Thinly sliced: USDA ag census reveals continued consolidation in farming

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Data dump. USDA released its agricultural census on Thursday. What’d it find? Between 2012 and 2017, the total number of farms fell more than 3 percent, while those that remained increased their average acreage. (That’s consolidation, folks.) Overall, fewer acres were cultivated. So what’s the good news? Women now make up 36 percent of farm operators, and new farmers—those who have been in the business for less than 10 years—are 27 percent of the population. Plus, local food accounts for billions in farm sales. The agency sums it up in a press release.

Out to pasture. Cascadian Farm, an organic brand under General Mills, was hoping to roll out a new cereal based on Kernza, a perennial crop that reduces soil erosion, holds in carbon, and doesn’t need as much fertilizer as wheat. Great idea—but the crop failed. The Minnesota-based company now intends to sell a limited run of Honey Toasted Kernza Cereal to people who donate $25 toward researching the crop, the Star Tribune reports.

Gluten for punishment. Over half of gluten-free pastas and pizza and more than one-third of gluten-free dinners do, in fact, contain traces of that pesky protein, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. The study was conducted by researchers at Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital, who analyzed over 5,000 tests of restaurant food. But don’t necessarily fret, all ye celiac sufferers—what constitutes the presence of gluten could have been as low as 5 to 10 parts per million. Columbia University explains.

Amazon, please save the Amazon. In a rare public rebuke, more than 5,200 Amazon employees have signed a letter imploring the company to adopt a more comprehensive climate policy. In the letter, they call out the company’s hazily-worded sustainability goals and its contributions to climate-denying politicians. They insist that Amazon commit to specific, public goals and transition completely away from fossil fuels by 2050. Also on the priority list: fair treatment of all employees during adverse weather events and foregrounding climate impact in business decisions.

Smells fishy. Canned tuna giant StarKist is facing up to a $100 million fine for participating in an ongoing price-fixing scheme. That amount could bankrupt the company, its legal counsel claimed in November 2018, according to newly released documents reported by Undercurrent News. In June, a federal judge will determine what StarKist is ultimately on the hook for.

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