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Sobering

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Touch the Soil News #805 (Feature photo – The National Congress Building of Brazil – a government unable to exert sufficient control over exploitation of the indigenous people in rural areas – copyright free) Far away in the rainforests and hinterlands of Brazil, agribusinesses and big finance can be found plundering the environment and the indigenous folks who live there.­­­ Recently, a delegation of 30 human rights, development and rural experts collaborated in an unprecedented visit (investigation) to the Brazilian hinterlands. The goal was to uncover rumors of gross misconduct towards indigenous folks from large soybean farm enterprises. See the report summary here: http://www.fian.org/en/news/article/caravana_matopiba_uncovers_alarming_human_and_environmental_costs_of_agribusiness/ The investigation was an international fact…

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Unrest in Farmland USA

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Touch the Soil News #781 According to an Iowa State University Land Value Survey, the going price for an acre of farmland in Iowa was $419 in 1970. By 2016, an acre of Iowa farmland averaged $7,183 – an increase of 1,600 percent. Today, America has around 918 million acres of farmland. Of that amount 318 million is primary farm ground for crops – grain, potatoes, soybeans, vegetables and fruits. The remaining 600 million acres is pasture for livestock. According to the USDA, about 30 percent of farmland (275 million acres) is not owned by farmers, but by non-farmers renting it out. With the median age of the American farmer…

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Nut Trees – Increasingly Desirable Agricultural Assets

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Touch the Soil News #757 (feature photo – Pastachio nuts on the tree – Paolo Galli CC SA 3.0) When the health and nutrition community recognizes certain foods as healthier or health supporting, chances are the financial investments in those commodities will follow. Case in point. Gladstone Land is a company whose business model is based upon owning agricultural land in that produces fruit, vegetables and nuts – no livestock, corn, soybeans or hay. It is not an accident that Gladstone follows land that produces foods most important to health. Nuts are a rising star as relates to healthy eating and Gladstone Land just announced (7/17/2017) that it has purchased…

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Africa’s Richest Man – To Be World’s Largest Farmer?

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Touch the Soil News #751 (feature photo – Aliko Dangote – photo courtesy of the World Economic Forum CC SA 2.0) In the U.S. today, when farmers look to buy land to expand, they generally buy a retiring neighbor’s farm. Mostly they are parcels of a few hundred acres. A one (1) thousand acre parcel would be considered large purchase. The largest farms in America are in the 20,000 to 40,000 acre range with a few that can be larger. Expanding his stake in the farming scene is African billionaire Aliko Dangote (age 60). Forbes estimates that Dangote has an estimated net worth of $12.5 billion, which puts him within…

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Farmland Consciousness

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Touch the Soil News #739 We’ve all been in cities and watched how the nation’s best farmland was being urbanized. In 1950, the nation’s farmers were working 1,202,000,000 acres (1 billion 202 million acres). In 2017, the nation’s farmers are working only 910 million acres. Primarily due to urbanization, America has 292 million less acres. Of concern and for which there are no numbers, between 1950 and 1980 there were millions of acres of farmland still coming on line. Due to irrigation improvements and access to lands not previously farmed, our best guess estimate is that America has lost another 60 million acres hidden behind the larger overall net loss…

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Time to Think About Farmland Again

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Touch the Soil News #605 (Feature photo – Shanghai, China with a metro population of over 35 million is consuming farmland on its outer edges). We all understand that civilization began in the most fertile areas and then expands out. Accordingly, a large sector of the world’s best farmland has been urbanized. Estimates are that the best farmland that has been urbanized and is about to be urbanized around mega-cities is almost twice as productive as farmland farther out. Recently, a group of scientists from Yale, Texas A&M, the University of Maryland and research institutions in Germany, New Zealand, Sweden and Austria gathered to study the loss of farmland mega-trend.…

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USA Farmland Transition

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Touch the Soil News #588 Over the last decade, economists have been warning about farm operators getting older. Today, about 1/3 of farm owners are over 65. A greater issue than the age of the farmer is the cost of farming and farm assets. Mainstream agriculture is so capital intensive that $1 million doesn’t mean much these days. Due to the aging farm operator population, the USDA just announced that they expect 10 percent of all farmland to change hands over the next five years. Total U.S. farmland stands at around 900 million acres. That means 90 million acres are set to change hands. Good cropland can sell for $10,000…

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Chinese Investors Pursue Food of the Gods (Chocolate)

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Touch the Soil News #508 (Feature Photo – Aztec sculpture with cocoa pod) The cocoa bean (or cacao bean) grows on the trunks of the cacao tree. It grows in tropical zones and is processed after harvesting to make cocoa solids and cocoa butter – the basis of chocolate. The cacao tree is native to the Americas and has been cultivated for its bean for almost 5,000 years. Today, 75 percent of the cacao beans are produced in Africa, 15 percent in the Americas and about 10 percent in Oceania. Cocoa beans drying in the sun (photo courtesy of Irene Scott/AusAID). In order to assure a reliable supply of this…

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What Can Be Done About the 90 million Acres?

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Touch the Soil News #505 In the global rush to own farmland, Oxfam recently reported that more than 1,500 land deals sought over the last 16 years now have contracts and their intended projects are getting up and running. The problem is that these land deals cover about 90 million acres and up to 59 percent of the land is claimed by indigenous peoples. Tractors, bulldozers and corrupt local officials are pushing these indigenous people off the land and often into desperation. Local people in East Africa perform a drama illustrating the perils facing many Africans due to foreign land grabs aided by corrupt local officials (photo courtesy of Oxfam).…

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Words of Premonition?

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Touch the Soil News #498 The chairman of the Chinese overseas trade council – Jiang Zengwei – recently made a foretelling announcement. “We must help Chinese agriculture go global, as people have an increased demand for agricultural products with improved quality.” Less than two years ago, China was still steeped in policies that obliged the nation to attempt to produce its own food. That failed, and China is now openly grazing around the world for agricultural assets. Yes, some of the food will be purchased on the global market. However, much of it will come in the form of owning agricultural assets – farmland, food manufacturing facilities, transportation facilities and…

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