Friday, May 11, 2012

Ethan's Farm and Food Roundup

EthanYoung farmers are worried that this year's Farm Bill is going to leave them out. After the announcement of a 50% cut to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act, the Farm Bill's focus seems to be more politics as usual, with the focus on large and established agricultural interests. Making sure our farm system encourages and enables new farmers to get on the land is critical; as the article begins, "By the time the next Farm Bill expires in five years, 125,000 American farmers will have retired. This fact may well be the biggest threat to national food security..."

Vermont has become the first state to ban hydrofracking, bypassing a moratorium and moving straight to a law preventing the practice. Although Vermont is not know for its natural gas deposits, it hopes to get the ball rolling for other states that are on the fence about fracking and its environmental impacts.

The $1.25 billion settlement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a group of African American farmers over discriminatory lending practices in the 1980s and 90s is now coming to a close, with today being the deadline to file claims. "Many of these farmers lost their land and their livelihoods. With the settlement, there seems to be a sense that finally there's at least an acknowledgement of what was done," said Gregorio Francis, the farmers' co-lead counsel.

Texan Julia Trigg Crawford stood strong for years against offers by TransCanada to lease part of her family's 600-acre farm to the company so that it could complete its Keystone XL pipeline. But recently she had to give in when the company gave their final offer: Take the money, or we'll take the land by eminent domain. Now Julia and her family are concerned that leaks from the pipeline, which will carry 590,000 barrels of crude oil a day, will destroy their farm.

Last week, the University of Illinois' College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) in Champaign-Urbana accepted a $250,000 grant from Monsanto to create an endowed chair for the "Agricultural Communications Program" it runs with the College of Communications. In this article, Tom Philpott looks at the phenomenon of food and agrichemical industries financing and using our national public agricultural research infrastructure as their own research and marketing departments.

The Farm Worker Safety Act of 2012 has been proposed in California
, requiring that farmers provide their workers with adequate water and shade during the summer harvest. The bill would also allow workers to file complaints and advocate for better working conditions with more consideration than has been given in the past.

It turns out that growing up on a farm has some distinct advantages for your health. This study from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that Amish children who grew up on a farm developed a much stronger resistance to common allergens and the onset of asthma.


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