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Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media file photo

Harvest's Top 10 Stories Of 2018 (And A Few Honorable Mentions)

Hardly a week went by in 2018 where there wasn’t some kind of breaking agriculture, food or rural news. It was the year of the farm bill, a trade war and several food recalls. But Harvest Public Media reporters found places to revel in some fun, too. Here are some of our favorite stories from the last 12 months.

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Dicamba-resistant soybeans sit in a field in rural McLean County, Illinois, in August.
Darrell Hoemann / Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting file photo

Experts: Dicamba Will Come For Trees, Specialty Crops In 2019

Many U.S. cattle producers saw the TPP as a way to boost beef exports to Japan.
Grant Gerlock / File/Harvest Public Media

After publicly stumping for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, many in the agriculture industry were forced to re-group Monday after President Donald Trump formally backed out of the trade pact.

Iowa Farmers Union president Aaron Lehman says farmers, politicians and consumers will need to work together to pass the best Farm Bill.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

President Donald Trump has nominated former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as Agriculture Secretary, bucking a recent trend of Midwest leadership at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and making many in the farm country of the Midwest and Great Plans a little leery.

Coupled with the appointments of leaders from Oklahoma and Texas to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy, respectively, there looks to be a shift in the power center of the parts of the federal government that most directly impact agriculture.

Iowa State University students Liz Hada, left, and Melissa Garcia Rodriguez say they have experienced racial tension in some of their classes.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Farmers in the U.S. like to point out that their products feed people all over the world. And while this is a diverse country, the people working on farms and elsewhere in agriculture often don’t reflect the nation’s demographics. Changing that is becoming a priority, in hopes new people will bring fresh ideas to meet some of our food system’s greatest challenges.

Over here at Harvest Public Media, we may not have Deep Throat. But we do have Undercover Cowboy.

Deep Throat, of course, was the Washington Post reporters’ source for their Pulitzer Prize-winning expose of the Nixon White House and the Watergate burglary. Deep Throat was revealed in 2005 to be Mark Felt, a former FBI official.

Student research technicians Brandon Stewart and Rob Fenton test samples as part of a study on E. coli.
Jack Williams / For Harvest Public Media

When the dangerous organism known as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli gets into the food system, it can be deadly. 

That’s why more than 50 researchers at 18 different institutions are hoping to find ways to identify and wipe-out the strain in beef, as part of a major USDA-sponsored study. The $25 million project began in 2012 and was recently extended for at least another year.

File: Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

After publicly stumping for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, many in the agriculture industry were forced to re-group Monday after President Donald Trump formally backed out of the trade pact.

President-elect Donald Trump plans to pick former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to lead the Agriculture Department, a transition official and a source close to the process confirmed to NPR.

Trump is expected to make a formal announcement on Thursday, ending a months-long process that left Agriculture Secretary as the final Cabinet post to be filled.

Jesse Howe / Harvest Public Media

Drones are not just a hot gift item or a weapon for use by the military. They’re also helping farmers change the landscape of agriculture. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International predicts that 80 percent of drones in the commercial sector will be used for agriculture, according to ​USA Today​.

Sweet potatoes are undergoing a modern renaissance in this country.

While they have always made special appearances on many American tables around the holidays, year-round demand for the root vegetables has grown. In 2015, farmers produced more sweet potatoes than in any year since World War II.

War Effort

“A lot of things were hard to get during World War II and potatoes were easier to raise than some of the other vegetables,” my grandmother Joyce Heise tells me.

A ranch foreman unloads a trailer of Red Angus to winter in a pasture near Alva, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A federal investigation has been launched into the alleged embezzlement of $2.6 million by an employee of an obscure state board that promotes the beef industry, money created by a mandatory government program funded by farmers and ranchers.

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