by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Agriculture

Feb 8 2009

Some good news at last: small farms!

To what no doubt was great shock to the Department of Agriculture, the number of small farms in America went up from 2002 to 2007.  This is great news for local, sustainable agriculture and let’s hope for lots more of the same.  But most of these farms are not yet self-supporting, and their owners have day (or night) jobs to stay afloat.  According to Andrew Martin in today’s New York Times, 40% of U.S. farms  (900,000 of 2.2 million) earn less than $2,500 a year in sales.  Agribusiness predominates: 5% of  farms (125,000) account for 75% of production.  But what a great sign this is of good things to come.  Let’s hope the USDA wises up and puts some support behind this welcome trend.

All this comes from the USDA’s 2007 Census on Agriculture. Check out the nifty slide show link on that page for a quick overview of the facts and figures.

Update February 10: Here’s Verlyn Klinkenborg’s New York Times editorial on the topic.  He points out that as new small farms (9 acres or less) come into existence, medium-size farms are the ones to get engulfed and devoured by agribusiness. The new diversity in crops and farmers “is a genuine source of hope for American agriculture.”

Feb 6 2009

Will Obama’s plan help food and agriculture?

An analysis by the Congressional Research Service says not much, relatively.  Although $27 billion to USDA sounds like a big chunk of change, $21 billion of that goes to food assistance (good) but only $6 billion to any kind of farm program (not so good).  Missing in action are the things many of us care deeply about: support for small farmers, organic production methods, fruits & vegetables (“specialty crops”), or any of the other things mentioned by Sam Hurst in his discussion of the report at Gourmet’s online site.

Jan 9 2009

More voting opportunities: victory gardens and USDA

Slow Food USA is promoting efforts by groups who want an organic garden grown at the White House and who would like to see some representation of interest in sustainable agriculture at the USDA.  Here’s your chance to sign petitions on both those issues.  And the American Gothic illustration of the Obamas is pretty cute too.

Jan 5 2009

USDA stats on million-dollar farms

Here’s a statistic that reveals the current status of the American agricultural system.  According to a recent USDA report, farms earning a annual income of a million dollars constitute just 2% of American farms, but account for a whopping 50% of total U.S. farm income.  Small family farms: where are you when we need you?

Dec 22 2008

The NY Times weighs in on the Vilsack appointment

The New York Times editorial writers have some interesting things to say about the challenges facing the new USDA secretary.  The Vilsack appointment, they say, “has the merit of being unsatisfactory to both extremes of the farm-policy debates.”  This makes me wonder when sustainable agriculture will be viewed as the wave of the future, and not as “extreme.”  Soon?

12/23 update: Here’s Kim Severson’s piece in the food section on what needs to happen at the USDA.

Dec 12 2008

Want a better USDA? Sign here!

Food Democracy is circulating a petition to the Obama transition team to appoint a USDA Secretary who cares about sustainability (what a concept!).  Click on the link to join the movement!  If you want to read more about this, see Nicholas Kristof’s column linked to my post on December 10 and Michael Pollan’s magazine piece linked to the one on October 12.

Dec 10 2008

Michael Pollan talks to Bill Moyers

Here is Bill Moyer’s recent interview with Michael Pollan, talking about what the new president can and cannot do for American agriculture.  Worth a look.

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/11282008/profile.html

12/11 update: Take a look at today’s New York Times where Nicholas Kristof enthusiastically supports the idea that Obama should appoint a “Secretary of Food.”

Nov 6 2008

What Obama thinks about agriculture

Meatpoultry.com has collected President-Elect Obama’s statements about agriculture from his website (you will need to register – it’s free – to read this).  As with much else about Obama’s views, these ideas sound hopeful.  He will need much encouragement to follow through on some of these promises.