WBEZ | farming http://www.wbez.org/tags/farming Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Farming with Less Fossil Fuels http://www.wbez.org/news/farming-less-fossil-fuels-114731 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/0204_greener-farming-624x416.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>By some estimates,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/136418/err94_1_.pdf" target="_blank">about a fifth</a>&nbsp;of the nation&rsquo;s energy supply is spent on producing food. Some farmers are trying to cut back on the coal and gas used in farming.&nbsp;Grant Gerlock from&nbsp;<em>Here &amp;&nbsp;Now</em>&nbsp;contributor Harvest Public Media looks at a couple of ways farms are getting greener.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><ul></ul><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 14:35:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/farming-less-fossil-fuels-114731 Meet the Most Pampered Vegetables in America http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/meet-most-pampered-vegetables-america-114699 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/CUCAMELON_CREDITRyan Kellman_NPR.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res462829269" previewtitle="Microgreens and flowers grown by Chef's Garden are prepared by chefs from Walt Disney World."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Microgreens and flowers grown by Chef's Garden are prepared by chefs from Walt Disney World." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/12/tweezersdyp_slide-084d2a071b830dc2fd787696bebe474f0c0252f6-s1300-c85.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Microgreens and flowers grown by Chef's Garden are prepared by chefs from Walt Disney World. (Michelle Demuth-Bibb/Chef's Garden)" /></div><div><div>&nbsp;</div></div></div><p>There&#39;s a small corner of the restaurant world where food is art and the plate is just as exquisite as the mouthful.</p><p>In this world, chefs are constantly looking for new creative materials for the next stunning presentation.</p><p>The tiny community of farmers who grow vegetables for the elite chefs prize creativity, too, not just in what they grow but in how they grow it. They&#39;re seeking perfection, in vegetable form and flavor, like this tiny cucumber that looks like a watermelon &mdash; called a cucamelon.</p><div id="con463167901" previewtitle="cucamelon"><div id="res462840158" previewtitle="The cucamelon is a tiny cucumber that looks like a watermelon."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="The cucamelon is a tiny cucumber that looks like a watermelon." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/12/mondayedit-5.1_custom-a861d53687621abe471b6dfccf825d1ad6401ac8-s700-c85.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="The cucamelon is a tiny cucumber that looks like a watermelon. (Ryan Kellman/NPR)" /></div><div><div>&nbsp;</div></div></div></div><p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chefs-garden.com/">Chef&#39;s Garden</a>&nbsp;is a specialty vegetable farm in Huron, Ohio, about an hour west of Cleveland. It&#39;s a family farm, where three generations of the Jones family work side by side with about 175 employees. It&#39;s a place where vegetables are scrupulously selected and then painstakingly coaxed from the ground.</p><div id="res462837962" previewtitle="Rows of lettuce at Chef's Garden in Huron, Ohio."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Rows of lettuce at Chef's Garden in Huron, Ohio." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/12/mondayedit-11_custom-405ab7c832aa1be43fdb39aeaafbab7a607d782f-s1300-c85.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Rows of lettuce at Chef's Garden in Huron, Ohio. (Ryan Kellman/NPR)" /></div><div><div>&nbsp;</div></div></div><p>This farm produces an extraordinary selection of vegetable varieties, ranging from the familiar to the exotic, like the cucamelon. In the summer, they can offer chefs 80 varieties of tomatoes. Through the year, they&#39;re growing more than a dozen kinds of lettuce of different textures and colors, like Merlot, in their greenhouses.</p><div id="res462829202" previewtitle="Merlot lettuce is one of many varieties of lettuce grown by Chef's Garden."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Merlot lettuce is one of many varieties of lettuce grown by Chef's Garden." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/12/mondayedit-6_custom-198fd13ec89019bc67d508c7cce3b486a37d4ecb-s1300-c85.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Merlot lettuce is one of many varieties of lettuce grown by Chef's Garden. (Ryan Kellman/NPR)" /></div><div><div>&nbsp;</div></div></div><h3>&quot;What we&#39;re trying to do is offer new colors of paint to the chef. It&#39;s not just about color ... it&#39;s flavor and texture. It needs to taste good, and if it doesn&#39;t it has no place,&quot; says Lee Jones, who runs Chef&#39;s Garden with his father and brother.</h3><div id="res462829182" previewtitle="Farmer Lee Jones inside a tomato greenhouse on his farm in Huron, Ohio."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Farmer Lee Jones inside a tomato greenhouse on his farm in Huron, Ohio." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/12/mondayedit-1_custom-54d37b795eee3543fbc7e0b4264268205b46b16c-s1300-c85.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Farmer Lee Jones inside a tomato greenhouse on his farm in Huron, Ohio. (Ryan Kellman/NPR)" /></div><div><div>&nbsp;</div></div></div><p>When Lee Jones (who wears this ensemble of blue overalls, white shirt and red bow tie every single day) was a teenager, his family grew ordinary vegetables for the wholesale market, like a lot of their neighbors. Then in 1983, the Joneses went bankrupt and lost almost all their land. All they could do with the few acres that were left was supply a small stand at local farmers markets.</p><p>One of their customers was a food writer in Cleveland desperate to find the squash blossoms she&#39;d tasted in France and couldn&#39;t find in America. So they went back to the zucchini patch and picked some for her. She was ecstatic, and they began to realize there were unmet needs in the world of fine dining.</p><p>It wasn&#39;t too long before the Joneses began to get connected to chefs around the country &mdash; people like Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller. The great French chef Jean-Louis Palladin at the Watergate in Washington, D.C., told them, &quot; &#39;Your food is s*** in America,&#39; &quot; Lee recalls. In particular, he was talking about the vegetables. And he told them they could seize the opportunity to grow vegetables to the standards of chefs like him.