Covering Our Food System

Luke Runyon

As Big, High-Tech Farms Take Hold, How Do Nearby Towns Stay Afloat?

Brandon Biesemeier climbs up a small ladder into a John Deere sprayer, takes a seat in the enclosed cab, closes the door, and blocks out most of the machine’s loud engine hum. It is a familiar perch to the fourth-generation farmer on Colorado’s eastern plains.

Read More
Farmer Tim Mueller raises corn and soybeans in Columbus, Nebraska. He is hoping to get into the chicken business by signing a contract to raise birds for a subsidiary of Costco.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The Gamble Of The Farmers That Raise Our Chicken

The theft of agricultural trade secrets is a growing problem, according to the FBI.
University of Michigan School of Environment and Sustainability / Flickr

Worry In The Fields About The 'Growing Threat' Of Agricultural Espionage

Join our Public Insight Network

Help us tell the real story

Special Series: Watching Our Water

The challenge to keep it clean

A wheat field in southwest Kansas, which saw wheat stalks standing about two-feet-high before the storm, is covered in snow.
Courtesy Gary Millershaski

Farmers in western Kansas are worried a spring blizzard that dumped as much as two feet of snow destroyed much of this year’s wheat crop.

Kansas is the No. 1 wheat state in the country. About 20 percent of the nation’s wheat crop last year was grown by Kansas farmers.

The heavy snow and cold temperatures delivered a one-two punch to a crop that had been in good shape. Rick Horton, who farms 3,000-4,000 acres of wheat in southwest Kansas near Leoti, says he’s expecting massive losses.

Shelter developer Larry Hall shows off the pool in the dome section of an underground shelter in Kansas built to survive disaster.
Frank Morris / For Harvest Public Media

There have always been Americans worried about some pending religious, social or natural cataclysm. The business of catering to those fears and helping people prepare to survive the next big calamity, though, has changed substantially in the age of President Donald Trump.

The change is evident on a particular county road in Kansas, near the center of the continental United States. What looks like a grassy mound is protected by a barbed wire fence and a heavily armed guard. A massive concrete entrance frames big, heavy steel blast doors.

Julie Denesha / Harvest Public Media

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Friday said President Trump may be open to creating a way for some undocumented immigrant workers to stay in the U.S. and Perdue is already working on a “blueprint” of policy guidelines to offer the president.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

New U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Thursday explained President Donald Trump’s turn-around on the North American Free Trade Agreement as just part of the negotiations in his deal making.

Earl Dotter / Oxfam

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

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

Three months into his term, President Donald Trump now has in place his Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue.

Here’s what you need to know:

Perdue served two terms as governor of Georgia

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

The nation has a new agriculture secretary.

The U.S. Senate on Monday voted to confirm former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to lead the Department of Agriculture. He takes over a department that was without a top boss for three months after former secretary Tom Vilsack resigned. Vilsack served the entire eight years of the Obama administration (one of the longest-serving agriculture secretaries in recent decades).

A sign at the edge of Bill Bevans' turkey farm near Waverly, Nebraska, serves as a biosecurity checkpoint.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Midwest farmers are warily watching as one strain of a highly contagious bird flu virus infects and kills humans in China and another less-worrying but still highly contagious strain infects a Tennessee poultry farm. Two years after a devastating bird flu outbreak in the Midwest, many farmers here say they now have a better idea of how to keep bird flu at bay.

Bob, Robbie and Leah Maass ready equipment for planting season on their farm near Ellsworth, Iowa.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Three months after his nomination, Sonny Perdue faces a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate Monday for the post of secretary of agriculture.

If confirmed, Perdue will find a desk at USDA piled high with priorities and will be one of the last members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet to be seated.

Residents of Pretty Prairie, Kansas, are under pressure from regulators to reduce nitrates levels in their water.
Alex Smith / For Harvest Public Media

Pretty Prairie, Kansas, population 680, had a moment in the spotlight during the confirmation hearings for new Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt.

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran mentioned Pretty Prairie as an example of a community that’s struggling because of EPA regulations that Pruitt could ease.

But residents of the tiny south central Kansas town are also concerned about how federal budget cuts might affect their ability to pay for a new water treatment system.   

Pages