Agriculture and Harvest Public Media

Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
11:32 am
Mon October 6, 2014

Court Dismisses Lawsuit on California Hen Cages

Egg producers are worried about California's cage requirements.
Will Curran/Flickr

A federal district court has upheld a California law requiring eggs sold in the state to come from hens housed in more spacious cages.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
1:31 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

Report of Animal Cruelty Possibly Slowed by "Ag Gag" Law

This is a partial shot of one of the photos PETA submitted to law enforcement in Mercer County, Missouri depicting alleged cruelty.
courtesy of PETA

A recent Missouri law meant to protect farmers may be making it harder to report alleged animal abuse, as animal welfare organizations have feared.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on Wednesday asked law enforcement in Mercer County to investigate allegations of abuse at Murphy-Brown’s Badger-Wolf pig-breeding operation in northern Missouri. But PETA says it could not reveal who gave PETA the photos that captured the abuse, as the source of the information “is afraid of reprisals.”

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
9:35 am
Thu October 2, 2014

Farm Bill Programs Target Aid for Smaller Farms

The new farm bill includes more money to promote local food and farmers markets.
Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media file photo

The Farm Bill was passed in February. But now, piece by piece, it’s taking effect. We’re beginning to see how parts of the farm bill are doing more to help farmers go small.

The Farm Bill contains about half a trillion dollars in spending over five years. The vast majority of that pays for huge programs like food stamps and subsidized crop insurance. But this time around, Congress carved out a little more room for local and organic foods, and it’s starting to show.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
3:18 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Grassley: Waters of the US factor in Iowa Senate Race

US Senator Chuck Grassley opposes an EPA proposal that he says would expand the reach of the Clean Water Act onto some farm fields. The EPA says the rule will help streams, like this one in Boone County.
Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says the proposed Waters of the United States rule could influence voters in November's midterm elections. The Environmental Protection Agency wants to expand the Clean Water Act, to the protests of many in agriculture.

Grassley says the record of Democratic senate candidate Bruce Braley, who currently serves in the U.S. House, may hinder his chances.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
1:51 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Caustic Cucumbers

Wild and burr cucumber varieties are having a very good year.
Credit Courtesy photo

Along with Iowa' s more traditional crops, two species of cucumber vines are having a bumper year.  You won't find them at the farmer's market though, because they're weeds. The light green vines can grow as long as 30 feet and will coil around anything they touch. They've been showing up in windbreaks in Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Iowa State University Agronomy professor Bob Hartzler says the vines are very aggressive and will return year after year.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon September 29, 2014

Curbside Composting Puts Food Waste to Good Use

In Portland, Ore., commercial food waste from restaurants and businesses gets separated and sent to a methane digester that extracts gas from the food and uses it to make electricity.
Cassandra Profita for Harvest Public Media

Wasting about 40 percent of all the food produced in the U.S. certainly has its drawbacks: It's not feeding people in need, it's expensive and it does a lot of environmental damage.

But across the country, cities, towns and companies are finding food waste doesn't have to be a total loss. In fact, it can be quite valuable – in making fertilizer, electricity or even fuel for cars, trucks and buses.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
3:34 pm
Fri September 26, 2014

Sprouts and Scholars

Davenport Central's backyard garden
Credit Courtesy photo

  The student organization Sprouts and Scholars at Davenport Central High School has planted an organic vegetable garden and is now harvesting their first crops.  They are enjoying a bumper crop of tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and onions. The group secured grants from both Hy-Vee and Lowe's to help offset the cost of the project. As they've discovered, part of the reward of having a garden is being able to share the bounty with others. So they've allowed the cafeteria staff to have the ingredients for salsa and soup and they recently presented Mayor Bill Gluba with a basket of tomatoes.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Choices Can Slice School Food Waste

Gloria Restrepo, a teacher’s assistant at Harris Bilingual Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colo., helps students choose their lunch.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Lunch time at Harris Bilingual Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colo., displays all the usual trappings of a public school cafeteria: Star Wars lunch boxes, light up tennis shoes, hard plastic trays and chocolate milk cartons with little cartoon cows. It’s pizza day, the most popular of the week, and kids line up at a salad bar before receiving their slice.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu September 25, 2014

Grocery Stores Waste Tons of Food as They Woo Shoppers

Nearly one-third of the more than 400 million pounds of food available at grocery stores and restaurants is never eaten.
Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

Grocery stores and restaurants serve up more than 400 million pounds of food each year, but nearly a third of it never makes it to a stomach.

