"Cover Crops, A Farming Revolution with Deep Roots in the Past"
Stephanie Strom, New York Times
The biological and financial benefits that come with cover cropping validate CFFP’s current Market Research on the similar practice of rotational cropping, and suggest that we are looking in the right direction.
Cover crops are taking off in the Corn Belt, symbolizing a fundamental shift away from input-heavy industrial farming. Numerous industrial family farms now plant combinations of non-cash crops between seasons including turnips, millet, barley, clover, hairy vetch, sunflower, and more. Biological benefits of cover cropping include natural soil aeration, reduced erosion, carbon sequestration, nutrient replenishment, and improved beneficial insect, fungi, and microorganism populations. Cover cropping generally improves yields, eliminates need for fertilizer, and often reduces pesticide use. Overall, farmers estimate a net economic benefit of $244,000 or just over $69/acre – and this does not take into account potential income from value-added market for the cover crops themselves, especially grains.
"FDA to Start Testing for Glyphosate in Food"
Carey Gilliam, Civil Eats
As we pursue environmental and health equity in our local food system, the narratives presented by national research and political bodies hold weighty implications. Relevant to CFFP is the fact that glyphosate is sometimes used to spot treat weeds in no-till grain production. While we should not let perfection be the enemy of the good in working with non-organic farms, a glance down the road reveals momentum for transition.
Under pressure from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the FDA will now start reevaluating the presence of glyphosate, the active ingredient of Round Up, in food products. Referred to as “the most widely used pesticide in the world,” glyphosate use in the United States increased 20-fold over the last decade, to 1.65 billion pounds in 2014. Private and academic research has linked the chemical to various cancers, birth defects, and kidney and liver problems, but federal research has yet to pursue an investigation of this nature. The analysis of glyphosate in food products is a small but important first step.
For an additional perspective, read more here.
"Economists keep saying we should put a price on nature. Now they’ve finally done it."
Chelsea Harvey, Washington Post
Natural Capital presents a useful tool as CFFP looks to measure environmental returns on investment. This measurement accounts for nuances and fluctuations that allow analysts to evaluate sustainability for the long term.
A group of faculty at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies has been working closely with economists to create a formula that describes the value of nature related assets, known as Natural Capital. Previously, economists had described the value of nature through “ecosystem services”, which better represents the flow of natural assets like income. On the other hand, natural capital represents the whole of natural assets like wealth. In this way natural capital is a more accurate representation of those assets, looking at the whole value of assets after the (sometimes unpredictable) effects of industrial endeavors and “green” interventions alike.
New Book Challenges “Magic Carrot Approach” to Food Justice
Joanna Mercuri, Fordham News
In his new book, Garret M. Broad, PhD, argues that with the advancement of food systems work comes the advancement of a food gap in which wealthier groups experience unprecedented choice while marginalized groups continue to struggle. As we move forward with research and towards fund development, we must seek partnerships with producers that understand the complexities and nuances of our food system, particularly for the marginalized consumer as described below.
Garret M. Broad’s new book, More Than Just Food: Food Justice and Community Change (University of California Press, 2016) unpacks the complexities of our food system as it relates to social and health equity. Our mainstream impression of food justice is often limited to access and availability. As a result, interventionists are often stumped: if healthy food is made available to a community, why don’t community health outcomes change? Why aren’t community members making the “carrot over cheeto” choice, now that they have it? Broad reveals a whole network of forces that influence that choice for the consumer, combating narratives of behavioral blame. These forces include local culture, historical marginalization, socioeconomic status, education, and more.
"Rest break, bonus pay still disputed in Washington"
Dan Wheat, Capital Press
While we gradually become familiar with the world of production through Ecotrust’s Market Research, there is another parallel universe we must get to know: that of the laborer. This article highlights the conflicting and sometimes contradictory issues faced by farm workers as they advocate for living wage and safe working conditions.
