Thursday, December 20, 2012

Francisca's Farm & Food Roundup

FranciscaRecent studies identify farmers in Mexico and Central America as being among the most vulnerable to global warming. Warmer weather in addition to less rainfall in the coming years will drastically reduce corn and bean crops. Mexico could lose up to a third of its agricultural production by 2080. Central America should prepare for a production loss of up to 24 percent. Farmers can prepare for tougher weather by switching to new seeds or hardier crops. Governments in both locations have invested millions in seed development programs and training for farmers to get ready for the new climate.

Mark Bittman, in his column this week, calls attention to the lack of good policies in place to support our public health. He says, "Forget the fiscal cliff: we’ve long since fallen off the public health cliff. We need consistent policies that benefit a majority of our citizens, even if it costs corporations money."

If Congress does not pass the farm bill by early 2013, the price for a gallon of milk is at risk of doubling. The current dairy price support program is set to expire in January and will revert to the 1949 farm bill. Under the 1949 law, market prices would double and government-supported prices would be about four times higher than the current law. Industry officials and lawmakers say that a gallon of milk could increase to $6 - $7 a gallon in the first weeks or months of 2013. One popular solution is to pass a temporary farm bill to avoid the fiscal cliff. Many agriculture officials plan to support the solution while they continue to push for a multi-year farm bill.

‘Peak Farmland and the Prospects for Sparing Nature,’ a study that will be published next year, outlines steps for regulating the amount of land needed for food. Slowing population growth, more efficient farming methods and a moderated demand for land-intensive food has decreased human dependency on land. Researchers explain that if people continue to be conscientious about life choices, humanity is likely to release at least 146 million hectares.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture is currently being mailed to millions of farmers and ranchers. The census is conducted every five years and looks at land use and ownership, production practices, expenditures and other factors. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack explained that census information affects policy decisions as well as community growth and development. All individual information collected is kept confidential. Forms are due by February 4th, 2013 and can be submitted by mail or online.

In Portland, Oregon, farmers are split on whether or not to allow canola production in the Willamette Valley. Canola farmers are eager to start growing the yellow-flowering plant. Other seed farmers would like to ban canola because of its ability to attract new pests and cross-pollinate with plants that produce organic vegetable seeds. The Oregon Department of Agriculture has decided to allow for limited canola production. Canola can be planted on up 2,500 acres in the Willamette Valley. Seed farmers fear that the cap will only increase with time. The department plans to give the Willamette Valley Specialty Seed Association power to choose which fields are reserved for canola production.

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