April 25, 2012 |
The U.S. organic industry continued its path of growth in 2011, rising 9.5 percent to $31.5 billion in sales, according to the Organic Trade Association's (OTA's) 2012 Organic Industry Survey.
The industry surpassed the $30 billion threshold for the first time - and this was in a year of significantly rising food prices.
- Organic food sales represent 4.2 percent of all U.S. food sales, up from 4 percent in 2010
- 6 percent of all dairy sold in the US is organic
- 78 percent of families buy organic
- there are 17,600 organic farms (4.6 million acres), ranches and businesses
- organic farms are 35 percent more profitable than conventional ones
- organic jobs are growing at four times the national average and 94 percent of employers say they will maintain or add employees this year. It was among the few industries that added jobs during the recession.
The organic food and beverage sector was valued at $29.22 billion and the organic non-food sector (flowers, linens, clothes, personal care, cleaners) reached $2.2 billion.
"People are increasingly engaged and discerning when they shop, making decisions based on their values and awareness about health and environmental concerns. For them, it matters whether foods are genetically engineered, or produced using practices that are good for their families. Price is still an issue, but with the wide availability of private label products and many venues for organic products, they have many more choices now," says Christine Bushway, OTA CEO.
Organic product sales continue to outpace conventional counterparts which grew 4.7 percent in 2011, showing that people are willing to pay for value-added products.
Organic foods grew by $2.5 billion during 2011, half of that in fruits and vegetables. Meat, fish & poultry posted 13 percent growth, but are still the smallest of the eight organic food categories.
- Fruits & Vegies: 40.5 percent
- Dairy: 14.6 percent
- Packaged/ Prepared Foods: 13.6 percent
- Beverages: 12.1 percent
- Breads & Grains: 10.7 percent
- Snacks: 4.5 percent
- Condiments: 2.1 percent
- Meat, Poutry, Fish: 1.8 percent
Organic non-food sales, which reached $2.2 billion in 2011, experienced strong 11 percent growth compared to conventional items, which grew 5 percent. Still, this category, which includes everything from flowers to pet food to household cleaners and linens, remains a tiny share of the industry at just 7 percent. But that's double where it was in 2003.
- Supplements: 33.7 percent
- Fiber (Linens & Clothes): 32.3 percent
- Personal Care: 24.4 percent
- Pet Food: 4.6 percent
- Household Products: 2.9 percent
- Flowers: 2.2 percent
Photo by ilovebutter/flickr/Creative Commons
Reprinted with permission from SustainableBusiness.com
by Jim Robbins
For decades, farm bills in the U.S. Congress have supported large-scale agriculture. But with the 2012 Farm Bill now up for debate, advocates say seismic shifts in the way the nation views food production may lead to new policies that tilt more toward local, sustainable agriculture.
More than ever, U.S. corn is king. Across the Midwest, farmers are expanding their corn acreage to take advantage of record high prices. More corn will be planted this year than any since World War II, with 94 million acres under cultivation, up from 78 million in 2006.
While the boom may be good for the farmer, it takes a steep toll on the environment. The planting is changing the countryside as farmers plow fencerow to fencerow, eliminating trees, land in conservation programs, and riparian areas. Meanwhile, cheap, federally subsidized corn is used to make high-fructose corn syrup, which is added to thousands of products and is implicated in many chronic illnesses that plague Americans. Experts say it’s an important factor in obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer.
All this riles Dan Imhoff to no end. A writer in Sonoma County, California, Imhoff is one of the activists leading the charge against agribusiness as usual. His primary tool? The 2012 Farm Bill, which is now being drafted in Congress. Environmentalists and public health advocates have battled special interests over the Farm Bill in the past, but this year, because of burgeoning interest in all things food, they believe the time to substantively change the nation’s food policy has arrived.
