Iowa

Report: Iowa’s hyper-consolidated hog industry drives income inequality

The increasing dominance of large factory farms in Iowa means hog farmers earn $2 less per pound of pork than they did 40 years ago, when the state had many more smaller farms, according to a new report by the nonprofit advocacy group Food & Water Watch.

USDA pays $146 million in bird flu indemnities

As bird flu losses topped 35 million fowl, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Thursday that the USDA has paid about $146 million in indemnities to poultry owners, with an additional $263 million available. “That’s about half of where we were in 2014-2015 with the last outbreak,” he said.

With emergency SNAP benefits ending, a ‘hunger cliff’ looms

"Anti-hunger advocates worry that the nation may be approaching a 'hunger cliff,' as some states are ending emergency SNAP benefits even as demand at food pantries—and Covid case numbers—are rising again," writes Bridget Huber in FERN's latest story.

White House starts ‘rural infrastructure tour’ loaded with dollar signs

President Biden launched a "rural infrastructure tour" on Monday to deliver billions of dollars in funding for rural America with senior officials visiting 30 communities in April. "These generational infrastructure investments will provide rural communities across America affordable high-speed internet, clean drinking water, reliable electricity, better roads and bridges and good-paying jobs," said the president.

Egg prices spike as bird flu outbreaks reach two-month mark

Americans will not run out of eggs in the ongoing outbreak of bird flu, the worst since 2015, says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Four percent of the U.S. layer flock has died in the two months since the first confirmation of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) on Feb. 8.

Minnesota loses 1 million turkeys in bird flu outbreaks

Turkey farmers in Minnesota, the No. 1 turkey-producing state, lost more than 557,000 turkeys in 12 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) this week, said the Agriculture Department on Wednesday. Total losses since the first outbreak was reported on March 25 are slightly over 1 million turkeys.

Easter egg supply jeopardized amid bird flu surge

In three weeks, outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) have killed more than 4 percent of the egg-laying chickens in America. "Egg availability may be limited leading into Easter," traditionally a high-demand period for eggs, said analysts at rural lender CoBank.

Three percent of U.S. egg-laying flock lost to bird flu

Nearly 11.8 million egg-laying hens — three of every 100 in the U.S. flock — have died in outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in less than a month, USDA data released on Tuesday show. The latest losses were 1.46 million hens in Guthrie County in central Iowa.

First case of ‘high path’ bird flu west of the Mississippi

The lethal poultry disease highly pathogenic avian influenza has been identified in a backyard flock in Iowa, the No. 1 egg-producing state, said the Agriculture Department on Wednesday. It was the first case of “high path” bird flu west of the Mississippi River and the 17th found in domestic flocks this year.

Biggest rise in Midwest land values in over a decade

Agricultural bankers reported a 22 percent increase in farmland values in the central Corn Belt during 2021, and they expect values to continue to rise in the opening months of this year, said the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank on Thursday.

Iowa farmland value zoomed by 29 percent this year

Farmland in Iowa is worth an average $9,751 an acre – the highest value since Iowa State University began the annual survey in 1941. Values skyrocketed by 29 percent this year, fueled by high commodity prices, better than expected crop yields and large pandemic relief payments, said associate professor Wendong Zhang.

Surge in yields brings biggest U.S. soybean crop ever

The U.S. soybean hit parade, with record production in 2016, 2017, and 2018, will continue this year with the largest crop ever, the government forecast on Tuesday with the harvest in full swing. A late-summer surge in likely yields per acre prompted the USDA to say the crop will be 2 percent larger than its previous estimate.

Genius grant for prof. who created prairie strips to reduce farm runoff

Iowa State University professor Lisa Schulte Moore, a creator of  prairie strips in farm fields to markedly reduce soil erosion and nutrient loss, won a $625,000 MacArthur Foundation genius grant on Tuesday. Schulte Moore, one of 25 winners announced by the foundation, was described as a …

Iowa Sen. Grassley runs for eighth Senate term

While many Republicans were swamped by the Watergate tide, Republican Chuck Grassley won election to the House in 1974 and will surpass half a century in Congress if elected to his eighth Senate term in 2022. Grassley announced for re-election on Friday and is regarded as the heavy favorite by political handicappers.

Opinion: The sustainable-energy future has room for biofuels as well as electric vehicles

With the Biden administration and the major U.S. automakers investing heavily in electric vehicles, rural Americans — especially those connected to farming — are concerned about the future of biofuels. Given that ethanol, primarily made from corn, is blended with the gasoline that powers the vast majority of the nation’s vehicles, the prospect of replacing gasoline with electricity has enormous implications for the rural economy. In 2019, the global biofuels market amounted to over $136 billion.(No paywall)

Arid weather trims corn and soybean outlook

With drought expanding in the Midwest, the corn and soybean crops are in notably worse condition than a week ago, said the USDA Crop Progress report on Monday. The portion of the corn crop rated as good or excellent tumbled by 14 percentage points in Iowa and good/excellent ratings for soybeans …

How an Iowa hog baron accrued power and built a CAFO empire that transformed his state

"Since Iowa Select Farms was founded in 1992, the state’s pig population has increased more than 50 percent — while the number of farms raising hogs has declined over 80 percent," as Charlie Mitchell and Austin Frerick explain in FERN's latest story, published with Vox. "In the last 30 years, 26,000 Iowa farms quit the long-standing tradition of raising pigs. As confinements replaced them, rural communities have continued to hollow out." (No paywall)

Farmers are worried about climate change but skeptical of carbon markets — survey

Farmers in the largest corn-growing state are increasingly concerned about the potential impact of climate change on their operations but also dubious of carbon markets that would pay them to sequester carbon in the soil, according to the annual Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll. Their skepticism stood in contrast to President Biden's goal of creating new sources of revenue for farmers while his administration pushes American agriculture to be the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases.

Tyson Foods fires seven in Covid betting pool

Tyson Foods said on Wednesday that it had fired seven management employees at its hog slaughter plant in Waterloo, Iowa, following allegations that plant manager Tom Hart had organized a betting pool over how many of the plant's employees would become ill with Covid-19.

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