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The Boiling Point

Looking to the Past to Solve Our Food Future

Looking to the Past to Solve Our Food Future

  The American diet is killing us, many diseases are preventible, and yet we perpetually spend huge money on treatment instead of prevention. Whil...

For Climate Change, the American Farmer is the Sleeping Giant

For Climate Change, the American Farmer is the Sleeping Giant. Part of the reason may be that while the national average changed, many parts of the country had little or no change. American corn farmers are one such group who remain skeptical of climate change and largely unharmed by it so far. If temperatures are already rising, corn production should be falling and farmers should be clamoring for definitive action to mitigate the impacts of climate change. But crucially, the National Climate Assessment numbers showing increased temperatures across the country are average annual temperature increases—a closer look at the changes in temperatures shows that the way these average temperature rises played out in the Corn Belt have not hurt farmers or their crops. Of course, temperature is only one of many climate measures that can impact crop yields, but studies have confirmed that July temperatures are the most crucial for corn production. When July temperatures get too high, corn yields fall dramatically. As the map shows, the corn belt has had no statistically significant increases in temperature from 1980 to 2010. And a July cooling trend could have the tendency to even raise corn yields, meaning over that 30-year period, climate patterns have generally been good news for American corn farmers. And if that is not a spurious trend but one that continues, President Trump and the Republican-led Congress should soon be hearing protests from a key constituency and non-traditional climate group—the American corn farmer.

Factory Farming Is Sweeping the U.K.

There are currently almost 800 U.S.-style “megafarms” in the U.K., and since 2011, the number of intensive pig and poultry farms has increased by 26 percent, the investigation revealed. Richard Williams [who appears in the story]—we asked to visit his farm because we had interviewed a neighbor of his who’s very angry and made a whole lot of statements about what it was like to live next to a farm. Wasley: There’s a move within the industry towards higher welfare systems, partly because the big buyers—the big supermarkets—are recognizing there’s beginning to be a shift in what the public wants. It sounds from like the demand for organic and free-range chicken meat is not particularly high in the U.K. Could you talk about that? Wasley: There is a big market demand in the U.K. for free-range eggs, and that’s been the case for some years. It’s interesting that people are concerned with the egg-producing chickens but not the meat-producing chickens. Wasley: Both pig and poultry [industries] have, in the last couple of years, really woken up to the antibiotic resistance issue. Is there a big lobby by the industry in the U.K. to set policies and regulations that are favorable to the industry? Is the industry in the U.K. is looking toward that model? Davies: People look to the U.S. and look at the problems with pollution and people suing companies in that political area.

A Soil Scientist with a Plan for a More Resilient Food System

A Soil Scientist with a Plan for a More Resilient Food System

Laura Lengnick is a big thinker on agriculture and the environment. She has been guided in her work by the understanding that the problems generated by the U.S. industrial food system have been as significant as its ability to produce vast quantities of food. As she sees it, it’s not enough to produce food if there’s not a reckoning of costs...

Slow Food Nations to Take Stock of Progress—and Challenges—of the Growing Food Movement

Slow Food Nations to Take Stock of Progress—and Challenges—of the Growing Food Movement

When an estimated 50,000 activists, eaters, and food systems thinkers gathered for Slow Food Nation in San Francisco in 2008, it was with the goal of “catalyzing a huge shift in how Americans perceive and prioritize food.” And, by many accounts, it worked.

Nine years later, farm-to-plate is a household term, but greenwashing and “localwashi...

4 ways perennial crops protect the planet

4 ways perennial crops protect the planet

Feeding the 9.7 billion people expectedto be living on this planet by 2050 isn’t going to be easy — particularly since we must do so while also nourishing the planet. While American agricultural productivity has skyrocketed over the past century, this also has contributed to serious environmental concerns, such as soil degradation and water pollution and...

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