Agriculture and Harvest Public Media

USFWSmidwest / Flickr

Right now some Iowans have noticed their front yards dying out in patches. Iowa State University horticulturist Nick Christians says there's a variety of reasons for that.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

A lawsuit alleging illegal spending of Pork Checkoff money is moving forward, following a federal appeals court decision. Iowa hog farmer Harvey Dillenburg along with the Humane Society of the United States and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, an environmental group, sued U.S.

Photo by Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, is attempting to swallow up the chemical operations of Syngenta, the world’s biggest producer of pesticides and other farm inputs. The proposed deal signals a change in focus for the agricultural giant, and could have ripple effects across farm country.

By its own admission, Monsanto lags behind in chemistry research. To correct that, and possibly find new ways to combine chemicals and biotech crops, Monsanto wants to buy the Swiss chemical company.

My Farm Roots: Room to Roam

Aug 13, 2015
Photo by Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media

The Matthew family farm, M&M&m Farms, outside of La Harpe, Ill., looks different from the farms surrounding it. It’s not filled with neat rows of soybeans or lines of corn that’s over-my-head high in late July. The Matthew’s place is a bit more disorganized and far more diverse.

Photo by Amy Mayer

Farmers have reached a milestone in the recovery from the massive avian flu outbreak last spring. Birds are back in the barns at the Moline family turkey farm in Manson.

Brad Moline says his farm had a few advantages when it came to disposing of turkey carcasses and ridding his barns of the flu virus. For one, he says, they became infected late in the outbreak, on May 19, 2015. By then, Moline says, some of the kinks in the reporting process had been worked out.

Flickr / slappytheseal

For the first time since 1904 poultry will not be shown at the Iowa State Fair, so bird competitors have altered the century-old traditions in preparation for  festivities that start Thursday.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced back in May that it's too risky to have so many birds in such close proximity in light of avian flu ravaging poultry facilities across Iowa and the nation earlier this year.

Tannaz / Wikimedia Commons, Licensed under Creative Commons

Fresh herbs are one of the most versatile plants available to home gardeners. Iowa State University Extension Program specialist in Value-added Agriculture, Linda Naeve, says they're an easy way to add color and texture to the landscape without the risk of a plant getting too big. The exception to that rule is mint, which is very aggressive. Naeve says it should be planted in a container, and then added to the garden, to help keep it in check.

Ken Hammond/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing stricter regulations for pesticide applicators.

Under the guidelines, workers who spray some of the most hazardous pesticides would need to be at least 18 years old, renew their certifications every three years and take specialized training for certain chemicals.

Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Show day at the Pierce County Fair in Nebraska starts early and goes fast.

I arrived around 9 in the morning, but Emily Lambrecht had already spent an hour and a half in the wash stalls, scrubbing and shampooing her calves so they would sparkle in the show barn.

This was showtime. The 17-year-old 4-H and FFA exhibitor spent months working up to this one day.

Photo by Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Idaho's so-called "ag-gag" law, which outlawed undercover investigations of farming operations, is no more. A judge in the federal District Court for Idaho decided Monday that it was unconstitutional, citing First Amendment protections for free speech.

But what about the handful of other states with similar laws on the books?

Photo by John Pemble

Iowa’s senior senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, remains hopeful after two disappointing recent events. The spring outbreak of avian influenza devastated Iowa’s poultry industry and then this past week talks on the 12-national trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Grassley has strongly supported, broke down.

Photo by Matt Brooks for NET News

Farmers count on chemical herbicides to keep their fields weed-free. But an international panel of scientists who studied two of the most heavily used farm chemicals to determine whether they could cause cancer, said exposure to weed-killing chemicals could come at a cost. In the last few months, scientists brought together by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC, considered glyphosate and 2,4-D.

Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton is airing her first campaign TV ads Tuesday. They are playing in Iowa, and fellow early-voting state New Hampshire.

The commercials highlight Clinton’s mother’s difficult childhood and the candidate’s pre-Washington career. While campaigning Clinton often speaks of her late mother and baby granddaughter. 

Photo by Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

The Chipotle Cultivate Festival had it all: an indie pop band on stage, long lines at the beer booths, folks hanging out on a hot summer day.

Sort of like a Grateful Dead concert, only with free burritos.

But the Chipotle Cultivate events, with four held across the country this summer, aim to do a little more than just the classic summertime music festival. Billed as offering “food, ideas and music,” the festivals offer a chance to “learn a free burrito” after going through four exhibits.

Jaknouse / English Language Wikipedia/Creative Commons

As the work begins to replant Iowa's ash trees due to destruction by the Emerald Ash Borer, or EAB, the Chair of the Horticulture Department at Iowa State University Jeff Iles says we need to think about maintaining trees over the long term. Iles says as municipalities begin the task of replacing trees, they need to budget for ongoing maintenance. 

And EAB isn't the only good reason to replant.  It may also be needed as tree populations age.  Iles says individuals and volunteers can make a big difference in this effort, as most city budgets are tight.

Photo by Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

 

Farm dog? Check.

Barn cats? Check.

