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Farming

New map shows the worsening drought

Jul 26, 2019

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 19, 2012 - The words that started this story when it first ran last week hold completely true with the update in reports from this week:

What seemed impossible to those already suffering through record-breaking heat and drought this summer was confirmed by the U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday: The weather conditions lethally unfolding across the Midwest have gotten worse.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is expected to make a federal disaster declaration this week, which can’t come too soon for farmers and others needing assistance after devastating floods.

A large area of northwestern Missouri near the state lines of Nebraska and Iowa is still underwater following the flooding caused by a “bomb cyclone” that hit in mid-March.

More than 240,000 guestworkers, many from Mexico, work on U.S. farms for several months each year as a part of the federal H-2A visa program. This year, farmers and industry associations worry the ongoing government shutdown could impede the workers’ arrival.

But the visa program, which is overseen by no fewer than three U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security, is unimpeded. That’s according to officials from the Office of Foreign Labor Certification and United States Citizen and Immigration Services. Both of those agencies are fully funded.

Missouri rice farmers to export rice to Egypt
Southeast Missouri State University

It takes a lot of water to grow rice.

Farmers in Missouri’s bootheel have plenty from underground aquifers, replenished by the Mississippi River. But in Egypt, the government has slashed rice planting in half to conserve water.

A new dam near the Nile River’s source in Ethiopia is threatening to stem the flow to Egypt’s rice paddies.

Big cities in the Midwest are gaining ground on the rural communities that, for many decades, have thrived on the edges of urban development.

Good Life Growing operates 20 "hoop houses," which are a kind of greenhouse.
File photo | Provided | James Forbes

An urban farming nonprofit is the winner of a competition for a free restaurant space in St. Louis’ Old North area.

James Forbes and his partners at Good Life Growing will open Old North Provisions, a restaurant, grocery store and co-op at 2720 N. 14th St.

They’ll offer their own and other local produce on store shelves, a buffet line and take-out packages. Forbes said his operation will provide an alternative to neighboring Crown Candy Kitchen, known for its ice cream and hearty sandwiches.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Michael and Tara Gallina are the proprietors of Rooster and the Hen, a culinary concept — they say — that seeks to delight eaters through thoughtfulness; for the way our food is grown and raised, to the care and warmth in which it's served.

Kevin Kliesen, Business Economist and Research Officer,
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Many Midwest farmers will be feeling the effect of this summer’s abnormally wet weather for the rest of this year and into 2016. A new agricultural survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis suggests farmer income will continue to take a hit into next year in part because of the delayed planting of soybeans and the inability to bale hay.

Flickr/Shane McGraw

Some crops in Illinois are under water. Some have yet to be planted.

After the wettest June on record, officials in Illinois with the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week they’re seeking a federal disaster declaration to help farmers with flood-damaged crops.

"This has been the absolute worst spring for getting anything done that I’ve seen in 40 years of farming. It seemed like just as the ground was drying up, it’d rain again," said Greg Guenther, who farms east of Belleville.

Heavy, continuous rains put strain on Missouri farmers

Jun 19, 2015
Flooded fields, an inability to plant, and the possibility of disease are all concerns Missouri farmers have due to recent rains.
Sonya Green | Flickr

Missouri's farmers are facing significant challenges as heavy rains from Tropical Storm Bill compound an already wet planting season.

Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon | File photo

A team of 17 cancer experts assembled by the World Health Organization has ruled the most commonly used herbicide a “probable carcinogen.”

Spike In Propane Price Worries Midwest Farmers

Feb 10, 2014
Peter Gray/Harvest Public Media

Residents across the Midwest are struggling with tight propane supplies, especially in this bitterly cold, snowy winter. But it’s not just homes in rural counties that are lacking adequate heating fuel. Farms that put bacon and eggs on your breakfast plate are also feeling the supply pinch. 

Hog farmer Phil Borgic of Nokomis, Ill., burns liquid propane – LP - from September through May to support his piglets. His farrowing barn goes through about two semi truckloads of LP each year. 

Kevin O'Connor Rutland Herald

After years of going on vacations and dreaming of living in the places they visited, St. Louis native Ellen Stimson and her family decided to move to rural Vermont to be close to the mountains.

They bought a country store, decided to homeschool their youngest son, and began raising chickens. And soon learned that vacationing in Vermont is much different than living there.

(Chris McDaniel/St. Louis Public Radio)

Illinois Congressman Bill Enyart was one of only 24 Democrats who voted in favor of the U.S. House's failed Farm Bill on Thursday.

Enyart, who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, supported the bill despite some misgivings but said he is disappointed in the bill’s failure.

