Family farms are struggling with two hidden challenges

Agriculture, Family, Policies

Family farms are struggling with two hidden challenges

Kat Becker feeds hundreds of people with the vegetables she grows on her Wisconsin farm, and she wants to expand. But her ability to grow her business collides with her need for affordable health insurance and child care.

She has had to make difficult choices over the years: keep her farm income low enough so her children can qualify for the state’s public health insurance, or expand the farm and buy expensive private insurance. To look after her three young children, she could hire a cheap but inexperienced babysitter, or spend a significant share of her income on child care and have peace of mind that the kids are safe from dangers on the farm. “The stable choice for my children to have health insurance is an irrational choice for my farm business,” she said.

We’ve heard numerous stories like Kat’s in our work as social scientists supporting the next generation of farmers. Through thousands of interviews, surveys and conversations with farmers across the country, we have documented how household expenses like access to health care and child care undercut investments that could increase food production across the United States.

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Faces of Unemployment: Waiting and appealing

Economy, Policies

Faces of Unemployment: Waiting and appealing

Toni Matis of West Bend has appeared on TMJ4 News before. She has been fighting to get unemployment benefits for nearly a year.

To get by, she rationed her medication. Today, she is on the verge of having her car repossessed. And says she would have lost her housing without the help of a sympathetic landlord. Her hearing was held one year to the day since she first started interacting with the unemployment system. After a year of fighting, an administrative law judge has ruled in her favor.

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20 Hotspots to Start Fixing Nitrogen Pollution in Agriculture

Agriculture, Policies

20 Hotspots to Start Fixing Nitrogen Pollution in Agriculture

Surplus nitrogen from farm fertilizer contaminates drinking water, creates dead zones, and contributes to climate change. A new study pinpoints prime places to target with solutions.

Nitrogen pollution is one of agriculture’s biggest and most intractable problems. Crops can’t grow without the critical nutrient, and because sources of nitrogen are easy to come by—synthetic fertilizer is cheap and manure from large animal agriculture operations is plentiful—farmers often apply too much, to try to ensure the highest yields.

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