agriculture

If you usually ring in the holiday with a freshly cut evergreen, your reality this Christmas could very well be a scrawny Charlie Brown tree instead — or you may wind up paying more for a lush Fraser fir.

This year, there is a tree shortage. Most growers blame the tightened supply on the Great Recession, says Valerie Bauerlein, who covered the story for The Wall Street Journal.

A new report from the International Joint Commission, a bi-national agency, says the Great Lakes restoration continues to progress -- but not quickly enough.

  

Thomas Howes is standing at the canoe landing of a small lake, about a half-hour outside Duluth. It’s part of the reservation of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Deadfish Lake is almost completely covered with the tall green stalks of wild rice plants.


After serving five years in the Navy, Tyler Dunn has returned home to Hickman, Ken. These days, if he isn't at work at the local liquor store or completing assignments for a business degree, you might find him shadowed by one of several stray cats he saved from a parking lot.

It's hard to reconcile this image of Dunn — military veteran, serious student and sensitive pet owner — with another fact about his life. Nearly 10 years ago, he was fired by Tyson Foods, in Union City, Tenn., for animal cruelty.

Tilahun Liben thought he was seeing things. Surely that mound of orange orbs under those trees near his church couldn't be oranges. Could they?

It was 2010, and Liben had just arrived in Tucson, Ariz., as a refugee from Ethiopia. He had been a musician, playing saxophone in nightclubs, but that life ended abruptly in 1999 when an oppressive regime imprisoned him for three months for his political dissent. After Liben's release, further persecution forced him to flee his homeland: He ended up at the Kakuma refugee camp, in Kenya, where he waited 10 years to be resettled.

President Trump made his view of the North American Free Trade Agreement very clear during the presidential election. He called NAFTA "the worst trade deal in ... the history of this country." And Trump blamed NAFTA for the loss of millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

His administration is in the midst of renegotiating the free trade deal with Canada and Mexico, and that is making many U.S. farmers and ranchers nervous.

It was a great growing season for much of Ohio, and many farmers have been able to get a head start on their harvest. But that early harvest amid warm, dry conditions brings an added risk of combines catching fire.

On a recent, perfect morning at Johnson Farms in northern Michigan, workers climb wooden ladders high up into the trees, picking bags strapped across their bodies. The branches are heavy with fruit that glows in the morning sun. Their fingers are a blur, nimbly plucking fruit and filling bushel bags: about 50 pounds per load. It's hard, sweaty work.

Apple season was just getting underway on Old Mission Peninsula, a finger of land poking into Lake Michigan, dotted with lush farms.

The organic eggs in your grocery store are supposed to come from chickens that have year-round access to the outdoors. That's according to long-standing organic regulations.

It's a summer evening on the French Atlantic island of Noirmoutier. As the sun shimmers on the rustling marsh grasses, Hervé Zarka rakes in sea salt from shallow pools. He uses a simoussi, a 10-foot pole tipped with a flat board. Salt has been harvested this way since at least the seventh century, when Benedictine monks dug the canals that bring seawater into this marshland.

Brent Deppe is taking me on a tour of the farm supply business, called Key Cooperative, that he helps to manage in Grinnell, Iowa. We step though the back door of one warehouse, and our view of the sky is blocked by a gigantic round storage tank, painted white.

"This is the liquid nitrogen tank," Deppe explains. "It's a million-and-a-half gallon tank."

Nitrogen is the essential ingredient for growing corn and most other crops. Farmers around here spread it on their fields by the truckload.

Karen Kasler

After a 12-day run that included lower attendance and a deadly accident involving a midway ride, the Ohio State Fair closed Sunday with some good news.

Carl Wycoff / Flickr

It's estimated that 10 percent of small farmers across the country leave farming every year. With a program called Begin Farming, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association is trying to help beginning farmers with the challenges that come with running your own business.

Wikimedia Commons

It’s half “Green Acres,” half “Mission: Impossible.” Imagine foreign scientists trying to smuggle rice seeds out of the U.S to China, or digging to unearth the secrets of proprietary strains of corn.

These two cases are part of what the FBI calls the growing threat of agricultural espionage.

Dan Konik

The Senate is planning to vote on its version of the budget in the next week, and the possibility of last minute changes means there are a lot of moving parts where no provision is safe. The top Senate leader has at least one measure he knows he wants to pass one way or another.

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