</p><h3>There&#39;s a movement now of farmers like the Joneses who &quot;really aspire to be the best, where it&#39;s not a commodity anymore &mdash; it&#39;s actually about the process that will result in something extraordinary,&quot; says Chef Thomas Keller.</h3><p>The farm covers 300 acres and supplies chefs all year round, with the help of greenhouses and hoop houses that can be moved from plot to plot in the winter.</p><div id="res462829194" previewtitle="The farm covers 300 acres and supplies chefs all year round, with the help of greenhouses and hoop houses that can be moved from plot to plot in the winter."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="The farm covers 300 acres and supplies chefs all year round, with the help of greenhouses and hoop houses that can be moved from plot to plot in the winter." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/12/mondayedit-4.5_custom-b6e7591312375f84e069c5554de53f07ae1e0f59-s1300-c85.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="The farm covers 300 acres and supplies chefs all year round, with the help of greenhouses and hoop houses that can be moved from plot to plot in the winter. (Ryan Kellman/NPR)" /></div><div><div>&nbsp;</div></div></div><p>The Joneses say they need to always have something new to offer the chefs. So they have a &quot;secret&quot; experimental garden and greenhouse where they test new varieties. Visitors are not allowed inside.</p><h3>&quot;When we find a new crop, we have two years before [other farmers] start to copy us,&quot; says Bob Jones Sr., Lee&#39;s father and the patriarch of Chef&#39;s Garden.</h3><p>Attention to detail flows through every step of the farming, harvesting and shipping process. And it all starts with the soil.</p><h3>&quot;If you don&#39;t have good soil, you have nothing,&quot; says Bob.</h3><div id="res462829186" previewtitle="Bob Jones Senior in a field of Sudan grass that's been planted as a cover crop. Underneath is about a foot of topsoil that he's built up over the years."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Bob Jones Senior in a field of Sudan grass that's been planted as a cover crop. Underneath is about a foot of topsoil that he's built up over the years." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/12/mondayedit-23_custom-152d2e688239a2d3f622fbbb010c9ae9bc1bb11e-s1300-c85.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Bob Jones Senior in a field of Sudan grass that's been planted as a cover crop. Underneath is about a foot of topsoil that he's built up over the years. (Ryan Kellman/NPR)" /></div><div><div>&nbsp;</div></div></div><p>The soil on this farm gets remarkably special treatment.</p><p>The Joneses are fortunate that their farm is located just a few miles inland from Lake Erie. That means they started with some of the richest sandy loam soil in the world, formed from thousands of years of deposits from the lake bottom.</p><p>But they&#39;ve dedicated themselves to improving it by resting the soil and adding nutrients to deepen the layer of topsoil year after year.</p><p>The way they do that is by planting only one-third of their land (100 acres) with vegetables at any one time.</p><p>The remaining 200 acres are sown with cover crops like Sudan grass, oats and clover that return nitrogen and other nutrients that the vegetables take out.</p><div id="res462829179" previewtitle="The Joneses plant only one-third of their land with vegetables at any one time.The remaining 200 acres are sown with cover crops for one to two years before they're planted with vegetables again."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="The Joneses plant only one-third of their land with vegetables at any one time.The remaining 200 acres are sown with cover crops for one to two years before they're planted with vegetables again." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/12/mondayedit-22_custom-2fcd1cae254cfe0b0db78e2c8031059f9b5004be-s1300-c85.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="The Joneses plant only one-third of their land with vegetables at any one time.The remaining 200 acres are sown with cover crops for one to two years before they're planted with vegetables again. (Ryan Kellman/NPR)" /></div><div><div>&nbsp;</div></div></div><h3>&quot;If you would talk to the farmers around here, they think we&#39;re crazy. They think we&#39;re absolutely ready for the loony bin,&quot; says Bob, &quot;because we do things so much different.&quot;</h3><p>Rotating crops and cover cropping this way is one of the secrets to the vegetables&#39; distinctive flavor, Bob says.</p><p>The Joneses, like the chefs, are always looking for surprising new varieties. Lee tries out the latest seeds from plant breeders and combs through dusty agricultural books.</p><div id="res463182994" previewtitle="(Left) Lee finds unique varieties of vegetables to grow by combing through old agricultural books. (Right) Lee surveys a field of lettuce."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="(Left) Lee finds unique varieties of vegetables to grow by combing through old agricultural books. (Right) Lee surveys a field of lettuce." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/15/bookslee_custom-31719b2c17abc4c46f990b19cf97fc1e5a7a58fb-s1300-c85.jpg" style="height: 206px; width: 620px;" title="Left, Lee finds unique varieties of vegetables to grow by combing through old agricultural books. And right, Lee surveys a field of lettuce. (Ryan Kellman/NPR)" /></div><div><div>&nbsp;</div></div></div><h3>&quot;We didn&#39;t discover any of these &mdash; we&#39;re uncovering, rediscovering, reintroducing. There&#39;s thousands of species of eggplant out there to be explored,&quot; says Lee.</h3><p>Another thing the Joneses try to tightly control is the seeds they put in the ground. If you buy thousands of them in bulk the way they do, many are bound to fail.</p><p>They check every batch for their germination rate to try to ensure they&#39;re putting only the seeds most likely to succeed in the ground.</p><div id="res462829257" previewtitle="The Joneses monitor seed vitality by germinating each batch they receive. Here, Helios radish seeds are checked for their germination rate."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="The Joneses monitor seed vitality by germinating each batch they receive. Here, Helios radish seeds are checked for their germination rate." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/12/mondayedit-28_custom-fd3c6cd6d9e1cc54413f0c24c47506614191ae60-s1300-c85.