Agriculture and Harvest Public Media

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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.

LollyKnit / Flickr

The local foods movement is gaining strength.  Farmers, grocers and chefs are all trying to meet the growing demand for high quality, locally sourced ingredients, but Chef Dan Barber thinks that the movement is missing a very important element - sustainability. 

“I do think that farm to table cooking can really fall into the category of elitism because of the way it’s practiced. It’s cherry picking ingredients that we most covet."

The Swansons have farmed land in Boone County  for generations. When the great recession hit, it called their sons' future in farming into question. Regardless of the logistics, the connection between farm and family was evident. 

"It was really kind of amazing to watch them work together as a family. There's something beyond the practical that is tied up in their desire to do that, obviously. They want to farm as a family, they know how to work with each other, they enjoy working with each other."

Grant Gerlock/Harveset Public Media

 

Just over a year ago, Tracy Dethlefs learned she has stage 1 breast cancer. Since then, she estimates she’s charted some 10,000 miles travelling from her farm near Loup City in central Nebraska to area hospitals for treatment. Every surgery, round of chemotherapy and radiation treatment was a road trip.

“Radiation treatments usually (take) only about 5 minutes (on) a day that they have to see you,” Dethlefs said. “But for a week, for seven weeks in a row, you’re driving every single day to the cancer treatment center. We’re about an hour away from cancer centers.”

Photo Courtesy of Ash Bruxvoort

One of the best ways to learn anything is through experience. Farming is no exception.

Over the course of the last year, Iowan Ash Bruxvoort has been traveling the country apprenticing on organic farms. She started out on a small CSA in Atlantic and says getting on farm experience has taught her more than anything else she could have done.

 

Some Farmers Warming Up to the Affordable Care Act

Mar 30, 2015
file: Frank Morris/Harvest Public Media

Until the federal health insurance marketplace opened in late 2013, farmers and ranchers were more likely to be uninsured than many other occupational groups. The Affordable Care Act changed that by requiring them to buy insurance. But it also gave them coverage options they didn’t have before.  

Jon Bailey, of the Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs, says it’s hard to make sweeping generalizations about how the health care law is working for farmers and ranchers.

Amy Mayer/Iowa Public Radio file photo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed changes on Tuesday to the rules that govern which farmers can receive government subsidies.

The goal is to cut off payments to people who claim they’re involved in the management of a farm, but aren’t doing much managing.

Farmers who own land, run cattle, or spend their spring planting corn can relax – the proposed rule change doesn’t impact their ability to collect up to a $125,000 a year in government subsidies.

Amy Mayer/Iowa Public Radio

The U.S. Senate agriculture committee heard testimony today on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.

Nearly a year ago, the EPA proposed a change to the Clean Water Act that it says would clarify its authority over certain wetlands and streams. But Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who serves on the agriculture committee, says the proposal has met strong opposition in farm country.

Grant Gerlock/Harveset Public Media

More than a dozen federal agencies form a patchwork system that aims to keep food from making Americans sick. But critics say the old system has worn thin. And some think we would all be safer if food safety at the federal level was brought under one roof.

Walking through Heartland Gourmet in Lincoln, Neb. shows how complicated the food safety system can be. Inside the warehouse pallets are stacked with sacks of potato flour and the smell of fresh baked apple-cinnamon muffins is in the air.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

 

A battle is brewing in the organic food industry.

The largest trade association for organic farmers, marketers and processors wants growers to help pay for promotional campaigns, using a decades-old funding model that paid for iconic ads like “Got Milk?” and “Beef: It’s What’s For Dinner.” But deciding how to spread the organic message is dividing the sector into factions.

Julie Falk / Flickr

Though the weather's warmed up in Iowa, colder dips are still to come. So how do you extend your growing season?

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

 

A proposed change to livestock rules has put Nebraska hog farmers at the center of a debate that gets to the very core of what it means to be a farmer today.

In the top pork producing states like Iowa, Minnesota and North Carolina, many farmers are under contract with giant meatpackers like Tyson or Smithfield Foods – the companies actually own the pigs and pay the farmers to raise them. That arrangement is illegal in Nebraska.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A highly contagious strain of bird flu has officially made its way to the Midwest.

The disease was confirmed Tuesday in two separate commercial turkey flocks in Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the USDA.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

After years of negotiations, a dozen countries – from New Zealand up to Canada – are on the verge of a trade agreement.

Bruce Guenter/Flickr

Soybean, corn and wheat farmers in the upper Midwest lost about $570 million last winter, thanks mostly to transportation tie-ups.

Adam Fagen / Flickr

The snow is starting to melt and that means it's time to prune back trees before spring weather arrives. 

Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media

The monarch butterfly may soon find more of its food in Iowa.

Amy Mayer/IPR

Farmers face plenty of risk, including the unknowns of weather, global markets and the more predictable expenses of taxes and equipment costs.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

There’s a new stop on the Iowa campaign trail.

This weekend, many presidential hopefuls will be in Des Moines for the first Iowa Ag Summit. Republican donor Bruce Rastetter, who is the CEO of Summit Farms and president of the Iowa Board of Regents, is hosting the event.

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