agriculture

The federal government is the largest employer in Kansas City. Who are these employees and what do they do? A talk with federal employees in the Midwest, and what the government looks like from their perspective.

Plus, a local artist is reviving the video store. She operates a VHS lending library out of her bedroom, and she'll be going mobile to bring VHS tapes across the plains.

Guests:

Piracy In The Fields: Agricultural Trade Secrets A Tempting Target

Jun 6, 2017
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SCHOOL OF ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABILITY / Flickr — CC

As a group of visiting scientists prepared to board a plane in Hawaii that would take them back home to China, U.S. customs agents found rice seeds in their luggage. Those seeds are likely to land at least one scientist in federal prison.

Tech. Sgt. Linda Burger / Iowa National Guard

Midwesterners are used to extreme weather. We take pride in enduring everything from torrential downpours to the most desiccating drought.

Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of these fluctuations between drought and flood, though, according to new research published by scientists at the University of Kansas, and this "weather whiplash" will deteriorate the quality of drinking water.

Did you know John Adam's wife, Abigail, would hang wet laundry in the Public Audience Chamber? Or that Abraham Lincoln never slept in the Lincoln Bedroom? West Wing Reports founder and White House beat journalist Paul Brandus shares a history of The Oval Office and what it is like to cover the Trump administration.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Every major advancement of African-Americans since the Civil War has been met and opposed by "white rage," says Carol Anderson. Today, she explains how resentful whites have looked to halt the progress of blacks through discriminatory policies, laws, intimidation and violence.

William Shepard Walsh / Flickr - CC

For the 3rd year in a row, Abraham Lincoln topped C-SPAN's presidential leadership survey. On Presidents Day (more accurately known as Washington's Birthday), we explore the struggle over emancipation and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment.

Danny Wood/KCUR 89-3

After his application for a commercial development was rejected by the city, former Lawrence mayor Bob Schumm, is trying a different approach: asking the Douglas County authorities to re-zone the plot of land on Vermont Street for agricultural use.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveils his official portrait at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in December 2016.
U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

And then there was Agriculture.

Agriculture Secretary is the only post in President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet without a nominee, mystifying many in rural America and spurring worries that agriculture and rural issues will land near the end of the line among the new president’s priorities.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who served for all 8 years of Barack Obama’s presidency, announced Friday was his last day in office.

scott1346 / Flickr -- CC

Is the family farm changing? As the farming industry's wealth is consolidated into the hands of just a few multinational companies, three family farmers discuss the challenges they face and how they're adapting.

Guests:

Some of the world's largest agribusiness companies announced plans to combine, if regulators sign on.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The massive industry that supplies farmers with the tools to raise crops is on the brink of a watershed moment. High-profile deals that would see some of the largest global agri-chemical companies combine are in the works and could have ripple effects from farm fields to dinner tables across the globe.

Protestors object to the presence of genetically modified organisms in food at a rally in Denver, Colo.
File: Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Five of the six biggest companies that produce and sell seeds and chemicals to the world’s farmers are pursuing deals that could leave a market dominated by just three giant, global companies. They say getting bigger means bringing more sophisticated and innovative solutions to farmers faster, but opponents say consolidation has irreversible downsides.

Fruit And Desserts

Oct 28, 2016
Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

A local orchard owner talks about agritourism (corn mazes, pumpkin patches, the corn pit and more), a pastry chef fries up some apple pie, then KCUR's Food Critics search out the best desserts in and around KC.

Guests:

Update 11:35 a.m. Friday.

Atchison officials have issued the all clear, saying it's safe to go outside after a chemical cloud enveloped the city this morning.

Atchison City Manager Trey Cocking says at 8:02 a.m. Monday two chemicals were "inadvertently mixed" at the MGP Ingredients plant causing a gaseous plume. 

Cocking says HAZMAT protocols were immediately followed. "They put a foam substance on it to treat it, and that's what they've been doing to mitigate it," Cocking says.

Water is life — you drink it, cook with it and even shower in it — but unregulated runoff from farms and business can pose a threat to keeping it clean. A new series from Harvest Public Media, based at KCUR, looks at the conditions of water in Kansas City and throughout the Midwest.

