Food & Agriculture News: 2/2/23

Food & Agriculture News: 2/2/23

Making Farms Organic Is Paying Off - NY Times 

Forget this headline (or don’t, whatever). This article does a magnificent job of explaining what’s been wrong with farming over the last 40 odd years, and why things are starting to go right. I don’t even want to summarize it here, I just encourage you to read it. It’s hopeful, I promise. 

And actually, the following article is a decent accompaniment.


U.S. farming is more than 'go big or go out,' says ag secretary - Reuters

“Go big or go home” is a phrase that changed American farming. Back in the Nixon era, that’s exactly what the Department of Agriculture told farmers to do, and it’s exactly what happened. Since the 60s, we’ve seen fewer and fewer farmers growing on bigger and bigger farms. Today, 41% of farms are more than 2,000 acres big.

Apparently, the current administration is having a bit of a re-think. Here’s a quick summary:

The USDA is funding programs that support new markets for commodities grown with climate-friendly practices, expand small- and medium-scale meat processing capacity, and increase domestic fertilizer production, all in hopes of encouraging more competition, enriching rural communities and making farming more environmentally friendly, Vilsack said.

Now this is all well and good, but the proof will come out of Farm Bill negotiations set to happen this year. Otherwise, these policies are likely to change with the next administration.

And if you’re pinning your hopes on the Farm Bill this year, well, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.


Plant-Based Meat Is in Free Fall - Yahoo 
Lab-grown meat moves closer to American dinner plates - Reuters

It seems that meat products without animals are at an inflection point. We’ve shared numerous stories over the last 18 months that plant-based meat isn’t living up to the hype. 

While the intention to create food products in more environmentally friendly ways while reducing harm to animals is commendable, the market for plant-based meat is small, the taste is indifferent, and the price isn’t competitive. My feeling is that it would simply be easier to get people to eat more plants for what they are, rather than something they’re not. 

Enter lab-grown meat. I’m yet to form a strong opinion here, but I have a sneaking suspicion that lab-grown meat will fare better than plant-based meat. For starters, my bet is they’ll get it to taste more like what you think it will. Initially, it will cost more, but I also bet these techniques will scale easier than plant-based meat factories, meaning they’ll be able to compete on price. Due to both of those factors – again, both remain to be seen – I think they’ll be more effective in targeting meat eaters. Plus, they have all the environmental and animal welfare points as plant-based meats. Time will tell. 

Either way, the big news here is that lab-grown meat will almost certainly be approved by the USDA this year, so you’ll get a chance to try it for yourself. Lab-grown meat will first appear at high-end restaurants, and will likely hit retail stores sometime between now at 2028. 


SNAP benefits returning to pre-COVID amounts in February - Axios

Have you seen the news lately? Looks like the White House will officially declare that we’re out of a health emergency by May. It’s taken just over three years, but COVID now appears to be the next phase of the flu – which sounds like a good thing, until you consider that the flu is the deadliest disease in recorded history. 

But anyway, the economic emergency is just starting to show some signs of slowing down, but critically isn’t showing signs of returning to pre-pandemic levels. While SNAP benefits increased to help families put food on the table during the pandemic, they also helped deal with rising grocery prices. So it seems like a really bad idea to reduce those benefits while grocery prices remain at record highs. All we’re really going to accomplish is extending the line at food banks. 

Notably, Georgia reduced their SNAP benefits last year. Lo and behold, food banks struggled to keep up with increased demand.

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