Last month, Congressman David Young of Iowa introduced the Water Quality Conservation Act of 2017 (WQCA). The WQCA is a “marker bill” that seeks to address the issues of nutrient loss, soil erosion and runoff. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, nutrient loss poses a major threat to agriculture and erosion presents the most significant threat of…
When it comes to building a more food-secure future, we could probably all use some more education. Luckily, House of Representative member David Scott (D-GA) proposed a marker bill earlier this year to fund student scholarships at historically black land grant colleges and universities (H.R. 51). Land-grant colleges and universities were created in the second half of the nineteenth century when Congress gave federal lands to states to fund the establishment of agricultural schools.
While “farming” may still evoke pastoral images for many Americans, modern agriculture has become increasingly data-driven in the last decade. Since Monsanto’s approximately $1-billion acquisition of The Climate Corporation in 2013, ag data has generated both significant investment and debate. In 2016, investments in precision agriculture technologies totaled $405 million, even after declining 39% from the previous year. The rise of big data in agriculture has pushed questions about data privacy, security, and ownership to the forefront of discussion among farmers, commentators, and policymakers.
It is not news that the number of farmers in the United States has been dwindling, with the consolidation of small family farms into highly industrialized mega businesses, as well as the exodus from rural America into the cities. It also may not surprise readers of this blog that the average age of the American farmer is currently 58 years old and increasing. The last USDA agriculture census indicated there are three times as many farmers over the age of 65 as farmers under the age of 35, while some more recent estimates put the ratio as high as 6 to 1. As these farmers begin to retire, leaders in the agriculture sector have expressed concern about the future of food and farming in America.
When we talk about the farm bill, often commodities, insurance, and nutrition programs take center stage. These programs are politically contentious and together they comprise over 93 percent of spending in the 2014 Farm Bill, so it makes sense that they are widely covered. However, the lack of attention to other titles can allow misuse to go unnoticed. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a part of the farm bill’s conservation title, is a perfect example of how well-intentioned programs can be subverted by powerful agriculture companies in the absence of public pressure.