By Jessica Corbett
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday was the lone progressive to vote against Tom Vilsack reprising his role as secretary of agriculture, citing concerns that progressive advocacy groups have been raising since even before President Joe Biden officially nominated the former Obama administration appointee.
<div id="a420d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5369c498a5855fe2143b86fa07e23dff"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1364300806988652548" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨🚨🚨 Bernie Sanders voted against Tom Vilsack's nomination. It's great to see the Senator stick to his principles a… https://t.co/u4XNU4viNC</div> — RootsAction (@RootsAction)<a href="https://twitter.com/Roots_Action/statuses/1364300806988652548">1614109634.0</a></blockquote></div>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Sean Fleming
What thrives in poor soil, can tolerate rising temperatures and is brimming with calories?
The cassava – sometimes referred to as "the Rambo root." This plant could potentially help alleviate world hunger, provide economically viable agriculture and even put an end to soil erosion, according to research published in the journal Conservation Science and Practice.
Also known as yuca (but distinct from the ornamental yucca plant) the root of the cassava is a staple of many Caribbean and South American meals – and it will thrive in conditions too difficult for many other plants.
A Gateway Crop
"Evidence suggests (cassava) could potentially revive degraded land and make it productive anew, generating numerous positive socioeconomic and environmental impacts with proper crop management," said Maria Eliza Villarino, the report's lead author and a researcher at the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), in the science publication, PhysOrg.
An estimated 40% of land in Colombia suffers from degradation, according to the alliance. It, therefore, "serves as a good testing ground for exploring the different possibilities that farming cassava could lead to."
The cassava could become a gateway crop, helping farmers bring once unproductive land back into use. Soil that has been revived could then be used to grow commercial crops like coffee or chocolate, corn or soy.
But Cassava Mustn't Tread the Same Path as Soy
The global market for soy is estimated at around $150 billion, and around 80% of all soy production comes from the U.S., Brazil and Argentina. Making space for soy farms has resulted in significant deforestation in parts of the Amazon rainforest, with the WWF estimating that "an area roughly the size of California" was lost to deforestation around the world between 2004 and 2017.
"We acknowledge that scaling up production of any commodity risks an increase in deforestation and biodiversity loss, and we need to do more research," Augusto Castro Nunez, a land-use and climate specialist at the alliance, said in the PhysOrg article. "But what we know is that we need something new; what has been done to prevent deforestation is not working, and this is something new."
Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.
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Like many other plant-based foods and products, CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. However, there are little to no regulations within the hemp industry when it comes to deeming a product as organic, which makes it increasingly difficult for shoppers to find the best CBD oil products available on the market.
Charlotte's Web<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDcwMjk3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzQ0NjM4N30.SaQ85SK10-MWjN3PwHo2RqpiUBdjhD0IRnHKTqKaU7Q/img.jpg?width=980" id="84700" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a2174067dcc0c4094be25b3472ce08c8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="charlottes web cbd oil" data-width="1244" data-height="1244" /><p>Perhaps one of the most well-known brands in the CBD landscape, Charlotte's Web has been growing sustainable hemp plants for several years. The company is currently in the process of achieving official USDA Organic Certification, but it already practices organic and sustainable cultivation techniques to enhance the overall health of the soil and the hemp plants themselves, which creates some of the highest quality CBD extracts. Charlotte's Web offers CBD oils in a range of different concentration options, and some even come in a few flavor options such as chocolate mint, orange blossom, and lemon twist.</p>
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COVID-19 is having disproportionate impacts on our nation's two million farmworkers, who as essential workers continue to toil in the fields despite numerous deadly outbreaks and no federal COVID-related workplace protections.