Imhoff, food journalist Michael Pollan, and others have scheduled teach-ins around the country to drum up support for changes to the bill. The Coalition for Sustainable Agriculture has sponsored a farmer fly-in to Washington, D.C., by predominately organic farmers to lobby for changes in the bill. Chellie Pingree, an organic farmer and Democratic member of Congress from Maine has, along with 68 co-sponsors, introduced The Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act, which they want included as a section of the new Farm Bill. The new provisions would tilt farm policies more toward local, sustainable agriculture. In addition, more than 100 public health groups are working on changes to the Farm Bill.
All this activity reflects the seismic shifts that have rocked the political landscape around agriculture since the last Farm Bill was passed in 2008. Pollan, Imhoff, and many others say that things at last seem propitious for real change in the nation’s system of industrialized agriculture.
“More and more people are beginning to realize where their food comes from, who their farmer is, and what he grows,” said reform advocate Richard Rominger, a former deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, former director of the California Department of Agriculture, California. “That’s good. And it’s a good thing that more people are interested in the Farm Bill rather than just a few farmers and their lobbyists.”
Farming may not immediately come to mind as one of America’s biggest environmental issues, but it is, and that’s the prime interest of Imhoff, who has just published the second edition of his book, Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill. Farming and ranching are the largest single land use in the country — with 20 percent of the land used for crops and 26 percent for pasture and range — and the methods of large-scale agribusiness take a heavy toll.
“They are expanding into areas that shouldn’t be farmed,” Imhoff says. “It’s encouraging erosion and heavy pesticide and herbicide use. They are plowing right up to their back door. It’s turning the whole Midwest into a cornfield. And the crazy thing is we aren’t eating [much of] it, we are feeding it to cattle or making it into fuel.”
The world’s largest ocean dead zone — an area the size of New Jersey devoid of aquatic life — is in the Gulf of Mexico. The leading causes are the synthetic nitrogen and phosphorous used to fertilize corn and soybeans in the Midwest, and animal waste, which runs off fields to the Mississippi River and on to the Gulf. Meanwhile, the Ogallala Aquifer — the sprawling underground reservoir of fresh water that stretches from South Dakota to Texas — has been significantly depleted, largely because of the Corn Belt’s unquenchable thirst. Herbicides and pesticides mix with water that percolates back into the aquifer.
A study released earlier this year says the planting of insecticide-coated seed corn may be one of the main culprits in Colony Collapse Disorder, the mass die-off of bees. And industrialized agriculture is an important contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. If alternative methods were adopted, however, they could become part of the solution.
If you want to reform this upside-down food system, “you can’t ignore the Farm Bill, for it’s where the decisions are made,” says Pollan, the author who laid bare the workings of the corn industry in his bestselling book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. As the bill is usually written “it doesn’t push it in the direction it needs to go, to become more sustainable.”
The obtuse, acronym-laden, nearly 2,000-page Farm Bill comes up for renewal every five to seven years, and for decades was written by special interests and farm-state politicians, with very little public input. This despite the fact that it is an expensive piece of legislation with wide ramifications: The proposed bill — if, indeed, it passes this election year — may cost $265 billion over five years. [Some two-thirds of the spending in the bill would go to food and nutrition programs, such as food stamps; 22 percent would go to supporting commodity crops, including corn; and 9 percent would go to conservation programs.]
One of the top conservation programs is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP, designed to offer farmers financial and technical help to improve the environmental conditions on their farms. Another initiative, the Conservation Reserve Program, pays farmers to idle some of their crop acreage to increase wildlife habitat and prevent erosion.
Pollan, Imhoff, and other reformers believe that more people than ever want to make farming more sustainable, and want more money from the Farm Bill to nurture responsible agriculture. When Pollan gives a talk on college campuses or at other venues around the country these days, it’s not unusual to have hundreds of people turn out. In the last few years, people have realized not only do they subsidize large-scale farming directly through taxpayer subsidies, but also indirectly through health care costs and damage to the environment.
