Ohio Governor Fires Agriculture Director; Will Lake Erie Benefit?
This summer Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order declaring eight northwest Ohio watersheds—which drain into western Lake Erie—as distressed.
That designation allows tougher limits to be imposed on farmers’ use of fertilizers that ultimately drain into the lake and fuel algae blooms. Farmers would be required to complete comprehensive nutrient management plans written in consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS).
Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Daniels was dismissed by Kasich October 19, after publicly sharing his concerns about the executive order. The issue is before the Ohio Soil and Water Commission and is expected to be voted upon on November 1.
The Environmental Defense Fund proposes unique solutions to the agricultural runoff problem: “In the case of Lake Erie and other intensively farmed areas where water quality impacts loom large, what about designating extended crop rotations as an ecosystem service? Funding mechanisms might enable downstream residents to pay farmers to plant a non-cash crop on certain fields.”
Pending Bill Limits Free Speech
Ohio State Senator Hoagland introduced Senate Bill 250, which could make a simple trespass a felony, fine organizations up to $200,000 for encouraging non-violent forms of protest (for example, signs like those pictured here), and have a chilling effect on free speech in the state.
Given the timing, this bill may move forward: The period after the November elections is known as the “lame duck” session and many bills are very quickly passed.
Ohio's corn and soybean farmers will receive an average of $32,000 from the Trump administration bailout program meant to take the sting out of its trade war with China and other countries.
Growers here say it won't make up for total losses, the Columbus Dispatch reports. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Facilitation Program will pay farmers $47.85 per acre for soybeans, $5.25 per acre for wheat, 94 cents per acre for corn, and $4 for each and every pig. Dairy farmers, who are suffering through one of the worst markets in recent memory, will get 6 cents per hundred pounds of milk,” according to the Dispatch.
Washington Post Calls for End to Biofuel Boondoggle
A Washington Post editorial board opinion piece finds the harm from ethanol production outweighs any environmental benefit and contributes to food price increases.
According to the editorial, “It takes massive amounts of energy to distill ethanol from corn—and massive amounts of fragile farmland to grow that crop. Never mind that diverting resources into corn production for ethanol raises the price of food.”
While on the mid-term campaign trail, President Trump announced the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would draft regulations allowing year-round sales of ethanol. This is something the oil industry opposes and, in a fight between biofuels and oil, the environment inevitably loses.
What is Your Foodprint?
A “foodprint” is the result of what it takes to get your food from the farm to your plate.
Many of those processes are almost impossible to see. Industrial food production takes a tremendous toll on our soil, air, and water, as well as on the workers and the surrounding communities.
Foodprint is also the name of a new organization conducting research and education on food production practices. Take the Foodprint quiz.
Pesticides Facilitate Antibiotic Resistance
A new study finds that bacteria develop antibiotic resistance up to 100,000 times faster when exposed to Roundup (glyphosate) and Kamba (dicamba), the world's most widely used herbicides, compared to antibiotics without herbicide exposure.
This study is part of a growing body of evidence cataloging the many negative implications of an industrial agriculture that, as we are increasingly told, will feed the world, even though increased production has not reduced poverty.
State Hopes to Head Off CAFO Waste
In September, Hurricane Florence caused tremendous pollution when it hit North Carolina concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
Nationwide, North Carolina ranks second in hog production and third in chicken production.
According to FERN’s Ag Insider, an estimated 6,500 industrial hog, dairy, and chicken farms are in the state, which is also home to 3,700 open-topped manure lagoons. After Hurricane Michael in October, 43 manure lagoons on hog farms were flooded or overflowing, and another 47 lagoons were at risk of overflowing.
The state is now offering to buy out hog farms with an elevated risk of flooding in severe storms. The buyout includes a conservation easement that prohibits future use of the land for an industrial livestock farm, FERN reported.
Most Large Slaughterhouses Violate Water Pollution Standards
Analysis by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) finds that 75 percent of large meat processing plants that discharge wastewater into rivers and streams were found to have violated thresholds in their pollution control permits.
The large companies that released more than 250,000 gallons of water per day exceeded permitted limits for nitrogen, fecal bacteria, or other pollutants at least once. “This water pollution is really an environmental justice issue, because many of these slaughterhouses are owned by wealthy international companies, and they are contaminating the rivers and drinking water supplies of rural, often lower-income, minority communities,” said EIP Executive Director Eric Schaeffer.
Tyson Foods had violations at 26 of its plants last year, topping the most registered violations list, followed by Pilgrim's Pride, Sanderson Farms, Cargill, Wayne Farms, and Smithfield.
Agricultural Icon Weighs In on 2018 Farm Bill
In an October New York Times opinion piece, Wendell Berry argues that the choices we make with the next farm bill must be measured against the ecological health of the farm and the economic health of the farmer.
“Our embrace of industrialization and ‘factory farming’ has not resulted in greater economic security for most American farmers. The nation has suffered a historic slump in prices for corn, soybeans, milk, wheat, and other commodities. It has lost half its dairy farmers in the past 18 years,” said Berry. “The problem that has impoverished and destroyed farmers nearly always is that of low prices resulting from surplus production. That is also, obviously, a land-destroying problem.”
Berry discusses how we can shift focus in a way that protects farm viability and the land base we depend upon using tools such as a combination of production control and price supports.