WBEZ | agriculture http://www.wbez.org/tags/agriculture Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en GMO supporter tells food industry meeting in Chicago to stop opposing GMO labeling http://www.wbez.org/news/gmo-supporter-tells-food-industry-meeting-chicago-stop-opposing-gmo-labeling-108935 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Mark Lynas edited.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Mark Lynas has a knack for dropping bombshells at normally snoozy industry conferences.</p><p>Last January at an agriculture conference, the British environmentalist and writer made international news (and outraged fellow activists) by announcing that, after years of opposing genetically modified crops, he now supported them.</p><p>And Tuesday, <a href="http://www.foodintegrity.org/document_center/download/mediaroom/lynasreleasefinal2.pdf">at a food industry meeting near O&rsquo;Hare</a>, the invited speaker, let loose with another whopper. He told the group&mdash;many from the soybean industry&mdash;<a href="http://www.foodintegrity.org/media-room/audio-video"> that they needed to support federal efforts to label GMOs (GM or GE) in the U.S.</a></p><p>Big food and agriculture groups have long battled labeling efforts, including a pending bill in Illinois and a ballot initiative scheduled for vote next month in Washington state. So Lynas, who changed his presentation late Monday night, knew the statement would ruffle feathers.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not here to tell them what they want to hear,&rdquo; Lynas told WBEZ after his speech at the Food Integrity Summit in Rosemont. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m here to challenge them and provoke them, which is why I told them today that they have to stop opposing GMO labeling. I believe people do have the right to know what&rsquo;s in their food, and they as an industry have a responsibility and a mandate to deliver on that.</p><p>&ldquo;The key issue here is transparency,&rdquo; said Lynas, who <a href="http://www.marklynas.org">posted his reasoning on his website Tuesday</a>. &ldquo;People are scared because they are not told what [food] they are in and it&rsquo;s a ridiculous situation. Because the industry hides behind the fact that these products aren&rsquo;t labeled they can&rsquo;t sell biotechnology on its real merits and its merits are real. There&rsquo;s a big reduction in pesticides and a big increase in productivity. But they can&rsquo;t make that case because they can&rsquo;t tell them that they are being used.&rdquo;</p><p>Several attendees were still digesting Lynas&rsquo; words during a coffee break after his speech.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I understand what he means about familiarity breeding acceptance, and I think it is really compelling and something I&rsquo;m going to need to think about a little bit more before I make a decision,&rdquo; said Susanne Zilberfarb of the Delaware Maryland Soybean Board. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s sort of a reversal of what agriculture and the food companies out there have been working towards and so it&rsquo;s an interesting strategy. It wasn&rsquo;t what I expected. I&rsquo;ll tell you that.&rdquo;</p><p>When asked if this would mean a complete about-face for the food and agriculture industry, Jane Ade Stevens of the Indiana Soybean Alliance said: &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know that the industry has accepted that strategy but that is what he was suggesting we might want to look at. I think everything is on the table as far as the way you look at those things.&rdquo;</p><p>Late Tuesday afternoon Tom Helscher of Monsanto, a major U.S. producer of GM seeds and complementary pesticides, said that he was not familiar enough with Lynas&rsquo; comments to respond. But he added, &ldquo;we respect that people can have different views on this topic.&rdquo;&nbsp; Helscher directed WBEZ to Monsanto&rsquo;s online statement saying, &ldquo;We oppose current initiatives to mandate labeling of ingredients developed from GM seeds in the absence of any demonstrated risk.&rdquo;</p><p>Some GMO labeling supporters seemed pleased by the development.</p><p>&ldquo;I think this goes to show that you can be pro-labeling and pro-GE,&rdquo; said Scott Faber executive director of the national Just Label It campaign which seeks federal GMO labeling. &ldquo;Labeling is not a referendum on the technology but on a consumer&rsquo;s right to know. ...The more industry fights labeling, the more they create the impression that they have something to hide. Denying consumers the right to know does more to stigmatize the technology than anything that any GE opponents could do.&rdquo;</p><p>Faber says that, although Lynas is the highest profile labeling defector in the pro-GMO ranks, he&rsquo;s not alone.</p><p>Faber says that he believes many in the pro-GMO camp &ldquo;figure that the fight against labeling is more costly than labeling. The loss of confidence, brand reputation and consumer loyalty are far more costly to the food industry than simply putting the words &lsquo;may contain GE ingredients.