Agriculture and Harvest Public Media

Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Colorado Creates Food Safety System for Marijuana Products

A marijuana plant glows purple under grow lights at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, Colo.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Colorado made history when it opened up licensed marijuana retail shops this year. Aside from just legalizing the purchase of smoke-able marijuana, it also means pot brownies have the potential to be big business. Food products infused with marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC, are available in stores across the state.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed January 22, 2014

Niche Crops Leap into Bigger Markets

Andrew Pittz and his family operate a commercial aronia berry farm in Missouri Valley, which supplies berries and value-added products to retailers nationwide.
Amy Mayer/IPR

In the Midwest, crop agriculture often gets divided between the major commodities of corn, soybeans and wheat and everything else. Switching to an un-tested crop is risky for farmers, but sometimes agronomics and market forces meet in a sweet spot and they can reap the benefits of innovation.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
7:08 am
Tue January 21, 2014

Up Against Blend Wall, Ethanol's at a Crossroads

E Energy in Adams, Neb., takes in corn from local farms to make 65 million gallons of ethanol each year. The company also makes distillers grains for livestock feed; corn oil, which can be made into biodiesel; and CO2 for soft drinks.
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

A steady stream of semi-trailers rolls across the scales at the E Energy ethanol plant near the town of Adams in southeast Nebraska. The smokestack behind the scale house sends up a tall plume of white steam. The sweet smell of fermenting corn is in the air.

E Energy buys 65 million bushels of corn each day from area farmers and turns it into 65 million gallons of ethanol each year.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus continues relentless spread

Bottles of PED vaccine are ready for shipping at Harrisvaccines in Ames.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Pork producers across the country are continuing to grapple with a virus that’s killing their piglets. Experts estimate Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) virus has already killed about 1 million baby pigs and the disease shows no sign of abating.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
7:22 am
Fri January 10, 2014

Retailers look to sell sustainability of food

On his farm near Rocheport, Mo., Bill Heffernan raises heritage St. Croix sheep, Red Poll cattle and American Cream Draft horses. He also sells his humanely-raised Berkshire and Duroc hogs to Chipotle and Whole Foods.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Consumers are increasingly willing to pay more for foods they believe were sustainably produced, like free-range chicken, fair-trade coffee and pesticide-free wine. But what does “sustainable” actually mean?

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue January 7, 2014

US beef herd poised for growth

It’s not just consumers who are paying more for beef. Craig Uden says recent prices to buy calves from ranchers for his feedlot are among the highest he’s ever seen.
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

For the first time in nearly 10 years, the nation’s beef herd may be poised for growth, which could mean relief from rising meat prices. But with the fewest cattle in the beef supply since the 1960s, slow growth won’t cut prices anytime soon.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
9:40 am
Mon January 6, 2014

USDA one step closer to approving new herbicide resistant crops

Water hemp is one of several weeds building resistance to Roundup herbicide.
Bob Hartzler/Iowa State University

New herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans are a step closer to reaching farm fields in the U.S. They would help farmers control weeds that are no longer killed by the popular herbicide, Roundup.

Roundup resistant crops dominate corn, soybean and cotton production in the U.S. But the list of weeds that have evolved to withstand Roundup is growing, and as a result, farmers are using more chemicals to keep up.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
9:47 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Corn stover market set to grow in 2014

Baled corn stover, shown here at the construction site of DuPont Pioneer's cellulosic ethanol plant near Nevada, may become an important cash crop in 2014 as this plant and another, from POET-DSM in Emmetsburg, come on-line.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Something farmers often call “trash” could be a new cash crop in 2014. Two cellulosic ethanol plants are expected to begin operations in the coming year, one near Nevada and the other in Emmetsburg. They will create ethanol from the leaves, stalks and cobs of the corn plant, rather than the grain. And that means farmers will be able to sell the residue left on the field after harvest to the energy producers. Iowa State University agronomy professor Rick Cruse says cellulosic production could eventually expand to accept other raw materials.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon December 30, 2013

“Dairy cliff” not quite imminent

Cows at Terry Van Maanen's farm in Sioux County, Iowa, wait to be milked.
File: Kathleen Masterson/Iowa Public Radio

No need to hoard milk and ice cream over New Year’s Day. Turns out, the “dairy cliff” isn’t as steep as we may have once thought.

