By some estimates, producing our food consumes about a fifth of the nation's energy supply. It takes a lot of diesel to move tractors and semis around the farm, and electricity to pump water and dry grain. But some farmers are trying to cut back on the coal and gas they use and make our food system more energy efficient.
Like all business owners, farmers want to get paid for their work. Sometimes, that work creates problems for the environment, so regulators are advancing the idea of creating environmental markets to allow farmers to make money off of their conservation practices.
Corn and soybeans are the two crops at the center of the U.S. food system. In order to grow massive amounts of the crops, farmers in the Midwest typically apply hundreds of pounds of fertilizer on every acre they farm. This practice allows food companies to produce and consumers to consume a lot of relatively cheap food.