How the Supply Chain Crunch is Hurting California Farmers. – The New York Times

Peter S. Goodman has covered the supply chain chaos for the past two years. He reported this story from Manteca and Fresno, in California’s Central Valley, as well as Washington, D.C., and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

“During a normal spring, the sight of orchards bursting with clusters of almonds is a boon throughout California’s Central Valley. Here is money growing on trees.

Not this year.

As Scott Phippen looks out on his orchard on a recent afternoon, he feels a sense of foreboding tinged with rage. His warehouse is stuffed with the leftovers of last year’s harvest — 30 million pounds of almonds stored in wooden and plastic bins stacked to the rafters, and overflowing into his yard. Orders assembled for customers sit in giant white plastic bags and cardboard cartons arrayed across pallets, awaiting ships that can carry them across the water to Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

The almonds are here, the customers are over there, and the global shipping industry is failing to span the divide.”

Everything You Need to Know About Chocolate – By Melissa Clark – The New York Times

“You probably think you already know everything you need to know about chocolate.

For instance: The higher the percentage of cacao, the more bitter the chocolate, right? The term “single origin” on the label indicates that the chocolate expresses a particular terroir. And wasn’t the whole bean-to-bar movement started by a couple of bearded guys in Brooklyn?

Wrong; not necessarily; and definitely not.

Americans spend $21 billion on chocolate every year, but just because we eat a lot of it doesn’t mean we know what we’re eating. And misunderstandings at the store can make it especially hard for chocolate lovers to figure out which of the myriad, jauntily wrapped bars crowding the shelves are the best to buy, in terms of both taste and ethics.”

“. . . But while creativity and technical acuity in chocolate making have blossomed, ethical and environmental concerns still plague the supply chain. Despite a 20-year effort to battle the systemic poverty, child labor and deforestation endemic to the industry, those problems may actually be getting worse.

It might seem a lot to think about as you choose your Valentine’s Day chocolates, but here are answers to some basic questions you may not even know you had.”

“. . . . But while creativity and technical acuity in chocolate making have blossomed, ethical and environmental concerns still plague the supply chain. Despite a 20-year effort to battle the systemic poverty, child labor and deforestation endemic to the industry, those problems may actually be getting worse.

It might seem a lot to think about as you choose your Valentine’s Day chocolates, but here are answers to some basic questions you may not even know you had.”

“. . . . It’s a similar story with environmental impact. In 2017, 34 chocolate companies agreed to end deforestation by their industry. But according to a 2018 report by the environmental group Mighty Earth, cacao production was still ravishing forests, and the animals living within them, at an alarming rate.

Even when the industry does act, efforts from the top down can fail to take root. Both child labor and deforestation are part of the daily realities of the systemic poverty afflicting West Africa, said Kristy Leissle, a founder of the Cocoapreneurship Institute of Ghana and author of the 2018 book “Cocoa.”

To truly improve the lives of farmers and their families, Dr. Leissle said, the farmers need to be included in the conversation. “The current initiatives have been imposed on Africa from European and North American people who are not engaged in the daily labor of cocoa farming,” she said. “The solutions need to come from within the cocoa industry in Africa. That’s where the expertise is.”

Cacao, a shade-tolerant plant, can be grown under the forest canopy without drastic clearing. And when grown in a sustainable manner, it can have a low carbon footprint.”

Opinion | The Parable of the Sick Pig and the Lonely Rooster – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Chris Pizzello/Invision, via Associated Press

“NASHVILLE — John Chester’s lovely new documentary film, “The Biggest Little Farm,” opens with a tragedy in the making: Wildfires are moving toward the farm from three different directions. A horse whinnies in alarm as workers rush to shepherd a storybook cast of farm animals — chickens, pigs, sheep, cows — toward what they hope will be safer pastures. Sirens wail in the distance. Smoke and ash fill the air.

