Twelth plan approach paper draft

he 12th Plan approach paper draft, recently cleared by the full plan panel meeting chaired by the PM, and is awaiting approval from the NDC, is now available at Planning Commission website. Good to see the right kind of emphasis on Soils and Rainfed Agriculture.

It can be downloaded from this page:
http://planningcommission.nic.in/plans/planrel/12appdrft/12appdrft.htm

Rice Advice: Videos on Managing Soil Fertility

Watch: http://www.thewaterchannel.tv/en/videos/categories/viewvideo/655/agriculture/rice-advice-managing-soil-fertility

More information: www.africaricecenter.org
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Year: 2011
Language: English

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The End of Poverty

The aphorism “The poor are always with us” dates back to the New Testament, but while the phrase is still sadly apt in the 21st century, few seem to be able to explain why poverty is so widespread. Activist filmmaker Philippe Diaz examines the history and impact of economic inequality in the third world in the documentary The End of Poverty?, and makes the compelling argument that it’s not an accident or simple bad luck that has created a growing underclass around the world. Diaz traces the growth of global poverty back to colonization in the 15th century, and features interviews with a number of economists, sociologists, and historians who explain how poverty is the clear consequence of free-market economic policies that allow powerful nations to exploit poorer countries for their assets and keep money in the hands of the wealthy rather than distributing it more equitably to the people who have helped them gain their fortunes. Diaz also explores how wealthy nations (especially the United States) seize a disproportionate share of the world’s natural resources, and how this imbalance is having a dire impact on the environment as well as the economy. The End of Poverty? was an official selection at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

Global poverty did not just happen. It began with military conquest, slavery and colonization that resulted in the seizure of land, minerals and forced labor. Today, the problem persists because of unfair debt, trade and tax policies — in other words, wealthy countries taking advantage of poor, developing countries. Renowned actor and activist, Martin Sheen, narrates THE END OF POVERTY?, a feature-length documentary directed by award-winning director, Philippe Diaz, which explains how today’s financial crisis is a direct consequence of these unchallenged policies that have lasted centuries. Consider that 20% of the planet’s population uses 80% of its resources and consumes 30% more than the planet can regenerate. At this rate, to maintain our lifestyle means more and more people will sink below the poverty line. Filmed in the slums of Africa and the barrios of Latin America, THE END OF POVERTY? features expert insights from: Nobel prize winners in Economics, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz; acclaimed authors Susan George, Eric Toussaint, John Perkins, Chalmers Johnson; university professors William Easterly and Michael Watts; government ministers such as Bolivia’s Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera and the leaders of social movements in Brazil, Venezuela, Kenya and Tanzania. It is produced by Cinema Libre Studio in collaboration with the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation. Can we really end poverty within our current economic system? Think again.

Vipul Mudgal: Rural Coverage in the Hindi and English Dailies

EPW, August 27, 2011


This study of three each of India’s highest circulated English and Hindi dailies finds that they devote only a minuscule proportion of their total coverage (about 2%) to rural India’s issues, crises and anxieties. Even this low count could be misleading because most rural news is not about the farmers/villagers or about their concerns related to land, livestock, resources or farming. The content analysis of 968 news items shows that 36% of the coverage goes to issues of violence, accidents, crime or disasters. Less than 28% is about agrarian themes while 15% is about hunger, suicides, malnutrition, distress migration, displacement, or farmers’ movements. The English newspapers had more coverage of rural distress than the Hindi ones. The authoritative sources quoted most often in the routine news tend to belong to the establishment. 

New WikiLeaks Cables Show US Diplomats Promote Genetically Engineered Crops Worldwide

Submitted by Kevin Hansen on August 26, 2011 – 17:48

Although I am not really surprised, the scope of official US government effort to promote Monsanto’s products is really astounding.

