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You Can Go Home
The saying goes that you can’t go home again. Each of us has rather rigid memories of childhood and while the memories are often more about events and people, they are also about place — home or community. I think this is especially true of people who grew up on the land and made a living there. In cities change is more constant. Construction changes the landscape and people lose or change jobs.

In rural areas, there is more of a continuity between what are fields, pasture, timberland and degraded land or ditches. There was a sense that what would be planted might change but probably not the fields it was planted in. Changes did happen, however. Fencerows changed depending on government policies, equipment, or lack of it, or whether the owner liked to hunt or not. What found shelter in the micro habitats often changed also — hedgerows, un-mowed fence areas, and slews.

I spent the past few days in Northwest Missouri because it was the nearest I could come to the morel season. I had not been mushroom hunting on my grandfather’s farm for 55 years. I was curious to see how much the land had changed, how good my memory was of where the mushrooms grow as well as the key indicators of morel season. Both turned out to be pretty good. I quickly realized we were early, though we did find a couple.

It was at least a week before optimal conditions. The most obvious indicators are May apples. The trees had buds, but were not blooming. It was not warm enough. The second thing, more intangible but also more accurate, is the land didn’t smell right. It was moist enough, but there was no smell. In prime morel season, you smell the soil — the decomposition, the wakeup of organisms in the Spring, the smell of fecundity. There is nothing like it.

While the area looked much the same on the surface, there were changes. There were fewer houses in the country — and all semblance of occupation had been removed. The house I was born in — the same as my father — is now a cornfield, though the new owner left all the trees we had planted.
Much of the poorer land has been taken out of production, or terraces and no-till allowed it to still be farmed with fewer impacts. Terraces, though, have allowed some land to be farmed that had long been pasture, and one can see erosion that is a foot deep in the field. Grassways need to be established, but that takes extra time and skill for the farmer.

The farmers I spoke with are doing what they can. They experiment, adopt, or adapt as they see fit. But they do not have a long-term view of what is happening. They are largely unaware of what happened 50 or 100 years ago and are not prepared for what is already coming with climate change. They are caught in the commodity crosshairs and will ride it out until retirement. The changes will need to come from the next generation of farmers or from the more enlightened widows of the farmers who already own much of the land. Everyone seems to be waiting for leadership from others. They worry more about Brazilian imports than they do about climate change. Think about it. – Jason
Biden Pledges $500 Million to Stop Deforestation in BrazilThe New York Times
President Biden pledged $500 million to fight deforestation in Brazil and more than $1 billion to help developing countries transition from fossil fuels and become more resilient to the impacts from climate change. But the pledge would require approval from Congress, where Republicans are overwhelmingly opposed.
JC: It is great that the U.S. has, in principle, stepped up on these two issues. However, it is not clear that Congress will approve the proposal. And this is precisely the same situation that Lula finds himself in in Brazil — their Congress is dominated by politicians who support Bolsonaro and are unwilling to provide funding to help the government take deforestation, conversion, and illegality out of commodity supply chains. And like in the U.S., Brazil’s Congress won’t support many of Lula’s social programs to address poverty, hunger, or even education programs. Sound familiar? Hopefully other governments will step up if the U.S. pledge falls short. China appears to be offering loans to Brazilian farmers to invest in deforestation- and conversion-free production, traceability, reforestation, and rehabilitation of degraded land. But these are loans. Should the Brazilian government or its people be solely responsible for rehabilitating soils that have been mined by others? Shouldn’t at least some of those costs be covered in the price of the products themselves rather than passed on to producers, the country, or the planet?
Crazy Policies and Climate Change are Hurting Latin American AgricultureThe Economist
Across Latin America, climate change is making it tougher to grow crops. Meanwhile, some crops face export quotas. Many face crushing export taxes. Further complicating this are the multiple exchange rates for the U.S. dollar, depending on the crop being exported. Those factors could have two alarming consequences. It will be harder to ease rural poverty and it could affect the global food supply.
JC: We know that climate change is making it harder to produce the same volume of food globally as we have in the past, much less increase it. That is going to be a real issue for global food supply and security. There doesn’t seem to be much of a question about it. Just this year, production in Argentina is down considerably due to a much drier growing season. And this will likely lead to changes in policies and even government in the country. There is evidence that many parts of Brazil including the Cerrado are getting hotter and drier, and this will undermine production in Brazil’s, and increasingly the world’s, breadbasket. All of this is happening as the Traders’ Roadmap (DBA as Traders’ Roadblock) has left an open door to deforestation and conversion in the Cerrado.
NIFA-Funded Researchers Aim to Develop Climate-Resilient RiceUSDA
L.S.U. has been awarded $10 million from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to improve sustainability and profitability of rice farming by advancing climate-resilient crops. While rice production contributes $550 million to Louisiana’s economy, extreme weather patterns due to climate change pose serious challenges to enhancing productivity.
JC: It is great that the U.S. is investing in this. It would be great if we can find ways to enhance rice production in the face of climate change. However, it is essential to find ways to maintain rice production levels globally since rice and wheat are two key staples in the human diet globally. The U.S. is one of the largest exporters of rice globally, so as the article states this is key for U.S. farmers. However, rice productivity has already declined in the Philippines and Indonesia. And the latest modelling suggests that both India and China will become importers of rice over the next couple of decades. Making rice more resilient is essential for global food security, preventing the expansion of rice production through habitat conversion, and reducing displacement and migration as well as the resulting resource conflicts.
Why Earth’s Giant Kelp Forests are Worth $500 Billion a YearNature
The vast swathes of kelp forest growing along the world’s coastlines are estimated to generate U.S. $500 billion a year, considerably more than previous studies have suggested. The study estimates that kelp forests provide their value via a habitat for valuable fish and seafood species and removing nitrogen from contaminated seawater. 
JC: The research suggests that the value from kelp forests on average is about $171,000 per hectare per year — some $74,000 per year from nitrogen removal, $30,000 from increased fisheries production, and several other items, but only $163 from carbon sequestration due to the low price of carbon today. The article raised a number of questions. First, why are farmers still farming row crops hoping to clear $1,000 per hectare per year? The question then is why don’t people or countries or both invest in maintaining healthy kelp groves or in kelp farming where the product is not the kelp but rather the services that it provides? And, yes, it might provide food for people, but is that really where the value is?  There are different species that work well in different parts of the world. People created this problem, they need to fix it by investing in kelp for the services it provides and not just as blue food for people.

