Image Source: Edwin Remsberg, University of Maryland
A new study from Cornell University, Stanford University, and the University of Maryland added a novel factor to farm productivity measurements: weather patterns. Results showed that climate change has reduced agricultural productivity globally by 21% since 1961. In the US, changing weather patterns only account for about 10% of production losses, but it accounts for 30% of declines in warmer regions like Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The study authors urge lawmakers to remember the butterfly effect: Small changes here can lead to big consequences there.
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Image Source: Chris Machian
In 2020, most agriculture stimulus payments went to large corporate farms. To help reach small, local farms, the USDA's latest round of aid includes about $6 billion for fruit and vegetable growers, beginning farmers, organic farms, and biofuel producers, as well as supplementary funds for commodity producers and cattle ranchers. The new $1.9 trillion stimulus package also adds $4 billion for debt relief among minority farmers and $1 billion to improve access to land, resolve property disputes, and provide legal aid to socially disadvantaged farmers. The package even provides $3.6 billion to facilitate food donations and to protect food system workers from COVID-19. These funds should go a long way toward helping America's agricultural sector get back up and running.
Image Source: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
In 1910, Black farmers made up 14% of the US farming population, but today they account for just 1.4%, according to the US Department of Agriculture. "There has been a lot of Black land lost in Kansas in these last 21 years — and it is devastating,” said JohnElla Holmes, executive director of the Kansas Black Farmers Association. The number of Black farmers in the US has dropped from about a million in 1920 to less than 50,000 today. Since 2017, the USDA has received more than 3,700 racial discrimination complaints about restricted access to credit, which farmers say has kept them from obtaining funds to modernize equipment and buy more land. New legislation in Congress aims to remedy what many see as historical inequities in federal farm programs.
Image Source: Getty
For two months, tens of thousands of farmers have camped out in Delhi to protest the Indian government's recent agricultural reforms. The new laws are meant to modernize the country's patchwork agricultural system, but farmers say they favor large corporations and will put many Indian farmers out of business. Frustrated farm workers have used their tractors to dismantle barricades and converge on India's iconic Red Fort, the historic residence of the country's emperors. The protests also turned violent, as clashes with police, tear gas, and batons resulted in multiple injuries and at least one death. Security forces attempted to restore order by cutting off mobile internet services in parts of Delhi until the country's Supreme Court finally intervened, ordering the government to suspend the new agricultural laws until it reaches a resolution with farmers.
Image Source: Nordic Harvest
Outside Copenhagen, a windowless industrial hall has been transformed into Europe's largest vertical farm. Hydroponics and custom purple LED lighting stretch from floor to ceiling in 14 stories of scaffolding that will produce 1,000 tons of lettuce, kale, and herbs in the farm's first year. The wind-powered vertical farm occupies more than 75,000 square feet and its developers, Nordic Harvest and YesHealth Group, say they will be able to grow berries within two years and root vegetables in five to ten years, providing year-round sustainably grown produce with minimal environmental impact.
Image Source: Cyril Marcilhacy
The tech industry has been exploding for decades, but this year, it's taken a new turn toward something relatively un-technical: farming. In 2020, venture capitalists sunk a record $4.4 billion into re-engineering unstable farming and food systems around the world, including investments in more than 20 tech-driven agriculture startups such as the French insect farm Ynsect and Germany's vertical produce farm Infarm. Global climate change? World population growth? Supply chain challenges? Engineering to the rescue.