In The Field

A western Illinois farmer harvests corn.
Credit Abby Wendle / File: Harvest Public Media

The people and places that make our food system go.

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After hundreds of arrests of undocumented immigrants by immigration police, the Trump administration’s increased focus on immigration enforcement has some of the country’s largest farm groups worried.

After hundreds of arrests of undocumented immigrants by immigration police, the Trump administration’s increased focus on immigration enforcement has some of the country’s largest farm groups worried.

Undocumented immigrants make up a significant portion of the country’s agricultural workforce. A 2016 Pew Research Center study showed undocumented workers are in about 26 percent of the nation’s farm jobs, the highest percentage among all occupations Pew included in the study. A crackdown on immigrant workers could put farms at-risk, and agricultural trade groups are taking precautions.


On a brisk and busy January morning at the Oklahoma National Stockyards, cattle arrive for auction in trailers pulled by pickup trucks — and leave in double-decker cars towed by semis.

What’s old is new again, at least on some Midwest farms.

Winter cover crops have been used by farmers for centuries, but over the last decade or so they have once again started to become more popular.

The idea is to create biomass in fields that would typically be dormant over the winter. Cover crops like vetch, rye, kale and winter peas can grow after a corn harvest, maintaining live roots in the ground on farm fields in an effort to control erosion, preserve moisture in the soil, and to keep damaging chemicals on fields and out of streams.

Just one day after directing its researchers not to publicly share their research, and after suffering a public relations backlash, the Department of Agriculture’s main research arm has rescinded its original order, saying it “values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public…”

Update 1/25/2017: The Agricultural Research Service rescinded its initial directive in an email to employees Tuesday evening.

Employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s main research arm, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), received an email from the division’s chief of staff ordering them to stop publicizing their work.

Many U.S. cattle producers saw the TPP as a way to boost beef exports.
File: Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

After publicly stumping for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, many in the agriculture industry were forced to re-group Monday after President Donald Trump formally backed out of the trade pact.

Midwest Farmers Prepare For Another Year In The Red

Jan 23, 2017

Farmers across the Midwest are trying to figure out how to get by at a time when expected prices for commodities from corn, to wheat, to cattle, to hogs mean they’ll be struggling just to break even.

“Prices are low, bins are full, and the dollar is strengthening as we speak and that’s just making the export thing a little more challenging,” says Paul Burgener of Platte Valley Bank in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

President-elect Donald Trump plans to pick former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to lead the Agriculture Department, a transition official and a source close to the process confirmed to NPR.

Trump is expected to make a formal announcement on Thursday, ending a months-long process that left Agriculture Secretary as the final Cabinet post to be filled.

And then there was Agriculture.

Agriculture Secretary is the only post in President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet without a nominee, mystifying many in rural America and spurring worries that agriculture and rural issues will land near the end of the line among the new president’s priorities.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who served for all 8 years of Barack Obama’s presidency, announced Friday was his last day in office.

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