Puerto Rican Farmers Look To Rebuild After Hurricanes

Puerto Rico’s farmers were devastated by the impacts of both Hurricane Irma and then Hurricane Marie. The aftermath of the two hurricanes wiped out almost 80% of the total crop value on the island. Experts forecast that restoring Puerto Rico’s agriculture sector could take anywhere from 10 months to a year or more.

Farmers in Puerto Rico have clearly taken a heavy loss from this year’s hurricane season. One such farmer is Rene Cruz. Before the hurricanes struck the island, Cruz said that he had 68 acres of land under cultivation. Now, he has nothing left. What is devastating for farmers like Rene Cruz is that his family’s livelihood depends on what he can grow and then sell to customers. The only thing that Rene Cruz has left to sell now is a few crops that he managed to salvage such as bruised plantains and some oranges.

A bright side to this story of loss is that the United States Federal Government is stepping up to help farmers such as Mr. Cruz whose farms and livelihood were devastated by the hurricanes. They will be providing disaster assistance money to help pay for the cost of cleanup and to help him purchase new seeds for next year’s crop. Another plus to Rene Cruz was that he managed to have his farm insured. Unfortunately, the cost of damage was so high that the insurance company has refused to pay for all the damages incurred.

A downside to the story is that despite promises of help from the federal government to farmers, many of them have not received any aid. One of the reasons why this has happened is because many of Puerto Rico’s rural and agrarian areas are still without functioning communications network. These farmers have been unable to be in contact with disaster relief officials which has hampered them from receiving aid. As Puerto Rico regains electricity and telecommunications, more and more people should get aid.

Cocoa Farmers Are Finally Receiving Long Overdue Recognition

Cocoa is required for chocolate, yet almost every award for chocolate is given to the end maker. The farmers are responsible for the varieties of crops, yet they are excluded. CoEx brings chocolatiers and experts in sensory analysis together every two years for blind tastings of samples of cocoas. Forty countries in the equatorial belt supplied 166 cocoa samples. Of these countries, eighteen received an ICA award for their skill and effort.

These awards are trying to empower the farmers by celebrating and highlighting the cocoa supply chain. The numerous flavors and the quality come from the knowledge of the farmers, the qualities of the terroir and the post-harvest processing. The variety of tantalizing tastes and smells is vital for production. The farmers are vital because they provide a resistance to outbreaks of diseases and pests, and a resilience to the climatic conditions.

The International Cocoa Awards are like the coffee awards through the Cup of Excellence. The intention of the awards is to help farmers receive a higher price for crops, so they can continue growing cocoa. A lot of time has been spent asking farmers questions as to what would be most helpful, if there was any interest in receiving a loan and if agronomy training would be considered. The response from the farmers was they simply wanted to receive a fair price for their hard work and their cocoa. For more information, please visit Your text to link….

Most cocoa growers are very poor, and the Cocoa of Excellence program is making the effort to help these farmers. Their efforts are effective because during a yearly evaluation survey, 57 percent of the farmers said the program has helped them sell their crops for a premium price. A farmer has the right to equal treatment despite how much land they own. They deserve the same ethical business practices and respect given to the bigger farmers in more highly developed countries. The hope is the work will result in the small farmers receiving recognition as producing some of the best cocoa crops. This in turn may draw the interest of the world’s chocolate makers.

The Impact of Technology in Agriculture

The United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance indicated that technology is not specifically about faster and better ways of doing things, but also about sustainability. Farmers have not been left behind when it comes to technological development. Innovations such as terrain contour mapping, moisture sensors, self-driving tractors and smart irrigation are gaining popularity among ranchers and farmers. The developments will positively impact farming, leading to sustainable farming for the ever growing population.

Investments in agriculture technology are continuously on the rise, with AgTech companies earning over $1.75 billion in the first six months of 2016. Farmers of today apply a heavy mix of math, data, software, and hardware in developing analyses that are beyond what the eyes can see. The wellness of the crops can also be assessed through multispectral analysis, where the rates at which plants absorb different wavelengths of sunlight are used to form conclusions.

