agriculture

Along the presidential campaign trail, candidates are deriding free trade agreements, like the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership. But here in the Midwest farmers and ranchers, the people behind one of our biggest industries, are bucking the trend.

Guests:

  • Kristofer Husted is a reporter for KCUR's Harvest Public Media. He's based at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri.
  • Chad Hart is an associate professor of economics at Iowa State University, where he's a crop markets specialist.
Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

Meet a prominent thinker who's a Kansas farm boy and "prairiebilly" turned geneticist, and hear the story of how and why he became a leader in the sustainable agriculture movement back in the 1970s. Jackson is retiring as president of the organization he started: The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. 

Guest:

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

Residents of St. John, Kansas packed a room in late January for an emotional, standing-room-only town hall meeting.

A week later Topekans gathered for an eerily similar meeting .

The month of March was short on moisture and now drought is creeping across much of Kansas. Assistant State Climatologist Mary Knapp says March is normally a wet month, so last month's dry conditions had a big impact.

“Because it's the start of our wetter pattern, things go down very, very quickly when we don't get what we should be seeing,” says Knapp.

Knapp says the coming months are the normally the rainiest times of year for many parts of Kansas. Those months will be critical in determining whether the drought expands or is washed away by seasonal rains.

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

Cotton fabric has been a staple in our closets for decades, but times are tough for farmers in the U.S. cotton belt who are caught in the middle of a storm of changing global demand.

Cotton acreage in the U.S. has been declining for years, with 2015 hitting the lowest mark in decades.  It has dropped from nearly 15 million acres to less than 9 million acres in just the past five years.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Senate rejected a bill Wednesday that would have outlawed states from mandating labels on foods with genetically-modified ingredients, leaving the issue in limbo as a state labeling law looms.

The measure by Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, failed to get the 60 votes needed to move ahead, leaving the path open for Vermont’s mandatory labeling law to go into effect July 1. That was quickly applauded by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

The morning after his high school graduation, Jonathan Justus packed his car and moved to California. He didn't even wait a day, and he didn't leave with fantasies of coming back any time soon. 

When he was a kid, Justus felt suffocated by the sense that everyone in Smithville knew and kept an eye on everyone else. His mom received hate mail when she took over the family pharmacy, criticizing her for working outside the home rather than staying home with her kids. Rumors had started spreading about Justus starting when he was just in high school, he says.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Hundreds of lawsuits against seed company Syngenta could develop into a major class-action potentially involving almost every corn farmer in the country.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Wheat is one of the world’s staple foods and a big crop on the Great Plains, but it has been left in the dust. A corn farmer can grow 44 percent more bushels per acre than 30 years ago, but only 16 percent more wheat. That’s led many farmers to make a switch.

“Wheat acres have been going down since 1981 or 1982 when they were up around 86 million acres,” said Steve Joehl, director of research with the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG). “I think last year we had a little over 56 million. It’s just a straight trend line down.”

A researcher for the U.S. Department of Agriculture has filed a whistleblower complaint against the federal agency, alleging the USDA suppressed his research on a popular class of pesticides. We talk to the journalist who broke the story this week.

Guest:

  • Carey Gillam is a contributing reporter for Harvest Public Media based at KCUR.
Earl Dotter / Oxfam America

Americans eat more chicken than any other meat, an average of 89 pounds a year.

That enormous demand for a high protein source that’s considered relatively inexpensive is literally feeding the $50 billion poultry industry. While many people are concerned with the welfare of meat animals, there appears to be little consumer concern for how the workers are treated.

'Cattle, Cowboys & Culture: Kansas City To Amarillo'

Oct 23, 2015

The bond between Kansas City and Amarillo, Texas may be stronger than you think.  A train that ran between the two cities led to the shaping of cultures, and a lasting connection.  

Guest:

Michael Grauer is a Kansas City native and Curator of Art and Western heritage at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum.

An Idaho District Court judge recently struck down the state’s law that criminalized undercover investigations of agriculture operations. As more states' Ag-Gag laws are challenged, we discuss how that ruling could affect similar laws in Kansas and Missouri. 

Guest: 

Kristofer Husted / Harvest Public Media

As the agriculture industry changes, what it means to grow up on a farm is changing, too. Our panel talks chores, the cycle of life, the dangers of farming and the lessons in business and character that farm kids learn. Plus, leaving the farm for the "concrete jungle," and city kids pursuing agriculture as adults.

Guests:

  • Mary Hendrickson, rural sociologist, University of Missouri
  • Adam Kirby, Future Farmers of America
  • Alex Haun, young farmer, Trenton, Missouri
Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Republican Missouri Rep. Joe Don McGaugh from District 039 provides an insider perspective on the Missouri General Assembly as we discuss agriculture, education, and Medicaid expansion.

