farming

Promised gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Batten / Wikimedia Commons

An upcoming documentary on the Discovery channel will explore a new grassroots conservation movement in America—a movement based on stewardship of the land, and centered on those who live and work on the land.

Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman tells the story of four stewards of the land in the U.S., including a Kansas farmer, a Montana rancher, and a fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico. The film is narrated by Tom Brokaw and based on a book of the same name.

Of all the expensive machinery Tom Giessel worked during the 2017 wheat harvest, his favorite sits in the office of his home.

It’s a microfilm machine, the kind found in a high school library. Giessel uses it for his work as the historian of the National Farmers Union, the nation’s second-largest farm group.

Farmers, Ranchers Concerned About Health Care Costs

Jul 18, 2017
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As the national debate on health care heats up, farmers and ranchers have a lot on the line.   

As Politico reports, farmers have been struggling with the economic challenges of sluggish crop prices and sharply lower farm income. And even though close to 90 percent of farmers have health insurance, their concerns over health care is more widespread than it may seem.

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‘I need more Mexicans.’

Several southwest Kansans are featured in a June 20 Bloomberg Businessweek article with that headline – a message the article reports Kansas farmers are sending to President Donald Trump.

According to Blooomberg, arrests of suspected undocumented workers have jumped 38 percent since Trump signed a pair of executive orders targeting immigration in January. This has some in the state worried about the impact on the rural economy.

LT. SETH FRIZZELL / HOLCOMB COMMUNITY FIRE DEPARTMENT

Areas of south central Kansas ravaged by March 6 wildfires could take decades to rebuild.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, the fire that started March 5 in Oklahoma and spread north at 50 mph burned 600,000 acres in Kansas, making it the largest wildfire in state history.  Area ranchers lost 5,000 cattle and more than 1,000 miles of fencing and most of the ranches suffered more than $1 million in damages, much of it uninsured.

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
CREATIVE COMMONS CC0

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.

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.

Midwesterners are used to extreme weather. We take pride in enduring everything from torrential downpours to the most desiccating drought.

Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of these fluctuations between drought and flood, though, according to new research published by scientists at the University of Kansas, and this "weather whiplash" will deteriorate the quality of drinking water.

Farmers and ranchers, with their livelihoods intimately tied to weather and the environment, may not be able to depend on research conducted by the government to help them adapt to climate change if the Trump Administration follows through on campaign promises to shift federal resources away from studying the climate.

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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.

A new tractor often costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, but not included in that price: the right to repair it. That has put farmers on the front lines of a battle pitting consumers against the makers of all kinds of consumer goods, from tractors to refrigerators to smart phones.  

Modern tractors, essentially, have two keys to make the engine work. One key starts the engine. Today’s tractors are high-tech machines that can steer themselves by satellite, so there is another key – a software key – to get into the programs that make a tractor run properly.

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.

Sandra J. Milburn / Kansas Agland

From Kansas Agland:

One attribute that Colby Harner inherited from his father and grandfather is hard work.

The 25-year-old takes pride in this. It’s why he followed in their footsteps and became a farmer. He enjoys the work of raising crops and cattle, then reaping the harvest of his labor. 

But right now, eking out a living on the farm is even harder - especially for the young operator.

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.

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.

Colorado State University

A Colorado State University crop and soil scientist recently secured funding for sites in northeastern Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska to look at ways diversifying crop rotations and using cover crops can maintain yields, keep soils productive, reduce environmental impacts and address retention of soil carbon and water.

Megan Schipanski, CSU crop and soil scientist, applied for the grant and extension personnel on the High Plains will be assisting in local areas by providing a solid producer base for onsite research

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A western Kansas farming family struggling to keep their fifth-generation farming operation afloat amidst a slump in corn, wheat and other commodity prices is featured in a Wall Street Journal article about the struggling farm economy.

The ongoing slump in corn, wheat and other commodity prices, caused by global oversupply, is putting many farmers in debt and in some cases, resulting in farm closures.

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Options are available to those interested in getting into farming or ranching.

According to the Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA), alternative crops and high value markets offer profit potential and lower risk for new farmers.

Amy Bickel / The Hutchinson News

TOPEKA – Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Kansas Department of Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey are urging government officials to consider that Kansas landowners have implemented efforts to protect the lesser prairie chicken and that a threatened or endangered listing is not warranted.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Perhaps no one is as aware of the climate and its impact on the earth than a farmer.

The New York Times recently featured one such farmer in north central Kansas, Doug Palen, a fourth-generation farmer who the Times reports has choked through the harshest drought to hit the Great Plains in a century, punctuated by freakish snowstorms and suffocating gales of dust.

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