agriculture

New Kansas ethanol plant turning crop residue into fuel

Mar 10, 2015
Bryan Thompson

Five months after its grand opening, a massive new-generation ethanol plant in the southwest corner of Kansas is undergoing final adjustments as it prepares to begin full-scale production. The plant, built by a Spanish company with financing from the U.S. Department of Energy, is designed to produce clean-burning fuel — not from corn, but from the bits and pieces of crops left in farmers’ fields after harvest.

Imagine eHarmony for agricultural employers and workers. That’s how western Kansas farmer Mark Pettijohn describes Nebraska-based Hansen-Agri-placement.

Agriculture seems to be under attack by the Kansas legislature reports Amy Bickel for Hutch News. Bickel says in the last two weeks two ag taxation bills could generate more than $900 million combined. That could mean a big difference in the budget gap. But, it would increase agriculture land values by an average of 473 percent.

On a breezy morning next to a cornfield in rural Weld County, Colo., Jimmy Underhill quickly assembles a black and orange drone with four spinning rotors.

"This one just flies itself," he says. "It's fully autonomous."

Underhill is a drone technician with Agribotix, a Colorado-based drone startup that sees farmers as its most promising market. Today he's training his fellow employees how to work the machine in the field.

Courtesy of wikipedia

Harvest Public Media was created four years ago to report on agriculture and food production in the geographic area where the majority of that takes place – the Midwest. This year, my third of counting the top ag stories of the year, I find that the issues taking center stage were set not here, but in the politics, policies and processes of Washington D.C., state legislatures or the ballot box.

morningagclips.com

There’s an ap for everything- even ag.  Think of this: without ever leaving the field, a farmer can pull out his smart phone and identify insects, crop diseases, or even assess the nutrient value of manure.  He can also calculate crop maturity, seed planting to attain the highest yield, and pesticide droplet size and potential pesticide drift.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

In a dimly-lit lab on the Des Moines, Iowa, public schools’ agricultural science campus, students in aprons, safety goggles and plastic gloves poke and probe chicken wings. About 15 girls and just one boy in this vet careers class are looking for ligaments, tendons, cartilage and other features of this animal part that teenagers more often experience cooked and covered in barbecue sauce.

A 17-year old senior, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail for the dissection, high-fives her lab partner when they identify the ligament and show it to their teacher. This young woman is a chapter officer in the Des Moines FFA group and recently got elected to a district-wide leadership position. She’s already earned a full scholarship to Iowa State University and aspires to be a large animal veterinarian with her own small cattle herd.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Bear Creek Dairy in Brooklyn, Iowa, is home to more than 1,100 cows, who provide about 100,000 pounds of milk each day. The 15-year-old farmer who works closely with the farm’s calves comes from a long line of dairymen – in Europe.

Five years ago, Teun Boelen’s parents sold their farm in the Netherlands and bought a dairy in southeast Iowa because, as his mother explains it, there was no room for their old farm to grow.  

Will Curran/Flickr

A federal district court has upheld a California law requiring eggs sold in the state to come from hens housed in more spacious cages.

Attorneys general of six states – Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Alabama – sued to challenge the constitutionality of a California law requiring that all eggs sold in California be raised under standards laid out for California egg producers in a 2008 state ballot measure.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Farms aren’t just for food any more. With the local food movement growing, more savvy farmers are putting a price tag on more than those organic tomatoes. They are instead marketing and selling the “farm experience” in the form of agritourism attractions.

Sarah McCammon/Harvest Public Media

Cargill, one of the country’s largest pork producers, announced Monday that it will stop using gestation crates, the controversial narrow cages meant to house and separate sows. Cargill is joining other major meatpackers, like competitors Tyson and Smithfield Foods, in planning to move away from hog crates.

Wheat futures are up on the Chicago Board of Trade, but this year's wheat crop is getting battered by the drought.

When you think about carbon footprint, does feeding the world cross your mind? It does for John Foley. He wrote about it recently in an article published by National Geographic. “When we think about threats to the environment, we tend to picture cars and smokestacks, not dinner,” Foley wrote. “But the truth is, our need for food poses one of the biggest dangers to the planet.” Foley outlined five steps to feed the world.

