Agriculture

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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Harvest Public Media
7:59 am
Tue September 3, 2013

Scientists Detect High Levels Of Nitrogen In Midwest Waterways

Joe Schatz, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, prepares to take a sample of Missouri River water near Hermann, Mo.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

This spring and summer, U.S. Geological Survey scientists waded into 100 Midwest streams to test for hundreds of chemicals used in farming, including nutrients, pesticides like atrazine and glyphosate, and livestock hormones. The results from the study are trickling in. But preliminary findings indicate that from May through early July, 21 percent of the region’s streams contained very high levels of nitrogen in the form of nitrates.

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Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon September 2, 2013

Herbicide Drift Threatens Midwest Vineyards

Tom Zumpfe holds a bunch of Frontenac grapes he said were stunted by herbicide drift. Zumpfe says at least half the grapes are either BBs or they’re non-existent.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

As Midwest vineyards move in next door to longstanding fields of corn or soybeans, they don’t always make good neighbors. Occasionally, herbicides like 2,4-D drift beyond their target, and for nearby vineyards the results can be devastating.

2,4-D is a common herbicide used by farmers because it kills weeds but doesn’t kill their corn. Landscapers and golf courses use it on lawns and fairways. Highway crews often spray 2,4-D on road ditches.

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Harvest Public Media
9:35 am
Thu August 29, 2013

Most Midwest Farmers Still Dealing With Drought

Hot weather has been greeting visitors to this year’s Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill., one of the country’s largest agriculture trade shows. It’s a fitting reminder of a rough year for farmers.

Hot weather is no surprise during the late-August exhibition of all things farming. But the recent dry spell in the Midwest is causing some worries.

Pam Johnson, a Northern Iowa farmer who is president of the National Corn Growers association says that's been the number one concern she's heard from show visitors.

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Agriculture
7:53 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

Horse Slaughter Divides Horse Lovers

The Hilltop Saddle Club, established in 1944, is the oldest African American saddle club in the nation. Most members of the group oppose horse slaughter.
Frank Morris KCUR

Most Americans don’t eat horse meat, and they don’t like the idea of horses being slaughtered, but a handful of investors are struggling to restart a horse slaughter industry in the United States.

They argue that slaughter would be good for the horse business, and more humane than the current situation. The issue cleaves horse owners into two camps: one that views horses as pets, and another that see them as livestock.

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Harvest Public Media
7:41 am
Wed August 28, 2013

My Farm Roots: Community Counts

Matt Pauly grew up in rural Kansas. After living in Europe and Asia, he moved back to the Midwest and now lives in Lawrence, Kan.
Credit Jeremy Bernfeld / Harvest Public Media

Matt Pauly has traveled the world  – he’s lived in New York, Paris and South Korea – but he’s still a farm boy at heart.

Ask him about growing up in tiny Denton, Kan., population less than 200. You’ll hear about mending fences in the summer. He’ll talk about harvest-time picnics in the fields – roast beef, mashed potatoes, a big thermos of iced tea, delivered by his grandmother. And of course, there’s his eight-man football career at his tiny 1A high school (2000 Kansas State Champions.) 

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Harvest Public Media
7:41 am
Mon August 26, 2013

Farmers Look To Do More With Less Water

Sunflowers on a USDA research plot in Weld County, Colo.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

The future of agriculture across the Great Plains hinges on water. Without it, nothing can grow.

Climate models and population growth paint a pretty bleak picture for water availability a few decades from now. If farmers want to stay in business, they have to figure out how to do more with less. Enter: super efficient irrigation systems.

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Harvest Public Media
7:56 am
Thu August 22, 2013

How Howard Buffett Is Helping Feed The World

Admitting he’s a boy who loves big toys, Howard Buffett stands on his John Deere tractor on his Arizona research farm.
Credit Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

Five years ago, Howard G. Buffett was at a meeting of an international food aid agency when he was told that feeding the millions of starving people in Africa was simple.

Just give them better seeds, someone said.

That advice might work on some philanthropists. But Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffett, happens to be an Illinois farmer.

“This guy was explaining to me how to farm and he’d never been on a farm in his life,” he said. “So it really kind of irritated me. I came home and said, ‘OK, I’m going to have data to show these guys.’”

