agriculture | KCUR

agriculture

Flying east to west over Kansas, the land transforms from lush green to desert brown. Rectangular farm plots fill in with emerald circles, the work of center-pivot irrigation.

Outside Garden City, in the middle of one of those circles, Dwane Roth scoops up soil to reveal an inconspicuous PVC pipe. It’s a soil moisture probe that tells Roth exactly how much water his crops need. The device is one of many new technologies designed to help farmers make the most of every drop.

“All that you have to do is open up your app,” said Roth. “It’s going to tell you, you don’t need to irrigate or you’re going to need to apply an inch within  six days.”

A dry crop field under a blue sky.
Madelyn Beck / Harvest Public Media

Segment 1: How national headlines impact local farmers.

Even if agriculture may not seem like a big part of your life, farmers are responsible for much of our food, our clothes and even our medicine. Today, we sat down with three reporters from Harvest Public Media to learn how farmers across the Midwest are responding to drought, tariffs and the newest version of the farm bill.

file photo / Harvest Public Media

This winter we reported that Kansas is one of just four states with the strictest cannabis laws in the country.

But the 2018 legislative session that ended earlier this month shook the state’s legal landscape. So what has changed and what hasn’t?

Industrial hemp is coming to Kansas, but first the Department of Agriculture has to figure out how to regulate it.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

They say you can’t go home again. But what if you bring drones, quilts and a marching band?

On a warm, sunny Saturday last October, David Wayne Reed was in a machine shed on his family’s farm near Louisburg, Kansas, giving instructions to about 60 people who were helping him film his movie “Eternal Harvest.” Reed had gathered friends, family members and the Louisburg High School Marching Band. He’d had asked the band to  leave their instruments at home and wear a specific type of clothing.

Segment 1: The state of water in Kansas.

About three years ago, there were major concerns for the future of water in Kansas. Now that a few years have passed, what does the availability of water look like today? 

For about 10 years Laura Krier has lived in Concordia, Kansas, a small town that she’s seen get only smaller.

Without some kind of economic development, she fears things it will only get worse.

Wheat producers in Kansas are worried about the potential for freeze damage after temperatures stayed below freezing for much of the weekend.

While it’s not unusual for Kansas to see spring freezes, the frigid temperatures and blowing wind over the weekend likely caused some damage to the state's wheat crop.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media file photo

Farmers at Betty’s Truck Stop near Sweet Springs, Missouri, took their coffee with a side of bad news early Wednesday morning.

In response to the Trump administration's threats to place tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods — including farm implements — China threatened to sanction $50 billion in U.S. exports, this time targeting airplanes, cars, chemicals and soybeans.

“Beans are down 50 cents overnight, and corn’s down 14 because of this trade thing with China,” Jim Bridges said as he took a seat at a large table in the center of the restaurant. Bridges, who grows corn and soybeans, made a few calculations and reckoned his potential losses at about $50,000.

China has announced its intent to add additional tariffs to 106 U.S. products, including several of Kansas’ top agricultural exports.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Jack Wilkinson has a 600-acre farm in Lone Jack, Missouri, a town of about 1,000. It’s a centennial farm, in his family since the 1800s, but in the last few months, Wilkinson has started to worry about its longevity.

His land borders Valley Oaks Steak Company, a family-owned cattle feedlot and meatpacking business that started production at its Lone Jack location in 2016 and wants to expand to 6,999 head of cattle — one cow shy of needing to submit an air-quality monitoring plan to the state of Missouri. 

YouTube

Derek Klingenberg is kind of a farmer celebrity.

His YouTube channel draws more than 70,000 subscribers for ag-themed pop-music parodies, trombone covers and, more recently, cow art made with satellites.

This week, the Peabody, Kansas, farmer took his cow art to the next level, or altitude. He posted a video showing his cows to form a giant “Hi” as seen from the heavens.

file photo / Harvest Public Media

Kansas politicians are closely watching developing trade policies with an eye to whether they could start a trade war that might hurt industries in the state that rely on exports.

President Donald Trump’s administration has been in talks with Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

“NAFTA is the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere,” Trump said while campaigning for office, “but certainly ever signed in this country,”

Segment 1: Kansas City's mayor believes students are essential to the debate on guns.

After the shooting in Parkland, Fla., Mayor Sly James invites students to take action against gun violence. He also shares his perspective on why the threat youth face today relates to his experience growing up during the Vietnam War. 

