Harvest Public Media

Harvest Public Media provides rich multimedia reports on all aspects of agriculture. Check below to read, view and listen online to the latest stories. Tune in to Morning Edition and All Things Considered to hear broadcasts of select stories.  

Harvest Public Media is a collaboration of public media stations across the Midwest. Partners are: High Plains Public RadioKansas Public RadioKCUR in Kansas City; Iowa Public Radio; Nebraska Educational Telecommunications; KBIA in Columbia, Mo.; WUIS in Springfield, Ill.; KUNC in Greeley, Colo.; and Tri-States Public Radio in Macomb, Ill.

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Farm bill analysis
8:00 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

New farm bill changes U.S. ag policy

President Obama signed the long-overdue Agriculture Act of 2014 – the $956-billion farm bill – into law on Friday, February 7, 2014.

Not everyone likes the farm bill signed into law on Friday, but at least farmers will be able to start making informed decisions.

The biggest change in the 2014 farm bill is that the subsidies known as direct payments are gone. Instead of the government paying a known amount to farmers each year—at a fixed budget of $5 billion—the new system of subsidies will fluctuate, partly with market forces. That makes it really hard to predict how much the program will cost each year, says Iowa State University ag economist Chad Hart.

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Marijuana in Colorado
8:01 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Colorado creates food safety system to regulate marijuana industry

A marijuana plant glows purple under grow lights at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, Colo.
Credit 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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Precipitation & Drought
8:01 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Early season snowpack looks promising for drought-stressed rivers

2014 hasn't brought much snow for the western half of the U.S. so far. But there are a few pockets on the eastern slope of the Continental Divide showing above average levels.
Credit PRISM Climate Group/Oregon State University

Midwest farmers that depend on recently drought-stressed rivers like the Platte, Republican, Niobrara, Missouri, Arkansas and Mississippi received some good news this week, along with Rocky Mountain skiers.

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Wheat Prices
8:01 pm
Sun January 19, 2014

Global bumper wheat crop brings lower prices

Countries like Russia, Australia and Canada are producing more wheat, leading to a global overabundance of the crop and subsequent lower prices.
Credit jayneadd/Flickr

Talk to any corn farmer and he or she will likely lament the dropping price of corn. But corn growers are not alone. Farmers who grow wheat are beginning to feel the same pinch.

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Sustainable, Local, Organic, & Natural Foods
5:57 am
Fri January 17, 2014

Retailers look to sell sustainability of food

On his farm near Rocheport, Mo., Bill Heffernan raises heritage St. Croix sheep, Red Poll cattle and American Cream Draft horses. He also sells his humanely-raised Berkshire and Duroc hogs to Chipotle and Whole Foods.
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 Public Media story
5:36 pm
Sun January 12, 2014

USDA one step closer to approving new Roundup resistant crops

Credit Monsanto.com

New herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans are a step closer to reaching farm fields in the U.S. They would help farmers control weeds that are no longer killed by the popular herbicide, Roundup.

Roundup resistant crops dominate corn, soybean and cotton production in the U.S. But the list of weeds that have evolved to withstand Roundup is growing, and as a result, farmers are using more chemicals to keep up.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:00 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Beef herd poised for growth … and cheaper steak eventually

Even if the beef herd begins expanding again in 2014 it could take two years for the effects to show up in consumer prices.
Credit Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

For the first time in nearly 10 years, the nation’s beef herd may be poised for growth, which could mean relief from rising meat prices. But with the fewest cattle in the beef supply since the 1960s, slow growth won’t cut prices anytime soon.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:05 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

One thing that didn’t happen in 2013: a Farm Bill

Farm Bill conference committee meeting in October of 2013
Credit Iowa Public Television

If it seems like Congress just can’t get the farm bill done, well… that’s because it can’t.

All year long, Washington lawmakers have been saying they want to pass a full five-year farm bill. But even though leaders of the House-Senate conference committee say they are close, they have acknowledged it just won’t get done this year. They’re pushing it off until January.