With consumers demanding large displays of un-blemished, fresh produce or massive portion sizes, many grocery stores and restaurants end up tossing a mountain of perfectly edible food. Despite efforts to cut down on waste, the consumer end of the food chain still accounts for the largest share of food waste in the U.S. food system.  

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed September 24, 2014

Manufacturers Cut Food Waste to Build Bottom Line

Todd Scherbing, Smithfield Foods’ senior director of rendering, holds a tray of pituitary glands that are cut from hogs on the line in the Farmland Foods plant in Milan, Mo. Pituitary glands are used to make insulin.
Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

The long line of semi-trucks waiting to get in the gates of the Farmland Foods plant could simply wait around for a few hours to head back, fresh products on board.

The trucks are loaded with hogs from several confinement operations near this factory in Milan, a small town in northeast Missouri. Within just 19 hours, those pigs will be slaughtered, butchered and boxed into cuts that consumers see in the grocery store and in restaurants.

But that effort will use only about half of the animal.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue September 23, 2014

Technology, Infrastructure Reduce Food Waste on the Farm

On-farm and post-harvest loss accounts for about 40 percent of food waste in the developing world, according to the U.N. But it is credited with relatively small levels of waste in most industrialized countries.
Amy Mayer/IPR

On a wet, grey day in Grinnell, Iowa, the rain beats a rhythm on the metal roof of a packing shed at Grinnell Heritage Farm. Crew member Whitney Brewer picks big bunches of kale out of a washing tank, lets them drip on a drying table and then packs them into cardboard boxes.  

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon September 22, 2014

Food Waste Weighing Down U.S. Food System

Jack Chappelle sorts through garbage to inform cities and states what goes into their landfills. He sorts through a lot of food.
Pat Aylward/NET News

It’s a hot summer day outside of Lincoln, Neb., and Jack Chappelle is knee-deep in trash. He’s wading in to rotting vegetables, half-eaten burgers and tater tots. Lots of tater tots.

“You can get a lot of tater tots out of schools,” Chappelle says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s elementary, middle school or high school. Tater tots. Bar none.”

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
7:26 am
Fri September 19, 2014

In Illinois Farm Country, a Wetland’s Dynamic Return

Doug Blodgett, director of river conservation for the Nature Conservancy, has helped oversee the transformation from farmland to wetland of this area in southern Illinois.
Rich Egger for Harveset Public Media

Land in Fulton County, Ill., that was farmed for more than 80 years is being returned to its original wetland state – and the early results are promising for what is now the Emiquon Nature Preserve.

“People give us credit for the way this looks now but it’s really Mother Nature that makes it look the way it does,” said Doug Blodgett, director of river conservation for the environmental group the Nature Conservancy.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
6:14 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Red Earth Green Earth

Red Earth Gardens was recently featured during a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day
IPR's Pat Blank

Members of the Meskwaki Nation near Tama have established a community-based farm operation.

The Red Earth Gardens spans 40 acres and boasts a wide variety of crops.  In the short two seasons they've been in operation, they've managed to grow numerous varieties of  fruits and vegetables. The tribe's extensive planning process includes a transition from row crop to certified organic by sometime next year.

Tribal members grow produce for the settlement but they also sell it to the nearby casino, at a roadside stand and at area farmer's markets.  

