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Interesting LA Times article reports on robotic developments in California’s cutting edge ag production.
A heavy reliance on once plentiful low-paid farm workers – now aging and disappearing at a rapid clip – is of necessity undergoing transformation to a future of robotic applications of tasks ranging from planting to thinning, weeding and harvesting.
While agriculture has been trying to reduce labor for centuries, the extreme capital intensive nature of this robotic revolution seems destined to promote further ag consolidation and to become a massive competitive challenge for family-scale farms. Jim

“Now, the $47-billion agriculture industry is trying to bring technological innovation up to warp speed before it runs out of low-wage immigrant workers.

“California will have to remake its fields like it did its factories, with more machines and better-educated workers to labor beside them, or risk losing entire crops, economists say.

“‘California agriculture just isn’t going to look the same,’ said Ed Taylor, a UC Davis rural economist. ‘You’re going to be hard-pressed to find crops grown as labor-intensively as they are now'”…

“That’s because immigrant farmworkers in California’s agricultural heartlands are getting older and not being replaced. After decades of crackdowns, the net flow across the U.S.-Mexico border reversed in 2005, a trend that accelerated through 2014, according to a Pew Research Center study. And native-born Americans aren’t interested in the job, even at wages that have soared at higher than average rates.”

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An opinion piece written by two farmers appears in ‘The Hill’ and explains the group of death-grip-monopoly mergers – such as Monsanto-Bayer – would be devastating to American farmers. And, of course, such trouble for farmers also means bad news for American consumers. Jim

“Earlier this year, we planted our crops — soybeans, corn, and wheat — and began feeding our spring chickens. Farmers like us have been doing this for generations.

“But next year, when we turn to our spring tasks again, the entire farming economy will have shifted under our feet as a result of a merger wave currently underway among the world’s agricultural giants. They produce the chemicals and seeds our businesses need.

“When they are done, the market will be dominated by two large and two smaller companies — spelling disaster for American farmers and consumers who will see food costs go up and innovation decline”…

“Product prices are not our only concern — quality is, too. For decades, Bayer and Monsanto have pursued a single-minded research and development program. Innovation in seeds, genes, chemicals and data are all integrated and focused on maintaining the profitability of Monsanto’s herbicide line of business. If Bayer and Monsanto are folded together, all of Bayer’s research and expertise into alternatives will be eliminated. Everyone, not just farmers, should be afraid of the blow to innovation and scientific research that a Bayer-Monsanto merger would bring.

“The disconnect between Washington and agricultural communities has never felt so acute. Politicians say all the right things about supporting our work and our mission, but when our families’ livelihoods are on the line, major corporate voices and their quest for profit and efficiency trump ours. Washington fiddles while our farms wither.”

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New Zealand garden writer Lynda Hallinan REALLY knows her potatoes and this article is chockful of solid insight into growing potatoes in containers (…/smart-grow-bag/gardening-tools). Don’t miss it!
More and more gardeners are finding themselves with less and less space in which to garden. The revolution brought about by container-growing is that even a city dweller with simply a sunny balcony can now grow not just potatoes but tomatoes, salad greens, peppers, herbs and much more.
While this article was timed for the southern hemisphere’s upcoming Spring, potatoes are a versatile cool-season crop famous for seasonal-flexibility such as Fall-growing.
Those mentioned NZ varieties are not available in the USA. But here’s a secret: searching for the best potato to grow in containers, our longtime wholesale customer ‘Gardener’s Supply’ in Vermont many years ago conducted an exhaustive variety trialing with scores of potato varieties. Their winner? Our Cornell-bred ‘Elba’ (
The big factor this time of year for growing potatoes is how to secure seed. Tubers held over from a June-harvested early crop is one option. Our crop of Organic Certified Seed Potatoes is growing strong and will be harvested and available for shipping beginning next month.
Yesterday I took a call from a gardener in southern Maine with spare and vacant garden beds. He had been given 100 leftover potato seed tubers from Spring. He wanted to know if he had enough time to grow a crop if he planted now. Given our warmer and longer Falls I told him he has little to lose planting short and midseason varieties and to go for it. Jim

“I’ve always grown my own spuds, here in the country and in my former city gardens, where I had much less space to play around in. I’ve grown potatoes – to varying degrees of success – in buckets, stacks of tyres, recycling bins, compost heaps and black plastic garbage bags filled with potting mix. I’ve also judged other people’s competitive potato growing efforts at A&P Shows and Calf Club Days (at my old school, preschoolers grew a cracker crop in 10-litre buckets filled with spent mushroom compost).”–harvest

