Harvest Public Media

Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Missouri, Harvest covers agriculture-related topics through a network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.

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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.

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.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

A doctor handed Melissa Morris her first opioid prescription when she was 20 years old.

She had a cesarean section to deliver her daughter, and to relieve post-surgical pain her doctor sent her home with Percocet. On an empty stomach, she took one pill and laid down on her bed.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘Oh my god. Is this legal? How can this feel so good?’” Morris recalls.

Luke Runyon, file photo / Harvest Public Media

A federal court has sided with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and against environmental groups in a case the groups had hoped would hasten water clean-up efforts.

The Gulf Restoration Network and environmental groups from Mississippi River watershed states argued the EPA needs to enforce more specific water quality standards. But, on appeal, a U.S. District Court ruled the Clean Water Act leaves that authority to the states.

Iowa Environmental Council’s Susan Heathcote says that’s going to put more pressure on local efforts.

Eugene Kim, flickr Creative Commons

Local food was worth $8.7 billion to farmers last year.

The Agriculture Department commissioned a survey to get a handle on the economic impact of the local food industry. The results are in: More than 167,000 farms across the U.S. sold produce, milk, and meat directly to shoppers in 2015.

The largest chunk of sales – about 40 percent – came from local schools, hospitals and wholesalers.

Pat Blank / Harvest Public Media

There is a battle going on in the organic industry over hydroponics, the technique of growing plants without soil. The debate gets at the very heart of what it means to be “organic” and may change the organic food available to grocery store shoppers.

To be labeled as organic, fruits and vegetables are required to be grown without genetic modification or synthetic chemicals, and to meet other rules set out by the Agriculture Department. But what about produce that isn’t grown in the dirt?

Emily Bell / flickr Creative Commons

With farmers coming off a third straight year of lower incomes, 2017 will require some more belt-tightening.

Persistently low prices for major commodity crops including corn and soybeans may inch up slightly in the new year. But Iowa State economist Chad Hart says farmer are adjusting their strategies to ride out the slump.

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.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Shareholders of agricultural seed and chemical giant Monsanto agreed to a merger on Tuesday, moving the controversial deal one-step closer to fruition.

German drug and chemical maker Bayer plans to pay shareholders $66 billion to take over Missouri-based Monsanto. That breaks down to $128 per share if the merger closes.

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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