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Madelyn Beck / Harvest Public Media

Meating In The Middle: The Challenge of Lowering Greenhouse Gas Emissions On Farms

Cow guts are quite the factory. Grass goes in, microbes help break it down and make hydrogen, then other microbes start converting it to another gas. In the end, you get methane, manure and meat. One of those things is not like the other. Methane emissions are considered the second-worst greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, according to Stanford University professor Rob Jackson.

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Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media

Like many of the refugees who have resettled in Greeley, Colorado, 35-year-old Abul Basar is employed by JBS.

It’s a massive meatpacking plant that processes thousands of cattle per day and employs over 3,000 people. After a year of working on the plant’s processing line, where he disembowel cow carcasses with a large electric knife, Basar injured his right hand.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law Thursday that critics are calling “Ag Gag 2.0” just two months after a federal judge struck down a similar law as unconstitutional.

The law creates a specific trespass crime for a person who lies to get into an agricultural facility with the intent to cause financial or physical damage. It would allow the prosecution of people who go undercover to investigate livestock operations, slaughterhouses and puppy mills.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Farm income has taken a long, hard fall, dropping 50 percent since hitting a high point in 2013. Add to that near-record levels of farm debt, and you have a recipe for financial stress.

But while economists say they can see storm clouds building, it’s not a full-blown crisis. That’s because relatively few farms have been pushed past the breaking point into Chapter 12 bankruptcy — or, worse, into losing the farm entirely.

USDA

President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget proposal is getting a lot of attention for its call for more border protection, but it also makes major changes to agriculture programs.

Without providing many specifics, it outlines a plan to reduce the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s budget by about $3.6 billion — 15 percent of its total funding. Some programs face cuts, while others get a boost, but it’s all just a proposal at this point and likely won’t survive Congress as-is.

Peter Handke / Flickr CC

One out of five seafood samples taken from across the country, including Kansas, Missouri and Colorado, are mislabeled. That’s according to a study by Oceana, a nonprofit organization that promotes marine conservation.

Abigail Beckman / 91.5 KRCC

Starting in the late 1980s, rainbow trout in Colorado began dying off because of a parasite that causes whirling disease. By 1997, wild rainbows in the state had all but vanished.

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

Andrew Joyce won’t be growing any tomatoes this summer. His three-acre produce farm in Malden, Missouri, will lie fallow. The cause: damage from the weed killer dicamba.

Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

The water we drink is protected by federal rules, which are at the crux of a long-running fight over how far upstream that protection extends.

“Agriculture is land and water. When you’ve got control of the water, you’ve got control of the land,” said Blake Roderick with the National Waterways Conference.

Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said this week that that a long-anticipated program for dairy farmers will be available June 17, with payments possibly coming as soon as early July.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

At Hummel’s Nissan in Des Moines, Kevin Caldwell sells the all-electric Leaf. Driving one is basically the same as driving a typical gasoline or gas-electric hybrid car, he said, except for a few new features like the semi-autonomous hands-free option. And the fact that you plug it in rather than pumping gas into it.

About a quarter to a third of Caldwell’s Leaf customers are farmers, some of whom grow corn for ethanol.

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