Harvest Public Media

 

At a campaign rally in Wisconsin last week, President Trump announced U.S. farmers will receive an additional $14 billion in coronavirus relief aid.

 

Dairy Farmers want U.S. trade policy to focus on opening markets and fending off competition from the European Union and New Zealand.

U.S. dairy exports were up about 10% in the first half of 2020 compared to last year. But that’s not enough to return the sector to profitability, according to dairy farmers and producers that are participating in a series of virtual town hall meetings on trade issues.

Farmers were expected to produce a record corn and soybean harvest this year, but after weeks of poor weather across the region, the USDA has officially walked back those predictions.

While small, craft breweries in the Midwest pride themselves on being hyperlocal and producing high-quality beers, there is an essential ingredient — hops — they can’t get locally.

But that could soon change. 

The hop is the flower part of a family of vines, and how much and what kind you add determines how the beer tastes.

Hops grow best in arid climates with short days. The long days and high humidity of the Midwest make it difficult to grow them in the region.

 

There’s no shortage of peanuts on Loyd Lasley’s farm. Come September, he hopes to harvest about 160,000 pounds of them. Many of the peanuts are roasted and put on shelves at the Made In Oklahoma booth at the state fair. 

With many state fairs across the country being canceled due to COVID-19, many small business owners like the Lasleys will miss out on sales. The family typically makes about $5,000 from sales at the fair every year. It’s not a lot, but it helps, Loyd says. 

Algal blooms in bodies of water often caused by runoff of manure and fertilizer on crop lands have a high price tag. 

Invasive plants such as blackberries and kudzucan turn a field from a grassy habitat for turkeys and quail into an overgrown thicket. But removing them -- particularly within a vast forest -- can be expensive or even harmful to the environment.

“They create a large canopy. They compete for nutrients. And then they push out and eliminate a lot of the desirable native species that we have,” said Brian Davidson, who manages the botany and invasive species program at the Mark Twain National Forest, three million acres of land spread out across southern Missouri in the Ozarks region.


Midwestern farmers are assessing crop and infrastructure damage after a high-wind storm, known as a derecho, ripped through the region Monday. 

Chris Bohr’s farm in Martinsburg, Missouri, has hundreds of acres of soybeans and corn. It also has a 5,000 head hog barn that requires a lot of electricity to power its ventilation system, cooling fans and lights.

About fifty yards away from the barn are three rows of solar panels. Bohr is among a growing number of farmers that are generating solar power to meet their needs. 

Bohr received a Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP, grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to help pay for his solar panels. And the number of farmers applying for the grants is going up.

Unsolicited packages of seeds from China are arriving in mailboxes around the country. More than 20 state departments of agriculture, including Oklahoma, Iowa and Nebraska are warning that the seeds could potentially be harmful. 

Seven states have seen animals infected with vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), which causes blister-like lesions in and around the mouth of horses and other livestock. 

Missouri and Oklahoma are both trying to help reduce the supply chain problems in the meat industry seen during the coronavirus pandemic by directing federal grant dollars to meatpacking plants.

Coronavirus outbreaks at meatpacking plants led to shortages and higher prices.

“During COVID-19, our food supply was tested from farm to fork. Farmers and ranchers saw tight livestock supplies on their farms, while consumers saw their choices of certain cuts of meat shrink or go away,” said Chris Chinn, Director of the MIssouri Department of Agriculture.

A federal court in California recently vacated the three popular dicamba herbicides

When Nick Girondo of Rolla, Missouri, first looked at his family calendar this spring, he struggled to find a time to get everyone out turkey hunting during the 22-day season. 

“With sports and other things going on, we probably would have got out one day at the most, the way planning was going with family events,” he said.

But when the coronavirus pandemic came to the Midwest, those events were canceled, so the family went hunting instead.

According to new quarterly crop data from the USDA, farmers planted about 92 million acres of corn this spring, a 5 million acre decrease over the agency's March acreage report. The decrease could slash this season’s corn harvest by around a billion bushels, providing some much-needed price increases for commodity farmers. 

Sheri Glazier is used to seeing dry conditions on the family farm in central Oklahoma around wheat harvesting time in June. But this year, the heat came faster than normal. She remembers the unusually early heat one day while driving the combine in the wheat field.

At the edge of a corn field on a clear but windy June day, microbiologist Tom Moorman lifts a metal lid and reveals a collection of bottles, tubes, meters and cables in a shallow pit. The system is designed to capture runoff from 24 plots. 

 

Even as more people bake during the pandemic, some wheat farmers may need help to break even this year.

Nebraska’s largest COVID-19 hotspots are meatpacking areas with deep immigrant roots.

Rural hospitals have been planning for the arrival of the coronavirus, but the preparations for a virus that may not come are putting some already struggling rural hospitals in danger.

Mike Gruenberg, director of disaster preparedness at Salem Memorial Hospital, a 25-bed critical access care facility, said getting ready for coronavirus patents meant making major changes.

At the start of 2020, the agricultural economy was poised for a good year. 

Then came COVID-19 and like almost every other sector, it tanked. But Chad Hart, an economist at Iowa State University, says that solid footing is still the foundation for an outlook that is not all doom and gloom.

Both farmers and home gardeners may have trouble finding enough seeds to plant this spring, but while both are facing seed shortages, the causes are unrelated. 

More people are taking up gardening as orders to slow the spread of coronavirus are keeping them homebound. Companies that sell vegetable and other seeds to gardeners are reporting record demand. Meanwhile, farmers are facing a supply shortage of soybean and sorghum seeds. 

 

Like many small business owners, Amy Manganelli has taken a financial hit since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. So, a few weeks ago, she decided to apply for a small business loan from the federal government.

 

It’s planting season across much of the United States, and for some farmers who rely on foreign guest workers for help in the fields, the pandemic is getting in the way.  

Friday, April 17, 2020 Workers at a processing plant in Fremont, Nebraska, have fallen ill with symptoms of COVID-19. The company confirmed its first case of the disease earlier this week. LPP confirmed in a statement the employees are isolating at home with sick pay.

One of the country’s largest ethanol producers has idled three plants and postponed the opening of a fourth. 

POET posted a statement on its website saying bioprocessing at the locations in Chancellor, South Dakota and in Coon Rapids and Ashton, Iowa has stopped. Another plant in Shelbyville, Indiana was on track to open this spring but that is now on hold.

Families often count on their local school districts to provide two meals a day for their kids. But with school buildings closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, getting meals to students can be a challenge, especially in rural areas.

Rural families also often find it difficult to drive many miles to see if the grocery store has restocked needed items.

As the price of gasoline plummeted amid COVID-19 restrictions, so has the price of ethanol.

 

Many dairy farmers have struggled in recent years, causing some to rethink their business. One dairy in Iowa is inviting visitors to spend the night in the barn.

It’s fairly easy to find a bed and breakfast somewhere in Iowa that’s housed in a former dairy barn, but New Day Dairy GuestBarn may be one of the very few where you can actually spend the night in a guest room at a working farm overlooking the cows.

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