WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Agriculture

E. coli and salmonella often ride on leafy greens or vegetables, accounting for about 10 percent of the United States’ foodborne illnesses. The pathogens can be found in contaminated manure, water and on the hands of those harvesting the crop — especially if they don’t have access to proper bathrooms or a way to wash their hands.

Farmers and agriculture groups are digging through the details of the new North American trade deal, called the United States Canada Mexico Agreement, and some are raising concerns that clash with the celebratory mood of the three countries’ leaders.

Prices for crops like corn and soybeans have declined as the U.S. has sparred with top trading partners, but exports of those crops have not plummeted the way many observers had feared.

John Peterson farms corn and soybeans in Jackson, Minnesota, and came to the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, in late August to see what’s new and to learn about the most current technologies.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and his Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker were minutes away from crossing paths Wednesday in Normal as they asked a tent full of farmers for their support.

After 13 years of work, a consortium of 200 scientists from 20 countries has released the first complete genome sequence for wheat. The discovery sets the stage for advances in a staple crop at a time when rising temperatures are beginning to threaten global production.

Pesticides are all over, from backyard gardens to cornfields. While their use doesn’t appear to be slowing, concern over drift and the resulting effects on health is driving research — and more worries.

Those concerns are bringing pesticides to a different venue: courtrooms. 

Esperanza Yanez can spot a sick cow just by looking at it.

“The head hangs down and they don’t eat,” said Yanez, who immigrated from Mexico two decades ago and has been caring for cattle ever since.

Thursday had all the makings of deja vu for the U.S. House’s farm bill draft: immigration concerns, uncertain Republican votes and a wall of Democratic opposition to changes in the main federal food aid program.

In the end, the chamber avoided a repeat of May’s failure, when members of the conservative Freedom Caucus wanted to deal with immigration first. But the farm bill passed Thursday — narrowly, 213-211. Still, 20 Republicans voted against it, as did every Democrat in the chamber.

Shortage Of Rural Veterinarians Puts Farmers, Food Supply At Risk

Jun 21, 2018

Thirty-eight calves, between two and four months old, moo and kick at the dirt floor in a steel barn in Brush, Colorado. One by one, a handler leads them from the pen to a narrow chute, where their legs are restrained and they’re lifted onto a hydraulic table.  

New research suggests that no-till farming could help mitigate climate change.

Dozens of congressional Democrats are opposing a recently proposed federal rule that would change hog-slaughterhouse inspections and the number of hogs that can be processed daily.

Young Black Farmers Will Be Affected If Federal Funding Is Cut

Mar 19, 2018

Updated March 13 to clarify Sherrod's comment in 6th paragraph — Cypress Pond used to be a plantation in southwest Georgia. Old-growth pecan trees line the gravel roads that wind through the 800 acres of farmland, and there’s an orange grove flanked by patches of long-leaf pine.

When a man places 40 dozen eggs on the conveyor in the check-out line at the grocery store, it begs the question: What’s he going to do with all of them?

Western Illinois might be close to the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, but it’s the driest part of the state this year.

“We really haven’t really had any measurable rain since the middle of October,” says Ken Schafer, who farms winter wheat, corn and soybeans in Jerseyville, north of St. Louis. “I dug some post-holes this winter, and it's just dust.”

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

As agriculture intensified in the 20th century, summers in the Midwest became wetter and cooler.  An MIT study published this month looked at whether vegetation from crop production, rather than greenhouse gas emissions that are an established source of climate changes, could have driven these regional impacts.

Ben Kuebrich/Kansas News Service/Harvest Public Media

A new, widely debated federal mandate requires truckers to electronically track the number of hours they're on the road — a rule that is meant to make highways safer. But there is a big difference between hauling a load of TVs and a load of cattle destined for meatpacking plants.

Rich Egger

Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL) said he is trying to educate his urban counterparts about rural issues ahead of a vote on the next Farm Bill.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

In the coming months, Congress will map out how it will spend upwards of $500 billion on food and farm programs over the next five years.  The massive piece of legislation known as the farm bill affects all taxpayers -- whether they know it or not.

File photo/Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

As President Donald Trump and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue made the rounds this week to reiterate their commitment to rural communities and farmers and ranchers, the federal agency that President Abraham Lincoln established still lacks top appointments.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts consumers will be paying less for beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and turkey in early 2018 than at the start of 2017. Not so for eggs.

Many rural businesses and farms will benefit from the tax overhaul passed Wednesday by Congress. But there’s a catch: If the changes fail to spur economic growth as intended, programs that rural areas rely on could be on the chopping block.

One provision in the massive bill, which President Trump has yet to sign into law, allows small business owners to deduct 20 percent of their business income. It also expands the deduction for small business investment — a popular provision among farmers, who can write off the cost of things like a new tractor.

In the hopes of not repeating a problematic year for soybean crops, farmers across the U.S. are deciding how best to protect their crops and their livelihood next year from drift damage caused by the weed killer dicamba.

Burkey Farms in southeast Nebraska looked into the future a couple of years ago and didn’t like what it saw — a continuation of depressed prices for conventional corn and soybeans. So, the families who run the farm together started discussing how the operation would make money if they couldn’t earn more from their crops.  

Their conversation took a turn toward organics, a $40 billion industry and growing, especially in Iowa and Colorado.

Plant breeder Jessica Barb is on a mission to improve how sunflowers self-pollinate, a trait that'll be increasingly important to farmers are wild bee populations diminish. Her research tool of choice: a paper towel. 

There’s a genetic technology that scientists are eager to apply to food, touting its possibilities for things like mushrooms that don’t brown and pigs that are resistant to deadly diseases.

And food industry groups, still reeling from widespread protests against genetically engineered corn and soybeans (aka GMOs) that have made it difficult to get genetically engineered food to grocery store shelves, are looking to influence public opinion.

Rich Egger

Construction is complete on the greenhouse at Macomb High School, while construction is just getting started on the renovation project at Lincoln School.

Galen Fick milks 50 Brown Swiss cows every day on his farm in Boyden, Iowa, where his family has been in the dairy business for generations. Life as a dairy farmer has gotten harder and harder, he says, especially in the past two years.

 

“Our inputs have gone up so much, not the feed part of it but everything else,” he says, pointing to veterinary care and, especially, labor. “For us to make that profit, [it] makes it very tough.”

The herbicide dicamba is thought to have been the culprit in more than 3 million acres of damaged soybeans across the country, destroying plants and leaving farmers out millions of dollars in crops.

The chemical has been in use for decades, so why is it today apparently causing farms so much damage?

Applying large amounts of pesticides to farm fields can have negative effects on babies born to mothers living nearby, according to new research.

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