Business Beat

Wednesdays at 5:20pm and Thursdays at 8:21am
  • Hosted by Lauren Langille

A weekly look at business issues important to mid-Missouri.

Holiday season yields more volunteering in Columbia

Nov 16, 2012
Yiqian Zhang / KBIA

With the holidays quickly approaching, people are busier than ever trying to help feed others in need during the holiday season.

Kristofor Husted / KBIA

Countdown to Election Day is upon us.

And while business development continues to surge as a hot topic this campaign season, the expired farm bill seems to have disappeared off candidates' radars completely. Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer has this report on just how much candidates are talking farm policy...in farm country.

By most accounts, Missouri is a pink state.

Not red. Not blue. Pink.

Fighting for food

Oct 24, 2012
Produce aisle of grocery store
File Photo / KBIA

When it comes to the business of food, there’s a rivalry around every corner. You’ve got fights for prime farmland, wars over water use, even buying food at the grocery store has its competition with household bills encroaching on family budgets for the shopping list.

Amber Luckey / Flickr

Flip on the TV, boot up the computer or switch on the radio and you’re destined to hear about a recall of tainted food – often due to E. coli or salmonella.

Kristofor Husted / KBIA

Remember in the film Night of the Living Dead when the protagonist, Barbra, is running through the grassy hills to the forlorn farmhouse to escape her lumbering zombie of a brother?

Well, while recently reporting for Harvest Public Media, I spent time on farmland that looked eerily similar to the backdrop of George Romero's black and white magnum opus.

Kristofor Husted / KBIA

In the parched, rolling hills of western Missouri, you might expect to see a desolate scene after this summer’s drought. But in this field, hip-high native grass sways across the landscape like seaweed in the ocean.

Wayne Vassar is growing these native plants for biofuel.

“They’ve had corn or soy on (this land) in the past,” he said, “and what’s happened was when you have these kinds of slope it erodes pretty rapidly and you lose a lot of your fertility as the top soil goes down the hill.”

Farmland experts call this kind of land “marginal land.” The hills make it difficult for the soil to hold onto the topsoil nutrients. And along the rivers and other flood plains, frequent flooding can deprive plants the oxygen they need to survive. It all adds up to an estimated 116 million acres in the central U.S.

Land like this might only produce a profitable harvest with traditional crops, like corn or soybeans, once or twice every five years. That’s quite a financial risk for farmers. So how can farmers avoid that risk factor and make sure such soils provide a consistent economic return?

Samantha Sunne / KBIA

Water use has become a hot issue among Midwest farmers after this summer's drought. Nebraska irrigates more acres of farmland than any other state in the nation. Kansas is also near the top. And that Irrigation infrastructure helped some farmers keep the drought at bay this year. Their fields stayed green long after others withered away. But as Grant Gerlock reports for Harvest Public Media, using so much water now may force some farmers to use less water in the future.

Lukas Udstuen / KBIA

As a 5-piece band wound its way through an acoustic set of music, guests slowly shuffled into the “Inside the Walls” festival at the Missouri State Penitentiary. To the southwest, the main entrance to the prison towered over the festival.

Charles Vaughan used to live in a house across the street. He remembers the 1954 riots, which were the worst in the history of the penitentiary. Vaughan remembers his dad and brother were on top of a nearby building with guns.

“There was a big fire going on," he said. "My mom was keeping me in the house which upset me because I wanted to get on the roof and my mom was piling furniture right in front of the front door.”

But now the penitentiary looks much lonelier. Its paint peels. Some of its buildings have been torn down. In fact — of those that remain, some parts are even off limits to tours – this is due to a process Steve Picker calls “demolition by neglect.” He’s the former executive director of the Jefferson City Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Water resources are stretched

Oct 3, 2012
Water drop
File Photo / KBIA

Nebraska irrigates more acres of farmland than any other state in the nation. Kansas is also near the top.

And that Irrigation infrastructure came in handy this summer. A University of Nebraska Lincoln studyfound the drought could shrink corn yields by 40 percent this year in dryland fields in Iowa. But yields for irrigated corn in Nebraska may end up only 8 percent lower than expected.

“We’ve been hearing reports over 200 (bushels/acre). Probably a lot of guys are hoping for 185-200. That’d be very good,” said Gib Kelly, who traveled from the north -central Nebraska town of Page to look at the newest irrigation equipment at the annual Husker Harvest Days farm show in Grand Island, Neb.

But irrigation has its limits. There were times over the hot summer months when Mark Scott’s groundwater wells couldn’t keep up.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

To dock or not to dock? That is the question.

Well, that’s the question some Midwest dairy farmers are debating now that the National Milk Producers Federation has taken a stand against the widespread practice of cutting off cow tails -- or tail docking. It started decades ago as a method to stop the spread of disease because the tails often becomes slimed with manure. Recent studies suggest the practice isn't necessarily effective, but many dairy farmers still employ the technique to avoid a face full of slimy cow tail.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Many people who haven’t stepped foot on a dairy might think milking a cow is a sort of Emersonian back-to-the land moment, where a milker bonds with his or her cow while communing with nature. Just milk her for a while and voilà: fresh, creamy milk. But the truth is, milking can be a very dirty job.