Until the last Farm Bill, for example, organic farming received just $3 million a year for research. The 2008 Farm Bill raised it to $20 million, but that is still miniscule compared to the $307 billion total funding of that bill. Corn subsidies alone amounted to some $80 billion between 1995 and 2010, according to the Environmental Working Group, a pro-reform non-profit.
“There’s always progressive things that promote local food and farm-to-school programs, or vouchers for produce,” in the Farm Bill, says Pollan. “But they are crumbs compared to the commodity subsidies. They don’t add up to a billion dollars.”
Rep. Pingree’s bill seeks to change some of the priorities to favor sustainable farms. Pingree is herself an organic farmer on Penobscot Bay in Maine, where she grows vegetables, meat, and eggs, much of it used for meals at her inn, Nebo Lodge. Her bill would make it easier for small farms to get loans, help new farmers begin farming, provide more research for organic crops, and provide farmers with funding as they transition from conventional agriculture to organic. It would also expand conservation programs. An emphasis on local farms would also reduce the fuel costs and carbon emissions associated with trucking or flying food around the world.
“It’s about more sustainable farming practices,” Pingree says. Local family farms “are not going to be a 12,000-acre expanse of land. This is going to encourage something that’s already happening out there — local, small-scale farms.”
Meanwhile, there is a move afoot to reduce direct payments to farmers, which former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Romenger believes should be the first order of business. Direct payments are a check written to commodity farmers simply for farming, no matter what price they receive for their crop. In 2010, an estimated $4 billion to $6 billion was paid out, according to calculations by different agencies and groups. The program is widely criticized and, in a time of budget cutbacks and high grain prices, likely to shrink. Some of the money, Pingree says, could go to farmers of fruits and vegetable, which don’t qualify for direct payments, or to fund conservation programs, which often are the first to experience funding cuts.
Farm organizations are watching the growing interest in their industry with pride and concern. Dale Moore, deputy executive director for the American Farm Bureau, contends that the blame laid at agriculture’s doorstep for environmental problems is overblown. “Every producer I visit with says, ‘I’ve got to take care of my soil or my cattle, not just this year but year after year,’” he says. “If they don’t, they won’t be in business because Mother Nature will take them out.” Where problems such as nutrient overload exist, farmers are “leading the way in the recovery process,” Moore says.
“It’s not that we shouldn’t support farmers,” at all, says Imhoff. “We should. But they have a social obligation. We need robust habitat protection plans for a healthy rural environment — with clean water, healthy soil, and wildlife habitat.”
One of the innovative 2008 farm bill conservation programs that has gained support from environmentalists, ranchers, and biologists is the Sage Grouse Initiative. A ground bird with an unusual, showy courtship ritual, sage grouse live in the sagebrush ecosystem of the West. Once, 16 million existed in the U.S., but they now number about 200,000 and are declining, victims of farming, ranching, housing, and energy development. The birds appeared destined for an endangered species designation. But state and federal officials, worried about the political ramifications of a listing, came up with a novel, science-based plan to rush tens millions of dollars in federal Farm Bill funding for habitat protection and enhancement on private farms and ranches. Ranchers will get funding to make improvements on their land, as long as they meet the goal of recovering the birds. The scope and aggressive nature of the plan has impressed environmentalists and politicians, but it’s still too early to assess the results.
With a little help from a reformed Farm Bill, similar initiatives could spread, advocates say.
“Millions of people are waking up to the fact that the food system is in trouble,” says Imhoff. “More people are engaged than ever. They realize what’s at stake.”
Reprinted with permission from Yale Environment 360
Photo by Jim Capaldi/flickr/Creative Commons
Reprinted with permission from Yale Environment 360
A historic agreement has been signed between the US and Europe which will strongly advance the world's largest organic food markets.
EU's Agriculture and Rural Development agency signed an equivalency agreement with the US Department of Agriculture to jointly promote strong organic programs, protect organic standards, enhance cooperation, and facilitate trade in organic products.
The arrangement will expand market access for organic producers and companies by reducing duplicative requirements and certification costs on both sides of the ocean while continuing to protect organic integrity.
