agriculture

Barbetorte / Wikimedia Commons

Don't call it weed. It's industrial hemp, and it may be making a comeback in Iowa.

The 2014 Farm Bill provided provisions for states to legalize the growth of industrial hemp for research purposes. During the 2018 legislative session, the issue was up for debate at the Iowa Statehouse, and a bill to create a pilot program passed in the Iowa Senate. 

Beef cattle ranchers are getting wise to the science of genetics.

Dean Borg/IPR

Iowa’s corn and soybean crops are in mostly good shape this week, despite recent weather extremes.

Monday’s U.S. Department of Agriculture update rates 84 percent of Iowa’s corn acreage in good to excellent condition.

It’s about the same for soybeans.

Heavy rains and some hail battered some central Iowa fields during the past week.

But the section of the state most needing rain -- south-central and south-east counties -- slipped further into drought.

The USDA calls nearly two-thirds of southeast Iowa’s fields short to very short of moisture. 

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.

Thirty-eight calves, between two and four months old, moo and kick at the dirt floor in a steel barn in Brush, Colorado. One by one, a handler leads them from the pen to a narrow chute, where their legs are restrained and they’re lifted onto a hydraulic table.  

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.

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

During this Talk of Iowa interview, host Charity Nebbe visits the Herbert Hooover Presidential Museum and gets a tour of a new exhibit,"Tallgrass to Knee High: A Century of Iowa Farming," on display through October 2018. Melanie Weir, assistant curator at the museum, is her guide. 

Dean Borg/IPR

Today – June 1 -- is the date the U.S. Department of Agriculture begins computing federal prevented planting insurance payments to farmers who still have unplanted corn fields.

Most of those unplanted fields, intended for corn, are in North Iowa, in the Mason City-Forest City region.

“Every day, we’ve been rained out,” said Wayne Johnson, who farms in the area. 

He’s completed corn planting, and is still planting soybeans, steering through muddy fields and planting where he can.

Amy Mayer / IPR

Bruce Carney raises cattle, poultry and a few sheep on his 300-acre farm in Maxwell. He no longer grows any grain, but is preparing for new crops of a different kind.

Orange flags dot what was previously a cattle lot, with a ridge (or swale) built around it to manage water flow. The fruit trees Carney will be planting at each of the flags later this year will also help.

Amy Mayer/IPR file

Most of the attention surrounding the June 5 primary election in Iowa has been on Democratic races for governor and three congressional seats. There is also a contested Republican primary for Secretary of Agriculture. Morning Edition Host Clay Masters spoke with IPR Agriculture Reporter Amy Mayer about the race and the job itself. Here’s what to know.

A few highlights:

Employers can force workers to settle disputes outside of court, the U.S. Supreme Court said this week, which could negatively affect agricultural workers and employees who earn low wages.

Braceros in the U.S.

May 23, 2018
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode (cropping and contrast changes made)
Oregon State University Archives

Between 1942 and 1966, the Bracero Program brought 4.6 million Mexican migrant workers to the United States including to jobs in Iowa. They were working largely in agricultural jobs.

Brian Behnken is an associate professor of history and the U.S. Latino studies program at Iowa State University. He explains the history of the program, how it was implemented, and what was required of workers and employers.

The program began during World War Two.

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode
Carl Wycoff

The U.S. House's attempt to pass a farm bill failed this morning.  A number of Republicans were trying to leverage votes for a conservative immigration bill first.

Congressman David Young from Iowa's third district voted for the bill, and he says that he is confident that there will ultimately be a farm bill.  But he says it's tough for farmers especially in light of other trade policies.

Dean Borg/IPR

North Iowa farm fields, intended for growing corn this summer, aren’t yet planted. Hundreds of acres—mostly in the northern tier of counties adjacent to the Minnesota border—have ponds from April snows and several inches of early May rain.

Earlier this week, USDA’s crop update said three-quarters of North Iowa’s intended corn acreage is unplanted.  That contrasts with the southern two-thirds of the state where 79 percent is planted.  Corn plants are emerging in 26 percent of the state’s acreage.

Statewide, one-third of the soybean acreage is planted.

Feed Iowa First via facebook / facebook.com/feediowafirst

A non-profit organization that puts fresh produce on the tables of food insecure Iowans is carrying on the legacy of its late founder.

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode (cropped)
Artiom Ponkratenko

The intersection of art and agriculture is important to Mary Swander. She says art has been a part of ag for a long time with concepts like folk art. Now she has helped start a new non-profit called AgArts.

