Thursday, November 15, 2012

Francisca's Farm and Food Roundup

FranciscaCongress returned to Washington on Tuesday after a seven-week election break. Many food and farm groups are urging Congress to pass the 2012 farm bill before the year is up. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) advises supporters of family farmers to call their Congressional representatives and express their opinions on the farm bill by November 15. Programs up for review include: the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program; the organic cost-share program; conservation programs and several more.

In the town of Hana, located in Maui, Hawaii, the Hana Fresh Farm is working to educate natives on the health benefits of homegrown food like avocado and papaya. For several years, the farm has been partnered with Hana Health, the local wellness center. Hawaiian natives are at high risk for a slew of health ailments that can usually be prevented by a healthy diet. Often, doctors at Hana Health will refer their patients to Hana Fresh Farm with prescriptions for good foods. The wellness center is now providing women and children with incentives to schedule regular health check ups. Among other things, children will be given gift certificates for fresh fruit smoothies from Hana Fresh Farm.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has outlined recent changes made to the congressional committees that handle agricultural issues. NSAC notes which committee members have retired or been defeated. The organization also makes predictions on the number of seats available in each committee.

Researchers find that a major reason people buy organic is because of the perceived environmental benefits. Still, questions remain about which method of farming is better, conventional or organic. Recent data shows that conventional farming produces more food on less land. However, a growing number of studies are finding that organic farming requires less energy. Nitrogen-based fertilizers, which account for 41 percent of the energy used on conventional farms, are less frequently applied in organic agriculture.

For more than half a century, chemical fertilizers, animal wastes, pesticides and other substances have seeped into California’s aquifers, making its way into the groundwater. As a result, communities in the Central Valley are dealing with contaminated drinking water. Residents of small farmworker communities must pay double for water. Schools in the region have to make additional budget allowances to buy bottled water for students. Many of the small, impoverished neighborhoods facing water contamination lack the political influence to force a change. State and local officials recommend that the small communities band together to get more attention.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) kicked off its ‘Get Smart About Antibiotics Week.’ The CDC hopes to educate on public health, animal health and environmental health. The growing use of antibiotics in farm animals has been linked to the creation of drug resistant ‘super-bugs’. The FDA maintains the hope that the use of antibiotics will taper off in the next three years on a voluntary basis.

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