&rsquo; &ldquo;</p><p>He notes that the Just Label It chairman, former Stonyfield yogurt chief, Gary Hirshberg, has frequently noted that his objections to current laws are less about the technology than the right to know.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>David Gumpert, a food policy journalist and author of &ldquo;Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Food Rights,&rdquo; sees Lynas&rsquo; statement as the start of a sea change among industry labeling opponents.</p><p>&quot;GMO labeling laws have already passed in CT and VT, and came close in CA,&rdquo; Gumpert wrote in an emailed statement to WBEZ. &ldquo;Labeling has been proposed in other states, plus Whole Foods Market is committed to labeling all its products. A tidal wave is forming behind labeling and labeling opponents are beginning to see the wave and deciding they should be getting on board. I expect more large food companies (who have been nearly unanimous against labeling) will begin voluntarily labeling as more consumers express the need to be informed.&quot;</p><p>Outspoken farmer Joel Salatin, who was featured in the film &ldquo;Food Inc.&rdquo; and Michael Pollan&rsquo;s &ldquo;The Omnivore&rsquo;s Dilemma,&rdquo; opposes GMOs but also sees federal labeling as government meddling. He was skeptical of Lynas&rsquo; statement.<br /><br />&ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t surprise me,&rdquo; he said to WBEZ Tuesday, &ldquo;because these guys are sharp as can be and they are seeing that they can turn this on its head by saying go ahead and label.&rdquo;</p><p>Less than two hours after Lynas finished his presentation, Center for Food Integrity CEO Charlie Arnot took the floor to report the results of a CFI survey on what causes consumers to lose trust in their food suppliers and even sparks outrage.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;What the public told us was &lsquo;if you want us to trust you, even though you&rsquo;ve changed in size and scale, you need to be more transparent and share more information&rsquo;,&rdquo; Arnot said. &ldquo;...To me those are some good guidelines and we hope that will provide a roadmap for those in the food system to follow.&rdquo;</p><p>On the other side of the spectrum, activists were saying basically the same thing.</p><p>&ldquo;There will be growing support for labeling,&rdquo; Faber predicted. &ldquo;That is not because of concern about the technology necessarily. It is really part of a larger trend&mdash;consumers in general want to know a lot more about their food.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/meng">Monica Eng</a> is a WBEZ producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a></p></p> Wed, 16 Oct 2013 09:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/gmo-supporter-tells-food-industry-meeting-chicago-stop-opposing-gmo-labeling-108935 Federal study finds many causes for dramatic bee disappearance http://www.wbez.org/news/federal-study-finds-many-causes-dramatic-bee-disappearance-107003 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Bees_130503_LW.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; A new U.S. report blames a combination of problems for a mysterious and dramatic disappearance of honeybees across the country since 2006.</p><p>The multiple causes make it harder to do something about what&#39;s called colony collapse disorder, experts say. The disorder has caused as much as one-third of the nation&#39;s bees to just disappear each winter since 2006.</p><p>Bees, especially honeybees, are needed to pollinate crops, and they are crucial to the U.S. food supply. About $30 billion a year in agriculture depends on their health, said Sonny Ramaswamy with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.</p><p>The problem has also hit bee colonies in Europe, where regulators are considering a ban on a type of pesticides that some environmental groups blame for the bee collapse.</p><p>The report, issued Thursday by the USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency, is the result of a large conference of scientists that the government brought together last year to figure out what&#39;s going on.</p><p>The factors cited for the bees&#39; disappearance include a parasitic mite, multiple viruses, bacteria, poor nutrition, genetics, habitat loss and pesticides. The report said the biggest culprit is the parasitic mite varroa destructor, calling it &quot;the single most detrimental pest of honeybees.&quot;</p><p>The report also cites pesticides, but near the bottom of the list of factors. And federal officials and researchers advising them said the science doesn&#39;t justify a ban of the pesticides yet.</p><p>May Berenbaum, chairwoman of a major National Academy of Sciences study on the loss of pollinators, said the class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids hasn&#39;t been proven to be the sole culprit in the bee loss. In an interview, she said she was &quot;extremely dubious&quot; that banning the chemical would have any effect on bee health and that more than 100 different chemicals have been found in bee colonies.