Harvest Public Media

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
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
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
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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Harvest Desk
6:23 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Forget The Golf Course, Subdivisions Build Around Farms

The Bucking Horse subdivision in Fort Collins, Colo., will include a working CSA farm, complete with historic barn, farm house and chicken coop.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

For decades, housing developments in the suburbs have come complete with golf courses, tennis courts, strip malls and swimming pools. But make way for the new subdivision amenity: the specialty farm.

A new model for suburban development is springing up across the country that taps into the local food movement. Farms, complete with livestock, vegetables and fruit trees, are serving as a way to entice potential buyers to settle in a new subdivision.

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Harvest Desk
8:08 am
Tue December 17, 2013

New Labeling Rules Could Help Consumers Learn More About Meat

About 94 percent of our meat comes from livestock that was born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

A new labeling rule that went into full effect Saturday requires meatpackers and retailers to provide consumers with more information about where their meat comes from.

The country-of-origin labeling mandate (COOL) forces retailers and meatpackers to detail where the livestock from which meat came was born, raised and slaughtered. It applies to certain cuts of beef, veal, chicken, pork, lamb and goat sold in the supermarket. Processed, deli and ground meats are exempt from the new rules.

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Harvest Desk
5:00 am
Mon December 16, 2013

2012 Drought Still Pinching Popcorn Sellers

Del’s Popcorn first opened in Decatur, Ill., in 1934.
Peter Gray/WUIS

U.S. popcorn sellers took a big hit from the 2012 drought, which caused one of the worst popcorn harvests in recent memory. Crops not irrigated were decimated, and low supplies continue to force local candy shops and giant movie theater chains alike to pay high prices for the golden grain, biting into their profit margin.

In 2012, commercial corn fetched record prices, and popcorn was no different. The low harvest is still working its way through the supply chain, from grain bins to wholesalers to retailers. Popcorn sellers are being squeezed with high material costs.

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Harvest Desk
5:46 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Pheasants Losing Habitat To Farmland

Farm-raised pheasants like this one, wearing blinders so it doesn't fight other birds, are being transported to areas that used to be known for pheasant hunting in order to prop up declining population.
Credit Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

As farmers across the Midwest have simplified the landscape and plowed up grassland to grow more corn and soybeans, habitat for pheasants, quail and other grassland birds has become increasingly scarce and their numbers are falling.

In Nebraska, wild pheasant concentrations have fallen 86 percent since their peak in the 1960's. The pheasant harvest during hunting season in Iowa is off 63 percent from the highs reached in the 1970's. In areas that used to be overrun, you’ll struggle to find a pheasant now.

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Harvest Desk
5:43 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

No Farm Bill This Year

Credit Flickr/Andrewmalone

Congress won’t pass a farm bill before early next year.

That was the message from Washington Tuesday, when the principal farm bill players emerged from negotiations and announced they won’t have a full bill ready before the House adjourns for the year on Friday.

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Harvest Desk
9:33 am
Mon November 25, 2013

Why The 'Turkey Shortage' Won't Affect Your Thanksgiving Meal

No need to panic, there's still plenty of turkey to be had. The "shortage" was only from one company, Butterball, and affected large fresh birds.
Credit tuchodi via Flickr/Creative Commons

Watched the news lately? Then you might’ve heard about impending doom for Thanksgiving dinners across the country.

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Harvest Desk
1:00 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Joel Salatin: Local Food Evangelist

Joel Salatin on his Virginia farm.
Credit Creative Commons

Joel Salatin is one of the rock stars of the local food movement. He’s written books, appeared in documentaries and scheduled speaking engagements nationwide. Among foodies, he’s a celebrity.

He’s also a vocal critic of industrialized agriculture. Salatin criticizes the use of pesticides, herbicides, genetic modification in crops, and hormones and antibiotics in livestock.

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Harvest Desk
6:00 am
Wed November 13, 2013

Illinois Pumpkins On Thanksgiving Tables

John Ackerman's family farm, just east of Morton, Ill.
Peter Gray/WUIS

This Thanksgiving, hungry families all over the country will finish off their holiday meal with a little slice of the Midwest. That’s because the vast majority of all pumpkin that comes from a can and winds up in a pie got its start on a vine in Illinois.

