Farming With No Insurance

Agriculture is a very important part of our society. It is what helps to create crops and many other things that we use every single day. Farming takes a lot of hard labor and a lot of time, and farmers expend a lot of their time and energy to conserve their farms. People who own farms use that as their source of income. They have an abundant amount of animals in which they take care of on the farm, and use in order to get food resources.

Because the farmers use this as their main source of income, it is hard for them to get and maintain health insurance. Most families obtain health insurance by working for a corporation full time, and because farmers are self-employed they carry the burden of purchasing health insurance on their own. This is the reason that most farmers operate without health insurance. They make sure to at least carry insurance on their farms, tools, and livestock.

With the life of a farmer being such a risk, the insurance is more expensive as well. Farmers have to work with very dangerous equipment every day. If a farmer gets severely injured or ill, it is very possible and likely that he and his family will lose the farm. Because this is a known issue among the farming community, the government created something to try and help called the Affordable Care Act. This act provided different and new options of insurance for the farmers to choose from, while being more affordable than it was in the past. However, the Affordable Care Act is still not as affordable as most farmers would like. This act is an excellent advancement towards what farmers need, and shows promise for the future that farmers will be able to obtain the coverage they need, and keep their farms.

The Role of Technology in Battling Agricultural Issues

The notion that farming has been exploiting resources as a worldwide practice has been an issue of debate for several years. Signs of imbalance have been seen in the form of general alteration of a natural flora and fauna, wildlife population decline, pollution, and soil erosion. A parallel and unnatural phenomenon has been the exponential human population growth with related demands for shelter and food that have always exceeded the land’s natural carrying capacity. However, redefined advances have led to the emergence of modern technology in the agricultural industry.

The use of geographical location devices, computational technology, and remote sensing developments in agriculture has significantly changed the way the crops are managed. Integration of information has also created the management of knowledge as a way of achieving the production goals. Although uncertainty will always be a primary issue in agriculture, it can be controlled as an environmental problem using risk management strategies. This may call for the use of genetics on some soils in specific climatic conditions.

With new technologies, breakthroughs have continually been seen in the world food production. In addition to the increase in productivity, technology is used to renew the land that has been misused or overused through poor farming methods. In this case, sustainability is a survival issue, but it is far broader than the situation of soil erosion and habitat destruction. It includes food producers’ welfare, the goal of food production, and preservation of nonrenewable resources. Hence, any technology in agriculture is an enabling made-made component that can successfully bring these overriding objectives together.

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.

Tyson Foods Issues Massive Recall on Chicken Products

Tyson Foods has issued a recall of more than 80,000 cases of chicken products, accounting for 2.5 million pounds of breaded poultry, after one of its suppliers recognized the presence in milk without indicating its presence in those products. While these products, mostly consisting of ready-made patties of breaded chicken meat, were only available to the service industry, they made it to over half of the states in the country. Notably, some of these products made their way into school cafeterias.

 

Despite Tyson’s proactive approach, neither it nor the United States Department of Agriculture have heard any instances of someone becoming sick from the relevant products since discovering the issue on the 6th of June. The notifying supplier believed that the problem resulted from the addition of milk to the bread crumbs used in breading poultry. The Tyson supplier who recognized the presence of milk in the company’s chicken products has not been identified by the company or the USDA.

 

The discrepancy in packaging issues seems to have triggered a snowball effect in recalls within the agricultural sector; as of June 8th, the United States Department of Agriculture has issued a series of serious recalls involving nearly four million pounds of food. June 8th saw Conagra Brands Inc., a rival company to Tyson Foods, recalled more than 700,000 pounds of spaghetti-and-meatball products.

 

Milk is commonly listed as a dietary allergen due to conditions like lactose intolerance. People who suffer from lactose intolerance have great difficulty when digesting lactose, the sugars contained within milk products. Should a person who suffers from lactose intolerance ever consume products containing lactose, he will begin to suffer from indigestion, intestinal discomfort, bloating or even diarrhea roughly 90 to 120 minutes after consuming such products. The two sources of food most known for lactose are dairy and certain foods, such as processed meats and gravies, that use it as an additive; hard cheese may be safely consumed by the lactose intolerant.

Soil Erosion Top Concern for Farmers

According to an article published on Huffington Post, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has identified soil erosion, soil organic carbon buildup and soil nutrient imbalance as the top three threats to global soil health. Globally, about 40 percent of all land is farmed using practices that cause the loss of 24 billion tons of top soil each year. About 2 billion is lost each year in the United States. Replacing that top soil is a time-consuming process as it takes about 2,000 years for the earth to make four inches of top soil.

Master farmer Tim Johnson says that it need not be that way. He was recently recognized as the 2015 Champion of Change by the United States Department of Agriculture. He says that it all starts with stopping soil erosion. Tim is affiliated with Soil Health Partnership which is funded by the National Corn Growers Association.

Tim says that one area that is showing lots of promise is the planting of cover crops alongside regular crops. Popular cover crops include rye, sorghum, buckwheat and clover. These crops capture excess nitrogen left in the soil and help to put nutrients back into the soil. The United States government encourages this practice by paying farmers carbon credit money when they implement wise management techniques.

Farmers are also using no-till farming practices. They are not plowing their fields in the spring or fall. This allows them to use less fertilizer and about one-half the fuel of normal farming techniques. Healthier soil is created because worms and organisms have a place to live. In exchange, the ground is better able to absorb water and is less likely to blow away. Leaving residue on fields also forms microbial communities that help provide oxygen and nitrogen to plants.

