Harvest Public Media

From E. coli in romaine lettuce to potential salmonella on Goldfish crackers to a parasite in salads and wraps, food recalls are in the spotlight this year. But things may not be as bad as they sound, according to Lana Nwadike, a food safety specialist with Kansas State University and the University of Missouri. 

Pesticides are all over, from backyard gardens to cornfields. While their use doesn’t appear to be slowing, concern over drift and the resulting effects on health is driving research — and more worries.

Those concerns are bringing pesticides to a different venue: courtrooms. 

Farmers in a federal class-action lawsuit filed two main complaints this week against agro-chemical giants Monsanto and BASF regarding the herbicide dicamba, which is blamed for millions of acres of crop damage, especially to soybeans, over the last couple years.

When bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics, people can end up with infections that don’t respond to available medicines.

There could soon be a different kind of fuel going into trucks and planes, one that could help farmers and create rural jobs.

It’d come from sorghum: a grass grown around the world, but increasingly so in states like Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska. 

Esperanza Yanez can spot a sick cow just by looking at it.

"The head hangs down and they don't eat," says Yanez, who immigrated from Mexico two decades ago and has been caring for cattle ever since.

While learning to communicate with animals takes years of patience, Yanez says the true language barrier exists between the dairy workers and the veterinarians who rarely speak Spanish. Medical terminology can be confusing, and to avoid embarrassment, Yanez says she and other workers may feign comprehension.

Updated Aug. 2, 2018 — The Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission did not have enough votes Aug. 1 to approve the poultry barns at issue. Another vote is expected Aug. 15, though any decision is expected to be appealed.

Scott Pruitt’s resignation from the Environmental Protection Agency this month has many in the renewable fuel industry hoping that federal agencies will get on the same page.

That’s because for the last few years, the EPA and the Department of Energy have been at odds, with taxpayer money creating a new biofuel industry that may not have the room to grow outside the lab.

The trade war has come home to roost among U.S. farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods are targeted by tariffs from China, Mexico and Canada. The U.S. Department of Agriculture did something about it Tuesday, announcing it'll spend up to $12 billion in aid, including direct payments to growers. 

How Some Small Towns Are Achieving 'Brain Gain'

Jul 17, 2018

When communities watch young people grow up, go off and never return, remaining residents and politicians often bemoan there’s been a “brain drain” — especially when such population loss means schools and businesses close.

Kansas is taking the lead on a project aimed at tracking cattle disease with the hopes of protecting the U.S. beef industry.

There’s a long-forbidden crop on the verge of legalization, one that’s versatile and could open up new markets for farmers: hemp.

The Senate took a crucial step Thursday to making sure that, among other things, the hungry are fed, farmers have crop price protections and land is preserved beyond Sept. 30 — that is, the day the farm bill expires.

Thirty-eight calves, between two and four months old, moo and kick at the dirt floor in a steel barn in Brush, Colorado. One by one, a handler leads them from the pen to a narrow chute, where their legs are restrained and they’re lifted onto a hydraulic table.  

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the nation’s largest program to reduce hunger. It’s also the biggest program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But under the White House’s plan to reorganize the federal government, released Thursday, SNAP would have a new home at a revamped Department of Health and Human Services.

Thursday had all the makings of deja vu for the U.S. House’s farm bill draft: immigration concerns, uncertain Republican votes and a wall of Democratic opposition to changes in the main federal food aid program.

In the end, the chamber avoided a repeat of May’s failure, when members of the conservative Freedom Caucus wanted to deal with immigration first. But the farm bill passed Thursday — narrowly, 213-211. Still, 20 Republicans voted against it, as did every Democrat in the chamber.

The U.S. House voted down an immigration bill Thursday that would have addressed one of the biggest concerns of American farmers: updating the agriculture guestworker visa program known as H-2A.

Each spring, ranchers across the Eastern Plains look at their land and ask an important question: How much green can they expect this season?

In this case, “green” refers not to money, but grass. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently launched a new tool to help cattlemen predict just how much they can look forward to.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s message to Midwestern farmers this week is a mixed bag, telling them that the agency will be changing an Obama-era rule regarding water regulations but is pausing a plan to expand summer sales of ethanol.

Federal rules in place since January 2017 have not curbed the use of antibiotics in pork production, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group whose food and environment agenda includes responsible antibiotic use.

The Senate Agriculture Committee unveiled its version of the farm bill Friday, including a path to legalizing industrial hemp. That’s an effort being pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose state, Kentucky, is a leader in the crop.

There’s a new strategy when it comes to combating the smells and air quality concerns that arise from large-scale animal feeding operations: Blame the company, not the farmer.

And if a recent federal case against the largest pork producer in the U.S. is any indication, it’s a model that could benefit contract growers — people who don’t own the livestock they raise but own the property and the barns.

Colorado farmer Steve Kelly brushes aside a small mound of dry yellow dirt to reveal a sugar beet seed that’s no larger than a peppercorn. It seems insignificant, but the seed is different from what he planted more than 20 years ago.

“The quality of the beet wasn’t as good and yield and everything that way wasn’t as good either,” he said.  

Now all but 5 percent of sugar beet seeds in the U.S. are genetically modified, or GMO.

The Environmental Protection Agency is getting heat from farm country, where pro-ethanol groups filed suit against the federal agency Tuesday over renewable fuel exemptions, calling it “abuses of … authority.”

Two of the nation’s most influential players in agriculture policy, at a meeting in the heart of the country’s Grain Belt on Wednesday, tried to ease worries about the pending farm bill and a budding trade war with China.

SCOTUS Case Impacts Ag Workers

May 24, 2018
Wikimedia Commons

This week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court says employers can avoid settling disputes with workers in court.

But that could harm people who work on farms or in meatpacking plants … people who often rely on class-action lawsuits to collect unfairly withheld wages.

University of Denver law professor Nantiya Ruan says litigation is expensive and the damages in those types of cases are small, so ag workers usually can’t afford an individual case.

Marshall Expects Farm Bill To Pass House In June

May 24, 2018
marshall.house.gov

Kansas Republican Representative Roger Marshall says that despite the Farm Bill failing to pass in the House last week, he still expects it to pass. 

No Democrats voted for the bill, and the Freedom Caucus, a small group of conservative Republicans, also withdrew their support until after immigration is discussed.

Marshall is on the House Agriculture committee. He says there are no plans to win over Democrats by backtracking on stricter work requirements for federal food aid.

Some conservative House Republicans made it clear Friday in voting down the 2018 farm bill: They’re not interested in a farm bill without working on immigration first.

Thirty Republicans and every Democrat voted against the farm bill, which failed 198-213 in the full House.

At The Law Shop in Van Meter, Iowa, attorney Amy Skogerson untied a piece of blue yarn from around a bunch of craft sticks.

Each stick had a word or short phrase stamped on it, and she read from them as she placed them on her desk: “negotiate, court representation, research law, draft documents.”

Dairy farmer Gary Rock sits in his milking parlor, overlooking what is left of his 95-cow operation in LaRue County, Kentucky.

“Three hundred years of history is something that a lot of people in our country cannot even talk about,” Rock said. That’s how long the farm has been in his family.

Pages