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AGRICULTURE SUMMER

SUNDAY, MAY 16, 2010

A seasonal publication of

Section G

Scientists try to wipe out sheep virus > 9G

More inside Beef council steers protein to needy > 2G Hot on the trail of killer bacteria > 2G Wheat glut driving down prices > 5G Capitalizing on kosher markets > 6G

The graceful lines of young growing wheat plants are bright in this Camas Prairie ďŹ eld near Nezperce. Tribune/ Barry Kough


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Idaho Beef Council aims to steer protein to Idaho Food Bank the food bank do with it?” said Traci O’Donnell, the council’s executive director. “They don’t have a holding pen in the In 2006, Backyard Harvest back of the warehouse, nor do started in Moscow to help they have the means, finanhome gardeners donate their cially as well as logistically, to surplus produce to local food slaughter. That’s been the gap banks, and get fresh fruit and and that’s where our industry veggies into the bellies of huncame in.” gry Idahoans. Traci Beef Counts is a cooperaNow, the Idaho Beef CounO’Donnell tive effort between the council is doing something similar cil, the food bank, the Idaho with protein. Through the “Beef Counts” pro- Cattle Association, the Idaho Cattlegram that kicked off in April, the women Council and Agri Beef Co., council is facilitating the donation of O’Donnell said. Agri Beef is an integrated beef probeef cattle to be sold at auction, with the proceeds going to buy beef for the ducer that ranches, processes and markets cattle in Idaho and WashingIdaho Food Bank. “An average rancher would love to ton. It is providing a 50 percent match donate a head of cattle, but what can to each donation to Beef Counts and is

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supplying the frozen beef to the food bank distribution centers. For example, O’Donnell said, a donated cow that sells for $500 would earn a $250 match from Agri Beef. Including the match, an averagesize animal will provide about 1,600 servings of beef to the 110,000 people who use the centers served by the Idaho Food Bank, according to a news release from the council. Beef protein plays an important role in muscle development and maintenance, disease prevention, strength and metabolism, according to the news release. Currently, the Idaho Food Bank can only provide about seven-tenths of an ounce of protein per day, per person, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends 6 ounces per day in a healthy diet. Since the program began just a few weeks ago, about $9,400 has been donated, O’Donnell said. Including the Agri Beef match, that’s $14,100 to buy beef for hungry Idahoans. O’Donnell said the goal for the program’s first year is 150 head of cattle, or the cash equivalent. “Our industry is real proud to come in and try to make a difference for our neighbors in need,” she said. Those interested in donating to Beef Counts may call (208) 343-1615. ——— Mills may be contacted at jmills@lmtribune.com or (208) 883-0564.

LE W IST O N TRI B U N E

UI scientists are hot on E. coli’s trail Discovery of how bacteria moves through cattle may lead to safer production By ERIC BARKER of the Tribune

Researchers at the University of Idaho have unlocked the way a deadly strain of E. coli bacteria operates as it moves through cattle and hope the discovery can lead to an effective method of ridding cows of the disease. The bacteria serotype, E. coli 0157:H7, does not affect cattle but can cause severe illness in people when they consume meat or produce tainted with manure. Understanding how it functions could be an important step in making food safer. “I think this is another piece of

> See trail, page 4G

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> Continued from Page 2G the puzzle in understanding the basic interaction between the E. coli human pathogen and the silent reservoir, which is healthy cattle,� said Carolyn Hovde Bohach, a professor at UI’s College of Agriculture. Hovde Bohach and her colleagues teamed with researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center to learn how the bacteria senses changes in its environment such as when it enters a cow’s gastrointestinal tract where it colonizes. The bacteria exists in many places during its life cycle and must behave differently depending on where it is. For example, the bacteria can be

3 Researchers at the University of Idaho are studying how E. coli works its way through cattle. Tribune photo

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LE W IST O N TRI B U N E present on the farm, in wa- to try to remove this human ter or in the gastrointestinal pathogen from cattle.� tracts of cattle. An estimated 70 percent to “Bacteria have to turn on 80 percent of healthy cattle different sets of genes when herds in the United States on the farm as opposed to a carry the particular strain very different set of genes of E. coli at least some of the when in GI tracts,� said time. They pass it to each othHovde Bohach. “Our er through contact work shows for the with infected cows first time how it uses or contact with the chemical signaling in environment where the GI tracts of cattle the bacteria is spread to know where it is.� through cattle feces. She said if the “The main source bacteria can’t sense of human infection where it is, it has a is either directly much smaller chance through interaction of performing tasks it Carolyn Hovde with a live animal or needs to survive as it by ingesting contamBohach moves through cattle. inated bovine food So if researchers can projects or by configure out a way to essen- taminated manure getting on tially fool the bacteria about fruits or vegetables,� Hovde its surroundings so it doesn’t Bohach said. know it has entered a bovine The research was pubdigestive system, it would be lished in the “Proceedings of possible to significantly de- the National Academy of Scicrease the number of cattle ences.� that host the disease. “We are very thrilled and “We don’t know yet what we are really excited to get the intervention would be this kind of recognition for but once you understand how our work,� she said. something works then the pos——— sibilities of interfering with Barker may be contacted at that working becomes easier,� ebarker@lmtribune.com or at (208) she said. “Our ultimate goal is 848-2273.