</p><p>Dave Gaulson of the University of Stirling in Scotland, who conducted a study last year that implicated the chemical, said he can&#39;t disagree with the overall conclusions of the U.S. government report. However, he said it could have emphasized pesticides more.</p><p>At a news conference with federal officials, Berenbaum said there&#39;s no single solution to the bee problem: &quot;We&#39;re not really well equipped or even used to fighting on multiple fronts.&quot;</p><p>Besides making honey, honeybees pollinate more than 90 flowering crops. About one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination.</p><p>&quot;It affects virtually every American whether they realize it or not,&quot; said EPA acting administrator Bob Perciasepe.</p><p>Zac Browning, a fourth-generation commercial beekeeper, said the nation is &quot;on the brink&quot; of not having enough bees to pollinate its crops.</p><p>University of Maryland entomologist David Inouye, president-elect of the Ecological Society of America, was not part of the federal report. He said the problems in Europe and United States may be slightly different. In the U.S., bee hives are trucked from farm to farm to pollinate large tracts of land and that may help spread the parasites and disease, as well as add stress to the colonies, while in Europe they stay put, so those issues may not be as big a factor.</p></p> Fri, 03 May 2013 15:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/federal-study-finds-many-causes-dramatic-bee-disappearance-107003 Soil moisture back to normal, now rain hampering Illinois farmers http://www.wbez.org/news/soil-moisture-back-normal-now-rain-hampering-illinois-farmers-106697 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Moisture_130417_LW.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>It&rsquo;s sprouting time across the state and farmers are breathing a sigh of relief as soil moisture in Illinois returns to normal after a year of uncertainty. Spring of 2012 was marked by arid, warm weather that led into one of the hottest summers on record and a drought that continued through the winter. Illinois farmers&rsquo; concerns about planting conditions for the spring planting season have scarcely subsided, but the forecast is better than it has been for a long time.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now, we are pretty much seeing normal levels across the state, which is a lot better than what we were seeing at this time last year,&rdquo; said Jennie Atkins of the Illinois State Water Survey, which monitors soil moisture daily. Above-average precipitation in January and February made up for a middling fall, and stormy weather this week can&rsquo;t hurt moisture, either.</p><p>&ldquo;After last year, soil moisture is a very precious commodity in the state,&rdquo; said John Hawkins of the Illinois Farm Bureau.</p><p>But there&rsquo;s also a downside to the influx of rain. There were flood warnings and severe storms in parts of Illinois Tuesday, and now many farmers have to wait for warmer, drier weather to plant.</p><p>&ldquo;When you have a lot of rain and flood it definitely affects the larger crop productions,&rdquo; said Toni Anderson, the organizer of Sacred Keepers Sustainability Garden in Chicago&rsquo;s Bronzeville neighborhood. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t necessarily have to worry about that in the city because we need every drop we can get.&rdquo;</p><p>She says the sandy soil on Martin Luther King Avenue on Chicago&rsquo;s south side drains easily, and the garden&rsquo;s focus on native species means they can tolerate weather extremes. But given concerns about climate change, she&rsquo;s not necessarily jumping for joy about yet another swing of the weather pendulum.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s refreshing and scary all at the same time,&rdquo; Anderson said.&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 17 Apr 2013 15:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/soil-moisture-back-normal-now-rain-hampering-illinois-farmers-106697 Goat and chicken lovers get together http://www.wbez.org/news/goat-and-chicken-lovers-get-together-105557 <p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/59748968" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="500"></iframe></p><p>From the street, Carolyn Ioder&rsquo;s house on the western side of the Austin neighborhood looks pretty normal. It&rsquo;s a large off-white stucco with an American flag hanging out front and a big trampoline crammed into a fenced-in backyard.</p><p>It&rsquo;s the sounds from the garage that give it away. Inside her two-car garage, Ioder keeps one car, six goats and a small coop full of chickens. The animals live here year-round, and Ioder takes the goats to pasture daily in a vacant lot down the street. She has the owner&rsquo;s permission, and she gets water for the goats from the Chicago fire station at the end of the alley.</p><p>&ldquo;Goats are such flock animals, they like to be with each other but they&rsquo;re also extremely bossy,&rdquo; said Ioder, wrangling the goats onto leashes for their daily walk to pasture.