How the Government Came to Decide the Color of Your Food | Smithsonian Magazine


Tomatoes are red, margarine is yellow, and oranges, are, well, orange. We expect certain foods to be in certain colors. What we don’t realize is that these colors are not necessarily a product of nature but rather of historical controversies and deliberate decisions by various actors—including the government.

The story of how America’s federal government helped select specific colors for certain foods dates to late 19th century, when new processed foods were introduced.

The color of margarine is a particularly powerful example of how the intersection of political power, industry competition, and regulation determined the look of what people ate.

Source: How the Government Came to Decide the Color of Your Food | Innovation | Smithsonian Magazine

Is Farming the Most Interesting Job in America? Kristin Kimball Makes a Case | Vogue

Kimball and her husband Mark began Essex Farm in 2003. They had 80 acres, $15,000, and a plan. “It’s either brilliant,” Mark said at the time. “Or very, very stupid.” They fixed sagging fences, patched leaky roofs, and installed a grant-funded solar panel array. Then they started producing all types of food: Not only grass-fed beef, pastured pork, free-range chicken and eggs, but also vegetables, berries, tree fruit, flour milled from their grains, syrup from their maple trees, even soap from excess animal fats.

Unlike many community-supported agriculture (or CSA) programs in which local farms offer a weekly box of fruit and veg during the growing season to supplement a family’s grocery purchases, the Kimballs planned to offer a “full-diet” CSA. Their 300 members, Kimball writes in her latest book, “eat the way farmers do—or the way they did two generations ago: a whole diet, year-round, unprocessed, in rhythm with the seasons, from a specific piece of land, with a sense of both reverence and abundance.”

The goal of Essex Farm is deceptively simple: “feed people, be nice, don’t wreck the land.” And yet achieving that goal has been anything but simple.

Source: Is Farming the Most Interesting Job in America? Kristin Kimball Makes a Case | Vogue

U.S. farmers see another bleak year despite Phase 1 trade deal | Reuters


Across snow-covered North Dakota, U.S. farmers are stuck with fields full of weather-damaged corn – a crop they planted after the U.S.-China trade war killed their soybean market. Many don’t know yet what crops they’ll plant next season among a host of dicey options.

In Texas, Kansas and Colorado, farmers are weighing whether they should plant fewer acres of corn and more sorghum, even though China has all but stopped buying it. That’s because sorghum costs about half as much as corn to plant, which appeals to farmers wary of investing too much for an uncertain return.

Source: U.S. farmers see another bleak year despite Phase 1 trade deal – Reuters

The Water Safety Conundrum | Route Fifty


Gridlock on the highways, stretched-thin mass transit systems and out-of-date schools always lead lists of the nation’s infrastructure challenges.

But there’s another pressing infrastructure challenge that doesn’t always get the attention of transportation and education: water quality. A steady drip, drip, drip of stories about water safety has demonstrated the extent of the problem, which experts believe will require communities and states across the country to come up with hundreds of billions of dollars to fix.

Money is not the only barrier to fixing water systems. A highly fragmented patchwork of governance is another, with more than 50,000 local public and private operators providing services.

Source: The Water Safety Conundrum – Route Fifty

The World’s Oceans Are Being Starved of Oxygen | Smart News | Smithsonian


For years, scientists have been ringing alarm bells over the dire state of the world’s oceans, which are becoming warmer, more acidic, and increasingly filled with plastic.

Now, a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature has revealed the alarming scope of yet another affliction: oceans are losing oxygen, quickly.

Source: The World’s Oceans Are Being Starved of Oxygen | Smart News | Smithsonian

Serve Plants to Save the Planet | EcoWatch


The global scientific community agrees that we must reduce meat and dairy production to tackle the most pressing environmental disasters of our time.

To do that, we have to change what we eat. Plant-forward changes and significant meat and dairy reduction must begin with the meals served at environmentally focused events.

Source: Serve Plants to Save the Planet – EcoWatch

New SNAP rule change just made it harder to combat future recessions


SNAP is designed to expand during economic downturns, and in doing so, it offers nutrition assistance to low-income families and also provides economic stimulus to communities and the economy as a whole. Accordingly, the USDA’s final rule has greatly weakened a crucial part of the safety net for vulnerable populations and one of the most effective recession-fighting tools in the fiscal policy toolkit.

Work requirements are imposed on those who are otherwise eligible for SNAP but who are between the ages of 18 and 49, not disabled, and do not have dependents (“able-bodied without dependents” [ABAWD]). ABAWD work requirements inhibit SNAP from expanding rapidly during economic downturns as it becomes more difficult to find a job and satisfy the work requirement. This constraint makes SNAP a less-effective automatic stabilizer.

Source: New SNAP rule change just made it harder to combat future recessions

Challenges and prospects in the EU: Quality of life and public services | Eurofound

This flagship report brings together in-depth contributions in the area of quality of society and public services, based mainly on research carried out since 2016.

Recognizing the fact that the quality of people’s lives is profoundly influenced by their access to quality provision in areas such as education, health, housing and social services, the report pays particular attention to regional and social inequalities and, where possible, changes over time.

The starting point is the European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) which has, since its inception in 2003, included questions on various aspects of quality of society, notably societal tensions, social capital, institutional trust, and the quality of services that are key for the well-being of the public.

Source: Challenges and prospects in the EU: Quality of life and public services | Eurofound

Agricultural emissions: Not enough cash for solutions | EURACTIV.com


European policies on tackling agricultural emissions are insufficient, according to auditors. Although solutions do exist, the cost and time factors often mean farmers are not capable of implementing them.

Agriculture is responsible for 95% of ammonia emissions, which contribute to the formation of harmful secondary particulate matter. Three-quarters of it comes from manure and 20% from inorganic fertilizer.

Ways to cut ammonia emissions include improved livestock feeding strategies, more effective ways of using fertilizers and closed manure storage.

However, farmers claim they have neither money nor time for these solutions.

Source: Agricultural emissions: Not enough cash for solutions – EURACTIV.com

The Trouble With Biofuels | EcoWatch


Perhaps the most interesting thing about the expansion of the biofuels industry — as a share of the fuel market and a lobbying power — is that the general public hasn’t really noticed. Compared with fracking or coal, biofuels aren’t the subject of many policy reports or New York Times op-eds. Media coverage of the biofuels package has been limited.

But as President Donald Trump continues to make promises about the future of biofuels, two important questions loom: Should the rest of the country care about what’s going on in Iowa and other corn-belt states?

And is biofuel expansion something we should welcome or oppose?

Source: The Trouble With Biofuels – EcoWatch