EU Lawmakers Back Ban on Goods Linked to DeforestationReuters
A landmark deforestation law would ban imports into the E.U. of coffee, beef, soy, and other commodities if they are linked to the destruction of the world's forests. The law will require companies that sell goods into the E.U. to produce a due diligence statement and "verifiable" information proving their goods were not grown on land deforested after 2020, or risk hefty fines.
JC: For those who have not been following this story, this E.U. legislation is a milestone of sorts. There have been laws passed about slave labor in supply chains, about IUU fisheries, and about the use and residues of any number of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics, other medicines, and chemicals. There have even been laws about bycatch (think citations and tuna). But I can’t think of a single precedent where countries have ever prohibited the conversion of any habitat if the goal was to produce food. Deforestation is the largest source of GHG emissions globally for the production of food — more than livestock, rice, or any other source. This just shows the kinds of changes that we are in store for if we are to make absolute reductions of GHG emissions in sectors rather than just be more efficient per MT of food. Of course, we need to address these issues with more comprehensive global rules. We need agreement about what a forest is. And we need to focus on more than just carbon — e.g. biodiversity and habitat generally, more sustainable and resilient production, healthy soil, water take and effluent. Otherwise, we are just playing Whac-A-Mole or comparing apples to oranges.
A.I. Weed-Killing Drones Are Coming for the Mega FarmsBloomberg News
For decades, big-acre crops like corn and wheat have been treated by spraying tractors that would unleash waterfalls of herbicide to zap tiny, scattered weeds, causing environmental damage and colossal financial waste. A drone’s camera and its A.I. identifies weeds with 96 percent accuracy, spraying the intended target alone and reducing herbicide use by as much as 90 percent. 
JC: This technology is phenomenal. This is the latest chapter in the long history of weed control — manual weeding, mechanical seeding and weeding, herbicides, no-till and spot spraying with information from human spotters, and now spotting weeds and spraying them in a single step from drones. This is taking labor savings and reduction of chemicals about as far as we can in fields where weeds and pathogens can lie dormant for decades or even centuries. The next step will be biological products to replace the chemicals at least, and depending on whether they can be in or on the seed, maybe even most of the machinery as well. What will turn this trend on its head is indoor, soilless agriculture, and that is already growing.  
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