Tag Archives: agriculture

Gates and CGIAR

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the wealthiest private foundation in the world, joined the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in December 2009CGIAR is funds a set of research groups – IWMI, CIFOR, etc – that do a big chunk of the research and development for developing world agriculture.  For the last few years they have been experiencing problems with defining their goals, funding, and operation style.  The Gates foundation has just recently made developing world agriculture one of its priority areas, and is investing large amounts of money.

A recent article on SciDev.net ask people what the Gates Foundation involvement in CGIAR will mean for Africa in Are Gates and CGIAR a good mix for Africa?

The critics say that the tensions between those who favour a science- and technology-driven approach to increasing agricultural productivity, and others … who prefer to think in terms of promoting broader agricultural innovation systems, are at their acutest when it comes to genetically modified food.

They point out that [Prabu] Pingali now answers to a new boss, Sam Dryden, who has just been appointed director of agricultural development, and who worked for Monsanto in 2005 when the agricultural firm bought the seed company for which he worked. They claim this is evidence that Gates will be opening the door for the extensive use of GM crops in Africa and elsewhere, and say that this illustrates the flawed “magic bullet” approach to improving agricultural productivity.

But the Gates Foundation does not see things the same way. “From the beginning we designed a strategy that looked across the entire value chain,” says Pingali, who himself came to the foundation after working for many years in the CGIAR system.That chain includes market infrastructure and the policy environment that helps farmers improve productivity. “We provide a very large amount of support for the policy environment that is needed to kick-start agriculture growth in Africa,” says Pingali.

He points, for example, to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), headed by former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, which has received US$15 million from the Gates Foundation to influence broad aspects of agriculture policy in several African countries.

Pingali: “We provide a very large amount of support for the policy environment that is needed to kick-start agriculture growth in Africa”

“But we also realised early in our own work that we cannot do everything, [which is why] we focused on the productivity improvement side,” says Pingali. This in turn is the reason that the foundation has been funding plant breeding and crop improvement activities for rice and wheat and maize, and more recently has begun to fund research into other crops that are important in Africa, such as millet, sorghum and cassava.For these reasons, some believe the Gates Foundation is better working within the CGIAR system rather than outside it, pulling scientists from CGIAR centres into its sphere of influence.

It may also make the private foundation more accountable — another source of criticism in the past — as it will have to work closely with organisations that are used to being held to account by governments, multilateral donors and NGOs

Finally, some argue that Gates’s; involvement should improve dialogue with beneficiary countries. “The CGIAR agenda is supposed to be demand-led, involving regional and national organisations, and that must involve the needs of the poor, and not just the research interests of the advanced countries,” said George Rothschild, Chair of the European Forum for Agricultural Research for Development (EFARD) and a former head of IRRI.

Whichever way the partnership between the Gates Foundation and CGIAR plays out, Gates’s engagement with the group has already sent a strong signal to other donors, namely that agricultural research is of global importance, and that only a huge investment will help ensure that such research makes an adequate contribution to combatting hunger.

But how much it will succeed in meeting Gates’s ambition of eliminating hunger across much of Africa and the developing world, and how much it will in doing so boost the profits of large agricultural companies at the expense of small farmers and rural communities — as critics fear — remains to be seen.

Over fertilizing the world

Three faces of global over fertilization from agriculture in China and the USA, and its complex effects on food webs.

1) Chinese farmers are acidifying there soil by over applying fertilizer.  Acidic soils impede crop growth and amplify the leaching of toxins.  Since the early 1980s, pH has declined from 0.2 to 0.8 across China, mostly due to overuse of fertilizer.  This is shown in a new Science paper, Significant Acidification in Major Chinese Croplands (DOI: 10.1126/science.1182570) by JH Guo and others.

Topsoil pH changes from 154 paired data over 35 sites in seven Chinese provinces between the 1980s and the 2000s. The line and square within the box represent the median and mean values of all data; the bottom and top edges of the box represent 25 and 75 percentiles of all data, respectively; and the bottom and top bars represent 5 and 95 percentiles, respectively. (From Guo et al)

Reporting on the paper Mara Hvistendahl writes, “Beginning in the 1970s, Chinese farmers applied ever-increasing amounts of fertilizer with the hope that it would lead to bigger harvests. Instead of high yield, however, they got water and air pollution. Today, agricultural experts estimate that in many parts of China fertilizer use can be slashed by up to 60%.”  In another issue of Science she also reports on current Chinese efforts to reduce fertilizer use.  In the Wall Street Journal, Geeta Annad reports on overfertilization in India “Pritam Singh, who farms 30 acres in Punjab, says the more desperate farmers become, the more urea they use. Overuse is stunting yields.”