It’s a sobering opening for a feel-good film about a young California couple who leave their day jobs to become organic farmers. “Everyone told us this idea was crazy, that attempting to farm in harmony with nature would be reckless, if not impossible,” Mr. Chester says in a voice-over. But it wasn’t impossible: After the opening sequence, the film backtracks to tell the story of how Mr. Chester, a documentary filmmaker, and Molly Chester, a personal chef, managed to turn 200 acres of worn-out, arid land 40 miles north of Los Angeles into an agricultural paradise called Apricot Lane Farms.

As “The Biggest Little Farm” unfolds, the Chesters hire Alan York, an expert in biodynamic farming practices, to teach them traditional methods that will restore their land to true fertility, no chemicals required. Cover crops fix nitrogen in the soil and sequester rainwater, preventing runoff and holding the topsoil in place. Sheep graze among the cover crops, leaving behind fertilizer for the soil. A giant worm-composting facility produces more fertilizer for the gardens and orchards. It’s breathtaking, all the ways the Chesters have found to ensure that every animal on the farm contributes to the health of the crops, and to ensure that the crops can sustain the farm animals while still producing enough fruits and vegetables to sell at market. And all of it works in concert with the wildlife that soon returns to the newly restored ecosystem.

I won’t give away the film’s genuine drama by revealing too many details, but it’s not a spoiler to point out that there’s a reason industrial farms typically use enormous amounts of chemicals: Attempting to farm in harmony with nature means that nature will sometimes get the upper hand, at least at first. “I guess I don’t know what Alan’s idea of a ‘perfect harmony’ is even supposed to look like,” Mr. Chester laments midway through the film. “Because every step we take to improve our land seems to just create the perfect habitat for the next pest.”

Opinion | Make America Graze Again – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

Margaret Renkl

By Margaret Renkl

Contributing Opinion Writer

Ewe lambs grazing.CreditWilliam DeShazer for The New York Times

“NASHVILLE — Just past the intersection of Highway 70 and Old Hickory Boulevard, in the Bellevue section of Nashville, stands a tiny patch of native wilderness. Four acres of pristine woodland tucked behind a condominium complex, the Belle Forest Cave Arboretum is a stone’s throw from restaurants, shops and big-box stores. I’ve passed it probably a hundred times over the years with no idea it was there.

Last week, on a drizzly spring afternoon, I found it. The pocket park provides the perfect habitat for a huge range of plant and animal life: In addition to the usual songbirds, mammals, turtles, and wildflowers that can make a home of even the tiniest wooded opportunity, Belle Forest boasts salamanders and tri-colored bats and at least 39 species of trees.

It is also home to a wide range of invasive plants: bush honeysuckle and Chinese privet and a host of others that pose a serious threat to native plants and the wildlife that depends on them. But clearing this densely woven environment of unwanted vegetation, especially without harming native plants, is a challenge: herbicides would poison the creeks, and heavy machinery would dislodge the trees and compact the soil — if machinery could make it up the steep terrain at all.”

Vandana Shiva: There Is No Reason Why India Should Face Hunger and Farmers Should Commit Suicide – EcoWatch

Vandana Shiva: There Is No Reason Why India Should Face Hunger and Farmers Should Commit Suicide

There is no reason why India should face hunger and malnutrition and why our farmers should commit suicide. India is blessed with the most fertile soils in the world. Our climate is so generous we can, in places, grow four crops in a year—compared to the industrialized west where sometimes only one crop is possible per year. We have the richest biodiversity of the world, both because of our diverse climates and because of the brilliance of our farmers as breeders. Our farmers are among the most hardworking, productive people in the world. Yet India faces an emergency, in our food and agricultural system. This emergency is man-made.

Firstly, the poor and vulnerable are dying for lack of food. According to the Deccan Herald, Lalita S. Rangari, 36, a Dalit widow and mother of two children of the Gondiya tribal belt, allegedly died due to starvation. Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice Indu Jain of the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court have served notice to the government of Maharashtra seeking its reply to the starvation death of a Dalit widow.

