USDA

Legal for 16 years
9:06 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Canada feeding the American appetite for hemp

Hemp seed products are now widely available in leading grocery and warehouse food stores thanks to vertically integrated producers such as Manitoba Harvest that handles the product from plants in the field to ready-to-eat products on the store shelf.
Quentin Hope / HPPR

The U.S. market for foods and beauty products that contain hemp is growing, but American manufacturers that use hemp have their hands tied. The crop is still illegal to cultivate, according to federal laws, which means the current American hemp industry, estimated at $500 million per year, runs on foreign hemp.

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Foot and mouth fears
8:00 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

Ranchers Wringing Hands Over Possible Brazilian Beef Imports

Gyr cattle in Brazil
Credit Wikipedia

Hear the audio version on Luke's story

Sharon Harvat drives a blue pick-up truck through a field of several hundred pregnant heifers on her property outside Scottsbluff in western Nebraska and notes, “On a warm day they’ll lay out flat like that...”.

Harvat and her husband John run their cattle here in the Nebraska panhandle during the winter and take them back to the mountains in northern Colorado when the calves are born. Harvat says, when she heard about a proposal to open up beef trade with Brazil, she felt a pit in her stomach.  “On an operation like ours, where we travel a lot with our cattle, that would probably come to an abrupt halt if there was an outbreak.”

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Census of Ag findings
8:00 pm
Sun February 23, 2014

Lack of land thwarts aspiring young farmers

Eric Brockmann and his family moved back to his hometown of West Point, Neb. to pursue his passion for farming.
Credit Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

The average age of American farmers has been climbing for decades, and many say rural towns are at-risk without new blood. There are enough people who want to farm, but there’s trouble connecting beginning farmers and the communities that need them.

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USDA response to climate change
8:00 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Research units to help farmers respond to climate change

Looking to help farmers adapt to climate change, the U.S Department of Agriculture is setting up seven new research hubs, including a handful that will cover the Great Plains and Midwest.

The new research centers, anchored in different regions, are tasked with charting how climate change poses risks to farming, ranching and forestry. Then they are to devise strategies to adapt.

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Historical perspective on farm bill
8:00 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

The uneasy marriage of farm bill and food stamps

For decades, government agriculture policy has tied farm programs to federal food aid. Grocery displays like this one were common in the wake of the creation of the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation in the 1930s.
National Archives

Both farmers and food stamps advocates sighed in relief Friday when President Obama signed the  long-overdue Agriculture Act of 2014 – the $956-billion farm bill – into law on Friday during a visit to Michigan State University.  The farm bill process was fraught with ups and downs and the loose coalition tying nutrition and farm programs seemed barely able to survive.

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Farm bill analysis
8:00 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

New farm bill changes U.S. ag policy

President Obama signed the long-overdue Agriculture Act of 2014 – the $956-billion farm bill – into law on Friday, February 7, 2014.

Not everyone likes the farm bill signed into law on Friday, but at least farmers will be able to start making informed decisions.

The biggest change in the 2014 farm bill is that the subsidies known as direct payments are gone. Instead of the government paying a known amount to farmers each year—at a fixed budget of $5 billion—the new system of subsidies will fluctuate, partly with market forces. That makes it really hard to predict how much the program will cost each year, says Iowa State University ag economist Chad Hart.

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Harvest Public Media story
5:36 pm
Sun January 12, 2014

USDA one step closer to approving new Roundup resistant crops

Credit Monsanto.com

New herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans are a step closer to reaching farm fields in the U.S. They would help farmers control weeds that are no longer killed by the popular herbicide, Roundup.

Roundup resistant crops dominate corn, soybean and cotton production in the U.S. But the list of weeds that have evolved to withstand Roundup is growing, and as a result, farmers are using more chemicals to keep up.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:00 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Beef herd poised for growth … and cheaper steak eventually

Even if the beef herd begins expanding again in 2014 it could take two years for the effects to show up in consumer prices.
Credit Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

For the first time in nearly 10 years, the nation’s beef herd may be poised for growth, which could mean relief from rising meat prices. But with the fewest cattle in the beef supply since the 1960s, slow growth won’t cut prices anytime soon.

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Harvest Public Media story
4:49 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Vilsack to China: Get up to speed on GMOs

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says he will talk to Chinese regulators about their slow pace in evaluating biotech traits.
Credit commons.wikimedia.org

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will travel to China this week to ask Chinese regulators to get on the same page as the U.S. when it comes to evaluating genetically modified crops.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:00 pm
Sun December 15, 2013

RNAi corn entering the rootworm chase

Southern Corn Rootworm also called spotted cucumber beetle
pioneer.com

With rootworms building resistance to genetically modified corn that makes its own pesticide, seed companies are working on new crops that target the insects’ genes. But some worry about unintended consequences when the technology moves from the lab to the field.

