Opinion | Farmers Don’t Need to Read the Science. We Are Living It. – By Alan Sano – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Sano is a farmer.

CreditCreditLucy Nicholson/Reuters

FIREBAUGH, Calif. — Many farmers probably haven’t read the new report from the United Nations warning of threats to the global food supply from climate change and land misuse. But we don’t need to read the science — we’re living it.

Here in the San Joaquin Valley, one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, there’s not much debate anymore that the climate is changing. The drought of recent years made it hard to ignore; we had limited surface water for irrigation, and the groundwater was so depleted that land sank right under our feet.

Temperatures in nearby Fresno rose to 100 degrees or above on 15 days last month, which was the hottest month worldwide on record, following the hottest June ever. (The previous July, temperatures reached at least 100 degrees on 26 consecutive days, surpassing the record of 22 days in 2005.) The heat is hard to ignore when you and your crew are trying to fix a broken tractor or harvest tomatoes under a blazing sun. As the world heats up, so do our soils, making it harder to get thirsty plants the water they need.

The valley’s characteristic winter tule fog is also disappearing, and winters are getting warmer. Yields of many stone fruits and nuts that feed the country are declining because the trees require cool winters and those fogs trap cool air in the valley. Warm winters also threaten the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which provides 30 percent of California’s water. We had a good wet winter this year, but a few years ago the snowpack was at its lowest level in 500 years. We also worry that last year’s record California wildfires, which blanketed the valley with smoke for weeks, might become the new normal. I don’t get sick much, but that summer I had a hard time breathing because of the congestion in my lungs.

. . . . .After harvesting our fall crops, we now use cover crops that return carbon and nitrogen to the soil and nourish the microbes and fungi essential for a living soil ecology. The plants and soil organisms work together to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and draw it down into the root zone. We minimize disturbance of our land by decreasing tillage, which protects these microorganisms and keeps carbon in the soil, where it belongs. Rather than being a source of carbon emissions, farms could store carbon where it’s needed to grow food.

This has been good for our business, too. We spend less on water, energy and fertilizer and are getting good yields. “

The Fish Is Boneless. (Fishless, Too.) – By David Yaffe-Bellany – The New York Times

“First, there was the meatless burger. Soon we may have fishless fish.

Impossible Foods, the California company behind the meatless Impossible Whopper now available at Burger King, is joining a crowded field of food companies developing alternatives to traditional seafood with plant-based recipes or laboratory techniques that allow scientists to grow fish from cells.

So far, much of Impossible’s work has focused on the biochemistry of fish flavor, which can be reproduced using heme, the same protein undergirding its meat formula, according to Pat Brown, the company’s chief executive. Last month, Impossible’s 124-person research and development team, which the company plans to increase to around 200 by the end of next year, produced an anchovy-flavored broth made from plants, he said.

“It was being used to make paella,” Mr. Brown said. “But you could use it to make Caesar dressing or something like that.”

The fishless-fish project is part of Impossible’s grand ambitions to devise tasty replacements for every animal-based food on the market by 2035. Whether that aim is achievable, either scientifically or financially, remains to be seen. But for now, Mr. Brown said, he’s confident Impossible’s plant-based beef recipe can be reconfigured to simulate a new source of protein.”

David Lindsay: Great article and comments. Here are the top three I endorsed, but there are many more good ones”

Lowell H
California

@Stefan….Phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) are found in some of the healthiest plants and plant based foods. Soybeans, garbanzo beans, tofu, mung beans, sprouts of many kinds…The list goes on. Sorry, Stefan, but these items are “good for you”, as mom would say, the beef and pork industries “studies” and shrill attacks notwithstanding. You positing that they are “far more harmful than red meat” is merely another desperate meat-eaters mantra.