A survey by USFRA indicates that 56 percent of consumers expect ranchers to employ innovations that help conserve the environment. The CEO of USFRA, Mr. Randy Krotz, added that most consumers understand the impact of innovations in the improvement of lives. He also noted that the U.S agricultural sector is applying technology to create more sustainable and smarter versions of the family farm.

Agriculture can be the joining factor between the benefits of using technology and the acceptance of innovation that is part of the day to day lives of consumers. SMART farms use technology and data to become more equipped and efficient in protecting the planet’s limited resources while ensuring adequate food supply. This is the very definition of sustainability and continual improvement.

Will Aquaculture Farming Take Over Wild-Sourced Fishing?

Then, the majority of fish and seafood that consumes the world’s population every day, no longer come from wild specimens but from aquaculture. Aquaculture means the fish are fattened in ponds, breeding ponds, net pens or cages in the sea instead of being at-large in the wild sea.

According to a Reddit sourced article, there is a great demand for seafood. Salmon, carp, catfish, clams or shrimp, among the others from the water livestock fill our refrigerated shelves in supermarkets, but most of them will never experience the wild. Many argue that sustainable fishing is dwindling and the seas are not what they use to be to fish farms are the solution.

30 years ago, just six percent of the consumed fish came from fish farms worldwide. Today, there are nurseries for freshwater fish, and unbeknownst to most consumers, nearly 50 percent come from aquaculture. Marine fish and seafood are there to mainly become bred and fattened before being shipped off. Over the next 20 years, it is estimated that approximately 80 percent of seafood for sale will derive from aquaculture. The World Bank says no food sector has recently taken such a boost in development as fish farming.

Greenpeace says with enormous technical effort and considerable growth rates, the industry now produces more than half of the world-consumed fish. About 600 different species are now bred in captivity. Africa and Asian continents have been using the controlled rearing of aquatic organisms for decades, and now the industry is really changing. The trend is towards intensive cultivation in huge cages off shore or in closed circuit systems, which allow breeding, regardless of natural water resources, in almost any place on earth.

Whether using closed recirculating aquaculture systems that are independent of natural water sources, or caged pen cultures, how healthy is this type of breeding and can it eventually affect the quality of fish we consume. That question will rest on intensive independent studies.

Apple Pickers, Bears, Lions, Tigers – Oh My!

https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/03/abundant-robotics-rakes-in-10-million-for-apple-harvesting-robots/

 

Automation is taking over people’s jobs, from factory workers to lawyers. Agriculture has featured a great degree of autonomy for longer than most other trades, not to say its methods are completely made efficient yet. Abundant Robotics created robots that harvest apples and do not require human workers to risk safety when high enough to pick apples. Google Ventures put forward a $10 million investment in the robotics venture.

 

Traditionally, robots have not been used to pick fruits because of their death grips. Abundant Robotics’ apple picking machine uses vacuum rather than claw to bring in apples without hurting them. A human is not even required to navigate the machine outside of regular maintenance, resulting in safety, cheaper apples, and higher capacity.

 

Increasing population on earth is not likely to stand still or decline any time soon, resulting in an insatiable need for agricultural products to keep everyone fed. Humans only hinder the agricultural process to a large extent and reduce the potential capacity of an agricultural product as more humans are integrally involved.

 

Technology has helped agriculture more than bystanders think. Robots are not the only piece of technology that can have a lasting impact on an agricultural product. FarmLead, deemed as an online hub for trading grain, recently raised more than six million dollars in venture funding efforts.

 

Farmlead works simply by requiring patrons to create an account, then purchase or offer grain for sale by taking pictures and verifying important personal information. FarmLead helps decrease shortages of grain, keeps prices stable, and overall fuels grain markets. Farmers have sometimes had trouble finding good grain sources in the past, but now, sourcing high quality grain is as easy as logging into your cellphone and participating in auctions and by selling products.

 

Technology has helped agriculture in a spectrum of ways, but not until recently with robotic apple pickers and an eBay for the farming side of the Internet. Both of these companies have focused on innovating technology in agricultural processes that are often technology free with operators not usually fond of personal technology. These two companies, along with many other brave startups, are bound to help the field of agriculture grow even further than it already has.