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
7:50 am
Tue September 9, 2014

Monsanto set to settle GMO wheat cases

Genetically modified wheat has never been approved for farming, so nearly all of the wheat grown in the U.S. is a conventional variety.
Lauren Tucker/Flickr

Monsanto has agreed to settle some of the lawsuits brought by U.S. farmers who allege they lost money when an Oregon field was discovered to have been contaminated with an experimental genetically modified strain of wheat.

Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States is genetically modified, but GMO wheat has never been approved for farming.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue September 9, 2014

U.S. meat inspection system in disarray, watchdogs say

Jennifer Brdar worked as a temporary federal meat inspector at a big beef packing operation in Liberal, Kan.
John McGrath/Hale Center for Journalism

Jennifer Brdar’s dream job was to be a meat inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, watching out for unwary consumers and making sure the meat on their dinner tables was clean and disease-free.

After earning an associate’s degree in meat science, Brdar was hired in March as a temporary federal meat inspector at a big beef packing operation just up the road in Liberal, Kan.

She lasted barely a month, walking away in frustration.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:55 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Plotting for a healthier school

Senior Agatha Fenech and Cedar Falls High School Associate Principal Troy Becker
Credit IPR's Pat Blank

Cedar Falls High School Senior Agatha Fenech will serve as a National Child Awareness Month Youth Ambassador. As one of 51 youth ambassadors, Fenech will receive funding and training to lead an initiative to raise awareness about the health and community benefits of locally grown produce. Fenech was selected through a competitive application process based on the quality of her project proposal and its potential to creative substantive, large scale change that benefits young people in Cedar Falls.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
8:26 am
Mon September 8, 2014

Climate, Space Create Challenges for Local Food

Josh Kilbane runs Yampa Valley Farms outside Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Local food is no longer just a novelty. Farmers markets are growing nationwide and farms that sell directly to consumers brought in $1.3 billion in 2012, up eight percent from just five years earlier. Despite the demand, making local food work in some places is decidedly more difficult than others. Steamboat Springs, Colo., is one of those places.

Problem number one is infrastructure.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
1:42 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

Fighting In Ukraine Could Mean Profit for U.S. Wheat Farmers

Farmers in Ukraine produced more than 22 million metric tons of wheat in the 2013-14 marketing year, to the U.S.’s nearly 58 million metric tons, according to USDA estimates.
Valdemar Fishmen/Flickr

The ongoing turmoil in Ukraine could impact the world’s wheat supply and with reports that fighting is edging closer to a key Black Sea trading port, farmers and commodity brokers are paying attention.

Pro-Russian rebels appear to be pushing closer to the Ukranian city of Mariupol, a strategic port city. As Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, any disruption in the harvest or transport of the country’s wheat crop could put a kink in global supply lines and could raise grain prices across the world.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
3:24 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Pheasant Frenzy

Iowa's pheasant population is the highest since 2008
Credit Audubon Society

    State wildlife officials say they're encouraged by a recent survey which shows Iowa pheasant numbers are the highest they've been in more than 6 years. Iowa DNR Biologist Todd Bogenschutz says the annual roadside count recorded a statewide average of 17 birds per 30 mile route compared to just 7 last year.

He says the numbers are surprising given the cool and wet spring, "I've got my fingers crossed, we've got good brood stock and I think think the hunters will be happy."

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:09 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

Grape Production Takes a Hit

Iowa has 101 wineries
Iowa Winegrowers Association

Iowa's grape harvest is underway in many parts of the state and the news from the field is not good. State Viticulturist Mike White says a cold and wet spring destroyed many of the vines and production statewide could be down between 30 and 40 percent. He says " there are some spots like Dubuque that seem to be fairing  better, but mostly the cold damage is there and the yield is low."

