In The Field

A western Illinois farmer harvests corn.
Credit Abby Wendle / File: Harvest Public Media

The people and places that make our food system go.

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The order came in April. China's government instructed farmers in the country's northeastern breadbasket region to grow more soybeans, calling it "a political priority."

But soybean fields lay empty in the village of Sandaogou, which means "Three Ditches," in Liaoning province. It has been a dry spring.

"We've had a drought this year, so we planted soybeans late. The seedlings should be out by now. We need more rain," says farmer Liu, who only gives her surname for fear of trouble with local authorities. Soy, after all, has become "political."

Just outside tiny Sheffield, Iowa, a modern steel and glass office building has sprung up next to a cornfield. Behind it, there's a plant that employs almost 700 workers making Sukup brand steel grain bins. The factory provides an economic anchor for Sheffield, population 1,125.

Charles Sukup, the company's president, says that even though workers can be hard to come by, there are no plans to relocate.

"Our philosophy is you bloom where you're planted," Sukup says with a smile.

Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. House voted down an immigration bill Thursday that would have addressed one of the biggest concerns of American farmers: updating the agriculture guestworker visa program known as H-2A.

Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media

Each spring, ranchers across the Eastern Plains look at their land and ask an important question: How much green can they expect this season?

In this case, “green” refers not to money, but grass. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently launched a new tool to help cattlemen predict just how much they can look forward to.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s message to Midwestern farmers this week is a mixed bag, telling them that the agency will be changing an Obama-era rule regarding water regulations but is pausing a plan to expand summer sales of ethanol.

Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media

Thirty-eight calves, between two and four months old, moo and kick at the dirt floor in a steel barn in Brush, Colorado. One by one, a handler leads them from the pen to a narrow chute, where their legs are restrained and they’re lifted onto a hydraulic table.  

Madelyn Beck / Harvest Public Media

Two counties in southwestern Illinois grow the majority of the nation’s — possibly the world’s — horseradish. The city of Collinsville, population 25,000, straddles both Madison and St. Clair, and celebrates the root annually, hosting the International Horseradish Festival.

Harvest Public Media decided it was time to check out the entertainment, games and horseradish-based dishes and drinks. Here’s a bite of the zesty gathering.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media file photo

The Senate Agriculture Committee unveiled its version of the farm bill Friday, including a path to legalizing industrial hemp. That’s an effort being pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose state, Kentucky, is a leader in the crop.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Federal rules in place since January 2017 have not curbed the use of antibiotics in pork production, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group whose food and environment agenda includes responsible antibiotic use.

Monsanto, a company based in St. Louis for more than 100 years, is now part of Bayer.

The roughly $63-billion acquisition closed Thursday, nearly two years after the companies first announced the deal. Regulators in Canada and Mexico were among the last international watchdogs to approve the combination.

The U.S. Department of Justice signed off on it late last month after Bayer committed to shedding about $9 billion in several areas to chemical giant BASF.

That includes Bayer's Liberty-brand herbicides, which compete with Monsanto's Roundup.

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