The days of agricultural plenty are over and it’s going to keep getting harder and harder for everyone to afford enough food to eat, or so warns a new international report. Blame climate change, degraded land, population growth, the Wall Street and increasing energy costs.
- Agricultural production growth is predicted to slow to an average 1.5 percent a year through 2022 from 2.1 percent annually in the past decade. Global yield growth for crops—particularly grains—has been slowing for at least two decades, partly due to reduced investment in crop research. That trend is expected to continue in the next decade.
- World output of ethanol is forecast to jump 67% in the decade, led by gains in the U.S. and Brazil. Biofuel production is predicted to use 29% of the world’s sugarcane production, 15% of vegetable-oil output and 12% of the harvest of coarse grains (corn and sorghum) by 2022.
- There is a growing need to improve the sustainable use of available land, water, marine ecosystems, fish stocks, forests and biodiversity. It is estimated that some 25% of all agricultural land is highly degraded, with growing water scarcity a fact for many countries. Many fish stocks are already over-exploited, or in risk of being over-exploited.
The U.S. Senate passed its version of the farm bill yesterday. The bill is 353 days overdue and lawmakers still have to reconcile it with the version making its way through the House before it becomes law.
The bill is called S. 954, Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act.
- The Senate cut $41 billion in direct payments to farmers, but added a lot of that back in the form of crop insurance and disaster relief. These are arguably the biggest policy change in the Senate bill.
- Senators reduced the money for food stamps by $4 billion. There’s a controversial amendment by David Vitter to ban anyone convicted of a violent crime from food stamps for life.
- The Senate also cut conservation programs by $3.5 billion. Meanwhile, the National Agriculture Coalition points out that most conservation programs will be cut by an extra $2.1 billion in total because of the sequester over the next decade.
- No changes to the food aid program, which promotes U.S. crops overseas and provides food aid abroad, despite efforts from the Obama administration to overhaul the program.
The House also has its own $940 billion version of the Farm Bill and is planning to take up the bill next week, although there are plenty of disagreements within the chamber. It has less money for food stamps and nutrition, conservation and commodity payments but more money for crop insurance The current farm bill is set to expire on September 30, 2013.
Yifat Oren’s company is housed in a beautiful building in Los Angeles. Yifat wanted a vegetable garden on site to enjoy with her colleagues, clients and family. We built four raised beds and used a fountain she had on site and placed it in the center of the garden. Now when clients come to the building they walk past a garden filled with tomatoes, corn, eggplant, peppers squash, beans and more, to the front door.
“ This depends on your definition of hunger. Eating is not a purely rational, biological act. I can give you a diet that will keep you full all day and make you lose weight, but it won’t be very entertaining: it will be mainly made up of watery vegetables like cabbage and celery, egg whites and very lean meat. The pain of abstinence, of unmet desire, is something quite separate from the pain of an empty stomach. The pleasures of eating are complex and multifaceted. In our society, consumption is a form of entertainment and pleasure. Eating is part of this: from the theatre of a meal at a fine-dining establishment to a bag of chips augmenting the television-viewing experience. Most people do not overeat because of a feeling of hunger emanating from the stomach; they are giving in to a desire to consume – they are seeking pleasure or relief, or hoping to fill a void.”
Such a great candid piece on the complexity of issues leading to obesity from the perspective of someone who is exhausted of watching people overeat themselves into medical problems.
Ben and Jerry’s recently announced that the company is hoping to completely phase out genentically modified products from its ice cream. As of now, only 80% of Ben & Jerry’s ingredients are sourced non-GMO.
Here’s why they’re doing it:
We have a long history of siding with consumers and their right to know what’s in their food. We fought long nad hard for labeling of rBGH, which was the first genetically engineered technology used in the U.S. food system. We thank and encourage all those who are continuing this fight in support of transparency and the consumer’s right to know.
The announcement comes less than a year after California residents voted down Proposition 37, a California ballot initiative that would have required genetically-modified food to be labeled as such. The Vermont-based company donated almost half a million dollars to defeat the measure but lost to companies like Monsanto and The Hershey Co., which gave a combined $44 million to defeat the ballot initiative.
Vermont, always leading the way when it comes to food!
Figuring out how to make smart choices about some of our favorite foods can often be daunting. Your favorite search engine is hoping to make these choices a little easier: it will soon be rolling out nutrition information for over 1,000 fruits, vegetables, meats and meals. This feature will begin to launch over the next ten days and developers hope to add more features, foods, and languages over time. Very cool!