Agriculture

Tracking NBAF
3:50 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

White House Budget Office Responds To Concerns About NBAF

Supporters believe funding the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is critical to protecting our nation's food supply. Detractors in Congress have asked the President not to fund it next year.
Credit Laura Ziegler

A senior official from the President’s Office of Management and Budget told two Congressmen he would be mindful of their concerns regarding the cost and safety of the proposed National Bio and Ago-Defense Facility (NBAF) in considering how much to allocate for NBAF in the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget.

OMB Deputy Director of Management Jeffrey Zients told Congressmen Tim Bishop and Joe Courtney that the administration was forced to evaluate the proposal for a new large-animal disease lab in the context of current budget constraints.

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Central Standard
8:58 am
Wed March 27, 2013

Grain: A Deadly Business

The Bartlett grain elevator in Atchison, Kan., exploded, killing six on Oct. 29, 2011. (Courtesy Kansas City Star)

In 2011, an explosion at a grain elevator in Atchison, Kansas, killed six people—employees and inspectors there—and rocked a community. Federal prosecutors are now considering charges in the case, but with 2010 the worst year on record, why does this keep happening?

On today's Central Standard, we explore the world of safety and regulation in the grain industry. Investigative reports this week from NPR News' Howard Berkes, Harvest Public Media's Jeremy Bernfeld, and the Kansas City Star's Mike McGraw, have revealed that hundreds have died in explosions and drownings in grain elevators—even as business is thriving, including here in Kansas—which is second in the nation in grain deaths.

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Agriculture
9:08 am
Mon March 25, 2013

When Grain Elevators Explode

Zoe Bock’s son, Chad Roberts, was killed when the Bartlett grain elevator exploded in Oct. 2011.
Courtesy Todd Feeback The Kansas City Star

When the Bartlett Grain Co. elevator exploded in Atchison, Kan., in October 2011, the town’s 11,000 residents knew it immediately.

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Agriculture
10:12 am
Mon March 18, 2013

GMO Labeling Laws On Deck In The Midwest

Labels at Swiss Meat and Sausage Co. near Hermann, Mo., do not indicate if products contain genetically modified organisms.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

Just south of Hermann, Mo., Swiss Meat and Sausage Co. processes 2 million pounds of meat a year -- everything from cattle to hogs to buffalo to elk.

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Agriculture
9:32 am
Mon March 18, 2013

Monsanto And Whole Foods Clash Over GM Foods

bigstock.com

The recent announcement by grocery chain Whole Foods that it will require labeling of products containing genetically modified ingredients was greeted with excitement by many consumer groups. Biotech giant Monsanto, a leader in GM technology, sees it another way.

Whole Foods hopes to have labels on the GMO products on its shelves in five years. That move has certainly caught the attention of the food industry.

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Up to Date
6:00 pm
Sun March 10, 2013

Effects Of An Extended Drought

The harvest of a drought-stricken Kansas cornfield in 2012.
Crazybananas Flickr.com - CC

Recent snowfalls brought much needed moisture to our region.  Even so, the drought of last year has not been broken.  Should it continue for months ... or even years ... what are the potential long-term effects?

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Tracking NBAF
2:28 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

Federal Government Releases Money For Animal Disease Lab

Tim Barr, Dept of Homeland Security site manager for the NBAF site in Manhattan, Kansas.
Laura Ziegler KCUR

It’s not often that a press release comes out under the name of an entire Congressional delegation, even one as ideologically joined at the hip as this group from Kansas.

But that’s exactly what happened last month.

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Agriculture
3:42 pm
Fri March 1, 2013

Drought-Stricken Plains Farmers 'Giddy' Over Heavy Snow

Kirk Sours says heavy snow creates extra work on his ranch, but he's thrilled that the pending melt will bring his otherwise dry pastures much-needed moisture.
Frank Morris/KCUR

Originally published on Mon March 4, 2013 4:34 pm

Two rapid-fire snowstorms belted Kansas with more than 2 feet of snow this week. They caused thousands of accidents and all kinds of hardships — but they also produced very broad smiles from some quarters.

That's because in a place as dry as Kansas has been lately, a blizzard can be a blessing for farmers and ranchers.

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Agriculture
9:12 pm
Sun February 24, 2013

Dairy Settlement Doesn't Deliver Reform

Dairy cows on a Missouri farm are fed early one December morning.
Credit Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

When a group of small farmers in the southeastern U.S. banded together to sue a powerful dairy cooperative a few years ago, many hoped that the case would bring big changes to the milk industry.

But the recent settlement of the case involving Kansas City-based Dairy Farmers of America Inc., resulted in little long-term reform, even as the farmers received some monetary damages.

