Posted by Chuck Benbrook | February 5, 2014
Farm bills over the last forty years have shaped today’s agriculture systems and technology. They have done so by setting the “rules of the road” and defining or shaping research and investment priorities.
The new farm bill provides farmers, agribusiness, rural communities, and the food industry a more stable policy framework in which to make investment and planting decisions. But my sense is this farm bill could mark a historically significant inflection point. Farm bills since the 1970s have tried to become more market-driven, by lessening the impact of USDA farm programs on the choices made by farmers. Read more »
Posted by Andrew McGuire | January 28, 2014
This post follows Chad Kruger’s introduction to the discussion of GMOs and sustainability.
In a past post, I argued that killing a cover crop with an herbicide was better for building soil than killing it with tillage. Here is another option. Why not develop genetically engineered (GE) cover crops that die easily when sprayed with an innocuous substance? Read more »
Posted by Chad Kruger | January 24, 2014
Historically, there has been passionate resistance from advocates of organic and sustainable agriculture systems to the introduction and use of genetically engineered (GE) crops. The position, as most often stated, is that GE and sustainable agriculture (specifically organic agriculture) are mutually exclusive. This position is codified in the National Organics Standards which have excluded the intentional use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in organic production and handling. The high-profile ballot initiative (I-522) had this issue front and center in Washington State for most of last fall. Read more »
Posted by Craig Frear | January 22, 2014
In recent years, increasing numbers of consumers have become interested in making sure the food system is more sustainable. However, the bulk of effort and attention has gone toward the part of the food system that leads up to their forks. Much less attention has been paid to the “post-fork” part of our food system. This part of the food system is big. In 2008, food losses were estimated to be 30% at the retail and consumer levels in the U.S., with a total estimated retail value of $165.6 billion (Buzby and Hyman 2012). Other estimates are similar, ranging from 25–40%. Read more »
Posted by Chad Kruger | December 11, 2013
My colleague Chuck Benbrook posted a fascinating article this week summarizing his recent paper that evaluates how organic milk impacts human nutrition. If you haven’t read it, you should. In the comments of Chuck’s post, another colleague Andy McGuire inquires and Chuck confirms, the likely reason organic milk is nutritionally superior to conventional milk is the composition of the feed ration (i.e., more grass).
Posted by David Granatstein | November 3, 2013
In the 1970s, I was part of the “back to the land” movement and very interested in organic farming as the solution to sustainability problems in agriculture. At that time, organic was close to invisible on the agricultural and food landscape. In spite of this, many of us strived toward “the whole world being organic.” A lot has changed since then; and a lot has not. Organic has undergone exponential growth in the marketplace, with increases in both the number of farmers and the land area involved. Organic is still a small fraction of the market, however, and many of the problems we saw decades ago still persist. Read more »
Posted by Chad Kruger | September 6, 2013
Full disclosure: I come from a livestock-producing family tradition and I eat meat. And I like it. A lot.
In his latest provocative post, my colleague Andy McGuire reflects on a new paper that assesses the potential to feed a growing global population by shifting from meat consumption to a vegetarian diet. The paper presents a very compelling scientific rationale for the shift and has Andy contemplating his future dietary choices. Go read Andy’s post – it’s worth your time. In the conclusion of his post, Andy asks readers whether they would quit meat to feed the planet.
My answer to Andy is an unequivocal “No.” Read more »
Posted by Andrew McGuire | September 5, 2013
I eat meat. More specifically, I eat feedlot beef from major supermarket chains and generally enjoy it. Nonetheless, the implications of a recent study have me questioning whether I will eat meat in the future. Read more »
Posted by David Granatstein | August 27, 2013
While most consumers may choose organic foods for their potential health characteristics (e.g., lower chance of pesticide residue and potentially greater nutrient value), these same consumers generally believe that organic farming is “good” for the environment and thus worth supporting. But is the assumption of environmental benefit correct? And is there a cost? Let’s take a look at how the newer studies compare to older research findings. Read more »
Posted by Chad Kruger | August 15, 2013
The dog days of summer have arrived in Eastern Washington – with daily temps reaching the high 90s every day. This is the second extended stretch of heat in the region this year. Read more »