ByCynthia Voelkl/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Back in March, the coronavirus started triggering infection hotspots in and around meatpacking plants, sickening and killing workers. As local public health authorities pushed giant meat conglomerates to close infected facilities, industry executives warned that doing so was “pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” as Kenneth M. Sullivan, CEO of Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer, declared in a April 12 press release.
Researchers from the University of Illinois and U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service report in the journal Science that crops engineered with a photorespiratory shortcut are 40 percent more productive in real-world agronomic conditions.
In recent years, crop insurance has become an increasingly controversial subject. While many support the program, others claim it sucks up too many taxpayer dollars. Reporters can use this guide to start their crop insurance research.
Farmland in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and Nebraska are among the nine states in the country that sell 50 percent of the U.S. agriculture products while netting nearly $100 billion in total produce sales, according to U.S. Census data.
The Iowa Environmental Council is one of a series of environmental organizations that have joined together in a lawsuit against the EPA. The agency announced eight years ago that nitrogen and phosphorous were the primary agents in the creation of the dead zone.
The dead zone may seem like an abstract concept in Iowa, a state more than 800 miles to the north of the Gulf, but for fishermen in Louisiana the destruction is very real. Harmful algal blooms — the explosion of algae due to nitrogen and other pollutants — occur every year all along the coast of the United States; and they come with a price.
The Mississippi River Basin forms a large funnel, channeling nitrogen and other nutrients into the Gulf of Mexico, where a growing dead zone wrecks havoc on the marine ecosystems. The river basin includes parts of 31 different states, draining over 41 percent of the continental United States. With a watershed this large, over 18 million people depend upon the Mississippi for their water supply.
Everyday, Iowa’s rivers send massive loads of nitrogen through the plains of the Midwest, down the Mighty Mississippi and into the Gulf of Mexico. No, bloated fish carcasses are not surfing the waves of the Gulf. In fact, a birds-eye view of the Louisiana and Texas coasts might suggest life continues as usual. But the Northern Gulf of Mexico is in danger of slowly, silently slipping onto the list of hypoxic wastelands, bringing grave consequences for the life forms it supports — including our own.
Crop production will have to double by 2050 to fulfill the needs of a growing and increasingly affluent population. Meeting this challenge will be difficult but not impossible, according to the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.
A couple years ago, Missouri's grain industry was rocked by two business insolvencies that saddled farmers with millions of dollars in losses. Regulators and the farmers themselves share blame for a system that had begun to operate loosely. Both sides say they have learned their lesson and have tightened up their procedures. But is it enough? Two years after the business collapses, reforms are still unimplemented.