Guests:

  • Joe Don McGaugh, Rep. for District 039, Missouri General Assembly 
  • Arley Hoskin, Citizen Voice
  • Mike McGraw, Special Projects Reporter, Flatland KC
Beth Lipoff / KCUR

The Johnson County Fair came to Gardner, Kansas last week, and alongside the traditional funnel cakes, midway rides and livestock exhibitions, there were a few surprises.

Here's four things we found that were unexpected:

1. There were no chickens.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday that the federal government is preparing for a bird flu outbreak this fall that would be two times as bad as the one experienced by Midwestern states this spring.

Ben Nuelle / for KCUR

Alda Owen of Fairport, Missouri is legally blind, and sees only outlines of images with the details blurred out. But still, she drives herself and her border collie, Sweet Baby Jo, a short way up the road to work cattle.

When she was just 10-years-old, doctors diagnosed Owen with histoplasmosis. She got the disease and went blind after collecting chicken eggs. It is caused by breathing in spores of a fungus found in bird droppings.  

To add to the struggle of being blind, doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer in 2008.

Cody Newill / KCUR

The National Agricultural Center & Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kansas has reopened for the 2015 season after a lengthy hiatus.

The roughly 150-acre facility was first chartered by Congress and President Dwight Eisenhower in 1960 and opened its doors in 1965, nearly 50 years ago. 

But the Ag Center has never received governmental funding, and for nearly 10 years has struggled to keep its doors open. It even had to close early last May due to a lack of sponsorship.

andrewlawler.com

A descendant of Tyrannosaurus Rex, the chicken has made a legendary and winding journey from pre-history to our dinner plates. In his new book, Why Did the Chicken Cross the World? The Epic Saga of the Bird That Powers Civilization science writer Andrew Lawler provides an account of the long partnership between human and chicken.

llovebutter / Flickr--CC

What inspires people in white collar jobs, or those just out of college, to take up farming? As the trend continues, we hear from people who have done just that about how it's going and whether they're finding whatever it was they were looking for.

Guests:

Eric Durban / Harvest Public Media

Water levels within the Ogallala Aquifer, a wide source of groundwater in western Kansas, have been declining to dangerously low levels for the past few years. 

Wikimedia Commons

Even the lunch ladies got political in 2014.

KCUR's Harvest Public Media was created four years ago to report on agriculture and food production in the geographic area where the majority of that takes place – the Midwest.

This year, my third of counting the top ag stories of the year, I find that the issues taking center stage were set not here, but in the politics, policies and processes of Washington D.C., state legislatures or the ballot box.

nimbus.unl.edu

In the Middle East the U.S. military has used drones with great effect.  More properly called UAS or UAV for Unmanned Aerial Systems or Vehicle, their use on American soil for more peaceful purposes have been a source of controversy.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

The chestnut harvest in Kansas ends during the first few weeks of October, and every year around that time 40 to 50 workers pick pounds of nuts from 1,500 chestnut trees on an orchard right outside of downtown Lawrence.

Since 1995, Charlie NovoGradac, also known as "Chestnut Charlie," and Deborah Milks have been cultivating, collecting and distributing chestnuts.

When the harvest is over, the orchard is covered in gigantic thorny cockleburs. As they ripen during the season, these prickly husks open and release the chestnuts.

Lady Dragonfly CC - >;< / Flickr, Creative Commons

Little-known fact: It's chestnut harvesting season in Kansas. So what's the scene at the local chestnut orchard? And how are chefs using the overall nut bounty in area kitchens?

Guests:

Tobacco farming was once a mainstay of the Missouri economy and lifestyle. With greater awareness of the health risks of cigarette-smoking and other changes in the tobacco business, the number of tobacco farmers in our region has shrunk. But the methods used to harvest tobacco have remained surprisingly consistent. According to the owner of New Deal Tobacco in Weston, Mo., it takes 250 hours to harvest an acre of tobacco (an acre of corn takes just a few hours to harvest, he says). 

Guest:

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Lunch time at Harris Bilingual Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colo., displays all the usual trappings of a public school cafeteria: Star Wars lunch boxes, light up tennis shoes, hard plastic trays and chocolate milk cartons with little cartoon cows. It’s pizza day, the most popular of the week, and kids line up at a salad bar before receiving their slice.

Wikipedia, Creative Commons

We live in a world where there's something remarkable about a clean plate after a meal. But that's just one small piece of the food waste equation. Visits to farms, a meat processing plant, a compost heap, grocery stores and Kansas Citians' kitchens help us understand why there's so much food nobody's eating. 

For more information about food safety, check out this handy chart from the USDA.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

Fresh tomatoes are a pleasure of summer, but they typically come at a price. Discover what goes into setting that price, whether it's worth it, and what you can do with them when you get home.

Guests:

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