Agriculture

Forest and Kim Starr/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Most whiskey distillers will likely say that “aging” is a crucial part of their process. Aging is when the spirit is left to sit in a barrel, sometimes for years. The older the spirit, the better it will likely taste. But for Austin-based distillery, Still, it’s the grain from which the whiskey comes that also matters. Still uses 100-year-old heirloom wheat, which can be hard to come by. So it asked a Texas farmer to grow it.

From Texas Standard:

A North Texas town with about 400 residents is the source of more than $230 million in bonds for the city of Dallas and elsewhere. Windthorst, a small dairy farming community close to Wichita Falls, has issued bonds for several projects, most notably the Dallas Arboretum, Texas Christian University and the Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas.

3 Texas Takeaways From The Latest Agriculture Census

Apr 22, 2019
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture produces a count of all the country's farms, ranches, crops, livestock and anything else related to agriculture. It recently released data from its 2017 census and here are three things worth nothing:

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From Texas Standard:

In 2016, a groundskeeper from California named Edwin Hardeman filed a lawsuit against Monsanto, an agribusiness company that's since been acquired by Bayer. Hardeman had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and he claimed that using the popular weed killer called Roundup for the past two decades partly led to him contracting cancer. Earlier this week, a jury agreed with his claim.

USDA/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Several Texas news outlets are reporting about how volunteers are helping those experiencing food insecurity this Thanksgiving. But how much attention is focused on those who grow and harvest the food, or those who rely on food stamps? Both issues are part of the massive federal farm bill that's set to expire soon, and with Congress away for Thanksgiving, certain crop subsidies, federal nutrition assistance programs and more are in limbo.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

When we think of cotton we just think of the fiber – the white fluffy stuff you see while driving down the highway. But there's a lot more to the cotton plant than that. In fact for every one pound of fiber cotton plants produce, about 1.6 pounds of cotton seeds are grown. And there's just not a lot you can do with cotton seeds other than plant more cotton.

But Keerti Rathore has been working for almost a quarter century to change that. He wants you to be able to eat cotton seeds.

Rathore, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant biotechnologist, has received approval for his genetically modified cottonseed from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Marcia O'Connor/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Among the many annual traditions in the Lone Star State, few are as well known or as deeply etched with tradition and Texas excess as the State Fair of Texas. From outrageously fried confections to Big Tex and, of course, plenty of football. The event held at Dallas' historic Fair Park is larger than life. This year State Fair-goers have a new attraction to visit, one that recalls the roots of an old-fashion county fair: The Livestock Birthing Barn was conceived (pun intended) after a heifer gave birth to a calf during the fair last year. Now, all fairgoers can learn about the miracle of life through the incubation and birthing process of various livestock animals. The goal of the Livestock Birthing Barn is to highlight the agricultural importance of breeding livestock and its role in our everyday lives.

Kimberly Vardeman/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

In south Texas, cotton farmers are beginning to reap what they've sown. The harvest season starts in the Rio Grande Valley, and slowly creeps north throughout the fall. Whether it's drought, hail, flood, or pests, there's plenty that can go wrong while growing cotton. But farmers aren't clear of the hazards once they get the crop out of the ground. They still have to avoid cotton contamination. That's something that Jimmy Roppolo knows quite a bit about. He's the general manager of United Ag Cooperative in El Campo, where they're starting to gin this season's cotton.

Jos @ FPS-Groningen/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Texas is becoming increasingly urban, but lots of folks still live in the vast rural swathes of the state, as do their animals. That’s why it’s a problem that there’s a big shortage of veterinarians, who want to practice away from the big cities. The solution seemed simple to Texas Tech University – just open a new veterinary school in the Panhandle to get more people trained.

USDA NRCS Texas/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Wild boars, feral swine – many call them feral hogs. But as lots of Texans know, they’re the source of much angst and misery. Feral hogs cause property loss of more than $1.5 billion nationwide, about a quarter of which is in Texas. And that may be a conservative estimate. Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is stepping in with what it hopes is a solution.