A Dangerous Regulatory Rollback<p>One key way the Biden Administration can start to correct the course is by enforcing and safeguarding the Worker Protection Standard (WPS), the main federal regulation that protects workers from pesticide exposure. Pesticide exposure weakens the respiratory, immune, and nervous systems — exacerbating farmworkers' COVID-19 risks.</p><p>Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Trump Administration made various efforts to weaken or eliminate key provisions of the WPS, which had been revised and improved at the end of the Obama Administration. The WPS is an outlier in occupational health standards – because pesticides, although they are a workplace hazard, are regulated by the EPA, instead of by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which covers occupational health in every other industry. This is just one example of how farmworkers are exempted from basic protections afforded to other workers.</p><p><span></span>Many of the Trump Administration's efforts to weaken the WPS were thwarted by advocacy and litigation by environmental and farmworker groups. However, one of the Trump Administration's proposed rollbacks of the WPS remains: the gutting of the Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ), which required pesticide handlers to stop applying pesticides if someone is near the area being sprayed. If the final Trump AEZ rule goes into effect, farmworkers in neighboring fields, children in school playgrounds or in their backyards, and rural residents going about their day may be in close proximity to where pesticides are being sprayed, as long as they're not on the same property, without any requirement that the applicator suspend spraying. <a href="https://www.usgs.gov/centers/oki-water/science/pesticides?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects" target="_blank">More than 1 billion pounds</a> of pesticides, designed to kill insects, weeds, and other pests, are applied to U.S. agricultural fields every year. In addition to acute poisonings, pesticides are also associated with <a href="https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/pesticide-poisoning-handbook-section-v-chronic-effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">long-term health harms</a> including various cancers, developmental and reproductive harm, and neurological damage, for both farmworkers and community members who are chronically exposed to pesticides.</p><p>In December 2020, Farmworker Justice and Earthjustice, acting on behalf of a coalition of groups including Migrant Clinicians Network, <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/groups-challenge-epas-move-to-gut-pesticide-spraying-safeguards?fbclid=IwAR3Od3YPk0BSdwxys27EQkc8PKOufVywlPX8g0i852iJ-PSBkqYPW4ZbB4g" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sued the EPA to stop these changes</a>. An injunction is currently in place preventing the changes from being implemented as the case proceeds – but the Biden Administration has a responsibility to protect these workers, rather than rely on courts. And the issue of pesticide drift on nearby properties is just one of the many challenges that farmworkers face when it comes to pesticide exposure.</p>
An Opportunity to Right Wrongs<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTYyOTExMS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjM2ODAzM30.szhrn2C7P9UtiBUNzlPOl4OPhcQdCAak_QA2ThsW0mQ/img.png?width=980" id="17a13" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="88f88bae616b22aae8238fa01dc075ca" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1250" data-height="732" />
Pesticide spray in Utah. Pesticide exposure is associated with various cancers, developmental and reproductive harm, and neurological damage. Aqua Mechanical / Flickr<p>These hard-working farmworkers, upon whom we all depend for the food we eat, deserve immediate and effective protections. The new Administration has a unique opportunity to take advantage of renewed public understanding of the exploitation of farmworkers, to provide long-overdue workplace protections to keep essential workers safe, and to transform our food systems to ensure healthy workplaces, neighborhoods, and the environment, by:</p><ul><li>Rejecting the Trump Administration's attempt to weaken the Application Exclusion Zone requirements;</li><li>Increasing the monitoring and enforcement of the WPS, including, but not limited to, provisions such as the minimum age of 18 for applying pesticides, adequate training for workers in a language that they understand, and worker access to information about pesticides being applied;</li><li>Requiring drift protections on pesticide labels for drift-prone pesticides, to better protect workers, bystanders, and communities;</li><li>Requiring that all pesticide label instructions be written in Spanish and/or other languages spoken by workers so they have the information they need to protect themselves and their families;</li><li>Banning highly toxic pesticides such as chlorpyrifos;</li><li>Using accurate scientific methods for determining pesticide risk, including taking into account farmworkers' potential long-term exposure, when making determinations about pesticide safety and the registration of pesticide products;</li><li>Including farmworkers and farmworker-serving organizations as key stakeholders at EPA, with a focus on environmental justice.</li></ul><p>These are just some of the essential steps the new administration can take to protect farmworkers from the extreme hazards of their workplaces. Much more needs to be done about the myriad factors that negatively impact farmworker health, like poverty, immigration status, language barriers, and fear of retaliation.</p><p>COVID-19 has shown that a strong public health system and a functional food system require basic health and human rights for all of our neighbors, especially those typically left out. The Biden Administration has a duty and an opportunity to improve our systems – and consequently improve our nation's health and well-being.</p><p><em>Amy K. Liebman is Director of Environmental and Occupational Health for </em><a href="http://www.migrantclinician.org/" target="_blank"><em>Migrant Clinicians Network</em></a><em>, a nonprofit focused on creating practical solutions at the intersection of vulnerability, migration, and health. </em></p><p><em>Iris Figueroa is the Director of Economic and Environmental Justice for </em><a href="http://www.farmworkerjustice.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Farmworker Justice</em></a><em>, a nonprofit that seeks to empower migrant and seasonal farmworkers to improve their living and working conditions, immigration status, health, occupational safety, and access to justice.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/farmworkers-deserve-pesticide-protections-2650404972/" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em></p>
By Ajit Niranjan
The way food is grown around the world threatens 24,000 of the 28,000 species that are at risk of extinction, according to a report published Wednesday that calls on world leaders to urgently reform the global food system.
