Agriculture

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.

A breakdown in a U.S. State Department computer system that processes foreign worker visas has sowed major worries at some Northwest orchards.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved emergency haying and grazing on land normally used for the Conservation Reserve Program in parts of eastern Idaho.

Officials in Bingham, Bonneville, Fremont, Madison and Power counties requested the emergency access because of drought and crop damage. The USDA's Farm Service Agency in Idaho announced Monday that the requests were approved.

The emergency haying is allowed through the end of August, and participants must leave at least half of each field unhayed for wildlife. The hay can't be sold.

Nikos Koutoulas / Flickr

Firefighters say nearly $100,000 of alfalfa went up in flames Thursday after a large stack spontaneously combusted in Twin Falls.

Rock Creek Fire District spokesman Taylor Hunsaker says the stack, which was made of 480 tons of hay, will burn for almost a week.

Craig Giles, who grew the alfalfa, says he hired a custom operator to bale it. He says the bales were stacked with enough distance between them to allow moisture and heat to escape.

Water is a common and often contentious issue in the West. But now, farmers across the country are also riled up because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to revise the 1972 Clean Water Act.

jennie-o / Flickr Creative Commons

On Wednesday a federal judge hears arguments on Idaho’s new “ag gag” law, which creates stiff punishments for people who surreptitiously video or photograph agricultural operations.

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