EPA emails show agency approved Monsanto herbicide label changes after consulting with company

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prepared to make label changes for the herbicide dicamba after it caused widespread crop damage, the agency depended on the herbicide’s maker for guidance, documents produced in a federal lawsuit show.

A review of more than 800 pages of documents from a lawsuit filed against the U.S. EPA in January 2017 highlight the process behind how the agency made the label changes.

Illinois environment agency cites energy company for alleged contamination

A former Vermilion County, Illinois, coal plant heavily criticized for contaminating groundwater has received a violation notice for alleged contamination of the Middle Fork River.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency cited Vistra Energy Corporation, formerly known as Dynegy Midwest Generation, for alleged violations of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act at the Vermilion Power Station near Oakwood, Illinois.

Foreign-born poultry processing workers face challenges

That could be why 28.7 percent of meat and poultry workers in 2015 were foreign-born non-citizens — more than three times the rate for manufacturing industries in general, according to a 2016 Government Accountability Office report. The work can be an attractive option for newcomers to the country.

Poultry processing workers still face high number of injuries
Conditions at a Tyson plant in Sedalia, Missouri — the state’s second-largest — are a window into what workers face industry-wide.

Although the meat and poultry processing industry’s injury rate has been dropping for years, it remains higher than average for manufacturing, and vast numbers of injuries never get reported in the first place, according to a 2016 report from the Government Accountability Office.

Large animal feeding operations on the rise
Several states see shifts in animal production since 2011

The number of new concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have increased across the U.S. over the past six years - bringing the total operations just under 20,000, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency. From 2011 to 2017, the United States saw more than 1,400 new large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) established. That’s up 7.6 percent. Here's a look at the issue in maps and charts.

Large number of Iowa public schools in range of potential pesticide spray drift

Nine of every 10 public school districts in Iowa have buildings within 2,000 feet of a farm field, making students and teachers susceptible to being exposed to pesticides that drift from the fields when pesticides are sprayed. Yet many school officials interviewed for an IowaWatch/Tiger Hi-Line investigation showed little to no awareness on if or how pesticide drift could affect the staff and students in school buildings.

Monsanto No More: Agri-Chemical Giant’s Name Dropped In Bayer Acquisition | NPR

These days Monsanto is shorthand for, as NPR's Dan Charles has put it, "lots of things that some people love to hate": Genetically modified crops, which Monsanto invented. Seed patents, which Monsanto has fought to defend. Herbicides such as Monsanto's Roundup, which protesters have sharply criticized for its possible health risks. Big agriculture in general, of which Monsanto was the reviled figurehead. And soon Monsanto will be no more.

Local communities fight air pollution from large animal farms
Lack of regulations leaves communities exposed to health and climate risks

With their expansive deck overlooking a pond, Shirley Kidwell and her family used to spend summer days outdoors reading, but the growth of large animal farms in the area has eliminated that pastime. “When that odor hits, you’ve got to go inside and a lot of times we go downstairs to the basement to get away from it,” said Kidwell, the owner of a small farm in Callaway county, Missouri, and the secretary for Friends of Responsible Agriculture, who lives within a mile of a farm with 5,600 hogs. Kidwell and other residents are particularly worried about a new 10,000-hog farm moving to Callaway county.  It would be built less than a mile from Kidwell’s home. According to a 2017 report from the office of the inspector general, there are currently 450,000 animal feeding operations in the U.S.  The majority contain less than 300 animals, but approximately 18,000 raise thousands of animals. Air pollution from those operations can create numerous respiratory health problems, such as asthma, and contribute to climate change.

Report: USDA payments to non-farmers remain high

The largest federal farm payments were disproportionately paid to farm operations primarily made up of managers, or those who did not actively work on the farm, according to a new government watchdog report released in May. Farm investors and managers received nearly $260 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture subsidy payments in 2015, the Government Accountability Office reported. The top 19 operations receiving farm subsidies in 2015 had an average of nine managers receiving payments.  

Steve Morris, Director of Natural Resources and Environment for the GAO, said a trend identified in 2013 is still evident in the 2015 data. “When you look at the definition of ‘actively engaged’ and how that’s breaking out, I think some of those patterns remain consistent,” he said.