Esther Honig

Reporter
Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media

For every crop in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency carries out a rigorous set of tests to determine which pesticides are safest. How and when a pesticide is used can depend on how that crop is consumed by the average person — is it ingested, inhaled or applied topically?

It’s a precise science that aims to keep consumers safe from potentially toxic residues. But, like most federal regulations, none of it applies to the marijuana industry.      

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media file photo

A group of Midwestern feedlot operations have filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging that several major meatpacking companies, including JBS, Cargill and Tyson, broke antitrust laws by conspiring to lower the prices paid to ranchers.   

In the past few years, price-fixing allegations have been leveled against poultry and pork industries. And it’s not clear whether any of the lawsuits for any type of meat producers will bring about reforms.

Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media

Douglas rattles around a collection of glass jars in the storage closet of his Denver apartment. They’re filled with a small grain, like barley, and covered in a soft white fungus — a mushroom spawn. Soon, he’ll transplant it in large plastic bins filled nutrients like dried manure and coconut fiber.

Over the course of two weeks, mushrooms that naturally contain psilocybin, a psychoactive ingredient, will sprout.

Madelyn Beck / Harvest Public Media file photo

It’s been five years since the last ag census. Since 2012, the U.S. has lost about 70,000 farms, saw the average age of farmers go up and prices for certain commodities go down.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media

At her desk in Greeley, Colorado, Shelly Woods pulls out three thick stacks of manila folders. These files represent dozens of local farmers who’ve applied for safety-net programs, including tariff relief through the Farm Service Agency. While Woods and about 800,000 federal colleagues were furloughed for 35 days, the work piled up.

Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media

More than 240,000 guestworkers, many from Mexico, work on U.S. farms for several months each year as a part of the federal H-2A visa program. This year, farmers and industry associations worry the ongoing government shutdown could impede the workers’ arrival.

But the visa program, which is overseen by no fewer than three U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security, is unimpeded. That’s according to officials from the Office of Foreign Labor Certification and United States Citizen and Immigration Services. Both of those agencies are fully funded.

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