Grant Gerlock

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Harvest Public Media
7:58 am
Mon June 16, 2014

Midwest A Cattle Paradise As Drought Stretches Beef Country

Cattle come to Van Housen Feed Yard to be fattened up before heading to one of the nearby meat packing plants. Drought in beef states like Texas and Oklahoma has led to growth feedlots in Nebraska.
Grant Gerlock Harvest Public Media

Drought is re-shaping the beef map and raising the price of steak. Ranchers are moving herds from California to Colorado and from Texas to Nebraska seeking refuge from dry weather. And cattle producers in the Midwest are making the most of it.

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Harvest Public Media
7:52 am
Tue June 10, 2014

A Signal To Hog Producers: Cargill To Stop Use Of Gestation Crates

Barns like this one often house more than a thousand pregnant sows in gestation crates.
Credit Sarah McCammon / Harvest Public Media

Cargill, one of the country’s largest pork producers,announced Monday that it will stop using gestation crates, the controversial narrow cages meant to house and separate sows. Cargill is joining other major meatpackers, like competitors Tyson and Smithfield Foods, in planning to move away from hog crates.

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Harvest Public Media
8:25 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Farmers Taking Missouri River Flooding Worries To Court

Scott Olson of Tekamah, Neb., walks along the edge of his field that was flooded in 2011. Most of the field can be farmed, but parts may never be reclaimed after the river replaced fertile topsoil with fine, sandy silt.
Grant Gerlock Harvest Public Media

The Missouri River burst out of its banks in epic fashion three years ago. The flood covered thousands of acres of land and dredged up old debates about how the river should be run. Now, flooded landowners are suing the Army Corps of Engineers, saying the agency isn’t protecting their land.

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Harvest Public Media
8:00 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Ag Census Points To Fewer U.S. Farms

Farmers raised $395 billion worth of goods in 2012, according to the latest Census of Agriculture.
Credit isnapshot / Flickr--CC

The number of farms in the U.S. is shrinking, according to the latest Census of Agriculture, released Friday. The census is taken every five years and shows the changing landscape for farmers.

Since 2007, the U.S. lost 95,000 farms, or about 4 percent. There was a similar drop in the number of farmers. But the number of Latino farmers grew by 20 percent, according to the Census. There are also more African American farmers.

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Harvest Public Media
3:25 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Study: Cellulosic Ethanol Production May Harm Climate

Biofuels made in the Midwest from corn stover, the leftovers of harvested corn plants, may be worse for global warming than gasoline in the short term, according to a recent study. It’s casting doubt on the greenhouse benefits of cellulosic ethanol.

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Harvest Public Media
7:49 am
Mon March 31, 2014

Hog Farmers Differ On Packer-Owned Pigs

A proposal in the Nebraska Legislature would allow meatpacking companies operating in the state to own hogs from birth to slaughter, a change that some say would take market share from farmers.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

  Nebraska hog farmers aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on a proposal that would allow meatpacking companies more control over the state’s hog industry. And farmers all over the country are watching.

Currently, a 1998 state law bans meatpacking companies from owning and raising the hogs the process. But lawmakers have proposed an end to the ban, which would allow for more vertical integration of the hog industry.

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Harvest Public Media
8:08 am
Tue March 4, 2014

U.S. Wastes Nearly A Third Of Food Produced

Nearly a third of the food available to be eaten in the U.S. is thrown out instead. And all of that wasted food comes with a steep price tag.

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Harvest Public Media
8:02 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Young Farmers Wait For Their Opportunity

Eric Brockmann and his family moved back to his hometown of West Point, Neb., to pursue his passion for farming.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The average age of American farmers has been climbing for decades, and many say rural towns are at-risk without new blood. There are enough people who want to farm, but there’s trouble connecting beginning farmers and the communities that need them.

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Harvest Public Media
7:28 am
Wed February 5, 2014

Why Cutting The Ethanol Mandate May Not Ruin The Rural Economy

Just outside of Central City, Neb., is the Green Plains Energy ethanol plant, a facility that can produce 100 million gallons of ethanol each year.
Grant Gerlock Harvest Public Media

The EPA wants to roll back the amount of ethanol mixed into the fuel supply for 2014, worrying farmers across the Corn Belt. Ethanol supporters warn that if the EPA follows through, the rural economy will take the fall. But many economists predict a soft landing.

