Image Source: David Bergvall/Washington State DNR
Washington has joined California, Oregon, and Alaska in outlawing net-pen aquaculture in West Coast waters. British Columbia also plans to phase out the practice by 2025. Critics say the concentrated animal feed operations spread disease to native stocks and reduce wild fish populations. Supporters argue that fish farming is critical to feeding the globe's growing population. Currently, salmon aquaculture accounts for about 70% of the US market. Can wild salmon fisheries be managed well enough to feed the world's hunger for this popular fish? We shall see.
More Agriculture News
Image Source: Charlie Neibergall/AP
Thousands of farmers and livestock producers are behind on USDA loan payments due to recent natural disasters, drought, and transportation bottlenecks. To keep America's farmers farming, the USDA rolled out a program providing $1.3 billion in debt relief to about 36,000 farmers. The debt forgiveness adds to the Agriculture Department's $31 billion farmer payout to help offset lower sales and other losses due to the coronavirus pandemic. The new relief also aims to keep the US food supply stocked and prevent food prices from skyrocketing further.
Image Source: Montinique Monroe
The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) allocates about $40 billion for USDA conservation programs to incentivize climate-friendly practices such as reduced tillage, cover crop planting, and renewable energy infrastructure on farms. It also earmarks $2.2 billion to compensate Black farmers who had been subject to discrimination by other USDA programs and $3.1 billion in loans for farmers in serious financial distress. Experts estimate the IRA could cut emissions to 40% below 2005 levels by 2030, which falls short of the 50% goal but puts it within reach if other measures are taken.
Image Source: Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune
Sewage sludge, a byproduct of human and industrial waste, is a common, inexpensive crop fertilizer that's largely unregulated in the US. Despite safety assurances from the US Environmental Protection Agency, investigators have found that sludge contains concentrated levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a.k.a. forever chemicals. European researchers have concluded that PFAS end up in our food, and studies have linked long-term exposure to ailments such as testicular and kidney cancer, birth defects, liver damage, impaired fertility, and immune system disorders. Yet most US states do not test sludge for PFAS and sewage treatment plants are not required to warn farmers of risks.
Image Source: iStock
Emory University environmental science professor Emily Burchfield used data from the USDA, the US Geographical Survey, and other key sources to analyze the historical effects of warming temperatures on six major US crops: alfalfa, corn, cotton, hay, soy and wheat. Burchfield's models predict that most major crops' cultivation regions will shift north in the coming decades, and the corn belt of the upper midwest will become unsuitable for growing corn by 2100. To ensure continued productivity, Burchfield says that US agricultural systems must diversify beyond major commodity crops.