Harvest Desk

Harvest Desk
6:38 am
Thu June 5, 2014

Canada Jonesing For Piece Of American (Hemp) Pie

Canada legalized hemp in 1998 and many companies there are anxiously awaiting cultivation in the U.S. At Centennial Seeds in Colorado, growers have started planting.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

The U.S. market for foods and beauty products that contain hemp is growing, but American manufacturers that use hemp have their hands tied. The crop is still illegal to cultivate, according to federal laws, which means the current American hemp industry, estimated at $500 million per year, runs on foreign hemp.

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Harvest Desk
5:34 am
Wed June 4, 2014

Now Appearing: Hemp, For The First Time In Decades

At Centennial Seeds in Lafayette, Colo., Ben Holmes is testing hemp varieties. Holmes made his name distributing and breeding strains of medical and recreational marijuana, but recently has become a prominent figure in Colorado’s fledgling hemp industry.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

A handful of farmers are set to plant the country’s first hemp crop in decades, despite federal regulations that tightly restrict the plant’s cultivation.

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Harvest Desk
1:07 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Is Corn Dust Killing Bees?

Bees at these hives near a corn field in Cherokee, Iowa, must pass through a yellow plastic trap that scrapes off a bit of pollen. Researchers are studying whether insecticide-coated seeds could be harming the bee population.
Credit Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Nathan Anderson stops his red pick-up truck alongside a cornfield on his farm near Cherokee, Iowa. The young farmer pulls on a heavy brown hoodie, thick, long, sturdy gloves and a beekeeper’s hat with a screened veil. He approaches a pair of hives sitting on the edge of a field recently planted with corn and adjusts a yellow plastic flap that traps some of the pollen the bees bring back to their hive.

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Harvest Desk
1:28 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Chinese Market Could Help Rid Rivers Of Asian Carp

Recently processed Asian carp hang in racks at the Two Rivers Fisheries processing plant in Wickliffe, Ky. The fishing industry hopes demand from China can both create a market for, and help rid U.S. rivers of, the invasive species.
Credit Jacob McClelland/Harvest Public Media

Water experts worried about Asian carp may have new hope. They’re turning their eyes to China, where a carp-hungry populace may be the key for stemming the tide of the invasive fish.

Asian carp are taking over U.S. waterways, including the Mississippi River and tributaries like the Illinois and Missouri Rivers, where they out-compete native fish.

In China, carp is cheap and a common meal-time fixture. Now, a carp fishing industry is springing up along carp-infested U.S. waters and processors are exporting the U.S. problem fish to Chinese diners.

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Harvest Desk
7:48 am
Tue April 29, 2014

Public, Private Partners Key To Local Food Success

Students at Waukon High School in Iowa grow carrots, tomatoes, lettuce and other vegetables for school lunches in an on-campus greenhouse
Credit Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

As FoodCorps service member Ashley Turk navigates her way through a brand-new greenhouse in the courtyard at Waukon High School in the northeast corner of Iowa, she points to a robust supply of red and green lettuce leaves growing neatly in rows.

“It’s huge,” she says. “We cut it off and it just keeps growing.”

The greenhouse lettuce is among the offerings in the school’s salad bar. And students will soon be growing carrots, tomatoes and other vegetables, Turks says.

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Harvest Desk
9:46 am
Wed April 9, 2014

Empowering Women Farmers In Central Illinois

Rachel Broughton and husband Perry, Springfield area entrepreneurs

 An area organization with the goal of propelling women entrepreneurs into "economic and social spheres of power" wants to do the same for female farmers. 

Women Entrepreneurs of Central Illinois, WE-CI, will be talking about the role of gender in farm operation Wednesday, April 9.  

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Harvest Desk
6:45 am
Tue April 1, 2014

While Farm Life Changes, FFA’s Blue Jacket Stays The Same

The blue corduroy jackets sported by high schoolers in FFA have been a part of the group's brand since its founding in 1928.
Credit 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.

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Harvest Desk
6:00 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Drones: Coming Soon To A Farm Near You?

Chad Colby shows Midwest farmers how GPS controls the high-definition camera attached to the UAV.
Peter Gray/WUIS

Unmanned aerial vehicles aren’t just for spies or for the battlefield. Farmers all over the country think drones can give them a leg up, too.

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Harvest Desk
2:06 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Harvest Blog: Certified Organic Food Sector Growing

Credit ams.usda.gov

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday announced new data on certified organic food, showing the industry grew just over four percent in 2013, with a record breaking 18,513 farms and businesses in the United States.

Certified organic food has seen a 245 percent increase since 2002, according to the Agricultural Marketing Service's National Organic Program.  Last year the federal government certified 763 producers.  

The following is from USDA: 

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Harvest Desk
5:25 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Padlock The Milk! The FDA's Push To Safeguard The Food Supply

Milk is an extremely popular item on the University of Missouri campus, says purchasing coordinator Sandy Perley. "Our entire campus in a year drinks about 96,000 gallons of milk. And by our best calculation, that’s about 326 gallons a day."
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Many of the food terrorism scenarios outlined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration involve liquid.