2) The Washington Post reports on how in the US large feed lots are causing water quality problems in Manure becomes pollutant as its volume grows unmanageable

Animal manure, a byproduct as old as agriculture, has become an unlikely modern pollution problem, scientists and environmentalists say. The country simply has more dung than it can handle: Crowded together at a new breed of megafarms, livestock produce three times as much waste as people, more than can be recycled as fertilizer for nearby fields.

… Despite its impact, manure has not been as strictly regulated as more familiar pollution problems, like human sewage, acid rain or industrial waste. The Obama administration has made moves to change that but already has found itself facing off with farm interests, entangled in the contentious politics of poop.

3) Fertilization of ecosystems can have complex ecological consequences. In a paper in PNAS, John Davis and others show that in a Long-term nutrient enrichment decouples predator and prey production DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0908497107.

Relationship between primary consumer and predator secondary production for the reference stream (gray circles), the treatment stream (black circles), and previously published data (open circles). The arrows represent the temporal trajectory of the treatment stream starting with the 2 years of pretreatment (P1 and P2) and ending with the fifth year of enrichment (E5). The data labels correspond to the sampling year for the reference and treatment streams. The previously published data include 5 years of production data from the reference stream (C53) and a similar Coweeta stream (C55) that had experimentally reduced terrestrial leaf inputs during 4 of those years (21). It also includes previously published data from an unmanipulated year that compared our current reference (C53) and treatment (C54) streams (22). AFDM is ash-free dry mass.

Their research showed that there were differences in how predators and prey responded to fertilization, but these only emerged over time.  Increases N and P entering a stream increased populations of both predators and prey, however later on prey populations continued to increase but predator populations declined,because fertilzation shifted the streams prey to larger, predator resistant species, which reduced the efficiency with which energy flowed through the food web.

Vavilov and AgroDiversity

Vavilov centers of origin (1) Mexico-Guatemala, (2) Peru-Ecuador-Bolivia, (2A) Southern Chile, (2B) Southern Brazil, (3) Mediterranean, (4) Middle East, (5) Ethiopia, (6) Central Asia, (7) Indo-Burma, (7A) Siam-Malaya-Java, (8) China. Figure from Wikipedia.

Russian agricultural geneticist and biogeographer Nikolay Vavilov, is scientically famous for proposing that centres of endemism of crop relatives point to the origin of food crops, and being martyred by Soviet Lysenkoism.  Furthermore, he established the Lenigrad seed bank that was maintained by its staff throughout World War 2′s 28-month Siege of Leningrad, despite their starvation.

American localvore, MacArthur Fellow and ethno-agro-ecologist Gary Paul Nabhan author of Where Our Food Comes From: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov’s Quest to End Famine reflects on What is the Relevance of Vavilov in the Year 2010?:

I sit overlooking Saint Isaac’s Square, a few hundred meters where Nikolay Vavilov managed the first and perhaps the most massive effort in human history to document and conserve the world’s food biodiversity. I have had the rare opportunity of seeing the seedbank in the basement of Vavilov’s institute, and of leafing through the herbarium where one can see the master’s hand on collections of plants from the deserts, the steppes and the rain forests. And I have seen the photos there of those who perished while protecting the seeds for the benefit of all of humankind.

If any scientist wished to be inspired to a higher cause, perhaps no one was more equipped to do so than Nikolay Vavilov. He was breathtakingly handsome and elegant yet field-worthy; he was visionary, yet articulate and a lover of detail; he was charismatic, tireless and intense, yet approachable. He would listen to farmer, muleskinner, camel drover and evolutionary biologist, and absorb their stories.

And yet, what ultimately inspires us today to continue with such efforts is not Vavilov’s ghost from the past, but the promise of a more equitable and nourishing food community for the future. We hope that our children and their children beyond them will eat well without damaging the very soil and soul of the earth itself.

