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Agriculture

In the hopes of not repeating a problematic year for soybean crops, farmers across the U.S. are deciding how best to protect their crops and their livelihood next year from drift damage caused by the weed killer dicamba.

Burkey Farms in southeast Nebraska looked into the future a couple of years ago and didn’t like what it saw — a continuation of depressed prices for conventional corn and soybeans. So, the families who run the farm together started discussing how the operation would make money if they couldn’t earn more from their crops.  

Their conversation took a turn toward organics, a $40 billion industry and growing, especially in Iowa and Colorado.

Plant breeder Jessica Barb is on a mission to improve how sunflowers self-pollinate, a trait that'll be increasingly important to farmers are wild bee populations diminish. Her research tool of choice: a paper towel. 

There’s a genetic technology that scientists are eager to apply to food, touting its possibilities for things like mushrooms that don’t brown and pigs that are resistant to deadly diseases.

And food industry groups, still reeling from widespread protests against genetically engineered corn and soybeans (aka GMOs) that have made it difficult to get genetically engineered food to grocery store shelves, are looking to influence public opinion.

Rich Egger

Construction is complete on the greenhouse at Macomb High School, while construction is just getting started on the renovation project at Lincoln School.

Galen Fick milks 50 Brown Swiss cows every day on his farm in Boyden, Iowa, where his family has been in the dairy business for generations. Life as a dairy farmer has gotten harder and harder, he says, especially in the past two years.

 

“Our inputs have gone up so much, not the feed part of it but everything else,” he says, pointing to veterinary care and, especially, labor. “For us to make that profit, [it] makes it very tough.”

The herbicide dicamba is thought to have been the culprit in more than 3 million acres of damaged soybeans across the country, destroying plants and leaving farmers out millions of dollars in crops.

The chemical has been in use for decades, so why is it today apparently causing farms so much damage?

Applying large amounts of pesticides to farm fields can have negative effects on babies born to mothers living nearby, according to new research.

A new study found that staple crops like corn and wheat, which provide a large proportion of the world’s calories and U.S. farmers’ output, will likely see negative impacts from rising global temperatures.

As President Donald Trump continues to fill political appointments, his nomination for the top science job at the U.S. Department of Agriculture is raising unique concerns.

Trump has chosen Iowan Sam Clovis to be undersecretary of agriculture for research, education and economics. Clovis served as a fighter pilot in the Air Force, has a doctorate in public administration, and taught economics at Morningside College in Sioux City.

Sioux City is also where he gained a following as a conservative talk show host.

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

During the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, spectators will turn their eyes upward to see the moon pass in front of the sun. But many Midwest scientists will turn their eyes and cameras to the plants and animals here on the ground. And they're not sure what will happen.

File: Stephanie Paige Ogburn for Harvest Public Media

It has been a rough few months for the world's largest meat company.  Known for its rapid expansion across the globe, Brazil-based meatpacking giant JBS has been embroiled in scandal for much of 2017.

File photo: Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

Chemical runoff from Midwest farm fields is contributing to the largest so-called "dead zone" on record in the Gulf of Mexico.

Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

Of all the expensive machinery Tom Giessel worked during the 2017 wheat harvest, his favorite sits in the office of his home.

Brad Austion / Flatland

The families of six men killed when a grain elevator blew up in 2011 have now waited well over five and a half years for closure in the case. But they say the hurt is still raw; for them, it could have happened yesterday.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

The Missouri Department of Agriculture on Friday announced a temporary ban on the sale of agricultural products containing the pesticide dicamba, following a similar step by regulators in Arkansas.

Zoe Moffett / Colorado College

See a bee; hear a buzz.  That is what researchers studying the declining bee population are banking on.  A new technique based on recording buzzing bees hopes to show farmers just how much pollinating the native bee population is doing in their fields.  

Luke Runyon / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

Brandon Biesemeier climbs up a small ladder into a John Deere sprayer, takes a seat in the enclosed cab, closes the door, and blocks out most of the machine's loud engine hum. It is a familiar perch to the fourth-generation farmer on Colorado’s eastern plains.

The "Growing Threat" Of Agricultural Espionage

Jun 13, 2017
University of Michigan School of Environment and Sustainability / Flickr

As a group of visiting scientists prepared to board a plane in Hawaii that would take them back home to China, U.S. customs agents found rice seeds in their luggage. Those seeds are likely to land at least one scientist in federal prison.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

A leading research center focused on local farmers and environmental conservation is hanging on by a thread, even as the movement to diversify agriculture -- which it helped launch -- continues to thrive.

File: Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

As the Trump administration takes the initial steps toward renegotiating one of the country's most influential and controversial trade deals, groups that represent farmers and ranchers are already waving a caution sign.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

This summer in cornfields in Iowa and Nebraska, about a thousand small point-and-shoot digital cameras will be enclosed in waterproof cases, mounted on poles, and attached to solar-powered battery chargers. They will take pictures every ten minutes as plants grow; all part of a plan to create better seeds.

Courtesy Bruce Tuten / Flickr

Three months into his term, President Donald Trump now has in place his Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue. Here's what you need to know:

Earl Dotter / Oxfam

Pushed by worker advocates and growing consumer awareness, Tyson Foods on Wednesday promised better conditions for workers at its meat processing plants.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

A new tractor often costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, but not included in that price: the right to repair it. That has put farmers on the front lines of a battle pitting consumers against the makers of all kinds of consumer goods, from tractors to refrigerators to smart phones.  

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Hybrid seed corn and nitrogen fertilizer transformed farming in the 20th century, but they are also closely tied to some of today's major agricultural challenges. That has prompted some members of two families that played pivotal roles in developing farm innovations to work on putting a lighter, 21st century stamp on the landscape.

File: NET Nebraska

The North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, has been very good to many Midwest agriculture producers. That’s why many farmers and ranchers are nervous about President Donald Trump's promise to either completely dismantle, or at least renegotiate, the free-trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

This story is part of the special series United And Divided, which explores the links and rifts between rural and urban America.

Rural voters overwhelmingly chose President Donald Trump in the presidential election. But when it comes to the central campaign promise to get tough on trade, rural voters are not necessarily in sync with the administration.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Farmers in the U.S. like to point out that their products feed people all over the world. And while this is a diverse country, the people working on farms and elsewhere in agriculture often don't reflect the nation's demographics. Changing that is becoming a priority, in hopes new people will bring fresh ideas to meet some of our food system's greatest challenges.

Rich Egger

A group of Illinois legislators is pushing an agenda intended to help farmers who sell at local markets. The legislation covers a variety of issues.

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