Harvest Public Media

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s message to Midwestern farmers this week is a mixed bag, telling them that the agency will be changing an Obama-era rule regarding water regulations but is pausing a plan to expand summer sales of ethanol.

Federal rules in place since January 2017 have not curbed the use of antibiotics in pork production, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group whose food and environment agenda includes responsible antibiotic use.

The Senate Agriculture Committee unveiled its version of the farm bill Friday, including a path to legalizing industrial hemp. That’s an effort being pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose state, Kentucky, is a leader in the crop.

There’s a new strategy when it comes to combating the smells and air quality concerns that arise from large-scale animal feeding operations: Blame the company, not the farmer.

And if a recent federal case against the largest pork producer in the U.S. is any indication, it’s a model that could benefit contract growers — people who don’t own the livestock they raise but own the property and the barns.

Colorado farmer Steve Kelly brushes aside a small mound of dry yellow dirt to reveal a sugar beet seed that’s no larger than a peppercorn. It seems insignificant, but the seed is different from what he planted more than 20 years ago.

“The quality of the beet wasn’t as good and yield and everything that way wasn’t as good either,” he said.  

Now all but 5 percent of sugar beet seeds in the U.S. are genetically modified, or GMO.

The Environmental Protection Agency is getting heat from farm country, where pro-ethanol groups filed suit against the federal agency Tuesday over renewable fuel exemptions, calling it “abuses of … authority.”

Two of the nation’s most influential players in agriculture policy, at a meeting in the heart of the country’s Grain Belt on Wednesday, tried to ease worries about the pending farm bill and a budding trade war with China.

SCOTUS Case Impacts Ag Workers

May 24, 2018
Wikimedia Commons

This week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court says employers can avoid settling disputes with workers in court.

But that could harm people who work on farms or in meatpacking plants … people who often rely on class-action lawsuits to collect unfairly withheld wages.

University of Denver law professor Nantiya Ruan says litigation is expensive and the damages in those types of cases are small, so ag workers usually can’t afford an individual case.

Marshall Expects Farm Bill To Pass House In June

May 24, 2018
marshall.house.gov

Kansas Republican Representative Roger Marshall says that despite the Farm Bill failing to pass in the House last week, he still expects it to pass. 

No Democrats voted for the bill, and the Freedom Caucus, a small group of conservative Republicans, also withdrew their support until after immigration is discussed.

Marshall is on the House Agriculture committee. He says there are no plans to win over Democrats by backtracking on stricter work requirements for federal food aid.

Some conservative House Republicans made it clear Friday in voting down the 2018 farm bill: They’re not interested in a farm bill without working on immigration first.

Thirty Republicans and every Democrat voted against the farm bill, which failed 198-213 in the full House.

At The Law Shop in Van Meter, Iowa, attorney Amy Skogerson untied a piece of blue yarn from around a bunch of craft sticks.

Each stick had a word or short phrase stamped on it, and she read from them as she placed them on her desk: “negotiate, court representation, research law, draft documents.”

Dairy farmer Gary Rock sits in his milking parlor, overlooking what is left of his 95-cow operation in LaRue County, Kentucky.

“Three hundred years of history is something that a lot of people in our country cannot even talk about,” Rock said. That’s how long the farm has been in his family.

The first version of the 2018 farm bill has only minor changes to one of the programs most farmers hold dear and what’s widely seen as their primary safety net: crop insurance.

The program covers all sorts of crops, “from corn to clams,” Iowa State University agriculture economist Chad Hart said. But it’s not like the types of insurance most people are familiar with.

New research suggests that no-till farming could help mitigate climate change.

In the small city of Fort Morgan, Colorado, 33-year-old Verónica delicately stacks cans of food into her mini shopping cart, strolling the narrow aisles of the Rising Up food pantry to gather eggs, milk, apples and an extra-large box of cereal.

There’s a Republican-authored proposal in the next farm bill that would require millions more people to work or volunteer in order to receive federal food assistance.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the biggest federal program aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty that millions of Americans find themselves in — sometimes for a few months, sometimes for several years.

USDA Official To Farmers: Please Be Patient

Apr 8, 2018

It was an appropriate week for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s trade expert to address a gaggle of Nebraska farmers — even if their responses tended toward frustration.

China has announced its intent to add additional tariffs to 106 U.S. products, including several of Kansas’ top agricultural exports.

Congress has passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill that’ll keep the federal government running. In that package, which President Donald Trump signed on Friday, is a fix for a troublesome provision for some grain businesses.

Passed in last year’s tax overhaul, the provision allows farmers to deduct up to 20 percent of their earnings from selling crops — but only to cooperatives. That threatens businesses that aren’t co-ops but also buy and sell commodities like corn, soybeans and wheat, including large companies like Cargill and Bunge to small, local grain elevators.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture faces a lawsuit that argues the federal agency must bring back a proposed rule that defined abusive practices by meatpacking companies.

Whenever I get the chance to travel beyond the edge of the High Plains, I try to visit the public radio stations serving the town to which I'm a'going. Recently, I had the chance to stop by two different stations: WFMT Radio Network on the north side of Chicago, Illinois and KCUR/Harvest Public Media in Kansas City, Missouri.

Puerto Rico’s hot winter days and warm nights have played a key role in the global seed business for more than 30 years. So, the devastation wrought on the U.S. territory by Hurricane Maria in September stretches to the croplands of the Midwest and Great Plains.

Fields in Puerto Rico are used for research, development and/or testing of up to 85 percent of the commercial corn, soybean and other hybrid seeds grown in the U.S., according to the Puerto Rico Agricultural Biotechnology Industry Association.

Danette Ray is standing inside a re-created train depot, wearing cowboy boots, leather chaps and two six-shooters in holsters at her waist. Before she draws her pistols to fire at a row of targets, Ray calls out: “You get back inside, I’ll cover for ya!” — a line spoken by Jimmy Stewart in the 1957 western Night Passage.

Ray, who goes by the nickname Marie Laveau, competes in cowboy action shooting, a brand of target shooting with historically accurate guns and costumes. There’s yet another dose of theater: In each round, the shooters play out a movie scene.

The tax reform bill passed Nov. 16 by the U.S. House could slow development in the wind energy sector by reopening a two-year-old deal.

One industry leader says they’ll need the Senate in their court to protect their current agreement, which phases out production and investment tax credits through 2020.

Shoppers, check your receipts when you buy Thanksgiving dinner ingredients. It’s likely the total cost will be the lower that what you paid in 2013.

Story, headline updated Nov. 22 with ruling — A U.S. appeals court has agreed to the EPA's request for more time to implement the emissions-reporting requirement. The mandate will now go into effect on Jan. 22.

New Ag Guestworker Program Legislation Headed To US House

Oct 25, 2017

A bill to overhaul the federal agricultural guestworker program cleared its first hurdle Wednesday and is headed to the full U.S. House.

The Republican-majority House Judiciary Committee passed the bill 17-16 after two days of debate and over the objections of many Democrats. It’s likely to clear the House, though its future in the Senate is unclear.

A new study says small patches of native prairie plants provide a range of conservation benefits to Iowa’s landscape and could reduce water pollution from farm fields.

If you pull a fire alarm in any large U.S. city, it's likely that paid firefighters waiting at a nearby station will quickly respond. But seven out of 10 American firefighters are volunteers. They cover vast sections of the country, making up an aging network that is increasingly understaffed and overworked.

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