Health+Harvest

Auburn Ambulance Service

When it's a matter of life and death, you call for an ambulance.  But seconds can save lives.  Having an ambulance close by is a luxury for some communities, especially in smaller, rural areas.  There's a cost and often, the number of calls are too few to support it.

In Auburn, it's a similar story.  But the Auburn Area Ambulance Service won't give up.  The not for profit has found a way to get donations.  It's launched a subscription service.

Visitors to the Peoria Farm Show learn about seeding cover crops in this 2013 file photo (Peter Gray/WUIS)
Peter Gray/WUIS

Midwest farmers who rely on healthy soybean harvests have one more reason to consider adding cereal rye into their crop rotation in 2014.

Research conducted in Illinois indicates certain cover crops left in the ground during the winter make the soil less vulnerable to diseases that attack the leaves and root systems of soybeans planted the following spring.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

A new labeling rule that went into full effect Saturday requires meatpackers and retailers to provide consumers with more information about where their meat comes from.

The country-of-origin labeling mandate (COOL) forces retailers and meatpackers to detail where the livestock from which meat came was born, raised and slaughtered. It applies to certain cuts of beef, veal, chicken, pork, lamb and goat sold in the supermarket. Processed, deli and ground meats are exempt from the new rules.

Peter Gray/WUIS

U.S. popcorn sellers took a big hit from the 2012 drought, which caused one of the worst popcorn harvests in recent memory. Crops not irrigated were decimated, and low supplies continue to force local candy shops and giant movie theater chains alike to pay high prices for the golden grain, biting into their profit margin.

In 2012, commercial corn fetched record prices, and popcorn was no different. The low harvest is still working its way through the supply chain, from grain bins to wholesalers to retailers. Popcorn sellers are being squeezed with high material costs.

The FDA wants to phase out antibiotics in meat.

Regulators released a broad plan Wednesday, designed to prevent meat producers from using drugs that are also used to treat sick humans. That means some changes Midwest farmers and ranchers will have to get used to.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

As farmers across the Midwest have simplified the landscape and plowed up grassland to grow more corn and soybeans, habitat for pheasants, quail and other grassland birds has become increasingly scarce and their numbers are falling.

In Nebraska, wild pheasant concentrations have fallen 86 percent since their peak in the 1960's. The pheasant harvest during hunting season in Iowa is off 63 percent from the highs reached in the 1970's. In areas that used to be overrun, you’ll struggle to find a pheasant now.

Flickr/Andrewmalone

Congress won’t pass a farm bill before early next year.

That was the message from Washington Tuesday, when the principal farm bill players emerged from negotiations and announced they won’t have a full bill ready before the House adjourns for the year on Friday.

Peter Gray/WUIS

Farmer and philanthropist Howard G. Buffett had several messages for his hometown crowd this week. Among them?  "Everybody who is physically able" can do something to fight hunger.

Buffett spoke Tuesday before signing copies of his latest book, 40 Chances, at a fundraising event for Decatur area charities.  

tuchodi via Flickr/Creative Commons

Watched the news lately? Then you might’ve heard about impending doom for Thanksgiving dinners across the country.

Peter Gray/WUIS

As farm bill negotiations continue in Washington, D.C., it’s fairly certain that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will be cut.  One proposal would trim the food stamp program by $4 billion over the next decade; the other would cut roughly ten times that much. 

That’s after the Obama Administration’s recession-era boost to SNAP expired November 1st, leaving the average family with about $30 less to spend each month.

Farm Bill Talks Fall Through

Nov 22, 2013
flickr/andrewmalone

Though farm bill talks heated up this week in Washington, key legislators emerged from negotiations Thursday disappointed and predicted there would be no progress until after Congress returns in December from its recess.

Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources (IDNR)

Dept. of Natural Resources employees have discussed adding cougars to the list of protected species in Illinois.

But in a phone interview with WUIS, IDNR spokesman Tim Schweizer said currently "it’s up to the landowner” to decide whether a potentially threatening animal should be put down.  

That's what transpired Wednesday near Morrison, Ill., when a woman and her husband reportedly spotted the large male cougar hiding under their corn crib and asked Conservation Police to dispatch the cat.

Joel Salatin: Local Food Evangelist

Nov 19, 2013
Creative Commons

Joel Salatin is one of the rock stars of the local food movement. He’s written books, appeared in documentaries and scheduled speaking engagements nationwide. Among foodies, he’s a celebrity.

He’s also a vocal critic of industrialized agriculture. Salatin criticizes the use of pesticides, herbicides, genetic modification in crops, and hormones and antibiotics in livestock.

Peter Gray/WUIS

This Thanksgiving, hungry families all over the country will finish off their holiday meal with a little slice of the Midwest. That’s because the vast majority of all pumpkin that comes from a can and winds up in a pie got its start on a vine in Illinois.

Pumpkin patches are popular destinations for families seeking fall fun, and you’ll find roadside farm stands all over the country. But this is big business in Illinois, where farmers feed canning factories hungry for a special kind of pumpkin that looks nothing like those you see on Halloween.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Once again, the prognosticators are saying beef prices are on the rise. We’ve seen this before—last year, the drought and high feed prices were being blamed.

USDA

Data collected between 2010 and 2012 indicate Illinois' nonmetro areas had the second highest losses of jobs in the nation.

The state of Arizona also saw a 1.8 percent decline in rural employment over the past two years, while losses were especially large in Arkansas - down 4.1 percent.  

Cheryl Gray

I come to Harvest Public Media as a reporter standing at the intersection of rural and urban life.  It is a fascinating place to be in the young 21st century.

