I don’t often find much to cheer about when I read the food and farming news. But a new report from the influential National Research Council (NRC) on the future of U.S. farming had me reaching for my pom-poms. On the face of it, the NRC’s report, “Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century,” might not seem like headline-grabbing stuff. But this report really is big news for anyone interested in a sustainable future for farming—and not just because its conclusions represent another damning indictment of industrialized farming. You see, the NRC is a prestigious, independent U.S. scientific body, established in 1916 “to provide elected leaders, policy makers, and the public with expert advice based on sound scientific evidence.” And in publishing this report, the NRC joins a growing number of leading global scientific organizations in effectively throwing down the gauntlet to Big Ag, publicly criticizing the negative consequences of industrialized farming and calling for a more holistic approach to food production in the face of increasingly scarce natural resources and the growing threat of climate change.
From the USDA Newsroom: Yesterday Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced announced that USDA is now accepting applications for up to $1.7 billion to fund projects that help spur business activity and economic growth in rural communities. This infusion of money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into rural business is designed to create and save jobs and help rural communities grow and prosper.
The funding announced today will be made available through USDA Rural Development’s Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan program, which supports the development of private businesses. Eligible applicants include cooperative organizations, corporations, partnerships, nonprofit groups; federally recognized Indian tribes, public bodies and individuals. The funds will be targeted to creating and retaining quality jobs and serving difficult to reach populations, and areas hardest hit by the current economic downturn.
USDA will accept applications for this Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan program until Sept. 15, 2010, or until all funds are expended. Recovery Act funding will be available through Sept. 30, 2010. For information on eligibility criteria and for application assistance, please contact your state Rural Development office, or visit www.rurdev.usda.gov for a listing of all state offices.