Agribusiness

Mercy For Animals MFA / Flickr

This week, animal rights and free speech organizations filed a lawsuit against the State of Iowa that challenges a state law from 2012, often referred to as Iowa’s ag-gag law or ag-whistleblower law.  The law  made it illegal to get a job at a livestock farm through misrepresentation in order to conduct an undercover animal cruelty investigation.

Don Graham / Flickr

Iowa has been the “king of corn” for almost two decades. In 2015, Iowa corn farmers grew 2.5 billion bushels of corn on 13 million acres of land. Iowa is also the number one pork producer in the U.S.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe hosts a conversation exploring how Iowa became the agricultural powerhouse that it is today, as well as how farming has influenced Iowa's culture.

IPR/Pat Blank

A collaboration of food producers in North Iowa has resulted in the opening of one of the area’s first farm to table restaurants. That means as much of the menu as possible is locally grown.  

Joshua Frederick is so passionate about his new venture that his steel blue eyes fill with tears as he talks about it.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Lawsuits brought by farmers against one of the world’s leading seed companies will end in settlements.

 

WIKICOMMONS / EPA

An attempt to toughen environmental standards for confined animal feeding operations has failed as the state’s Environmental Protection Commission says it lacks the jurisdiction to reform the current permitting process.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and the D.C.-based Food & Water Watch filed the request. They want the EPC to create stricter rules and complain the current permit process’s scoring system, known at the master matrix, offers no meaningful evaluation of environmental or community protections. 

CHAFER MACHINERY/CREATIVE COMMONS

Applying large amounts of pesticides to farm fields can have negative effects on babies born to mothers living nearby, according to new research.

The data-crunching study published in Nature Communications looked at the farm-heavy San Joaquin Valley in California, where a variety of pesticides get applied to dozens of different crops including fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A federal jury in Kansas City, Kansas, awarded nearly $218 million to Kansas corn farmers after finding seed giant Syngenta AG was negligent when it introduced strains of genetically engineered corn seed into the marketplace that were not approved for import by the Chinese government.  

The eight-member jury returned its $217,700,000 verdict after an 18-day-long trial, the first of eight certified class actions lawsuits against Syngenta brought in state court.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Two giants of American agriculture and industry are closer to becoming one.

 

Dow and DuPont, both leaders in agricultural chemicals and seeds, among other products, received approval from the U.S. Department of Justice to move ahead with a merger, provided they divest several products.

 

file: Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

President Trump is touting the need to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, and water transportation systems this week and farmers are among those hoping to benefit from new federal attention to infrastructure.

 

As a group of visiting scientists prepared to board a plane in Hawaii that would take them back home to China, U.S. customs agents found rice seeds in their luggage. Those seeds are likely to land at least one scientist in federal prison.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Sales of organic food reportedly climbed to record highs in 2016, an indication organics are edging toward the mainstream.

 

In a new industry report, the Organic Trade Association says American consumers spent $43 billion on organic products in 2016, which accounts for more than 5 percent of total U.S. food sales, a high water mark for the organic industry.

 

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Consolidation of agriculture companies continues, as several deals move toward completion this summer.

The state-owned ChemChina purchase of Syngenta is likely to be the first to close, perhaps as soon as next month. Iowa’s homegrown agribusiness Pioneer, already a subsidiary of DuPont, will be swallowed up by chemical giant Dow. And Bayer, the German maker of aspirin and ag chemicals, is poised to buy Monsanto.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) pushed for careful oversight of these deals. He says it’s clear now they’re all likely to move forward.

Amy Mayer/IPR

Iowa State University’s Tractor Pull Club is competing in the International Quarter-Scale Student Tractor Design Competition this week. Students from mechanical, industrial, and agriculture and biosystems engineering build a small tractor, about the size of a ride-on lawn mower, that tries to outperform the others in tests of brute strength, durability and maneuverability.

This year 30 schools are sending teams to Peoria, Illinois and ISU’s club is hoping a winning innovation from last year will help it finish near the top.

Amy Mayer/IPR

 

This summer, in cornfields in Iowa and Nebraska, about a thousand small point-and-shoot digital cameras will be enclosed in waterproof cases, mounted on poles and attached to solar-powered battery chargers. They will take pictures every ten minutes as plants grow; all part of a plan to create better seeds.

 

New U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Thursday explained President Donald Trump’s turn-around on the North American Free Trade Agreement as just part of the negotiations in his deal making.

A new tractor often costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, but not included in that price: the right to repair it. That has put farmers on the front lines of a battle pitting consumers against the makers of all kinds of consumer goods, from tractors to refrigerators to smart phones.  

