Across the U.S.—from New England to California—a small but growing movement of farmers is foregoing traditional farm ownership in favor of a cooperative model. In Maine, four Somali Bantu refugees raise crops on shared land at New Roots Cooperative Farm, growing both regional and Somali produce. To the south in Vermont, Intervale Community Farm shares farm ownership with its community supported agriculture (CSA) members. Next door is Digger’s Mirth, a worker-owned farm. And across the country in Southern California’s Pauma Valley, Solidarity Farm shares work and resources with other stewards of the land. Though these farms are run by people with diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and motivations, they all seek to rebuild what’s been lost over the past century: a connection with neighbors—whether personal, economic, or both—and a sense of the mutual support that keeps rural communities alive.
Swine lagoons in North Carolina still are showing signs of damage or are at risk nearly a month after Hurricane Florence made landfall, according to the latest survey by state environmental officials. The North Carolina Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) reported that six facilities with a total of six lagoons suffered actual structural damage, which may or may not have led to hog waste being released, as of Oct. 6. Another 28 facilities with 32 lagoons had waste discharges – known as overtopping – while seven facilities with nine lagoons were labeled inundated or surrounded by surface water that may be flowing into the lagoons.DEQ added that eight facilities with 10 lagoons have no room for new material, and 29 facilities with 37 lagoons have between zero and three inches of depth available for any liquid.
Oklahoma’s government implemented a moratorium on applications to build new poultry feeding operations. The State Board of Agriculture’s decision comes about a month after Gov. Mary Fallin and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker announced that the state and tribe were forming a council to evaluate the expansion of poultry growth and its impact on rural communities in northeast Oklahoma.At the time of the council’s formation, the state had issued 41 permits to expand or build new poultry houses within the last year, with several more pending. More than half of those were listed for northeastern counties, where residents have expressed concern about competition for water supplies. Most permits were issued to growers contracted with Simmons Foods, which is building a 400,000-square-foot chicken plant over the border in Gentry, Ark.The moratorium is meant to allow the council enough time to analyze the issues.
Urban farming in Minnesota reached a milestone this summer, when the state announced the first round of grants for agriculture education and development projects in cities. It’s the first time the state has allocated money specifically for urban agriculture, and it took several tries to get the legislation passed. Michael Chaney, a long-time advocate from north Minneapolis who founded Project Sweetie Pie, a grant recipient, said he approached lawmakers with the idea about four years ago. At the time, he saw plenty of interest in urban agriculture — but not the kind of financial support that exists for rural farmers. “I was disenchanted and discouraged,” Chaney said.Advocates said state investment is crucial because it lends credibility to what Chaney calls the “changing face of agriculture.” Such state funding, even a small amount, can usher in a shift toward seeing urban areas as potential farms and their residents as fellow food producers.
Last year at this time there were trainloads of soybeans headed to the Pacific Northwest from the Dakotas to meet orders from Chinaa. But the U.S.-China trade war and tariffs on American soybeans has caused Chinese buyers to stay away.That's proving to be especially painful for farmers in the Dakotas, where lower cash prices are offered by the local grain elevators.Now there are so-called "refugee" soybeans that need a new home.
The state of Michigan announced that bovine tuberculosis was recently confirmed in a large beef herd in Alcona County. The infectious bacterial disease, which is endemic in the free-ranging white-tailed deer population in a Michigan zone that includes four counties, was identified in the beef herd through routine surveillance testing. Annual surveillance and movement tests are required of cattle producers to help catch the disease early and prevent it from moving off the farm. “Preventing deer from having contact with cattle feed, feed storage or watering areas is crucial for farmers in this area of Michigan and a part of wildlife biosecurity programs being implemented,” Michigan Assistant State Veterinarian Nancy Barr said in a statement.
