Farmers

Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman

Lots of winter snow followed by abnormally wet spring weather delayed spring field work in the Treasure and Magic Valleys. But the Capital Press reports farm work is back on schedule now that weather has returned to normal and temperatures are on the rise.

Paul Skeen of the Malhuer County Onion Growers says he planted most of his crop two to three weeks later than usual. 

But recent warm days are causing crops like sugar beets and corn to come on strong. And farmers are counting on continued warm weather to bring crops back to normal.

Dan Brubaker Horst / Flickr Creative Commons

Producers in the Idaho-Eastern Oregon area saw onion yields that are larger in both quantity and size this year.

The Capital Press reports that despite the bigger yields in 2016, prices dropped, meaning producers saw about break-even earnings. The Idaho-Eastern Oregon growing region has about 300 growers who produce roughly 25 percent of the United States' Spanish bulb onions.

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.

RICHLAND, Wash. – A group of Northwest farmers plans to bring in thousands of legal Mexican guest workers to their fields and orchards this year. Last season many farmers were scrambling to pick their crops because of a worker shortage.

The federal H-2A guest worker program is so cumbersome and expensive, that most farmers haven’t wanted to use it. Employers have to pay for transportation, approved housing and usually more money than the going wage for workers already in the U.S.

Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman

Many Northwest growers are left out of the partial extension of the U.S. Farm Bill included in this week’s fiscal cliff legislation. The new law largely covers conventional agriculture and not the organics, specialty crops and conservation programs that our region’s farmers are known for. 

A popular USDA conservation program encourages some farmers to turn their crop ground back into bunch grass or native forbs. That helps to preserve the soil so we don’t have another drought dust bowl.

Northwest agriculture advocates are more optimistic Congress will take up the issue of immigration after a forum this week in Washington, D.C. The effort is getting support from a surprising mix of organizations.

Photo courtesy of Rosemary Love

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a long history of discriminating against farmers who are women, Hispanic, Native American and African American. Numerous lawsuits have cost the government several billion dollars. The latest legal settlement is for women and Hispanic farmers who can prove they were discriminated against in the 1980s and ‘90s. But some of these farmers say the deal to make amends for discrimination is itself discriminatory.