Posted By Cathryn January 29, 2015
At this week’s Soil Health Partnership Summit, attendees explored how healthy soils benefit farmers and the environment. Experts covered many areas, paying particular attention to the practice of no-till farming.
While many may not have been able to attend the summit, interested parties can find out more through a blog post published by the Environmental Defense Fund. Featuring an interview by EDF’s Karen Chapman with Barry Fisher, an agronomist and soil health expert at the National Resources Conservation Service, this article delves into the meaning of no-till, its benefits and obstacles which might prevent its adoption.
To read the full post, click here.
The mission of the Soil Health Partnership is to catalyze enhanced agricultural sustainability and productivity by demonstrating and communicating the economic and environmental benefits of improved soil health. For more information, visit soilhealthpartnership.org.
Posted By Mark January 23, 2015
Not to sound like a lunatic but it may be entirely possible, maybe even likely, the American public will be begging for a return to $3.60 gas in the near future.
I know it sounds crazy, but if you are following the public debate you can already see the discussion heating up to argue the true implications of today’s bargain basement petroleum prices. The euphoria consumers and market analysts alike were experiencing a few weeks ago is wearing off like a cheap wine hangover.
One big concern is that near term economic gains in the US related to cheaper fuel may be overstated and ultimately result in deflation and a global economic slowdown.
It is becoming increasingly evident that it could take a few years before the full ramifications of this gas guzzlers holiday are known. However, some comments by an oil industry executive this week provide a peek behind the curtain that often shields the business maneuvering and real objectives of international big oil.
The boss of oil giant BP Bob Dudley has said that oil prices could remain low for up to three years. What results next may make our previous high oil prices seem like a gift from grandma.
Once big oil has beaten oil upstarts like the domestic fracking industry to a bloody pulp, they will remerge from the ashes like a phoenix ready to spank bad little consumers for cheering the development. The paddle they will use according to some industry experts will be $200 a-barrel oil, a considerably richer prize than the $110 a barrel which preceded the $47 a barrel we are currently experiencing.
Any reasonable person would wonder why a business would take such a gamble, cut investment, cut jobs and sustain such a huge loss? The simple answer is they will do it because they can and the payoff is immense.
Sure oil countries like Norway, Russia, Venezuela, Scotland, Nigeria and Angola will take a beating but the big players in OPEC – the ones with the large expanses of beach and no water – have lower production costs and care only marginally more for their business partners than they do the consumers that they bleed every day.
People’s Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan also points out low oil prices could slow down China’s development of renewable energy projects. In a wondrous masterpiece of understatement he says: “We worry a little bit that the price signal may give disincentive for new energy types to develop and could reduce investment in new non-fossil energy.”
Does anyone know how to say “duh” in Mandarin?
If we really want to throw the market manipulating overlords at OPEC a curve we should do the opposite of what they expect. Instead of grumbling and driving circus clown size cars we should immediately find ways to encourage an expansion of existing non-fossil energy development such as ethanol. Then we should back that up by launching the largest energy research and development project in history. I contend we will be forced to do this as finite oil supplies run out. Why not do it now rather than waiting until the wolf is at the door.
Besides, in the business world innovation is one of the few things that can still trump monetary muscle.
Posted By Mark October 17, 2014
As a former journalist I have a deeply ingrained sense of outrage when the public is being misled, bilked or fooled. This is especially true when misinformation is used to strip away their hard earned cash.
So I thought I would send an open letter to Jason Mraz, a singer/songwriter and niche celebrity, who also spends a lot of time and money working on causes he finds important including the environment.
If you don’t have time to read any further I have two messages for the obviously talented Mraz, who played to an appreciative crowd at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis last night:
Scientific experts say organic foods are not healthier that food grown using conventional methods contrary to what Mraz told the audience last night.
2 – Good for you for having the conviction of your beliefs. I appreciate your willing to use your celebrity to help a cause. But please keep your personal politics off the stage unless you do it through your songs themselves, that way fans know what they signed up for going in.
Using the interlude between music to espouse lifestyle choices, support political candidates, or give advice on something as personal as food is just bad form. Most people go to concerts, movies, sporting events, etc… to get a mental break from the headlines of the day or meditating on philosophical issues. I have never been a Jason Mraz fan, in part due to lack of exposure, so didn’t know too much about him. Still, I admit to being very surprised when a photo of his personal garden popped up on the stage and he proceeded to espouse the benefits of organic food production.
My hat is off to Mraz for trying to live a health-conscious lifestyle, but I went to hear music not visit a lifestyle coach, let alone one without real credentials. You have every right to your opinion but please try being more selective in how you use your notoriety and bully pulpit.
