Agribusiness

Photo by Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Breaking up is a hard thing to do. It's even harder when you're a publicly traded, multinational seed or chemical conglomerate. Monsanto, the St. Louis-based seed company that produces the widely-used herbicide RoundUp, had to learn that lesson the hard way. The world's largest seed company announced Wednesday that after months of wooing, it's no longer pursuing Switzerland-based Syngenta, the world's largest producer of farm chemicals. The courtship began in early summer 2015 when Monsanto made an initial bid to purchase Syngenta's chemical operations.

Photo by Amy Mayer/IPR

Farmers and agriculture officials are gearing up for another round of bird flu this fall, an outbreak they fear could be worse than the devastating spring crisis that hit turkeys and egg-laying hens in the Midwest, wiped out entire farms and sent egg prices sky-high.

The potential target of the highly pathogenic avian flu this fall could be broilers, or meat chickens, as the outbreaks have been triggered and carried by wild birds, which will be flying south in great numbers this fall through several U.S. flyways.

Photo by Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, is attempting to swallow up the chemical operations of Syngenta, the world’s biggest producer of pesticides and other farm inputs. The proposed deal signals a change in focus for the agricultural giant, and could have ripple effects across farm country.

By its own admission, Monsanto lags behind in chemistry research. To correct that, and possibly find new ways to combine chemicals and biotech crops, Monsanto wants to buy the Swiss chemical company.

Photo by Amy Mayer

Technology has transformed farming, one of the Midwest’s biggest industries, and while fewer people are now needed to actually work the farm field, new types of jobs keep many office workers tied to agriculture.

Beyond operating a tractor and a combine, today’s farmers need to manage all kinds of information. From information technology to web development, the skills that have changed our economy have transformed the agriculture industry as well.

Flickr / Ben Freeman

Many veterans have a hard time finding employment when they return to civilian life, though some have landed jobs in the wake of bird flu. 

Veteran Enterprises is a veteran-owned business that does government contracting. Owner-operator Garth Carlson says he’s currently involved with the cleaning and disinfecting of six bird flu affected facilities in Iowa and Minnesota.

Carlson served two tours in Kosovo and two tours in Iraq with the army, but today he disinfects livestock facilities. 

USDA/Bob Nichols

The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing Tuesday on avian influenza’s impact on the U.S. poultry industry. The USDA has come under scrutiny for its handling of the outbreak. 

One topic of discussion are the indemnities provided to affected producers who must euthanize their entire flock when the virus is detected. The USDA is considering a new indemnity formula in light of criticism that the current calculation short changes producers. 

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

It’s been more than two weeks since the last reported outbreak of avian influenza in Iowa. For now, it appears the virus's spread has stopped.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture says all flocks hit by the disease have been completely euthanized. Efforts are focusing on composting, disinfecting and preventing future outbreaks.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad Monday went to a John Deere dealership in Perry to sign a bill to facilitate more broadband in Iowa.     

It’s dubbed the Connect Acre Bill, and Branstad says agriculture is just one business that will benefit from more high-speed internet access.   

The bill includes property tax breaks for communications companies to build out broadband to underserved areas, but not the five million dollars in grants the governor asked for. 

Photo by Abby Wendle/Harveset Public Media

Panda, standing six feet tall and weighing almost a ton, is everything a show cow should be: broad-backed and round-rumped, with sturdy legs holding up her heft. Her hide - thick and black, with splotches of creamy white - fits her name.

“She’s a big time cow,” says Dan Byers, owner of Byers Premium Cattle, Inc. “She’s a freak of nature is what she is.”

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The price of eggs used by food manufacturers has more than tripled in recent months. That’s largely thanks to the outbreak of bird flu spreading throughout Iowa, the nation’s number one egg production state.

Today, a dozen processing eggs costs roughly $2.26. In mid-April that same dozen cost 64 cents.

So far, Avian flu has affected more than 21 million egg-laying hens in Iowa alone. USDA poultry economist Alex Melton says this has food companies worried about supply.

Photo by Amy Mayer

The packaged foods found in supermarkets, convenience stores and vending machines are full of ingredients you often can’t pronounce.

They’ve been carefully developed and tested in a lab and likely have been shipped long distances. They can hold up to weeks or even months on the shelf. But most of them began with fresh food you might cook with at home.

Photo by Amy Mayer/IPR file

Composting millions of euthanized birds affected by avian flu is arduous and some poultry producers say the process takes too long. The corn stover usually used for cellulosic ethanol may help the process.

Stover is comprised of stalks, cobs and other waste left after harvest. A combination of heat and carbon-rich corn waste accelerates decomposition and kills the virus. The leftover material provides farmers with a compost to spread on fields. 

Flickr / J. N. Stuart

A team of wildlife biologists from the United States Department of Agriculture will be trapping small mammals and birds in Iowa and testing them for avian influenza over the next couple of weeks. USDA epidemiologists will also be interviewing workers at poultry operations about bio security practices. 

Iowa is the nation's leading poultry producer and so far more a third of the state's hens have been affected by the H5N2 virus. Nationwide the number of affected birds totals to 33 million. Avian influenza presents no food safety concerns.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

H5N2 has 

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Iowa is in a state of emergency due to a highly contagious strain of avian flu called H5N2. Gov. Terry Branstad enacted the proclamation Friday after more than 20 confirmed or presumed outbreaks at commercial poultry facilities around the state.

This very contagious H5N2 has a high mortality rate among poultry, and therefore infection of commercial flocks is economically devastating to producers. So far roughly a quarter of Iowa's nearly 60 million laying hens have been affected by the virus.