And we know that in the recent past, some forms of agriculture have done such damage. Since Vavilov’s time, we have lost three-quarters of the former genetic base of our crops and livestock, squandering the diversity of flavors and fragrances by assuming that fossil fuel and fossil groundwater could be consumed without end to produce more food. Today, agriculture is responsible for generating half of the human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases to grow our food and fiber. We can do better. We can wean ourselves from our addictions to fossil fuel and groundwater, but only if we renew our commitment to wisely steward the natural resources and the cultural wisdom that has accumulated in our agricultural landscapes over the last ten millennia.

With rapid global climate change upon us, we need a greater diversity of seeds, breeds, fruits and roots out in our fields, adapting to the dynamic conditions there, more than ever before. Food diversity is no longer a luxury; its careful use and stewardship are once again a necessity if we are to feed future generations so that they can not survive but thrive. Vavilov pointed the way; we must not dwell so much on him as a signpost, but to where he was pointing.

Mapping global flows of virtual green and blue water

Green and blue virtual-water ‘flows’ related to wheat trade by major exporting and importing nations (km3/year). The size of each pie is determined by the amount of virtual water ‘traded’. Countries with virtual-water ‘exports’ are depicted in green and countries with virtual-water ‘import’ in red;<br /> the colour shade depends on the quantity of virtual water ‘traded’. Period 2000–2004.
Green and blue virtual-water ‘flows’ related to wheat trade by major exporting and importing nations (km3/year).
The size of each pie is determined by the amount of virtual water ‘traded’.
Countries with virtual-water ‘exports’ are depicted in green and countries with virtual-water ‘import’ in red; the colour shade depends on the quantity of virtual water ‘traded’. Period 2000–2004.

M.M. Aldaya, J.A. Allan and A.Y. Hoekstra in their paper Strategic importance of green water in international crop trade (Ecological Economics 2009) doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2009.11.001 map global flows of virtual water in the wheat trade.

In their paper they explain their figure:

The map presented in Fig. 6 shows the virtual-water ‘flows’ to the five major importing countries for wheat for the period 2000–2004.

By ‘importing’ virtual water embodied in agricultural commodities, a nation “saves” the amount of water it would have required to produce those commodities domestically.

Though from an importing country perspective it is not relevant whether products have been produced using green or blue water in the country of origin, from a global point of view it has important implications (Chapagain et al., 2006a). For instance, Egypt is the largest importer of wheat, with the USA providing about 45% of the country’s imports. Wheat from Egypt has an average virtual-water content of 930 m3/ton of which 100% is blue water (Chapagain et al., 2006a), while the USA has a virtual-water content for wheat of 1707 m3/ton of which 39.8% is blue water (Table 3).

By importing wheat, Egypt saves 930 m3 of water per ton of wheat. Globally, when imported from the USA, there is not a total water saving because wheat production in the USA requires more water than in Egypt. Exports to Egypt from this country result in a considerable net global water loss of 777 m3 per ton. However, if we just look at blue water only, importing wheat from the USA to Egypt saves 251 m3/ton (since USA production requires 679 m3/ton of blue water and wheat production in Egypt 930 m3/ton).

Along these lines, Egypt, as some other water-scarce importing countries, has formulated policies to import low value but high water consuming food like cereals (Van Hofwegen, 2005). Nevertheless, even if the potential of trade to “save” water at national level is substantial, most international food trade occurs for reasons not related to water resources (CAWMA, 2007).

Maping global virtual waters flows

Fig. 4. World map of virtual water exports. (a) Total virtual water exports (flows exceeding 10 km3 yr−1 are shown); (b) flows of virtual water exports originating from blue (irrigation) water (flows exceeding 1.0 km3 yr−1 are shown); and (c) virtual water exports originating from nonrenewable and nonlocal blue water (flows exceeding 0.5 km3 yr−1 are shown).
Fig. 4. World map of virtual water exports.
(a) Total virtual water exports (flows exceeding 10 km3 yr−1 are shown);
(b) flows of virtual water exports originating from blue (irrigation) water (flows exceeding 1.0 km3 yr−1 are shown); and
(c) virtual water exports originating from nonrenewable and nonlocal blue water (flows exceeding 0.5 km3 yr−1 are shown).

Figure is from Hanasaki and others paper An estimation of global virtual water flow and sources of water withdrawal for major crops and livestock products using a global hydrological model (2009 Journal of Hydrology) doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2009.09.028.

