Agriculture News

My Farm Roots: Tom Karst

Jul 24, 2012
Donna Vestal / Harvest Public Media

In this week's installment, we meet Tom Karst. He's the national editor for "The Packer," a trade newspaper covering the fruit and vegetable industry. For more than 25 years, he’s been reporting on issues of importance to the produce industry, including immigration, farm policy, and food safety.

To explore more "My Farm Roots" stories, and share your own, visit: http://harvestpublicmedia.org/myfarmroots

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Crops are not the only things wilting in the sweltering summer of 2012; cattle, the largest animals, on the farm are also under stress.

Some cattle producers are protecting their herds by putting them hoop barns, which are gaining acceptance across the Midwest. The simple structures are made from stretching fabric over strong metal arches, or hoops, providing vital shade and protection from rain, snow or sun.

Tanner Rowe, a cattle producer near Dallas Canter, Iowa, has found hoop barns can give cattle a much-needed break from sweltering heat.

Tom Woodward / Flickr

It’s official: Iowa is deep in the throes of a drought. State climatologist Harry Hillaker is calling it the worst drought since 1988. Yesterday Hillaker joined Governor Branstad at a town hall in Mount Pleasant. Farmers from across the state came to share concerns—but the most worried? It wasn’t those with thirsty grain crops;  it was livestock farmers. 

My Farm Roots: Nan Gardiner

Jul 18, 2012
Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

This is the second installment of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s new series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here (http://harvestpublicmedia.org/myfarmroots)to explore more My Farm Rootsstories and to share your own.

It’s not every day that a trip to the drug store can change your destiny.

Bridging the Gap Between Rural, Urban Ag

Jul 16, 2012
Urban-Ag Academy / Facebook

In the Iowa Statehouse, and in statehouses across the nation, representatives are finding themselves separated—not by party lines, but by whether they come from an urban or rural district.  This weekend, the first national Urban Ag Academy was held in Des Moines. The goal? To look at that divide and to give a voice to minority farmers.

Bridging the Gap Between Rural, Urban Ag

Jul 16, 2012
Urban-Ag Academy / Facebook

In the Iowa Statehouse, and in statehouses across the nation, representatives are finding themselves separated—not by party lines, but by whether they come from an urban or rural district.  This weekend, the first Urban Ag Academy was held in Des Moines. The goal? To look at that divide and to give a voice to minority farmers. More than sixty state representatives from across the country came together to in an effort to help bridge the divide between city and country. 

Andrea Silenzi / Harvest Public Media

This is the first installment of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s new series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here (http://harvestpublicmedia.org/myfarmroots) to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Kate Edwards hasn’t always been a farmer. No, she came back to the farm after college, grad school and a stint as an environmental engineer.

Clay Masters / IPR

Next week the farm bill makes its way to the House. That’s the big piece of legislation that sets food and agriculture policy for the next 5 years. How does this impact the average Iowan that isn’t on the farm?  Iowa State Agriculture economist Bruce Babcock says for the most part it doesn’t… except for one thing. 

"Are the taxpayer dollars being well spent subsidizing really well managed farms, very smart farmers and very wealthy farmers?" he said.

Clay Masters / IPR

The mighty Missouri River flows through 7 states and drains one-sixth of the water in the United States.  It’s a powerful force that gives life to the land.  But last year’s flood that lasted over 110 days has people talking… and fighting for the future. Here’s Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters, with part two of our special report.

Clay Masters / IPR

The floodwaters that ravaged homes, businesses and farms along a vast stretch of the Missouri River last year are not a distant memory. And as the difficult cleanup and recovery continues, concerns have intensified between those who want there to be more control of this river, and those who believe it should flow freely. In part one of a two-part report, Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters finds that common ground has yet to find traction.

There is a culture war raging in the heartland. It’s not about abortion or religion or same sex marriage. It’s about how food is produced in this country. As in any war, language is playing a big role.  Now some groups are borrowing from another hot button issue in the news, bullies and bullying.

Iowa State University

Farmers are already making changes to adjust to global warming. A researcher from Iowa State University meets with agriculture officials, including USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, in Washington, D.C. Thursday.  ISU Climate Science Program Director Dr. Gene Takle is briefing Vilsack and other officials on how to prepare and plan for global warming.  He says climate change actually has some benefits for farmers, at least in the short-term. But he the greatest risk for the industry is unpredictability and wild fluctuations in weather patterns.

Calm before the Corn

May 29, 2012
Clay Masters / IPR

Corn has been good to farmers. Helping fuel a boom in the ag sector. And as this year’s record corn forecast indicates, Midwestern farmers can’t seem to plant enough of the grain. Even with concerns growing about the effectiveness of today’s high-tech genetically engineered seeds, farmers aren’t backing down.

The land is dry and the wind blows hard in Sac County, Iowa.  For Darwin Bettin it’s a good day to be inside selling insurance. He also farms 500 acres of corn and soybeans in western Iowa.

Making it in the Middle: the mid-sized farmer

May 25, 2012
Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

A few years ago, things were going smoothly for Eric Neill and his family.

Neill was making good money as a construction superintendent for a commercial contractor in Kansas City, traveling the country, running challenging job sites. But he wasn’t satisfied.

“I decided I wanted to be a farmer,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be a farmer.”

So Neill and his wife, Julie Neill, met with an extension agent and asked how they could make a living with a farm.