___________________________________________________

New WikiLeaks Cables Show US Diplomats Promote Genetically Engineered Crops Worldwide

Original Link: http://www.truth-out.org/new-wikileaks-cables-show-us-diplomats-promote-genetically-engineered-crops-worldwide/1314303978

Thursday 25 August 2011 by: Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report

Dozens of United States diplomatic cables released in the latest WikiLeaks dump on Wednesday reveal new details of the US effort to push foreign governments to approve genetically engineered (GE) crops and promote the worldwide interests of agribusiness giants like Monsanto and DuPont.

The cables further confirm previous Truthout reports on the diplomatic pressure the US has put on Spain and France, two countries with powerful anti-GE crop movements, to speed up their biotech approval process and quell anti-GE sentiment within the European Union (EU).

Several cables describe “biotechnology outreach programs” in countries across the globe, including African, Asian and South American countries where Western biotech agriculture had yet to gain a foothold. In some cables (such as this 2010 cable from Morocco) US diplomats ask the State Department for funds to send US biotech experts and trade industry representatives to target countries for discussions with high-profile politicians and agricultural officials.

Truthout recently reported on front groups supported by the US government, philanthropic foundations and companies like Monsanto that are working to introduce pro-biotechnology policy initiatives and GE crops in developing African countries, and several cables released this week confirm that American diplomats have promoted biotech agriculture to countries like Tunisia, South Africa and Mozambique. Cables detail US efforts to influence the biotech policies of developed countries such as Egypt and Turkey, but France continues to stand out as a high-profile target.

In a 2007 cable, the US embassy in Paris reported on a meeting among US diplomats and representatives from Monsanto, DuPont and Dow-Agro-sciences. The companies were concerned about a movement of French farmers, who were vandalizing GE crop farms at the time, and suggested diplomatic angles for speeding up EU approvals of GE Crops.

In 2008 cable describing a “rancorous” debate within the French Parliament over proposed biotech legislation, Craig Stapleton, the former US ambassador to France under the Bush administration, included an update on MON-810, a Monsanto corn variety banned in France. Stapleton wrote that French officials “expect retaliation via the World Trade Organization” for upholding the ban on MON-810 and stalling the French GE crop approval process.

“There is nothing to be gained in France from delaying retaliation,” Stapleton wrote.

Tough regulations and bans on GE crops can deal hefty blows to US exports. About 94 percent of soybeans, 72 percent of corn and 73 percent of the cotton grown in the US now use GE-tolerate herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup, according to the US Agriculture Department.

A 2007 cable, for example, reports that the French ban on MON-810 could cost the US $30 million to $50 million in exports. In a 2007 cable obtained by Truthout in January, Stapleton threatened “moving to retaliate” against France for banning MON-810. Several other European countries, including Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria, have also placed bans on MON-810 in recent years. MON-810 is engineered to excrete the Bt toxin, which kills some insect pests.

Maharashtra to blacklist Mahyco

PUNE: Maharashtra agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said that his government is considering black listing Mahyco company for severe irregularities in sale of seeds, especially the Bt cotton seeds.

The state government has also issued written instructions to big fertiliser companies like RCF, Zuari and Dipak Fertilisers for linking sale of their other agricultural inputs with the fertiliser sale. Mahyco has denied the charges of the agriculture minister.

“Mahyco produces its seeds in this state. Yet there are so many complaints against them from the farmers and the delears. We have already filed an FIR against the company and may even suspend their license to sale seeds in the state and black list the company in Maharashtra,” said Mr Vikhe Patil.

He added, “As against their contractual agreement to sale 16.5 lakh packets of Bt seeds, they have sold only 1.91 lakh packets, which is only 11.40% of their contractual commitment. This is cheating of farmers and the government.”

Mahyco has however denied the charges of the agriculture department. “We have given an undertaking and promised the government of Maharashtra to provide 10.56 lakh packets of various hybrids of Bt cotton seeds for the Kharif 2011 season. As of date Mahyco has supplied 10.77 lakh packets against the agreed quantity in the districts of Maharashtra. The seed supply has exceeded the quantities indicated in the affidavit filed with the department of Agriculture. Hence, there is no breach of undertaking by the company as given to the department of agriculture,” said the company in its reply.