Muddy work books lined up at the back door? Five checks.

We kick off our fourth season of “My Farm Roots” with the Renyer Family, five farm kids I had the pleasure of meeting.

Driving onto the Renyer farm, out in Nemaha County, Kan., I was struck by the many classic examples of a farm family. After being met by the family dog, a very sweet boy named Salty, I watched as the barn cats scattered and I met Leah coming out the back door, where the knee-high work boots were standing guard.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

The potential for further consolidation in the nation’s pork industry could have financial implications for both farmers and consumers. That’s why Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says the Justice Department needs to scrutinize the proposed JBS purchase of Cargill’s pork unit. Currently the two companies rank third and fourth among the nation’s largest pork producers.

Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

Avian influenza has devastated poultry production in Iowa and Minnesota this year. Things might get worse if the virus returns this fall when wild birds migrate south, so the U.S. poultry industry has gathered this week in Des Moines to discuss strategy. 

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack says his agency is also working to identify potential disposal sites for bird carcasses affected by the virus. Some poultry producers have complained that removing euthanized birds takes too long, and many landfills have been resistant to take them.          

Photo by Poncie Rutsch/KUNC

 

Many of the more than 3 million migrant farmworkers that plant and pick the fruits and vegetables we eat in the U.S. live on the farms they work for. But the rules that govern farmworker housing may be changing, worrying both farmers and migrant worker advocates.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

On Thursday, the U.S. House passed a bill that would prevent states from passing and enacting laws that require mandatory labels on genetically modified food. Here’s what you should know about it:

The bill would change labels for GMO foods

The bill:

Bee Hotels Give Native Species a Place to Call Home

Jul 23, 2015
Photo by Abigail Wilson for Harvest Public Media

A patchwork of bamboo and paper tubes, with diameters no bigger than a nickel, are stacked artfully inside a 4-by-4 wooden frame near the edge of a public hiking trail in Lawrence, Kan.

Organized by size, each hollow tube is about 8 inches long, designed as nests for Kansas’ wild bees. This structure is called a bee hotel.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

(Editor's note, 5:27pm)  Cathy Cochran, USDA spokeswoman, clarified that Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack misspoke when he used the term "outbreak".  In fact, Cochran said, the agency was preparing for 500 "detections" of bird flu in the fall.  That means the USDA is preparing for an outbreak that is essentially double in size of the one experienced by Midwestern states this spring.  The headline and lead of this story have been changed to reflect this.)

 

 

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

USDA officials say they are planning for a worst-case scenario as there is a possibility of avian influenza returning this fall, when birds migrate south for the winter. 

Dr. Jack Shere with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service says it’s worrying that avian flu seems to be slowly moving east. This mean the virus could turn up in states that haven’t yet been affected.

GollyGforce / Flickr

Even when the growing season is ideal, there are problems and diseases that crop up in yards and gardens. As Iowa has experienced this year, extra moisture can really set things off.

On this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe sits down with horticulturists to find out how to deal with this summer’s common plant maladies, including a problem many Midwesterners have seen - some trees are already changing colors.

Large Drop in Farm Income Predicted This Year

Jul 17, 2015
IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

Corn and soybean farmers in the Midwest are likely to earn far less money this year than they did last year, with some economists predicting that incomes could be less than one tenth of what they were in 2014.

Photo by Amy Mayer

Technology has transformed farming, one of the Midwest’s biggest industries, and while fewer people are now needed to actually work the farm field, new types of jobs keep many office workers tied to agriculture.

Beyond operating a tractor and a combine, today’s farmers need to manage all kinds of information. From information technology to web development, the skills that have changed our economy have transformed the agriculture industry as well.

Flickr / Christopher Paquette

The founder and former owner of a Cedar Rapids-based meat supplier has been found guilty of 15 counts of fraud in federal district court on Monday. Midamar founder Bill Aossey faces more than a century in prison for fraudulently labeling beef so it appeared to meet certain Islamic standards when it did not. He also was convicted of conspiracy and wire fraud.

Flickr / Ben Freeman

Many veterans have a hard time finding employment when they return to civilian life, though some have landed jobs in the wake of bird flu. 

Veteran Enterprises is a veteran-owned business that does government contracting. Owner-operator Garth Carlson says he’s currently involved with the cleaning and disinfecting of six bird flu affected facilities in Iowa and Minnesota.

Carlson served two tours in Kosovo and two tours in Iraq with the army, but today he disinfects livestock facilities. 

Wikimedia Commons

It's mid-summer in Iowa which means it's two things: hot and muggy. This hour on Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe talks with horticulture expert Richard Jauron and Denny Schrock, coordinator for the Iowa Master Gardener's Program.

Schrock says there are some plants that thrive in the heat and humidity.

USDA/Bob Nichols

The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing Tuesday on avian influenza’s impact on the U.S. poultry industry. The USDA has come under scrutiny for its handling of the outbreak. 

One topic of discussion are the indemnities provided to affected producers who must euthanize their entire flock when the virus is detected. The USDA is considering a new indemnity formula in light of criticism that the current calculation short changes producers. 

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