farming

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

On a hot July day in Boone County, Iowa, farmer Brett Heineman shuttled a semi from one of his family’s fields to the local co-op. He and his uncle were harvesting the first crop of oats on this farm in decades.

Before corn and soybeans almost completely covered the landscape – today, they account for 95 percent of crop acres in Iowa – most Corn Belt farmers also grew oats or alfalfa. Now, the Heinemans are among the farmers taking a closer look at re-integrating the small grain into their operations.

Victor / flickr Creative Commons

This year will be a tight one financially for most farmers. As Harvest Public Media’s Jeremy Bernfeld reports, the Agriculture Department is forecasting a drop in farm income for the third straight year.

Farmers expect another record harvest for corn and soybeans, the country’s most important crops. That oversupply is pushing down prices, hurting a farmer’s bottom line. The USDA expects a nearly 12 percent cut in net farm income compared to last year. That would put net farm income at its lowest point since 2009.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Growing up on a family farm in West Bend, Iowa, Haley Banwart and her brother were like other farm kids. They did chores, participated in 4-H, and even raised cattle together.

“My brother and I have had the same amount of responsibilities. I can drive a tractor, I can bale square hay,” Banwart says. “But it was just expected that my brother would return home.”

She says they never discussed it, she just accepted that she’d find a different path.

Blackburnphoto / Flickr, creative commons

Farm income is down in the Midwest, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve, and that’s left more farmers relying on banks.

Low prices for crops like soybeans and corn, coupled with high input costs have pushed more farmers to apply for loans. Banks, though, have tightened lending.

Nathan Kauffman with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City says there is a bright spot, though, and that’s China’s demand for American products.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Everyone knows agriculture is huge in Kansas.

It’s a $62 billion a year industry that accounts for 43 percent of the Kansas economy and touches every part of the state.

Following the 2012 Brownback tax cuts, farmers no longer had to pay state income tax – just like 334,000 LLCs, S corporations and sole proprietorships.

Brian McGuirk/Flickr Creative Commons

Low prices for grain, milk and beef are causing many Midwest farmers and ranchers to worry about paying their bills this year. 

With prices for some farm staples in the tank, many farmers will be lucky to break even this year.

Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, is worried that lean times hit farmers harder than other business owners. “If you’re having trouble as a farmer or rancher, it’s not just your job that you’re having trouble with, it’s your whole livelihood, it’s your home," Johnson says.

Derek Gavey / flickr Creative Commons

Men who work as farmers take their own lives at a rate seven times the national average, according to a new study.

Overall suicide rates have climbed more than 20 percent since the year 2000. According to a preliminary study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, farmers, along with fishermen and foresters, make up the group most likely to die by suicide.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Kansas farmers may be facing some of toughest financial times they have experienced in three decades. As Harvest Public Media’s Jeremy Bernfeld reports, that could put a hit on the economy.

The average net farm income in Kansas plummeted last year to just over $4,500. That’s a year-over-year drop of 96 percent, according to a report by the Kansas Farm Management Association.

Abigail Wilson, File Photo / KMUW

Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts is painting a bleak picture of the nation's farm economy.

Suzanne Hogan / Harvest Public Media

Up before dawn, working the fields, feeding the cows…that’s a farmer’s life.

Farming is still thought of as a male-dominated field. But there are thousands of women farmers across the country, often left in the shadows. For Harvest Public Media, Suzanne Hogan met up with women farmers looking for the support they need to give their business an edge.

Aubrey Fletcher knew she wanted to work on a dairy farm ever since she was a little girl.

“I do remember my mom asking, ‘Are you sure that’s what you want to do?’” Fletcher recalls.

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