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
10:00 am
Wed August 27, 2014

USDA Predicts Drop in Farm Income

Expectations of a bumper crop of corn has caused both prices and farm profit expectations to drop.
Amy Mayer/IPR file photo from harvest 2012

Farmers’ can anticipate a sharp drop in income this year, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In fact, the USDA predicts the $113 billion earned in 2014 will be the lowest amount of net farm income in five years. That’s equal to about a 14 percent fall from last year’s record amount, thanks mostly to a massive drop in crop prices.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
8:40 am
Wed August 27, 2014

Everything Agriculture on Display at Farm Progress Show

Yellow hay rakes drew attention to the New Holland exhibit at the Farm Progress Show in Boone Tuesday.
Amy Mayer/IPR

A burst of colorful farm machinery is surrounded by demonstration fields at the Central Iowa Expo in Boone this week. The Farm Progress Show is attracting thousands of farmers, agronomists and agribusiness representatives. It’s an annual trade event that alternates between the Iowa site and Decatur, Illinois.  

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon August 25, 2014

Grain Elevator Failure Prompts Talk of Safety Net

Before it defaulted on loans and was shuttered by regulator, the Pierce Elevator was a major business in town.
Bill Kelly/NET News

 

In Nebraska, farmers say they’re left with about $9 million in unpaid claims when a grain elevator failed in the town of Pierce. It looks as if farmers’ losses could eventually top $4 million.

Without a financial safety net to depend on, farmers are watching this case in eastern Nebraska. They’re looking for lessons in order to avoid another massive financial wreckage in the future.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu August 21, 2014

My Farm Roots: Hard Work is a Life Lesson

Thousands of miles, and years, away from his upbringing on a Kansas farm during the height of the Great Depression, Wilson O’Connell now lives in the Boston suburbs.

 

Every year on my birthday I know there’s a thin, flat package waiting for me to open. It’s wrapped with neat corner folds and held together perfectly with just three pieces of tape – nothing wasted.

I always knock on the front and hear the crisp, deep thud of a hardcover book. I know it’s a book. And I know who it’s from.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
4:37 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

New CAFO Rules

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement rally after the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission's Aug. 19 meeting.
Sarah Boden Iowa Public Radio

Totally roofed confined animal feeding operations are now required to have a permit and meet certain federal regulations for discharging manure into U.S. waterways. Iowa’s Environmental Protection Commission voted unanimously on the new CAFO rules today, at a highly emotional hearing.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:46 am
Mon August 18, 2014

History's Seeds

Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm in Decorah.
Chiot's Run

Most vegetable seeds today are bred by seed companies to be hearty and easy to grow. They’re created by cross-breeding different varieties and selecting for specific characteristics.

Heirloom seeds are different. Like your grandmother’s engagement ring or a dusty old photo album, these seeds have been passed down through generations.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
4:00 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

What's Behind That Tomato's Price?

Vegetable farmer Tom Goeke of St. Charles, Mo., sells his Red Deuce tomatoes wholesale at about $1.50 per pound.
Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

Late summer in the Midwest is tomato season. For tomato growers around that country, it’s time to pick their bounty and calculate their earnings.

While sun and rain might be free, tomato farmers have to carefully weigh everything else they put in to growing their crop. Research and the development of new tools – from novel seed varieties resistant to diseases to additional fertilizers – has changed the input costs for growers.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu August 14, 2014

My Farm Roots: Rich with Life

Farmer John Curtis traces his farming roots back to a stint running a model farm in the Peace Corps.

Farmers are used to waking up with the rooster’s crow. But having grown up a suburban kid, John Curtis was used to a more conventional alarm clock.

As a Peace Corps volunteer in the Caribbean, he managed a farm for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). A long way from his Wisconsin home, he found a love for the most Midwestern job – that of a farmer.

“I loved walking out on the landscape and finding things I could eat,” Curtis said. “I found agriculture to be fascinating.”

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu August 14, 2014

Art Tangoes Over Time with Ag

Beekeeper Julia McGuire fits a veil on photographer Marji Guyler-Alaniz before they approach a hive.
Amy Mayer/IPR

  In a living room converted to a theater for the evening, Ethan Peterson and Madeleine Russell portray the characters from Mary Swander’s play, “VANG.” In it, the actors share the emotional stories of four immigrant couples who farm in Iowa. Swander used transcriptions of conversations with Hmong, Mexican, Sudanese and Dutch farmers to create the play.

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