Maharashtra farmers have been facing severe fertiliser and seeds shortage from past two to three years. The common problem is of linking the fertiliser sale with sale of other inputs like seeds, pesticides etc. Thus, if a farmer wants to buy specific seed of specific company, he is compelled to purchase also the other inputs of the same companies.

Mr Vikhe-Patil said, “We have complaints of linking against Zuari Industries , Dipak Fertilisers and RCF. The companies blame it on the dealers. So we have now asked the companies to take actions against the dealers to which they have agreed.”

The agricultural department has already sealed fertilisers worth Rs 24 crore of the Dipak Fertilisers company in Pune. “We have issued stop sale notice to Dipak Fertilisers for the sealed quantity of fertilisers as some of the quantity was meant for linking purpose,” said Mr Vikhe Patil.

Meanwhile, though the farmers have collected inputs after facing much hardships, the state is lagging behind in sowing as compared to the normal sowing schedule.

As against 28% overall sowing excluding sugar cane till June 27, last year, only 9% sowing has been done during the comparable period this year. But 41% talukas, mostly in Vidarbha and Marathwada in the state have received less than 60% rainfall. As a result the sowing of pulses, cotton and soyabean is lagging behind last year’s sowing rate. Maharashtra has highest acreage of cotton and second highest acreage of soyabean and pulses.

Decontrolling Urea Prices

Government’s proposes to decontrol urea prices and increase prices by 10 per cent. The empowered group of ministers on August 5 approved the Saumitra Chaudhuri Committee recommendations to decontrol urea and allow increase in prices by 10 per cent initially and later bring it under nutrient based subsidy by October.

The 10 per cent hike in per tonne over the current maximum retail price (MRP) of Rs 5,310/tonne could translate to an additional expenditure of up to Rs 530/- for farmers. From next year,  companies will have a free hand and farm gate prices of urea will be fixed by them. The fertiliser companies will also pass on any increases in gas pricing and additional taxes imposed directly onto the farmers.

 

This decision should be seen in the light of the startling revelations of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s “Performance Audit of Fertiliser Subsidy” report tabled in parliament on August 5, 2011 which found that 45 per cent of farmers pay more than the MRP and nearly 60 percent face problems in getting their season’s full requirement in time. It also pointed to the problem of artificial shortages created by dealers during peak seasons to hike prices much above the MRP. Instead of putting an end to black-marketing and corrupt practices, the government measure is only going to put the farmers at the mercy of fertiliser cartels. The CAG has also indicted the government’s fertiliser policy for deliberately pushing costly imports and turning away the focus from indigenous production of urea which is a key farm input. The present move by the government is despite strong indictment of the new pricing scheme for urea by the CAG.

 

Already the government had on July 8, 2011 by a notification, withdrawn any restraint on increasing prices of non-urea fertilisers by the companies and stated that the market price of non-urea fertilisers “will be open”. It rescinded an earlier notification of May 5, 2011  that had allowed companies to increase MRP of Di Ammonium Phosphate (DAP) by Rs 600/tonne in addition to the MRP prevailing then (Rs 10,750/tonne) and also a proportionate increase in MRP of complex fertilisers (corresponding to that in DAP). The MRP of DAP according to the May 5th notification would translate into Rs 11,470/tonne. In the light of the July 8th notification the MRP of DAP inclusive of VAT if calculated based on the imported cost of DAP at $650/tonne will translate into around Rs 14,300/tonne. This would mean an exorbitant increase of Rs 3550/tonne of DAP within the last two months. The government move on urea is coming at a time when already farmers are paying hefty amount for non-urea fertilisers and rising input costs are a disincentive to cultivation.

 

Urea is a key agricultural input. Decontrol of urea prices, like in the case of DAP and other complex fertilisers will put a big burden on the peasantry and costs of production will increase substantially.

Ethanol blended Petrol: 28.79 cr litres of ethanol procured by July-end: Singh

New Delhi, Aug 21 : The government has procured 28.79 crore litres of ethanol for blending by the end of July, Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas R P N Singh said.

