Agriculture | St. Louis Public Radio

Agriculture

Yes, organics is a $29 billion industry and still growing. Something is pulling us toward those organic veggies that are grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.

But if you're thinking that organic produce will help you stay healthier, a new finding may come as a surprise. A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds scant evidence of health benefits from organic foods.

This summer's drought has hit more than half the states in the country. Crops are suffering, but farmers might not be. Most farmers have crop insurance.

U.S. taxpayers spend about $7 billion a year on crop insurance. It's our largest farm subsidy.

And this subsidy goes in part to farmers — who will tell you themselves they aren't so sure about the whole idea. "I have an aversion to it," says Jim Traub, a corn and bean farmer in Fairbury, Illinois. "But you're not going to turn it down."

(via Flickr/KOMUnews/Malory Ensor)

Updated 5:35 p.m. with updated figures.

Gov. Jay Nixon says the state has approved about 4,900 requests from farmers for help in improving their water supplies amid Missouri's extreme drought.

The emergency program provides for the state to pay 90 percent, rather than the usual 75 percent, of the cost of drilling or deepening a well or expanding an irrigation system. The state's share is capped at $20,000 per project.

(via Flickr/KOMUnews/Malory Ensor)

A University of Missouri veterinary professor says farmers need to be careful when feeding drought-damaged corn to their livestock.

Tom Evans is an associate professor of veterinary pathobiology at the university's College of Veterinary Medicine. He says nitrate levels can accumulate in drought-stressed corn and pose a risk to animal health.

Many farmers across the Midwest are abandoning ruined corn crops and salvaging what they can to feed to their animals, especially cattle.

(via Flickr/KOMUnews/Malory Ensor)

The U.S. Agriculture Department is predicting what could be the lowest average corn yield in more than 15 years as the worst drought in decades scorches major farm states.

Garry Niemeyer farms 1,200 acres of corn and 800 acres of soybeans near Auburn, Ill. He says he's "totally stunned" to have corn with green stalks and leaves after going through weeks of 105-degree temperatures.

ollesvensson / Flickr

With hotter-than-usual temperatures, orchards in southern Illinois are reporting their apple crops are weeks ahead of schedule.

Tom Range of Braeutigam Orchards in Belleville says they picked Gala apples last week. Normally they pick them in the middle of August.

Another surprise this year - the sugar content of the fruit is very high, making for sweeter fruit.

Sherry Chase of Mills Apple Farm in Marine explains that the apples "tend to be sweeter because the sugars are more concentrated."

A cornfield
File Photo | Adam Allington | St. Louis Public Radio

A new report from the United States Department of Agriculture shows the ongoing drought has caused the nation's cattle herd to shrink by more than 2 million head so far this year.

Analysts project the dry weather will impact prices in the checkout aisle.

Today, we have two reports on the effects of the 2012 drought.  In this combined feature, Adam Allington takes a look at the region's corn farmers.

But first, St. Louis Public Radio's Tim Lloyd reports on the agonizing choices faced by Missouri cattle ranchers.      

(via Flickr/KOMUnews/Malory Ensor)

More money is being put into an emergency program to aid farmers and ranchers battling water shortages in Missouri.

Governor Jay Nixon (D) has added $5 million to the $2 million set aside for crop and livestock producers who want to drill new wells or deepen existing ones during the ongoing drought.  More than 600 applications have been sent in since the program’s announcement on Tuesday.

Stop by most any unirrigated farm across the lower Midwest and you'll see crops in distress. Midwestern corn and soybean farmers are taking a beating during the recent drought, but it's not likely to drive many out of business.

Most of those farmers carry terrific insurance, and the worse the drought becomes, the more individual farmers will be paid for their lost crops. The federal government picks up most of the cost of the crop insurance program, and this year that bill is going to be a whopper.

(via Flickr/KOMUnews/Malory Ensor)

Dry conditions are expected to get worse in the coming days, and it will take a whole lot more than scattered thunderstorms to break the drought. 

“We’re way, way, way below normal in rainfall,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Fred Glass said.  “Most of the area is in severe drought conditions, it’s going to quite a bit of rain to make that up, probably in many areas 8-12 inches, and in some areas in excess of 12 inches.”

Malory Ensor/KOMU News - via Flickr

Both of Missouri’s Senators have signed a letter asking agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack to declare almost all of the state a disaster area due to drought conditions.

The federal Farm Service Agency recently found that every county except St. Louis city met the requirements for that declaration. It would open up emergency loans and expand the places where ranchers can graze their cattle.

(via Flickr/KOMUnews/Malory Ensor)

Gov. Jay Nixon has asked the federal government to declare 114 Missouri counties agriculture disaster areas because of drought conditions.

Nixon's office says in a release that if the counties are designated as agriculture disasters, farmers in those counties would be able to receive assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency. The federal aid would also include emergency loans for losses to crops and livestock from the ongoing drought.

(via Flickr/Indofunk Satish)

Early drought exacting a toll on regional corn farmers

Extreme heat and drought are driving down what many farmers expected to be a bumper corn crop.  

Back in March and April, warm weather had Midwestern farmers planting corn at a record setting pace.

In Illinois alone, an estimated more than 13 million acres of corn were planted this year.  

Now, many growers are in full on damage control as record setting heat continues to drive down expected yields.

Gov. Jay Nixon wants federal agriculture officials to determine whether heat and drought conditions are taking a toll on Missouri's crops and livestock. The National Climatic Data Center says moderate drought conditions persist across nearly 87 percent of Missouri. And extreme drought conditions exist in southeast Missouri.

