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.

Why Idaho May Have Trouble Defending Its 'Ag-Gag' Law

Jun 23, 2014
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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.

Farmers in Oregon, Idaho and Washington are expected to harvest less wheat this summer. The weather forecast has a lot to do with it.

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A federal judge has denied a request by the Idaho Dairymen's Association to join Idaho in defending the recently passed law criminalizing surreptitious recording at agriculture facilities.

The Times-News reports that U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill shot down the request Monday. Winmill said in his ruling that the state can represent the dairymen's interests without the group getting involved.

When you think organic, you probably visualize fresh, sweet-smelling fruits and vegetables. But what makes that delicious organic produce grow?

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A south-central Idaho milk processing company has agreed to pay a $170,000 fine for dumping wastewater with acidity levels high enough to damage Jerome's wastewater treatment plant.

The Times-News reports that the Environmental Protection Agency announced the agreement with Idaho Milk Products in a statement on Monday.

The agency says the company between March 2009 and July 2012 exceeded its acidity limit 138 times.

Northwest sweet cherry growers say this season they'll likely pick their third-largest haul ever -- 20 million boxes.

According to newly-released data from the USDA's agricultural census, the number of farms in the Northwest is dropping.

We’ve all heard of the Western Gold Rush. But how about the Northwest cattle rush?

cow, dairy, calves
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The Idaho Dairymen's Association is asking a federal judge to intervene in a lawsuit challenging a new law that makes it illegal to secretly film animal abuse at agricultural facilities.

The industry group filed a motion to become a defendant in the lawsuit late last week.

Many Northwest alfalfa growers had a rough year with bad weather last summer.

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Attorneys for Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit challenging a new law that makes it illegal to secretly film animal abuse at agricultural facilities.

A coalition of animal activists, civil rights groups and others sued last month, asking U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill to strike down what they call an "ag gag" law. The coalition contends the law curtails freedom of speech and makes gathering proof of animal abuse a crime with a harsher punishment than the penalty for animal cruelty itself.

smcgee / Flickr

The executive director of the Idaho Wine Commission says the state is getting national attention for its wines.

Moya Dolsby credits a $400,000 annual budget funded through the state liquor tax and wine industry assessment as well as enthusiastic supporters.

Dolsby tells the Lewiston Tribune that she no longer has to beg restaurants and retailers to try Idaho wines.

The state's wine industry has grown from a single commercial winery in 1976 to 50 today.