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Rural Utilities Feel Growing Pains as Marijuana Industry Booms

Oct 11, 2021
Seth Bodine/Harvest Public Media

The medical marijuana industry in Oklahoma is booming, but some utility providers struggle to keep up with the growing need for water and electricity.

Seth Bodine/Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants farmers to do more to offset climate change. But more than half of the farmers who want to cash in on the payments that come with two programs have been shut out.

More power lines could move underground as part of an effort included in the infrastructure bill to update the nation’s energy system, but rural energy providers still worry about the cost of installation and maintenance.

The $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which passed the Senate in August, includes $73 billion to modernize the electric grid. U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm says moving power lines underground, a practice called “undergrounding,” may be part of that effort.

Jimmy Emmons has all sorts of things growing in his fields in Leedey, Oklahoma. There’s peas, beans, millets and varieties of grain sorghum, but none of it is for harvest. 

He’s growing what’s known as cover crops — plants meant to cover the ground and preserve it. Over the past seven years, he says he’s watched the difference in the soil. He’s often carrying a shovel on his fields, looking and even smelling the dirt.

“Smells real earthy and sweet,” Emmons says. 

A pig’s ideal temperature is 65 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Tyson and Perdue Farms agreed to pay a total of $35.75 million to broiler chicken farmers to settle a class action lawsuit. It’s part of a larger antitrust lawsuit involving some of the country’s largest chicken processors, including Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms and Koch Foods. 

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2017 in the Eastern District of the Oklahoma federal court.

The Biden Administration is giving a historic, permanent boost to the amount of money people get each month through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but the effect that will have on food pantries is still unclear. 

On a recent hot Saturday morning at the Des Moines Farmers Market, lots of people walked by a tent that had signs hanging from it: “dare to eat differently” and “eat prairie lobster.” Some people scrunched their faces in disgust. Others – like the Gohr family – were curious.

“Should we try a cricket, guys?” Charles Gohr asked his daughters.   


People who work outside increasingly risk their income, illness, and even death as climate change ramps up extreme heat.

 Rural areas are often the last to receive broadband. The lack of broadband is similar to another issue that rural communities faced decades ago — rural electrification. 


About 22% of Americans who live in rural areas that lack broadband, compared to 1.5% of those in cities, according to the Federal Communications Commission. 

A viral outbreak in hogs just off the U.S. coast has U.S. officials ramping up efforts to make sure it doesn’t decimate the American pork industry.

African swine fever, an infectious and lethal virus for pigs, has been detected in the Dominican Republic — the closest it’s been to the U.S. in 40 years. 

While Missouri is known for many crops, lavender is not necessarily one of them — but one couple in mid-Missouri decided to give it a try.

Katie Lockwood and her husband both work for the University of Missouri System's IT department but have also been hobby farmers for 20 years.


On a hot day in July, Darrell, who is serving time at the Clarinda Correctional Facility, pulled a black carrot out of the ground from one of the prison's three large gardens. He stared at the carrot in amazement and laughed. 

Katie Peikes

The Biden administration plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly over the next decade. Renewable fuels are part of the plan, but some researchers say ethanol doesn't help that much. The ethanol industry says steps it's taking could make it more of a player in slowing climate change.  

Updated July 9, 12:09 p.m.: President Joe Biden issued an executive order on Friday directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make rules to increase competition in the meat industry, according to a White House announcement. 

The new rules are part of 72 initiatives to increase competition in the economy.

As Isaac Fisher walks in his pasture near Chattanooga, Oklahoma, he sees tracks and patches of grass that have been rooted up. When he visits his milo and wheat fields, he sees the same bald patches. He knows what’s causing the destruction: feral hogs. 


For him, it’s frustrating to see his fields like this.

Dana Cronin/Harvest Public Media

Amid a push from the Biden administration for U.S. agriculture to help slow climate change, a new study shows farmers in the Corn Belt are dropping the ball on adopting a climate-friendly practice.

As states like Kansas and Oklahoma let their emergency declarations run out, they effectively take a pass on extra federal help with food stamps.


Lin Warfel puts farmland owners in central Illinois into two categories: Those with a deep connection and desire to preserve their land, and those obsessed with short-term money.

Updated 3:08 p.m., June 11: A federal judge paused the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s debt relief program for farmers of color. The payments are part of the $5 billion set aside in the most recent stimulus bill to support farmers of color. 

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, animal disease labs across the country stepped up to expand testing capacity, and they could play a role in preventing the next pandemic. 

Spillover events, animal diseases that jump to humans, happen often, according to Jonna Mazet, a professor of epidemiology and disease ecology at the University of California - Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. 

Most novel diseases and emerging infections that jump from one species to another don’t cause big problems, she says. In other cases, it can be bad. 


Even with recent rains across the region, scientists say expanses across the Midwest and High Plains remain in a long-haul drought.

Boys and men, wearing traditional Dutch outfits of black caps, long button-down shirts, black pants and wooden shoes, throw buckets of water onto the street in downtown Orange City, Iowa. Girls and women wear Dutch bonnets and long dresses or skirts while they push brooms on the water. 

How A Robot Could Keep Farmers Out of Grain Bins

May 28, 2021
Cecil Smalley Photography

A few times a year, farmers have to do a dangerous task; go inside large grain bins to take care of their harvest. Last year, more than 30 of them were trapped inside silos in the U.S., according to Purdue University.

COVID-19 vaccination rates are lower in rural counties than in urban counties, according to a new

SALINA, Kansas — Ebony Murell and a few interns meticulously sort 99 kinds of silphium. It’s a wild relative to a sunflower. And the biologists at The Land Institute — an outfit devoted to finding out how science can make farming more planet-friendly — want to unravel the plant’s secrets for tolerating bugs and diseases.

“We don’t know what all of these traits mean in terms of plant defenses,” Murell said. “Any or all of them could matter.”

High Farm Incomes Lead To Rising Land Values

May 7, 2021

Farmers and investors seeking to expand are paying more for agricultural land in the Midwest. 

The value of good cropland in Corn Belt states like Iowa and Indiana has increased about 10% since last fall, according to Randy Dickhut, the senior vice president of real estate operations for Farmers National Co. 

Levees protect people, towns, and agriculture from flooding. But two years ago, parts of the Missouri River and its tributaries reached record crests, and many levees failed. Now there’s a rare effort to build a levee higher to better defend one southwest Iowa town. 

Midwest Farmers Survey Damage From Cold Snap

Apr 28, 2021

As farmers across the Midwest surveyed the damage from last week’s cold snap, some Iowa farmers discovered they lucked out, while others are hoping to offset losses.

When it rains on Joe Rothermel’s central Illinois farm, most of the water drains into the nearby East Branch Embarras River. There, it begins a journey south through the Wabash, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.