Thursday, October 11, 2012

Francisca's Farm and Food Roundup

FranciscaIn a few weeks, California votes on Proposition 37, to determine whether food made with genetically engineered ingredients should be labeled so that people truly know what they’re eating. Michael Pollan takes up the subject and says what happens doesn’t just affect our food, it determines whether or not there is a “food movement” in America worthy of the name — that is, an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system.

A new report by Bloomberg Markets magazine shows why we should know what’s in our food, explaining how the federal government's lack of food safety regulation allows contaminated food to cause millions of preventable illnesses every year.

In the last several years, New Jersey has experienced an increase in women farmers that is six percent higher than the national average. Almost two years ago, Rutgers University launched Annie’s Project, a program designed to support women farmers and youngsters hoping to enter the agriculture field. The program helps farmers craft business strategies and learn how to use new technologies, such as social media, to maintain a successful farm.

In Fresno, California, the increasing costs of gas and diesel have cut into farm profits. Many farmers buy fuel to run farm equipment. They must also pay a fuel surcharge to people who harvest or transport their produce. According to economists, the prices of gas and diesel will cause a marginal increase in national food prices. Unfortunately, this small rise is unlikely to profit farmers. The rise in fuel costs has the potential to make California food less competitive in the global market.

A series of disastrous weather conditions has caused a drop in wheat yields around the world. In addition to the drought in the U.S. and the heat wave in Russia, England and Wales have experienced overwhelming rains this summer. Wheat harvests in the UK declined by 14.1 percent this year. Consumers should expect a price increase in meat, poultry and dairy because wheat is used in animal feed. The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) explains that the poorest households will be hit the hardest. According to Defra, food affordability in low-income homes has decreased by 20 percent.

The dairy industry is taking a major hit because the 2012 Farm Bill was not passed. Many crop farmers can rely on loans, insurance programs and commodity support to cover loses caused by the drought. Disaster relief programs passed in lieu of a farm bill have not included any milk pricing provisions. The Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC), which reimburses farmers if milk prices plummet, has expired along with the 2008 farm bill.

Counties in North Carolina have been experiencing heavy rain and flooding. Davidson County was recently designated as a natural disaster area. Farmers have eight months from the designation date to apply for emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency.

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