From the Atlantic:
Posts tagged agriculture.
The spill is the latest incident in what one county official described as ‘perfect storm’ of manure problems around the state.
A million gallons of manure broke through a concrete-walled pit in southeastern Minnesota late Sunday night, fouling two trout streams before making its way into the Root River, in a major spill that has compounded widespread manure runoff problems in farming counties.
U.S. Drought Monitor - April 2013
Brutal wildfire year lies ahead for the west and south west.
Now, we are facing another rise in sea level of 1 to 4 feet. A rise of just 16 inches would be enough to endanger roads, highways and airports in San Francisco and Oakland. It could contaminate crucial groundwater in Los Angeles.
Heat is already the leading cause of weather-related deaths, and the expected temperature increase will mean longer and hotter heat waves, like the one that killed 164 Californians during a blistering week in 2006.
That’s the bad news contained in the National Climate Assessment. The good news is we can do something to prevent these dire outcomes.
The report should be a wake-up call for leaders in Washington to overcome gridlock and start working on solutions. For models of how to proceed, they need only look to California and other states and cities that have begun to move forward in a bipartisan way.
The first step for policymakers — and for ordinary citizens too — is to understand the situation we face, which means carefully reading the National Climate Assessment. It may not be as gripping to look at or have the provocative appeal of a raging wildfire or another act of God, but the knowledge in this report is crucial to understanding how to change, to adapt, to prevent and to prepare for future disasters.
It’s our duty to pay attention.
If you can believe it way back in 1990(!), President George HW Bush signed America’s first climate change law called the Global Change Research Act. The act ordered the Federal Government to study the impacts and issues of climate change in America.
There are several elements of the act, but most important is that every four years, the government is supposed to issue a climate change report called the National Climate Assessment. You can read previous NCA reports, here.
The next NCA is due to be published within the next few months.
NYTimes discusses how vineyards are adapting to climate change - moving.
For more than a decade, wine experts have discussed the impact of climate change on wine grapes, agriculture’s diva, a marquee crop nurtured and pampered around the world.
Now scientists are raising a new question: when grapes are transported to new areas, assuming warming weather and flagging rain make current regions unsuited to such harvests, what will the crop’s arrival do to the animals and plants already in residence?
Will there be a conflict between prosecco and pandas in China? Will the contentious wolf hunts near Yellowstone National Park be complicated by new vineyards that crowd out everything else — wolves, elk and hunters?
“One of the adaptation strategies for grape growers will be to move into areas that have a suitable climate,” said Rebecca Shaw, a scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund and an author of a new paper to be published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “This adaptation has the potential to threaten the survival of wildlife.”
Or, in the words of the new study, “Vineyards have long-lasting effects on habitat quality and may significantly impact freshwater resources.” In addition to introducing sterilizing chemicals and fertilizer, which remake the ecosystem, mature vineyards “have low habitat value” for native species “and are visited more often by nonnative species.”
More at NYTimes
Image description: Mexican fruit flies (an invasive species) feed on citrus fruit.
A species is considered invasive when it is nonnative to the ecosystem and its introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proclaimed April to be Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month. USDA has developed “Seven Ways to Leave Hungry Pests Behind” to aid Americans in protecting America’s agricultural bounty and natural beauty.
Photo by Jack Dykinga, Bugwood.org.
Irony knows no bounds.
It’s going fast,” fisherman Eric Pineda said. “We’ve got to fish harder before it’s all gone.” Asked what he would leave to his son, he shrugged: “He’ll have to find something else.Via: ‘Free-for-all’ decimates fish stocks in the southern Pacific
In recent years, keeping the world’s coffee drinkers supplied has become increasingly difficult: The spread of a deadly fungus that has been linked to global warming and rising global temperatures in the tropical countries where coffee grows has researchers scrambling to create new varieties of coffee plants that can keep pace with these new threats without reducing quality.Buzzkill? How Climate Change Could Eventually End Coffee (via usnews)
Food and beverages where terroir is a big factor will be the first to be affected by climate change. This is already happening in the world of wine…wine production is happening in Denmark, French wines are changing flavors, and some places may become too hot to grow grapes at all.
As new frontiers for grape growing open up, the viability of some traditional production areas is under threat from scorching temperatures and prolonged droughts.
And in between the two extremes, some long-established styles are being transformed. Some whites once renowned for being light and crisp are getting fatter and more floral while medium-bodied reds are morphing into heavyweight bruisers.
Climate Change Shifts North’s Growing Seasons
temperature and vegetation growth at northern latitudes now resemble those found 4 degrees to 6 degrees of latitude farther south as recently as 1982.
“Higher northern latitudes are getting warmer, Arctic sea ice and the duration of snow cover are diminishing, the growing season is getting longer and plants are growing more,” said Ranga Myneni of Boston University’s Department of Earth and Environment. “In the north’s Arctic and boreal areas, the characteristics of the seasons are changing, leading to great disruptions for plants and related ecosystems.”
