KUNC

         

(Kevin Lallier/Flickr)
(Kevin Lallier/Flickr)

Winter wheat farmers across the Great Plains are better off this year than last. Rain and snow has saturated soil in some areas. But drought still persists in large sections. As of April 13, 32 percent of the country’s wheat crop was classified as being in poor condition or worse.

Wheat farmers put this year’s crop in the ground last fall coming off one of the worst growing seasons in decades. In 2013 more than 10 million acres were lost to drought, late season freezes and blustery winds. So far this year, things are looking a bit better.

A change in precipitation has led to drought improvements in states where much of the country’s wheat is grown. One year ago the U.S. Drought Monitor showed more than 50 percent of the High Plains region, which includes Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas and the Dakotas, was in extreme drought. Now, just 5 percent has that distinction.

The PED virus has hit hog farms all over the country and cut pork supplies. (File: Peter Gray/Harvest Public Media)
The PED virus has hit hog farms all over the country and cut pork supplies. (File: Peter Gray/Harvest Public Media)

Hog farmers are now required to report outbreaks of certain viral diseases that have spread across the country during the past year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Until now, two strains of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus and swine delta coronavirus, which is similar to PED but not as lethal, had not been considered reportable diseases. That’s partly because they do not pose any food safety or human health threat. But the rapid spread of PED, in particular, has led to huge losses in the pork supply because the disease can wipe out entire litters of piglets.

The USDA hopes that the new information will help quell the spread of the virus. But Iowa State University veterinarian Rodney Baker says the reporting requirement may be too little too late.

A 2002 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that men living in rural counties were much more likely to kill themselves than urban men. (Stephen D/Flickr)
A 2002 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that men living in rural counties were much more likely to kill themselves than urban men. (Stephen D/Flickr)

An alarming number of farmers in the U.S. take their own lives, according to the magazine Newsweek. And while we don’t have great statistics, some of the best numbers available suggest men on the farm today kill themselves nearly twice as often as other men in the general population.

The numbers are the jumping off point for Max Kutner, who wrote the Newsweek cover story, “Death on the farm.”

“Farmers are a dying breed, in part because they’re killing themselves in record numbers,” the Newsweek cover proclaims.

While that’s strong rhetoric, studies show that suicides are much more likely in rural areas. A 2002 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that men living in rural counties were much more likely to kill themselves than urban men.  And Michael Rosmann, a farmer and a psychologist who works with farmers, says surveys suggest an increased risk of suicide for farmers (PDF), in particular.

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