In Reply to Lowell H60 Recommended

Lindsey commented 5 hours ago

Lindsey
Philadelphia, PA

Appreciating NYTimes recent reporting on vegan meats, great to see. Disappointing to read that more people are still apparently only concerned with health benefits that would accrue directly to them rather than the myriad of benefits that would accrue for many, many people through a reduction in meat consumption: greenhouse gas reduction, less forest loss, return of native fish stocks, toxic runoff reduction, etc, etc. Surprised this article didn’t mention Gardein, which makes a delicious vegan fish fillet along with a bunch of other products. I don’t think Gardein has been as targeted at flexitarians and non-vegans, but I would argue their fish fillet would be an easy (and better tasting) replacement in the fish sandwiches of many fast food chains–and I used to really like those.

7 Replies58 Recommended

Randy commented 3 hours ago

Randy
SF, NM

I don’t understand the hostility of meat-eaters toward these plant-based products. No one is coming to take away your hamburgers. Eating plant-based protein isn’t going to be mandatory. You may continue to consume real meat. But anyone who thinks plant-based protein is “gross” compared to the real thing should look into what happens at slaughterhouses, processing plants and on fishing vessels.

1 Reply53 Recommended

Opinion | Save Our Food. Free the Seed. – The New York Times

“We think that the behemoths of agribusiness known as Big Food control the food system from up high — distribution, processing and the marketplace muscling everything into position. But really it is the seed that determines the system, not the other way around.

The seeds in my palm optimized the farm for large-scale machinery and chemical regimens; they reduced the need for labor; they elbowed out the competition (formally known as biodiversity). In other words, seeds are a blueprint for how we eat.

We should be alarmed by the current architects.

Just 50 years ago, some 1,000 small and family-owned seed companies were producing and distributing seeds in the United States; by 2009, there were fewer than 100. Thanks to a series of mergers and acquisitions over the last few years, four multinational agrochemical firms — Corteva, ChemChina, Bayer and BASF — now control over 60 percent of global seed sales.”

Warning of ‘Pig Zero’: One Drugmaker’s Push to Sell More Antibiotics – The New York Times

“Facing a surge in drug-resistant infections, the World Health Organization issued a plea to farmers two years ago: “Stop using antibiotics in healthy animals.”

But at last year’s big swine industry trade show, the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, one of the largest manufacturers of drugs for livestock was pushing the opposite message.

“Don’t wait for Pig Zero,” warned a poster featuring a giant picture of a pig peeking through an enormous blue zero, at a booth run by the drugmaker Elanco.

The company’s Pig Zero brochures encouraged farmers to give antibiotics to every pig in their herds rather than waiting to treat a disease outbreak caused by an unknown Patient Zero. It was an appealing pitch for industrial farms, where crowded, germ-prone conditions have led to increasing reliance on drug interventions. The pamphlets also detailed how feeding pigs a daily regimen of two antibiotics would make them fatter and, as any farmer understands, a heavier pig is a more profitable pig.

x
David Lindsay: Excellent article, thank you.
Here is my favorite comment so far:
Ron From Chicago
Chicago

This is a HUGE problem. We will soon be exiting the antibiotic age, and will be back to the same place humans have been most of our existence-completely at the mercy and randomness of not catching a bacterial infection. We have developed one of the most remarkable life-saving advances in human history-antibiotic drugs, and through greed and recklessness have squandered this advantage. Our children will look back on this and curse our collective actions.

2 Replies124 Recommended

Opinion | Trump Is Terrible for Rural America – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By Paul Krugman
Opinion Columnist      May 9, 2019, 844

“Economists, reports Politico, are fleeing the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service. Six of them resigned on a single day last month. The reason? They are feeling persecuted for publishing reports that shed an unflattering light on Trump policies.

But these reports are just reflecting reality (which has a well-known anti-Trump bias). Rural America is a key part of Donald Trump’s base. In fact, rural areas are the only parts of the country in which Trump has a net positive approval rating. But they’re also the biggest losers under his policies.

What, after all, is Trumpism? In 2016 Trump pretended to be a different kind of Republican, but in practice almost all of his economic agenda has been G.O.P. standard: big tax cuts for corporations and the rich while hacking away at the social safety net. The one big break from orthodoxy has been his protectionism, his eagerness to start trade wars.

