Corn Planting is Ahead of Schedule After Early Delays


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Josie Taylor | June 8, 2022

Corn farmers have gone from at least two weeks behind schedule to three days ahead, according to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report on Monday. After early delays, there has been a successful rush to plant. 

That report estimated that 98% of Iowa’s corn crop and 94% of soybeans have been planted, which compared to the five-year average is three days ahead for corn and six days ahead for soybeans.

A rush in planting means farmers’ concerns have expanded. They’re determining when to apply their first herbicides, checking for pests and contending with varying weather conditions since the timeline is different from past years. 

As of Thursday, nearly three-quarters of the state was sufficiently wet to avoid designations of abnormally dry or drought. About 9% of the state was in moderate or severe drought, focused near Sioux City.

In a weekly report about farmers’ progress, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig noted severe storms damaged young crops last week.

Longer-term climate predictions say it will get drier this summer, and it’s likely for drought conditions to develop across much of Iowa, with the exception of far eastern parts of the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

India is experiencing a heatwave that is impacting the wheat harvest


Wheat field
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Elyse Gabor | May 3, 2022

India is experiencing a record-breaking heatwave. Dangerous temperatures have affected millions of people. Some regions are predicted to reach 120 Fahrenheit, which will have detrimental effects on the country’s wheat harvest.

India and the United States make up nearly a third of wheat exports. India was expected to produce around 122 million tons, a record amount. However, the country has just experienced its hottest March to date. The heatwave hit the central wheat-growing regions and is expected to last long into harvest season. 

The hot spell has affected India’s farmers, with many of them experiencing a depletion in their wheat crop. A farmer from the Uttar Pradesh’s Etawah district, Devendra Singh Chauhan, said in a text message to NBC News, “If such unreasonable weather patterns continue year after year, farmers will suffer badly.”

Harjeet Singh, senior adviser to Climate Action Network, said, “[Wheat] prices will be driven up, and if you look at what is happening in Ukraine, with many countries relying on wheat from India to compensate, the impact will be felt well beyond India.” 

Iowa farmers will soon be fined for drifting weedkiller


Pesticides
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Elyse Gabor | April 12, 2022

Senate File 482 was passed over a year ago, allowing farmers to be fined if pesticides on their crops drifted into neighbors’ fields. Farmers and pesticide suppliers were fined up to $500 by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Before the Senate File was signed, only the pesticides service companies could be fined.

According to experts, the weedkiller dicamba was responsible for damaging more crops and trees in 2020 since it was created in the 1960s. Dicamba is notorious for being a drifting pesticide. It is used in many well-known pesticide brands that combat broadleaf weeds.

Since the bill was signed, measures need to be taken so the state can adopt a new concept on how to enforce the law. However, the law will not go into effect until after the current growing season.

A spokesperson for the Iowa Agriculture Department, Chloe Carson, said, “We are currently in the process of updating our state pesticide plan, as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and plan to include rules/procedures for the private applicator penalty in this rules package once we have received feedback from EPA.”

Once the bill is in effect, it will construct a peer panel of five members to help manage and control the fines.

The 2022 Bird Flu May Be Less Impactful than 2015, According to Vilsack


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Josie Taylor | April 7, 2022

The effects of the deadly and highly contagious bird flu outbreaks in the United States are expected to be less than those of 2015, when more than 50 million birds were culled, according to Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

“In terms of the nature of the outbreaks, the size of the operations that have been impacted, the number of states that are dealing with backyard operations as opposed to commercial-sized operations, would strongly suggest that when this is all said and done it’s going to be significantly less than what we experienced in 2014-15,” Vilsack said on Tuesday in a call with reporters. 

Vilsack said stricter security measures at poultry facilities and heightened containment efforts after virus detections have reduced the potential for infections and the risk of transporting the virus from one facility to another

Chloe Carson, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, is not as confident because it is still early in the migration season. Carson said no site-to-site infections have been detected in Iowa.  

Unknown amount of manure leaked from Iowa dairy farm into


Cows in barn
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Elyse Gabor | March 22, 2022

According to the Iowa DNR, workers at Black Soil Dairy, located near Granville, observed manure water flowing from a barn and into a sewer drain. Unaware that the contamination would flow into a nearby creek, they did nothing to stop the leak. The dairy owner noticed the overflow and stopped it a few days after it had begun. The amount of escaped manure is unknown. 

The farm, which houses 4,500 dairy cows, has a flush flume system that helps clear manure from its three barns. The system utilizes fast flowing liquid to transfer waste across the width of a barn. A clog in the system caused the overflow due to sand. 

The DNR investigated the overflow and noticed that manure traveled five miles down from the dairy farm. This creek is home to little fish like minnows and chubs, which were harmed due to the pollution. Jennifer Christian, a senior environmental specialist for the DNR, said that the leak was significant enough to cause a fish kill. The overflow’s overall impact on the environment is unknown as ice was covering some of the creek. 

Flock of turkeys in Buena Vista County test positive for bird flu


Turkey
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Elyse Gabor | March 15, 2022

Tests confirmed that a flock of 50,000 turkeys was infected with the bird flu early last week. According to the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the highly contagious and deadly disease caused the turkeys to be slaughtered in Buena Vista County. The virus was likely to have come from wild birds migrating through the state. 

