Agriculture

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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Agriculture
9:18 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Missouri Among States Suing California Over Henhouse Restrictions

Hens living high on the hog on David Kesten's family farm
Credit Frank Morris / KCUR-FM

By most measures David Kesten's hens are living the good life.

"They can act like chickens, they can run around," says Kesten, who's raising hens in an old wooden shed in the open countryside near Concordia, Mo. "They can go out and catch bugs, they can dig in the ground."

But most U.S. hens live crammed into very close quarters, according to Joe Maxwell, with the Humane Society of the U.S. And he says that's just wrong.

"There are some things we should not do to animals," says Maxwell.

Proposition 2, and the Commerce Clause

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Central Standard
1:00 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Egg Wars: California Versus Missouri

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster along with five other attorneys general have filed a lawsuit against the State of California for its regulations regarding cage sizes for chickens.

The original legislature, Proposition 2, was passed in 2008, which required cages to be nearly twice as large as most standard chicken cages. The follow up law requires all eggs sold in California to comply to these same conditions.

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Harvest Public Media
9:57 am
Wed March 5, 2014

Ag Data Could Generate Prescriptions For Fields

A couple of seeds, some fertilizer, a little sunshine – just add water and you’re ready to harvest your crops, right?

Farming, as you might imagine, is a lot more complicated than that. And that’s why information – data – is the next frontier for farming, which you may have already seen.

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Harvest Public Media
8:08 am
Tue March 4, 2014

U.S. Wastes Nearly A Third Of Food Produced

Nearly a third of the food available to be eaten in the U.S. is thrown out instead. And all of that wasted food comes with a steep price tag.

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Harvest Public Media
8:20 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Farmers Bid Farewell To Big Expense Tax Write-Offs

It could be yet another sign that the good times are over.

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Harvest Public Media
8:18 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Climate Change Could Be Good News For Some Invasive Plants

Ellen Nelson has battled invasive plants that out-compete native grasses on her grass-fed beef ranch near Bellvue, Colo. Some climate studies suggest that fight will worsen in the coming decades.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

  Most climate models paint a bleak picture for the Great Plains a century from now: It will likely be warmer and the air will be more rich with carbon dioxide. Though scientists don’t yet know how exactly the climate will change, new studies show it could be a boon to some invasive plant species.  

A growing problem

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Central Standard
4:01 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

The Business Of Meat In America

This country's meat industry no longer includes the picturesque red barn and white picket fences. Instead, the meat we buy at the supermarket is likely processed by one of the four large meat packing companies that controls the majority of the industry.

On today's Central Standard, journalist and author Christopher Leonard discusses his book "The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America's Food Business." Also, Mark Dopp of the American Meat Institute weighs in on what he perceives as the benefits of having a more centralized system.

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Harvest Public Media
8:06 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Farmers Play The Markets, Learn To Avoid Risk

: Robbie Maass shows his mother, Leah, the Commodity Challenge game that is helping him understand market tools. Leah Maass says her farm could benefit from better use of the tools and she’s hoping Robbie will be able to learn how to put them to work for the family
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

On a frigid winter day, Chad Hart tries to warm his economics students at Iowa State University to the idea of managing some of the risk of farming using the commodity markets. Because, as he told them on the first day of class, farmers don’t make money planting or harvesting crops; they make money selling them. And Hart knows that marketing—managing those sales for the best profit—can be intimidating.

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Harvest Public Media
8:02 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Young Farmers Wait For Their Opportunity

Eric Brockmann and his family moved back to his hometown of West Point, Neb., to pursue his passion for farming.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The average age of American farmers has been climbing for decades, and many say rural towns are at-risk without new blood. There are enough people who want to farm, but there’s trouble connecting beginning farmers and the communities that need them.

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Harvest Public Media
7:10 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Preliminary Data From Ag Census Shows Aging Farmers, Declining Farms

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is beginning to release figures from its 2012 Census of Agriculture. An early standout in the data is the value of products being sold.

Greg Thessen, with the USDA’s agricultural statistics service, says sales figures come shining through in the preliminary data.

"The biggest thing it showed was the large increase in the market value of products that farmers sold in 2012," he said.

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Agriculture
5:15 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Missouri Reclaims Second Highest Beef Cow Count in US

Veronique LaCapra/St. Louis Public Radio

Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 1:02 pm

Missouri has retaken its position as the number two beef cow producer in the nation. The USDA’s annual inventory shows the state surpassed Nebraska with a 63,000-increase in cows from 2012 to 2013.

Dry weather across the country had a lot to do with Missouri reclaiming the spot which it held from 1983 to 2008, said University of Missouri agriculture economist Scott Brown.

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Harvest Public Media
8:15 am
Mon February 17, 2014

Farmland Real Estate 'Bubble' May Be Ready To Pop

The so-called farmland real estate bubble appears to be starting to deflate. After years of steep property values, a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City shows the high times may be coming to an end.