Feeding the World<p>The food system sits at the heart of four worsening global crises: climate, extinction, hunger and obesity. With more than a third of the world's land used for agriculture, experts are grappling with how to feed a growing population more food that is healthy — while at the same time killing less wildlife and emitting fewer <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/un-report-woefully-inadequate-climate-pledges-spell-32c-temperature-rise/a-55878680" target="_blank">greenhouse gases</a>.</p><p>For decades, environmental activists have held up organic farms, which avoid synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, as a nature-friendly alternative to conventional agriculture. Some farmers have turned to regenerative practices that store carbon dioxide in soils and make crops more resilient to storms and droughts.</p><p>But ecologists say there is a catch.</p>
The Organic Dilemma<p>Because <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/organic-farming-certificate-africa/a-52352517" target="_blank">organic</a> and regenerative farms typically yield less food per hectare than industrial farms, sustainable farmers need to use more land if they are to grow the same amount of food.</p><p>A 2019 <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12622-7" target="_blank">study</a> published in the journal Nature Communications found that adopting organic farming across the UK would, in fact, lead to more greenhouse gas emissions. Lower yields at home would be offset by imported food from croplands that would expand onto natural ecosystems.</p><p>In the US, a detailed lifecycle assessment of a regenerative farm found that its greenhouse gas emissions for each kilogram of meat were 66% lower than conventional alternatives, but took up 2.5 times more land, according to a <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2020.544984/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a> published in December in the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems.</p><p>Experts say there isn't enough land to feed the world and its growing appetite for meat through sustainable farms alone, even if they were built on marginal lands like degraded cropland.</p><p>The only thing that will allow us to farm in a sustainable way is changing our demand for food, said Benton. "That sounds horribly elitist, middle-class, 'let's all go vegan'," he said. But it could free up demand for land that could then be satisfied by sustainable farms. </p><p>Beef and a few other red meats, for instance, supply 1% of the world's calories but account for 25% of the emissions that come with changing how land is used, according to a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-03138-y" target="_blank">study</a> published in the journal Nature in January. To produce the same amount of protein as tofu, beef uses up 75 more times land.</p><p>In countries like Brazil and Indonesia, foreign demand for commodities drives companies to raze rainforests to grow soy for cattle and <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/indonesia-palmoil-deforestation-peatlands-fires-climate-change/a-53587027" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">oil palm</a> for cooking and use in processed foods.</p><p>In many cases, the food is not even eaten. About a third of all food made is lost during production or wasted.</p>
Cheap, Unhealthy Food<p>The charge sheet ecologists have against industrial agriculture is long: destroying forest homes of endangered mammals like orangutans; killing bees that farmers rely on to pollinate crops; chopping trees that suck CO2 out of the atmosphere; and degrading soils that future generations will need to feed themselves.</p><p>But doctors, too, are worried.</p><p>Expanding farmlands raises the risk of zoonotic diseases crossing from animals to humans. Factory farms pump antibiotics into livestock that encourages the growth of bacteria that are resistant to treatment. And then there's nutrition.</p><p>Obesity rates have tripled in the last half century amid a rise in foods high in fat and sugars and a fall in physical activity, bringing greater risk of heart disease and some cancers. The World Health Organization has called on the food industry to reduce the fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods, and make sure that healthy choices are affordable to everybody.</p><p>"Our current food system is a double-edged sword shaped by decades of the cheaper food paradigm," said Susan Gardner, Director of UNEP's Ecosystems Division. It aims to make more food, quickly and cheaply, without considering the costs to biodiversity and health, she said.</p><p>But at the same time, cheap food prices and productivity increases in agriculture have given more people access to food, said Irene Hoffman, Secretary of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture at the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), who was not involved in the report. "Otherwise, our current food insecurity index would be much, much higher."</p><p>The world population has doubled in the last 50 years to 7.8 billion people. While food production has kept up, 1 in 10 people today still go to bed hungry each night. By 2050, when the population is expected to reach nearly 10 billion people, the competition for land will be even greater because of efforts to grow plants to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.