Madelyn Beck

Reporter - Health+Harvest

Madelyn Beck is from Montana, but has reported everywhere from Alaska to Washington, D.C. Most recently, she was the Wyoming reporter for public media collaboration Inside Energy. There, she reported on regional and national energy issues for radio stations around the West.

Past publications include the Idaho Mountain Express, E&E News/EnergyWire, KRBD Rainbird Radio, the Montana Broadcaster’s Association, Montana Public Radio, and the Tioga Tribune.

Madelyn reports on agriculture, environment and health out of her Galesburg office as part of the Illinois Newsroom regional journalism collaborative for WVIK and Tri States Public Radio. She also contributes to Harvest Public Media.

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Madelyn Beck

Floodwaters on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers may be going down, but rain has continued to soak farmland around much of the state. More rain could be on the way later this month.

Wet fields make it hard to plant because farmers use large, heavy machinery in the fields. Even if a field is dry enough for equipment not to get stuck, too much pressure on wet soil makes it hard for seedlings to develop solid root systems.

As grassland and prairies gave way to farmland in the Midwest, habitats for some native birds disappeared. There’s a relatively new program in central Illinois looking to restore wetlands for migrating birds and help farmers at the same time.

The program to help them is limited but is secure for now. However, the future for both the bird and the program could be on shakier ground in just a few years.

A Silicon Valley startup is pitting itself against major seed companies, alleging that those companies are price gouging in the Heartland. Farmers Business Network’s stated motive is to help farmers by crunching numbers and providing transparency, but it is positioning itself to become a player in the seed business, too.

Courtesy Prairie Restorations, Inc

From bees to butterflies, a worldwide decline in pollinators has entomologists trying to figure out how to help those bugs and the plants that rely on them survive.

The answer could come from a mixture of new technology and new habitat, and the timing is critical, as the monarch butterfly is up for an endangered species listing later this year.

Madelyn Beck

 

The Quad Cities are divided by the Mississippi River along the Illinois-Iowa border. They all took a big hit during the 1980’s farm crisis, and were left with abandoned warehouses and other buildings.

On the Iowa side, cities had help turning those old buildings into new housing and businesses.

The U.S. trade war with China, now approaching a year, is often framed as hurting manufacturing and agriculture the most. But that’s mainly collateral damage in an international struggle over power and technology that has its roots in the Cold War, when China was still considered a largely undeveloped country.

Illinois Newsroom

Illinois’ population loss could be a warning for larger changes to come.

Between July 2017 and July 2018, Illinois lost more than 45,000 people, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. It’s still the sixth-most populated state, but is one of only a handful of states that lost people over that time period.

For crop farmers, winter is the offseason. But that doesn’t mean they take the winter off. It’s meeting season — going to endless seminars or having discussions about better ways to farm — and planning season.

Planning may seem like it would be a challenge given the trade uncertainties, including the tariff war with China. 

Illinois Newsroom

Come January 14, Illinois will have a new pro-pot-legalization governor and a Democrat-held legislature, leading many to believe the state will legalize recreational cannabis. That’s exciting for some, concerning  for others. At a recent “News & Brews” community event about what legalization may mean for Illinois, several attendees asked how police officers plan to deal with marijuana-impaired drivers without pot breathalyzers.

 

 

Fields, crops and farm animals are part of the agriculture-industry landscape, but an increasingly small one.

The number of farm and ranch managers shrunk by about 20 percent between 1996 and 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. At the same time, there are more students graduating from ag colleges, and, in many parts of the country, 80 percent to 90 percent of them find a job (or go for an advanced degree) within a few months of graduating.

I’m used to long roads.

I grew up at the dead end of a dirt one in rural Montana.

For my latest radio story, I drove about 11 hours. Every person I interviewed was a stranger in a town I’ve never been. Mostly, I found them online.

Don’t tell my mother.

Roy Luck (CC BY 2.0)

The U.S. Department of Transportation has removed a regulation meant to force trains carrying crude oil or other flammable liquids to adopt electronic braking technology by 2020. Electronically Controlled Pneumatic brakes — or ECP brakes — are meant to stop train cars and keep them from slamming into each other when a train derails.

Illinois is both a train hub and an oil train hub, and the regulatory change will have several effects in the state.

As life expectancy increases, farmers are staying in the business, but there’s still a need to plan for what happens when they die. At the same time, young farmers who come from non-farming backgrounds are looking for the space to grow their own careers.

A land transfer may seem simple, but challenges abound: How do retiring farmers connect with beginning farmers? When does a farmer confront death? How can smaller farm organizations fit into the ever-growing 1,000-acre farm scene?

Rural counties are facing a lot of heat over Illinois’ booming solar power development.

The big push started in late 2016 when the state legislature passed the Future Energy Jobs Act. It sets aside between $180 million and $220 million yearly to help fund renewable energies like solar, which will help the state meet its goal of generating 25 percent of its energy from renewables by 2025.

Technology changing access and outcomes in abortion debate

President Donald Trump has stood strongly behind the anti-abortion movement, and his Supreme Court picks have some questioning the future of abortion access. However, technology could be key to access, too -- for both sides of the abortion debate.  

The room looks like an office. There are tables, chairs, a laptop and a cash register -- though that register isn’t for money.

The space is used for telemedicine abortions in Planned Parenthood’s Iowa City clinic.

Pesticides are all over, from backyard gardens to cornfields. While their use doesn’t appear to be slowing, concern over drift and the resulting effects on health is driving research — and more worries.

Those concerns are bringing pesticides to a different venue: courtrooms. 

Scott Pruitt’s resignation from the Environmental Protection Agency this month has many in the renewable fuel industry hoping that federal agencies will get on the same page.

That’s because for the last few years, the EPA and the Department of Energy have been at odds, with taxpayer money creating a new biofuel industry that may not have the room to grow outside the lab.

Two counties in southwestern Illinois grow the majority of the nation’s — possibly the world’s — horseradish. The city of Collinsville, population 25,000, straddles both Madison and St. Clair, and celebrates the root annually, hosting the International Horseradish Festival.

Harvest Public Media decided it was time to check out the entertainment, games and horseradish-based dishes and drinks. Here’s a bite of the zesty gathering.

Beth Martinez and her brother Ben Bloom
Courtesy Beth Martinez

The national conversation around gun violence generally centers around mass shootings, school shootings and gang activity. These problems need to be addressed, but may overshadow the largest group affected: suicide victims.