</p><p>The occasion of this visit is the first-ever Chicago Urban Livestock Expo, to take place this Saturday at the Garfield Park Conservatory. The event, sponsored by a small coalition of urban agriculture enthusiasts, features workshops on raising bees, rabbits, chickens and goats within city (or suburban) limits.</p><p>Officially, Ioder&rsquo;s goats aren&rsquo;t livestock. They&rsquo;re pets. But Ioder does keep them as a food source.</p><p>&ldquo;In my house all the pets work,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;The cats take care of the mice, the dogs scares the people that aren&rsquo;t supposed to be around, and the chickens lay eggs and the goats give milk.&rdquo;</p><p>In the summertime, the goats can yield up to two gallons of milk a day, which is a lot for a single family to deal with. Ioder&rsquo;s only had them for a couple years, so she&rsquo;s struggling to get up to speed on goat cheese production. She started with just two goats, they had twins and twins again, and now she&rsquo;s dealing with a small herd. So she may also have to <a href="http://www.myfoxchicago.com/story/19540560/wanted-1-goat-herder-30-goats-at-ohare-intl-airport" target="_blank">sell some off</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Not because I want to make a profit,&rdquo; she clarified. Feeding six goats every day is a big task, and her actual yard is a scarce patch of grass.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7026_018-scr.JPG" style="height: 174px; width: 310px; float: right;" title="The garage where it all happens. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p><strong>That&rsquo;s actually allowed?</strong></p><p>There are no regulations specific to goats in Chicago, except that you&rsquo;re not allowed to slaughter them. Same goes for chickens, a more popular pet that&rsquo;s already <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/owning-chickens-scratches-controversy-95624" target="_blank">banned in some Chicago suburbs</a>.</p><p>But urban agriculture experts say no one should get into city goat or chicken farming without getting educated. The backyard pen or coop can be clean and contained, but it takes some work. And they recommend checking in with the neighbors before you welcome in a new flock or herd.</p><p>&ldquo;I have met a couple people who&rsquo;ve complained about it,&rdquo; said <a href="http://urbanchickenconsultant.wordpress.com/chicken-faqs/" target="_blank">urban chicken consultant</a> Jennie Murtoff. &ldquo;I talked to a woman [...] who was adamantly opposed to chickens. She said they were noisy and they were smelly, and she was very unhappy about her neighbor having chickens. And then she told me she was a pit bull rescuer.&rdquo;</p><p>But she says if they&rsquo;re managed right, chickens should be less of a nuisance than some dogs.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re relatively quiet. If the owners keep the pens well, which doesn&rsquo;t take a whole lot of work, there won&rsquo;t be any smell. A lot of people don&rsquo;t even realize that the chickens are in the backyard,&rdquo; Murtoff said.</p><p>Plus, good housekeeping is the key to keeping the city from cracking down, which is part of what the Expo aims to educate people about. An unregulated urban farming landscape is ideal for these passionate local foodies, and they want to have a real conversation about what that takes.</p><p>&ldquo;If people are looking for a day out with the kids at a petting zoo, this probably isn&rsquo;t the place for them,&rdquo; Murtoff said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s an event for people who are seriously interested in the urban agriculture movement.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Local food systems, cute pets</strong></p><p>Murtoff stressed that getting eggs or milk from your own backyard isn&rsquo;t just a novelty. To her it&rsquo;s about having a hyperlocal source of good food, knowing where your food comes from, and maybe even saving some money.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7021_021-scr.JPG" style="height: 337px; width: 710px;" title="Carolyn Ioder's goats wonder whether microphones are edible. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" />&ldquo;Too often we think that, oh, eggs come from the supermarket,&rdquo; Murtoff said. &ldquo;And they don&rsquo;t. They come from a bird.&rdquo;</p><p>And a cool bird, too.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re just wonderful little people inside those feathered bodies,&rdquo; she added.</p><p>&ldquo;What we&rsquo;re working for is local community development of food systems,&rdquo; Ioder said.</p><p>By day, she runs a bread company and stays active in various groups working on issues of food security. And she&rsquo;s not the only goat farmer in town - a scattered number of Chicago and suburban residents keep pygmy goats, which are small enough to pass as terriers but still give milk. Chicken farmers in the Chicago area probably number in the hundreds.<br /><br />Ioder doesn&rsquo;t see her work as real farming, but she said it helps keep her connected to her roots.