Agriculture and Harvest Public Media

Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
9:36 am
Wed May 21, 2014

Flour Milling Merger Moves Forward

Ardent Mills would control about a third of the American flour milling market.
Wikimedia Commons

Federal regulators Tuesday gave the final go-ahead for two of the country’s largest flour milling companies to merge.

Food giants ConAgra and Cargill said last year they wanted to put their flour mills under one roof in a new company called Ardent Mills. But a chorus of antitrust watchdogs said the deal would further consolidate an already concentrated industry.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:05 am
Wed May 21, 2014

Treated Seeds May Contribute to Honeybee Losses

Cherokee, Iowa farmer Nathan Anderson wears beekeeping gear to protect himself when he opens or closes the pollen traps on the hives on his farm. He’s allowed researchers to place three pairs of hives on his fields.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Nathan Anderson stops his red pick-up truck alongside a cornfield on his farm near Cherokee, Iowa. The young farmer pulls on a heavy brown hoodie, thick long, sturdy yellow gloves and a beekeeper’s hat with a screened veil. He approaches a pair of hives sitting on the edge of a field recently planted with corn.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Canada Jonesing for Piece of American (Hemp) Pie

Canada legalized hemp in 1998 and many companies there are anxiously awaiting cultivation in the U.S. At Centennial Seeds in Colorado, growers have started planting.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

 

The U.S. market for foods and beauty products that containhemp is growing, but American manufacturers that use hemp have their hands tied. The crop is still illegal to cultivate, according to federal laws, which means the current American hemp industry, estimated at $500 million per year, runs on foreign hemp.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon May 19, 2014

Now Appearing: Hemp, for the First Time in Decades

At Centennial Seeds in Lafayette, Colo., Ben Holmes is testing hemp varieties. Holmes made his name distributing and breeding strains of medical and recreational marijuana, but recently has become a prominent figure in Colorado’s fledgling hemp industry.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

 

A handful of farmers is set to plant the country’s first hemp crop in decades, despite federal regulations that tightly restrict the plant’s cultivation.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
8:12 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Farmers Take Missouri River Flood Worries to Court

Scott Olson of Tekamah, Neb., walks along the edge of his field that was flooded in 2011. Most of the field can be farmed, but parts may never be reclaimed after the river replaced fertile topsoil with fine, sandy silt.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The Missouri River burst out of its banks in epic fashion three years ago. The flood covered thousands of acres of land and dredged up old debates about how the river should be run. Now, flooded landowners are suing the Army Corps of Engineers, saying the agency isn’t protecting their land.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
6:03 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Planting with the *Clouds*

Farmers are working around the clock to take advantage of dry weather to plant their corn
Credit IPR's Pat Blank

  This week's crop report from the USDA shows  Iowa farmers spent very little time in the field planting corn last week. Only 23 percent of the expected corn acreage is in the ground. That's nine days ahead of last year but 10 days later than the five year average. The cool wet spring is improving soil moisture reserves with only two percent of the state's topsoil now considered short of moisture.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Chinese Market Could Help Rid Rivers of Invasive Asian Carp

Recently processed Asian carp hang in rack at the Two Rivers fish processing plant in Wickliffe, Ky. The fishing industry hopes demand from China can both create a market for, and help rid U.S. rivers of, the invasive species.
Jacob McCleland for Harvest Public Media

Water experts worried about Asian carp may have new hope. They’re turning their eyes to China, where a carp-hungry populace may be the key for stemming the tide of the invasive fish.

Asian carp are taking over U.S. waterways, including the Mississippi River and tributaries like the Illinois and Missouri Rivers, where they out-compete native fish.

In China, carp is cheap and a common meal-time fixture. Now, a carp fishing industry is springing up along carp-infested U.S. waters and processors are exporting the U.S. problem fish to Chinese diners.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Fri April 25, 2014

Robust System Can Grow Local Market

In the kitchen at Decorah High School, Chad Elliott ladels out tomato soup. The school system sources many ingredients locally.
Amy Mayer/IPR

The smell of baking dinner rolls fills the kitchen at Decorah High School in northeast Iowa. As two kitchen workers mix a fresh broccoli salad, another, Chad Elliott, ladles tomato soup from a large metal pot on the stove into white plastic buckets for delivery to the town’s elementary schools.

Elliott says most of the food served in the district is made from scratch and many ingredients come from local farms and dairies.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Farmers Try to Tap Bigger Local Markets

Samara Davis shops at the small Harvest Learning Center market in the basement of her Kansas City, Mo., church. It’s part of an effort for local farmers to expand their customer base.
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.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed April 23, 2014

Public, Private Partners Key to Local Food Success

Ashley Turk is a member of Food Corps, a service program that supports local food systems. In northeast Iowa, Turk and other organizers maintain a robust network that connects growers with clients.
Credit Amy Mayer/IPR

As Food Corps service member Ashley Turk navigates her way through a brand-new greenhouse in the courtyard at Waukon High School in the northeast corner of Iowa, she points to a robust supply of red and green lettuce leaves growing neatly in rows.

