Agriculture

1:14am

Fri March 7, 2014
The Salt

States Fight California's Chicken Cage Law. But It's Really About Bacon

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 10:55 am

Free-range chickens lay eggs for Sauder's Quality Eggs in Pennsylvania.
Dan Charles NPR

By most measures, David Kesten's hens are living the good life.

"They can act like chickens, they can run around," says Kesten, who's raising hens in an old wooden shed in the open countryside near Concordia, Mo. "They can go out and catch bugs, they can dig in the ground."

But most U.S. hens live crammed into very close quarters, according to Joe Maxwell, with the Humane Society of the U.S. And he says that's just wrong.

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1:50am

Tue March 4, 2014
The Salt

In The New Globalized Diet, Wheat, Soy And Palm Oil Rule

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 7:21 am

The world is increasingly relying on a few dozen megacrops, like wheat and potatoes, for survival. Above, a wheat field in Arkansas.
Danny Johnston AP

These days you can fly to far corners of the world and eat pretty much the same food you can get back home. There's pizza in China and sushi in Ethiopia.

A new scientific study shows that something similar is true of the crops that farmers grow. Increasingly, there's a standard global diet, and the human race is depending more and more on a handful of major crops for much of its food.

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3:12pm

Sun March 2, 2014
The Salt

Even In A Desert, Drought Spells Trouble For Ranchers

Originally published on Sun March 2, 2014 5:09 pm

No snowpack, no hay: In the northern Nevada, cattle feed is getting hard to come by, as sources of water diminish in supply.
Frederic J. Brown AFP/Getty Images

In northern Nevada, a place famous for its wide, open spaces and expansive cattle operations, ranchers are in a bind due to the historic drought.

Much of the state is desert, so when people talk about drought, they're really talking about the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. It's at barely 20 percent of average.

This is a huge concern for farmers and ranchers like Julie Wolf, because the mountains store the snow that melts and feeds rivers and reservoirs. These bodies of water then allow the desert to bloom with grass and alfalfa for her cattle.

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1:21am

Fri February 28, 2014
The Salt

Drought Could Dry Up Nevada Dairy Farmers' Expansion Plans

Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 1:13 pm

There are about 2,000 dairy cows on Pete Olsen's fifth-generation farm in northern Nevada. A new milk processing plant is now putting pressure on Olsen and other dairy farmers to expand the size of their herds. But with the ongoing drought, farmers are struggling to get enough feed for the cows they already have.
Kirk Siegler/NPR

When Pete Olsen talks about drought on his fifth-generation dairy farm in Fallon, Nev., he's really talking about the snowpack 60 miles to the west in the Sierra Nevada.

The Sierras, Olsen says, are their lifeblood.

That is, the snowmelt from them feeds the Truckee and Carson rivers and a tangle of reservoirs and canals that make this desert bloom. Some of the highest-grade alfalfa in the world is grown here. And it makes perfect feed for dairy cows, because it's rich in nutrients.

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11:10am

Tue February 25, 2014
The Salt

Why Farmers Can Prevent Global Warming Just As Well As Vegetarians

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 9:31 am

Cattle graze at a Brazilian Agricultural Research experimental farm in Planaltina in Goias state. To reduce emissions from deforestation, the Brazilian government is experimenting with grazing on integrated forest and pasture lands.
Evaristo Sa AFP/Getty Images

We Americans are heavy consumers of meat, and we're increasingly reminded that eating less of it will shrink our carbon footprint. Growing the crops to feed all those animals releases lots of greenhouse gases.

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