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agriculture

Flickr Photo/(CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/4WhpRF

This week the Trump administration unveiled a $12 billion bailout for agriculture. It's aimed at easing damage to the industry from the President's new tariffs and his escalating trade war with China.

But is the financial assistance a meaningful solution or a Band-Aid for a longer-term problem?

Bill Radke hears from Washington state farmer Marci Green, president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, and Heather Long, economics correspondent at the Washington Post. She explores where U.S. tariff policy is headed and the potential economic and political fallout.  

To see what a trade fight can do to exports, all you need to do is look at pork.

American ham and other pork products now face massive tariffs — between 62 and 70 percent – after two rounds of retaliatory tariffs by China. It's led to almost a standstill in pork exports to China.

"In recent weeks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported zero weekly export sales of pork to China," says Mary Lovely, an economist at Syracuse University. "So our exports to the country have pretty much collapsed."

For years, some farmers in central and eastern Oregon have been battling an unexpected new pest: a genetically modified strain of the soft, lush grass you’d commonly see on a golf course.

In 2003, a botched experiment by agribusiness giants Scotts Miracle-Gro and Monsanto unleashed a mutant strain of creeping bent grass across the state. It's a fight that raises questions about the regulation of GMOs and of who is on the hook when something goes awry.

During every berry picking season in the Pacific Northwest, blueberry and raspberry growers fight to prevent birds from gobbling up the crop before they can harvest it. This year, some farmers are trying something new and high tech to scare away the thieving birds.

Every morning, JoHanna Symons quietly rides her sorrel Quarter Horse through dusty pens packed with young cattle at her ranch in Madras, Ore.

She's looking for the ones that cough or are injured so she can doctor them.

But when it comes to international trade wars, Symons and her husband, Jeremy, are at the mercy of bigger forces.

"I feel like some of us little guys," Symons says, "our hands are just tied."

Trade was at the forefront of the conversation with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue Monday in Spokane.

On a beautiful sunny day recently in south Lancaster County, Pa., farmer Abner Stolztfus and seven of his eight children were inside, bottling yogurt in a room next to the barn. "The younger one is only 2 months old, so she's not working out here yet," he said, laughing.

Stolztfus and his family own Cedar Dream dairy farm in the town of Peach Bottom in southeast Pennsylvania. He and his kids milk 50 cows twice a day — at 5 in the morning and 5 in the afternoon. His family has been farming for generations.

"I learned milking cows before I started going to school," he said.

U.S. beef ranchers who voted heartily for President Donald Trump are getting a bit skittish about his trade wars. International tariffs are set to hit U.S. beef the first week of July.

Apples at the Olympia Farmers Market.
Flickr Photo/WSDA (CC BY-NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/ZsGd1C

U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum went into effect Friday for Canada, the European Union and Mexico. That decision by the Trump Administration could now hurt one of Washington state's signature exports: apples. 


Americans are rediscovering the coldest aisle in the supermarket.

According to a new report, sales of frozen foods, including vegetables and prepared foods, are now on the rise following a multi-year slump.

The uptick is new — and modest. But growth "is accelerating as consumers begin to see freezing as a way to preserve food with fewer negatives," concludes a report from RBC Capital Markets.

In farm fields from the Willamette Valley to the Kittitas Valley and east to Idaho, energy developers want to plant a new crop: commercial solar arrays. But a surge in utility-scale solar farm applications is generating pushback.

In a big grass pasture in the shadow of Mount Rainier in Washington state, hundreds of chickens crowd around a little house where they can get water and shelter from the bald eagles circling overhead. This is the original location of Wilcox Family Farms, an egg farm that also has locations in Oregon and Montana.

East of the Cascades, wheat farmers say there has been plenty of moisture over the winter and all things point to a good harvest. But the price and demand for that crop is very much in question.

Last Christmas, Matthew Bamsey was in Antarctica with a giant item on his wish list.

As a systems engineer at the German Aerospace Center, Bamsey was hoping the greenhouse he had helped design would arrive at Neumayer Station III, Antarctica, around Dec. 25. His gift was a bit late — icy weather delayed the greenhouse's arrival until Jan. 3, but he didn't mind. After three years of preparation, it was fine that it got there eventually.

