Agriculture

For the Northwest wine industry this is crunch time. A massive rail and trucking facility in southeast Washington is pushing its final shipments out to arrive on store shelves before the New Year.

Northwest farmers and orchardists are among the potential beneficiaries if the U.S. and Cuba normalize their relationship and the trade embargo ends.

TBiley / Flickr Creative Commons

Greek yogurt maker Chobani says a newly installed reverse-osmosis filtration system at its south-central Idaho plant will reduce the company's consumption of water by 20 percent.

The Times-News reports that the company is installing the new machine to help reduce complaints from its residential neighbors.

Last year, Hollister residents complained about increased truck traffic and odors coming from a local farm that recycled the company's acid whey, which is a waste product of the yogurt plant.

A slowdown at Western ports is now aggravating farmers across the Northwest.

Cows were running free in Pocatello, Idaho, Tuesday, following in the hooves of a feisty heifer that escaped from a meat packing plant Friday. The pursuit of that cow made national headlines; five cows have now broken out of the plant in the past four days.

A slowdown in operations at ports up and down the West Coast is choking off the flow of apples, Christmas trees, potatoes and other Northwest products to foreign markets.

An arctic air mass has swept into the Northwest. Cold air and snow are expected from central Washington through central Oregon and even into Idaho’s central Panhandle.

UGA College of Ag / Flickr

Idaho dairy producers are touting a new study that again shows the substantial role the dairy industry plays in the state’s economy. 

beer tap, bar, alcohol
Marissa Anderson / Flickr Creative Commons

The Idaho Barley Commission estimates about 40 percent of this year's barley crop was damaged by rain, but that bad crop is unlikely to affect craft beer prices in the near term. Rain-saturated barley crops in other top producing states like Montana and North Dakota haven't fared much better.

Canyon County Historical Society

In 1885, southwestern Idaho's Nampa was just a water tower and a few shacks, but that quickly changed when the railroad came to town. A new book by historian Larry Cain examines the railroad's impact on Nampa, and how the city has changed.

Cain says the trains, and their cargo, are a big reason why Nampa thrived in the early part of the last century.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Do you ever wonder where your poop goes when you flush the toilet? If you live in Boise, it ends up somewhere a little out of the ordinary. It goes to a place called 20 Mile South Farm, so named because it's 20 miles south of Boise.

“Everybody who flushes the toilet contributes to this fertilizer right here,” Says Ben Nydegger, Boise's biosolids program manager.

Biosolids is the industry term for the stuff he’s standing next to. It’s a dark-brown pile about three-feet-tall and roughly twice the area of an Olympic swimming pool.

ranching, cattle, trough
Julie Rose / For Boise State Public Radio

In a couple of weeks, Logan Alder will marry his girlfriend and move into a small house on the family ranch in Malad, Idaho. In another year, he’ll have an agriculture degree from Utah State University. But right now, he’s just a 25-year-old kid, knee-deep in muck.

Mud regularly builds up on the bottom of this large watering trough in a field where Alder’s keeping some of his 500 cattle. Usually a spigot keeps the trough full so muck can’t build up as easily. But lately, the well underneath is running so low the spigot merely sputters.

Wine harvest is underway in a small growing region in southeast Washington called Red Mountain. The dusty wedge of earth has been attracting an increasing amount of investment from winemakers from Napa, Canada and even Italy.

Antibiotics are ubiquitous in modern human life. Along with their well-known medical applications, they also are routinely used in agriculture, including our increasingly industrial production of meat.

But as resistant strains of bacteria continue to emerge, health authorities around the world are growing alarmed at the increasing impotence of antibiotics to fight disease. In fact, they worry we are on the verge of a total breakdown in the overall usefulness of these drugs. It’s a scenario of horrifying scope to those who understand the implications for human health.

CompassioninWorldFarming / Flickr

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says dairy farmers can begin signing up Sept. 2 for a new program that replaces old subsidies.

The program is a kind of insurance that pays farmers when the difference between milk prices and feed prices shrink to a certain level. It replaces a program that paid farmers when milk prices sank too low.

Dairy farmers have struggled in recent years even with good milk prices. Feed costs have risen because of demand for corn from the ethanol industry and recent droughts.

MHall209 / Flickr Creative Commons

 This post was updated at 11:20 a.m. Aug. 27, 2014.

The Idaho dairy industry group that sent a letter to its members urging them to deny media tours and on-farm interviews now says it never meant to deny access.

Tuesday, after the Associated Press reported the letter was sent to 500 dairies, a public relations firm followed up with this statement from United Dairymen of Idaho CEO Karianne Fallow:

Overall, climate change is predicted to hurt agriculture around the world. It could even threaten corn production in the Corn Belt.

But in North Dakota conditions are now better for raising corn, and that's a big benefit for farmers.

When I was growing up in Wolford, N.D., up near the Canadian border, wheat was king. It had been the dominant crop since the prairie was first plowed in the late 1800s. So it was kind of strange to go back this summer and find Larry Slaubaugh, a local farmer, filling his 18-wheeler with corn from a huge steel grain bin.

Northwest cattle ranchers are struggling to get their herds out of the way of raging wildfires. Some herds have been lost, others badly injured.

wheat, grain, agriculture, montana
Daimon Eklund / Flickr Creative Commons

The Northwest wheat harvest is in full swing, but the export of grain has all but stopped at the Port of Vancouver, Wash. The shipments have been blocked because Washington state inspectors have stopped checking grain for export at the port because they don't want to cross a picket line in a labor dispute.

Farmers are calling for those inspections to resume after harvesting about 40 percent of Washington's wheat. Washington Wheat Growers Association President Nicole Berg farms 21,000 acres near the Tri-Cities.

This summer's hot, dry weather has been a mixed blessing for Northwest farmers.

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