Friday, September 30, 2011

Lauren's Farm and Food Roundup

LaurenThis op-ed by Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, examines the motives of large meatpacking corporations who are blocking passage of the GIPSA rule, calling it a “job-killing” rule. As Roger writes, “Anyone who has been paying attention to what has been happening to livestock production in this country over the past 30 years must ask the question, 'Kill jobs? Compared to what?' More than one million beef and hog farms have gone out of business since 1980 due to the current anti-competitive and abusive practices by processors."

An interesting graphic summing up Mark Bittman’s Times article, “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?” in which he compares the cost of feeding a family at McDonald’s with the cost of cooking a meal with cost-effective ingredients from the grocery store.

Extreme weather events, power outages and technical problems with cooling systems have led to the deaths of thousands of animals in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). While the owners of such operations argue that there are sure to be losses in extreme weather conditions, the question remains whether those animals would have survived if they were allowed to roam freely in a natural environment.

Some farmers who lost their harvest to flooding from Hurricane Irene are taking a creative approach to getting back on their feet. Throwing an end-of-season barbeque fundraiser, making an online registry requesting chicken feed and heirloom seeds, and expanding a greenhouse to protect more plants from Mother Nature are just a few of their big ideas.

On Monday, the USDA awarded $494,000 to AquaBounty, a company developing genetically modified salmon. The funds were allotted to study technologies that would render the genetically engineered fish sterile, reducing the likelihood they could reproduce with wild salmon, should any escape into the wild. According to research released by Food and Water Watch in June, up to 5% of AquaBounty’s salmon may be fertile, a possibility that has many environmentalists concerned that GMO fish could mate with wild fish.

Last week, the newly formed U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance began its campaign to restore Americans’ confidence in our country’s food supply via full-page newspaper ads and live-streaming panel discussions online. But has the dialogue been one-sided, with small farmers’ voices eclipsed by the group’s central members: the largest agriculture marketing groups in the country, including the American Egg Board and the National Pork Board?

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