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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How Cereal Companies and Consumers Can Make Breakfast Better

What’s for breakfast? Maybe it’s a bagel and cream cheese, or toast and coffee, or eggs (or not). For millions of Americans, though, cereal is a breakfast mainstay. There’s a mind-boggling array of ready-to-eat cereal brands on offer, and everyone has their favorites.

But what really goes into your cereal of choice? What impact does that have on the planet? What can cereal-makers—and those of us who buy their products—do to lessen that impact? These are questions UCS asked in a new report, Champions of Breakfast: How Cereal-Makers Can Help Save Our Soil, Support Farmers, and Take a Bite out of Climate Change.

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Photo courtesy of 401kcalculator.org/Flickr

“Big Food” Companies Spend Big Money in Hopes of Shaping the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The maker of Snickers, M&Ms, and Skittles has built a global conglomerate on sugar. The privately held Mars Incorporated let it be known earlier this year that it hopes to double its $35 billion annual revenue over the next decade, reportedly through expansion in pet food and other areas. But for now, confectionery treats are a main business, which could be why the company spent more than $2 million, in 2018 and early 2019, lobbying Congress around the federal government’s nutrition advice, among other food policy issues. Of course, it’s also possible Mars has a more socially responsible motive, which I’ll get to in a minute. Read more >

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Photo courtesy of Apricot Lane Farms

Healthy Soil, Coming to a Theater Near You: 5 Lessons from “The Biggest Little Farm”

An email in my inbox last month caught my attention. It was from author, environmental advocate, and Academy Award-winning film producer Laurie David (“An Inconvenient Truth”), and it offered a preview of “The Biggest Little Farm,” a new documentary film David had coming out soon. “I promise you that any person that goes to see this film will leave inspired and caring a whole lot more for the planet,” her note said. “I promise you it will help your organization achieve your goals!”

I clicked on the link, watched the trailer, was intrigued. The movie looked gorgeous. But would it hold up to scrutiny from skeptical agricultural scientists? Read more >

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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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