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Central Standard
4:30 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

Science Of The Seed: A Joint Broadcast With IPR

Corn plants grow in a roof-top greenhouse at Monsanto's Chesterfield Village Research Facility
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

People have been cross-breeding plants for thousands of years, manipulating traits in agricultural crops from generation to generation. When scientists discovered that they could actually modify the genes of these plants in a laboratory, the landscape of agriculture changed dramatically -- and fast.


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Agriculture
9:28 am
Wed February 20, 2013

Seed Science Pushes Toward Higher Yields

Researchers at DuPont Pioneer’s facility near Des Moines, Iowa, test these varieties of corn.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

At an open house at DuPont Pioneer’s Dallas Center Corn Research Center near Des Moines, Iowa, retired corn breeder Bill Ambrose marveled at the tools available today to do the job he did for nearly 40 years.

“We could do a few hundred things and they do mega thousands of things,” Ambrose said.

In his day, he said, much more was done by hand—a team of five might harvest 250 plots in a day, while now “these guys that work in this place here have got huge combines that they can harvest 250 plots an hour,” he said.

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Agriculture
9:26 am
Wed February 20, 2013

Generic Seeds Could Have Short Lifespan

Potted soybean plants line the tables in a research greenhouse at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. Researchers are trying to understand the ways different genes control plant growth.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The patent rights on the first genetically modified seeds expire next year, but it’s not clear how the introduction of “generic” seeds fits into the science and business of GM crops.

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Tracking NBAF
2:21 am
Wed February 20, 2013

Kansas Senator Says NBAF Going Forward With Release Of New Funds

The NBAF site in Manhattan will change for the first time in years if construction begins on an electric plant.
Laura Ziegler KCUR

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts said in an interview Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security will announce on Thursday its plans to release funds to get the stalled National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility started. 

The so-called NBAF has had difficulty getting off the ground. Senator Roberts chairs an NBAF steering committee and is the project's guiding light in Congress. The new funding is expected to enable the start of construction on a central electric plant -- a requirement for the billion dollar lab.

$90 million in federal funds are available for the NBAF.

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Agriculture
9:47 pm
Sun February 17, 2013

The Seeds Of Genetic Modification

Researchers at Monsanto chart the progression of a corn plant over 10 weeks: seed, immature plant, callus, early shoot, shoots, early rooting and advanced rooting. Monsanto fills growth chambers reflecting diverse climate conditions with myriad seed samples.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The vast majority of the corn and soybeans in United States grow from seeds that have been genetically modified. The technology is barely 30 years old and the controversy surrounding it somewhat younger. But how did it even become possible?

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Agriculture
9:10 am
Mon February 11, 2013

Technology Chips Away At Influence Of Prominent Ag Towns

Once a formidable trading floor, action on the Kansas City Board of Trade has slowed considerably over the last decade.
Credit Jeremy Bernfeld / Harvest Public Media

At the crossroads of industry, railroads and farm country Kansas City has long been a capital of the plains. In recent years, though, Kansas City and other agriculture hubs have seen technology chip away at their importance.

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Harvest Public Media
10:24 pm
Sun February 3, 2013

Modernizing Poultry Inspection No Easy Matter

Retired federal chicken inspector Phyllis McKelvey worked with Change.org and Whistleblower.org to gather signatures on a petition opposing the proposed new poultry slaughter rule. She delivered over 177,000 signatures to the U.S. Department of Agriculture office in Washington, D.C. last fall.
Credit Photo courtesy of Whistleblower.org

Retired federal inspector Phyllis McKelvey spent 44 years looking for blemishes and other defects on chicken carcasses. She started as an inspector’s helper, worked her way up, and in 1998, became part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture trial.

“I was one of the first group of inspectors ever put on HIMP,” she said in an interview from her home in north Alabama.

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Agriculture
9:16 am
Wed January 23, 2013

Farm Bill Extension Doesn’t Sit Well With Many Organic Farmers

Liz Graznak, who runs Happy Hollow Farm in Jamestown, Mo., is one of many farmers who say they may not be able to afford the cost of organic certification without federal support.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

Shoppers looking for organic food may have to look a bit harder this year.

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Agriculture
4:45 pm
Tue January 22, 2013

Dairy Farmers Of America Settles Price-Fixing Suit

This five-foot plexiglass piece of art, resembling a freshly poured glass of milk, sits near the door to the headquarters of the Dairy Farmers of America, in Kansas City, Mo.
Credit Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

Dairy Farmers of America settled an anti-trust lawsuit Tuesday for $158.6 million, ending a long-running case that accused the country’s largest dairy cooperative of creating a monopoly in the Southeast, driving prices down for its own farmers and forcing many out of business.

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Tracking NBAF
11:42 am
Thu January 17, 2013

Kansas Cattlemen Reject Proposed Biosecurity Lab

The proposed site of the NBAF lab in Manhattan, Kan.
Laura Ziegler KCUR

A limited survey of members of the Kansas Cattlemen’s Association has found little support for building the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kan.

