Ways to Deal With Shortage of Water in Farms

Oil and gas have been the primary concern for many environmentalist groups. However, there is a new concern that needs urgent attention. The world is slowly running out of clean water. Many places in the world suffer from severe water shortages such as Nepal. The residents in such areas have to buy water from private vendors. It has caused a major headache for a majority of the population. Many developing countries struggle with the same problem.


It is estimated that more than a billion people have no access to fresh water. The population of the world is growing rapidly. Therefore, it means that we need more water to cultivate more crops to feed the population. It has been suggested before that we could remove the salt content from sea water and use it on plants. Australian greenhouses use solar energy to desalinate seawater and grow crops. The farmers in those areas have had to come up with new ways to support agriculture in their region.


Plant scientists are researching on plant genes that would do well in arid conditions. They aim at introducing the key cells of drought tolerant plants to crops through genetic engineering. Traditionally, farmers have used pollination to try and crossbreed different species of plants to come up with more draught-resistant breeds. However, this process is slow.


There have also been studies on root architecture systems in different chickpea plants. Scientists are trying to identify the gene that makes the plant’s roots efficient in capturing nutrients and water from dry soils. Most of the draught-resistant plants have abscisic acid (ABA). The acid increases the plants’ water retention capacity. However, it also reduces the efficiency and rate of photosynthesis. It is vital that we come up a way to cultivate draught-resistant plants for our survival.



Genetically Modified Crops: Are the Herbicides Used on these Crops Harmful?

Genetically modified crops began being released in the American market in the mid-1990s. Genetically engineered crops have been with us for more than 20 years but do not seem by themselves to have any negative effects on human health. However, the herbicides used on GMCs could be an ignored health hazard.


One of the main ideas put forward for the creation of GMCs was the need to reduce the chemicals (herbicide and pesticide) used by farmers. Proponents of genetically modified crops argue that GMCs make farms more eco-friendly. Additionally, they argue that GMO seeds allow farmers to make high profits since they spend less on “inputs” (chemicals).


But according to a study that was released by Food & Water Watch, the objective of decreased chemical reliance has not come to fruition as planned. GMCs are now the number one agricultural products that are heavily treated with herbicides. In fact, the use of herbicide by farmers has substantially increased over the past years.


According to an article published in the opinions section of the New England Journal of Medicine, two of the herbicides used to treat GM crops may pose a health risk. Most of the soybeans and corn grown in the U.S. are genetically modified; this implies that all the products resulting from these crops (e.g. bean curd and soda) are also GM foods.


The two authors of the opinion article (Charles Benbrook and Dr. Philip Landrigan) argued that several studies have associated cancer risk to the herbicides (particularly, glyphosate) used on genetically modified crops. They also added that they believe that further studies should be done on the Enlist Duo. However, other experts have disagreed with the opinion citing that glyphosate is safer than other chemicals used in the past.



The Growing Problem of Rotting Food in America

According to an article in theHuffington Post, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have a goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030. Currently, about 20 percent of the fruits and vegetables grown on farms in America does not make it to tables. In other words, about 6 billion pounds of fresh produce goes unsold each year with most of it being left in the field to rot.

Part of the problem lies with conditions that are beyond most people’s control such as the weather, pests, diseases, market prices, and labor shortages. A large share of it is because of the policies within the United States Department of Agriculture that forces retailers to sell produce that complies with strict cosmetic standards. Therefore, farmers have to plant a larger crop to make sure that they have enough to sell and make their living.

Some apps have been created that allow cooks and farmers to connect when the farmer has food that they cannot use. Some of these apps include Love Food Hate Waste, Rainbow, Waste No Food and Food Cowboy.

There are ways that food not currently harvested can be used. For instance, Salem Harvest in the Williamette Valley of Oregon uses a network of volunteers to harvest food from 42 farms and then gives the food to food banks which distribute it to feeding programs for the hungry. Other programs like the Agricultural Clearance Program in Ohio pay farmers 20 cents a pound to bring the food to the food bank. While that may not seem like a large payment, it at least lets the farmer’s break even.

