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agriculture

A combine on a soybean farm
Laurie Isley

Between the ongoing trade war with China and one of the wettest springs to date, this year has brought major challenges for Michigan’s farmers and growers.

Laurie Isley owns Sunrise Farms in Lenawee County, where she and her husband grow corn and soybeans on a thousand acres. She’s also the president of the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee.

red tractor sitting on a green field with trees in background
Matthew T Rader / Unsplash

 

 

Climate change is affecting the world in a lot of ways. The planet is warming, more rain is falling. There are colder winters, and warmer summers. And all of this is having a profound effect on agriculture.

Brent Hofacker / Adobe Stock

U.S. and Mexican officials are still trying to find a solution to avoid President Donald Trump’s threatened tariffs. Trump says a 5% tariff on all goods from Mexico is in retaliation for migrants crossing the border into the U.S.

Joe Cramer is the executive director of the Michigan Bean Commission. He says after the U.S., Mexico is the bean industry’s biggest trading partner.

flickr.com/ubookworm / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

Michigan asparagus farmers hope to see higher prices before the crop is harvested later this spring.

Asparagus prices have been affected by imports of the vegetable in recent years.

“Right now we’re just watching the market,” says John Bakker of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board. “Who knows, the market could be super by the time that we get into the harvest in May, but we don’t know at this time.”

a sample of poison wallpaper - it's light green with blue stripes and floral decoration
Courtesy of Michigan History Center

Today on Stateside, despite an upward economic trend in Michigan, nearly half of households in the state are struggling to afford basic necessities. Plus, it’s (finally) spring! We hear about the cultural significance of this transition for different cultural groups across the state.

Ben LaCross of Leelenau Fruit Company prunes young cherry trees.
MAX JOHNSTON / INTERLOCHEN PUBLIC RADIO

For the past decade, Americans have been buying tart cherries from Turkey for cheap. Tart cherry farmers in Michigan say that’s hurting their bottom line. Now they’re hoping a new bill in Washington will balance the scales.


The smooth, rosy trunk of a cherry tree is marked with big, oozing dead areas, called cankers.
George Sundin / Michigan State University

Bacterial canker is a devastating tree disease that affects sweet cherry orchards around the country. There is currently no good way to treat it, but some Michigan scientists are trying to harness bacteria-killing viruses to control it.

A graph shows annual average temperature values for the State of Michigan from 1895 through 2018. The graph varies widely from year to year but shows a general upward trend.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

New Year, new data. Climate change continues to affect the mitten state. Here are four places you should keep watching for it.

flickr.com/stankus / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

About 600 Michigan farms will be getting a survey to fill out in the coming months. The survey comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Survey questions will cover things such as farm expenses, income and assets. John Miyares works for the USDA in East Lansing, and leads the survey team.

Picture of Michigan State University marker on campus
Michigan State University

Today on Stateside, we talk with a Southfield rabbi about the recent attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 congregants dead. Plus, a conversation with a leading expert on sexual assault prevention who is working to help Michigan State University better respond to sexual violence on campus following the Larry Nassar abuse scandal.

Trillium Wood Farm co-founder holding a piglet.
Elise Thorp

For years, sisters Allie and Elise Thorp defended animal rights by practicing strict vegetarianism and supporting activist organizations like PETA. But after deciding to reintroduce meat into their diets, the two discovered an unexpected way to promote animal welfare: raising livestock.

United Soybean Board / Flickr

Today on Stateside, we hear from a Michigan soybean farmer on how President Trump's escalating trade war with China is projected to affect the state's agriculture producers. Plus, Stateside's education commentator Matinga Ragatz weighs in on the teacher shortage crisis facing Michigan schools. 

milk
Guy Montag / Creative Commons

There’s a new $555 million dairy processing plant planned for St. Johns, north of Lansing.

The Lansing State Journal reports economic development types were calling it:

“A huge deal not only for the region but for the state overall," and "a new level of ag tech production that’s going to enormously impact the entire dairy ecosystem of the whole state.”

Christopher Wolf is a professor in the Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics department at Michigan State University. He joined Stateside to give us some insight into the new facility.

Field of corn
Flickr/Vampire Bear

 


Farmers are expressing frustration over the fedearl government’s unclear policies on ethanol. 

As a candidate, Donald Trump promised corn growers he would support increased use of corn ethanol in fuel.

But in recent days, EPA chief Scott Pruitt has been criticized for his handling of renewable fuel standards, which requires oil refineries mix renewable fuels such as ethanol with gasoline.

Ox driven plow in Mozambique
Tillers International

 


When it comes to solving 21st century problems — say food insecurity in developing countries — everything old is new again.

That's the message of Tillers International, a nonprofit based in Kalamazoo County. The organization is taking 18th century agricultural technology and working with engineers and the Amish community to redesign plows and tools for African farmers.

Field of corn
Flickr/Vampire Bear

 


Globally, climate change is going to cause serious upheaval. But the kinds of changes will vary from place to place. That means there are likely to be both winners and losers in a changing climate.  

As science refines its predictions about the impact of climate change, it's getting easier to see who will end up in each column. 

