Covering Our Food System

U.S. farmers compete to sell their goods, like these soybeans in Nebraska, on a world market.
File: Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

How A Lack Of Farm Data Could Hurt Farmers

Imagine you’re a farmer and it’s time to decide what to plant. You need information on supply, demand, prices, outlook -- information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, university extension services, even economists at the Federal Reserve.

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U.S. farmers compete to sell their goods, like these soybeans in Nebraska, on a world market.
File: Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Imagine you’re a farmer and it’s time to decide what to plant. You need information on supply, demand, prices, outlook -- information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, university extension services, even economists at the Federal Reserve.

File: Stephanie Paige Ogburn for Harvest Public Media

It started on March 17 with raids on meatpacking plants in Brazil, one of the world’s largest exporters of beef. Federal police carried out the sting, which left two of the country’s biggest beef companies standing accused of egregious food safety violations.

USEMBASSY_MONTEVIDEO/FLICKR

President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, testified in a confirmation hearing before the Senate Agriculture committee today, but remains far from the head job at USDA.

 

The committee did not indicate when it would vote on whether to advance Perdue’s nomination.

 

GOP Health Care Bill Could Hit Some Farmers Hard

Mar 22, 2017
Darvin Bentlage, a Missouri cattle farmer, was uninsured before the ACA and worries he could be again under the GOP replacement plan.
Screenshot / Courtesy Department of Health and Human Services

Darvin Bentlage says his health insurance plan used to be the same as all the other cattle farmers in Barton County, Missouri: stay healthy until he turned 65, then get on Medicare. But when he turned 50, things did not go according to plan.

“Well, I had a couple issues,” he says.

He’s putting it mildly.

Over two years time he had Hepatitis C and diverticulitis, and that’s on top of his diabetes, persistent kidney stones and other problems.

A sign at one of the gates of Sunset Farms in Harris, Iowa, which was infected with avian flu in 2015.
File: Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

Though there have not been any U.S. cases of the strain of avian flu that has killed more than 140 people in China this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s head veterinarian says the agency is making preparations to combat the deadly virus in case it reaches North America. 

The USDA’s Dr. Jack Shere stresses that it's impossible to predict how far a particular bird flu strain may travel or mutate. In the meantime, however, scientists are on alert. 

The Brazile Creek Groundwater Management Area encompasses 756 square miles of north-central Nebraska.
Ariana Brocious / For Harvest Public Media

At a nitrogen management class in the small town of Creighton, Nebraska, Tanner Jenkins shows a chart of groundwater data to a group of about 40 farmers. He points to a red line, which shows the level of chemical nitrates in groundwater over time.

“You can see we’re on a pretty steady upward click,” Jenkins, who works for a local groundwater district, tells the farmers.

Decades of intensive farming have contaminated the groundwater across many parts of Nebraska. A new plan may help farmers in the northeastern part of the state address the problem.

Advocate Jamie Manzer, right, shows reporter Mike Tobias a bag of essential items a local nonprofit gives trafficking victims.
David Koehn / NET News

“For most of our trafficking victims this is kind of where we're going to start,” says Jamie Manzer, as she gives a tour of the SASA (Spouse Abuse Sexual Assault) Crisis Center, where she worked until recently.

SASA helps survivors of domestic and sexual violence. That includes women being trafficked: sold against their will for sex. Like a lot of social service agencies, the SASA office used to be something else, but they’ve made the best out of oddly shaped space and rooms.

Courtesy USDA

Farm and rural advocacy groups say cuts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would harm rural communities, at a time when many of them need an infusion of cash.

In what’s being called a “skinny budget” because it sets an outline and contains scant details, Trump’s proposal calls for a 21 percent reduction in the USDA’s annual discretionary spending, and lays out rationales for why some programs are either eliminated or scaled back, calling some “duplicative,” or “underperforming.”

Roundup, the Monsanto brand-name pesticide built on the chemical glyphosate, is used on farm fields and on lawns and gardens.
File: Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

After court documents unsealed Tuesday raised questions about its research methods, chemical giant Monsanto says it did not ghostwrite a 2000 study on the safety of glyphosate, the active ingredient in its flagship pesticide Roundup.

A sign on the western edge of the fire evacuation zone in Reno County, Kansas.
Bryan Thompson / for Harvest Public Media

Wildfires that have been sweeping across the heart of cattle country since last weekend could decimate some ranchers’ herds. Fires have been reported in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

The largest of the fires spread from the Oklahoma Panhandle into southwest Kansas, and has consumed more than 800,000 acres of prime grassland. Todd Domer, of the Kansas Livestock Association, says the losses have been devastating.

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