Agribusiness

Deere and Company

Healthcare workers at dozens of Veterans Affairs facilities across the country have been provided protective face shields made by a John Deere plant in the Quad Cities.

In April, the seeding factory in Moline switched from making farm equipment to PPE.

Project leader David Ottavianelli told IPR’s Pat Blank on All Things Considered Monday that more than 400,000 shields were produced and quarter of them (134,000) were sent to those who care for veterans.

Pat Blank / IPR

Iowa farmers have hit a bit of a speed bump with widespread frost and colder temperatures.

Iowa State University Extension Field Agronomist Paul Kassel said he hasn’t had any reports of damage but the cooler weather has put a damper on growing progress.

We’re kinda losing out here on leveraging our early planting. We like to plant early to kind of extend the growing season and increase the amount of time during the summer months when we can fill the kernel and the pods that’s probably the overall bigger concern,” said Kassel.   

Amy Mayer / IPR

Walk into a supermarket and you might find that you can only buy a few packages of fresh chicken, beef or pork.

Costco, Hy-Vee and other grocery stores blame the move on industrywide shortages brought on by the closing of some meat-packing plants because workers became infected with COVID-19.

The temporary shut downs have caused a hiccup in the supply chain: last week, processing of cattle and hogs plunged nearly 40 percent.

But meat processing was at an all-time high before the pandemic and a lot of that was targeted for export. Overseas demand has plummeted.

courtesy Nick Torkelson

As meatpacking plants across the country have temporarily closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks, consumers might be seeing less meat on the shelves at the grocery, but farmers are dealing with animals they can’t sell.

Meatpacking plants slaughter livestock and send packaged meat into wholesale and retail channels. Companies spent the better part of the 20th century mechanizing every possible aspect of the process, to maximize efficiency. 

Courtsey of Mara Hvistendahl

Let’s go back to some news you may remember from several years ago. In 2011, two ethnic Chinese men were seen digging up seeds in a cornfield here in Iowa. When approached, they sped away in a hired car. At first, it was a routine report of trespassing. It quickly grew into a long FBI investigation that uncovered a plot by the Chinese agricultural company DBN, to reverse-engineer seed lines belonging to Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer. 

Midwest Dairy

When COVID-19 forced the shuttering of schools and food service establishments, it caused a disruption in the supply chain for dairy farmers, including those in Iowa.

Farmer Relations Manager for Midwest Dairy, Mitch Schulte explained suddenly there was little or no demand for things like individual cartons of milk and 25-pound bags of shredded cheese.

He said this oversupply has producers looking for a home for their products.

IPR/Pat Blank

Lynn Bolin and her husband Dan operate New Day Dairy GuestBarn near Clarksville in Northeast Iowa. It’s a dairy that invites visitors to almost literally sleep with the cows.

“I grew up in the city and so when I married Dan, I was introduced to the farm life and when came back to the farm after living abroad and traveling around the world, we realized that we wanted to share  a piece of the farm with others," Lynn Bolin said.  "And so when we were building our new farm facility in 2015, this idea kinda came to be.”

  

Iowa Turkey Federation

The recently announced new trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico has the state’s turkey producers feeling like they’ve hit the jackpot.

Iowa Turkey Federation Executive Director Gretta Irwin says Mexico is Iowa’s No. 1 customer followed by China.  In November, China announced that it was lifting an import ban that had been place since 2015.

A 10-minute Delay Of Key USDA Reports Gave Some People An Advantage. Here’s Why.

Nov 24, 2019
Christopher Walljasper / Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Each month, the United States Department of Agriculture releases a series of reports that analysts, grain traders, investors and farmers use to make decisions or buy and sell commodities.

But on Friday, Nov. 8, two of those USDA reports - World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimate (WASDE) and the Crop Production report – were delayed by at least 10 minutes.

Fred Knapp / NET News

A possible solution for one form of water pollution is moving out of the lab and into the field in Nebraska, in a development that could revive some unused wells and save some towns a lot of money.

Iowa Turkey Federation

The state’s turkey industry is expected to benefit greatly from China’s announcement last week that it’s lifting the ban on U.S. poultry imports.

Iowa Turkey Federation Executive Director Gretta Irwin explained after avian influenza devastated flocks in this country in 2015, China shut down imports.

Flickr

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued an emergency declaration for Iowa and several other Midwest states in response to an extreme demand for propane.

CEO of the Iowa Propane Gas Association Deb Grooms said part of the problem is that farmers in all of these states are trying to complete their harvest at the same time.

Katelyn Harrop/IPR

Timeless Prairie Orchard sits on a dusty road in Winthrop, and in each direction, it’s corn and soy as far as the eye can see. Apple farms are few and far between in these parts, but through this small, tree-lined property, owners Dave and Susie Differding have carved out an orchard.

Pat Blank / IPR

In October, 26-year-old Eric Furleigh opened the door to a fruit and vegetable storage and packing facility for the last time this year. He and his family operate Furleigh Farms near Clear Lake which is the aggregation center for a young program called Bounty Box.

