Harvest Public Media

Harvest Public Media
7:55 am
Mon December 30, 2013

As 2013 Comes To A Close, Still No Farm Bill

Farmers across the United States worry as the farm bill continues to be stuck in gridlock at the nation's Capitol.
Credit Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

For the second straight year, farmers are heading into a new year without a farm bill. The massive package provides government support for farmers and ranchers. But, divisions in Congress, including over the nutrition programs that make up the bulk of the spending, have kept it from the president’s desk.

Farmers say it’s difficult to plan their crops and make other business decisions without a farm bill. Instead, Iowa State University agricultural economist Chad Hart says farmers must focus on the information they have.

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Harvest Public Media
7:48 am
Mon December 30, 2013

Kansas And Missouri Hog Farmers Battle Deadly Virus

Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus continues to plague hog operations across the country, including Kansas and Missouri. The outbreak is raising larger questions about international trade.

The deadly virus has been detected in 19 states. Colorado’s state veterinarian Keith Roehr compares its spread to a wildfire.

“If you have an infectious agent, it’s like a spark. If you have a susceptible population it’s like dry wood,” says Roehr.

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Harvest Public Media
7:30 am
Mon December 30, 2013

New Crops Could Kill Insects By Targeting Their Genes

Southern corn rootworm beetles eat corn laced with RNA in a lab at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. Scientists want to know how long it takes for rootworms to evolve resistance to RNA-interference technology.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

With rootworms building resistance to genetically modified corn that makes its own pesticide, seed companies are working on new crops that target the insects’ genes. But some worry about unintended consequences when the technology moves from the lab to the field.

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Harvest Public Media
8:12 am
Fri December 27, 2013

The Top Agriculture Stories Of 2013

A screen grab from "So God Made A Farmer," an ad for Ram Trucks run by Dodge during the Super Bowl.

Big companies made big news. Muddy fields made for major headaches. And a Farm Bill delay makes the list for the second consecutive year.

If you follow Harvest Public Media, you’ll be familiar with the top stories of 2013. Seems this year brought lots of national and international news – a far cry from our first days when we wrote mostly about issues in agriculture and food production.

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Harvest Public Media
7:39 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Sellers Squeezed By High Price Of Popcorn

A Del’s Popcorn shop employee in Decatur, Ill., starts the vintage popcorn popper. Del’s relies heavily on holiday sales, but is struggling with the high price of popcorn.
Credit Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

U.S. popcorn sellers took a big hit from the 2012 drought, which caused one of the worst popcorn harvests in recent memory. Crops not irrigated were decimated and low supplies continue to force local candy shops and giant movie theater chains alike to pay high prices for the golden grain, biting into their profit margin.

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Harvest Public Media
8:49 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Poultry Inspection Rules In Focus On Capitol Hill

A bipartisan group of senators is pressuring the U.S. Department of Agriculture to finalize changes to the way poultry is inspected.

The new system is controversial. Advocates say it would save taxpayer money by shifting certain inspection duties from federal employees to company workers and allowing for faster processing. Some inspectors and consumer groups, though, oppose the changes and say it could compromise food safety.

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Harvest Public Media
8:05 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Suspended Drug Sales Focuses Attention On Cattle-Feeding Additive

Some 6,500 Holsteins are “finished” at this 2,000-acre Ordway, Colo., feedlot, where the growth promotion drug Zilmax is no longer used because it was pulled from the market by its manufacturer.
Credit Peggy Lowe / KCUR

When the people from the drug company came out to visit Tyler Karney at Ordway Feedyard on Colorado’s eastern plains, he was a little skeptical.

They said their product, Zilmax, could put another 30 pounds on an animal in the last days before slaughter. Then he started blending it into the feed for the 6,500 head of Holsteins at this huge feedlot.

“We feed it the last 20 days of the feeding period and when you drive by, you can actually see a physical change in the animal,” Karney said. “They’re chest floor’s wider and just, a boxier animal. It’s kinda hard to believe.”

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Harvest Public Media
9:19 am
Mon December 16, 2013

FDA Inspects Just 2 Percent Of Imported Food Shipments

According to a recent Food and Drug Administration report, FDA regulators inspected less than two percent of the food shipments that were imported to the U.S. in the 2012 fiscal year.

