Grant Gerlock

Harvest Public Media's reporter at NET News, where he started as Morning Edition host in 2008. He joined Harvest Public Media in July 2012. Grant has visited coal plants, dairy farms, horse tracks and hospitals to cover a variety of stories. Before going to Nebraska, Grant studied mass communication as a grad student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and completed his undergrad at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. He grew up on a farm in southwestern Iowa where he listened to public radio in the tractor, but has taken up city life in Lincoln, Neb.

The two federal agencies tasked with enforcing the nation’s food safety laws agreed this week to collaborate better, update biotechnology regulations and implement new safety inspections on produce farms.

The two federal agencies tasked with enforcing the nation’s food safety laws agreed this week to collaborate better, update biotechnology regulations and implement new safety inspections on produce farms.

The biggest change from the agreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, however, could come from a review of how food processing facilities currently are regulated by both departments. Experts say that could lead to less paperwork for food manufacturers and more streamlined reports of recalls and other food safety issues.

In winter, farmers across the U.S. visit their banks to learn whether they have credit for the next growing season, relying on that borrowed money to buy seed, fertilizer and chemicals.

But prices for corn, soybeans and wheat are low enough that some producers have had a hard time turning a profit, and financial analysts expect some farmers will hear bad news: Their credit has run out.

Shoring up rural America’s economy must start with broadband access and technology, a federal task force says in a report released Monday.

The group, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and made up of other Cabinet members, says doing so will bring rural areas increased health care access, better job training, smart electrical grids and more precision farming technology. Little of that can be accomplished, the report says, without closing the broadband gap between urban and rural residents.

Many rural businesses and farms will benefit from the tax overhaul passed Wednesday by Congress. But there’s a catch: If the changes fail to spur economic growth as intended, programs that rural areas rely on could be on the chopping block.

One provision in the massive bill, which President Trump has yet to sign into law, allows small business owners to deduct 20 percent of their business income. It also expands the deduction for small business investment — a popular provision among farmers, who can write off the cost of things like a new tractor.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture faces a lawsuit that argues the federal agency must bring back a proposed rule that defined abusive practices by meatpacking companies.

The delivery of federal food benefits for millions of low-income people is likely to change after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week it will allow states more flexibility in how they dole out the money.

The delivery of federal food benefits for millions of low-income people is likely to change after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday it’ll allow states more flexibility in how they dole out the money.


Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a news release that his agency wants states to try out programs that don’t increase the cost of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) but instead promote job training and reduce waste and fraud. The news release said specifics will be provided in “the coming weeks.”


Midwestern U.S. senators’ lobbying campaign paid off Thursday for farmers who supply the renewable fuel industry.

Instead of making a small cut to the amount of ethanol and biodiesel to be used in the U.S. in 2018, the EPA approved an increase of less than one percent, bringing the total to 19.29 billion gallons. The federal agency also rolled back most of the proposed decrease for cellulosic ethanol, which can be made from cornstalks and perennial grasses.

The farm economy is showing some stability, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says, but the upswing doesn’t extend to all agricultural sectors.

Over the last three years, farm earnings have plummeted, eliciting concerns that the farm economy could tumble toward another farm crisis like the 1980s. For 2017, the USDA expects net farm income to rebound by a modest 3 percent nationwide, to $63 billion.

Danette Ray is standing inside a re-created train depot, wearing cowboy boots, leather chaps and two six-shooters in holsters at her waist. Before she draws her pistols to fire at a row of targets, Ray calls out: “You get back inside, I’ll cover for ya!” — a line spoken by Jimmy Stewart in the 1957 western Night Passage.

Ray, who goes by the nickname Marie Laveau, competes in cowboy action shooting, a brand of target shooting with historically accurate guns and costumes. There’s yet another dose of theater: In each round, the shooters play out a movie scene.

The World Health Organization released recommendations this week to curb the use of antibiotics in livestock, saying it could help reduce the risk of drug-resistant infections in humans.

But the U.S. Department of Agriculture says some of the guidelines from the United Nations’ public health agency would place “unnecessary and unrealistic constraints” on farmers and veterinarians. It's a disagreement that could have an impact on farm exports.

Burkey Farms in southeast Nebraska looked into the future a couple of years ago and didn’t like what it saw — a continuation of depressed prices for conventional corn and soybeans. So, the families who run the farm together started discussing how the operation would make money if they couldn’t earn more from their crops.  

Their conversation took a turn toward organics, a $40 billion industry and growing, especially in Iowa and Colorado.

A new report suggests the Environmental Protection Agency should consider lowering the legal limit in drinking water for nitrates, a chemical often connected to fertilizer use.

A new report suggests the Environmental Protection Agency should consider lowering the legal limit in drinking water for nitrates, a chemical often connected to fertilizer use.

