Farmers

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Travis Krause grew up on the South Texas plains of Medina County, on land his family has been tending to since 1846. Krause always knew he wanted to carry on the tradition, but when he left the family ranch to study wildlife and fisheries sciences at Texas A&M University, his father encouraged him not to come back. For years, Krause’s dad wasn’t able to make a living from his cow and calf operation, and he didn’t want the same hardships for his son.

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

From Texas Standard:

Ranchers and cattlemen have some beef with U.S. meatpackers. They claim the meatpackers are purposefully driving down the price the cattle raisers get for their beef. In 2015, meatpackers started to pay ranchers less for their cattle. It would make sense then, that the price of ribeye in the supermarket would also drop around that time. But that didn't happen.

Toshiyuki IMAI/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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.

Mose Buchele / KUT

If you’ve spent your life in the city, maybe you’ve never experienced the smell near a dairy farm, cattle feedlot or a newly fertilized field.

Rural Matters/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Texas cattle are known more for their beef than their milk. That’s for good reason: The Lone Star State is the country’s leader in beef production by a wide margin.

But don’t count out Texas dairy. Milk production is on the rise in the state, and that’s thanks in part to a move west. Ellen Jordan, a professor and dairy specialist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, says the Texas produces more than 12 billion pounds of milk.

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?

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

When transcripts of President Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders about refugee policy leaked to the press last week, one line got a lot of attention. It was a reference to “local milk people,” presumably dairy farmers, whom the president thought refugees wouldn’t work for.

As it turns out, though, some “milk people” worry it's Trump's immigration policies that may be bad for business.

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.

Guy Montag/flickr

Here’s a question to consider: Who gets milk from the cow’s udder to your kitchen table?

A new report from Texas A&M AgriLife finds that immigrant workers are responsible for producing about 80 percent of the nation’s milk. Researchers also calculated what buying a gallon of milk would cost if we didn’t have this foreign-born workforce.

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?

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.

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday that an Indiana farmer infringed on Monsanto's patent when he planted soybeans that had been genetically modified by Monsanto without buying them from the agribusiness giant.

flickr.com/stilli00

The City of Austin is thinking about helping to create a permanent farmers' market that would operate seven days a week. It was the first recommendation in a recent report produced for the city by Texas Perspectives, a local economic analysis and consulting firm. 

"Permanent food markets and food hubs could well speak to all the major findings of this report," TXP wrote, "as they offer the possibility of enhancing the Austin food sector in a way that appeals to both tourists and locals." 

KUT News

A Stanford University study published today doubting the health benefits of organic fruits, vegetables and meats has some Texas farmers raising questions.

The study, authored by Dena Bravata, MD, MS, was published in today’s issue of Annals of Internal Medicine. It found no consistent differences in the vitamin content of organic food versus the cost-cutting, conventionally grown alternative.

“That study doesn’t really look at a lot of very important factors,” says Judith McGeary, founder of the Texas-based Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. “Vitamin content isn’t the only issue, even for adults. One issue is the exposure to pesticides, which are to be blunt, poison. And the study did show that there was significantly less exposure to pesticides from organic produce than from conventional."

Robert Burns for Texas AgriLife Extension Service

While Texas has partially recovered from drought conditions thanks to heavy rain, the Midwest is going through one its worst drought years in decades. And conditions may impact some  – but not all  – Texas farmers’ pocketbooks.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the nation is going through the worst agricultural drought since 1988. For corn and soybean growers it’s been especially harmful, since more than three-quarters of those crops are considered to be in a drought area. But that could actually prove to be beneficial for Texas.

“With the Midwest suffering from drought, that’s driving prices up," says Bob Rose, chief meteorologist with the Lower Colorado River Authority. "So that means the market price for the corn, for many of the farmers in Texas and our area, is going to be very good."

First Person is an ongoing series from KUT News where Central Texans tell their own stories, in their own words.

KUT News freelancer Jeff Heimsath filmed Marissa Lankes, an organic farmer at Austin’s Boggy Creek Farms. While passionate about her work, Lankes dispels the romanticism of farming, and argues that interest in artisan fields like organic farming may be a product of dimming career prospects for young citizens and recent college graduates. 

The search for the killer of America's bees is a little bit like an Agatha Christie novel.

You've probably heard of compost – that thick chocolate-colored stuff that's an organic gardener's best friend and supplies plants with all kinds of succulent nutrients.

There has been a lot of talk about what's wrong with food deserts. First lady Michelle Obama, for one, says far too many people can't access the fruits and vegetables they need to be healthy.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/cbroders

A new farmers’ market opens on Austin's eastside tomorrow. And aside from offering fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses, the market offers a special incentive for families needing food assistance.  

The market, located at the YMCA East Communities Branch will be run by the Sustainable Food Center (SFC). It’s the fourth farmer’s market the SFC operated in Austin.

But SFC community relations director Susan Leibrock notes that this center is different: shoppers using a SNAP, Lone Star or WIC benefits card will have their fruit and vegetable purchases matched, up to $10 each week, by the market.

courtesy flickr.com/photos/46523905@N00/

Three-quarters of Texas is experiencing “exceptional drought”, the worst category used by the US Drought Monitor. The effect on farmers and ranchers has been profound. But a state program launching today aims to give city folk a way to help farmers and ranchers by enjoying the fruits – and meats – of their labor.

Photo by Whatknot http://www.flickr.com/photos/whatknot/

Historically dry conditions have brought the the Texas agriculture industry to its knees, according to the Texas Farm Bureau's board of directors. The board met for its quarterly meeting in Waco today and released this statement.

Dry lakebed
Image courtesy Whatknot http://www.flickr.com/photos/whatknot/

The latest US Drought Monitor Map, released this morning, shows 85 percent of Texas is "abnormally dry."

Eighty Texas counties currently have burn bans in effect, according to a Texas Parks and Wildlife map. Travis County is not currently under a burn ban but the neighboring counties of Williamson, Lee, Burnet, and Blanco are.