Agriculture

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

 

    

As farmers across the Midwest have simplified the landscape and plowed up grassland to grow more corn and soybeans, habitat for pheasants, quail and other grassland birds has become increasingly scarce and their numbers are falling.

In Nebraska, wild pheasant concentrations have fallen 86 percent since their peak in the 1960s. The pheasant harvest during hunting season in Iowa is off 63 percent from the highs reached in the 1970s. In areas that used to be overrun, you’ll struggle to find a pheasant now.

monsanto
stevecadman / Flickr

A federal judge has denied a motion for a new trial from a north Mississippi company sued by Missouri-based Monsanto for saving seeds from one harvest and planting them the following season.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mills ruled this week that Mitchell and Eddie Scruggs owe Monsanto Co. $6.3 million damages as a jury found in 2010. Prejudgment interest dating back to 2000 has increased the amount to $8.9 million.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

A new labeling rule that went into full effect Saturday requires meatpackers and retailers to provide consumers with more information about where their meat comes from.

The country-of-origin labeling mandate (COOL) forces retailers and meatpackers to list where the livestock from which that meat came was born, raised and slaughtered. It applies to certain cuts of beef, veal, chicken, pork, lamb and goat sold in the supermarket. Processed, deli and ground meats are exempt from the new rules.

Peter Gray/Harvest Public Media

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

Peter Gray/Harvest Public Media
Peter Gray/Harvest Public Media

This Thanksgiving, hungry families all over the country will finish off their holiday meal with a little slice of the Midwest. That’s because the vast majority of all pumpkin that comes from a can and winds up in a pie got its start on a vine in Illinois.

Pumpkin patches are popular destinations for families seeking fall fun, and you’ll find roadside farm stands all over the country. But this is big business in Illinois, where farmers feed canning factories hungry for special kind of pumpkin that looks nothing like those you see on Halloween.

Macon County food pantry opens in new location

Nov 18, 2013
vegetables
Martin Cathrae / Flickr

A Macon county community food pantry is set to open up shop in a new spot Tuesday. 

The larger space for Macon County Ministries Emergency Food Pantry and Monthly Food Distribution should make it possible for the organization to store a wider variety of food, including fresh produce, for its growing number of clients. Emergency Food Pantry Coordinator Linda Truitt says the new facility and its amenities will give clients more choices.

“We’re going to be able to offer much better food, a better quality, more nutritious, better variety and all of the above,” Truitt said. 

Creative Commons

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

Joel Salatin has become one of the rock stars of the local food movement. He’s written books, appeared in documentaries and schedules speaking engagements nationwide. Among foodies, he’s a celebrity.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

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

For our special series “In the Shadows of the Slaughterhouse,” Reporter Peggy Lowe and I interviewed immigrant children in Noel, Mo., and Garden City, Kan., whose parents work for Tyson Foods poultry and beef plants.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Hot-button food issues of the day, such as the use of genetically modified organisms or the treatment of livestock, tend to pit large industries against smaller activist groups. Often, both sides will claim the science supports what they are saying. That can leave consumers, most of whom aren’t scientists, in a bit of a bind.

Produce aisle of grocery store
File Photo / KBIA

Limited access to nutritious food is an issue facing rural communities in Missouri and the nation at large, according to University of Missouri specialists. 

horse
gnuru / Flickr

An order barring a return to domestic horse slaughter has expired. And an attorney for plants in New Mexico and Missouri says they are preparing to open.

Blair Dunn, who represents Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, N.M., and Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin, Mo., says a temporary restraining order in a lawsuit by animal protection groups trying to block the plants expired Thursday night without a ruling from a federal judge in Albuquerque.

Officials at the Missouri Cattlemen's Association say the state's former agriculture director made threats toward them after he was displeased with a magazine article.

Jon Hagler was replaced earlier this month as head of the Agriculture Department with little explanation from Gov. Jay Nixon. The move came one day after another high-ranking employee, Beth Ewers, resigned while distributing a letter saying Hagler created a work environment of "hostility, disrespect, intimidation and fear."

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Three days a week, First Baptist Church in Noel, Mo., becomes a school for about 100 immigrants and refugees who work at the Tyson poultry plant. English language and citizenship classes are held in four small rooms in a building behind the church. One of the youngest students here, Soe Soe, is an 18-year-old Burmese refugee who debones chicken at the plant from 4:30 PM until 2 or 3 each morning.

“I really don’t like it. I’d like to go to school and learn more English. But I have problems, like nobody working in my house, nobody paying for rent,” he said.

immigrants in school
Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

The largest slaughterhouses in the US were once located in major metropolitan areas. But they have relocated. Now many remote rural communities are struggling to serve the needs of new immigrant and refugee populations who are the backbone of America's meatpacking plants.

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

In the Shadows of the Slaughterhouse, part 3: Since large meatpacking plants left big cities like Kansas City and Chicago, rural Midwestern towns have been dealing with a huge influx of immigrants and refugees and their children. Many of these kids are hoping to achieve the American Dream by moving out of the shadows and into a bright future.