The annual requirement is of 105 crore litres of ethanol for blending up to 5 per cent.

Only 55.87 crore litres of ethanol could be contracted in 13 states and 3 union territories (UTs), the Minister said.

“Out of this, only 28.79 crore litres could be procured up to July 31, 2011,” Mr Singh told Parliament last week.

The Minister said the government has been receiving requests, particularly from sugar industry to increase the percentage of ethanol blending in petrol up to a limit of 10 per cent.

The government had decided on August 16 last year to implement ethanol blended petrol (EBP) programme up to a limit of 10 per cent.

However, due to non-supply of Ethanol in requisite quantity even for five per cent blending level, OMCs are unable to raise the implementation level, he said.

Mr Singh said as per availability of supply of ethanol, only 5 per cent EBP programme is currently under implementation in 13 states and 3 UTs, out of the notified 20 states and 4 UTs.

–UNI

Source: http://www.newkerala.com/news/2011/worldnews-52077.html

Farmers Markets Could Generate Tens of Thousands of New Jobs with Modest Federal Support, New from Union of Concerned Scientists Report Finds

They’re Growing Nationally, but Federal Policies Favoring Industrial Agriculture Hold Them Back

WASHINGTON (August 4, 2011) – Over the last several decades, thousands of farmers markets have been popping up in cities and towns across the country, benefiting local farmers, consumers and economies, but they could be doing a lot better, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). What’s holding farmers markets back? Federal policies that favor industrial agriculture at their expense.

“On the whole, farmers markets have seen exceptional growth, providing local communities with fresh food direct from the farm,” said Jeffrey O’Hara, the author of the report and an economist with UCS’s Food and Environment Program. “But our federal food policies are working against them. If the U.S. government diverted just a small amount of the massive subsidies it lavishes on industrial agriculture to support these markets and small local farmers, it would not only improve American diets, it would generate tens of thousands of new jobs.”

UCS released the report just a few days before the 12th annual U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Farmers Market Week, which starts on Sunday, August 7. According to the report, “Market Forces: Creating Jobs through Public Investment in Local and Regional Food Systems,” the number of farmers markets nationwide more than doubled between 2000 and 2010 jumping from 2,863 to 6,132, and now more than 100,000 farms sell food directly to local consumers.

All that growth happened with relatively little help. Last year, for example, the USDA spent $13.725 billion in commodity, crop insurance, and supplemental disaster assistance payments mostly to support large industrial farms, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The amount the agency spent that year to support local and regional food system farmers? Less than $100 million, according to USDA data.

In 2007, the most recent USDA figure, direct agricultural product sales amounted to a $1.2 billion-a-year business, and most of that money recirculates locally. “The fact that farmers are selling directly to the people who live nearby means that sales revenue stays local,” O’Hara said. “That helps stabilize local economies.”

Keeping revenues local also can mean more job opportunities. Last summer, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asked Congress to set a goal in the 2012 Farm Bill of helping at least 100,000 Americans to become farmers by, among other things, providing entrepreneurial training and support for farmers markets. O’Hara’s report takes up Vilsack’s challenge and argues that supporting local and regional food system expansion is central to meeting that goal.

In the report, O’Hara  identified a number of initiatives the federal government could take to encourage new farmers and the growth of farmers markets in the upcoming Farm Bill. For example, the report called on Congress to:

  • support the development of local food markets, including farmers markets and farm-to-school programs, which can stabilize community-supported markets and create permanent jobs. For example, the report found that the Farmers Market Promotion Program could create as many as 13,500 jobs nationally over a five-year period, if reauthorized, by providing modest funding for 100 to 500 farmers markets per year.
  • level the playing field for farmers in rural regions by investing in infrastructure, such as meat-processing or dairy-bottling facilities, which would help meat, dairy and other farmers produce and market their products to consumers more efficiently. These investments could foster competition in food markets, increase product choice for consumers, and generate jobs in the community.
  • allow low-income residents to redeem food nutrition subsidies at local food markets to help them afford  fresh fruits and vegetables. Currently, not all markets are able to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

“Farmers at local markets are a new variety of innovative entrepreneurs, and we need to nurture them,” said O’Hara. “Supporting these farmers should be a Farm Bill priority.”

