Harvest Public Media

Global demand for food and fuel is rising, and the push and pull for resources has serious ramifications for our country’s economic recovery and prosperity.

How much do you know about that bread you just buttered or that steak you just ate? What do you know about cars powered on ethanol or about how fracking will affect your water supply?

Harvest Public Media, based at KCUR, is a collaborative public media project that reports on important agriculture issues in the Midwest. Funded by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Harvest Public Media encompasses six NPR member stations in the region. To learn more, visit www.harvestpublicmedia.org, like Harvest Public Media on Facebook or follow @HarvestPM on Twitter.

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Harvest Public Media
8:06 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Food Hubs Could Provide Crucial Link For Amish Farmers

Mervin Graber of checks on his small herd of grass-fed cows in his pasture near Sullivan, Ill.
Credit Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

Lacking the infrastructure of traditional suppliers, many local farms that want to connect to restaurants, schools and other big buyers are using the Internet to reach customers.

Groups of farms are banding together to form regional food hubs, leveraging online ordering, tracking and marketing tools to cut down on costs and to try to keep local food systems viable for growers and affordable for consumers.

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Agriculture
7:52 am
Tue March 11, 2014

USDA Announces 'Concerted Effort' To Help Small Farms

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Monday that it is launching what it calls “a concerted effort” to help small and mid-sized farms.

The announcement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack comes after a recent census pointed to a reduction in the number of smaller farming operations.

Speaking with reporters from the National Farmers Union Convention in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Vilsack says his department is working to assist these farmers in finding markets for their products.

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Harvest Public Media
7:45 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Padlock The Milk! FDA’s Push To Safeguard The Food Supply

Milk that Central Dairy delivers is kept behind doors secured with three-inch long padlocks.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

Many of the food terrorism scenarios outlined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration involve liquid.

And there’s good reason for that.

Liquids like orange juice and milk go through many processing steps -- farm, bottling plant, delivery – before reaching the consumers who drink them. And these liquids are moved, manufactured and stored in huge batches that get distributed and consumed quickly. Should a toxin be injected somewhere along the supply chain, experts believe it could have devastating human health and economic consequences.

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Harvest Public Media
8:27 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Could Our Food Supply Be A Target For Terrorists?

A bioterror attack that introduced a virus like foot-and-mouth disease could devastate the U.S. livestock industry. Regulators are proposing new rules meant to protect the food system from terror attack.
Credit Jeremy Bernfeld / Harvest Public Media

  It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster. Villains in trench coats scheme ways to cause the most destruction and chaos. They settle on a food company, an easy target, and plan to lace the products with a chemical or pathogen. The hero finds out the plan with enough time to save the day.

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Harvest Public Media
8:18 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Hog Virus Causing Spike In Price Of Bacon

Hog producer Phil Borgic of Nokomis, Ill., lost one full month of piglets to the PED virus.
Credit Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

Shoppers are already paying more for pork and bacon than they did last year and many economists expect those prices to continue climbing for the next few months.

Chris Hurt, an agricultural economist at Purdue University, watches the market for lean hog futures– the anticipated price of hogs heading to market soon. The futures price hit record-highs in early March, Hurt said, which will translate to expensive and bacon in the supermarket in the coming months.

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Harvest Public Media
9:57 am
Wed March 5, 2014

Ag Data Could Generate Prescriptions For Fields

A couple of seeds, some fertilizer, a little sunshine – just add water and you’re ready to harvest your crops, right?

Farming, as you might imagine, is a lot more complicated than that. And that’s why information – data – is the next frontier for farming, which you may have already seen.

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Harvest Public Media
8:08 am
Tue March 4, 2014

U.S. Wastes Nearly A Third Of Food Produced

Nearly a third of the food available to be eaten in the U.S. is thrown out instead. And all of that wasted food comes with a steep price tag.

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Harvest Public Media
8:20 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Farmers Bid Farewell To Big Expense Tax Write-Offs

It could be yet another sign that the good times are over.

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Harvest Public Media
8:18 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Climate Change Could Be Good News For Some Invasive Plants

Ellen Nelson has battled invasive plants that out-compete native grasses on her grass-fed beef ranch near Bellvue, Colo. Some climate studies suggest that fight will worsen in the coming decades.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

  Most climate models paint a bleak picture for the Great Plains a century from now: It will likely be warmer and the air will be more rich with carbon dioxide. Though scientists don’t yet know how exactly the climate will change, new studies show it could be a boon to some invasive plant species.  

A growing problem

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Harvest Public Media
8:06 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Farmers Play The Markets, Learn To Avoid Risk

: Robbie Maass shows his mother, Leah, the Commodity Challenge game that is helping him understand market tools. Leah Maass says her farm could benefit from better use of the tools and she’s hoping Robbie will be able to learn how to put them to work for the family
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

On a frigid winter day, Chad Hart tries to warm his economics students at Iowa State University to the idea of managing some of the risk of farming using the commodity markets. Because, as he told them on the first day of class, farmers don’t make money planting or harvesting crops; they make money selling them. And Hart knows that marketing—managing those sales for the best profit—can be intimidating.

