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Crop field with runoff
USDA NRCS

To Save Its Soil and Clean Up Its Water, Iowa Needs to Act Fast(er)

, senior analyst, Food and Environment

Iowans have long prized their state’s deep, rich soils and its position as an agricultural powerhouse. In the heart of the Corn Belt, its farmers lead the nation in corn acres planted, and come in second in soybean acres. But there’s a dark side to all that: Decades of intensive, industrial-style production of those two crops—and little else—has decimated Iowa’s soil and fouled its waterways, leaving farmers and communities downstream and across the state vulnerable. Among the many issues state legislators are considering this month in Des Moines, soil health and water quality are arguably among the most urgent. And they need to act fast. Read more >

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Photo courtesy Jenn Vargas/Flickr

Reasons to Be Thankful—8 Food and Farm “Good News” Stories

, senior analyst, Food and Environment

Sometimes gratitude feels like a stretch, and this fall has been one of those times. We’re in the home stretch of a difficult year. Bad news abounds, and even the holiday that many of us will celebrate this week is complicated—a day of thanks that also evokes loss and grief for many Native people, along with expressions of resilience. With Thanksgiving approaching, I went looking for hopeful stories, scanning the news of food and agriculture for signs of progress and promise. And though I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface, I actually found quite a lot. Here’s a roundup of good news food and farming stories. Got more? Share ‘em in the comments.

And happy Thanksgiving. Read more >

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Photo: Matt Liebman/Iowa State University

A Spoonful of Science in Your Surprisingly Powerful Cereal Bowl

, senior scientist

When you think about “farm to table”, what comes to mind? Heirloom tomatoes? Local mixed greens? Farmstead cheese? Whatever it may be, I hope you’ll add breakfast cereal to that list. Yes, breakfast cereal.  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.

, senior analyst, Food and Environment

“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.

Read more >

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U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Soil Conservationist Garrett Duyck and David Brewer examine a soil sample on the Emerson Dell farm near The Dalles, OR. USDA NRCS photo by Ron Nichols.

Congress Could Help Farmers, Prevent Pollution, and Reduce Flood and Drought Damage. Will They?

, senior analyst, Food and Environment

The news lately has been full of Congressional battles—healthcare, the debt ceiling, and now tax “reform” (ahem)—and it’s starting to seem like Congress is only interested in blowing things up. But a huge legislative effort is gaining steam on Capitol Hill, one that is likely to have general bipartisan support, though you probably haven’t heard nearly as much about it. I’m talking about the next five-year Farm Bill—which really should be called the Food and Farm Bill, as it shapes that sprawling economic sector worth more than 5 percent of US GDP, and which Congress must reauthorize by September 30, 2018.

In this first of a series of posts on the 2018 Farm Bill, I look at how this legislation could do more to help farmers conserve their soil, deliver clean water, and even reduce the devastating impacts of floods and droughts, all of which would save taxpayers’ money. Read more >

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