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="The Joneses monitor seed vitality by germinating each batch they receive. Here, Helios radish seeds are checked for their germination rate. (Ryan Kellman/NPR)" /></div><div><div>&nbsp;</div></div></div><p>They also have a machine to sort seeds for size and weight to help them eliminate the weakest ones. The goal is to guarantee chefs a consistent product every time they need it.</p><h3>&quot;All this comes down to getting dependable production. We can&#39;t get to February and say, &#39;Aw, Chef, we can&#39;t do it because the seed wouldn&#39;t germinate.&#39; That doesn&#39;t work,&quot; says Bob.</h3><p>There&#39;s a whole lab at Chef&#39;s Garden with a small staff dedicated to monitoring and measuring the seeds and the soil.</p><p>It&#39;s just one branch of Chef&#39;s Garden&#39;s highly specialized staff, focused on different aspects of quality control. All together, they give this farm an unusual ratio of workers to acres: about one person per half-acre.</p><p>About 25 of the 178 employees are temporary workers who come mostly from the Aguascalientes region of Mexico to work nine months a year.</p><div id="res462956721" previewtitle="About 25 of the 178 employees of Chef's Garden are temporary workers who come mainly from the Aguascalientes region of Mexico to work on the farm nine months a year."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="About 25 of the 178 employees of Chef's Garden are temporary workers who come mainly from the Aguascalientes region of Mexico to work on the farm nine months a year." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/13/mondayedit-36_custom-a34767213b0a65a44342f7d427bcfa44ba622cb8-s1300-c85.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="About 25 of the 178 employees of Chef's Garden are temporary workers who come mainly from the Aguascalientes region of Mexico to work on the farm nine months a year. (Ryan Kellman/NPR)" /></div><div><div>These workers pick everything to order &mdash; from the microgreens to the tiny eggplants and cucamelons.</div></div></div><p>Chefs ask for miniature versions of their favorites because when they&#39;re small, they pack more flavor and make for stunning garnishes. And picking these crops is labor-intensive.</p><div id="res463183465" previewtitle="(Left) Chefs ask for miniature versions of their favorites, like these tiny purple eggplants. (Right) Cucamelons on the vine."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="(Left) Chefs ask for miniature versions of their favorites, like these tiny purple eggplants. (Right) Cucamelons on the vine." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/15/eggplant-and-tomato_custom-848f506a1b5ad6d01b1ae8106d32ac87ae408968-s1300-c85.jpg" style="height: 206px; width: 620px;" title="Left, chefs ask for miniature versions of their favorites, like these tiny purple eggplants. And right, cucamelons on the vine. (Ryan Kellman/NPR)" /></div><div><div>But if a chef wants 100 nasturtium flowers the size of a dime, Lee is happy to oblige &mdash; in part because he has the manpower to pick them.</div></div></div><p>Since there are so many stages in a plant&#39;s life, the farm has developed an eight-stage, patented set of sizes, including micro, petite, young, flowering and seeded. Some vegetables come in every single size.</p><h3>&quot;At every single stage of the plant&#39;s life, it offers something unique to the plate. We&#39;ve learned how to look at that plant in a way that says, &#39;Why not?&#39; &quot; says Lee.</h3><p>The precise moment the crops are picked also matters if they&#39;re going to be perfect. Take, for example, the squash blossoms, which are harvested during a narrow hour-and-a-half window in the early morning.</p><div id="res462829190" previewtitle="The farm has developed an eight-stage, patented set of sizes for vegetables like squash it offers chefs. The sizes include micro, petite, young, flowering and seeded."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="The farm has developed an eight-stage, patented set of sizes for vegetables like squash it offers chefs. The sizes include micro, petite, young, flowering and seeded." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/12/mondayedit-34_custom-96087b5534122e284ef1e7587a0a9cd3893cebef-s1300-c85.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="The farm has developed an eight-stage, patented set of sizes for vegetables like squash it offers chefs. The sizes include micro, petite, young, flowering and seeded. (Ryan Kellman/NPR)" /></div><div><div>&nbsp;</div></div></div><h3>&quot;You&#39;re trying to walk past those ones that are waning, if you will, and pick that one that&#39;s right today, in this particular moment, in this particular hour, the perfect squash bloom, so that it can go onto the plate and blow the guest away of that chef,&quot; says Lee.</h3><p>The same goes for the lettuce, which is harvested at dawn, when the air, the ground and the plants are coolest. The goal, particularly in the summer, is to harvest them at the lowest possible temperature so they can stay fresh longer.</p><div id="res462829261" previewtitle="Workers at Chef's Garden pick squash blossoms only at their peak, which is a narrow hour-and-a-half window in the early morning."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Workers at Chef's Garden pick squash blossoms only at their peak, which is a narrow hour-and-a-half window in the early morning." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/12/squash-3_custom-a349e678c8e35de78ab7d2d4ca0631688c24aa9f-s1300-c85.jpg" style="height: 622px; width: 620px;" title="Workers at Chef's Garden pick squash blossoms only at their peak, which is a narrow hour-and-a-half window in the early morning. (Ryan Kellman/NPR)" /></div><div><div>By the time the vegetables reach the packing room, they&#39;re treated like jewels.</div></div></div><p>Bob Jones Jr., Lee&#39;s brother, oversees this stage, where lettuce rosettes are carefully packed with insulation. If the box is filled with tomatoes, it&#39;s fitted with foam padding. In the summer, ice packs go into the boxes to keep the vegetables cold if they&#39;re headed to hot locales.</p><div id="res463183792" previewtitle="The shipping room at Chef's Garden, where vegetables are carefully washed and packed for their overnight journey to chefs around the country and even abroad."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="The shipping room at Chef's Garden, where vegetables are carefully washed and packed for their overnight journey to chefs around the country and even abroad." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/15/mondayedit-15_custom-ba11dcb6c72b3f1a726e1ed52321850b7fba8dc8-s1300-c85.