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Harvest Desk
9:07 am
Fri February 6, 2015

New Report Blames Monsanto For Monarch Butterfly Decline

Credit Credit Adele Hodde / Illinois Department of Natural Resources

The environmental organization Center for Food Safety is blaming agriculture giant Monsanto for declining numbers of monarch butterflies.

A new report  finds that spraying glyphosate herbicide on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops has killed off sixty percent of the common milkweed since 1999.

John Pleasants at Iowa State University says milkweed is the only food source for monarch butterfly caterpillars.

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Harvest Desk
5:15 pm
Mon February 2, 2015

Vague Laws Can Stand In The Way Of Unlocking Hemp's Benefits

Some hemp varieties can grow up to 20 feet tall, like this plant growing in a Lafayette, Colorado warehouse. (File: Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)

Humans have been growing hemp for centuries. Hemp-based foods have taken off recently. So have lotions and soaps that use hemp oil. There’s evidence that different compounds in cannabis could be used as medicine and hope that its chemical compounds could hold keys to treatments for Parkinson’s disease and childhood epilepsy.

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Illinois Issues - Harvest
12:00 am
Sun February 1, 2015

Biologists Hope Ospreys Find Their Way Back To Illinois

An osprey in flight
Credit Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Ospreys, brought to Illinois as part of a project to restore the endangered hawk species, have flown the coop for warmer climates. But those working with the birds hope to see them return to the state in the near future. 

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Illinois Issues - Harvest
12:00 am
Sun February 1, 2015

University Group Seeks Change In Cost Estimate On Carbon Emissions

A team of economists is calling for changes to the way the federal government figures the cost associated with carbon emissions. 

The Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) is what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other federal entities use to estimate the monetary damage caused by carbon dioxide emissions. The current SCC is estimated to be $37 per metric ton of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. The number is used to consider the value of plans to address climate change by cutting emissions.

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Harvest Desk
9:54 am
Wed January 28, 2015

How Much Does Farming Feed The Carbon Cycle?

Crops in the Midwest take in and give off so much carbon that the impact can be seen across the northern hemisphere. (Courtesy USDA NRCS South Dakota)

Scientists have noticed a change in the atmosphere. Plants are taking in more carbon dioxide during the growing season and giving off more carbon in the fall and winter. Recent research shows the massive corn crop in the Corn Belt may be contributing to that deeper breath.

It comes down to the Carbon Cycle. Over the winter when corn fields lay dormant, corn stalks and roots break down, sending CO2 into the air. Then in the summer when a new crop is growing, it takes up carbon from the atmosphere.

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Harvest Desk
7:51 pm
Mon January 26, 2015

Poultry Industry Warily Watches Bird Flu Outbreak

The turkeys in this barn on Noel Thompson’s farm in central Iowa are tested routinely for disease, including avian influenza. No bird flu has been found in the commercial poultry industry in this country. (Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)

Update: Avian influenza was found in a Foster Farms turkey flock in Stanislaus County, Calif., the company announced Monday. The outbreak is thought to be the first infection of this type of bird flu in a commercial flock in the U.S. In a previous version of this post, the location of the outbreak was incorrectly identified.

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Harvest Desk
6:29 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Harvest Glut Clogs Rail, Rivers, Roads

An MFA Agriservices worker monitors the soybean chute as the barge fills up on the Missouri River in Glasgow, Mo. (Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media)

For the Midwest’s biggest crops, this harvest season was a big one. With winter setting in, the race is on for farmers to ship out their harvest so it’s not left out to spoil. But the giant harvest and a lack of available rail cars have created a traffic jam on the rails and the highways.

Usually, farmers store their harvest in silos and grain bins, but this year, farmers brought in so much, there’s just no room.  Farmers in Missouri, Indiana, Illinois and South Dakota are all being hit particularly hard by the storage shortage.

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Harvest Desk
6:02 am
Fri December 5, 2014

Tougher Times Put Young Farmers Dreams On Hold

Like many beginning farmers, Grant Curtis wants to invest in his operation but expectations of low prices are tying his hands. (Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media)

Grant Curtis remembers the day he went shopping for his first tractor.

