Food

Food doesn't come from a grocery store. All of our latest stories to help you learn more about where your food comes from.

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Seth Bodine / Harvest Public Media

The plant-based meat industry has grown rapidly over the past few years, but public perception is one of the biggest obstacles to more expansion.

Billion dollars companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are giving consumers other choices besides meat. Even Burger King is offering a vegan Whopper. Experts say the growth isn’t coming from vegetarians or vegans but from meat eaters occasionally choosing meat alternatives when shopping or eating out.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Farmers might make less money this year due to less assistance from the government and increased production costs. 

Farm income is estimated to be $112 billion in 2021 — $9 billion less than last year. 

In 2020, farmers and ranchers made a total of $121 billion, the highest amount since 2013. Government subsidies account for $46 billion, according to a report from the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri. 

Seth Bodine / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is extending the deadline for the largest private land conservation program in the country, following a shortfall in enrollment and change in the White House. 

The Conservation Reserve Program pays farmers and ranchers to preserve land for 10 to 15 years, but it saw a shortfall of 4 million acres under the Trump administration. As of December 2020, there are 20.8 million acres enrolled in the program. 

With President Biden’s focus on mitigating climate change, the USDA extended the deadline for enrollment. 

Seth Bodine / Harvest Public Media

It’s a cold February afternoon, and Alvin Lee’s cows are hungry. He says he has to put three or four bales of hay out every other day, and he only has about 10 left. 

New hay is expensive -- about $40 per bale. He managed to get some for $20 each, but they are three years old. If this keeps up, he’ll have to scrape together money for more hay, he says. 

Lee used to work in construction, but because of injuries from his time in the Marine Corps, he had to stop working. He moved to Wewoka, Oklahoma 25 years ago and bought 160 acres of land, which he hopes is his legacy. 

Carlos Moreno / KCUR

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of meatpacking plants across the country have struggled to contain outbreaks. Many of the hardest-hit plants are in the Midwest and Great Plains, where the virus initially spread on crowded production lines. 

Provided by Fedco Seeds

Steve Larimore was hoping to triple the size of his garden this year.

Once the seed catalog arrived at his home near Bend, Ore., Larimore excitedly got his order together. He then went online and began adding the different seed varieties to his cart, only to discover about a third of the items he wanted were unavailable. 

Tomatoes? Sold out. Kale? Gone. Sweet corn? Nope.

“I was pretty discouraged,” he says. “There were some things that I’ve grown before that I really like and I wanted to grow again and they didn’t have those.” 

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.

Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media file photo

Despite COVID-19 risks and high unemployment rates last year, employers wanted to fill more jobs filled with H-2A guest workers in 2020.

Usually, high unemployment rates decrease the demand for H-2A workers. Diane Charlton, a professor of agricultural economics at Montana State University, says a 1% increase in a state’s unemployment rate is associated with a 5% decrease in demand for H-2A workers, according to a recent study. She says that trend didn't hold up in 2020. 

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to choose Tom Vilsack as the new U.S. secretary of agriculture. 

Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, previously served in the position for eight years during the Obama administration. He’s the longest-serving person in the position since Orville Freeman left in 1969. 

Rob Larew, president of the National Farmers Union, likes Vilsack’s years of experience. 

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Fifteen Asian-Pacific countries signed a massive trade deal that brings together China, Japan, and South Korea together as trading partners for the first time. The agreement, signed Nov. 15, is one of the largest regional free trade agreements ever penned.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership  excludes the United States and India in a move that some say strengthens China’s global trade standing. Analysts say the deal also expands the China’s ability to buy agricultural commodities from places besides the U.S.

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