agriculture | KUOW News and Information

agriculture

Flickr Photo/Jonny Boy

WASHINGTON (AP) — World markets are responding to this week’s discovery of genetically engineered wheat on an Oregon farm. Japan has suspended some imports of US wheat, while the European Union and South Korea will increase inspections of wheat imported from the US.

A sexual harassment lawsuit against an Eastern Washington farm came under scrutiny this week during a congressional hearing. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently lost this expensive, high-profile case and some Congress members are now asking, “Was it worth it?” 

Flickr Photo/Au Zut

In her green minivan, Angelica Villa navigates the farm roads north of Bellingham like a seasoned tour guide. She points out a cannery, a potato plant and miles of berry fields.  Villa previously worked at many of these places and she rattles off story after story about harassment on the job.

For about seven years, many Western beekeepers have been plagued by unexplained die-offs in their hives. It happened recently to Mark Emrich.

"I was doing great until about five weeks ago," he says. "Then I came down and opened up the hives and I had five dead boxes of bees. That was a huge hit."

He lost one third of his production on his small farm near Olympia.

Northwest Asparagus Comes A Tad Early

Apr 5, 2013

PASCO, Wash. – Northwest farmers are beginning to harvest the first asparagus of the year this week in southeast Washington. That’s a tad earlier than usual. And after last year's farm-labor shortage, growers across the region are keeping an eye on how many asparagus workers show up for the harvest.

At the Middleton farm stand near Pasco, Washington asparagus – both purple and green – is selling by the pound to passersby. Bins of fresh asparagus are brought here right off the fields. Workers come and go. At the helm is Laura Middleton.

Michelle Rhee: A "Radical" On Education Reform

Feb 19, 2013
Michelle Rhee
Flickr photo/The National Academy Of Sciences

Michelle Rhee says our education system is failing. The founder and CEO of StudentsFirst and former chancellor of Washington, DC, public schools says she would rigorously evaluate teachers, end tenure and boost pay for high-performing teachers while firing the least effective. Her critics say her reliance on test scores and support for school vouchers would destroy the public education system. Michelle Rhee joins us for a conversation about students, standardized tests, teachers unions, charter schools and her new book, "Radical: Fighting to Put Students First."

Shannon Dininny, File / AP Photo

This week, something new is sprouting in the Northwest’s fields and fruit orchards: optimism about immigration reform.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Many Northwest growers are left out of the partial extension of the U.S. Farm Bill included in this week’s fiscal cliff legislation. The new law largely covers conventional agriculture and not the organics, specialty crops and conservation programs that our region’s farmers are known for.

Northwest wheat growers are hoping for a swift resolution to a labor dispute that could keep their grain from reaching the world market. Grain terminals remain open in Portland, Vancouver and Seattle, even though the terminals' owners have implemented a contract offer unionized longshoremen rejected.

Most of the wheat that grows on the rolling hills of eastern Washington is bound for the international market. But to get there, the wheat passes through one of a handful of grain terminals in the Northwest.

 


A possible strike or lock out at Northwest grain terminals would have a profound effect on U.S. wheat exports. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a long history of discriminating against farmers who are women, Hispanic, Native American and African American. Numerous lawsuits have cost the government several billion dollars. The latest legal settlement is for women and Hispanic farmers who can prove they were discriminated against in the 1980s and ‘90s. But some of these farmers say the deal to make amends for discrimination is itself discriminatory.

Groves of olive trees might bring to mind for you sun-soaked Mediterranean or Californian landscapes. But in the last 10 years, a few Northwest growers have significantly ramped-up their production of domestic olive oil. They harvest just in time for the holidays.

The Durant family started in the wine grape business in Yamhill County, Oregon. The family diversified into olive growing about seven years ago.

Labor Shortage Hits Some Apple Growers Hard

Oct 22, 2012

CHELAN, Wash. – The apple harvest season is starting to wrap up across the Northwest. Despite record yields, many farmers had trouble getting their time-sensitive crop off the trees because of a short labor supply.

Grower representatives at the meeting said their regions saw a 10 percent to 30 percent labor shortage this season. Several talked of nearly empty labor camps near Wenatchee and Chelan. One said he and two others had to pick a 40-acre orchard themselves despite offering $12 per hour.

CHELAN, Wash. – Moms and dads hoping to pack an apple in their children’s lunches might have to budget a bit more this year. That’s because even though the Northwest has seen a bumper crop in apples, elsewhere there’s a shortage.

The Northwest may have had a great season, but the Midwest and East’s apple crop got pummeled this year. That means there is more demand and increased prices for our region’s fruit, both for fresh eating and for juice and sauce.

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