Agriculture

Agriculture
9:21 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Schools In Missouri And Kansas Spending More On Local Food

School districts in both Kansas and Missouri spent more than ten percent of their food budget buying from local farms in the 2011-2012 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Census. That means efforts to fill cafeteria trays with local foods have plenty of room to grow.

Across the Midwest, most states report 25 to 50 percent of their school districts are buying from local farms, growing edible gardens or teaching nutrition—all parts of USDA’s Farm to School effort.

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Harvest Public Media
8:13 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Proposed Merger Could Create Wheat Milling Goliath

Farmers in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska harvest about one-third of the nation’s wheat acres, according to the most recent Agricultural Census.
Credit Ron Jones / KCUR

Fall is planting time for wheat across the Great Plains and this year’s crop went into the ground while big changes were underway in the wheat market. Some of the biggest players in the flour milling industry are joining forces to make the country’s largest miller even larger.

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Harvest Public Media
7:56 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Feds Propose To Reduce Ethanol Requirement In Gasoline

The federal government proposed Friday to cut the amount of corn-based ethanol oil companies have to put in the gasoline supply, by more than a billion gallons. Much of the corn used to make that ethanol is grown right here in the Midwest. 

Cutting the amount of corn ethanol required in the Renewable Fuel Standard essentially puts a cap on demand for corn from the Midwest.

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Harvest Public Media
7:43 am
Mon November 11, 2013

Consumers Often Lost In The Middle Of Scientific Food Battles

Non-genetically modified soybeans – like these from a Polk County, Iowa, farm – are rare in the U.S., where debate continues on the efficacy of genetically modified food products.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Hot-button food issues of the day, such as the use of genetically modified organisms or the treatment of livestock, tend to pit large industries against smaller activist groups. Often, both sides will claim the science supports what they are saying. That can leave consumers, most of whom aren’t scientists, in a bit of a bind.

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Harvest Public Media
8:37 am
Wed October 30, 2013

Children Of Meatpackers Dream Big, Cultivate Opportunity

Binh Hua (left) and My Nguyen, both 18, work in the Garden City Community College chemistry lab. The two best friends graduated from high school in three years and after community college, plan to go on to universities.
Peggy Lowe Harvest Public Media

Not yet 9 a.m. on a warm fall day, freshmen Binh Hua and My Nguyen are in protective goggles, long hair pulled back, ready for their chemistry class in a Garden City Community College lab.

The teacher calls the class to order, calling the students “Busters,” short for “Broncbusters,” the college’s mascot and a reminder of this old West town’s history of raising cattle.

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Harvest Public Media
7:44 am
Tue October 29, 2013

Garden City, Kan. Considered Model Of Success For Immigrant Influx

Two students in a “newcomer” class at Florence Wilson Elementary School in Garden City, Kan.
Peggy Lowe Harvest Public Media

Sister Janice Thome’s office is a 2003 brown Ford Focus with a backseat piled high with paperwork and a prayer book.

Thome puts 125,000 miles a year on this car, picking up boxes from the food pantry, finding a mattress for a newcomer, delivering a sick soul to a doctor’s appointment. All the while, she fields emergency calls on her flip phone, responding to her mission to serve the poor of Garden City, out on the plains of southwest Kansas.

This day, Thome is teaching her teen parenting class at the alternative high school.

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Harvest Public Media
8:56 am
Mon October 28, 2013

Schools Become The Safety-Net For Immigrants In Rural Missouri

At the primary school in rural Noel, Mo., teachers and staff function as educators about as often as they do de facto social workers.
Abbie Fentress Swanson Harvest Public Media

It’s almost 9 a.m., and Noel Primary School teacher Erin McPherson is helping a group of Spanish-speaking students complete English language exercises. But it’s tough going.

One student in a bright blue T-shirt – 9-year-old Isac Martinez – has not yet picked up his pencil. He’s clearly sick. When McPherson asks him what’s wrong, Isac’s small voice is barely audible in between coughs. He says he threw up four times last night but did not go to a doctor.

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Harvest Public Media
7:24 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Cantaloupe Farmers Plead Guilty To Criminal Charges

Credit News21 – National/Flickr

The Colorado farmers who distributed cantaloupes infected with listeria two years ago pleaded guilty in federal court to criminal charges Tuesday. Jensen Farms, located outside Holly, Colo., was the source of the outbreak that killed 33 people nationwide.

