A year in review by Food Tank: 2017 food and agriculture news

A year in review by Food Tank: 2017 food and agriculture news

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Danielle Nierenberg
We have collected some of the agriculture and food news highlights from 2017 to share with you.
As 2017 comes to a close, Food Tank has collected news highlights from the food and agriculture world to share with you. We witnessed a monumental shift in global politics, a series of natural disasters, and indications of growing malnutrition and obesity. And yet, the signs of a growing movement for food security, justice, and sustainability are everywhere. Companies are updating animal welfare policies, governments are starting to step up to protect pollinators, and young people are not only speaking out but are increasingly forcing a change in our food system.Food Tank has changed, too. We hope you enjoy the look of our new website, launched late last year. With your help, we are expanding our summit series, where we have real discussions about the food system with stakeholders from across the political, social, and economic spectrums. And thanks to our generous members, we are increasing our research staff to provide more of the expert interviews, untold stories of hope and success, and regular feed of food movement news that sets Food Tank apart. If you like what we’re doing and are not already a member, please consider joining us (we have new membership benefits, too).
We look forward to filling in the 2018 timeline with your help!
January
—Farmers prepare for agricultural policy shifts in Europe and the United Kingdom in reaction to Brexit. The largest foreseeable changes to European and British agriculture involve the reformation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which began as a reaction to post-World War food shortages.
—Report released by GRAIN outlines the connection between industrial meat and dairy production and global climate change. The report suggests limiting consumption in developed countries, protecting small farmers and pastoralists, and regulating industrial operations.
February
—Karen McVeigh and Ben Quinn’s Guardian article explores the root causes of each of the world’s four current famines in Nigeria, South Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia. Drought and conflict are the primary causes, which continue to impact tens of millions of lives.
—United States Congress House Committee on Agriculture begins hearings on the Farm Bill 2018 reauthorization, the primary agricultural and food policy bill of the federal government. The bill addresses a broad swath of topics including international trade, food safety, and environmental conservation, and must be reauthorized every five years.
—The U.S. Federal Patent and Trademark Office rules in favour of The Broad Institute‘s ability to patent and own gene editing technology developed by university researchers. The case centred on the ownership of the CRISPR patent, which allows scientists to edit DNA more quickly and accurately.
—Famine officially declared in South Sudan by the United Nations.
—In a briefing to the U.N. Security Council, U.N. Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien states that food insecurity in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria is “the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations.”
March
—U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s budget by 21 percent meets criticism by the American Farm Bureau Federation. The new budget will reduce the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) by $150 million and eliminate foreign food aid.
—The Rusty-Patched Bumblebee becomes the first bee listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in the U.S., paving the way for pollinator protection.
April
—With the merger of ChemChina with Syngenta, three companies now control 60 percent of the seeds sold on earth.
May
—European citizens demand agricultural reform from the European Commission to update the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to support sustainable farming practices in Europe.
—Foodservice company Aramark updates its animal welfare policy to adhere to stricter UN recommendations made in October 2016.
—German non-profit OpenSourceSeeds creates an open catalogue of genetic material and seed licenses designed to be accessible and free for farmers around the world.
—Former President Obama discusses the link between agriculture and climate change with former White House chef Sam Kass at the Seeds and Chips Global Food Innovation Summit in Milan, Italy.
—Kimbal Musk invests in the future of food with his business Square Roots, an incubator for urban shipping container farms. In addition to his investment in indoor farming, Kimbal Musk opened several “local, sustainable, affordable” Next Door restaurants across the U.S. and, through the Musk Foundation, donated hundreds of Learning Gardens to U.S. schools.
—The European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA) demands the inclusion of young farmers in the decision-making process on the future of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
—Dan Charles explains how Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s U.S. Department of Agriculture budget cuts will affect farmers. The new budget minimizes crop-insurance, eliminates international food aid programs like Food for Peace, and reduces the national Supplemental Nutritional Access Program (SNAP) budget. The budget immediately received criticism from the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, and the National Corn Growers Association.
