WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Agriculture

The Rising Energy Costs of Convenience in the Kitchen

Jan 21, 2016
Leigh Paterson for Harvest Public Media

To make or not to make a homemade pie?  That is a classic holiday dilemma. Do you take the easy way out and buy a fairly decent frozen pie, or do you risk making your own and possibly end up with a burnt and lumpy version?

Brian Seifferlein/Harvest Public Media

By some estimates, producing our food consumes about a fifth of the nation's energy supply. It takes a lot of diesel to move tractors and semis around the farm, and electricity to pump water and dry grain. But some farmers are trying to cut back on the coal and gas they use and make our food system more energy efficient.

Courtesy of Pipestone Veterinary Services

Veterinarian and researcher Scott Dee doesn't much look the part of a detective, in his jeans and company polo shirt.  But when a virus never before seen in North America swept through the network of hog farms where he works, Pipestone Veterinary Services, in January 2014, he had his first clue.

File: Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Canada and Mexico could impose tariffs on more than $1 billion-worth of U.S. goods as a way to compensate for losses brought on by a U.S. labeling law.

Tim Sackton, Flickr

Despite the bird flu epidemic that devastated Midwest turkey farmers this spring, the price of a turkey this Thanksgiving is a little cheaper than last year. This years turkeys are ringing up one cent less per pound than in 2014, according to the USDA’s most recent numbers.

(Darrell Hoemann/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting)

A new trade deal aimed at cutting thousands of taxes and opening markets with 11 Pacific Rim nations has drawn heavy lobbying from some of America's largest agribusinesses.  The deal -- known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- was reached in early October. 

(File: Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)

Cage-free eggs could be coming to a breakfast near you.

Several large food companies and restaurants, from Starbucks to McDonald’s to Kellogg’s, announced timelines this year for phasing out eggs laid in conventional cages, a victory for animal welfare advocates who have pushed for changes for years.

(Photo courtesy of Colorado State University Photography)

Close to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture, food and natural resource sectors each year for the next five years, according to a report from Purdue University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The American agriculture industry has a problem though; there are not enough grads to fill them. The report projects about two open jobs for every qualified graduate. That’s left the USDA, land grant universities and private industry scrambling to try and bridge the gap.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Des Moines, Iowa, made news this year when the city announced it would sue three counties in a legal battle over fertilizer. The city's water supply from the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers often surpasses the legal limit for nitrates (10 mg/L), which commonly appear in water contaminated by runoff from farm fields.

(Data: Nancy Rabalais, LUMCON; R Eugene Turner, LSU. Credit: NOAA)

The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico grabs the media's attention every summer when scientists funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) boat around the Gulf, taking its annual measurement. This year, it was bigger than expected at 6,474  square miles - roughly the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. 

Grant Gerlock /Harvest Public Media

Like all business owners, farmers want to get paid for their work. Sometimes, that work creates problems for the environment, so regulators are advancing the idea of creating environmental markets to allow farmers to make money off of their conservation practices.

Abby Wendle

All week, Harvest Public Media's series Choice Cuts: Meat In America is examining how the meat industry is changing the U.S. food system and the American diet.

Drive down a dirt road, a two-lane country highway, even many Interstates in the Midwest and the view out the window is likely to get monotonous: massive fields filled with acres of corn sprawled in all directions.

Logan Layden for Harvest Public Media

Generations of tilling and planting on the same land have left the nation's soil in poor shape. And if farmers don't change the way they grow crops, feeding the future won't be easy.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

After years of work, U.S. negotiators on Monday announced agreement on a trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim nations that is expected to expand export opportunities for U.S. farmers. The 11 countries included in the deal, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP, already import some 42 percent of U.S. agricultural exports at a value of $63 billion, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Courtesy The Land Institute

Wes Jackson sees agriculture as a problem. That's because it requires plowing, which leads to soil erosion. It also plants large tracts of land with a single species of crop, using large-scale application of pesticides and fertilizer.

Food Companies Show Concern About Farm Runoff

Sep 22, 2015
Abby Wendle

Corn and soybeans are the two crops at the center of the U.S. food system. In order to grow massive amounts of the crops, farmers in the Midwest typically apply hundreds of pounds of fertilizer on every acre they farm. This practice allows food companies to produce and consumers to consume a lot of relatively cheap food.

(Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)

Throughout the cropland of the Midwest, farmers use chemicals on their fields to nourish the plants and the soil. But excess nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients can wash off the fields and into streams, rivers and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.  New tools can help farmers monitor their soil and water so they can become part of the solution to this widespread problem.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Farmers in the Midwest are facing a situation they haven't seen in years. Grain prices are down. After some of the most lucrative growing seasons they've ever seen, some producers could lose money on this year's crop. That could slow down the rural economy.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

After a federal judge struck down an Idaho law that made it illegal to take undercover video on farms and ranches, animal rights groups said they are primed to challenge similar so-called "ag gag" laws across the country.

(Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)

Idaho's so-called "ag-gag" law, which outlawed undercover investigations of farming operations, is no more. A judge in the federal District Court for Idaho decided Monday that it was unconstitutional, citing First Amendment protections for free speech.

But what about the handful of other states with similar laws on the books?

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, is attempting to swallow up the chemical operations of Syngenta, the world's largest producer of pesticides and other farm inputs. The proposed deal signals a change in focus for the agricultural giant, and could have ripple effects across farm country.

Matt Brooks for NET News

Farmers count on chemical herbicides to keep their fields weed-free. But an international panel of scientists who studied two of the most heavily used farm chemicals to determine whether they could cause cancer said exposure to weed-killing chemicals could come at a cost.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

In the U.S., one in six people struggles with hunger. Food pantries across the country pass out food to help these people put meals on the table. But what if they could help teach the pantry visitors how to grow their own food, too?

The U.S. House has overwhelmingly approved legislation to change the way the Environmental Protection Agency reviews and evaluates potentially toxic and dangerous chemicals used in commerce.

The existing Toxic Substances Control Act, written in 1976, is seen as a failure by many business and environmental organizations. Members of Congress say it has built-in weaknesses and unnecessary complexities that prevent the EPA from doing its job.

Rodeo season is getting into full swing and at most rodeos, bull riding is the main event. But when the bull ride ends, the work begins for rodeo bullfighters, and a young bullfighter is making a name in the business by putting himself in the middle of the action.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Walk down a grocery store aisle today and you're likely to find lots of food -- and lots of marketing claims. Whether a product's label says it's low in fat, produced without hormones, or a good source of protein is largely governed by consumer demand and corporate profit.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

The packaged foods found in supermarkets, convenience stores and vending machines are full of ingredients you often cannot pronounce.  They've been carefully developed and tested in a lab and likely have been shipped long distances. They can hold up to weeks or even months on the shelf.

Rich Egger

The idea of starting a new agriculture education program appealed to Wyatt McGrew.  Now he will get a chance to build a program from the ground up in the Macomb School District beginning in August.

Farmers with Prosthetics Face Durability Challenges

Jun 10, 2015
Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

When it comes to hazardous work industries, farming is in the top three with transportation and warehousing, and mining. And many times after an accident, farmers end up as amputees. But when farmers and ranchers lose a limb on the job, they have a limited selection of prosthetics to help get them back to the fields.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

The federal government's complex set of rules meant to spur a renewable fuels industry has fallen behind one of its main goals: cut greenhouse emissions from gasoline.

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