Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

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Search results for "farms" ...

  • Consumer Fraud Involving Various Agricultural Products and Crops

    This series focuses on consumer fraud involving various agricultural products and crops. As American consumers seek more quality and health claims about products they buy, they're also demanding greater transparency from the companies that make these goods. But there's still plenty of secrecy in the supply chains from the farms that produce raw materials to the finished products that people purchase at stores.
  • The Global Crisis of Vanishing Groundwater

    The historic agreement reached in Paris in December that will curb carbon emissions is heartening, but oil isn’t the only resource being pumped out of the ground at an alarming rate—with catastrophic consequences for the planet. In an eye-opening series for USA Today, The Desert Sun of Palm Springs, CA, and other Gannett newspapers, Pulitzer Center grantees Ian James and Steve Elfers investigate the consequences of groundwater depletion, an overlooked global crisis. “Groundwater is disappearing beneath cornfields in Kansas, rice paddies in India, asparagus farms in Peru and orange groves in Morocco,” writes Ian. “As these critical water reserves are pumped beyond their limits, the threats are mounting for people who depend on aquifers to supply agriculture, sustain economies and provide drinking water. In some areas, fields have already turned to dust and farmers are struggling.” Climate change will only exacerbate the crisis, yet few seem to be taking this existential threat seriously. “Even as satellite measurements have revealed the problem’s severity on a global scale, many regions have failed to adequately address the problem,” says Ian. “Aquifers largely remain unmanaged and unregulated, and water that seeped underground over tens of thousands of years is being gradually used up.”
  • Tragic Harvest

    In “Tragic Harvest,” the Star Tribune revealed that farm deaths in Minnesota and other Midwestern states spiked in the past decade, and that virtually nothing is being done to combat the problem here. In fact, state and federal officials charged with overseeing workplace safety were unaware of the surge in deaths. We showed that most of the deaths are occurring on small farms that are exempt from government oversight, and that most fatal accidents occurred because farm workers violated workplace safety rules. We also showed how Washington, one of the few states to enforce workplace safety rules on small farms, has been able to reduce fatal accidents and significantly improve conditions for farm workers.
  • A Game of Chicken

    Over the course of a decade, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had not one, not two, not three, but four opportunities to warn the public about salmonella outbreaks involving Foster Farms chicken. Each time, they hemmed and hawed, worrying more about the threat of legal action from a corporate giant than about protecting consumers. Health reporter Lynne Terry was the first journalist in America to identify and write about this alarming trend. With reporters from Frontline, The Center for Investigative Reporting and the New York Times circling around the story, she beat them all with a stunning and illuminating examination of the failures of the USDA. In her year-long investigation, Terry set out to determine if the USDA’s notoriously slow handling of a major salmonella outbreak in 2013-2014 was an isolated case. It wasn’t. She reviewed thousands of pages of previously undisclosed documents dating back to 2003. What she found was disturbing: More than 1,000 people had rushed to their doctors with bouts of food poisoning. They had no idea what made them sick. But federal regulators did. Those same federal officials took virtually no steps to protect consumers from bad chicken. Health officials in Oregon and Washington had pushed vigorously for federal action, having identified clear and convincing evidence of problems. But the USDA wouldn’t budge. Terry’s meticulous reporting identified these themes: •USDA officials are afraid of lawsuits. The agency is so worried about being sued by companies that they’ve set an almost impossible bar for evidence, even rejecting samples of tainted chicken that state health agencies believed would help clinch their case. •Government inspectors are pressured to go easy on food processors. In one notable case, the USDA transferred an inspector after Foster Farms complained he wrote too many citations. •The USDA succumbed to further pressure from Foster Farms. After strong pushback from the company’s lawyers, the agency backed away from citing an unequivocal connection linking the company to a 2004 outbreak – even though the evidence pointed only to Foster Farms.
  • Crimea Property Grab

    While the world's attention was bracketed on the ongoing armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Associated Press set out to investigate what was also happening to the south, in Crimea, the territory unilaterally annexed by Russia from Ukraine in March. Mills, based in Moscow, and Dahlburg, then AP's Brussels news editor, and a former Moscow-based staffer for the AP and the Los Angeles Times, meticulously tracked down example after example of property taken over by Crimea's new leaders under a so-called nationalization law, against the rules of Russia's own constitution. The AP interviewed victims who lost millions in farms, factories or other assets, and whose efforts to get justice or compensation have been thwarted. The story was the first to extensively report the large-scale grab for real estate and other forms of property under way in Crimea, and to show that in some cases, the new pro-Moscow leadership installed in power had benefited personally.
  • Farmaceuticals

    A Reuters investigation details the drugs fed to farm animals and the risks posed to humans.
  • An Impossible Choice

    inewsource exposed and documented a world where thousands of people, tethered to tubes and machines, are kept alive in places called “vent farms.” The state of California pays for all of their care, more than $600 million in 2013. A reporter and videographer secured unprecedented access to one of these units, producing an unvarnished portrayal of a system that keeps people alive at all costs. inewsource told the stories of families who refuse to let go of their loved ones when there’s no hope for recovery. And it became the first to compile and analyze California’s data on this population, learning that if the government wasn’t footing the bill for this care, this population wouldn’t exist.
  • Product of Mexico

    Americans have grown accustomed to year-round supplies of fresh, affordable fruit and vegetables. “Product of Mexico,” a four-part Los Angeles Times series, made vividly clear the human costs of this abundance. The 18-month investigation found that many farm laborers at Mexican export farms are essentially trapped for months at a time in rat-infested camps, often without beds and sometimes without functioning toilets or a reliable water supply. Those who seek to escape have to contend with guards, barbed-wire fences and threats of violence. Major U.S. companies have done little to enforce social responsibility guidelines that call for basic worker protections such as clean housing and fair pay practices.
  • Green, Not So Green

    The AP spent 11 months examining the hidden environmental costs of the nation’s green-energy boom: undisclosed eagle deaths at wind farms; untracked loss of conservation lands and native prairies created by the ethanol mandate; and the government’s unadvertised support of more oil drilling with money to clean up coal-fired power plants. All energy has costs, and in the case of fossil fuels those costs have been well documented. But when it comes to green energy, the administration, the industry, and environmentalists don’t want to talk about. The AP series shows how the Obama administration has at times looked the other way and in other cases made environmental concessions for so-called green energy to make headway in its fight against global warming.
  • Chemical Drift, the Second-Hand Smoke of Big Agriculture

    This series documented the dangers posed by agricultural chemicals which are applied both aerially and by land equipment. Some estimates show up to 90 percent of applied chemicals fail to hit the targeted site and drift hundreds of miles in the environment, contaminating people, water systems, air and animals. The series revealed that current safety standards were based on old theories of toxicology, which assume that the danger of chemical exposure is based on the dose. “The dose makes the poison” was the theory. That is not true with endocrine disrupting chemical pesticides that are non-monotonic, meaning that even at very low levels of exposure, significant damage can occur, especially if exposure is during childhood or fetal development. In “Pitchfork Rebels,” Howard wrote about organic farmers training to install environmental sampling devices known as Drift Catchers on their land. The resulting chemical analysis showed the presence of chlorpyrifos, an endocrine disrupting chemical insecticide linked to ADHD and autism, had drifted to their farms from an aerial application more than two miles away. The EPA banned all uses of chlorpyrifos in homes and daycare centers because of its toxicity for children, but it is still allowed in agricultural uses. This article documented the toxin’s drift to an organic farm where three young sisters live.