Harvest's Top 10 Stories Of 2018 (And A Few Honorable Mentions)

Originally published on January 7, 2019 1:23 pm

Hardly a week went by in 2018 where there wasn’t some kind of breaking agriculture, food or rural news. It was the year of the farm bill, a trade war and several food recalls.

But Harvest Public Media reporters found places to revel in some fun, too. Here are some of our favorite stories from the last 12 months.

Congress delivered a new farm bill after months of negotiations, one that legalized industrial hemp and moved some funding around for conversation programs, but didn’t deliver on stricter work requirements for federal food aid recipients.

(And to really understand what’s all in the bill that costs billions of dollars, listen to the On The Table podcast from Harvest partners NET Nebraska.)

A key fight during the farm bill negotiations was over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps feed about 40 million Americans. We took a deep dive into the program, looking at how it works and how it affects everyone from military members to immigrants to the mentally ill.

Costco aficionados clamor for the retailer’s $5 rotisserie chickens — to the point that the company realized it’d be easier to control their supply chain from top to bottom. Harvest’s Grant Gerlock reported Costco is the first to go fully vertical with meat production, and will do that by tapping contract chicken growers in Iowa and Nebraska.

The United States’ farming population is aging rapidly, meaning there’s lots of land ripe to be sold to a younger generation. But it’s not always easy to match up the farmers, as Madelyn Beck found out.

Puerto Rico’s farming community was devastated by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. A year later, federal money still was only trickling in, so farmers had to turn to a patchwork of state funds, too. Harvest’s Grant Gerlock paired with the Food & Environment Reporting Network for a dispatch for the farm bill podcast.

Harvest’s Amy Mayer followed up after a friend told her she saw someone buying 40 dozen eggs at the grocery store. Turns out, they’re used for hog breeding.

To get to the root of the world’s horseradish dishes, Beck drove to Collinsville, Illinois — home of the International Horseradish Festival. It was 95 degrees, but the dishes were even spicier.

Immigrants from Latin American countries are increasingly filling jobs in agriculture. But the veterinarians who help take care of dairy cows and other animals usually don’t speak Spanish. Harvest’s Esther Honig looked at a few schools that are looking to change the status quo.

NAFTA became USCMA, and the U.S. got into a trade war with China and other countries. The fallout? A $12 billion ag bailout that looked to help commodity farmers and buy surplus food, and some good news for wheat and dairy farmers.

Missouri became the first state this year to crack down on meat labeling laws. That’s just the beginning, Frank Morris, found out — think plant-based meats and even meat grown in a lab.

Editor’s Note: This year, Harvest Public Media also shuffled its reporter lineup. While we lost Kristofor Husted’s voice in Columbia, Missouri, we gained Jonathan Ahl a couple of hours south in Rolla, Missouri. Plus, Illinois now has Madelyn Beck (based in Galesburg), and our strong Colorado reporting returned with Esther Honig in Greeley.

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