7:54 am
Mon May 12, 2014

USDA to use rural development money for local food connections

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says local food projects in cities that show a direct benefit to rural producers can be considered for USDA loan guarantees.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Recognizing that the demand for local food is growing to between $5 and 7 billion a year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a new effort Thursday aimed at connecting farmers with urban shoppers. 

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Science, Health and Technology
5:31 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Under the Microscope: Invasive weeds, MU prof on USDA council

Ellen Nelson has battled invasive plants that out-compete native grasses on her grass-fed beef ranch near Bellvue, Colo., Some climate studies suggest that fight will worsen in the coming decades.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Most climate models paint a bleak picture for the Great Plains a century from now. Scientists say it’ll be warmer, and the air will be more rich with carbon dioxide. To what degree is still unclear. But even small fluctuations in climate throw farmland ecosystems out of whack. A new study shows certain invasive plant species will not only be able to withstand climate change, but thrive. Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon has more.

Shibu Jose is the director of the Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri Columbia.

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3:30 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

MU agroforestry prof named to USDA council

Shibu Jose, University of Missouri's director for the Center of Agroforestry, was recently appointed to the Forestry Research Advisory Council.
Credit Margaux Henquinet / KBIA

Shibu Jose is the H.E. Garrett Endowed Chair Professor in agroforestry at MU’s School of Natural Resources. He is also director of the Center for Agroforestry at MU.

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4:21 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Lincoln University to receive funds from USDA

Lincoln University in Jefferson City is to receive $999,000 for research and $299,000 for teaching from new grants according to United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday new grants totaling more than $35 million to support research, teaching and Extension activities at 1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Colleges and Universities. The grant comes from the U.S Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Ohio House Representative Marcia Fudge brought up the program with the Department of Agriculture.

Vilsack said the Universities use the grants in multiple ways:

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4:56 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Suspended drug sales focuses attention on cattle-feeding additive

Some 6,500 Holsteins are “finished” at this 2,000-acre Ordway, Colo., feedlot, where the growth promotion drug Zilmax is no longer used because it was pulled from the market by its manufacturer.
Credit Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media


When the people from the drug company came out to visit Tyler Karney at Ordway Feedyard here on Colorado’s eastern plains, he was a little skeptical.

They said their product, Zilmax, could put another 30 pounds on an animal in the last days before slaughter. Then he started blending it into the feed for the 6,500 head of Holsteins at this huge feedlot.

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4:30 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

Temporary order against horse slaughter expires

Credit 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.

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6:01 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

Some MU groups limping after shutdown fiasco

Some groups faced funding cuts during the shutdown.
Credit selbstfotografiert / Wikimedia Common

Now that the federal government shutdown has ended, agencies that were affected by the closure are trying to get back up and running.

University of Missouri extension’s Family and Nutrition program has had its budget cut because of the temporary lack of funding. The program provides educational material to 130,000 Missouri food stamp recipients, as well as classes on how to prepare the meals, what foods to eat and how to budget out a grocery bill.

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5:30 pm
Wed October 9, 2013

Shutdown stifles tracking of salmonella outbreak

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.”

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3:14 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Government shutdown slows USDA

The USDA headquarters in Washington D.C.
Credit 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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5:36 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Comments sought on Missouri forest plan

Mark Twain National Forest has 1.5 million acres in 29 Missouri counties.
Credit Kristi Bonney / flickr

Federal officials are seeking public comment on proposals for protecting several endangered animals and plants in Missouri's Mark Twain National Forest.

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8:56 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Number Of Missouri Households Going Hungry On The Rise

Tim Lloyd/St. Louis Public Radio

Originally published on Mon October 21, 2013 4:14 pm

A report released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows the number of Missouri households threatened by hunger has grown over the past three years.

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9:51 am
Fri August 30, 2013

Field Notes: Overhaul of meat labels on hold

From his vantage point, Ron Plain, a University of Missouri agricultural economist who focuses on the swine industry, believes the new COOL rule would be cumbersome for the food industry to implement.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/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.

