A researcher for the U.S. Department of Agriculture has filed a whistleblower complaint against the federal agency, alleging the USDA suppressed his research on a popular class of pesticides. We talk to the journalist who broke the story this week.


  • Carey Gillam is a contributing reporter for Harvest Public Media based at KCUR.

Updated: Wednesday, 11:30 a.m., to include USDA comment

A senior scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture filed a whistleblower complaint on Wednesday accusing the federal agency of suppressing research findings that could call into question the use of a popular pesticide class that is a revenue powerhouse for the agrichemical industry.

Pesticide pollution in American streams has dropped over the last 20 years according to a new report from the U.S. Geological Survey, but scientists say aquatic life is still at risk.

Changes in regulation and the development of less toxic herbicides and insecticides have reduced the risk pesticide pollution poses to humans. However, the pesticide levels in some regions were high enough to cause harm to plants and animals that live in streams.

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.

CC Wikimedia

Michael Swoyer from the Kansas City Health Department receives a lot of calls from residents with bedbugs.

Unfortunately, he says there's not much the city can do to help them — exterminating bedbugs is a time-consuming and expensive business.

So, Swoyer and the Kansas City Health Department are organizing classes for the general public on how to prevent rats, mice and bedbugs from colonizing in homes – and what people should do if they’re already there.

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.

Derek Oyen, Olle Svensson, La Grande Farmers' Market, Alice Henneman, Liz West, Tea With Buzz, Justus Blumer, Wee Keat Chin, Dan, Richard North, Dmansouri, Wally Hartshorn/Flickr-CC

"Organic" has been the buzzword in produce for years, but not everyone has the budget to buy only fruit and vegetables with that certification.

Salina, KS – Atrazine is one of the most widely used weed-killers in the country. But farm fields aren't the only place the chemical is commonly found. It's also the most widely-detected pesticide in drinking water, especially in the Midwest. With some environmental groups calling for a ban on Atrazine, the Environmental Protection Agency is currently re-evaluating its safety. Kansas Public Radio's Bryan Thomspon reports.


Rich Hill, Mo. – March is typically when the outdoor planting season starts for Amish and Mennonite farmers in Missouri. But this year, many of these farmers may be exploring ways to farm using more environmentally-conscious methods. KCUR's Alex Smith reports.

This story was produced for KC Currents. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KC Currents Podcast.