Lying on the northern coast of Italy, the region of Cinque Terre has become one of the most famous tourist sites in the country. Recently, this area has been attracting more than just tourists. A UNESCO-funded program to help teach the art of terracing has been developed in the region. Led by Margherita Ermirio, the goal is to not only teach the traditional method of farming to the next generation, but also to secure the future of the Cinque Terre region. Because of its unique placement on the side of mountains set against the sea, the terracing in Cinque Terre not only yields crops but helps to maintain soil structure and prevent erosion.
Mrs. Ermirio spent several years abroad before returning to her hometown in order reteach the process of terracing. Essentially, terracing is the method of planting crops on step-like platforms that have been carved into the mountainside. This form of agriculture helps to prevent heavy erosion associated with falling rainwater. In a sense, reteaching this method of farming not only helps to carry on a sense of cultural historical significance but also to secure the future of the Cinque Terre landscape itself.
Starting in the 1960’s farmers began to leave their plots of land in order to search for better work in the cities. This abandonment has left many of these terrace steps in need of repair and reuse. Through the UNESCO-sponsored program, Mrs. Ermirio has been working with several local landlords to help rebuild the terracing structures and continue this old practice of agriculture in order to secure a future for Cinque Terre. The work conducted by Mrs. Ermirio has received support and attention at both a global and an international level.
Various farm groups in the United States are still meeting with officials of the Trump administration to ensure that they know the significance of trade to different sections of the agricultural sector and the farmers themselves. The latest officials that the farmers met with were from the USA Rice Federation. They also had a meeting with Sonny Perdue, who is the agriculture secretary and had a long discussion about trade, the 2018 farm bill, floods in the Mid-South, food aid, California’s labor shortages, and the positive impacts of having rice research programs.
Perdue understands the importance of exports to the United States’ farmers since he established a firm that majored in international trade after his term as the Georgia governor ended. According to the chairperson of USA Rice, Brian King, 50 percent of the crops that are produced every year are usually exported. Mexico takes 20 percent of the exports due to the freedom that is offered by the North American Free Trade Agreement. The chair of USA Rice’s World Market Price Subcommittee, Keith Glover, told the agriculture secretary that no steps had been made towards completing the U.S.-China Phytosanitary Agreement for the exporting rice and addressing Iraq’s refusal to purchase rice from the United States last year. The problem between Iraq and the US continued yet the two countries had signed a memorandum of understanding.
The agriculture secretary said that he had spoken to NAFTA’s president no to go back on the trade deal. He also explained that there were no issues with the China phytosanitary contract, and it only needed to be signed. Purdue said that the US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was addressing the Iraq issue and had channeled a lot of resources to agriculture since he understands how the industry supports the country’s trade surplus. The United States farmers are determined to ensure that the rice farming is greatly backed up by being offered a reliable market for their products. They believe that the USDA food aid program plays a significant role in the food industry.
If you step back in time to the 1900, then 40 percent of America’s population lived on farms and almost everyone lived in a rural area. Today, only one percent of people live on a farm and only 20 percent live in a rural area. Yet, thanks to innovative technology, those farmers are growing more food than ever before and using less natural resources to do it, according to an article recently published in the NY Times.
Today’s farmers are planting about 80.5 million acres of corn. In order to grow the same amount of corn in 1950, it would have taken 228 million acres. Today, farmers are planting 81.8 million acres in soybeans. In 1950 in order to get the same crop they would have had to plant 101.7 million acres. Wheat is planted on 47.1 million acres today compared to 56.9 million acres in 1950. Yet, the same amount of wheat is harvested by farmers.
The same can be said for farmers that are raising livestock. Today, 29. 3 million beef cows are raised to produce the same amount of food that farmers had to raise an additional 15.3 million in the 1950s. On farms across the United States, farmers are raising 9.3 million milk cows that provide the same amount of milk as 39.3 million milk cows in 1950.
