Harvest Desk

KBIA's Harvest Desk covers food and agriculture issues in Missouri and beyond. The desk is a collaboration between KBIA and Harvest Public Media, a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field.  The desk is headed by reporter Kristofor Husted.

Kristofor Husted / KBIA/Harvest Public Media

We all learned it as kids: Old MacDonald has a farm and on that farm he has a cow that says “moo.” But why? Why do cows moo?

Whenever I’m out reporting in the field I can tell many ranchers have a powerful connection with their cattle – they can almost understand them. But researchers today are trying to figure out exactly what cows are saying.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

 

The population of Northern Colorado is booming. People are flocking to the area and population numbers are on the rise.

The same thing is happening with dairy cows.

Weld and Larimer counties already sport high numbers of beef and dairy cattle, buttressed by the region’s feeding operations. But an expansion of a cheese factory owned by dairy giant Leprino Foods will require even more cows to churn out the milk needed to produce bricks of mozzarella cheese and whey protein powder.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

 

There’s a heated debate happening right now about GMOs and labels.

Big food companies like General Mills, Mars and Kellogg’s say they plan to put labels on their products that tell consumers whether or not the food contains ingredients derived from genetically engineered plants.

So what’s the big deal? What are GMO labels, and what do they tell you?

bottlerocketprincess / Flickr

 

Midwest farmers are expected to plant a huge corn crop this year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts farmers will plant nearly 94 million acres of corn this season. That’s up 6 percent from last year’s planted acreage and would be the third-highest planted acreage in the U.S. since the 1940s.

Kristofor Husted / KBIA/Harvest Public Media

 

Cotton fabric has been a staple in our closets for decades, but times are tough for farmers in the U.S. cotton belt who are caught in the middle of a storm of changing global demand.

Cotton acreage in the U.S. has been declining for years, with 2015 hitting the lowest mark in decades.  It has dropped from nearly 15 million acres to less than 9 million acres in just the past five years.

“One of the main issues facing the world cotton market is just a sluggish demand,” said Jody Campiche, vice president of economics and policy analysis at the National Cotton Council.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

 

 

Take a road trip through the Midwest during the growing season, and it feels like you’re moving through a sea of corn and soybeans grown largely for livestock feed or ethanol. But now, low grain prices and increasing pressure to clean up waterways may push some farmers to consider other options.

Corn and soybeans make up, incredibly, nearly 40 percent of what’s currently grown in 13 farm country states (Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  So changes are likely to come slowly, if they come at all, and plenty of obstacles remain.

Marisanne Lewis-Thompson / for Harvest Public Media

 

Driving along rough and muddy gravel roads next to what was once a rich soybean field, farmer Adam Thomas gazes out on an upended mess of tubes, wheels and hoses from a nearby farmer’s irrigation system.

Nowadays, his farmland in Miller City, Illinois, looks like a scene from “Lawrence of Arabia.” Layer upon layer of sand as much as 4-feet deep covered nearly 100 acres. Large sand deposits, fallen trees and fragments of a damaged road wreaked havoc on his once fertile farm ground.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

    

During the season of Lent, many Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays. Fish, though, is considered fair game, so the Friday night fish fry has become an annual tradition at churches across the country. 

Fridays between Ash Wednesday and Easter you’ll find hundreds of hungry parishioners lining up at church fish frys around the Midwest.  All of that frying uses up vegetable oil that can just go to waste, but there are some people putting it to good use.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

 

A major player in the U.S. ethanol market is filing for bankruptcy, following pressure from Midwest corn suppliers who say they’re owed millions of dollars and financial troubles for the Spain-based parent company at home.

 

Abengoa produces grain ethanol here in the Midwest and it also built a cellulosic ethanol plant in Kansas to make fuel from grasses and other bio-products. So-called advanced biofuel hasn’t truly hit the market and Abengoa’s financial trouble further stalls cellulosic fuel’s potential.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has reversed course on its organic certification of industrial hemp operations throughout the country.

A handful of hemp farms, including Colorado-based CBDRx, had secured or were in the process of securing, certifications from third-party auditors following a directive from the USDA's National Organic Program staff allowing hemp to be certified organic.

Alex Hanson / Flickr

 

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders said Tuesday that he opposes federal measures that would bar states from requiring labels on food containing genetically modified ingredients.

The senator’s home state is also home to the nation’s first GMO labeling law, which is set to go into effect July 1. Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, the Republican who serves as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced a bill last week that would effectively bar states from enacting laws like Vermont’s and instead create a voluntary labeling system that food companies could opt-in to.

United States Department of Agriculture

If you’re unfamiliar with the show The Walking Dead, zombies (called "walkers" in the show universe) have taken over the landscape. Our cast of gun-toting survivors have been left holed up in a suburban compound surrounded by large walls.

