Agriculture

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

It’s not every day that a trip to the drug store can change your destiny.

For 20-year-old Nan Arnold, it was a day in 1956 in Ashland, a small, dusty dot on the open range of western Kansas near the Oklahoma border.

Nan had landed her first job as a music teacher at the Ashland school just a year before. She lived with the store’s owner because her parents thought she was too young to live alone.  

U-pick blackberry
Camille Philips / Harvest Public Media

Picking fruit, tasting wine, petting a goat, roping a cow. When customers pay for the honor of taking on such farm chores ... or delights … it’s called “agritourism.”

More money is being put into an emergency program to aid farmers and ranchers battling water shortages in Missouri.

Governor Jay Nixon (D) has added $5 million to the $2 million set aside for crop and livestock producers who want to drill new wells or deepen existing ones during the ongoing drought.  More than 600 applications have been sent in since the program’s announcement on Tuesday.

Drought puts cows in Midwest at risk of nitrate poisoning

Jul 26, 2012

Junior Roberts’ cows near Billmore, Missouri, are lucky. The grass they’re grazing on just tested negative for high levels of nitrate. But Roberts says he’s not through testing his 1,400 acres, and he knows that many farmers are selling off their herds rather than pay for alternative foods for their cattle.

“You’d be better off to sell them then to turn them in on a field where they’re gonna lay down and die,” he says. “It’s a problem if that’s all they’ve got left to eat and it’s poison. It ain’t gonna do them no good. You’re gonna lose them plum completely.”

faucet
Jenn Durfey / flickr

Farmers and other property owners in a southwestern Missouri village are being offered free water to fight grass fires amid continuing heat and drought.

KOLR-TV reports the Lawrence County village of Freistatt announced plans Wednesday to provide water to anyone living within a three-mile radius. Those taking advantage of the offer must have a portable tank to hold 3,000 to 5,000 gallons.

The water can be used only to prevent or fight grass fires.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

As the dry conditions and excessive heat continue to bear down on Missouri, Governor Jay Nixon was in Springfield Tuesday to announce emergency assistance for farmers who need access to water.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Tuesday that it will restore the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway to its original height by the end of this year.

The Mississippi River Commission made the decision last week, according to Army Corps spokesperson Jim Pogue: “Our level of confidence in our ability to finish this work this year is real high. We’ve had good weather, good river stages and assuming that the contractor continues to make good progress and our other work in the confluence area goes well, we’ll be right on track.”

KBIA File Photo

Gov. Jay Nixon is urging Missouri soil and water districts to allow farmers to briefly graze their animals on livestock exclusion areas.

Andrea Silenzi / Harvest Public Media

This is the first installment of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s new series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land.

Kate Edwards hasn’t always been a farmer. No, she came back to the farm after college, grad school and a stint as an environmental engineer.

Now, she farms a small one-acre plot near Solon, Iowa. On her small farm, she feeds 30 families through a Community Supported Agriculture project, a CSA. Edwards was drawn back to farming, she says, because of family memories.

USACE Public Affairs / Flickr

The Army Corps of Engineers visited Cairo, Illinois on yesterday to check on reconstruction projects following last year’s devastating floods. The Corps will invest more than $100 million toward flood protection systems at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

Heat stress? Now there's a cow app for that

Jul 18, 2012
Scott Pham / KBIA

When a cow is stressed from the heat, it affects a producer’s bottom line. The animal eats less, meaning less mass in beef cattle. For dairy farmers, the hurt comes in the form of a 10 to 20 percent loss in milk. Researchers at the University of Missouri think we can change this trend by putting information in the hands of producers. They’ve built a tool that can detect the threat of heat stress in specific animals before it starts.

Hoop barns becoming more common in Midwest

Jul 18, 2012
Rick Frederickson / for Harvest Public Media

Crops are not the only things wilting in the sweltering summer of 2012; cattle, the largest animals, on the farm are also under stress.

Updated with comments from McCaskill conference call.

The entire state of Missouri is now a federal agriculture disaster area.

Seventeen of the state's counties, mostly in the Bootheel, had already received that declaration. Today's announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture extends that declaration to the other 97 counties and the city of St. Louis.

jay nixon
File Photo / KBIA

Gov. Jay Nixon is traveling the state to survey damage from Missouri's hot, dry summer.

Nixon planned to meet with farmers and local officials Tuesday in Lewis County in northeast Missouri, in Atchison County in northwest Missouri and in Polk County in southwest Missouri. The governor is to be joined by the state's agriculture director.

drought
Kecko / Flickr

Missouri agriculture officials are using social media to share information about this summer's lack of rain, extreme heat and wildfires.

The University of Missouri Extension is encouraging people and groups to post on a Facebook page devoted to the drought. It's the latest effort to use Facebook to respond to disasters.

Facebook pages also were set up after last year's flooding and the tornados in Joplin and Branson.