"This monumental agreement will further create organic jobs in the growing and healthy U.S. organic sector, spark additional market growth, and be mutually beneficial to farmers both in the United States and European Union as well as to consumers who choose organic products," says Christine Bushway, Executive Director and CEO of the U.S.-based Organic Trade Association. "Equivalence with the EU will be an historic game changer."
As a result, as of June 1, certified organic products can move freely between the US and EU. The EU will recognize the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) as equivalent to the EU Organic Program and allow products produced and certified as meeting USDA NOP standards to be marketed as organic in the EU. Likewise, the US will allow European products produced and certified under the EU Organic Program to be marketed as organic in the US.
The agreement is limited to organic products of U.S. or EU origin produced, processed or packaged within these jurisdictions. Additionally, both programs have agreed to exchange information on animal welfare issues, and on methods to avoid contamination of organic products from genetically modified organisms. General country labeling requirements must still be met.
Canada just began enforcing its organic foods law last year, after approving an organic foods certification process in 2009. That year, Canada and the U.S. announced the world's first organic equivalency agreement, allowing for trade of organic products between the two countries.
In June 2011, the EU added Canada to its "third country list," recognizing Canadian organic products and certification as valid for import into the EU.
Photo by Kirti Poddar/flickr/Creative CommonsReprinted with permission from SustainableBusiness.com
by Francesca Rheannon
It was standing room only in a courtroom in Federal District Court in lower Manhattan on January 31. The family farmers and supporters gathered were a little like David going up against Goliath, hoping for a green light in pursuing a landmark case against the giant pesticide and GMO seed company, Monsanto.
The 83 plaintiffs – family farmers, independent seed companies and agricultural organizations – are seeking protection from patent infringement suits by Monsanto when the company’s GE (genetically engineered) seeds contaminate the plaintiffs’ own non-GE crops.
Jim Gerritsen is one of the plaintiffs. He’s an organic seed farmer from northern Maine. Among other crops, he’s been growing organic seed corn on his farm some five miles from the Canadian border for 35 years. He’s also President of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, one of the organizations behind the suit.
Farmers "Scared To Death"
"Should one of our plaintiff’s organic crops become contaminated – for example, my seed corn by Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn – the value of that crop has become extinguished. No one will buy it because it’s not organic anymore. We can’t suffer this kind of contamination and stay in business," Gerritsen told CSRwire. Dozens have already been driven into bankruptcy.
You would think that if Monsanto is responsible for destroying the economic value of a farmer’s crop by contaminating it with seed he doesn’t want, Monsanto should compensate that farmer for his or her loss. Right?
In the topsy-turvy world of genetically engineered organisms and patent law, the farmer is falling victim to double jeopardy. That’s because Monsanto has aggressively been pursuing lawsuits against "genetic trespassers," even when it’s been their own seed that has done the trespassing. (Corn is especially vulnerable to contamination, because the wind easily carries corn seed from fields off a farmer’s property when tassels release it.)
Gerritsen says farmers are scared to death to claim damages because "it would be prima facie evidence for possessing Monsanto’s technology and we would be vulnerable to being sued for patent infringement."
The farmers and organic seed companies first tried to get Monsanto to sign a binding agreement not to sue them when the company’s GE seed contaminated their crops. Monsanto refused.
So they filed suit in March 2011. "It’s unjust and un-American and that’s why we had to go to court," Gerritsen explained.
Protecting The Public Against Superinsects & Superweeds
The plaintiffs upped the ante significantly in June, adding to the landmark nature of the case. They went beyond the claims of financial damage to their own private interests to put the public’s interest on the table.
They expanded the suit to seek invalidation of Monsanto’s patents on GE seeds. Should they prevail, it would be good news for traditional farmers, who have seen the seeds they have saved for generations, come under the threat of a lawsuit when Monsanto tries to patent them. Farmers in India who have been sued for allowing their cattle to graze in fields planted with the company’s transgenic cotton will also have cause to celebrate.
