Agriculture

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which reporters talk to newsmakers and experts about important issues related to food production.

Photo courtesy of Poet Biorefining / KBIA

Seventeen ethanol plants nationwide have been idled since last June because of a scarcity of affordable corn due to the drought and a weak market for the corn-based fuel. On Friday, a plant in Macon, Mo., took the hit — and brought the number to 18. 

The northeast Missouri plant is temporarily halting operations as corn prices top $7 a bushel. It's one of 27 plants that Poet Biorefining owns nationwide, and was the first ethanol plant opened in Missouri in 2000. It has been producing 46 million gallons of ethanol per year since 2003.

Japan's decision to ease restrictions on U.S. beef imports will provide a boost to the American meat industry, but tight supplies may limit how much exports can grow this year.

Beef producers hope to restore Japanese sales to where they were before the first case of mad cow disease was found in the United States in 2003.

Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill commended Japan’s decision to ease restrictions on U.S. beef imports, saying it will be a boost for Missouri's economy.

Courtesy of Whistleblower.org

Retired federal inspector Phyllis McKelvey spent 44 years looking for blemishes and other defects on chicken carcasses. She started as an inspector’s helper, worked her way up, and in 1998, became part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture trial.

“I was one of the first group of inspectors ever put on HIMP,” she said in an interview from her home in north Alabama.

A new beef labeling rule that has the support of food safety advocates has been under review for months by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The Kansas City Star reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed requiring labels on steaks and other beef products that have been mechanically tenderized. The process uses automated needles or knives that can drive deadly pathogens deep into the interior of the meat.

Timothy Valentine/flickr

When legislation mandating genetically-modified food labels was proposed in California, Oregon and Washington, I wasn't necessarily surprised. But the recent news that GMO labeling is being considered in Missouri was a little bit of a shock. The bill, Senate Bill 155, was sponsored by a Democratic senator from St. Louis named Jamilah Nasheed. If passed, it would go into effect on Sept.

Drought takes head start into 2013

Jan 24, 2013
Lance Cheung / USDA

 

2012 was a drought year for the record books. It was the warmest year ever recorded in Des Moines, IowaTopeka, Kan., and Columbia, Mo. and the driest ever in Grand Island, Neb. The question is whether 2013 will be any different.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Shoppers looking for organic food may have to look a bit harder this year.

 This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which reporters talk to newsmakers and experts about important issues related to food production.

USDAgov/Flickr

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service released its end-of-year Crop Production 2012 Annual Summary Friday.

Not surprisingly, the report revealed that corn and soy production took a beating last year due to the drought that is still ravaging farms all over the Midwest.

Farmer woman
HPM

The University of Missouri Extension is offering a series of courses aimed at helping women in agriculture.

The courses are part of Annie's Project, a program that started in Illinois about nine years ago, and has since spread to other states. The program is named for an Illinois woman who ran a farm and raised six children in the 1950s.

Topics include farm record-keeping and taxes, business plans, how property is titled, pasture rental contracts and estate planning.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, is muscling in on one of the fastest growing segments of American agriculture: local food.

Wal-Mart says 11 percent of the produce sold in its stores nationwide comes from local farms, a large increase from the mere 4 percent it sold two years ago when the chain announced its intention to step up local sourcing as part of a larger sustainability platform and a commitment to buy from small businesses.

The White River, which cuts through southern Missouri and Arkansas, is America's second National Blueway.

The Kansas City Star reports that the new National Blueways System is part of the America's Great Outdoors Initiative aimed at establishing a community-driven conservation and recreation agenda.

Several groups, including the Nature Conservancy and the Missouri Department of Conservation, nominated the White River for the designation. The White River was given the designation Wednesday.

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Farmers across most of Missouri now are eligible for federal aid as a result of a natural disaster declaration by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Governor Jay Nixon said Wednesday the declaration means farmers can get emergency loans and other assistance from the USDA's Farm Service Agency.

The disaster declaration applies to 31 counties that have suffered extreme or exceptional drought, or have been in a severe drought for more than eight weeks. Farmers in an additional 32 neighboring counties also can receive aid.

USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently accepting claims from female and Hispanic farmers who believe the agency discriminated against them in farm loan or loan servicing programs. The claims process is complex—but the payouts could be large.

After the courts rejected a class action lawsuit from the farmers, USDA agreed to a voluntary settlement process with women and Latinos.

