farming

On a side street near the Des Moines Water Works, a tall fence surrounds three garden plots. Geese fly overhead while trucks drive past a sign between the road and the fence. It says: “Industrial Development Land For Sale, Contact City of Des Moines.”

Until recently, the city rented the land for growing vegetables but now it’s been rezoned and put up for sale.

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

ST. JOHN, Kansas — Water — who gets to use it, when and how — sparks fights all over the world.

The latest battleground is in south-central Kansas, near the federally operated Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

In its simplest form, it’s a clash between the refuge, which isn’t getting its legal share of water, and the local farmers who may be forced to cut back on how much water they use on their crops.

During 2019, the curveballs thrown at farmers began with the partial government shutdown in January, when some U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies were closed. Spring brought a storm system—called a bomb cyclone—that dumped rain on top of frozen fields unable to make use of it, kicking off weeks of flooding exacerbated by additional precipitation. Planting ran later than usual and some farmers never got a cash crop into certain saturated fields.

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The number of black farmers in the U.S. is shrinking — down to less than 2% of total farmers — and many are losing their land.

Members of the Kansas Black Farmers Association are working with the state in hopes of reversing that trend.

Most farmers haven't had a single good year since President Trump took office, and Trump’s policies on trade, immigration and ethanol are part of the problem.

Yet farmers, who broadly supported Trump in 2016, are sticking with him as the impeachment inquiry moves forward.

“You see everyone circling their wagons now, and the farm community is no different in that,” says John Herath, the news director at Farm Journal.

MANHATTAN, Kansas — A bus filled with livestock industry representatives from South America, Australia, Africa and Europe drove past rows of pens and concrete feed bunks in central Kansas this week.

They held their phones and cameras up to the windows as a wave of cattle lifted their heads and stared back. Dump trucks full of feed shared the roads with cowboys on horses.

Half of the tour group, who had come to Kansas State University for the 9th Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock Conference, had never visited an industrial-sized feedlot.

Even though the Midwest is tops in field corn production and grows row after row of it, these states don’t stand out when it comes to national production of sweet corn. 

But for many in the region, nothing says summer quite like a fresh hot ear of sweet corn — plain, buttered or salted.


Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio/File photo

A monthly report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture assessing the global supply and demand of key crops had mixed messages for Midwest farmers Monday.

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

PLEVNA, Kansas — P.J. Sneed walks through his small greenhouse in central Kansas checking on rows and rows of small hemp plants just waiting to be put into the ground.

The plants inside the greenhouse near Plevna look rather healthy. Problematically, they look better than the plants in the few acres he’s already planted just outside of the greenhouse.

On top of trade disputes, a wet spring and late planting, many soybean farmers face yet another hurdle: the thistle caterpillar.

Although it becomes the painted lady butterfly, which can bring a fluttering swath of color to backyards and gardens, this caterpillar can be a real pest in soybean fields.

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