Health+Harvest

Farm Bill Expires; What's Next?

Oct 1, 2013
Frank Morris/Harvest Public Media

The farm bill expired at midnight on Monday, leaving farmers and ranchers across the country guessing at what federal farm policy will look like when they next put their crops in the ground.

Of course, they’re used to uncertainty, as this is the second straight year Congress has let the farm bill expire. Last year, farmers were set adrift for three months before lawmakers passed a nine-month extension of older policy in January.

Incentive Plan To Keep ADM Headquarters In Illinois

Sep 30, 2013
ADM

A proposed incentive package created to persuade Archer Daniels Midland Company to keep its global headquarters in Illinois is sparking debate among lawmakers.  
The proposal would give ADM a 10 percent break on utility taxes for up to 30 years and an income-tax credit. It's expected to be discussed at an Illinois House committee meeting Tuesday.  
ADM announced last week it plans to move its global headquarters out of Decatur.  

Illinois To Launch Obamacare Ad Campaign

Sep 30, 2013
GetCoveredIllinois

Illinois will launch an advertising campaign Tuesday to inform Illinois residents about the health insurance marketplace opening that day that will connect people with new benefits under President Barack Obama's health care law.  
Marketplace spokeswoman Kelly Sullivan provided copies of the ads to The Associated Press. She says the Get Covered Illinois campaign will begin with newspaper ads in 50 state markets. Radio and TV ads are planned for later this fall.  

Frank Morris/Harvest Public Media

Congress is bitterly divided on food stamps and other issues contained in the farm bill, but both political parties agree on something: the $5 billion-a-year farm subsidy called Direct and Countercyclical Payments has got to go.

The program shells out to farmers and land owners regardless of need or loss. It’s a hold-out from a farm bill that promised an end to subsidies and it’s holding on only because Congress is so dysfunctional.  

The Knowles gallery/flickr

Buying a new farm tractor costs almost as much as a new home in a decent suburb.  

Shelling out $200,000 or more for shiny new John Deere, Case IH, New Holland or other name brand horsepower to work the fields of a 21st century Midwestern farm isn’t unusual, farmers and dealers say.

What seems more unusual, to newcomers to farm economics at least, is that those shiny new models aren’t the hottest selling big iron on many dealers’ lots.  That would be the used tractors that were traded in when the new models rolled off the dealers’ flatbed trucks.

Obamacare Could Be Tough Sell In Rural Areas

Sep 24, 2013
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

The Affordable Care Act, often called “Obamacare,” takes a big step forward Oct. 1 when new health insurance marketplaces open for enrollment. Rural families are more likely to qualify for subsidized coverage, but reaching them to sign up will be part of the challenge.

So, will farm country take advantage of new health insurance subsidies? That’s the question in Nebraska.

Almost 200,000 Nebraskans don’t have health insurance. Nearly half of them are spread across the state’s rural areas.

Campaign for Better Health Care

The Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, is among the most controversial domestic policy laws in history.  And it remains so just days before the next phase launches October 1.   At that time, a window opens allowing comparative shopping for coverage. 

While the debate in Washington continues, we wanted to take a closer look at the law and what it will mean for those who are uninsured and those who already have coverage. 

Chicago-based singer-songwriter Susan Werner has worked on concept albums before – from jazz standards to pop classics to Gospel music for agnostics. But now she's turned to her farm roots for inspiration.

Werner, who's currently touring in the Midwest, desribes her new CD, Hayseed, as "egg meets art," celebrating agriculture through music.

ADM To Move Headquarters From Decatur

Sep 23, 2013
ADM

Agribusiness giant Archer Daniel Midland Company says that after 44 years in Decatur, Ill., it is looking for a new location for its headquarters.
 
CEO Patricia Woertz says in a news release Monday that ADM needs what she called a global center with better access to customers and employees around the world. 
The company says it doesn't plan layoffs and will keep a workforce of 4,400 in Decatur, which also will become ADM's North American headquarters.  ADM says the new headquarters would have about 100 employees.
 
ADM is the largest employer in Decatur.

Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

On a hot August day in late August, Kevin Bien stands in the shade of a large gray piece of farm equipment.  The brand marketing manager for Gleaner Combines gives his best spiel to a group of farmers attending the Farm progress Show  in Decatur.   Torque, efficiency, and new technology are among his key points for the prospective buyers of the large machines that can run anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000.    

And farmers are buying. Frequently.

Report: Illinois Lags In Health Services For Poor

Sep 18, 2013
flickr

A new report says Illinois ranks 36th among the states for delivering health care services to its low-income residents. 

The Commonwealth Fund released a scorecard Wednesday on how states are
performing on health care coverage, prevention and treatment of low-income
people.
The report looks at 30 health indicators and finds wide geographic variations
with big gaps between the highest-performing and lowest-performing states.

SIU School of Medicine

Imagine taking a pill before going to a concert to help protect your hearing.  Or taking one afterwards to restore it.  That day may be sooner than you think.  

Dr. Kathleen Campbell, Director of Audiology Research at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, has patented a treatment.  It's currently undergoing a clinical trial. 

Campbell's treatment involved D-methionine, an amino acid. 

Darrell Hoemann/The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Last summer’s drought knocked the nation’s corn exports to the mat.  And while U.S. farmers may be getting up from that punch, it may take them longer to regain their footing in international markets.  

Horse Slaughter Divides Horse Lovers

Sep 10, 2013
Frank Morris/Harvest Public Media

Most Americans don’t eat horse meat, and they don’t like the idea of horses being slaughtered, but a handful of investors are struggling to restart a horse slaughter industry in the United States.

