KUNC

         

Food prices are up about 2 percent, according to the latest USDA data. That’s in line with recent inflation. (File: Clay Masters/Harvest Public Media)
Food prices are up about 2 percent, according to the latest USDA data. That’s in line with recent inflation. (File: Clay Masters/Harvest Public Media)

Food prices are up, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture isn’t forecasting a drastic surge. In spite of price spikes in the meat aisle, grocery prices are not rising any faster than they have historically.

Pork prices are up 12 percent from a year ago as the industry deals with Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) virus, an illness that has killed millions of piglets nationwide. Beef prices are up 10 percent as drought continues to hammer beef states like Texas and Oklahoma.

“The (beef) herds are the size they were in 1951,” said USDA economist Annemarie Kuhns. “With limited supply the prices have increased.”

Palmer amaranth can grow to seven feet tall, but is easily confused with waterhemp. (Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)
Palmer amaranth can grow to seven feet tall, but is easily confused with waterhemp. (Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)

The fast-spreading weed that has Midwestern farmers fearing for their row crops has a long history in the United States. 

Palmer amaranth is an edible plant, with some Native American communities eating its leaves as cooked greens, or pounding its seeds into meal, according to a review article published in the journal Weed Technology. The plant is native to northern Mexico, southern California, New Mexico and Texas, where it apparently contributed to the diets of the Navajo, Pima, Yuma and Mohave communities.

In the early 20th century, it started to spread, reaching east all the way to Virginia by 1915. Part of what makes Palmer amaranth such a successful—and vexing—weed is that one plant can produce a million seeds. So the potential is great for one plant to spread widely in the limited window between when people notice it and when they are able to take action against it.

The poultry farm Dan Hromas started near York, Neb., since returning from military service in Iraq has helped him re-integrate in to civilian life. (Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media)
The poultry farm Dan Hromas started near York, Neb., since returning from military service in Iraq has helped him re-integrate in to civilian life. (Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media)

When they heard Dan Hromas’ truck rolling in, the chickens came strutting. The auburn-feathered Rhode Island Reds stood out, even in the tall, green brome grass of Hromas’ rented 3-acre pasture outside of York, Neb.

The pasture is the center of Hromas’ new farming enterprise. For a little over a year he’s been selling farm eggs to local restaurants, grocery stores, and direct to customers in southeast Nebraska.

Hromas became a farmer after spending the better part of two decades as a soldier. Like farming, military service runs in the family. His grandfather served during World War II. His mother was a Marine. Hromas was even born on an Air Force base.

His military career took him far from where he and his parents grew up in Nebraska and North Dakota to Guantanamo Bay, Okinawa, and Malta. Then, in 2006 it took him to Iraq.

Pages