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Harvest Public Media

Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.

Most Harvest Public Media stories begin with radio- regular reports are aired on member stations in the Midwest. But Harvest also explores issues through online analyses, television documentaries and features, podcasts, photography, video, blogs and social networking.  They are committed to the highest journalistic standards. Click here to read their ethics standards.

Harvest Public Media was launched in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  Today, the collaboration is supported by CPB, the partner stations, and contributions from underwriters and individuals.

Tri States Public Radio is an associate partner of Harvest Public Media.  You can play an important role in helping Harvest Public Media and Tri States Public Radio improve our coverage of food, field and fuel issues by joining the Harvest Network.  Learn more here.

AMY MAYER / Iowa Public Radio News

Reliable Street, on the northwest edge of Ames, runs parallel to the train tracks for two blocks. From the late 1800s to the mid-20th century, it was the main drag for the township of Ontario and in 1898, the Lockwood Grain and Coal Company began operating a flour mill and grain elevator on the north side of the street.

 

When you walk into Cyndy Ash’s barn, one of the first things you notice is a huge burlap sack, bursting at the seams with wool.

“We’re sitting on about 600 lbs of wool from when they were sheared last. And it’s been sitting there since they were sheared in March,” Ash says.

 

Philip Kelly says there’s always something that needs to be fixed in Yale, Oklahoma. 

COURTESY OF JAMES UNZICKER, CHP OF IL

Maricel Mendoza is familiar with the work migrant and seasonal farmworkers do. Growing up, her family traveled from Texas to central Illinois every year for her parents' jobs as contractors with a large seed company. 

AMY MAYER / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA FILE PHOTO

The United States Department of Agriculture is seeking public comment on changes that it says will make getting loans for major projects easier for rural communities.

KRISTOFOR HUSTED / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA

Large meatpacking plants across the country shut down after outbreaks of COVID-19 among employees, causing supply chain disruptions for farmers, ranchers, and consumers. But a new bill in the U.S. House seeks to address the problem by boosting small scale meat processors. 

According to new quarterly crop data from the USDA, farmers planted about 92 million acres of corn this spring, a 5 million acre decrease over the agency's March acreage report. The decrease could slash this season’s corn harvest by around a billion bushels, providing some much-needed price increases for commodity farmers. 

At the edge of a corn field on a clear but windy June day, microbiologist Tom Moorman lifts a metal lid and reveals a collection of bottles, tubes, meters and cables in a shallow pit. The system is designed to capture runoff from 24 plots. 

BRIAN SEIFFERLEIN / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA FILE PHOTO

A new analysis of drinking water systems shows communities in five Midwest states have legal but potentially worrying levels of nitrates. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found nitrate levels in IowaIllinoisKansas, and Oklahoma are trending up.

EVREN_PHOTOS / BIGSTOCK.COM

The global pandemic has impacted the food supply in numerous ways and that has led to fluctuations in the prices of some common items. Consider humble ground beef, the stuff of hamburgers, meatballs, chili, and pasta sauce. The fattier it is, the lower the price. Usually.

 

Even as more people bake during the pandemic, some wheat farmers may need help to break even this year.

Nebraska’s largest COVID-19 hotspots are meatpacking areas with deep immigrant roots.

In January, amid much fanfare and optimism, China and the United States signed phase one of a trade deal intended to be the first step toward ending the nearly two-year-old trade war. In the agreement, China agreed to increase its purchases of agricultural products by $32 billion over the next two years. 

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding hit to the global economy, which led to lower prices for commodities like soybeans, one of the things China buys from the United States. 

SPENCER PUGH / UNSPLASH

Studies have found the rates of mental illness and suicide are higher for farmers. The profession requires long hours, limited social contact, and is often at the mercy of external factors such as weather and market rates.

Amy Mayer/Iowa Public Radio file

A new agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture makes Iowa the seventh state where some small meat lockers can sell products in other states.

 

Like many small business owners, Amy Manganelli has taken a financial hit since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. So, a few weeks ago, she decided to apply for a small business loan from the federal government.

At the start of 2020, the agricultural economy was poised for a good year. 

Then came COVID-19 and like almost every other sector, it tanked. But Chad Hart, an economist at Iowa State University, says that solid footing is still the foundation for an outlook that is not all doom and gloom.

Amy Mayer/Iowa Public Radio file

Pork processing fell nearly 40 percent following temporary closures at meatpacking plants across the Midwest last month. That's created a backlog of market-ready hogs, though the scope of the problem isn't as dramatic as some had feared.

Lisa Marlow is worried about her students. Marlow is a school nurse and educator with the Murphysboro Community Unit School District 186. 

The district serves primarily low-income students in a rural part of southern Illinois. 

When school is in session, Marlow says having eyes on students, especially those with chronic conditions like Type 1 diabetes or asthma, is crucial.

 

It’s planting season across much of the United States, and for some farmers who rely on foreign guest workers for help in the fields, the pandemic is getting in the way.  

AMY MAYER / IPR FILE

Farmers who grow many different types of crops and raise livestock will receive direct payments from the United States Department of Agriculture through $16 billion of CARES Act relief money.

COURTESY NICK TORKELSON

As meatpacking plants across the country have temporarily closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks, consumers might be seeing less meat on the shelves at the grocery, but farmers are dealing with animals they can't sell.

AMY MAYER / IPR FILE

Many of the public health labs determining whether people have COVID-19 have become at least overworked or, at worst, overwhelmed. Some of the country's animal disease labs have stepped in to help.

AMY MAYER / IPR FILE

Long before the world became aware of the novel coronavirus that now has most people in the United States staying home, the pork industry was watching with fear as a different virus decimated the pig population in China.

One of the country’s largest ethanol producers has idled three plants and postponed the opening of a fourth. 

POET posted a statement on its website saying bioprocessing at the locations in Chancellor, South Dakota and in Coon Rapids and Ashton, Iowa has stopped. Another plant in Shelbyville, Indiana was on track to open this spring but that is now on hold.

Families often count on their local school districts to provide two meals a day for their kids. But with school buildings closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, getting meals to students can be a challenge, especially in rural areas.

Rural families also often find it difficult to drive many miles to see if the grocery store has restocked needed items.

As the price of gasoline plummeted amid COVID-19 restrictions, so has the price of ethanol.

 

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