Imagine being a farmer going about your business on a Sunday afternoon, checking on your livestock or poultry. Suddenly, 200 animal rights activists descend upon your property, demanding access to your barns. They stick a camera in your face to capture your pleas for them to stop as they check every door until they find one that will open. Sound crazy?Unfortunately, this exact scenario played out on a Petaluma, CA broiler farm at the end of September. And it wasn’t the first time – you may recall extremist group Direct Action Everywhere (DXE) holding a similar “mass rescue” on a California egg farm in May with 500 protestors. That time, they were able to steal 37 hens and around 40 activists were arrested. They took advantage of the fact that local law enforcement wasn’t prepared to face this type of incident, and also intentionally misled officials on the scene about what they call their “legal right” to enter farms and take animals.This time, local law enforcement was ready to respond quickly and firmly to prevent escalation. Activists had gotten their hands on six birds but were only able to leave with one. A total of 58 arrests were made for suspicion of trespassing, felony burglary and felony conspiracy, and bail was set at $20,000 for each person – an indication of just how seriously the Sherriff’s Department is taking this issue.
Farming food crops of all kinds is likely to become more difficult as global temperatures increase, depressing yields for corn, soybeans, rice and wheat. That’s the bleak assessment set out by a United Nations panel of scientists gathered to assess the impact of a climate change. It warned the world is 1 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) hotter than it was at the start of the industrial revolution and is on track to warm 3 degrees by the end of the century.The global corn crop may shrink by 10 percent if temperatures rise 1.5 degrees, a threshold the panel expects may be reached by 2035. There’s a similar threat for other food crops, along with a hit to livestock from cattle to pigs both because of higher temperatures and the threat to food supplies for those animals.“If we do not keep climate change to below 2 degrees, we face more and more disruption to food supplies,” said Tim Benton, a professor of ecology at the University of Leeds.
In the past three years, Irvine went from treating its parks and nature areas with more than 50 pounds and about 60 gallons of synthetic weed and pest killers annually, all the way down to zero. The city now uses organic products with ingredients such as corn gluten meal and oil from soybeans, lemongrass or rosemary. And Irvine is not alone – it’s one of more than 150 U.S. cities and counties that have created “organic-first” policies and in some cases banned the use of specific chemicals that may harm people or the environment.But a provision tucked into the 2018 federal farm bill could block local governments from making their own rules about pesticides, effectively neutering local control over what gets sprayed into the air, poured into the water or sprinkled on the ground.While the rule couldn’t force anyone to use any particular type of pesticide, it would allow only federal and state authorities to place restrictions on them.
The United States’ three largest trading partners—China, the European Union (EU), and NAFTA (Canada and Mexico)—have implemented tariffs on over $120 billion of U.S. exports.This short analysis reviews the exposure local communities have to these trade policy changes. It draws on the Export Monitor, a unique dataset developed as part of the Global Cities Initiative, to estimate which local and regional economies rely the most on export industries targeted by retaliatory tariffs. Of course, the U.S.-imposed tariffs on imports also affect cities, regions, and states—as well as the firms, workers, and consumers within them.China, the EU, and the NAFTA countries have now implemented tariffs on about $121 billion worth of U.S. exports. While that number has grown rapidly over the past several months, it still only represents about 6.1 percent of the $2 trillion in total U.S. goods and services exports in 2017. Our analysis indicates China’s retaliatory stance is strongest, accounting for $101.4 billion of the U.S. exports implicated by tariffs. We also estimate $12.8 billion of U.S. exports under Canadian tariffs, $3.5 billion under Mexican tariffs, and $3.3 billion under EU tariffs.Nationally, the tariffs touch about 6.1 percent of exports. But there is significant local variation across the 962 metropolitan areas, micropolitan areas, and rural geographies in our Export Monitor database, from a low of 0.3 percent of exports and 0.2 percent of export-supported jobs in Los Alamos, N.M. to a high of 26.1 percent of exports and 24.1 percent of export-supported jobs in Blytheville, Ark.