People who drink water with elevated, but not illegal, levels of nitrates could be at an increased risk of kidney, ovarian and bladder cancer, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group asserts. But a University of Iowa researcher who studies nitrate contamination says the connection to cancer is inconsistent and other chemicals may be involved.

Every year on the farm has its challenges. There are weeds, insects and random hailstorms. Unpredictable global markets can make or break a profitable crop. Recent years, though, have been especially troubling for the Hammond farm in York County in eastern Nebraska.

Sidney, Nebraska, has prospered while many rural cities have struggled. For decades, the city has been home to Cabela’s, a major outdoor retail chain.

As Cabela’s completes a deal in which it will be bought by a rival, however, the future of Sidney’s economic engine is in doubt. As in other rural cities that have faced the loss or closure of major industry, the question is how the community will move on and grow in the 21st Century.

Higher temperatures thanks to climate change could cut down the output of farmers the world over.

An international group of researchers compiled dozens of studies to see what happens to yields of corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans as the global climate grows warmer.

They found that every time global temperatures go up 1 degree Celsius, not quite 2 degrees Fahrenheit, crop yields fall. On average, three percent for soybeans, six percent for wheat, seven percent for corn.

TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL oil pipeline, is scheduled to go before the Nebraska Public Service Commission next week, the final hurdle before the agency decides whether the pipeline’s path should be approved.

Valarie Smith / High Plains Public Radio

Wildfires can be started by neglected campfires or cigarette butts. They can ignite from prescribed burns run amok, or launch from lightning strikes.

However they’re caused, Victoria Donovan, a Ph.D. student at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, has been running the numbers to see how often they’re happening.

In a new study, she found a serious uptick in wildfires over the last 30 years across the Plains from Texas to the Dakotas.

Tim Mueller has raised corn and soybeans on 530 acres near the city of Columbus, Nebraska, for decades, but today he is planning to take a big gamble.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

A new tractor often costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, but not included in that price: the right to repair it. That has put farmers on the front lines of a battle pitting consumers against the makers of all kinds of consumer goods, from tractors to refrigerators to smart phones.  

Modern tractors, essentially, have two keys to make the engine work. One key starts the engine. Today’s tractors are high-tech machines that can steer themselves by satellite, so there is another key – a software key – to get into the programs that make a tractor run properly.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The Trump Administration is voicing its support for the ethanol industry, but without specifics it is hard to say what that means exactly for Midwest farmers.

In a letter (PDF) to industry leaders gathered at the National Ethanol Conference, President Donald Trump said renewable fuels “are essential to America’s energy strategy.”

The president wrote that he aims to reduce the regulatory burden on the renewable fuels industry, but did not detail specific plans.

Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

After dueling reviews of research studies, scientific panels from the U.S. government and the World Health Organization are having a hard time agreeing whether glyphosate, the most common weed killer in the United States, can cause cancer. Known by the brand name RoundUp, glyphosate is sprayed on farm fields and lawns all across the country.

Has either of the two presidential candidates said anything about the Ogallala Aquifer?

As part of its ongoing ag reporting, Harvest Public Media reporters examine questions from readers and this is one of them.

We weren’t able to find any cases where the candidates specifically address the Ogallala Aquifer, but each has each spoken to sustainable water use - mostly with an eye to the West. (Neither the Clinton nor the Trump campaigns responded to a request for comment.)

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

From Harvest Public Media:

A group of Nebraska farmers is suing the giant seed and chemical company, Monsanto, in federal court saying the company’s top-selling herbicide gave them cancer.

Farmers Larry Domina, Robert Dickey, and Royce Janzen, along with farm agronomist Frank Pollard, have each been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. They were exposed to Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller in their work on the farm.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

From Harvest Public Media:

Schools across the U.S. served more than 5 billion meals in the national school lunch program to millions of students last year. Each one of the meals has to meet federal rules for nutrition. Now, those rules are up for debate and Congress could impose changes on the cafeteria.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

From Harvest Public Media:

Some of the most important medicines doctors prescribe to fight infections are losing effectiveness and the Obama Administration is calling on farmers to help turn the tide against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A recent report by the president’s advisors on antibiotic resistance charts some progress but also left some critics urging for more immediate action.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

From Harvest Public Media:

There are mounting concerns about the direction of the farm economy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects farm income to fall for the third year in a row in 2016. At the same time, farmers are borrowing billions more from banks to get by.

At the Lee Valley consignment sale near Tekamah, Neb., dozens of used tractors, planters and other equipment were on the auction block for farmers trying to save a few extra dollars. It was a muddy day, with trucks and four-wheelers leaving deep black ruts — fitting conditions for an industry wallowing in bad news.

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