WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Agriculture

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.

More Money, Fewer Grasslands: Corn Ethanol's Impact on Rural America

Jun 2, 2015
Emily Guerin/Inside Energy

Ethanol is one of the most important industries in the Midwest, and it's an industry about to change. The U.S. EPA proposed new targets for the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, which dictates the amount of ethanol the oil industry has to blend into our gasoline.

Eleanor Klibanoff for Harvest Public Media

It's no longer enough for restaurants to offer roasted chicken or braised beef shank on their menus. They need to be able to tell customers exactly where that chicken came from and how the cow was raised. If they can remember the pedigree of the produce? All the better.

An avian flu outbreak is sweeping across the Midwest at a frightening pace, ravaging chicken and turkey farms and leaving officials stumped about the virus's seemingly unstoppable spread.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

The local food scene has exploded in recent years, which means there's a lot more local produce on dinner tables. It also means that during the spring season as small farms start ramping back up, they have to work a bit harder to attract new customers.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

It’s planting time for Midwest farmers and much of the corn they grow will end up feeding livestock in China, which has become a huge importer of grain from the Corn Belt. That means the farmers can’t just select seeds based on which ones will get the best yield. They have to think about where their grain will be sold.

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.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Just over a year ago, Tracy Dethlefs learned she has stage 1 breast cancer. Since then, she estimates she has charted some 10,000 miles traveling from her farm near Loup City in central Nebraska to area hospitals for treatment. Every surgery, round of chemotherapy and radiation treatment was a road trip.

Some Farmers Warming Up to the Affordable Care Act

Apr 1, 2015
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Until the federal health insurance marketplace opened in late 2013, farmers and ranchers were more likely to be uninsured than many other occupational groups. The Affordable Care Act changed that by requiring them to buy insurance. But it also gave them coverage options they didn't have before. 

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

A battle is brewing in the organic food industry.  The largest trade association for organic farmers, marketers, and processors wants growers to help pay for promotional campaigns.

There’s a new stop on the Iowa campaign trail. This weekend, many presidential hopefuls will be in Des Moines for the first Iowa Ag Summit. Republican donor Bruce Rastetter, who is the CEO of Summit Farms and president of the Iowa Board of Regents, is hosting the event.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

You’ve probably seen, but may not have noticed, labels on the meat at your grocery store that say something like “Born, Raised, & Harvest in the U.S.A.” or “Born and Raised in Canada, Slaughtered in the U.S.”

These country of origin labels, as they are known, are part of an ongoing international trade dispute that has swept up Midwest ranchers. And they may not be long for store shelves.

Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

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

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

A highly anticipated batch of federal laws governing the use of drones could change the regulatory landscape and lead to an explosion in drone use by farmers.

County Fairs Hit Hard By Illinois Budget Cuts

Feb 15, 2015
Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs

The possibility of budget cuts makes the future of agricultural fairs in Illinois unknown.

Darrell Hoemann/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

To counter a “super weed” epidemic plaguing farmers, agribusiness giant Monsanto is steadily moving forward on the introduction of its next major wave of genetically engineered crops.

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