Categories Agriculture

The Greying of Agriculture: Farm Operators Aging


The average age of American farmers is 54.3 years. In 1997, 61 percent of farmers were over the
age of 55, up from 37 percent in 1954.

 

On average, farmers are older than workers in other careers. According to the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, 12 percent of workers in the
civilian work force were over age 55 in 1997. For a complete listing of farm operators by age
from 1910 to 1997, see USDA’s Economic Research Service
agricultural census data
in PDF format.

Why are American farmers older today than in the past? Overall, Americans are living longer today,
and, as self-employed individuals, farmers can continue to work after others have retired. Also,
the mechanization of agriculture has helped older farmers continue to farm using machinery instead
of physical labor.

As with society, the future of farming depends on new, younger farmers entering the industry. The
share of farmers younger than 35 has declined from 15 percent in 1954 to 8 percent in 1997. This
shrinkage is attributed to the decline in farm numbers and the fact that families are having fewer
children than in the past.

New farmers typically enter the industry through the family farm business. The decision to enter
farming depends on the attractiveness of farm versus non-farm employment. When the non-farm
economy is robust, young people may opt for higher incomes available off the farm.

USDA’s Economic Research Service suggests that it takes
$500,000 in assets to fully support a farm household. So, access to financial capital can be a
stumbling block for young farmers eager to enter the industry. Currently, several state and
federal program exist to help young farmers. The Agricultural Credit Improvement Act of 1992
created a beginning farmers down payment farm ownership loan program, and required USDA’s
Farm Service Agency to target a percentage of its loans to
beginning farmers and ranchers.

While the aging of America’s farmers is unlikely to affect the nation’s food supply (because of
advances in technology), it is a concern for the structure of farming. The Secretary of Agriculture
has appointed a Beginning Farmers Advisory Committee to make recommendations on financial
assistance and methods to create new farming and ranching opportunities.…

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Categories Farming

Vertical Farming: Can it Help Us Survive Climate Change?

One of the facts of climate change that many don’t consider is the potential disruption of our food supply. I guess this is forgivable since most folks are ignorant of where food comes from and how much effort was put into getting it from seed to your plate. Still, this small blip on the radar right now, due to the ease of obtaining a can of peaches in winter, is getting closer and we’ll be dealing with it in our lifetimes. Obviously the best solution would be to eliminate the problem with zero carbon emissions and a stable global population. Since these aren’t going to seem like attractive options until the disaster is upon us, and it’s way too late, people are working on ways to mitigate some of the worst effects and increase our security.

If you are poor in America or anywhere else, you’ve thought about food security. The sterling effort underway is to increase the amount of food growing in U.S. cities through urban agriculture, which at once addresses the problems of malnutrition, climate change, failing local economies, and loss of community. Some models of sustainable cities seek to retrofit every residential block with an area that would recycle gray water, run-off, and organic waste, while turning these “waste” products into the resident’s next meal.

Most of the hands-on work is being done by poor people in the inner cities who have taken the initiative to transform vacant lots into income and food generators. And there’s a lot going on. Urban agriculture has taken hold in the rust belt cities, places of concentrated poverty. Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, and others are producing more of their food every season and with minimal help from city officials.

But this could still end badly. Climate change is going to do some rather unpredictable things to global weather patterns and local miniclimates. The successful urban farms of Detroit this year could next year be facing unforeseen drought, flooding, and frosts. Considering a systems analysis of climate change dynamics, where the more an ice sheet melts then the faster it melts versus the old ideas of a steady and predictably slow climate change based solely on greenhouse gas composition, we’ll be dealing with problems a lot earlier …

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Categories Farming

Is Fish Farming a Long-Term Solution?

When it comes to farming fish most people think this is the way of the future. That fish farming will help solve the problem of over fishing. Since over fishing in the ocean began, various fish stocks have collapse. This has left whole fishing towns with nothing. However, in some cases farming fish can have just as severe effects.

One of the most popular fish stocks to farm is the Atlantic salmon. Atlantic salmon is higher on the food chain compared to other fishing stocks like Tilapia. Atlantic salmons diet mainly consists of other fish. Tilapia and catfish, on the other hand, are mostly vegetarians. We get the fish to feed these farms full of salmon from the ocean. Fish like anchovies and sardines are caught by the millions and made into fishmeal. So the oceans are still being over fished. The fishmeal is then sent to various fisheries to support the growing number of fish farms in America. When it comes to feeding the salmon it takes approximately three pounds of wild fish to produce one pound of salmon, as stated by edf.org.