</p><p>&ldquo;We were the first generation, my husband and I, to be born off the farm,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>And she ran out to catch a goat who was wandering towards the CTA tracks on Lake street.</p><p>The first <a href="https://sites.google.com/site/chicagochickenenthusi/events/urban-livestock-expo" target="_blank">Chicago Urban Livestock Expo</a> takes place Saturday, February 16 from 10am to 1pm at the Garfield Park Conservatory.</p><p>Follow <a href="https://twitter.com/LewisPants" target="_blank">Lewis Wallace on Twitter</a>.</p></p> Fri, 15 Feb 2013 10:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/goat-and-chicken-lovers-get-together-105557 How to build a better ditch. No, really. http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/how-build-better-ditch-no-really-103579 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/two%20stage%20ditch%201.jpg" style="height: 298px; width: 620px; " title="A two-stage ditch built as part of the Nature Conservancy’s Wabash River initiative. (Courtesy of the Nature Conservancy)" /></div><p>Andy Ward remembers the day he drove through the Darby Creek watershed &ndash; the day that convinced him to build a better ditch.</p><p>It was the mid-&lsquo;90s, and the 560 square miles of Ohio land that feeds in the Big and Little Darby Creeks was one of the most diverse aquatic systems in the Midwest. Ward, a professor at Ohio State University&rsquo;s College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, wanted to know how he could best protect the creek and its tributaries from farm runoff and other pollution that threatened life in the waterways. In excess, chemicals like phosphorous can lead to a massive overgrowth of algae, choking off other plant and animal life in and around the Great Lakes and as far south as the Gulf of Mexico.</p><p>As Ward and a colleague drove past some of the local farms, they debated the merits of buffer strips &ndash; areas of soil and vegetation meant to separate farm fields from the surrounding landscape and absorb runoff. &nbsp;&ldquo;Buffer strips were the new thing on the block at the time,&rdquo; Ward explained, and farmers were being offered financial incentives to build them.</p><p>But what did that matter, Ward wondered, if most farmers also used a series of underground drains to draw excess water away from their crops? If the drains ran under the fields they would also run right underneath the buffer strips.</p><p>&ldquo;How much value [were they] really going to provide,&rdquo; Ward asked, &ldquo;if a good portion of the flow went right underneath them?&rdquo;</p><p>The farms&rsquo; underground drains would often empty into ditches &ndash; some as big as 15 or 16 feet wide &ndash; that ran around the fields and fed into the watershed. As Ward and his colleague rounded a corner, they saw a bulldozer clearing out one such ditch, ripping out giant clumps of grass and other vegetation and mounds of sediment that had built up over time, fed by nutrients and run-off water. &nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/twostageditch.jpg" style="float: left; height: 123px; width: 300px; " title="(Courtesy of the Nature Conservancy)" />&ldquo;I turned to the person I was with and asked, &lsquo;Is that a common practice in the Midwest, to totally remove everything that was in the ditch?&rsquo; &lsquo;Oh yeah that happens a lot. In fact, there are maintenance programs in which the county will come and do that.&rsquo;&quot;</p><p>Ward was shocked. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s crazy!&rdquo; he recalled telling his colleague. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re providing incentives to grow grass at the top of the ditch, yet a lot of the flow is going underneath that grass. Then we&rsquo;re paying people to rip out the grass where the water is actually ending up! It just made no sense to me,&rdquo; Ward said.</p><p>Farmers needed ditches to catch excess water and move it away from crops. But was there a way to design a more environmentally-friendly ditch?</p><p>It wasn&rsquo;t just a crazy dream. Ward and his colleagues came up with what they called a two-stage ditch. Whereas a conventional ditch is a narrow, muddy, waterslide of a tube, channeling water and all of its contents straight through to larger streams and rivers, the two-stage ditch looked like an overgrown series of large steps. Water would flow through the narrow bottom of the ditch, but a flat &ldquo;bench&rdquo; of soil above the water, planted with grass and other vegetation, would absorb water and act as a flood plain during times of heavy rain. Rather than fighting nature, Ward figured they could let nature help protect itself.</p><p>But what would the farmers and landowners think? According to the environmental advocacy group the Nature Conservancy, at $10-$12 per linear foot, two-stage ditches are vastly more expensive to build than conventional ditches, which cost only $1 to $1.50 per square foot. But two-stage ditches are expected to last a lot longer (around 30 years). The Conservancy argues that &ldquo;one option is immediate&rdquo; while &ldquo;the other is permanent.