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On a hot September day, five Japanese men arrived at Rod Pierce’s central Iowa farm. They represented feed mills and livestock cooperatives, and were there to see the corn they may eventually buy. 

Pierce invited them to walk among his rows of corn, climb into the cab of an 8-head combine and poke their heads into one his empty grain storage bins. 

Federal agencies are scrambling to establish regulations for hemp and hemp products as farmers in the Midwest and around the country start growing the crop. 

In the meantime, the government is warning companies not to make health claims about CBD they can’t back up. 

The phrase "American soil" is commonly used to stir up patriotic feelings. They are also words that can't be taken for granted, because nearly 30 million acres of U.S. farmland are held by foreign investors. That number has doubled in the past two decades, which is raising alarm bells in farming communities.

It’s been almost three months since massive flooding from the Missouri River washed over parts of Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, but for many farmers, recovery has been slow. Continued wet weather and lingering high water has delayed planting for many growers who can’t afford to miss out on a good crop this season.

“If you walk across mud, just think about running a tractor and planter across it,” said Scott Olson, who farms corn and soybeans in northeast Nebraska. “You can’t touch it. There’s nothing you can do with it.”

Floodwaters on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers may be going down, but rain has continued to soak farmland around much of the state. More rain could be on the way later this month.

In a recent national survey, farmers said the biggest threat to their livelihoods wasn’t low commodity prices or global trade policies. It was the rising cost of health insurance.

It’s one of the reasons why state farm bureaus have jumped into the insurance game in Iowa, Tennessee and Nebraska, and are trying to in Kansas.

There are thousands of concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, around the United States, but no one knows the exact number.

Two Stanford University professors published research this week in the journal Nature Sustainability, saying there’s an easy way to count CAFOs: Teach a computer to do it for them.

A Silicon Valley startup is pitting itself against major seed companies, alleging that those companies are price gouging in the Heartland. Farmers Business Network’s stated motive is to help farmers by crunching numbers and providing transparency, but it is positioning itself to become a player in the seed business, too.

Farm income has taken a long, hard fall, dropping 50 percent since hitting a high point in 2013. Add to that near-record levels of farm debt, and you have a recipe for financial stress.

But while economists say they can see storm clouds building, it’s not a full-blown crisis. That’s because relatively few farms have been pushed past the breaking point into Chapter 12 bankruptcy — or, worse, into losing the farm entirely.

Family structures—and farms themselves—are much more complicated than they used to be. Today, farm transition and land transfer are now among the hardest conversations families face. (This story was  produced in collaboration with The New Food Economy.)

Plants are good at what they do — turning sunlight into food. However, some researchers have found the leaf world could improve, and that could have a major effect on the world’s growing population.

As harvest wrapped up this year and the leaves turned brilliant shades of red and yellow, two of the world’s biggest agribusinesses, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Smithfield Foods, announced they were pairing up on projects with environmental nonprofits.

Updated Jan. 22 with Farm Service Agency reopening — The long tentacles of the partial federal government shutdown are reaching especially deep into food and agriculture. Here’s an update on some of the impacts now four weeks into the longest shutdown in history.

Fields, crops and farm animals are part of the agriculture-industry landscape, but an increasingly small one.

The number of farm and ranch managers shrunk by about 20 percent between 1996 and 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. At the same time, there are more students graduating from ag colleges, and, in many parts of the country, 80 percent to 90 percent of them find a job (or go for an advanced degree) within a few months of graduating.

A changing climate has major implications for farmers and ranchers across the U.S., according to a federal report.

Here’s a select breakdown of the agriculture section of the fourth National Climate Assessment, which was released last week.

As life expectancy increases, farmers are staying in the business, but there’s still a need to plan for what happens when they die. At the same time, young farmers who come from non-farming backgrounds are looking for the space to grow their own careers.

A land transfer may seem simple, but challenges abound: How do retiring farmers connect with beginning farmers? When does a farmer confront death? How can smaller farm organizations fit into the ever-growing 1,000-acre farm scene?

A Life Spent Building a Better Future

Oct 31, 2018

For the past several years, Veteran's Day for me has been a solitary celebration. I don't participate in breakfasts, parades, nor do I even leave the farm. For me, Veteran's Day has been the day I plant garlic. Having little time in the fall when I wasn't teaching or supervising FFA events, the November holiday provided the perfect opportunity to get the 300 plus cloves of garlic in the ground. You see, garlic needs the cool soil of fall to initiate germination and ensure a bumper crop the next summer.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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