Agriculture

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
2:36 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Climate Change Report: Short-Term Benefits, Long-Term Worries For Farmers

Climate change has contributed to record corn yields, but over the long term it's likely to have a negative impact on agriculture.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The White House’s new climate change report predicts threats to agriculture, including severe weather, more pests and greater demands for water and energy.

The third National Climate Assessment is a summary of the current science about the nation’s climate and how it’s changing written by a panel of expert scientists.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Tue May 6, 2014

National Geographic: 5 Steps To Feed The World

On the Vulgamore farm near Scott City, Kan., each combine can harvest up to 25 acres of wheat an hour — as well as provide real-time data on crop yields. Most of the food Americans eat is now produced on such large-scale, mechanized farms.
© George Steinmetz National Geographic

With the world’s population exploding, we’ll have many more mouths to feed in the near future. But agriculture already uses up tons of resources and land. So how can we grow more food and how can we limit its damage to the environment?

Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, wrote “A Five Step Plan to Feed the World,” in the May issue of National Geographic as an answer to those kinds of questions.

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Harvest Public Media
9:25 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Six Cool Maps From The Farm Census

Rural pockets of the country still lack internet connectivity, the agricultural census shows.

Originally published on Mon May 5, 2014 5:52 pm

Remember that scene from the 1979 movie The Jerk where Steve Martin’s character leaps with glee over the delivery of new phone books? That same sequence plays out every five years when the U.S. Department of Agriculture drops its agricultural census and ag data nerds everywhere rejoice.

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Harvest Public Media
8:08 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Brazil Beef Imports Too Risky, Farmers Worry

The U.S. hasn’t had an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in more than 80 years. In Brazil, the latest recorded outbreak was in 2006, though it occurred in an area that would not be allowed to export to the U.S. under the proposed rule.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to green light a proposal that would allow imports of fresh beef from certain sections of Brazil, despite the South American country’s history of outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, a highly contagious pathogen that cripples cattle.

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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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Beyond Our Borders
11:09 am
Thu May 1, 2014

In Ivanhoe, Food Helping Neighborhood Rebuild

Terry Glenn re-stocks shelves at the Harvest Learning Center Market. The store is in the basement of the church where Glenn is pastor.
Credit Jeremy Bernfeld / KCUR

Terry Glenn’s neighborhood was hit hard by the recession, and it wasn’t booming before the rough times.

He saw houses crumble, get boarded up and left to rot. He saw neighbors moving away. And he worried that Ivanhoe, on Kansas City’s east side, was dying.

“We said, ‘We’ve got to look inside of this and see exactly what the problem is,’” Glenn said. “And once we did, we found out that the families were moving to try to find better schools, find healthier food, find different places that their family can go and have a good community.”

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Harvest Public Media
9:39 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Study: Government Fails To Report Three-Quarters Of Farm Injuries

Migrant workers harvest corn on Uesugi Farms in Gilroy, Calif., last summer
Credit (Courtesy USDA)

Farm work has always been one of the most dangerous jobs in America -- as the government has reported, academics have researched and those doing the work well know.  

But new research from the University of California-Davis suggests for the first time that it’s a much more dramatic problem than the federal government recognizes, making the hazards faced by agriculture workers the most undercounted of any industry in the U.S.

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Harvest Public Media
7:39 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Integrated Local Food System Can Grow The Market

In the kitchen at Decorah (IA) High School, Chad Elliott ladles out tomato soup. The school system sources many ingredients locally.
Amy Mayer Harvest Public Media

The smell of baking dinner rolls fills the kitchen at Decorah High School in northeast Iowa. As two kitchen workers mix a fresh broccoli salad, another, Chad Elliott, ladles tomato soup from a large metal pot on the stove into white plastic buckets for delivery to the town’s elementary schools.

Elliott says most of the food served in the district is made from scratch and many ingredients come from local farms and dairies.

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Harvest Public Media
7:55 am
Tue April 29, 2014

Kansas City Church Brings Local Food To Neighborhood Without Access

Local farmers want to find customers outside of the usual farmers’ markets and farm stands. At the Harvest Learning Center Market, local food purchased with food stamp benefits are matched with grant-funding.
Jeremy Bernfeld Harvest Public Media

Farm stands and farmers markets remain really important for many local farmers, but U.S. consumers barely buy any food directly from farms. That’s why local farmers are trying to crack in to the big institutional markets such as grocery stores, work cafeterias, schools and hospitals.

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Harvest Public Media
8:00 am
Mon April 28, 2014

Public, Private Partners Key To Local Food Success

Local university extension agents often help maintain local food systems. Teresa Wiemerslage, with Iowa State University, works with the Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Coalition.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

As Food Corps service member Ashley Turk navigates her way through a brand-new greenhouse in the courtyard at Waukon High School in the northeast corner of Iowa, she points to a robust supply of red and green lettuce leaves growing neatly in rows.

