In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation that led to the creation of the Farm Credit System (FCS) and reliable financing for generations of farmers and ranchers.  Over the last century, this national network of taxpayer-supported lending associations has facilitated consolidation of America’s food and farm sector.

As the first “government-sponsored enterprise,” FCS was designed to use the strength of the federal balance sheet to ensure the availability of large pools of private capital to help grow the U.S. agricultural economy.  Today, FCS is very large ($229 billion in assets in 2011) and very profitable ($4 billion in earnings)—including $600 million in federal tax exemptions for real estate lending.

However, Congress needs to become better attuned to market forces beginning to decentralize America’s food and farming systems.  New agricultural markets are forming in response to consumers wanting to know how food is produced, where and by whom.  Yet, the 2012 Farm Bill is unlikely to clarify FCS’ responsibility to be a catalyst in this process.    Read more

With all due respect, Nina Federoff’s New York Times op-ed reads like it was written two decades ago when the jury was still out about the potential of the biotech industry to reduce hunger, increase nutritional quality in foods, and decrease agriculture’s reliance on toxic chemicals and other expensive inputs that most of the world’s farmers can’t afford.

With more than 15 years of commercialized GMOs behind us, we know not to believe these promises any longer.

Around the world, from the Government Office of Science in the UK to the National Research Council in the United States, to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, there is consensus: in order to address the roots of hunger today and build a food system that will feed the future, we must invest in “sustainable intensification”—not expensive GMO technology that threatens biodiversity and locks us into dependence on fossil fuels, fossil water, and agrochemicals. And that’s never proven its superiority, even in yields. Read more

For a self-proclaimed minimalist with a minuscule kitchen, Mark Bittman’s had maximum impact. He’s the digital dervish of the New York Times Dining section: his recipes ricochet around the blogosphere, his cooking videos go viral, he’s constantly tweaking his How To Cook Everything app, he tweets and blogs regularly.

And, he pens op-eds exhorting us to eat less meat and embrace a plant-based diet. So, it wasn’t exactly a shock to hear that the Minimalist is moving on, departing from Dining and bringing his “lessmeatatarian,” ‘go-vegan-till-six’ advocacy to the Times op-ed page. Read more