Claimants must submit a 16-page claims package plus additional evidence, and then a third-party will review and determine eligibility.

jon hagler
File photo

The director of the Missouri agriculture department is promoting a state program that gives grants to groups that provide spay and neutering services for animals.

This is the fifth year of the program, which is funded by proceeds from Missouri's "I'm Pet Friendly" license plates.

Agriculture Director Jon Hagler said Tuesday the public is more concerned these days about animal welfare, particularly dog breeding and inadequate animal shelters.

Missouri's Conservation Department is lowering the water in two wetlands in the western part of the state to help plan for repairs.

The department says it's conducting aerial topographic surveys on the Upper Osage River flood plain, including wetlands on the Four Rivers and Schell Osage conservation areas south of Kansas City. The department says the surveys will help plan for upcoming wetlands renovations, which will include improvements to levees and other water-control structures.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released two proposed food safety rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) on Friday. The proposed standards come two full years after President Obama signed the act into law in January of 2011. 

Courtesy of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

It's no secret that agriculture in the U.S. has gone through major changes in the past century. But let's focus in on ag labor for a second: back in 1900, 41 percent of the national workforce worked in the agricultural sector. By 2000, just 1.9 percent did, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Over the same time period, millions of residents left rural communities behind, seeking job opportunities in cities.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which reporters talk to newsmakers and experts about important issues related to food production.

For this edition of Field Notes — our first in 2013 — we decided to take a look back at last year’s biggest stories in agriculture.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

This story on the American beef industry is part of a special reporting series from Harvest Public Media. Check out the rest of their stories at harvestpublicmedia.org.

When Allen Berry brought his 11 yearlings to the Green City Livestock Market in central Missouri last month, he paid into a fund that at first blush, seems a bargain.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

New food safety regulations are about to be announced by the Food and Drug Administration. These regulations—covering everything from sanitation to record-keeping—are part of the Food Safety and Modernization Act, which became law two years ago. While the produce and meat industries get the lion’s share of attention, commodity grains now fall under the FDA’s watch.

Jeremy Bernfeld / Harvest Public Media

This story on the American beef industry is part of a special reporting series from Harvest Public Media. Check out the rest of their stories at harvestpublicmedia.org.

You think you deal with a lot of bull crap? Allan Sents needs a front-end loader and a dump truck to deal with all the cattle manure he’s up against. Literally.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which reporters talk to newsmakers and experts about important issues related to food production.

For this edition of Field Notes, I spoke with Kevin Good, an analyst for the agriculture research firm CattleFax, about how the ongoing drought will affect the beef industry in 2013 and 2014. Good was one of the speakers at this year's Missouri Cattlemen's Association convention.

Judging a cow by more than its cover

Dec 19, 2012
Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

This story on the American beef industry is part of a special reporting series from Harvest Public Media.  Check out the rest of their stories at harvestpublicmedia.org.

Backstage behind the cattle pens at the giant livestock show at the American Royal in Kansas City, Mo., “cow fitter” Maddee Moore was awash in glamour goods.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

This blog is part of ongoing coverage from Harvest Public Media, a public radio reporting project in the Midwest that focuses on important issues related to food production and agriculture.

When I dig into a burger, I might think about how the cow the beef came from was raised -- whether it was grass or grain fed, locally raised or imported -- but rarely do I consider what breed of cow the meat came from.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

About a decade ago, concerns about energy independence, greenhouse gas emissions and the need to boost rural economies led Congress to launch policies in support of biofuels  – corn ethanol, most notably. But the idea was that eventually more U.S.-produced fuel would be cellulosic – derived from corn residue, wheat straw or other biomass.

Mo. wineries bloom over past decade

Dec 13, 2012
Wine Grapes
rustinpc / Flickr

A University of Missouri researcher says the number of wineries in the state more than tripled over the past decade.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Tammy Sellmeyer bends to pick up a strawberry in the middle of a hoop house on the 25-acre farm she owns and operates with her husband, Greg, just south of Fulton, Mo. The Sellmeyers plant some 3,000 strawberry plants here each year and sell them at the Columbia, Mo. farmers market. This past May, they sold 400 quarts in just three hours. But two years ago, they didn't have many berries to sell at all because pests got to their crop.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

This story on the American beef industry is part of a special reporting series from Harvest Public Media.  Check out the rest of their stories at harvestpublicmedia.org.

Agricultural colleges in the top five beef-producing states have become quasi-arms of the cattle industry, selling science to corporate bidders who set the research agenda with their dollars.

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