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Harvest Public Media
8:40 am
Wed August 21, 2013

My Farm Roots: Born To Farm

Despite suffering from Guillain-Barre syndrome, Steve Quandt still farms outside Grand Island, Neb.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

One sign that you have strong farm roots is when your rural road is named for your family.

I met Steve Quandt on Quandt Road, north of Grand Island, Neb., on the farm that used to belong to his grandfather. It’s the place he remembers spending days as a kid, from morning to night, helping milk cows, work the fields and repair machinery.

He followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, building his own farming operation. But that path was suddenly interrupted nearly six years ago.

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Agriculture
9:30 am
Tue August 20, 2013

Midwestern Farmland Values Continue To Rise

Originally published on Mon August 19, 2013 3:22 pm

Even though farm income only saw a slight increase between the second quarters of 2012 and 2013, there continued to be a rapid rise in the value of farmland, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, which surveyed agricultural banks in parts of seven Midwestern states, including Missouri and Illinois. 

Kevin Kliesen, business economist and research officer with the Fed in St. Louis, says there’s anecdotal reports that some of the money is coming from big, institutional, including foreign, investors.

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Agriculture
11:18 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Rainfall Brings Hope of a Bumper Hay Crop

The record rainfall and flooding we’ve had this summer has made it easier for fungi to spread in corn and soybean fields.  Farmers are trying to stay on top of diseases like rust, gray leaf spot, brown spot, and rotting corn.

The saturated soil and moving water affects soybeans by making their roots unstable. But according to the University of Missouri Extension, there may be a silver lining in the floods--insects have not been as prevalent in crops this year.

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Agriculture
8:29 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Missouri Farmers Battle Thistle In Crops, Pasture

Last fall, after the drought had killed off most of the competition, the thistle took advantage of the opportunity to germinate and flourish. The weed is now hurting productivity on many Missouri farms.

Tim Schnackenberg's phone at the MU Extension office in Lawrence County has been ringing off the hook with farmers complaining about the pesky, invasive weed. It has several forms — musk and bull thistles are common here.

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Harvest Public Media
7:53 am
Thu August 15, 2013

Why E85 Is The Cheapest Gas At The Pump

At many gas stations in Nebraska and across the Midwest, E85 is the cheapest fuel available. However, only a fraction of cars on the road can use it, and on E85 they get less mileage.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Ilya Protopopov stopped at a U-Stop station in Lincoln, Neb., on his way to the track to fuel up his truck and a few dirt bikes. His fuel of choice, 91 octane unleaded, was selling for $4.01 per gallon.

“I used to complain about $1.50 gas, now it’s over $4,” Protopopov said. “Pretty steep.”

But on the same pump there was another fuel selling for under $3. E85 was going for $2.53.

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Harvest Public Media
8:24 am
Wed August 14, 2013

My Farm Roots: Winning Respect

Danelle Myer grew up on a conventional farm, but now runs a small, local vegetable farm outside Logan, Iowa.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Danelle Myer owns a small vegetable farm and like many other small farmers, she’s passionate about the kind of operation she wants to grow: a small, local business.

Myer’s farm just outside Logan, Iowa, sits in the middle of true farm country. Thousands of acres of row crops make up the landscape. Her vegetable farm is almost out of place, even though Myer is a native – she grew up on her family’s conventional farm, a quarter-acre of which she has turned into One Farm.

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Agriculture
8:08 am
Tue August 13, 2013

Vilsack: Immigration Reform Critical For Midwest

Comprehensive immigration reform is critical to sustaining the Midwest's role as a global leader in agriculture. That's the message from U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Vilsack told St. Louis Public Radio Monday that moving forward with the immigration reform plan recently passed by the U.S. Senate is key to retaining international talent that comes to this country to study in the plant sciences.

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Harvest Public Media
7:50 am
Mon August 12, 2013

Tyson Foods Suspends Use Of Controversial Drug

A pen at a feedlot in central Kansas that houses 30,000 cattle. Feedlots are where cattle are “finished” before slaughter.
Credit Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

Tyson Foods, Inc., announced this week that it would soon suspend purchases of cattle that had been treated with a controversial drug, citing animal welfare concerns.

But many in the industry wonder if the real reason is not about cattle, but rather the battle for sales in other countries, where using drugs for meat production is banned.