They explain the figure:

The estimated flows of virtual water exports and imports in 2000 by nation were aggregated into 22 regions worldwide (Table 9; Fig. 4) to show net exports between regions.

Fig. 4a shows the virtual water export flows for all water sources. The figure indicates that North and South America were major regions from which virtual water export flows originate; East Asia, Europe, Central America, and West Asia were the major destinations. This pattern of flows agrees with the studies of (Oki and Kanae, 2004), (Yang et al., 2006) and (Hoekstra and Hung, 2005).

Fig. 4b shows the virtual water exports of blue water (withdrawn from streamflow, medium-size reservoirs, and NNBW sources), and

Fig. 4c shows the virtual water exports of NNBW. Most major flows of blue water and NNBW originated from North America and South Asia.

Interestingly, South America was the major total virtual water exporter but a minor blue water exporter because less cropland is irrigated on this continent.

Notably, South Asia, which is densely populated and where demand results in water scarcity (Oki and Kanae, 2006 and Hanasaki et al., 2008b), showed blue and NNBW virtual water export flows. [note: NNBW - is non-renewable and non-local blue water.]

Agro-colonialism and/or Agricultural development?

The New York Times Magazine has an article by Andrew Rice Is There Such a Thing as Agro-Imperialism? on new mega-investments in agricultural land in Africa.

This type of activity featured in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment‘s TechnoGarden scenario as something that can have complicated ecological and social consequences. These investments often displace small scale farmers, but can greatly increase yields.  Indirectly they can benefit local people enhancing local agricultural infrastructure, skills, and economic opportunities – or they can just degrade local ecosystems for external benefit.  The article sets the stage and provides some examples from Ethiopia:

Investors who are taking part in the land rush say they are confronting a primal fear, a situation in which food is unavailable at any price. Over the 30 years between the mid-1970s and the middle of this decade, grain supplies soared and prices fell by about half, a steady trend that led many experts to believe that there was no limit to humanity’s capacity to feed itself. But in 2006, the situation reversed, in concert with a wider commodities boom. Food prices increased slightly that year, rose by a quarter in 2007 and skyrocketed in 2008. Surplus-producing countries like Argentina and Vietnam, worried about feeding their own populations, placed restrictions on exports. American consumers, if they noticed the food crisis at all, saw it in modestly inflated supermarket bills, especially for meat and dairy products. But to many countries — not just in the Middle East but also import-dependent nations like South Korea and Japan — the specter of hyperinflation and hoarding presented an existential threat.

“When some governments stop exporting rice or wheat, it becomes a real, serious problem for people that don’t have full self-sufficiency,” said Al Arabi Mohammed Hamdi, an economic adviser to the Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment and Development. Sitting in his office in Dubai, overlooking the cargo-laden wooden boats moored along the city’s creek, Hamdi told me his view, that the only way to assure food security is to control the means of production.

Hamdi’s agency, which coordinates investments on behalf of 20 member states, has recently announced several projects, including a tentative $250 million joint venture with two private companies, which is slated to receive heavy subsidies from a Saudi program called the King Abdullah Initiative for Saudi Agricultural Investment Abroad. He said the main fields of investment for the project would most likely be Sudan and Ethiopia, countries with favorable climates that are situated just across the Red Sea. Hamdi waved a sheaf of memos that had just arrived on his desk, which he said were from another partner, Sheik Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a billionaire member of the royal family of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, who has shown interest in acquiring land in Sudan and Eritrea. “There is no problem about money,” Hamdi said. “It’s about where and how.”

All through the Rift Valley region, my travel companion, an Ethiopian economist, had taken to pointing out all the new fence posts, standing naked and knobby like freshly cut saplings — mundane signifiers, he said, of the recent rush for Ethiopian land. … Behind it, we could glimpse a vast expanse of dark volcanic soil, recently turned over by tractors. “So,” said my guide, “this belongs to the sheik.”

He meant Sheik Mohammed Al Amoudi, a Saudi Arabia-based oil-and-construction billionaire who was born in Ethiopia and maintains a close relationship with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s autocratic regime. (Fear of both men led my guide to say he didn’t want to be identified by name.) Over time, Al Amoudi, one of the world’s 50 richest people, according to Forbes, has used his fortune and political ties to amass control over large portions of Ethiopia’s private sector, including mines, hotels and plantations on which he grows tea, coffee, rubber and japtropha, a plant that has enormous promise as a biofuel. Since the global price spike, he has been getting into the newly lucrative world food trade.