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Get together ONLINE for conversations with top leaders in the global and local food scene. Over 70 Hours of thoughtful conversations and insight from across the USA, all from the comfort of your own home. Runs Aug 6-16, 2017.
A partial sampling of speakers those you will hear: Carolyn Baker, Dr. Paul Ehrlich, Dr. Kristine Nichols, Fred Kirschenmann, Carol Peppe Hewitt, Allan Savory, Lisa Stokke and Woody Tasch. Jim

Find the details here:

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Unless its military-industrial complex connections intervene, we may now be witnessing the rivet-popping-dissolution of a societal miscreant, the malevolent Monsanto machine.
The ‘NY Times’ reports on yesterday’s BREAKING NEWS release of court documents from a massive landmark glyphosate-Cancer lawsuit. What’s emerging is smoking-gun-documentation of manic Monsanto efforts – going back decades – to control and protect its profits and teflon-image at all costs.
Monsanto never dreamed it skulduggery would see the public-light-of-day. Jim

“Documents released Tuesday in a lawsuit against Monsanto raised new questions about the company’s efforts to influence the news media and scientific research and revealed internal debate over the safety of its highest-profile product, the weed killer Roundup.

“The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, is the most common weed killer in the world and is used by farmers on row crops and by home gardeners. While Roundup’s relative safety has been upheld by most regulators, a case in federal court in San Francisco continues to raise questions about the company’s practices and the product itself.

“The documents underscore the lengths to which the agrochemical company goes to protect its image. Documents show that Henry I. Miller, an academic and a vocal proponent of genetically modified crops, asked Monsanto to draft an article for him that largely mirrored one that appeared under his name on Forbes’s website in 2015. Mr. Miller could not be reached for comment.”

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Crisis Among Organic Family Dairy Farmers

There is a growing crisis on organic family farms – many of them Amish – which honestly and humanely raise their cows on pasture and produce sustainable amounts of authentic, high quality organic milk. Peter Whoriskey of ‘The Washington Post’ reports.
A huge milk glut created by fraudulent, renegade, massive-scale CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) – has severely depressed prices and stolen markets away from family farmers. Meanwhile, USDA, charged with enforcing tough organic REQUIREMENTS continues to suffer whiplash from looking the other way. USDA’s continued failure to enforce the grazing law places on shameful display its bald-faced scale-bias in favor of monied Industrial Ag and bitter disdain for family farmers. Jim

“’This is our living and our way of life,’ said Eldon T. Miller, 71, an Amish dairy farmer here. A little over 20 years ago, Miller began holding informational meetings in his basement about organics, and the idea slowly spread across the area.

“The question for small organic dairy farmers is how long they can hold out against growing competition from very big dairies producing large volumes of organic milk that, in the view of many here, does not deserve the label.

“A glut of organic milk has sunk prices across the United States, threatening livelihoods and rekindling long-standing suspicions that some of the large organic dairies that have emerged are swamping the market with milk that does not meet organic standards. Over the years, some of these very large dairies, most of them in the West, have been cited for violating organic rules by the USDA or inspection agencies. To the chagrin of many here, most have been allowed to continue operating…

“Over the past year, the price of wholesale organic milk sold by Kalona farms has dropped by more than 33 percent. Some of their milk — as much as 15 percent of it — is being sold at the same price as regular milk or just dumped onto the ground, according to a local processor. Organic milk from other small farmers across the United States is also being dumped at similar rates, according to industry figures…

“‘We know with that high concentration of cows that it’s impossible to meet the grazing rule,’ Swantz said. ‘They’re not organic. No way'”

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Legal Dream Team Goes After Monsanto

Bloomburg ( reports that newly-secured secret Monsanto documents are emboldening public interest lawyers to work together and turn up the heat exposing Monsanto’s self-serving dishonesty and its product glyphosate, chief ingredient in its deadly herbicide ‘Roundup.’
Among the cooperating lawyers: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
At long last Monsanto’s wall of secrecy and duplicity appears to be crumbling. Jim

“A coalition of attorneys, invigorated by their lawsuit representing cancer victims against Monsanto Co., is tackling the world’s most popular weedkiller on multiple fronts…

“Their weapon? A glimpse at decades of Monsanto’s internal deliberations on glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup herbicide. The attorneys have spent the last several months poring over hundreds of confidential documents they say show that the company actively worked to downplay the cancer risk for glyphosate. The plaintiffs in the high profile multi-district litigation (MDL), being heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, allege that Monsanto’s Roundup caused their non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a relatively common cancer of the blood…

“The zeal with which the firms are taking on Monsanto—fueled, Kennedy said, by the troubling information culled from the documents—is rare in private practice, he told Bloomberg BNA.

“‘I’ve never seen private attorneys so energized against a defendant,’ Kennedy, whose Hurley, N.Y.-based firm Kennedy & Madonna LLP is working with Baum Hedlund on the litigation, said. ‘Everybody is cooperating so well, we’ve created a team.'”