Bayer says glyphosate is a key tool for farmers as they try to control weeds and produce enough corn and other crops to help feed the world.
File Photo | Adam Allington | St. Louis Public Radio

Members of Missouri and Illinois' Congressional delegations are weighing in on the U.S. House version of the Farm Bill, which could be voted on before week's end.

Illinois Republican Rodney Davis told reporters today via conference call that the bill is a big improvement over the version passed by the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate.

How The Senate Farm Bill Would Change Subsidies

Jun 11, 2013

The Senate voted Monday to approve its version of the farm bill, a massive spending measure that covers everything from food stamps to crop insurance and sets the nation's farm policy for the next five years.

The centerpiece of that policy is an expanded crop insurance program, designed to protect farmers from losses, that some say amounts to a highly subsidized gift to agribusiness. That debate is set to continue as the House plans to take up its version of the bill this month.

Small Farmers Aren't Cashing In With Wal-Mart

Feb 4, 2013

When Wal-Mart calls, Herman Farris always finds whatever the retailer wants, even if it's yucca root in the dead of winter. Farris is a produce broker in Columbia, Mo., who has been buying for Wal-Mart from auctions and farms since the company began carrying fruits and vegetables in the early 1990s.

During the summer and fall, nearly everything Farris delivers is grown in Missouri. That's Wal-Mart's definition of "local" — produce grown and sold in the same state. In winter, it's a bit tougher to source locally.

You've heard of the "fiscal cliff," but have you heard of the milk cliff"?

If Congress doesn't take action in the next four days, milk prices could shoot up dramatically.

Here's why:

Three 'Vital' Bills McCaskill Says Are Being Ignored

Nov 28, 2012
(via Flickr/Senator McCaskill)

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill says she's frustrated with the House of Representatives for not taking up three pieces of legislation that she calls "bipartisan" and "vitally important."

The Democratic Senator says she doesn't understand why members of the House won't take up legislation on:

Harvest Public Media's Abbie Fentress Swanson takes a look at why investors are increasingly drawn to putting their monetary green toward farmland - even if they've never grown anything green before. Swanson's colleague Charles Minshew also created a map which shows the priciest plots of farmland in Missouri. Explore it all via the link.

Despite Record Drought, Farmers Expect Banner Year

Sep 27, 2012

After one of the driest summers on record, recent rains have helped in some parts of the country. But overall, the drought has still intensified. The latest tracking classifies more than a fifth of the contiguous United States in "extreme or exceptional" drought, the worst ratings.

In some parts of the Lower Midwest, water-starved crops have collapsed, but the farmers have not. Farmers across the country are surviving, and many are even thriving. This year, despite the dismal season, farmers stand to make exceptionally good money, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nixon extends state of emergency for drought

Sep 10, 2012
(via Flickr/KOMUnews/Malory Ensor)

Will be updated.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has extended the state of emergency related to the drought that has gripped the state for most of the summer. 

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."

Ants, drought, punctuate a day on the farm

Aug 20, 2012

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 20, 2012 - EarthDance, a 13.93 acre farm founded in 2008 by Molly Rockamann, trains individuals to use organic methods. The program has 24 new apprentices, who attend classes and must spend a certain amount of time working on the farm, and eight returning apprentices. 

Adam Allington/St. Louis Public Radio

In the high-profile race for U.S. Senate in Missouri, incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill is seizing on this year’s drought to win support among rural voters. 

Speaking at the historic Soulard Farmers Market, Senator McCaskill laid in to her opponent in the November election—Republican Congressman Todd Akin—for his opposition the Senate version of the federal farm bill, which includes disaster assistance for farmers reeling from this year’s record drought.

Were it not for Republicans like Todd Akin, McCaskill says that relief would be on its way to farmers and ranchers.

When it's hot and humid, you probably don't want to move much and aren't very hungry. The same goes for cows; but when they don't eat, farmers lose money.

Researchers at the University of Missouri think they can help avoid those losses. They've produced a new mobile app that can detect the threat of heat stress in cows using nothing more than a smartphone.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 1, 2012 - About a dozen or more healthy-looking breeder cows skirt the base of a large pasture hill, crowding together in the shade to escape the late-July heat. Their sides bulge with muscle and fat. Most are expected to give birth in early September, and weight is critical as they inch through the summer months.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 31, 2012 - The first thing you notice is the hay. Stacks and stacks of it. Big cylindrical bales, each weighing more than 1,000 pounds arranged in pyramids and off-kilter stacks waiting to be unloaded from trucks. It is bought hay, relatively low quality feed cut too late in the season to be worth too much most years.

(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.

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