</p><p>A landmark <a href="https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0140673618317884" target="_blank">study</a> published in the medical journal Lancet in 2019 found that world leaders could feed 10 billion people and still stay within a "safe operating space on Earth" by radically changing food production and shifting diets.</p><p>And doing so, the authors found, would make people healthier.</p><p>A move to healthy, sustainable diets would involve eating half as much red meat and sugar globally, and twice as many nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes. It would avoid more than 7 million premature deaths per year, as well as reducing pressure on <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/biodiversity-sixth-mass-extinction-animals-plants-kew-conservation-species-gerardo-ceballos/a-55099955" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">nature</a>. </p><p>This, in turn, this would also make the farms more resilient to shocks like climate change, disease and soil erosion, safeguarding food supplies for the future.</p><p><span></span>"There's often a tendency to play nature against agriculture, which is absolutely not the case," said Hoffmann. "Agriculture depends on biodiversity, it is shaped by biodiversity [and] it manages biodiversity." </p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-food-biodiversity-extinction-food-waste-health-meat-plant-based/a-56416006" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em></p>
In the outskirts of Newark, New Jersey, tucked between a packaging manufacturer and an aquatics center lies a farm. Except, if you're driving down the nearby highway you probably wouldn't be able to tell that this particular farm is churning out thousands of pounds of greens each year. In fact, all you'll see is a bunch of buildings, because this is a vertical farming operation called AeroFarms, which grows all their food in a warehouse. Like the owners of AeroFarms, tech enthusiasts across the world have embraced the dream of vertical farming, exclaiming that their operations are the answer to feeding a growing global population, combating climate change, and eradicating food deserts.
By Mahima Jain
Over recent months Raja, a farmer in India's Tamil Nadu state, has had a change of routine.
Farming in Crisis<p>Farmers and activists fear the legislation will exacerbate existing stresses in the agricultural sector, which has experienced stagnant growth for six years and decades of rising debt. The pressures are believed to have <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/india-children-grapple-with-the-aftermath-of-farmer-suicides/a-51213478" target="_blank">pushed thousands to suicide</a>.</p><p>"There is so much uncertainty," said Raja, whose income hasn't increased for over a decade. "Before the software boom of the 1990s, I was earning as much as my engineer friends. Today, I am nowhere." He's been selling a 75 kg bag of paddy rice at around $13 (€10.70), less than the government's minimum price support, for over 15 years. </p><p>Raja worries that the new laws, which weaken price guarantees for certain crops, will leave farmers even more vulnerable. </p><p>The current laws push for contract farming, wherein farmers enter into legally binding agreements with large corporations and private players. Activists say this will place them in an unequal power relation, as a failure to deliver crops due to harvest loss could even mean loss of land. </p><p>A breakthrough in calming the months of protest initially appeared to come on January 12 when the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/india-supreme-court-puts-contentious-farms-laws-on-hold/a-56208301" target="_blank">Supreme Court decided to temporarily suspend the legislation</a>. But it was not the victory many hoped for. </p><p>"Farmers movements are against the Supreme Court order," said Ashlesha Khadse, activist and volunteer with Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch, a women farmers group. </p><p>The court has appointed a committee to hold further discussions between protesters and government officials to help resolve the ongoing dispute. Khadse says farmers believe the appointed members are supporters of the laws and will continue protesting until they are fully repealed. </p>
Ecological Roots of Crisis<p>She also argues the legislation fails to tackle the root causes of the sector's problems.</p><p>"The laws don't mention the environment," said Khadse. "But the farm crisis today has ecological roots." </p><p>She says that today's problems can be traced back to the 1960s Green Revolution, when the government supported industrial cultivation of specific crops and adopted modern technology to maximize output. India's food basket was homogenized as certain crops — mainly high-yield varieties of rice, wheat and pulses — were favored over others. </p><p>Land has been left depleted by monocultural cultivation of high-yield seed varieties, said Khadse. She believes the costs of inputs needed to keep producing has pushed farmers into a cycle of debt.</p><p>"The increase in agricultural productivity has come at a tremendous cost to the environment," said Thomson Jacob, a policy consultant at the Centre for Biodiversity Policy and Law in Chennai. Jacob says these include loss of soil nutrients, excessive irrigation, water scarcity, indiscriminate application of some nutrients and pesticides and loss of agrobiodiversity. </p><p>Farmers today are dealing not only with the legacy of the Green Revolution but the added impacts of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/indias-himalayan-apple-farmers-feel-the-heat/a-51607119" target="_blank">climate change</a>. Those working in the agricultural sector, which employs over 40% of India's labor force, grapple with drought and flooding. </p><p>Raja says a changing and unpredictable climate is affecting the yield on his farm. In late November last year, his crops were partially damaged as a result of Cyclone Nivar. Research shows that cyclonic activity in the Bay of Bengal, along which Tamil Nadu sits, has been rapidly intensifying due to rising temperatures.<a href="https://indiaclimatedialogue.net/2020/06/05/cyclones-rise-as-climate-change-heats-up-indian-ocean/#:~:text=Like%20Nisarga%20and%20Amphan%2C%20a,factors%20driving%20this%20rapid%20intensification.&text=%E2%80%9CThese%20are%20record%20temperatures%20driven%20by%20climate%20change." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"></a></p>
