March conference to explore future of Michigan farming

 A conference exploring the political, legal, and historical forces that shape farming in Michigan and how to chart a path to a more sustainable food system is set March 9 at Michigan State University during MSU’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Week.

Presented by the Less=More Coalition, Farming Our Future: The Forces and Faces of 21st Century Agriculture will channel diverse national, regional and local conversations about environmental, economic and social impacts of modern agriculture into a comprehensive forum to facilitate joint efforts to build a better food system. 
The event is set 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 9, at the Kellogg Center Auditorium, 219 S. Harrison, East Lansing. Admission is $25; $20 for students (with school ID). To register, visit: http://tinyurl.com/FarmingOurFuture.  For an agenda and more information, visit http://michigan.sierraclub.org/calendar/LESS=MORE_Conference.html  
Keynote addresses by Tim Gibbons, communications director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, and Danielle Nierenberg, president of Food Tank in Chicago, will bring together agricultural policy and legal experts, farmers, consumers and researchers in two panel discussions.
Gibbons’ keynote, The Forces Shaping 21st Century Agriculture, will examine the past, present and potential future of farming and explore the role of the federal Farm Bill and other policies in creating the industrial food system. Gibbons has led successful efforts in Missouri to shift Farm Bill subsidies from support of factory farm practices, which include systems to deal with the huge amounts of animal waste they generate, to those of sustainable livestock farmers. Pollution from agriculture has been blamed in part for toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie that last year contaminated drinking water used by residents in Toledo and southern Michigan.
Gibbons’ talk will be followed by a panel featuring Dr. M. Jahi Chappell, director of agroecology and agriculture policy at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy; Pete Kennedy, president of the Farm-to?Consumer Legal Defense Fund; and Phil Howard, an associate professor in MSU’s Department of Community Sustainability.
Nierenberg’s keynote, The Faces of 21st Century Agriculture, about sustainable farming and emerging trends will explore obstacles and opportunities for sustainable farmers today. Her talk will be followed by a panel including Joe Maxwell, a hog farmer and vice president of outreach and engagement at The Humane Society of the United States; Michelle Jackson, a fourth?generation African American urban farmer in Detroit; and Michael Vandenbrug, a sustainable farmer in West Michigan and agricultural operations director in the community outreach department of the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids.
Less=More is a sustainable agriculture coalition tackling the inequity of Farm Bill subsidies in Michigan that favor polluting factory farms over safe, sustainable livestock farms at the expense of the environment and public health.
For more information, visit, www.MoreforMichigan.org.

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