Agriculture News

Amy Mayer / IPR

Emergency planners and agriculture officials have spent this week testing their preparedness for a deadly pig disease outbreak.

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.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

Iowa’s ethanol producers and farmers may soon hear some positive news after weeks of turmoil, according to Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who met with White House, Agriculture Department and Environmental Protection Agency officials last week.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

The national average price for corn this season is back to $3.60 a bushel, about where it’s been most of this year except for an early-season spike ($4.16 in July) before the size and quality of the crop was known. 

That’s not great news for corn growers, and for the ethanol part of the market, the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates are even worse.

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. 

Over the last two years, Rob Van Vleet has been slowly scrapping the last vestiges of Kimball, Nebraska’s first wind farm. The wind turbines are made to be sturdy, he said, but they don’t last forever — about 20 years.

courtesy Steve Kenkel / www.hybridcorncollector.com

Shelby County farmer Steve Kenkel has lived on a century farm his entire life, growing corn and soybeans today with all the trappings of modern farming.

But in three buildings on his property he has amassed a collection of equipment, advertising signs and seed corn sacks that document the transition from traditional hand or horse-drawn tools through the arrival of hybrid seed corn and into the mid-20th century’s gas or diesel-powered tractors. His Hybrid Corn Pioneers Museum showcases his 20 years of collecting.

This year’s catastrophic flooding has created hard times for many people in Midwest, but it’s created a nirvana for mosquitoes.

Kansas City and the surrounding region could potentially become a hotbed for mosquito-borne viruses like West Nile virus in the coming years due to increasing temperatures and more frequent flooding, which are predicted by climate experts.

Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

The United States and Canada must ratify an agreement that Mexico has already approved to put into place a trade deal the three countries negotiated to update and replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

Even though the Midwest is tops in field corn production and grows row after row of it, these states don't stand out when it comes to national production of sweet corn. 

 

But for many in the region, nothing says summer quite like a fresh hot ear of sweet corn — plain, buttered or salted.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

Iowa’s senior senator has some harsh words for the Environmental Protection Agency following its decision to release more than two dozen small oil refineries from their obligations to blend ethanol into gasoline.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

A monthly report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture assessing the global supply and demand of key crops had mixed messages for Midwest farmers Monday.

The World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) for August found that the number of acres of corn and soybeans farmers are on track to harvest this fall is more than earlier predictions, meaning the wet spring and late planting in some areas didn’t have as adverse an effect as USDA initially estimated.

Sci-fi writers have long warned about the dangers of modifying organisms. They come in forms ranging from accidentally creating a plague of killer locusts (1957) to recreating dinosaurs with added frog genes (2015).

Now, with researchers looking to even more advanced gene-editing technology to protect crops, they’ll have to think about how to present that tech to a long-skeptical public. 

Critics of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to move two of its research agencies from Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area got more ammunition this week.

Walking through rows of growing crops helps farmers monitor for harmful insects, leaves that are damaged by disease or other problems that could reduce their overall harvest at the end of the season. 

And this year in Iowa, there’s a menace that, left to its own devices, could munch farmers out of profit. 

Caring For Cut Flowers

Jul 26, 2019
Neil Cummings / Creative Commons

 

 

On this horticulture day edition of Talk of Iowa, Iowa State Associate Professor of Consumer Horticulture, Cindy Haines, shares her expertise on preparing, preserving and displaying cut flowers.

She advises flowers should be cut with a sharp tool shortly before they have reached full bloom. Sunflowers, zinnias, snapdragons and dahlias are a few flowers she recommends for long-lasting cut flower displays. Simply keeping the water clean or adding a flower preservation packet is the best way to preserve cut flowers in water, she says.

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.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

The threat of a deadly hog disease is prompting state officials to tighten security at swine events during the Iowa State Fair.

For nearly a year, U.S. pork producers have watched African swine fever decimate China’s pig herd and they fear it could arrive here. It doesn’t hurt people or contaminate food, but it could wipe out many farms and send pork prices soaring.

Every summer, thousands of Midwestern kids as young as 13 load onto school buses early in the morning to do one of the hottest, dirtiest temporary jobs out there. They are the corn detasselers.

But this year, there’s a snag: Detasseling season is being pushed back due to a wet spring.

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.

Pages