Hike #8 - Pre-hike Reading

Hike #8 - Pre-hike Reading

Title: Rotating Crops, Turning Profits -- How Diversified Farming Systems Can Help Farmers While Protecting Soil and Preventing Pollution (new window)
Credits: written by Kranti Mulik, senior economist in the UCS Food and Environment Program. Sponsored by Union of Concerned Scientists who puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems. 
Date: May 2017 
Sustainability Discipline:  
Background: While a substantial part of my daily practices, sustainable food is not a topic I'm that familiar with. I shop at Dean's Market in San Mateo and purchase lots of local food, I think. Sinbad's (plastic) packaged meals are assembled in San Mateo, on El Camino Real I think, but I don't know their source of food. I get a Farm Fresh to You box every Friday morning of organic produce. But when I first signed on, I thought it was coast side food, only to find out it comes from west of Sacramento, Copay Valley. And some from Oregon and Washington. I learned of a coastside food delivery but they don't come to my house. So really, how does one eat sustainably around here? Food for thought!

Today’s dominant Midwest farming system produces two commodities—corn and soybeans—in abundance. But this system has grown steadily less beneficial for farmers over time. US corn and soybean growers achieved record-high harvests in 2016. But due to oversupply, prices for these crops have plummeted, and US farm incomes are expected to drop to their lowest levels since 2002.

The two-crop system falls short in the sustainability department, too. It typically leaves fields bare for much of the year and uses plowing practices that result in unsustainable levels of erosion. It relies on heavy fertilizer use, which allows excess nitrogen to escape into our air and water, costing the nation an estimated $157 billion per year in human health and environmental damages.

Rural communities suffer many of these consequences. Iowa, for example, ranks high in surface water pollution from fertilizers, pesticides, and eroded soil. And the negative effects extend far beyond the Midwest: Corn Belt watersheds are major contributors to the annual “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, and emissions from agricultural soil management make up 5 percent of the US share of heat-trapping gases responsible for climate change.

See previous pre-hike reading HERE

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