Harvest Public Media

How Some Small Towns Are Achieving 'Brain Gain'

Jul 10, 2018

When communities watch young people grow up, go off and never return, remaining residents and politicians often bemoan there’s been a “brain drain” — especially when such population loss means schools and businesses close.

Kansas is taking the lead on a project aimed at tracking cattle disease with the hopes of protecting the U.S. beef industry.

After months of verbally sparring with trade partners, the United States is poised to implement wide-reaching tariffs Friday on imported goods, and one in particular has the agriculture economy on edge: soybeans.

The corn and soybeans growing in Glenn Brunkow’s fields in the rolling Flint Hills north of Wamego, Kansas, got some much needed rain recently and look healthy.

Brunkow has reason to expect a good harvest, but the way things are looking globally, he’ll lose money on the crop. Trade disputes with China, Mexico and Canada threaten to slash U.S. food exports by billions. About half the soybean crop goes overseas, most of that to China — and since mid-April, soybean prices have plunged about 20 percent and corn about 15 percent.

The Senate took a crucial step Thursday to making sure that, among other things, the hungry are fed, farmers have crop price protections and land is preserved beyond Sept. 30 — that is, the day the farm bill expires.

There’s a long-forbidden crop on the verge of legalization, one that’s versatile and could open up new markets for farmers: hemp.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Thursday had all the makings of deja vu for the U.S. House’s farm bill draft: immigration concerns, uncertain Republican votes and a wall of Democratic opposition to changes in the main federal food aid program.

In the end, the chamber avoided a repeat of May’s failure, when members of the conservative Freedom Caucus wanted to deal with immigration first. But the farm bill passed Thursday — narrowly, 213-211. Still, 20 Republicans voted against it, as did every Democrat in the chamber.

The U.S. House voted down an immigration bill Thursday that would have addressed one of the biggest concerns of American farmers: updating the agriculture guestworker visa program known as H-2A.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the nation’s largest program to reduce hunger. It’s also the biggest program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But under the White House’s plan to reorganize the federal government, released Thursday, SNAP would have a new home at a revamped Department of Health and Human Services.

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