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.

Genre: 

Pages

Food Security
7:56 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Could our food supply be a target for terrorists?

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

Listen to Luke's report.

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.

Read more
A contuning challenge for ranchers
8:00 pm
Sun March 2, 2014

Invasive weeds may look forward to climate change

Dr. Dana Blumenthal and colleagues explain their invasive weed research during a tour of The Prairie Heating and Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (PHACE) Experiment in Wyoming. In this test plot higher temperature and richer CO2 conditions are being simulated to study their effects on invasive weed growth.
Credit USDA: Prairie Heating and Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (PHACE) Experiment

Most climate models paint a bleak picture for the Great Plains a century from now: It will likely be warmer and the air will be richer with carbon dioxide. Though scientists don’t yet know how exactly the climate will change, new studies show it could be a boon to some invasive plant species.  

A growing problem

Read more
Commodity Challenge
8:00 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

A fantasy game for realizing farm profit

Robbie Maass shows his mother, Leah, the Commodity Challenge game that is helping him understand market tools. Leah Maass says her farm could benefit from better use of the tools and she’s hoping Robbie will be able to learn how to put them to work for the family.
Credit Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

On a frigid winter day, Chad Hart tries to warm his economics students at Iowa State University to the idea of managing some of the risk of farming using the commodity markets. Because, as he told them on the first day of class, farmers don’t make money planting or harvesting crops; they make money selling them. And Hart knows that marketing—managing those sales for the best profit—can be intimidating.

Read more
Productivity vs. privacy
7:42 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Farmers worry about sharing Big Data

This laptop is an essential tool on Dave Beck’s farm. He uses it to design maps to apply different doses of seed, water, and fertilizer on his fields.
Credit Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

When it comes to keeping data secure, farmers are worried about some of the same issues as the rest of us. Precision data from the farm could help drive new levels of productivity, but farmers have to decide just how much they want to share.

Precision agriculture started with satellite-guided tractors and maps recording pinpoint levels of grain yields during harvest. But farmers like Dave Beck are taking the next step.

Read more
USDA response to climate change
8:00 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Research units to help farmers respond to climate change

Looking to help farmers adapt to climate change, the U.S Department of Agriculture is setting up seven new research hubs, including a handful that will cover the Great Plains and Midwest.

The new research centers, anchored in different regions, are tasked with charting how climate change poses risks to farming, ranching and forestry. Then they are to devise strategies to adapt.

Read more
Impact of dairy consolidation
8:00 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Changing dairy industry leaves some 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.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Hear the audio version of Abbie's story.

The growth of the dairy industry across the High Plains has been a boon to the economy and communities of the region.  Urbanization and increasing regulation in states such as California are often cited as the reason for the migration of large dairies to our area.  But there’s also on overall industry consolidation underway that’s driving out small producers from nearby states, including dairyman Donnie Davidson and others in Missouri, as profiled in this story from 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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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?

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.



Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more

Pages