Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Farm and Food News Roundup

JenYesterday, the FDA took a step to reduce antibiotic use in farm animals, by restricting the use of a class of antibiotics called cephalosporins, which are used to treat common infections like strep throat and bronchitis in humans. It is estimated that 80% of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are administered to farm animals, in most cases to speed growth and keep non-sick animals healthy in factory farm conditions that breed disease. This is the first step--of hopefully many--that the FDA will take to end the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture, which has been implicated in the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria that kill an estimated 100,000 Americans each year.

With crop prices up, farmers are putting more and more land into production, including land previously thought to be inadequate for farming and land in conservation. But land prices are so high, many farmers, especially new farmers, can’t afford it.

A Silicon Valley technology company decided not to have their annual holiday party in favor of a volunteer work day on a local farm! Employees constructed a new farm stand for selling produce, large swathes of land were primed for spring planting, irrigation was added to the farm’s orchard and they created an outdoor teaching facility where students can learn about the science of food and how to prepare healthy meals. They also improved the food storage and packing area, building and furnished an entirely new facility.

A NYT article tells a truth many of us probably don’t want to hear: Organic agriculture is outgrowing its ideals. As demand for organic food grows, organic farms are more and more often huge monocultures. As a result, the association of organic with small-scale and sustainability can no longer be assumed. That's why it's so important to know your farmer!

Luckily knowing your farmer is becoming easier and easier throughout the year as winter farmers markets grow in number!

We’re entering 2012 with an organic milk shortage. The main reason for the shortage is that the cost of organic grain and hay to feed cows has gone up sharply while the price that farmers receive for their milk has not. That means that farmers feed their cows less, resulting in lower milk production. At the same time, fewer farmers have been converting from conventional dairying to organic.

As suspected, the Japanese tsunami, and the resulting Fukushima nuclear meltdown, has caused long-term damage to family farmers. Farmers in the area, a center for agriculture for 2,500 years, are afraid to farm their own fields and eat the food they produce due to possible radiation contamination. And now new trade agreements being considered could further decimate farm markets in the country.

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