Reuters blog archive
from Photographers' Blog:
Gruyeres, western Switzerland
By Denis Balibouse
In summer, some go to the seaside or countryside, visit a new city or country, but some choose to live a different way. The Murith family will not have a day off: they will work 15 hours a day, seven days a week from mid-May to mid-October.
I've known the Muriths for more than 10 years. Last December I called them to discuss the idea that I would photograph them over the 2013 summer. We met for lunch and over a meal I found out that Jacques, who is turning 65 (the official retirement age in Switzerland) was in the process of handing down his farm and its cheese-making business to the sixth generation: his 23-year-old son Alexandre. I was intrigued by this news, as I've been thinking a lot about agriculture in Switzerland, and how it faces a somewhat uncertain future, partly because the country is surrounded by EU nations with lower production and land costs, making it a tough way to earn a living. Despite this, exports have grown over the last 10 years and production has focused on quality.
I was struck by the intense concentration required during the six hour process. Because they're working with what is essentially a living thing, every second counts: one minute too long and the cheese may be unsuitable for maturation, ruining hours of hard work. Every element, such as the temperature of the milk in the morning and the weather add a different combination of factors. Jacques' senses were on alert: touch, sight, smell and taste especially. All the knowledge of the craftsman came in to play as he made the cheese. It's not something you can learn in a book.
Jacques never actually studied cheese-making -- he learned on the job. Each wheel of cheese weighs between 25 to 40 kilograms (55 to 88 lbs). Depending on the time of year one or two wheels can be produced per day. It takes a minimum of six months to mature but can last as long as 18 months depending on the quality required. The Murith family produce around 200 wheels each year from the unpasteurized milk from their herd of cows. It is not exported but can be bought directly from them.
from Expert Zone:
(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)
Industrial growth in India in 2012 was less than a percent and data from April and May this year doesn’t show a lot of promise. The reluctance of industry to grow has been the reason for GDP growth dropping to a disappointing 5 percent, raising doubts about whether the India story has come to an end. That may be an extreme view considering that even the best performers, such as China, are having problems.
But there is a glimmer of hope. Monsoon rains have been above average this year and a bumper crop is expected. Agriculture contributes to around 20 percent of India’s GDP and even an 8 percent increase in agricultural production will at best improve GDP growth by a percent. But agriculture does have an impact on industry and both together can make a perceptible difference.
from Lipper Columns:
Teucrium Trading's Sal Gilbertie says that, while agricultural commodity prices will always be volatile, he sees investor interest in corn outpacing that in wheat or soybeans.
from Global Investing:
The course is more than 20 million square kilometers, and covers 15 percent of the world's land surface. It's not a new event in next month's IAAF World Championships in Moscow but a long-term project to better integrate emerging Eurasian economies.
The eventual aim of a new economic union for post-Soviet states, known as the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), is to "substitute previously existing ones," according to Tatiana Valovaya, Russia's minister in charge of development of integration and macroeconomics, at a media briefing in London last week.
from Reihan Salam:
This week, House Republicans passed a farm bill that reauthorizes and expands a wide range of federal subsidies for the agricultural sector. The bill, which is expected to cost $195 billion over the next decade, is far smaller than an earlier $939 billion version that went down to defeat last month, in what was widely seen as yet another blow to House Speaker John Boehner. Conservatives and libertarians are outraged. Heritage Action for America, the advocacy wing of the Heritage Foundation, has issued a scathing denunciation, as has policy expert Sallie James of the Cato Institute, who warns that even the modest savings promised in the farm bill are likely to prove illusory.
And liberals are also furious, as the House GOP, in an effort to paper over internal disagreements, decided to separate out the nutrition programs that had been in an earlier version of the bill, to be dealt with at a later date. Under the earlier version of the farm bill, nutrition programs -- which include SNAP, the food stamp program that currently enrolls 47.6 million people -- were expected to cost $743 billion over the next decade, $20.5 billion less than under the status quo. Congressional Democrats opposed the cuts on the grounds that they were too steep, while conservative GOP rebels insisted that they were too small.
from The Human Impact:
It's that "Will they? Won't they?" time of year in India. The annual monsoon season is due and - given that the country's mostly rain-fed agriculture makes up 15 percent of gross domestic product, with hundreds of millions of Indians dependent on it - these rains are a serious business.
Before its onset in June, right through the end of the season in September, we track the monsoon's trajectory, pore over data, question forecasters, speak to pundits - all in hope of getting an accurate analysis on whether India will receive timely and adequate rainfall.
from The Human Impact:
As India's western state of Maharashtra reels from the worst drought in over four decades and millions of people face the risk of hunger, a top official has sparked outrage with a crass, insensitive joke that he should urinate in the region's empty dams to solve water shortages.
Ajit Pawar, deputy chief minister of Maharashtra and former irrigation minister, referred in a speech last weekend to a poor drought-hit farmer who had been on hunger strike for almost two months to demand more water.
By Reynolds Holding
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
Americans should have the right to resell their property, be it books, digital bytes or beans. Yet U.S. courts are all over the map on the issue of what can be sold and resold. Judges have ruled that peddling dusty old tomes is fine, but digital tunes are different. The jury is still out on genetically altered legumes. Why so complicated? The relevant law is broad enough to satisfy consumers and rights holders alike.
from The Great Debate:
Recently, the Texas commissioner of agriculture reacted with outrage to the fact that employees of the United States Department of Agriculture would dare suggest, in an internal newsletter on "greening" the Washington headquarters, that co-workers might consider practicing "Meatless Mondays" to reduce the environmental impact of their diet. "Last I checked," blogged Commissioner Todd Staples, "USDA had a very specific duty to promote and champion American agriculture. Imagine Ford or Chevy discouraging the purchase of their pickup trucks. Anyone else see the absurdity? How about the betrayal?"
Staples went on to call the suggestion to forgo meat once in a while "treasonous." L'état, c'est boeuf. But there's a bigger question: Is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's purpose, indeed, simply to promote the consumption of American commodities in the same way Ford tries to sell F-150s? Or is it instead to help agriculture work for the American public at large?
from The Great Debate UK:
Bob Sandford is the EPCOR Chair in support of the United Nations Water for Life Decade in Canada and a member of the Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy. He is also an advisor to RBC’s Blue Water Project. The opinions expressed are his own.
Because of its small population, large area, extensive agricultural regions and relatively high per capita availability of water, Canada is considered to be among the world’s most important food-producing nations.