Amy Mayer/IPR

Hybrid seed corn and nitrogen fertilizer transformed farming in the 20th century, but they are also closely tied to some of today’s major agricultural challenges. That has prompted some members of two families that played pivotal roles in developing farm innovations to work on putting a lighter, 21st century stamp on the landscape.

In Carlisle, Iowa, Rob Fleming still uses the 1947 Ford 2n tractor he drove on the family farm as a teenager. Back then, his family’s fields were lined with neat rows of corn. Not anymore.

Flickr / Regina Hart

Though there have not been any U.S. cases of the strain of avian flu that has killed more than 140 people in China this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s head veterinarian says the agency is making preparations to combat the deadly virus in case it reaches North America. 

The USDA’s Dr. Jack Shere says it's impossible to predict how far a particular bird flu strain may travel or mutate. In the meantime, however, scientists are on alert. 

WIKICOMMONS / EPA

A hog confinement that could contain nearly 7,500 animals is being proposed in north-central Hancock County. County Supervisor Jerry Tlach says he’s in support of the new Peacock Farms facility. He says it will provide jobs for young farmers hoping to remain in area.

Photo by Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media

Mexico may be ready to hit America – and especially Iowa – where it hurts. Namely, in corn exports. Mexico is one of the top buyers of American corn, and Iowa is one of the top corn-producing states. In response to President Trump’s threats against Mexico, a Mexican senator said this week that he would introduce a bill that directs Mexico to buy its corn from Brazil and Argentina instead of the United States.

John Pemble, Iowa Public Radio

President Trump is following through on a campaign promise by halting negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The executive action may lead farm groups to take a different approach to trade.

Pat Blank/IPR

It was a banner year for Iowa’s 100 or so Christmas tree farms, but some producers worry the future may not be as bright.

It’s been a busy month for the Wickiup Hill Tree Farm near Toddville in Eastern Iowa.  Operations manager Tim Andrews says they sold out of trees almost two weeks ago, but the work continues year round.

“This year the weather was warm, so it was enjoyable," he says.  "Some years it’s downright cold, the opposite of it is during the summertime when we’re shearing the trees, the heat index can be 110 or 115, so it’s not for the weak or faint of heart.” 

Fred Knapp for Harveset Public Media

 

A proposal that would jumpstart the chicken business in Nebraska has some residents concerned about the potential impact on the environment and are trying to block or delay its construction.

Costco, the warehouse retailer and grocery chain, plans to build a giant $300 million chicken slaughterhouse on the south side of the town of Fremont in eastern Nebraska.

Flickr / TumblingRun

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to boost the amount of ethanol blended into the nation’s fuel supply under new rules issued Wednesday.

The EPA finalized the rules governing ethanol production, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), for 2017, adding about 1.2 billion gallons in total renewable fuel. That’s an increase of about 6 percent year-over-year.

Pat Blank/IPR

Corn and soybeans weren’t the only bumper crops in Iowa this year.

State Agriculture Department officials say pumpkin production was the best it’s been for many seasons.

Specialty crops expert Maury Wills says the number of local growers who allow customers to pick their own produce has tripled.

“When you can go out and actually pick the pumpkin off the ground, put it in a wagon and haul it up to the apple barn and pay for it there," he says, “It gives the family really good experience up close on the farm."

Amy Mayer/IPR

If Dow and DuPont succeed with their proposal to merge and spinoff three companies, one focused on agribusiness, the new companies will open a fresh chapter in the corporate histories of two titans of American industry.

Amy Mayer/IPR

 

Five of the six biggest companies that produce and sell seeds and chemicals to the world's farmers are pursuing deals that could leave a market dominated by just three giant, global companies. They say getting bigger means bringing more sophisticated and innovative solutions to farmers faster, but opponents say consolidation has irreversible downsides.

Amy Mayer/IPR

The massive industry that supplies farmers with the tools to raise crops is on the brink of a watershed moment. High-profile deals that would see some of the largest global agri-chemical companies combine are in the works and could have ripple effects from farm fields to dinner tables across the globe.

Pat Blank/IPR

It’s hard to ignore a blaring train whistle, flashing lights and bells.

But people do it all the time, both in cars and on foot.  Last year, two people in Iowa died in train accidents and another ten were injured.  Last weekend in Linn County, Iowa's second fatal accident this year between a train and a vehicle occurred near Alburnett.  That incident has sharpened the focus of a statewide rail safety campaign.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A lawsuit farmers have filed against seed giant Syngenta will proceed as a class action, potentially involving hundreds of thousands of corn growers nationwide.

U.S. District Court Judge John Lungstrum approved the motion to certify the Syngenta AG MIR 162 Corn Litigation as a class action Monday in Kansas City, Kansas.

Pages