(via Wikimedia Commons)

The Missouri House has endorsed legislation seeking to make it a crime for undercover activists to produce videos portraying poor conditions at agricultural facilities.

The legislation given first-round approval Tuesday would create the crime of "agriculture production facility interference." The crime would apply to people who produce or distribute photos, videos or audio recordings of the activities at an agricultural facility without the consent of the owner.

(U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

This year’s mild winter and early spring has plants flowering and putting out leaves about three weeks sooner than usual. Ticks and mosquitoes have also been spotted early.

So with all this warm weather, we can expect a particularly bad bug season, right?

Missouri Department of Conservation natural history biologist Mike Arduser says not necessarily. “I hate to use the phrase “old wives’ tale,” but…”

OK, so this story is about weeds and weedkillers, neither of which is ever the hero of a story, but stay with me for a second: It's also about plants with superpowers.

Unless you grow cotton, corn or soybeans for a living, it's hard to appreciate just how amazing and wonderful it seemed, 15 years ago, when Roundup-tolerant crops hit the market. I've seen crusty farmers turn giddy just talking about it.

(via Flickr/The Confluence)

"When they aren't moving, they aren't creating any revenue."

It’s around 8:30 on a chilly morning and workers are starting their day at America’s Central Port on the East Saint Louis side of the Mississippi River.

Under a steady drizzle they blast clean barge hulls with massive power washers.

In a suit and tie the port’s Executive Director Dennis Wilmsmeyer is a sharp contrast to bearded workers wearing Carhart overalls.

He takes a wide stance on top of barge that rocks back and forth.

(via Flickr/Dodo-Bird)

Missouri House members have voted to reject a tax plan that would increase property taxes for the best farms.

Property taxes for farms are based on the land's "productive value." Farms are divided into eight groups based on land quality, with the best in Grade 1 and the worst in Grade 8. The Missouri Tax Commission has recommended increasing productive values for the four highest grades.

The property tax changes for 2013 and 2014 take effect unless the Legislature approves a resolution to reject them. House members voted 117-39 on Tuesday to reject the tax proposal.

(photo via Facebook/State Rep. Bob Flider)

Reporting from Jim Meadows was used in this story.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has named a former Democratic state representative from central Illinois to be the state's new Director of Agriculture.

If he's confirmed by the state Senate, Bob Flider will take over at a department that hasn't had a permanent director since October.

(Ken Light)

Michael Pollan thinks of himself as a writer, professor…and eater.  But many people would call him a food activist. The author of controversial books like The Ominvore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, Pollan is known for his vivid critiques of industrial agriculture and the modern American diet.

Pollan is in St. Louis today for the St. Louis Speakers Series presented by Maryville University. He recently spoke with St. Louis Public Radio’s Véronique LaCapra about his views on food and agriculture – starting with what he sees as a healthy diet.

(via Flickr/Dodo-Bird)

Updated 5:09 p.m.

Argentina's tax agency has accused a Monsanto contractor of what it calls slave-like conditions among workers in its cornfields.

The Federal Administration of Public Revenues (AFIP) says Rural Power SA hired all its farmhands illegally, restricted them from leaving the building where they were housed, and withheld their salaries.

The 65 workers had to de-tassel corn 14 hours a day and buy their food at inflated prices from the company store.

(via Flickr/The Consumerist)

If you've noticed your grocery bill has gotten higher lately, you're not imagining things.

Food prices in Missouri rose in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to the Missouri Farm Bureau's year-end Marketbasket Survey.

UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Missouri will sell around $4.4 billion worth of agricultural products to China, in a trade agreement announced today by Governor Jay Nixon (D).

Speaking to reporters via conference call from Beijing, Nixon said exports from Missouri will increase by more than a billion dollars between 2012 and 2014.

(via Flickr/Dodo-Bird)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a disaster declaration for farmers in 23 Missouri counties, including several in the St. Louis area, hit by floods and heavy rain since May 1.

Friday's declaration allows farmers in those counties and 26 neighboring counties to seek federal assistance for losses caused by the severe weather. Gov. Jay Nixon had requested the declaration last month.

(via Flickr/Dodo-Bird)

Gov. Jay Nixon is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help farmers whose crops wilted this summer amid high temperatures and a lack of rain in much of the state.

On Thursday, Nixon asked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to designate 101 Missouri counties (full list of counties below) as primary disaster areas. That would allow eligible farmers to get emergency loans and other federal help.

(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)

Updated 1:10 with assistance deadline.

Gov. Jay Nixon is asking federal agriculture officials to declare 23 Missouri counties a disaster area to allow aid for farmers who have lost crops or property.

(via Flickr/Benimoto)

The Japanese beetle has been striking Missouri and Illinois with full force, eating its way through rose bushes and tomato plants and threatening major crops like corn and soybeans.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the beetle has been an urban problem for years. But now, farmers in both Missouri and Illinois say the bugs are moving into corn and soybean fields - crops vital to both states.

(via Novus International)

Close to 30 representatives of the animal agriculture industry are meeting in St. Louis tomorrow to discuss the challenges of feeding the world’s growing population.

The international roundtable is being hosted by St. Charles-based Novus International. Novus produces animal feed additives and nutritional supplements.

(Donald Danforth Plant Science Center)

An event starting Monday at the Danforth Plant Science Center is looking to match up investors with emerging agricultural technology companies from across the globe.

The third annual Ag Innovation Showcase will draw international venture capitalists and corporate agricultural investors like Monsanto, Syngenta and Dupont.

Showcase organizer Mark Gorski says sixteen agricultural start-ups from the Netherlands, India, and a number of other countries will be vying for their attention.

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