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Harvest Public Media story
4:17 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Another deadline passes without a farm bill deal

Credit www2.dupont.com

Hear the audio version of Amy's story

If it seems like Congress just can’t get the farm bill done, well… that’s because it can’t. The massive food and agriculture package used to be relatively easy thanks to bipartisan and urban-rural alliances. But this year, progress was a slow slog. A nine-month extension passed in January bought some time. This summer, the Senate passed its bill, but the House didn’t. Then it sent two bills to the conference committee, one for agriculture and the other for food stamps. Just before Thanksgiving, Iowa Republican Steve King, a conference committee member, remained optimistic.

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Harvest Public Media story
5:17 pm
Sun December 8, 2013

Push for GMO labeling comes to Colorado

Protesters in Denver rallied this past summer at the state capitol, asking legislators to act on a GMO labeling rule.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Colorado could be the next battleground state in the debate over labeling rules for genetically-modified foods. Activists are trying to get the issue in front of voters in 2014.

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Harvest Public Media story
4:14 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Filling a hole in the organic pipeline

Organic meat producers depend on having organic farm to feed their livestock. But conventional acres far outstrip organically raised acres in the Midwest.
Credit Clay Masters for Harvest Public Media

Organic food is a hot market in the U.S. The Organic Trade Association says that sales over the last five years have grown 35 percent. But there’s a problem in the supply chain – not enough organic grain.

Many producers in the farm belt aren’t willing to take on organic production despite a hefty price premium. That has left organic food companies scrambling to find enough raw ingredients for the products that hit grocery store shelves. Just as corn and soybeans dominate conventional processed food and meat, these same grains are often key ingredients for organic foods.

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Harvest Public Media story
5:29 pm
Sun September 29, 2013

Largely unpopular, direct payment subsidies persist

A scene in the county agent's office in San Augustine, TX of a farmer receiving his AAA check in 1939. The Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) of 1933 was the start of a long series of “farm bills” to provide federal support to agriculture. The current system of direct and countercyclical payments dates to the 1996 Farm Bill.
Credit Russell Lee/ Farm Security Administration /LOC

Hear the audio version of Frank's story

Congress is bitterly divided on food stamps and other issues contained in the farm bill, but both political parties agree on something: the $5 billion-a-year farm subsidy called Direct and Countercyclical Payments has got to go.

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Drought drives payments
8:50 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

What was your county’s crop insurance payout in 2012?

Credit 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.

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HPPR Economy and Enterprise
8:01 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

What $154 million in payouts means to a county

Tim Kelly says sales have been steady at his independent John Deere dealership in Pontiac, Ill. — despite the devastation of last year’s corn crop.
Credit 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.”

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Harvest Public Media field note
8:01 pm
Tue September 3, 2013

COOL too cumbersome for meat labeling?

Credit www.foodsafetynews.com

For several years now, there’s been a battle brewing over how much U.S. consumers need to know about where their meat comes from.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture is in the midst of implementing a new country-of-origin labeling rule, also known as COOL, that requires companies to label where animals were born, raised and slaughtered. The new rule also prohibits meat from two different animals from being comingled and sold in the same package.

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Rural-urban gaps persist
8:48 pm
Mon September 2, 2013

The "digital divide" in now about adoption

Credit toastwireless.com

The “digital divide” between urban and rural areas used to be all about access to broadband internet service.  Today it is much more about adoption where access is now available. 

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Harvest Public Media story
8:00 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

How secure is the Fort Knox of seeds?

Dave Dierig, research leader at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation, stands among the ceiling-high shelves that hold the 600,000 seed packets in this cold storage vault.
Grace Hood/KUNC

When unapproved genetically modified wheat was found growing in Oregon earlier this year, it didn’t take long for accusations about how it ended up there to start flying. A flurry of initial finger-pointing cast potential blame on a federal seed vault in Fort Collins, Colo., which housed the same strain of wheat, developed by Monsanto Corp., for about seven years up until late 2011.

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Harvest Public Media field note
8:01 pm
Sun June 16, 2013

How are decisions made about projects that benefit rural America?

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.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:01 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

Budget cuts and wider competition for USDA's 'rural' dollars

Eugene Jacquez’s family has grown beans and raised sheep at the base of the Culebra peaks in San Luis, Colo., for generations. He belongs to the Rio Culebra Cooperative and says without federal funding, many of his neighbors will be reluctant to sell to the co-op.
Credit 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.

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Harvest Public Media story
8:01 pm
Wed June 12, 2013

Lifeblood for rural communities: federal funds

Staunton, Ill., Mayor Craig Neuhaus, left, checks out the town’s new water plant with Hank Fey, a public works director.
Credit 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. 

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Harvest Public Media story
12:45 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

SNAP cut, direct payments out, insurance in and provisioned

Wheat field west of Amarillo shredded by a late-May hailstorm.
Credit Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Kay Ledbetter

The U.S. Senate approved a new comprehensive farm bill Monday, its plan for everything from food and nutrition assistance to disaster aid for livestock producers to crop insurance for farmers. But before you go popping champagne corks and celebrating the creation of five-years of agricultural policy, know this: The U.S. House has yet to weigh in.

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