food systems


Two USDA researchers looking at a row of vegetables

3 Research Questions Could Hold the Key to Sustainable Eating

, Senior Analyst, Food Systems and Health

Food is more than just nutrition. We also know that food can affect the health of many people before it even reaches our plates. For example, pollution caused by fertilizer runoff from farms have left communities without access to safe drinking water, while many of the people who produce our food don’t earn enough to afford healthy diets themselves. So, is it possible to eat in ways that promote health and produce better outcomes for our collective wellbeing, livelihoods, and natural resources? And what would it take to get us there? These are complex questions, but critical ones—and if the federal government made it a national priority to answer them, we might have a chance at avoiding otherwise devastating consequences. Read more >

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Farmers Markets and Wicked Opportunities

Alfonso Morales, Ph.D., Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor, , UCS

“Wicked problems” like COVID-19 and climate change have no ending point. Not simply because we do not (yet) have a technical solution, but because our social institutions, principally our economic and political institutions, have not the flexibility required to respond robustly. However, we have ways forward, through embracing what I call “wicked opportunities.” As we continue to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic and the food and farm system vulnerabilities it has exposed, from food insecurity to worker exploitation to brittle supply chains, I’d like to suggest one critical wicked opportunity: the farmers market. Read more >

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Photo: IIP Photo Archive/Flickr

With The Farm Bill Expired, Will Science Stall?

, senior scientist

All the stranded programs together account for only $2.8 billion of the nearly $1 trillion farm bill. But they provide significant value, and none less than the research and education programs now in budgetary limbo. In this post, I’ll focus on the three such programs: Organic Agriculture Research and Extension, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. Depending on how long Congress leaves these programs hanging before passing a new farm bill, important agricultural research and extension, and the field of agroecology, could suffer. Read more >

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Scientists to Senate: Reject Sam Clovis for USDA Science Post

, senior analyst, Food and Environment

For months, controversy has swirled around the Trump administration’s…shall we say…deeply flawed nominee for USDA chief scientist. A former business professor, talk radio host, and Trump campaign advisor, Sam Clovis has embraced unfounded conspiracy theories and espoused racist and homophobic views. And did I mention he has no scientific training whatsoever? It’s true. And while Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is standing by the nomination, thousands of the nation’s scientists are having none of it. Read more >

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A Look at Iceland’s Food and Farming System (Or, What I Ate on My Summer Vacation)

, senior analyst, Food and Environment

As a food lover and an agriculture geek, I frequently plan vacations around what there is to eat. This summer, I traveled to Iceland, ostensibly to admire its breathtaking scenery and ride its tough little horses. As a bonus, I escaped a couple weeks of DC’s stifling heat. But of course, I also took the opportunity to see (and taste) this unique country’s equally unique food and agriculture system up close. Read more >

Photo: Karen Perry Stillerman
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