For over a year, farm bill watchers have warned that the milk prices would balloon to $7-8 per gallon if the farm bill expires without a replacement – sending us over what has been termed the “dairy cliff.”

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon December 30, 2013

The new wheat behind whole grain white bread

Scott Haley, the leader of Colorado State University’s wheat breeding program and the researcher who developed the Snowmass wheat variety, in his lab.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

A new wheat variety may have cracked the code to marry the fluffiness of white bread with whole grain nutrition.

For a long time, American bread makers have been in a bind. Many consumers like the texture and taste of white bread, but want the nutritional benefits of whole grains.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Fri December 27, 2013

Suspended drug sales focus attention on cattle feed additives

Some 6,500 Holsteins are “finished” at this 2,000-acre Ordway, Colo., feedlot, where the growth promotion drug Zilmax is no longer used because it was pulled from the market by its manufacturer.
Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

 

When the people from the drug company came out to visit Tyler Karney at Ordway Feedyard here on Colorado’s eastern plains, he was a little skeptical.

They said their product, Zilmax, could put another 30 pounds on an animal in the last days before slaughter. Then he started blending it into the feed for the 6,500 head of Holsteins at this huge feedlot.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
12:58 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Poultry inspection rules in focus on Capitol Hill

USDA Agricultural Commodity Compliance Specialist Melissa Thompson and Federal-State Supervisor Gary Tharp inspect a package of poultry at a Tyson Foods poultry processing plant in Springdale, Ark., in 2010.
USDAGov/Flickr

A bipartisan group of senators is pressuring the U.S. Department of Agriculture to finalize changes to the way poultry is inspected.

The new system is controversial. Advocates say it would save taxpayer money by shifting certain inspection duties from federal employees to company workers and allowing for faster processing. Some inspectors and consumer groups, though, oppose the changes and say it could compromise food safety.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
6:50 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Shrimp Harvest in Iowa

Matt Weichers shows off one of the Pacific white shrimp
IPR's Pat Blank

A Cedar Falls man, his wife and brother have launched the state's second shrimp farm. Matt Weichers, his wife Jen and brother John Gielau are raising thousands of Pacific white shrimp in a warehouse near UNI. The building once housed the university's white rat lab used for behavioral research. Now it's filled with 30 blue "hot tubs" and thousands of the critters ready for sale this week.  

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon December 16, 2013

New crops could kill insects by targeting their genes

Southern corn rootworm beetles eat corn laced with RNA in a lab at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. Scientists want to know how long it takes for rootworms to evolve resistance to RNA-interference technology.
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

With rootworms building resistance to genetically modified corn that makes its own pesticide, seed companies are working on new crops that target the insects’ genes. But some worry about unintended consequences when the technology moves from the lab to the field.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Fri December 13, 2013

Another farm bill deadline passes without a deal

Iowa State University political scientist David Peterson says the farm bill is a victim of polarization and gridlock in Washington.

If it seems like Congress just can’t get the farm bill done, well… that’s because it can’t. All year long, Washington lawmakers have been saying they want to pass a full five-year farm bill. But even though leaders of the House-Senate conference committee say they are close, they have acknowledged it just won’t get done this year. They’re pushing it off until January.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Pheasants losing habitat to farmland

Farm-raised pheasants like this one, wearing blinders so it doesn't fight other birds, are being transported to areas that used to be known for pheasant hunting in order to prop up declining populations.
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

As farmers across the Midwest have simplified the landscape and plowed up grassland to grow more corn and soybeans, habitat for pheasants, quail and other grassland birds has become increasingly scarce and their numbers are falling.

