agriculture

The number of black farmers in the U.S. is shrinking — down to less than 2% of total farmers — and many are losing their land.

Members of the Kansas Black Farmers Association are working with the state in hopes of reversing that trend.

Oleander - The Farmer as Artist

Oct 19, 2019
Franz Kline / Metropolitan Museum of Art

Folks, when I was a boy, I spent hours every summer in the garden, picking a feed sack full of green beans one week, a bucket of cherries another, a basket of beets, or a bushel of tomatoes.  I dug potatoes—russet and sweet—and pulled onions.  I picked peppers, and pickled peppers, just like Peter Piper.  My mother was the piper, and I paid her by bringing the harvest to her kitchen, where she pickled beets, canned tomatoes and green beans, sorted potatoes, braided onions, boiled cherries with sugar and pectin into preserves, and began to ferment cabbage into sauerkraut.  All summer long we worked.
            “You grow too much,” I complained one hot September afternoon after spending two hours picking and pickling peppers.
            “I grow what we eat, and what we will eat,” she said.  “It’s good to have reserves.”

The Latest Generation Gap In Farming Is About Robots

Oct 1, 2019

On a recent bright, clear day in eastern Nebraska, a small red machine crept through a lush field of soybeans. From the highway, it looked like a small tractor. Up close, its mess of wires came into focus. So did the laptop strapped to the back.

This is the Flex-Ro (Flexible Robotic Unit), one of several robots across the world being designed and tested to help farmers maximize crop yield, use fewer pesticides, and manage the industry’s dwindling labor market.

It’s a difficult year for many farmers in the United States.  A wet spring flooded crops and delayed planting across the Midwest, while trade conflicts with China and other countries continue to wreak chaos on incomes.

For some farms, this year’s losses, even with federal trade-relief payments, will force them to file for Chapter 12 bankruptcy. And that's easier now that a new law raised the level of debt allowed for a Chapter 12 filing.

Courtesy of Della Rambo

GARDEN CITY — Three years ago, rancher and farmer Jay Young got intrigued by a YouTube video.

A North Dakota farmer championed the idea of cover crops — plants that would be considered weeds in many other contexts — as robust plants for his cattle to graze on.

From Texas Standard:

Most whiskey distillers will likely say that “aging” is a crucial part of their process. Aging is when the spirit is left to sit in a barrel, sometimes for years. The older the spirit, the better it will likely taste. But for Austin-based distillery, Still, it’s the grain from which the whiskey comes that also matters. Still uses 100-year-old heirloom wheat, which can be hard to come by. So it asked a Texas farmer to grow it.

President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget proposal is getting a lot of attention for its call for more border protection, but it also makes major changes to agriculture programs.

Without providing many specifics, it outlines a plan to reduce the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s budget by about $3.6 billion — 15 percent of its total funding. Some programs face cuts, while others get a boost, but it’s all just a proposal at this point and likely won’t survive Congress as-is.

Public Domain via PxHere

Farmers are failing to pay their loans at the highest rate in nearly a decade, Forbes reports.

The loan delinquencies appear to be due to declining crop prices, as well as tariffs put in place by the Trump administration. Nationwide, nearly 20 percent of farm loans were delinquent. That’s up from 16.5 percent last year.

Fields, crops and farm animals are part of the agriculture-industry landscape, but an increasingly small one.

The number of farm and ranch managers shrunk by about 20 percent between 1996 and 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. At the same time, there are more students graduating from ag colleges, and, in many parts of the country, 80 percent to 90 percent of them find a job (or go for an advanced degree) within a few months of graduating.

Michael McEnany always knew he wanted to be a farmer. Both of his grandfathers were, and he “always loved tagging along with my Grandpa Ed.”

Both of his parents chose ag-related careers, but neither of them went back to the farms they’d grown up on. Still, McEnany’s done nothing but farm for more than a decade. Starting part-time in college, he worked his way up to a full-time, year-round job on Steve Henry’s corn and soybean operation in Nevada, Iowa.

Austin Price / The Texas Tribune

Funding for crucial safety net programs for thousands of Texas farmers expires Sept. 30. Congress has four working days to act.

From The Texas Tribune:

WASHINGTON – Congressional leaders are just days away from a deadline to work out a compromise on a massive farm bill or risk a lapse in funding for crucial safety net programs used by thousands of Texas farmers.

Kansas Wheat Yields Vary As Harvest Wraps Up

Jul 11, 2018
AGRILIFE TODAY / FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

Wheat harvest is close to wrapping up in Kansas and overall production is down from last year due to dry weather in some areas and hail damage in others. 

In northwest Kansas, as much as 1 million bushels of wheat were lost to hail.

Eric Sperber, manager of Cornerstone Ag LLC in Colby, told Kansas Wheat that the area was hit with another hailstorm on Saturday.