“It’s huge,” she says. “We cut it off and it just keeps growing.”

The greenhouse lettuce is among the offerings in the school’s salad bar. And students will soon be growing carrots, tomatoes and other vegetables, Turks says.

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Harvest Public Media
9:37 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Vermont Set To Be The First State To Require GMO Labeling

Protesters in Denver rallied last summer at the state capitol, asking legislators to act on a GMO labeling rule.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Vermont is poised to become the first state to enact mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said Wednesday he plans to sign a bill passed by Vermont lawmakers that would require foods containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, to be labeled as having been produced with “genetic engineering.”  

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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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Agriculture
9:35 am
Mon April 21, 2014

Hog Farmers Required To Report Disease Outbreaks

The PED virus has hit hog farms all over the country and cut pork supplies.
Credit File: Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

Hog farmers are now required to report outbreaks of certain viral diseases that have spread across the country during the past year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Environment
8:33 am
Mon April 21, 2014

Snowy Winter Not Causing Flood Concerns On Missouri River

The Missouri River in Montana.
Credit montanatom1950 on Flickr

A long winter of brutally cold temperatures and seemingly endless snowfall led to a deep snowpack in the mountains at the headwaters of the Missouri River. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a higher risk of flooding this spring. 

2011 brought major flooding to many areas along the Missouri River. This year, the snow pack is comparable to those levels. But Kevin Low of the National Weather Service says even though the snow is starting to melt, there are a few differences this year.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Mon April 21, 2014

Chinese Market Could Help Rid Rivers Of Invasive Asian Carp

Recently processed Asian carp hang in racks at the Two Rivers Fisheries processing plant in Wickliffe, Ky. The fishing industry hopes demand from China can both create a market for, and help rid U.S. rivers of, the invasive species.
Credit Jacob McCleland for Harvest Public Media

Water experts worried about Asian carp may have new hope. They’re turning their eyes to China, where a carp-hungry populace may be the key for stemming the tide of the invasive fish.

Asian carp are taking over U.S. waterways, including the Mississippi River and tributaries like the Illinois and Missouri Rivers, where they out-compete native fish.

In China, carp is cheap and a common meal-time fixture. Now, a carp fishing industry is springing up along carp-infested U.S. waters and processors are exporting the U.S. problem fish to Chinese diners.

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Central Standard
12:35 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Precariousness For Pollinators: Monarch Butterflies & Honeybees In Decline

Insect ecologist Chip Taylor gets up close and personal with monarch butterflies.
Credit Catherine L. Sherman and Monarch Watch

Insect ecologist Chip Taylor is a friend to both the monarch butterfly and the honeybee. He's been tracking monarchs and restoring their habitats since 1992. And he's worked with bees in French Guiana, Venezuela and Mexico.

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Harvest Public Media
4:27 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Vertical Farming: Towering Vision, Uncertain Future

This four-story meatpacking plant built in 1925 is now home to five farming operations. It’s what’s becoming known as a “vertical farm.”
Peter Gray Harvest Public Media

Farmers are making inroads supplying local food to hungry city foodies, but many producers are trying to grow more food in urban centers. City real estate is at a premium, so some producers are finding more space by using what’s called “vertical farming,” and going up rather than spreading out.

Growers across the country are heading indoors, using greenhouses and hydroponics – growing plants in a water and nutrient solution instead of soil and using lamps to replace sunlight. Vertical farming takes that to a new level.

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Harvest Public Media
8:48 am
Thu April 10, 2014

While Farm Life Changes, FFA’s Blue Jacket Stays The Same

The blue corduroy jackets sported by high schoolers in FFA have been a part of the group's brand since its founding in 1928.
Luke Runyon Harvest Public Media

The blue corduroy jacket worn by high school students in FFA, formerly the Future Farmers of America, is an icon of rural life. To the average city dweller the jacket is a vestige of dwindling, isolated farm culture, as fewer and fewer young people grow up on farms. The numbers tell a different story however. In spite of that demographic shift, a record number of kids are donning blue jackets this year.

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Agriculture
1:42 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Kansas Congressman Introduces Ban on GMO Labels

Anti-GMO protestors at a Denver, Colo., rally last year
Credit (Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)

State efforts to label genetically-modified food would be outlawed under a bill unveiled by a Kansas congressman Wednesday – a plan immediately criticized as a “legislative Hail Mary” that won’t pass.

The bill by Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Wichita, would also bar the Food and Drug Administration from labeling efforts, a move highly popular with consumers, and allow so-called “natural” foods to contain bio-engineered ingredients.  