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Agriculture
7:45 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Beef Herd May Be Poised For Growth, And Cheaper Steak

Even if the beef herd begins expanding again in 2014 it could take two years for the effects to show up in consumer prices.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

  For the first time in nearly 10 years, the nation’s beef herd may be poised for growth, which could mean relief from rising meat prices. But with the fewest cattle in the beef supply since the 1960s, slow growth won’t cut prices anytime soon.

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Harvest Public Media
8:30 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Herbicide-Resistant Crops One Step Closer To US Fields

New herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans are a step closer to reaching farm fields in the U.S.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

New herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans are a step closer to reaching farm fields in the U.S. They would help farmers control weeds that are no longer killed by the popular herbicide, Roundup.

Dow Agrosciences has engineered new crops that can withstand the herbicide 2,4-D, giving farmers a new tool against weeds resistant to Roundup.

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Harvest Public Media
7:30 am
Mon December 30, 2013

New Crops Could Kill Insects By Targeting Their Genes

Southern corn rootworm beetles eat corn laced with RNA in a lab at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. Scientists want to know how long it takes for rootworms to evolve resistance to RNA-interference technology.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

With rootworms building resistance to genetically modified corn that makes its own pesticide, seed companies are working on new crops that target the insects’ genes. But some worry about unintended consequences when the technology moves from the lab to the field.

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Harvest Public Media
8:17 am
Fri December 27, 2013

Farm Bill Set To Expire, But ‘Dairy Cliff’ Not Quite Imminent

No need to hoard milk and ice cream over New Year’s Day. Turns out, the “dairy cliff” isn’t as steep as we may have once thought.

For over a year, farm bill watchers have warned that the milk prices would balloon to $7-8 per gallon if the farm bill expires without a replacement – sending us over what has been termed the “dairy cliff.”

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Harvest Public Media
8:32 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Pheasants Losing Habitat To Farmland

Farm-raised pheasants like this one, wearing blinders so it doesn't fight other birds, are being transported to areas that used to be known for pheasant hunting in order to prop up declining population.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

As farmers across the Midwest have simplified the landscape and plowed up grassland to grow more corn and soybeans, habitat for pheasants, quail and other grassland birds has become increasingly scarce and their numbers are falling.

In Nebraska, wild pheasant concentrations have fallen 86 percent since their peak in the 1960s. The pheasant harvest during hunting season in Iowa is off 63 percent from the highs reached in the 1970s. In areas that used to be overrun, you’ll struggle to find a pheasant now.

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Harvest Public Media
7:56 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Feds Propose To Reduce Ethanol Requirement In Gasoline

The federal government proposed Friday to cut the amount of corn-based ethanol oil companies have to put in the gasoline supply, by more than a billion gallons. Much of the corn used to make that ethanol is grown right here in the Midwest. 

Cutting the amount of corn ethanol required in the Renewable Fuel Standard essentially puts a cap on demand for corn from the Midwest.

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Harvest Public Media
8:54 am
Mon October 21, 2013

Farm Families Follow Drought With Record Harvest

After the drought crippled corn yields in 2012, farmers across the Midwest are harvesting what could be the largest crop ever in 2013.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Nancy Friesen sat nervously at the controls of a giant John Deere combine that made the corn stalks look like match sticks. It was her second day in the driver’s seat of the giant machine and she normally works in the garden, not the field. But during harvest time, everyone in the family pitches in.

One year after the worst drought in decades, farm families all over the Midwest are preparing to bring in a record-breaking corn crop. While there’s some uncertainty in the air thanks to falling corn prices, this is a time of year when farm families focus on the task at hand.

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The Salt
9:38 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Farm Families Pick Massive Corn Harvest As Prices Shrink

Curt Friesen is a fourth-generation farmer in central Nebraska.
Grant Gerlock for NPR

Originally published on Tue October 15, 2013 1:39 pm

Corn prices are down and the farm bill is stalled in Congress. So there's a lot of uncertainly in the air as harvest season gets into full swing across the Midwest. But this is a time of year when farm families like the Friesens in Henderson, Neb., come together to focus on the big task at hand: the corn harvest.

