Karen Perry Stillerman

Senior analyst, Food and Environment

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Karen Perry Stillerman is an analyst and advocate for transforming the U.S. agriculture and food system to one that produces affordable, healthful foods for consumers; reduces air and water pollution; and builds healthy soil for the farmers of tomorrow. She holds a master's degree in public affairs and environmental policy. See Karen's full bio.

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Before switching to no-till, farmer Gary Hula described the soil as having the consistency of flour. Just four years later and the structure and moisture in the soil is undeniable. Photo courtesy USDA/Flickr

Farmers Are Excited About Soil Health. That’s Good News for All of Us.

“When we think about the challenges in agriculture, carbon—and how to sequester it—is near the top.” So said Roger Johnson, the president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), in opening the grassroots organization’s 2019 annual convention in March. Storing carbon in farm soils is an important climate change solution, but building the health of those soils is also critical for ensuring clean water for communities and helping farmers be productive while coping with the consequences of a climate that is already changing. And throughout the NFU’s three-day gathering, the phrase “soil health” and talk about strategies to achieve it seemed to be on everyone’s tongue.

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USDA Photo by Lance Cheung/Flickr

After Two Years, Trump’s USDA Is Making Good on Promises (to Agribusiness)

This week, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is set to appear before Congress for the first time in a year. When he testifies on the state of the rural economy at a hearing of the House agriculture committee, he’ll have a lot to answer for. Over the last year—Perdue’s second at the helm of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)—he has been busy sidelining science and undermining the nation’s health on behalf of the Big Food and Big Ag industries.

Oh, and the state of the rural economy? That’s not looking so great under Perdue’s and the president’s watch either. Read more >

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Photo courtesy flickr/Marco Verch

Shopping for Change: A Virtual Trip to the Supermarket, and 4 Key Takeaways

The average US supermarket carries more than 30,000 items. With all that choice, you’d think it would be easy to make day-to-day food-buying decisions that are good for people, animals, and the planet. But a trip to a virtual supermarket in a new online feature shows why that isn’t necessarily true, and what it will take to make real change in our food and farming system. Read more >

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USDA photo by Lance Cheung/flickr

Shutdown Fiasco Compounds Trump Assault on Kids’ Lunches

As if the Trump administration’s recent rollback of school lunch nutrition rules weren’t bad enough, the president’s ill-conceived, peevish partial government shutdown (now at 33 days and counting) is further endangering schools’ ability to provide healthy meals for the nation’s children. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which subsidizes school meal programs, has assured local school districts they would receive funding for those programs through March. But school administrators around the country are looking down the road and wondering whether they’ll have to dip into rainy day or emergency funds, cut afterschool programs, or raid money from summer programs to make ends meet if the shutdown continues beyond that. Read more >

Photo: USDA
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Photo courtesy Phil Roeder/Flickr

Four Things the New Congress Can Do to Hold Trump’s USDA Accountable

When it comes to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its handling of food and farming issues, Congressional oversight is sorely needed. As the new Congress gets underway, here are four ways its leaders should seek to make Secretary Perdue and his USDA more accountable to the public interest. Read more >

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