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.

Fork in the road for the farm bill?

Jul 1, 2013
BigStock image /Harvet Public Media

Déjà vu may be a lighthearted way of looking at it, but it feels like 2012 all over again for the farm bill.

Last call for wheat trading in Kansas City

Jun 27, 2013
KCBT

For 157 years, the price of most wheat grown on the plains has been set by the Kansas City Board of Trade. That will soon come to an end.

In October 2012, Chicago-based CME Group acquired the Kansas City Board of Trade. Operations move to Chicago as of July 1 – and the last call on the Kansas City trading floor takes place on Friday. Here's a look back at the long history of the Board of Trade – and the end of an era.

Deep roots in KC

What you should know about the food stamps debate

Jun 27, 2013
Beautiful Lily/Flickr

  The U.S. House defeated the farm bill last week, after the Senate passed its version of the bill in early June. Both bills include about $500 billion in spending over five years. Few pieces of legislation can produce such sharp divisions, even by Washington standards—but few could have such immediate, significant impact on so many Americans.

Redefining the co-op in ways big and small

Jun 23, 2013
Hilary Stohs-Krause/NET News

  The cooperative business model, long a staple of Midwestern agricultural communities, is being adapted to serve a broader range of rural needs.

For example, in the south-central Nebraska town of Elwood — population 700 — there’s a new grocery store.

“I get very emotional almost every time I’m in here, because I’m just so happy to have this store,” said Sharlette Schwenninger, who helped found the cooperative store.  The town had been without a grocery store for more than a year.

Now that the Senate has a farm bill (technically the Agriculture, Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013)ready and waiting for reconciliation with a House version, it’s a good time to look at how some of what the Senate passed may play out in the House—and what it all means for the general public as well as for farmers.

How are decisions made about projects that benefit rural America?

Jun 16, 2013

The U.S. Department of Agriculture first began designating funds for rural development in 1933 as part of the New Deal. More federal funds were allocated in the Agricultural Act of 1970. During this fiscal year, the rural development program is administering approximately $38 billion in loans, loan guarantees and grants. It’s being used to construct or improve 48 rural libraries, assist 243 projects in the delivery of healthcare and help more than 270,000 low income families get affordable housing, according to the USDA.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

    As lawmakers debate the Farm Bill in Washington, millions of dollars are at stake for small businesses across the country. Rural development grants go out to everything from home loans to water projects to small co-ops.

With budget cuts likely, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is adjusting how these funds are used, and proposing changes to the word “rural.” But there’s concern that a tighter belt at the federal level means farmers and ranchers in small towns will be left behind.

Lifeblood for rural communities: federal funds

Jun 12, 2013
Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media.

As Congress fiddles with major farm legislation, there’s a portion of it that gets very little attention. Some say it is a difference-maker for job creation in small rural communities and provides a boost those towns need. Harvest Public Media’s Bill Wheelhouse reports.

In the small town of Staunton, Ill., the new $9 million water plant is a welcome addition. After all, when the 80-year-old facility it replaces seized up last year, the community’s 5,000 residents were without water for five days. 

Some farmers are feeling a bit defensive – or put-upon -- these days. Take the recent experiences of Bob Young, for instance.  The 69 year old raises 36-hundred hogs on the land where he grew up near Rochester in central Illinois.  When he was getting ready to build a hog confinement facility seven years ago some area residents, concerned about the potential smell of the place, filed suit.  A court order stopped construction for 18 months.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

April Segura is a regular at the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market in Lincoln, Neb. On a warm, May afternoon, the single, stay-at-home mother of three greeted friends and acquaintances while strolling past tables of lettuce and herbs. She hoped to find more asparagus for sale.

“I love asparagus season and it’s probably about to be over,” said Segura, holding two grocery bags with one arm and her one-year-old son, Jeriel, with the other.

USDA Risk Management Agency

Nearly $17 billion has been paid out to farmers in crop insurance indemnities to cover the losses from the catastrophic drought of 2012, the government reported this week.

Kevin Wells has been genetically engineering animals for 24 years.

“It’s sort of like a jigsaw puzzle,” said Wells recently as he walked through his lab at the University of Missouri - Columbia. “You take DNA apart and put it back together in different orders, different orientations.”

This tax season is an unusual one for farmers.

“Farmers didn’t necessarily have a great crop to harvest, but they harvested a huge amount of income last year. It was one of the biggest years, inflation-adjusted, since going back to the 1970s,” said Roger McEowen, who runs the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation at Iowa State University.

