By a vote of 15-5, the U.S. Senate Agricultural Committee finally approved the 2013 Agricultural Reform Food and Jobs Act otherwise known as the farm bill. It will go to Congress for a vote as early as next week. This massive bill, expending roughly $100 billion annually, helps define America’s food and farming landscape — what gets planted, what we eat, and what it costs — yet the consumers, farmers, and workers most affected have no voice in how that money is spent.
Corporate control over our food and farming is profound, and must be checked. With four corporations controlling 50 percent or more of most major commodities and meat production, and running the supermarkets most Americans shop in, big food has the economic and political clout to dictate farm bill policy.
A coalition of farmers, growers and processors in California created a new set of bacteria-minimizing standards designed to eliminate potential sources of contamination by mandating that crop sites be cleared of vegetation and kept a certain distance from wildlife and natural bodies of water. Unintended consequences such as soil degradation and river and stream pollution have risen from the 2006 regulation in addition to ineffective results of reducing food-borne illnesses. Researchers discovered that the new farming practices have further de-incentivized growers from farming in ways that take into account the importance of natural systems of resource cycling and plant regeneration. Instead, many have cleared land of native vegetation, erected fences and laid poison to deter the presence of wildlife. As a result of growers’ attempts to control for all potential variables on crop sites, farmed areas have become not only uninhabitable for wildlife but also more vulnerable to climate change.
New Study: As Climate Changes, Boreal Forests to Shift North and Relinquish More Carbon Than Expected
Environmental Research Web
A new Berkeley Lab research maps how Earth’s myriad climates – and the ecosystems that depend on them – will move from one area to another as global temperatures rise. The approach foresees big changes for one of the planet’s great carbon sponges. Boreal forests will likely shift north at a steady clip this century. Along the way, the vegetation will relinquish more trapped carbon than most current climate models predict. The research is published online May 5 in the journal Nature Geoscience. The Berkeley Lab research suggests the planet’s boreal forests won’t expand poleward. Instead, they’ll shift poleward. The difference lies in the prediction that as boreal ecosystems follow the warming climate northward, their southern boundaries will be overtaken by even warmer and drier climates better suited for grassland.
An instrument near the summit of Mauna Loa in Hawaii has recorded a long-awaited climate milestone: the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere there has exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in 55 years of measurement—and probably more than 3 million years of Earth history. Two independent teams of scientists measure CO2 on Mauna Loa: one from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the other from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The NOAA team posted word on its web site this morning before dawn Hawaii time: The daily average for May 9 was 400.03 ppm. The Scripps team later confirmed the milestone had been crossed.
With much of the West mired in drought conditions heading into the summer, the U.S. Forest Service is preparing for what could be another damaging wildfire season. This year, firefighters will be armed with an updated tool to help them battle fires with the precision of special forces on the battlefield. The instrument, known as the “Autonomous Modular Sensor,” or AMS, can help the Forest Service detect wildfires and conduct post-burn assessments. While similar devices have been in use for several years, scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., working with the Forest Service, recently deployed a new version with expanded capabilities that will allow firefighters on the ground to request overflights during the day, when wildfires tend to be most active. Previously, such flights were conducted at night due to the limitations of the older generation instrument.