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="The shipping room at Chef's Garden, where vegetables are carefully washed and packed for their overnight journey to chefs around the country and even abroad. (Ryan Kellman/NPR)" /></div><div><div>Nearly all the vegetables that leave here by truck or airplane reach kitchens within a day of coming out of the ground.</div></div></div><p>Shipping vegetables from Ohio to California or New York or Florida means these vegetables most certainly won&#39;t be local once they reach diners. They&#39;ll have quite a few additional greenhouse gas emissions attached to them, too.</p><div id="res462829198" previewtitle="A box of heirloom tomatoes is fitted with foam padding before being shipped overnight to a chef."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="A box of heirloom tomatoes is fitted with foam padding before being shipped overnight to a chef." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/12/mondayedit-14_custom-a60b74f104a909fe3263004b1c089f176f0a8ff1-s1300-c85.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="A box of heirloom tomatoes is fitted with foam padding before being shipped overnight to a chef. (Ryan Kellman/NPR)" /></div><div><div>&nbsp;</div></div></div><p>And if you&#39;re buying this precious produce, it will, of course, cost you. The Joneses say their costs are probably 2.5 times as great as a regular production system&#39;s, where every acre is farmed every year. A two-pound box of lettuce from Chef&#39;s Garden goes for about $24.</p><p>But chefs will pay top dollar for these exquisite vegetables.</p><h3>&quot;If we&#39;re not willing to pay for the extraordinary ingredients, then we&#39;re not going to have the extraordinary ingredients,&quot; says Chef Thomas Keller.</h3><p>Chef&#39;s Garden is starting to sell directly to consumers via mail order. And Lee is hopeful about this new frontier for the business.</p><h3>&quot;We know in the U.S. there&#39;s a movement toward more healthy and fresh vegetables, so we&#39;re trying to anticipate that and be ready for it. The chefs we work with can drive those trends. It is a trickle-down effect,&quot; says Lee.</h3><p>This has been a special multimedia project of NPR&#39;s food blog,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/">The Salt</a>.</p></p> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 10:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/meet-most-pampered-vegetables-america-114699 Global Activism: U.S. veterans use Saffron to help rebuild Afghanistan http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-us-veterans-use-saffron-help-rebuild-afghanistan-114201 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/ga-saffron farmer 620.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-a40e2cb5-b13a-03a2-edfd-4e01720be71e">After their tours of duty in Afghanistan, U.S. veterans, Keith Alaniz, Emily Miller and Kimberly Jung, wanted to do more to help rebuild Afghan society. So they started, <a href="http://www. rumispice.com">Rumi Spice</a>, a &ldquo;for-profit social enterprise&rdquo; that links Afghan farmers with global markets, through harvesting and selling the world&rsquo;s most expensive spice - saffron. For our </span>Global Activism series, they&rsquo;ll join us to tell stories about their tours of duty in Afghanistan and how the people they encountered inspired them to create a brighter future for Afghanistan.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/238028486&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Kimberly Jung was just in Afghanuistan and she <a href="http://www.rumispice.com/ourstory/meethajiibrahimandghaffar">spread the word about WBEZ!</a></em></p><p dir="ltr">&quot;Ibrahim and Ghafar have been farmers with Rumi Spice since last year. After handing them a wad of cash for payment for their saffron flowers, Shakoor sat us down over tea, and I gave them the <strong>WBEZ mugs</strong>. When we took a video, their countenances immediately switched to somber, which I guess translates to stateliness. Haji Ibrahim spent the entire interview looking off into the distance with disdain, rubbing his feet. As soon as it&rsquo;s off, they&rsquo;re back to joking and gesticulating loudly. I mean, look at this guy cheezin&rsquo;!&quot;</p></p> Thu, 17 Dec 2015 10:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-us-veterans-use-saffron-help-rebuild-afghanistan-114201 Despite inner turmoil, Saudi Arabia grows in influence http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-10-15/despite-inner-turmoil-saudi-arabia-grows-influence-113365 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/14156102446_da491574b0_z.jpg" title="(Photo: Flickr/Ash Carter)" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/228563348&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-size: 22px; background-color: rgb(255, 244, 244);">Saudi Arabia&#39;s growing influence</span></p><div style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">There are rumors of a succession struggle within the Saudi royal family. The country is a primary player in regional issues like ISIS, the Yemen civil war, Iraq and Syria. We&rsquo;ll talk about the potential for inner turmoil in Saudi Arabia, the country&rsquo;s growing influence in the Middle East and other regional affairs with Robert Jordan, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President George W. Bush. Jordan is author of the new book, &#39;Desert Diplomat: Inside Saudi Arabia Following 9/11&#39;.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;"><strong>Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-ce45211d-6d30-23e4-1e64-5d0c714b844b">Robert Jordan is a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President George W. Bush, and the author of &#39;</span>Desert Diplomat: Inside Saudi Arabia Following 9/11&#39;.&nbsp;</em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/228565166&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-size: 22px; background-color: rgb(255, 244, 244);">The human costs of getting our food from Mexico</span></p><div style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Reporter Richard Marosi and photographer Don Bartletti of Los Angeles Times trailed thousands of laborers on Mexico&#39;s mega-farms. They discovered brutal, inhumane conditions within the industry that supplies Americans much of their produce. We spoke with Marosi last year on the report. Today, we&rsquo;ll get an update from Bartletti and hear about his new exhibit at Artworks Projects for Human Rights called &ldquo;Product of Mexico&rdquo;. It shows the lives and struggles of farm workers in Mexico. We&rsquo;ll also talk with Leslie Thomas of Artworks Projects. They&rsquo;ll tell us about farm workers in Mexico who are &ldquo;trapped for months at a time in rat-infested camps, often without beds and sometimes without functioning toilets or a reliable water supply&rdquo;.