Agriculture and Harvest Public Media

Once Again, WTO Rejects Country of Origin Meat Labels

May 19, 2015
Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harveset Public Media file

Meat sold in the U.S. has to have a label telling in which country the animal was born, raised, and slaughtered. But the World Trade Organization confirmed Monday that those country of origin labels (COOL) on meat sold in the U.S. violate international law.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

As the outbreak of avian flu continues to spread across the Midwest, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Friday that the virus can be "laterally spread" by humans.

The outbreak, which has now spread to 15 states, is thought to be caused by wild birds coming into contact with poultry flocks. Vilsack said it was definitely wildlife that brought the virus to the Midwest via the Mississippi Flyway, but now it appears the ongoing spread of it could be caused by humans, he told Iowa Public Radio.

Photo by Amy Mayer/IPR file

Composting millions of euthanized birds affected by avian flu is arduous and some poultry producers say the process takes too long. The corn stover usually used for cellulosic ethanol may help the process.

Stover is comprised of stalks, cobs and other waste left after harvest. A combination of heat and carbon-rich corn waste accelerates decomposition and kills the virus. The leftover material provides farmers with a compost to spread on fields. 

Flickr / J. N. Stuart

A team of wildlife biologists from the United States Department of Agriculture will be trapping small mammals and birds in Iowa and testing them for avian influenza over the next couple of weeks. USDA epidemiologists will also be interviewing workers at poultry operations about bio security practices. 

Iowa is the nation's leading poultry producer and so far more a third of the state's hens have been affected by the H5N2 virus. Nationwide the number of affected birds totals to 33 million. Avian influenza presents no food safety concerns.

Photo by Jacob Grace for Harvest Public Media

Wearing latex gloves and digging through a sloppy patch of cow poop on his farm in central Missouri, farmer Ralph Voss spotted his target.

“Okay, here we go!” he said excitedly, plucking out a shiny insect the size of a sunflower seed – a dung beetle.

Photo by Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Once a regular dining option, a mix of cultural and economic factors pushed lamb off the American dinner table. To put the meat back on the menu, ranchers and retailers are being encouraged to reach out to a more diverse set of consumers, specifically American Muslims and Latinos.

USDA/Flickr

Susanne Byerly can laugh now, four years later, talking about how she and her husband were trying to eat healthy food when they bought ground turkey for their spaghetti dinner.

Byerly, along with her husband, Jerry, and their two-year-old, Jack, were on vacation with extended family in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. While buying supplies at a local grocery store, they decided to swap ground beef for poultry because they were watching their weight.

Food Companies Face Water Risk

May 9, 2015
Photo by Amy Mayer/IPR file

America’s biggest food production companies face a growing threat of water scarcity, according to a new report from Ceres, an environmental sustainability group.

The report cites pollution as one of the primary culprits.

Farming can be a major contributor to water pollution through runoff from chemicals and manure. Because food companies depend on clean water, they have an incentive to help farmers keep water in mind.

Photo by Amy Mayer

The local food scene has exploded in recent years, which means there’s a lot more local produce on dinner tables. It also means that during the spring season as small farms start ramping back up, they have to work a bit harder to attract new customers.

Community Supported Agriculture, or CSAs, allow subscribers to connect directly with a farm, and remain a mainstay for local farmers looking to latch on to consistent revenue.

screen shot from the Kickstarter video

In order to try to produce more local milk, Kalona Supernatural is getting creative. They've just got a few days left in a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to build a fence to expand the pasture available for milking cattle to graze. 

Moyan Brenn / Flickr

Iowans have a growing appetite for locally grown and produced foods – everything from meat and dairy to fruit and vegetables. In order to try to fill that demand, food hubs are forming throughout the state.

Jan Libbey is an administrator for Healthy Harvest of North Iowa. She says food hubs are a way for small producers to meet big demand. “One producer may not be able to produce enough locally grown tomatoes for a restaurant, but if two or three producers joined forces, they would be able to.”

That’s the idea behind a food hub; farmers work together.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

H5N2 has 

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Iowa is in a state of emergency due to a highly contagious strain of avian flu called H5N2. Gov. Terry Branstad enacted the proclamation Friday after more than 20 confirmed or presumed outbreaks at commercial poultry facilities around the state.

This very contagious H5N2 has a high mortality rate among poultry, and therefore infection of commercial flocks is economically devastating to producers. So far roughly a quarter of Iowa's nearly 60 million laying hens have been affected by the virus.

Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harveset Public Media

Thousands of people get sick every year from E. coli bacteria in their food. While the beef industry has gone to great lengths to limit illnesses in meat, the industry has been slow to adopt an E. coli vaccine that could keep people from getting sick.

IPR file photo by Kathleen Masterson

As the number of farms hit with avian flu grows over 100 nationwide, regulators are implementing containment plans meant to stop the virus’ spread, spare millions of at-risk birds and thousands of poultry farms.

Farms in many states, including Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, are struggling to contain an active outbreak.

“A rapid response is extremely important in an infectious disease outbreak like this,” said Jim Roth, head of the Center for Food Safety and Public Health at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Chipotle Goes GMO-Free

Apr 28, 2015
Photo by Mr.TinDC/Creative Commons

Chipotle Mexican Grill said Monday that it completed a task that had remained elusive for years: removing all food products derived from genetically engineered crops from its menu.

The Denver-based company is the first national restaurant chain to make the change.

Why do farmers burn their fields?

Apr 28, 2015
Photo by Jacob Grace for Harvest Public Media

Farmers burn their fields to remove plants that are already growing and to help the plants that are about to come up. These burns are often called “prescribed burns” because they are used to improve the health of the field.