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Global surplus depressing price of wheat Explosive production in Australia, Russia has flooded markets; pea, lentil prices also down from year ago By BRAD W. GARY of the Tribune

A glut of wheat on the world market has sent the crop’s prices down, while pea and lentil prices have dropped slightly since last year. Price watchers note that energy costs and the value of the U.S. dollar could have a greater effect on the value of a grower’s crop when harvest comes around. Worldwide wheat production has increased since a shortage two years ago, especially with large numbers of acres being planted in Europe and the Black Sea region. The present price for soft white wheat is $4.92 a bushel at Portland, Ore., said Glen Squires, vice president of the Washington Grain Commission at Spokane. Production in Australia, which has battled drought conditions in recent years, could also be a factor. “While we’re producing the same amount, their production

just exploded, and Russia suddenly became the biggest producer in the world,” Squires said. “Our wheat is competing against that huge amount of wheat that is entering the market from other suppliers.” Idaho, Washington and Oregon produce about 5 million tons of white wheat each year, a number Squires said doesn’t fluctuate that much, compared to 22.5 million tons produced by Australia. A number of factors could raise that price, he said, including increased energy prices that appear to be creeping up like they did when wheat reached $16 per bushel in 2008. If the U.S. dollar is weak, Squires and Todd Scholz with the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council notes that could raise prices on exports. Lentil and pea prices are hard to predict, but Scholz said the or-

Tribune/Barry Kough

The large supplies of wheat in the world have driven prices lower than last year. Cur> See wheat, page 6G rently, a bushel of wheat is bringing $4.92 at Portland, Ore.


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Capitalizing on kosher foods

wheat > Continued from Page 5G

ganization expects the price of chickpeas to remain fairly flat. The value of the dollar compared to the Canadian dollar is making U.S. peas and lentils more desirable to the rest of the world than their northern border counterparts. Pea and lentil prices are both down in early season numbers from last year, with green peas listed at $9.50 per 100 weight in the Pacific Northwest compared to around $15 last year, according to the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council. Lentil prices are slightly down from around $32 per 100 weight last year to about $28 per 100 weight at present. Chickpeas have actually risen to about $30 per 100 weight compared to $24-$26 per 100 weight at this time last year.

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A strengthening of the dollar could put a negative spin on pea and lentil prices, with 65 percent to 70 percent of the lentil and dry pea market exported outside the United States. A significant increase of about 20 percent in the number of lentil acres planted in the United States could also drive that crop’s price down, but Scholz noted demand is still strong in places like India. “Generally lentil prices have started to decline a bit, because of generally more acres, more supply,” Scholz said. Based upon the number of acres planted, pea prices are predicted to stay the same by harvest, Scholz said. ——— Gary may be contacted at bgary@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2262.

Cooperative helps area’s farmers export approved produce across the globe By Kelsey Samuels of the Tribune

Keeping kosher is a way of life for many Jewish people. It also provides economic opportunities for local farmers willing to take the extra steps to gain kosher certification. Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative, formed in 2008 by the merger of Genesee Union Warehouse and Whitman County Growers, is one such group of farmers. Sam White, the co-op’s chief operating officer at Lewiston, said the certification opens the company up to a much larger consumer base. Many products of the Palouse are exported to Israel, and most require a certification that is shown on the product’s packaging. Rabbi Jack Izakson, of Spokane, said there’s no blessing or hocus-pocus to kosher certification, just a lot of inspection. He

Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative

Kosher-certified wheat is distributed throughout the Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative warehouse at Genesee. inspects all 26 facilities of the “We’re willing to go that extra Pacific Northwest Farmer’s Co- mile, if you will, to meet the marop, including Genesee, Colton, ket demands,” White said, “so if Albion and Thornton, among other small communities. > See kosher, page 7G


