business beat

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media


Close to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture, food and natural resource sectors each year for the next five years, according to a report from Purdue University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The American agriculture industry has a problem though; there are not enough grads to fill them. The report projects about two open jobs for every qualified graduate. That’s left the USDA, land grant universities and private industry scrambling to try and bridge the gap.

Kamila Jambulatova/KBIA

This piece was produced in conjunction with Missouri Business Alert, a digital newsroom that provides business news from across the state of Missouri.

Charisa Slenker sold her first piece of jewelry when she was 15.

“I saw a little beading kit at Michaels and I decided I’d want to do that,” Slenker said. “So I bought that and I started making earrings and I would take them to school with me and sell them to my friends and teachers.”

Samantha Kummerer/KBIA

John Sam Williamson has been a farmer for more than 50 years. He knows his five grain bins stocked with corn and soybeans very well, but he also knows the risks.

“There’s a lot of danger to grain bins, but if you use them safely its like other things, gasoline is dangerous, sharp knives are dangerous but if you’re careful and do things safely you should be fine,” Williamson said.

One such danger is known as grain entrapment where a worker inside a grain bin is crushed, sometimes to death, by the grain.

Deana Hayes

This piece was produced in conjunction with Missouri Business Alert, a digital newsroom that provides business news from across the state of Missouri.  

After being diagnosed with HIV 18 years ago, Deana Hayes was so frustrated that she left Missouri. It took her three years to come back and confront the disease.

Jeremy Schmetterer / KBIA

Personal Energy Transportation International, or PET, built its first rough-terrain transportation device for people with leg disabilities 21 years ago. With 25 affiliate workshops around the country today, the international organization reached the milestone of 50,000 PETs this year.

Mel West is a 91-year-old pastor and an antipoverty activist. In 1994, he met Larry Hills, a Methodist missionary who told West about polio and land mine survivors he was helping aide in Zaire, Africa.

Katherine Hambrick / Missouri Business Alert

This piece was produced in conjunction with Missouri Business Alert, a digital newsroom that provides business news from across the state of Missouri.  

Billy Martin did not know what to expect before delivering his pitch on Friday, Sept. 18, to a group of judges and fellow entrepreneurs at the Techweek event in Kansas City.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

  Nilvio Aquino weaves through a tangled jungle of marijuana plants at an indoor grow facility in Denver.

“Throw your nose in there. It’s nice and pungent,” he said, pulling a seven-foot tall plant down to nose height at one of the company’s grow facilities.

Aquino, the lead grower for Sticky Buds, a chain of marijuana shops in Denver, is in his element among the plants. He’s like a proud gardener showing off blue ribbon varieties, bustling from plant to plant, picking out his favorites.

Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

In order to grow massive amounts of corn and soybeans, two crops at the center of the U.S. food system, farmers in the Midwest typically apply hundreds of pounds of fertilizer on every acre they farm. This practice allows food companies to produce, and consumers to consume, a lot of relatively cheap food.

But that fertilizer can leach through soil and wash off land, polluting our drinking water, destroying our fishing rivers, and turning a Connecticut-sized chunk of the Gulf of Mexico into an oxygen-depleted hypoxic zone, suffocating aquatic life.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

There will be no farm bill until Congress returns in the New Year. But it turns out, dairy prices won’t surge on January 1st as some farm bill supporters have suggested. Harvest Public Media’s Grant Gerlock reports.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will travel to China this week. It’s a trade visit that happens every year, but this time there is added interest for American farmers. China has rejected 5 loads of corn from the U.S. in recent weeks. The corn contained an insect-resistant trait from the seed company, Syngenta, that’s approved in the U.S. but not China.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Coming up we’ll check in with some farm families about their surprising amount corn crop this year.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

It’s about that time of year when hog farmers begin the annual process of pumping a year’s worth of manure out of the pits under their barns. The nutrient-rich slurry will fertilize cropland. But there’s an ongoing problem in these pits: a mysterious foam that sometimes forms on the manure. As Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer explains, no one quite understands why gases get trapped in the pits, but the foam has been causing explosions. That’s right; this is a story about exploding manure pits.

columbia city hall
File Photo / KBIA

Columbia City Council members approved stricter requirements for a controversial potential housing development near Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. KBIA’s Kate Grumke reports dozens of residents spoke up about their concerns at Monday’s meeting.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

When a group of small farmers in the southeastern U.S. banded together to sue a powerful dairy cooperative a few years ago, many hoped that the case would bring big changes to the milk industry.

But the recent settlement of the case involving Kansas City-based Dairy Farmers of America Inc., resulted in little long-term reform, even as the farmers received some monetary damages.

Lukas Udstuen / KBIA

The most recent U.S. census shows the nation’s population is in flux. While some cities across the country are growing, many small towns are dwindling. KBIA’s Lukas Udstuen takes us to Goss, one of the smallest towns in Missouri. You might miss it if it weren’t for a few road signs marking its location along Route 24 in Monroe County. And you’re most likely out of luck if you stop in Goss for directions because the 2010 Census reported the town has zero residents.

