The Libby List

In honor of Russell Libby’s leadership and consistent efforts to keep his co-workers, colleagues and constituents informed of the news most relevant to the future of agriculture and food systems, we offer this weekly list of news items for your perusal and reference. These items appear in no particular order, and are not categorized at this time, but hopefully reflect issues of importance to most people who receive this post. The Call to Farms project takes no official position with respect to any of the opinions reflected in this collection of articles.  To refer articles for inclusion in the list, please email a link and brief description to

Libby List

February 13-19

1.  “It’s Important”

Perhaps the best all-round summary of Russell’s life and impact on the agricultural community in Maine and beyond.  Titled with two of his last words, reflecting his intention that others continue the work he started. 

2. Recalling Russell Libby

New story with folks we know sharing stories about Russell.

3.  Scientists in Mexico Herald Agriculture Revolution in Food Security Push

Follow the money…

An agriculture centre part funded by Carlos Slim and Bill Gates hopes to 'provide food security for generations' but the centre's GM research is not welcomed by everyone

4.  Do GMO Crops Really Have Higher Yields?

Philpott reports: USDA study confirms lower yields in GM crops.

5. What’s the Real Purpose of the Agriculture Census?

Interesting commentary from a former staffer of Maine’s Rep. Mike Michaud’s office about how underutilized the census data is in setting policy - for example:  growing trends in local and organic agriculture have led to virtually no shift in funding priorities for the USDA.

6. and 7. How Millions of Farmers are Advancing Agriculture for Themselves

India’s Rice Revolution

Two articles detailing a “revolutionary” method of farming that is yielding very impressive results.  Of course, the “less is more” concept is really just another way of saying “low input farming” or, put another, high input of farmer know-how.  One wonders how long it will take Monsanto to patent the idea. 

8. Farmer’s Supreme Court Challenge Puts Monsanto Patents at Risk 

Supreme Court hears case of 75-year-old Indiana farmer who is being sued by Monsanto for planting soybeans he bought at the local elevator.  Otherwise a loyal customer for Monsanto, Vernon Hugh Bowman carries the hopes/dreams of all people for a just and sustainable food system on his shoulders.  If he loses his case, we may need to take seriously the initiation of an alternative food/ag economy altogether. 

9.  Sustainable Farming Not All It Aims to Be

Just in case you need some motivation from the dark (i.e. Baxter Black) side... 

10. and 11. Nearly Half of All US Farms Now Have Superweeds 

When Resistance is Futile Bring in the Robots to Pull Superweeds 

Two articles (one from a few weeks ago) that describe the growing presence of superweeds...and the solution?

12.  Warming Effect of Urban Activities Felt Widely 

More complicating factors in trying to determine how climate change will impact us.


Check out the Organic Consumers Association, an excellent resource for all things organic.

Organics Are Looking Up. 

"Organic crop systems can have similar yields and much higher economic returns than a conventional corn-soybean rotation, according to 13 years of data from Iowa State University's Neely-Kinyon Research and Demonstration Farm. The Long-Term Agroecological Research Experiment (LTAR) is led by Iowa State Professor Kathleen Delate, who says that the transitioning years are the hardest but can be competitive with conventional crops even then. Over 13 years, mean yields of organic corn, soy and oats equaled or slightly exceeded conventional, and a 12-year mean for alfalfa and an 8-year mean for winter wheat showed no significant difference between organic yields and the Adair County average. Also, mean returns from organic systems were calculated to be roughly $200 per acer more than for conventional. Total nitrogen increased by 33 percent in the organic (manure amended) plots, which also had higher concentrations of carbon, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, and calcium, The results suggest that organic farming can foster more efficient nutrient use and higher carbon sequestration. Weed control in organic farming included timely tilling and longer rotations. Allelopathic chemicals from rye and alfalfa help control weeds, as does growing alfalfa cover crop in winter, which provided cover for beneficial insects and animals. LTAR's findings concur with those from the Rodale Institute's 30-year Farming Systems Trail in Pennsylvania, which concluded that organic systems can provide similar yields to and greater profits than conventional. In addition, organic crops required 45 percent less energy, and contributed significantly less to greenhouse gas emissions. Organic corn was especially profitable during droughts, when yields were 31 percent higher then conventional." ("A Compendium of Food and Agriculture News: Organic Matter," Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener March-May, 2012; Volume 40/Number 1).("Long-running experiment shows organic farming is profitable," Nov. 15, 2011;' 

"A poll of almost 1,300 U.S. families, conducted for the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and 'Kiwi Magazine', found that 78 percent of U.S. families say they are choosing organic foods. Four in 10 families say they are buying more organic products than they were a year ago - in line with OTA's 2011 Organic Industry Survey, which showed U.S. organic industry growth of 8 percent in 2010. Forthy-eight percent of parents surveyed said their strongest motivator for buying organic is their belief that organic products '" are healthier for me and my children.'" Other motivators included concern over effects of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics on children, and the desire to avoid highly processed or artificial ingredients..." ("A Compendium of Food and Agriculture News: Organic Matter," Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener March-May, 2012; Volume 40/Number 1).(Organic Trade Assoc. press release, Nov.2, 2011;

Need more resources now?  Contact us!