In Nebraska, wild pheasant concentrations have fallen 86 percent since their peak in the 1960s. The pheasant harvest during hunting season in Iowa is off 63 percent from the highs reached in the 1970s. In areas that used to be overrun, you’ll struggle to find a pheasant now.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu November 28, 2013

The pumpkin in your pie likely came from... Illinois

This field of pumpkins grew on Bill Dix's farm near Shell Rock, Iowa this fall. But Illinois claims the title of pumpkin capital.
Pat Blank/IPR

This Thanksgiving, hungry families all over the country will finish off their holiday meal with a little slice of the Midwest. That’s because the vast majority of all pumpkin that comes from a can and winds up in a pie got its start on a vine in Illinois.

Pumpkin patches are popular destinations for families seeking fall fun and you’ll find roadside farm stands all over the country. But pumpkins are big business in Illinois, where farmers feed canning factories hungry for a special kind of pumpkin that looks nothing like those you see on Halloween.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed November 27, 2013

New meat labels help inform consumers

The pork cooler at a Hyvee grocery store in Columbia, Mo., is full of meat. New rules that just went into full effect require meatpackers to detail where much of this meat was born, raised and slaughtered.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

A new labeling rule that went into full effect Saturday requires meatpackers and retailers to provide consumers with more information about where their meat comes from.

The country-of-origin labeling mandate (COOL) forces retailers and meatpackers to detail where the livestock from which meat came was born, raised and slaughtered. It applies to certain cuts of beef, veal, chicken, pork, lamb and goat sold in the supermarket. Processed, deli and ground meats are exempt from the new rules.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
9:25 am
Mon November 25, 2013

Families In Rural America Brace For SNAP Cuts

SNAP recipient Becky Miller (far right) earns just above minimum wage caring for toddlers and infants at Little Starr’s Learning Center in Sandoval, Illinois.
Peter Gray/Harvest Public Media

As farm bill negotiations continue in Washington, D.C., it’s fairly certain that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will be cut.  One proposal would trim the food stamp program by $4 billion over the next decade; the other would cut roughly ten times that much. 

That’s after the Obama Administration’s recession-era boost to SNAP expired November 1st, leaving the average family with about $30 less to spend each month.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue November 19, 2013

Migrant Education Program looks to give farmworkers’ children a boost

The Migrant Education Program in the Imperial Valley of California serves about 7,000 students with support like tutoring, college prep and online courses.
Jill Replogle/Fronteras Desk

Several hundred teenagers filed into a swanky event center in Heber in California’s Imperial Valley on a recent Friday morning. By all accounts, they look like typical high schoolers — smacking gum and texting away. The vast majority were Latino.



At first glance, this event center with waiters in neckties seems like a strange place to hold a college prep seminar. But taken together with the surrounding hay fields complete a sort of meaningful metaphor for these children of migrant farm workers. The message: graduate from the fields; go to college.



Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
7:59 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Scientists seek more microbial might on the farm

Mark Howieson says this greenhouse at BASF in Ames, Iowa is one step in the development pipeline for biologically-based products to enhance farming.
Amy Mayer/IPR

In a lab on the Iowa State University campus in Ames, Chiliang Chen loads tiny vials containing soil samples into a machine called a Powerlyzer. It will smash soil samples to homogenize the tissue and tease out the DNA of the microorganisms within. Chen works with Gwyn Beattie, the Robert Earle Buchanan Distinguished Professor of Bacteriology at Iowa State. Beattie and about two dozen other scientists recently published a report called How Microbes Can Help Feed the World.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
12:57 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Schools buying local produce, but room to expand

The USDA recently surveyed school districts nationwide to measure how much of their food dollars go toward buying local or regional products.
USDA

Iowa’s school districts spent six percent of their food budgets buying from local farms in the 2011-2012 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Census. That means efforts to fill cafeteria trays with local foods have plenty of room to grow.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:06 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Feeding the Organic Supply Chain

Farmer Tom Frantzen proudly takes pictures of his corn crop near New Hampton, Iowa on October 10, 2013.
Credit Clay Masters / IPR

Organic food is a hot market in the U.S. The Organic Trade Association says that sales over the last five years have grown 35 percent. But there’s a problem in the supply chain – not enough organic grain.