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Harvest Public Media
8:02 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Young Farmers Wait For Their Opportunity

Eric Brockmann and his family moved back to his hometown of West Point, Neb., to pursue his passion for farming.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The average age of American farmers has been climbing for decades, and many say rural towns are at-risk without new blood. There are enough people who want to farm, but there’s trouble connecting beginning farmers and the communities that need them.

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Harvest Public Media
8:15 am
Mon February 17, 2014

Farmland Real Estate 'Bubble' May Be Ready To Pop

The so-called farmland real estate bubble appears to be starting to deflate. After years of steep property values, a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City shows the high times may be coming to an end.

Since 2011, the price for a plot of a farmland across the Midwest has been growing at breakneck speed. Most of that has been due to the same trajectory in the price of major commodity crops like corn and soybeans. Now, with crop prices slipping, farmers are set to bring in less money. Money they could be using to buy or rent more land.

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Agriculture
9:28 am
Wed February 12, 2014

Making The Leap: How Niche Crops Go Mainstream

Andrew Pittz and his family operate a commercial aronia berry farm in Iowa, which supplies berries and value-added products to retailers nationwide.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

In the Midwest, crop agriculture often gets divided between the major commodities – corn, soybeans and wheat – and everything else. Diverting acres away from a major commodity to an un-tested crop is risky, but sometimes agronomics and market forces meet in a sweet spot and farmers can reap the benefits of innovation.

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Harvest Public Media
7:56 am
Mon February 10, 2014

Spike In Propane Price Worries Midwest Farmers

The barn at Borgic Farms in Nokomis, Ill., where piglets are weaned must be kept warm year-round. In the winter, that means using a bank of propane-fueled heaters
Credit Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

Residents across the Midwest are struggling with tight propane supplies, especially in this bitterly cold, snowy winter. But it’s not just homes in rural counties that are lacking adequate heating fuel. Farms that put bacon and eggs on your breakfast plate are also feeling the supply pinch. 

Hog farmer Phil Borgic of Nokomis, Ill., burns liquid propane – LP - from September through May to support his piglets. His farrowing barn goes through about two semi truckloads of LP each year. 

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Agriculture
4:37 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Years In The Making, New Farm Bill Becomes Law

President Obama signs the Agriculture Act of 2014 as members of Congress and the Cabinet look on.
Credit Courtesy Stephen Carmody / Michigan Radio

  President Barak Obama signed the new farm bill into law Friday at Michigan State University in East Lansing, ending years of negotiations and wrangling.

With farm equipment, hay bales and crates of apples setting the stage, the president told the crowd that this farm bill – officially called the Agriculture Act of 2014 – will save taxpayer dollars while also offering support to farmers and ranchers. And he says that helps the whole country.

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Harvest Public Media
8:14 am
Thu February 6, 2014

USDA Will Set Up Hubs To Help Farmers Adapt To Climate Change

The U.S Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday it plans to set up seven new research hubs across the country to help farmers adapt to climate change.

In the past few years, farmers across the Midwest have grappled with epic drought, mega-blizzards and crippling heat.

“The combination of all those factors convinces me that the climate is changing and it will have its impact,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

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Harvest Public Media
7:28 am
Wed February 5, 2014

Why Cutting The Ethanol Mandate May Not Ruin The Rural Economy

Just outside of Central City, Neb., is the Green Plains Energy ethanol plant, a facility that can produce 100 million gallons of ethanol each year.
Grant Gerlock Harvest Public Media

The EPA wants to roll back the amount of ethanol mixed into the fuel supply for 2014, worrying farmers across the Corn Belt. Ethanol supporters warn that if the EPA follows through, the rural economy will take the fall. But many economists predict a soft landing.

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Harvest Public Media
3:31 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Senate Passes Farm Bill, Sends It To President

After more than two years of debate on Capitol Hill, a new farm bill is poised to become law after both the U.S. House and Senate approved it.
Credit greetarchurch / Flickr--CC

The U.S. Senate passed the farm bill Tuesday by a vote of 68-32, sending it to the president’s desk and ending years of political wrangling.

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Harvest Public Media
8:05 am
Mon February 3, 2014

2014 Farm Bill Would Change U.S. Ag Policy

More than two years in the making, the farm bill process has been a long slog for lawmakers on Washington D.C.’s Capitol Hill and farmers alike.
Credit greetarchurch / Flickr--CC

It’s getting so close now … Last week the U.S. House passed the Agriculture Act of 2014, the new farm bill. The Senate is expected to take it up Monday. President Obama’s signature could be on it in the coming days and then … boom!

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Harvest Public Media
7:57 am
Mon February 3, 2014

Senate To Consider Farm Bill

The U.S. Senate is set to take up the long overdue farm bill Monday.