“It was an eye opening experience,” he said. “Walking into a dealership, getting the prices, walking back to the bank and pleading my case. Saying, ‘I want to get back to the farm, but I need a way to do that.’”

Curtis, in his early twenties at the time and without farmland of his own, joked that the only thing he offered as collateral was sweat. But grain farming is a seriously expensive business.

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Harvest Desk
8:50 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

High Turkey Prices Unlikely To Impact Consumers

Credit flickr/Calgary Reviews

Wholesale turkey prices are at an all-time high this Thanksgiving, but you may not see that at the grocery store.

Farmers raised fewer turkeys this year than they have in the past three decades - about 235 million gobblers, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Ann Knowles raised seventy on her small farm in western Illinois. She coops up the plump birds at night to guard against predators, but lets them roam freely during the day.

KNOWLES  "They get to strut. And they chase in bugs. So I think they’re little dinky brains are probably pretty happy."

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Harvest Desk
8:07 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

Reducing Pollution From Farm Fields Through Education

Credit flickr/United Soybean Board

Agricultural runoff is a problem in Illinois and many other farm states.  Nitrogen, phosphorous and chemicals help with yields, but too much winds up in the water supply.   That creates problems like algae growth that robs the water of oxygen, killing off aquatic life. 

Jean Payne represents fertilizer and chemical dealers in the state.  She says a training program will launch this winter in an effort to get farmers better educated on how to apply nutrients to their crops, including the best time for application and proper amounts. 

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Harvest Desk
1:57 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Medical Marijuana Licenses Could Be Issued Before Year's End

Credit flickr/dankdepot

The more than 370 applications to operate medical marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries in Illinois are being whittled down.  Licenses could be awarded before the end of the year.

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Harvest Desk
7:51 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

Corn Husking Can Still Be A Hands On Job

Competitor Harlan Jacobson races to pick rows of corn at the annual Illinois State Corn Husking Competition in September. (Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media)

Dick Humes squinted and sweat as he moved down a row of corn. He sliced through the husk with a metal hook in his right hand, snapped the ear from its stalk with his left, and threw it over his shoulder into a wagon rolling alongside him.

Every other second, the corn hit the floor of the wagon with a thud. Humes was setting a steady pace for the men’s 50-and-older division at the 34th annual Illinois State Corn Husking Competition.

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Food Waste Series
6:37 am
Tue October 7, 2014

With Curbside Composting, Food Waste Not A Total Loss

In Portland, Ore., commercial food waste from restaurants and businesses gets separated and sent to a methane digester that extracts gas from the food and uses it to make electricity. (Cassandra Profita for Harvest Public Media)

Wasting around 40 percent of all the food produced in the U.S. certainly has its drawbacks: It's not feeding people in need, it's expensive and it does a lot of environmental damage.

But across the country, cities, towns and companies are finding food waste doesn't have to be a total loss. In fact, it can be quite valuable – in making fertilizer, electricity or even fuel for cars, trucks and buses.

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Food Waste Series
6:26 am
Mon October 6, 2014

Choices Can Slice School Food Waste

Gloria Restrepo, a teacher’s assistant at Harris Bilingual Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colo., helps students choose their lunch. (Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)

Lunch time at Harris Bilingual Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colo., displays all the usual trappings of a public school cafeteria: Star Wars lunch boxes, light up tennis shoes, hard plastic trays and chocolate milk cartons with little cartoon cows. It’s pizza day, the most popular of the week, and kids line up at a salad bar before receiving their slice.

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Food Waste Series
6:23 am
Thu October 2, 2014

Grocery Stores Waste Tons Of Food As They Woo Shoppers

Nearly one-third of the more than 400 million pounds of food available at grocery stores and restaurants is never eaten. (Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media)

Grocery stores and restaurants serve up more than 400 million pounds of food each year, but nearly a third of it never makes it to a stomach.

With consumers demanding large displays of un-blemished, fresh produce or massive portion sizes, many grocery stores and restaurants end up tossing a mountain of perfectly edible food. Despite efforts to cut down on waste, the consumer end of the food chain still accounts for the largest share of food waste in the U.S. food system.  

