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.
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 andÂ 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.
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.
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, youâll struggle to find a pheasant now.
Congress wonât 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 wonât have a full bill ready before the House adjourns for the year on Friday.
This Thanksgiving, hungry families all over the country will finish off their holiday meal with a little slice of the Midwest. Thatâs 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 youâll 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.
I come to Harvest Public Media as a reporter standing at the intersection of rural and urban life. Â 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 Chicagolandâs 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.
Noel, MO - Itâs almost 9 a.m., and Noel Primary School teacher Erin McPherson is helping a group of Spanish-speaking students complete English language exercises. But itâs tough going.
One student in a bright blue T-shirt â 9-year-old Isac Martinez â has not yet picked up his pencil. Heâs clearly sick. When McPherson asks him whatâs wrong, Isacâs small voice is barely audible in between coughs. He says he threw up four times last night but did not go to a doctor.
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.
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.
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, âWhen are we going to hit the bottom?â
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 itâs in the heart of Illinois farm country because farmers have been taking advantage of a new method of shipping out their products.
By Robert Holly/Midwest Center For Investigative Reporting
The U.S. Department of Agriculture was forced to send home tens of thousands of employees because of Tuesdayâs government shutdown.
As a result, the agriculture department and its nearly two dozen agencies are operating at limited capacity â 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 wonât be affected that much.
Heritage grains are trendy. Walk through a health food store and see packages of grains grown long before modern seed technology created hybrid varieties, grains eaten widely outside of the developed world: amaranth, sorghum, quinoa.
But thereâs another grain with tremendous potential growing on the Great Plains: millet.
The farm bill expired at midnight on Monday, leaving farmers and ranchers across the country guessing at what federal farm policy will look like when they next put their crops in the ground.
Of course, theyâre used to uncertainty, as this is the second straight year Congress has let the farm bill expire. Last year, farmers were set adrift for three months before lawmakers passed a nine-month extension of older policy in January.
The program shells out to farmers and land owners regardless of need or loss. Itâs a hold-out from a farm bill that promised an end to subsidies and itâs holding on only because Congress is so dysfunctional.Â Â
Buying a new farm tractor costs almost as much as a new home in a decent suburb.Â Â
Shelling out $200,000 or more for shiny new John Deere, Case IH, New Holland or other name brand horsepower to work the fields of a 21st century Midwestern farm isnât unusual, farmers and dealers say.
What seems more unusual, to newcomers to farm economics at least, is that those shiny new models arenât the hottest selling big iron on many dealersâ lots.Â That would be the used tractors that were traded in when the new models rolled off the dealersâ flatbed trucks.
The Affordable Care Act, often called âObamacare,â takes a big step forward Oct. 1 when new health insurance marketplaces open for enrollment. Rural families are more likely to qualify for subsidized coverage, but reaching them to sign up will be part of the challenge.
So, will farm country take advantage of new health insurance subsidies? Thatâs the question in Nebraska.
Almost 200,000 Nebraskans donât have health insurance. Nearly half of them are spread across the stateâs rural areas.
Chicago-based singer-songwriter Susan Werner has worked on concept albums before â 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.
On a hot August day in late August, Kevin Bien stands in the shade of a large gray piece of farm equipment.Â The brand marketing manager for Gleaner Combines gives his best spiel to a group of farmers attending the Farm progress Show Â in Decatur.Â Â Torque, efficiency, and new technology are among his key points for the prospective buyers of the large machines that can run anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000.Â Â Â Â
Last summerâs drought knocked the nationâs corn exports to the mat.Â And while U.S. farmers may be getting up from that punch, it may take them longer to regain their footing in international markets. Â
Most Americans donât eat horse meat, and they donât like the idea of horses being slaughtered, but a handful of investors are struggling to restart a horse slaughter industry in the United States.
The investors argue that reviving horse slaughter plants would be both good for the horse business and more humane than the current situation. Theyâre hoping to open a new horse slaughter plant near Gallatin, Mo., but opposition has the project mired in the legal system. The issue cleaves horse owners into two camps: one that views horses as pets and another that see them as livestock.
Farmers across the country received more than $17-Billion in federal crop insuranceÂ payouts after last yearâs drought. A report by one environmental group blames farmers for not doing enough to shield the soil against the heat.Â
This is the thirteenth installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Mediaâs series chronicling Americansâ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.
Matt Pauly has traveled the world Â â heâs lived in New York, Paris, South Korea â but heâs still a farm boy at heart.
Farmers in the Midwest were devastated by a crippling drought in 2012. The federal crop insurance program paid out a record $17.3 billion. And in rural America, that money is still paying dividends. To understand the impact, Harvest Public Media reporter Bill Wheelhouse took a tour of Livingston County, Illinois. Farmers here received by far the biggest insurance payout in the nation.
On this sweltering day in mid-August, surrounded by healthy 8-foot tall corn stalks, Doug Wilson peels back the husks to see how his corn is looking. The verdict?
As Midwest vineyards move in next door to longstanding fields of corn or soybeans, they donât always make good neighbors. Occasionally, herbicides like 2,4-D drift beyond their target, and for nearby vineyards the results can be devastating.
2,4-D is a common herbicide used by farmers because it kills weeds but doesnât kill their corn. Landscapers and golf courses use it on lawns and fairways. Highway crews often spray 2,4-D on road ditches.
This is the twelfth installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Mediaâs series chronicling Americansâ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.
One sign that you have strong farm roots is when your rural road is named for your family.
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.
âThis guy was explaining to me how to farm and heâd never been on a farm in his life,â he said. âSo it really kind of irritated me. I came home and said, âOK, Iâm going to have data to show these guys.ââ