Since 2011, the price for a plot of a farmland across the Midwest has been growing at breakneck speed. Most of that has been due to the same trajectory in the price of major commodity crops like corn and soybeans. Now, with crop prices slipping, farmers are set to bring in less money. Money they could be using to buy or rent more land.

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Agriculture
9:28 am
Wed February 12, 2014

Making The Leap: How Niche Crops Go Mainstream

Andrew Pittz and his family operate a commercial aronia berry farm in Iowa, which supplies berries and value-added products to retailers nationwide.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

In the Midwest, crop agriculture often gets divided between the major commodities – corn, soybeans and wheat – and everything else. Diverting acres away from a major commodity to an un-tested crop is risky, but sometimes agronomics and market forces meet in a sweet spot and farmers can reap the benefits of innovation.

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Central Standard
4:00 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

The Missouri Dairy Industry Crisis

The dairy farm has been a staple of the idea of the American farm, but approximately 2,500 smaller dairy farms in Missouri have closed shop, unable to compete with larger operations. 

Now, according to Missouri State Representative Casey Guernsey, 60 percent of Missouri's milk is imported because of the decreasing number of local dairy farms.

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Harvest Public Media
7:56 am
Mon February 10, 2014

Spike In Propane Price Worries Midwest Farmers

The barn at Borgic Farms in Nokomis, Ill., where piglets are weaned must be kept warm year-round. In the winter, that means using a bank of propane-fueled heaters
Credit Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

Residents across the Midwest are struggling with tight propane supplies, especially in this bitterly cold, snowy winter. But it’s not just homes in rural counties that are lacking adequate heating fuel. Farms that put bacon and eggs on your breakfast plate are also feeling the supply pinch. 

Hog farmer Phil Borgic of Nokomis, Ill., burns liquid propane – LP - from September through May to support his piglets. His farrowing barn goes through about two semi truckloads of LP each year. 

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Agriculture
4:37 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Years In The Making, New Farm Bill Becomes Law

President Obama signs the Agriculture Act of 2014 as members of Congress and the Cabinet look on.
Credit Courtesy Stephen Carmody / Michigan Radio

  President Barak Obama signed the new farm bill into law Friday at Michigan State University in East Lansing, ending years of negotiations and wrangling.

With farm equipment, hay bales and crates of apples setting the stage, the president told the crowd that this farm bill – officially called the Agriculture Act of 2014 – will save taxpayer dollars while also offering support to farmers and ranchers. And he says that helps the whole country.

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Harvest Public Media
8:14 am
Thu February 6, 2014

USDA Will Set Up Hubs To Help Farmers Adapt To Climate Change

The U.S Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday it plans to set up seven new research hubs across the country to help farmers adapt to climate change.

In the past few years, farmers across the Midwest have grappled with epic drought, mega-blizzards and crippling heat.

“The combination of all those factors convinces me that the climate is changing and it will have its impact,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

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Harvest Public Media
7:28 am
Wed February 5, 2014

Why Cutting The Ethanol Mandate May Not Ruin The Rural Economy

Just outside of Central City, Neb., is the Green Plains Energy ethanol plant, a facility that can produce 100 million gallons of ethanol each year.
Grant Gerlock Harvest Public Media

The EPA wants to roll back the amount of ethanol mixed into the fuel supply for 2014, worrying farmers across the Corn Belt. Ethanol supporters warn that if the EPA follows through, the rural economy will take the fall. But many economists predict a soft landing.

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Central Standard
4:00 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

The Farm Bill's Final Steps

On Feb. 4, Congress passed the farm bill, a piece of legislature that will cut food stamps by $800 million a year, consolidate dozens of agriculture subsidy programs and provide crop insurance to farmers. Harvest Public Media's Jeremy Bernfeld share details on the changes to one of the largest spending measures congress passes.

Guest: 

  • Jeremy Bernfeld, multimedia editor for Harvest Public Media at KCUR
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Harvest Public Media
3:31 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Senate Passes Farm Bill, Sends It To President

After more than two years of debate on Capitol Hill, a new farm bill is poised to become law after both the U.S. House and Senate approved it.
Credit greetarchurch / Flickr--CC

The U.S. Senate passed the farm bill Tuesday by a vote of 68-32, sending it to the president’s desk and ending years of political wrangling.

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Harvest Public Media
8:05 am
Mon February 3, 2014

2014 Farm Bill Would Change U.S. Ag Policy

More than two years in the making, the farm bill process has been a long slog for lawmakers on Washington D.C.’s Capitol Hill and farmers alike.
Credit greetarchurch / Flickr--CC

It’s getting so close now … Last week the U.S. House passed the Agriculture Act of 2014, the new farm bill. The Senate is expected to take it up Monday. President Obama’s signature could be on it in the coming days and then … boom!

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Harvest Public Media
7:57 am
Mon February 3, 2014

Senate To Consider Farm Bill

The U.S. Senate is set to take up the long overdue farm bill Monday.

The bill passed the U.S. House last week and if it makes it through the Senate, many Midwest farmers will be taking a close look at how they spread the risk of growing commodities. Sstarting immediately, direct payments would not be available to prop up the bottom line.

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