This Thanksgiving, hungry families all over the country will finish off their holiday meal with a little slice of the Midwest. That’s because the vast majority of all pumpkin that comes from a can and winds up in a pie got its start on a vine in Illinois.
Pumpkin patches are popular destinations for families seeking fall fun and you’ll find roadside farm stands all over the country. But pumpkins are big business in Illinois, where farmers feed canning factories hungry for a special kind of pumpkin that looks nothing like those you see on Halloween.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media
The pork cooler at a Hyvee grocery store in Columbia, Mo., is full of meat. New rules that just went into full effect force meatpackers to detail where much of this meat was born, raised and slaughtered.
A new labeling rule that went into full effect Saturday requires meatpackers and retailers to provide consumers with more information about where their meat comes from.
The country-of-origin labeling mandate (COOL) forces retailers and meatpackers to detail where the livestock from which meat came was born, raised and slaughtered. It applies to certain cuts of beef, veal, chicken, pork, lamb and goat sold in the supermarket. Processed, deli and ground meats are exempt from the new rules.
Fall is planting time for wheat across the Great Plains and this year’s crop went into the ground while big changes were underway in the wheat market. Some of the biggest players in the flour milling industry are joining forces to make the country’s largest miller even larger.
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.
Hot-button food issues of the day, such as the use of genetically modified organisms or the treatment of livestock, tend to pit large industries against smaller activist groups. Often, both sides will claim the science supports what they are saying. That can leave consumers, most of whom aren’t scientists, in a bit of a bind.
On a clear fall day in central Iowa, Aaron Lehman climbed into the cab of his green combine with a screwdriver to do some maintenance. He was hoping his corn had a couple more weeks to grow before harvesting because the price per bushel this fall is much lower than it has been for the past three years.
Corn farmers have been riding high prices for the last few years. But an expected bumper crop has prices falling this harvest season, and many economists expect the price of corn to drop to its lowest level in recent years.
The farm bill expired at midnight on Monday, leaving farmers and ranchers across the country guessing at what federal farm policy will look like when they next put their crops in the ground.
Of course, they’re used to uncertainty, as this is the second straight year Congress has let the farm bill expire. Last year, farmers were set adrift for three months before lawmakers passed a nine-month extension of older policy in January.
Heritage grains are trendy. Walk through a health food store and see packages of grains grown long before modern seed technology created hybrid varieties, grains eaten widely outside of the developed world: amaranth, sorghum, quinoa.
But there’s another grain with tremendous potential growing on the Great Plains: millet.
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.
Howard Hill pulls his red Chevy pick-up truck up to a barn near Union, Iowa, that houses 1,000 of his hogs. In the truck’s bed is a 55-pound bag of Rumensin 90, a common antibacterial ingredient in cattle feed that helps reduce bloating. Pigs don’t eat it. Hill brought it here to dump into the manure pit under the hogs.
Farmer Doug Wilson has been buying crop insurance since 1980.
“You carry home insurance, hoping your house doesn’t burn down. We carry crop insurance, hoping our crops don’t burn down,” Wilson said on a sweltering day in mid-August as he walked among the healthy 8-foot corn stalks in one his fields in central Illinois. “But last year, they burned down — kind of literally.”
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.
The future of agriculture across the Great Plains hinges on water. Without it, nothing can grow.
Climate models and population growth paint a pretty bleak picture for water availability a few decades from now. If farmers want to stay in business, they have to figure out how to do more with less. Enter: super efficient irrigation systems.
Last fall, after the drought had killed off most of the competition, the thistle took advantage of the opportunity to germinate and flourish. The weed is now hurting productivity on many Missouri farms.
Tim Schnackenberg's phone at the MU Extension office in Lawrence County has been ringing off the hook with farmers complaining about the pesky, invasive weed. It has several forms — musk and bull thistles are common here.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts the nation’s farmers will deliver a record 3.42 billion bushels of soybeans this year. The USDA is also forecasting that this year for the first time Brazil will overtake the United States as the world’s leading producer of soybeans. That means the pressure is on American soybean farmers like Brian Flatt, 41, to eke out even more soybeans from his fields.
When unapproved genetically modified wheat was found growing in Oregon earlier this year, it didn’t take long for accusations about how it ended up there to start flying. A flurry of initial finger-pointing cast potential blame on a federal seed vault in Fort Collins, Colo., which housed the same strain of wheat, developed by Monsanto Corp., for about seven years up until late 2011.
The world’s soil is in trouble, even in the fertile Midwest. Some experts warn that if degradation continues unchecked, topsoil could be gone in 60 years. That has implications for agriculture and the broader environment.
Over the last few decades, the landscape and daily operations of the American farm have changed dramatically; technology, crop prices, crop technique and farm size. But one thing that has stayed the same is the individual farmers who are adapting to these techniques. Here's a startling statistic, for each farmer younger than 25, there are five who are 75 or older. And also, 25% of farmers are over the age of 65, which means retirement in the farming community is being prolonged.
If you’ve experienced sticker shock shopping for ground beef or steak recently, be prepared for an entire summer of high beef prices.
Multi-year droughts in states that produce most of the country’s beef cattle have driven up costs to historic highs. Last year, ranchers culled deep into their herds – some even liquidated all their cattle – which pushed the U.S. cattle herd to its lowest point since the 1950s.
Monica Johnson, 36, watered edible yellow kale flowers on a recent sunny morning at a rooftop garden in Greenpoint in Brooklyn, N.Y. Standing in front of the Manhattan skyline in her sleeveless top, shades and blond ponytail pulled back in a trucker cap, she looked part-farm girl and part-hipster.
The U.S. Senate approved a new comprehensive farm bill Monday, its plan for everything from food and nutrition assistance to disaster aid for livestock producers to crop insurance for farmers. But before you go popping champagne corks and celebrating the creation of five-years of agricultural policy, know this: The U.S. House has yet to weigh in.
Crops and cattle, soil and sweat. American agriculture has a proud history to share, a story to tell. But getting the attention of a tech-savvy nation that has mostly moved away from its farm roots has been difficult. Today, though, there is a glimmer of hope for farm fans. The plow, truth be told, looks a little lonely.
The USDA’s amended COOL rule will require packers and retailers to include more information on labels on beef, pork, lamb, chicken and goat meat, specifically where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.
Currently, labels only require companies to include where the animal was born.
Companies are also now barred from commingling cuts of meat from animals of different origins, which could make it easier to trace contaminated products. The USDA estimates these labeling changes could cost more than 7,000 companies up to $192 million.