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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.

Courtesy of Whistleblower.org

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.  

In the ag census even the smallest farms count

Nov 29, 2012
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.

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?

New school lunch requirements create waste, hungry kids

Oct 8, 2012
trashcan
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.

Crop, livestock price increases drive up rent costs

Sep 25, 2012
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.

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.

USDA releases crops progress report

Jul 31, 2012
CraneStation / Flickr

According to the USDA's crops progress report, which was released on Monday, in Missouri, 83 percent of the corn acreage and 72 percent of soybeans are in very poor or poor condition. Both figures are the worst for any major agricultural state. Optimism for a good corn yield is dwindling, but Southeast Missouri State University’s Michael Aide says there is still hope for soybeans.

Updated with comments from McCaskill conference call.

The entire state of Missouri is now a federal agriculture disaster area.

Seventeen of the state's counties, mostly in the Bootheel, had already received that declaration. Today's announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture extends that declaration to the other 97 counties and the city of St. Louis.

cornfield
bionicteaching / Flickr

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is streamlining the process for farmers to apply for government disaster help as crops in many states burn up in the widest drought in nearly 25 years.

New bus service to farmers market

Mar 8, 2012
KBIA

Columbia residents who want to buy local fruits and vegetables, but have trouble getting to the farmers market will be able to get there more easily by bus starting next month, thanks to a new USDA grant.

Andy Dandino / USDA

Following up on President Obama's State of the Union address last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is touring the country, touting his boss's job-creation efforts in rural America -- Missouri was his latest stop. In this week's Health & Wealth update, a conversation with Secretary Vilsack: we talk rural jobs, USDA office closures, and the fate of the farmer's safety net in the face of natural disasters and shrinking budgets. 

US Ag Secretary talks cuts

Jan 27, 2012

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is in Missouri touting President Obama’s job creation plans, laid out this week in his state of the union address. This comes as the agriculture department faces a shrinking budget.

USDA Commits $14 Million to Rural Jobs

Sep 14, 2011

Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack announced $14 million in new funding Wednesday to help stimulate rural job growth. Small businesses across the country will get money, including a tiny airport in southern Missouri.

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