farming

llovebutter / Flickr--CC

What inspires people in white collar jobs, or those just out of college, to take up farming? As the trend continues, we hear from people who have done just that about how it's going and whether they're finding whatever it was they were looking for.

Guests:

Farmers and ranchers from the Midwest and Plains states were among those who testified before the U.S. Senate agriculture committee Tuesday. Many objected to a proposed change to the rules on how the federal government oversees waterways.

Nearly a year ago, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a change to the Clean Water Act that it says would clarify its authority over certain wetlands and streams. But Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, who serves on the agriculture committee, says the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule has met strong opposition in farm country.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Farmers face plenty of risk, including the unknowns of weather, global markets and the more predictable expenses of taxes and equipment costs.

Federal commodity support programs were created to help farmers during bad years. But under a relatively unknown provision of federal law, farmers don’t have to actually grow a particular crop to get farm bill payments.

That might sound like “paying farmers not to farm,” but it’s actually a complicated way of helping to reduce over-dependence on one crop.

Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

The federal government banned raw milk sales across state lines nearly three decades ago because it poses a threat to public health. The Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Medical Association all strongly advise people not to drink it.

Courtesy USDA NRCS South Dakota

Scientists have noticed a change in the atmosphere. Plants are taking in more carbon dioxide during the growing season and giving off more carbon in the fall and winter. Recent research shows the massive corn crop in the Corn Belt may be contributing to that deeper breath.

It comes down to the Carbon Cycle. Over the winter when corn fields lay dormant, corn stalks and roots break down, sending CO2 into the air. Then in the summer when a new crop is growing, it takes up carbon from the atmosphere.

Eric Durban / Harvest Public Media

Water levels within the Ogallala Aquifer, a wide source of groundwater in western Kansas, have been declining to dangerously low levels for the past few years. 

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

For the Midwest’s biggest crops, this harvest season was a big one. With winter setting in, the race is on for farmers to ship out their harvest so it’s not left out to spoil. But the giant harvest and a lack of available rail cars have created a traffic jam on the rails and the highways.

Usually, farmers store their harvest in silos and grain bins, but this year, farmers brought in so much, there’s just no room.  Farmers in Missouri, Indiana, Illinois and South Dakota are all being hit particularly hard by the storage shortage.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

U.S. farmers are bringing in what’s expected to be a record-breaking harvest for both corn and soybeans. But all that productivity has a big financial downside: plunging prices that have many Midwest farmers hoping to merely break-even on this year’s crop.

Farmers will haul in 4 billion bushels of soybeans and 14.5 billion bushels of corn, according to USDA estimates. Those are record-breaking numbers, made possible by producers planting more corn and soybean acres and near-perfect weather in the Corn Belt.

Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

Dick Humes squinted and sweat as he moved down a row of corn. He sliced through the husk with a metal hook in his right hand, snapped the ear from its stalk with his left, and threw it over his shoulder into a wagon rolling alongside him.

Every other second, the corn hit the floor of the wagon with a thud. Humes was setting a steady pace for the men’s 50-and-older division at the 34th annual Illinois State Corn Husking Competition.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Voters in Colorado will decide whether or not they want the state to require labels on foods containing genetically modified ingredients, or GMOs. The 2014 ballot measure highlights a much larger national conversation about the safety and prevalence of genetically modified foods.

If passed, food companies and farmers would need to affix to food a label that reads, "Produced with genetic engineering" if the product contains certain genetically modified crops and their derived oils and sugars that end up in processed foods.

Heirlooms Passed Down By Seed Savers Exchange

Sep 10, 2014
Sarah Boden / Harvest Public Media

Most vegetable seeds today are bred by seed companies to be hearty and easier to grow. They’re created by cross-breeding different varieties and selecting for specific characteristics.

Heirloom seeds, though, are different. Like your grandmother’s engagement ring or a dusty old photo album, heirloom seeds have been passed down through generations.

Farmers’ can anticipate a sharp drop in income this year, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In fact, the USDA predicts the $113 billion earned in 2014 will be the lowest amount of net farm income in five years. That’s equal to about a 14 percent fall from last year’s record amount, thanks mostly to a massive drop in crop prices.

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

Late summer in the Midwest is tomato season. For tomato growers around that country, it’s time to pick their bounty and calculate their earnings.

While sun and rain might be free, tomato farmers have to carefully weigh everything else they put in to growing their crop. Research and the development of new tools – from novel seed varieties resistant to diseases to additional fertilizers – has changed the input costs for growers.

Lima Pix / Flickr--CC

An independent journalist says he’s found a way around the so-called “ag-gag” laws – flying drones over large livestock operations to document animal welfare problems and pollution.

Will Potter, a Washington D.C.-based environmental blogger, raised $75,000 on Kickstarter to buy drones and other equipment to do investigative work tracking animal abuse and pollution problems on large livestock operations.

(Kristopher Husted/Harvest Public Media)

Missouri’s so-called “Right to Farm” amendment appears to have passed Tuesday but with such a small margin that there could be a recount.

With all precincts reporting, Amendment 1 won by just 2,528 votes.