Many producers in the farm belt aren’t willing to take on organic production despite a hefty price premium. That has left organic food companies scrambling to find enough raw ingredients for the products that hit grocery store shelves. Just as corn and soybeans dominate conventional processed food and meat, these same grains are often key ingredients for organic foods.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Disaster aid for livestock producers on hold

An early blizzard in October killed thousands of cattle in Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. It came at a bad time because the government program that provides disaster relief is ineffective until Congress passes a new farm bill.
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Highway 2/71 north of Crawford, in the Nebraska Panhandle, is a ribbon of pavement in a vast rolling grassland broken by the occasional tree covered butte. It runs through an area rancher Dave Moody calls the “gumbo,” thanks to the thick mud that develops after a long rain.

In recent years, the gumbo has seen a string of disasters. Drought dried up the pastures. Wildfires seared the pine forests. Then, in October, an early blizzard piled on.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu October 31, 2013

In the Shadows of the Slaughterhouse, Part 3

Binh Hua (left) and My Nguyen, both 18, work in the Garden City Community College chemistry lab. The two best friends graduated from high school in three years and after community college, plan to go on to universities.
Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

 

Not yet 9 a.m. on a warm fall day, freshmen Binh Hua and My Nguyen are in protective goggles, long hair pulled back, ready for their chemistry class in a Garden City Community College lab.

The teacher calls the class to order, calling the students “Busters,” short for “Broncbusters,” the college’s mascot and a reminder of this old West town’s history of raising cattle.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu October 31, 2013

In the Shadows of the Slaughterhouse: their dreams

(Design by Scott Pham/KBIA)

Across the country, rural towns are becoming home to a diverse population of children whose parents work in the meatpacking industry. These young immigrants and refugees have dreams that are bigger than working at the plant. They’re hoping to move out of the shadows of the slaughterhouses that paved the way for their parents to move here from parts of Asia, Africa and Central America.

Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed October 30, 2013

Garden City: Tending to a cultural crossroads in Kansas

Teacher Kay Thompson leads her “newcomer” class at Florence Wilson Elementary School in reading “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

Sister Janice Thome’s office is a 2003 brown Ford Focus with a backseat piled high with paperwork and a prayer book.

Thome puts 125,000 miles a year on this car, picking up boxes from the food pantry, finding a mattress for a newcomer, delivering a sick soul to a doctor’s appointment. All the while, she fields emergency calls on her flip phone, responding to her mission to serve the poor of Garden City, out on the plains of southwest Kansas.

This day, Thome is teaching her teen parenting class at the alternative high school.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue October 29, 2013

In the Shadows of the Slaughterhouse, Part 1

At the primary school in rural Noel, Mo., teachers and staff function as educators about as often as they do de facto social workers.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

It’s almost 9 a.m. in Noel, Missouri, and Noel Primary School teacher Erin McPherson is helping a group of Spanish-speaking students complete English language exercises. But it’s tough going.

One student in a bright blue T-shirt – 9-year-old Isac Martinez – has not yet picked up his pencil. He’s clearly sick. When McPherson asks him what’s wrong, Isac’s small voice is barely audible in between coughs. He says he threw up four times last night but did not go to a doctor.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
2:05 pm
Mon October 28, 2013

Bringing in the Harvest

North Iowa farmer Pam Johnson helps bring in the crops Sunday
Credit IPR's Pat Blank

Pam Johnson has just wrapped up a term as president of the National Corn Growers Association. She and her husband and two sons farm in Floyd County in North Iowa. Johnson testified in July before a U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy about the need to continue the Renewable Fuels Standard for ethanol.

Read more
Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon October 28, 2013

Science not likely to resolve dicey food issues

Nick Livermore works a batch of non-GMO soybeans on Aaron Lehman's farm in Polk County. In many countries GMO seeds are banned, though they are grown widely in the United States.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Hot-button food issues of the day, such as the use of genetically modified organisms or the treatment of livestock, tend to pit large industries against smaller activist groups. Often, both sides will claim the science supports what they are saying. That can leave consumers in a bit of a bind.

Read more

Pages