Photo credit: Nourishing Revolution”Even as India gets richer, we have emerged as the capital of hunger and malnutrition. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), 42.5 percent of children under five years old were underweight. This is more than double the African average of 21 percent, which until recently was the face of hunger.

The second tragedy is that our food producers, the small farmers who have provided food to more than a billion Indians and hold the potential to provide healthy food for all, are themselves dying because of agriculture and trade policies which put corporate profits above the rights and well being of our small farmers. More than 300,000 farmers have committed suicide in India since 1995, when the rules for the globalization of agriculture of the World Trade Organization (WTO) were implemented, transforming food into a commodity, agriculture into corporate business and shifting control over seeds and food from farmers to a handful of giant multinational corporations.

The third tragedy is that even those who get food are being denied their right to healthy and nourishing food. The explosion of junk food, of pesticides and toxics in our food, have created a disease epidemic that is a human tragedy and an economic burden. There is an epidemic of diseases related to our lifestyle and food, such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension, infertility and cardiovascular diseases.

The recent Maggi noodle scandal highlights the rapid invasion of junk food in the Indian diet. We are what we eat. When we eat food full of toxic chemicals, we pay the price with our health. India has emerged as the epicenter of diabetes.

In 2004, 8.2 lac Indians were diagnosed with diabetes and 2.6 lac succumbed to the disease. In 2012, the diabetes numbers jumped to 180 lac diagnosed and 7 lac dead. In 2010 alone, India spent 32 billion dollars on diabetes care. Cancer has also seen an increase by 30 percent in the last 5 years, with 180 million people affected in India. At 10 lac treatment per cancer victim this multiplies to 300 billion dollars, or 18 lac crores in rupees.

In extensive studies reported in “Poisons In Our Food” by Navdanya, elevated levels of PCBs, DDE and DDT have been found in the blood of women suffering from breast cancer. Studies show that 51 percent of all food commodities are contaminated by pesticides.”

Source: Vandana Shiva: There Is No Reason Why India Should Face Hunger and Farmers Should Commit Suicide – EcoWatch

Opinion | Trump Has No Idea What His Tariffs Have Unleashed for Farmers – By Robert Leonard – NYT

Quote

By Robert Leonard
Mr. Leonard is the news director for the radio stations KNIA and KRLS.

July 26, 2018


A farm near Amana, Iowa.CreditScott Olson/Getty Images
“KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Today President Trump is visiting Dubuque, Iowa, where every year at harvest time, millions of tons of grain come via rail and truck to be loaded onto barges on the Mississippi River and shipped to Mexico, China and much of the rest of the world. Harvest puts coin into the hands of farmers, and they and their communities — indeed all of America — profit. Not this year.

The president is here to trumpet a $12 billion plan to aid American farmers. Why do they need aid? For Iowans, it’s because 33 percent of our economy is tied, directly or indirectly, to agriculture, and Mr. Trump recklessly opened trade wars that will hit “Trump country” — rural America — hardest and that have already brought an avalanche of losses. Indeed, the impact of his tariffs will probably be felt by family farms and the area for generations.

So perhaps visiting Dubuque is the least he could do.

The cost of being shut out of overseas markets for soybeans, beef, pork, chicken and more will be in the billions. Once those markets are gone, they will be difficult to recover. Commodity prices continue to drop, and good weather suggests an excellent crop is in the making, which will drive prices further down.

Brazil is ready to step in with increased soybean production, and China has already shifted its purchasing power there.

via Opinion | Trump Has No Idea What His Tariffs Have Unleashed for Farmers – The New York Times

China’s Taste for Soybeans Is a Weak Spot in the Trade War With Trump – By Raymond Zhong – NYT

XIAOWUSILI, China — For all its economic might, China hasn’t been able to solve a crucial problem.