The outbreak was the deadliest in more than 20 years. Cantaloupes processed in the summer of 2011 at Jensen Farms near the Kansas border were laden with listeria. It’s a pathogen infamous for its high mortality rate.

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Harvest Public Media
8:54 am
Mon October 21, 2013

Farm Families Follow Drought With Record Harvest

After the drought crippled corn yields in 2012, farmers across the Midwest are harvesting what could be the largest crop ever in 2013.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Nancy Friesen sat nervously at the controls of a giant John Deere combine that made the corn stalks look like match sticks. It was her second day in the driver’s seat of the giant machine and she normally works in the garden, not the field. But during harvest time, everyone in the family pitches in.

One year after the worst drought in decades, farm families all over the Midwest are preparing to bring in a record-breaking corn crop. While there’s some uncertainty in the air thanks to falling corn prices, this is a time of year when farm families focus on the task at hand.

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Harvest Public Media
7:09 am
Fri October 18, 2013

The Long, Slow Decline Of The U.S. Sheep Industry

Double J Feeders outside Ault, Colo., is one of just a handful of lamb feeding operations in the country.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Over the last 20 years, the number of sheep in this country has been cut in half. In fact, the number has been declining since the late 1940s, when the American sheep industry hit its peak. Today, the domestic sheep herd is one-tenth the size it was during World War II.

The decline is the result of economic and cultural factors coming together. And it has left ranchers to wonder, “When are we going to hit the bottom?”

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Agriculture
8:20 am
Wed October 16, 2013

Govt. Shutdown Halts Farm Chemical Inspections

Millions of dollars worth of chemicals used to make pesticides are being held at U.S. ports because the EPA personnel that normally inspect the shipments are furloughed during the government shutdown.
Credit Rennett Stowe / Flickr--CC

American farmers count on a steady supply of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides to keep pests from destroying their crops,  but the government shutdown is creating a backlog of chemicals needed to produce the vital tools.

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Harvest Public Media
8:45 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Farmers Plowing Up More And More Of The Prairie

A pasture near Ord, Neb., in June 2012 before it was broken out for farmland. Wildlife biologist Ben Wheeler called it an extreme case of land being converted from grass to corn.
Courtesy Ben Wheeler/Pheasants Forever and Nebraska Game & Parks Commission

In recent years, farmers in the Midwest have transformed millions of acres of prairie grass to rows of corn. High crop prices are a big motivation, but some also believe crop insurance is encouraging farmers to roll the dice on less productive land.

Rod Christen and his sister Kay farm corn, soybeans and wheat on their land near the small town of Steinauer, Neb. But their main crop is grass.

“Big bluestem is our big producer,” said Rod Christen. “It’s kind of our Cadillac grass.”

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Agriculture
1:03 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

Government Shutdown Stops USDA Data, Leaves Farmers Guessing

Credit Frank Morris / KCUR-FM

Normally, Friday would be a big day for the commodity markets. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Report is due, providing what is widely excepted to be the most trusted and complete snapshot of farm markets in the middle of harvest season. But, with the government shutdown the report is not coming out. In fact, farmers and ranchers aren’t getting any of the USDA information they rely on, and in this case, ignorance is not bliss.

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Harvest Public Media
3:21 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

Technology Looks To Prevent Grain Bin Entrapments

At a Mid-Iowa Cooperative elevator in Tama County, Iowa, a control room has monitors that show the conditions in each bin, which means grain workers don’t have to investigate issues.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Across the rural Midwest, landscapes are dotted with tall, cylindrical storage containers for grain. Some belong to commercial grain elevators, but increasingly farmers want to market their grain throughout the year so they install their own storage bins right on the farm. Maintaining the quality of that grain requires vigilance—and can present safety concerns. In particular, the risk of entrapment when a person enters a bin to check on the grain.

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Harvest Public Media
7:36 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Is There A Tilt In Pork Board-Funded Research?

John Mabry, an animal science professor at Iowa State University, has a grant from the National Pork Board to study nutrition in Berkshire hogs.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

When a new disease — known as PEDV —turned up in the U.S. hog industry in May and threatened to kill whole litters of piglets, the National Pork Board quickly responded with $450,000 in research funding.