The investors argue that reviving horse slaughter plants would be both good for the horse business and more humane than the current situation. They’re hoping to open a new horse slaughter plant near Gallatin, Mo., but opposition has the project mired in the legal system. The issue cleaves horse owners into two camps: one that views horses as pets and another that see them as livestock.

Timothy Baker

Farmers across Illinois and other midwest states are worried about their berries, peaches and tomatoes thanks to a newly arrived pest.  

The spotted wing drosophila looks like an ordinary fruit fly but is way more deadly. It kills healthy fruit by making a tiny slit in a fruit’s skin and laying eggs inside. In two weeks, a female fly can lay more than 300 eggs. So a couple of adults can become thousands in a few months. Lincoln University’s Jaime Piñero says no soft fruit is safe.

plantcovercrops.com

Farmers across the country received more than $17-Billion in federal crop insurance  payouts after last year’s drought. A report by one environmental group blames farmers for not doing enough to shield the soil against the heat. 

My Farm Roots: Community Counts

Sep 3, 2013
Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

This is the thirteenth installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Matt Pauly has traveled the world  – he’s lived in New York, Paris, South Korea – but he’s still a farm boy at heart.

Darrell Hoemann/ Midwest Center For Investigative Reporting

Farmers in the Midwest were devastated by a crippling drought in 2012. The federal crop insurance program paid out a record $17.3 billion. And in rural America, that money is still paying dividends. To understand the impact, Harvest Public Media reporter Bill Wheelhouse took a tour of Livingston County, Illinois. Farmers here received by far the biggest insurance payout in the nation.

On this sweltering day in mid-August, surrounded by healthy 8-foot tall corn stalks, Doug Wilson peels back the husks to see how his corn is looking. The verdict?

Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

Hot weather has been greeting visitors to this years Farm Progress Show in Decatur.  And as the show enters its final day Thursday, the head of a national trade group says weather is also on the mind of midwest farmers attending the event. 

Vineyards Face Threat From Herbicide Drift

Aug 26, 2013
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

As Midwest vineyards move in next door to longstanding fields of corn or soybeans, they don’t always make good neighbors. Occasionally, herbicides like 2,4-D drift beyond their target, and for nearby vineyards the results can be devastating.

2,4-D is a common herbicide used by farmers because it kills weeds but doesn’t kill their corn. Landscapers and golf courses use it on lawns and fairways. Highway crews often spray 2,4-D on road ditches.

My Farm Roots: Born To Farm

Aug 26, 2013
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

This is the twelfth installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

One sign that you have strong farm roots is when your rural road is named for your family.

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

Five years ago, Howard G. Buffett was at a meeting of an international food aid agency when he was told that feeding the millions of starving people in Africa was simple.

Just give them better seeds, someone said.

That advice might work on some philanthropists. But Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffett, happens to be an Illinois farmer.

“This guy was explaining to me how to farm and he’d never been on a farm in his life,” he said. “So it really kind of irritated me. I came home and said, ‘OK, I’m going to have data to show these guys.’”

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

This is the eleventh installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Danelle Myer owns a small vegetable farm and like many other small farmers, she’s passionate about the kind of operation she wants to grow: a small, local business.

State Fairs: A Summer Tradition

Aug 16, 2013
Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

It’s August. The days are growing shorter, fall is approaching, but summer isn’t done just yet. All over the country folks are flocking to that ultimate summer tradition: the state fair.

Carnival rides and games, meat on a stick, livestock competitions – the Midwest does state fairs up right. And for many, summer in the Midwest isn't complete without a trip to the state fair. For others, a virtual visit will have to do.

Scott Stuntz

With Congress in its August recess, the farm bill is stalled and many are pessimistic about getting a new bill passed before the current extension expires on Sept. 30. Still, farm country legislators aren’t exactly giving up hope.
Republican Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock was asked about the farm bill at a town hall style meeting in in his district this week.
He said that he thinks the most likely outcome is that the House will pass a “food stamp bill,” to go along with a agriculture portion it passed in June. That could put the farm bill back on track.

Peter Gray/WUIS

The stakes are high for honeybees.

A survey conducted by the USDA shows apiaries continue to lose nearly one third of hives each year.

That has led some environmental activists to push for further restrictions on a pesticide used to treat seed corn.

My Farm Roots: Tough Guys In The Saddle

Aug 12, 2013
Frank Morris/Harvest Public Media

This is the tenth installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts the nation’s farmers will deliver a record 3.42 billion bushels of soybeans this year. The USDA is also forecasting that this year for the first time Brazil will overtake the United States as the world’s leading producer of soybeans. That means the pressure is on American soybean farmers like Brian Flatt, 41, to eke out even more soybeans from his fields.

Peter Gray/WUIS

A Springfield woman's family tree has deep roots in Greece.

On that tree's branches?  Olives.

Rini Christofilakos-Soler is helping grow her family's business by bringing the olive oil they produce to Springfield.

Peter Gray stopped by Christofilakos-Soler's table at the downtown farmers market to ask about her family farm in Greece:

Find more information at the family's Facebook page

 

Americans consume a lot of sweets. Even discounting all the high fructose corn syrup you find in soft drinks, the average consumer takes in about 40 pounds of refined sugar in a year, according to the USDA.

That means food companies from Nestle to Hostess and small neighborhood candy stores have to buy sugar. Lots of it. And those bakers and snack food makers say the government gives too much support to sugar growers and consumers are footing the bill.  

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