There are several problems with getting food to where it can be used to feed hungry Americans. First, is the logistics of taking food from fields to food banks. Secondly, most states do not offer farmers any money for the food and they cannot afford to harvest it for free.

There is an easy solution to this problem, however, as states and the federal government can change the tax code so that farmers can write the donated food off their taxes. At the moment, they do not get any tax breaks.

Surplus Crop Problem

Close your eyes for just a minute and imagine an old fashioned country kitchen. As you look around the room, you notice a fresh baked cherry pie sitting in the slightly opened window cooling. Ambling a little closer you begin to get a whiff of the pie’s heavenly aroma as the pie releases it steam. For many people, this is a heavenly picture made complete by the perfectly tart cherries within the pie.
Now, welcome to the reality of what many tart cherry farmers are facing in Michigan as they are forced to dump thousands of perfectly harvested tart cherries on the ground to rot. It is not the farmer’s idea to let their product lay on the ground to rot. They do it because the government demands that they only sell a certain amount of tart cherries each year. The government claims that it adds stability to the market. In the case of Marc Santucci about 40,000 cherries lay on the ground rotting, according to the Huffington Post.
The problem is not with the cherries themselves. There is a two or three day window to harvest and process the cherries. The government mandates that they can only process so many cherries each year.
While this makes cherry farmers angry, they are not the only farmers who face this issue. On a yearly basis, many potato farmers are forced to spread perfectly golden or red potatoes back over their fields to rot.
If the food was not needed, that might be one thing. The food is needed, however, to feed Americans. As the cherries lay in the field rotting, under trade agreements, cherries are regularly imported from other countries like Turkey and Eastern European countries. In the case of potatoes, $2.7 billion of potatoes were imported mainly in the form of French fries from Canada.
If we assume that letting product rot provides price stabilization, then producers should be able to donate the food. The problem is that there is no network connecting these growers with food banks. There is also no way to move the food from where the surplus exists to food banks throughout the nation or world.

Where Have All the Honey Bees Gone?

Honey Bees are in trouble and so is the world of agriculture. Honey Bees are responsible for pollinating the food we put on our tables and the honey we love. After extensive research over a number of years, scientists found out what some factors are for colony collapse disorder (CCD). In the United States, beekeepers lost an estimated 44.1% in 2015 and 2016.

The loss of the honey bees has been narrowed down to the varroa mite, pesticide poisoning, and stress. The varroa mite is a destructive parasite to honey bee colonies. It attaches itself to the body of bees and feeds on hemolymph transmitting diseases to the bees such as deformed wing virus. If a hive has a bad infestation it can destroy the hive. Pesticides aren’t necessarily the arch enemy, exposure to pesticides opens the bees up to infestations of other infections and that is a problem.

There are more reasons than this, of course, there always are. Today technology is trying to help save the honey bee populations. In an article on bbc.com at Your text to link… Zoe Kleinman explains what technology is doing today to save tomorrow for agriculture. They are presenting ideas such as hive rentals & maintenance for bees.

The concept behind Bee Smart, a team based out of Bulgaria and California, is for beekeepers to be able to more easily monitor the state of their bee hives through sensors. These sensors monitor activity in the hive, temperature, humidity,and whether or not the queen is mating. In Scotland, UK Plan Bee offers a monitoring service, hives, honeybees and visits to the hives 28 times a year. Tumbling Dice, another UK-based firm, is also using technology to monitor the bees foraging habits.

There are many companies worldwide seeking to develop new technology and approaches to the current honeybee crisis. An article published in National Geographic published in 2013 Your text to link… states how far reaching the problem is and the damning effects of pesticides.

The threat of CCD is very real and affects everyone worldwide. If the honeybees collapse so will the future of agriculture.

Agriculture Department Set to Reopen Some its Offices After Closure

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has decided to open the offices it had closed as a result of anonymous email threats. Through its spokesman Mathew Herrick, the department said that it would reopen its offices in Colorado, West Virginia, Kearneysville and North Carolina before Friday to allow resumption of normal operations. Following the Monday email threats, the offices will now have additional security measures put in place 24/7. However, other offices in Hamden, Connecticut, and Leetown will remain closed until effective security solutions are put into place.