A fast-track review process put funds in U.S. labs in two weeks, said Paul Sundberg, the board’s vice president for science and technology. Normally, it takes months for the board’s volunteer committees to decide research priorities.

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Harvest Public Media
7:52 am
Mon October 7, 2013

Expected Bumper Crop Has Price Of Corn Dropping

Farmers have been riding a wave of high corn prices in recent years, but an expected bumper crop has corn prices dropping.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

On a clear fall day in central Iowa, Aaron Lehman climbed into the cab of his green combine with a screwdriver to do some maintenance. He was hoping his corn had a couple more weeks to grow before harvesting because the price per bushel this fall is much lower than it has been for the past three years.

Corn farmers have been riding high prices for the last few years. But an expected bumper crop has prices falling this harvest season, and many economists expect the price of corn to drop to its lowest level in recent years.

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KC Currents
10:25 am
Fri October 4, 2013

The Farm Bill Expired This Week, What Does That Mean For You?

Credit Bruce Liese / KCUR

You may have heard that the farm bill expired at midnight on Monday, but chances are, you probably haven’t noticed. The farm bill is buried in Washington under a mountain of significant and controversial legislation, from the government shutdown to the debt ceiling, and likely won’t be in the headlines any time soon.

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KC Currents
9:59 am
Thu October 3, 2013

With Waiver Expired, Some Kansans Will Have To Work For Food Stamps

Credit kthread / Flickr--CC

This week, Kansas let a 2009 government waiver expire that provided food stamps for the unemployed. Now, able-bodied Kansans between 18 and 49 who do not have dependents, have to work or be in a job training program to have access to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps.

Kansas currently has about 318,000 food stamp recipients. Advocates for low-income people say this change will create a dangerous hole in an already thin safety net.

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Central Standard
5:28 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

Dust Bowl Images Bring Life To Those Affected

Vernon Evans (with his family) of Lemmon, South Dakota, near Missoula, Montana on Highway 10. Leaving grasshopper-ridden and drought-stricken area for a new start in Oregon or Washington., 1936
Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985) Spencer Museum of Art

In the 1930's, farmers' extensive deep plowing of top soil in the great plains region displaced the natural grasses that normally kept the soil in place. That, in combination with a mix of drought and high winds led to dust storms creating a decade-long period known as the dust bowl that affected thousands of people. What was once a paradise for those moving west to farm the land became a desert-like environment and was later deserted by many settlers. 

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Agriculture
10:32 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Farmers In Limbo – Again – As Farm Bill Expires

The farm bill expired at midnight on Monday, leaving farmers and ranchers across the country guessing at what federal farm policy will look like when they next put their crops in the ground.

Of course, they’re used to uncertainty, as this is the second straight year Congress has let the farm bill expire. Last year, farmers were set adrift for three months before lawmakers passed a nine-month extension of older policy in January.

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Tracking NBAF
11:13 am
Mon September 30, 2013

Sale Of Plum Island May Stall, Impact On NBAF Uncertain

When the Department of Homeland Security authorized funding for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in 2009, proceeds from the sale of New York’s Plum Island were expected to entirely offset the cost of the Kansas-based lab.

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Harvest Public Media
9:36 am
Mon September 30, 2013

Is Millet The Next Trendy Grain?

Millet, long an ingredient in birdfeed, could be the next food to capitalize on the heritage grain trend.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Heritage grains are trendy. Walk through a health food store and see packages of grains grown long before modern seed technology created hybrid varieties, grains eaten widely outside of the developed world: amaranth, sorghum, quinoa.

But there’s another grain with tremendous potential growing on the Great Plains: millet.

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Harvest Public Media
8:05 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Why Farmers Buy New Equipment, Frequently

Corzine and his son Christian farm 3,000 acres and can’t afford a broken wagon or combine.
Credit Bill Wheelhouse / Harvest Public Media

On a hot day in late August, Kevin Bien stood amid the shade of a large gray piece of farm equipment.  The brand marketing manager for Gleaner Combines gave his best spiel to a group of farmers attending the Farm progress Show  in Decatur, Ill. Torque, efficiency and new technology were among his key points for the prospective buyers of the large machines that can run anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000.

