agriculture

Local Farmers Cash In On Corn Tortillas

Sep 12, 2017
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Many in the High Plains region regularly enjoy the tortilla chips – an item more local than what might think - that, along with a bowl of salsa, typically precede Mexican meals.

As The High Plains Journal reports, Leon and Nancy Winfrey of Plains, Kansas own Southwest Tortillas – made with food grade white corn grown on their farm. The family sells fresh corn tortillas to restaurants in Kansas and Oklahoma.

Kansas Political Leaders Discuss Future Of Ag

Aug 28, 2017
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Political leaders strategized about the future of ag in Kansas at the Summit on Agricultural Growth held in Manhattan Thursday.

As The Topeka Capital-Journal reports, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall of the rural 1st district in Congress, said the government was prepared to endorse the conversion of sorghum oil into bio-diesel. Sorghum is mainly used as livestock feed so the addition would bolster the market value of the grain.

Colorado Department of Agriculture

The Colorado Department of Agriculture is offering a crisis hotline for farmers facing emotional crisis because of financial strains.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, Colorado's wheat and corn farmers, like those across the High Plains, are struggling as global competition forces prices down below their production costs.

Hundreds of Midwest farmers are complaining of damage to their crops allegedly caused by the herbicide dicamba. The total number of damaged acres may come to more than 2.5 million acres, according to data compiled by a University of Missouri researcher.

Most of the damage has been found in the Midwest and South, with complaints of more than 850,000 damaged acres in Arkansas and more than 300,000 damaged acres in both Missouri and Illinois.

conaway.house.gov/biography/portrait.htm

Billions of dollars for farmers and nutrition programs may have been saved last month behind closed doors.

As Politico reports, while lawmakers didn't disclose specifics about their handshake agreement, that was when House aides and agriculture lobbyists say House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway was able to stave off billions in proposed spending cuts to agriculture and nutrition programs.

The agriculture committee was initially facing around $70 billion in proposed cuts, but ended up closer to $10 billion, which came after Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black lowered her original goal for total mandatory spending cuts by roughly $300 billion, and Conaway made the case that cutting programs under his watch would imperil the 2018 farm bill.

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The depressed prices for wheat, corn, milo and other commodities - caused by a global glut of grain - is pushing some farmers further into debt.

As The Hutch News reports, net farm income for last year averaged $43,100, which while much better than last year, is significantly lower than record farm income farmers reaped from 2010 to 2014, when the average ranged between $130,000 to nearly $170,000 - thanks to high commodity prices for both crops and cattle.

Kansas wheat harvest yields a mixed bag

Jun 28, 2017
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Wheat harvest is in full swing across the High Plains and according to Kansas Wheat, yields in the Sunflower State have been a mixed bag.

According to day 12 of the Kansas Wheat Harvest reports, Irsik and Doll Feed Service of Pierceville reported yields of 30 to 40 bushels per acre, while Mid State Farmers Coop of Rush Center reported average yields of 45 to 50 bushels per acre. The highest average yields reported by the WaKeeney branch of Frontier Ag, Inc., were in the 40s.

This story was updated at 3:12 p.m.

A federal jury in Kansas City, Kansas, awarded nearly $218 million to Kansas corn farmers after finding seed giant Syngenta AG was negligent when it introduced strains of genetically engineered corn seed into the marketplace that were not approved for import by the Chinese government.  

The eight-member jury returned its $217,700,000 verdict after an 18-day-long trial, the first of eight certified class actions lawsuits against Syngenta brought in state court.

Brandon Biesemeier climbs up a small ladder into a John Deere sprayer, takes a seat in the enclosed cab, closes the door, and blocks out most of the machine’s loud engine hum. It is a familiar perch to the fourth-generation farmer on Colorado’s eastern plains.

He turns onto a country road, heading south to spray an herbicide on his cornfields, an early growing season task his genetically engineered crops demand if he is to unlock their value. In the cab, a computer screen shows a little pixelated tractor moving across digital fields, logging his work.

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.

Kansas net farm income rebounds somewhat, but ag economy continues to slump

May 30, 2017
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Kansas average net farm income rebounded somewhat last year to $43,161 from a dismal stretch the previous year when income fell to $6,744 – the lowest in 30 years. 

Other areas of the state were more affected by the slumping farm economy. In northwest Kansas, farmers averaged $389 and south-central farms averaged a loss of $5,352.

Meanwhile, southeast Kansas farms fared better than in other areas, with average net farm income of $109,344.

Northeast Kansas income averaged $48,197, southwest at $39,615 and north-central at $34,205.

A leading research center focused on local farmers and environmental conservation is hanging on by a thread, even as the movement to diversify agriculture, which it helped launch, continues to thrive.

ABBIE FENTRESS SWANSON / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA

As the Trump administration takes the initial steps toward renegotiating one of the country’s most influential and controversial trade deals, groups that represent farmers and ranchers are already waving a caution sign.

Palmer amaranth and other weeds may develop resistance to common herbicides if they aren't successfully killed.Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public MediaEdit | Remove

Belt-tightening has been the trend for row-crop farmers in the Midwest for the past several years as corn and soybean prices remain low. Reducing application of expensive herbicides may be tempting to save money, but that’s a strategy that could result in severe economic consequences down the road.