Filming is almost complete on a documentary that follows the ranching family of Jane and Bob Apple of Kenton, Oklahoma.

mississippi-crops.com

Panhandle farmers did well this year in the National Sorghum Producers competition reported Kevin Welch for the Amarillo Globe-News.

oklahomafarmreport.com

Oklahoma ranks number five in the nation when it comes to the number of cattle, but years of drought and high market prices are fueling a sell-off, and experts worry that the $4.5 billion dollar industry is in a downward spiral that will be difficult to recover from according to an article from StateImpact Oklahoma.

Jason Baker / Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo

While timely rains have the Texas wheat crop looking much better this year, however the drought and cold may have done some damage to winter crops reported AgriLife Today.

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.

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.

Creative Commons

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.

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.

Much of the world is turning hotter and dryer these days, and it's opening new doors for a water-saving cereal that's been called "the camel of crops": sorghum. In an odd twist, this old-fashioned crop even seems to be catching on among consumers who are looking for "ancient grains" that have been relatively untouched by modern agriculture.

Sorghum isn't nearly as famous as the big three of global agriculture: corn, rice and wheat. But maybe it should be. It's a plant for tough times, and tough places.

townmapsusa.com

From Guymon in the Oklahoma Panhandle to Ponca City in the north of the state, significant permanent population growth and workforce housing demands are exceeding the housing supply, said Dr. Kay Decker.  Decker is a professor of sociology, and chair of the Department of Social Sciences at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva.

Big Ag and Big Data: A Match Made In Heaven?

Oct 6, 2013
Matthew Staver / New York Times

Ag giant Monsanto recently purchased the Climate Corporation according to a recent blog in the New York Times

Southeastern Colorado Farmer Has First Hemp Harvest

Oct 3, 2013
Hemp Industries Association

The first known hemp harvest in more than fifty years began this month in southeastern Colorado according to Denver Westward Blogs.

Quentin Hope

  At $200 per acre, Trego County, KS topped the list of High Plains counties in per acre crop insurance payments in 2012.  Other top counties were Wallace County, KS at $157 per acre and Rawlins County, KS at $127 per acre.  All three are in Northwest Kansas.  At the bottom is the list was Hemphill County, TX in the northeast corner of the Panhandle with just $1 per acre on only 13,400 planted acres.

What $154 million in payouts means to a county

Sep 4, 2013
Darrell Hoemann/The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Farmer Doug Wilson has been buying crop insurance since 1980. 

“You carry home insurance, hoping your house doesn’t burn down. We carry crop insurance, hoping our crops don’t burn down,” Wilson said on a sweltering day in mid-August as he walked among the healthy 8-foot corn stalks in one his fields in central Illinois. “But last year, they burned down — kind of literally.”

Both ways for Buffet: GMO and Organic

Aug 21, 2013
Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

A Midwestern farmer with a well-known last name has set out to fight hunger on a global scale. Howard G. Buffett is the son of Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world. The younger Buffett believes that to help people, you must first make sure they can feed themselves. He has a 3,200-acre farm in Illinois and another in Arizona, where research is being done in hopes of learning how Africans can become better farmers.

Estate taxes can complicate farm transitions

Jul 26, 2013
Kansas Poetry (Patrick) / Flickr

Welsh-born immigrant William R. Charles in 1868 fought an uphill battle with Indians and grasshoppers when he homesteaded 400 acres of well watered crop and timberland in Republic County, Kan., that his great-grandchildren farm today. The family’s first log cabin burned to the ground in December, 1869 and they dug through two feet of frozen dirt to find shelter.

Today, Charles’ grandchildren, great-grandchildren and their children are far flung from that homestead, Valley Point Farm, 240 miles northwest of Kansas City.

Video Documentary: Aging of the American Farmer

Jul 14, 2013
Ray Meints for NET News

Farmers are getting older.  They’re working longer, staying on the land later and continuing to do what they’ve done for decades: heading out day after day after day to work their land.

In 1978, the average age of the American farmer was just over 50. In 2007, it was creeping toward 60, at just over 57-years-old. What does that mean for the agriculture industry? Harvest Public Media went to answer that question by focusing on this massive demographic shift that affects not just rural America but the power and potential of an entire industry. 

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