farmers

Nicole Erwin

Last year, more than a thousand Ohio Valley farmers used a complicated federal visa program to hire some 8,000 foreign workers for seasonal jobs. Farmers say the visa program is too bureaucratic, and a bill before Congress promises to cut red tape. But labor advocates say the bill would strip guest workers of many protections in an industry where wage theft is already a problem.

On Strike: Migrant Workers On Visa Program Claim Unfair Pay

Oct 18, 2017
Elizabeth Sanders

Workers on a tobacco farm in Garrard County, Kentucky have now been on strike for over two weeks. Benny Becker of the Ohio Valley ReSource reports the action is part of a growing movement to organize migrant farm workers in the country on a federal visa program.

Lincoln is just 40 miles into Nebraska and yet there's almost no one between that city and the state's far western border.

That's how journalist and author Ted Genoways sees it. He spent a year studying a family farm in sparsely-populated York County, an hour outside Lincoln, and writes about it in his new book, This Blessed Earth.

Rhonda Miller, WKYU

Migrant workers who come to Kentucky under the H2A visa program are a critical part of the agricultural workforce. The Bluegrass State ranks seventh among the 50 states for the number farm workers who come under this visa, according to the Office of Foreign Labor Certification. Phil and Jan Holliday's farm in Logan County has two workers from Mexico who have been coming for more than two decades, and they’re bringing the next generation.      

Neil Shook was relaxing at home in Woodworth, N.D., on a Saturday afternoon just over a week ago.

"My wife was outside and she yelled at me to come outside and take a look at this," he recalls.

A massive brown cloud covered the horizon to the west. It was a dust storm — although Shook, who's a scientist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, doesn't like to call it dust. "I like to refer to it as soil, because that's basically what it is," he says. "We saw this huge soil cloud moving from west to east across the landscape."

The livelihoods of farmers and ranchers are intimately tied to weather and the environment. But they may not be able to depend on research conducted by the government to help them adapt to climate change if the Trump administration follows through on campaign promises to shift federal resources away from studying the climate.

The 700 cows on Brett Reinford's dairy farm are making more than just milk.

Each day, the girls are producing 7,000 gallons of manure. And that smells exactly like you'd imagine. "We had gotten complaints from neighbors in the past that had said, 'Hey, it stinks too much. Can you do something about it?' " Reinford says.

So he looked around for a solution and landed on a device called a digester. A digester tamps down the smell a bit, but, more importantly, it takes all that cow poop and converts it to electricity.

Kentucky Association of Food Banks

The Kentucky Farms to Food Banks program is adding a new source of protein to help families in need get balanced nutrition. 

Environmentalists love "cover crops." These are plants that tolerate cool weather and grow on farm fields after the crops are harvested. They hold the soil in place and are probably the most effective way to keep nutrients in fields, rather than polluting nearby streams.

The way environmentalist Craig Cox sees it, streams and rivers across much of the country are suffering from the side effects of growing our food. Yet the people responsible for that pollution, America's farmers, are fighting any hint of regulation to prevent it.

"The leading problems are driven by fertilizer and manure runoff from farm operations," says Cox, who is the Environmental Working Group's top expert on agriculture.

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