She says that we are in a dilemma with issues involving pollution, erosion, decline of the family farm, decline of small towns, and the arts have a role in addressing those issues in a way that people can embrace and that helps with revitalization.

Amy Mayer / IPR

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.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

Animal feed mixed from ingredients sourced around the world could be carrying more than the vitamins and nutrients livestock need. Seven different viruses that could cause widespread illness and big economic losses for meat producers in the United States can survive in certain imported feed products.

study published in March in the journal PLOS One looked at 11 viruses that are not yet in the U.S. but infect herds in other places, such as African swine fever and foot and mouth disease.

courtesy / U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall's Office

Held up over disagreements over federal food stamps, the first draft of the 2018 farm bill arrived Thursday, bearing 35 changes to that program, including starting a national database of participants.

The current farm bill expires Sept. 30; in the past, Congress has had to extend their work beyond deadlines. The bill released Thursday came from the House Agriculture Committee, which is headed by Texas Republican Rep. Mike Conaway.

pixabay

A leading Iowa maker of agricultural equipment today warned of the impact on Iowa’s manufacturing sector from a trade dispute between the U.S. and China.      

On March 23, the United States put a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum. In response, China placed retaliatory tariffs of 15-25 percent on 128 American products, including pork.

Additional threatened tariffs from both sides are now in play. 

Seeking what he called “clean” food for lunch, Alexander Minnelli chose ProteinHouse, one of the newer restaurants in downtown Kansas City.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

As China and the United States continue to lob threats over new import tariffs, farmers in the Midwest are already adjusting to the first shots in what could become a trade war.

China imposed new tariffs on pork this week, pressuring producers who already are barely making ends meet, and now the two countries have released lists for the next group of products each would hit if disputes over intellectual property and other issues aren't resolved.

In winter, farmers across the U.S. visit their banks to learn whether they have credit for the next growing season, relying on that borrowed money to buy seed, fertilizer and chemicals.

But prices for corn, soybeans and wheat are low enough that some producers have had a hard time turning a profit, and financial analysts expect some farmers will hear bad news: Their credit has run out.

Meant to fund the federal government through early September, the $1.3 trillion bill signed by President Donald Trump last week also includes money and changes for ag-related programs beyond the “grain-glitch” fix.

Amy Mayer / IPR

Big cities in the Midwest are gaining ground on the rural communities that, for many decades, have thrived on the edges of urban development.

Since 1980, the amount of land being farmed or grazed in the U.S. has dropped 13 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Much of it now flaunts housing subdivisions, big-box stores and computer-server farms.

Outward growth from metropolitan areas can strain courts, schools and traffic. It also can change the cultural and regional identity of once-rural communities — something visible on the outskirts of two metro areas connected by Interstate 35 and an agricultural heritage: Des Moines, Iowa, and Kansas City, Missouri.

For Staying Power, CSAs Could Use A Niche Product

Mar 23, 2018

U.S. consumers’ hunger for fresh, local and organic foods has fed a marketplace that’s so big, little guys are — once again — having to evolve and specialize.

It’s especially true with community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs), which had been growing for years, but are starting to wane in the face of the rise of meal-kit companies and an oversaturated market.

The Trump administration wants to show rural communities, which voted for him by wide margins in the 2016 election, they are still on the president’s mind. It suggested a list of broad ideas in January to spark growth and carved out rural interests in an infrastructure plan.

Amy Mayer / IPR

When a man places 40 dozen eggs on the conveyor in the check-out line at the grocery store, it begs the question: What’s he going to do with all of them?

This happened to Kim Becker in Ames, Iowa. The man’s answer left her so gobsmacked, she posted it on Facebook:

Swine Genetics International (SGI) is about 20 minutes from that store.

“That could have been me or it could have been a number of people here,” SGI Chief of Operations Michael Doran says about the supermarket run.

Amy Mayer/IPR file

Four Republican senators met with President Donald Trump today to discuss the renewable fuel standard.

Iowa’s Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley visited the White House along with Ted Cruz of Texas and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Ernst says the meeting yielded neither changes Cruz was looking for nor guarantees for ethanol that would have pleased the Iowans.

Cruz has spent months requesting such a meeting, arguing changes to the renewable fuels law are needed to protect oil refiners. But Ernst says he hasn’t provided a concrete problem.

Partisan politics may meet its match in the 2018 farm bill.

The massive legislation, versions of which will be introduced this spring in the U.S. House and Senate, is shaping up to be less about political affiliations and more about finding common ground.

Pages