agriculture

In some areas of the Northwest, dryland farmers are getting impatient. They need rain to plant winter wheat.

Harvest is revving up at Washington’s apple orchards. But this year the fruit they’re picking is smaller -- and there is less of it.

The container yard at the Port of Lewiston, Idaho, looks forgotten. A tall crane next to the Clearwater River sits parked and unused.

Off in the distance, two orange metal shipping containers lie side-by-side, surrounded by asphalt in every direction.

"Last year, there would've been probably 250 containers here," says David Doeringsfeld, the port's general manager.

In California's blazing hot San Joaquin Valley, millions of pistachio trees are now buried in clusters of small pinkish-green fruits — what would seem like a bumper crop.

But for many growers of the popular nut, the season is shaping into a disaster. Jeff Schmiederer, who farms 700 acres of family-owned pistachio trees on the western side of the San Joaquin Valley, says about 90 percent of the nuts he has sampled from his trees are hollow — what growers call "blanks."

Courtesy of Alicia Santos

Alicia Santos started picking strawberries when she was 7 years old. Her mother was working at Hayton Farms in Skagit County, so Alicia went along.

She stayed in the row for the whole day but didn't make much effort. "I feel like, why am I even picking? It's so hot!"

The iconic image of the American farmer is the man or woman who works the land, milks cows and is self-reliant enough to fix the tractor. But like a lot of mechanical items, tractors are increasingly run by computer software. Now, farmers are hitting up against an obscure provision of copyright law that makes it illegal to repair machinery run by software.

Take Dave Alford. He fits that image of the iconic farmer.

Grapes before wine at the 2009 Indian Creek Harvest Fest in Kuna, Idaho.
Flickr Photo/Laura Gilmore (CC BY NC ND 2.0)

David Hyde talks with Alder Yarrow, founder of the wine blog  Vinography, about Idaho's prospects as a wine state.

Grapes on the vineyards of Cave B Winery in Quincy, Washington.
Flickr Photo/Samantha Levang (CC BY 2.0)

Marcie Sillman speaks with Dick Boushey, a grower and vineyard manager in the Red Mountain area, about the impact of heat on Washington's $1 billion wine industry. 

A wildfire about 10 miles east of Walla Walla, Washington, grew to the southeast Tuesday afternoon. The close proximity to town means some people are driving by to get an up-close look at the fire.

Washington is getting less rain than Phoenix, Arizona, state Ecology Danager Maia Bellon said during a press conference in Lacey Friday.

The death of his prized horse has a Washington state lawmaker warning about a noxious weed that’s spreading in the Northwest. That weed is toxic to horses and can have a gruesome effect on their hooves.

A farmworker in Western Washington.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Hundreds of farm workers from Mexico are now making their way to the Northwest after a major delay.

A computer glitch crippled the U.S. visa system, including a guest worker program that Northwest farmers increasingly rely on.

Washington Cherry Growers Grapple With Drought, Labor Issues

Jun 24, 2015
Stemilt Growers, a cherry packing facility in Wenatchee, Washington.
Flickr Photo/Jay Inslee (CC BY ND 2.0)

Kim Malcolm speaks with Northwest News Network's Anna King about Washington's cherry industry. Water restrictions and labor shortages have thrown up some hurdles for local producers, but this year's crop is still expected to produce about 15 million boxes of cherries.

Northwest sweet cherry experts are reporting that some orchards are having a hard time getting their fruit picked this year.

Oregon farmers could soon be more likely to use a mediator to help settle their disputes with neighboring farmers.

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