This Week in Eco News - January 20, 2017

Caption Ben Husmann

The heavy rain had produced many flood pools in the crops.

Video of the Week

Planning for a Sustainable Local Food System
This video highlights the importance of local food as it travels from the farm to the table. By producing more of the food we consume locally, we keep money in the region, support local businesses and have delicious, fresh produce to eat. [Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP)]

Take Action: Learn about the impacts of industrial livestock production.

News From Around the Web

Food and More: Expanding the Movement for the Trump Era
In this thoughtful article for Civil Eats, Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan and other leaders of the food movement outline why it's time to apply the energy of the food movement to preserving our democracy. [Civil Eats]

In the Shopping Cart of a Food Stamp Household: Lots of Soda
The USDA, which oversees the $74 billion food stamp program, has published a detailed report that provides a glimpse into the shopping cart of the typical household that receives food stamps. The findings show that the No. 1 purchases by SNAP households are soft drinks, "In this sense, SNAP is a multibillion-dollar taxpayer subsidy of the soda industry," said NYU nutrition professor Marion Nestle. [NY Times]

As Big Milk Moves in Family-Owned US Dairy Farms Rapidly Fold
Peter Vitaliano, chief economist for the National Milk Producers Federation, says the number of small family-owned dairies around the United States has been steadily dropping for years. However, milk production is not necessarily decreasing. While the dairy industry used to be run by individual families, Vitaliano thinks that today it is far more lucrative to run large-scale dairy farms, with 500 cows or more. [NPR]

Vilsack Departs a Week Early, Leaving Top USDA Post Vacant with No Successor in Sight
Vilsack informed department employees Friday he was stepping down. This occurred before President-elect Trump nominated Georgia Governor, Sonny Perdue, to be agriculture secretary, in part due to the fact that the new administration did little to reach out to him during the transition. [Washington Post]

Organic Checkoff Program Advances

The USDA is getting close to finalizing the Checkoff Program for organic industry, which essentially pools money together for promotional purposes. Many big organic companies are excited because they hope the Checkoff will overcome consumer confusion about organic benefits, while some smaller organic growers and trade associations feel it doesn't help with marketing or research. [Civil Eats]   

Bayer, Monsanto Tout Jobs, Investment to Trump, but Analysts Question How Much is New
The likely-to-be-merged Bayer-Monsanto pledged US investments and jobs after talking to the Trump administration, which the latter took credit for, yet analysts say that these seem to be old plans that were previously announced in September 2016. Nothing to see here... [CNBC]   

As Rains Soak California, Farmers Test How to Store Water Underground
An unconventional idea has become a hot new trend in California's water management circles -- especially this week, with rivers flooding all over the state. Farmers are purposefully flooding their fields and orchards during the winter to help replenish underground aquifers that were nearly pumped dry during California's historic drought.  [NPR]

Water and Climate Dominate World Economic Forum Risk Report
Water crises of both quality and quantity are so significant to people's farming, food and health that global leaders at the World Economic Forum have decided that water is a societal risk for the second consecutive year. [Circle of Blue] 
Meat Matters: Green Trends in the Meat Sector
Shareholders are waking up to the fact that huge meat producers are also huge water polluters, and they are starting to hold them accountable. In 2015, 60 investors worth 2.6 trillion in assets requested that 15 food sector companies, like including Hormel, JBS USA and Tyson, to improve their management of water risks or suffer the economic fallout, says Brooke Barton of Ceres. [AgriPulse] 

Water-Energy-Food: Can Leaders at Davos Solve This Global Conundrum?
The World Economic Forum's Dominic Waughray says that "[u]nless we address these tricky challenges using a systems approach, we will never resolve the kinds of interconnected environmental risks we will face in the coming decades." [The Guardian]

Monday Campaigns

How Meatless Monday Began
Peggy Neu, the president of Meatless Monday, explains the history of the movement that asks people to "one day a week, cut out meat." What made sense during past wartime periods when food staples were in short supply, is now necessary because we're simply eating too much meat.


Improved Rural Urban Linkages: Building Sustainable Food Systems
Land and water use, food production, environmental management, transport and distribution, marketing and consumption impact both urban and rural areas. A new video looks at the food system from a city/region perspective - the city and its surrounding areas. A wider view can help with tackling challenges like urban food and nutrition insecurity, social and economic inequalities in cities and its surrounding areas, and degraded environmental and natural resources. [FAO]

A Deep Dig on GMO and Crop Yields
The promise of genetically modified crops was of faster growth in harvests and less use of pesticides. We would feed the world and do it with a lighter chemical footprint, but a recent story in the New York Times asserted that neither of those things is happening. Although North America has embraced GMO crops, according to the story, 20 years on GMOs show no overall advantage. So, are they delivering? [WBUR]

Eco News contributed by Gabrielle Blavatsky; Kai Olson-Sawyer; James Rose and Robin Madel.

Image "eggs" by Ernie on Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license.