At a victory party Tuesday night, Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst said he will watch to see if a recount is requested but he doesn’t expect the results to change.

“I’m fully confident that the vote will stand,” he said.

(Courtesy Emily Robbins)

Emily Robbins is a city girl now.

Well, I’m using that term as a cliché. Robbins, 27, lives in Kansas City and works as an engineer at a large firm. She is part of a profession that is made up of just 14 percent women.

Her choice of professions makes sense, though, when you know that she started out as her father’s “boy.”

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

When the wind picked up from the south on John Schweiser’s farm outside Rocky Ford, Colo., the sky would go black. A charging wall of dust would force the 80-year-old farmer and his wife to hunker down in their ranch-style farmhouse.

“You’d look up and here’d come this big ol’ rolling dirt,” Schweiser said. “You couldn’t see how high it was.”

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

The agriculture industry is a cornerstone of the Midwest economy. In some states, it may even become a right.

In Missouri, the so-called “right to farm” is on the ballot in the form of an amendment to the state Constitution. And the controversial provision could be a model for Constitutional additions on other ag-heavy states.

Though the “right to farm” provision is focused on agriculture, it has pitted farmer against farmer with some worried that the results could change the face of farming in the Midwest.

Accountability concerns

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

TV shows like “CSI” have made forensics a hot topic, spawning books and even science programs for kids. The same technology used at crime scenes to link a stray hair to a suspect can also find antibiotics or other medications in milk and meat. And the use of sophisticated testing is becoming increasingly available for livestock producers, who stand to lose lots of money if their products are tainted.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

A fast spreading, crop destroying weed may be coming to the farms near you.

Palmer amaranth, which has plagued southern farms for decades, has been marching across the Midwest. It can decimate a crop. It can withstand many common herbicides. And it can cost farmers millions.

Roger Hargrafen, a farmer in Muscatine County, Iowa, is on the front lines in the battle against Palmer amaranth. His is one of four Iowa farms confirmed as having it.

More than 90 percent of U.S. field corn is genetically modified, according to data recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Lori Murdock

A drive through the Midwest countryside wouldn't be complete without a dozen or so barn sightings. 

As our daily talk show, Central Standard, prepares for its examination of challenges that go into barn restoration, we rounded up a collection of regional barn photos — thanks to you.

We asked our listeners for their best pics of regional barns and they were happy to oblige. Flip through the above slideshow for a sampling of what you sent in. 

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency is touring farm country, trying to assure farmers that the agency isn’t asking for more authority over farmers and ranchers’ lands.

Jamie Burks / The Good Food Blog

At a farm in Kansas City, Kan., a group of young men from are developing their entrepreneurship skills through farming. Boys Grow, a non-profit agency, works with these kids to develop business skills as they sell their agricultural commodities.

On Wednesday's Central Standard, we talked to two of these boys about their experience with Boys Grows and their hopes for the future.

Guests:

Harvest Public Media

U.S. farmers are more than three times more likely to commit suicide than other workers, a new study has found.

University of Iowa researcher Wendy Ringgenberg compiled a study based on Occupational Safety and Health Administration farm death statistics from 1992 to 2010. In a recent interview with Iowa Public Radio, Ringgenberg said suicide rates have likely been underestimated and underreported. 

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Farms aren’t just for food any more. With the local food movement growing, more savvy farmers are putting a price tag on more than those organic tomatoes. They are instead marketing and selling the “farm experience” in the form of agritourism attractions.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Drought is re-shaping the beef map and raising the price of steak. Ranchers are moving herds from California to Colorado and from Texas to Nebraska seeking refuge from dry weather. And cattle producers in the Midwest are making the most of it.

Drought Hammers Winter Wheat Across The Plains

Jun 10, 2014
Ariana Brocious / Harvest Public Media

Much of the Midwest and the Plains have been battling drought for years. And the current winter wheat crop looks like it will be one of the worst in recent memory, stressing farmers in the heart of the Wheat Belt – from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska.

In Nebraska, a full quarter of the winter wheat crop is rated poor to very poor, and Nebraska farmers are doing comparatively well. More than 40 percent of the wheat acres in Colorado are poor or worse; nearly 60 percent in Kansas and Texas; and an incredible 80 percent in Oklahoma.

Sarah McCammon / Harvest Public Media

Cargill, one of the country’s largest pork producers,announced Monday that it will stop using gestation crates, the controversial narrow cages meant to house and separate sows. Cargill is joining other major meatpackers, like competitors Tyson and Smithfield Foods, in planning to move away from hog crates.

Farmers Hope For River System Improvements

Jun 9, 2014
Rich Egger / Harvest Public Media

Farmers and ag groups in the Midwest say the U.S. river system needs an upgrade, and they’re hopeful it will come with proposed improvements in legislation recently passed by Congress.  

The nation’s rivers are essential for moving agricultural products to market.

“It’s our third coast, if you will,” said Jim Tarmann, field services director with the Illinois Corn Growers Association. “Over 60 percent of our grain exports move via the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. That’s how things get to our world markets.”

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