China’s rapid industrialization and economic expansion over the past few decades has been a boon for U.S. farmers — especially soybean farmers. But China’s economy is slowing down, leaving American farmers exposed to the downside of being tied to the world’s second largest economy.

Illinois Issues: The State's Climate Is Changing

Jul 30, 2015
Patty Sullivan / WUIS - Illinois Issues

Illinois'  future summers could be as hot as Texas.

Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs

The possibility of budget cuts makes the future of agricultural fairs in Illinois unknown. A study released by the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs focused on the importance of county fairs to the state's economy.

Agricultural fairs rarely make a profit, and most are slowly using up their savings, if they had any. Bill Jennings, president of the Richland County Fair, says they are lucky to have a financial reserve for maintenance of the fairgrounds.

Harvest Public Media/Luke Runyon

When the wind picked up from the south on John Schweiser’s farm outside Rocky Ford, Colo., the sky would go black. A charging wall of dust would force the 80-year-old farmer and his wife to hunker down in their ranch-style farmhouse.

“You’d look up and here’d come this big ol’ rolling dirt,” Schweiser said. “You couldn’t see how high it was.”

WUIS/Lee Strubinger

Pike County calls itself the "pork capital of the world." However, in an area so tied to farming, it might be a bit surprising that a local school district has cut its agriculture education program.  I graduated from high school there five years ago, and went back to report on how districts are struggling to pay for activities not tied to the core curriculum.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

The blue corduroy jacket worn by high school students in FFA, formerly the Future Farmers of America, is an icon of rural life. To the average city dweller the jacket is a vestige of dwindling, isolated farm culture, as fewer and fewer young people grow up on farms. The numbers tell a different story however. In spite of that demographic shift, a record number of kids are donning blue jackets this year.

Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

A huge new rail yard has been buzzing on the outskirts of Decatur, Ill. Agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) recently opened the 275-acre facility that would be at home at any major port city on the coast. But it’s in the heart of Illinois farm country because farmers have been taking advantage of a new method of shipping out their products.

Government Shutdown Slows USDA

Oct 3, 2013

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

As a result, the agriculture department and its nearly two dozen agencies are operating at limited capacity – or not at all.

But even though important agencies such as the Farm Service Agency and the Risk Management Agency will be shut down almost entirely, agriculture officials said that Midwest farmers and producers won’t be affected that much.

Chicago-based singer-songwriter Susan Werner has worked on concept albums before – from jazz standards to pop classics to Gospel music for agnostics. But now she's turned to her farm roots for inspiration.

Werner, who's currently touring in the Midwest, desribes her new CD, Hayseed, as "egg meets art," celebrating agriculture through music.

Darrell Hoemann/The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Last summer’s drought knocked the nation’s corn exports to the mat.  And while U.S. farmers may be getting up from that punch, it may take them longer to regain their footing in international markets.  

Timothy Baker

Farmers across Illinois and other midwest states are worried about their berries, peaches and tomatoes thanks to a newly arrived pest.  

The spotted wing drosophila looks like an ordinary fruit fly but is way more deadly. It kills healthy fruit by making a tiny slit in a fruit’s skin and laying eggs inside. In two weeks, a female fly can lay more than 300 eggs. So a couple of adults can become thousands in a few months. Lincoln University’s Jaime Piñero says no soft fruit is safe.

The U.S. Drought Monitor has expanded the area in Illinois considered to be in "moderate drought." 

State Climatologist Jim Angel says exceptionally dry conditions over the last 60 days along with high temperatures has resulted in 39 percent of Illinois now experiencing a drought.  

Angel also says the drought appears to be impacting crops and yards more than water supplies.

Farmers across the country received more than $17-Billion in federal crop insurance  payouts after last year’s drought. A report by one environmental group blames farmers for not doing enough to shield the soil against the heat. 

Farm Progress Show: Large Crowds, No Records

Sep 2, 2013
Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Radio

Organizers of this year's Farm Progress Show say they'll wait to decide whether to keep an onsite annex when the nation's largest outdoor farm show returns to Decatur in 2015.  
This year's three-day show had about 600 vendors _ the most in its 60 year history. With so many vendors, organizers added an annex for new exhibitors.  


West central Illinois is now in what is being called a moderate drought.  That's despite a relatively cool and wet start to the summer.

The US Drought Monitor's latest map shows moderate drought for the western half of Sangamon County and farther west all the way into Missouri.  

The state's climatologist, Jim Angel,  says most droughts move slow and take 3-6 months to develop. However, sometimes they can move  fast if conditions are right, leading to the term “flash drought”. This situation appears to be developing west central Illinois.

The State Journal-Register's Business Editor Tim Landis joins us to talk about the possibility of faster freight trains along Springfield's Third Street corridor and an upcoming corn crop survey in Sangamon County:

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

Five years ago, Howard G. Buffett was at a meeting of an international food aid agency when he was told that feeding the millions of starving people in Africa was simple.

Just give them better seeds, someone said.

That advice might work on some philanthropists. But Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffett, happens to be an Illinois farmer.

“This guy was explaining to me how to farm and he’d never been on a farm in his life,” he said. “So it really kind of irritated me. I came home and said, ‘OK, I’m going to have data to show these guys.’”

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

This is the eleventh installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Danelle Myer owns a small vegetable farm and like many other small farmers, she’s passionate about the kind of operation she wants to grow: a small, local business.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Farmers are getting older.

They’re working longer, staying on the land later and continuing to do what they’ve done for decades: heading out day after day after day to work their land.

In 1978, the average age of the American farmer was just over 50. In 2007, it’s creeping toward 60, at just over 57-years-old. What does that mean for the agriculture industry? We went to answer that question by focusing on this massive demographic shift that affects not just rural America but the power and potential of an entire industry.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Part 2 of the Harvest Desk's series Changing Lands, Changing Hands travels to Iowa.  Driving out of the  town of Panora, in the western part of the state, the winding roads offer broad vistas of rolling hills. Many of the mailboxes along Redwood Road show the name Arganbright. Jim Arganbright grew up in this area, one of 10 children. He and his wife, Beverly, have eight kids.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says farmers will come through with the predicted corn crop despite the Midwest's wet spring that delayed planting.  
Some states _ including Michigan, Nebraska and Texas _ planted more corn than expected, which will make up for the loss in Iowa, the nation's leading corn producer.  
Friday's annual acreage report is based on farmer surveys, and surprised farmers, analysts and commodities traders. Many expected the number of corn acres planted to fall by about 2 million acres.  

The threat is real. The potential targets are virtually unprotected. The weapon is low-tech and easily obtained. Government officials in charge of food safety are hesitant even to talk about agroterrorism, a word that’s entered the nation’s lexicon only recently and one that represents a potential economic catastrophe for Illinois and other food-producing states. “The fact is, agroterrorism is a very real threat,” says U.S. Sen.