This was the second time the disease had affected birds in a week. The first outbreak was detected in Pottawattamie Country in a small backyard flock of chickens and ducks. Poultry facilities near the Buena Vista site are being watched as well as 37 backyard flocks. 

The turkeys will be buried near the Buena Vista site to reduce the spread of the disease. 

Iowa State’s Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig warned that it is a time of caution, saying, “It is critically important that livestock producers and their veterinarians closely monitor the health of their animals.” 

The last outbreak occurred in 2015, causing the slaughter of more than 30 million birds in the state. Naig said that in order to avoid a similar scenario, it is essential to have early detections and swift responses. 

Investigation over the rise in fertilizer costs to be conducted by Iowa attorney general


Corn Field
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Elyse Gabor | March 1,2022

The extreme rise in fertilizer prices is causing a decrease in corn production for the upcoming growing season and harming farmers. On Thursday, Attorney General Tom Miller announced that they would investigate the rise in prices. 

In the past year, many fertilizers have doubled or tripled in cost. Miller’s office frequently looks into companies that inflate their profits and rates due to low competition. He has requested data from major fertilizer companies to try and explain the increase in prices. 

On Thursday, Miller said, “It’s possible that these increases could be legal, but not justified, not right.” 

The investigation will be sped up as spring and the start of the growing season is near, but it is expected to last many months. Miller hopes that bringing awareness to the situation will discourage an unjust rise in prices. 

Miller has found research that suggests that the price of fertilizers rises in years that farmers brought in higher revenue. 

“If that’s what’s going on, we want to find out about that. That may not be illegal, but it’s not a good policy,” said Miller. 

Last year, farmers said they received quotes on fertilizers multiple times higher than in the past years. Since corn yields are high enough to support the increase in prices, Iowa’s corn production will have a delayed effect. Other states that lack fertile soil may choose to plant other crops. 

The USDA Plans to Send $1.4 Billion Into Rural Communities


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Josie Taylor | February 3, 2022

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack, announced Wednesday that the USDA is investing $1.4 billion into rural economies. They are doing this through job training, business loans and the expansion of technical assistance.

Eight programs will give out 751 awards across 49 states. Vilsack believes these programs will help create wealth in rural communities.

“The rural economy, which plays an important role in our national economy, has historically lagged behind the urban and suburban counterparts,” he said, “That’s why it’s important for us to focus on building back that rural economy better.”

The grants and loans will assist with many needs such as housing, the expansion of small businesses and family farms, and providing capital for new small businesses owners. 

One of the programs, the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program, allocated $8.4 million in grant awards and $1.7 million in loans.  In Iowa, the Pella Cooperative Electric Association received a $300,000 grant from that program to replenish the association’s revolving loan fund. That money will help fund the construction of a women’s housing and health care facility. 

Several universities also received those grants, such as The Ohio State University, which received nearly $200,000, and the governing body at the University of Nebraska, which was awarded $200,000. 

Common Crops Around the World are Being Impacted by Climate Change


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Josie Taylor | January 27, 2022

Climate change is hurting many crops, including some people’s favorite food. Research has shown for a long time that coffee is the most susceptible crop to climate change. A new study found that avocados and cashews are also being impacted by rising temperatures. 

In some of the countries that currently are reliant on cashews as a key cash crop the news is harmful. India loses significant areas of suitability, while Benin loses half its suitable areas under the lowest modeled increase in temperature. These countries’ economies rely on this crop. 

For avocados, the picture is complicated, especially in the biggest producing countries. Mexico, the world’s largest producer, sees a major increase in suitable lands, up over 80%. However, Peru, another major grower, loses around half its suitable areas under the same climate model.

While the rise in temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns might make some areas more suitable, the researchers are concerned that a major shift to develop these crops in new regions might see more forests converted to farmland or a rise of invasive species.

Although this study focused on coffee, cashews and avocados, climate change is impacting all farmers. Climate change is causing both extreme drought and extreme precipitation. Both of those have great impact on growing crops.

A Carbon Pipeline was Proposed in Iowa


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Josie Taylor | January 13, 2022

Another out-of-state company has announced a plan to build hundreds of miles of pipeline in Iowa to transport carbon dioxide from ethanol plants and pump it into the ground. 

Wolf Carbon Solutions said it has an agreement with Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) to take carbon dioxide from its facilities in Cedar Rapids and Clinton and transport it to an existing carbon sequestration site in Decatur, Illinois. The pipeline would run about 350 miles and would have additional capacity to accommodate captured carbon from other facilities.

The Iowa Utilities Board, which oversees the permit process for hazardous liquid pipelines, has not received formal word from Wolf that they would start the process, said Don Tormey, a spokesperson for the board.

It would be the third carbon pipeline proposed in recent months that would connect to ethanol and fertilizer plants in the state. Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 Ventures filed requests to hold public informational meetings for their proposed pipelines in August and October, which is generally the first step in the permit process. 

To help limit greenhouse gas emissions, the federal government gives tax credits to companies that capture and sequester the carbon they would otherwise expel. The Navigator pipeline alone could net hundreds of millions of dollars in credits each year for the owners of ethanol and fertilizer plants connected to it.