Agriculture

Clean Water Act
5:46 am
Thu August 16, 2012

Case Could Hamstring WA’s Control of Runoff Pollution

Washington rancher Joe Lemire.
Photo by Courtney Flatt EarthFix

A small ranch in southeastern Washington is the site of some big disputes playing out between environmental regulators and farmers.

The question: How much control can the government have over pollution from agricultural runoff?

As part of EarthFix and Investigate West’s series on the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act, Courtney Flatt takes a look at a court case that could determine how strictly the state regulates polluted rainwater runoff.

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Grain Prices
5:59 am
Mon July 30, 2012

Northwest Farmers Cash In On Strong Grain Prices During Drought

Owner Todd Ray, of SS Equipment, says his sales are up 20 percent from about two years ago. He owns ten New Holland tractor dealerships in Washington and Oregon. Ray attributes the uptick to higher commodity prices.
Photo by Anna King Northwest News Network

Drought that’s sizzling the rest of the nation has largely left the Northwest states alone. Furthermore, the Midwest’s farmers’ misfortune is actually benefiting farmers here. That’s because grain prices are raising because of the Heartland’s decimated yields. Correspondent Anna King has this report from central Washington’s grain country.

Wheat stubble, grain elevators and whole lot of wide open – that’s Connell, Washington.

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Tracking Feral Pigs
5:32 pm
Mon July 23, 2012

Northwest States Ask Public To 'Squeal' On Feral Pigs

When domesticated pigs escape their sties, their physical appearance actually changes.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Washington, Oregon and Idaho are joining forces to track populations of feral pigs across the Northwest. These “hogs gone wild” can do massive damage to the landscape. And wildlife agents want to know where swine are on the move. They’re even launching a so-called “swine line” for people to call with sightings.

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Rail Shipping Expansion
4:13 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

Northwest Wine Industry To Get Boost From Rail Shipping Expansion

Railex's existing shipping center in Wallula in southeast Washington. The new wine warehouse will be built nearby.
Railex

A company that ships Northwest produce to East Coast markets by rail plans an expansion that will benefit the region's wineries. Railex has reached an agreement with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates to build a massive wine storage warehouse in southeast Washington.

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Washington Blueberries
6:07 am
Fri July 6, 2012

Northwest Blueberry Yields Increase Dramatically, But Market Prices Same

Blueberry explosion: Washington state farmers are bringing in more blueberries that ever before this year at more than 60 million pounds. In five years, they are expected to bring in nearly 100 million pounds.
Photo by Anna King Northwest News Network

It’s not news that Washington is producing record amounts of blueberries this year. It happened last year. Next year will likely break another record and the year after that too. The real news is: Where is the fruit going, and why is it still so expensive? Correspondent Anna King explains.

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Potato Disease
5:54 am
Fri July 6, 2012

Detection Of ‘Zebra Chip’ Disease Makes NW Spud Growers Uneasy

Tubers infected with zebra chip disease show dark, stripelike symptoms in the tissue.
Photo courtesy USDA

A recent discovery in an Idaho potato field has Northwest spud growers worried. Researchers this week reported that insects from the Twin Falls area tested positive for bacteria that cause “zebra chip disease.”

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Cherry Picker Shortage
7:06 am
Mon June 18, 2012

Northwest Farmers, Shop-keeps Wait Anxiously For Cherry Workers

The first cherries of the season are coming off the trees in Northwest orchard country, but will there be enough workers to pick them?

With lingering high unemployment and the endless talk of the down economy – it’s hard to believe that there are some industries putting help-wanted signs out by the dozens. But that’s the case in Northwest orchard country where there appears to be a dwindling supply of migrant workers for cherry picking. Cherry season started this past week, and as correspondent Anna King reports, farmers and shop-keeps alike are anxiously waiting for more workers to arrive.

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Waterway Pollution
6:25 am
Thu June 14, 2012

Tackling Water Pollution One Creek At A Time

Barker Creek on the Kitsap Peninsula.
Photo by Ashley Ahearn Northwest News Network

Barker Creek cuts through the semi-rural landscape of hobby farms and small towns on Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula. And like many small waterways in this region, Barker Creek has had problems with fecal coliform. Rain washes the bacteria from animal manure and leaky septic systems into nearby waterways.

In some watersheds, the contamination can get so bad that officials have to close shellfish beds and post signs warning people to stay away from the water. EarthFix’s Ashley Ahearn reports on one success story.

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Wheat Straw Energy
6:20 am
Thu June 14, 2012

Creating Power From Wheat Straw

Since 1978, one eastern Washington county has out-produced all other wheat-growing counties in the U.S. But what to do with all the leftover straw? Reporting for EarthFix, Courtney Flatt explains a group of students at Washington State University has found a way to provide power from farmers’ scraps.

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Washington Cherry Season
6:09 pm
Mon June 4, 2012

Dreary June Forecast Has Northwest Cherry Farmers A Bit Worried

Cool weather and rain could delay ripening and compress the cherry growing season.
Photo credit: Anna King Northwest News Network

The Northwest cherry harvest is set to begin next week, but farmers are a bit glum. That’s because the National Weather Service says this month’s temperatures will be near or below average across Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

Cool weather and rain and can delay ripening and compress the cherry growing season. That means that markets have less time to sell the perishable fruit. Plus, farmers may have a harder time recruiting enough labor in a shortened season.

And there’s another problem according to the Washington Fruit Commission's B.J. Thurlby. He says rain can spoil the fruit on the branch.

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