Vice President Mike Pence and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds greet the crowd at a rally on a farm near the Des Moines suburb of Waukee promoting the U.S. Mexico Canada trade agreement.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

Vice President Mike Pence says Congress should act quickly to ratify a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada by the end of the year. Pence travelled to Iowa Wednesday to pressure Democratic lawmakers to hurry the trade deal through the House.

Clay Masters / IPR file

The Trump administration will add onto future ethanol requirements to make up for its waivers that allowed small oil refineries to mix less of the biofuel with gasoline. But the extra gallons may not ultimately make up for all the industry has lost.

Preston Keres / USDA

At eight months pregnant, government food inspector Rosalie Arriaga was scheduled in March 2018 to handle twice her normal workload at the meat processing plants she was assigned to cover.

Holly Bickmeyer is worried about what a large livestock operation would do if it moves in next door. 

She points to the small lake in front of her house on the 20-head cattle farm she operates in Maries County.

“Sinkholes open up all the time,” Bickmeyer said. “You see the lake that’s in my front yard here? If somebody builds a hog operation at the end of my driveway, I would be concerned about that waste getting into the groundwater and I walk out one day and all my bass are dead.”

Bickmeyer said that’s why she wants her local county commissioners to decide if concentrated animal feeding operations, also known as CAFOs, can locate nearby. 

Bushel Boy Farms

Minnesota-based Bushel Boy Farms is expanding its fresh produce business to Mason City. North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corporation president Chad Schreck said the $35 million investment involves a 50-acre facility to grow and package tomatoes. He said the project will be built in three phases.

There’s millions of dollars to be made from growing hemp, which for years was lumped in and vilified with its sister plant, marijuana. With the government loosening laws around growing hemp for the first time in more than 80 years, some states are charging ahead and letting farmers plant it — even before federal regulations are in place. 

Those states aren’t just getting a head start, though. They’re seeing significant challenges that hemp farmers will face for years to come, things like seed fraud, weather and a lack of machinery.

Use Of Controversial Weed Killer Glyphosate Skyrockets On Midwest Fields

May 30, 2019

Farmers have been using the weed killer glyphosate – a key ingredient of the product Roundup – at soaring levels even as glyphosate has become increasingly less effective and as health concerns and lawsuits mount.

Nationwide, the use of glyphosate on crops increased from 13.9 million pounds in 1992 to 287 million pounds in 2016, according to estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey.

courtesy of EPA

More than 2 million people work in or near agriculture fields in the U.S. that are treated with pesticides. The Environmental Protection Agency has strict policies about what those workers need to know about pesticide risks, when they can be in those fields and what they should do if they come into contact with the chemicals.

“EPA sets particular criteria of what needs to be included in a training,” said Betsy Buffington, a program specialist in the Pesticide Safety Education Program at Iowa State University.

“So if an instance occurs, they can look back and know that they're doing it correctly.”

Yet even with recent updates to the decades-old Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS), the EPA has little ability to monitor how well the regulation is working, and no way to determine how frequently agricultural pesticides drift onto, or otherwise make contact with, workers.

courtesy of Meyer Agri-Air

On July 28, 2017, a central Iowa emergency dispatcher received a 911 call from a man in a corn field.

“I had workers that were detasseling,” said the caller, referring to the job of manually pulling the tops off standing corn stalks. “Some may have gotten sprayed by a plane.”

The caller said 10 or 12 people reported sore throats or vomiting. They’d seen a plane applying pesticides to the adjacent soybean field and it seemed some of the chemicals had drifted toward the corn and onto the workers.

All Tom Geisler can see as he trudges through the mud is a big mess. High water from the March floods wrecked pretty much everything on his 1,000-acre farm in Hooper, Nebraska.

The ongoing effects of the trade war, severe weather and low crop prices have farmers reluctant to make big purchases like tractors, combines and planters. It was apparent in the U.S. Commerce Department’s new report, which shows farm equipment sales were down $900 million dollars over the first three months of 2019.

That’s the biggest decline in sales since 2016.

Iowa produces about 50 million hogs per year, and at any one time, there are approximately 20 million pigs being raised in Iowa. Yet, driving across the state, it’s rare to see any pigs outside, as most of the state’s pigs are raised in hoop houses or concentrated animal feeding operations.

In this episode of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe chats with two Iowa farmers who raise their pigs in the pasture.

Like many of the refugees who have resettled in Greeley, Colorado, 35-year-old Abul Basar is employed by JBS.

It’s a massive meatpacking plant that processes thousands of cattle per day and employs over 3,000 people. After a year of working on the plant’s processing line, where he disembowel cow carcasses with a large electric knife, Basar injured his right hand.

Andrew Joyce won’t be growing any tomatoes this summer. His three-acre produce farm in Malden, Missouri, will lie fallow. The cause: damage from the weed killer dicamba.

In theory, closing off China’s soybean market due to the trade dispute with the U.S. on top of generally low prices for the commodity should affect all industry players, big to small. Agriculture economist Pat Westhoff begged to differ.

The U.S. trade war with China, now approaching a year, is often framed as hurting manufacturing and agriculture the most. But that’s mainly collateral damage in an international struggle over power and technology that has its roots in the Cold War, when China was still considered a largely undeveloped country.

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