Urban farming in Minnesota reached a milestone this summer, when the state announced the first round of grants for agriculture education and development projects in cities. It’s the first time the state has allocated money specifically for urban agriculture, and it took several tries to get the legislation passed. Michael Chaney, a long-time advocate from north Minneapolis who founded Project Sweetie Pie, a grant recipient, said he approached lawmakers with the idea about four years ago. At the time, he saw plenty of interest in urban agriculture — but not the kind of financial support that exists for rural farmers. “I was disenchanted and discouraged,” Chaney said.Advocates said state investment is crucial because it lends credibility to what Chaney calls the “changing face of agriculture.” Such state funding, even a small amount, can usher in a shift toward seeing urban areas as potential farms and their residents as fellow food producers.
Last year at this time there were trainloads of soybeans headed to the Pacific Northwest from the Dakotas to meet orders from Chinaa. But the U.S.-China trade war and tariffs on American soybeans has caused Chinese buyers to stay away.That's proving to be especially painful for farmers in the Dakotas, where lower cash prices are offered by the local grain elevators.Now there are so-called "refugee" soybeans that need a new home.
The state of Michigan announced that bovine tuberculosis was recently confirmed in a large beef herd in Alcona County. The infectious bacterial disease, which is endemic in the free-ranging white-tailed deer population in a Michigan zone that includes four counties, was identified in the beef herd through routine surveillance testing. Annual surveillance and movement tests are required of cattle producers to help catch the disease early and prevent it from moving off the farm. “Preventing deer from having contact with cattle feed, feed storage or watering areas is crucial for farmers in this area of Michigan and a part of wildlife biosecurity programs being implemented,” Michigan Assistant State Veterinarian Nancy Barr said in a statement.
Imagine being a farmer going about your business on a Sunday afternoon, checking on your livestock or poultry. Suddenly, 200 animal rights activists descend upon your property, demanding access to your barns. They stick a camera in your face to capture your pleas for them to stop as they check every door until they find one that will open. Sound crazy?Unfortunately, this exact scenario played out on a Petaluma, CA broiler farm at the end of September. And it wasn’t the first time – you may recall extremist group Direct Action Everywhere (DXE) holding a similar “mass rescue” on a California egg farm in May with 500 protestors. That time, they were able to steal 37 hens and around 40 activists were arrested. They took advantage of the fact that local law enforcement wasn’t prepared to face this type of incident, and also intentionally misled officials on the scene about what they call their “legal right” to enter farms and take animals.This time, local law enforcement was ready to respond quickly and firmly to prevent escalation. Activists had gotten their hands on six birds but were only able to leave with one. A total of 58 arrests were made for suspicion of trespassing, felony burglary and felony conspiracy, and bail was set at $20,000 for each person – an indication of just how seriously the Sherriff’s Department is taking this issue.
Farming food crops of all kinds is likely to become more difficult as global temperatures increase, depressing yields for corn, soybeans, rice and wheat. That’s the bleak assessment set out by a United Nations panel of scientists gathered to assess the impact of a climate change. It warned the world is 1 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) hotter than it was at the start of the industrial revolution and is on track to warm 3 degrees by the end of the century.The global corn crop may shrink by 10 percent if temperatures rise 1.5 degrees, a threshold the panel expects may be reached by 2035. There’s a similar threat for other food crops, along with a hit to livestock from cattle to pigs both because of higher temperatures and the threat to food supplies for those animals.“If we do not keep climate change to below 2 degrees, we face more and more disruption to food supplies,” said Tim Benton, a professor of ecology at the University of Leeds.
In the past three years, Irvine went from treating its parks and nature areas with more than 50 pounds and about 60 gallons of synthetic weed and pest killers annually, all the way down to zero. The city now uses organic products with ingredients such as corn gluten meal and oil from soybeans, lemongrass or rosemary. And Irvine is not alone – it’s one of more than 150 U.S. cities and counties that have created “organic-first” policies and in some cases banned the use of specific chemicals that may harm people or the environment.But a provision tucked into the 2018 federal farm bill could block local governments from making their own rules about pesticides, effectively neutering local control over what gets sprayed into the air, poured into the water or sprinkled on the ground.While the rule couldn’t force anyone to use any particular type of pesticide, it would allow only federal and state authorities to place restrictions on them.
