Agriculture

Screengrab USDA.gov

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, four Idaho counties are in a state of disaster because of drought. The counties are Canyon, Owyhee, Payette and Washington. Farmers and ranchers there and in any adjacent counties can get federal money to help them through the year if they can prove the drought is hurting their production.

As the price of mustard rises, growers in Idaho have expanded the average devoted to the crop by 250 percent.

The Capital Press reports that at 33.1 cents per pound delivered, mustard prices are up about 2.5 per pound from last year, making it one of the few crops to have increased in value in 2016. Idaho growers have seized on the opportunity to turn a profit.

Jeremiah Clark

Farmers in Peru and Bolivia have been growing and eating quinoa for a long, long time. But over the last decade, the grain’s high nutritional value has made it a popular food in countries like the U.S. and Canada. South America quinoa production has more than doubled since 2010 as producers have tried to meet international demand.

Chris vT / Flickr Creative Commons

Update, Friday - 12:09 p.m.: The Humane Society of the United States, the largest animal welfare organization in the nation, is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for lethally poisoning Casey Echevarria's 12 dogs.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

The new crop of bing cherries has been beset with growing problems this year that are reducing the size of the crop.

The Northwest's most popular cherry variety could be in short supply in 2016, after the five-state Cherry Commission on Wednesday lowered its outlook for the season to 18.3 million 20-pound boxes.

The Tri-City Herald reported that some farmers are warning that if conditions worsen, some bing orchards could go unpicked.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Agricultural exports, a major segment of Idaho’s economy, took a 22 percent drop last year. That’s a decline of more than $200 million. Domestic ag sales were down in 2015 as well, as were the state’s non-ag exports, but neither saw as steep a drop as agricultural exports.

Roughly a quarter of Idaho ag products go overseas. And the going over the sea part was some of the problem according to Laura Johnson, market development manager at Idaho’s Department of Agriculture. Issues at west coast ports hurt sales to Asia.

Dave Thomas / Flickr Creative Commons

After the deadly white-nose syndrome was found in a bat in the state of Washington, Idaho is stepping up protections against the fungus.

Idaho Fish and Game says it’s working to prevent the fungus from coming here, while at the same time, making preparations in case it does show up, like creating an inter-agency response plan for Idaho.

The Department says there are 14 bat species living in the state. At least half hibernate here. White-nose syndrome is known to kill hibernating bats.

The Treefort Music Festival is preparing for what will likely be its biggest year since it began in 2012. And as it grows, new elements of the festival continue to emerge.  This year attendees will see another branch of the festival with a focus on food issues.  Tara Morgan is one of the organizers of Foodfort. She says that aspect of the festival will feature two components.

“For the taste component we have 10 local chefs that are utilizing mostly local ingredients to create small plates, and then talks which is a series of panels and discussions related to food,” Morgan said.

USDA

If you're a woman in agriculture, you're more likely to farm in Oregon than in Idaho.

Idaho's so-called "ag-gag" law, which outlawed undercover investigations of farming operations, is no more. A judge in the federal District Court for Idaho decided Monday that it was unconstitutional, citing First Amendment protections for free speech.

But what about the handful of other states with similar laws on the books?

Matt Northam / Flickr Creative Commons

A federal judge has ruled that Idaho's law banning secret filming of animal abuse at agricultural facilities is unconstitutional.

U.S. Judge Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled Monday the law violates the First Amendment.

A coalition of animal activists, civil rights groups and media organizations sued the state more than a year ago, opposing the so called "ag gag" law. The coalition said the law curtailed freedom of speech and made gathering proof of animal abuse a crime with a harsher punishment than the penalty for animal cruelty.

Don Barrett / Flickr Creative Commons

Southwest Idaho stands out in bright red on the most recent drought map. The color signifies the area is in extreme drought. Jay Chamberlin of the Owyhee Irrigation District says that's not surprising, given the lack of snowpack last winter.

Tristan Buckner / Flickr Creative Commons

The drought is killing wheat crops in a northern Idaho county where commissioners declared a state of emergency.

The Lewiston Tribune reports some Clearwater County farmers have seen drought conditions eliminate almost two-thirds of this year's crops.

Commission Chairman Don Ebert says recent rains were too late to save wheat crops, and that harvests are down 40 percent.

The National Weather Service forecasts more rain this week, but not enough to end drought conditions.

USDA/NRCS / Flickr Creative Commons

Last week, the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a 21st century upgrade to a system that’s been stuck in the analog world. The Conservation Client Gateway is a new website that lets farmers and ranchers apply for programs under things like the Farm Bill. Before, a farmer would have to drive to their nearest USDA office – which, in rural Idaho – could be a time and fuel-consuming task.

Northwest sweet cherry experts are reporting that some orchards are having a hard time getting their fruit picked this year.

Sebastian Mary / Flickr Creative Commons

No one would ever call me a foodie and I’m certainly no locavore. I tend to eat whatever is in front of me. But I have one big exception: fruit, especially nectarines and peaches. I’ve just got to have that sweet nectar of the nectarine when it's fresh. So, in late summer I embark on a quest looking for fresh, local nectarines and peaches.

An orchard in southeastern Washington state says the U.S. immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed. That's the response Thursday from Broetje Orchards in Prescott.

Brian Stalter / Flickr Creative Commons

After the rain and warm weather southern Idaho has seen over the last few weeks, conditions are primed for wild morel mushroom hunting. The fungal plant is especially fruitful on burned forest land, which makes national forests a popular spot for morel picking.

Dave Olson is a spokesman with the Boise National Forest. He says the best time for morels is the first season after a wildfire, so 2014's relatively quiet wildfire season means this year isn't as good as in years past.

Barry Crabtree / Flickr Creative Commons

During a talk he gave in Oxford, England in 2013, environmentalist and writer Mark Lynas apologized to the very audience he used to demonize: companies and scientists that work with genetically modified foods.

"As an environmentalist and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a health and nutritious diet of their choosing," Lynas told the crowd, "I could not have chosen a more counterproductive path and I now regret it completely."

The Roza Irrigation District in Eastern Washington’s Yakima Valley is shutting off the water for two weeks because of drought. About a billion dollars in crops are on the line.

Pages