The Trump administration wants to slash the federal government’s biggest source of funds for conservation on private land. Here's what you need to know:

1. That funding is found in a surprising place: the Farm Bill.

Nationally, Farm Bill programs conserve about 50 million acres of land. For scale, that's more than half the entire acreage of the National Park system.

There’s a whole suite of conservation programs in the Farm Bill, but most of them do one of two things.

Washington is the top cherry producing state in the country.
Flickr Photo/beautifulcataya (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/6KiQQK

New tariffs on exports to China could have a big impact on Washington state. Tariffs went into effect Monday on 128 American products, including fruit, pork and metal pipes, in retaliation for proposed U.S. tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum.


As the nation's dairy farmers struggle through their fourth year of depressed milk prices, concerns are rising that many are becoming depressed themselves. The outlook for the next year is so bleak, it's heightening worries — especially in the Northeast — about farmer suicides.

Agri-Mark Inc., a dairy cooperative with about 1,000 members, saw three farmers take their own lives in the past three years. The most recent was last month. It's a very small sample, but very sharp and disturbing increase.

East of the Cascades in Washington and Oregon, it’s been about five to 10 degrees warmer than normal for most of the winter. Those unusually warm conditions have buds on fruit trees and grapevines starting to “push,” or emerge early.

And that has farmers worried.

berries
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

More women are speaking out about sexual abuse and harassment as part of the renewed #MeToo movement.

But for the women picking the fruits and vegetables we buy at local supermarkets, talking about daily abuse isn’t easy.

KUOW PHOTO/MEGAN FARMER

State investigators say a farm near Bellingham is not to blame for the death a worker last summer. But the owners face steep fines for other violations.

Nowadays the vast fields of grain in eastern Washington and northeastern Oregon feed the world. But once upon a time—1825 to be exact—the first crop of wheat in the Northwest was planted at Fort Vancouver.

For the rest of the 19th century, many farmers grew wheat, oats, rye and barley west of Cascades. Now, foodies, farmers and others are collaborating to revitalize the historic grain production on the wet side.

Workers at Sarbanand Farms picking blueberries on August 8, 2017, in Sumas, Washington.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Supervisors at a sprawling blueberry farm in northern Washington state threatened and intimidated workers and ordered them to report for 12-hour shifts "unless they were on their death bed," according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.

Washington’s commissioner of public lands is calling on the state legislature to put a price on carbon to try to curb emissions in the state.

But Hilary Franz differs with Gov. Jay Inslee about how to use the money.

Washington adopted new federal rules Wednesday that establish protections for farmworkers working with and around pesticides.

They bringing state regulations in line with new federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.

The state has been trying to navigate ambiguity around the status of the EPA rules. Hector Castro of the Washington Department of Agriculture says they acted after learning the federal regulations would take effect next month.

You might be in the market for a Christmas tree right about now, but have you thought about what type of Christmas tree you want in eight years?

Believe it or not, it might be hard to find one. That’s because of a tree seedling shortage happening right now across the West.

The Western U.S. is just starting to recover after a prolonged, 16-year drought. A lack of water can force people to take a hard look at how they use it, and make big changes. That's what happened in southern Colorado, where farmers have tried a bold experiment: They're taxing themselves to boost conservation.

Colorado's San Luis Valley is a desperately dry stretch of land, about the same size as New Jersey.

October's California wine country wildfires damaged more than 30 wineries. Now, the Northwest wine industry and wine drinkers are stepping up to with their wallets to help.

This week, an entire block in downtown Boise smells like leeks. That’s because descendants of immigrants from the Basque country are cooking mortzilla, a traditional blood sausage, for a weekend festival.

Oregon farmers planted the state’s first legal crops of industrial hemp a couple of years ago. Now the first Washington state farmer to plant the non-drug cousin of marijuana has harvested the crop. 


Hemp entrepreneur Cory Sharp is fairly happy with Washington’s first legal crop in almost 90 years. His farmer partners harvested 105 acres earlier this month from irrigated fields near Moses Lake. 


But the celebration is tempered because the crop is unsold.


Just in time for fall, a new heavyweight champ of the botanical variety — tipping the scales at more than one ton — has squashed the competition.

A giant green squash broke the world record Saturday at the Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Pumpkin Weigh-off at Frerichs Farm in Warren, R.I.

Joe Jutras of Scituate, R.I., grew the 2,118 pound fruit. After the number appeared on the scale, the other growers lifted Jutras onto their shoulders.

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