farming

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.

Derek Gavey / flickr Creative Commons

While the average U.S. farm continues to grow larger, the vast majority are still family-owned. Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon reports on a new look at our farmers.

Victor / flickr Creative Commons

A new report from the Department of Agriculture shows rural parts of the country are still struggling more than eight years after the Great Recession. 

While the economy has improved marginally in rural areas since the recession, cities continue to do better. The rural employment rate still hasn’t returned to its pre-2008 level, and economic growth has been slow: An average rural worker made significantly less last year than an urban one.

Natalie Keyssar for NPR

Now that Donald Trump is elected, he must go on a hiring spree for his cabinet. Harvest Public Media’s Peggy Lowe reports that farm country is wondering just who the Secretary of Agriculture will be.

Donn Teske is a Kansas farmer and vice president of the National Farmers Union. He says the joke in farm country before the election went something like this: Who knows who Donald Trump would put in as Ag Secretary? It might even be Hank Kimball.

Matthias Ripp, flickr Creative Commons

The number of small farms in the U.S. is growing, but “large farms” are increasingly important to our food system.

Today, what researchers call “large farms” make up just 4 percent of the total number of U.S. farms, but they produce more than half of the country’s agricultural goods.

And a new study by the Department of Agriculture found the number of large farms more than doubled during a recent two-decade period. The number of mid-sized farms is on the decline. Chris Burns worked on the report.

Derek Gavey / flickr Creative Commons

Low prices mean many farmers are facing tough times. As Harvest Public Media’s Jeremy Bernfeld explains, farmers think that’s not likely to let up.

Bumper harvest after bumper harvest has plunged prices for important crops like corn and soybeans.

Jim Mintert is a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University. In a recent survey, his team found the vast majority of farmers expect bad financial times over the next year. More than a quarter said they expect prices to dip below what it takes to break even.

Blackburnphoto / Flickr, creative commons

Harvest is underway on farms across the Midwest and Great Plains. But with prices in the tank for the region’s most important crops, many farmers are just hoping to break even this year.

The last time things looked so bleak for corn and wheat growers and cattle ranchers was during the 1980s farm crisis. Low crop prices and high debt resulted in a prolonged economic slump in farm country.

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