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Agriculture
11:54 am
Mon January 14, 2013

Can Small Farms Benefit From Wal-Mart’s Push Into Local Foods?

Produce broker Herman Farris stands in the parking lot of the east-side Wal-Mart in Columbia, Mo., before heading to St. Louis to pick up a shipment of bananas for Wal-Mart.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, is muscling in on one of the fastest growing segments of American agriculture: local food.

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Harvest Public Media
11:38 pm
Sun January 6, 2013

Drought Takes Head Start Into 2013

An aerial view of farmland affected by the drought in northeastern Colorado in July 2012. Green circles show irrigated crops next to yellowed, dryland wheat fields.
Courtesy Lance Cheung USDA

2012 was a drought year for the record books. It was the warmest year ever recorded in Des Moines, Iowa, Topeka, Kan., and Columbia, Mo. and the driest ever in Grand Island, Neb.

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Tracking NBAF
11:49 am
Thu January 3, 2013

Feds Officially Gain Control Of Land For Top Security Lab

Laura Ziegler KCUR

The Department of Homeland Security officially took ownership of 46 acres in Manhattan, Kansas this week for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.

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Tracking NBAF
11:38 am
Mon December 31, 2012

NBAF Officially Gets Land: A Green Light For Troubled Project?

The site for the proposed federal National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.
Laura Ziegler KCUR

We return now to a story we’ve been covering on an ongoing basis: The debate over the billion-dollar  animal disease lab under construction – maybe – in Manhattan, Kansas.

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Harvest Public Media
1:59 am
Mon December 24, 2012

How Much Is Organic Certification Worth?

Schnuck’s produce manager Dave Guthrie unpacks potatoes in the grocery’s Columbia, Mo., store produce department.
Abbie Fentress Swanson Harvest Public Media

The organic farming industry is booming. Since the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched its federal organic certification program in 2002, the number of organic farms has more than doubled.

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Agriculture
10:02 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Peak Farmland? Some Researchers Say It's Here

A soybean field near Campo Verde in western Brazil in January 2011. Researchers argue that enough arable land is already under cultivation to feed the planet for the next several decades.
Yasuyoshi Chiba AFP/GettyImages

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 3:34 pm

If you're looking for a dash of optimism about the future — and who isn't, these days? — you can find it in a rosy new prediction about the planet's ability to produce food for the next half-century.

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Harvest Public Media
11:31 am
Tue December 18, 2012

Low Mississippi River Levels Could Leave Farmers In Fertilizer Crunch

A backhoe places a cover on a barge near Cape Girardeau, Mo. The backhoe had just finished removing fertilizer that was shipped up the river from New Orleans.
Jacob McCleland Harvest Public Media

Southbound barges on the Mississippi River carry grain destined for world markets.

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Harvest Public Media
1:57 am
Mon December 17, 2012

Drugged-Up Horsemeat From U.S. Showing Up In Europe

Silky Shark, a racehorse that earned over $100,000 during his racing career, was later slaughtered and exported to the European Union as food.
Ken Terpenning

Silky Shark was a beautiful animal and a successful race horse. Over the course of his career he earned over $100,000 for his Kentucky owner.

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America's Big Beef
7:42 pm
Thu December 13, 2012

Beef Checkoff Feud Exposes Divide Within Cattle Industry

Allen Berry co-owns a cow-calf operation with his wife near Trenton, Mo. Like all other cow-calf operators, Berry pays into a fund that benefits the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board for each animal sold.
Credit Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

When Allen Berry brought his 11 yearlings to the Green City Livestock Market in central Missouri last month, he paid into a fund that at first blush, seems a bargain.

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America's Big Beef
7:36 pm
Wed December 12, 2012

Beef Feedlots Grapple With Endless Waste

Allan Sents co-owns McPherson County Feeders, a beef feedlot in central Kansas, with his wife Deanna. His 11,000 cattle produce a lot of waste.
Jeremy Bernfeld Harvest Public Media

You think you deal with a lot of bull crap? Allan Sents needs a front-end loader and a dump truck to deal with all the cattle manure he’s up against. Literally.

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Agriculture
2:32 am
Wed December 12, 2012

Farm Bill Becomes Fodder In 'Fiscal Cliff' Wrangling

A customer shops for nectarines at a farmers market in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 12, 2012 4:58 am

Among the loose ends that lawmakers would like to tie up before the end of this lame-duck session is the farm bill, which is made up mostly of crop subsidies and food stamps.

The last farm bill expired in September. The Senate has passed a new one; the House has not. Farm-state lawmakers are urging leaders to include a farm bill as part of any budget deal to avert year-end tax increases and spending cuts.

But not everyone thinks that's a good idea.

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