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Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Farmers Dig Deep To Weather Slumping Ag Economy, But Don’t Call It A Crisis

Farm income has taken a long, hard fall, dropping 50 percent since hitting a high point in 2013. Add to that near-record levels of farm debt, and you have a recipe for financial stress. But while economists say they can see storm clouds building, it’s not a full-blown crisis. That’s because relatively few farms have been pushed past the breaking point into Chapter 12 bankruptcy — or, worse, into losing the farm entirely.

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The old hospital in Syracuse, Nebraska, was built in 1952.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media file photo

Rural hospitals aren’t just providers of medicine and health care, but also are often major employers and a massive part of a town’s tax base. However, mounting challenges are forcing these hospitals to merge and close in droves.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. trade war with China has created a financial burden for farmers and companies that import Chinese goods. Consumers, on the other hand, have mostly been spared from the conflict.

That could all change if this month’s negotiations between the U.S. and China don’t go well.

Israel Palacio / Unsplash

The U.S. trade war with China, now approaching a year, is often framed as hurting manufacturing and agriculture the most. But that’s mainly collateral damage in an international struggle over power and technology that has its roots in the Cold War, when China was still considered a largely undeveloped country.

Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media

At her desk in Greeley, Colorado, Shelly Woods pulls out three thick stacks of manila folders. These files represent dozens of local farmers who’ve applied for safety-net programs, including tariff relief through the Farm Service Agency. While Woods and about 800,000 federal colleagues were furloughed for 35 days, the work piled up.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

In January 2018, a handful of farmers at a major Iowa pork industry gathering attended a session on the threat of foreign animal diseases. A year later, several dozen people showed up, spurred by the march of African swine fever across China.

“This risk of African swine fever is real,” veterinarian Craig Rowles told the crowd at the Iowa Pork Congress. “And as producers, we need to be very cognizant of that.”

Joanthan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

Swiss Meat and Sausage has been butchering animals and selling meats in a small, unincorporated east-central Missouri town for 50 years. Co-owner Janice Thomas wants to expand, and to do that, she’ll need more business from out-of-town customers.

“If there is one place that has some room, it’s with our online ordering,” she said.

The community of Swiss has minimal internet access: It’s not high speed, and it’s unreliable.

Joanthan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

People who most intensely oppose genetically modified food think they know a lot about food science, but actually know the least, according to a peer-reviewed paper published in January in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.

GMOs are widely considered safe by scientists, but opponents have said they want more science on the potential harm so that subjective arguments aren’t part of the equation.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / Harvest Public Media file photo

The partial government shutdown is playing out differently for the nation’s top food safety regulators.

At the Food and Drug Administration, fewer than half of the usual number of food safety inspectors are visiting produce farms and food-packaging plants around the country. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has kept more than 8,000 workers — about 90 percent of its food inspection staff — on the job at livestock slaughter plants without pay.

Study: Climate Change Will Affect Soybeans In 2 Ways That Cancel Each Other Out

Jan 24, 2019
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media file photo

Rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels could have opposing effects on nutrients in soybeans, according to a new study.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Updated Jan. 22 with Farm Service Agency reopening — The long tentacles of the partial federal government shutdown are reaching especially deep into food and agriculture. Here’s an update on some of the impacts now four weeks into the longest shutdown in history.

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A look at the nearly yearlong, deeply rooted dispute

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The human toll of our meat habit