agriculture

A scene from 1967's "Son of Godzilla."
Toho / Sony Pictures

This year’s El Niño might be the strongest ever. The phenomenon — marked by unusually warm waters in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America — means more precipitation could be on the way for Oklahoma. The state’s wheat farmers are hopeful, but know too much rain at the wrong time can be ruinous.

Mike Rosen runs a grain elevator near Kingfisher. He says Oklahoma’s wheat farmers can’t seem to catch a break.

Folks attending a Chipotle Cultivate Festival in Kansas City on July 18 voted on their opinions after seeing an exhibit on genetically modified organisms.
Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

The Chipotle Cultivate Festival had it all: an indie pop band on stage, long lines at the beer booths, folks hanging out on a hot summer day.

Sort of like a Grateful Dead concert, only with free burritos.

But the Chipotle Cultivate events, with four held across the country this summer, aims to do a little more than just than just the classic summertime music festival. Billed as offering “food, ideas and music,” the festival offers a chance to “learn a free burrito” after going through four exhibits.

Workers harvesting wheat on a farm near Altus, Okla., in June 2015.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The decades-old embargo on trade with communist Cuba cuts U.S. goods off from what would be one of their nearest international destinations. That could be changing now that the two countries are restoring diplomatic relations.

Heath Gerlock, a founder of Farmobile, shows the orange box device that can feed farm data directly to a tablet, smartphone or computer. Gerlock pictured in the Iowa Public Radio studio in Ames.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Technology has transformed farming, one of the Midwest’s biggest industries, and while fewer people are now needed to actually work the farm field, new types of jobs keep many office workers tied to agriculture.

Beyond operating a tractor and a combine, today’s farmers need to manage all kinds of information. From information technology to web development, the skills that have changed our economy have transformed the agriculture industry as well.

USACETULSA
Flickr

The McClellan-Kerr Navigation System that connects the Port of Catoosa — the nation’s furthest inland seaport — to the Gulf of Mexico is “a hell of a mess” after the area got nearly 20 inches of rain in May and June, port director Bob Portiss tell’s the Tulsa World.

By the end of June, This year, Matt Plenge’s Kahoka, Mo., farm has received close to four times its normal rainfall.
Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

Driving down a two-lane highway in rural Missouri, Matt Plenge squinted at a patch of gray clouds hanging low over his farm fields in the distance.

“Does it look hazy up there?” he asked. “We only had a 20 percent chance today. We shouldn't get any rain.”

Plenge, like most farmers, always keeps one eye on the weather. But this spring, it’s been his primary and constant concern.

“It seems like it rains for three or four days and after it rains, we get one day of sunshine,” Plenge said. “And then it rains again.”

Beekeeper Tim McCoy pries a hive of European honeybees out of an electrical box on Ed Crall's property near Weatherford, Okla.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Honeybees are dying at an alarming rate across the country, but no state lost a greater percentage of its bees than Oklahoma over the last year. When it comes to the general public, there’s a lot of mystery around this issue, but the reasons are becoming more clear.

The Newt Graham Lock and Dam near Inola, Okla.
Tyler / Flickr

Slow moving storms that dumped record amounts of rain on Oklahoma in April and May killed the five-year drought, but damaged wheat crops in western Oklahoma. This after one of the worst wheat harvests on record in 2014.

A combine crew from South Dakota harvests wheat near Altus in southwest Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

May 2015 was Oklahoma’s wettest month on record. The historic rainfall washed away an economically draining drought that haunted parts of the state for five years. For many wheat farmers in southwestern Oklahoma, however, the record rainfall is too much, too late.

To find a farmer in the wide, unbroken prairie of southwest Oklahoma, scan the horizon and look for clouds — of dust. In a field five miles south of Altus, Fred Schmedt peers through the haze and watches a gray-and-black combine pull alongside a tractor with a grain cart.

Schmedt grins as the bin fills.

Dustin Green, owner of 10 Acre Woods farm near Norman, feeds a few of his 400 or so chickens.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The right-to-farm bill got through the legislative process last week. That means voters will have a chance to decide next year whether to give farmers and ranchers broad protections against future state laws that might interfere with their operations.

But opponents say right-to-farm is a license that allows big ag to harm animals and the environment. But where do actual Oklahoma farmers and ranchers stand on the issue?

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