And all of these policies disproportionately hurt farm country.

The Trump tax cut largely passes farmers by, because they aren’t corporations and few of them are rich. One of the studies by Agriculture Department economists that raised Trumpian ire showed that to the extent that farmers saw tax reductions, most of the benefits went to the richest 10 percent, while poor farmers actually saw a slight tax increase.”

Opinion | Trump’s Shutdown Is a Sucker Punch for Struggling Farmers – By Robert Leonard – The New York Times

The president’s tariffs were the jab. Closing off his aid payments could be a knockout for many family farms.By Robert Leonard
Mr. Leonard is the news director for the Iowa radio stations KNIA and KRLS.
Jan. 14, 2019
Winter at a corn and soybean farm in Maple Park in northern Illinois.CreditWhitten Sabbatini for The New York TimesImageWinter at a corn and soybean farm in Maple Park in northern Illinois. CreditCreditWhitten Sabbatini for The New York Times

“KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Today President Trump will address the American Farm Bureau’s 100th annual convention in New Orleans. But any promises of help will be too late for many farmers.Had he set out to ruin America’s small farmers, he could hardly have come up with a more effective, potentially ruinous one-two combination punch than tariffs and the shutdown.The trade wars collapsed farmers’ markets. Now, with farmers down, he’s kicking them with a partial shutdown that has effectively slammed the door on farm payments, loans and more. It’s hurting rural Americans — those who formed a big part of the base of Mr. Trump’s support in 2016.Normally, January is a special and often joyous month for farmers, as they recover from the hard work of harvest and look to spring and a new planting season. They have sold much of their crops and are paying bills, taking out new operating loans for the coming year and buying seed, fertilizer and more.”

Why Thunderstorms and Lightning are good for the garden. » My Productive Backyard » Learn to Grow your Own Food at Home

“Thunderstorms result in lightning and although lightning is associated with extreme weather, as long as nobody gets hit or a fire isn’t started, lightning is advantageous for the garden.

Have you ever wondered why the garden looks so green after a thunderstorm?
It is because the chemistry happening in the air above us.

As you are probably aware, about 79% of our atmosphere is nitrogen, but not in a form that plants can absorb or take up. This is where lightning can make a difference. The energy created during a lightning event can convert atmospheric nitrogen and oxygen into nitric oxide (NO) which then oxides into nitrogen dioxide(NO2) then to nitric acid (HNO3) which is then deposited onto the earth’s surface in the ensuing rain, hail ( or snow in colder climates) and in a form that can be taken up by plant.

The garden looking very lush

So to simplify that statement.
Nitrogen in the atmosphere is not available for plants to absorb; the energy caused by lightning converts it into a form that can be absorbed by plants.”

Source: Why Thunderstorms and Lightning are good for the garden. » My Productive Backyard » Learn to Grow your Own Food at Home

Kimbal Musk Wants to Feed America Silicon Valley-Style – The New York Times

“MEMPHIS — It’s easy to understand why some people in this town of soul music and dry-rub ribs don’t know what to make of the tall tech billionaire in a big white cowboy hat who has been opening restaurants and buying up hundreds of acres of land that used to grow cotton.

Kimbal Musk, 45, got rich working in tech alongside his older brother, Elon. Now he wants to do for food what his brother has done for electric cars and space travel.Although Mr. Musk has food ventures humming along in Colorado, where he lives, as well as in big cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, he has become enamored of places like Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio — parts of the country he believes are the ripest for a revolution in eating and agriculture.

“The Americana here gives me goose bumps,” Mr. Musk, who grew up in South Africa, said during a visit to Memphis last spring. “I’ve been to Graceland twice. The community has been so welcoming, it’s just ridiculous.”Mr. Musk is promoting a philosophy he calls “real food,” which nourishes the body, the farmer and the planet. It doesn’t sound much different than what writers like Michael Pollan and everyone who has ever helped start a farmers’ market or community garden have preached for years.”