Agriculture News

Midwestern fish farmers grow a variety of species, such as tilapia, salmon, barramundi and shrimp, all of which require a high-protein diet. The region grows copious amounts of soybeans, which have a lot of protein, but these two facts have yet to converge.

New Book Highlights Experience of 25 Women Farmers

Jun 24, 2019
Image courtesy of Barbara Hall

This program originally aired 9/28/17

In 2017, women own more than half of the land in Iowa, and more women are farming that land. The new book Women and the Land, written by Barbara Hall and photographed by Kathryn Gamble, details the historical relationship between the women and the land of Iowa. Hall discusses the inspiration for the book, which serendipitously comes from an Iowa Public Radio broadcast she heard in 2014.

Amy Mayer / IPR

On top of trade disputes, a wet spring and late planting, many soybean farmers face yet another hurdle: the thistle caterpillar.

Although it becomes the painted lady butterfly, which can bring a fluttering swath of color to backyards and gardens, this caterpillar can be a real pest in soybean fields..

Rural communities are some of the most politically disenfranchised when it comes to climate policy, and last year’s National Climate Change Report showed they’re also among the most at risk when it comes to the effect of climate change. This could mean stronger storms, more intense droughts and earlier freezes.

http://www.claudia-mcgehee.com/

This is the time of year when peonies burst forth in all their glory. Some are cultivated for their beauty as a bouquet flower, and others may just be a lovely addition to the garden. They're spectacular, they smell amazing, and but unfortunately, they don't last long. 

Katie Peikes / IPR file

Early, heavy and, in some areas, nearly relentless rains have led to a late planting season across much of the central United States, especially for corn.

Flooded fields can stymie planting — even if the rain lets up for a couple of days — because the ground is too wet and soft for heavy equipment. Even where farmers were able to plant, heavy rain sometimes required another round of seeds after the first ones were swamped.

Dean Borg/IPR

Iowa’s planting season has been interrupted by almost daily rain, and that’s stressing corn and soybean growers who have huge investments in land, seed and fertilized that won’t pay off unless they can get seeds in the soil on time.

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.

Even in fields that farmers managed to plant, cool temperatures and persistant rain are delaying crop progress.
Amy Mayer / IPR

Many Iowa farmers are behind in planting their corn and soybeans this year, and while the wet spring weather is the primary reason, other factors will play into critical decisions they will soon have to make.

Much of the corn already in the ground has been pummeled with rain and some of it may need to be replanted. Moving into June, farmers will be past the first crop insurance deadline for planting corn, meaning if they ultimately make a claim on this year’s crop, those acres would suffer a small penalty for going in late.

Cow guts are quite the factory. Grass goes in, microbes help break it down and make hydrogen, then other microbes start converting it to another gas. In the end, you get methane, manure and meat.

One of those things is not like the other. Methane emissions are considered the second-worst greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, according to Stanford University professor Rob Jackson.

U.S farmers have long depended on foreign buyers for some of their corn, soybeans, pork and other products. And federal officials have used some agricultural commodities as tools of diplomacy for decades.

But as the Trump administration has pursued hard-line moves with major trading partners, especially China, farmers have found themselves with huge surpluses — and on the receiving end of government aid.

Modern farming became permanently entwined with both politics and export markets in the mid-20th century, says Mount Royal University historian Joe Anderson.

For every crop in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency carries out a rigorous set of tests to determine which pesticides are safest. How and when a pesticide is used can depend on how that crop is consumed by the average person — is it ingested, inhaled or applied topically?

It’s a precise science that aims to keep consumers safe from potentially toxic residues. But, like most federal regulations, none of it applies to the marijuana industry.      

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.

AMY MAYER/IPR FILE PHOTO

Now that Congress has returned to Capitol Hill, Iowa’s senior senator is resuming two ongoing policy efforts.

Renewable fuels

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) says he’s submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency in support of the plan to make the sale of E-15 legal throughout the year. E-15 contains more ethanol than the widely-available E-10 blend, but federal rules have restricted the sale of E-15 at certain times of the year.

Esther Honig/Harvest Public Media

Among the bills passed by the legislature this session and now awaiting the governor’s signature is one allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp.

It would open up that crop to cultivation for the first time in almost 50 years. Industrial hemp once was used for clothing, rope and a wide variety of other products, but in 1970 it was lumped in with its cousin marijuana and classified as a controlled substance. That made it illegal to grow nationwide.

Under the 2018 farm bill, it’s now legal for individual states to choose to allow.

As grassland and prairies gave way to farmland in the Midwest, habitats for some native birds disappeared. There’s a relatively new program in central Illinois looking to restore wetlands for migrating birds and help farmers at the same time.

The program to help them is limited but is secure for now. However, the future for both the bird and the program could be on shakier ground in just a few years.

In a recent national survey, farmers said the biggest threat to their livelihoods wasn’t low commodity prices or global trade policies. It was the rising cost of health insurance.

It’s one of the reasons why state farm bureaus have jumped into the insurance game in Iowa, Tennessee and Nebraska, and are trying to in Kansas.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

Iowa’s senior senator met with the U.S. secretary of energy this week to better understand details around how small oil refineries secure waivers exempting them from the national biofuels law.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said Rick Perry clarified for him that the Department of Energy can offer input, but it’s the Environmental Protection Agency that grants the waivers. Grassley said E.P.A. Administrator Andrew Wheeler is not obligated to do what the energy department recommends.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recently released 2017 Census of Agriculture data show the amount of land in the largest federal conservation programs has decreased nationwide and in many Midwest and Plains states.

But that doesn’t mean farmers are ignoring soil health, nutrient runoff or erosion problems.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

Fears of a highly contagious and deadly pig disease have prompted officials to cancel the World Pork Expo in Iowa this June.

African swine fever has been spreading through China since August, and also is present in Europe and its namesake continent.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

It’s too early for planting, but some farm fields in Iowa are already greening up thanks to cover crops. 

On this episode of Talk of Iowa, a look at cover crop use from row cropping to small scale vegetable farming with two Iowa farmers. 

Guests: 

  • Doug Adams, Humboldt-based soybean and corn farmer 
  • Carmen Black, owner of Sundog Farm and Local Harvest CSA in Solon

A company that makes dicamba-resistant soybeans and cotton wants to expand use of the controversial weed killer to corn. But critics and experts questioning the logic of the petition.

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.

In the wake of Sept. 11, federal officials said the United States needed a new, state-of-the-art facility to defend against bioterrorism and stop diseases that could devastate the country’s farm economy and threaten human lives. They chose Manhattan, Kansas, as the site of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. 

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.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

Farmers along the Missouri River and its tributaries are still assessing damage from recent flooding.

But beyond the farms in parts of Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas, there’s visible evidence that the impacts are far-reaching and long-lasting — closed interstates and rerouted trains — key cogs in  a global agriculture economy.

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.

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