Covering Our Food System

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Tyson Announces Better Conditions And Safety For Meat Workers

Pushed by worker advocates and growing consumer awareness, Tyson Foods on Wednesday promised better conditions for workers at its meat processing plants.

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Special Series: Watching Our Water

The challenge to keep it clean

Free trade agreements like NAFTA have generally eased restrictions on Corn Belt farmers selling their corn and soybeans to markets all over the world.
File: NET Nebraska

The North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, has been very good to many Midwest agriculture producers. That’s why many farmers and ranchers are nervous about President Donald Trump’s promise to either completely dismantle, or at least renegotiate, the free-trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Rob Fleming, a grand-nephew of Henry A. Wallace, uses this 1947 Ford 2n as he works to restore the prairie around his childhood home in Carlisle, Iowa.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Hybrid seed corn and nitrogen fertilizer transformed farming in the 20th century, but they are also closely tied to some of today’s major agricultural challenges. That has prompted some members of two families that played pivotal roles in developing farm innovations to work on putting a lighter, 21st century stamp on the landscape.

Then-Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, right, greets u.S. Rep. Jack Kingston at a 2008 political event.
Courtesy Bruce Tuten / Flickr

Sonny Perdue, the former Georgia governor nominated by President Donald Trump, is one step closer to becoming U.S. Secretary of Agriculture after the Senate Agriculture Committee approved his nomination Thursday.

Yet Perdue remains one step shy of the post; the full Senate has not yet scheduled a vote on his nomination. Perdue, however, is widely expected to be approved.

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.

As governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue visited the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay in 2010.
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.

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