Kosher > Continued from Page 6G

the Jewish community is one of those demands, we’re willing to take those steps to make those sales.” A group of Jewish men from New York traveled to PNW’s processing plants last year. They wanted to buy grain to make matzo bread. They inspected every aspect of production — there was a person in the fields, one in the combine and one in the truck that took the product to town. “It was very strict in the way that it was harvested and the way that it was handled for their needs,” he said. “We hope to do that again next year.” Izakson certifies PNW on behalf of Spokane Vaad Hakashrut, the koshering committee for the greater Spokane area. Only rabbis can serve on the committee, so for now, he is the only member. He does certification from Three Forks, Mont., to Quincy, Wash., and as far south as Lewiston. Izakson said any grain, fruits and vegetables are kosher naturally. “It’s coming in kosher,” he said, “and they just have to make sure it stays that way. Our job is to make sure

a g r i c u lt u r e : s u m m e r ’ 1 0 that it stays (kosher) from the moment it comes in through the door of their processing plant until it’s packaged and ... shipped to wherever it’s going.” He inspects machinery, grain elevators and production areas to ensure nothing contaminates the product. Possible contaminants include leaking motor oil or food or beverages consumed at the site. “PNW does a very good job of being sure there is no food or beverage consumption anywhere along the production line,” Izakson said. The co-op puts signs up in areas that could be susceptible to contamination. “As far as food safety and regulations becoming more strict,” Uto said, “I think since we are a kosher facility, it has made it easier for us as a company to meet regulations that are coming out.” White said some aspects to keeping kosher are just good cleanliness habits. “Some of the things that are required to be kosher certified are just general good practices that we’ve done and that we’ve needed to do,” he said. ——— Samuels may be contacted at ksamuels@ lmtribune.com or (208) 883-0564.

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Farmers markets in our region > Idaho

Tribune/Kyle Mills

The farmers market season is just getting started, with the sidewalk sale at Moscow among the first to open.

Diversity a hallmark of farmers markets Moscow Arts Director Kathleen Burns. “We have more produce than Boise.” Maybe 40 percent of the vendors offer Got a craving for cabbage or a hunger produce or nursery plants, Burns said, for herbs? with the remaining stalls split between Farmers markets are the answer. prepared foods — such as pies, pastries From apples to zucchini, they can satisfy and breads — and crafts. The city tent a yearning for most any fresh produce. provides weekly information on topics Almost a dozen farmers markets oper- such as affordable housing and water ate in this region — including Moscow’s, conservation, and there’s a master garthe oldest in Idaho. Entering its 34th dener lecture. Musical entertainment is year, the pioneer market features 65 presented from 9:30-11:30 a.m. stalls, almost 50 season vendors, musical A series of “walk-on” vendors appear entertainment and educational displays. each week, offering everything from “We’re probably the second-larg- fresh huckleberries to tomatoes or wild est (farmers market) in the state,” said rice. Season vendors cover the produce

By William L. Spence of the Tribune

spectrum, from fresh fruits and vegetables to organic beef or chickens and eggs. “We have a (University of Idaho) chemist who loves to bake,” Burns said. “He sells Egyptian pastries. We have a new grain vendor this year who sells wheat, barley and lentils from the Palouse.” Some of the same vendors participate in other farmers markets in the region. For days, times and locations for the various markets, consult the list at right. ——— Spence may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune. com or (208) 848-2274.

Moscow — Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 1-Oct. 30, next to the Moscow Hotel between Main and Jackson, in the Friendship Square parking lot. Moscow — Tuesdays, 4:30-6:30 p.m., May 4-Oct. 26, Moscow Food Co-op parking lot at the corner of Fifth and Washington. Potlatch — Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon, May through mid-October, Junction Lumber Hardware & Supply. Lewiston — Wednesdays, June 2-Oct. 13, D Street parking lot and Brackenbury Square. Orofino — Tuesdays, July 6Oct. 12, Orofino City Park. Kooskia — Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 1-Oct. 30, Longcamp RV Park, milepost 68 on U.S. Highway 12. Grangeville — Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon, July 10-Oct. 2, Heritage Square on Main Street. McCall — Saturdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., June 9 to mid-October, Pine Street across from Gravity Sport and Razzle Dazzle. Cascade —Saturdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., May to mid-September, Alpha Nursery and Garden Center, 12 Alpha Lane.

> Washington Pullman — Wednesdays, 4-6 p.m., May 19-Oct. 27, Old Post Office parking lot, 245 S.E. Paradise St. Clarkston — Saturdays, 8 a.m.noon, June-September, opposite the Asotin County Library at Fifth and Sycamore.


