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This June the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its plan to move two of its research agencies out of Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area. Most of the people working at the agencies have since quit, leaving gaping holes in critical divisions. Researchers warn that the agency upheaval will starve farmers, policymakers and ultimately consumers out of the best possible information about food and the business of growing it.

Critics of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to move two of its research agencies from Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area got more ammunition this week.

Two vital research agencies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are hemorrhaging staff as less than two-thirds of the researchers asked to relocate from Washington to the Kansas City area have agreed to do so.

The terms for handing off the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas, have been settled — even as the billion-dollar-plus research site remains under construction.

Segment 1: USDA research facilities will relocate to Kansas City area.

The headquarters of the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture will soon move to Kansas City. We discussed the news with the Kansas City Area Development Council and heard from U.S. Reps. Sharice Davids and Emanuel Cleaver.

Allen Brewer / Flickr-CC

(This story was updated at 5:15 p.m.)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced plans Thursday to move headquarters of two large research agencies from Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area, promising the region more than 550 research jobs.

Michael Cannon / Flickr -- Creative Commons

If every American followed the USDA's dietary recommendations — two and a half cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit — demand would far exceed supply.

"It's difficult to grow fruits and vegetables, which are considered specialty crops under federal law, and which receive far fewer supports," says Beth Low-Smith, vice president of policy for KC Healthy Kids and director of the Greater KC Food Policy Coalition.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

A couple of federal agencies you probably haven’t heard of keep track of what farmers grow, what Americans eat and how the country’s entire food system operates. And the Trump Administration wants them out Washington, D.C. — and maybe in the Kansas City area.

The Kansas City metro area is among three sites still in the hunt to become the next location for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's research arms.

The annual spring migration of monarch butterflies from Mexico northward could reach Kansas in the next few weeks.

The monarchs are important pollinators across the U.S. but have seen large declines in their numbers due to habitat loss and climate change.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Dodged an order

A federal judge shot down a plea from the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas to force the opening of a second polling place in Dodge City.

There’s just too little time, the judge ruled, to open another location, print ballots, split up voters between the two locations, and tell those voters about that change without making things worse.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Bacon hunting

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran is making a pitch to bring more federal paychecks to Kansas. The state already scored a win in landing the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF, for Manhattan (presuming you’re confident that the nasty germs studied and stored inside that bunker will stay inside that bunker).

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media file photo

Updated Aug. 22, 2018 — Two research arms of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be moving out of Washington, D.C. Three of Missouri’s U.S. representatives and one from Kansas said Kansas City is the perfect place for those agencies.

Madelyn Beck / Harvest Public Media

Scott Pruitt’s resignation from the Environmental Protection Agency last month has many in the renewable fuel industry hoping that federal agencies will get on the same page.

That’s because for the last few years, the EPA and the Department of Energy have been at odds, with taxpayer money creating a new biofuel industry that may not have the room to grow outside the lab.

The trade war has come home to roost among U.S. farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods are targeted by tariffs from China, Mexico and Canada. The U.S. Department of Agriculture did something about it Tuesday, announcing it'll spend up to $12 billion in aid, including direct payments to growers. 

Dairy Farmers' Margins, Patience Growing Thin

Jun 11, 2018
Nicole Erwin / Ohio Valley ReSource

Dairy farmer Gary Rock sat in his milking parlor, in LaRue County, Kentucky, overlooking what is left of his 95-cow operation.

“Three hundred years of history is something that a lot of people in our country cannot even talk about,” Rock said. That’s how long the farm has been in his family.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Two of the nation’s most influential players in agriculture policy, at a meeting in the heart of the country’s Grain Belt on Wednesday, tried to ease worries about the pending farm bill and a budding trade war with China.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

It was an appropriate week for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s trade expert to address a gaggle of Nebraska farmers — even if their responses tended toward frustration.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The Trump administration wants to show rural communities, which voted for him by wide margins in the 2016 election, they are still on the president’s mind.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

In the coming months, Congress will map out how it’ll spend upwards of $500 billion on food and farm programs over the next five years.

The massive piece of legislation known as the farm bill affects all taxpayers — whether they know it or not — and runs the gamut from farm safety net and conservation programs to food stamps and loan guarantees for rural hospitals. Since the bill hasn’t been introduced yet, now is the time when interest groups, farmers and others clamor to ensure their desires will be heard.

A cow is prepared for milking at the Iowa State Fair. The first spray of milk is squirted onto the floor before the teat is connected to the milking machine.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Galen Fick milks 50 Brown Swiss cows every day on his farm in Boyden, Iowa, where his family has been in the dairy business for generations. Life as a dairy farmer has gotten harder and harder, he says, especially in the past two years.

“Our inputs have gone up so much, not the feed part of it but everything else,” he says, pointing to veterinary care and, especially, labor. “For us to make that profit, [it] makes it very tough.”

Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is questioning the qualifications of President Trump’s pick to lead the research division at the USDA, a post generally held in the past by a trained scientist.

In July, Trump nominated former conservative talk radio host and economics professor Sam Clovis to be the agency’s undersecretary of agriculture for research, education and economics.

As President Donald Trump continues to fill political appointments, his nomination for the top science job at the U.S. Department of Agriculture is raising unique concerns.

Trump has chosen Iowan Sam Clovis to be undersecretary of agriculture for research, education and economics. Clovis served as a fighter pilot in the Air Force, has a doctorate in public administration, and taught economics at Morningside College in Sioux City.

Sioux City is also where he gained a following as a conservative talk show host.

Plan To Shakeup USDA Worries Rural Advocates

May 11, 2017

Advocates for rural issues are up in arms after U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a plan that changes the position of a lieutenant that had been focused on rural issues in order to create one focused on trade.

USDA is limited in its number of undersecretaries. Creating a position focused on trade, which the agriculture industry maintains is vital to its economic growth, may force Perdue to scrap a current mission area.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Friday said President Trump may be open to creating a way for some undocumented immigrant workers to stay in the U.S. and Perdue is already working on a “blueprint” of policy guidelines to offer the president.

Watch: Who Is New Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue?

Apr 24, 2017

Three months into his term, President Donald Trump now has in place his Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue.

Here’s what you need to know:

Perdue served two terms as governor of Georgia

The nation has a new agriculture secretary.

The U.S. Senate on Monday voted to confirm former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to lead the Department of Agriculture. He takes over a department that was without a top boss for three months after former secretary Tom Vilsack resigned. Vilsack served the entire eight years of the Obama administration (one of the longest-serving agriculture secretaries in recent decades).

Three months after his nomination, Sonny Perdue faces a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate Monday for the post of secretary of agriculture.

If confirmed, Perdue will find a desk at USDA piled high with priorities and will be one of the last members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet to be seated.

Former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the long delays in seating his replacement leaves rural America without a voice in the Trump administration.

Vilsack, a Democrat who served as USDA chief during both terms of the Obama Administration, cites President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal as an example of what happens without a Cabinet position dedicated to rural issues.

Great Plains Ranchers Look To Rebuild In Wake Of Massive Fires

Apr 6, 2017
Bryan Thompson / Harvest Public Media

Gena Kirk did not realize the largest wildfire in Kansas history was closing in on the Kirk Ranch on March 6 until she got a call from her brother-in-law. After realizing that her herd was in danger, she jumped into her pickup and sped up the hill where several of her cattle were grazing.

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