FDA inspectors are responsible for all domestic and imported food except meat, poultry and eggs, which fall under U.S. Department of Agriculture purview.

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Harvest Public Media
7:52 am
Mon December 16, 2013

Farm Bill Falls Victim To Polarization, Gridlock In Washington

Reps. Colin Peterson, Frank Lucas and Steve King listen as members of the farm bill conference committee give opening statements.
Credit House Agriculture Committee / Facebook page

If it seems like Congress just can’t get the farm bill done, well … that’s because it can’t.

All year long, Washington lawmakers have been saying they want to pass a full five-year farm bill. But even though leaders of the House-Senate conference committee say they are close, they have acknowledged it just won’t get done this year. They’re pushing it off until January.

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Harvest Public Media
9:52 am
Thu December 12, 2013

FDA Pushing To Limit Livestock Antibiotics

Bob and Sandy Young's hog barn near Buckhart, Ill.
Credit Bill Wheelhouse / Harvest Public Media

The FDA wants to phase out antibiotics in meat.

Regulators released a broad plan Wednesday, designed to prevent meat producers from using drugs that are also used to treat sick humans. That means some changes Midwest farmers and ranchers will have to get used to.

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Harvest Public Media
8:04 am
Wed December 11, 2013

One Thing 2013 Won't Deliver: A Farm Bill

Congress won’t pass a farm bill before early next year.

That was the message from Washington Tuesday, when the principal farm bill players emerged from negotiations and announced they won’t have a full bill ready before the House adjourns for the year on Friday.

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Harvest Public Media
8:32 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Pheasants Losing Habitat To Farmland

Farm-raised pheasants like this one, wearing blinders so it doesn't fight other birds, are being transported to areas that used to be known for pheasant hunting in order to prop up declining population.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

As farmers across the Midwest have simplified the landscape and plowed up grassland to grow more corn and soybeans, habitat for pheasants, quail and other grassland birds has become increasingly scarce and their numbers are falling.

In Nebraska, wild pheasant concentrations have fallen 86 percent since their peak in the 1960s. The pheasant harvest during hunting season in Iowa is off 63 percent from the highs reached in the 1970s. In areas that used to be overrun, you’ll struggle to find a pheasant now.

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Harvest Public Media
8:06 am
Tue December 3, 2013

How Microbes Can Help Farmers Feed People

Researchers at chemical company BASF are working to harness bacteria and microbes for beneficial purposes.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Farmers and scientists have long understood that what lives beneath the soil affects how crops grow. Often, they work to fight plant diseases—warding off infectious viruses and damaging fungi, for example. But now some microbiologists are focused on how to harness the good things microbes can do, with the goal of increasing farmers’ yields and diminishing their dependence on chemical inputs.

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Harvest Public Media
8:11 am
Mon December 2, 2013

Rural Areas Worry About Food Stamp Cuts

The town of Sandoval was born along U.S. Route 51, which runs north-south from Kentucky to the state of Wisconsin. Once a booming corridor, this area in southern Illinois now sees extreme poverty.
Credit Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

The next farm bill is all but certain to contain cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps. Long championed by legislators from urban districts, the food stamp program isn’t just an urban concern. Families living amid fertile farmland struggle to put food on the table and increasingly rely on SNAP benefits. 

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Harvest Public Media
6:09 am
Wed November 27, 2013

Illinois Farmers Put The Pumpkin In Your Thanksgiving Pie

Pumpkin varieties don’t stop at your usual orange jack-o-lantern. Ackerman also grows the One Too Many.
Credit Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

This Thanksgiving, hungry families all over the country will finish off their holiday meal with a little slice of the Midwest. That’s because the vast majority of all pumpkin that comes from a can and winds up in a pie got its start on a vine in Illinois.

Pumpkin patches are popular destinations for families seeking fall fun and you’ll find roadside farm stands all over the country. But pumpkins are big business in Illinois, where farmers feed canning factories hungry for a special kind of pumpkin that looks nothing like those you see on Halloween.

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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
7:43 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
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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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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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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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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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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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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