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Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

In An Autumn Of Uncertainties, More Kids Can Rely On Free School Lunches

As the new school year gets underway, some students are in classrooms and others are at home but one thing is now clear: all kids can get free school meals. That’s because the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the National School Lunch Program , the School Breakfast Program and the Summer Food Service Program , has extended the pandemic provisions it introduced last spring, which include eliminating the requirement that families apply for reduced-fees or free meals.

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Erica Hunzinger / Harvest Public Media

As workplaces and schools go online to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many people are relying on a strong internet connection. But in some states, less than 50% of rural households have access to broadband, according to data from the Federal Communications Commission. 

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media file photo

First restaurants and school cafeterias closed, then COVID-19 outbreaks at meat-packing plants slowed processing. In the spring, shoppers started seeing signs declaring limits on the amount of fresh meat they could buy in one trip. Prices for some products crept up. 

Ed Koger

Lesser prairie chickens don’t really bother Mike McCarty. He likes them just fine, but doesn’t think people understand how hard it is to balance wildlife conservation and being a rancher and farmer in southwest Kansas.

“Yes, we need to protect our wildlife and everything,” he says, “but we also need to protect our people, our agriculture.”

Dana Cronin/Harvest Public Media

 

At a campaign rally in Wisconsin last week, President Trump announced U.S. farmers will receive an additional $14 billion in coronavirus relief aid.

 

This second round of relief aid builds on the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program launched in April to allocate $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers. 

 

However, the initial round of CFAP still has $6 billion unpaid dollars in the pot.

 

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media file photo

Dairy Farmers want U.S. trade policy to focus on opening markets and fending off competition from the European Union and New Zealand.

U.S. dairy exports were up about 10% in the first half of 2020 compared to last year. But that’s not enough to return the sector to profitability, according to dairy farmers and producers that are participating in a series of virtual town hall meetings on trade issues.

Christina Stella / Harvest Public Media

Lexington, Nebraska, is just one of the many rural communities that has long dealt with food insecurity, but the global pandemic both intensified need in the town of 11,000 residents and presented new challenges in getting people food. 

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

Farmers were expected to produce a record corn and soybean harvest this year, but after weeks of poor weather across the region, the USDA has officially walked back those predictions.

Kyle Spradley / Mizzou CAFNR

While small, craft breweries in the Midwest pride themselves on being hyperlocal and producing high-quality beers, there is an essential ingredient — hops — they can’t get locally.

But that could soon change. 

The hop is the flower part of a family of vines, and how much and what kind you add determines how the beer tastes.

Hops grow best in arid climates with short days. The long days and high humidity of the Midwest make it difficult to grow them in the region.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media file photo

Schools are resuming instruction but with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, they are facing an ever-changing metric for whether students are physically in school buildings. Being able to provide meals to them no matter how they’re learning remains a challenging priority. 

Seth Bodine / Harvest Public Media

 

There’s no shortage of peanuts on Loyd Lasley’s farm. Come September, he hopes to harvest about 160,000 pounds of them. Many of the peanuts are roasted and put on shelves at the Made In Oklahoma booth at the state fair. 

With many state fairs across the country being canceled due to COVID-19, many small business owners like the Lasleys will miss out on sales. The family typically makes about $5,000 from sales at the fair every year. It’s not a lot, but it helps, Loyd says. 

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Change At The Climate Divide

Farms and communities are struggling to adapt as climate change has moved the line dividing the arid west and the rain-soaked east.

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