LOGAN LAYDEN / STATEIMPACT OKLAHOMA

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built more lakes in Oklahoma than any other state. Some of those reservoirs struggle to fill, especially during drought, or end up holding more silt than water. But none have been a bigger failure than Lake Optima.

Generic seeds could have a short lifespan

Mar 6, 2013
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

The patent rights on the first genetically modified seeds expire next year, but it’s not clear how the introduction of “generic” seeds fits into the science and business of GM crops.

The vast majority of the corn and soybeans in United States grow from seeds that have been genetically modified. The technology is barely 30 years old and the controversy surrounding it somewhat younger. But how did it even become possible?

 At the crossroads of industry, railroads and farm country Kansas City has long been a capital of the plains. In recent years, though, Kansas City and other agriculture hubs have seen technology chip away at their importance.

Since 1856, for instance, wheat has been traded on the floor of the Kansas City Board of Trade. In the old days, there would be a swarm of traders around the pits, shouting orders, making those crazy hand signals you've seen in the movies, but that will end later this summer.

Melissa Widhalm, NDMC

There’s a border war going in the Midwest and it’s over water. Kansas and Nebraska have been battling for years over the water in the Republican River, which runs from Colorado to Kansas, through Nebraska.

Farmers in all three states depend on the Republican River to irrigate their fields and with agriculture such a prominent industry in the Midwest, the water battle amounts to a big deal. Kansas and Nebraska’s current dispute will eventually head to the U.S. Supreme Court. And with many farmers dealing with drought and planning for water restrictions, the battle is heating up.

An unlikely coalition of business and social interests tried last year to get the legislature to establish a state program that would help ag businesses hire undocumented workers and let them legally stay in the state. Conservative lightning rod Grover Norquist – more known for his anti-tax crusades than his immigration beliefs – endorsed the plan during a speech in Topeka this week. He likened current U-S immigration law to the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit enacted in the 70s. Norquist says most people broke that law, too.

Farmers frustrated by farm bill extension

Jan 4, 2013

Farmers and ranchers across the country expected to start the new year with a new farm bill, the all-important legislation setting agricultural policy for the next five years.

As House and Senate negotiators worked feverishly at the turn of the year to come to a fiscal cliff deal, word leaked that the Agriculture Committees had finally come to an agreement on a long-awaited new farm bill. But the final fiscal cliff deal ditched new legislation and merely extended parts of the bill that expired in October.

Limited progress on animal lab site at KSU

Jan 3, 2013
Laura Ziegler for Harvest Public Media

  

In Manhattan, Kan., the site of National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is still just a huge hole in the ground nearly a year after the initial ground-breaking.

But there has been some progress. In December, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which will operate the huge animal disease lab if it is ever completed, got title to the land when the city of Manhattan officially deeded over the 47-acre site. It’s a move that supporters hope will breathe new life into the beleaguered lab.

My Farm Roots: Entrusted with a legacy

Sep 25, 2012
Camille Phillips/Harvest Public Media

Down a stretch of rural highway and country roads lined with fields, about an hour south of Lincoln, Neb., lies the Dorn family farm. That’s where Nathan Dorn grew up, where his grandfather farmed before him and where his father, uncles and cousin now farm beside him.

Dorn’s strong ties to the land made the decision to continue the family tradition of farming an easy one. But it also leaves him feeling misunderstood by the average American.

My Farm Roots: From pastime to passion

Sep 18, 2012
Hilary Stohs-Krause for Harvest Public Media

Aaron Troester’s life both did, and didn’t, turn out exactly the way he planned.

The 29-year-old farmer in the north-central Nebraska town of O’Neill was pouring honey into jars from bees he keeps when I met him. I soon learned he had a chemistry degree and had planned to go to medical school, but the lure of the land he farms with his father changed his mind.

“All through grade school, I knew I wanted to farm,” Troester said. That changed in college, but a year spent back on the farm while waitlisted for med school slowly evolved from passing the time into passion.

Frank Morris/ Harvest Public Media

Rose Alderson is a bright-eyed, energetic grandmother who loves her home a few miles outside of Nickerson, Kan. It’s the home her father was raised in and where she raised her kids, but the house is not the most important part of the Alderson place.  

Alderson loves the barn and the silo. Neither building plays much of a role on the farm anymore, but to Rose, they are the soul of the place.  

Markets woo wary farmers

Aug 30, 2012
Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

Farmers are the bedrock of the agricultural commodities markets – after all, they make the products that are traded there.

But after the October bankruptcy of commodity trading firm MF Global and more recent allegations of shady dealings at Iowa futures firm Peregrine Financial, the bedrock is shaking.

That’s why CME Group, which owns the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, is working hard to regain farmers’ trust.

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