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.


At this country store and café along Highway 63, local farmers, retired professors, blue-collar workers and families gather for breakfast every morning. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Sandhya Dirks / Iowa Public Radio

The presidential candidates have yet to meet in a face-to-face debate. But last week in Des Moines, Iowa, ag leaders witnessed a preview of sorts during a Presidential Forum on Agriculture held in advance of the annual meeting of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.


Heavy rains from Hurricane Isaac provided relief to some – but not all – farmers and ranchers in the drought-stricken Midwest, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s weekly report, which came out on Thursday.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Thousands of farmers from the heartland braved the 97-degree heat in Boone, Iowa on Wednesday for the 2012 Farm Progress Show.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Brandt Dairy sits on Swan Creek at the end of a meandering gravel road in Linn, Missouri. The farm is bucolic with its twin silos, red barn and black-and-white Holstein cows. But the brown pastures, dry river bed and burnt corn fields are a reminder that there have been less than two inches of rain here in the last two months.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

Farmers growing crops have insurance to ward off the financial failure of their season during this terrible drought. But there’s no safety net like that in place for livestock producers. And any emergency aid is tied up in Washington politics.

The rock and the hard place where Stacey McCallister now sits looks like this:

Rock: McCallister’s herd of 200 dairy cattle in south central Missouri have feed for about the next 60 days.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Wes and Simone Sorenson pledged to donate their house and the 400 acre farm it sits on 10 years ago, but the University wouldn’t take ownership until after they had died. Wes died in May, and now the University is discussing how to best use the land.

Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

On this week's show, we'll hear about how immigrant populations are filling a gap in agricultural labor.

Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

Sioux County, in northwest Iowa, is known for its Dutch pastries. The landscape is dotted with Lutheran and reform churches.  But today, Catholic churches and tortillerias are creeping into the landscape — signs of the new residents joining this vibrant community.

In Sioux County, as in a scattering of communities across the Midwest, Hispanic immigrants are working in meat processing plants, dairies, egg-laying facilities and hog barns. In fact, the majority of U.S. farm laborers today were born outside the U.S.

Newscast for April 18, 2012

Apr 18, 2012

Regional news coverage from the KBIA News room, including:

  • Ryan Ferguson hearing continues in Jefferson City.
  • More on confirmed e. coli. cases in Missouri.
  • Missouri House endorses law making undercover filming of agriculture facilities a crime.

The Missouri House has endorsed legislation seeking to make it a crime for undercover activists to produce videos portraying poor conditions at agricultural facilities.

Watch the show and join the conversation on the Intersection website.

Harum Helmy / KBIA

How do consumers make decisions about what they consume? And, how are the various stakeholders attempting to shape those thoughts about food? Host Reuben Stern spoke with four experts with diverse views about the messages and motives behind these controversies in this special Intersection event, 

Members of a Missouri National Guard Agribusiness Development Team have received a sendoff from Gov. Jay Nixon as they prepare for deployment to Afghanistan.

Eric Durban / Harvest Public Media

Missouri State Treasurer Clint Zweifel has announced a new financial assistance package for beginning farmers trying to make their way in an expensive industry.

Big trucks on small roads

Jan 25, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Cattlemen in Missouri are backing a bill in the House that would increase weight limits for hauling livestock on the state's highways. But department of transportation engineers worry heavier trucks would damage already-strained rural roads.

File Photo / KBIA

River flooding is expected to be a major topic at the upcoming Missouri Governor's Conference on Agriculture. (AP)

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt says Missouri agricultural research will not see a reduction in funding next year.

Regional news coverage from the KBIA Newsroom, including:

  • U.S. Senator Claire Mc Caskill to visit Columbia.
  • Bison Arrive in North Missouri.
  • Mid-Missouri Farmers Voicing Concerns about May's flood.


Some of the rarest of all North American Bison have now arrived at their new home in north Missouri.


This week, we sit down with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to discuss the American jobs act. Plus, advancements in ice-cream technology.

Hosted by Kyle Deas.