Not yet 9 a.m. on a warm fall day, freshmen Binh Hua and My Nguyen are in protective goggles, long hair pulled back, ready for their chemistry class in a Garden City Community College lab.

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

In the Shadows of the Slaughterhouse, part 2: Immigrant communities have sprung up around the meatpacking plant in Garden City, Kan., and while change hasn't been easy, city leaders have built a strong grassroots network supporting and embracing the town’s cultural evolution and its youngest citizens.

GARDEN CITY, Kan. — Sister Janice Thome’s office is a 2003 brown Ford Focus with a backseat piled high with paperwork and a prayer book.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

In the Shadows of the Slaughterhouse, part 1: Attracted to stable jobs in the meatpacking industry, communities of immigrants are springing up across rural America. Many small, rural towns, however, struggle to provide much more than instruction.

It’s almost 9 a.m., and Noel Primary School teacher Erin McPherson is helping a group of Spanish-speaking students complete English language exercises. But it’s tough going.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

 

Nancy Friesen sat nervously at the controls of a giant John Deere combine that made the corn stalks look like match sticks. It was her second day in the driver’s seat of the giant machine and she normally works in the garden, not the field. But during harvest time, everyone in the family pitches in.

File Image / KBIA News

Conservation officials in Missouri want deer hunters to take precautions this fall in order to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. CWD cases are so far limited to a containment zone in north central Missouri, with the state’s first documented case occurring three years ago.

Joe Jerek with the state Conservation Department said hunters should wear latex gloves when field-dressing a deer.

cantaloupe
News21 / flickr

Two Colorado farmers admitted to causing the deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in a decade Tuesday. Jensen Farms, located in Colorado, was the source of the outbreak that killed 33 people nationwide and sickened seven in Missouri.

In front of a federal judge, brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen pleaded guilty for the listeria outbreak linked back to their cantaloupe farm. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for January. 

Kate Grumke / KBIA

Arborists and tree lovers from across Missouri joined together Tuesday to care for the famous "Big Tree," just South of Columbia, a Bur Oak that is hundreds of years old- and starting to show its age.

Ranchers turn to guard donkeys to fend off predators

Oct 16, 2013
Heather Adams / KBIA

Wild dogs, coyotes and bobcats have always been a threat to farmers who raise sheep and goats. Traditionally, people think of getting dogs to protecting these flocks. But there is another option that’s becoming more popular among farmers -- guard donkeys.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

In recent years, farmers in the Midwest have transformed millions of acres of prairie grass to rows of corn. High crop prices are a big motivation, but some also believe crop insurance is encouraging farmers to roll the dice on less productive land.

Rod Christen and his sister Kay farm corn, soybeans and wheat on their land near the small town of Steinauer, Neb. But their main crop is grass.

“Big bluestem is our big producer,” said Rod Christen. “It’s kind of our Cadillac grass.”

flickr/ingridtaylar

The government shutdown is creating a backlog of chemicals needed to produce the steady supply of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides American farmers count on to keep pests from destroying their crops.

Frank Morris/Harvest Public Media

Normally, Friday, Oct. 11, would be a big day for the commodity markets. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Report is due, providing what is widely excepted to be the most trusted and complete snapshot of farm markets in the middle of harvest season.

But, with the government shut down the report is not coming out. In fact, farmers and ranchers aren’t getting any of the USDA information they rely on, and in this case, ignorance is not bliss.  

Sen. Blunt asks corps to halt fish habitat project

Oct 10, 2013
Missouri River at Rocheport
File Photo / KBIA

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt has added his voice to those urging the Army Corps of Engineers to halt a Missouri River project intended to create a habitat for endangered fish.

Corn disease declines in corn belt, spreads to new areas

Oct 10, 2013
cornfield
Peter Blanchard / Flickr

The dry conditions of the past two growing seasons may have frustrated many Missouri corn farmers, but it may have had at least one positive effect on their crop. A corn disease that peaked in 2011 has been on the wane.

Until recently, Goss’s Wilt was confined to eastern Colorado and western Nebraska. Then, beginning in 2008, it moved eastward, infecting farms across the corn belt. Iowa State University plant pathologist Alison Robertson says modern hybrid corn varieties may be to blame for the resurgence. 

An outbreak of salmonella linked to raw chicken is spreading across the country. But, the partial government shutdown could make it tougher to track.

More than 270 people have been sickened across 18 states. But when you call the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food safety information office, you hear a recorded message saying: “Hello, you have reached the congressional and public affairs staff. We are not in the office at this time. We are on furlough due a lapse in federal government funding.”

cornfield
bionicteaching / Flickr

Missouri lawmakers are weighing a challenge to a proposed rule that could allow greater amounts of ethanol in gasoline.

Government shutdown slows USDA

Oct 3, 2013
USDA Headquarters
brittreints / Flickr

  The U.S. Department of Agriculture was forced to send home tens of thousands of employees because of Tuesday’s government shutdown.

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