Everyone in the family has a job to do.

"Like my dad — he drives auger wagon," Curt Friesen says. "He drives auger wagon only. That's all he's done since 1976, I think. ... My wife, Nancy, she drives the combine; that's her job."

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Around the Nation
3:50 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Harvest Brings Farm Families Together, Redefines Commitment

Originally published on Tue October 15, 2013 4:36 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, here's a reality about farming. From the earliest days of this country, it's been an uncertain business, and for many decades, national policies have been designed to smooth out that risk. But, of course, the risk never entirely goes away. You can never control the rain, for example, and lately the uncertainty has been growing. Corn prices are down. The farm bill is stalled in Congress and there's a sense that good times may be fading.

From Nebraska, Grant Gerlock of NET News brings us his report.

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Harvest Public Media
8:45 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Farmers Plowing Up More And More Of The Prairie

A pasture near Ord, Neb., in June 2012 before it was broken out for farmland. Wildlife biologist Ben Wheeler called it an extreme case of land being converted from grass to corn.
Courtesy Ben Wheeler/Pheasants Forever and Nebraska Game & Parks Commission

In recent years, farmers in the Midwest have transformed millions of acres of prairie grass to rows of corn. High crop prices are a big motivation, but some also believe crop insurance is encouraging farmers to roll the dice on less productive land.

Rod Christen and his sister Kay farm corn, soybeans and wheat on their land near the small town of Steinauer, Neb. But their main crop is grass.

“Big bluestem is our big producer,” said Rod Christen. “It’s kind of our Cadillac grass.”

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Harvest Public Media
6:03 am
Mon September 23, 2013

Obamacare Could Be Tough Sell In Rural Areas

Bob Bernt and his wife, Kristine, have gone without health insurance for the last 20 years, and don’t plan on buying coverage to meet the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

 

The Affordable Care Act, often called “Obamacare,” takes a big step forward Oct. 1 when new health insurance marketplaces open for enrollment. Rural families are more likely to qualify for subsidized coverage, but reaching them to sign up will be part of the challenge.

So, will farm country take advantage of new health insurance subsidies? That’s the question in Nebraska.

Almost 200,000 Nebraskans don’t have health insurance. Nearly half of them are spread across the state’s rural areas.

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Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon September 2, 2013

Herbicide Drift Threatens Midwest Vineyards

Tom Zumpfe holds a bunch of Frontenac grapes he said were stunted by herbicide drift. Zumpfe says at least half the grapes are either BBs or they’re non-existent.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

As Midwest vineyards move in next door to longstanding fields of corn or soybeans, they don’t always make good neighbors. Occasionally, herbicides like 2,4-D drift beyond their target, and for nearby vineyards the results can be devastating.

2,4-D is a common herbicide used by farmers because it kills weeds but doesn’t kill their corn. Landscapers and golf courses use it on lawns and fairways. Highway crews often spray 2,4-D on road ditches.

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Harvest Public Media
8:40 am
Wed August 21, 2013

My Farm Roots: Born To Farm

Despite suffering from Guillain-Barre syndrome, Steve Quandt still farms outside Grand Island, Neb.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

One sign that you have strong farm roots is when your rural road is named for your family.

I met Steve Quandt on Quandt Road, north of Grand Island, Neb., on the farm that used to belong to his grandfather. It’s the place he remembers spending days as a kid, from morning to night, helping milk cows, work the fields and repair machinery.

He followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, building his own farming operation. But that path was suddenly interrupted nearly six years ago.

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Harvest Public Media
7:53 am
Thu August 15, 2013

Why E85 Is The Cheapest Gas At The Pump

At many gas stations in Nebraska and across the Midwest, E85 is the cheapest fuel available. However, only a fraction of cars on the road can use it, and on E85 they get less mileage.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Ilya Protopopov stopped at a U-Stop station in Lincoln, Neb., on his way to the track to fuel up his truck and a few dirt bikes. His fuel of choice, 91 octane unleaded, was selling for $4.01 per gallon.

