| Farming

New Zealand to cull more than 100,000 cows to eradicate Mycoplasma disease

2 months 2 weeks ago

Nation which produces 3% of the world’s milk will embark on the biggest cull in its history

New Zealand will become the first country in the world to try to eradicate the cow disease Mycoplasma bovis, culling tens of thousands of cows in the largest mass animal slaughter in the country’s history.

Government and farming sector leaders have agreed to cull 126,000 cows and spend more than NZ$800m ($560m) over 10 years in an attempt to save the national dairy herd and protect the long-term productivity of the farming sector, which is New Zealand’s second biggest export earner.

Related: New Zealand 'people's' budget sees Ardern put billions more into health and education

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Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin

Hand mowing begins as mist still hangs above the meadow – Country Diary, 1 June 1918

2 months 2 weeks ago

1 June 1918: It was a small field, hand-mown; swathes were heavy, deadening the sweep of scythes, but tall wild parsley, oat-grass spiked almost like corn

The morning sun was yet red on the horizon and mist hung above the lower meadows when the first mowing of grass began. Scent came across the lane fresher and sweeter than the odour from the thorns. It was a small field, hand-mown; swathes were heavy, deadening the sweep of scythes, but tall wild parsley, oat-grass spiked almost like corn, and thicker fescue all lay low, while the larks went up singing. In the wood hard by other birds started together, finches on the lower branches, throstles on the high boughs; a jay cluttered where the grove is thick, a cuckoo called, then, showing as big as a hawk, flew to the other side. The air was so slight as not to sway even the light stems of birch trees; when a bird settled after flying the bough was set in motion like a swing, and there was so much flitting to and fro that the trees everywhere, even oaks in full leaf, were visibly alive.

Related: Scythe talking: The tool that could revolutionise your garden

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RC Spencer

Red alert: UK farmers warn of soft fruit shortage

2 months 2 weeks ago

Growers fear strawberries will be left to rot as Europe’s migrant workers stay away – but it’s not just a Brexit issue

Like many things considered quintessentially English, the humble strawberry is an immigrant. The first garden variety was grown in France in the 18th century, the result of cross-pollinating strawberries from North and South America. Those luscious fruits you buy today in the supermarket? A marriage of European and A merican strains.

It was only thanks to the penchant of Thomas Wolsey, Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor, for serving wild strawberries with cream, that the fruit assumed totemic importance in the English psyche, never more so than during Wimbledon fortnight when tennis fans consume more than 34,000 kilos of the stuff.

Related: Brexit and the coming food crisis: ‘If you can’t feed a country, you haven’t got a country’

Related: From royal table to bust: asparagus farmer could close over Brexit

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Jamie Doward and Valentine Baldassari

Chicken safety fear as chlorine washing fails bacteria tests

2 months 3 weeks ago
British microbiologists find that American technique at heart of Brexit trade row does not kill listeria and salmonella

The chlorine washing of food, the controversial “cleaning” technique used by many US poultry producers who want access to the British market post-Brexit, does not remove contaminants, a new study has found.

The investigation, by a team of microbiologists from Southampton University and published in the US journal mBio, found that bacilli such as listeria and salmonella remain completely active after chlorine washing. The process merely makes it impossible to culture them in the lab, giving the false impression that the chlorine washing has been effective.

This is very concerning. Chlorine-washed chicken, giving the impression of being safe, can cross contaminate the kitchen

A report by the Soil Association highlights 10 concerns about food safety in a post-Brexit era. These foods are currently banned in the UK:

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Jay Rayner

'We can't see a future': group takes EU to court over climate change

2 months 3 weeks ago

Litigants from eight countries claim EU institutions are not protecting fundamental rights

Lawyers acting for a group including a French lavender farmer and members of the indigenous Sami community in Sweden have launched legal action against the EU’s institutions for failing to adequately protect them against climate change.

A case is being pursued in the Luxembourg-based general court, Europe’s second highest, against the European parliament and the council of the European Union for allowing overly high greenhouse gas emissions to continue until 2030.

Related: Air pollution worse inside London classrooms than outside, study finds

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Daniel Boffey in Brussels

'It’s wrong to stink up other people’s lives': fighting the manure lagoons of North Carolina

2 months 3 weeks ago

Pigs outstripped people in Duplin county long ago - but now the residents are fighting back

Two poles that once hoisted a clothes line stand rusting and unused in Elsie Herring’s back garden in eastern North Carolina. Herring lives next door to a field where pig manure is sprayed and the drifting faecal matter wasn’t kind to her drying clothes.

“The clothes would stink so you’d wash them again and again until they fell apart,” said Herring, whose family has lived in Wallace since her grandfather, a freed slave, purchased land in the 1890s.

A miasma of “offensive and sustained swine manure odors” lingers around the homes.