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;"><strong>Guests:</strong>&nbsp;</p><ul><li style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;"><em><a href="http://twitter.com/dbartletti">Don Bartletti</a> is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist. </em></li><li style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;"><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-ce45211d-6d32-49f5-a452-d594c36acc26">Leslie Thomasis the founding executive &amp; creative dir. of <a href="http://twitter.com/ARTWORKSProject">ArtWorks Projects for Human Rights</a>.&nbsp;</span></em></li></ul></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/228566005&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-size: 22px; background-color: rgb(255, 244, 244);">Scientists pushing lawmakers on the climate</span></p><div style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Yesterday was a &ldquo;National Day of Action&rdquo; on Climate Change. At least 40 U.S. cities participated in protests and events geared to push lawmakers to act more aggressively on the Environment and sustainability. Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, attended last year&rsquo;s climate march in New York. He was also present when President Obama unveiled his Clean Power Plan this past August. Kimmell will join us to discuss the progress of the &lsquo;National Day of Action&rsquo;, his thoughts on President Obama&rsquo;s energy plan and what he hopes is accomplished at the December climate talks in Paris.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;"><strong>Guest:</strong>&nbsp;<em><span id="docs-internal-guid-ce45211d-6d36-1dbc-1559-652f4e5a1135"><a href="http://twitter.com/kenkimmell">Ken Kimmell </a>is the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and the former board chairman of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). </span></em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 15 Oct 2015 15:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-10-15/despite-inner-turmoil-saudi-arabia-grows-influence-113365 Women find big role in small and midsize farms http://www.wbez.org/news/women-find-big-role-small-and-midsize-farms-112894 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/0910_beth-lomske-624x416.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The number of farms owned and operated by women has tripled in the U.S. in recent decades, though the sales from women-owned farms account for only 3&nbsp;percent of the total.&nbsp;But these women are helping small and midsize farms transition in a changing economy.</p><p>Julie Grant&nbsp;of the public radio program <em><a href="http://www.alleghenyfront.org/story/women-are-making-big-impacts-small-farms" target="_blank">The Allegheny Front</a></em> takes a look at the impact women are having in running smaller farms.</p><p>&mdash;&nbsp;<a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/09/10/women-big-role-small-farms" target="_blank"><em>Here &amp; Now</em></a></p></p> Thu, 10 Sep 2015 15:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/women-find-big-role-small-and-midsize-farms-112894 California drought renews debate on regional food systems http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/california-drought-renews-debate-regional-food-systems-110497 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/DROUGHT MIDWEST.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>At a Chicago area farmers market in July you won&rsquo;t see many signs of the California drought. This is the time of year when produce lovers can pretty much gorge on all the local cherries, blueberries and zucchini they want.</p><p>But this wasn&rsquo;t the case in January.</p><p>&ldquo;What we saw was extremely high prices on kales, leafy greens etc in the first part of the year,&rdquo; said Bob Scaman president of Goodness Greenness the Midwest&rsquo;s biggest distributor of organic produce.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/drought-drives-drilling-frenzy-groundwater-california-110483">Drought drives drilling frenzy for groundwater in California</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>And as the year wore on, Scaman says, the effects of the drought only got worse. Farmers had to decide which crops they were going to water and which they weren&rsquo;t resulting in what he called the California &ldquo;cherry season that didn&rsquo;t exist in 2014.&rdquo;</p><p>Luckily, the Washington State cherry crop was booming this year. And today Michigan cherries have filled any other gaps. But Scaman warns that this bounty will last for only about another 100 days in the Midwest.</p><p>&ldquo;But going into the late fall, early winter when we are relying again on California we are going to be right back where we were on these drought supplies,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;and we will be negatively affected back here in the Midwest.&rdquo;</p><p>One Arizona State University study says that the California drought is likely to push items like avocados and lettuce up 28 to 34 percent.&nbsp; And the USDA expects drought and other factors to push domestic food prices for meat and produce up 3 to 6 percent this year.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Business professor Timothy Richards who conducted the Arizona State study noted that the pricier California crops could drive more retailers to source their produce from Mexico and Chile. But others think we should go the other way and reestablish more regional food systems again.</p><p>&ldquo;This is the ideal storm for the local food network in the Midwest,&rdquo; Scaman said. &ldquo;It really brings home what people have been talking about for years: the need to grow more local food, stabilize the food supply and build the local market.&rdquo;</p><blockquote><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/158677537&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false" width="100%"></iframe><strong>Related: <a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/water-issues-in-the-west-could">What water issues in California mean for the Midwest</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Adding to the drought problems this year were high summer gas prices that further argued for more localized food production.<br /><br />&ldquo;So not only is there less product but we are paying more to transport it from California,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;You&rsquo;ve got a double whammy coming at us. So when you look at local food supplies, we&rsquo;ve got a little more stability in getting it to the marketplace, lesser freight costs and we are growing our local economies.