Daily Essentials – 4 May 2015


THE NEW YORK TIMES: Working, but Needing Public Assistance Anyway

Adriana Alvarez, a cashier at a McDonald’s in Chicago, is among the people pushing for higher wages. After five years with the fast-food giant, Ms. Alvarez, 22, earns $10.50 an hour, well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Still, she depends on food stamps, Medicaid and a child-care subsidy to help get through the week.

“He eats a lot,” Ms. Alvarez said of her 3-year-old son, Manny, with a laugh. He also drinks a lot of milk, she said — “a half-gallon every two days” — and because he is lactose intolerant, he requires a more expensive brand, using up most of her $80 allotment of food stamps.

AEON: The Art of Butchery

he skin did not come off like a sweater, as I’d been told it would. I’d looked at how to do it in the classic Joy of Cooking, figuring the directions for squirrel couldn’t be much different from rabbit: hook it through the heels, yank the skin down to its paws. I didn’t have a hook, but even the falconer, Chris Davis, who had given me this squirrel, made it seem so simple – use scissors, he’d said, and snip horizontally into each side from the gaping hole where he’d gutted it, grab the corners of the soft fluffy pelt and pull up. Pull down. Voilà.

Sitting out by the fire pit in my back yard on a late November evening, my fingers grew stiff and numb as I pulled at layers of epithelial tissue I could not see so much as sense, subcutaneous membranes of iridescent silver visible only when I shone my headlamp just right. I could see places where the talons of the hawk that had caught the squirrel had punctured into the muscle, bruising it.

FOREIGN POLICY: Ending India’s Agrarian Nightmare

A survey of some 5,350 farmers across country conducted in late 2013 and early 2014 by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, a nonpartisan Delhi-based think tank, suggests a dubious future for Indian agriculture. Twenty eight percent of those surveyed said they did not like being farmers. But of the 72 percent who said they did, fully 60 percent claimed they were farmers only because it was a traditional occupation, while only 10 percent said that farming actually led to a good livelihood. Sixty two percent of the respondents said they would give up farming if they could find a better alternative in the city. And tellingly, a whopping 76 percent of farmers’ children said they would like to get out of farming. India’s farmers, present and future, feel trapped.

Another key statistic: Nearly half of India’s population works in agriculture, but produces only 14 to 18 percent of India’s GDP. By comparison, in advanced economies like the United States, farmers constitute around 1 to 2 percent of the workforce and represent an approximately equal share of GDP.

GRIST: California has a real water market — but it’s not exactly liquid

I learned that, actually, California already has a water market. Farmers can buy and sell water. In theory, this market should distribute water to where it’s needed most. That is, if there are people who can make more money growing food on their land than I can on mine, they’d buy my water.

And for the most part, it works. Farmers trade water all the time — especially from the east side of the San Joaquin Valley to the west. “The people who are doing those deals really do have a pretty good idea of what the market price of water is,” said Ellen Hanak, director of the Water

So it works? Yes: Farmers really do change their practices and make different choices about crops depending on the price of water. But it’s a lot more complicated than selling a car — so complicated that it scares some people off.

HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA: An Interview with Journalist Michael Moss

Smith: We’re in a part of the country that produces a lot of corn syrup, which is now a big part of our diets. How has our diet changed the way we use the land and the way agriculture operates?

Moss: So, the last time I looked, some 90 million acres in this country are being planted in field corn, perhaps soybean as well, versus 5 million for all fruits and vegetables. That’s one sort of huge change in the landscape. A year ago for the [New York] Times, I did stories about corn farmers, field corn farmers who were switching over to fruits and vegetables, because it turns out you can actually, per acre, make a lot more money growing apples or broccoli or spinach. The key, though, the challenge, is how to market those things. So the other thing that’s sort of happened is that there’s an incredibly powerful marketing/transport system for field corn that doesn’t exist for that Kansas or Illinois farmer who wants to grow apples or row crops. They’re working on developing marketing systems for fruits and vegetables like that. So I think we’re starting to see a very slow change in that regard, but your question goes to – yeah, field corn and soybeans has come to dominate American agriculture as staples in highly processed foods.

CIVIL EATS: Five Things to Consider About Tyson’s Big Antibiotics Announcement
1. The Government Does Not Oversee Antibiotic Use in Animals
2. This Announcement is Likely Motivated by McDonald’s
3. Major Food Companies Often Announce Big Changes They Don’t Follow Through On
4. There’s No Mention of Overseas Operations or Contract Farms
5. On Close Reading, Tyson’s Language Allows for Some Gray Area

OLD FARM PHOTOS: Ocean Overfishing Graphic

Over Fishing Graphic

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