Food System

New Study Measures the 'Foodprint' of Food Waste

Nov 28th, 2017 | By Amy Leibrock

As you scrape food into the trash, do you ever stop to think about all the resources you’re throwing away along with it? The land it was grown on, the water and fertilizer that helped it grow, the energy used to harvest, store and deliver it? A new study, by researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and Sustainable America, considered these questions by analyzing the resource use associated with our diet, including the portion that gets wasted. Our infographic breaks down the results.
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Food System

Why (and How!) Your School Should Do a Student Food Waste Audit

Apr 26th, 2017 | By Amy Leibrock

Food waste happens at all points in our food system, and school cafeterias are no exception. With 31 million school lunches being served every day, there’s a tremendous untapped opportunity to prevent student food waste and teach kids about food conservation at the same time.
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Eco Living

Our Most Popular Food and Fuel Stories of 2015

Dec 22nd, 2015 | By Amy Leibrock

In case you missed any, here’s a roundup of our most popular blog posts of 2015. As you can see by this list, our readers are more interested than ever in learning about the food waste problem and finding ways to fix it. On the fuel side, stories about innovation and idling reduction were popular, too.
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Food System

How to Keep Food Safe in Power Outages and Floods

Nov 9th, 2015 | By Amy Leibrock

When dealing with severe weather, the priority is keeping yourself, your family and your pets safe. If the power goes out -- and is out for a while -- it's important to keep your food from spoiling and know how to decide what to toss it if does go bad.
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Food System

USDA and EPA Set Historic Goal to Cut U.S. Food Waste in Half

Sep 16th, 2015 | By Amy Leibrock

Today is a groundbreaking day in the fight against food waste. The Obama administration announced the United States’ first-ever food waste reduction goal: Reduce food waste in America by 50 percent by 2030.
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Food System

Good Growth: Farmers Markets Still on the Rise

Aug 6th, 2014 | By Amy Leibrock

If it seems like farmers markets have sprouted from every vacant parking lot in the last few years, you’re not imagining things. According to the latest data from the USDA, the number of farmers markets in the United States has grown by 76 percent since 2008. In honor of National Farmers Market Week, here's a look at the future of farmers markets.
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USDA Announces Funding to Help Rural American Businesses Go Green

Jul 2nd, 2012 | By Nicole Rogers

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack meeting Tom Vanwingerden, Abe Vanwingerden and Art Vanwingerden of Metrolina Greenhouses. Photo by Holly Hess, via USDA flickr stream, under CC BY 2.0.

On June 25, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced USDA funding for 450 projects that help agricultural producers and rural small businesses use renewable energy technologies, reduce energy consumption, and/or conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy projects. In all, the USDA announced nearly $7.4 million in energy grants.

Secretary Vilsack made the announcement while touring family-owned Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, North Carolina. Metrolina has received a REAP guaranteed loan and three grants totaling over $1 million since 2007. In 2009, Metrolina received a REAP guaranteed loan and a grant to construct a wood boiler heating system to supplement and replace the natural gas and fuel used at their 120-acre facility. In addition to heating Metrolina’s greenhouses, using wood chips in the boiler provides an additional market for local lumber mills and logging operations.

Rick Alexander, a Tennessee small business owner, is using a Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant and investing another $325,000 to create the first solar powered business in his county. Electricity is the largest expense for his climate-controlled storage facility. The 260 panel, 60 kW solar photovoltaic system is expected to generate more than 71,000 kWh – enough electricity to meet over half of the energy needs of his business for the next two decades. By also participating in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Generation Partners program, Alexander earns a premium on each clean kW produced, which is more than enough to cover the average monthly cost of electricity for his businesses.

In Mount Hope, Wisconsin, Maurice Nichols was selected to receive a grant to purchase a fuel efficient grain dryer for his farm, saving his business over 42% in annual energy usage. Not only is the dryer fuel efficient, but the fact that it is on site saves in trucking costs as well.

This funding is made available through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which is authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill. (See our post on the 2012 Farm Bill.) REAP offers funds for farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy-efficiency improvements. These federal funds leverage other funding sources for rural businesses, which hopefully leads to their sustained growth in the future, and an improved quality of life in rural America.

Just one more example of how the tide is turning toward alternative energy nationwide!

USDA Press Release

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Helping New Farmers and Small Farms Avoid Credit Card Debt

Jun 2nd, 2012 | By Nicole Rogers

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced May 25 that the USDA is seeking comments on a new microloan program to help small and family farm operations progress through their start-up years with the goal of eventually graduating to commercial credit.

“Over the past three years, we have expanded farm and operating loans to Americans from all backgrounds to help raise a new crop of producers across the country,” said Vilsack. “As we expand options in agriculture, we’re seeing a new vibrancy across the countryside as younger people - many of whom are now involved in local and regional production - pursue livelihoods in farming, raising food for local consumption. By leveraging USDA’s lending programs for beginning farmers and ranchers and smaller producers, we’re helping to rebuild and revitalize our rural communities.”

The new program would allow the USDA’s Farm Service Agency to make smaller loans, with a principal balance of up to $35,000, and would streamline the application process to require less paperwork for farmers.

Although the microloan program is not exclusively targeted at young or beginning farmers, the program will be helpful in allowing these groups to access federal credit and obtain loans to help them start their farming operations, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

“Capital is the number one need of young and beginning farmers in the United States,” said Lindsey Lusher Shute of the National Young Farmers’ Coalition. “USDA microloans will fuel new farm businesses and a new generation of family farmers.”

Small farmers often rely on credit cards or personal loans, which carry high interest rates and have less flexible payment schedules, to finance their operations. The new streamlined application process would mean more efficient processing time for smaller loans, adding flexibility to some of the eligibility requirements, and reducing the application requirements.

As with any loan, the government will be taking a financial risk with microloans to new farmers and young farmers, but with a dwindling farm population and 40% of farmers over age 55, what better time to invest in the future of farming?

The proposed rule may be viewed here.


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