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Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

2019's Many Challenges Keep Farm Incomes Down, But Can't Squelch Perennial Farmer Optimism

During 2019, the curveballs thrown at farmers began with the partial government shutdown in January, when some U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies were closed. Spring brought a storm system—called a bomb cyclone—that dumped rain on top of frozen fields unable to make use of it, kicking off weeks of flooding exacerbated by additional precipitation. Planting ran later than usual and some farmers never got a cash crop into certain saturated fields.

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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.

Two vital research agencies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are hemorrhaging staff as less than two-thirds of the researchers asked to relocate from Washington to the Kansas City area have agreed to do so.

JBS Accounts For A Quarter Of Pork Bought By The Federal Government To Offset Trade Losses

Jul 10, 2019
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

A Brazilian-owned meat processing company undercut its competition by more than $1 per pound to win nearly $78 million in pork contracts through a federal program launched to help American farmers offset the impact from an ongoing trade war.

As a result, JBS USA has won more than 26 percent of the $300 million the USDA has allocated to pork so far — more than any other company, according to an analysis of bid awards by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

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