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.

Scott Pham / KBIA

In Tebbetts, Mo., JJR Family Farm raised USDA-certified organic livestock without antibiotics or genetically-modified feed.  After six years of raising and selling organic beef, they decided it was just too expensive to keep the certification.  Rancher John Rice helped us figure out just how much it costs to raise organic beef in Missouri.  

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

The organic farming industry is booming. Since the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched its federal organic certification program in 2002, the number of organic farms has more than doubled. U.S. organic food sales have also grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $31.5 billion in 2011, according to the Organic Trade Association.  

Clay Masters for Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latestOutlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade,” which was published on Nov. 29, forecasts American farm exports increasing and predicts they will come in at $145 billion in 2013. That's a 50 percent increase from 2009.

Such a high export number gave me pause, since the USDA is also predicting that in the coming year U.S. corn exports will be at a 40-year low because of a domestic corn shortfall caused by the drought.

File / KBIA

Missouri Farm Bureau delegates are gathering at the Lake of the Ozarks this week to set a lobbying agenda for the coming year.

In the ag census even the smallest farms count

Nov 29, 2012
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture updates its ag census every five years and is preparing to send farmers new surveys in December. One trend to watch is the growing number of small farms. They are easy to miss and some would rather not be counted.

Pat Blank / Iowa Public Radio

In the Dr. Seuss book, it was the Grinch who stole Christmas. But for some Midwest tree growers, it may be the drought that eventually steals the holiday.

Danny Moulds, who owns Kris Kringle’s Trees just north of Cedar Falls, Iowa, said the hot dry summer took a harsh toll on newly planted seedlings. “We did lose about 15,000 Christmas trees in a 46-acre farm,” Moulds said. “And with the fir trees we didn’t lose just the little ones we planted this year, we (also) lost last year’s.”

Deer season a boost for business in Kirksville

Nov 27, 2012
dishfunctional / Flickr

Northeast Missouri is popular this time of year for its deer hunting, but many local businesses worried the drought would have a negative effect on the deer population this year.

Christine Karim / Creative Commons

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans three meetings this week to hear the public's ideas for the future of Table Rock Lake.

Courtesy, Kansas Historical Society

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 agriculture and food production.

For this edition of Field Notes, Harvest Public Media's Grant Gerlock spoke with Dayton Duncan, who wrote and co-produced the film "The Dust Bowl," which was directed by Ken Burns.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The United States is the world’s leading producer and exporter of corn, which is used as livestock feed to support the increasing demand for meat in China, India and other countries with growing middle classes.

Hot summer sun
jetsandzeppelins / Flickr

A new report shows that the nation's worst drought in decades is getting worse again, ending an encouraging five-week run of improving conditions.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

While the U.S. remains the world’s biggest supplier of corn, American farmers will lose a portion of the global corn market this year.

The Midwest drought devastated the normally robust corn harvest, which has led to higher corn prices and plummeting corn stocks. In a normal year, the U.S. exports more than 1 billion bushels of corn to markets worldwide, but with low domestic supply it’s a tough year for corn exporters – the USDA predicts U.S. corn exports will be at a 40-year low this year.

Photo taken by Ed Henleben

I left my house in Columbia, Mo., at 5:30 a.m. Thursday to make it to the Ingram Barge Co.'s Upper Mississippi River office by 8:30 am. I knew the three-hour drive had been worth it when I pulled up to the barge company’s office because the sturdy grey structure actually sits IN the Mighty Mississippi. I walked across an anchor barge that doubles as a pedestrian bridge to enter the office and passed by the R. Clayton McWhorter, a 45-foot tall, 140-foot long towboat with four decks.

MU veterinarian reports rise in equine pigeon fever

Nov 14, 2012
Nitzan Brumer / FLICKR

The lengthy drought this past summer in Missouri not only affected crops, but it's affecting horses, too.

Howard Audsley has been driving through Missouri for the past 30 years to assess the value of farmland. Barreling down the flat roads of Saline County on a recent day, he stopped his truck at a 160-acre tract of newly tilled black land. The land sold in February for $10,700 per acre, double what it would have gone for five years ago.

Heading out into the field, Audsley picked up a clod of the dirt that makes this pocket of land some of the priciest in the state.

