agriculture | KUOW News and Information

agriculture

A fresh agricultural foe has orchardists bulldozing and burning cherry trees across Washington and Oregon.

Northwest farmers are watching several bills closely in Congress that would try to keep trade moving through ports in the event of a labor dispute.

We've heard a lot about the negative effects of climate change in the arctic and subarctic. But some Alaskans, like farmer Tim Meyers, are seeing warming temperatures as an opportunity.

Now that potato harvest is underway at his Bethel farm, Meyers uses a giant potato washer, like a washing machine for root vegetables, to clean California white potatoes.

They're some of the only commercially produced vegetables in this southwestern Alaska region, about the size of Oregon.

Meyers says the warming summers are a big part of his success.

For the next week temperatures in Washington’s farmland are predicted to be mild. But wine grape growers and orchardists still worry a cold snap could hurt them.

King County is trying to sell, at a discount, a large swath of land north of Fall City for a new dairy farm.
Flickr Photo/Jenny Ingram (CC BY NC ND)/http://bit.ly/1Ob39rY

David Hyde talks with King County Executive Dow Constantine about efforts to preserve farmland and open space in rural King County.

'Apple beauty contest'
Flickr Photo/quilldancer (CC BY NC ND)/http://bit.ly/1kbQWWP

David Hyde spoke with Yakima Valley apple grower Ric Valicoff about increasingly hot and dry conditions in Central Washington and how that could affect the future of the fruit tree industry. 

Like all business owners, farmers want to get paid for their work. Sometimes, that work creates problems for the environment, so regulators are advancing the idea of creating environmental markets to allow farmers to make money off of their conservation practices.

Under plans in development, farmers could generate environmental credits by farming in ways that store carbon, filter out water pollution, or preserve wildlife habitat. Those credits could be bought, sold, and traded by companies that need to balance out their own emissions or pollution.

Pot farmers have to follow the same rules and regulations as the rest of the agriculture industry. That was a key takeaway Wednesday at a workshop for budding marijuana growers in Salem.

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.

Workers sort through strawberry roots on a planter pulled behind a tractor at Sakuma Brothers Farm in Burlington, Wash.,
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

BURLINGTON, Wash. – On a recent morning at Sakuma Brothers Farm, eight Latino workers sat on a bench seat behind a tractor, planting strawberry roots that will bear fruit in a few years. Dust masks and goggles covered their faces.

There’s a good chance these field workers have joined, or work side by side, with a group calling for a union contract here.

Selling seeds and pesticides used to be a sleepy, slow-moving business. That was, until about 20 years ago, when the chemical company Monsanto introduced genetically modified crops and started buying up seed companies. Ever since, companies in this industry have been maneuvering like hungry fish in a pond, occasionally dining on pieces of each other, hoping to survive through size and speed.

Anna King/Northwest News Network

Immigration officials have busted an Eastern Washington farm for major violations. Now, the farm is set to pay the largest fine ever in the state for illegally hiring workers.

The Roza Irrigation District in Eastern Washington’s Yakima Valley is shutting off the water for two weeks because of drought. About a billion dollars in crops are on the line.

Jim Willard, Juan Manel and Leobardo Magana worked to adjust irrigation systems for the short water year on a farm outside of Prosser, Wash.
KUOW PHOTO/ANNA KING

Bill Radke talks with reporter Anna King of the Northwest News Network about how farmers in Central Washington are struggling to save water during an extended drought.

File photo of a commerical chicken farm
Flickr Photo/Chesapeake Bay Program (CC-BY-NC-ND)

David Hyde speaks with Oregonian reporter Lynne Terry about her recent story about salmonella outbreaks involving Foster Farms called "A Game of Chicken. "

A drive across the Northwest quickly reveals things look really dry everywhere.

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