—In his article for Guardian, Former President Barack Obama shares hopeful message about the future of agriculture and climate change, “we can still act, and it won’t be too late.”
June
—The UN hosts the first-ever Ocean Conference in New York to discuss Sustainable Development Goal 14, to protect and sustainably use oceans, seas, and marine resources. The Ocean Conference addressed overfishing, reducing plastic waste, and improving sustainable fisheries management in order to ensure healthy future oceans that will continue to feed the world.
—Food insecurity continues to rise in every county in the U.S., according to research by Feeding America. Children are particularly vulnerable to hunger; 21 percent of children nationwide experience food insecurity.
—Monsoon rains in Sri Lanka create the most damaging flood experienced in decades. Sri Lankan farmers encountered landslides and evacuations due to the flooding of the Galle and Kalutara Rivers. The flooding in Sri Lanka followed the country’s worst drought in 40 years.
—President Trump withdraws the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, refusing to meet the new emission standards enacted by former president Barack Obama.
—Amazon announces its intention to purchase Whole Foods Market, expanding Amazon’s plans to redesign retail at all levels. The merger is predicted to reshape the future of grocery store shopping.
—Researchers confirm that more than 10 percent of the world’s population is obese, with a body mass index of 30 and higher. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine that examined 195 countries found that obesity increased in most countries from 1980 to 2015 and doubled in 73 countries.
—U.S. Congress House Committee on Agriculture starts public listening sessions on the Farm Bill 2018 reauthorization, the primary agricultural and food policy bill of the federal government.
—Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, is named the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate for his role in developing the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and increasing rural food security across the continent.
—After four years of boycotts and strikes, a group of farmworkers in the U.S. called Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ) successfully organizes the first new farmworker union in the U.S. in a quarter century. FUJ is a “movement of indigenous people,” designed initially to protect farmworkers from Oaxaca and Southern Mexico working in Washington State.
—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency repeals the 2015 Clean Water Rule, which regulated and protected U.S. waterways from development and pollution. While the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) favoured the repeal of the Clean Water Rule, representatives from the Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) opposed the change due to its threat to clean drinking water and wetland health.
July
—The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) confirms that world hunger is on the rise again, reversing years of progress. The organization stressed that almost 60 percent of the people suffering from hunger live in countries affected by conflict and climate change.
—California lists glyphosate as a carcinogen. Glyphosate is a popular herbicide, the active ingredient in RoundUp, and the most heavily-used agricultural chemical in history.
—The EU holds a conference and public hearings to discuss the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the primary agricultural policy, including subsidies, of the EU.
—The remaining 19 of the G20 countries reaffirm their commitment to the Paris Climate Accord after Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement.
—Research by Bayer and Syngenta demonstrates that pesticide exposure reduces honeybee survival, creating irrefutable evidence that insecticides kill bees.
—The EU and Brazil file a joint proposal with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to create a global level playing field for agricultural products by limiting trade-distorting farm subsidies.
—The U.S. State of Maine passes the first Food Sovereignty Bill in the U.S., allowing the legal sale of raw milk and homemade goods, among other major provisions. The legislation allows consumers and producers to make their own food safety evaluations.
August
—The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Zambian farmers carve pie charts, figures, and numbers relevant to African agriculture into a field to make their case for more investment in small farms.
—Antitrust regulators in Europe announce an in-depth investigation of Bayer-Monsanto Merger citing concerns over effective competition in seed and pesticide products.
—Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods Markets is finalized as U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Whole Foods shareholders approve the merger.
—U.S. Food and Drug Administration announces new nutrition and calorie labelling regulations for restaurant menus.
—Severe monsoon flooding in Southeast Asia kills over 1,000, destroying homes and crops. UN sets up over 2,000 relief camps to help.
—Hurricane Harvey hits Houston, Texas as a Category 4 major hurricane, causing catastrophic flooding and an estimated US$150 million in agricultural damage.