That is a tall order.

Who are you calling a corporate farmer?

May 24, 2012
Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

A surprising thing happens while touring Chris Boeckmann’s turkey farm, where 50,000 birds are grown each year for Cargill Inc.

After seeing the huge brooder barn, after looking into a second enormous facility for the older birds and after spying the Cargill sign, the obvious conclusion is that this is a corporate farm.

Jessica Naudziunas / Harvest Public Media

The farmer of future will grow food and raise animals with tomorrow in mind. They’ll know contributing to the food supply is not enough. If the soil, air and water they use to produce food is damaged, good luck feeding anyone.  

That’s the idea, anyway, behind “sustainability” — one of the big buzz words in agriculture today. It’s all about making sure natural resources are not depleted or permanently damaged so that we can farm into the future.

Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

There’s always work to be done on the farm, but often it’s the same work day, after day, after day. Parts of the job must feel a bit like an assembly line.

While it’s impossible to automate farming like many manufacturers have automated their assembly lines, using robotic technology on the farm might not be so far off.

The biological and agricultural engineering robotics team at Kansas State University knows a thing or two about agricultural robots. They’ve won national robotics competitions in each of the last five years.

Farmer of the Future Part 1 - Immigration

May 21, 2012
Kathleen Masterson/Harvest Public Media

Sioux County, in northwest Iowa, is known for its Dutch pastries. The landscape is dotted with Lutheran and reform churches.  But today, Catholic churches and tortillerias are creeping into the landscape — signs of the new residents joining this vibrant community.

In Sioux County, as in a scattering of communities across the Midwest, Hispanic immigrants are working in meat processing plants, dairies, egg-laying facilities and hog barns. In fact, the majority of U.S. farm laborers today were born outside the U.S.

Last fall, officials predicted that farmland along the Missouri River might be out of production for at least a year. The flood of 2011 piled up sand dunes, gouged out deep holes and killed off many of the microbes that help crops grow.

But now it’s spring, and farmers are back on the land trying to fix what nature broke.

There’s something not quite picture-perfect about this picturesque farmland, known as Blackbird Bend, along the Missouri River near Onawa.   A 24-row corn planter is brushing over the tops of an already stunning winter wheat crop, twelve inches high. 

Across the Corn Belt, farmers are hoping this fall’s harvest could be one for the record books. With planting season already off to a roaring start, farmers say they’re putting in more acres of corn than they have since the Great Depression.

Wild Horses Come to Iowa

Apr 23, 2012

You have to weave between Amish buggies on the gravel road that leads to the Davis County Fairgrounds.

There, this weekend, corrals are holding more than 30 burros and wild horses.

Most of the animals quietly munch on hay. They pay little attention to the families and kids coming up to stalls.

Dave Berg is a specialist for the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM.

“If they have good food and clean water, they’re happy campers," he says. "And out in the wild, they do not have good food and clean water that readily available.”

Copyright 2020 Iowa Public Radio News. To see more, visit Iowa Public Radio News.

GUY RAZ, HOST:

Sarah McCammon

You’ve probably heard that America’s farmers are getting older. Something else you may know: women tend to outlive men. So, do the math, and what do you get? More women coming into agricultural land – and some who aren’t really sure what to do with it. Conservationists say this shift is both a challenge – and an opportunity – for Iowa’s farmland.

You might have heard the term “pink slime” in the news recently. Now the fear over the so called slime is beginning to have economic effects. This week Beef Products Incorporated, or BPI, temporally closed down a total of three meat processing plants in Kansas, Texas, and Iowa. So the Governors of those states are doing damage control. Thursday they toured the only BPI factory still open, in South Sioux City, Nebraska.

Dairy industry pushes for reform

Mar 27, 2012

Many dairymen are calling the government price support system broken, but just how to fix it isn't clear. There's debate over how much the government should step in to help in tough times and as to what degree it should let the free market govern.  

Fair weather crops

Jun 28, 2010

The effects of severe weather over the weekend continue to be felt today (Tuesday) with wind damage and heavy rain in Northwest Iowa and potential flooding in Central Iowa. Thousands of acres of cropland are underwater in Western Iowa and will not be able to be salvaged, but for farmers in other parts of the state, this week’s sunshine and low humidity is a welcome break. Iowa Public Radio’s Pat Blank talks with Iowa State University extension agronomist Mark Westgate.

The Guard's Agribusiness Development Team will work with farmers in northeastern Afghanistan as part of a larger effort to improve the nation's agriculture infrastructure.

A survey by the Iowa Department of Agriculture shows growth in farmers market sales of 92 percent from 2004 to 2009. Morning Edition Host Sarah McCammon talks with State Horticulturalist Mike Bevins.

Agri-Star Rising

Apr 21, 2010

After a long stretch of dark days, Iowa cattle farmers and residents of Postville say they have a reason to be optimistic. That’s because kosher beef production has resumed at Agri-Star Meat and Poultry. Iowa Public Radio’s Pat Blank reports.

Ag Competition

Apr 11, 2010

The Obama administration is conducting an unprecedented series of public forums to explore competition in the agriculture industry. For the first time, the departments of justice and agriculture are working together to look into antitrust questions raised by the mergers of seed companies, meatpacking plants and corporate farms. Iowa Public Radio’s Rob Dillard reports government officials worry farmers are paying the price for consolidation.

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