Pumpkin patches are popular destinations for families seeking fall fun, and you’ll find roadside farm stands all over the country. But this is big business in Illinois, where farmers feed canning factories hungry for a special kind of pumpkin that looks nothing like those you see on Halloween.

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Harvest Desk
2:51 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

Higher Beef Prices: Good For Producers; May Be Tough On Consumers

These cattle on Jeff Longnecker's farm in Story County, Iowa, are part of a herd he's hoping to grow.
Credit Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Once again, the prognosticators are saying beef prices are on the rise. We’ve seen this before—last year, the drought and high feed prices were being blamed.

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Harvest Desk
11:07 am
Fri November 8, 2013

Harvest Blog: Changing Illinois, Hungry World

Peter and father, Bert, tilling a backyard garden in 1987
Credit Cheryl Gray

I come to Harvest Public Media as a reporter standing at the intersection of rural and urban life.  It is a fascinating place to be in the young 21st century.

Growing up in Oswego, Ill., I watched my backyard turn from cornfield to the carefully trimmed suburban lawns of Chicagoland’s residential expansion. The land my Norwegian immigrant great-grandparents tilled in the 1900s is likely a restaurant, big box retail store or strip mall today.

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Harvest Desk
6:40 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Noel, Mo.: Schools Build Safety Net For Immigrant Children

At the primary school in rural Noel, Mo., teachers and staff function as educators about as often as they do de facto social workers.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Noel, MO - It’s almost 9 a.m., and Noel Primary School teacher Erin McPherson is helping a group of Spanish-speaking students complete English language exercises. But it’s tough going.

One student in a bright blue T-shirt – 9-year-old Isac Martinez – has not yet picked up his pencil. He’s clearly sick. When McPherson asks him what’s wrong, Isac’s small voice is barely audible in between coughs. He says he threw up four times last night but did not go to a doctor.

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Harvest Desk
1:03 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

Rural Neighbors Split On Wind Energy Lines

In O’Brien County, Iowa, Jay Hofland has agreed to sell part of his land to an energy company for a conver station that would mark the beginning of a high voltage transmission traversing the state.
Credit Durrie Bouscaren/Harvest Public Media

The rolling plains of Midwest farm country are being tapped for their natural resources again. This time, though, the bounty would be wind energy, instead of corn, wheat or soybeans.

Houston-based utility company Clean Line Energy Partners wants to produce a massive amount of wind energy on the plains. To do that, the company plans to build five large-scale high voltage transmission lines that would criss-cross the country, three of which would bring energy from Midwestern windmills to the energy grid to the east.

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Harvest Desk
11:41 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Expected Bumper Crop Has Corn Prices Dropping

Farmers have been riding a wave of high corn prices in recent years, but an expected bumper crop has corn prices dropping.
Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

On a clear fall day in central Iowa, Aaron Lehman climbed into the cab of his green combine with a screwdriver to do some maintenance. He was hoping his corn had a couple more weeks to grow before harvesting because the price per bushel this fall is much lower than it has been for the past three years.

Corn farmers have been riding high prices for the last few years. But an expected bumper crop has prices falling this harvest season, and many economists expect the price of corn to drop to its lowest level in recent years.

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Harvest Desk
7:32 am
Thu October 17, 2013

The Long, Slow Decline Of The U.S. Sheep Industry

Once a staple part of the American diet, we’re eating a lot less lamb. The U.S. sheep herd today is just one-tenth the size it was in the 1940's.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Over the last 20 years, the number of sheep in this country has been cut in half. In fact, the number has been declining since the late 1940's, when the American sheep industry hit its peak. Today, the domestic sheep herd is one-tenth the size it was during World War II.

The decline is the result of economic and cultural factors coming together. And it has left ranchers to wonder, “When are we going to hit the bottom?”

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Harvest Desk
1:38 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Shipping Containers Can Open Export Market To Farmers

Agribusiness giant ADM recently opened a 275-acre container shipping rail yard near Decatur, Ill., in part to export more grain.
Credit 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.

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Harvest Desk
11:18 am
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.

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.

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