  • Sly James, Mayor of Kansas City

Segment 2, beginning at 29:40: How to find work with purpose.

Segment 1: Why barber shops are more than a place to your haircut. 

An author with Kansas City roots reminisces about the unique relationship between African-American boys and barber shops in Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut.

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

Farmers depend on productive, sustainable land, clean water and air and healthy animals to make a living. To help create those conditions and protect ecosystems, they get help from conservation programs that make up about 6 percent of the $500 billion federal farm bill.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers head into the next stretch of this year’s legislative session after advancing bills offering tax breaks to some smaller businesses, compensation to people thrown in prison unjustly and a welcome mat to industrial chicken growers.

Harvest Public Media

Since its inception over a decade ago, the Department of Homeland Security has had authority over the $1.25 billion National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, under construction on the campus of Kansas State University.

A new, widely debated federal mandate requires truckers to electronically track the number of hours they’re on the road — a rule that’s meant to make highways safer. But there’s a big difference between hauling a load of TVs and a load of cattle destined for meatpacking plants.

file photo / Kansas Public Radio

Last fall’s dramatic public backlash against plans for a massive poultry operation in northeast Kansas could lead to a change in law.

Two lawmakers whose districts include Tonganoxie — a small, rural commuter town between Lawrence and Kansas City — want to give local residents a say on whether they’ll be neighbors to a chicken plant.

Voters in the county of any proposed large-scale facility for caging or slaughtering poultry would be able to force a public vote on the matter by gathering enough signatures on a petition.

Frank Morris / NPR and KCUR

It’s a time of low unemployment across the Midwest, leading to a labor shortage that’s stunting the growth of urban and rural businesses. Given that Donald Trump campaigned on a staunchly pro-business platform, one would think he’d have instituted policies benefiting everything from high-tech startups to huge dairy operations.

Jill Wendholt Silva / KCUR 89.3

How does a chef know when an elm tree is well-done?

When he’s cooked it in a 200-degree oven long enough, the deeply grooved bark is cured — and there are no carpenter bees left.

At Jonathan Justus’ new restaurant Black Dirt, which opens on Friday at 5070 Main Street, diners can look up at an organic chandelier made from Missouri hackberry tree emanating from the stump of an old elm.

naturalflow / Flickr -- CC

What makes a song a Kansas City song? We revisit the classic "standards" that once defined the KC sound. Plus: a local writer takes us on a tour of the nearby breweries, distilleries and vineyards on both sides of the state line.

Guests:

Stephen Koranda-File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

After pushing for changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Donald Trump earlier this year kicked off negotiations among the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Any major changes to the agreement could have a big impact on Kansas.

Kansas Republican Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran have said they’re open to updates but emphasize that the agreement needs to preserve or expand export opportunities.

Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

December 1 means the countdown is on, and we're not talking about Christmas. With just two weeks left for open enrollment on the federal health care marketplace, our experts are back to help answer all your "how" questions. Then, a conversation about America's favorite meat.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Tyson Foods announced Monday it will build a chicken processing plant in Tennessee similar to one that had been planned for northeast Kansas. State officials say Kansas is still in the running for another facility.

The chicken plant in Humboldt, Tennessee, will be similar in size and cost to one previously planned for Tonganoxie. Plans to build that plant were put on hold in September after an outpouring of local opposition.  

Atl10trader / Flickr-CC

A good Thanksgiving Day meal requires consideration, preparation and even preservation. Today, we hear food safety advice to help keep uneaten leftovers fresh and to learn warning signs of spoiled items. Then, a local congregation shares why they've made the decision to remove the phrase 'Country Club' from their name and learn about the history of the district the church was originally named after.

Guests:

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A panel of Kansas lawmakers says the Legislature should follow through on promised funding for water projects across the state.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

On a feedlot in far southwest Kansas, two cowboys on horseback move cattle on the high dusty plains, spread out like dozens of football fields stitched together with miles of fences. Their “Buenos dias! Buenos dias!” greetings mix with moos on a hot summer morning.

Kelly Paratore

In her new book Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science, Kansas City-based investigative journalist Carey Gillam makes the argument that the chemical industry — particularly Monsanto — has spent decades deceiving the public about the dangers of Roundup, the popular weed killer.

“Everyone who eats is impacted by this chemical,” Gillam says.

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