U.S. Department of Agriculture

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The nation has a new agriculture secretary.

The U.S. Senate on Monday voted to confirm former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to lead the Department of Agriculture. He takes over a department that was without a top boss for three months after former secretary Tom Vilsack resigned. Vilsack served the entire eight years of the Obama administration (one of the longest-serving agriculture secretaries in recent decades).

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the long delays in seating his replacement leaves rural America without a voice in the Trump administration.

Vilsack, a Democrat who served as USDA chief during both terms of the Obama administration, cites President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal as an example of what happens without a Cabinet position dedicated to rural issues.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

President Donald Trump has nominated former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as Agriculture Secretary, bucking a recent trend of Midwest leadership at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and making many in the farm country of the Midwest and Great Plains a little leery.

Bryan Thompson / Harvest Public Media

At a stressful time for U.S. farmers, the government’s efforts at calming the agricultural waters took center stage Thursday, when the heads of the U.S. Senate’s Agriculture Committee left Washington for the Midwest to solicit opinions on priorities for the next Farm Bill.

U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas, and Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, heard from Midwest farmers at their first field hearing on the 2018 Farm Bill at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.

Grace Hood / Harvest Public Media/File

Just one day after directing its researchers not to publicly share their research, and after suffering a public relations backlash, the Department of Agriculture’s main research arm has rescinded its original order, saying it “values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public…”

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Secretary of Agriculture remains the only position in the Trump cabinet without a nominee. As Harvest Public Media’s Jeremy Bernfeld reports, that worries some Midwest farmers.

The Agriculture Department employs nearly one-hundred thousand people and deals with everything from food stamps to farm loans to food safety. It administers programs in rural areas, which largely supported President-elect Donald Trump.

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.

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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.

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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.

AgriLife Today, flickr Creative Commons

Three Kansas schools are teaming up to create a post-secondary degree program focused on using small unmanned aerial systems, or drones, in agriculture.

The goal is to improve the technical and analytical skill sets of the next generation of farm managers, technicians and crop advisors.

Fort Hayes State University is partnering with Hutchinson Community College and Emporia State University to develop curricula focused on the use of drones in precision agriculture.

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