“I used to complain about $1.50 gas, now it’s over $4,” Protopopov said. “Pretty steep.”

But on the same pump there was another fuel selling for under $3. E85 was going for $2.53.

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Harvest Public Media
8:03 am
Mon July 8, 2013

Aging Farmers Reluctant To Retire, Pass On Land

The Hawthorn farm has been in the family for four generations since it was founded in the late 1870s by Bob Hawthorn’s great-grandfather who went by the name “Trapper.”
Ray Meints NET News

Working beyond retirement is a fairly common refrain these days. In 2012, 5 percent of the U.S. workforce was beyond retirement age. But farmers seem to work longer than most. In the last Agriculture Census 25 percent of all farm operators were over 65 years old.

Why do farmers keep working? For one thing, modern machinery makes it easier to work longer.

“It’s more you use your mind rather than your back, so you can go longer,” said Mike Duffy, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University.

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Harvest Public Media
8:01 am
Mon July 1, 2013

After The Oregon Discovery, What's The Future Of GMO Wheat?

Nebraska farmer Larry Flohr, squeezes out a kernel of unripened wheat.
Credit Grank Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Many farmers say they would like to grow genetically engineered wheat to help them feed a hungry world, but it’s not what everyone’s hungry for. And now, with the mysterious appearance of Roundup Ready wheat in a farmer’s field in Oregon a few weeks ago, consumer resistance may grow even stronger.

Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are genetically modified, but GMO wheat has never been approved for farming.

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Harvest Public Media
7:53 am
Thu June 6, 2013

At The Farmer's Market, With Food Stamps

April Segura, of Lincoln, Neb., uses her SNAP benefits to shop at the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market with her sons Jalen, 5, and Jeriel, 1.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

April Segura is a regular at the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market in Lincoln, Neb. On a warm, May afternoon, the single, stay-at-home mother of three greeted friends and acquaintances while strolling past tables of lettuce and herbs. She hoped to find more asparagus for sale.

“I love asparagus season and it’s probably about to be over,” said Segura, holding two grocery bags with one arm and her one-year-old son, Jeriel, with the other.

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Harvest Public Media
8:00 am
Mon May 6, 2013

Missouri River Home To Endangered Pallid Sturgeon

Each spring, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission recruits volunteers to assit with a two-week effort to catch and count pallid sturgeon.
Grant Gerlock Harvest Public Media

The volunteer crew members pulled on their life jackets and climbed into a flat-bottomed aluminum boat at a ramp near Nebraska City, Neb. They came out early on a cold, gray April morning hoping to catch an endangered pallid sturgeon.

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Agriculture
1:01 am
Mon April 15, 2013

Seeking Profits In Private Labels

Walmart's "Great Value" brand is an example of private label food. After acquiring Ralcorp, ConAgra is now the largest private label food supplier in the U.S.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

You may not think much about store brands as you shop for groceries, but it’s a business worth nearly $60 billion per year. ConAgra, a company based in Omaha, Neb., made a splash recently in what the industry calls private label food when it paid $6.8 billion to buy Ralcorp, based in St. Louis, Mo. The merger created the biggest private label food company in the country.

Every major grocer has its own private label brand. Walmart has Great Value. Kroger stores sell Private Selection. Costco has Kirkland. Almost everything at Trader Joe’s seems to carry the store's name.

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Agriculture
9:26 am
Wed February 20, 2013

Generic Seeds Could Have Short Lifespan

Potted soybean plants line the tables in a research greenhouse at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. Researchers are trying to understand the ways different genes control plant growth.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The patent rights on the first genetically modified seeds expire next year, but it’s not clear how the introduction of “generic” seeds fits into the science and business of GM crops.

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Harvest Public Media
11:38 pm
Sun January 6, 2013

Drought Takes Head Start Into 2013

An aerial view of farmland affected by the drought in northeastern Colorado in July 2012. Green circles show irrigated crops next to yellowed, dryland wheat fields.
Courtesy Lance Cheung USDA

2012 was a drought year for the record books. It was the warmest year ever recorded in Des Moines, Iowa, Topeka, Kan., and Columbia, Mo. and the driest ever in Grand Island, Neb.

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