Covering Our Food System

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

Here Comes The Eclipse: How Will Midwest Livestock, Crops React?

During the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, spectators will turn their eyes upward to see the moon pass in front of the sun. But many Midwest scientists will turn their eyes and cameras to the plants and animals here on the ground. And they're not sure what will happen. “It's never really been studied systematically,” says Angela Speck , director of astronomy at the University of Missouri Columbia. “We have ideas about: Is this an illumination thing? The amount of light they’re receiving goes down. Is...

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A soybean field in Jasper County, Iowa, in 2016
File: Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Hundreds of Midwest farmers are complaining of damage to their crops allegedly caused by the herbicide dicamba. The total number of damaged acres may come to more than 2.5 million acres, according to data compiled by a University of Missouri researcher.

Most of the damage has been found in the Midwest and South, with complaints of more than 850,000 damaged acres in Arkansas and more than 300,000 damaged acres in both Missouri and Illinois.

An Illinois farmer harvests his corn crop in this file photo. Average net farm income has tumbled in recent years.
Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

Of all the expensive machinery Tom Giessel worked during the 2017 wheat harvest, his favorite sits in the office of his home.

It’s a microfilm machine, the kind found in a high school library. Giessel uses it for his work as the historian of the National Farmers Union, the nation’s second-largest farm group.

Cattle feed at a Nebraska feedlot.
File: Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

A case of mad cow disease has been found in a cow in Alabama.

U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists confirmed Tuesday that an 11-year-old cow found in an Alabama livestock market suffered from the neurologic cattle disease, formally called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The animal “at no time presented a risk to the food supply, or to human health in the United States,” according to the USDA.

Farmer Wendy Johnson markets hogs, chickens, eggs and seasonal turkeys. She also grwos organic row crops at Joia Food Farm near Charles City, Iowa.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

On a cloudy summer day, Iowa farmer Wendy Johnson lifts the corner of a mobile chicken tractor, a lightweight plastic frame covered in wire mesh that has corralled her month-old meat chickens for a few days, and frees several dozen birds to peck the surrounding area at will. Soon, she’ll sell these chickens to customers at local markets in eastern Iowa.

The demand for beef, pork and chicken raised on smaller farms closer to home is growing. Now, some Midwest farmers, like Johnson, are exploring how to graze livestock to meet those demands while still earning a profit.

Connor Tarter / Flickr/Creative Commons

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a new dimension to the urban-rural divide: death rates related to cancer.

Cancer death rates are falling nationwide, but they remain higher in rural areas (180 deaths per 100,000 persons) than in cities (158 deaths per 100,000 persons), according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

From left: Kevin and Zo Bock and Inga Klahr, family members of those killed in the Atchison grain elevator explosion. The Bocks' son, Chad Roberts, and Klahr's husband, Darrek, were among those killed in the 2011 explosion.
Brad Austion / Flatland

ATCHISON, Kan. — The families of six men killed when a grain elevator blew up on the banks of the Missouri River here in 2011 have now waited well over five and a half years for closure in the case.

But the hurt is still raw, they say; for them, it could have happened yesterday.

The Grandview R-II school district in rural Missouri started an online summer school program to help its students take classes the district can't regularly offer.
Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

This story is part of the special series United And Divided, which explores the links and rifts between rural and urban America.

Schools in rural school districts often don’t have the budget or the teachers to offer students all of the courses they would like to take. One rural district in a Missouri county decided to offer credit for online classes in an effort to give its students the educational opportunities it can’t otherwise afford.

An Iowa soybean harvest
File: Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The Missouri Department of Agriculture announced a temporary ban on the sale of agricultural products containing the pesticide dicamba on Friday, following a similar step by regulators in Arkansas.

Ralph 'Ed' Horner is buried a short drive from his rural Larimer County home.
Dan Boyce / Rocky Mountain PBS for Harvest Public Media

Dangerous Jobs, Cheap Meat: Death and injuries on ‘The Chain,’ a Harvest Public Media series about the dangerous life of working in a meatpacking plant, was recognized as an outstanding example of investigative reporting by the public radio industry.

Mayor Mike Seibert of Joplin, Missouri, leads the grand opening ceremony of the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences campus in June.
Alex Smith / For Harvest Public Media

Twenty-four-year-old Kalee Woody says that when she was growing up in Bronaugh, Missouri, she saw the small town slowly fading. Businesses closed, growth stagnated and residents had to drive to other places to see a doctor.

It is a town that, like many towns in rural areas of Missouri and other Midwest and Great Plains states, is recognized by the federal government as having a shortage of healthcare providers.

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