Ethiopia might seem an unlikely hotbed of agricultural investment. To most of the world, the country is defined by images of famine: about a million people died there during the drought of the mid-1980s, and today about four times that many depend on emergency food aid. But according to the World Bank, as much as three-quarters of Ethiopia’s arable land is not under cultivation, and agronomists say that with substantial capital expenditure, much of it could become bountiful. Since the world food crisis, Zenawi, a former Marxist rebel who has turned into a champion of private capital, has publicly said he is “very eager” to attract foreign farm investors by offering them what the government describes as “virgin land.” …

By far the most powerful opposition, however, surrounds the issue of land rights — a problem of historic proportions in Ethiopia. Just down the road from the farm on Lake Ziway, I caught sight of a gray-bearded man wearing a weathered pinstripe blazer, who was crouched over a ditch, washing his shoes. I stopped to ask him about the fence, and before long, a large group of villagers gathered around to tell me a resentful story. Decades ago, they said, during the rule of a Communist dictatorship in Ethiopia, the land was confiscated from them. After that dictatorship was overthrown, Al Amoudi took over the farm in a government privatization deal, over the futile objections of the displaced locals. The billionaire might consider the land his, but the villagers had long memories, and they angrily maintained that they were its rightful owners.

For more see Food Crisis and the Global Land Gra which is a website run by GRAIN an NGO supporting small-scale farmers.

Jon Foley argues for resilient integration of industrial and organic agriculture

Jon Foley argues for the integration of industrial and organic agriculture to meet the challenge of rising demand for agriculture production in a turbulent world in Room for Debate Blog on Can Biotech Food Cure World Hunger?

… Currently, there are two paradigms of agriculture being widely promoted: local and organic systems versus globalized and industrialized agriculture. Each has fervent followers and critics. Genuine discourse has broken down: You’re either with Michael Pollan or you’re with Monsanto. But neither of these paradigms, standing alone, can fully meet our needs.

Organic agriculture teaches us important lessons about soils, nutrients and pest management. And local agriculture connects people back to their food system. Unfortunately, certified organic food provides less than 1 percent of the world’s calories, mostly to the wealthy. It is hard to imagine organic farming scaling up to feed 9 billion.

Globalized and industrialized agriculture have benefits of economic scalability, high output and low labor demands. Overall, the Green Revolution has been a huge success. Without it, billions of people would have starved. However, these successes have come with tremendous environmental and social costs, which cannot be sustained.

Rather than voting for just one solution, we need a third way to solve the crisis. Let’s take ideas from both sides, creating new, hybrid solutions that boost production, conserve resources and build a more sustainable and scalable agriculture.

There are many promising avenues to pursue: precision agriculture, mixed with high-output composting and organic soil remedies; drip irrigation, plus buffer strips to reduce erosion and pollution; and new crop varieties that reduce water and fertilizer demand. In this context, the careful use of genetically modified crops may be appropriate, after careful public review.

A new “third way” for agriculture is not only possible, it is necessary. Let’s start by ditching the rhetoric, and start bridging the old divides. Our problems are huge, and they will require everyone at the table, working together toward solutions.

Michael Pollan interviewed in Vancouver’s the Tyee

Systems thinking food writer Michael Pollan interviewed by Vancouver’s the Tyee after a talk in support of the University of British Columbia’s Farm. The interview – Garden Fresh – discusses US agricultural policy and resilience food systems:

On whether he’s trying to rally a movement in time to avert disaster, or just prepare us for the inevitable mess caused by scarcer oil, degrading ecologies, and global warming:

“It’s more the latter. We need to have these alternatives around and available when the shit hits the fan, basically.

“One of the reasons we need to nurture several different ways of feeding ourselves — local, organic, pasture-based meats, and so on – is that we don’t know what we’re going to need and we don’t know what is going to work. To the extent that we diversify the food economy, we will be that much more resilient. Because there will be shocks. We know that. We saw that last summer with the shock of high oil prices. There will be other shocks. We may have the shock of the collapsing honey bee population. We may have the shock of epidemic diseases coming off of feed lots. We’re going to need alternatives around.

