Since the Great Depression, there have been fewer and fewer U.S. farms, thanks to mechanization, hybrid crops and synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that have boosted productivity and allowed each farmer to cover more acres. A side effect, says Harvest Public Media, is the draining of the rural population and the drop in demand for services of all sorts - schools, health care, food or equipment - in the small towns across the countryside.
For wheat farmers in western Kansas, the heavy snow and freezing temperatures that recently swept through their region were a one-two punch that flattened a promising crop.
This spring the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza epidemic tore through poultry farms across 15 U.S. states, leading to the death of 48 million birds. The bulk of those were egg-laying hens, though turkey production was affected, too.
The giant Brazilian meatpacker JBS, a relative newcomer to North America, will buy the pork operations of agribusiness rival Cargill for $1.45 billion, the companies announced.
By annual sales figures, Brazil-based JBS is one of the largest food companies in the world. The multinational is the world's largest processor of beef, chicken and lamb and is No. 3 in pork.
The Affordable Care Act gives farmers more options for health insurance than they had in the past, says Harvest Public Media. Farmers and ranchers traditionally are among the least likely to have insurance...
"A battle is brewing in the organic food industry," says Harvest Public Media in a story about the expected request for a check-off program for organic products.
For a generation or more, Nebraska has banned corporate farming as a way to protect small operators, says Harvest Public Media, and now the Cornhusker State is "at the center of a debate that gets to the core of what it means to be a farmer."
David Pfrang and Jim Dobbins, who live in the rolling hills of northeastern Kansas, are "two farmers raising an few cattle and a lot of Cain," says Harvest Public Media in a deep dive into the politics of the beef checkoff program.
While California dairy farms cope with a three-year drought, "states like Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa are pitching themselves as a dairy heaven," says Harvest Public Media.
Nineteen states, from Colorado to Indiana, have approved pilot studies of industrial hemp, says Harvest Public Media, "But hemp is still governed by a network of conflicting federal and state laws.
"At the Abbey of St. Walburga, cattle, water buffalo and llamas graze on grass under the watchful eye of Benedictine nuns," says a Harvest Public Media story about nuns and livestock near the Colorado-Wyoming border.
There are about 1,500 Black Welsh Mountain sheep, a small and completely black sheep breed, in the United States and possibly 10,000 worldwide, says a story at Harvest Public Media.
Sondra Pierce, who grows sugar beets, hay and sunflowers on a Colorado farm, "doesn't look like the average American principal (farm) operator," says Harvest Public Media, but she is emblematic of a change in agriculture and its data-keeping.
Migrant worker Veronica Jarmillo starts work at 7 a.m., picking apples during the two-month harvest season in Missouri, says Harvest Public Media in a story about farm laborers and their vital role in agriculture.
Niche marketing to nearby customers is a practical outlet for thousands of smaller-scale farmers. In northwestern Colorado, yarn is being woven into the fabric of local entrepreneurship, says Harvest Public Media.
U.S. farms are highly mechanized, one of the reasons a comparatively small number of people can produce a torrent of food, feed and fiber. Harvest Public Media went to western Illinois for a contest to harvest corn the old-fashioned way, by hand.