One of the more lively discussion groups on Agriculture Online over the years has been its Women in Ag section. There you'll find people talking topics from livestock care and farm management to peanut butter cookies and the Sopranos finale. It's a friendly, intelligent kind of place on the Web.
About ten years ago, the discussion group inspired a face-to-face meeting of the contributors. Women came from all over the country to get together for a couple days at Living History Farms in Des Moines. It was one of the first times I started to fathom the power this new medium held for uniting people in positive ways.
A recent poster on the WIA board asked people where they are from, prompting one of our staff to create a Women in Agriculture map for the group. Check out this cool application, a beta product from a new company, Frappr.
It's not the same as meeting in Des Moines, but this new tool shows a nice little snapshot of where we all live in the world--when we're not on the Web.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Yogurt carton: In the time it takes to eat this yogurt, ten acres of U.S. farmland will be lost to development.
Ag journalists these days are hearing from all corners of society on what policies should gain fashion in the new farm bill. Just about every day I hear from one advocacy group or another.
Last week, I got a note from Stonyfield Farm, a maker of organic yogurt, which is touting farmland protection on the top of its yogurt carton. Stonyfield is partnering with Environmental Defense in lobbying Congress and the media about farm bill policies that "help preserve open spaces and provide a healthier environment."
In another e-mail, I learn that Environmental Defense Farm Policy Campaign Director Scott Faber has launched a blog called "The Ruminant" to criticize the current farm bill direction.
Other messages in my e-mail box this week:
* The Cato Institute is launching a new "web resource," advocating the downsizing of USDA, which it says is beholden to "large agribusiness firms," and draining the federal budget.
* Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, says that Congress is ignoring "a golden opportunity to update our farm policies," citing "outdated, wasteful programs."
* The American Farmland Trust claims that the House Agriculture Committee is "failing miserably in the farm bill debate."
* John Bianchi and Maria Corredor of Goodman Media International, Inc., argue on behalf of "forty consumer, environmental, farmer and animal welfare groups" who are critical of a farm bill provision that "wipes out critical state and local authority to protect food safety, the environment, and humane animal treatment."
This is just one week's slice of the sausage making that is the farm bill debate.
And, things are just getting started, according to a recent Agriculture Online story, House subcommittee approves commodity title extension.
But, reading this story don't you get the feeling that the established forces in agriculture are still quite comfortably holding sway in Washington? It will be interesting to see if the new faces from outside of ag will gain much of anything from all their lobbying efforts.
Having followed these policy debates a few times already, something tells me it's going to be business as usual once the digital ink stops flowing and the sausage is in its skin.
Posted by John Walter at 9:16 AM
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Has it been a windy year where you live? It's been blowing hard here in central Iowa for a couple days now, but this whole late winter and spring has been breezy, punctuated by high winds and storms. I lived in central Kansas for a few years way back when, and this year Iowa seems a lot like the land of Oz, wind blowing for days on end and all through the night.
In Kansas and elsewhere in the plains states this week, very strong winds halted wheat harvesting. Farmers tell me that they've had trouble with spraying operations because of the constant blowing.
I asked Harvey Freese, Freese-Notis Weather, this morning about whether we've been experiencing an unusually windy year.
"Yes, it seems like we have experienced a number of powerful storms this spring," he said. "The blizzard in early March comes to mind right away. Heavy snows fell across western Iowa, the blizzard blew for days with wind gusts at or near 50 mph. Traffic statewide came to a standstill as the Interstates were closed due to the heavy snow and unrelenting wind."
"The next storm that comes to memory occurred in early April, strong cold winds blew across the Midwest bringing very cold subfreezing air into the midwest, which did much damage to budding fruit trees and otherwise hardy spring flowers such as daffodills in Iowa. Seems like the cold windy weather blew continuously for a number of days in the Deep South.
"The wind-driven cold was so unusual there were numerous just-planted fields of corn in parts of southern Missouri and Illionis where considerable freeze damage was occurred. Some say as much as 7% of the early planted crops were affected. In Kansas, jointing wheat was severely damaged in central Kansas because of the late cold snap, driven south by strong northerly winds.
"And now again, in early June, another very strong wind has been associated with an intense storm moving across the Dakotas. Overnight temperatures remained in the 70s and early this morning winds were gusting up to the mid 30s in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa.
"Makes we wish I had a shares in a wind farm," Harvey concluded.
Posted by John Walter at 9:12 AM