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Harvest Public Media story
4:49 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Vilsack to China: Get up to speed on GMOs

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says he will talk to Chinese regulators about their slow pace in evaluating biotech traits.
Credit commons.wikimedia.org

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will travel to China this week to ask Chinese regulators to get on the same page as the U.S. when it comes to evaluating genetically modified crops.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:35 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

2012 Drought Pinches Popcorn Sellers

U.S. popcorn sellers took a big hit from the 2012 drought, which caused one of the worst popcorn harvests in recent memory.
Quentin Hope

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.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:00 pm
Sun December 15, 2013

RNAi corn entering the rootworm chase

Southern Corn Rootworm also called spotted cucumber beetle
pioneer.com

With rootworms building resistance to genetically modified corn that makes its own pesticide, seed companies are working on new crops that target the insects’ genes. But some worry about unintended consequences when the technology moves from the lab to the field.

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Harvest Public Media story
4:17 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Another deadline passes without a farm bill deal

Credit www2.dupont.com

Hear the audio version of Amy's story

If it seems like Congress just can’t get the farm bill done, well… that’s because it can’t. The massive food and agriculture package used to be relatively easy thanks to bipartisan and urban-rural alliances. But this year, progress was a slow slog. A nine-month extension passed in January bought some time. This summer, the Senate passed its bill, but the House didn’t. Then it sent two bills to the conference committee, one for agriculture and the other for food stamps. Just before Thanksgiving, Iowa Republican Steve King, a conference committee member, remained optimistic.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:01 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

EPA prepares for an earful on Renewable Fuel Standard

An EPA proposal cuts the expected mandate for corn ethanol by 1.4 billion gallons in 2014.
Credit Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Both supporters and opponents of ethanol have had a lot to say since the EPA announced a proposal to cut the Renewable Fuel Standard, the rules that force oil companies to buy and use certain levels of ethanol. But they’re just warming up. The agency’s first hearing on the proposal is Thursday in Arlington, Va., and advocates from both sides will line up for a chance to give regulators a piece of their minds.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:00 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Forget the golf course, build the subdivision around a farm

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 Public Media story
5:17 pm
Sun December 8, 2013

Push for GMO labeling comes to Colorado

Protesters in Denver rallied this past summer at the state capitol, asking legislators to act on a GMO labeling rule.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Colorado could be the next battleground state in the debate over labeling rules for genetically-modified foods. Activists are trying to get the issue in front of voters in 2014.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:00 pm
Thu November 28, 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 1960s. The pheasant harvest during hunting season in Iowa is off 63 percent from the highs reached in the 1970s. In areas that used to be overrun, you’ll struggle to find a pheasant now.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:00 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

Canned pumpkins aren’t grown for their looks.

Field of Libby’s Select pumpkins, a hybrid of the Dickinson pumpkin. The inside is orange but the outside is closer to beige, similar to a butternut squash.

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 pumpkins are 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 Public Media story
5:59 am
Wed November 20, 2013

Under the microscope: Microbes can help farmers

Researchers at chemical company BASF are working to harness bacteria and microbes for beneficial purposes.
Credit Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Farmers and scientists have long understood that what lives beneath the soil affects how crops grow. Often, they work to fight plant diseases—warding off infectious viruses and damaging fungi, for example. But now some microbiologists are focused on how to harness the good things microbes can do, with the goal of increasing farmers’ yields and diminishing their dependence on chemical inputs.

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Beef prices
8:01 pm
Sun November 17, 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. This time, the supply is tight and with livestock farmers looking at lower costs of production, some may keep animals on the farm to help increase their herds, rather than sending them to market. Since consumer demand typically goes up at this time of year, Lee Schulz, a livestock economist at Iowa State University, said the combination will increase the price meatpackers pay to producers.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:01 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Migrant Education Program looks to give farmworkers’ children a boost

The Migrant Education Program in the Imperial Valley of California serves about 7,000 students with support like tutoring, college prep and online courses.
Credit Jill Replogle/Fronteras Desk

Several hundred teenagers filed into a swanky event center in Heber in California’s Imperial Valley on a recent Friday morning. By all accounts, they look like typical high schoolers — smacking gum and texting away. The vast majority were Latino.



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Harvest Public Media story
4:14 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Filling a hole in the organic pipeline

Organic meat producers depend on having organic farm to feed their livestock. But conventional acres far outstrip organically raised acres in the Midwest.
Credit Clay Masters for Harvest Public Media

Organic food is a hot market in the U.S. The Organic Trade Association says that sales over the last five years have grown 35 percent. But there’s a problem in the supply chain – not enough organic grain.