A lot of facilities had been affected by the email threat. Even the USDA agencies such as the Food Safety and Inspection Service and Forest Service were closed. Its sprawling research center in Maryland was also not spared in the process. Employees were told to go home after the threat emails were received on late Monday. Through a memo circulated in the company’s intranet, the employees had been told to wait for security improvements and notification from the officials on when to resume work.

The White House together with the Department of Homeland Security is working on the case to ensure all the USDA offices get adequate security. The White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the department has already made a significant progress to ensure its facilities and workforce are protected. Officials remain adamant that other facilities will reopen soon.

Apparently, the email came from one source and was sent to several employees from different offices of the department in five states. The department is also working with the FBI to determine the source of the email and gauge whether it is real or not. Various sources reveal that the closure might have affected tourism in Colorado. Tourists usually throng the Canyon Lakes Ranger District, which is controlled by the Forest Service. Many people think that this was just a mild form of bluffing from cyber criminals. Many are hoping everything will be back to normal soon

Immigration Reforms Possible Impact on Agriculture and Farming

During the upcoming United States presidential election one of the most hotly contested items will be immigration reform. While all parties tend to agree that there are a significant amount of illegal immigrants in the United States, how to handle the issue seems to be a big center of disagreement. While some politicians and citizens would prefer to limit immigration, a recent news article (http://www.tribdem.com/news/immigrant-workers-are-key-for-agriculture-patton-farmer-says/article_bd584ed0-6366-11e6-9e7a-87eace147f59.html) has stated that some of the core industries in the United States rely heavily on immigrants and even illegal aliens.

One industry in the United States that continues to rely heavily on immigrant labor is the farming and agriculture industry. There are many reasons why this industry times to rely on immigrants. One key belief is that the amount of hard labor that goes into farming dissuades many people from going into the field. Furthermore, tight operating margins in the agriculture and farming industry prevent most farmers from offering wages much higher than minimum wage.

While there is a clear need for the labor from immigrants in the United States to help with the agriculture and farming industry, there are still many concerned that those working in this field could be undocumented. In state and local town hall meetings across the United States a wide variety of suggestions have been raised to help control this issue. One issue is to help increase the likelihood and efficiency of the immigration process to ensure those that are here to work are able to do so.

Another group that has been concerned about the use of immigrant labor in the agriculture and farming industry have been civil rights activists. These groups are concerned that immigrants are not provided with the same rights as far as having a safe place to work and fair benefits. Those civil rights groups have suggested coming up with a uniform set of requirements regarding unionization or basic compensation and benefits for those who work in the agriculture and farming industry.

Lowering Grain, Egg and Dairy Prices Raises Farmers’ Woes

While the current market of $3/pound ground beef and $1.50 cartons of eggs means that families can dine cheaper,
these family windfalls have grocery stores and farmers panicking.
Experts are anticipating that this drop in agricultural productivity will reach its worst point since 1960. While this is great for anyone looking to work on a culinary bucket list, it could leave many farmers and vendors scrambling to stay alive in the market.

While the annual cost to feed a person has dropped by nearly 2%, this reduced cost has impacts dairy, meat and grains by an even greater margin: Corn has dropped to less than half its cost per-bushel in four months, wheat is at a notable low of slightly above 40% of its peak worth and the value of soy has dropped to nearly half of what it used to fetch. Elsewhere, dairy farmers have had to discard excess milk with the government providing a $20 million bailout to store the surplus. At least one corn farmer has remarked that 2016 is looking to be his least profitable in 20 years and the reduced prices of his livelihood imperil the very industry.

When changes perspective from America’s farmers to most of the country’s grocery stores, most of these vendors have reported mediocre gains in their quarterly earnings and attribute those meager gains to a deflation of product. Indeed, the comments about “deflation” can be attributed to an incredibly bountiful yield of crops that has greatly impacted the concept of scarcity. Another factor in the value of grain products is that the price of corn has recently changed to have a relationship with gas prices, shifting to reflect the value of ethanol instead of traditional fossil fuels.