Many farm workers are paid by piece rate (quantity harvested) rather than by hourly rate. While legal precedent has established paid rest regardless of wage type, Washington State is still ambiguous whether or not piece rate farm workers should be paid minimum wage during breaks. For this reason, hourly wages and planned bonuses are easier to regulate, but some farmworkers prefer piece rate – fast workers can often make more through piece rate than hourly rate wages. Both sides recognize a need for education and compromise on the part of both stakeholders, but the outcome is still unclear.
"Economics of Antibiotic Use in Livestock Production"
Stacy Sneeringer et al, USDA
There is a recent trend towards antibiotic-free meat in the US, as companies as large as Perdue, Hormel, and Foster Farms start to incorporate antibiotic-free production practices. While the health of humans and livestock has always been a driving argument behind the shift, there is now a business rationale as well.
USDA Economic Research Services find no significant economic benefit in using antibiotics for uses other than disease treatment. Overall, eliminating antibiotics resulted in just a 1-3% increase in cost of production, a 1% increase in wholesale prices, and a drop in output of less than 1%. Furthermore, existing antibiotic-free producers “are predicted to respond to these higher prices by increasing production,” increasing revenues and availability of antibiotic-free meats to consumers.
"Kresge Arts & Culture, Health teams launch food-oriented grant opportunity"
The Kresge Foundation recently launched this initiative that uses food oriented development to address equity and health issues in economically distressed neighborhoods. This aligns with many of the CFFP goals, and creates an opportunity to engage other funders working in our region.
“Throughout history, food has been inextricably tied to social cohesion, health, culture and entrepreneurship,” said David Fukuzawa, managing director of Kresge’s Health Program. “This initiative recognizes both the direct positive impacts of healthy, local food and the overarching role that food can play in neighborhood revitalization.
"10 Things we should do to fix our broken food system"
Tamar Haspel, Washington Post
Encouraging is the fact that many of Haspel’s recommendations can be seen in action across communities represented by CFFP members today. Seattle Tilth’s Good Food Bag program, our statewide Fresh Bucks program, and Seattle and Portland’s Farmer-Fisher-Chef Connection are just a few examples of how our food system community works to build cross-sector solutions that bring producers, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers together.
A pithy, succinct, and convicting call to action that includes the many diverse stakeholders in our food system – government, manufacturers, farmers, consumers, and more. Perhaps the most convicting commission is the charge for “Everyone” to “come to the table” for “more inclusive, constructive conversation”
Site Link: Healthy soils are the basis for healthy food production
CFFP’s commitment to the economic viability of sustainable production systems for medium-sized producers is one huge contribution to the sustenance of soils in Washington state. While CFFP is already researching market potential of no-till and organic production systems, additional systems to consider that prioritize soil health include agroforestry, agroecology, and conservation agriculture
An easily-digestible infographic from the FAO that includes why, more than any other agricultural input, the cultivation of diverse and healthy soils is perhaps the most important. For more detailed explanations, browse here.
"Mexican Soda Tax followed by Drop in Sugary Drink Sales"
Anahad O'Connor, New York TImes
Mexico’s health trends towards increased rates of obesity, diabetes, and other nutritionally-linked diseases is not uncommon in countries rapidly transitioning from agrarian peasantry to industrialized food systems – a transition that goes hand in hand with development and entry into global markets. This study provides a tool for low to middle income countries to potentially offset negative health trends through targeted sales tax, and a tool for communities like ours to reverse existing trends.
One year after implementing a 10% tax on sugary beverages in 2014, Mexico has seen a 12% drop in sugary drink sales and a 4% increase in bottled water purchases. This is the first empirical study suggesting that targeted sales tax may influence behavioral health, and it has gained attention from public health agencies across the globe. As a country with obesity rates as high as 70% and equally concerning rates of type 2 diabetes, this small measure has potential to make a big difference.
As part of its own research, CFFP regularly illuminates educative research, media, and resources related to our work. This page contains public versions of our synopses.