Digest: Bee investigation continues, subsidy recipients bared, track your fruit

NEWS

Death, where is thy sting: This excellent update on the search for the cause of colony collapse disorder in bees says that neonicotinoids have probably been ruled out, cell phone signals are laughed at, and most signs are pointing to a biological pathogen or parasite. (Los Angeles Times)

Naming names and kicking ass: The Environmental Working Group will unveil its new 2007 Farm Bill Database of agricultural subsidy recipients at noon tomorrow, June 12. Watch for the link from EWG Prez Ken Cook's blog, Mulch. The Associated Press has a sneak peek at the stars of the new data, such as Texas oil billionaire Lee M. Bass, who got $242,787 from 2003-2005, and former NBA star Scottie Pippen, who received $78,945 in conservation subsidies for land he controls in Arkansas.

Transparency and containers: A new food-tracking technology called HarvestMark aims to let consumers look up produce specially packaged in HarvestMark-tagged containers to learn where the food was grown, when it was picked, and which crew picked and packaged it. While we think these are valuable things to know, we don't need more packaging, period. (Statesman/AP)

Beef eaters sickened: UMinn's Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy says that 14 people in six states have developed E. coli illness from the recalled United Food Group ground beef. kind of amazing given the millions of pounds recalled. All have recovered. (CIDRAP)

Fat chance, guys: Antihunger and environmental groups have asked the U.S. Congress to guarantee them $15 billion in additional spending. (Reuters)

Eggstraordinary claims: A Lancaster County, PA, egg farm was acquitted of numerous animal cruelty charges, and poultry producers are gloating. The Agriculture Department claims that the agenda of these big poultry producers is always in "the best interest of the animal - are these animals maintained in a way that keeps them happy, healthy and productive?" We'd like to see evidence that anything but the last criterion matters. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

FEATURES & COMMENTARY

The view from Kansas: Kansas receives the sixth most Farm Bill subsidy payments; more than half its farms receive some payment. Money from subsidies doesn't just go to the farmer, but also flows to tractor dealers and so forth. The term "family farm" is bandied about in the article, and we're wondering, just what the heck is a "family farm" these days? (Hutchinson News)

Add to your reading list: Supermarkets are the apex of 10,000 years of food evolution that began on the African steppe and end in our shopping carts, a journey chronicled in Kenneth F. Kiple's new book, "A Movable Feast: Ten Millennia of Food Globalization." Sounds fascinating, even if he apparently misses the mark on recent food shifts. (National Post)

Crying over cheap milk: A close-up view of how dairy farmers are struggling to make ends meet. A Massachusetts department of agricultural resources explains the dilemma thusly: "The market drives toward the lowest price. Nobody will pay more than they have to" — not even what it cost to produce the milk. (Business Week)

"Hippie capitalist" hater: At least one London columnist is immune to Whole Foods' charm offensive, saying shopping at the new store gave her "the same queasy feeling of being manipulated that I get when I buy anything that comes with a morally or ethically superior label, and a whole crunchy-granola philosophy added to the price tag." (Times UK)

News that stinks: California and Chinese growers are battling for the garlic market. Fun fact no. 1: Gilroy, CA, the "garlic capital of the world," has just one garlic grower left — one with "probably 30 acres in the corner of a vegetable field." Fun fact no. 2: You can tell Chinese- and California-grown garlic apart by the roots. (FreshPlaza)

"More than one path to clean water": Environmentalists want tougher state oversight for Michigan's largest livestock and poultry farms, but several state politicians and ag reps want the farms to take the lead on controlling pollution through a voluntary program. U.S. business history is just full of successful voluntary self-regulation programs, isn't it? (Grand Haven Tribune)

Star of the north: The number of farmers markets in Minnesota has doubled since 1994, to almost 4,000. Some markets allow produce reselling, so pineapple or bananas might be next to the locally grown radishes. (Minnesota Public Radio)

Don't catch my drift: California herb farmer Larry Jacobs says the state needs new laws to protect organic farms from pesticide drift. His crop was contaminated by a neighbor's organophosphates, so toxic that the herbs could not even be sold as conventionally grown. (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

ON THE BLOGS, ETC.

New to chew on: We've just discovered The Ruminant, "a daily update on the farm and food policy debates shaping the 2007 Farm Bill," from Scott Faber, the manager of the Healthy Farms, Healthy Food Campaign for Environmental Defense. Faber's current post tackles the myth that farm subsidies keep food prices low, with pithy sentences such as "As you know, most of the corn and soybeans grown in America goes in a pig or a pump." (The Ruminant)

Not chickening out: Plenty magazine's Eco-Eats blog lists scary specs from Gourmet magazine's feature on the current state of chicken CAFOs (not available online, alas) and concludes that the subject of animal welfare is creeping into the mainstream. Representative fact: since the 1950s, the time for a broiler chicken to reach sale weight has dropped from 17 weeks to 6 weeks. (Eco-Eats)

A general update on Farm Bill progress (Blog for Rural America)

One Responseto “Digest: Bee investigation continues, subsidy recipients bared, track your fruit”

  1. cookiecrumb says:

    Oh, thankgod I have a local garlic grower. Marin County. Good man.