Thursday, December 06, 2012

Francisca's Farm & Food Roundup

FranciscaThe New Entry Sustainable Farming Project is a nonprofit organization in Lowell, Massachusetts that trains farmers in organic farming and helps them find land. New Entry has created a matching service that uses GIS mapping to find landowners who are interested in renting their property to farmers. The program can screen properties based on size, soil quality and zoned usage. It can also pick out patches of unused land on homesteads, so there are several property options to offer farmers.

Livestock on farms near hydraulic fracturing sites have been falling ill and dying. Earlier this year, a peer-reviewed report was published in New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health. The report documented 24 cases of food animals that experienced neurological, reproductive and gastrointestinal problems after being exposed to fracking chemicals. Proponents of hydraulic fracturing criticize the article because it uses anonymous sources and does not name specific chemicals as the cause for illness.

Lawmakers are urging Congressional leaders to pass the 2012 Farm Bill because of its potential to save billions of dollars. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner believes that farm policy should be included in talks about deficit reduction between President Obama and Congress. Geithner and lawmakers say that changes to farm subsidies and agriculture programs will raise a substantial amount of money. Lawmakers warn that if the bill is not passed before January 1, many farm programs will revert to a 1949 farm law, which is the last permanent Farm Bill. The old law did not provide price support for crops like soybeans, peanuts or sugar. Farmers' markets and minority farmers would also be left without government support.

A recently published study from Washington State University found that urine from animals treated with cephalosporin, an antibiotic used in veterinary medicine, may cause antibiotic resistance in soil. According to researchers, bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella, developed resistance to the antibiotic within 24 hours. Food animals can pass drug resistant bacteria from their urine to the soil. The soil then becomes contaminated and could infect any other animal that settles onto the bedding. Researchers would like to see farmers and ranchers use improved waste management, the addition of adsorption agents to the soil, and bioremediation to solve this problem.

Recently, the California Farm Bureau Federation conducted an online survey. Of the 800 members who participated, 61 percent have experienced worker shortages. Several farmers have cut back on production to compensate for the lack of workers. They have also tried to offer higher wages, delay harvesting and leave part of their crops to rot in the fields. Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger suggests more effective programing that allows people from foreign countries to work legally in the U.S.

Earlier this year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned that the recent series of extreme weather could severely increase the prices for foods. The UN now reports that the prices of basic foods fell by 1.5 percent last month. Sugar costs went down the most, followed by oils and cereals. The international prices for all commodities except for dairy decreased.

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