“Anything white people don’t want, they dump on eastern North Carolina.”

Related: Share your stories from inside the farming industry

Related: Animals farmed: join us for monthly updates

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Oliver Milman in Duplin county, North Carolina

Revealed: majority of politicians on key EU farming panel have industry links

2 months 3 weeks ago

Most MEPs on the influential agriculture committee have business ties, new research shows, raising concerns about conflicts of interest

Most of the politicians on the European parliament’s influential agriculture committee have business or personal links to the farming sector they are charged with regulating, research reveals.

The key EU panel oversees some of the most important agricultural decisions in European politics. Its MEPs negotiated the last common agricultural policy (CAP) settlement with 28 nation states and the European commission. The CAP sets subsidy rates for farmers across the continent – accounting for almost 40% of the EU’s overall budget in 2017, or €59bn (£51.5bn).

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Arthur Neslen

Climate change 'will make rice less nutritious'

2 months 3 weeks ago

When scientists exposed the crop to higher levels of carbon dioxide vitamin levels fell significantly

Rice will become less nutritious as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rise, potentially jeopardising the health of the billions of people who rely on the crop as their main source of food, new research suggests.

Scientists have found that exposing rice to the levels of carbon dioxide that are expected in the atmosphere before the end of the century results in the grain containing lower levels of protein, iron and zinc, as well as reduced levels of a number of B vitamins.

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Nicola Davis

Is help finally at hand for suicide crisis on America’s farms?

2 months 3 weeks ago

Farmers take their lives at a rate higher than any other occupation, and at twice the rate of military veterans. Two bills to help farmers were included in the federal farm bill

In early May, Kansas farmer John Blaske is waiting for the rain to stop so he can begin planting. From the front door of his farmhouse, a green yard decorated with bird feeders slopes down to a series of fields where the corn will be planted. Beyond the fields, there’s a tree line and a small bridge with a creek running below. It’s peaceful here, and mostly quiet, except for the sound of the occasional car or tractor, or the cows calling from the paddock.

The waiting makes him restless, he tells me. And it’s not just the rain. He’s also waiting desperately for the opportunity to talk to fellow agrarians or to legislators about the stress, depression and suicidal ideation he experiences as a farmer.

Related: Why are America's farmers killing themselves in record numbers?

You were in my dreams again last night. We were out in the front yard in the dark.

The spruce tree has been planted where the oak tree had been.

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Debbie Weingarten

Landmark lawsuit claims Monsanto hid cancer danger of weedkiller for decades

2 months 3 weeks ago

In June, a California groundskeeper will make history by taking company to trial on claims it suppressed harm of Roundup

At the age of 46, DeWayne Johnson is not ready to die. But with cancer spread through most of his body, doctors say he probably has just months to live. Now Johnson, a husband and father of three in California, hopes to survive long enough to make Monsanto take the blame for his fate.

On 18 June, Johnson will become the first person to take the global seed and chemical company to trial on allegations that it has spent decades hiding the cancer-causing dangers of its popular Roundup herbicide products – and his case has just received a major boost.

Related: Monsanto says its pesticides are safe. Now, a court wants to see the proof | Carey Gillam

Monsanto does not want the truth about Roundup and cancer to become public

Related: Weedkiller found in granola and crackers, internal FDA emails show

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Carey Gillam

UK’s new air pollution strategy ‘hugely disappointing’, says Labour

2 months 3 weeks ago

Consultation proposes reducing pollutants, including particulates from wood burners and ammonia from farms – but does little to tackle diesel emissions

A new clean air strategy published by the UK government has been criticised as “hugely disappointing” by the Labour party. Other groups said it did little to tackle the dirty diesel vehicles that are the main source of toxic air in urban areas.

The new strategy, announced on Tuesday by environment secretary, Michael Gove, aims to crack down on a wide range of pollutants. These include particulates from wet wood and coal burning in homes, ammonia emissions from farms and dust from vehicle tyres and brakes.

Related: UK taken to Europe's highest court over air pollution

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Damian Carrington Environment editor

Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals – study

2 months 3 weeks ago

Groundbreaking assessment of all life on Earth reveals humanity’s surprisingly tiny part in it as well as our disproportionate impact

Humankind is revealed as simultaneously insignificant and utterly dominant in the grand scheme of life on Earth by a groundbreaking new assessment of all life on the planet.

The world’s 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things, according to the study. Yet since the dawn of civilisation, humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants, while livestock kept by humans abounds.

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Damian Carrington Environment editor

From royal table to bust: asparagus farmer could close over Brexit

2 months 4 weeks ago

His veg may be served at royal wedding, but Andy Allen says he needs migrant workers

An asparagus farmer whose produce looks set to be served at Saturday’s royal wedding has warned he faces going bust because of Brexit.

