agriculture | KUOW News and Information

agriculture

The Port of Portland is suing agriculture giant Monsanto Corp. for widespread PCB contamination on port property, the Port announced Thursday.

The lawsuit doesn’t state a dollar amount, but wants the company to pay for its portion of the clean up in the Columbia and Willamette rivers.

“The damages for the Port of Portland range anywhere between tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars in total PCB clean-up costs,” said John Fiske, a California-based attorney representing the Port of Portland.

Low temperatures, snow drifts, and northeasterly winds east of the Cascades are making things difficult for Northwest ranchers and dairy owners. They are struggling to keep their animals hydrated, fed and warm.

It's a continuing paradox of the meat industry. Every year, more restaurants and food companies announce that they will sell only meat produced with minimal or no use of antibiotics. And every year, despite those pledges, more antibiotics are administered to the nation's swine, cattle and poultry.

Patricia Aguilar, 21, began working at DeRuyter Brothers Dairy in central Washington nearly three years ago. She worked at the dairy's milking parlor, which she says handles about 3000 cows three times each day, seven days a week. Aguilar was one of four dairy workers responsible for pushing and guiding the cows into the parlor, connecting the animals to milking machines, wiping them and the machinery down, and cleaning towels and milk tanks.

The day after Donald Trump swept to victory, the head of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Zippy Duvall, released a videotaped statement aimed at the President-elect and other political leaders in Washington.

"Rural America turned out and made their voice heard in this election," he said. "Now it's time for our elected leaders to support rural America."

In the small town of Sunderland, Mass., is a 300-year-old, family-run plot of land that fuses fine art and farming.

Mike Wissemann's 8-acre cornfield maze is a feat of ingenuity, with carefully planned and executed stalk-formed replicas of notables such as the Mona Lisa, Albert Einstein and Salvador Dalí.

Many Washington and Idaho wheat farmers are struggling this year because of a weird crop problem. Researchers at the USDA’s Western Wheat Quality Lab at Washington State University in Pullman are looking into it.

By baking cakes, cookies, bread, pancakes, noodles and pasta.

A new audit finds that Klamath irrigators should not have received millions of dollars in taxpayer money. The money was used to pay farmers not to use scarce water supplies from streams and rivers in the Klamath Basin straddling Oregon and California.

Farmers, more than anyone else, manage America's land and water. They grow crops or graze cattle on more than half of the country's land outside of Alaska.

For the last two months, wildlife managers in Washington state have been shooting wolves in the Profanity Peak pack from a helicopter. The director of Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife authorized the killings back in August.

Federal land managers have made little progress in recovering damaged rangelands across the West or clearing the many backlogged acres that have never been studied for ecological health, according to new figures from the Bureau of Land Management.

The new data show the BLM assessed an average of 3.5 million acres per year between 2013 and 2015. At that rate, it would take about 17 years before the agency could finish grading all of its rangeland. It started the process in 1998.

Farmer Paul Sangha checks out blueberry plants on his farm. He is one of about 100 Sikh berry farmers in Whatcom County.
KUOW Photo/Sarah Eden Wallace

Two thirds of the raspberries grown in the U.S. come out of the soil in Whatcom County, Washington.  And chances are, the berries you ate this summer were grown by Sikh farmers there.

Paul Sangha learned the trade from his father. Sangha is one of nearly 100 East Indian Sikhs tilling the soil just south of the Canadian border. They’re adding their own centuries-old traditions of family farming – and transforming the region.

A new report shows that it’s increasingly difficult for young people to get into farming in Oregon.

The study shows that the average farmer in Oregon is 60 years old — that’s the oldest average age for farmers in state history. The report also shows that Oregon land prices are a major hurdle for young people who want to farm.

"A high price of land means that a farmer has an almost insurmountable barrier to buying into a farm business," said Nellie McAdams, program director with Rogue Farm Corps, one of the co-authors of the report.

Farmworker Groups Seek Ban On Pesticide

Sep 21, 2016

Farmworker advocacy groups are pushing for a ban on a pesticide known to damage the nervous system, which they say poses an unacceptable risk to farmworkers and their families.

No chemical used by farmers, it seems, gets more attention than glyphosate, also known by its trade name, Roundup. That's mainly because it is a cornerstone of the shift to genetically modified crops, many of which have been modified to tolerate glyphosate. This, in turn, persuaded farmers to rely on this chemical for easy control of their weeds. (Easy, at least, until weeds evolved to become immune to glyphosate, but that's a different story.)

