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The Jamie L. Whitten Building in Washington, home to the USDA (Courtesy of wikipedia)
The Jamie L. Whitten Building in Washington, home to the USDA (Courtesy of wikipedia)

2014 was the year even the lunch ladies got political.

Harvest Public Media was created four years ago to report on agriculture and food production in the geographic area where the majority of that takes place – the Midwest. This year, my third of counting the top ag stories of the year, I find that the issues taking center stage were set not here, but in the policies and processes of Washington D.C., state legislatures or the ballot box.

The Farm Bill passed, GMO labeling bills failed and FLOTUS was skewered for her school nutrition work. The politics of food took the top spots on our look back at the agricultural stories of 2014:

Researchers in South America are developing backpacks to capture cattle methane. (Theleetgeeks/Flickr)
Researchers in South America are developing backpacks to capture cattle methane. (Theleetgeeks/Flickr)

The $1.1 trillion dollar spending bill President Obama signed Wednesday isn’t just about dollars and cents. The so-called “Cromnibus” bill also keeps school cafeteria fries salty and limits the government's ability to monitor cow belches.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), livestock manure and a digestive process called enteric fermentation account for about 5 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

A center-pivot irrigation system waters a winter wheat field in southwest Kansas. (File: Eric Durban/Harvest Public Media)
A center-pivot irrigation system waters a winter wheat field in southwest Kansas. (File: Eric Durban/Harvest Public Media)

The High Plains Aquifer lost enough water over a recent two-year period to cover the entire state of Iowa in a foot of water.

Water levels in the High Plains Aquifer, also known as the Ogallala Aquifer, fell at a faster rate in recent years as widespread drought increased demand on the underground reservoir, according to a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey that studies water level changes from 2011-13.

The vast underground lake that supplies water to wells in some of the country’s most productive agricultural land – including parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas – lost 36 million acre-feet of water from 2011-13. The aquifer lost about 8 percent of its stored water since 1950.

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