Could Texas be our new Napa? While the state has been suffering in the midst of plunging oil prices and a mega drought, their wine production industry has never been better. Texas is now the fifth-largest wine producer, generating $1.88 billion in economic activity for the state in 2013, according to Wine Vines Analytics and the Grape Growers Association Report, respectively. Winemaking is a booming industry in the lone star state: production has increased by a third since 2010. “A long-standing drought and falling cotton prices are also enticing more of them to plant grapes,” says Andy Timmons, a long-time grape grower. Vineyards themselves can generate as much revenue as 40 acres of cotton with a fraction of the water use - a game-changing crop for farmers in the drought-ridden landscape.
The World Health Organization’s cancer research arm has declared the herbicide glyphosate “probably carcinogenic to humans.” It’s a key ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp herbicide and is the most widely used weedkiller, particularly on GMO crops like Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready corn and soy. Monsanto, of course, is fighting back, accusing the World Health Organization of unnecessarily scaring consumers and farmers who use their products.
NPR’s Michaeleen Doucleff reports on the antibiotic-ridden state of the pork industry worldwide. A study published Thursday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that, on average, pig farmers use about four times the antibiotics per pound of meat that cattle farmers do. As a result the impact of these antibiotics is growing: as agriculture continues to use these antibiotics, consumers get hit harder by the drug-resistant bacteria that emerges on and off,the farm. Ramanan Laxminarayan of the Center for Disease Dynamics Economics & Policy in Washington, D.C. says, "...the circumstantial evidence, linking use in animals to drug-resistant bacteria in humans, is exceedingly strong." A future with such heavy antibiotic use, according to Laxminarayan, looks grim, “We project in the next 20 years, world use of antibiotics in animal production will go up by two-thirds. The implications for the effectiveness of our antibiotics could be quite devastating."
Last week’s National Agriculture Day was celebrated by happy students and volunteers as they banded together at Miller Grove Middle School in Lithonia, Georgia, to build, plant, and maintain a school garden. Sixth and seventh graders planted the lettuce, cabbage, and more in raised beds under the hoop-house as USDA Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Dr. Joe Leonard, thanked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for his commitment to providing opportunities for community gardens in underserved communities. Middle Grove Principal Thaddeus Dixon was happy to see excitement around agriculture in his school, adding, “This was a great way to celebrate these kids who have shown a desire and ability to learn about agriculture and teach their classmates about something they might not otherwise be exposed to in their community.”
This article from City Lab chronicles our ramblin’ president and co-founder of Farm Aid Willie Nelson’s greatest geographically inclined tunes. Willie’s been known to croon metaphors of the cities he’s passed through in his 60-year professional touring career, and these graphics show just how many places and faces he’s touched with his music, and how they’ve influenced him.