Jeremy Bernfeld

Food safety regulators are hoping new rules will reduce the number of Americans sickened by salmonella bacteria found on the chicken they eat. Currently, salmonella is estimated to cause about 1 million illnesses a year.

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Regulators are taking aim at foodborne illnesses caused by salmonella. The Department of Agriculture has been able to cut the amount of salmonella found on whole chickens. Now it’s putting in place stricter limits on the amount of bacteria it will allow on cut-up chicken parts and on ground chicken and turkey.

“I think it makes the industry look at things in a different way and say we’ve made progress in one aspect of the production and processing, now we need to make progress in some of these other areas,” says James Dickson, who studies food safety at Iowa State University.

Harvest Public Media file photo by Eric Durban

Worried about the price of wheat on the global market, Midwest farmers are planting less.

Nationwide, farmers seeded about 5 million fewer acres in wheat this planting season than they did two years ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Winter Wheat Seedings Report (PDF) issued Tuesday.

Varieties of winter wheat, which is mostly grown in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska and Montana, make up the lion's share of U.S. wheat production.

Harvest Public Media file photo by Grant Gerlock

Canada and Mexico could impose tariffs on more than $1 billion-worth of U.S. goods as a way to compensate for losses brought on by a U.S. labeling law.

The World Trade Organization set the level of retaliation Monday, the final step in a long-running dispute over the Country-Of-Origin-Labels, or COOL, policy.

As of 2009, retailers must include on meat a label that states where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. Meat companies have to track and label products, and Canada and Mexico say that drops demand for their goods.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

The amount of ethanol blended into the U.S. fuel supply will go up under new rules issued Monday.

In releasing the details of the Renewable Fuel Standard, the policy that sets the amount of biofuels oil refiners must blend into the fuel supply, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it planned to continue to increase the proportion of renewable fuels, most of which is comprised of corn ethanol.

To the chagrin of some of the nation's largest farm organizations, the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday forged ahead with a plan to oversee more of the nation's waterways, saying it will enforce new pollution rules in all but 13 states covered by an ongoing court case.

On the day the so-called "Waters of the U.S." rules, or WOTUS, were set to go into effect, the EPA stuck to the deadline, despite a court order issued late Thursday.

Harvest Public Media file photo by Kristofor Husted

Some of the nation's largest farm groups are cheering after a federal judge blocked implementation Thursday of new rules governing water pollution.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson issued a preliminary injunction delaying the rules, which had been set to take effect Friday, saying that the Environmental Protection Agency had overstepped its bounds. Thirteen states sued the agency, seeking to prevent implementation, and Erickson said the "states are likely to succeed in their claim."

Photo by Amy Mayer/IPR file

Farmers could be temporarily prohibited from applying pesticides at certain times of the year if proposed new environmental regulations are adopted.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A highly contagious strain of bird flu has officially made its way to the Midwest.

The disease was confirmed Tuesday in two separate commercial turkey flocks in Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the USDA.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media file photo

The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that it won’t release rules for how much ethanol oil refiners have to mix in to our gasoline supply this year.

The ethanol rules, called the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), are meant to prop up the U.S. biofuels industry by creating demand for ethanol. Without the rules, both oil companies and the biofuel sector will be left in the dark as to what the demand for ethanol will be.

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Monsanto has agreed to settle some of the lawsuits brought by U.S. farmers who allege they lost money when an Oregon field was discovered to have been contaminated with an experimental genetically modified strain of wheat.

Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States is genetically modified, but GMO wheat has never been approved for farming.

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The “who” part of the Farm Bill is pretty clear.

With trillions dollars of government spending up for grabs,lobbyists from all ends of the spectrum – representing environmental interests, biotech companies, food companies, farmers – flocked to Capitol Hill to find their piece of the Farm Bill pie.

Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

Farm stands and farmers markets remain really important for many local farmers, but U.S. consumers barely buy any food directly from farms. That’s why local farmers are trying to crack in to the big institutional markets such as grocery stores, work cafeterias, schools and hospitals.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media file photo

Food doesn’t just come from a grocery store. Millions of farmers spend their lives producing the crops and raising the livestock that we eat and use.

So it makes sense: If you’re interested in what’s on your plate, you’re interested in what’s going on in the field.

With that in mind, here are four things you should know about today’s food system:

The new farm bill became law in February

The House on Wednesday passed a new five-year compromise farm bill. The bill now moves to the Senate for a vote.

The farm bill — the result of a two-year-long legislative saga — remains massive. The bill contains about $500 billion in funding, most of which is pegged to the food stamp program, officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The meat on your dinner table probably didn't come from a happy little cow that lived a wondrous life out on rolling green hills. It probably also wasn't produced by a robot animal killer hired by an evil cabal of monocle-wearing industrialists.

Truth is, the meat industry is complicated, and it's impossible to understand without a whole lot of context. That's where Maureen Ogle comes in. She's a historian and the author of In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America.

Amy Mayer/IPR

The farm bill expired at midnight on Monday, leaving farmers and ranchers across the country guessing at what federal farm policy will look like when they next put their crops in the ground.

Of course, they’re used to uncertainty, as this is the second straight year Congress has let the farm bill expire. Last year, farmers were set adrift for three months before lawmakers passed a nine-month extension of older policy in January.

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The Iowa, Missouri and Illinios state fairs all wrap up this weekend. Couldn't visit them all? Get a glimpse here.

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The U.S. House passed its version of farm bill legislation Thursday. The revamped bill strips out funding for food aid and deals only with farm policy, exposing a hefty rift in decades-old alliances between urban and rural legislators and between food aid and farm policy interests.

Now, that alliance has been battered.

“Agriculture has joined many of the other topics that are discussed in Congress in becoming a partisan debate of policy,” said Chad Hart, an economist with Iowa State University.

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In a stunning move, the U.S. House voted against approving farm bill legislation Thursday, leaving the bill's future up in the air.

The House rejected the farm bill on a final tally of 234-195 after a day of dramatic, tight votes on amendments to the bill.

Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

Had a hamburger lately? The cow it came from likely passed through a feedlot – a huge farm that fattens cattle before they’re slaughtered.  The thousands of cattle housed at a feedlot produce tons and tons of waste and if it’s not properly disposed, it could lead to an environmental disaster. In Part 3 of Harvest Public Media’s series, America’s Big Beef, Jeremy Bernfeld reports. 

Jeremy Bernfeld / Harvest Public Media

Head to your local filling station and you might see a new blend of gas at the pump. After a three-year regulatory process, the Environmental Protection Agency approved E15 – gas made with 15 percent ethanol – this summer.

Most gas we pump is already blended with ethanol, sometimes it contains as much as 10 percent, but the ethanol industry fought hard to bring E15 to the market. For ethanol backers and the farmers who feed the ethanol industry, getting drivers to pump gas with 50 percent more ethanol is a big win.

Jeremy Bernfeld / Harvest Public Media

This is the ninth installment of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Brandon Fahrmeier had a nice job as a sales rep in Ohio for a large company. He and his wife had a nice suburban home. Then they had kids.  

Andrea Silenzi / Harvest Public Media

This is the first installment of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s new series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here (http://harvestpublicmedia.org/myfarmroots) to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Kate Edwards hasn’t always been a farmer. No, she came back to the farm after college, grad school and a stint as an environmental engineer.

Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

There’s always work to be done on the farm, but often it’s the same work day, after day, after day. Parts of the job must feel a bit like an assembly line.

While it’s impossible to automate farming like many manufacturers have automated their assembly lines, using robotic technology on the farm might not be so far off.

The biological and agricultural engineering robotics team at Kansas State University knows a thing or two about agricultural robots. They’ve won national robotics competitions in each of the last five years.