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farming

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

Bryan Thompson for Harvest Public Media

Low crop prices have many Midwest wheat and corn farmers looking for ways to supplement their incomes. One possibility for conventional farmers: producing food for farmers markets.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

Liz Graznak runs an organic farm in Jamestown, Missouri, which she calls Happy Hollow Farm. She sells her vegetables to local restaurants, in CSA boxes, and at the farmer’s market.  But eight years ago, after falling in love with the idea of growing her own local produce, the farm she runs today looked like a near-impossible dream.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

A war is brewing over what you pour on your breakfast cereal.  Dairy farmers say the makers of plant-based milks – such as almond milk, soy milk and a long list of other varieties – are stealing away their customers and deceiving consumers. And they would like the federal government to back them up.

Watch: How Farmers are Trying to Protect the Soil

Jan 31, 2017
Jack Williams for Harvest Public Media

What's old is new again, at least on some Midwest farms.  Winter cover crops have been used by farmers for centuries, but over the last decade or so they have once again started to become more popular.

File: Grace Hood for Harvest Public Media

Update 1/25/2017: The Agricultural Research Servicerescinded its initial directive in an email to employees Tuesday evening.

Jesse Howe for Harvest Public Media

Drones are not just a hot gift item or a weapon for use by the military. They're also helping farmers change the landscape of agriculture. 

U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr

Sweet potatoes are undergoing a modern renaissance in this country.  While they have always made special appearances on many American tables around the holidays, year-round demand for the root vegetables has grown. 

Courtesy Elliot Chapman

Farmers across the Midwest are trying to figure out how to get by at a time when expected prices for commodities from corn, to wheat, to cattle, to hogs mean they'll be struggling just to break even.

Fred Knapp for Harvest Public Media

A proposal that would jumpstart the chicken business in one Midwestern state has some residents concerned about the potential impact on the environment. They're trying to block or delay its construction.

T.J. Carson

Ron Moore of Roseville became the president of the American Soybean Association this month.  He will serve a one year term as president and then take over as the chairman of the Association's Board of Directors.

File: Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Bacteria containing a gene that confers resistance to an important class of antibiotics have been found at a swine farm in the U.S., raising the troubling concern that one of the last lines of defense against hard-to-fight infections might be failing.

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