 

Iowa Corn Announces Scholarship Winners

While the farming and agriculture industry has seen a lot of advancement over the past few decades due to automation, it still relies heavily on people. The future of the industry will also continue to depend on the ability for farmers and other employers in the industry to find young talent. This past week, several young people across the State of Iowa were awarded scholarships to help them pursue their goals of having a career in farming.

 

The Iowa Corn Growers Association is the most prominent professional organization in the field of farming and agriculture. There are thousands of members of the organization located all over the State of Iowa and some surrounding states. The organization has been a huge proponent of encouraging young adults and kids with an interest to pursue the field. This past week they announced the winners of their Iowa Corn Future of Agriculture Scholarship for the upcoming 2017 and 2018 school year (http://www.wallacesfarmer.com/education/iowa-corn-future-agriculture-scholarship-winners).

 

Overall, the organization announced a total of eight young adults that won a $500 first-year scholarship and eight upperclassmen scholarships, also for $500 each. All of the scholarships will give direct assistance to help the winners pursue their degrees in the agriculture industry. Larry Bus, who is a spokesman for the organization and is also a full-time farmer, stated that the organization is committed to helping develop future talent for the industry. The organization believes that these students will each play an important part in developing future efficiencies and practices to help feed the world.

 

The winners of the scholarships will be awarded during the Iowa Corn Grassroots Summit, which is held in August every year. Overall, there are eight high school winners from all over the State of Iowa. The upperclassmen winners are all currently enrolled in college, the majority of which attended Iowa State University. All winners of the award went through a tough process. This included being judged an assessed on their applications, essays, grades, other activities, experience in the field, and letters of reference. They also were required to be current members of the ICGA, or be dependents of a current member.

 

Farming Prices Decline Across US

Earlier this March, thousands of farmers and other agriculture workers from around the United States supported one another on the 44th anniversary of National Agriculture Day. This annual event provides all involved the ability to reflect on how important agriculture is in the United States and the rest of the world.

 

2016 and 2017 have been interesting years for agriculture. Net income made my all farmers across the country has fallen for the third straight year and is now at its lowest point since 2009. The current drop in farm profitability was actually the largest such drop since the Great Depression. While the drop in profitability during the Great Depression was due to a customer’s inability to pay for the crop, the profitability decline today could actually be more associated with too much productivity.

 

Over the past decade, the efficiency of farming has continued to grow. In fact, farmers today are produce nine times as much crops compared to what was grown in the 1930s. At the same time, they are able to do so while utilizing far less land. Today, the amount of crops grown is actually outpacing the need for food, which has helped to reduce the level of hunger across the world. There are now an estimated 5 billion bushels of crops stored all over the United States. While this has been great for the world, it has led to a reduction in the value of the crops.

 

With all of the excess crops sitting around, many are looking for better ways to put it to use. One of the most likely uses will be to continue to increase the usage of biofuel. There are already biofuel stations for consumers in 29 states across the country and there is now enough crop to help grow that number. This would also help to reduce the need to rely on foreign oil, which could provide additional economic benefits to the United States. At this point, the oil companies are fighting the plan, but it appears that more government intervention could come that will increase the production of biofuel across the country.

 

Moving Farming from Corporate Farmers to Small Scale Farmers

There is a need for the US government to make a progressive movement to the interior communities. For that reason, it needs to stop subsidizing corporate farms and rather return the land to the small family farmers who work on the farms. Farming should not be restricted to farmers who owns 20, 000 acres of the rented land just to make a living. It is also important that everyone including the city dwellers be enlightened about the basic literacy regarding agricultural shifts that have encompassed the United States and what needs to be done regarding moving agriculture from corporate agriculture on a mass scale.

 

 

Farming business has not changed for over 200 years. We have cultivated two types of crops that are soybeans and corn. For some time, this system has benefited farmers. Over the years, there have been strong established markets for the product, and proven farming techniques. Improvement of machines over the years has improved efficiency. Well developed seeds and planting methods that have increased the yield with time. The greatest transformation that has happened to farm is the rise of large farms. Along with the two crop system, the big farms are a problem to the agriculture and the economics of agriculture.

