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New York Times: High Prices Sow Seeds of Erosion

New York Times: Corn for Food, Not Fuel


Farmers value conservation programs, reject farm bill conservation funding cuts (National Farmers Union)

American farmers believe conservation programs and environmental stewardship are key components of the farm bill and critical to their bottom line, according to a poll released recently by National Farmers Union.

The bipartisan poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (a Democratic polling firm) and Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican polling firm) surveyed 502 American farmers across 13 Midwestern and Great Plains states on their views regarding farm bill conservation programs. The results show that farmers view conservation programs and environmental stewardship as key components to the farm bill and critical to their future and bottom line.

“The findings of this survey demonstrate the deep commitment to conservation that farmers have across the heartland,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “As Congress moves forward crafting the farm bill, we would emphasize the importance conservation programs play for farmers both for environmental stewardship and continued productivity.”

The survey was conducted in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Specific highlights of the survey include:

·     Eighty-six percent of farmers say the level of conservation funding should be maintained or increased. Nearly half would be less likely to support a member of Congress who voted to cut conservation funding more than the $6 billion in the Senate-passed farm bill.

·     Conservation programs rank as the second-highest priority for inclusion in the farm bill, and farmers are not swayed by an argument that says conservation funding should be cut in order to prioritize risk management coverage.

·     Farmers view conservation as a priority that is vital to their long-term economic viability with nearly three-quarters of farmers saying that conservation programs help their bottom line.

·     By a nearly two-to-one margin, farmers believe that farmers should be required to meet some environmental standards in order to receive federal benefits such as crop insurance.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Public Opinion Strategies interviewed 502 farmers from IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, MO, ND, NE, OH, OK, SD and WI from June 7-13; MoE is +/- 4.4% points at the 95% CI


New research should nail the coffin lid shut on a toxic bee-killing pesticide
Entire food chain found to be contaminated, from soil to pollen to dead bees

The Sierra Club calls on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to immediately suspend the registration of the insecticide clothianidin, based on new scientific evidence of extensive contamination in bees and soil.

On January 3, 2012, scientists at Purdue University documented major adverse impacts from clothianidin, used as a seed treatment in corn, on honey bee health. The results showed clothianidin present in foraging areas long after treated seed has been planted.

The study raises questions about the long term survival of this major pollinator.

"This research should nail the coffin lid shut on clothianidin", says Laurel Hopwood, Sierra Club's Chairwoman of the Genetic Engineering Action Team. "Despite numerous attempts by the beekeeping industry and conservation organizations to persuade the EPA to ban clothianidin, the EPA has failed to protect the food supply for the American people."

Tom Theobald, a founding member of the Boulder County Beekeeper's Association explains, "In 2010, I got hold of an EPA document revealing that the agency has been allowing the widespread use of this bee-toxic pesticide, against evidence that it's highly toxic to bees. Clothianidin has failed to meet the requirements for registration. It's continued use is in violation of the law."

Upon learning of the EPA's failures, the National Honey Bee Advisory Board, the American Beekeeping Federation and The American Honey Producer's Association urged the agency in a 12/8/2010 letter to cancel the registration of this pesticide. Yet despite the fact that clothianidin had failed a critical life cycle study which was required for registration, the agency responded in a 2/18/2011 letter stating "At this time, we are not aware of any data that reasonably demonstrates that bee colonies are subject to elevated losses due to chronic exposure to this pesticide. EPA does not intend at this time to initiate suspension or cancellation actions against the registered uses of clothianidin. If scientific information shows a particular pesticide is posing unreasonable risk to pollinators, we stand ready to take the necessary regulatory action."

Neil Carman, PhD, scientific advisor to Sierra Club, is troubled by EPA's complacency. "A huge shoe has dropped. U.S. researchers have documented major adverse impacts from clothianidin seed treatments in corn on honey bee health." Carman further explains "Because of the vital role played by honey bees in crop pollination, honey bee demise threatens the production of crops that produce one-third of American diets, including nearly 100 fruits and vegetables. The value of crops pollinated by bees exceeds $15 billion in the U.S. alone."

Hopwood exclaims, "The time is now for EPA to quit dodging the illusion of oversight and instead, cancel this bee- killing pesticide. If we travel too far down our current path, we could create conditions in our food system much like those that brought down the financial system."


Iowa Soil Erosion Report Released


"Across wide swaths of Iowa and other Corn Belt states, the rich, dark soil that made this region the nation’s breadbasket is being swept away at rates many times higher than official estimates.  That is the disturbing picture revealed by new techniques that track soil erosion with unprecedented precision."


Those words are from the Environmental Working Group that recently released its report "Losing Ground."  Read more.



Leopold Center Offers Plan to Boost Local Food Economy in Iowa

A new statewide plan would boost the local food economy and increase opportunities for those who want to buy or sell Iowa-raised meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, fruit, vegetables and other crops in local and regional markets.

These recommendations are part of the Iowa Local Food and Farm Plan, submitted to the Iowa Legislature by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. During last year’s legislative session, the Center was asked to provide specific policy and funding actions that would support and expand local and regional food systems in Iowa.

The Iowa Local Food and Farm Plan has 34 recommendations, including creation of a state-level local food and farm program, education and training for producers and local food businesses, changes in state policy to benefit local food businesses, and data collection to track growth of local food sales. The plan calls for a one-year state appropriation to hire a local food and farm state coordinator. In subsequent years, the position and cost to implement other recommendations would be supported by a voluntary Local Food and Farm Program Fund.

Click here for the report.



GMO Contamination in Mexico's Cradle of Corn

LeMonde, the French publication, recently published an article about a molecular study conducted by Mexican, American and Dutch researchers demonstrates the presence of genes from genetically modified organisms (GMO) among the varieties of traditional corn cultivated in the remote regions of Oaxaca State in the southern part of the country, even though the Mexican government has always maintained a moratorium on the use of transgenic seed.  Read the article translated into English here...

Colony Collapse Disorder

One third of honeybee colonies are disappearing due to "colony collapse disorder."  Two common pesticides are being linked to the disorder symptoms in honeybees. Find out more here...



Global Warming Could Severely Harm U.S. Crops

The Union of Concerned Scientists writes in its October 2009 edition of Food & Environment Electronic Digest that "Rising temperatures could hurt productivity (or yields) of important crops according to a series of studies. A recent paper by two economists stated that although yields of corn, soybeans, and cotton increase with temperatures up to an average of 84 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the growing season, after that point yields plummet. Assuming that we continue to grow these crops in the same regions and that we reduce global warming emissions to half of 1991 levels by 2050, yields could fall by 30 to 46 percent by the end of the century. If emissions continue unabated—the worst-case scenario considered—yields could drop by 63 to 82 percent. The effects of climate change are expected to hit even harder in developing countries. Read the study abstract in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or read a blog post about it by one of the authors."