More Plowed Grasslands. Plus, Other Agriculture News This Week.


I took the above photo on a Boulder County Open Space Farm Tour in 2012.

Below, is my selection of recent agriculture-related news.

Kudos to the editorial staff at the DesMoines Register for this piece on Iowa’s unsustainable farming practices resulting in the degradation of its lakes and water, for lack of good regulation.

South Dakota researchers authored a PNAS study showing that 1.3 million acres of grassland has been lost over five years in the Western corn belt in effort to capitalize on high corn prices. And Montana is seeing a rapid expanse of corn acres made possible by using drought tolerant seed varieties.

Rising chicken prices offset high feed costs for Pilgrim’s Pride, which had one of its best years ever in 2012.

Beef is expected to cost 10 percent more by this summer.

Deere enters 2013 on the back of record earnings in 2012, when it reported $3.06B in net income.

The value of all U.S. crops was $225.7 billion in 2012, up from $212.1 billion in 2011.

The Texas cattle herd is down by 5 percent while in the Dakotas herd numbers are up 5 to 7 percent. Think water/weather.

Wheat demand is up because it is being fed to livestock. Which means less is being exported, too.

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants to cap farm payments. These proposals look good so voters need to get behind them.

Bringing the field to the farmers: how video is transforming agriculture – Farm yields are low not because improved practices do not exist, but because farmers are unaware of them.

Bill Gates is in on a $25 million investment trip in Mexico to help them develop biotech corn and wheat.

The Guardian covered the Bowman soybean suit against Monsanto which is being heard in the Supreme Court soon.

The major benefit of genetically modified corn doesn’t come from increasing yields in average or good years, but from reducing losses during bad ones.

On aerobic rice.

A report on ethanol exports for 2012. Argh. Don’t get me started.

Bhutan plans to be the only 100 percent organic farming nation. “We are Buddhists and believe in living in harmony with nature.” Bhutan is a fascinating ongoing story. Can they make all of their noble objectives work? Headwinds include population growth, their young going urban, and cars. Very good read from The Guardian.

Bloomberg covers the growing global conflict over water because of its competition from mining operations by first focusing on South America. When governments give water to the mining operations, they are often taking away the ability of local farmers to exist there.

India may see a bumper wheat crop again this year.

Indian farmers tout the use of Panchagavya, an organic manure, to increase yields in dry conditions.

Potato farming is moving north into the Arctic Circle.

The Monterey Bay editor of Edible wrote a summary of what needs improved in today’s food system after attending the annual Eco Farming Conference.

BONUS: If you’re interested in articles about writing, or especially about writing and reading online, like I am, you will enjoy this.

And, finally, thank you to Mark Bittman for including Big Picture Agriculture in his links over at his NYTs site yesterday.

Written and compiled by K. McDonald.

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