Agriculture News

courtesy of Hy-Vee

This pandemic spring has changed some pathways of getting food to hungry people, but there’s still plenty being donated and distributed to meet the increased need.

West Des Moines-based Hy-Vee, with stores in eight states, often makes donations to food banks, says Christina Gayman, director of public relations. But right now, many of its suppliers have approached the chain for help distributing their surplus. 

Jan Huber / Unsplash

Even though many parts of life have slowed down lately, construction work continues to move forward. But building new houses, adding additions, patios, decks, and sidewalks might affect existing trees.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

A new agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture makes Iowa the seventh state where some small meat lockers can sell products in other states.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

With people driving less because of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, demand for ethanol has plummeted and dozens of plants across the country are sitting idle. 

Now Congress is at work on another pandemic relief package. The House last week passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act, which includes payments to ethanol producers. They didn’t get any funds from the CARES Act, which was approved in March.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

Pork processing fell nearly 40 percent following temporary closures at meatpacking plants across the Midwest last month. That’s created a backlog of market-ready hogs, though the scope of the problem isn’t as dramatic as some had feared.

Markus Spiske / Unsplash

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe speaks with Aaron Steil and Richard Jauron to guide listeners on selecting vegetables and annual flowers. They also answer questions about protecting gardens and plants from overnight frost warnings, and caring for plants as they begin to grow.   

GUESTS:

  • Aaron Steil, assistant director of Reiman Gardens in Ames
  • Richard Jauron, extension horticulture specialist at Iowa State University 

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.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

The ongoing pandemic has dealt another blow to the struggling ethanol industry. ADM, one of the country’s major grain companies and a big ethanol producer, will idle dry mills in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Columbus, Nebraska. 

The company informed the 180 people who work at the two locations Thursday that they will be furloughed.

 

It’s planting season across much of the United States, and for some farmers who rely on foreign guest workers for help in the fields, the pandemic is getting in the way.  

Amy Mayer / IPR file

Farmers who grow many different types of crops and raise livestock will receive direct payments from the United States Department of Agriculture through $16 billion of CARES Act relief money.

USDA has announced it will also spend $3 billion to purchase fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meat and other food, which it will then distribute to those in need through food banks and other community groups. 

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. 

Krzysztof Niewolny / Unsplash

They’re slimy, gray, hungry and love to eat holes in the leaves of your hostas.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe speaks with Entomologist Donald Lewis, Horticulturist Richard Jauron and Forester Mark Vitosh about slugs and their fellow gastropods – snails. Listeners also get their questions answered about plants and trees.

Guests:

Amy Mayer / IPR file

Many of the public health labs determining whether people have COVID-19 have become at least overworked or, at worst, overwhelmed. Some of the country’s animal disease labs have stepped in to help.

Rodger Main, director of the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at Iowa State University, says early in the COVID-19 outbreak, he and leaders from the University of Iowa’s State Hygienic Lab got on the phone to discuss how they could collaborate.

courtesy John Deere

A major manufacturer of agricultural and construction equipment has begun producing face shields for healthcare workers.

John Deere’s Moline, Illinois, factory plans to make 225,000 shields in the first effort, and if materials are available and the need continues, it could make more.

Brad Russmann, the factory manager in Moline, says they’re using an open-source design from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, that meets the needs of the medical community. He says the company’s diverse expertise and commitment to the project made for a quick turnaround.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

One of the country’s largest ethanol producers has idled three plants and postponed the opening of a fourth. 

POET posted a statement on its website saying bioprocessing at the locations in Chancellor, South Dakota and in Coon Rapids and Ashton, Iowa has stopped. Another plant in Shelbyville, Indiana was on track to open this spring but that is now on hold.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

Long before the world became aware of the novel coronavirus that now has most people in the United States staying home, the pork industry was watching with fear as a different virus decimated the pig population in China.

African swine fever does not infect or harm humans, but it is deadly to pigs and since August 2018, estimates are that it has cut China’s swine herd in half. It has spread to other countries in Asia and is also infecting pigs in several European countries.

Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton / for Harvest Public Media

Southeastern Oklahoma averages at least 40 inches of rain per year, so its agricultural industry focuses primarily on livestock and timber. But an extended drought in 2011 and 2012 cost Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers more than $2 billion in losses statewide

A citizen of the Choctaw Nation, Billy Smallwood is a fifth-generation rancher and hay baler who has a cow-calf operation in Pushmataha County. He says that year, he made almost no hay.

“You know, a hay baler doesn’t like to buy hay, but we had to buy hay,” he remembers.

Kyler Zeleny / for Harvest Public Media

On a still November day, Patrick O’Neal, the burn coordinator at Kansas State University’s Konza Prairie Biological Station near Manhattan, Kansas, convenes a meeting about a planned fire.

