Category Archives: Europe and UK

3 Picks: China’s Agriculture, Stressed Rivers, EU Farm Policy


Rice fields, China. Photo credit: Flickr CC via Eugene Regis

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) China’s 40 Year Evolution of agriculture: “In many ways, the evolution of Chinese agriculture over the past 40 years is a remarkable success story. Spurred by investments in research and government subsidies for fertilizers and other farm technologies, China now feeds 22% of the world’s population on just 9% of its total arable land. But as a special collection of papers in the July-August issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality (JEQ) points out, these achievements have come at a cost. Massive losses of nutrients from croplands and manure from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have polluted the country’s streams, rivers, soil, and air. In pursuit of food security, China has also dipped deeply into global resource supplies, using in recent years more synthetic nitrogen fertilizer than all of North America and Europe combined.”

2) 21 Vulnerable Rivers in the U.S.: Jaeah Lee covers an important story in America, that of the demands, over-allocation, and mismanagement of our rivers. “In March, the EPA estimated that more than half of the nation’s waterways are in “poor condition for aquatic life.” … In the interactive map below, we highlight 21 rivers that, based on the conservation group American Rivers’ reports in 2012 and 2013, are under the most duress (or soon will be) from extended droughts, flooding, agriculture, or severe pollution from nearby industrial activity.”

3) Q & A explains EU Farm Policy Reform: This BBC summary wraps up the farm reform issues in the EU. “There has been intense debate about “greening” – the Commission’s proposal to make 30% of the direct payment received by farmers dependent on environmental criteria. MEPs and governments insist on flexibility, to allow for the diverse circumstances of Europe’s farms. So these greening targets have been watered down, environmentalists say: the requirement for arable farmers to grow at least three different crops, to promote biodiversity; for farmers to leave 7% of their land fallow, to encourage wildlife; and for farmers to maintain pasture land permanently, rather than ploughing it up.”

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.

3 Picks: EU Farm Policy, Biodiversity Solution, 2013 Food Prize


U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, former Iowa lawyer, Tom Vilsack, meets with Iowa farmers during the drought of 2012. USDA photo by Darin Leach.

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) Biggest Farms in Europe To Receive Fewer Subsidies: In what has been a very long and involved legislative process, the EU is closer to reforming its agricultural policy, and there has been some success in promoting ecological farming methods. Rowena Mason, for the Telegraph, tells us “The European Union has long been criticised for handing billions of pounds of public money to prop up the continent’s farmers. Around 40 per cent of the EU’s entire budget is spent on subsidies under the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), with much paid to big business and industry. Its annual cost to British families is around £100 a year. However, European officials last night appeared to have struck a deal to slash subsidies for large-scale industrial farming by up to a third. More support will be challenged to small-scale famers, especially young ones and those who work in an environmentally-friendly way.” More info on the subject from Bloomberg here.

2) Study Out of Iowa Recommends Biodiversity as a Sustainable Solution (pdf): Matt Liebman1, Matthew J. Helmers, Lisa A. Schulte and Craig A. Chase. A new Iowa study addressed Iowa environmental farming problems including water contamination by nutrients and herbicides, a lack of non-agricultural habitat to support diverse communities of native plants and animals, and a high level of dependence on petrochemical energy in the dominant cropping systems. It also considered that future weather extreme events are likely to make soil and water conservation more difficult. The authors used three cropping systems to address the challenges, and the results included this conclusion… Conversion of small amounts of cropland to prairie buffer strips can provide disproportionately large improvements in soil and water conservation, nutrient retention, and densities of native plants and birds.

3) 2013 World Food Prize Goes to Three Biotechnology Scientists: “Three distinguished scientists — Marc Van Montagu of Belgium, and Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert T. Fraley of the United States — will share the 2013 World Food Prize for their independent, individual breakthrough achievements in founding, developing, and applying modern agricultural biotechnology. Their research is making it possible for farmers to grow crops with: improved yields; resistance to insects and disease; and the ability to tolerate extreme variations in climate.” To see Mark Bittman’s take-down of the Food Prize over at NYTs Opinionator, go here: “The True Deservers of a Food Prize”. (I wish I had time to critique what he wrote, as I disagree with some of it, agree with some of it, but also think he’s missing some of the big picture.)

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.