And farmers are buying. Frequently.

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Harvest Public Media
6:03 am
Mon September 23, 2013

Obamacare Could Be Tough Sell In Rural Areas

Bob Bernt and his wife, Kristine, have gone without health insurance for the last 20 years, and don’t plan on buying coverage to meet the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

 

The Affordable Care Act, often called “Obamacare,” takes a big step forward Oct. 1 when new health insurance marketplaces open for enrollment. Rural families are more likely to qualify for subsidized coverage, but reaching them to sign up will be part of the challenge.

So, will farm country take advantage of new health insurance subsidies? That’s the question in Nebraska.

Almost 200,000 Nebraskans don’t have health insurance. Nearly half of them are spread across the state’s rural areas.

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Harvest Public Media
8:06 am
Mon September 16, 2013

Mysterious Exploding Manure Has Hog Owners Worried

Researchers are still trying to determine the cause of the potentially explosive foam.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Howard Hill pulls his red Chevy pick-up truck up to a barn near Union, Iowa, that houses 1,000 of his hogs. In the truck’s bed is a 55-pound bag of Rumensin 90, a common antibacterial ingredient in cattle feed that helps reduce bloating. Pigs don’t eat it. Hill brought it here to dump into the manure pit under the hogs.

Hill is among the many Midwestern pork producers who use deep pits under their barns to accumulate manure throughout the year. In the fall, after fields are harvested, the nutrient-rich slurry gets pumped out of the pits and injected into the cropland.

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Harvest Public Media
8:57 am
Tue September 10, 2013

Crop Insurance Credited For Saving Farmers, Local Economies

Federally subsidized crop insurance paid out $17.4 billion in 2012
Credit Harvest Public Media

Farmer Doug Wilson has been buying crop insurance since 1980. 

“You carry home insurance, hoping your house doesn’t burn down. We carry crop insurance, hoping our crops don’t burn down,” Wilson said on a sweltering day in mid-August as he walked among the healthy 8-foot corn stalks in one his fields in central Illinois. “But last year, they burned down — kind of literally.”

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Harvest Public Media
7:43 am
Mon September 9, 2013

Congress Still Playing The Farm Bill Game

Blogger Val Wagner, who lives and works on a farm in North Dakota, says the popular Facebook game Farmville features its own farm bill.
Credit Courtesy / Val Wagner

The farm bill is, once again, entering a critical stretch. As was the case last year, the current law expires at the end of September. There’s no election to dissuade elected officials from tackling the major piece of agriculture and nutrition policy—but Congress does have a pretty full plate, with the crisis in Syria, immigration reform and a measure to continue funding federal government programs all set to come to a head.

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Agriculture
2:22 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Susan Werner's 'Hayseed,' An Ode To Agriculture

Chicago-based singer-songwriter Susan Werner has worked on concept albums before – from jazz standards to pop classics to Gospel music for agnostics. Her new CD, Hayseed, is described as "egg meets art," celebrating agriculture through music.

Susan Werner's roots are in Iowa; she grew up on the family farm near Dubuque. When her parents decided to move to town about a year ago, the idea of creating a musical tribute took shape.

Preserving stories, language, and characters in song

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Harvest Public Media
9:11 am
Thu September 5, 2013

New Fruit Fly Damaging Midwest Crops

A spotted wing drosophila rests on a raspberry.
courtesy of Timothy Baker

Shoppers hoping to buy berries, peaches and grapes at farmers markets in Missouri may be looking a little bit harder this summer due to a newly arrived pest that is damaging crops across the state.

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Harvest Public Media
7:47 am
Wed September 4, 2013

In Iowa, Government Asks Farmers To Control Runoff

Farmer Tim Smith stands by a creek that cuts through his property near the north-central Iowa town of Eagle Grove. He does several water quality conservation practices on his land including a bio-reactor, strip tilling and cover crops.
Credit Clay Masters / Harvest Public Media

This summer, officials in Iowa have been asking farmers to voluntarily reduce the amount of fertilizer they use. That’s because the fertilizer contains nitrates that are being washed into state waterways and creating environmental concerns locally and nationally. The runoff has been particularly bad this year, and the outcry over typical crop practices is growing.

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