Missouri Department of Conservation

Missouri’s elk population appears to be settling into their new home state, according to state conservation officials.

Dr. Joseph Millspaugh updated the Missouri Conservation Commission Friday on the state’s elk herd, which he said seems to be doing well.

“Evidence of survival rates [and] reproductive rates that are average to high, we see diet quality certainly within the range of what we would expect…the stress response:  nothing there that is indicative of a problem,” said Millspaugh.

A crop duster plane has crashed in north-central Missouri, killing the pilot.

The Columbia Daily Tribune reports that the crash occurred Friday morning in Randolph County when the small plane crashed into a corn field north of Huntsville.

Randolph County Sheriff Mark Nichols says the victim's name hasn't been released.

Nichols says a witness told deputies the small plane appeared to have clipped a tree top before crashing.

Farmers talk drought at MU field day

Jul 13, 2012
drought farm field soybeans
Camille Phillips / Harvest Public Media

Missouri is in the midst of the worst drought since 1988 – that was the buzz on the MU campus yesterday, as more than 200 farmers and researchers gathered for the annual Pest Management Field Day. Although they came to learn about the latest research on pesticides and herbicides, conversation frequently turned to the bone-dry conditions on Missouri's farms.

The Man Who Roped Investors Into A Cattle Con

Jul 12, 2012

What do you get if you combine the Ponzi-scheme of Bernie Madoff with a wily Midwestern rancher?

While Madoff's mastermind plan was becoming clear in New York, out in tiny Howard County, Mo., there was another crook who was swindling dozens of farmers across the country.

For two years, mustachioed and smooth-talking Kevin Ray Asbury ran a racket that went a little something like this: He lured customers with top-shelf Angus cattle. They would buy into the herd, or sell their own for breeding.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

LITTLE RIVER, Kan. – Before this town was here, before the railroads were here, before a post office was here, the Hodgsons were here.

In 1871, Hannah and Henry Clay Hodgson moved into a one-room dugout on the banks of the Little Arkansas, their view an Indian camp on the other side of the river. They arrived in central Kansas in November, in the midst of a blizzard, and it took them three days from the train stop in Salina to get the 60 miles south to this outpost.

cornfield
bionicteaching / Flickr

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is streamlining the process for farmers to apply for government disaster help as crops in many states burn up in the widest drought in nearly 25 years.

Drought conditions prompt disaster declaration request

Jul 10, 2012

Gov. Jay Nixon has asked the federal government to declare 114 Missouri counties agriculture disaster areas because of drought conditions.

Nixon's office says in a release that if the counties are designated as agriculture disasters, farmers in those counties would be able to receive assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency. The federal aid would also include emergency loans for losses to crops and livestock from the ongoing drought.

Farmers + Engineers = Farm Hack

Jul 4, 2012
Clare Roth / Harvest Public Media

"Hack” isn’t a word usually associated with agriculture, but that might be starting to change. A group of small farmers across the country has started to come together to pool their ideas for solutions to small-farming challenges, just like computer hackers working together to solve computer issues. They call it Farm Hack.

molamoni / Flickr

High heat and a lack of rain have taken a big toll on Missouri corn and soybean crops, with nearly half of both reported in poor to very poor condition.

frog legs
Chewy Chua / Flickr

And it’s time again to get out your frog net -- Missouri frogging season opens at sunset Saturday.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the public comment period is ending for the Jameson Island project near Arrow Rock – the project is intended to improve Missouri River wildlife habitat at a site in central Missouri. The public comment period ends Saturday.

Enzyme factory mixes into ethanol's future

Jun 27, 2012
Grant Gerlock / NET

Inside a new facility in Blair, Neb., north of Omaha, a gleaming maze of steel tubes connect a line of giant fermentation tanks that will cultivate some of the most advanced biotechnology in the ethanol industry.

Farm service assesses impact of heat wave

Jun 26, 2012
drought
Kecko / Flickr

The Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency is beginning an assessment of damages inflicted upon Missouri livestock and crops by recent high temperatures across the state.

Is the agriculture industry being bullied?

Jun 13, 2012
Sandhya Dirks / Harvest Public Media

There is a culture war raging in the heartland. It’s not about abortion or religion or gay marriage, it’s about how food is produced in this country.

As in any war, language is playing a big role. Take, for instance, the way Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad defended the beef product that came to be known as “pink slime.”

“It’s just tragic that people use smear language against products,” Branstad said. “We would never let people smear somebody because of who/what they look like, or their race, or their religion.”

Farmers and environmentalists faced off at a hearing today in Jefferson City over a water project on the Missouri River west of Boonville.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to build a new chute at Jameson Island designed to protect the pallid sturgeon and other native fish species.  Building it would involve dredging along the Missouri River, and the Corps wants to dump the sediment back into the river.  The move is strongly opposed by farm interests.  Dale Ludwig with the Missouri Soybean Association says up to a million cubic yards of sediment could be dumped into the Missouri River.

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