Harvest Public Media

Today’s emerging agenda for agriculture is headlined by climate change, food safety, biofuel production, animal welfare, water quality, and sustainability.  

Harvest Public Media is a collaboration of public media outlets across the nation's mid-section that examines local, regional and national issues of food, fuel, and field.

Mad Cow Disease Detected In Alabama

Jul 18, 2017

A case of mad cow disease has been found in a cow in Alabama.

U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists confirmed Tuesday that an 11-year-old cow found in an Alabama livestock market suffered from the neurologic cattle disease, formally called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The animal “at no time presented a risk to the food supply, or to human health in the United States,” according to the USDA.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a new dimension to the urban-rural divide: death rates related to cancer.

Cancer death rates are falling nationwide, but they remain higher in rural areas (180 deaths per 100,000 persons) than in cities (158 deaths per 100,000 persons), according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

This story is part of the special series United And Divided, which explores the links and rifts between rural and urban America.

Schools in rural school districts often don’t have the budget or the teachers to offer students all of the courses they would like to take. One rural district in a Missouri county decided to offer credit for online classes in an effort to give its students the educational opportunities it can’t otherwise afford.

After coming to an agreement with U.S. trade officials to bring American beef to China after a 14-year hiatus, the most populous country in the world is set to once again import U.S.-raised beef. To take advantage of the massive new market, however, the U.S. cattle industry is going to have to make some changes.

Luke Runyon / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

Brandon Biesemeier climbs up a small ladder into a John Deere sprayer, takes a seat in the enclosed cab, closes the door, and blocks out most of the machine’s loud engine hum. It is a familiar perch to the fourth-generation farmer on Colorado’s eastern plains.

He turns onto a country road, heading south to spray an herbicide on his cornfields, an early growing season task his genetically engineered crops demand if he is to unlock their value. In the cab, a computer screen shows a little pixelated tractor moving across digital fields, logging his work.

Cattle ranchers have spent years battling big meat companies, saying the companies have too much market power. Now, those ranchers worry that a Trump Administration move to delay federal rules that would make it easier for them lodge complaints about unfair treatment may spell the end of the new rules altogether. But the industry is divided by the government’s move to make sure meat companies play fair with farmers.

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

President Trump made campaign promises to pull the U.S. out of big international trade deals and focus instead on one-on-one agreements with other countries. But that has farmers worried they will lose some of the $135 billion in goods they sold overseas last year.

Two years ago, Missouri rancher Mike John expected the U.S. beef industry to grow by providing steaks and hamburgers from the Midwest to hungry eaters in Japan. He was planning on the Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a massive trade deal among 12 countries, including the U.S. and Japan. It took eight years of negotiations to get each nation involved to agree to lower tariffs. Some economists expected the pact to add $3 billion dollars to the U.S. agriculture industry. Trump, however, called the TPP a disaster and pulled the U.S. out.

Luke Runyon / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

Farmers and ranchers, with their livelihoods intimately tied to weather and the environment, may not be able to depend on research conducted by the government to help them adapt to climate change if the Trump Administration follows through on campaign promises to shift federal resources away from studying the climate.

Farmers stand to lose a lot if worst case climate projections come to pass. They are likely to face extreme swings in temperature and precipitation. Pests and crop diseases will show up more frequently. Heat stress could stunt meat and dairy production from the nation’s cattle herd, costing farmers billions of dollars in lost revenue and forcing food prices to rise.

Sonny Perdue, the former Georgia governor nominated by President Donald Trump, is one step closer to becoming U.S. Secretary of Agriculture after the Senate Agriculture Committee approved his nomination Thursday.

Yet Perdue remains one step shy of the post; the full Senate has not yet scheduled a vote on his nomination. Perdue, however, is widely expected to be approved.

Courtesy Colorado State University

Colorado State University’s campus in Fort Collins will soon be home to a livestock slaughter and teaching facility paid for by JBS USA, a Greeley-based meatpacker.

The building -- called the JBS Global Food Innovation Center -- will house the university’s meat science program, complete with cattle and poultry processing, a multi-level auditorium and a cafe. Part of the funding will come from a $12.5 million dollar gift from JBS to support its construction and ongoing educational programs.

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