America does not need as many farmers today as it did in the past. Large farmers produce 80 percent of all food sold to grocery stores today. In fact, 4 percent of farmers each making over $1 million in sales account for 66 percent of all food sold to grocery stores.
These large farmers use technology so that they can produce more food on less land. They rely on technology to provide them with information about soil nutrients, soil moisture and productivity to make wise decisions on what to plant and how much fertilizer needs to be applied to a particular area in a field. They use GPS driven tractors to plant a variety of seeds in the sane field so that harvests can be maximized.
The future is bright for growing food in the United States. The largest land owner in the United States is John Malone who currently owns over 2.2 million acres. Most of it is in Kansas where he just purchased additional acres that had belonged to the Land Trust Preservation. This land was used to test plants that could produce crops perennially instead of farmers having to replant each year.
An agricultural virus that was once feared by citrus farmers may turn out to be the best hope for an industry that is desperately trying to tackle an even more serious problem. It is through the marvels of genetic engineering that one virus has been modified for the purpose of destroying the other one.
The citrus tristeza virus, or CTV, had previously caused trouble for citrus farmers, but the disease has been eclipsed by the problem of citrus greening. Produced by a specific type of bacteria and spread by certain flying insects, citrus greening causes trees to produce fruits that are greenish and misshapen in appearance and bitter in taste. Although the disease had been reported in other parts of the world, citrus greening was first observed in the United States in 2005 and has since ravaged the fruit-growing regions of the South.
In battling greening, one produce company plans to graft tree limbs containing the modified CTV virus. The firm has requested permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to employ this technique, which will have to be reviewed to determine whether it poses any environmental risks. If approved, this will be the first commercial use of CTV as a sort of inoculation to deal with another type of agricultural disease. More information about the CTV technique is available at www.reddit.com/agriculture.
Using other types of genetic engineering, farmers have been able to provide some protection to their citrus products. One method allowed growers to produce a reasonable number of sweet and round oranges, provided that the trees were properly maintained. An engineered form of spinach has also shown success in dealing with citrus greening. If successful, the CTV technique may help reduce the stigma that has in the past been associated with genetic engineering. Since the method does not actually alter the fruits that are produced from the modified trees, some farmers could in fact claim the final products are not in themselves genetically engineered, which could be an important selling point.
The entire process could take at least two years to yield results, with time being the greatest enemy to citrus farmers. Many hope that the technique will prove successful in wiping out citrus greening before the disease wipes out the industry.
Conventional efforts to irrigate crops may be placing greater strain on regional water supplies than previously thought. Addressing the issues with an unsustainable food trade and ensuring that aquifers, rivers and other sources of fresh water at not being placed at greater threat is not a concern that should be taken lightly. Growing populations and the increased demand for specific crops that is currently being seen on a global level may lead to significant challenges in the days ahead. Additional research and greater awareness regarding this issue may be required in order to reduce the risk of regional droughts, loss of major freshwater resources or potentially avoidable food shortages.
Making the Shift to Sustainable Agriculture
From hydroponic operations and indoor farms that allow for more efficient control of moisture and water consumption to genetically-engineered crops, there are plenty of resources that may soon play a role in protecting freshwater resources from being depleted. Global trade is placing considerable stress on agricultural operations that are able to produce the most affordable crops and specific regions of the world are already beginning to bear the brunt of consequences stemming from unsustainable farming methods. New methods of cultivating crops that need the most water, reducing the scope of artificial irrigation and transitioning to more sustainable methods for growing food all have the potential to provide signification long-term benefits.
Higher Food Costs
Depletion and more restricted access to water can quickly drive up food prices, especially in drought-stricken regions and more arid environments. Ensuring more efficient use of water, especially for farms and agricultural operations, is of paramount concern for ensuring that rivers, aquifers and other natural resources at not being placed at greater risk. While more developed countries may have a number of different options regarding their efforts to grow or important certain foods, some developing countries are already beginning to see the impact that a long-term water shortage or loss of viable farmland may have.