The bill passed the U.S. House last week and if it makes it through the Senate, many Midwest farmers will be taking a close look at how they spread the risk of growing commodities. Sstarting immediately, direct payments would not be available to prop up the bottom line.

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Harvest Public Media
7:59 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Colorado Creates Food Safety System To Regulate Marijuana Industry

A marijuana plant glows purple under grow lights at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, Colo.
Luke Runyon Harvest Public Media

Colorado made history when it opened up licensed marijuana retail shops this year. Aside from just legalizing the purchase of smoke-able marijuana, it also means pot brownies have the potential to be big business. Food products infused with marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC, are available in stores across the state.

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Harvest Public Media
7:52 am
Mon January 27, 2014

More Than One In Seven Americans Receive Food Stamp Benefits

Fifteen percent of Americans received federal food stamp benefits in the 2013 fiscal year, according to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report. That includes about 936,000 people in Missouri and 316,000 in Kansas. The program is the most controversial issue for negotiators working on a new farm bill.

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Harvest Public Media
8:45 am
Tue January 21, 2014

Virus Continues To Rip Through Hog Farms

Experts estimate Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus has already killed about 1 million baby pigs and the disease shows no sign of abating.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Pork producers across the country are continuing to grapple with a virus that’s killing their piglets. Experts estimate Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) virus has already killed about 1 million baby pigs and the disease shows no sign of abating.

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Harvest Public Media
7:59 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Missouri Ag Director Says He Wants To Increase Exports

The director of Missouri’s agriculture department says he wants to increase agricultural exports from the state.

Exports are already a big deal for Missouri farmers. In 2012, the state sent almost $4 billion worth of farm products overseas, a figure that more than doubled over the previous ten years.

Richard Fordyce, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, says capitalizing on foreign markets is vital for producers here.

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Harvest Public Media
7:49 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Abundance Of Wheat Drives Down Prices For Midwest Farmers

The world is growing a lot more wheat, and that’s having an effect on the prices farmers get for their crop in Kansas and other states in America’s wheat belt.

Bumper wheat crops in Canada, Russia and Australia will likely make this year’s haul the largest harvest on record. With all that wheat flooding the market, prices are declining.

“It’s hard not to pay attention when the price is dropping," says Darrell Hanavan, director of the Colorado Wheat Growers Association. He says farmers can expect prices to dip even further, barring a drought on the other side of the globe.

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Agriculture
7:45 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Beef Herd May Be Poised For Growth, And Cheaper Steak

Even if the beef herd begins expanding again in 2014 it could take two years for the effects to show up in consumer prices.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

  For the first time in nearly 10 years, the nation’s beef herd may be poised for growth, which could mean relief from rising meat prices. But with the fewest cattle in the beef supply since the 1960s, slow growth won’t cut prices anytime soon.

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Harvest Public Media
8:30 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Herbicide-Resistant Crops One Step Closer To US Fields

New herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans are a step closer to reaching farm fields in the U.S.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

New herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans are a step closer to reaching farm fields in the U.S. They would help farmers control weeds that are no longer killed by the popular herbicide, Roundup.

Dow Agrosciences has engineered new crops that can withstand the herbicide 2,4-D, giving farmers a new tool against weeds resistant to Roundup.

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Harvest Public Media
6:46 am
Mon January 6, 2014

The New Wheat Behind Whole Grain White Bread

Food companies want to capitalize on the growing market of white bread fans who want to eat whole wheat. A new variety of wheat makes that easier.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

A new wheat variety may have cracked the code to marry the fluffiness of white bread with whole grain nutrition.

For a long time, American bread makers have been in a bind. Many consumers like the texture and taste of white bread, but want the nutritional benefits of whole grains.

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Harvest Public Media
6:20 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Sub-Zero Temperatures Have Farmers Worried About Wheat Crop

A dusting of snow covers a winter wheat crop.
Credit couleewinds / Flickr--CC

In parts of Kansas, forecasts of biting cold temperatures with lows five or ten degrees below zero has farmers worried about the wheat crop that’s in the ground.

Hard red winter wheat is the most common wheat variety grown in the United States. It’s often used to make bread. Planted in the fall, it lays dormant underground in the winter months. It’s hardy. But bitter cold temperatures for a few consecutive days can lower the temperature of the soil to dangerous levels.

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Harvest Public Media
9:29 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Food Hubs Try To Grow Local Farms

Marty Travis, right, started the Stewards of the Land food hub in 2005. His son Will, left, helps him transport food from local farms to area restaurants.
Credit Sean Powers / Harvest Public Media

Restaurants across the country have jumped on the local food bandwagon. They’re trying to source more of their produce from nearby farms, but it's not easy. Enter: Food hubs.

Food hubs are popping up across the country. These food processing and distribution centers make it easier for restaurants, grocery stores and others to buy local food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that there are more than 220 of them in 40 states plus the District of Columbia.

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