Farming

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

A survey of farmland ownership conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture shows that in the next five years about 10 percent of farmland is expected to change ownership.

But Troy Joshua of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service says most of those transfers will happen through gifts, bequests, trusts or sales to relatives.

Wikimedia Commons

Thirty years ago this month, a handful of musicians including Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp organized a benefit concert for Midwestern farmers struggling to make ends meet during the farm crisis of the 1980’s.

George Naylor, who farms near Churdan and went to the first concert in Champaign, Illinois in 1985, says the morale boost the show afforded family farmers in Iowa was invaluable.

Photo by Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

Chert Hollow Farm sits nestled between rows of tall trees and a nearby stream in central Missouri. Eric and Joanna Reuter have been running the organic farm since 2006. That means they don't plant genetically modified crops and can only use a few approved kinds of chemicals and fertilizers.

"We've traditionally raised about an acre and a half of pretty intensively managed produce, so it's a very productive acre and a half," Eric Reuter said. "We're really into cropping things."

Photo by Amy Mayer

The rural economy across the Midwest could take a hit this year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects a 36 percent drop in net farm income, according to economic forecasts released Tuesday.

Lower prices for wheat, corn, soybeans and hogs will hurt many Midwest farms, though USDA economist Mitchell Morehart says the impact could be lessened on some farms thanks to lower production costs. Fuel and feed expenses are both lower this year, though labor is higher.

reynermedia / Flickr

Earlier this week, a new report by the US Department of Energy showed that costs continue to decline while turbine technology becomes more efficient. All of this, along with the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, means wind energy is having a moment.

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.

Jim Wall/flickr

It would be easier for farmers to receive a sales tax exemption on off-road vehicles under a bill still eligible for passage by the 2015 legislature. 

Farmers get a sales tax exemption for machinery and equipment used for farming, including ATV’s.    But the law says the vehicle must be used directly for production agriculture.  

Victoria Daniels at the Department of Revenue says by law you can’t use the vehicle  “in preparation for or subsequent to” agricultural production.   She says that’s hard to enforce.

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.

Food Companies Face Water Risk

May 9, 2015
Photo by Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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."

Clay Masters / IPR

It’s that time of year when Midwest farmers are preparing to plant their crops. This year though more may be thinking about the water in their fields, that’s because a lawsuit by Iowa’s largest water utility is targeting the nitrates farms send downstream and polluting the Des Moines metro's drinking water sources. Local governments and big agriculture interest groups alike are now watching this lawsuit.

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.

 

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.

TumblingRun / Flickr

The old Keeney place was the kind of farm you see in paintings of Iowa landscapes: a big beautiful barn, with 200 acres of fields and pastureland.  

Wiese & Sons

One family, farming the same land generation after generation - this is a dream many farmers share, but not an easy one to realize.

Back from War, On to the Farm

Feb 26, 2015
John Wendle/for Harvest Public Media

Veteran Sara Creech has grown dependent on farming.

Lynn Betts / USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Iowa’s newest land trust aims to connect young farmers looking for land with farmers looking to retire.

Flickr / TumblingRun

The value of farmland in the Corn Belt is dipping. In Iowa value dropped 7 percent last year. 

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media file photo

Call it “peak farmers market.” Or maybe the plateau of “know your farmer.”

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Scientists have noticed that plants are taking in more carbon dioxide during the growing season and giving off more carbon in the fall and winter.

Ranchers Rebel Over Beef Checkoff

Jan 27, 2015
Courtesy Jill Toyoshiba/The Kansas City Star

From their small farms set in the rolling hills of northeast Kansas, two ranchers are raising a few cattle, and a lot of Cain.

Amy Mayer/IPR

Since a highly contagious strain of bird flu was found in the U.S. in December, many countries have closed their doors to American poultry.

Photo by John Pemble

The board of the state's largest water utility has voted unanimously to sue three northern Iowa counties, holding them responsible for the high nitrate levels in rivers the utility uses for source water. Des Moines Water Works CEO and General Manager Bill Stowe says there have been significant peaks in nitrate levels throughout the last three years.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

To support a growing population, farmers worldwide need to emphasize the sustainable growth of three major foods: corn, wheat and rice, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization

Corn, wheat and rice make up some of the most crucial ingredients to diets across the world. With a booming global population, FAO says in the next 35 years farmers will need to ratchet up production of these three commodities to 3 billion tons – that’s half a billion tons more than the record harvest of 2013.

Courtesy of Leon Wilkinson

Before the Great Depression there was the farm recession, and times were tough for farm families in Iowa. 

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

When farmer Sondra Pierce had her first child, she decided to forgo daycare. During harvest on her sugar beet farm in rural Boulder County, Colo., she’d buckle him up in the seat right next to her.

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