Check out more details about how Goss came about and see an audio slide show here.

Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

Later, we check in with a revised Environmental Protection Agency standard that could help some wastewater treatment facilities struggling to comply with part of the Clean Water Act’s deadline.

Kristofor Husted / KBIA

Coming up we’ll take a look at how the drought affected an outdoor industry completely dependent on water. But first, the United States 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. As Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports, the claims process is complex—but the payouts could be large.

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

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.

Program teaches financial lessons to foster care youth

Dec 27, 2012
File Photo / KBIA

Foster care can be difficult for many reasons: stress on the family, forced assimilation into a new environment for the child and a lack of resources can create problems for those in the system. But what you don’t always hear about is what happens to the kids who age out of the system at 18.

These teenagers are often thrown into an adult world with adult problems, including how to make ends meet. But, one St. Louis foundation is helping teach the former foster children the financial lessons to succeed after foster care.

images_of_money / Flickr

Had a hamburger lately? The cow it came from likely passed through a feedlot – a huge farm that fattens cattle before they’re slaughtered. The thousands of cattle housed at a feedlot produce tons and tons of waste. That manure can be used as a valuable fertilizer. But if it’s not properly disposed, it could lead to an environmental disaster. In Day 4 of Harvest Public Media’s series, America’s Big Beef, Jeremy Bernfeld reports.

Pat Blank / Iowa Public Radio

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, many people have begun to deck the halls, gorge on delectable dishes, and send out greeting cards. Well, that last one might become trickier for some rural residents soon. That’s because the United States Postal Service is moving ahead to reduce the hours of thousands of post offices across the country.  Jennifer Davidson has this report from a rural Ozarks community.

Rural post offices prepare for reduction of hours

Nov 28, 2012
Jennifer Davidson / KSMU

A tiny post office sits in Pomona, Mo. It’s a very small, white plaster concrete building with a flagpole to the side.

Pomona is in a rural area in south central Missouri.  This is one of the many post offices across the United States in an effort to save money by the US Postal Service.

“I think all of the smaller offices in this area—they’re all going to that, because, you know, there’s a lot of lag time,” says Anna Carnefix, the postmaster relief for the Pomona office.

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.”

Holiday season yields more volunteering in Columbia

Nov 16, 2012
Yiqian Zhang / KBIA

With the holidays quickly approaching, people are busier than ever trying to help feed others in need during the holiday season.

Kristofor Husted / KBIA

By most accounts, Missouri is a pink state.

Not red. Not blue. Pink.

But, when thousands of small business owners in Missouri were asked which candidate was more supportive of small business, 35 percent chose President Barack Obama, 24 percent picked Gov. Mitt Romney, and 41 percent said they were unsure. (That’s from a recent George Washington University and Thumbtack poll.)

Kristofor Husted / KBIA

Countdown to Election Day is upon us.

And while business development continues to surge as a hot topic this campaign season, the expired farm bill seems to have disappeared off candidates' radars completely. Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer has this report on just how much candidates are talking farm farm country.

By most accounts, Missouri is a pink state.

Not red. Not blue. Pink.

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.

Fighting for food

Oct 24, 2012
Produce aisle of grocery store
File Photo / KBIA

When it comes to the business of food, there’s a rivalry around every corner. You’ve got fights for prime farmland, wars over water use, even buying food at the grocery store has its competition with household bills encroaching on family budgets for the shopping list.

Samantha Sunne / KBIA

Water use has become a hot issue among Midwest farmers after this summer's drought. Nebraska irrigates more acres of farmland than any other state in the nation. Kansas is also near the top. And that Irrigation infrastructure helped some farmers keep the drought at bay this year. Their fields stayed green long after others withered away. But as Grant Gerlock reports for Harvest Public Media, using so much water now may force some farmers to use less water in the future.

Lukas Udstuen / KBIA

As a 5-piece band wound its way through an acoustic set of music, guests slowly shuffled into the “Inside the Walls” festival at the Missouri State Penitentiary. To the southwest, the main entrance to the prison towered over the festival.

Charles Vaughan used to live in a house across the street. He remembers the 1954 riots, which were the worst in the history of the penitentiary. Vaughan remembers his dad and brother were on top of a nearby building with guns.

“There was a big fire going on," he said. "My mom was keeping me in the house which upset me because I wanted to get on the roof and my mom was piling furniture right in front of the front door.”

But now the penitentiary looks much lonelier. Its paint peels. Some of its buildings have been torn down. In fact — of those that remain, some parts are even off limits to tours – this is due to a process Steve Picker calls “demolition by neglect.” He’s the former executive director of the Jefferson City Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Currently, the USDA expects the prices of beef, pork, poultry and dairy to shoot up five percent next year. You can blame the drought for a lot of that increase as this summer a lot of small livestock producers are struggling just to stay in business. A version of this story ran on KBIA's Business Beat, a weekly program about business and economics in mid-Missouri.