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Environment
10:27 am
Wed April 9, 2014

Genetic Mapping Gives Endangered Missouri River Pallid A Boost

A pallid sturgeon caught during a broodstock collection on the Missouri River, about 20 miles away from Liberty, Mo.
Suzanne Hogan KCUR

The Missouri River has turned into a harsh home for the pallid sturgeon — commonly known as the "Missouri River dinosaur."

The white flat-nosed fish has been on the planet for more than 70 million years, and it’s been on the federal endangered species list since 1990. But genetic research and stocking efforts are helping these ancient bottom feeder species.

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Harvest Public Media
8:32 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Corn Farmers Fight Rootworm Resistance

New research confirms what many Midwest farmers have already suspected: The corn rootworm can develop resistance to varieties genetically modified to thwart the pest. Here, rootworm damage in an Iowa field ruined a corn crop.
Credit Courtesy / Aaron Gassmann

After a long battle with corn rootworm, Midwest farmers thought they’d found relief in genetically modified seeds engineered to produce toxins deadly to the pest. But recent research confirms what farmers have been noticing for several years: the western corn rootworm has been evolving to outwit the technology.

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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
8:06 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Food Hubs Could Provide Crucial Link For Amish Farmers

Mervin Graber of checks on his small herd of grass-fed cows in his pasture near Sullivan, Ill.
Credit Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

Lacking the infrastructure of traditional suppliers, many local farms that want to connect to restaurants, schools and other big buyers are using the Internet to reach customers.

Groups of farms are banding together to form regional food hubs, leveraging online ordering, tracking and marketing tools to cut down on costs and to try to keep local food systems viable for growers and affordable for consumers.

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Harvest Public Media
7:58 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Drones: Coming Soon To A Farm Near You?

A remote-controlled quadcopter hovers over a Bloomington, Ill., parking lot, where Colby offered test flights of new unmanned vehicle models.
Credit Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

Unmanned aerial vehicles aren’t just for spies or for the battlefield. Farmers all over the country think drones can give them a leg up, too.

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Harvest Public Media
7:57 am
Mon March 17, 2014

Bring Home The Bacon: Virus Cutting Pork Supplies

A sow weans her healthy piglets on Borgic’s farm. He says he has managed to rid his farm of PED, but must remain vigilant.
Credit Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

Bacon-loving shoppers prepare yourselves: A virus that has devastated piglets for nearly a year is causing lower pork supplies and higher prices.

Farmer Phil Borgic of Nokomis, Ill., knows firsthand what happens when porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus infects a hog barn. He walked through one in late January, pointing out the differences among litters.

“This is a PED litter. See how dirty they are?” he said, pointing to a sow whose little piglets had dirty hooves.

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Agriculture
7:52 am
Tue March 11, 2014

USDA Announces 'Concerted Effort' To Help Small Farms

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Monday that it is launching what it calls “a concerted effort” to help small and mid-sized farms.

The announcement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack comes after a recent census pointed to a reduction in the number of smaller farming operations.

Speaking with reporters from the National Farmers Union Convention in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Vilsack says his department is working to assist these farmers in finding markets for their products.

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Harvest Public Media
7:45 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Padlock The Milk! FDA’s Push To Safeguard The Food Supply

Milk that Central Dairy delivers is kept behind doors secured with three-inch long padlocks.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

Many of the food terrorism scenarios outlined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration involve liquid.

And there’s good reason for that.

Liquids like orange juice and milk go through many processing steps -- farm, bottling plant, delivery – before reaching the consumers who drink them. And these liquids are moved, manufactured and stored in huge batches that get distributed and consumed quickly. Should a toxin be injected somewhere along the supply chain, experts believe it could have devastating human health and economic consequences.

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Harvest Public Media
8:27 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Could Our Food Supply Be A Target For Terrorists?

A bioterror attack that introduced a virus like foot-and-mouth disease could devastate the U.S. livestock industry. Regulators are proposing new rules meant to protect the food system from terror attack.
Credit Jeremy Bernfeld / Harvest Public Media

  It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster. Villains in trench coats scheme ways to cause the most destruction and chaos. They settle on a food company, an easy target, and plan to lace the products with a chemical or pathogen. The hero finds out the plan with enough time to save the day.

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Harvest Public Media
8:18 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Hog Virus Causing Spike In Price Of Bacon

Hog producer Phil Borgic of Nokomis, Ill., lost one full month of piglets to the PED virus.
Credit Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

Shoppers are already paying more for pork and bacon than they did last year and many economists expect those prices to continue climbing for the next few months.

Chris Hurt, an agricultural economist at Purdue University, watches the market for lean hog futures– the anticipated price of hogs heading to market soon. The futures price hit record-highs in early March, Hurt said, which will translate to expensive and bacon in the supermarket in the coming months.

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