New Food Economy: Regenerative agriculture could save soil, water, and the climate. Here’s how the U.S. government actively discourages it.

Cover crops and other regenerative agriculture practices are still pigeonholed as conservation practices, not as good farming practices. But if farmers want crop insurance, they have to play by the rules.

Last year, a few days before Christmas, Gail Fuller drove me out to the middle of a wind-whipped field just north of Emporia, Kansas. “This is really where it started for me,” he said as he climbed out of the truck, spade in hand. With a thunk, he drove the spade into the ground and pulled out a hunk of earth, holding it up so I could see the texture, which he described as like “chocolate cake” and “black cottage cheese.” Read more…

New Food Economy: The explosive dominance of soy over a century went unnoticed by most Americans—except for those growing it.

They were a fixture of the landscape as I was growing up, but I never stopped to wonder why that might be, or whether that might ever change. At least, I didn’t until soybeans began making headlines earlier this year. 

It’s a late weekday afternoon when I get the call inviting me to come ride. I quickly throw on jeans and boots and several layers to shield against the November chill. It’s a short drive, but when I pull off the road, the combine is already going full tilt, three to five miles per hour. Soon enough the John Deere is bearing down on me, towering 14 feet tall and nearly twice as wide, spitting out a cloud of dust that trails in its wake like smoke. I throw my hands up in greeting, and alarm. Read more…

New Food Economy: Soon we’ll use smartphones to trace our food on the blockchain. But there’s a catch: We’ll be traced, too.

Foodies interested in the provenance of their groceries may have to give up something in return: their privacy.

The “internet of everything” (IoE) is coming to a grocery store near you. With a tap of your phone, you’ll be able to find out where your heritage pork was raised and your bluefin tuna caught—in theory. Read more…

New Food Economy: Carbon farming isn’t worth it for farmers. Two blockchain companies want to change that

When the price of Bitcoin skyrocketed at the end of 2017, analysts crunched the numbers and concluded that the cryptocurrency was set to consume the entire global energy supply by the end of 2020. “Mining” Bitcoin involves solving increasingly complex mathematical equations that secure the network in exchange for newly-minted cryptocurrency—which incidentally requires lots of energy. Huge server farms have popped up around the world for the express purpose of generating the virtual cash, from China to upstate New York, where one town put a moratorium on new commercial cryptocurrency mining operations to protect “the City’s natural, historic, cultural and electrical resources.”

But in spite of Bitcoin’s eco-unfriendly reputation, some organizations propose using blockchain, the technology that makes the cryptocurrency possible, to power a regenerative agricultural revolution. The ultimate goal is to reverse the flow of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere until atmospheric levels fall to a degree that scientists agree will stabilize the climate. Read more…

New Food Economy: The future of seafood is bait-to-plate transparency on the blockchain

Sometime soon, American eaters may be able to purchase tuna labeled with a QR code that can be scanned to reveal when and where the fish was caught, and by whom. This new blockchain project aims to prove that a completely transparent, traceable seafood supply chain is possible, and can curb misdeeds on the high seas. Read more…