“I really do think this is more a marketing ploy from Tyson to raise some awareness so they can garner some export business from our overseas export partners,” said Dan Norcini, an independent commodities broker.

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Harvest Public Media
8:27 am
Wed August 7, 2013

My Farm Roots: Tough Guys In The Saddle

Nate Pike has worked the land outside Dodge City, Kan., for most of his 80 years.
Credit Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

I met Nate Pike working on a story back in 2012. When I dropped back by his ranch 30 miles south of Dodge City, Kan., this summer, he took me on a bumpy pickup ride to see a spring called St. Jacob’s Well and we got to talking about the former owner of some of his ranchland.

Pike has been out on his ranch for a while and he told me the former owner started ranching in western Kansas before 1900.

“He was a fine old gentleman and one of the toughest old men I ever knew,” Pike told me, his gravelly voice carrying over the pickup truck’s rambles.

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Harvest Public Media
8:49 am
Tue August 6, 2013

Exploiting The Soybean Beyond The Edible

Ivan Javni displays a soy-based foam produced at the Kansas Polymer Research Center.
Credit Justine Greve / Harvest Public Media

If you think soybeans are just for livestock and vegetarians, think again. 

Increasingly, the commodity is being used in manufacturing — an ingredient in everything from glue to cleaning supplies to even furniture filling.

“Even Henry Ford in the 1930s had built cars using soy oil paint,” said William Schapaugh, an agronomy professor at Kansas State University in Manhattan.  “They were using soy oil in the shock absorbers of the cars.  So that goes back a long time.”

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Harvest Public Media
7:39 am
Mon August 5, 2013

International Demand, Competition Spurs Soybean Innovation

University of Missouri plant scientist Melissa Mitchum inspects a plant for soybean cyst nematode in her greenhouse.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts the nation’s farmers will deliver a record 3.42 billion bushels of soybeans this year. The USDA is also forecasting that this year for the first time Brazil will overtake the United States as the world’s leading producer of soybeans. That means the pressure is on American soybean farmers like Brian Flatt, 41, to eke out even more soybeans from his fields.

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Harvest Public Media
7:42 am
Fri August 2, 2013

How Secure Is The Fort Knox Of Seeds?

Seeds are kept in special aluminum-lined pouches, designed to keep out humid air, which can degrade the seeds.
Credit Grace Hood / KUNC

When unapproved genetically modified wheat was found growing in Oregon earlier this year, it didn’t take long for accusations about how it ended up there to start flying. A flurry of initial finger-pointing cast potential blame on a federal seed vault in Fort Collins, Colo., which housed the same strain of wheat, developed by Monsanto Corp., for about seven years up until late 2011.

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Harvest Public Media
8:21 am
Wed July 31, 2013

My Farm Roots: Providing From The Land

As a child Robert Harris Jr. worked picking cotton. Now, he’s back out in the fields, this time growing produce for the needy.
Credit Jacob McCleland / Harvest Public Media

As a child, Robert Harris Jr. worked the cotton fields of southeastern Missouri’s bootheel. Like many sharecroppers’ children, he fled that life. Now, four decades later, the harvest is calling him again, this time to grow food for the needy in a bunch of community gardens in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

I met with Robert in a garden just outside a food pantry that distributes his produce. We poked through the lush patch of vegetables, full of plump yellow squash and green cucumbers. Soft-spoken and humble, Harris said he had a connection to plants from an early age.

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Harvest Public Media
7:37 am
Tue July 30, 2013

As Aquifer Dwindles, Rural Kan. Wells Run Dry

Limited water supply has put stress on many western Kansas towns, like Meade.
Credit Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

The drought, now in its third year in parts of western Kansas is taxing a resource that has been under pressure for decades: the High Plains Aquifer system.

The aquifer is enormous, but it’s running low in places, forcing a move to dry land farming, and farmers aren’t the only ones effected.

The drought has been burning up crops, lawns and trees for three years now. But there are places where you wouldn’t even know it’s dry, like at the Garden City Big Pool, in Garden City, Kan.

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Agriculture
8:43 am
Tue July 23, 2013

Vilsack Urges Congress To Speed Farm Bill

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was in farm country Monday continuing to push Congress to send a farm bill to President Obama’s desk.

Vilsack doesn’t consider extending the farm bill beyond the September 30 expiration a sound option.

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