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PM Newscasts
6:15 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Newscast for June 27, 2013

Regional news coverage from the KBIA Newsroom, including:

  • Doubts raised over Columbia teen curfew
  • USDA announces new school nutrition standards
  • Nixon signs bill against pharmacy requirements
  • Kirksville considers new anti-discrimination ordinance
5:47 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

USDA announces new school nutrition standards

Credit Beau Wade / Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced new federal nutrition standards for schools Thursday. The new rule targets food sold in vending machines, snack bars and school stores.

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9:23 am
Fri June 7, 2013

Field Notes: How are decisions made about projects that benefit rural America?

Doug O'Brien, acting undersecretary for the USDA's rural development program.
Credit Photo courtesy of the USDA.

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.  

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AM Newscasts
8:37 am
Mon May 27, 2013

Newscast for May 27, 2013

Regional news coverage from the KBIA Newsroom, including:

  • USDA releases labeling rule for meat
  • E. coli levels high in 3 SW Mo. waterways
  • Deadline looms to request Mo. absentee ballots
  • Replacing damaged Mo. bridge estimated at $3M
1:52 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

USDA releases labeling rule for meat

Under new USDA rules, products like this will need to carry a label that will notify consumers where the animals from which their meat was derived were born, raised and slaughtered.
Credit Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

Consumers may soon know more about where their meat comes from because of a long-debated change made by the US Department of Agriculture on Thursday.

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10:22 am
Thu April 4, 2013

MU gets USDA grant to help farmers build resilience to drought

MU researchers measure soil water infiltration.
Photo courtesy of Tim Reinbott.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will announce that it will fund a University of Missouri project focused on building drought resiliency through soil health.  

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Health & Wealth Blog
1:33 pm
Fri March 8, 2013

Rural Reads: On rural definitions and rural doctor shortage

With the Rural Reads series, we’re trying something new. Every Friday, KBIA’s Health and Wealth Desk curates the week’s most interesting (or so we think) articles and reports on rural issues.

What’s in a definition? The eligibility for federal grants

In February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report that recommends defining ‘rural’ as areas with 50,000 or fewer residents - a number that's getting some strong reactions. The rural definition determines eligibility for USDA’s rural grants and programs. 

The excellent online news service The Daily Yonder is publishing a series of opinion pieces in response to USDA’s newest recommendation. Last week, Aletta Botts, a legislative staffer who helped draft the 2008 Farm Bill, wrote that the 50,000 size limit is too large and would hurt smaller communities that can’t compete with larger towns to win federal grants.  

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Business Beat
5:20 pm
Wed January 30, 2013

Why EPA and USDA are tweaking standards

USDA poultry inspection changes have been in the works for some time now.
Credit 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.

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12:07 pm
Wed January 30, 2013

Modernizing poultry inspection is no easy matter

Retired federal chicken inspector Phyllis McKelvey worked with and to gather signatures on a petition opposing the proposed new poultry slaughter rule. She delivered over 177,000 signatures to the U.S. Department of Agriculture office in Washington, D.C. last fall.
Credit Courtesy of

Retired federal inspector Phyllis McKelvey spent 44 years looking for blemishes and other defects on chicken carcasses. She started as an inspector’s helper, worked her way up, and in 1998, became part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture trial.

“I was one of the first group of inspectors ever put on HIMP,” she said in an interview from her home in north Alabama.

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4:26 pm
Mon January 28, 2013

Beef labeling rule is caught in bureaucratic limbo

Was that meat mechanically tenderized? Soon, a label might be required to let you know.

A new beef labeling rule that has the support of food safety advocates has been under review for months by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The Kansas City Star reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed requiring labels on steaks and other beef products that have been mechanically tenderized. The process uses automated needles or knives that can drive deadly pathogens deep into the interior of the meat.

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Business Beat
5:42 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Drought hurts fish farmers; USDA open to helping women, Hispanic farmers

Fish farmer Steve Kahrs stands between a drained catfish pond and an active one.
Credit 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.

