Image Source: Dan Koeck/Reuters
Midwestern states like Iowa and North Dakota are suffering their worst droughts in decades. Local honey cooperative Sioux Honey, which produces nearly 25% of U.S. honey under the Sue Bee brand, says that honey production is down nearly 40% this year. Those losses also impact agricultural crops because farmers rely on strong bee colonies for crop pollination. According to more than a dozen leading bee experts, economists, farmers, and industry groups, the Midwest shortage of strong bee colonies is putting West Coast crops like apples, almonds, cherries, and peaches at risk.
Image Source: AP Photo/Eric Risberg
In a few months, California will begin enforcing new animal welfare laws that require more space for pigs no matter where the pork products originate. Only 4% of US hog operations currently comply with the state's new rules. Unless lawmakers intervene, California may lose most of its pork supply, and pork producers will face higher costs in one of their key markets (the Golden State consumes 15% of the nation's pork products). In the California of 2022, bacon could be harder to come by.
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In Rio Vista, California, Ryan Mahoney's cattle ranch usually gets 16 to 18 inches of rainfall a year. This year it got only 3 to 5 inches, forcing Mahoney to sell off a big chunk of his Angus cattle herd. The same goes for Andrew McGibbon's 90,000 acre cattle ranch near parched Tucson, Arizona. Worsening drought conditions are forcing Western ranchers to reconsider their sources of income.
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Methane can warm the earth's atmosphere 80 times more than carbon dioxide in the short term, and animal agriculture releases about one-third of methane emissions globally. Most of the gas comes from burping cattle, but Cargill has potential solution: high-tech masks that absorb methane like the catalytic converter on a car. The agricultural giant has begun promoting the wearable devices for cows and expects to offer them to European dairy farmers next year. Made by UK company Zelp, the methane masks reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50%.
Image Source: Neeta Satam
For the past 100 years, Black and other minority farmers have lost farmland in legal disputes and been denied loans, government assistance, and full access to USDA programs. To make amends, the American Rescue Plan will pay off farm debt held by "socially disadvantaged" minority farmers totaling an estimated $4 billion. In protest, white farmers have sued the USDA claiming reverse discrimination, and banks have lobbied against the measure, arguing that early repayments will cut into their profits and hurt investors. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the benefits to banks outweigh the risks, as banks will be paid principle plus interest and can loan the money out again. To put things in perspective, the payments in total represent less than 1% of all US farm sector debt.