A Native Species Gets Pushy

May 8, 2018
photo credit: D.Eickhoff <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/50823119@N08/5188041050">Heteropogon contortus</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>

From Texas Standard:

Have you ever heard of tanglehead? If you haven’t, you're not alone. Tanglehead is an ordinary-looking grass that is taking over parts of south Texas. It spreads fast and boots out other plants in the process. That sounds like the behavior of an invasive species – but it isn't. In this case, tanglehead is native to south Texas. It’s become a problem nevertheless.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

From Texas Standard.

Facing potential new tariffs with China, some Texas agricultural producers say they’re concerned about extra taxes on the products they ship to China. But the state’s Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller says most Texas producers won’t be affected.

Texas Monthly

Texas vintners are paying more attention to small details that add up to a better bottle of wine. Texas Monthly drinks columnist Jessica Dupuy speaks to us about why the state's winemakers are earning so much acclaim and talks about her favorite 30 Texas wines out of 150 she sampled. 


Saiberiac/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

All eyes are on Washington as temporary spending measures and DACA hover at the top of our debates and news feeds, but one big task Congress has yet to tackle involves a long-stalled $81 billion disaster relief package that would benefit Texans rebuilding from Harvey, as well as aid victims of hurricanes Maria and Irma. Texas farmers demanding a cotton provision are one group that’s been delaying the bill.

Kevin Diaz, Washington correspondent for Hearst Papers in Texas including the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio-Express News, says the relief package has been in the works since November.

From Texas Standard:

A lot of Texans will be paying close attention Monday to the words and tone of President Donald Trump as he addresses farmers and ranchers at the American Farm Bureau Convention in Nashville. At a time when Texas is growing in population,  becoming less rural and more urban than it was 10 years ago, advocates say rural issues are no less important than they once were. And that's the message Trump aims to send during his Farm Bureau speech. But what do Texans want to hear, especially on issues such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA?

Larry Smith/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

If you’re familiar with anthrax, it’s probably because of what happened in 2001. Letters laced with anthrax spores were sent to news outlets and politicians, killing five people and infecting over a dozen more. But people in southwest Texas were familiar with anthrax long before 2001. It’s all around them.

Michael Marks

From Texas Standard.

In southeast Texas, farmers and ranchers are trying to eradicate a kind of grass that’s taking over the landscape. But it’s not working.

On a warm December morning in Colorado County, halfway between Austin and Houston, the sun is shining on a maroon pasture, thick with waving, waist-high grass.

“I mean that’s pretty. ‘Mhmm.’ That’s as pretty as you’d ever want to see,” says Gary Thomas, who raises cattle nearby.

Texas Pumpkin Crop Hit By Season Of Spooky Weather

Oct 10, 2017
Eve Tisler/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Due to recent unpredictable weather, farmers say, it has been more difficult than usual to get jack-o’-lantern pumpkins to Texas porches this year.

“We have seen one of the most extreme years that we have seen in farming,” says Tim Assiter, owner of Floydada Pumpkins in Floydada, Texas. 

Tyler McLaughlin/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Grape-growing experts say Texas vineyards could see another banner year this season. But vineyard owners in the High Plains, where more than 80 percent of the state's wine grapes are produced, are concerned about damage to their crops from herbicides used on nearby cotton fields. They say the chemicals are drifting into their vineyards. And that’s causing some tension among neighboring farmers.

Pravdaverita/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

From Texas Standard:

Texas is making its mark on swine dining.

Acornseekers, a farm just west of Flatonia, is home to nearly 700 pure ibérico pigs – a black-hooved breed from a Spanish bloodline that can be traced back to before Roman times. Famous for their acorn-centric diet, the purebred ibérico pigs are responsible for the pork delicacy jamón ibérico.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

As farm-to-table food and restaurants have grown in popularity across the country, the idea of locally sourcing food has become especially popular in Austin. Farmers markets are popping up, and families are subscribing to community-supported agriculture programs, or CSAs. Fueling this trend are small-scale farms in and around the city.

Flickr/AgriLife Today (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Texas’ Rio Grande Valley is home to over 200,000 food-producing animals. But it’s facing a critical veterinarian shortage. That could put animals in the region at risk for disease, which could turn into a problem for humans.

Flickr/ Marco40134 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Far from the original spindletop, a group of maverick Texas farmers are trying to make money on a whole different kind of oil: olive oil. For years, folks in South Texas have harvested olives, planting tens of thousands of acres of trees. Now, they say, it’s time for growth.