 

 

One of the significant challenges with the big corporate farms is that, for instance, if there are just 12 of us for the 20,000 acres, we earn an average income. For us it is a better living compared to others in the field; we are happy. That may seem good until you consider that no more than 30 years, 20,000 acres provided a living for over 100 families. Is there any solution to this problem?

 

 

There is a solution to these challenges. The initial solution is that we need to stop subsidizing the current business model of large farms and the two crop system that it supports. Another solution is to create a system that would return the farms to the small family farmers who work on the rented land. Through this, we will be taking full advantage of the most valuable resource that we have; land. We must do it in a way that refrains from corporate exploitation and invests money to our farmers.

 

Agriculture Projects In Africa May Be Worsening Segregation

Climate change, food insecurity, low crop yields and significant growth in the population are four of the factors that will dictate the agricultural and economic shape of Africa during the next century. Even if the continent’s countries can successfully negotiate more lucrative trade deals and policy reforms, Africa will still have to produce more food for its people.

 

For this to happen, updated agricultural practices have to become the norm, and it’s up to smallholder farmers to make this happen. This requires having information that is relevant to the area and accurate. Unfortunately, smallholder farmers in Africa have limited access to these details, and this is largely due to a lack of modern technology.

 

Agricultural extension services could prove to be a solution to this problem. The services involve employing extension officers who promote the incorporation of new technology and methods. However, this program is severely under-funded. It’s also fairly common for government extension officers to be responsible for thousands of households, and this is difficult and sometimes impossible to manage.

 

As a solution for the government extension officer shortage, many governments in Africa are embracing the farmer to farmer extension program. This is where local members of the community become leaders for farmer and deliver necessary information to those who are growing and cultivating food for the area.

 

Fourteen months of fieldwork was conduct to see whether the farmer to farmer program is effective. Six countries in southern and eastern Africa participated in the project.

 

African farmers reported that there are several factors that make the system dysfunctional. One of the issues was trust, since some lead farmers were not approachable due to gender or religious biases. Lead farmers were also handling certain agricultural issues correctly, according to the farmers under their leadership. Jealousy was also a huge factor, since the lead farmers were often supplied with all they needed to try new technologies, while the farmers under them still struggle financially and agriculturally. This led many farmers to feel as though the system is unfair and does not benefit African communities as a whole.

 

For more information on agricultural disparities in Africa and possible solutions, check out the Huffington Post website.

 

How Do Organic Farms Keep Production Efficient?

Organic farming is becoming all the rage nowadays. You can’t go into any supermarket without finding information and products specifically made using organic methods. Organic farming is far different from any other type of production available. If the farm is certified USDA organic, they must follow strict regulations and guidelines in order to achieve and maintain that seal of approval. This means that the farm cannot use any type of chemical pesticide that is harmful to the environment and consumers’ health.

 

The problem with organic farming is that production can be slow and the yield of crops can be small because chemicals are not being used. The farm cannot use growth hormones or chemical growing agents because they will lose their USDA organic seal. Because of this, many farmers are using natural methods to grow their crops and keep the plants in good shape. There are many natural methods to get crops to grow stronger and for longer periods of time. Greenhouses are often used in organic farming because they use the natural sun to encourage growth and vitality. Because the plants are protected in a greenhouse, pests are often not an issue for these particular farmers.

 

Organic farming is more expensive to those working on the plants and this price is reflected in the product you’ll find in your local supermarket. It’s not uncommon to pay two or three times the price for organic produce than you’d pay for the chemical-riddled crop next to it. However, you can save money by visiting farmer’s markets and looking for supermarket sales and discounts specific to organic produce. Once you get in the habit of buying only GMO-free and organic products, you’ll find that going back to your old way of shopping seems “off”. You just won’t feel right buying chemical-produced items that you know are not healthy for your loved ones. While buying organic is more expensive and can be frustrating because crops are generally much smaller in size, it is well worth the price of admission when you look at all the health benefits of going on an all-organic diet.