“It’s huge,” she says. “We cut it off and it just keeps growing.”

The greenhouse lettuce is among the offerings in the school’s salad bar. And students will soon be growing carrots, tomatoes and other vegetables, Turks says.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
3:13 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

USDA makes PED a reportable disease

The porcine epidemic diarrhea virus has killed millions of piglets.
Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that hog farmers are now required to report outbreaks of certain viral diseases that have spread across the country during the past year.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
6:56 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Fish Farm

The waste from several tanks of Tilapia fish help feed the lettuce, kale and herbs
IPR's Pat Blank

One of Iowa's only Aquaponics facilities is marketing locally grown, chemical free vegetables and fish raised in a sustainable manner and available year round. All Seasons Harvest is located just north of Cedar Falls and grows lettuce, kale, herbs and Tilapia fish in a six thousand square foot greenhouse.  

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
10:00 am
Wed April 16, 2014

What You Should Know about Our Food System

Despite certainty on the farm bill finally coming down from Washington, Midwest farmers still face plenty of unknowns.
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

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Unlocking Prairie Secrets from a Sod House

Researchers prepare to take down a section of a sod house in Gates, Neb., in order to study the bricks made of dirt.
Credit Jackie Sojico/for Harvest Public Media

 

Ecologists in Nebraska are trying to find out what the Great Plains looked like when homesteaders settled there in the 19th century. To do that, they’re working with a team of archaeologists and historians dissecting a sod house, a house built out of bricks cut from dirt.

Larry Estes has had a sod house in his backyard in Gates, Neb., for as long as he can remember. He never really thought anything about it until a year ago when a repairman asked him about it.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
10:00 am
Thu April 10, 2014

Bill to Bar GMO Labeling Unveiled

Anti-GMO protestors at a 2013 Denver, Colo., rally.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media file photo

 

State efforts to label genetically-modified food would be outlawed under a bill unveiled by a Kansas congressman Wednesday – a plan immediately criticized as a “legislative Hail Mary” that won’t pass.

The bill by Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Wichita, would also bar the Food and Drug Administration from labeling efforts, a move highly popular with consumers, and allow so-called “natural” foods to contain bio-engineered ingredients.  

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed April 9, 2014

Vertical Farming: Towering Vision, Uncertain Future

Large banks of fluorescent lamps provide the spectrum of light that keeps the floating beds of plants alive year-round in The Plant Chicago, a vertical farming facility.
Peter Gray/Harvest Public Meeting

Farmers are making inroads supplying local food to hungry city foodies, but many producers are trying to grow more food inurban centers. City real estate is at a premium, so some producers are finding more space by using what’s called “vertical farming,” and going up rather than spreading out.

Growers across the country are heading indoors, using greenhouses and hydroponics – growing plants in a water and nutrient solution instead of soil and using lamps to replace sunlight. Vertical farming takes that to a new level.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
3:27 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

Ethanol Advocates Fight for Renewable Fuel Standard

DuPont is sourcing corn stover from a wide radius around its Nevada cellulosic ethanol plant, expected to come on-line this year.
Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Ethanol advocates made the case for preserving the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) on Tuesday in front of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Without the RFS, advocates say, the ethanol industry will be quashed – and corn farmers and rural communities will pay the price. But many agricultural economists argue that lowering the ethanol mandate won’t be a huge blow to the rural economy.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Federal Rule Could Dry Up Brewer-Rancher Relationship

A new federal food safety rule would classify breweries as animal food manufacturers because many breweries sell or donate leftover grains to ranchers.
Ben Harris-Roxas/Flickr

Few people connect craft breweries with cattle feed. But passing along the spent grains from the brewing process, like barley and wheat, to livestock ranchers is a common practice. Although now, that relationship could be in jeopardy.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Rootworms May Fall Victim to Greater Crop Rotation

These adult beetles in a lab at ISU helped researchers confirm the western corn rootworm can adapt to Bt corn.
Amy Mayer/IPR

After a long battle with corn rootworm, Midwest farmers thought they’d found relief in genetically modified seeds with engineered-in toxins to beat back the best. But recent research confirms what farmers have been noticing for several years: the western corn rootworm has been evolving to outwit the technology.

When Aaron Gassmann, a bug researcher at Iowa State University, started answering calls to come look at some cornfields, he went out and quickly had a hunch. Now, his research proves his fear.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Farm Life and FFA Have Changed, But the Iconic Jacket Remains the Same

The blue corduroy jackets sported by high schoolers in FFA have been a part of the group's brand since its founding in 1928.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

The blue corduroy jacket worn by high school students in FFA, formerly the Future Farmers of America, is an icon of rural life. To the average city dweller the jacket is a vestige of dwindling, isolated farm culture, as fewer and fewer young people grow up on farms. The numbers tell a different story however. In spite of that demographic shift, a record number of kids are donning blue jackets this year.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
4:00 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

USDA predicts more soybean acres this year

The USDA predicts farmers may plant more soybean acres this year, thanks in part to lower corn prices.
Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

The U. S. Department of Agriculture is predicting fewer acres will be planted in corn this year, compared to last year, while soybean acreage will be up.