The German pharmaceutical and chemical giant Bayer says it will buy U.S. seed seller Monsanto for $66 billion in an all-cash deal that will create the world's largest supplier of seeds and agricultural chemicals.

KUOW environment report Ashley Ahearn speaks with Carol Bogezi about how growing up on a farm in Uganda lead her to studying human-carnivore relationships at University of Washington and working with ranchers and wolves in Eastern Washington. Bogezi is the recipient of a $100,000 award for environmental leadership from Seattle’s Bullitt Foundation.

Your Dilapidated Barn Is Super Trendy. Just Ask HGTV

Sep 1, 2016

Larry Gerdes is having his barn taken down and disassembled in Malta Bend, Mo. It's about the size of a three-car garage but stands much taller in a clearing surrounded by 6-foot stalks of corn.

The barn's exterior is graying, part of its roof is missing, and there's a gaping hole looking out from the hayloft. It's about 100 years old, and it's not really useful.

"It's deteriorated and it would cost a lot of money to repair it," Gerdes says. "And it doesn't fit into modern farming. Unless you got two cows to let them loaf inside, nothing fits, and it's just obsolete."

The Sammamish River Valley.
Flickr photo/Keith and Kasia Moore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Seattle Times reporter Lynn Thompson tells KUOW's Kim Malcolm about how farmers and the wine industry are tussling over zoning along a small outpost of agricultural land south of Woodinville.

You can read Thompson's story here.


The Northwest apple harvest is just underway and pickers are wading into the lush orchards. And so far things look dramatically better than last year.

Organic blueberries are really hard to grow west of the Cascades -- too many bugs and too much disease. And east of the mountains, growers must battle the desert. But one company growing blueberries in south central Washington state may have a solution.

Giant tents.

Legal marijuana sales exceeded $1.3 billion in Washington state in fiscal year 2017.
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

The moratorium on marijuana businesses in unincorporated parts of King County is just about over. The King County Council voted last night to lift the four month ban.

Council members also considered a move to allow retail pot stores in neighborhood business zones. People like Linda Mango asked policy makers to approve of that legislation.

If you're a taxpayer, you're in on this system.

We — the U.S. taxpayers — help subsidize farmers by paying part of the premiums on their crop insurance. This helps ensure that farmers don't go belly up, and also protects against food shortages.

Over orchards and vineyards across the Northwest, European starlings are eating fruit to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. And when the traditional methods of keeping the birds away -- like scarecrows, pyrotechnics and netting -- don’t work, it’s time to call Falcon Force.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture says it found no evidence of chemical drift after responding to an exposure complaint from a former member of the state’s Board of Forestry.

The agency opened an investigation after Peter Hayes of Washington County forest company Hyla Woods complained he and workers were exposed to weed killer sprayed on a nearby tree farm operated by Stimson Lumber.

Vegetation samples on Hyla Woods property taken by state investigators showed no evidence that chemicals had drifted from Stimson’s tree farm, which is more than a half-mile away.

An Oregon judge has ordered more than $50,000 in fines and a one-year license suspension for a pesticide spraying company that violated worker protection laws and later disregarded an order to stop spraying.

Administrative Law Judge Jennifer Rackstraw ordered the Department of Agriculture to issue fines of $43,500 to Applebee Aviation and $10,000 to its owner, Mike Applebee, for 16 violations of state law.

The start of this year’s cherry season in May is the earliest growers have ever seen in Central Washington. Yakima Valley grower Mark Roy said the harvest usually runs from June 20 to July 20.

Nothing Says 'Hip' Like Ancient Wheat

Jun 27, 2016

Forget bold stripes and mule flats — could the next big fad be super-old wheat?

Consumer interest in healthy grains could sow the seeds for some long-forgotten bread wheats to make a comeback, according to an opinion article released Monday in Trends in Plant Science — presumably the Vogue of botany.

The limbs of Central Washington’s cherry trees are heavy with ripe fruit. In Moxee, crews are scrambling to bring in a harvest while the skies are clear and the weather is dry.

Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation corn and soybean farmer. He and his dad run a small farm about 30 miles from Topeka, Kan.

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