Pumping gas
File Photo / KBIA

There’s a new kind of gas on the market, with more ethanol in it than the gas we usually put in our cars. That’s beneficial for corn farmers who grow the corn that ethanol is made from and want more of it in your gas. But while the ethanol industry fought for years to bring this fuel to the market, now that they’ve won… good luck finding it. Even in Corn Country, pickings are slim.

Low feed means more hogs sent to market

Sep 19, 2012
USGS / Wikimedia Commons

The gravel road leading to Harrison Creek Farms is sandwiched between one field of withering corn, and one field of stunted soybeans. The drought has hurt farmers like Kenny Brinker who owns Brinker Farms and Harrison Creek Farms in Auxvasse, Mo.

“The hog farm we have here in Callaway County is what you call your standard feral to finish operation," he says. "We own the hogs ourselves."

Pumping gas
File Photo / KBIA

Head to your local filling station and you might see a new blend of gas at the pump. After a three-year regulatory process, the Environmental Protection Agency approved E15 – gas made with 15 percent ethanol – this summer.

Most gas we pump is already blended with ethanol, sometimes it contains as much as 10 percent, but the ethanol industry fought hard to bring E15 to the market. For ethanol backers and the farmers who feed the ethanol industry, getting drivers to pump gas with 50 percent more ethanol is a big win.

Unemployment office
ForwardSTL

The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 percent in July, but several groups are still feeling the heat more than others. 

CraneStation / Flickr

Growing across the Midwest is a strain of hybrid corn that should perform well under the driest conditions. Harvest Public Media’s Rick Fredericksen says this summer’s parched farmland is providing an ideal test.

Drought-resistant corn faces real-life test

Sep 12, 2012
cornfield
Peter Blanchard / Flickr

The sub-par corn harvest of 2012 is coming in early, after the worst growing conditions in more than 2 decades.

“We’ve been really dry all summer," farmer Bill Simmons says. "I talked to an older gentleman some time ago that said he had taken  47 crops off of his farm and this was about the worst that he’d ever seen it."

Simmons is combining 13-hundred acres of corn on the Clan Farm outside Atlantic, Iowa. Multiple varieties were planted, but one field turned out to be especially interesting: a 300-acre section devoted to AQUAmax, a new drought-resistant product from DuPont Pioneer.

The drought and the Midwestern economy

Sep 5, 2012
drought
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

If you've been out of town for a little while, then you this might be news: this rain we've been getting is a rare, rare, thing. Yes, the drought has been on our minds--and the radio--all summer long and a little rain this week doesn't change the fact that it's been devastating to farmers and the economy

What affects gun sales in Missouri?

Aug 22, 2012
ar 15
Schlüsselbein2007 / Flickr

It’s a commonplace that high profile shootings like the ones in Colorado and Wisconsin can drive gun sales up.  Campaign politics have an effect too.  This week we’ll take a look at the gun industry and find out just what influences gun sales in Missouri.

At a recent gun show in St. Louis, there are about 30 or so tables crammed into the hotel conference room.  That’s 30 different vendors all competing with each other to sell guns, knives and accessories.  If you’re a buyer looking for a deal, there’s no better place to be.

Clay Masters / Harvest Public Media

This week on the show, what would happen if Congress doesn’t pass a farm bill? Plus, a quick check in on the new student-oriented bus route in Columbia, that started running this week; and what it might mean for the city’s overall transit system.

Sarah McCammon / Harvest Public Media

This week: North America’s largest food distributor is phasing out its use of gestation crates in pork production. Plus, a story about the drought’s impact on ranchers in the Midwest.

maria figueroa armijos
University of Missouri

Microsoft, Staples, and SouthWest Airlines.

What do these companies have in common? Yes, they're big companies, they employ a lot of people and they're successful. But here's one more thing--all of these companies were created in a period of economic downturn.  The Fortune 500 is littered with stories like this.

Business Beat spoke with Maria Figueroa-Armijos who's one of the authors of a new study which suggests that certain types of entrepreneurs are on the rise and it’s not in spite of the recession--it’s because of it.

Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

This week on the show: Harvest Public Media’s Frank Morris follows the river to show the impact of this year’s drought.

Scott Pham / KBIA

It’s going to seem like this week’s show is all about keeping cows cool, and it kind of is, but keep in mind this is a serious threat to agriculture in Missouri, and thus, the overall economy in the state.

Dave Oster / Rockupied

This week: an app may help the Columbia Transit system deal with an unengaged ridership. Plus, Harvest Public Media looks at the lasting impact of the Homestead Act.

Jeremy Bernfeld / Harvest Public Media

Visits from foreign buyers play a role in sustaining certain agriculture markets in the Midwest. Plus, educators, designers and engineers team up to try to fund the next big innovation for small farms.

Grant Gerlock / for Harvest Public Media

This week on the show: an enzyme factory aims to be a big part of the ethanol industry, and a business incubator in Columbia lands a state tax credit.

Museao

This week on Business Beat: an active tech industry in Columbia is seeing a talent deficiency in some areas. Plus, a jump in home sales in Mid-Missouri.

Sandhya Dirks / Harvest Public Media

A war over words is part of a bigger struggle between agriculture interests and their critics. Plus, a national report looks at agriculture research grants from private corporations to land grant Universities, including MU.

A researcher at the University of Missouri is trying to find a way to track the most productive cattle to predict future profits. Plus, a quick update on the rise in Missouri’s state revenue last month, and what that might mean for state funding levels.

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