Abraham Lincoln established the land-grant colleges 150 years ago as the â€śpeoplesâ€™ universitiesâ€ť â€“ places where research could be done to help the common man. But times have changed and some public colleges are now often working for big business. Peggy Lowe has the story in part 1 of Harvest Public Media's series Americaâ€™s Big Beef.Â
A Northeast Iowa dairy is the latest to invest in a mechanical employee to help with the milking chores. The farmers are hoping the device will enable them to stay competitive in an industry thatâ€™s losing producers at an alarming rate. Kevin and Cherish Kueker installed a robot in June. Theyâ€™ve joined with a neighbor to milk 95 cows and raise calves. Each animal is fitted with an ankle bracelet with a computer chip. In the seven minutes it takes to milk the cow, the chip reveals a detailed history.
The Environmental Protection Agencyâ€™s Renewable Fuel Standard calls for one billion gallons of ethanol produced from non-food plant matter rather than grain next year. Itâ€™s a goal industry is woefully unprepared to meet.Â But as Iowa Public Radio and Harvest Public Mediaâ€™s Amy Mayer reports, with several plants in the works, cellulosic ethanol is poised to hit the commercial market sometime in 2013.Â
Look at the Census of Agriculture and you can learn a lot about farming in Iowa. When the last census was done in 2007, the average farm was 331 acres and worth more than a million dollars. The US Department of Agriculture updates that information every 5 years and is getting ready to send out new surveys in a few weeks. One trend to watch for is the growing number of small farms. As Grant Gerlock of Harvest Public Media reports, theyâ€™re easy to miss and some would rather not be counted.
Danny Moulds owns Kris Kringleâ€™s Trees just north of Cedar Falls. He says the hot dry summer took a harsh toll on newly planted seedlings. He says he lost around 15 thousand Christmas Â trees on his 46 acre farm.
Had those young trees survived they would have been ready for harvest in 2019. Because the drought was so widespread, Iowa Department of Natural Resources District Forester Mark Vitosh says it may be harder to find the more popular varieties in the future.
The United States is the worldâ€™s leading corn producer and exporter, supporting the increasing demand for meat in China, India and other countries with growing middle classes.Â Those countries import livestock feed made from Midwestern grain. But as Iowa Public Radioâ€™s Amy Mayer reports with Harvest Public Media, feeding the world will take more than shipping protein overseas.Â
Debate surrounding what we eat and how itâ€™s made is nothing new, but in this year of outcry over pink slime, criticism regarding gestation crates and questions about the value of organic food, the various sides are reaching out in new ways and new places. Even when the opposing camps actually speak with each other, though, middle ground is still proving hard to find.
The Dust Bowl of the 1930s is the subject of a new documentary from Ken Burns airing this month on PBS television stations. The man-made disaster left an indelible mark on the Midwest and on history â€” and, as Harvest Public Mediaâ€™s Grant Gerlock reports, todayâ€™s extensive corn production could make the region vulnerable once again.
Howard Audsley has been driving through Missouri for the past 30 years to assess the value of farmland. Barreling down the flat roads of Saline County on a recent day, he stopped his truck at a 160-acre tract of newly tilled black land. The land sold in February for $10,700 per acre, double what it would have gone for five years ago.
Heading out into the field, Audsley picked up a clod of the dirt that makes this pocket of land some of the priciest in the state.
Livestock producers want to press pause on the federal mandate for corn-based ethanol. Theyâ€™re seeking relief from corn prices pushed up by the drought. But as Harvest Public Mediaâ€™s Grant Gerlock reports, this short-term debate has broader implications.Â
With the election over, lawmakers now return to Washington for the final weeks of the 112th Congress. Their schedule is packed, but House majority leader Eric Cantor has said addressing the now expired Farm Bill is on the agenda. With Harvest Public Media, Iowa Public Radioâ€™s Amy Mayer reports that itâ€™s not just farmers facing the challenge of planning for an unknown future.
When Congress recessedÂ for the election season without passing a new farm bill, many observers thought farmers would demand explanations as campaign trails blazed through small towns. In conjunction with Harvest Public Media, Iowa Public Radioâ€™s Amy Mayer has this look at how the farm bill is playing on the stump.