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Food Waste Series
6:16 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Manufacturers Cut Food Waste To Build Bottom Line

Todd Scherbing, Smithfield Foods’ senior director of rendering, holds a tray of pituitary glands that are cut from hogs on the line in the Farmland Foods plant in Milan, Mo. Pituitary glands are used to make insulin. (Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media)

The long line of semi-trucks waiting to get in the gates of the Farmland Foods plant could simply wait around for a few hours to head back, fresh products on board.

The trucks are loaded with hogs from several confinement operations near this factory in Milan, a small town in northeast Missouri. Within just 19 hours, those pigs will be slaughtered, butchered and boxed into cuts that consumers see in the grocery store and in restaurants.

But that effort will use only about half of the animal.

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Food Waste Series
6:12 am
Tue September 30, 2014

Technology, Infrastructure Minimize Food Waste On The Farm

On-farm and post-harvest loss accounts for about 40 percent of food waste in the developing world, according to the U.N. But it is credited with relatively small levels of waste in most industrialized countries. (Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)

On a wet, grey day in Grinnell, Iowa, the rain beats a rhythm on the metal roof of a packing shed at Grinnell Heritage Farm. Crew member Whitney Brewer picks big bunches of kale out of a washing tank, lets them drip on a drying table and then packs them into cardboard boxes.  

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Harvest Desk
6:03 am
Mon September 29, 2014

Waste Weighing Down U.S. Food System

About 35 million tons of food was dumped in landfills across the U.S. in 2012, compared to 29 million tons of plastic and 24 million tons of paper. (Pat Aylward/NET News)

It’s a hot summer day outside of Lincoln, Neb., and Jack Chappelle is knee-deep in trash. He’s wading in to rotting vegetables, half-eaten burgers and tater tots. Lots of tater tots.

“You can get a lot of tater tots out of schools,” Chappelle says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s elementary, middle school or high school. Tater tots. Bar none.”

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Harvest Desk
6:17 am
Wed September 17, 2014

U.S. Meat Inspection System In Disarray, Watchdogs Say

Earlier this year, U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled the first major overhaul of the nation's poultry-inspection system in more than 50 years. (BigStock image)

HOOKER, Okla. – Jennifer Brdar’s dream job was to be a meat inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, watching out for unwary consumers and making sure the meat on their dinner tables was clean and disease-free.

After earning an associate’s degree in meat science, Brdar (pronounced Ber-dar) was hired in March as a temporary federal meat inspector at a big beef packing operation just up the road in Liberal, Kan.

She lasted barely a month, walking away in frustration.

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Harvest Desk
6:02 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Monsanto To Settle GMO Wheat Cases

Genetically modified wheat has never been approved for farming, so nearly all of the wheat grown in the U.S. is a conventional variety. (Lauren Tucker/Flickr)

Monsanto has agreed to settle some of the lawsuits brought by U.S. farmers who allege they lost money when an Oregon field was discovered to have been contaminated with an experimental genetically modified strain of wheat.

Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States is genetically modified, but GMO wheat has never been approved for farming.

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Town's 175th Anniversary
4:59 am
Fri September 5, 2014

The Secret Ingredient in Arenzville's Burgoo

Burgoo needs to simmer for at least 12 hours, though Soup Master Tony Thomas says it's like chili -- "the longer it cooks, the better it gets."
Credit Amanda Vinicky

There's a farm town about 50 miles to the west of Springfield, in between Jacksonville and Beardstown, called Arenzville. Only about 400 people live there. It's the sort of place where old men gather at the only restaurant in town every Saturday morning for coffee. The sort of place where many of the last names carved into the tombstones at the local cemetery are the same as the last names a teacher is reading off of the class list when she takes attendance at school each morning.

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Harvest Desk
9:04 am
Thu September 4, 2014

Farmers In Great Plains Work Through Modern Day Dust Bowl

Farmer John Schweiser, 80, has had to take shelter from recent dust storms. He also lived through the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.
Credit 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.”

