Agriculture and Harvest Public Media

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is making a change to its Conservation Reserve Program. It’s aimed at freeing up more land for beginning farmers.

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.

Charity Nebbe/IPR

Wintry weather brings the risk of blowing and drifting snow to Iowa's roads.

A partnership between the Iowa Department of Transportation and farmland owners to reduce that risk is raising its public profile this year.

For about 20 years, standing corn has helped create a barrier to contain the blowing and drifting snow, preventing it from reaching the highways where it can create slippery surfaces and dangerous driving conditions. Craig Bargfrede, winter operations administrator for the DOT, says it works just as well as temporary snow fences and is a lot cheaper.

Amy Mayer/IPR

In a hog barn near Odebolt, veterinarian Paul Thomas's approach sends pigs scurrying. He watches for unusual behavior. As he walks the length of the barn, Thomas notices one of the two-month-old hogs nestled against the railing at the edge of its pen and reaches over to gently pet the pig's back. The pig shakes its head and drowsily gets up.

 

"He's just sleepy," Thomas says, and by the time he's spoken the words, the pig has trotted off to join its pen-mates.

 

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

With farmers coming off a third straight year of lower incomes, 2017 may require more belt-tightening for many.

Persistently low prices for major commodity crops including corn and soybeans may inch up slightly in the New Year. But farmers may find they still need to adjust their strategies to ride out the slump.

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.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

 

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Bacteria containing a gene that confers resistance to an important class of antibiotics have been found at a swine farm in the U.S., raising the troubling concern that one of the last lines of defense against hard-to-fight infections may be failing.

The drugs, called carbapenems, are used to fight infections resistant to more-common medicines and are banned for use in livestock.

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.

 

Sarah Boden/IPR File

Wind turbines cover rural Iowa, offering corn and soybean farmers an additional source of income. But how do those giant spinning blades affect crops?

So far Agronomist Gene Takle of Iowa State University says his multiple studies haven’t found that turbines effect crop yield. But that doesn’t mean they don’t impact the conditions on a field.

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/IPR

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is being recognized for encouraging young people to choose careers that will help farmers combat climate change and feed more people.

Since 2011, USDA has partnered with the Des Moines-based World Food Prize to offer fellowships in Washington, D.C. for agriculture students.

Christmas Trees And Poinsettias: What To Look For And How To Keep Them Alive

Dec 2, 2016
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Alby Headrick / Flickr

With the holidays upon us many of us will bring new plant life into our homes.  Choosing the right poinsettia or Christmas tree can be a challenge if you don’t know what to look for. 

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.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

The corn and soybeans so abundant in Iowa could someday replace many of the plastic pots and flats at your local garden shop.

Researchers at Iowa State University set about to create pots for plants that were not made from petroleum products and that could biodegrade. They started with a corn-based bioplastic and tried a number of different formulas. Some of those included a polymer made from soybeans.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Americans may find more meat on their holiday tables this year, at cheaper prices.

U.S. livestock production is in full swing. Beef and pork together set a new record recently -- commodity analysis firm Urner Barry reported an all-time high of 1.0618 billion pounds of beef and pork produced in U.S. slaughterhouses the week that ended November 19. Meanwhile, Midwest turkey producers have recovered from a massive 2015 avian flu outbreak.

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.

file: Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Can food be organic even if it's not grown in soil?

Many hydroponic growers in the U.S. want access to the $40 billion organic market, but a board that advises the U.S. Agriculture Department on organic industry policy signaled Friday it would recommend excluding produce not in grown in soil from the federal organic program.

Currently, fruits and vegetables grown using hydroponics – an artificial system with added nutrients carried in water, but without soil – can be labeled as organic.

Amy Mayer/IPR

 

As another harvest season wraps up, Midwest farmers are once again facing low commodity prices amid enormous supplies. And when they recover from the long days bringing in the grain, they will eventually sit down with their books and try to figure out how best to farm again next year.

mikemennonno / Flickr

When it starts to get colder, a lot of people bring plants inside from outdoors, and on this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Richard Jauron, horticulture expert with Iowa State University Extension; Linda Naeve Iowa State University Extension Value Added Agriculture Specialist; and Mark Vitosh, DNR District Forrester about caring for house plants during the winter.

Some plants don’t look as healthy once they have been brought indoors, according to Jauron, That's okay. 

 

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A coalition of state environmental groups called the Mississippi River Collaborative is pressuring the federal Environmental Protection Agency to do more to clean up waterways in the Mississippi River Watershed.

In a report released today, the group calls upon the EPA to take concrete action to force improvements in water quality.

file: Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

The Great Recession decimated the American economy more than eight years ago. And while many of America's cities have crawled back to modest economic prosperity, the rural economy has stagnated, displaying few bright spots in employment and poverty rates.

In short: rural parts of the country are still struggling.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Long before European settlers plowed the Plains, corn was an important part of the diet of Native American tribes like the Omaha, Ponca and Cherokee. Today, members of some tribes are hoping to revive their food and farming traditions by planting the kinds of indigenous crops their ancestors once grew.

Screen Shot

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.

Jennifer C. / Flickr

 

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.

What To Do With Your Fallen Leaves

Oct 28, 2016
Jack / Flickr

  To rake or not to rake this time of year? That is the question. Living in the Midwest means that the changing seasons bring about changing chores. This hour on Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe talks with  Iowa State University horticulturists Linda Naeve and Richard Jauron. 

 

If you do rake your leaves, you need to decide what to do with them. Jauron says that instead of disposing of them, try using them as mulch.

 

"If you bag them with a mulching mower, you can save them for next year and use them as a mulch."

 

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.

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