Daniel Charles

Updated July 23, 2021 at 10:29 AM ET

The next time you pick up some California-grown carrots or melons in the grocery store, consider the curious, contested odyssey of the water that fed them. Chances are, farmers pumped that water from underground aquifers on a scale that's become unsustainable, especially as the planet heats up.

Facing an ongoing drought that is squeezing surface water supplies, farmers are extracting groundwater at higher rates to continue growing food as usual.

Updated July 5, 2021 at 7:34 PM ET

Four more bodies have been recovered from the ruins of the collapsed condo tower in Surfside, Fl., bringing the total death toll to 28. A total of 117 individuals remain unaccounted for, according to authorities leading the search and rescue operation.

Updated July 7, 2021 at 2:19 AM ET

As it moves along Florida's west coast, Elsa has been downgraded to a tropical storm.

The National Hurricane Center says that Elsa will likely make landfall along the Florida Gulf Coast by late Wednesday morning. From there, forecasters predict that the eye of the storm will come ashore north of Tampa Bay, then move slowly along the eastern seaboard for the next few days.

A recent ransomware attack on the world's biggest meatpacker is raising questions about cybersecurity in the food industry and about whether the industry is so concentrated in a few hands it is more vulnerable to sudden shocks.

On the corner of East 123rd Street and Imperial Avenue, in Cleveland, Shirley Bell-Wheeler watches over a community garden with freshly planted raspberries, purple asparagus and a little apple tree.

"Trees are trees, but fruit trees are just better," she says with a hearty laugh. Bell-Wheeler is a full-time teacher aide, part-time gardener and the guardian of all green things in this neighborhood. She wishes there were more of them.

Workmen have invaded Flora Dillard's house on the east side of Cleveland. There's plastic over everything and no place to sit, but Dillard doesn't seem to mind. "A couple of days of inconvenience is nothing, compared to the results that you get," she says.

The fight against climate change may be taking a striking new turn under the Biden administration. The White House is calling climate action a form of environmental justice, part of a campaign to address economic and racial inequity.

Hardly a week goes by, it seems, without a big food company making promises to deliver products from green, sustainable farms. Turning those promises into reality, though, can be complicated.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

World leaders gathered for a virtual climate summit earlier this week, they promised to stop releasing so much heat-trapping greenhouse gas into the air. And we can all do the same. NPR's Life Kit and science correspondent Dan Charles have some tips for how to reduce carbon emissions from our homes.

North Dakota has lots of coal. It also has strong and consistent winds. It might be the perfect spot to showcase the long-awaited "energy transition" from climate-warming fossil fuels to climate-saving renewables.

Farming has destroyed a lot of the rich soil of America's Midwestern prairie. A team of scientists just came up with a staggering new estimate for just how much has disappeared.

The most fertile topsoil is entirely gone from a third of all the land devoted to growing crops across the upper Midwest, the scientists say. Some of their colleagues, however, remain skeptical about the methods that produced this result.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Updated on March 10th at 12:30 p.m. ET

Facing the rising threat of wildfire and extreme drought, Flagstaff, Ariz., unveiled an ambitious effort two years ago to cut the heat-trapping emissions that drive climate change.

Back in the spring, farmers who raise pigs were in a panic. Many major customers, such as food service companies that supply restaurants, weren't buying pork. Prices had fallen sharply. Some hog farmers had no place to ship their animals because so many workers in pork processing plants got sick from COVID-19.

"Our folks need a lifeline," said Nick Giordano, top lobbyist for the National Pork Producers Council, on a call with journalists in May. "Unless there is a large cash infusion from the federal government, we're going to lose a lot of producers."

Hundreds of native North American plants, often dismissed as weeds, deserve a lot more respect, according to a new study. These plants, distant cousins of foods like cranberries and pumpkins, actually represent a botanical treasure now facing increased threat from climate change, habitat loss and invasive species.

President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Obama Cabinet veteran and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as secretary of agriculture, a source familiar with transition discussions confirmed to NPR.

Vilsack returns to an agency he helmed for eight years as Barack Obama's agriculture secretary.

Just over a decade ago, the American Farm Bureau Federation declared war on legislation to slow down global warming. The organization, a lobbying powerhouse, argued that a "cap-and-trade" proposal making its way through Congress would make fuel and fertilizer more expensive and put farmers out of business.

While most people in the country were focused on counting votes last week, the U.S. Department of Labor published some controversial new rules dealing with farm labor.

Some of the most popular products of biotechnology — corn and cotton plants that have been genetically modified to fend off insects — are no longer offering the same protection from those bugs. Scientists say that the problem results from farmers overusing the crops, and are pushing for new regulations.

These crops were the original genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. They weren't the first ones invented, but they were the first to be widely embraced by farmers, starting in the late 1990s.

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