A few good pieces, wrapped up nicely for you.

A Better Farm Bill?

Member of Congress Earl Blumenauer of Oregon has issued a report – Growing Opportunities: Reforming the Farm Bill for Every American – proposing significant changes to the current Farm Bill. It’s always been my position that Americans should read the Farm Bill, which is arguably the nation’s most important, complex and far-reaching piece of legislation. Following is a bit of what Blumenauer offers in the introduction – and I love what he proposes in terms of calling the legislation what it is: a Food and Farm Bill. (And…the report certainly acknowledges the need for a national food policy).

“As budget cuts loom, better policies and outcomes for stakeholders can cost less and ensure benefit for more people. Most importantly, we can bring people together for a healthier America and a more robust and sustainable agriculture sector. Our task is to show the great potential and power in growing healthier, more affordable food while meeting an array of needs for health, nutrition, the economy, and environmental conservation, all while saving taxpayer money.”

Be sure to read this very interesting document to learn more about the ideas and recommendations the Congressman proposes. Some key points: Increasing support for beginning farmers; improving access to succession and farm transfer planning; renewing and increasing research funding for Specialty Crops (those all-important fruits and vegetables), organics and Extension; funding more beginning farmer and rancher research; and equipping farmers to deal with climate change.

Editor’s Note: Learn more about agricultural policy in this Q&A with policy expert Ferd Hoefner of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.


Q&A with UCSB’s Casey Walsh: “Virtuous Waters”

Faith Kearns

UC ANR scientist/communicator Faith Kearns has recently penned a fascinating Q&A with UCSB anthropologist Casey Walsh, author of Virtuous Waters (due out in early 2018). The book explores the history of water use in Mexico over the last five centuries. There is much that applies to today’s water crises (crises, because they are not singular).

The book posits that the most important aspects of water use are the ones that are the most visible to most of us: bathing and drinking, but which remain somewhat invisible in the scientific and historical literatures.

“The scientific and historical literature on water is dominated by discussions of agricultural irrigation systems, big dams and canals, and expanding urban infrastructures. But relatively speaking, very few people in the world operate these infrastructures or irrigate with their waters.

In contrast, everyone drinks water and bathes with some frequency, but we really don’t spend much time studying these every day, intimate contacts with water. It might be that if we want to reshape our human relationship to water, we should start with these most quotidian interactions. Focusing scholarly attention on massive public works and public policy hasn’t solved the big problems of quantity and quality so far.”

Casey terms our relationship with water as “much less sustainable and more destructive now.”

This is a piece you won’t want to miss.

Kearns – one of my favorite science bloggers – coordinates research and outreach programs for UC’s California Institute for Water Resources. The Institute is part of UC’s division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. It facilitates “collaborative research and outreach on water issues across California’s academic institutions and with international, federal, state, regional, nonprofit, and campus communities.” Follow the Institute on Twitter. You can read more of Faith’s work at The Conversation


Report: Vulnerable “chokepoints” threaten global food supply

ICYMI, a new report from Chatham House (a global think tank) identifies 14 critical locations where disruptions could threaten global food supply. These “chokepoints” include roads, ports and shipping lanes. The disruptions include those created by both nature (think climate change and extreme weather events) and human activity. An unstable food supply can “spark” conflict..the threat is considerable: “More than half of the globe’s staple crop exports – wheat, maize, rice and soybean – have to travel along inland routes to a small number of key ports in the US, Brazil and the Black Sea. On top of this, more than half of these crops – and more than half of fertilisers – transit through at least one…” Damian Carrington for the Guardian. Bonus: Great infographics.

Editor’s Note: For an interesting perspective on the relationship between roads, food security and conflict during the Vietnam War, read our Q&A with former Ambassador Kenneth Quinn.


Seasonal Food Guide (and other cool stuff)

The Sustainable Table team at Grace Communications has spent the last year conducting extensive research to build their Seasonal Food Guide. This is a comprehensive database – a sort of digital almanac – of seasonal food available across the United States. Plug in your state and go! The guide includes links to recipes and in-depth information on local, seasonal fruits, vegetables, herbs, legumes and nuts. One of my favorite blogs –  Ecocentric – resides here. Check it out!

Have a great week!