Flickr / FAOALC

UPDATE: The United States Department of Agriculture has confirmed H5N2 in a Sioux County flock of 1.7 million hens. The USDA has not yet confirmed the presence of avian flu in the other four suspected flocks.

More than 6 million hens and juvenile chickens in northwest Iowa will be euthanized pending final confirmation of H5N2. The Iowa Department of Agriculture reports a total of five flocks may be affected by this highly pathogenic strain of avian flu. 

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The Iowa Department of Agriculture is responding to a second case of avian flu in a Northwest Iowa turkey flock. It’s a commercial operation in Sac County.   The facility has 34,000 turkeys and is located near the initial case of H5N2 in Buena Vista County. State officials have quarantined the production areas and birds on the property will be euthanized to prevent the spread of the disease.

State Agriculture officials and the Iowa Department of Public Health are working directly with poultry workers at the affected facility to ensure proper precautions are being taken.

Wine Cooler

Apr 23, 2015
Submitted photo

Grape growers get nervous when temperatures drop into the 20s in April as they did in some parts of Iowa Wednesday night. State Viticulture Specialist Mike White says a freeze warning is always cause for concern but he's had no reports of damage, "for the most part things look pretty good in Iowa. There may have been a vineyard or two in Southern Iowa in a low area that had frost, but I think right now,we're looking pretty good."

Flickr / MTSOfan

Roughly 3.8 million hens at a laying facility in northwest Iowa are being destroyed due to the presence of a highly pathogenic virus. H5N2, a strain of avian flu, was found Monday on at a commercial egg-laying facility in Osceola County doubling the number of affected birds nationwide. 

Originally the United States Department of Agriculture reported the Osceola flock's population to be 5.3 million birds. Rather that is the facility's capacity.

This is Iowa's second case of H5N2. Last week the virus struck a commercial turkey farm in Buena Vista County. 

H5N2 Hits Iowa Again

Apr 20, 2015
FREEFOODPHOTOS.COM

As many as 5.3 million hens will be euthanized at a commercial laying facility in northwest Iowa as a result of the presence of H5N2. The United States Department of Agriculture confirmed the presence this highly pathogenic strain avian flu Monday.

This year there have already been more than 40 confirmed cases of the virus in commercial flocks across several Midwestern states. H5N2 supposedly is spread by migratory waterfowl, which are generally not harmed by the disease.

Aaron Putze

Yesterday a strain of avian flu called H5N2 was confirmed on a commercial turkey farm in Buena Vista County. As those 27,000 birds are euthanized, the other roughly 130 turkey farmers around the state are taking bio security measures to ensure their farms avoid the same fate.

H5N2 presents a minimal risk to humans. It creates no food safety concerns but is financially devastating to farmers because once the virus is detected in even one bird the entire flock is eradicated.

Wiese & Sons

One family, farming the same land generation after generation - this is a dream many farmers share, but not an easy one to realize.

Wasendorf Fallout

Feb 4, 2015
Waterloo Courier

U.S.Bank in Cedar Falls has been ordered to pay $18 million to defrauded customers of a failed brokerage firm. The settlement is the result of a lawsuit filed by The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission against Peregrine Financial Group.  The suit claimed the bank should have known CEO Russell Wasendorf Sr. was stealing customer funds because the account was treated like a regular checking account. The suit alleges the bank allowed Wasendorf to transfer of millions of dollars to pay for his private jet, his restaurant, and even his divorce settlement.

Flickr

Agricultural equipment manufacturing companies across the Midwest are downsizing their work force. After nearly one thousand layoffs last October, another round will sideline an additional thousand workers. Deere and Company has announced 910 layoffs. Black Hawk Engineering in Cedar Falls will idle 40 workers, and Unverferth Manufacturing near Shell Rock will sideline 48 employees.

Deere Decline

Nov 26, 2014
IPR's Pat Blank

Quad Cities based Deere and Company is reporting fourth-quarter earnings and revenue that beat expectations.

The agricultural and construction equipment manufacturer says earnings per share were $1.83 on revenue of $8.9 billion. That topped predictions of $1.57 on $7.75 billion in sales. 

But when compared with the previous year, the company's earnings and revenue both declined.  Deere officials say they don’t expect that trend to improve in 2015.

Deere expects sales to decline in  both its agriculture and turf equipment lines.

Emily Woodbury

This year, U.S. farmers are bringing in what is expected to be a record breaking harvest. On this edition of River to River - the modern day harvest.

Lauren Tucker/Flickr

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.

Grain Elevator Failure Prompts Talk of Safety Net

Aug 25, 2014
Bill Kelly/NET News

 

In Nebraska, farmers say they’re left with about $9 million in unpaid claims when a grain elevator failed in the town of Pierce. It looks as if farmers’ losses could eventually top $4 million.

Without a financial safety net to depend on, farmers are watching this case in eastern Nebraska. They’re looking for lessons in order to avoid another massive financial wreckage in the future.

freefoodphotos.com

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Seattle, Washington food safety lawyer Bill Marler, who represented some of those sickened in a 2010 salmonella outbreak caused by contaminated eggs.  This week a settlement was reached with Quality Egg and two of its top executives, Jack and Peter DeCoster.  Marler says Jack DeCoster comes to the court with a "checkered past," that could make jail time more likely in this case.

Photo by Tim McCabe, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Last week, the U.S. Government indicted Chinese government hackers on charges of stealing trade secrets, claiming that the espionage has gone too far. When it comes to intellectual property, the internet isn’t the only place the Chinese are looking for U.S. trade secrets.

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