&rdquo;</p><p>Terra Brockman founded the Land Connection, a local non-profit that helps train Midwest farmers. She says that while the drought hasn&rsquo;t made big waves among local farmers so far, it has revived important questions.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Like, &lsquo;Why do we have plenty of farmers market farmers and CSA farmers but not enough people growing at a slightly bigger scale that could produce quantities of fruits and vegetables that could go into our grocery stores and school cafeterias and other institutions where people are shopping and eating,&rdquo; Brockman said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a question of building infrastructure and putting together policies and funding to make that happen.&rdquo;</p><p>Brockman says that Land Connection has recently applied for grants to teach Midwest farmers techniques for extending the notoriously short growing season.</p><p>Bob Borchardt of Harvest Moons Farm in Wisconsin says he is already using some of them and investigating others.</p><p>&ldquo;Some kind of controlled environment growing is really the answer,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;whether it be greenhouses or hoop houses or inside and vertical gardens. Anything that we can do to push more local product into the non-conventional farming months here in the Midwest I think are things that need to be on top of our list as producers.&rdquo;</p><p>Brockman notes that farmers can also extend the seasons by planting varieties of vegetables that mature early or late in the season.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s like an early broccoli and a late broccoli,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;One that comes to fruition earlier and later. Just not putting your eggs in one basket or not just planting one kind of broccoli you can sort of insure yourself from whatever the season might be.&rdquo;</p><p>But she says the drought isn&rsquo;t the only water related issue causing debate in Midwest agricultural circles.</p><p>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re concerned about water then you have to be concerned about agriculture because the thing that affects our water quality the most of anything in this state is agriculture,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>&ldquo;So that&rsquo;s everything from erosion and soil washing into our rivers and silting them up and making them inhospitable for river life, and especially the run off. So in Illinois the main source of pollution in our waterways is industrial farming, and the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that runs off that becomes a dead zone the size of Delaware in the Gulf of Mexico is due to runoff from Illinois and Midwest corn fields.&rdquo;</p><p>Brockman hopes that concern for our waterways will prompt Midwest farmers to swap synthetic fertilizers for crop rotations that take longer but can fertilize the soil naturally.</p><p>Scaman, however, has aspirations that go one step further. Given the growing demand for local produce and the richness of Illinois soil, he hopes the drought might convince some corn and soy farmers--whose harvests go primarily to processed food, animal feed and ethanol tanks--to grow crops suitable for local human consumption.</p><p>&ldquo;Years and years ago, Illinois as an example was one of the largest vegetable growing states in the country,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t necessarily need to just grow soybeans and corn. There is a need for vegetable production here in the Midwest to supply Chicago and other cities. And it provides a lot of economic opportunities for rural communities. So [the drought] has really brought that need to the forefront. You are seeing more and more farmers every year and more local produce. And the demand for local is off the charts.&rdquo;</p></p> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/california-drought-renews-debate-regional-food-systems-110497 Global Activism: Foods Resource Bank helping small farmers abroad http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-foods-resource-bank-helping-small-farmers-abroad-109559 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/wv GA-Foods Resource Bank.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Marv Baldwin left his for-profit sales career to lead his church&#39;s effort to help small farmers around the world live sustainable and dignified lives. Baldwin has traveled to Kenya, Ethiopia, Nicaragua and several other countries. <span id="docs-internal-guid-2c9b1612-bbdd-553f-47b8-cb8824f78d31">For </span><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a></em>, Baldwin talks about the course of his life and work as executive director of <a href="http://www.foodsresourcebank.org">Foods Resource Bank</a> (FRB), based in suburban Western Springs.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">FRB&#39;s stated mission: &quot;As a Christian response to world hunger, FRB links the grassroots energy and commitment of the U.S. agricultural community with the capability and desire of small farmers in developing countries to grow lasting solutions to hunger.&quot;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/131025307&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 23 Jan 2014 09:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-foods-resource-bank-helping-small-farmers-abroad-109559 Wet weather not hurting Illinois farmers http://www.wbez.org/news/wet-weather-not-hurting-illinois-farmers-107963 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/illinoiscorn.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois farmers lost a lot of money last year when crops were unable to withstand the drought and high temperatures.</p><p>But Illinois has had plenty of rain this year. In fact it has had the wettest six months of the year on record.</p><p>According to John Hawkins of the Illinois Farm Bureau, rain has delayed planting.</p><p>&ldquo;Normally by the 4th of July we&rsquo;re just entering the pollination stage for corn. That&rsquo;s the critical stage to developing the crop. Last year at this time we had half the crop pollinated. This year we&rsquo;re nowhere near there. We have less than 1 percent entering pollination stage. It will probably be the middle of July when we get to that critical stage.&rdquo;</p><p>Hawkins isn&rsquo;t worried though. With lots of rain and mild temperatures, he expects a great yield for corn.</p><p>&ldquo;You couldn&rsquo;t ask for better conditions across illinois,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Soybean crops are also benefiting from the increased moisture, Hawkins said, but the true weather test will come in August.