There is also the problem of pollution for most of these fish farms. These fish farms consist of many fish jam packed into a small area. As the fish grow there feces builds up quickly, and there is nowhere to put such a quantity of excrement. In the wild, the current will break down the poop quickly, and no build up will occur. Another problem for fish farms is the mercury content of this fish is more concentrated. This is mainly due to them only being fed fish. Wild salmon populations do eat fish; they also maintain a diet of many other organisms.

Where fish farming is making strides is in the catfish and Tilapia market. However, they still have problems with pollution it is not as severe. Monsterfishkeepers.com states that it only takes 1.2 pounds of food to produce 1 pound of Tilapia. Tilapia is lower on the food chain, so they do not need fishmeal as much as salmon do. However, more fishmeal is starting to be added to the diets of Tilapia to gain weight faster. The same thing is currently occurring with catfish.

Wild Alaskan Salmon …

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Categories Farming

Is Ranching and Animal Farming Morally Right?

Very many years ago, when the world was green and the environment was pollution free, livestock and poultry were fed foods that were unadulterated or polluted by pesticides or hormones. Advancement in science and technology and the material needs of the human being has pushed him to devise new methods to increase his production, be it food grains or livestock. So eating meat today is totally different to eating it long ago, as today’s meat is adulterated and contaminated meat, which is very harmful to us.

The farming techniques in vogue today increase production but the environmental damage they cause has to be borne by the future generations of our planet. In the United States, which is a huge consumer of animal food, raising livestock is a huge burden on the environment as the food and water to raise animals requires more than half the available resources in the United States.

This livestock farming industry also contributes to pollution in a big way by polluting our rivers and lakes but also cause soil erosion, which can turn disastrous in the future.

Almost ninety percent of the entire farmable land of the country is used for livestock farming. That is almost half of the land mass of the United States.

Other factors that cause heavy environmental degradation is methane emission, the chief contributor to methane emission is cattle.

Livestock farming or raising animals for food has caused irreparable damage to the country’s water resources as the huge volumes of animal excrement end up in our rivers or lakes.

The available raw materials and fossil fuels in the United States is consumed by this animal farming industry and this industry alone consumes a whopping 33 percent of available fossil fuel resources.

Forests are destroyed to make space for animal farming. The moral aspect of this involves cruel treatment of the animals themselves, add to this the overhead costs involved in animal farming then eating animal meat is like an inhuman way of killing our economy and our planet itself. So make a pledge today to say no to animal meat in your food and turn to alternative healthier way of living like vegetarian diets. Make the decision that will change the planet for good and make a …

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Categories Agriculture

NAFTA, the Department of Agriculture and Illegal Aliens

Acting Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner in a statement released January 2, 2008 has declared the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) “…one of the most successful trade agreements in our history…” citing the enormous rise in agricultural exports to Mexico, from $5.9 billion at NAFTA’s inception in 1994 under the Clinton administration, to $24 billion in 2006.

What Conner failed to discuss in his statement was the devastation NAFTA has wreaked upon Mexican farming, causing staple products such as corn and tomatoes from the United States to be cheaper to import than grow locally, with those U.S. operations using cheap – and oft-times illegal – labor imported from south of the border.

There is no question that NAFTA has been a boon to U.S. agricultural exports. But its effects reached beyond the border, and created a vacuum within the Mexican economy. The needs of the displaced and dispossessed sustenance farmers are being filled in many instances by illegal hiring practices in the United States in such industries as construction and farming.

Many of the illegal immigrants who have landed in the United States once ran their own farms at home in Mexico, but found that their hand-labor intensive farming methods had no hope of competing with the mechanized megafarms in the United States, and were forced from their land seeking work elsewhere – with the United States the obvious market with its porous border and “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude toward illegal aliens of Hispanic descent.

Tomatoes are a hand-picked crop, backbreaking labor that pays laborers by the bucket picked or by the pound. Taco Bell and parent company Yum Brands last spring entered into an agreement with migrant farm worker organization Coalition of Immokalee Workers to double the price of tomatoes – from 1 cent to 2 cents per pound. McDonald’s was soon pressured to follow suit, as are other restaurant chains in the United States.

