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
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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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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