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Glyphosate Being Added to CA’s Cancer List

The Monsanto propaganda machine has been fighting a losing battle to save the fake-reputation of its lucrative cash-cow product, the deadly herbicide ‘Roundup.’
Now it looks like on July 7 the State of California will add glyphosate – the main ingredient in ‘Roundup’ – to it’s list of CHEMICALS WHICH CAUSE CANCER. This development has been a long time in coming and self-serving Monsanto has fought this truth from surfacing tooth and nail.
And then there are the hundreds of lawsuits Monsanto is facing over glyphosate. Jim

“If you don’t know, now you know. In March of 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), met to review the published scientific research on five pesticides in an attempt to determine how carcinogenic to humans they are. Among them was glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide, which may be more familiar to you as the active ingredient in agrochemical company Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer.

“The IARC’s evaluation? Glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans…

“…Moving on to the latest disappointment for Monsanto. California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) said on Monday it would add glyphosate to the state’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer. The move is required under a law known as Proposition 65 (officially known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986), which mandates that the state maintain and publish such a list and update it once a year. There are more than 800 chemicals currently listed, including additives, foods, drugs, dyes, solvents, and common household products.”

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Has the U.S. Become a Third World Country?

Yes says Dr. Peter Temin, Professor Emeritus of Economics at MIT, author of the book ‘The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy.’
So if Dr. Temin is right, how do we reverse our decline? Dr. Temin has ideas for us there as well. Jim

“America divided – this concept increasingly graces political discourse in the U.S., pitting left against right, conservative thought against the liberal agenda. But for decades, Americans have been rearranging along another divide, one just as stark if not far more significant – a chasm once bridged by a flourishing middle class…

“In his new book, ‘The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy,’ Temin paints a bleak picture where one country has a bounty of resources and power, and the other toils day after day with minimal access to the long-coveted American dream.

“In his view, the United States is shifting toward an economic and political makeup more similar to developing nations than the wealthy, economically stable nation it has long been…

“Temin applied W. Arthur Lewis’s economic model – designed to understand the workings of developing countries – to the United States in an effort to document how inequality has grown in America.

“The parallels are unsettling. As noted by the Institute for New Economic Thinking:
‘In the Lewis model of a dual economy, much of the low-wage sector has little influence over public policy. Check. The high-income sector will keep wages down in the other sector to provide cheap labor for its businesses. Check. Social control is used to keep the low-wage sector from challenging the policies favored by the high-income sector. Mass incarceration – check. The primary goal of the richest members of the high-income sector is to lower taxes. Check. Social and economic mobility is low. Check’…

“The antidote, as prescribed by Temin, is likely a tough sell in today’s political climate.

“Expanding education, updating infrastructure, forgiving mortgage and student loan debt, and overall working to boost social mobility for all Americans are bound to be seen as too liberal by many policy makers.”

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Critique of Amazon Buyout of Whole Foods

So far, much of the analysis of the Amazon buyout of WFM comes across as superficial fodder from tech-enamored pundits and absent a food- or farm-centric perspective.
Therefore, this thoughtful piece from food-community author Dr. Wayne Roberts and posted in ‘Medium’ is a breath of fresh air and definitely worth a read. Jim

“The Bezosification of food will have a long tail, and it will mostly be bad for all important things food-related.

“Not just bad for farmers, workers and the same old/same old bricks and mortar crowd we’re used to seeing left to eat the disruption dust. This will be bad for health, the environment and cities — and even more important, for the fundamentals of food as a major definer of the human experience.

“So let’s look at Bezosification not as a retail disruption story, but as a food story — one which accelerates the decline of people-centered food systems, not just traditional bricks and mortar retailers…

“Farmers, together with fishers, are the people who feed us. Farmers in countries that will be most impacted by Bezosification are well into their 50s, because neither their kids nor any other grouping see a way of making a viable career or life out of working the land. This is the problem staring anyone concerned with overall food security in the face…

“A deal that is bad for farmers and farming deserves to be seen as a deal that starts off by violating the public interest and human needs. Perhaps worth a pause for reflection before going headlong down a path of disruption?…

“The Amazon takeover of Whole Foods is a blip in that overall pattern of monopolization — with all due recognition of Amazon’s power, it is only a blip in the overall picture quickly summarized in this report. But an important blp, because it ramps up the speed by which tools will be adopted to intensify the impacts of monopolization — particularly the impact of squeezing farmers one more time to lower their prices below their costs of production and to devote their production to outsized wholesalers…

“Anything that increases the power of Amazon reduces the power of working people to shape their own, or the world’s, future…

“Nothing like insisting that businesses pay the real costs of the way they do business to throw a real disruptive curve to those who just want to externalize their true costs.”