The United States’ three largest trading partners—China, the European Union (EU), and NAFTA (Canada and Mexico)—have implemented tariffs on over $120 billion of U.S. exports.This short analysis reviews the exposure local communities have to these trade policy changes. It draws on the Export Monitor, a unique dataset developed as part of the Global Cities Initiative, to estimate which local and regional economies rely the most on export industries targeted by retaliatory tariffs. Of course, the U.S.-imposed tariffs on imports also affect cities, regions, and states—as well as the firms, workers, and consumers within them.China, the EU, and the NAFTA countries have now implemented tariffs on about $121 billion worth of U.S. exports. While that number has grown rapidly over the past several months, it still only represents about 6.1 percent of the $2 trillion in total U.S. goods and services exports in 2017. Our analysis indicates China’s retaliatory stance is strongest, accounting for $101.4 billion of the U.S. exports implicated by tariffs. We also estimate $12.8 billion of U.S. exports under Canadian tariffs, $3.5 billion under Mexican tariffs, and $3.3 billion under EU tariffs.Nationally, the tariffs touch about 6.1 percent of exports. But there is significant local variation across the 962 metropolitan areas, micropolitan areas, and rural geographies in our Export Monitor database, from a low of 0.3 percent of exports and 0.2 percent of export-supported jobs in Los Alamos, N.M. to a high of 26.1 percent of exports and 24.1 percent of export-supported jobs in Blytheville, Ark.
The Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park, more commonly called the “Ag Center,” is a 150-acre park purchased by Baltimore County about 15 years ago with a mission to educate the public about farming. But volunteers who have helped develop the Shawan Road park and its educational programs say they fear it’s being turned into something else — shifting away from farm programs and instead becoming a center for equestrian activities.“We feel it’s been a gradual repurposing of the Ag Center,” said Tom Whedbee, chairman of the Maryland Agricultural Resource Council, an advisory council that founded the center, raises crops there and runs many of its educational programs.“What was this built for? For the agricultural industry. … We are methodically being pushed out without any consultation,” said Dan Colhoun Jr., a member of the agricultural council who owns a nearby 210-acre farm where he grows hay.
Zheng Nanda worked the fields that surround this village in the northern province of Shanxi for more than four decades, often behind a plow pulled by cows. He is now in his early 70s and too old for such arduous labor. His children long ago left for jobs in the city and have no interest in farming. So Mr. Zheng became an unlikely agent of change. He has rented almost all of his small plot to other farmers, who work it using modern equipment. The $500 a year he earns in rental income helps keep him comfortable in his neatly manicured courtyard home.“I won’t want to join my children in the city,” he said. “There is a Chinese saying that ‘fallen leaves return to the roots.’”As young people leave for the cities, more small farmers like Mr. Zheng are leasing their land for others to work. That is a monumental shift for a country where small family farms have dominated the rural landscape for centuries. As these small farmers bow out, Zheng Chenggong, 27, is taking their place. (As in many rural villages in China, residents of Shanhui share a handful of surnames.) Twenty years ago, his father tilled a small plot of about two acres. Since then, Mr. Zheng and his parents have amassed more than 160 acres by renting plots from the local government and other villagers who have given up.The result is a thriving business cultivating corn and carrots. Mr. Zheng invested in planters, pesticide sprayers and other equipment, including a new, shiny red harvester, parked in a lot behind his modest home. Piles of corn are stored in a warehouse next door. During autumn, he employs over 100 people from about 10 villages to harvest his carrots.
Doyle Lentz, a farmer in North Dakota whose crops include wheat and barley, talked about similar concerns, even though he does see a particular benefit for wheat farmers in the new deal.American farmers had been frustrated by Canada's policy of classifying all U.S. wheat as low-quality (and therefore low-price). The new deal prohibits that low-quality classification, essentially allowing U.S. farmers to sell more wheat to Canada at fairer prices. That's good news, Lentz says. But threatening to tear the deal up in order to improve it was "not worth the risk," he believes."I don't think there was any need to open NAFTA from an agriculture standpoint," he says. "Most of these things could have been remedied by just having an open communication and dialogue ... I guess I'm more of the belief that's how you do negotiations and trade than, you know, hold a gun to somebody's head."It's not just farmers who are more relieved than rejoicing.Analysts and former policymakers echoed a similar note of relief.The "best thing that can be said about the new agreement" is that it might bring certainty, says Michael Camuñez, the president and CEO of Monarch Global Strategies and a former assistant secretary of commerce under President Obama. Camuñez notes the uncertainty, itself, was "totally self-inflicted.""I don't want to sound like a naysayer," he says. "I'm very happy that this agreement has been reached. I hope it will bring more stability and certainty than we've had for ... the last 16 months."