&rdquo;</p><p>In 2007 the Joyce Foundation (which also supports editorial initiatives at WBEZ) gave $5 million in grants to the Nature Conservancy and three other groups to, in part, help build two-stage ditches in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio around the Wabash River watershed. And Kevin Willibey, a farmer who owns land near Ohio&rsquo;s Fish Creek, built two-stage ditches on his property after seeing a pitch from Ward and his colleagues.</p><p>Willibey&rsquo;s testimonial is included in <a href="http://vimeo.com/7901535">a short film</a> produced by the Nature Conservancy. Hear him explain why he feels good about the switch in the audio below:</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F65577993&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range">Dynamic Range</a></em>&nbsp;<em>showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified&rsquo;s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Andy Ward spoke at an event presented by the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum earlier this month. Click</em>&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/amplified/two-stage-ditches-helping-nature-clean-farm-runoff-99970">here</a></em>&nbsp;<em>to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p></p> Sat, 03 Nov 2012 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/how-build-better-ditch-no-really-103579 Farm Sanctuary's Gene Baur on conditions of factory farm animals and veganism http://www.wbez.org/worldview/2012-04-09/segment/farm-sanctuarys-gene-baur-conditions-factory-farm-animals-and-veganism <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP081222128555.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>There are around 10 billion farm animals in the U.S., and the vast majority of them are chickens.&nbsp; Gene Baur devotes his life to improving the situation for these billions of farm animals. He’s president and co-founder of <a href="http://www.farmsanctuary.org/" target="_blank">Farm Sanctuary</a>, the country’s largest farm animal advocacy and protection organization. He discusses his book, <em>Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food</em>.</p></p> Mon, 09 Apr 2012 13:09:14 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/worldview/2012-04-09/segment/farm-sanctuarys-gene-baur-conditions-factory-farm-animals-and-veganism Worldview 4.9.12 http://www.wbez.org/worldview/2012-04-09/worldview-4912-98049 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP070914019750.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.shyambenegalonline.com/" target="_blank">Shyam Benegal</a> is one of India’s most prolific filmmakers. He’s known for his important role in the new wave of Indian cinema and for creating films that are sensitive to the role of women in Indian society. Benegal discusses the state of India’s film industry with <em>Worldview</em> film contributor Milos Stehlik. Also, <em>Worldview </em>talks with Gene Baur, president and co-founder of <a href="http://www.farmsanctuary.org/" target="_blank">Farm Sanctuary</a>, a farm animal protection organization. He’s the author of <em>Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food</em>.</p></p> Mon, 09 Apr 2012 10:17:24 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/worldview/2012-04-09/worldview-4912-98049 The 2012 Farm Bill opens up for debate http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-09/2012-farm-bill-opens-debate-95388 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2012-January/2012-01-09/farm3.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Once every five years, Congress negotiates a new version of the Farm Bill, which plays a defining role in how we eat. This single piece of legislation sets the agenda for five years of government spending on food, impacting everything from food assistance programs to school lunches, crop subsidies, organic farming and conservation. Farmers in the U.S. and around the world follow the bill with rapt attention, as U.S. subsidies are a make or break economic issue for many.</p><p><em>Worldview</em> discusses what might and might not make it into the 2012 legislation with <a href="http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/faculty_bios/view/Marion_Nestle" target="_blank">Marion Nestle,</a> professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. She writes the blog <em><a href="http://www.foodpolitics.com/" target="_blank">Food Politics</a></em>. Her upcoming book is <em>Why Calories Count: from Science to Politics</em>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 09 Jan 2012 16:24:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-09/2012-farm-bill-opens-debate-95388 High costs make it harder to grow young farmers http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-22/high-costs-make-it-harder-grow-young-farmers-92360 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-23/new_farmers2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In farm country, business is still booming. Commodity prices remain high, and investors are funneling millions of dollars into buying farmland, making it quite enticing for the would-be farmer who wants to leave the rat race.