Kensington Palace dropped a heavy hint that the 600 guests will be offered asparagus from Andy Allen’s Norfolk farm when it published pictures of his fronds being prepared by the royal kitchens.

Related: Lack of migrant workers left food rotting in UK fields last year, data reveals

Related: Jersey Royal potato crop could be hit by shortage of EU workers

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Matthew Weaver

Food apartheid: the root of the problem with America's groceries

3 months ago

Food justice activist Karen Washington wants us to move away from the term ‘food desert’, which doesn’t take into account the systemic racism permeating America’s food system

America’s sustainable food movement has been steadily growing, challenging consumers to truly consider where our food comes from, and inspiring people to farm, eat local, and rethink our approaches to food policy. But at the same time, the movement is predominantly white, and often neglects the needs and root problems of diverse communities.

Issues of economic inequality and systemic racism permeate our national food system. The movement’s primary focus has been on finding solutions to “food deserts” – defined as areas empty of good-quality, affordable fresh food – by working to ensure that affected neighborhoods have better access. But some advocates, and studies, have argued that the proximity of a well-stocked grocery store is not enough of a solution given this country’s elaborate food problems.

'Desert' makes us think of an empty, desolate place. But there is so much life and vibrancy and potential

Related: Black gold: can homegrown caviar catch on?

What is the conversation that rich, white, privileged people have about poverty and hunger and what are they doing to make a change?

Related: How the chicken nugget became the true symbol of our era

It’s powerful to hear talk about reparations and going back to the land. The young black farming community is growing

Related: 'Lynching is color-line murder': the blistering speech denouncing America's shame

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Anna Brones

Black gold: can homegrown caviar catch on?

3 months ago

Can caviar from North Carolina stand up to the cheaper Chinese product? A local farm tries to get Americans to bite

The chamber inside LaPaz Farm is so clean it almost feels like an operating room. Before we walked into the room, Sabine Mader, the manager of the farm, asks us to put on white coats, gloves and hair nets – and a beard net for my husband. Inside the chamber, a fish-cutter is waiting with a freshly dispatched, female Russian sturgeon on the table, one of five to be harvested today.

He deftly slices open the fish and pulls back the meat, revealing a wave of grey-black roe in the ovaries. It is the culinary equivalent of an old-fashioned coin purse slit down the middle with a treasure hidden inside. The treasure, in this case, is osetra caviar.

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Andrea Cooper

The million dollar cow: high-end farming in Brazil – photo essay

3 months ago

Photojournalist Carolina Arantes documented Brazil’s thriving cattle industry and witnessed how farmers work with genetics companies to improve the performance and profitability of their herds

Jabriel is an awesome, imposing creature. His humped figure, size and weight represent everything that is prized and revered in a bull. He is quite literally the top of the pyramid in Brazil’s vast, complicated and money-driven cattle industry.

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Naomi Larsson

Birdwatch: cirl bunting's recovery is sign of hope

3 months 1 week ago

After nearly becoming extinct in Britain, the cirl bunting has bounced back, thanks to joint efforts by RSPB and farmers

Few British birds have enjoyed such mixed fortunes as the cirl bunting, Emberiza cirlus. Discovered by my ornithological hero George Montagu in 1800, near his Devon home, it extended its range across much of southern Britain, before going into sharp retreat in the 1970s.

By 1989 there were just 120 pairs – all but two in south Devon. Then, thanks to the RSPB, and especially project officer Cath Jeffs, it bounced back. Jeffs persuaded local farmers to create the right habitat for the buntings, and today there are more than 1,000 breeding pairs.

Related: Endangered songbird's numbers rise 25%

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Stephen Moss

How the chicken nugget became the true symbol of our era

3 months 1 week ago

This is what happens when you turn the natural world into a profit-making machine. By Raj Patel and Jason W Moore

The most telling symbol of the modern era isn’t the automobile or the smartphone. It’s the chicken nugget. Chicken is already the most popular meat in the US, and is projected to be the planet’s favourite flesh by 2020. Future civilisations will find traces of humankind’s 50 billion bird-a-year habit in the fossil record, a marker for what we now call the Anthropocene. And yet responsibility for the dramatic change in our consumption lies not so much in general human activity, but capitalism. Although we’re taught to understand it as an economic system, capitalism doesn’t just organise hierarchies of human work. Capitalism is what happens when power and money combine to turn the natural world into a profit-making machine. Indeed, the way we understand nature owes a great deal to capitalism.

Every civilisation has had some rendering of the difference between “us” and “them”, but only under capitalism is there a boundary between “society” and “nature” – a violent and tightly policed border with deep roots in colonialism.

Related: 'A reckoning for our species': the philosopher prophet of the Anthropocene

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Raj Patel and Jason W Moore
3 hours 47 minutes ago | Farming
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