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agriculture

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.

Across the Northwest, farmers are already making tough calls because of this year’s drought. The dismal snowpack is to blame.

A member of the Teanaway wolf pack in western Washington state. The wolf was in recovery from tranquilizing drug when this photo was taken.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Washington state’s wolf population grew by 30 percent last year – a big success for the state's wolf recovery plan.

But rancher Len McIrvin of Diamond M Ranch doesn't see why state conservationists are patting themselves on the back. And he finds it baffling that people are so fond of wolves. To him, they’re bloodthirsty predators.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has been under fire for not requiring new water restrictions for the agriculture sector, despite historic rules restricting urban use by 25 percent.

On ABC’s “This Week,” Brown said that although more water is used in almond production than is used by all residents and businesses in San Francisco combined, the agriculture sector is too important to risk.

You know the beautiful, mass-produced tomatoes you can buy at the grocery store? You can drop one and it'll bounce back unharmed, but doesn't taste like much.

Northwest asparagus fields are sprouting about 10 days earlier than usual this spring. It’s in time for Easter brunch, but a headache for farmers.

As you’ve probably heard, a well-respected group of World Health Organization scientists said glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s wildly popular Roundup herbicide and its generic cousins, is probably capable of causing cancer in humans.

Here are five things you should know:

1. What the report said: Roundup could cause cancer in humans.

The region's recent stretch of warm weather means Northwest sweet cherries will likely be going early to market this year.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared drought today in three regions of the Evergreen state: the Olympic Peninsula, the east side of the Cascade Mountains including Yakima and Wenatchee, and the Walla Walla region. 

Flickr Photo/Debbie R

Ross Reynolds talks with Kristi Heim, executive director of Washington State's China Relations Council, about local exports to China and the growing demand for fresh fruit and baby products. 

A Closer Look At The Non-Browning Apple

Feb 20, 2015

You may have heard the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a genetically-engineered apple that apparently does not turn brown.

There’s been a lot of media coverage, including some negative feedback about the apples, which will be marketed as Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it’s spent about $300 million to help restore and conserve more than 4 million acres of sage grouse habitat, according to a report the department issued Thursday.

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