KUNC

         

Tossed Out

Melissa Garcia Rodriguez has managed the livestock barn on the Des Moines agricultural campus for two summers. She knows few other Latinos interested in agriculture. (Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)
Melissa Garcia Rodriguez has managed the livestock barn on the Des Moines agricultural campus for two summers. She knows few other Latinos interested in agriculture. (Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)

If any project has been a lesson in persistence, it is my two-part series on young adults from immigrant families and their interest in agriculture.

The premise struck me as straightforward: immigrants who land in farm country are likely to see farming or ag-related jobs as viable careers. Some may have farming in their families’ past, others may even be farming, or gardening on a commercial scale, here. Few will have family land to work, but some may find their own immigrant communities provide a niche market for crops not grown widely by mainstream farmers. Some young adults would see opportunity there, or in the broader scope of agricultural careers in the region.

The story concept emerged after I produced two stories in the summer of 2013 about refugees, including one about a man who’d been in this country for about 30 years and had finally bought his own land. I thought that surely once I started looking, I would find a variety of young adults who were pursuing various ag careers and happened to come from immigrant families.

Agriculture economist Chris Hurt said in 2007, the average pork price was $2.87 a pound. Now, we're paying a record high price of $4.20 a pound on average. (Sam Breach/Flickr)
Agriculture economist Chris Hurt said in 2007, the average pork price was $2.87 a pound. Now, we're paying a record high price of $4.20 a pound on average. (Sam Breach/Flickr)

Farmers are harvesting a record corn and soybean crop this year causing the price of grain commodities to tumble, which is great news for livestock producers and people who love bacon.

Since 2007, livestock producers have been hit by one market shock after another. First there was the Great Recession. Then the drought in 2012. Over the past year, hog producers across the country lost 4 percent of their litters to the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv). And on top of it all, feed prices have soared.

Pathogens that can cause foodborne illness are often ingested by incorrectly cooked meat. (taryn/Flickr)
Pathogens that can cause foodborne illness are often ingested by incorrectly cooked meat. (taryn/Flickr)

Americans had to dig deep into their wallets to cover costs associated with foodborne illnesses, according to new estimates from the U.S. Department Agriculture.

There were 9.4 million identified cases of foodborne illnesses in 2011 – caused by pathogens like norovirus, listeria and salmonella – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Add up the cost of hospitalization, medication and lost wages due to missing work, and that comes to a total bill of about $15.2 billion.

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