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According to farmer Ann Knowles, turkeys can change the color of their waddles at a moments notice, flushing from pale pink to candy-apple red. (Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media)
According to farmer Ann Knowles, turkeys can change the color of their waddles at a moments notice, flushing from pale pink to candy-apple red. (Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media)

Farmers raised fewer turkeys this year than they have in the past three decades - about 235 million gobblers, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ann Knowles raised 70 broad breasted bronze and white turkeys on her small farm in western Illinois.

She coops up the plump birds at night to guard against predators, but lets them roam freely during the day.

“They get to strut. And they chase in bugs,” Knowles said. “So I think their little dinky brains are probably pretty happy.”

Specialty crop farms, like orchards, rely heavily on migrant labor to hand pick fruit. (Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)
Specialty crop farms, like orchards, rely heavily on migrant labor to hand pick fruit. (Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)

In the debate over immigration reform, farm and ranch groups have been among those calling for change the loudest, and most frequently. But after President Obama announced changes to the immigration system, the response from the agriculture industry so far has been mixed.

In an announcement Thursday, Obama detailed how his actions will delay the deportation of the undocumented parents of children in the country legally. The changes also give protections to any children who were brought to this country illegally before 2010. About 5 million people in the country without documentation will be affected.

Out of that 5 million people, upwards of 250,000 work on farms and ranches, according to a release from the United Farm Workers, one of the largest farm worker unions in the country with deep roots in activism. In its reaction, UFW took an optimistic tone.

Ethanol plants, like this one in Adams, Neb., use corn from Midwest farms to pump out millions of gallons of biofuel. (File: Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media)
Ethanol plants, like this one in Adams, Neb., use corn from Midwest farms to pump out millions of gallons of biofuel. (File: Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media)

The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that it won’t release rules for how much ethanol oil refiners have to mix in to our gasoline supply this year.

The ethanol rules, called the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), are meant to prop up the U.S. biofuels industry by creating demand for ethanol. Without the rules, both oil companies and the biofuel sector will be left in the dark as to what the demand for ethanol will be.

The RFS is also a big deal for Midwest farmers, as ethanol consumption drives demand for the corn they grow and buttresses corn prices. With corn prices plummeting, robust ethanol demand would help farmers’ bottom lines.

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