green goodness is too good to pass up ... As Sarah and David have mentioned, the May edition of Vanity Fair is their third annual green issue. Featuring, ironically, the material girl on the cover, it's crammed with features that will enlighten, illuminate, and ... disturb.

Notable quotable

“We’ll be eight degrees hotter in ten, not ten but 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops will grow. Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals.” – CNN founder Ted Turner, on what will happen if global warming is not quickly addressed (video under the fold)

Up, up, and away: corn edition

Corn hits a new record — $6 a bushel

At the end of February, I blogged on a Fortune article that had the subhead "The ethanol boom is running out of gas as corn prices spike." That article noted: Spurred by an ethanol plant construction binge, corn prices have gone stratospheric, soaring from below $2 a bushel in 2006 to over $5.25 a bushel today. As a result, it's become difficult for ethanol plants to make a healthy profit, even with oil at $100 a barrel. Just six weeks later, we have an AP article with the subhead "Corn Prices Jump to Record $6 a Bushel, Driving Up Costs for Food, Alternative Energy." And it gets better worse:

Why Michael Pollan and Alice Waters should quit celebrating food-price hikes

As their grocery bills rise, Americans should take comfort: the price they’re paying for industrially produced food in the supermarket is starting to approach that of artisanally produced food at the farmers’ market. And that might make more of them choose healthier, less environmentally destructive diets. At least, that’s the message of an article in Wednesday’s New York Times titled “Some Good News on Food Prices.” Michael Pollan. Photo: Ken Light To make her case, reporter Kim Severson turned to two Berkeley-based icons of the sustainable-food movement, author Michael Pollan and restaurateur Alice Waters. “Higher food prices level the playing …

Who owns your tomato?

Another big horticultural seed company bought by Monsanto

When Monsanto buys into a market, they buy in big. In 2005, Monsanto's seed/genetic trait holdings were primarily in corn, cotton, soybeans, and canola. That year, they purchased Seminis, the world's largest vegetable seed company (see And We Have the Seed) specializing in seed for vegetable field crops. Now their takeover of the vegetable seed sector continues, as they have announced the intent to purchase the Dutch breeding and seed company, De Ruiter Seeds.