Technology is giving the food industry better tools for detecting problems in the food supply, such as e coli or salmonella contaminations. Thatâ€™s partly why food recalls have increased in recent years. But quickly finding the source and final destination of unsafe food -- thatâ€™s a little more complicated. A recently enacted law requires the produce industry to come up with a system for tracking fruits and vegetables from field to fork, but as Harvest Public Mediaâ€™s Abbie FentressÂ Swanson reports, thereâ€™s a big holdup.
Farmers and weeds are in a constant competition. When the herbicide called Roundup came along, farmers got a clear edge. But now weeds are beginning to catch up. Grant Gerlock of Harvest Public Media has more on how Roundup-resistant weeds are changing the game.
While many farmers were bringing in this yearâ€™s harvest, they also were planting. Â Cover cropsâ€”like oats and winter ryeâ€”are becoming more popular, despite the time and expense involved in growing green fields that wonâ€™t ever make moneyâ€”directly.Â Together with Harvest Public Media, Iowa Public Radioâ€™s Amy Mayer explains why.
A new Amish settlement has sprung up in Delaware County, Iowa near Delhi. Members of the Amish community near Edgewood left the settlement because of economic differences they had with the Bishop Â about how much time they could work off the farm. In the capital intensive agriculture industry itâ€™s hard for anyone to work the land without a second income. As the Amish are forced to become more progressive itâ€™s pitting them against the eroding Midsize American farms.
After the dry summer, this harvest offers a good look at what drought resistant corn can do. In conjunction with Harvest Public Media, Iowa Public Radioâ€™s Amy Mayer reports the big companies may soon be touting their results, but farmers may not rush to plant drought resistant seed next year.Â
Gummy bears, chocolate, ice cream, and chewing gum:Â sounds like a junk food binge, but those products are actually helping some Iowa cattle producers stretch their dollars. Prices for corn-based livestock feed have jumped nearly 20 percent. So some farmers are using leftover or off grade items like partially melted candy bars, from local food processors, to supplement.
Down a stretch of rural highway and country roads lined with fields, about an hour south of Lincoln, Neb., lies the Dorn family farm. Thatâ€™s where Nathan Dorn grew up, where his grandfather farmed before him and where his father, uncles and cousin now farm beside him.
Dornâ€™s strong ties to the land made the decision to continue the family tradition of farming an easy one. But it also leaves him feeling misunderstood by the average American.
The current farm bill expires at the end of September and lawmakers wonâ€™t have a new one passed, thanks largely to election-year politics. Despite the partisan bickering in Washington, many in farm country are working together to keep their concerns on the front burner.
Aaron Troesterâ€™s life both did, and didnâ€™t, turn out exactly the way he planned.
The 29-year-old farmer in the north-central Nebraska town of Oâ€™Neill was pouring honey into jars from bees he keeps when I met him. I soon learned he had a chemistry degree and had planned to go to medical school, but the lure of the land he farms with his father changed his mind.
â€śAll through grade school, I knew I wanted to farm,â€ť Troester said. That changed in college,Â but a year spent back on the farm while waitlisted for med school slowly evolved from passing the time into passion.
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 â€“ gas made with 15 percent ethanol â€“ 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.
Despite a devastating drought Iowa has weathered a rough economy thanks to its agricultural base. On Wednesday night AgÂ leaders from across the country gathered in Des Moines for a forum on agriculture. The question up for debate? Which presidential candidate is best for farmers. Â As Iowa Public Radioâ€™s Sandhya Dirks reports, the answer to that question could decide the election.Â Â
The manager at an Iowa Egg Farm implicated in a national salmonella outbreak will admit he tried to bribe a federal official to sign off on unsafe eggs.
In 2010 a salmonella scare spread across the countryâ€”500 million eggs were recalled and 2,000 people fell sick.
Now a federal prosecutor says the manager of the farm the bacterial outbreak was traced back toâ€”Tony Wasmundâ€”has agreed to plead guilty to attempting to bribe a public official. Wasmund apparently offered $300 to a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector to let eggs that didnâ€™t pass muster go to market.
This is the tenth installment of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Mediaâ€™s series chronicling Americansâ€™ connections to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.