“When we say the food system is unsustainable we mean that there is something about it, an internal contradiction, that means it can’t go on the way it is without it breaking up. And I firmly believe there will be a breakdown.”

Limits to Phosphorus?

People have more than doubled the global flows of phosphorus, but unlike nitrogen, the other main fertilizer, phosphorus is mined. David A. Vaccari, an engineering professor from Stevens Institute of Technology writes in Scientific American about Phosphorus Famine: The Threat to Our Food Supply:

Altogether, phosphorus flows now add up to an estimated 37 million metric tons per year. Of that, about 22 million metric tons come from phosphate mining. The earth holds plenty of phosphorus-rich minerals—those considered economically recoverable—but most are not readily available. The International Geological Correlation Program (IGCP) reckoned in 1987 that there might be some 163,000 million metric tons of phosphate rock worldwide, corresponding to more than 13,000 million metric tons of phosphorus, seemingly enough to last nearly a millennium. These estimates, however, include types of rocks, such as high-carbonate minerals, that are impractical as sources because no economical technology exists to extract the phosphorus from them. The tallies also include deposits that are inaccessible because of their depth or location offshore; moreover, they may exist in underdeveloped or environmentally sensitive land or in the presence of high levels of toxic or radioactive contaminants such as cadmium, chromium, arsenic, lead and uranium.

Estimates of deposits that are economically recoverable with current technology—known as reserves—are at 15,000 million metric tons. That is still enough to last about 90 years at current use rates. Consumption, however, is likely to grow as the population increases and as people in developing countries demand a higher standard of living. Increased meat consumption, in particular, is likely to put more pressure on the land, because animals eat more food than the food they become.

Phosphorus reserves are also concentrated geographically. Just four countries—the U.S., China, South Africa and Morocco, together with its Western Sahara Territory—hold 83 percent of the world’s reserves and account for two thirds of annual production. Most U.S. phosphate comes from mines in Florida’s Bone Valley, a fossil deposit that formed in the Atlantic Ocean 12 million years ago. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the nation’s reserves amount to 1,200 million metric tons. The U.S. produces about 30 million metric tons of phosphate rock a year, which should last 40 years, assuming today’s rate of production.

Already U.S. mines no longer supply enough phosphorus to satisfy the country’s production of fertilizer, much of which is exported. As a result, the U.S. now imports phosphate rock. China has high-quality reserves, but it does not export; most U.S. imports come from Morocco. Even more than with oil, the U.S. and much of the globe may come to depend on a single country for a critical resource.

Some geologists are skeptical about the existence of a phosphorus crisis and reckon that estimates of resources and their duration are moving targets. The very definition of reserves is dynamic because, when prices increase, deposits that were previously considered too expensive to access reclassify as reserves. Shortages or price swings can stimulate conservation efforts or the development of extraction technologies.

And mining companies have the incentive to do exploration only once a resource’s lifetime falls below a certain number of decades. But the depletion of old mines spurs more exploration, which expands the known resources. For instance, 20 years ago geologist R. P. Sheldon pointed out that the rate of new resource discovery had been consistent over the 20th century. Sheldon also suggested that tropical regions with deep soils had been inadequately explored: these regions occupy 22 percent of the earth’s land surface but contain only 2 percent of the known phosphorus reserves.

Yet most of the phosphorus discovery has occurred in just two places: Morocco/Western Sahara and North Carolina. And much of North Carolina’s resources are restricted because they underlie environmentally sensitive areas. Thus, the findings to date are not enough to allay concerns about future supply. Society should therefore face the reality of an impending phosphorus crisis and begin to make a serious effort at conservation.

Mapping farms in the USA

organicmap_us2007

totalfarms

New York Times reports on the 2007 USA agricultural census to map US organic farms

The map of organic farms in the United States is clustered into a few geographic centers, a strikingly different pattern than the map of all farms, which spreads densely over many regions, breaking only for the Rockies and Western deserts.

Areas in the Northeast and Northwest have many small organic farms that sell produce directly to consumers. Large organic farms, which some critics call organic agribusiness, have flourished in California.

The largest organic markets by far are for vegetables, fruit and dairy products, according to Catherine Greene, an economist at the Agriculture Department.

Organic vegetables now account for 5 percent of all vegetable sales; organic dairies, which are the fastest-growing sector, now produce 1 percent of the nation’s milk.

Via Agricultural biodiversity weblog