Further Incentivizing Monoculture<p>Although cultivation practices have been intensified since the Green Revolution, today 82% of Indian farmers still have lands of less than 5 acres (2 hectares).</p><p>Karthik Gunasekar, an activist with Chennai Climate Action Group, believes a further deregulated market will add pressure to increase output.</p><p>"These new laws will push monocultural farming and unsustainable practices," said Gunasekar. He argues the laws should be repealed and that price protection should instead be offered for a more diverse range of crops to incentivize their cultivation. <br> <br>Without the security of a base price and poor market linkage, India's indigenous crops — which are not high-yielding — have fallen out of favor over the years. </p><p>However, Jacob says that if farmers are given incentives to produce traditional seed varieties then the push for contract farming could be used to help reverse the decline engendered by the Green Revolution. </p><p>"If contract farming encourages organic products, it will <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/social-entrepreneurship-for-sustainable-farming-in-india/a-42147375" target="_blank">enhance agrobiodiversity</a>," said Jacob, adding this could be through export of traditional rice varieties and certified organic products. </p><p>Raja is less optimistic for the future. He feels disillusioned by the fact that instead of engaging with the farmers as equals, the government has left them at the mercy of courts and corporations. </p><p>"I don't want my children to enter this occupation, even though we've done it for generations," he says. "We farmers no longer trust the government."</p><p><span></span>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-ecological-roots-of-india-s-farming-crisis/a-56368937" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</p>
Two of the four interconnected crises prioritized by the Biden administration — climate change and systemic racism — converge on Black farmers, The New York Times reports.
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By Andrea Germanos
Global environmental justice campaigners heralded a Dutch court's ruling Friday that Royal Dutch Shell's Nigerian subsidiary must pay punitive restitution to Nigerian villages for oil spill contamination that brought death, illness, and destruction to Nigerian farmers and communities.
By Karen Scofield Seal
Demand for plant-based food and nutrition is growing. According to recent retail sales data, grocery sales of plant-based foods in place of animal products grew 29% in the U.S. to $5 billion between 2017 and 2019.
How Oceanium's technology works. Oceanium
Seaweed farming in Oban, Scotland. Oceanium
A pilot trial of Oceanium's proprietary biorefinery process. Oceanium
Oceanium research associate Andre Rastica at work. Oceanium<p>We are scaling our innovative biorefinery process – we processed approximately 8 tonnes of wet seaweed in December and have plans for 45 tonnes in 2021.</p><p>Meanwhile, we are continuing to build relationships with seaweed farmers in the UK, EU and North America. We are also fundraising for further R&D, patent applications and undergoing regulatory processes as we prepare to launch products in 2021. We are well on our way to "Kelp the World"!</p><h2>What Resources or Assistance Do You Need to Achieve Your Ambitions That You Currently Don't Have? Is There Any Assistance That the Uplink Community Could Offer?</h2><p>Definitely. Our nutraceutical products will go to market next year and we are looking for commercial or business development experts in the nutrition and cosmetics space. Importantly, we are also fundraising so always keen to connect with funders and investors!</p>
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The Trump administration said Tuesday that federal protection for monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act is still a few years away. The reason? The administration cited 161 vulnerable species that are already waiting in line ahead of monarchs.
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By Amanda Fong
Food Tank is highlighting 26 books that help show young people that food can be a universal language. These stories illuminate the ways that food is used to show love, bring together communities, pass on traditions, and teach lessons. And their authors show that no matter a person's background and culture, nutritious food shared with loved ones can help bring anyone together.
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Climate change is making ancient Hopi farming nearly impossible, threatening not just the Tribe's staple food source, but a pillar of its culture and religion, the Arizona Republic reports.