“McDonald’s has decided to work with the growers instead of the workers,” said Amanda Shanor, program director with the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights in an interview with New Standard reporter Kari Lydersen. That is, until McDonald’s entered into a similar agreement on April 9, drawing the ire of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, …

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Categories Agriculture

Agricultural Production Issues – Pesticides, Organic, and Biotech

Growers rely on conventional, organic, or biotechnology-based agricultural practices for commercial production. Each of these farming practices has benefits and risks associated with its use. As the population continues to increase, polices and practices need to be continually addressed, modified, and adopted to promote sustainable agriculture, environmental conservation and protection, and to ensure an affordable, abundant, and safe food supply.

 

Food Production Issues

Conventional, organic, and biotechnology-based agricultural production policies and practices are continuously confronted with environmental, health, safety, or ethical implications and issues. Scientists, growers, governing bodies, regulatory agencies, and the public continually address these issues in an attempt to determine the most effective means to safely produce an adequate supply of food and fiber.

Conventional farming is aided by the use of pesticides, usually synthetic chemicals, and integrated pest management (IPM) procedures, e.g. entomophage (beneficial organisms such as, birds, spiders, and ladybug beetles, which feed on insect pest species) conservation and crop rotation. Organic farming prohibits the use of most synthetic chemicals and relies on natural chemicals, e.g. botanical extracts, and IPM (AMS). Biotechnology-based farming utilizes genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or genetically engineered (GE) plants to reduce inputs, e.g. insecticides, fungicides, and labor costs.

Each of these agricultural production practices has benefits and risks associated with its use. Legislators and policy makers have developed and continue to redefine standards for conventional, organic, and biotechnology-based practices for the agricultural industry. These standards are adopted and implemented to minimize risks to human health and the environment.

Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) of 1996 and Other Statutes

In the United States, conventional production is regulated in part by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) of 1996. The FQPA is a far-reaching statute that impacts one of the most basic needs for human survival – a safe food supply. This statute amended the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Food Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to address environmental, health, and safety issues. The FQPA replaced the Delaney Clause to establish pesticide risk tolerances in food and other exposure routes, such as water and residential uses.

The FQPA established reasonable exposure risks, primarily to protect children from potential harmful effects of pesticide contact and consumption of residues. …

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Categories Beekeeping

Beekeeping on the Rise

America is full of opportunities to find a hobby that you enjoy. Baseball, card collecting, eating… if you enjoy it, there’s an organization and a competition to encourage it. With so many different ways to spend your time, a lot of interesting hobbies get lost in the crowd. Recently, one in particular has been climbing its way back up through the masses.

With all of the tragedies, political instability and changes that have been dominating the news, very little has been said about the phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, since 2006 honey bees have been abandoning their hives in droves and it was beginning to really worry scientists. Honey bees are important for both the economy and the environment, so it would be devastating if we lost them. In order to help counter the effects of CCD, scientists began trying to encourage people to take on beekeeping as it was a hobby that many people didn’t even think about. After a while, that sparked a new trend. Even New York hopped on the bandwagon and rescinded their laws against beekeeping in the city and recently different cities in Arkansas have held seminars for people to go and learn how to begin as keepers.

Even if you have limited space, it is entirely possible to become a beekeeper. The Farmer’s Almanac released a guide to getting started on their website. It is recommended that you start with two hives, but as each hive is merely a series of boxes and frames stacked vertically, it should not be hard to find room for them. You’ll also need a smoker to sedate the bees and a suit to keep from getting stung. All of these items can be a little more costly than desired, but beekeeping is a hobby that can pay off in the long run. Not only can you harvest honey from the bees, but you can also get beeswax and make a myriad of products from said beeswax.

Beekeeping is also a wonderful hobby for people who are less than sporty. You get to spend plenty of time in nature without having to run all those laps. You can make some interesting new friends in your …

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Categories Agriculture

Pork Producers Urged to Certify Their Operations


A voluntary certification program for pork producers just may give “the other white meat” a new
image. Until now, consumers’ fear of trichinosis-causing worms in pork has prompted sometimes
overzealous, thorough cooking of the meat.

 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service
has been working to develop a voluntary national certification program for trichinae-free pork. The
final element, a 2-year pilot study, began this summer.