Guests:

St. Louis-based Monsanto, a world agribusiness leader, has agreed to be acquired by the German company Bayer.

Bayer will pay $57 billion dollars, or $128 per share, in a deal that has been in the works since last spring. Regulators still must approve the move. Two other mergers are underway in the industry, with Dow set to combine with DuPont (already the owner of Iowa-based DuPont Pioneer) and ChemChina planning to buy the Swiss company Syngenta.

Courtesy Crystal Bradshaw

After the Civil War, freed slaves fled the South, but not everyone went North. Many thousands came to start farms and towns in rural, western Kansas — a movement that has lasting impact on agriculture and culture to this day.

Guests:

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts says the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is crucial for farmers wanting access to new and growing markets. But in the midst of the presidential campaign the deal faces an uphill battle.

Speaking on a panel at the Kansas State Fair Saturday, Roberts, who is the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman, distinguished the TPP from other trade deals. He says the agriculture industry stands to benefit too much for it to be allowed to fail.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Everyone knows agriculture is huge in Kansas.

It’s a $62 billion a year industry that accounts for 43 percent of the Kansas economy and touches every part of the state.

Following the 2012 Brownback tax cuts, farmers no longer had to pay state income tax -- just like 334,000 LLCs, S corporations and sole proprietorships.

Scientists at the Colorado Department of Agriculture's Insectary raise insects adapted to attacking bugs and plants harmful to agriculture.
Dan Garrison / for Harvest Public Media

The Colorado Department of Agriculture is killing pests dead, without the aid of chemicals.

Halfway down a dead-end road in the small farming town of Palisade, Colorado, is the research facility known as “The Insectary.”  Scientists at the lab develop “biocontrol insects,” insects adapted to attacking bugs and plants harmful to agriculture. Colorado’s Insectary is the oldest and largest facility of its kind in the United States.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

(Updated Friday to note House support)

The U.S. Senate late Thursday approved a bill that outlaws states’ efforts to put labels on food products made with genetically-modified organisms and instead gives companies more leeway in disclosing GMOs.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Massive bison herds used to be a staple of the Great Plains. That is until we almost hunted them out of existence.

Now, with a new designation as the United States’ national mammal, bison ranchers argue that to conserve the species we have to eat them.

It’s an idea called “market-based conservation,” and it contends that humans are no good at saving species out of the goodness of our hearts, or motivated by some driving force of environmental justice.

Slaughterhouses remain one of the most dangerous workplaces in this country. Harvest Public Media, a reporting collaborative based at KCUR, has been investigating the hazards meat processing workers still face. The result is a three-part series airing this week, Dangerous Jobs, Cheap Meat.

Guests:

Greata Horner holds a photo of her and her husband Ed taken a few months before he died.
Dan Boyce / Rocky Mountain PBS for Harvest Public Media

On the worst day of Greta Horner’s life, she was dressed in a burlap robe, waiting by the window for her husband to come home from work.

The couple was down to one car. The other one was in the shop. She donned the costume for a play, set in Old Jerusalem, later that morning, part of Vacation Bible School at the church. She just needed the car to get there. 

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The path to normalized relations between the United States and Cuba made a stop in farm country Friday.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and his Cuban counterpart, Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero, toured Aaron Lehman’s corn and soybean farm in central Iowa. They talked about water, soil, and energy and compared strategies for managing hog manure, which has been a problem in Iowa.

Vilsack said he hopes Cuba can increasingly be an export market for farm products like soybeans, rice and, eventually, poultry.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

One in every five calories people around the world eat, comes from just one grain, wheat. And for generations the U.S. led the world in wheat exports. But, that’s changed, and maybe for good.

Wheat is not something you want to run out of. Wheat shortages helped spark the bloody French Revolution and the Arab Spring.

A slaughterhouse is a safer place to work than it used to be, but data gathered by federal regulators doesn’t capture all the risks faced by meat and poultry workers, according to a new government report.

Through the centuries, technological advancements, from the tractor to developments in crop chemicals, have revolutionized the way we farm. Now, something new is disrupting the farming industry — and that’s big data. We take a look the new normal in one of America's oldest industries.

Guests:

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 .

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