</p><p>Hawkins said soybeans do much better in warmer temperatures.</p><p><em>Mariam Sobh is the midday and weekend news anchor at WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/mariamsobh" target="_blank">@mariamsobh</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 08 Jul 2013 07:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/wet-weather-not-hurting-illinois-farmers-107963 Dry spell moves Quinn to assist Illinois farmers http://www.wbez.org/news/dry-spell-moves-quinn-assist-illinois-farmers-100956 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/niala corn final.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>During a visit Monday to a southern Illinois corn and soybean farm, Illinois Gov. Pat&nbsp;Quinn announced that drought-affected farmers would be eligible for state debt restructuring and loan programs in addition to the aid the USDA announced last week.</p><p><o:p></o:p></p><p>Quinn&nbsp;ventured into a corn field where he spent some time looking for an actual ear of corn. When he found one and peeled off the husk, there were no kernels.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Drought&nbsp;is affecting much of the Midwest, where almost a third of the nation&#39;s corn crop has been damaged by heat and&nbsp;drought&nbsp;so severe that some farmers have cut down crops midway through the growing season.<o:p></o:p></p><p>In southern Illinois, Kenny Brummer has lost 800 acres of corn that he grows to feed his 400 head of cattle and 30,000 hogs. Now he&#39;s scrambling to find hundreds of thousands of bushels of replacement feed.<o:p></o:p></p><p>&quot;Where am I going to get that from? You have concerns about it every morning when you wake up,&quot; said Brummer, who farms near Waltonville. &quot;The&nbsp;drought&nbsp;is bad, but that&#39;s just half of the problem on this farm.&quot;<o:p></o:p></p><p>Brummer could normally count on corn yields of 170 bushels per acre. He expects to get just 10 bushels this year, if he gets anything at all.<o:p></o:p></p><p>The top of the cornstalks are an unhealthy pale green, he said. Many of them have no ears, and &quot;if there are there are a few kernels, they don&#39;t seem to know if they should die or make a grain.&quot;<o:p></o:p></p><p>Crop insurance will cover up to 150 bushels per acre. But no coverage is available for Brummer&#39;s livestock, so he figures he&#39;ll lose $350,000 to $400,000 on that side of the operation.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Not long ago, Brummer rejoiced along with countless other Midwest growers about getting their crops in the ground early.<o:p></o:p></p><p>&quot;It looked really good until about a month ago,&quot; he said. &quot;Then the concerns started, and it&#39;s been downhill ever since.&quot;<o:p></o:p></p><p>Two-thirds of Illinois is in what&#39;s classified as a severe&nbsp;drought&nbsp;or worse. Neighboring Indiana is even worse, with 70 percent in at least a severe&nbsp;drought.<o:p></o:p></p><p>The nation&#39;s widest&nbsp;drought&nbsp;in decades is spreading, with more than half of the continental United States now in some stage of&nbsp;drought&nbsp;and most of the rest enduring abnormally dry conditions.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Only in the 1930s and the 1950s has a&nbsp;drought&nbsp;covered more land, according to federal figures released Monday. So far, there&#39;s little risk of a Dust Bowl-type catastrophe, but crop losses could mount if rain doesn&#39;t come soon.<o:p></o:p></p><p>In its monthly&nbsp;drought&nbsp;report, the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., announced that 55 percent of the country was in a moderate to extreme&nbsp;drought&nbsp;at the end of June. The parched conditions expanded last month in the West, the Great Plains and the Midwest, fueled by the 14th warmest and 10th driest June on record, the report said.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Topsoil has turned dry while &quot;crops, pastures and rangeland have deteriorated at a rate rarely seen in the last 18 years,&quot; the report said.<o:p></o:p></p><p>The percentage of affected land is the largest since December 1956, when 58 percent of the country was covered by&nbsp;drought, and it rivals even some years in the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s, though experts point out that this year&#39;s weather has been milder than that period, and farming practices have been vastly improved since then.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Around a third of the nation&#39;s corn crop has been hurt, with some of it so badly damaged that farmers have already cut down their withered plants to feed to cattle. As of Sunday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said, 38 percent of the corn crop was in poor or very poor condition, compared with 30 percent a week earlier.<o:p></o:p></p><p>&quot;This is definitely the epicenter &mdash; right in the heart of the Midwest,&quot; said climatologist Mark Svoboda with the Nebraska-based National&nbsp;Drought&nbsp;Mitigation Center.<o:p></o:p></p><p>It&#39;s all a huge comedown for farmers who had expected a record year when they sowed 96.4 million acres in corn, the most since 1937. The Department of Agriculture initially predicted national average corn yields of 166 bushels per acre this year.<o:p></o:p></p><p>The agency has revised that projection down to 146, and more reductions are possible if conditions don&#39;t improve.<o:p></o:p></p><p>The lower projection is still an improvement over the average yields of around 129 bushels a decade ago. But already tight supplies and fears that the&nbsp;drought&nbsp;will get worse before it gets better have been pushing up grain prices, which are likely to translate into higher food prices for consumers, particularly for meat and poultry.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Monday&#39;s report was based on data going back to 1895 called the Palmer&nbsp;Drought&nbsp;Index. It feeds into the widely watched and more detailed U.S.&nbsp;Drought&nbsp;Monitor, which reported last week that 61 percent of the continental U.S. was in a moderate to exceptional&nbsp;drought. However, the weekly&nbsp;Drought&nbsp;Monitor goes back only 12 years, so climatologists use the Palmer&nbsp;Drought&nbsp;Index for comparing&nbsp;droughts&nbsp;before 2000.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Climatologists have labeled this year&#39;s dry spell a &quot;flash&nbsp;drought&quot; because it developed in a matter of months, not over multiple seasons or years.