Harvest Public Media

Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Missouri, Harvest covers agriculture-related topics through a network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.

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As the new school year gets underway, some students are in classrooms and others are at home but one thing is now clear: all kids can get free school meals. That’s because the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program and the Summer Food Service Program, has extended the pandemic provisions it introduced last spring, which include eliminating the requirement that families apply for reduced-fees or free meals. 

Farmers were expected to produce a record corn and soybean harvest this year, but after weeks of poor weather across the region, the USDA has officially walked back those predictions.

 

The number of families experiencing food insecurity has hit a record due to the pandemic, and Black and Hispanic families are disproportionately affected.

 

The United States Department of Agriculture is seeking public comment on changes that it says will make getting loans for major projects easier for rural communities.

Four loan guarantee programs reassure banks that they’ll be repaid when towns borrow for infrastructure improvements such as water and wastewater treatment systems and energy projects. But each program has its own application and specific requirements.

Sheri Glazier is used to seeing dry conditions on the family farm in central Oklahoma around wheat harvesting time in June. But this year, the heat came faster than normal. She remembers the unusually early heat one day while driving the combine in the wheat field.

 

Even as more people bake during the pandemic, some wheat farmers may need help to break even this year.

In January, amid much fanfare and optimism, China and the United States signed phase one of a trade deal intended to be the first step toward ending the nearly two-year-old trade war. In the agreement, China agreed to increase its purchases of agricultural products by $32 billion over the next two years. 

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding hit to the global economy, which led to lower prices for commodities like soybeans, one of the things China buys from the United States. 

Both farmers and home gardeners may have trouble finding enough seeds to plant this spring, but while both are facing seed shortages, the causes are unrelated. 

More people are taking up gardening as orders to slow the spread of coronavirus are keeping them homebound. Companies that sell vegetable and other seeds to gardeners are reporting record demand. Meanwhile, farmers are facing a supply shortage of soybean and sorghum seeds. 

President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday to shore up the country’s meat production amid concerns about worker safety at meatpacking plants.

The order keeps beef, poultry and pork processors open by invoking the Defense Production Act.

Thousands of meatpacking workers across the country have contracted COVID-19, and plants in Iowa, South Dakota and Colorado have closed in response. The order says those closures not only threaten the supply chain but undermine critical infrastructure.

Iowa Learning Farms and Practical Farmers of Iowa conducted a 10-year study on the conservation benefits of planting cereal rye as a cover crop on corn and soybean fields. Their results show the practice improves soil health. The cover crop may cause a slight dip in yields the first year or two, but that can be overcome and eventually small increases in soybean yields may occur.

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