Agriculture Stories You Just Have to Hear

Ranchers struggle against giant meatpackers and economic troubles (by Stephanie Ogburn - Grist)

EXCERPT: The rise of the meatpackers began in the 1880s -- an era, in the words of the Federal Trade Commission, "when the modern American meat industry was in its infancy." Back then, John Rockefeller was building the Standard Oil empire as other powerful men became railroad and steel barons. The "Big Five" meatpacking companies controlled 45 percent of the domestic cattle market by the early 1890s. Every Tuesday at 2 p.m., their representatives met in downtown Chicago to decide how many cattle each would bring to the marketplace. This illegal act of collusion -- which kept meat prices high by limiting supply -- was known as the Veeder Pool, because the meatpackers' attorney, Henry Veeder, kept records for the meetings and later testified about them in Congress. The Veeder Pool and similar dodgy arrangements put the squeeze on ranchers, whose cattle decreased in quality and value as the packers held them back from the market.

Japan continues to feel aftershocks from the March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that caused more than 25,000 to die or go missing (by Jennifer Fahy - Farm Aid)

Japan continues to feel aftershocks from the March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that caused more than 25,000 to die or go missing. The quake and tsunami struck a rich farming area, and Japan’s farmers have been hard-hit by the disaster. It is unknown how long it will take (and at what cost) for coastal farmland to be flushed of salt and chemicals and cleared of debris caused by the resulting floods.

What bean-counting ‘contrarians’ miss about the local-food movement (by Benjamin Cohen - Grist)

EXCERPT: Roughly 10 years ago, the long history of alternative agriculture entered a new phase. Sometime between the founding of Slow Food in 1986 and the publication of The Omnivore's Dilemma in 2006, what might be called the "local food movement" took shape. Despite the fixation on locality, the movement's goals have never been either singular or static. It isn't just the fresh salad or local butternut squash soup or wild-caught salmon or free-range chicken that proponents are after. Rather, the emphasis is on the complex means to make those things, the human activity of working in nature to provide food.

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