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Harvest Desk
8:38 am
Thu August 28, 2014

USDA Predicts Farm Income Drop This Year

Credit Bill Wheelhouse / WUIS/Harvest Public Media

Farmers’ can anticipate a sharp drop in income this year, according to a new report from the U-S Department of Agriculture. The U-S-D-A predicts the lowest amount of net farm income in five years.

The USDA expects farmers’ profits to fall by about by fourteen percent from last year’s record amount, thanks mostly to a massive drop in crop prices.

Although farmers are expected to produce record levels or corn and soybeans this year, the bumper crop will cause prices to slide and Midwest farmers will feel the pinch.

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Harvest Desk
8:58 am
Fri August 22, 2014

What Goes Into The Price Of Your Tomato?

Vegetable farmer Tom Goeke of St. Charles, Mo., sells his Red Deuce tomatoes wholesale at about $1.50 per pound. (Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media)

Late summer in the Midwest is tomato season. For tomato growers around that country, it’s time to pick their bounty and calculate their earnings.

While sun and rain might be free, tomato farmers have to carefully weigh everything else they put in to growing their crop. Research and the development of new tools – from novel seed varieties resistant to diseases to additional fertilizers – has changed the input costs for growers.

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Harvest Desk
5:13 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

Record Corn, Soybean Harvest Expected

Credit HPM

Farmers will produce a record-breaking corn harvest this year, surpassing earlier expectations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has revised upward its estimate of this year's corn harvest to 14 billion bushels.  
That exceeds last year's 13.9 billion bushel record.  

Soybean production also will set a new record at 3.8 billion bushels, beating the 2009 harvest of 3.4 billion bushels.  

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Harvest Desk
9:59 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Are Higher Food Prices Affecting You?

Credit Harvest Public Media

  When ever food prices start to rise – even a little – the national news finally starts doing stories about agriculture. We get frantic calls from editors in New York and Los Angeles – will they ration bacon? Will there be enough beef for backyard barbeques? Will children get their milk?!

To me, all those stories are great big clichés – lots of speculation told with heavy breathing and a remarkable lack of insight. Rarely are Americans ever hit with significant food shortages and sky-high prices.

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Harvest Desk
1:46 am
Sat July 19, 2014

Crop Insurance Programs Subject Of Intense Farm Bill Lobbying

Mark Crawford stands at his farm near Danville, Ill. Crawford, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat on his large farm, said the crop insurance programs are important parts of the risk-management safety net for farmers. (Darrell Hoemann/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting)

After two years of debate, the U.S. Congress passed a Farm Bill this year that replaced direct subsidies to farmers with an ever increasing multi-billion dollar federal crop insurance program.

During that time, at least 80 groups spent more than $50 million in lobbying efforts that included ensuring their interests in the often criticized program were well-represented.

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Harvest Desk
1:18 am
Wed July 16, 2014

Out Of Public Eye, A Bitter Farm Bill Fight

K Street in Washington D.C. has long been known as the home to powerful lobbyists. Hundreds of companies and groups lobbied to influence the 2014 Farm Bill. (Creative Commons)

The “who” part of the Farm Bill is pretty clear.

With trillions dollars of government spending up for grabs, lobbyists from all ends of the spectrum – representing environmental interests, biotech companies, food companies, farmers – flocked to Capitol Hill to find their piece of the Farm Bill pie.

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Harvest Desk
1:15 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Lobbyists Of All Kinds Flock To Farm Bill

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., (in green), watches as President Barack Obama signs the Farm Bill at Michigan State University on Feb. 7, 2014. (Courtesy David Kosling/USDA)

When U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow announced passage of the Farm Bill in February, she echoed a refrain from a car commercial.

“This is not your father’s Farm Bill,” she said.

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Harvest Desk
7:22 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Youth May Hold Key To Grain Safety

Colin Ebbers, 19, of Dakota, Ill. volunteers to be the victim of a grain bin fall during a demonstration by Stateline Farm Rescue, based in Orangeville, Ill.
Credit Jenna Dooley

A 9-year-old boy died in a grain bin last week in southwestern Wisconsin. While every situation is different, agricultural engineers continue to work on new ways to prevent such deaths. Those involved in the training industry say reaching the younger generation will be an important step to prevent entrapments.

   

Rescue Tools

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