agriculture

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President-elect Donald Trump plans to pick former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to lead the Agriculture Department, a transition official and a source close to the process confirmed to NPR.

Trump is expected to make a formal announcement on Thursday, ending a months-long process that left Agriculture Secretary as the final Cabinet post to be filled.

Courtesy Elliot Chapman

Farmers across the Midwest are trying to figure out how to get by at a time when expected prices for commodities from corn, to wheat, to cattle, to hogs mean they’ll be struggling just to break even.

“Prices are low, bins are full, and the dollar is strengthening as we speak and that’s just making the export thing a little more challenging,” says Paul Burgener of Platte Valley Bank in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

Flickr / Lindsey Broadhead

The USDA has allocated 115 thousand acres from the Conservation Reserve Program to Iowa, so farmers previously shut out of CRP can apply on a first-come first-served basis this month.

Contracts on some 2. 5 million acres nationwide are expiring this year, and the federal government is taking a more targeted approach to the program, which pays farmers to transfer environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production into conservation.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A federal court has sided with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a case that environmental groups had hoped would hasten water clean-up efforts.

 

The Gulf Restoration Network and environmental groups from states that border the Mississippi River argued the EPA needs to enforce numerical standards for water quality. In other words, the agency should establish maximum allowable levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, and then have a means to penalize states that exceed those amounts.

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.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Cropland in the Midwest is losing its value as the downturn in the agriculture economy continues, according to a number of surveys by agricultural economists. Record-high crop prices contributed to record-high land values in 2012 and 2013, but now, that party is over.

 

"Now what we have is [an] overproduction, oversupply issue," says Wendong Zhang, an Iowa State University economist.

 

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Iowa's beef producers have agreed to spend an extra 50 cents a head for a state checkoff.

Checkoff programs fund marketing and education for a variety of agricultural products. The state conducted a referendum on Nov. 30 to see whether cattle producers wanted to re-establish a state checkoff.

Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

As he prepares to leave Washington, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warns the next administration about the impact of global markets on U. S. farmers. 

Vilsack is quick to point out he’s not privy to any information from the Republican president-elect, but he’s worried about how Donald Trump will approach immigration and trade.  Vilsack says bad decisions could spur retaliation from China and Mexico—two of the top three trading partners for the U.S.

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.

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How much do you really know about where you food comes from? Could you grow enough food to sustain yourself and your family in a garden?

Michael Leland/IPR

Sunny, dry weather is speeding Iowa’s corn and soybean harvest that has been running up to a week behind the traditional pace.

That’s especially true in North Iowa where persistent, heavy rains are leaving standing water in grain fields.

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.

Michael Leland/IPR

Iowa’s corn and soybean harvest continues behind last year, and the five-year average.

Today’s USDA update says statewide, 71-percent of the corn crop is harvested.  Central and southeast Iowa harvest work is a bit more advanced.

In Eastern Iowa, Randy Toenjes blames wet fields and too much corn, too fast.

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.

Michael Leland/IPR

Muddy fields are slowing Iowa’s corn and soybean harvest. The U-S-D-A’s weekly crop update says 94-percent of the corn acreage is mature.  That’s three days head of average for this date.

Corn harvest is a week behind average, with only 19-percent out of the field.

In Winnebago County, where rain during this crop year is nearly double the normal amount, rivers and drainage ditches are overflowing and not allowing field tile to drain cropland.

File: Courtesy Stephen Carmody/Michigan Radio

The next Congress may take up the farm bill a year ahead of schedule.

Michael Leland/IPR

Warmer and drier weather during the past week is allowing grain harvesting equipment back in Iowa’s corn and soybean fields. But today’s USDA progress update says many farmers are encountering muddy fields and some standing water.

Ten percent of Iowa’s corn acreage has been harvested.  That’s about the same as last year, but nine days behind the five-year average for the first week in October.

In Linn County, Brad Stoner is among those just beginning today at his farm near Marion.

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.

Brian Seifferlein/Harvest Public Media

Living in the Platte River Valley in central Nebraska means understanding that the water in your well may contain high levels of nitrates and may not be safe to drink.

"When our first son was born in 1980, we actually put a distiller in for our drinking water here in the house," says Ken Seim, who lives in the Platte Valley near the town of Chapman, Nebraska. "And at that time our water level was 12 parts per million."

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Contaminated drinking water isn't just a problem for Flint, Michigan. Many towns and cities across the Midwest and Great Plains face pollution seeping into their water supplies. A big part of the problem: farming and ranching.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

 

In an effort to turn away from chemical pesticides, which have the potential to damage the environment, some farmers are looking in a new direction in the age-old, quiet struggle on farm fields of farmers versus pests. They're warding off intruding insects and noxious weeds with bugs and chickens.

Amy Mayer/IPR

As driverless cars begin to roam the streets, autonomous farm machinery is not far behind. The same fundamental technology that allows a vehicle to maneuver through city traffic may someday let a farmer send his tractor off to work on its own.

New Holland, the Pennsylvania-based equipment maker, demonstrated one of its large tractors outfitted to run autonomously during the recent Farm Progress Show in Boone.

Amy Mayer/IPR

Iowa State Extension's Women in Agriculture Program is recognizing several Iowans as Women Impacting the Land. The awards celebrate farm work ranging from traditional row crops to livestock to perennial trees and nuts. Madeline Schultz, the director of the Women in Agriculture program, says the increased awareness of women's contributions to farming inspired the awards.

Amy Mayer/IPR

A group of agricultural companies, food manufacturers, retailers and environmental groups plant to raise money to further conservation practices in Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska.

The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative announced its launch at the Farm Progress Show in Boone Wednesday. Founding partners include Cargill, the Environmental Defense Fund, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Monsanto, PepsiCo, The Nature Conservancy, Walmart and the World Wildlife Fund.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

Larry Gerdes is having his barn taken down and disassembled in Malta Bend, Mo. It's about the size of a three-car garage but stands much taller in a clearing surrounded by six-foot stalks of corn.

The barn's exterior is graying, part of its roof is missing and there's a gaping hole looking out from the hayloft. It's about 100 years old and it's not really useful.

"It's deteriorated and it would cost a lot of money to repair it," Gerdes says. "And it doesn't fit into the modern farming. Unless you got two cows to let them loaf inside, nothing fits and it's just obsolete."

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee plans to examine proposed mergers among agricultural chemical and seed companies in a September hearing.

 

Amy Mayer/IPR

On a trip to the Midwest last week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack offered some advice to the next presidential administration. As the candidates tour the country and remain largely silent on agriculture and food issues, the Agriculture Department’s purview remains important.

 

Amy Mayer/IPR

On a hot, July day in Boone County, farmer Brett Heineman shuttled a semi from one of his family's fields to the local co-op. He and his uncle were harvesting the first crop of oats on this farm in decades.

Before, corn and soybeans almost completely covered the landscape -- today, they account for 95 percent of crop acres in Iowa -- most Corn Belt farmers also grew oats or alfalfa. Now, the Heinemans are among the farmers taking a closer look at re-integrating the small grain into their operations.

Courtesy of Becky Herman

Iowa’s first cricket farm that’s producing crickets for human consumption is up and running. Becky Herman is a co-founder of Iowa Cricket Farmer, and she says right now, she’s got nearly 200,000 cricket living in blue bins at the farm. She’s a school teacher and said the idea came to her in the classroom.

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