September
—Food Tank hosts a summit in New York City with the Rockefeller Foundation focused on preventing food waste.
—Food Tank sponsors “Garjana” event in New York City, a free dance fitness experience to promote healthy lifestyles.
—Hurricane Irma travels up Florida peninsula after devastating the Caribbean and Cuba, making landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 major hurricane, with agricultural losses up to 90 percent in some areas.
—Hurricane Maria ravages the Caribbean, directly hitting Puerto Rico as a Category 4 major hurricane, destroying 80 percent of crop value.
—Five UN agencies collaborate on a report on food security and nutrition, showing an increase in hunger due to climate change and conflict.
—Advocate, consultant, and farm hero Gus Schumacher passes away at age 77. Father of the farm-to-table movement, he empowered underserved consumers to make better food choices by increasing affordable access to healthy food and tirelessly promoted food justice.
October
—James Beard Foundation (JBF) announces 2017 leadership award winners: Dan Barber (Chef and Author), Olivier De Schutter (Co-chair, International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems and Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food), Joan Dye Gussow (Professor, Author, Food Policy Expert and Environmentalist), Joann Lo and Jose Oliva (Co-Directors, Food Chain Workers Alliance), and The Honorable Chellie Pingree (Member of Congress, Maine’s First Congressional District).
—The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Rockefeller Foundation release reports that reveal that two-thirds of residential food waste is still edible while wasted food could provide 68 million more meals to people in need in New York City, Denver and Nashville.
—Chicago Council on Global Affairs launches Outrage and Inspire podcast that tells stories of hunger and humanity based on the books of Roger Thurow, author and Chicago Council Senior Fellow.
—New report from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), The Nature Conservancy, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, indicates that better farmland soil management may be able to sequester the same amount of carbon as is emitted globally by the transportation sector and developed sequestration potential maps that can assist in developing mitigation strategies for reaching the targets set out in the Paris Climate Agreement.
—Wildfires in Northern California wine country kill more than 40, cause US$3 billion in damages, and strand seasonal farm workers.
—The Campbell Soup Company announces it is joining the Plant-Based Foods Association (PBFA), the only trade group in the United States that represents the plant-based food sector. Campbell is the first major food company to join PBFA.
November
—UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) releases a report revealing that the number of chronically undernourished people in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 24 million between 2015 and 2016. Adverse climatic conditions, conflict, and increasingly challenging global economic conditions are key factors driving the recent increase in food insecurity, the report states.
—UN climate talks (COP23) conclude having made progress in creating a formal process for world leaders to track and report climate mitigation efforts, with peer-pressure enforcement. Although in attendance, the U.S. delegation’s only official appearance was hosting a forum on coal that was disrupted by protesters.
—Food Policy Action (FPA) releases its 2017 National Food Policy Scorecard to help the public track actions taken by lawmakers in the U.S. Congress. FPA reports that the scores are down significantly this year because neither the House nor the Senate spent much time on food issues, leaving FPA with little to grade.
—A new report from the National Young Farmers Coalition discusses the results of the 2017 National Young Farmer Survey. This survey examines the needs and challenges of young farmers to determine how to encourage a new generation of farmers.
December
—France is ranked number one in the 2017 Food Sustainability Index, which grades 34 countries according to their food system sustainability
—France hosts the One Planet Summit, a call to action on climate change. Governments and businesses pledged financial investments in mitigation projects, including US$650 million by the Gates Foundation for eco-agriculture and food systems in developing countries, US$10 billion in capital funding by the UN Environment and BNP Paribas, and US$1 billion for energy and technology development by the Breakthrough Energy Coalition.
—Ongoing wildfires in Southern California have burned hundreds of thousands of acres and thousands of structures, including in the biggest avocado and lemon producing regions in the U.S., a US$45 billion industry in California.
(Danielle Nierenberg is the President, Food Tank <danielle@foodtank.com>)

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