“We have had five hail events since June 19, and fields that were missed from the previous storms got hit this time. Overall, the crop has good quality; unfortunately, we lost fields due to the hail storms."

H2O Radio

By H2O Radio:

"Dryland" farmers on the high plains of Colorado grow their crops with whatever falls from the sky—no irrigation, no pumped groundwater—just what Mother Nature delivers. In recent years some have been trying to innovate to protect their soils and conserve water to prepare for climate change. But they're getting pushback—not only from their neighbors and their own families—but also from the government.

The "Dirty Thirties"

Wheat producers in Kansas are worried about the potential for freeze damage after temperatures stayed below freezing for much of the weekend.

While it’s not unusual for Kansas to see spring freezes, the frigid temperatures and blowing wind over the weekend likely caused some damage to the state's wheat crop.

Big cities in the Midwest are gaining ground on the rural communities that, for many decades, have thrived on the edges of urban development.

It was an appropriate week for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s trade expert to address a gaggle of Nebraska farmers — even if their responses tended toward frustration.

Ted McKinney arrived in Omaha on Wednesday, the day China threatened to impose tariffs on 106 U.S. products including major exports like soybeans, beef and corn. China’s move came after the Trump administration’s attempt to reign in China’s abuse of intellectual property rules by proposing tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports.

If the proposals become reality they could undermine a stagnant farm economy, and not just in Nebraska. “We have bills to pay and debts we must settle and cannot afford to lose any market,” Kansas Farm Bureau President Richard Felts said in a statement.

China has announced its intent to add additional tariffs to 106 U.S. products, including several of Kansas’ top agricultural exports.

Meant to fund the federal government through early September, the $1.3 trillion bill signed by President Donald Trump last week also includes money and changes for ag-related programs beyond the “grain-glitch” fix.

USDA

Farmers are going to attempt to appeal to President Donald Trump about his trade policies via television.

As Politico reports, the 30-second ad is sponsored by  Farmers for Free Trade, an advocacy group that wanted to make the case that foreign retaliation to Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum and other pending trade restrictions will have a potentially devastating impact on their exports, if China and other trading powers decide to boost tariffs on soybeans, wheat and other farm goods.

Derek Klingenberg of Peabody, Kansas is kind of a farmer celebrity. His Youtube channel which has over 70,000 subscribers, features everything from ag-themed pop-music parodies to trombone covers, but what really caught our attention was his cow art.

Tuesday, Klingenberg took his cow art to the next level, when he posted a video where he herded his cows to spell out the word “Hi,” and took a snapshot from outer space. 

When a man places 40 dozen eggs on the conveyor in the check-out line at the grocery store, it begs the question: What’s he going to do with all of them?

No matter how far fruits or vegetables travel, whether they’re grown organically or conventionally, they’re packed with vitamins, minerals and other necessary nutrients. The men and women in the fields try to grow foods with an eye to boosting the health factor, but researchers say it’s hard to measure the precise impact.

Partisan politics may meet its match in the 2018 farm bill.

The massive legislation, versions of which will be introduced this spring in the U.S. House and Senate, is shaping up to be less about political affiliations and more about finding common ground.

When Texans – mostly farmers and ranchers – sat down to write the state Constitution in the 1800s, they didn’t see the need for an elected agriculture commissioner.

That oversight was quickly remedied.

The latest drought report shows that all of Kansas is drying out, with the southern parts of the state now being considered in extreme drought.

But what impact could this weather pattern have if it sticks around?

More than 50 percent of the state is currently seeing drought conditions, up from only 1.5 percent three months ago. And assistant state climatologist Mary Knapp says the outlook for the next three months isn't much better.

From Texas Standard:

A lot of Texans will be paying close attention Monday to the words and tone of President Donald Trump as he addresses farmers and ranchers at the American Farm Bureau Convention in Nashville. At a time when Texas is growing in population,  becoming less rural and more urban than it was 10 years ago, advocates say rural issues are no less important than they once were. And that's the message Trump aims to send during his Farm Bureau speech. But what do Texans want to hear, especially on issues such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA?

After pushing for changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Donald Trump earlier this year kicked off negotiations among the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Any major changes to the agreement could have a big impact on Kansas.

Kansas Republican Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran have said they’re open to updates but emphasize that the agreement needs to preserve or expand export opportunities.

Kansas City Federal Reserve

As the Omaha World Herald reports, with corn prices at around $3.50 per bushel, grain farmers in Nebraska are increasingly exhausting their cash supplies and taking out loans.

Brad Bauer, a senior vice president at Pinnacle Bank, told the Herald that the demand for operating loans for farmers in Nebraska has increased because many producers have exhausted their cash reserves.

CCO Creative Commons

Suicide rates among farmers are at a higher rate than other occupation in the United States.

As The Guardian reports, last year, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that people working in agriculture – including farmers, farm laborers, ranchers, fishers, and lumber harvesters – take their lives at a rate higher than any other occupation.

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