</p><p>But surprisingly, these factors make it that much harder for the next generation of farmers to secure the financing they need to get on the tractor.</p><p><strong>A high cost to start out</strong></p><p>Austin Bruns drives with his windows down on a dirt country road in a noisy<strong> </strong>18-wheeler. He's towing tons of corn and has a little more than a five o'clock shadow, hinting at long days of an early harvest.<br> <br> "When I graduated from high school, I didn't really have my sights set on anything; I knew I didn't have any [land] that I was going to come home and farm," Bruns explains.<br> <br> So Bruns went to school to become a diesel mechanic and later joined the National Guard. Today, the 25-year-old rents about 150 acres in eastern Nebraska, where he grows soybeans and corn.<br> <br> Bruns also works for area farmers who contract with agriculture giant Monsanto to grow seed corn. In these fields, the entire ear of corn is harvested for a nearby seed facility to use to develop next year's seed.</p><p>Come harvest time, farmers here band together to share their equipment. Veteran farmer Mark Haser says that just makes sense.<br> <br> "You just can't afford to own everything yourselves anymore," Haser says. "It's your cost per acre. The initial cost is so high that you have to be able to spread this stuff out over more and more acres to make it worthy of being able to have it."</p><p><strong>No luck on loans</strong></p><p>When established farmers like Haser need a loan, they visit Utica, Neb., banker Larry Rogers. Rogers says that unless young people are left farmland by their family, they're pretty much out of luck.<br> <br> "It has gotten more difficult with prices as they are today — even with the good prices for grain, I think it's more difficult for a young person to get started," Rogers says.</p><p>There were nearly 180,000 farmers younger than 35 in 1997. A decade later, that number fell by a third, to fewer than 120,000.</p><p>Ernie Goss, an economist at Omaha's Creighton University, says agriculture's appeal as an investment is one of the reasons for the drop.<br> <br> "[Some people are] sitting in New York [and] saying, 'Well, I don't know, I've never even been to Nebraska, but by golly, I'm going to buy some Nebraska land,' " Goss says. "And you have these groups coming together ... that are buying farmland [and] driving up farmland prices to prices we've not seen before."<br> <br> Goss says even though the Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates low for the next few years, banks simply aren't lending to high-risk first-time farmers.<br> <br> Matt Wildman fits that profile. He's a 22-year-old University of Nebraska student about to graduate with a degree in agriculture economics. He wants to land a job with an agriculture company or start his own fertilizer business.<br> <br> "The biggest challenge, at least in my position coming out of college with no assets to my name, pretty much, no money, and trying to get a loan for $50,000 or $80,000 or more just to start a business — it's not going to happen unless you have a co-signer," Wildman says. "My parents are willing to co-sign on something right now, but it's got to be something that's going to [have] cash flow itself — it's got to be able to work."<br> <br> Veteran farmer Haser says most of his money is tied up in his operation and not accessible, so he has sage advice for any new farmer.<br> <br> "If you want to die rich, then become a farmer, because that's about all you're going to do as far as on the rich factor, is you're going to die that way," he says.<br> <br> But it's only on paper that these established farmers appear rich. With today's high commodity prices they're not in the business of selling acreage, making it more difficult for young would-be farmers to work the land.</p><div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 Nebraska Public Radio Network.</div></p> Thu, 22 Sep 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-22/high-costs-make-it-harder-grow-young-farmers-92360 Global Activism: Local student starts organic farming in China http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-22/global-activism-local-student-starts-organic-farming-china-92337 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-22/china1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Every Thursday on <em><a href="http://wbez.org/globalactivism" target="_blank">Global Activism</a></em>, we hear about an individual who's trying to make the world a better place.</p><p>In China, food safety is a serious issue.&nbsp; Minxu Zhang is a Chinese student from Lake Forest College, who was in her home country this summer to establish a direct line of purchase between Chinese organic farmers and consumers. She started an organization called <a href="http://www.ecobitechina.com/index.asp" target="_blank">EcoBite</a>, which attempts to make Chinese consumers aware of risky food production practices. EcoBite connects small farmers with consumers in order to cut out the middle man and reduce the costs associated with healthy food.</p></p> Thu, 22 Sep 2011 16:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-22/global-activism-local-student-starts-organic-farming-china-92337