 

New GM Crop Sparks Concerns about the Negative Effects of Biofuels

 

http://www.topsecretwriters.com/2011/08/new-gm-crop-sparks-concerns-about-the-negative-effects-of-biofuels/

Farmers in the United States are growing the first genetically modified plants grown specifically for putting for fuel rather than producing food.

However, the new GM corn has been met by a barrage of criticism, namely by aid organisations that warn the crop, by diverting more corn into energy production, could worsen the global food crisis – exposed as a significant issue by the famine in Somalia.

Also in opposition of the new corn is the food industry as, not only is it unsuitable for the manufacture that commonly uses corn, but many farmers are concerned about cross-contamination into crops used for human consumption.

The genetically modified corn is being grown on a 5,000 acre site on the edge of America’s “corn belt” in Kansas. It has been developed by the Swiss pesticide company, Syngenta.

Gene Speeds Production of Ethanol

The corn contains an added gene, which speeds up the breakdown of starch into ethanol and therefore produces more ethanol to be put in fuel tanks.

The development of biofuels have been blamed for pushing up the price of food across the globe. The World Bank has reported that food prices are today close to their peak in 2008, and that highly priced food has contributed to the famine in Somalia.

“The temptation to look at food as another form of fuel to use for the energy crisis will exacerbate the food crisis,” says Todd Post from the anti-hunger charity, Bread for the World.

Corn ethanol production has enjoyed a five-year boom, but amidst concerns of the negative effect biofuel production is having on drought and famine in Africa, and with the US debt crisis and the $1.3 trillion in budget cuts forcing Congress to re-think three decades of government subsidies for corn ethanol, this boom could be coming to an abrupt end.

Whilst campaigners increasingly argue that turning corn into ethanol is not environmentally sound and, according to the World Bank, it has also driven up the price of food worldwide, limiting the production of corn ethanol would surely have a negative effect in helping the United States reduce its consumption of fossil fuels.

The fuel sold at petrol stations across America contains 10% ethanol, and, according to a study by environmental scientists in Freese, by 2020, corn energy will displace 7% of the energy supplied by oil.

Oil Reserves Will Not Last Forever

Many oil analysts agree that the world’s conventional oil production will peak sometime between now and 2020. Charles T. Maxwell, the senior energy strategist of C.J Lawrence Inc, wrote:

“Our country’s leaders have three main choices: Taking over someone else’s oil fields until they are depleted; carrying on until the lights go out and Americans are freezing in the dark; or changing our life style by energy conservation while heavily investing in alternative energy sources at higher costs.”

The global demand for cars is accelerating and therefore so is the demand for oil. World demand for conventional oil is outstripping world supply.

In May of this year, Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi told parliament, “We have to look for our own fuel to advert the crisis.”

The viable alternative is of course biofuel, which, according to Dr Bernard Muok, Director of Programmes at the African Center of Technology Studies, could help steer Kenya’s economic growth to ‘unimaginable heights’.

“We have relied so much on oil. A lot of money has been used trying to drill oil with no success. If this money was converted to production of biofuel, we could be talking of other things by now; not a fuel crisis,” said DrMuok.

No More Money for Subsidies

Instead of channelling money into increasing the production of ethanol crops, faced with a $1.3 trillion budget cut, Congress is expected to end $6 billion in subsidies directed to the oil companies that incorporate ethanol in their products.

As revolutions in the Middle East reduces the production of petroleum, the world’s demand for biofuel is greater than ever.

In 2006, former President Clinton described of a vision of a future world without the solutions that biotechnology could bring was bleak, painting a picture of islands sinking in a rising ocean, fertile land turning to dust and more people going hungry.

Now, faced with $1.3 trillion in spending cuts, the former President’s vision appears closer to becoming a reality than ever before.