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5:14 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Women, Hispanics can file claims for USDA discrimination

The USDA (leader Tom Vilsack seen here) is accepting applications from female and Hispanic farmers who believe the agency discriminated against them in farm loan or loan servicing programs.
Credit USDA

The U.S. 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. The claims process is complex—but the payouts could be large.

After the courts rejected a class action lawsuit from the farmers, USDA agreed to a voluntary settlement process with women and Latinos.

Claimants must submit a 16-page claims package plus additional evidence, and then a third-party will review and determine eligibility.

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10:15 am
Thu December 6, 2012

How much is organic certification worth?

Schnuck’s produce manager Dave Guthrie says the store only carried two kinds of this organicgirl product back in 1995. Now, due to customer demand, they carry eight varieties of the organic Salinas County, Calif. greens.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

The organic farming industry is booming. Since the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched its federal organic certification program in 2002, the number of organic farms has more than doubled. U.S. organic food sales have also grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $31.5 billion in 2011, according to the Organic Trade Association.  

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5:38 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

In the ag census even the smallest farms count

A head of broccoli ready to be picked in late November at Jones Produce near Crete, Neb.
Grant Gerlock Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture updates its ag census every five years and is preparing to send farmers new surveys in December. One trend to watch is the growing number of small farms. They are easy to miss and some would rather not be counted.

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4:03 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

On marginal land, these grasses may be greener (VIDEO)

Wayne Vassar grows native grasses for biofuel as part of the federal Biomass Crop Assistance Program.
Kristofor Husted KBIA

In the parched, rolling hills of western Missouri, you might expect to see a desolate scene after this summer’s drought. But in this field, hip-high native grass sways across the landscape like seaweed in the ocean.

Wayne Vassar is growing these native plants for biofuel.

“They’ve had corn or soy on (this land) in the past,” he said, “and what’s happened was when you have these kinds of slope it erodes pretty rapidly and you lose a lot of your fertility as the top soil goes down the hill.”

Farmland experts call this kind of land “marginal land.” The hills make it difficult for the soil to hold onto the topsoil nutrients. And along the rivers and other flood plains, frequent flooding can deprive plants the oxygen they need to survive. It all adds up to an estimated 116 million acres in the central U.S.

Land like this might only produce a profitable harvest with traditional crops, like corn or soybeans, once or twice every five years. That’s quite a financial risk for farmers. So how can farmers avoid that risk factor and make sure such soils provide a consistent economic return?

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5:24 pm
Mon October 8, 2012

New school lunch requirements create waste, hungry kids

A New Franklin School District trashcan steadily fills throughout the lunch period on Monday, Sept. 24, 2012. A majority of the student’s finished trays of food still held untouched servings of fruit and vegetables.
Chelsea Stuart KBIA

Remember those 20 days in 1981 when the Department of Agriculture considered making ketchup a vegetable in school lunches to help save money?  Those days are long gone.  With childhood obesity on the rise, the school lunch program is getting a makeover once again.

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9:02 am
Tue September 25, 2012

Crop, livestock price increases drive up rent costs

In southwest Kansas, baled hay sits in an open field.
Eric Durban Harvest Public Media

It cost more to rent an acre of cropland or pasture land in 2012, according to new figures from the USDA.

The average cost to rent an acre of cropland in Missouri went up by 4 percent. Pastureland increased by 10 percent.

Ron Plain is an agricultural economics professor at the University of Missouri. He says rental rates and a land’s market value are both tied to the value of what is being produced on that land.

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8:49 am
Wed September 5, 2012

Corn harvest continues to speed ahead of schedule

jungmoon Flickr

The U.S. corn harvest continues ahead of schedule with some states nearly half-finished at a time when they usually are just getting started.

The USDA said Tuesday in its weekly crop update that little has changed in the condition of drought-damaged corn and soybeans. That's because the plants are too far along for recent rain to make a difference.

Corn was planted several weeks earlier this year and matured more quickly in the summer heat, allowing farmers to start harvesting early.