Only a handful of industry positives emerge from this news: the increased value of fruit, mostly driven by California’s drought negatively affecting its fields and orchards; the increased profits and stock value of deflation-resistant Walmart; and an opportunity for the meat industry to rebound into profitability as the price of cattle feed and chicken feed plummets in value. The president of the National Turkey Federation remarked that the cost of grain accounts for nearly three-quarters of the total cost to bringing a turkey to the dinner table.

Moths threatening Tomato Production across the World

Spanish residents amazed the world when over 20,000 people engaged in the world’s biggest tomato fight. As the tomato war went down, tomato farmers across the world are experiencing a crisis due to a moth that is damaging their crops.

The moth, said to the size of an eyelash is causing enormous damages to tomato crops bringing huge losses to tomato farmers. The moth, known as the tomato leaf miner, is reported to have originated from Chile.

It is believed that the moth arrived in Europe through a container that contained infected farm produce, as reported in an article on the New York Times website. The container is believed to have arrived in Bunol, Spain where it later spread to other parts of Europe and later to Africa and Asia.

The tomato leaf miner has done the most damage in third world countries where most tomato farmers are poor and unable to access sophisticated tools of fighting the moth such as the integrated pest management.

For instance, the moth has caused enormous losses to farmers in Nigeria. In the state of Kaduna, a major tomato producing state in Nigeria, the moth attacked the crops and caused devastating damages to both the crop’s quantity and quality.

The moth was the cause of a major food crisis and threatened to affect the economy of the state. The affected productivity of the tomato crop made it difficult for households to maintain their purchasing power. The price of a basket of tomatoes shot from an average of $8 to $212. The state’s authorities expressed disbelief at the devastation to the extent of declaring a state of emergency.

Unlike the Nigerian farmers, European farmers have dealt better with the moth due to their ability to access technological systems and financial support from the relevant authorities.

Scientists in Europe have joined the fight against the moth and have been able to come up with a control system that is based on biological characteristics of the moth. The moths, however, reproduce fast and authorities fear that the moth may soon spread to North America.

While tomato farmers are doing their best to fight the moth, the average consumers are more likely to continue digging deep in their pockets to consume tomatoes.

Agricultural Researchers Examine Hidden Costs of Food in United States

Agricultural researchers have recently conducted a study to find the hidden costs of food consumption in the United States. Although citizens are usually somewhat aware of the amount of money they spend per month on food costs, there are other costs associated with food consumption that Americans do not count. The purpose of the study on food costs was to determine whether agricultural standards are having a positive effect on the cost of food consumption in most modern societies. The study was conducted for several months and is currently being used to rectify obsolete farming and agricultural practices. The study is also being used to promote healthier lifestyles in the United States.

The researchers listed several hidden costs of food consumption in the United States in the study outline. Among these hidden costs were the cost of treating illness associated with poor diet and malnutrition. The study revealed that Americans were opting for cheaper food and fast food to avoid paying higher costs for healthier foods. The problem with this is that Americans pay up to ten times this amount in health care costs associated with diet related illnesses like type two diabetes, heart attacks, colon cancers, and several other costly diseases. By switching to healthier alternatives, Americans can drastically reduce health care costs and save money in the long run.

The agricultural study also revealed that one of the hidden costs associated with poor food consumption is the cost to provide for the families of the employees of fast food industries. The study shows that over 50 percent of families who are employed by fast food industries receive government assistance for support. This support includes food stamps, childcare vouchers and other government aid.

The ultimate point of this study was to show that Americans were not considering the ultimate costs when supporting poor food suppliers. Poor diets in the United States contribute to more than a third of the consumer debt in the United States. This problem can be rectified if it is treated as the serious problem that it truly is. The study listed more than 15 hidden costs associated with food consumption in the United States and is not meant to be exhaustive. More information regarding the agricultural research study can be found here.