And there’s good reason for that.

Liquids like orange juice and milk go through many processing steps -- farm, bottling plant, delivery – before reaching the consumers who drink them. And these liquids are moved, manufactured and stored in huge batches that get distributed and consumed quickly. Should a toxin be injected somewhere along the supply chain, experts believe it could have devastating human health and economic consequences.

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Harvest Desk
12:45 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Could Our Food Supply Be A Target For Terrorism?

A bioterror attack that introduced a virus like foot-and-mouth disease could devastate the U.S. livestock industry. Regulators are proposing new rules meant to protect the food system from terror attack.
Credit Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster. Villains in trench coats scheme ways to cause the most destruction and chaos. They settle on a food company, an easy target, and plan to lace the products with a chemical or pathogen. The hero finds out the plan with enough time to save the day.

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Harvest Desk
9:13 am
Sat March 8, 2014

Hog Virus Causing Pork Price Spike

Hog producer Phil Borgic of Nokomis, Ill., lost one full month of piglets to the PED virus.
Credit Peter Gray/WUIS

  Shoppers are already paying more for pork and bacon than they did last year and many economists expect those prices to continue climbing for the next few months.

Chris Hurt, an agricultural economist at Purdue University, watches the market for lean hog futures– the anticipated price of hogs heading to market soon. The futures price hit record-highs in early March, Hurt said, which will translate to expensive and bacon in the supermarket in the coming months.

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Harvest Desk
9:10 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

U.S. Wastes Nearly One Third Of Food Produced

Americans wasted an estimated 133 billion pounds of food in 2010, according to a USDA study.
Credit flickr/petrr

Nearly a third of the food available to be eaten in the U.S. is thrown out instead. And all of that wasted food comes with a steep price tag.

According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans wasted an estimated 133 billion pounds of food in 2010, the most recent year data is available. That’s 31 percent of the food sold at grocery stores and served in restaurants. The study does not include food wasted prior to the retail level.

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Harvest Desk
1:49 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Farmers Bid Farewell To Big Expense Tax Write-Offs

Credit flickr/mostly dans

It could be yet another sign that the good times are over.

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Harvest Desk
6:01 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Changing Dairy Industry Leaves Some Farmers In The Dust

Donnie Davidson turns off the lights in his dairy parlor. His family has been producing grade A milk in Holden, Mo., since the 1930s.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Donnie Davidson’s family has been producing bottled milk in Holden, Mo., since the 1930s. But the 63-year-old farmer decided to sell his herd of 50 milking cows in November after the roof on one of his barns collapsed from last winter’s snow.

Rebuilding the barn would have cost about $20,000. Then there were the costs of renovating a silo and paying for hired help since Davidson’s children won’t be taking over the business. It made financial sense to close the dairy, and grow crops and build a herd of beef cattle instead.

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Harvest Desk
6:18 pm
Sun February 23, 2014

Are Low Corn Prices Here To Stay?

Credit dok1/flickr

The days of record high corn prices are gone, at least for now, and they’re only going to continue their decline, according to projections released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (PDF)

You can pin part of the blame on the 2012 drought, when corn hit an all-time high of $8.31 per bushel. The dry conditions made corn a limited commodity.

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Harvest Desk
6:01 am
Thu February 13, 2014

Meat Labeling Advocates Back New Farm Bill

The USDA's new COOL rule went into full effect in November. It requires labels to list where animals were born, raised and slaughtered.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Proponents of a new labeling rule that gives consumers more information about where their meat comes from say they are pleased with the new farm bill President Obama signed into law on Friday. That’s because the bill does not include any significant changes to current country-of-origin labeling rules, known as COOL.

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Harvest Desk
12:41 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Harsh Winter Freezing Out Some Crop-Devouring Pests

Western corn rootworm beetles munch on a corn stalk
Credit Purdue University Extension

Despite what they may be thinking now, Midwest grain farmers and backyard gardeners alike may be thankful for the recent arctic temperatures before 2014 is out.

That’s because soil that’s frozen solid from weeks of below average temperatures isn’t exactly a cozy spot for hibernating insects that feed on crops as soon as the spring thaw comes.

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Harvest Desk
9:16 am
Tue February 11, 2014

Retailers Look To Sell Sustainability Of Food

A poster meant to teach the general public about sustainable ag hangs in Rob Myers’ office. “Everyone can mentally think of a farm scene: the cows out in the pasture, and the crops growing out in the field and a farmer in their pickup but when we talk about sustainability, it’s a step beyond that,” Myers said.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Consumers are increasingly willing to pay more for foods they believe were sustainably produced, like free-range chicken, fair-trade coffee and pesticide-free wine. But what does “sustainable” actually mean?

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Harvest Desk
2:21 pm
Sat February 8, 2014

Why Cutting The Ethanol Mandate May Not Ruin The Rural Economy

Just outside of Central City, Neb., is the Green Plains Energy ethanol plant, a facility that can produce 100 million gallons of ethanol each year.
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

The EPA wants to roll back the amount of ethanol mixed into the fuel supply for 2014, worrying farmers across the Corn Belt. Ethanol supporters warn that if the EPA follows through, the rural economy will take the fall. But many economists predict a soft landing.

