Category Archives: historical

1969 White House Turkey

Turkey presentation for Thanksgiving Nov. 18, 1969, at the Nixon White House. Note that the person in the right foreground is Secretary of Agriculture, Clifford M. Hardin. Originally from Indiana, Hardin became Chancellor of the University of Nebraska in 1954. In 1969, Hardin was appointed Secretary of Agriculture by President Richard Nixon. As Secretary, he extended the food stamp program, and established both the Food and Nutrition Service to administer food programs for the poor, and the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs to coordinate efforts with state and local officials. He served as Secretary until 1971, when he was succeeded by Earl Butz. Hardin died on April 4, 2010. Photo credit: U.S. National Archives.


(Note that Thursday is Luddite Photo Day at B.P.A.)

Hot 5: Midwest Drought. Harper’s Broken Heartland. 2011 Biofuels Stats. Biodiesel Production. Volkening Heritage Farm.

1. How Dry is it?

Above is Iowa’s 60-Day Percent of Normal Precipitation Map (6/20/2012) from NOAA. We can see that much of Iowa has received only 25-75% of normal rainfall from April 20 through June 20th.

Above is the current 30-Day Departure from Normal Precipitation map from NOAA which shows that much of the middle of the nation is lagging in rainfall by 1-4″.

Above is the Current Water-Year (Oct 1) Percent of Normal Precipitation map from NOAA. The Southwest is largely 10-75% of normal precipitation and there are many regions of the nation that are in the 50-90% of normal range.

If we are into an El Nino, we’d expect the Midwest to have “near to above normal temperatures and near to below normal rainfall with the driest weather being in the northwest” according to weatherman Mike Palmerino.

2. Harper’s July 2012 Cover

The cover story for this month’s issue of Harper’s Magazine is “Broken Heartland, The Looming Collapse of agriculture on the Great Plains” by Wil S. Hylton, followed by “Citizen Walmart, The Retail Giant’s Unlikely Romance with Small Farmers” by Dan Halpern.

I picked up a copy after a reader tipped me off to this issue. The article mentions Alan Savory (grazing advocate), Wes Jackson (perennial grains researcher), and Deborah and Frank Popper (buffalo commons). It discusses what will happen after Ogallala aquifer depletion progresses and then suggests that on top of depopulation and other rural problems, the Heartland will become a wind farm wasteland. Also see this related post.

3. BP’s Annual Energy Review: Biofuels Statistics from 2011

Conversion Factor:
1 barrel of ethanol = 0.57 barrel of oil
1 barrel of biodiesel = 0.88 barrel of oil

Global biofuels production stagnated, rising by just 0.7% or 10,000 barrels per day oil equivalent (b/doe), the weakest annual growth since 2000. Growth in the US +55,000 b/doe, or 10.9%) slowed as the share of ethanol in gasoline approached the ‘blendwall’, and Brazilian output had the largest decline in our data set (-50,000 b/doe, or -15.3%) due to a poor sugar harvest.

4. Biodiesel Production up Sharply in the U.S.

U.S. production of biodiesel was 92 million gallons in March 2012. The Midwest provided 71% of the U.S. total. Production came from 104 biodiesel plants with operable capacity of 2.1 billion gallons per year. Biodiesel production during the first quarter of 2012 was 241 million gallons, which was up from production of 135 million gallons during the first quarter of 2011 (up 78%). Sales of biodiesel during March 2012 included 73 million gallons sold as B100 (100% biodiesel) and an additional 32 million gallons of B100 sold in biodiesel blends with diesel fuel derived from petroleum. Soybean oil was the largest biodiesel feedstock during March 2012 with 387 million pounds consumed. The next three largest biodiesel feedstocks during the period were canola oil (117 million pounds), yellow grease (54 million pounds), and corn oil (44 million pounds). [source: EIA]

5. Volkening Heritage Farm, Schaumburg, Illinois

Interesting from the commentary in this video was that the farm operators have trouble finding places to buy feed or sell the individual animals which they produce. Our food system has been outsourced from our local communities, that’s for sure. Work horses have the task of ploughing, discing, and harrowing after which the ground is ready to plant. They need to be fed year round, but in winter there is no work for them to do.

The Moray: Did the Inca Study Climate Conditions on Crops?

photo: wikipedia
“This large temperature difference was possibly used by the Inca to study the effects of different climatic conditions on crops.”

One of many fascinating archeological spots left behind by the Incas is Moray, near Cuzco, Peru. There are four amphitheater like series of concentric circles terraced into the ground at an elevation of 11,500 feet. Though it is debated, a popular theory is that this was an agricultural testing station of micro-climates, since the temperatures varied by as much as 27-60 degrees Fahrenheit within the stations from top to bottom and they included a sophisticated irrigation system. It might be compared to a modern day greenhouse. Due to design or location, the structure never floods, even during the rainy season. The Incas studied and used hundreds of varieties of maize and thousands of potato varieties, leaving behind a priceless legacy for mankind, especially in our modern age of climate change.

Additional Information: here, here, and here. Additional photo here.

UPDATE 8/3/2011: A new book by a civil engineer from Boulder, Ken Wright, claims to have disproven the Moray site as having an agricultural purpose. He and his wife, Ruth, have researched the area and came to the conclusion that it was a religious site for water worship.