Jonathan Ahl


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.

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media File Photo

The United States Department of Agriculture is backing away from a proposal to force livestock producers to use electronic ear tags to track their animals, but a group opposed to the idea is still pressing forward with a lawsuit to stop it.

In 2019 and again in 2020, the USDA made moves toward requiring radio frequency identification, or RFID tags, starting in 2023. Opposition from a variety of livestock producers led to them pulling back earlier this year. 

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media File Photo

A new poll from Iowa State University shows farmers overwhelmingly believe climate change is real and will cause significant weather problems but do not think it’s caused by human actions.

The latest annual Farm and Rural Life Poll conducted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the Iowa State Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology indicates 80% of farmers believe climate change is occurring and more than half are concerned with its impact on their operations.

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

The Biden administration is fighting climate change in part by pushing for cars and trucks to be more fuel efficient and reduce emissions, but so far, that talk hasn’t landed in another mode of transportation: barges.

In light of more pressure to advance the cause of green energy, the future of the barge industry is unclear, and it could have a major impact on Midwestern rivers.

Michael Pierce / Missouri S&T

ROLLA, Mo. - Research underway at Missouri University of Science and Technology is looking for a way to pump the gas from decomposing plants and animal waste directly into a vehicle’s fuel tank, and the technology could find its first home on the farm.

Decomposing biomass lets off two main gasses: methane and carbon dioxide. These can be captured from landfills or compost piles. The methane can be burned as fuel, but the carbon dioxide has to be separated first.

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

Using electronic tags to track livestock is widespread in Europe. Proponents say it helps prevent and contain food-borne illnesses, but the idea is finding a mixed and often chilly reception in the United States.

Radio frequency identification, or RFID tags, can be put on an animal’s ear similar to the metal id clips currently used to identify animals and track them for inventory and health purposes.

But the RFID chips send out a signal, which is captured by a reader that uploads information into a database. They are in common use in industries ranging from logistics to amusement parks. 

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.