This week, two main characters venture outside the compound on a scavenging mission equipped with a map to nearby agricultural supply stores.  Before they leave, a third character tells them to keep an eye out for sorghum. He says it will likely be untouched and it would make their farming situation “hunky dunky.”

A quick glance at Twitter and a few text messages from friends and family all asked me the same question: What is sorghum and why do our post-apocalyptic heroes -- and sometimes anti-heroes -- need it?

Restoring prairie on the Great Plains

Feb 4, 2016

  From the air, the Midwest looks like a patchwork of cropland and pastures. But before the land was turned over to plows and center pivots, most of it was a sea of grass. 

Native grasslands were first plowed by pioneers homesteading on the plains. More land was converted to crops as tractors and machinery arrived on the farm and conversion of land intensified. 

Courtesy Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

 

The U.S. is formally part of the biggest global trade partnership in history after the countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership symbolically signed the deal in New Zealand. For President Obama, now comes the hard work.  

Twelve countries bordering the Pacific Ocean negotiated for years to hammer out the TPP. Though the deal is expected to open up new markets for American agricultural exports, especially soybeans and beef, it remains controversial.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

 

 

For almost a year, presidential candidates have been crisscrossing Iowa, wooing voters in a state that relies on agriculture for about one-third of its economy. But even here, most voters live in cities or suburbs and don’t have a first-hand connection to the farm.

Courtesy Bur-Wall Registered Holsteins

 

Once a generation, a diva is crowned. She earns a reputation for being independent, polished, fearless and of limitless talent, unreachable by us normal folk. After years of climbing the ladder, she claims her crown.

Holsteins of the world have their new queen, and her name is Gigi.

    

The massive Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP, trade deal could require some countries to accept more genetically engineered crops.

The TPP is the largest free trade agreement in history, and while not yet approved by Congress, includes the U.S. and 11 other countries along the Pacific Ocean. 

Here’s how genetically engineered crops figure into the equation:

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Grabbing a quick meal doesn’t just mean fast food anymore. Now there are “fast-casual” options like Chipotle or Panera, restaurants that borrow ideas from both fast food and upscale sit-down restaurants.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

After the patent on one of the most popular versions of genetically engineered soybeans expired this year, U.S. universities are creating new generic GMO soybean varieties, many of which are designed to guard against specific, local pests.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

 

The amount of ethanol blended into the U.S. fuel supply will go up under new rules issued Monday.

In releasing the details of the Renewable Fuel Standard, the policy that sets the amount of biofuels oil refiners must blend into the fuel supply, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it planned to continue to increase the proportion renewable fuels, most of which is comprised of corn ethanol.

Mike Tobias / Harvest Public Media

The population of monarch butterflies has declined so dramatically in recent years that the iconic insect is being considered for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list. In Nebraska and across the other areas of the Midwest, a stop on the monarch migration route, efforts are underway to determine the scope of the decline.

 


Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

 

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. It is designed to ease the flow of goods between partner nations by lowering restrictive trade policies and regulations.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

    

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.

Kristofor Husted / KBIA/Harvest Public Media

The immigrant workers that pick crops like cotton and melons in the U.S. can have a tough time finding a place to live. The rural areas where they can find work often lack the social services and affordable housing. That means many farm worker families end up in dilapidated buildings, which can come with health risks.

courtesy USDA

 

This post was updated with a new statement from USDA.

A senior scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture filed a whistleblower complaint on Wednesday accusing the federal agency of suppressing research findings that could call into question the use of a popular pesticide class that is a revenue powerhouse for the agrichemical industry.

Jonathan Lundgren, a senior research entomologist with the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service who has spent 11 years with the agency based in Brookings, S.D., said that retaliation and harassment from inside USDA started in April 2014, following media interviews he gave in March of that year regarding some of his research conclusions.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

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.

Beef, poultry and pork are staples of the American diet, baked into the country’s very culture, and backbones of the agricultural economy. But lately, the meats have been saddled with some baggage.

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

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.

While the average American eats hundreds of pounds of meat every year, many U.S. consumers are starting to cut back as health experts learn more about the risk of a diet high in proteins from meat and environmentalists challenge the way most meat is raised.

That leaves farmers and ranchers to raise meat animals with health-conscious meat-eaters in mind.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

 

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.

 

One of the most important tools of modern medicine is in jeopardy. In the 20th century, antibiotics turned once-lethal infections into manageable diseases. They also contributed to the transformation of meat production in America.

Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

 

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.

Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media

 

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.

Americans have a big appetite for everything meat. We smoke it, grill it, slice it, and chop it.

The typical American puts away around 200 pounds of beef, pork, and poultry every year . That’s true in many of the wealthiest countries. But developing countries are showing a growing appetitefor meat.

Pages