Many producers in the farm belt aren’t willing to take on organic production despite a hefty price premium. That has left organic food companies scrambling to find enough raw ingredients for the products that hit grocery store shelves. Just as corn and soybeans dominate conventional processed food and meat, these same grains are often key ingredients for organic foods.

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Agriculture & Local Foods
5:46 am
Fri November 8, 2013

Interview with Joel Salatin: Local food evangelist

Joel Salatin on his farm in Virginia
Credit Creative Commons

Listen as Harvest Public Media's Luke Runyan speaks with Joe Salatin.

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 Public Media story
5:46 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Science not likely to decide food issues

Panelists, including Frances Moore Lappe (second from left), speak to a symposium at the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa.
Credit Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Hot-button food issues of the day, such as the use of genetically modified organisms or the treatment of livestock, tend to pit large industries against smaller activist groups. Often, both sides will claim the science supports what they are saying. That can leave consumers, most of whom aren’t scientists, in a bit of a bind.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:01 pm
Thu October 31, 2013

Dreaming beyond the slaughterhouse

Binh Hua (left) and My Nguyen, both 18, work in the Garden City Community College chemistry lab. The two best friends graduated from high school in three years and after community college, plan to go on to universities.
Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

Hear the audio version of this story

Not yet 9 a.m. on a warm fall day, freshmen Binh Hua and My Nguyen are in protective goggles, long hair pulled back, ready for their chemistry class in a Garden City Community College lab.

The teacher calls the class to order, calling the students “Busters,” short for “Broncbusters,” the college’s mascot and a reminder of this old West town’s history of raising cattle.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:01 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

Garden City: Tending to a cultural crossroads in Kansas

Sister Janice Thome at a local Garden City school. Thome teaches several classes, including a teen parenting class at the Garden City alternative high school.
Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

GARDEN CITY, Kan. — Sister Janice Thome’s office is a 2003 brown Ford Focus with a backseat piled high with paperwork and a prayer book.

Thome puts 125,000 miles a year on this car, picking up boxes from the food pantry, finding a mattress for a newcomer, delivering a sick soul to a doctor’s appointment. All the while, she fields emergency calls on her flip phone, responding to her mission to serve the poor of Garden City, out on the plains of southwest Kansas.

This day, Thome is teaching her teen parenting class at the alternative high school.

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Harvest Public Media story
6:15 am
Mon October 28, 2013

In the Shadows of the Slaughterhouse: 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.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Hear the audio version of Abbie's story

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 Public Media field note
7:52 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Guilty plea to criminal charges has implications for the entire food industry

Credit News21 – National/Flickr

The Colorado farmers who distributed cantaloupes infected with listeria two years ago pleaded guilty in federal court to criminal charges Tuesday. Jensen Farms, located outside Holly, Colo., was the source of the outbreak that killed 33 people nationwide.

The outbreak was the deadliest in more than 20 years. Cantaloupes processed in the summer of 2011 at Jensen Farms near the Kansas border were laden with Listeria. It’s a pathogen infamous for its high mortality rate.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:32 pm
Sun October 20, 2013

Beyond Community Gardens to Edible Parks

Stephanie Syson of the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute looks at plans for a proposed food forest in Basalt, Colo.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Community gardens dole out small plots of land and encourage people with limited access to fresh produce to grow their own. Now, there’s a new twist on that model springing up across the country: edible food forests.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:17 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

'Degeneration of the family farm' in photos

Courtesy Randy Waln

Rural roadsides are littered with neglected homesteads, long-ago abandoned. I see them all the time driving across Nebraska. Fallen farmhouses. Blighted barns. Overgrown fencerows. They even have a fanclub on Facebook.

For Randy Waln, a graphic design professor at Peru State University in Peru, Neb., there’s something about a rusted-out truck or weed-covered roadway that stokes the imagination.

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Harvest Public Media story
7:27 pm
Wed October 16, 2013

Grain bin rescues difficult and dangerous

Firefighters train for a grain bin rescue on a simulator with the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety.
Credit Pat Blank for Harvest Public Media

Grain bins on rural farms filled with a year’s harvest can be dangerous and when workers become trapped in the grain, it often ends in death. That’s why in Iowa, volunteer fire departments are using training and new equipment to increase the chances of survival in an entrapment.

A study by Purdue University shows the overall death rate from accidents on American farms has been declining. However, the number of fatalities from grain bin entrapments has been stubbornly steady, hitting an all-time high of 51 in 2010.

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