<o:p></o:p></p><p>The current&nbsp;drought&nbsp;is similar to the&nbsp;droughts&nbsp;of the 1950s, which weren&#39;t as intense as those of the 1930s, said Jake Crouch, a climatologist with the National Climatic Data Center. And farming has changed a lot since the Dust Bowl era. Better soil conservation has reduced erosion, and modern hybrids are much more resistant to&nbsp;drought.<o:p></o:p></p><p>But Crouch said it&#39;s important to understand that this&nbsp;drought&nbsp;is still unfolding.<o:p></o:p></p><p>&quot;We can&#39;t say with certainty how long this might last now. Now that we&#39;re going up against the two largest&nbsp;droughts&nbsp;in history, that&#39;s something to be wary of,&quot; Crouch said. &quot;The coming months are really going to be the determining factor of how big a&nbsp;drought&nbsp;it ends up being.&quot;<o:p></o:p></p><p>In northwest Kansas, Brian Baalman&#39;s cattle pastures have dried up, along with probably half of his corn crop. He desperately needs some rain to save the rest of it, and he&#39;s worried what will happen if the&nbsp;drought&nbsp;lingers into next year.<o:p></o:p></p><p>&quot;I have never seen this type of weather before like this. A lot of old timers haven&#39;t either,&quot; Baalman said. &quot;I just think we are seeing history in the making.&quot;<o:p></o:p></p><p>The federal government is already moving to help farmers and ranchers.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week announced plans for streamlining the aid process. A major goal is to cut the time it takes to declare an agricultural disaster area. He also reduced interest rates for emergency loans and made it cheaper for farmers to graze livestock or cut hay on lands otherwise locked up in a conversation program.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Some state governments are stepping in, too. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in 42 counties last week to speed up the issuance of permits for temporarily using stream or lake water for irrigation.<o:p></o:p></p></p> Mon, 16 Jul 2012 18:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/dry-spell-moves-quinn-assist-illinois-farmers-100956 Illiana expressway project has residents on edge http://www.wbez.org/news/illiana-expressway-project-has-residents-edge-98922 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/possible expressway.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>When Todd Benjamin and his wife Colleen found out about the possible routes for the Illiana expressway, they raced to their computer to see if the state would soon be bulldozing through their property.<br><br>"From what I understand they're gonna put that highway right here on the north side of this property between here and that grove of trees," Benjamin said, standing outside his livestock office in Peotone.<br><br>According to a <a href="http://www.illianacorridor.org/about/prelim_alternative.aspx">map of three potential roadways</a>, Benjamin could soon be looking out his office window onto a massive expressway. Members of the Illinois House are poised to take up a bill that would speed up construction of a proposed highway. The Illiana expressway project dates back as far as the early 1900s, in Daniel Burnham's Plan of Chicago, and would connect Indiana and Illinois.&nbsp;<br><br>Benjamin said he understands the need for the road, but he's upset about proposals that would take away land on his and his neighbors property.<br><br>"When you think about young people with houses, with families and they're buying a home," he said. "And now they're talking about taking it away?"<br><br>Benjamin's pretty tapped into what people are talking about - his sons are the sixth generation to live on his family's farm. He says there are a lot of rumors going around about "quick-take" and what that might mean for property owners.<br><br>"You know, land is a big investment. And to have some judge just come in and say that's all it's worth, that's all you're gonna get, and oh yeah, by the way, we're not gonna pay you for a while. You've gotta go now," he said.<br><br>A <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=3318&amp;GAID=11&amp;DocTypeID=SB&amp;LegID=64537&amp;SessionID=84&amp;GA=97&amp;SpecSess=0">measure </a>is pending in the Illinois House that would give the Department of Transportation quick-take powers for the expressway. It's basically a fast-track version of eminent domain. The state government chooses the land it wants and then tells a judge what it'll pay. Property owners can take that money and run, or fight in court over the value, but that's after their land's been taken.<br><br>According to Dan Tarlock, professor at the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, quick-take is a common practice for states around the country, especially with public-private infrastructure projects like the Illiana Expressway.<br><br>"In order to induce private financing, quick-take is a big incentive to invest, otherwise a lot of private money would be tied up," Tarlock said.<br><br>Quick-take, Tarlock says, is also useful for speeding up the process when a lot of parties are involved. In the case of the Illiana expressway, people like farmers and homeowners.<br><br>"We've been worried about hold outs, that is, you've got a project, probably most property owners will voluntarily sell, but if one person decides to hold out then the whole project can be delayed," he said.<br><br>Delay is one of the reasons State Senator Toi Hutchinson supports quick-take.<br><br>"Eminent domain takes about three years but quick take takes about two, so if you add another 24 months for land acquisition then we could be breaking ground in 2016," Hutchinson said.<br><br>Hutchinson is the Senate sponsor of the quick-take legislation. The bill has already passed through the Senate and is waiting for a final vote by the full House. Hutchinson said the highway project would bring needed resources to the region; it could create around 14,000 long term jobs, and could bring $6 billion in investment over the next 30 years.<br><br>"We're moving with another state, and we have a lot of moving parts to be able to coordinate, and there are also people who've been unemployed for so very long that will tell you they can't wait much longer for a job," Hutchinson said.<br><br>But Hutchinson says she does feel for landowners who could lose their land. Especially in a region where most property is passed down through generations.<br><br>"It's always difficult when the individual comes up against the needs of a region," she said.<br><br>But Todd Benjamin says it doesn't matter how long someone's owned land. He says what matters is that it's theirs, not the government's. &nbsp;<br>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 08 May 2012 16:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illiana-expressway-project-has-residents-edge-98922