farming

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.

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.

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