Midwest

Farmland values soar more than 20 percent in Midwest and Plains

Strong agricultural income and favorable interest rates are fueling a nonstop climb in farmland values in the Plains and Midwest, said farm bankers in quarterly surveys by the Kansas City and Chicago Federal Reserve banks. The Chicago Fed said farmland values in the opening months of this year were 23 percent higher than in the first quarter of 2021; the increase was 24 percent for non-irrigated land in the Plains.

Report: Crop insurance premiums could skyrocket as climate change intensifies 

Taxpayers shelled out nearly $40 billion in crop insurance premiums in the Mississippi River region between 2001 and 2020, and that number is expected to increase sharply as climate change intensifies, according to an analysis of Department of Agriculture data by the Environmental Working Group that was released Wednesday. 

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.

Drought expands in upper Midwest

Warm and dry weather brought "widespread worsening of drought and dryness" to the upper Midwest in the past week, particularly in Iowa and Wisconsin, said the Drought Monitor.

Ten and done, says midwestern Democrat in House

Approaching her 60th birthday, Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, announced she will retire in 2022 after 10 years in the House. "It will be a new decade and I feel it's time for a new voice," said Bustos. Her decision also reflected the shrinking influence of the farm and industrial heartland in the House.

Unusually dry, or worse, in half of Midwest

Large swaths of Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio are abnormally dry and most of Michigan is in moderate drought due to limited spring precipitation, said the weekly Drought Monitor on Thursday. Arid conditions covered 48 percent of the Midwest, the heart of U.S. corn and soybean production.

Midwestern Senators ask, ‘Where’s our ethanol deal?’

Roughly ten days ago, Midwestern senators left a meeting with President Trump believing they had an agreement to solidify corn ethanol’s share of the gasoline market. Yet Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said on Tuesday he had no idea why the administration has not announced the plan, arguing “it ought …

Controversial pesticide use sees dramatic increase across the Midwest

Farmers have been using the weed killer glyphosate – a key ingredient of the product Roundup – at soaring levels even as glyphosate has become increasingly less effective and as health concerns and lawsuits mount. Nationwide, the use of glyphosate on crops increased from 13.9 million pounds in 1992 to 287 million pounds in 2016, according to estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey. (No paywall)

Can Syrian seeds save climate-challenged U.S. wheat?

When the seed bank in Tal Hadya, Syria, was threatened with destruction in the civil war that has engulfed that country, the seeds were smuggled out. Now, some those seeds — from wild wheat relatives in the Fertile Crescent — are being planted in the American Midwest in the hopes that they can protect the U.S. wheat crop from the pests and disease brought by a changing climate, according to FERN’s latest story, published with Yale Environment 360. No paywall

Midwest senators warn Trump against ethanol poison pill

Five corn-state senators want to meet President Trump face to face to warn him against the oil industry's proposal of a cap on the price of RINs, the credits that refiners must buy if they don't blend enough ethanol into gasoline. Oil-state senators, led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, say the cap is needed to preserve jobs at oil refineries; midwesterners say it would destroy the market for corn ethanol.

Midwestern states don’t believe in pesticide buffers around schools

Hundreds of schools in the Midwest "nestle against fields of corn and soybeans that are routinely sprayed with pesticides that could drift onto school grounds," but states "do not require any kind of buffer zones and seldom require any notification that pesticides are about to be sprayed," says the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. Nine states in other parts of the country, with California the most prominent, have laws that mandate buffer zones.

Bustos recipe for Democratic success in the Midwest: Bread-and-butter issues

A report co-authored by Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois says that “national Democrats must acknowledge and stay focused on the bread-and-butter challenges facing hardworking families” to gain the rural and working-class support vital to winning elections in the Midwest.

Cheeseheads fight to keep Wisconsin’s ‘dairyland’ reputation

Some in Wisconsin’s business community are calling for a change to the state slogan, “America’s Dairyland.” But when a news channel caught Kurt Bauer, head of the advocacy group Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, arguing for a more “contemporary” phrase at a statewide meeting for business leaders, the public outcry was quick and loud. So much so that Bauer refused to be interviewed for a story on NPR.

Midwest farmers uproot FDR’s ‘Great Wall of Trees’

Midwestern farmers, seeking to expand their crop lands, are destroying millions of trees that helped protect the region's soil after the catastrophic Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The removal of these trees is expected to worsen the impact of a drought that could come as climate warms the region, says Carson Vaughn in FERN’s story with Weather.com.

Organic Valley starts project to run on renewable energy only

Wisconsin-based Organic Valley, the largest U.S. cooperative for organic farmers, launched a project to become the largest food company in the world to get all of its electricity from renewable sources. The co-op will be part of a "community solar partnership" that will install 12 megawatts of solar power in the state.

Ogallala aquifer disappearing at faster rate than ever

The Ogallala aquifer shrank twice as fast in the last six years as it did in the previous 60, largely from over-pumping on farms, reports The Associated Press. The aquifer — a key source of irrigation water for farms in eight states — lost 10.7 million acre-feet of storage between 2013 and 2015, drying up streambeds, undermining fish species and threatening the farmers who rely on Ogallala for their crops.

Important cattle grazing grass could shrink 60 percent, says study

Big bluestem grass — one of the most important forage grasses in the Midwest for cattle — is predicted to drop as much as 60 percent drop in stature and growth over the next 75 years due to climate change, according to a study published in the journal Global Change Biology.

House, Senate bills would close sodbuster loophole

Lawmakers from the Plains and Midwest filed companion bills in the House and Senate to discourage farmers from converting native sod into cropland nationwide by closing a crop insurance loophole. The legislation would require a reduction of crop-insurance subsidies for four years before producers could qualify for them.

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