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Tyson Plant Fire Sends Ripples Of Uncertainty Through Western Kansas, Cattle Industry

GARDEN CITY — Ali Abdi usually cuts meat at the Tyson plant in Holcomb, and was at the plant when a fire broke out and destroyed part of the structure. He didn’t see it as he and the other workers evacuated, but, he said, “Yes, I was scared.” Abdi, a Somali refugee who moved to Garden City five years ago, is one of several employees cleaning up the damage. Tyson hasn’t said when the plant will reopen — it could be months. And that uncertainty has a ripple effect on area feedlots, livestock drivers, Garden City itself and even Garden City Community College.

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A monthly report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture assessing the global supply and demand of key crops had mixed messages for Midwest farmers Monday.

The World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) for August found that the number of acres of corn and soybeans farmers are on track to harvest this fall is more than earlier predictions, meaning the wet spring and late planting in some areas didn’t have as adverse an effect as USDA initially estimated.

Tyson Fresh Meats plans to reopen the Holcomb, Kansas, beef packing plant partially destroyed by a weekend fire — it’s just not sure when.

Tyson said in a news release that it will recruit some employees to rebuild the plant, which processes about 5% of the country’s cattle.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media file photo

Critics of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to move two of its research agencies from Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area got more ammunition this week.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Presidential candidates have been fanning out across Iowa for months ahead of the 2020 election, creating an opportunity for voters to get agricultural issues on the national agenda. 

Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media file photo

Federal agencies are scrambling to establish regulations for hemp and hemp products as farmers in the Midwest and around the country start growing the crop. 

In the meantime, the government is warning companies not to make health claims about CBD they can’t back up. 

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Walking through rows of growing crops helps farmers monitor for harmful insects, leaves that are damaged by disease or other problems that could reduce their overall harvest at the end of the season. 

And this year in Iowa, there’s a menace that, left to its own devices, could munch farmers out of profit. 

Madelyn Beck / Harvest Public Media

Sci-fi writers have long warned about the dangers of modifying organisms. They come in forms ranging from accidentally creating a plague of killer locusts (1957) to recreating dinosaurs with added frog genes (2015).

Now, with researchers looking to even more advanced gene-editing technology to protect crops, they’ll have to think about how to present that tech to a long-skeptical public. 

If you're caught in a trade war, it's good to be a farmer.

Lots of American companies have lost sales since the Trump administration and China embarked on the current cycle of tariff-raising and retaliation. Few, if any, have been compensated as handsomely as farmers.

The Trump administration wants to change the way states determine who qualifies for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits, also known as food stamps. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 3 million people would lose their food assistance as a result.

GARDEN CITY — Three years ago, rancher and farmer Jay Young got intrigued by a YouTube video.

A North Dakota farmer championed the idea of cover crops — plants that would be considered weeds in many other contexts — as robust plants for his cattle to graze on.

Young applied the cover crop strategy – rotating rye, radishes, turnips, oats and barley – to his land just east of the Colorado border. The plants held the soil in place, trapped nutrients in the ground and made the ground nicely spongy.

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