farming

Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

Of all the expensive machinery Tom Giessel worked during the 2017 wheat harvest, his favorite sits in the office of his home.

It’s a microfilm machine, the kind found in a high school library. Giessel uses it for his work as the historian of the National Farmers Union, the nation’s second-largest farm group.

It’s the best investment he ever made, he says, and it sits in his office where faded bound books of old newspapers are stacked ceiling high and row after row of square white film boxes are packed into a cabinet.

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.

FILE: ABBIE FENTRESS SWANSON / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA

As the Trump administration takes the initial steps toward renegotiating one of the country’s most influential and controversial trade deals, groups that represent farmers and ranchers are already waving a caution sign.

Derek Gavey / flickr Creative Commons

Regulations that affect Kansas’ agriculture producers and the quality of life in rural communities are under review at the federal level.

President Trump created a task force to identify policy changes that would help boost economic growth.

More than 20 cabinet-level and senior members of government agencies are on the Task Force On Agriculture and Rural Prosperity.

One area they’re studying is how the estate tax affects the perseveration of family farms and other agribusiness operations.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Blink while driving on Highway 34 east of Greeley, Colorado, and you might miss the former Great Plains town of Dearfield.

Victor / flickr Creative Commons

Most farmers across Kansas will likely be seeing an increase in their land valuations this year.

COURTESY OF ELLIOT CHAPMAN

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.

Bruce Tuten, flickr Creative Commons

President-elect Donald Trump named former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as his pick for Secretary of Agriculture on Thursday. Harvest Public Media’s Kristofor Husted reports on what it means for farmers in the Midwest.

If confirmed, Perdue will have to take on a new farm bill, immigration issues and the big whammy: trade.

Rich Egger / Harvest Public Media

Let’s say you’re a high school student in an agronomy or agriculture class and you’re looking for some real-world experience. You can’t just buy a few hundred acres on which to experiment. Enter: “fantasy farming.” “Fantasy farming” is essentially a game played out on a real field, at a real agriculture research facility. It gives high school students a chance to learn firsthand about the guesswork and gambles that farmers make every year.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Cropland in the Midwest is losing its value as the downturn in the agriculture economy continues.

Record-high crop prices contributed to record-high land values in 2012 and 2013. But now, that party is over.

Iowa State University economist Wendong Zhang says across the Corn Belt, and into the Great Plains, farmers are now suffering from oversupply, despite strong demand.

"Because we had this really high profits, everyone is trying to increase productions," Zhang says.

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