Demand for the oil both at home and abroad is high, and the trees growing in some of the world’s biggest producers – Spain, Italy – have been hard-hit this year with drought and disease. Is it time for Texas olive oil, then?

facebook screenshot/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: Don’t expect Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller to apologize over a social media post that appeared to call for the atomic bombing of “the Muslim world” – despite an outcry from critics.

Miller, who is currently on a trade mission to China, did not personally share a controversial photo that appeared on his campaign Facebook account and has since been removed, Todd Smith, the Republican's campaign spokesman, said Monday. The commissioner has no plans to figure out which of his staffers shared the controversial posting, or to apologize, Smith said.

“We’re not going to apologize for the posts that show up on our Facebook page,” said Smith, estimating that 18 people have access to the campaign account. “I don’t know who did it, but I’m not going to start a witch hunt to find out who did.” 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Note: This story will be updated as it develops.

Texas public schools can once again can have deep fat fryers and soda machines on campus, starting this fall. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who oversees school nutrition policy in Texas, announced Thursday he’s lifting the decade-old ban as part of his new five-point plan to combat childhood obesity. Miller says schools don’t have to put in deep fryers or soda machines.

"We're just saying if you want [a deep fryer], go get one," Miller said in an interview at his office Thursday. "I'd be surprised if there's a dozen schools [that] put in deep fryers. One thing, we're not going to give them any money. They're going to have to go buy those."

Sarah Jasmine Montgomery/KUT News

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller wants to end a decade-old ban on deep fried food in Texas public schools. 

Miller, who was elected last year, believes local school districts — not the state or federal government — should decide whether schools serve fried foods. He says the ban on deep fat fryers goes against his philosophy at the Department of Agriculture. 

“We’re about giving school districts freedom, liberty and individual responsibility," Miller says. "We’re all about local control and not big brother, big government control.” 

flickr.com/mrjoro

Fall in Texas is synonymous with the sweet taste of pecans, be it in pies, cookies, or by themselves. And although it may be early in the season, pecan sellers have already begun to set up stands along Central Texas roads.

This year’s early winter freezes, in addition to the ongoing drought, will undoubtedly have some effect on the season’s production rates. But because Texas is large and areas that grow pecans experienced varied weather, the Texas Pecan Growers Association says buyers should expect prices to be about the same this year as last year.

“The crop is not really low. When the crop is really low, the prices usually go much higher, but because there is a decent crop in Texas, they shouldn’t go too high," TPGA Associate Director of Sales and Marketing Blair Krebs said.

Is Texas Ready to Get Kinky About Hemp?

Feb 12, 2014
Mike Lee, KUT

From StateImpact Texas:

He's run for office three times and lost. But here he is again, the novelist and troubadour that made a name for himself by turning country clichés into satiric social commentary, running for office. Richard "Kinky" Friedman (he got the nickname for his hair) is running as a Democrat for Agriculture Commissioner, and he has a plan to make Texas "greener." He wants to make hemp and marijuana legal in Texas.

“I’m not a dope smoker, okay?” he says with a point of his trademark unlit cigar. “Except with Willie [Nelson]. More as a Texas etiquette kind of thing.” First, his argument for hemp, which is in the same family as marijuana but in its industrial form doesn’t have the medicinal or recreational uses of marijuana. Friedman argues that if cotton farmers in Texas were allowed to grow hemp instead, the trade-offs would be attractive.

William Higgins and Yvonne Martinez-Higgins

Agriculture is big business in Texas. Statewide, it has a $100 billion dollar economic impact.

But the industry may be at risk. The average age of a Texas farmer or rancher is 59. And fewer young people are taking over the labor-intensive work.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has set up a program to assist aging agricultural workers in Texas. They’ve also identified a population that may be well-suited for taking over the work – veterans.

flickr.com/Rex Turgano

Sustainable agriculture has found a new home in Austin – and students are the first to benefit from it.

Austin Community College is set to launch its Sustainable Agricultural Entrepreneurship program, teaching agricultural knowledge and skills in sustainable crop growth. The program will include three different non-credit courses that will be held at ACC's new 98-acre Elgin Campus. 

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