Jonathan Ahl

Reporter

Jonathan Ahl reports from Missouri for Harvest Public Media. He also is the Rolla reporter for St. Louis Public Radio. Before coming to St. Louis Public Radio in November 2018, Jonathan was the General Manager for Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, Illinois. He previously was the News Director at Iowa Public Radio and before that at WCBU in Peoria, Illinois. Jonathan has also held reporting positions in central Illinois for public radio stations. Jonathan is originally from the Chicago area. He has a B.A. in Music Theory and Composition from Western Illinois University and an M.A. in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is an avid long distance runner, semi-professional saxophonist and die-hard Chicago Cubs fan.

CHAFER MACHINERY / Creative Commons

Midwest states including Missouri, Iowa and Illinois are updating the way they teach farmers to safely use pesticides, with the goals of making it easier for them to get the training and to keep the process under state control.

In Missouri, such training usually happened through in-person classes that included watching videos so old they are on VHS tapes. 

File Photo / Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

Several large meat processing companies recently settled price-fixing lawsuits, but it’s unlikely those payments will change much in the food business, experts say.

Tyson agreed to a $221.5 million settlement with three consumer and purchasing groups that filed suit against the poultry giant. Chicken producer Pilgrim’s Pride and pork company JBS also settled similar complaints. 

A series of studies at Purdue University show it’s less expensive for companies to continue price fixing and pay fines instead of reforming their practices.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

While president-elect Joe Biden has been under pressure to choose a very diverse and forward-thinking cabinet, he’s gone back in time for his nomination to be Secretary of Agriculture.

His pick, Tom Vilsack, served in that position for all eight years of the Obama administration. And while some see the choice as safe and a good compromise, others from both sides of the political spectrum are not happy.

“I was not impressed with Vilsack,” said Darvin Brantledge, a cattle and corn farmer who owns a 1,200-acre plot of land in western Missouri and who voted for Biden.

Sean Locke / Digital Planet Design LLC

Many families are heeding the advice of health officials and inviting fewer people to Thanksgiving dinner. The trend has hurt turkey sales, especially for national producers.

But small organic and free-range turkey farmers may be faring better because of a loyal customer base that may be sticking closer to home than usual.

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are looking at the controversial weed killer dicamba, specifically how its molecules bond with other chemicals that are applied to fields at the same time.

The belief is that how those hydrogen bonds form, or don’t form, could lead to a chemical fix to the problem of dicamba drifting away from where it's applied on to other fields.

Dicamba has come under criticism for years for killing crops, vegetables and houseplants miles away from where it is applied to crops, specifically soybeans and cotton. 

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

A joint effort by federal and state governments to help small meatpacking plants increase their capacity is encountering some bumps. 

Earlier this year, COVID-19 outbreaks as large slaughterhouses and meat processing plants led to temporary closures. That resulted in higher prices and meat shortages at grocery stores, which in turn led some consumers to look at local meat from small, mostly rural processing plants.

While that demand was good for the industry, it also overtaxed the small processors’ ability to keep up.

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

The U-S Department of Agriculture is projecting farm income will increase significantly this year, but that’s only because of an unprecedented amount of government payments that could top $40 billion.

The latest Farm Income Report from the USDA shows net farm will total $102 billion, a 23% increase over last year. But 36% of that money is coming from federal subsidies intended to make up for coronavirus losses.

Without that aid, net farm income would be down more than $10 billion this year.

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

Farmers are looking closely at what they might be able to expect from four more years of Donald Trump versus a Joe Biden administration, but they aren't finding a lot of solid answers. And any difference may not matter, anyway.

To evaluate Donald Trump’s agriculture position, the best evidence is his actions and policies over the past 3 1/2 years. 

The highlight of that time has been creating a series of tariffs that has led to retaliation and a trade war with China and other countries, largely hurting foreign markets for farmers.

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.

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.

Pages