“The goal today is to burn about 52 acres,” he says, pointing out the specific sections on a map.

The clear blue sky and minimal wind provide inviting conditions. A short time later, the fire crew arrives at the first spot, and members pull on firefighter coats and helmets.

courtesy University of Nebraska Lincoln

Unprecedented flooding last year devastated many towns across the Midwest that are still struggling to come back. As Nebraska’s climate continues to shift, one riverside town wants to protect itself from another spring like 2019.

But the process has been plagued by bureaucratic setbacks and legal woes: uncertainty maintains a dominant presence across Winslow, Nebraska’s community.

Brad Van Osdel / South Dakota Public Broadcasting

While top scientists from around the world point to data that says the drier rangeland climate found west of the 100th Meridian has shifted east in the last three decades, those living and farming in eastern South Dakota feel they are seeing the opposite: A wetter weather pattern.

As precipitation has increased, farmers with their boots on the ground, like Paul Hetland near Mt. Vernon, South Dakota, say they’re struggling to adapt and stay in business.

In North Dakota, A Changing Climate Threatens Crop Diversity

Mar 23, 2020
Christopher Walljasper / for Harvest Public Media

As Doyle Lentz drives out over his farm, just 20 miles south of the Canadian border, he expects to see snow and ice for miles. This is January, after all, in Rolette County, North Dakota. But this year, the horizon is broken up by fields of windblown wheat, piles of snow-packed, cut canola and stands of corn and sunflowers.

“That whole field should have been waist high when we harvested. As the rains and snows came, it just continued to flatten it. And of course, the quality just became terrible,” says Lentz, who farms around 6,000 acres that also includes barley and soybeans. “Consequently, it wasn’t worth harvesting. We hope to burn it, but with all the rain and snow, we don’t know what we’re going to do with it.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

With grilling season coming, meat eaters in the United States may be treated to slightly lower prices.

Many factors contribute to the price consumers pay for a pound of ground beef at the grocery store, but swirling market forces typically don’t have a quick impact on them.

Still, Iowa State University livestock economist Lee Schulz says right now farmers and ranchers are producing a lot of beef and the global market has some good deals on things like hamburger.

Neslihan Gunaydin / Unsplash

The growing season hasn’t begun, but with beautiful weather ahead this weekend a lot of gardeners are itching to get their hands dirty.

Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe talks with Richard Jauron, ISU Extension horticulture specialist, and Cindy Haynes, associate professor of horticulture, about early spring garden chores, and what you can do right now to prepare for the growing season.

Amy Mayer / IPR

After the day’s meals are done on a recent Tuesday, Gilbert Community Schools director of food service Deb Purcell shuffles through a stack of papers. Gilbert, a town north of Ames in central Iowa, serves about 1400-1600 meals a day. 

“This is what I do, planning for a week,” Purcell says pointing to columns on a page. “And there's actually seven pages minimum that go with each day.”

She’s counting cups of vegetables and documenting other details about every meal she’s served to comply with stringent federal rules. Her job could soon get easier.

Andrew Dunham

A few weeks ago, Andrew and Melissa Dunham of Grinnell Heritage Farms announced they will not offer their storied community-supported agriculture, or CSA, program in 2020. They're scaling back their operation, and selling off equipment. Grinnell Heritage Farms has been one of the highest-profile, most admired local food operations in the state, and this announcement has raised concerns for farmers and advocates of the  local food movement across the state. 

Katie Peikes / IPR file

A recent federal court decision may reduce the number of small refinery waivers the Environmental Protection Agency issues in the future. The ethanol industry is celebrating the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, but the impact may not be the full course-correction renewable fuels need to recover from some difficult years.

courtesy of Christopher Gannon/ISU

Farmers and landowners enrolling acres in the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program have a new practice available to them.

Areas of native grasses and flowers, called prairie strips, have proven helpful in keeping soil in place, preventing nutrients from washing away and increasing the presence of birds and bees.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

The first phase of a new trade agreement between the United States and China is scheduled for a White House signing ceremony Wednesday, and many in the agriculture community are hoping the deal will bring some relief to the farm economy.

The Phase One agreement will begin to resolve the nearly two year exchange of tariffs the two countries have levied on each other’s goods—the United States in an attempt, the Trump administration says, to pressure China to reform some of its trade policies and China in retaliation.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

A much-anticipated update to the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement is one step closer to implementation.

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, voted 25-3 to approve the United States Mexico Canada Agreement. Two Republicans and one Democrat cast the "no" votes.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

People are eating a lot of meat, both in the U.S. and around the world, and that could be good news for the cattle sector in 2020. Things are looking up for pork, too.

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