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The dangers of sheep snot USDA scientists work to develop a vaccine for virus that sheep can spread to other livestock material from that.” Taus said she and other researchers have been probing sheep noses for insight into a viral disease that’s only carried by sheep, but can be deadly when transferred to cattle or bison. “It turns out the virus does get shed in those nasal secretions,” said Taus, who works in affiliation with Washington State University researchers. Ultimately, she explained, the team hopes to develop a vaccine to combat what is called malignant catarrhal fever (MCF). The virus, which can become airborne, was blamed

By DAVID JOHNSON of the Tribune

PULLMAN — Sometimes agriculture science gets as basic as collecting sheep snot. “It happens to have really been an important component of our research,” said Naomi Taus, a veterinary medical officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service here. “Basically, think of a long Q-tip.” When inserted into a sheep’s nostril for two or three minutes, Taus explained, the Q-tip “soaks up all the secretions in the area, and then we extract

Peggy Greb/Agricultural Research Service

Technician Shirley Elias (left) and veterinary medical officer Naomi Taus use a nebulizer to infect a sheep with MCF virus. two years ago for the death of 19 dairy cows that had been shown by FFA students at the Puyallup State Fair. Moreover, a total of 825 bison died in 2003

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in a Twin Falls feedlot after be- flock of sheep had been grazing infected with MCF. ing in a field adjacent to the “We actually published buffalo. “It happened to be a findings from that outbreak,” said Taus, explaining that a > See snot, page 10G

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snot

> Continued from Page 9G large enough flock of sheep that were just the right age.” More than half of the bison in the herd succumbed. Lacking a vaccine against MCF, Taus said livestock management, such as keeping sheep away from cattle and bison, is a necessary practice. It takes about a month for symptoms to show. Cattle and bison can not pass the virus between themselves. Nor can the virus infect humans. “It’s a pretty nasty way to die,” Taus said. “Sometimes, with bison, they’ll be looking a little off, and then they’re dead the next day.” Unfortunately, Taus said, a vaccine against MCF does not appear to be imminent. That’s because researchers have been unable to grow the virus in a laboratory setting. “We’re trying, but I’d have to say we’ve been struggling with this for about seven years,” Taus said. “We’re really hoping that in the next five-year research cycle we’ll have a

Peggy Greb/Agricultural Research Service

Veterinary medical officer Naomi Taus examines an MCF virus-infected epithelial cell in a sheep lung. The red area is the virus, and the green area is the cell. more definitive answer in terms of, is it actually going to be possible to develop a vaccine?”

Sheep are not born with MCF. They tend to become infected around six months of age, probably after being in

contact with or near alreadyinfected older sheep. WSU, Taus said, has been able to maintain an MCF-free flock

of sheep that has been critical for research. By artificially infecting individual sheep, Taus explained, researchers are finding what types of cells the virus invades. Such information, it is hoped, will help lead to ways of growing the virus in the lab. “The sheep and the virus have adapted to each other,” Taus said. “We call it co-evolution.” She said MCF is really a herpes virus that is distantly related to the kind of herpes that cause cold sores in humans. Another strategy toward creating a vaccine, Taus said, is to use a related virus (that can be replicated in the lab) that doesn’t cause the disease. Coupled with a better understanding of the various parts of the MCF virus, it might be possible to “sneak” in an effective vaccine. “We’ve kind of got a couple different strategies going on,” Taus said. “Maybe we’ll have a major breakthrough, but realistically it’s going to be a number of years yet.” ——— Johnson may be contacted at djohnson@lmtribune.com or (208) 883-0564.

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Building complete on Pasco motel for farm workers; next up is inspection PASCO — It took seven years, but a former dilapidated Pasco motel finally is ready to house farm workers and their families. Sea Mar Farmworker and Community Housing Development is finishing work recently on La Posada West at 725 W. Lewis St. in downtown Pasco. The former Travel Inn will have its final inspection in the next few days, said Michael Leong, Sea Mar vice president of corporate and legal affairs. And at the end of next month, the nonprofit organization expects to open La Posada East — the former Sea Mar Motel at 627 W. Lewis St. Together the motels will have 66 rooms for a mix of individuals and families to rent while they work in the agricultural industry in the area. The total project cost $5.2 million. “There (are) a lot of people who don’t have housing right now,” said Rogelio Riojas, Sea Mar CEO and executive director. He said he has visited farm worker encampments without electricity and other basic services. And often

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families double and triple up in apartments, which isn’t healthy, especially for children, he said. La Posada West and East’s warm, terra-cotta stucco walls are a far cry from the former run-down exteriors of the motels. The old Travel Inn was in awful shape before the remodel, said architect Jose Bazan, of Bazan & Associates Architects of Bellevue. Now it wouldn’t be recognized as the same building. Fowler Construction of Richland was the general contractor. La Posada West was gutted and rebuilt inside, while La Posada East is being refurbished and brought up to accessibility standards. New air-conditioning units also will be added to the rooms, Bazan said. The Travel Inn sign will remain as a little bit of Pasco history, but Bazan said it will be repainted. Some rooms include a kitchenette with a range and oven, but all have at least a microwave and a refrigerator. La Posada East also has a shared cooking area. Families who rent rooms will need to go through a registration process, Leong said. Registration for the rooms has yet to begin.

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By Kristi Pihl

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Agriculture Summer 2010  

Agriculture Summer 2010