Growing up in Oswego, Ill., I watched my backyard turn from cornfield to the carefully trimmed suburban lawns of Chicagoland’s residential expansion. The land my Norwegian immigrant great-grandparents tilled in the 1900s is likely a restaurant, big box retail store or strip mall today.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Noel, MO - It’s almost 9 a.m., and Noel Primary School teacher Erin McPherson is helping a group of Spanish-speaking students complete English language exercises. But it’s tough going.

One student in a bright blue T-shirt – 9-year-old Isac Martinez – has not yet picked up his pencil. He’s clearly sick. When McPherson asks him what’s wrong, Isac’s small voice is barely audible in between coughs. He says he threw up four times last night but did not go to a doctor.

Durrie Bouscaren/Harvest Public Media

The rolling plains of Midwest farm country are being tapped for their natural resources again. This time, though, the bounty would be wind energy, instead of corn, wheat or soybeans.

Houston-based utility company Clean Line Energy Partners wants to produce a massive amount of wind energy on the plains. To do that, the company plans to build five large-scale high voltage transmission lines that would criss-cross the country, three of which would bring energy from Midwestern windmills to the energy grid to the east.

ADM

Agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. said today that its third-quarter earnings more than doubled partly on increased profit margins on ethanol. But the Decatur-based company says its results fell short of last year when adjusted to exclude an inventory credit.  

Revenue fell 2 percent but beat analysts' forecasts.  
Net income was $476 million, or 72 cents per share, up from $182 million, or 28 cents per share, a year earlier.  

Darrell Hoemann/ Midwest Center For Investigative Reporting

  Food pantries and homeless shelters say they're beginning to notice repercussions of a reduction in food stamps that will take effect Fri., Nov. 1. A temporary hike in benefits that kicked as a result of the recession expires this week.

Individuals enrolled in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, could see their benefits cut by $11 a month. A family of four could see a decrease of $36.

UPDATE (Nov. 8)

The following is from the Central Illinois Foodbank:

The Springfield Rotary Club is working toward a goal of 2,000 pounds of citrus to be donated to Central Illinois Foodbank. The club currently is about half way to their goal and hopes the community will help them double their current total.

Expected Bumper Crop Has Corn Prices Dropping

Oct 23, 2013
Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

On a clear fall day in central Iowa, Aaron Lehman climbed into the cab of his green combine with a screwdriver to do some maintenance. He was hoping his corn had a couple more weeks to grow before harvesting because the price per bushel this fall is much lower than it has been for the past three years.

Corn farmers have been riding high prices for the last few years. But an expected bumper crop has prices falling this harvest season, and many economists expect the price of corn to drop to its lowest level in recent years.

The Long, Slow Decline Of The U.S. Sheep Industry

Oct 17, 2013
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Over the last 20 years, the number of sheep in this country has been cut in half. In fact, the number has been declining since the late 1940's, when the American sheep industry hit its peak. Today, the domestic sheep herd is one-tenth the size it was during World War II.

The decline is the result of economic and cultural factors coming together. And it has left ranchers to wonder, “When are we going to hit the bottom?”

Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

A huge new rail yard has been buzzing on the outskirts of Decatur, Ill. Agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) recently opened the 275-acre facility that would be at home at any major port city on the coast. But it’s in the heart of Illinois farm country because farmers have been taking advantage of a new method of shipping out their products.

Coaches in Illinois are required by state law to remove from a game or practice any athlete suspected of suffering a concussion.

But responding quickly after a hard hit isn't enough for a former football player from the Chicago area who now advocates nationwide to prevent injury to still-developing brains.

In the latest report from the WUIS Health Desk, Peter Gray reports on a push for Illinois to follow the NFL and other states in limiting days of full contact football practice.

Government Shutdown Slows USDA

Oct 3, 2013
brittreints/flickr

The U.S. Department of Agriculture was forced to send home tens of thousands of employees because of Tuesday’s government shutdown.

As a result, the agriculture department and its nearly two dozen agencies are operating at limited capacity – or not at all.

But even though important agencies such as the Farm Service Agency and the Risk Management Agency will be shut down almost entirely, agriculture officials said that Midwest farmers and producers won’t be affected that much.

Quinn Says Health Marketplace Launch "Historic"

Oct 1, 2013

Gov. Pat Quinn says the launch of the health insurance marketplace marks a ``historic'' day that will change the lives of hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans.  
Quinn spoke at a press conference in Chicago on Tuesday, the same day the marketplace opened in Illinois and other states.  
But the federal website where people enroll was experiencing some glitches. Consumers couldn't get beyond initial screens, and some reported waits of 20 minutes on a hotline set up to assist them.  
Quinn says glitches are part of any new endeavor.  

Millet Could Be The Next Trendy Grain

Oct 1, 2013
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Heritage grains are trendy. Walk through a health food store and see packages of grains grown long before modern seed technology created hybrid varieties, grains eaten widely outside of the developed world: amaranth, sorghum, quinoa.

But there’s another grain with tremendous potential growing on the Great Plains: millet.

Health Law Could Reduce Incarceration Rates

Oct 1, 2013
flickr/sideonecincy

Tuesday marks the launch of state health insurance exchanges, a major part of the Affordable Care Act. Among the many changes likely after the new health coverage takes effect: Fewer people behind bars.

During a recent expo put on by the Illinois Department of Corrections in Champaign, Jeff Rinderle of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District talked with parolees and former prison inmates transitioning into civilian life about the Affordable Care Act.

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