Luke Runyon

I'm a reporter with Harvest Public Media based at KUNC, covering the wide range of agricultural stories in Colorado.

I came to KUNC in March 2013, after spending about two years as a reporter with Aspen Public Radio in Aspen, Colorado.

During my time in Aspen, I was recognized by the Colorado Broadcasters Association and Public Radio News Directors, Inc. for my reporting and production work. My reports have been featured on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.

I'm the product of two farm families in central Illinois, which is where I spent most of my formative years. Before moving to Colorado I spent a year covering local and state government for Illinois Public Radio and WUIS in the state's capital. I have a Master's degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield, the same place where I completed a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is questioning the qualifications of President Trump’s pick to lead the research division at the USDA, a post generally held in the past by a trained scientist.

In July, Trump nominated former conservative talk radio host and economics professor Sam Clovis to be the agency’s undersecretary of agriculture for research, education and economics.

Luke Runyon/File Photo / Harvest Public Media

After years of declining income on America’s farms and ranches, the agricultural sector might have finally hit the floor.

The latest figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture expect farmers to bring in more money this year than initially projected. Crop and livestock producers could net $63.4 billion in 2017. That would be an increase of nearly $1 billion from 2016, and would be the first time farmers see a rise in net farm income year-to-year since 2013.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

Farms and ranches throughout the country won’t see their labor shortages solved by a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

In a call with reporters while visiting Mexico ahead of the trade talks, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said labor issues likely wouldn’t be addressed during formal negotiations among the United States, Mexico and Canada, set to begin August 16th.

Connor Tarter / flickr Creative Commons

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a new dimension to the urban-rural divide: death rates related to cancer.

Cancer death rates are falling nationwide, but they remain higher in rural areas (180 deaths per 100,000 persons) than in cities (158 deaths per 100,000 persons), according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

sfgamchick, flickr Creative Commons

Streams and rivers in Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska and other parts of the central Great Plains are vanishing as farmers continue to pump groundwater to irrigate their crops.

Groundwater is the lifeblood of Great Plains agriculture. But as farmers pump more, it’s turning nearby creeks into dry riverbeds.

Kurt Fausch, a Colorado State University professor, says in a 60-year span about 350 miles of stream disappeared in eastern Colorado, southwest Nebraska and northwest Kansas. And if farmers keep pumping, another 180 miles could vanish by 2060.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media/File photo

The federal government is proposing refiners use slightly less ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply next year. However, the cut would not be a blow to corn farmers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the annual mandate for renewable fuel and is suggesting a 2 percent decrease for 2018, down to just over 19 billion gallons.

STEPHANIE PAIGE OGBURN / Haverst Public Media/File Photo

After coming to an agreement with U.S. trade officials to bring American beef to China after a 14-year hiatus, the most populous country in the world is set to once again import U.S.-raised beef. To take advantage of the massive new market, however, the U.S. cattle industry is going to have to make some changes.

BRIAN SEIFFERLEIN / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA

A group of American ranchers say they want a corruption investigation into JBS, the world’s largest meatpacking company, which has processing plants across the Midwest/Great Plains.

JBS recently agreed to pay a $3 billion fine after revelations that executives were bribing government officials in Brazil.

Though there is no evidence of wrongdoing in the U.S., Bill Bullard of the American rancher group R-CALF is asking the Trump administration for an investigation of the company’s practices here.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

The most common occupation in America used to be farming. But farms are so high-tech these days, fewer farmers are needed to work the fields. That ends up having important side effects for farm towns across the Midwest and Great Plains.

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’s a familiar perch to the fifth generation farmer on Colorado’s eastern plains.

Derek Gavey / flickr Creative Commons

People that live in rural areas are more connected to the internet than they’ve ever been, but they still lag well behind their urban and suburban counterparts in access to high-speed Internet, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

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