Thursday, November 29, 2012

Francisca's Farm and Food Roundup

FranciscaAfter weeks of improvement, drought conditions have worsened in nearly all U.S. states. The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report shows that 60.1 percent of the lower 48 states are still in some form of drought. The drought is expected to worsen and persist through the end of winter in the Great Plain states. Weather conditions in Illinois continue to improve. 32.3 percent of the state is in drought, down from 100 percent in July.

The European Milk Board organized a protest to demand fair milk prices and remuneration for farmers. Thousands of dairy farmers gathered outside of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium and dumped gallons of milk. According to the board, more than 157,000 dairy farmers in Europe have gone out of business since the 2009 dairy crisis.

On March 29, 2011, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association (OSGATA) et al. filed a complaint against Monsanto. Last year, the association represented 60 family farms, seed businesses and agricultural organizations in court. The lawsuit challenged Monsanto’s patents on its genetically modified seed. OSGATA also sought protections for farmers whose land and organic crops were contaminated by Monsanto’s GM seed. The case was dismissed early this year, but OSGATA challenged the motion and was granted an appeal. The plea will be heard on January 10, 2013, in Washington, D.C. OSGATA now represents over 300,000 individuals and 4,500 farms.

According to the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, U.S. farm income will drop 3 percent this year as a result of the drought. However, total farm income will be close to last year’s record largely because of insurance indemnities. Productions costs have increased by 8 percent. Farmers (who managed to sustain their corn and soybean crops) stand to make a reasonable profit because the prices for corn and soybean have increased. The drought now threatens the winter wheat crop, which is currently in it worst condition for late November.

Every year, the Army Corps of Engineers reduce the amount of water flow from the upper Missouri River into the Mississippi in an effort to maintain irrigation systems and meet other water needs of the region. The water flow reduction, coupled with the 2012 drought, has caused major restrictions on barge traffic. Many fertilizer companies use the Mississippi River to transport their product to Midwestern farmers. If water levels fall low enough, transport of $7 billion in agricultural products, chemicals, coal and petroleum could be delayed.

According to the state Department of Agricultural Resources, there are 39 winter farmers markets open for business in Massachusetts this year. Back in 2009 there were only six recorded markets. MassLive.com published a list of ongoing winter markets throughout the commonwealth. And check out Farm Aid’s own list of winter markets open all around the U.S.

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