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Farming isn’t getting any easier given low grain prices, rising costs and unpredictable weather, yet many young people in southwest Kansas are staying on the family farm and statewide farming groups are working to further cultivate the younger generation’s interest in agriculture.

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Northern Colorado agriculture producers are struggling to find U.S. workers.

As the Greeley Tribune reports, there aren’t enough U.S. workers who will do the labor-intensive work required by the agriculture industry, as many have moved to other labor-intensive industries like oil or construction.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Bob, Robbie and Leah Maass ready equipment for planting season on their farm near Ellsworth, Iowa.Credit AMY MAYER / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIAEdit | Remove

Three months after his nomination, Sonny Perdue faces a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate Monday for the post of secretary of agriculture.

U.S. SEN. JERRY MORAN, R-KANSAS

On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran held a town hall meeting in Garden City, where health care and education were the primary topics of discussion.

As The Garden City Telegram reports, Moran said he that while he wants every American to have access to health care, he doesn’t believe it’s guaranteed by the federal government.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Imagine you’re a farmer and it’s time to decide what to plant. You need information on supply, demand, prices, outlook -- information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, university extension services, even economists at the Federal Reserve.

Hybrid seed corn and nitrogen fertilizer transformed farming in the 20th century, but they are also closely tied to some of today’s major agricultural challenges. That has prompted some members of two families that played pivotal roles in developing farm innovations to work on putting a lighter, 21st century stamp on the landscape.

In Carlisle, Iowa, Rob Fleming still uses the 1947 Ford 2n tractor he drove on the family farm as a teenager. Back then, neat rows of corn lined his family’s fields. Not anymore.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

President Donald Trump has nominated former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as Agriculture Secretary, bucking a recent trend of Midwest leadership at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and making many in the farm country of the Midwest and Great Plains a little leery.

Coupled with the appointments of leaders from Oklahoma and Texas to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy, respectively, there looks to be a shift in the power center of the parts of the federal government that most directly impact agriculture.

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The state of the farm economy is helping agricultural groups and farm-state lawmakers make their case for preserving and possibly increasing funding levels in the 2018 farm bill but some last week argued against it.

As Politico reports, the Heritage Foundation, the Environmental Working Group and Taxpayers for Common Sense argued that the current downturn in an inherently cyclical market shouldn’t be used to maintain the status quo on farm policy.

To diversify the landscape, diversify who works it

Feb 28, 2017
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Farmers in the U.S. like to point out that their products feed people all over the world. And while this is a diverse country, the people working on farms and elsewhere in agriculture often don’t reflect the nation’s demographics. Changing that is becoming a priority, in hopes new people will bring fresh ideas to meet some of our food system’s greatest challenges.

Colorado rancher shows support for Trump in a big way

Feb 26, 2017
9 News

An eastern Colorado rancher is showing his support of President Donald Trump in a way only a rancher, or farmer, could come up with.

As 9 News reports, rancher Doug Koehn of Limon, in frustration at some of the negativity coming from opponents of Trump, hopped on his plow and carved the word “TRUMP” in big block letters into his field.

The letters are approximately 800 feet wide and 800 feet long, a mile-long Trump, Koehn told 9 News.

In search of profit, some conventional farmers may go local

Feb 22, 2017
Bryan Thomas / Harvest Public Media

Low crop prices have many Midwest wheat and corn farmers looking for ways to supplement their incomes. One possibility for conventional farmers: producing food for farmers markets.

Amy Bickel

With their water wells dropping, two farmers from the far southwest corner of Kansas flew a 1967 Cessna Wednesday morning to Topeka – all in support of hemp.

Farmers Darren Buck and Reid Shrauner didn’t have quite the journey as some of their fellow Morton County residents, who left before sunlight to support a bill that they think could boost their county’s struggling economy and extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer.

Kansas Geological Survey

Thanks to timely rains last year, Mount Hope-area farmer Jeff Winter figures on some of his fields he pumped half the amount of water that he normally uses to irrigate his crops.

So did many central Kansas farmers. And it showed. 

While the Ogallala Aquifer continues to decline, the Equus Beds and Great Bend Prairie aquifers saw rises as irrigators shut down their wells more often in 2016.

"We didn't have to pump as much, and we shut off more frequently," said Winter, who also is on the Equus Beds board. He added that on a few fields, he pumped even less.

A new barrier to life on the farm: Student debt

Feb 15, 2017
Kristofer Husted / Harvest Public Media

Liz Graznak runs an organic farm in Jamestown, Missouri, which she calls Happy Hollow Farm. She sells her vegetables to local restaurants, in CSA boxes and at the farmer’s market.  But eight years ago, after falling in love with the idea of growing her own local produce, the farm she runs today looked like a near-impossible dream.

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Small farming operations are benefiting from mobile technologies geared toward addressing challenges they face, from production to financial services to market access.

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How low can it go?

That’s what many in farm country asked about the farm economy Tuesday, after the Agriculture Department forecast another plunge this year in profits for farmers.

Net farm income will fall 8.7 percent from last year’s levels, according to the year’s first forecast produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS). If realized, that would mark the fourth-straight year of profit declines, after 2013 saw record-highs.

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