An article in “Real Clear Science” earlier this summer points out the majority of Americans believe that organic foods are healthier than food grown through conventional methods. The majority of Americans are wrong. Science has shown that organic is neither healthier for you nor better for the environment. In fact, it’s not safer, more nutritious, not does it taste better. These are all notions promoted by organic food proponents who have a lot to gain or were just misled. Given the markedly higher prices for nearly all of these products, the public has a right to know they are being hoodwinked.
Posted By Cathryn September 19, 2014
This weekend, movie goers in select markets across the country will have a chance to find out more about America’s oil addiction and how it can be ended with cleaner, cheaper, American-made fuels as the movie PUMP hits theaters. An all-inclusive look at alternative fuels, PUMP draws consumer attention to both the problem and offers real, immediate solutions.
The documentary film aims to change attitudes about fuel forever. Narrated by Jason Bateman, PUMP tells the story of America’s addiction to oil, from its corporate conspiracy beginnings to its current monopoly today, and explains clearly how Americans can end it – and finally win real choice and competition at the pump.
To watch the PUMP trailer, click here.
The film presents the stark reality that every time consumers fill up their tank there is only one option – gasoline. Since the days of John D. Rockefeller, it has been rigged, and America has been taken for a ride. With a stranglehold on our fuel system that is absolute, most people have no idea there are alternatives.
PUMP presents a sharply focused look at all of the domestically produced, alternative paths to a very different fuel future – where multiple fuels can be used and blended, where the oil monopoly is ended, and where our nation no longer depends on foreign oil. PUMP concentrates on the specific pathway where ethanol, methanol, biofuels, gasoline, natural gas and electric all share the same platform at gas stations across the country, where there is choice and competition. The solution presented is not based on unproven future technologies or wishful thinking. PUMP presents a practical and achievable vision that could be realized in the near term – beginning now.
While the film represents many viewpoints that may not be completely in line with those advocated by groups like the National Corn Growers Association, it shines an important spotlight on the common problem all alternative fuels face. The documentary advocates for consumer choice and an end to Big Oil’s monopoly- a point which America’s farmers can certainly get behind even if they would advocate for an alternative approach.
So learn more about it. This independently-produced film has the potential to highlight an issue of vital importance to both farmers and consumers, which is certainly a step in the right direction.
Find a location playing PUMP or learn more about the movie by clicking here.
Posted By Cindy August 25, 2014
Following closely on the heels of the toxic algae bloom on Lake Erie that shut down water supplies in Toledo Ohio, Michigan’s livestock and crop producers recently announced proactive steps on water quality issues.
“Michigan agriculture is proactive and part of the solution when it comes to water quality issues in the Western Basin of Lake Erie and surrounding areas,” said Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, who announced steps in a long-term effort to ensure Michigan’s continued leadership on water quality issues.
Jim Zook, executive director of the Michigan Corn Growers Association, says technology plays a major role in providing solutions to water issues and Michigan is a leader in the use of precision agriculture technology, which helps producers optimize fertilizer use.
“Even just a few years ago, the technology just wasn’t where it is today,” said Zook. “Growers didn’t have the precision agriculture tools that are in use across the state to pinpoint fertilizer applications. Michigan’s corn producers have embraced new technology, and they’re using it to be part of the solution on water quality issues.”
Listen to Byrum, Zook and other Michigan ag leaders talk about proactive steps they are taking on water quality issues: Michigan Agriculture Groups Discuss Water Quality
Posted By Cathryn August 14, 2014
In a media landscape that often seizes upon sensationalism, The Huffington Post took a balanced, thoughtful approach to ethanol issues today in publishing a piece written in support of E15 by researchers at Argonne National Laboratory.
The city of Chicago is considering a proposed ordinance that would require most gas stations to offer E15. The measure would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide consumers a domestic, sustainable choice for fuel. In their post, the researchers provide a clear, supported argument as to why this is a step in the right direction for America.
To read the post, click here.
In offering actual information to the public, HuffPost and the scientists alike elevate the conversation. The fact that Big Oil has waged an ongoing war against biofuels for years is no secret. One invented argument after the next, the proponents of petroleum have repeatedly tried to cloud the conversation with misinformation and thus maintain a stranglehold on America’s fuel supply and Americans pocketbooks. Sadly, some of the rouses have garnered airtime and slowed the advance toward a fuel supply that offers consumers real choice.
Chicago may gain actual options. These options could both help clean the air and reduce dependence upon a finite and often foreign fuel supply. The prospects for freedom from oil’s monopoly look a bit brighter. The Drs. Michael Wang and Jennifer Dunn and The Huffington Post Blog deserve a round of applause for bringing the conversation to consumers in the clear manner worthy of such a weighty issue.
Posted By Cathryn August 4, 2014
With only one percent of the population still farming, it can seem politically expedient to propose faux-fixes to odd or unique problems that impact the farming minority. Yesterday, The Washington Post joined in the fracas with a piece on intersex fish. The story, heavy with aqua-explicit imagery and short on hard numbers, noted several sources of possible chemical contributors but failed to suggest any fix larger than moving piles of poo.