But public welfare extends beyond farmers and their families.
The suit cites studies showing that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide (which can be used in much higher amounts when used on crops planted with the company’s Roundup Ready seed) is hazardous to human health, damaging the placenta and is linked to various cancers. (Shareholder activists have taken the company to task on the issue.)
The plaintiffs accuse Monsanto of preventing independent research on its seeds and lobbying (successfully, so far) to ban GMO labeling.
Insect resistance to Monsanto’s Bt corn, as well as to other transgenic crops, is also a growing problem, one that is “threatening their utility and profitability,” according to scientists. Weed resistance to Monsanto’s Roundup is developing, too, with superweeds “galloping through the midWest,” according to a recent report in Mother Jones Magazine.
Protecting The Future – Feeding the Planet
Superinsects and superweeds are the fallout from depending on Frankenseeds, which threaten our food supply. This reality is giving the lie to the claims that GE seeds are the planet’s only hope to feed the 9 billion people expected by 2050.
In fact, the United Nations and the World Bank published an assessment in 2008 that concluded, “Biotech crops have very little potential to alleviate poverty and hunger.”
What will do the job, according to the report?
"Agroecological practices" - organic or otherwise sustainable agriculture – "and food sovereignty" – a term defined as the "right of peoples to define their own food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries systems, in contrast to having food largely subject to international market forces."
Saving seeds is also critical to genetic diversity – something we need to preserve in a world challenged by climate chaos and environmental destruction. But Monsanto and other biotech companies are tightening their stranglehold on saving seeds, wanting it to be their exclusive domain.
The farmers’ et al suit against Monsanto would loosen this noose.
But Monsanto is trying to block the suit by filing a pre-trial motion in July 2011 to dismiss the case. The plaintiffs countered by asking for an open hearing before a judge to rule on whether the case can move forward. Judge Naomi Buchwald will hand down her decision by the end of March.
Will the plaintiffs be allowed their day in court? Much hangs in the balance. As farmer Jim Gerritsen told CSRwire, “Our livelihoods and our future in farming is at stake.”
Perhaps, the future of farming is at stake, too?Reprinted with permission from CSRwire
Gotta love stuff like this. In a subversive form of food production, the Guerrilla Grafters have been craftily grafting fruit bearing branches onto otherwise unproductive ornamental fruit trees in the city. In San Francisco (and many other cities), fruit-bearing trees are banned for somewhat ludicrous health concerns, based on fears that the fruit would attract vermin and insects.
The Guerrilla Grafters are turning that notion around, and attempting to make at least some of the thousands of trees in the city productive. In urban areas, where space for food production is intensely limited, the Guerrilla Grafters have targeted an already existing natural resource, in an attempt to make them productive, and to provide food locally.
The group claims that with organization and good stewardship, those thousands of trees can be managed to produce food for local citizens, in effect increasing local food security.
Nice!Reprinted with permission from Sustainablog
by Michael Ricciardi
Imagine: One Monday morning in America…you pull into your favorite, drive-through espresso stand, only to find a “closed due to lack of beans” sign…Or you pop into you local coffee drink retailer, and find that the price of a 12 ounce latte has tripled to over 7 bucks, plus tax…
It’s fair to guess that this would have wide-spread repercussion on our nation’s economic engine, such as it is…Lack of convenient caffeine (in our favorite beverage form) could precipitate a real crisis, of unknown duration.
Ok, so maybe the thought of a drastic reduction in the world’s coffee supply is not on your ‘deep concern radar’…but it is to Coffee retail giant Starbucks, whose concern for its global supply chain — sourced most in Central America — has always been of deep (and obvious) concern.
In a recent interview in The Guardian, Starbucks’ ‘sustainability director’ Jim Hanna told the reporter:
” “What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road – if conditions continue as they are – is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain, which is the Arabica coffee bean.”
How climate change is impacting coffee bean crop yields:
Apparently, a double-threat combination of increased frequency of severe flooding storms (like hurricanes), and a proliferating, resistant pest problem, does not bode well for a steady, robust supply of java beans.
