Reclaiming the future of food and farming

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Farming for the future

Today, March 19, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) released its platform for the 2012 Farm Bill — Farming for the Future: A Sustainable Agriculture Agenda for the 2012 Food and Farm Bill.

This powerful document lays out a vision of agriculture where safe, nutritious and affordable food is produced by a legion of diverse family farmers. These farmers make a decent living pursuing their trade while sustaining the environment and contributing to the strength of their communities. I hope decisionmakers in Congress are paying attention.

Margaret Reeves
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French scientists say fewer pesticides needed

A new study by French scientists demonstrates that pesticide use can be dramatically reduced — maybe even by half — without impacting crop yields or farm income.

And the French government is acting on the findings, pledging to cut chemical inputs in the country's agricultural fields in half by 2018. Why not, if it means spending less while maintaining yields and reducing risks of exposure to hazardous pesticides? Any responsible government would do the same.

Margaret Reeves
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Wanted: Food & Farm Bill that rewards healthy soil

The 2012 Food and Farm Bill discussions on Capitol Hill are underway. The first Senate hearing, held this week, focused on conservation. Among other important topics addressed: the idea of tying crop insurance payments with soil conservation. We say yes, definitely!

This month and next the Senate Agriculture Committee, chaired by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), will hold three more hearings. Hearings in the House begin next month. PAN and our allies in the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) will be closely following the debates.

Margaret Reeves
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Fair & healthy flowers

Flowers on Valentine's Day? It's a lovely tradition, and I enjoy a gorgeous bouquet as much as anyone. I also do my best to remember — and support — the workers behind the enormous global flower trade.

They are mostly women, many of whom work in Colombia and Ecuador. They toil long hours for low wages, and too often brave exposure to pesticides known to be harmful to their health and the health of their children. They deserve our support.

Margaret Reeves
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Online innovations help farmers sell locally

Direct marketing arrangements such as the popular community supported agriculture (CSA) systems across the country eliminate intermediaries. A greater portion of every food dollar remains on the farm – and families in urban areas are able to know and support their local farmer.

Now online innovators are stepping up to expand on the idea by helping farmers market their produce directly to consumers on the web.

Margaret Reeves
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2,4-D corn? Bad idea, and here's why.

There are many, many reasons that Dow's new strain of corn that's genetically engineered to withstand high doses of the herbicide 2,4-D is a terrible idea.

Since 2,4-D has been around for so long, there's plenty of evidence about how it can harm human health. Children, as usual, are most at risk, and USDA needs to know that ramping up use of 2,4-D in fields across the country is simply not acceptable.

Margaret Reeves
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Best safety net for farmers? Healthy soil.

Farmers across the country are seeing the impacts of climate change first hand. Crop losses to drought, floods, heat waves, insects and diseases made headlines throughout the year.

We hear Congress plans to improve crop insurance programs in recognition of these hardships, as negotiations for the 2012 Food and Farm Bill move ahead. But to really reduce risks, they should go one step further: tie crop insurance payments with an obligation to create healthy soil. 

Margaret Reeves
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Global harms of industrial ag: We know enough.

Last month global experts released yet another report linking industrial agriculture with the dramatic degradation of soil, water and other natural resources currently threatening our ability to feed ourselves.

Just how much evidence do we need? I posit that like the banking crisis, the causes of the food production crisis are actually quite clear. A very few large and powerful beneficiaries of the current system (and their lackeys) continue to vociferously defend the status quo, while ample data show that it simply doesn't work. Meanwhile, growing numbers of farmers around the globe demonstrate viable, safer and necessary alternatives.

Margaret Reeves
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Food & Farm Bill: What now?

With last month’s death of the congressional Super Committee, so too died the 2011 Food and Farm Bill proposal that was folded into those fast-track talks. So what happens next?

A mixed bag of disappointments and glimmers of hope, the 2011 proposal now enters into the more normal process of policy development. Because of the tireless efforts of National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition members and many organizations around the country, this starting point for the 2012/13 Food and Farm Bill does contain some elements of our priorities — namely, support for conservation, local food, beginning farmers and organics.

Margaret Reeves
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Safer fields for farmworkers long overdue

Today, PAN and our partners at Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice filed a legal petition demanding that EPA act quickly to better protect farmworkers from hazardous pesticides. These much needed changes would be the first improvements in farmworker protection rules since 1995. The move is long overdue.

Margaret Reeves

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