In its Prospective Plantings report, the federal agency uses survey data collected from farmers to estimate how much of each grain will be planted. While the corn estimate of 91.7 million acres would mark the lowest acreage since 2010, it would still rank as the fifth largest planting of that grain in the United States since 1944.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
8:52 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Hog Farmers Differ on Packer-Owned Pigs

A proposal in the Nebraska Legislature would allow meatpacking companies operating in the state to own hogs from birth to slaughter, a change that some say would take market share from farmers.
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

 

Nebraska hog farmers aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on a proposal that would allow meatpacking companies more control over the state’s hog industry. And farmers all over the country are watching.

Currently, a 1998 state law bans meatpacking companies from owning and raising the hogs the process. But lawmakers have proposed an end to the ban, which would allow for more vertical integration of the hog industry.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
6:48 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

A Taste of Iowa Summer

Iowa Choice Harvest vegetables and fruit will soon be available throughout the state
Credit IPR's Pat Blank

A first of its kind facility in Marshalltown is bringing a taste of Iowa summer to dinner tables.  Iowa Choice Harvest frozen sweet corn and apples have been available in a few grocery stores in the central part of the state, but in April, all 107 Fareway stores will feature the products.  Iowa Choice Harvest is a group of 30 farmers who have invested in the company to have Iowa grown fruits and vegetables available year round.   CEO Penny Brown Huber was able to secure a USDA grant to study how the market would react to a facility like theirs.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu March 20, 2014

Drones: Coming Soon to a Farm Near You?

Agriculture consultant Chad Colby shows a room of Midwest farmers how GPS can control a high-definition camera attached to a UAV.
Peter Gray/Harvest Public Meeting

Unmanned aerial vehicles aren’t just for spies or for the battlefield. Farmers all over the country think drones can give them a leg up, too.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
8:37 am
Mon March 17, 2014

States Fight California's Chicken Cage Law. But It's Really About Bacon

Free-range chickens lay eggs for Sauder's Quality Eggs in Pennsylvania.
Dan Charles NPR

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 11:55 am

By most measures, David Kesten's hens are living the good life.

"They can act like chickens, they can run around," says Kesten, who's raising hens in an old wooden shed in the open countryside near Concordia, Mo. "They can go out and catch bugs, they can dig in the ground."

But most U.S. hens live crammed into very close quarters, according to Joe Maxwell, with the Humane Society of the U.S. And he says that's just wrong.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
3:38 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Harsh winter kills Iowa honeybees

Honeybees may be among the many victims of this winter's extended stretches of extreme cold. The State Department of Agriculture's Apiarist, Andrew Joseph says annual winter losses among U.S. beekeepers run about 30 percent. Iowa's losses are likely to be 60 to 65 percent. He says bees that are in good shape can survive a very harsh winter, but those that have been weakened by pesticides or parasites are not likely to survive until spring.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Fri March 14, 2014

Padlock the Milk! FDA’s Pushing to Safeguard the Food Supply

Milk is an extremely popular item on the University of Missouri campus, says purchasing coordinator Sandy Perley. "Our entire campus in a year drinks about 96,000 gallons of milk. And by our best calculation, that’s about 326 gallons a day."
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Many of the food terrorism scenarios outlined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration involve liquid.

And there’s good reason for that.

Liquids like orange juice and milk go through many processing steps -- farm, bottling plant, delivery – before reaching the consumers who drink them. And these liquids are moved, manufactured and stored in huge batches that get distributed and consumed quickly. Should a toxin be injected somewhere along the supply chain, experts believe it could have devastating human health and economic consequences.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu March 13, 2014

Could Our Food Supply Be a Target for Terrorists?

A bioterror attack that introduced a virus like foot-and-mouth disease could devastate the U.S. livestock industry. Regulators are proposing new rules meant to protect the food system from terror attacks.
Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media file photo

It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster. Villains in trench coats scheme ways to cause the most destruction and chaos. They settle on a food company, an easy target, and plan to lace the products with a chemical or pathogen. The hero finds out the plan with enough time to save the day.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Pig Virus Now Impacting Pork Prices

Illinois hog farmer Phil Borgic lost eight percent of his annual yield to the procine epidemic diarrhea virus.
Peter Gray/Harvest Public Meeting

A virus that has devastated piglets for nearly a year is now responsible for lower pork supplies and higher prices.

Phil Borgic of Nokomis, Ill. knows first hand what happens when porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus infects a hog barn. He walked through one in late January pointing out the differences among litters.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
9:53 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Vilsack: Trade Deal Negotiations Ongoing

U. S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, shown here speaking in Ames last summer, is urging patience on a trans-Pacific trade deal.
Amy Mayer/IPR

 

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is telling Midwest farmers to sit tight while his office hammers out a major trade deal with a group of Asian countries, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Agricultural exports are already at record highs and the export market is crucial for many Midwest farmers, particularly those who plant soybeans, wheat and corn. But USDA officials say the U.S. could be doing even more with the help of the TPP.

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