Both of these problems have been attributed, directly or indirectly, to global warming and associated climate change impacts (see these other PS articles: Dry Times for Western North America, Climate Trends Forecast, and, Mississippi River Floods, Texas Drought, and Global Weirding (& Food Prices/Crises)
Crop yields the world over are projected to dwindle by significant amounts (see scenario above). Hanna stated in the same interview that its Central American suppliers are already seeing “changing retail patterns and more severe pest infestations.”
Map showing areas of coffee cultivation: r:Coffea canephora m:Coffea canephora and Coffea arabica a:Coffea arabica
Also noted were additional impacts from mudslides (caused in part by deforestation) and incremental changes in the lengths of the dry and wet seasons. These factors also impact crop yields and may eventually force farmers in the region to abandon coffee as a commercial crop and adopt others more suitable to the changing climate conditions.
To its credit, Starbucks has allied itself with other corporate business leaders to pressure the US Congress to move on Climate Change policy and legislation. So far, despite its considerable economic pull, the coalition has had little success doing so.
More about your java:
The main sources of Arabica coffee beans (Coffea arabica) are mostly tropical or sub-tropical nations such as Columbia, Nicaragua, Brazil, Java, Sumatra, India, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Three quarters of the coffee grown in the world is of the Arabica variety, which is considered the most flavorful.
Other types of coffee plants grown for commercial use are the “robust” and “mild” varieties of Coffea canephora, which though more bitter tasting, is more “full-bodied” and has 40 percent or more caffeine that Arabica beans. It is used in espresso blends to add body (and a richer foam or crema), and in common supermarket blends to keep costs low.
Over 900 natural pests of Coffea arabica have been documented, including the devastating coffee leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix). Other pests include beetles (nearly 1/3 of coffeee pests), nematodes (tiny worms), mites, and even some species of slug and snail.
Coffea canephora is far more resistant to the leaf rust (found in nearly every coffee growing region of the world)and many farmers are moving towards growing the robusta variety of canephora which has the added advantage of being more easily cultivated at lower altitudes (much of the prized Arabica coffee is “mountain grown”) and warmer temperatures.
And one more thing:
And, if you think you can just switch over to hot chocolate when the time comes, new research by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, shows that if present warming trends continue, by 2050 it will be too hot to grow cacao trees (Theobroma cacao) in the main producing nations (Ivory Coast, Ghana).
The price of pure chocolate is already at historical highs.Reprinted with permission from PlanetSave.com
by Glenn Meyers
The word, aquaponics, may be foreign-sounding, but the practice is beginning to get the attention of many who see it as one sustainable agricultural solution for an increasingly crowded planet. This is especially true for poverty stricken countries that have limited access to either water or tillable land. Aquaponics systems are even appearing now on rooftops of buildings in urban settings.
Put in the simplest terms, aquaponics stands for growing food without soil. Georgia author Bevan Suits has written an engaging e-book about the topic, “The Aquaponics Guidebook, Access to Personal Agriculture.” Suits’ book opens the world of aquaponics, “so you can learn about it quickly and get started, no matter your experience, budget or available space. Even beginners on a small scale will see amazing results. Greens like lettuce or basil can grow to harvest in four weeks.”
Aquaponics pioneer Wayne Dorband, owner of Mountain Sky Ranch and the developer of many small-scale aquaponics systems, reports growing and harvesting vegetables, herbs and fish from many of his testing tanks in the low light settings at his company warehouse in Loveland, Colorado. He adds that this method of growing food is innovative, inexpensive, pleasant to look at, and sustainable.
Both Dorband and Suits believe families can use these compact systems worldwide, producing fish and vegetables to feed individuals on an ongoing basis. A viable aquaponics system combines traditional agriculture and aquaculture methods without soil. In short order the system can produce a healthy culture for fish, herbs, fruits, vegetables and ornamentals to thrive. The only additional material required is water. Fish are fed some of the plants growing in the system, and their waste fertilizes the plants.