Soybeans. It just can’t grow enough of them.

 

That could blunt the impact of one of the biggest weapons the country wields in a trade fight with the United States.

Beijing placed a 25 percent tariff on American soybeans last week in retaliation for the Trump administration’s levies on Chinese-made goods. Last year, soy growers in the United States sold nearly one-third of their harvest to China. In dollar terms, only airplanes are a more significant American export to China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Source: China’s Taste for Soybeans Is a Weak Spot in the Trade War With Trump – The New York TimesMay

 

David Lindsay:  Maybe. Here are the three most recommended comments, that doubt some of what this article says:

Kathy Chenault
Rockville, Maryland

Although you say U.S. soybean producers “could take a hit,” you fail to realize they already have been hurt deeply and they suffer more each day this ruinous trade manipulation continues. Farmers need to be selling significant percentages of expected production throughout the growing season on futures contracts. This usually begins even before they have planted their crops in the spring. I grew up on a family farm in Nebraska and still am involved in its operations. (Each year, about half of our acres are planted in soybeans.) Commodity prices already were trapped in a low cycle before Trump’s disastrous trade moves. Farmers know how to deal with the usual ebb and flow that comes with such a long-range economic pursuit like farming. But then came the trade war that Trump says he wanted. Farmers now face these perilous conditions: Rising interest rates, decreasing land values because of falling commodity prices, and higher equipment costs and operating expenses because of other non-farm tariff threats by Trump. Our foreign grain markets, including but not limited to China, have taken decades to develop. All that work is being undone daily by Trump. The short-sighted focus of your story fails to take that into account — just as it appears the Trump administration has failed to truly understand the very nature of our farm economy or how rural America is affected by his actions. Shame.

donald.richards commented July 9

donald.richards
Terre Haute

Monsanto grows plenty of soybeans in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. I’m sure they won’t have any problem wiping out more of the rain forest to meet Chinese demand.

And when they do more American farmers can apply for food stamps. They might want to reconsider that work requirement for eligibility though.

Ruralist commented July 9

Ruralist
Upstate

The article seems to assume that the rest of the world produces no soybeans, but that is far from true. The biggest of the other exporters in Brazil. In fact, Brazilian farmers saw this coming and started expanding their plantings earlier this year.
They are also buying US soybeans at the great discount the trade war creates ($7.80), and selling them to other customers at the Brazil price ($10).

The competition is smart and well-informed.

 

 

 

Added Value Farms is Where David Buckel worked. A youth-­centered urban farming and food justice non­-profit in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

URBAN FARMING & YOUTH EMPOWERMENT
Added Value Farms is a youth-­centered urban farming and food justice non­-profit in Red Hook, Brooklyn. We create opportunities for teens to expand their knowledge base, develop their leadership skills, and positively engage with each other, their community, and the environment. We operate two urban farms and a community composting program in partnership with other local organizations and city agencies. The Red Hook Community Farm (2.75 acres) focuses on education and production, while the NYCHA farm (1 acre) focuses on community engagement. Our programs include a teen farm apprenticeship, a weekly farm stand, a CSA, and a school workshop program. We strive to transform vacant lands into vibrant urban farms, improve access to healthy, affordable produce, and nurture a new generation of green leaders.

Quick Facts:
Last year, we produced 20,000 pounds of produce at our 2 farms.
We hire and mentor 5-25 youth per year (spring, summer, and fall) to run our farm and market.
Our Saturday Farmers Market is open for business June-November, and sells affordable, fresh, pesticide-free produce grown right here in Red Hook!
More than 1,200 children visited for our farm-based learning program last year.
In partnership with Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the NYC Compost Project, we compost over 200 tons of organic waste annually.
Over 60 families invest in the farm through our Community-Supported Agriculture program.
Hundreds of volunteers support our work through weekly drop-in workdays as well as volunteer events through their workplace.

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