Bruno Basso is a Michigan State University Foundation Professor in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department. He spoke with Stateside about his new study on climate change and crop growth in the Midwest.

A canning line for cider made at Vander Mills LLC
Courtesy of Paul Vander Heide

 

If you just focus on the craft brews and the wines made in Michigan, then you're missing a growing part of the Michigan beverage scene – cider.

Cider Week GR is happening now to May 19 in Grand Rapids. The city is also hosting the annual Great Lakes Cider and Perry Competition – the largest competition of its kind in the world, says Paul Vander Heide.

Sharon / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Have you seen any stink bugs in your house? Over the last few years, the brown marmorated stink bug has invaded the southern half of the Lower Peninsula. The invasive species is more than just a nuisance. It’s a threat to crops, too.

Amy Irish-Brown, a senior educator at Michigan State University Extension, and Jim Engelsma, president of J. Engelsma Orchards, Inc., joined Stateside to discuss the characteristics of stinkbugs that make them so difficult to monitor, control, and predict.

stvcr / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

 


 

Michigan's dairy cows are doing their job like rock stars. 

 

They're pumping out milk — so much milk, in fact, that Michigan is among the top milk-producing states in the country. 

corn in a box
Maia C / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The United States was once considered an agricultural nation, but these days, most people are two or three generations away from the farm. Fewer than two percent of Americans live on farms, and many don’t understand where their food comes from, how it’s grown, or how it’s processed.

A new effort at Michigan State University is trying to change that. The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is leading an initiative called Food @ MSU.

Brian Harris / Facebook

The Next Idea

Since mankind first began growing crops, the farmer's enemies have been drought, wind, wild temperature swings: curve balls served up by Mother Nature.

Brian Harris is turning out an array of green produce, protected from the elements, in a converted freight container that sits near downtown Grand Rapids.

He calls this a “hydroponic vertical micro-farm,” officially named Green Collar Farms.

KIT JOHNSON / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

This week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested ten workers at a farm labor camp near Hart, Michigan. The undocumented immigrants were harvesting crops at a farm.

“The nine men have been taken to a detention facility in Youngstown, OH, which is about 480 miles from where they were picked up,” said Susan Reed, managing attorney with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. “The one woman we believe was taken to the Calhoun County jail.”

Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash

Ken Nobis is a dairy farmer in central Michigan, and right now he’s worried about where South Koreans are going to get their cheese.

two workers picking apples in an orchard
Courtesy of Great Lakes Agricultural Labor Services


   

Michigan fruit growers are nearing a crucial time of the year: harvest season. But those farmers are struggling to find enough labor to fill their needs.

People are no longer turning up at the farm looking for work, said Rob Steffens, owner of Steffens Orchard in Sparta, just north of Grand Rapids. Steffens needs more than 40 workers each year for his 280-acre orchard. He’s on track to have enough this year, but he says some workers have told him they aren’t returning.

MI-MAPLESYRUP.COM

Michigan’s maple syrup producers are hoping for a return to more winter-like weather.

Maple syrup relies on days above freezing for the sap to flow, and nights below freezing to make it sweet. 

Lately, the days and nights have been too warm for Kirk Hedding. He’s the president of the Michigan Maple Syrup Association. Hedding says this is turning into a "bitter" season for some maple syrup producers.

“As the sap flows, the sugar content will eventually start dropping if we don’t have any freezing weather,” says Hedding.

Chestnut tree.
user Tommy1969 / Flickr - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

This is the big time of year for Michigan’s fledgling chestnut industry.

From Nat King Cole to Justin Bieber, singers sing the praises of chestnuts this time of year.

Flickr user ellenm1/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 

Trade agreements have been a big topic of discussion this election year.

President Obama has been pushing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The majority party presidential candidates are both opposed to it. The North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico has also seen a lot of criticism.

Last week, the Agricultural Leaders of Michigan released a letter in support of those trade agreements and others.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

During a hearing today, U.S. senators quizzed officials with Midland-based Dow Chemical, DuPont and other major chemical companies about major consolidation in the chemical industry.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley calls it a “tsunami” of consolidation.

The main field at Urbandale Farm used to be a vacant lot filled with downed trees. It’s now used to grow a variety of flowers, herbs and vegetables.
Daniel Rayzel / Michigan Radio

Just a few minutes away from our state Capitol building rests Lansing’s Urbandale neighborhood – an area trapped in the city’s 100-year floodplain.

The floodplain designation led to rising insurance costs, abandoned homes, and vacant lots overgrown with trees. Locals took it upon themselves to make the best of the situation by growing some fruits and veggies, and starting Urbandale Farm.

user jamiesrabbits / Flickr

An E. coli outbreak that's already sickened seven people is being tied to a dairy farm near Grand Rapids.

Grassfields Cheese is a family-owned, organic farm in Coopersville.

It has issued a recall, and Whole Foods has pulled the products from shelves in the Midwest and South.

One person has been hospitalized, though they've already been discharged.

Jennifer Holton of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, says the state’s investigation is still ongoing.

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