Farmers understand that the soil provides their living. Therefore, they are also using crop rotation to help maintain soil health. They often test the soil to determine what nutrients are lacking in their soil. Then, they plant crops that will return those nutrients to the soil.

 

The Growing Problem of Rotting Food in America

According to an article in the Huffington 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.

Destroying a Way of Life in the Central Valley

If you drive out of Sacramento, California, into the Central Valley, you will see farmers hard at work in their irrigated fields. Near the city, you will see row crops like beans and corn being grown. You will also see beautiful grape vineyards, fragrant fruit orchards and cattle grazing in pastures. As you pass into the San Joaquin Valley, you will see rows of cotton with their little white buds, orchards of peaches and nectarines, nut trees and fields of berries being carefully tended by farmers. While farming techniques have drastically improved, it is the way it has been for decades.

Many believe that it is a way of life worth preserving. Recently, the State Water Resources Board recommended that 40 percent of the water will have to be allowed to flow into the ocean. There reasoning is that it will help protect species of fish that may die off if the river levels are allowed to get to low, according to BuzzFeed. This doubles the amount of water that has to be left unused to flow into the ocean. One has to wonder if the fish have not died off at the 20 percent level, why does it need changing?

The decision is not final. Many in the area believe that if the situation was in a more populous area, the Resources Board would have arrived at a different decision. If their decision is allowed to stand, irrigation pipes throughout the valley will run dry. The water within the underground water system cannot build up. A way of life may be destroyed. The area may never recover from what it has taken faithful stewards of the land decades to build.

There are those who think the proposal does not go far enough including spokesmen with the Golden Gate Salmon Association and with the Natural Resources Council. The plan as it stands now could eliminate thousands of jobs as farmer’s will be forced to leave up to 200,000 acres unplanted. People may have to move away and will never have the resources needed to return to their homes. When you drive through the Central Valley a decade from now, you may see miles of barren land.

North Carolina Farmer Busted with $500 Million Worth of Opium

Officials in Claremont, North Carolina, seized a field of poppy plants from a local farmer on Tuesday with a value estimated at $500 million.

 

The field was located on the farm of Cody Xiong in the small town of Claremont about 40 miles north of Charlotte. The poppy plants can be used to synthesize opium, and their production is highly illegal. Opioids are currently a major problem in North Carolina.

 

“This is the second [poppy field] in the nation,” said Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid. 4,000 pounds of opium poppy pods were previously found in Mountain View, California, this February, worth up to $400,000. A husband and wife team were arrested in conjunction with the opium bust, and had been grinding the plants into a fine powder for consumption.

 

Narcotics investigators came to the Poultry Road house of Xiong looking for some other information on a tip from a confidential source. When Xiong opened the door, he said, “I guess you’re here about the opium.” Investigators obtained a warrant to search Xiong’s property, and found the plants in a field out back.

 

The poppy plants were planted in rows like corn, and investigators said it did not appear that they were being manufactured into opium on the property.

 

“The plants are being harvested here, and sent somewhere else where the opium is being produced from the plant,” said Reid.

 

One individual in a nearby home was charged in relation to the found field, in addition to Xiong, who was charged with manufacture and trafficking by possession.

 

The plants were being removed from the acre-sized field and loaded into trailers by the sheriff’s department. Samples would be sent to a state lab to confirm that they are in fact opium poppy. The plants would still need to be weighed to determine their exact value.

 

“This is unbelievable,” said Reid. “We’ve been out here for about an hour pulling plants, and we’ve not made a dent in it yet.”

 

Fewer Young People Are Willing To Farm, and That’s a Big Problem

Just ask any 18 to 22-year-old about their career plans and only a tiny percentage of them will say: “I’d like to get into farming.”

 

The fact is, America’s farmers are rapidly aging. Today, the average farmer is 58 years old, and the supply of younger people willing to step into the job of growing food is showing no signs of trending upward.

 

Farming is a vital occupation fundamental to society, yet has small appeal among millennials. The thought of getting into a tractor to plant wheat or corn, or running a dairy operation just doesn’t seem as exciting as a career in high-tech, banking, law, entertainment or medicine.

 

This has industry watchers worried. Who will grow America’s food for the next generation? If it’s not today’s young people – then it’s nobody. Furthermore, the USDA estimates that 500,000 farmers will opt for early retirement in the next 20 years.

 

A rural lifestyle, working with animals, long days and the high-stress of financial uncertainty persistently associated with farming is not exactly what young people are looking for when they graduate from high school and select a college major.

 

Most new farmers tend to be the children of current farmers. But even in this case, the trends are against a robust farm labor force. That’s because farm families –like those in most demographic groups – are having fewer children. In the 1950s it was common for farm families to sport five to 10 children, whereas today the average farm couple has just two children.

 

As if often the case, at least one of those two children, and sometimes both, opt out of the farming lifestyle of their parents.

 

Some of the problem will be alleviated by the increasing mechanization of farming — and yes – the ever-advancing usage of robots across many industries in America, including agriculture.

 

Another possible source of replacement farmers: Immigrants. Indeed, the dire need for more hands on the farm may produce widespread changes in attitudes toward immigrants, always a flash-point subject in the American political arena.

 

In the final analysis, however, growing food is always going to require human hands willing to get dirty working in the soil, and take on the risks of one our most historically financially-fickle industries.