Nuclear Winter/flickr

California voters defeated Proposition 37 [PDF] on Tuesday night, the ballot measure that would have required labels to indicate the presence of genetically modified foods. At the polls, 53 percent of Californians voted against the proposition, while 47 percent voted for it. 


Corn prices hit record highs this past August when they soared to over $8 a bushel, in large part because the drought hammering U.S. farms decimated corn stocks. Such prices were a windfall for Midwest farmers who actually had corn to sell. But could high corn prices hurt farmers if they drive buyers looking for cheaper grain and feed to South American farms?

bbum / Flickr

Missouri turkey hunters report taking nearly 8,500 birds last month, a 20 percent increase from October 2011.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

  Howard Audsley, who wears dark glasses and has his hair cut short in a crew cut, has been driving his Toyota truck through the state of Missouri for the past 30 years to assess the value of farmland. Barreling down the flat roads of Saline County, Mo., on a recent day, Audsley stopped his truck at a 160-acre tract of newly tilled black land. The land sold for $10,700 an acre last February, double what it would have gone for five years ago.

Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

When Congress recessed for the election season without passing a new farm bill, many observers thought farmers would demand explanations as campaign trails blazed through small towns. But despite its importance in farm country, the farm bill and farm policy are largely being overshadowed by other campaign issues.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

On Friday, I left the rolling hills of Columbia, Mo., and headed northwest, to the flat farmland of Saline County. The purpose of the drive was to get a look at the priciest cropland in Missouri for a story I'm doing on how investors with no connection to farmland are increasingly interested in buying acreage in the Midwest. I had heard from farmers and real estate brokers that cropland values were at all-time highs in the Corn Belt, and incredibly many of the tracts of land are being paid for in cash.

Charles Minshew / KBIA

Each July, the University of Missouri Extension sends out a survey to lenders, rural land appraisers and real estate brokers in the state to get a sense of average values for farmland. This past year, the counties with the most valuable farmland in the state -- those that average more than $5,000 per acre -- include Stoddard, Butler, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Dunklin, Saline, Carroll, Chariton, Pettis, Howard, Boone, Audrain, Callaway, Cooper, Scotland, Clark, Lewis, Marion and Ralls. 

File Image / KBIA News

Missouri hunters disagree over The Department of Conservation’s actions to combat Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, a neurological disease that affects deer.

Many free-range hunters support the actions, yet some breeders and preserve operators say they are being unnecessarily targeted for the spread of CWD. Former President of the MO Big Game Association and preserve operator Sam James said the Department of Conservation is blaming CWD on them because they do not like gaming preserves.

Hunters could help fight hunger

Oct 29, 2012
stoneystone68 / Flickr

Missouri hunters can fight hunger this hunting season. The Missouri Department of Conservation and the Conservation Federation of Missouri sponsor the Share the Harvest program, which helps fight hunger by allowing hunters to donate their deer meat to approved meat processors. The meat is then distributed to several food banks and local food pantries and given to those in need.

Illinois’ agricultural processing company Archer Daniels Midland, or ADM, has given one million dollars to the University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

Amy Mayer/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, Harvest Public Media's Amy Mayer spoke with Tom Kaspar, a plant physiologist at the National Lab for Agriculture and the Environment, about the importance of cover crops in how our food is grown.

Tech. Sgt. Oscar Sanchez USDA / Flickr

Flood protection projects are progressing on both sides of the Mississippi River in southeast Missouri and southern Illinois.

roundup resistance
Bob Hartzler / Iowa State University

Farmers and weeds are in a constant competition.

But with Monsanto’s introduction of Roundup herbicide and genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops in the mid-1990s, farmers gained a clear edge. The seeds, which were able to tolerate the herbicide, were adopted quickly. By 2011, more than 90 percent of soybeans and cotton, and more than 70 percent of corn were planted with Roundup Ready seeds.

File Photo / KBIA

Boonville’s livestock auction barn will re-open as the Missouri Valley Commission Company Tuesday, Oct. 23, under new ownership.

Jon Angell of Centralia owns the soon-to-be opened auction farm with his brother, Justin, and business partner, Mike VanMaanen.  Angell said with the previous owner, the company sold up to 60,000 head of cattle a year.

“There’s quite a need in this area to have a local barn for the cattlemen and farmers of the area to sell their livestock,” Angell said.