Polishing that strategy into a gem that makes the masses feel better without taking responsibility for the role they may play makes something akin to shinola.
Hormones naturally present in animal excrement do not hold up so long in nature as those made by humans to prevent unwanted little humans. Do I propose getting rid of birth control? Absolutely not. Do I propose considering its environmental impact instead of taking the easy way out? Absolutely.
If we as a people consider the intersex fish phenomenon to be of importance, we should treat it with equal respect. Consider the sources in a more measured manure. Document what might and might not have the impact scientifically significant enough to move the needle. Weigh the impact of those actions on our fellow persons. Simply, act like we are less mentally confused than those fish are physically.
Washington in general needs to expect more of Americans. We are up for the tough conversations. We don’t want to take meaningless stabs that impact the fewest people so that we can rest better at night. We want to actually solve the real problems.
Farmers, like the rest of the country, want to be part of the solution. First though, let’s make sure the solution makes sense.
Posted By Mark July 10, 2014
Google “save the rainforest” and watch all the organizations that pop up; everything from the World Rainforest Fund to Kids Saving the Rainforest. I don’t have a problem with that because rainforests are a critical cog in the blue planet’s eco-system.
Rainforests provide incredible biodiversity and through the process of photosynthesis they also provide the duel function of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting it to life-sustaining oxygen. Then I realized most the American public has a rudimentary understanding of the importance of the Amazon on another continent but has little understanding of the contributions our corn crop makes just from the process of simply growing. It was the accompany image that got me thinking.
The image from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center represents satellite measurements of plant fluorescence. It represents a compilation of data collected over a four year period. During photosynthesis, the chlorophyll in healthy plants absorbs light to be converted into energy, but it also emits a little bit of light that’s not visible to the human eye. Scientists have now figured out how to use that fluorescent glow to measure the productivity of plants in a given region.
What it reflects is a startling revelation even to a corn-o-phile like me. Using existing data from satellites designed for entirely different purposes, such as ozone monitoring, NASA scientists were able to show that during the Northern Hemisphere’s growing season, the Midwestern U.S. has more photosynthetic activity than anywhere else on the planet, including the Amazon rainforest. Nearly all of this can be attributed to agriculture, and much of it to corn.
So, feeding people aside, providing cleaner ethanol fuel aside, corn takes bad things out of the air much like a tree and gives us oxygen to breathe. So I want to start a new organization called Save the Corn….or maybe that should be corn farmers?
Posted By Cathryn June 10, 2014
Whether one is a fan of the White House’s Let’s Move! initiative or not, it almost inarguably plays a large role in our nation’s discussions on food. Today, Let’s Move! Executive Director and White House Senior Advisor on Nutrition Policy Sam Kass made a major statement about the future of food during the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives conference backing the science behind GMOs and advocating for a cultural shift toward their acceptance.
Kass’s remarks, covered in Politico Pro, indicated his thoughts on how the impact of climate change and adaptive technologies will shift the currently fierce debate over GMO foods.
“I think this debate is naturally going to start to shift,” said Kass. “I think the science is pretty clear. Ultimately I think the science will win out.”
His comments echoed those often made by groups such as the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance and CommonGround in espousing the importance of consumer choice and access to factual information about the quality and safety of the abundant food options produced by U.S. farmers and ranchers.
“I think part of the problem with the debate as it stands is that it’s either one or the other,” said Kass. “Every side says my way is the best way. Diversity [in agriculture] is strength.”
Posted By Cathryn June 5, 2014
Remember the PSA’s that used to run with a tagline of “The More You Know?” They provided a helpful little piece of info on a broad array of subject? Today, Real Clear Science writer Ross Pomeroy offered up a succinct PSA of his own correcting misconceptions about organic and conventional agriculture with scientific information.
So what is the 15-second sound bite? Produce, whether conventional or organic, is equally safe and nutritious.
His story, “The Biggest Myth about Organic Farming,” examines the scientific realities behind many common consumer misconceptions. From exploring whether one method is healthier to explaining organics are grown using pesticides too, Pomeroy pummels the marketing hype which fosters fear and gives way to guilt among well-intentioned shoppers.
To read the full article, click here.
The truth is simple. Consumers have many choices. American farmers work to grow healthy, nutritious foods, and American shoppers have the right to decide what they prefer to purchase. What consumers need to know though is the facts that empower them to make the best decisions for their families.
The more you know about American farming, the more you know what an incredible, innovative industry it is, and the more you know about the wide variety of production options which all provide equally nutritious, healthy food for people in a way that is equally good for the environment.
So, take a moment to share his story. The more we all know, the better off we will be.
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