In cooperation with the National Pork Producers Council, the meat packing industry, the Animal and
Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and the Food Safety and Inspection Service, Dr. H. Ray Gamble, of
USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, developed an ELISA test that enables veterinarians to screen
live animals for the infection from a blood sample. Gamble has been testing the procedure on herds
for two years.

Now, the National Pork Producers Council is urging producers to have their animals certified by an
APHIS-accredited veterinarian. Using a standardized checklist, the veterinarians will document
management practices that protect animals from infection. Production sites that meet the criteria will be
certified as having safe management practices. At the packing plant, certified animals
will be separated from non-certified pigs for further tracking and testing to be sure they really
are trichinae-free.

Even though the number of pigs infected with the trichinae parasite has declined steadily for
decades, several overseas markets have closed their borders for U.S. pork producers. A certification
program that begins on the farm may hold promise for re-opened markets.…

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Categories Farming

Pot Farming is Legal in America

Pot farming is now legal in America, well, on Facebook at least. Another variation on the classic farming application takes a decidedly bloodshot approach to planting and harvesting on Facebook. In Pot Farm, you become a hippie who decides to plant and grow marijuana themed plants out in the woods. There are many different plants so far (hemp, time warp, blueberry, etc…) with more surely to come since the game is still in beta whatever, as it is so perfectly put by the makers. You can also construct buildings, machines, and protections, just like any decent farming game.

One strong pro with Pot Farm is the fact that your plants do not wither (as of this writing), but you do have to beware of the evil Ranger Dick who wants to come and confiscate all your plants. This is one of the little twists that was thrown in the mix to help set Pot Farm apart from other farming games and apps on Facebook. Each plant has a certain protection rating, which is usually a negative one. The lower your total protection rating, the more likely it is that Ranger Dick will come and ruin your buzz, man. Some of the buildings you are able to construct will improve your protection rating, as well as certain decorations and vehicles.

The game play is very basic, especially for those of us who are already addicted to Farmville or any of the other farming games on Facebook. You have to dig holes, plants your marijuana seeds, wait for them to grow, and then harvest them. While Pot Farm is as addictive as the rest of the Facebook farming applications and games, those of us that do enjoy to imbibe in the ‘green machine’ will obviously get a much greater kick out of the game.

Another cool feature of Pot Farm is simply the humor. Unlike other farming games, where a load page is just a load page, Pot Farm throws in some little jokes that make me giggle like a schoolgirl every time I read them (like “Are you sure Dave’s not home?” as just one example). Again, these little jokes and simple humor will be gotten more by the stoners of Facebook, but they are …

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Categories Beekeeping

Managing an Archaeology Field Crew: Effective Time and Personnel Management for CRM Projects

Using the proper resources and getting to know co-workers is essential in effective crew management. While often overlooked and undervalued, the following tips are useful, and will help Crew Chiefs and Field Directors manage both field crews and field work in a professional manner.

Maps are Worth a Thousand Words

Maps are essential in archaeology. At the very least, a state gazetteer and topographical maps of the project area are needed. If possible, obtain aerial photos as well. The client or research department at the CRM firm will often be able to supply these. In addition, the company’s graphics department will often make series of project maps that show the project details in one glance. Ask for these if not immediately provided.

Keep Detailed Archaeological Records

Keep track of what has been surveyed by using multiple formats. Typically, the best way to indicate where survey has been conducted or where a site has been identified is by marking it on a topographical map or aerial photo. Computerized spreadsheets are also a great way to stay organized, especially if the project has been subdivided into sections. In addition, keeping a field notebook in the field is an ideal way to note anything that may need to be referred to later.

Get to Know the Field Crew

Try to obtain phone numbers from all field crew members, and give them several contact numbers. Inform the crew of the project scope, goals, and requirements. If very specific or unusual requirements are necessary, make a list and hand it out to the crew. Soil identification guides and state regulations are also good sources of information to which crew members may need to refer.

Don’t be afraid to give precise instructions. Crew management can sometimes be difficult in the field, so be a specific as possible. And, on occasion, reward the crew with treats at the end of a hard work day. They will return the favor in kind.

 

Set Daily Goals

Before leaving for the field each day, set a daily goal. For example, if a linear survey is being conducted, set a goal of surveying at least half a mile for that day (again, depending on client requirements). Let the crew know what is expected of them …

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