What tools do farmers need for a burn?

To keep the fire contained, farmers need to clear away burnable matter around the edges of the field, which usually requires a lawn mower or larger machinery. The burn itself can be managed with some simple, specific tools.

Flickr / FAOALC

UPDATE: The United States Department of Agriculture has confirmed H5N2 in a Sioux County flock of 1.7 million hens. The USDA has not yet confirmed the presence of avian flu in the other four suspected flocks.

More than 6 million hens and juvenile chickens in northwest Iowa will be euthanized pending final confirmation of H5N2. The Iowa Department of Agriculture reports a total of five flocks may be affected by this highly pathogenic strain of avian flu. 

Flickr

The Iowa Department of Agriculture is responding to a second case of avian flu in a Northwest Iowa turkey flock. It’s a commercial operation in Sac County.   The facility has 34,000 turkeys and is located near the initial case of H5N2 in Buena Vista County. State officials have quarantined the production areas and birds on the property will be euthanized to prevent the spread of the disease.

State Agriculture officials and the Iowa Department of Public Health are working directly with poultry workers at the affected facility to ensure proper precautions are being taken.

Wine Cooler

Apr 23, 2015
Submitted photo

Grape growers get nervous when temperatures drop into the 20s in April as they did in some parts of Iowa Wednesday night. State Viticulture Specialist Mike White says a freeze warning is always cause for concern but he's had no reports of damage, "for the most part things look pretty good in Iowa. There may have been a vineyard or two in Southern Iowa in a low area that had frost, but I think right now,we're looking pretty good."

Flickr / MTSOfan

Roughly 3.8 million hens at a laying facility in northwest Iowa are being destroyed due to the presence of a highly pathogenic virus. H5N2, a strain of avian flu, was found Monday on at a commercial egg-laying facility in Osceola County doubling the number of affected birds nationwide. 

Originally the United States Department of Agriculture reported the Osceola flock's population to be 5.3 million birds. Rather that is the facility's capacity.

This is Iowa's second case of H5N2. Last week the virus struck a commercial turkey farm in Buena Vista County. 

Photo by Abby Wendle/Harveset Public Media

Big farms are collecting taxpayer dollars that they haven’t necessarily earned by taking advantage of a loophole in government subsidy rules, according to regulators, members of Congress and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

H5N2 Hits Iowa Again

Apr 20, 2015
FREEFOODPHOTOS.COM

As many as 5.3 million hens will be euthanized at a commercial laying facility in northwest Iowa as a result of the presence of H5N2. The United States Department of Agriculture confirmed the presence this highly pathogenic strain avian flu Monday.

This year there have already been more than 40 confirmed cases of the virus in commercial flocks across several Midwestern states. H5N2 supposedly is spread by migratory waterfowl, which are generally not harmed by the disease.

Photo by Amy Mayer

It’s planting time for Midwest farmers and much of the corn they grow will end up feeding livestock in China, which has become a huge importer of grain from the Corn Belt. That means the farmers can’t just select seeds based on which ones will get the best yield. They have to think about where their grain will be sold.

China has its own rules for the kind of crops it wants and when American farmers don’t comply, China can close off its market.

Aaron Putze

Yesterday a strain of avian flu called H5N2 was confirmed on a commercial turkey farm in Buena Vista County. As those 27,000 birds are euthanized, the other roughly 130 turkey farmers around the state are taking bio security measures to ensure their farms avoid the same fate.

H5N2 presents a minimal risk to humans. It creates no food safety concerns but is financially devastating to farmers because once the virus is detected in even one bird the entire flock is eradicated.

Amy Mayer/Iowa Public Radio file photo

Under pressure from the courts, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued a timeline for when it will finalize renewable fuel volume requirements. The agency has yet to finalize its 2014 proposed amounts, which disappointed many in corn country.

Corn growers and fuel manufacturers need to know what the government requires under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Two petroleum groups brought a lawsuit against the EPA because of missed deadlines for those announcements. The agency has now released its intended timelines for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Photo by Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

When President Obama announced in late 2014 that he would work toward ending the embargo on trade with Cuba, it wasn’t just tourists perking up their ears. Midwest farmers and ranchers see communist Cuba as an untapped market for goods from the American Heartland.

One of those farmers is Paul Combs, a rice farmer from southeast Missouri. Cuba can be an important market for farmers like Combs, who already depend on exporting their products.

FREEFOODPHOTOS.COM

A father and son, who are former owners of Maine-based Quality Egg, were given a three-month jail sentence today in federal court for a 2010 salmonella outbreak originating from Iowa-produced eggs. 81-year-old Austin “Jack” DeCoster, and his 51-year-old son Peter pleaded guilty last year to shipping contaminated eggs across state lines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that outbreak likely caused more than 1,900 people to become ill.

United Nations Photo / flickr

It's easy to forget about food safety when it comes to garden produce, because growing your own food is considered healthy. Dr. Angela Shaw, an assistant professor of food safety at Iowa State University, says cognizance is key when it comes to food safety in home gardens.

"The first thing is to consider where you place your garden. Thinking about soil: what was previously there? Was there heavy metal? What was your house grown on? We have a lot of swampland as well as chemical landfills that are now communities."

Photo by Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Nate Storey’s greenhouse in west Laramie, Wyoming is packed with vegetables growing in long, upright plastic towers.

Storey’s set-up is an urban farmer’s dream: the waste from fish tanks fertilizes the crops through plastic tubing that drips water onto the vertical garden. The greenhouse is small, but produces a lot of food.

Like a proud father he shows off bok choy, butter lettuce and spinach.

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