Image: Of the 10 million square miles (26 million square kilometers) of northern vegetated lands, 34 to 41 percent showed increases in plant growth (green and blue), 3 to 5 percent showed decreases in plant growth (orange and red), and 51 to 62 percent showed no changes (yellow) over the past 30 years. Satellite data in this visualization are from the AVHRR and MODIS instruments, which contribute to a vegetation index that allows researchers to track changes in plant growth over large areas.
U.S. farmers converted more than 1.3 million acres of grassland into corn and soybean fields between 2006 and 2011.
Update: This is more about America’s heritage landscapes - grasslands - and less about particular crops. Grasslands provide important habitat for countless species. President Theodore Roosevelt protected millions of acres of grasslands by including them in several National Parks. Converting them to crops destroys habitat for animals, changes and poisons the soil, pollutes rivers, devalues people’s properties, among numerous other environmental harms. Destroying nature for a quick buck is not the right direction for America’s future. The situation is worse when climate change is factored in.
And, the US Forest Service has an excellent overview of how grasslands are threatened by agriculture and climate change.
Winter snow storms not enough to recharge soil and aquifers to end historic drought. 2013 drought forecast looking grim.
The historic drought that laid waste to America’s grain and corn belt is unlikely to ease before the middle of this year, a government forecast warned on Thursday.
The annual spring outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted hotter, drier conditions across much of the US, including parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, where farmers have been fighting to hang on to crops of winter wheat.
The three-month forecast noted an additional hazard, however, for the midwest: with heavy, late snows setting up conditions for flooding along the Red and Souris rivers in North Dakota.
“It’s a mixed bag of flooding, drought and warm weather,” Laura Furgione, the deputy director of NOAA’s weather service told a conference call with reporters.
Last year produced the hottest year since record keeping began more than a century ago, with several weeks in a row of 100+degree days. It also brought drought to close to 65% of the country by summer’s end.
The cost of the drought is estimated at above $50bn, greater than the economic damage caused by hurricane Sandy. The drought area has now fallen back somewhat to 51% of the country.
But even the heavy snowfalls some parts of the country have seen were not enough to recharge the soil, the NOAA scientists said.
Via The Guardian
One year ago National Geographic posted this open letter from eleven respected scientists alarmed by the prospect of a massive palm oil plantation in a global biodiversity hot spot. Close to 2 million hectares of Congo Basin rainforest are already earmarked for destruction by palm oil plantations.
We are witness to extinction.
Modern Farmer: Wyoming state congress passes "ag-gag" law, set to become fourth state with anti-whistleblower laws for agriculture ›
Wyoming’s House of Representatives is the latest legislative body pass a “ag-gag” law, a new breed of legislation which makes it illegal to record video or photograph inside factory livestock farms. From Food Safety News:
In her bill, [Republican Sue Wallis] makes it a crime to “knowingly or intentionally” record images or sounds of an agricultural operation with concealed devices without the consent of the owner. Six months in jail and a $750 fine are provided as penalty. But anyone reporting animal abuse to local police within 48 hours is immune from civil liability.
If the bill passes in Wyoming’s state senate, it would become the fourth state to pass anti-whitsleblower laws. Iowa, Utah, and Missouri all passed similar bills last year, though Wyoming would be the only state to mandate jail time for those (including employees) who film in slaughterhouses.
New Hampshire, Indiana, Nebraska and Arkansas are all also considering their own versions of ag-gag laws. Last year saw 10 states attempting to pass similar piece of legislation, with many backing down after public outcry or worries about the constitutionality of the proposed bills.
Ag-gag laws have sprung up in response to the increasing number of videos taken in large-scale slaughterhouses showing a dizzying number of abuses. In Wyoming’s case, a video taken at a Wheatland, WY hog farm showed workers beating sows and tossing piglets. A later investigation turned up a number of abuses. From the Casper Star-Tribune:
A subsequent investigation by the Wyoming Livestock Board uncovered numerous harrowing incidents.
— Workers cut off the testicles of piglets and fed them to their sow.
— A woman worker who weighed more than 200 pounds sat on a sow that couldn’t walk because of a broken leg and was screaming in agony.
— Workers throwing piglets as if they were balls.
— Keeping pigs in crates so small, the animals were nearly immobilized and helpless.
— A sow with a prolapsed uterus that was left to die slowly after a worker botched an attempt to pull her piglets from her uterus
The hog farm is now under new management, and nine employees were charged with animal abuse.
When not working as a state legislator, Wallis heads up Unified Equine, LLC, a company that is seeking to build horse slaughterhouse in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Wyoming. Wallis has attempted to pass numerous bits of favorable legislation for large-scale animal production plants, winning her a fun nickname: “Slaughterhouse” Sue.
(Image: Thomas Bjørkan/CC 2.0)