Agriculture

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.

James Good / Flickr Creative Commons

The University of Idaho says it won't graze sheep this summer on three high-elevation areas in eastern Idaho and western Montana until a lawsuit filed by environmental groups concerning a federal sheep research facility is resolved.

Federal officials in documents filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court say the university in March notified the U.S. Department of Agriculture it wouldn't send sheep or sheepherders to the allotments this summer.

Courtesy: J.R. Simplot Company

Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Company is seeking federal approval to market a second genetically engineered potato.

Simplot won approval for its first modified potato late last year. The “Innate” potato, as it’s branded, is due to be the first genetically engineered spud on the market.

Simplot dubbed the genetically engineered potatoes “Innate” because the inserted genes come from other potatoes.

Idaho water managers say they are conducting negotiations to prevent mass water shutoffs from Jerome to Idaho Falls even though a final deal could result in long-term farming changes for southern Idaho irrigators.

The Capital Press reports that groundwater irrigators have fallen short in providing enough water to two canal companies.

The canal companies are owed nearly 89,000 acre-feet of water because they own senior water rights. Senior water rights take priority in Idaho.

The first genetically modified crop wasn't made by a megacorporation. Or a college scientist trying to design a more durable tomato. Nope. Nature did it — at least 8,000 years ago.

Well, actually bacteria in the soil were the engineers. And the microbe's handiwork is present in sweet potatoes all around the world today.

A drive across the Northwest quickly reveals things look really dry everywhere.

CompassioninWorldFarming / Flickr

Idaho was the third-highest milk producing state last year, behind California and Wisconsin.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Idaho cows produced about 13.9 billion pounds of milk last year.

The Idaho Press-Tribune reports that's an increase from 13.4 billion pounds in 2013. The increase helped Idaho take the No. 3 milk producing spot back from New York.

California is the top producer with more than 42 billion pounds of milk, and Wisconsin comes in second with more than 27 billion pounds.

Thomas Hawk / Flickr Creative Commons

Fremont County is the most recent addition of Idaho communities to receive a drought emergency declaration from the state. Blaine, Lincoln, Butte and Custer counties were given the designation on April 10, the earliest time for a state-approved drought declaration in the last five years.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

One Idaho start-up company is making strides in the drone industry, and has begun flying the unmanned aircrafts to help farmers get the best possible yield. The goal is to accurately and quickly assess problem crops early on – ones that could be weather damaged or needing more water – so the farmers can make adjustments.  

Images from drones equipped with high-tech cameras and sensors can show hard-to-access problem areas, potentially saving farmers time and money.

Across the Northwest, farmers are already making tough calls because of this year’s drought. The dismal snowpack is to blame.

Laura Gilmore / Flickr Creative Commons

Farmers in the Owyhee Basin are bracing for a very difficult summer season because this is the second year of an extreme drought.

The largely agricultural area along the border of Idaho and Oregon gets water from the Owyhee Reservoir, which is at just 27 percent of normal capacity. A dry and warm winter made replenishing the water supply difficult.

Northwest asparagus fields are sprouting about 10 days earlier than usual this spring. It’s in time for Easter brunch, but a headache for farmers.

MHall209 / Flickr Creative Commons

Food manufacturers and restaurants are taking the dairy industry by the horns on an animal welfare issue that bothers activists but is little known to consumers.

Horned calves are common in dairy herds and farms routinely remove the horn buds by burning or gouging them out before horns develop. Horns are hazardous because unruly cows can gore farm workers or other animals.

General Mills, Nestle, Denny's are among companies pushing increased breeding of cows born without horns — called polled cattle.

The region's recent stretch of warm weather means Northwest sweet cherries will likely be going early to market this year.

Curt Bowen

We’ve been following an Idaho non-profit over the years as it helps farmers in Guatemala grow more sustainable crops. We first learned of Semilla Neuva - that’s “New Seed” in Spanish - in 2011. The fledgling group was giving advice on farming techniques to Guatemalan farmers.

Sara Creech has grown dependent on farming. She started out planting an orchard of fruit trees: apples, peaches, cherries and pears. She added berry bushes and rows of vegetables.

And then she bought her first chickens.

"A lot of people call chickens the gateway animal," says Creech, who lives in rural North Salem, Ind. "Like once you have a chicken on the farm, then you end up getting sheep on the farm, and then you end up getting horses, and cows. And then it just explodes from there."

An Idaho lawmaker and farmer said the state should press the federal government to establish a national labeling system for genetically engineered foods -- before states create their own.

Ryan Wiedmaier / Flickr Creative Commons

A Boise State University professor wants to make it easier to decide whether it's worth it to spend a little more on organic produce, or purchase the cheaper non-organic option.

"Eighty percent of American grocery stores now sell organic food and people have to decide for themselves is this worth it to buy to feed myself and my family?" says Cynthia Curl. "We don't have a lot of guidance to give to those people and so I think it's a really important thing to study."

Anna King / Northwest News Network

Three new hot spots of bird flu have been found in wild ducks and domestic birds in Idaho.

A second Oregon case was confirmed last week in a wild duck near Eugene. And a flock of 118 birds was euthanized over the weekend in Port Angeles, Washington.

Government agriculture workers have taken out several large infected backyard flocks -- some with more than 100 birds.

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