The rising popularity of hummus across the nation has been good for farmers like Aaron Flansburg.
Flansburg, who farms 1,900 acres amid the rolling hills of southeastern Washington, has been increasing the amount of the chickpeas used to make hummus by about one-third each year to take advantage of good prices and demand.
"I hope that consumption keeps increasing," he said.
The value of Idaho’s agriculture products grew from $5.7 billion to $7.8 billion between 2007 and 2012. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA.) It released preliminary results from its Census of Agriculture Thursday. The USDA provides the update every five years and the latest covers 2012.
Much of Idaho has been in a severe drought and scientists have now calculated how much rain and snow some Idaho water users will need in order to get by next summer.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has looked at surface water needs for the Snake River Basin.
Water supply specialist Ron Abramovich says if the state’s agricultural heartland from Idaho Falls to Twin Falls gets average precipitation, "They should be able to just squeak by with an adequate irrigation supply next year.”
Rows of potatoes stretch off toward the horizon where the South Boise Correctional Complex looms. Inmate Joe Molyneux sticks his hands into the dirt and comes up with two potatoes.
This is the fourth year that inmates have grown potatoes, corn and beans on state land near the prison. It’s Molyneux’s first year doing this and he wanted this assignment.
“To watch these plants grow, and to watch the magic of it, you plant one little tiny seed potato and you get a big pile of them at the end of the year,” he says. “The whole point of it is to watch God’s handiwork.”
Drought that’s sizzling the rest of the nation has largely left the Northwest states alone. Furthermore, the Midwest’s farmers’ misfortune is actually benefiting farmers here.
That’s because grain prices are going up due to the Heartland’s decimated yields. Meanwhile, many Northwest farmers crops are above average.
Todd Ray is the owner of 10 New Holland tractor dealerships in Washington and Oregon. He says Northwest farmers may be doing better than the rest of the country, but they still have to think about high input costs –- like gas, tires and fertilizer.
The drought that’s gripped much of the country is hurting farmers from Texas to North Dakota. And here in Idaho, the effects of drought could be mixed for farmers and consumers.
Take your average grocery bill. Expect it to go up because of the drought says Paul Paterson. The agriculture economist with the University of Idaho says the decimation of Midwestern crops like corn and wheat will increase the cost of most processed foods.
U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) said today he’s frustrated with the gridlock in Washington. Decisions on the nation’s budget, debt, taxes, and other major issues have been put off repeatedly.
Crapo believes these issues won’t be resolved until after the November elections. He says, "Unfortunately, I don’t think any of the major things that we need to do will happen with the possible exception of a farm bill, on which we are developing some bipartisan support, and, hopefully, a transportation bill."
Northwest farm groups are cheering a federal decision this week to dump proposed child labor rules. The Department of Labor decided to withdraw the plan after it received thousands of comments opposing the change. But child safety advocates say the fierce opposition was based on faulty information.
Politicians from farm and ranch country called the regulations an attack on family farms, going as far to say the rules could outlaw chores and 4-H for farm kids. However, the regulations specifically exempted children working on farms owned or operated by their parents.
Idaho farmers this time of year are thinking a lot about water and wondering if there will be enough for their crops and livestock. A wet spring has boosted snow packs and hopes throughout the region. But in Southern Oregon’s Klamath Basin, farmers are a bit worried. That's because local officials have declared a drought in Klamath County.
Rob Unruh’s farmhouse is just about a mile from the border with California. This winter, he planted wheat in the field in front of his house, to hold the soil in place. Skinny green stalks, almost invisible, poke up out of the ground.