Business news

Eva Dou / KBIA

This week: Columbia’s biggest export to China isn’t corn, soybeans, or any manufactured product.  It’s scrap metal.  In fact trade experts are calling Columbia’s export “waste and scrap.” Plus, find out how one farmer is still shifting through the aftermath after losing hundreds of acres of farmland.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Scott Olson is getting ready to plant corn and soybeans, but he wonders if anything will grow.


Missouri lawmakers are aiming to attract large economic development projects with a new type of incentive modeled on a strategy used elsewhere.

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

Columbia could be the next city in Missouri to bring natural gas fuel to residents.

Flickr / Natalie Maynor

The new bus route that goes from the M-U student center to the Columbia Farmers Market has yet to attract many passengers.

Eva Dou / KBIA

At this scrap yard in north Columbia, it’s easy to think the piles of rusty metal and old machine parts are, well, just junk.

But these broken motors and tangled copper wire are actually one of Missouri’s biggest links to China. China may be a hot target these days for U.S. manufacturers looking for a market to sell their products, but the fastest growing American export to China last year was actually what trade experts call “waste and scrap.”

MayTag Square / Flickr

Shoppers have a few days to save a few dollars on appliances bought in Missouri, thanks to temporary state tax break.

Trying to keep rural towns alive

Apr 19, 2012
WenDee Rowe LaPlant / Kansas Sampler Foundation

This week on the show, people in rural areas are trying to figure out how to keep youth – and jobs – in their areas. Plus, college graduates could have a better opportunity getting a job than graduates have in the past.

Trying to keep rural towns alive

Apr 19, 2012
WenDee Rowe LaPlant / Kansas Sampler Foundation

This week on the show, people in rural areas are trying to figure out how to keep youth – and jobs – in their areas. Plus, college graduates could have a better opportunity getting a job than graduates have in the past.

Rural America is fighting for its survival

Apr 18, 2012
WenDee Rowe LaPlant / Kansas Sampler Foundation

The 2010 Census found that the share of people in rural areas over the past decade fell to 16 percent, passing the previous low of 20 percent in 2000. The rural population is aging, and young people are moving away.

Missouri added about 4,800 jobs in March as its unemployment rate remained steady.

The head of a Columbia Chamber of Commerce task force trying to find ways to improve air travel in Mid-Missouri says it will consider a smaller hotel tax increase, now that a larger one has appeared to stall. Greg Steinhoff says hotel owners in Columbia weren’t thrilled with the idea of a 3 percent increase to the hotel tax, with the proceeds to be used for airport upgrades. But now that an organization representing those owners has said it would support a 1 percent hotel tax increase, Steinhoff says his task force will try to figure out how far that money would go.

Council to discuss Westwood Avenue trees issue

Apr 16, 2012

The Columbia City Council will review the removal of trees on Westwood Avenue tonight.

Business Beat: Railroad Looking to Roll Again

Apr 11, 2012
Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

This week: Find out how one community is going back in time to move businesses forward.  Plus, what dairy farmers want more protection in the 2012 Farm Bill.

Railroad Looking to Roll Again

Apr 11, 2012
Dean Borg / Harvest Public Media

It’s been seven years since folks around Forest City, Iowa, have heard a train whistle on the nearby tracks. But Iowa Northern locomotives will soon be switching railcars alongside the towering grain silos at the town’s co-op elevator.

Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

Many dairymen are calling the government price support system broken, but just how to fix it isn't clear. There's debate over how much the government should step in to help in tough times and as to what degree it should let the free market govern.  

forwardstl / flickr

A decrease in the percent of Missourians who are unemployed has led to the cancellation of the extended benefits unemployment program.

Columbia says no to multi-space parking meters

Apr 9, 2012

The City of Columbia Public Works Department recently decided to end the trial period for multi-space parking meters on Ninth Street from between Broadway and Locust.

New bus route to Columbia Farmers Market

Apr 9, 2012

Last Saturday was the first day of a new bus route that takes passengers from the University of Missouri Student Center to the Columbia Farmers Market.

Some Missourians lose unemployment benefit

Apr 9, 2012

Missourians are no longer eligible for the Extended Benefit (EB) unemployment program because the States unemployment rate has dropped.

The jobless rate for veterans remains high, but a Missouri program is making inroads in changing that.

Business Beat: Govenors Back Beef Trimmings

Apr 6, 2012

This week: U.S. farmers made over 98 billion dollars last year, and consumers are upset about "lean beef trimmings," but governors are trying to diffuse the situation.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

It’s a long way from Forget-Me-Not Farms to the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka.

Business Beat: March 21, 2012

Apr 6, 2012
Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

This week: A Fulton developer plans to break ground on a biodiesel factory this spring. The project’s been in the works for five years, and find out why U.S. farmers are pushing for state sanctioned work programs for illegal immigrants. 

Big Stock Image

The risk of a pathogen release at the controversial National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility being built in Manhattan, Kan., is much less than originally calculated, according to a new, much-anticipated report from the Department of Homeland Security.

Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

No matter your personal opinion on the subject, talk of climate usually conjures up images of warming, floods and rising sea levels.  Those are some ecological changes predicted from coast to coast.

In the Midwest, the few degrees of warming has actually benefited agriculture, on average. But in California – where they grow more than 200 crops, including perennials such as walnuts and apricots – some crops could be adversely affected.  Plus, California farmers also have new climate change regulations to contend with, which worry many growers more than the weather.

Rising temperatures

To produce a robust walnut crop, you need the right weather, according to California walnut grower Russ Lester, whose family has been farming in the state since the 1860s.  He is concerned about how the rising temperatures could affect his walnut crops.

Climate change predictions in his neck of the woods show 1 to 2 degrees of warming. And much of that warming is happening in the winter. That could be a problem.

"Walnuts actually do need a certain amount of what we call chilling hours," Lester said.

He's referring to the thousand or so hours of temperatures below 45 degrees that the trees need for winter dormancy. The cold weather actually triggers the plant to bloom vigorously in the spring. Unlike with some trees, in walnuts, the male and female flowers are separate, so having the blooms all open at once is vital.   

"If we don’t have it overlapping during the right time period, then the pollen won't pollinate the female flower or floret," Lester said. "That's why the chill is important, that's the trigger. If we don't get adequate chilling, what happens is then you get this staggered bloom."

Chill hours are a real concern for walnuts and almonds, some fruit trees like apricots and even for wine grapes, which are grown in various parts of California.  Not only that, Lester said that he's concerned about what he calls "weather weirdness" he's been observing.  For example, he said last year there was a freak frost in early June, which is a good month-and-a-half later than the region has had frosts in many years. Many of his walnut buds were damaged and Lester had lower yields.

Weird weather

As Lester indicated, warmer winters aren’t the only concern climate change could bring to the region. Plant and environmental scientist Louise Jackson of the University of California Davis said models also predict higher levels of carbon dioxide in the air. The combined effect of all these possible changes is unclear.

"Mean temperature increases might be easier to cope with than with extreme events,” Jackson said. “Heat waves and heat waves at elevated carbon dioxide levels are kind of an unknown."

But climate scientists aren’t just focusing on temperatures.

"Another issue that we really have to face in California is drought, whether or not we're dealing with gradual drought or a combination of drought plus heat wave," Jackson said.  "So there are a lot of unknowns."

Most farmers in California irrigate their crops, but there is concern that warming and less snow would reduce the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  That would mean less melt to replenish reservoirs.

Fears bigger than the weather

Scientists are probing for more information. But the question is: Are farmers worried about these climate change predictions?

"All the predictions about what the future climate change is going to do to agriculture are just that –predictions, at this point," said farmer Bruce Rominger. "I'm one that believes we have affected the climate and it is getting warmer, but I'm not sure what the effects will be on my operation, so I'm not doing things right now in anticipation of this. I mean there's so much natural variation in weather here."

Romginer farms about 5,000 acres with his brother, Rick, in Yolo County near Davis. They don't like to put all of their eggs in one basket, so they grow processing tomatoes, rice, wheat, alfalfa, corn, sunflowers, safflower, wine grapes, seed onions and they're even starting to raise sheep. 

Like many farmers in California, Rominger already made changes to improve water efficiency. He has installed underground tubes with drip irrigation in many of his fields. That can greatly reduce both water use and fertilizer use, because it sends the water and nutrients right where they're needed.

Still, that was an economic decision.

“The reality is farmers follow the markets,” Rominger said. “We look at annual profit loss, that's what drives us."

Starting this year, businesses in California with high emissions can be charged for their contributions to greenhouse gases.  A new law, passed as AB 32, is similar to cap and trade legislation that failed at the national level. This kind of system taxes polluters who emit greenhouse gases and pays industries that suck up carbon dioxide, like forests. 

The law definitely affects dairies, where manure emits greenhouses gases, and many food processing plants, like tomato canning factories, will likely be taxed.

"They burn lot of natural gas to evaporate off a lot of water that comes in tomato, to make it into paste, or salsa, or ketchup, so they're going to have significant costs under AB 32 when comes into effect for ag processors," Rominger said.

If high operating costs drive out tomato plants to other states – or drive down the price plants can pay farmers – it won't be worth it for many California farmers to grow tomatoes.  It'll be cheaper for food companies to buy processing tomatoes from China and elsewhere. (It won’t necessarily affect eating tomatoes. Most farmers that grow tomatoes for eating are in Florida.) 

Right now, California farmers aren't so much worried about the warming weather, as they are the political winds of legislators and the regulations they pass.

A silver lining?

The new law could have some positives.  If farmers can show that adopting certain practices help reduce greenhouse gases, they could get paid for it. 

Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

This week: Another update in the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, and climate changes doesn't ease troubles for farmers. 

Porta-King Building Systems, a manufacturing company, announced an expansion in Montgomery City.

Jeremy Bernfeld / Harvest Public Media

By Frank Morris

Thanks to high commodity prices and surging productivity, U.S. farmers earned a net income of nearly $98 billion last year — a record, according to the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute.