Thursday, September 27, 2012

Francisca's Farm and Food Roundup

FranciscaFrom 2002 to 2007, the number of farms in America has increased by four percent. Many college graduates are entering the agriculture scene right after school. Hearty Roots Community Farm and Quail Hill farm, located in New York, have hired several graduates. Interestingly enough, most of the young employees focused on fields completely unrelated to agriculture while in school.

In Oregon’s Willamette Valley, renewable energy activists are working to lift the ban on canola. Activists argue that oils extracted from the seed can be used for renewable fuel. Canola, which grows like a weed and can grow nearly anywhere, was originally banned to protect other vegetable seeds from pollen contamination, pests and diseases. Seed farmers, producers of organic foods and small farm advocates wish to keep the ban in place. Oregon’s agriculture agency will hold a public hearing on Friday to hear from both sides.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture has announced two grant programs. $75,000 is available to Vermont schools through the Farm to School program. The program encourages schools to make local foods available in cafeterias, classrooms and communities. The goal is to provide students with fresh and nutritious foods. The Local Food Market Development Grant program has made $40,000 available to agriculture producers and food hubs that serve institutional markets. For applications and more information visit vermontagriculture.com.

From April through June, the U.S. economy grew at a 1.3 percent annual pace. Previously, economist predicted a 1.7 percent growth. Analysts believe that a large part of the decline was caused by the drought’s crippling effect on crop production. Some argue that the drought’s hold on the economy will eventually let up. Many experts are not so optimistic because 65.5 percent of the U.S. remains in moderate to exceptional drought condition. Economists expect a continued decline into late 2012.

In 2008, the Cuomo administration began a study on hydraulic fracturing to decide whether or not the practice should be allowed in New York. Joseph Marten, commissioner of the State Department of Environmental Conservation, received 80,000 public comments that expressed concern for public health. State legislators and medical societies urged Marten to allow for an independent review of possible health risks related to fracking. Instead, Martens is now allowing Dr. Nirav Shah, the health commissioner, to assess the department’s analysis of health effects.

New York Congressman Owens announced the Family Farm Relief Act. The bill transfers oversight of the H-2A farmer worker program from the Department of Labor to the USDA. The H-2A program allows farmers to employ nonimmigrant foreign workers when domestic labor is unavailable. Certain dairy workers, who were previously excluded from the H-SA program, are now allowed to participate. The Family Farm Relief Act also provides a new electronic filing system for the H-SA program.

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