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Harvest Desk
3:37 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

U.S. Senate Approves Farm Bill

After more than two years of debate on Capitol Hill, a new farm bill is poised to become law after both the U.S. House and Senate approved it.
Credit andrewmalone/Flickr

The U.S. Senate passed the farm bill Tuesday by a vote of 68-32, sending it to the president’s desk and ending years of political wrangling.

Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk were among the 68 "yea" votes.  To view Durbin's video statement on the farm bill vote, click here.

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Harvest Desk
7:13 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Colorado Creates Food Safety System For Marijuana Products

A marijuana plant glows purple under grow lights at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, Colo.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Colorado made history when it opened up licensed marijuana retail shops this year. Aside from just legalizing the purchase of smoke-able marijuana, it also means pot brownies have the potential to be big business. Food products infused with marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC, are available in stores across the state.

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Harvest Desk
10:57 am
Mon February 3, 2014

What Weather Will 2014 Bring?

Still plenty of uncertainty about the 2014 planting season, though the latest drought outlook paints a bleak picture for sections of the Great Plains.
Credit Climate Prediction Center/NOAA

  What you call “crazy weather,” Colorado state climatologist Nolan Doesken calls “climate variability.”

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Harvest Desk
5:00 am
Mon February 3, 2014

For Farmers With High Cash Rents, 2014 Could Be A Tough Year

Cash rents for non-irrigated cropland are highest in the Corn Belt
USDA NASS

With the price of farmland at record levels across the Corn Belt, many farmers have been renting acres to plant. Now, with the price of corn and soybeans in free fall, farmers that depend on renting risk big losses if they’re unable to negotiate lower rents.

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Harvest Desk
5:49 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

U.S. House To Vote On 2014 Farm Bill

Credit Ron Cogswell

  The U.S. House is set to vote on a new farm bill Wednesday, after House and Senate negotiators earlier this week agreed on compromise legislation combining each chambers' drafts.

This 2014 farm bill has been a long time coming.  At least one farm bill watcher from the Midwest is pleased that Congress has finally reached an agreement on the farm bill after years of debate.

  Jonathan Coppess, who teaches law and policy at the University of Illinois, says negotiations dragged due to the size - roughly one trillion dollars - and complexity of the bill.

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Harvest Desk
8:58 am
Fri January 24, 2014

Slow Food Film Festival Returns For 5th Year

Credit slowfoodspringfield.org

  Springfield residents curious about raising chickens in their backyard may want to stop by Benedictine University on Saturday, January 25. 

Mad City Chickens is one of five films to be screened at the 5th Annual Slow Food Springfield Film Festival.

The University of Illinois Extension is co-sponsoring the event.  

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Harvest Desk
5:46 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Cargill Settles Hiring Discrimination Suit At Beardstown Plant, Others

The Cargill Meat Solutions plant in Beardstown
Credit WBEZ

Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. will pay $2.2 million as part of settlement with the federal government over discrimination allegations involving three of its U.S. meat processing plants.
 
The money will be used to pay back wages and interest to nearly 3,000 applicants who were rejected for jobs at facilities in Springdale, Ark.; Fort Morgan, Colo.; and Beardstown, Ill., between 2005 and 2009.
 
U.S. Department of Labor officials say the company's hiring process discriminated based on sex, race and ethnicity.
 

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Harvest Desk
8:17 am
Wed January 22, 2014

Opinions Pouring In On EPA Ethanol Proposal

Some commenting on the EPA's proposal to reduce the ethanol mandate even include hand-written appeals.
Credit Regulations.gov

Dear EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy,

Your inbox is filling up fast. Both ethanol supporters and critics are responding in bulk to the agency’s November proposal to reduce the ethanol mandate for 2014. Over 13,000 comments are in so far.

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Harvest Desk
6:40 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Harvest Desk: Ethanol At A Crossroads

E Energy in Adams, Neb., takes in corn from local farms to make 65 million gallons of ethanol each year. The company also make distillers grains from the corn, which is used to feed livestock; corn oil which can be made into biodiesel; and CO2 which is used in soft drinks.
Credit Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

A steady stream of semi-trailers rolls across the scales at the E Energy ethanol plant near the town of Adams in southeast Nebraska. The smokestack behind the scale house sends up a tall plume of white steam. The sweet smell of fermenting corn is in the air.

E Energy buys 65 million bushels of corn each day from area farmers and turns it into 65 million gallons of ethanol each year.

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Harvest Desk
5:48 am
Fri January 17, 2014

Midwest Takes A Look At Labeling GMOs

Labeling advocates in Colorado are hoping to get an initiative on the 2014 ballot that would require the labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Credit brdavid/flickr

Last year, we counted between 20 and 30 state legislatures considering bills that mandate labeling on genetically engineered foods or foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Still a hot-topic, many labeling laws are working their way through statehouses all over the nation – even in farm country.

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