“There is no need for additional fertilizer, weed killers or outside food if the system is properly designed,” says Dorband, pulling a trout filet from his freezer that required four months to mature. According to Dorband, the simplest of his aquaponics system can be purchased and installed for less than $100, sometimes using recycled materials. The components used in Dorband’s aquaponics systems come from recycled materials such as 55-gallon drums otherwise destined for landfills, PVC pipes, pumps and washed gravel. No special water is required, as the plants purify local, well, or pond water.
In this You Tube video above, Travis Hughey, founder of Barrel-Ponics, features a system where plants grow without soil, fed by fish waste, and where fish feed on water plants for nutrition. This three-minute video, although somewhat arduous, shows how the system works and is worth the time.Reprinted with permission from Ecolocalizer
by Steve Savage
I have been posting updates on the most recent, global food price spike since February 2011 – most recently in June. Yesterday, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) released its most recent data on the prices of food in international trade. As seen in the graph above, the overall index and its various components have declined slightly, but remain at very high levels.
People living in the developed world have seen some food price increases, but because we grow so much of our own food and spend a small part of our income on feeding ourselves, the impact is minor. This has the greatest effect on the lives of poor people in import-dependent countries.
What is actually most unsettling about this phenomenon is that nothing like it has occurred for decades, and yet we are in a second such spike. The first was in 2007/8, and the current spike has been in 2010/11. In this post I want to compare these two spikes.
The graph above compares the two spikes on a month-by-month basis beginning in January of the starting year. What we see is a later and/or slower decline in prices. The earlier spike showed a steep decline after 19 months, while in 2010 the decline is just beginning at 21 months. That is for the aggregate “food index,” but a similar broadening of the spike appears to be occurring for the cereals-specific index (see below). Similar trends are seen with the dairy and oils indices.
The most dramatic difference between the 2007-8 and 2010-11 spikes is the path of the meat price index (see graph below). Meat prices in international trade showed only a minor bump in the first spike, but were the most changed category in the current round. The index did drop 3 percent from August to September which may represent an earlier reversal than in 2008.
It would be best not to over-interpret these trends, but also unwise to ignore them completely. We know that basic food demand is rising between population growth and an increased standard of living in many populous regions of the world. We know that energy prices are high. It will take the benefit of years of hindsight to know whether climate change has been contributing to these unusual price patterns. If the current spike is like the last one, it should be largely corrected by the end of 2011. For now, I plan to update this series in January of 2011 with three more months of data.
Photo by Nicholas T/flickr/Creative CommonsReprinted with permission from Sustainablog
by Elizabeth Smyth
We all know the modern food chain is way too long, costs too much and consumes too many natural resources. One New York company is hoping to change all that.
BrightFarms designs, finances, builds and operates hydroponic greenhouse farms on supermarket rooftops. By creating a hyperlocal market, cost, time and resources are lessened and consumers get the freshest food available.
According to the company, a 1-acre BrightFarms greenhouse will grow around 500,000 lbs of produce a year, generate $1 million to $1.5 million in revenue per year and create between 8 to 16 new local farm jobs. Environmental savings amount to around 740 tons of CO2 emissions per year, 430 lbs a year of pesticides and around 5 million gallons of water a year.
To be eligible, Grocers must sign a 10-year purchase agreement, requiring the retailer to purchase 100 percent of the BrightFarm’s output at fixed prices. Simultaneously BrightFarms guarantees the volume and quality of output by contracting with experienced local farmers.
Since Grocers don’t have to pay the upfront costs of designing and building the greenhouse, typically $1.5 – 2 Million USD, many smaller grocers should be able to take advantage the BrightFarms offering.
So far, 10 supermarket chains have signed up to work with BrightFarms, including 5 of the top 50 national chains, since December 2010 with the first three commercial greenhouses opening in early 2012.
Watch the video below to learn more!Reprinted with permission from Insteading