Agriculture

Sandy and Chuck Harris/Creative Commons-Flickr

Monarch butterflies are disappearing. Scientists agree that in the last 20 years, populations of the black and orange insect have been in precipitous decline. But there's much less certainty on what’s causing them to vanish.

As each new scientific paper on monarch decline is published, the image becomes slightly less opaque. So far, potential culprits include disease, climate change, drought, deforestation, and nectar plants. Blame has been cast on everyone from loggers to farmers to suburban developers.

Brian Hardzinski for Harvest Public Media

    

If there are any rattlesnakes in the rocky hills of northwestern Oklahoma, Ty Judd knows where to find them.

Judd and his friends have been rattlesnake hunting these gypsum hills for years, armed with long metal tongs, a plastic bucket and a few simple rules.

“Watch where you step,” Judd said. “Never put your hand on the side of a hill unless you’ve looked it over because little snakes will curl up there and bite you on the hand.”

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

 

Genetically-engineered crops are generally safe to eat, but in the 20 years since the first commercial GMO crops hit the market, they haven’t delivered on all their promises, according to a new analysis from a National Academy of Sciences panel released Tuesday.

For more than two decades genetically-engineered crops -- plants in which scientists have transferred genes among species to achieve new traits like herbicide tolerance or insecticide -- have been lightning rods in food discussions.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

    

Schools across the U.S. served more than 5 billion meals in the national school lunch program to millions of students last year. Each one of the meals has to meet federal rules for nutrition. Now, those rules are up for debate and Congress could impose changes on the cafeteria.

School lunch was transformed by the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act. The law, passed in 2010, forces schools to switch to whole grains, cut calories, limit fat and sugar, start reducing sodium, and serve more fruits and vegetables.

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.

Kristofor Husted / KBIA/Harvest Public Media

 

  

Turn on the TV and you can barely escape it: presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle deriding free trade agreements, like the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is a bum deal that will hurt the U.S. economy and especially low-wage workers, according to pols from Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton.

But if you venture into the Midwest and ask a farmer about the TPP, you’re likely to get a different answer.

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.

Kristin Bilyeu, a research molecular biologist for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and an adjunct associate professor at the University of Missouri, has been researching soybean seed composition since 2003. Doug sits down with Bilyeu to discuss her research related to improving soybean oil quality.

Kristin Bilyeu, a research molecular biologist for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and an adjunct associate professor at the University of Missouri, has been researching soybean seed composition since 2003. Doug sits down with Bilyeu to discuss her research related to improving soybean oil quality.

The Bradford Research Center has developed a closed-loop system where food waste from MU Campus Dining is converted into compost at the Research Center. Doug sits down with Tim Reinbott, who served as the Superintendent at Bradford from 2000-2015, to discuss how this system came about.

The Bradford Research Center has developed a closed-loop system where food waste from MU Campus Dining is converted into compost at the Research Center. Doug sits down with Tim Reinbott, who served as the Superintendent at Bradford from 2000-2015, to discuss how this system came about.

Insight is a production of the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

 

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.

Doug sits down with Judy Wall, Curators Professor of Biochemistry, to talk about the harmful effects of methylmercury in the environment and the research that she and her colleagues have done in recent years to better understand the genetic composition of the neurotoxin.

Doug sits down with Judy Wall, Curators Professor of Biochemistry, to talk about the harmful effects of methylmercury in the environment and the research that she and her colleagues have done in recent years to better understand the genetic composition of the neurotoxin.

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?

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

A referendum on raising the fees cattle farmers pay has cleared its first legal challenge, though a final court decision still remains weeks away.

A Cole County court has scheduled a hearing for March 21 on whether to halt the April election. Judge Patricia Joyce on Thursday declined to issue a temporary restraining order that would have stopped election preparations.

Insight – A Balanced Approach

Feb 17, 2016

Doug sits down with Peter Scharf, a professor in the Division of Plant Sciences and an MU Extension soil scientist, to talk about the financial and environmental benefits of area corn farmers using vehicle-mounted crop sensors to apply the precise amount of nitrogen to their fields.

Doug sits down with Peter Scharf, a professor in the Division of Plant Sciences and an MU Extension soil scientist, to talk about the financial and environmental benefits of area corn farmers using vehicle-mounted crop sensors to apply the precise amount of nitrogen to their fields.

 

Farm Income Declining in Region

Feb 11, 2016
farmland
File / KBIA

 The Federal Reserve says farm income continued to decline during the fourth quarter in Midwestern and Western states, so farmers are borrowing more.

But the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Missouri, said Thursday that bankers report few problems with farmers failing to make loan payments.

Farm income is down because prices have declined for cattle, soybeans, wheat and corn.

The value of farmland continues to decline. The value of non-irrigated land declined 4 percent in the fourth quarter, and irrigated land values slipped 2 percent from the previous year.

Doug sits down with Anne McKendry, an associate professor of wheat breeding and genetics in the Division of Plant Sciences. Since arriving at MU nearly 30 years ago, McKendry has become of the country’s most successful wheat breeders, heaving sent out several lines out to the Missouri and national markets – all of which have a very high resistance to the deadly Fusarium head blight fungus.

Doug sits down with Laura McCann, a professor of agricultural and applied economics, to talk about a unique field study she did a few years back and Columbia’s City Hall building in regards to toilet use in relation to human behavior and behavioral economics.

Doug sits down with Laura McCann, a professor of agricultural and applied economics, to talk about a unique field study she did a few years back and Columbia’s City Hall building in regards to toilet use in relation to human behavior and behavioral economics.

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.

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