Hundreds of Michigan Residents Call for Farm Bill Reform
On Jan. 24, Michigan Senator Stabenow heard from hundreds of Michigan citizens calling for reform on the Farm Bill. From Traverse City to Battle Creek to Ann Arbor to Detroit, food activists across the state generated hundreds of phone calls to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chair of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee.
“As Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Stabenow has the opportunity to stand up for small farmers, consumers and the environment by supporting these a Fairer Farm Bill,” said Alistair Hall, field organizer with Food & Water Watch. “Unfortunately, she has yet to address consolidation across the food system and strengthen protections for small and midsized producers, so we are asking her to get off the sidelines and publicly support Michigan’s small farmers.”
Local Food & Water Watch volunteers educated the community about the Farm Bill and gave citizens the opportunity to call Stabenow’s office. Food & Water Watch hopes she will support a competition title in this year’s bill, a reform that would protect small and midsized family farmers from abusive contracts and unfair markets to support small farms, protect consumer health and shift our country towards a more sustainable food system.
In Ann Arbor, volunteers from the local community and the student body set up outside of the People’s Food Co-Op and on the University of Michigan’s campus to collect petitions and give citizens the opportunity to call the Senator's office.
In Traverse City, local activists gathered at Oryana Co-op, a celebrated local gathering spot for foodies and farmers working to build a healthy regional food network.
While in Battle Creek, Food & Water Watch volunteers tabled at Kellogg Community College to activate students and community members of all ages.
The Farm Bill is an important and complex piece of legislation that controls the country’s food and agriculture policy, including topics such as subsidies, environmental conservation and nutrition. Decades of poor food policy has allowed food production, processing and distribution in the U.S.—from seeds, to milk, to beef—to be controlled by a small number of powerful corporations, such as Monsanto, Cargill and Dean Foods. These corporations not only have the power to block reform and determine most of what Americans eat, they also effectively force small producers out of the market and out of business.
Szenoria Smith a local community gardener and activist in Battle Creek remarked, “It is so important to be working on the [Farm] Bill right now. I have been fighting cancer for a while now and the food we have access to is just not healthy. The chemicals being put into our food—our produce, our dairy, our meat—is making us sick and obese. It’s so important that we have access to fresh produce that we can either grown ourselves or is available from other local sustainable sources. A Fair Farm Bill will make our country and our community healthier, without a doubt.”
The event not only demonstrated to Stabenow that a large number of Michigan residents prioritize a fairer Farm Bill, but was also a step towards establishing a coalition of passionate activists who will continue to pressure the government for reforms that guarantee consumers access to safe, healthy and sustainable food.
For more information on how you can help promote a Fair Farm Bill, contact Eleni in Traverse City at Eleni@greencorps.org, Alexandra in Ann Arbor at Alexandra@greencorps.org or Alistair in Battle Creek at Alistair@greencorps.org.
For more information on the Fair Farm Bill campaign, click here.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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