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Taking care of the Earth for the future : WSU prof: Changing mindsets key to helping farmers adapt to climate change — Page 3


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A combine cuts garbanzo beans east of Genesee September 12 as harvest winds down for the year.


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| Saturday, September 24, 2016 | 3

Taking care of the Earth for the future WSU prof: Changing mindsets key to helping farmers adapt to climate change By Kathy Hedberg Lewiston Tribune staff writer

Giving growers the tools and information to adapt to climate change is one thing. Persuading them that climate change is a real event and that some adjustments in their cropping systems is inevitable is another, said William L. Pan, a Washington State University professor of crop and soil science. He has been talking to farmers about ways to adapt to changes and slow them down. Although some have been resistant to the idea of climate change, Pan said recent conferences and workshops indicate that many farmers are embracing it. At a recent field tour “a group of growers were standing around and commented that they needed to get together to be proactive on this issue and bring it forward and provide some leadership,” Pan said. Pan and his colleagues have been hosting workshops and field days to show farmers the benefits of developing flexible systems for adapting to variable weather. At these events Pan talks about ways growers can save money, increase yields and improve soils. The topics include reducing fertilizing usage, which helps the environment and the farmers’ pocketbooks. Normal fertilizer applied by farmers adds nitrogen uniformly across the field. But fields are vari-

that’s been going on for 35 years. We’re just helping them reconnect that all that goes toward climate able, and applications should be more prescriptive, change mitigation.” The bottom line, however, remains whethPan said. Nitrous oxide, a byproder farmers can make climate uct of fertilizer, is one of the two change adjustments and still biggest greenhouse gases warming earn enough money to stay in the planet. business. Also, Pan said, it takes a subExpanded markets for stantial amount of fossil fuel to legumes, such as lentils and make fertilizer in the first place. garbanzo beans, as well as for Using fossil fuels produces carbon canola, which farmers plant as dioxide, the other major greenrotation crops, has helped sway house gas. growers to increase their acreage Adding GPS location equipment for these crops. in tractors is one way to help pre“I actually think that when vent overlap in fertilizer applicayou can identify these things tion, Pan said. that have multiple outcomes in Another method is to map fields the short term as well as the William L. Pan to streamline nitrogen application and adjust for variable yield poten- Washington State University professor long term, those are the best things that seem to move us tial across hilly landscapes. of crop and soil science toward these solutions,” Pan The biggest positive effect growsaid. “Those are the things that ers may have on climate change is will be adapted by farmers most in redesigning crop rotations. In eastern Washington, wheat has been the staple readily and if those become part of a solution to climate change mitigation adaptation, then that’s crop for more than a century. Other crops that have different nutrient needs, great. “In the end, if growers don’t see the economic such as oilseeds and legumes, help reduce greenhouse gas production and still provide an income benefit that they will stay in business then they’re not going to adapt.” for farmers. “The suggestions are not very novel,” Pan said. “Growers are already doing that (and in the case of Kathy Hedberg can be contacted at kathyhedberg@gmail.com or the leading growers in the direct seed movement) (208) 983-2326.

In the end, if growers don’t see the economic benefit that they will stay in business then they’re not going to adapt.”

COLUMBUS DISCOVERED THE WORLD ISN’T FLAT 400 YEARS AGO.

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A farmer harvests wheat while a tractor waits in the background near the intersection of Eid Road and U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow.

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PNW Farmers, Co-Ag talk merger Crop diversity, export options expected to expand for cooperative members

resources and expertise the two cooperatives would be able to react quicker when members run into issues that affect growers. He said one aspect PNW would bring to Co-Ag Two of the largest local farming cooperatives on the Palouse — Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative members would be crop diversity, noting the cooperaand Cooperative Agricultural Producers — are con- tive works closely with crop breeders and researchers from Washington State University sidering a merger. and the University of Idaho, as well It’s a decision that members of as private breeders. both cooperatives will vote on in the “PNW is known for crop divercoming months. A supermajority of sity,” Newbry said. “We’re going to support is needed for the merger to bring that crop diversity to the rest move forward. of the Palouse.” “We are in the investigation proNewbry said the move should process of seeing how the companies vide more options for growers when it can come together,” PNW Farmers comes to exports. He said PNW owns Cooperative President Bill Newbry Snake River Terminal at Almota said. “Both companies do the same and the cooperative is also a partner thing; we each have a grain departat the Lewis Clark Terminal. Both ment; we each have a seed departBill Newbry ment and a pulse processing divi- PNW Farmers Cooperative president rest along the Snake River and are equipped to load barges. sion; we’re partners at McCoy Grain Newbry said he’s heard a great Terminal. We have a lot of very deal of positive feedback about the proposed merger, similar business divisions.” Newbry said Co-Ag has about 400 members but he’s also been asked a number of questions by and one processing facility, while PNW Farmers growers. “Each grower is going to have to look at it — the Cooperative has more than 750 members and three processing facilities. PNW also has 17 elevators and members have to vote. If that member thinks it’s good five seed plants. Co-Ag has 20 elevators and four seed for them we will see an affirmative vote,” he said. If the merger does go through, Newbry said the two plants. Newbry said by joining forces and combining companies would have to form one board of directors, By Josh Babcock

Daily News staff writer

We’re going to bring that crop diversity to the rest of the Palouse.”

one management team and one name before June 1 — the official day the merger would take effect. The proposed merger is just the latest for farmers cooperatives on the Palouse. Co-Ag was formed back in 1998 when Rosalia Producers, Fairfield Grain Growers and Oakesdale Grain Growers became one. PNW Farmers Cooperative was the result of a merger between Whitman County Growers and Genesee Union Warehouse in 2008. Josh Babcock can be reached at (208) 883-4630, or by email to jbabcock@dnews.com.

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| Saturday, September 24, 2016 | 5

Old world meets new

WSU’s cryopreservation program may mean more diversity, survivability of American honeybees By Shanon Quinn Daily News staff writer

America, as is often pointed out, is a country of immigrants. Its melting pot of humanity has been touched by every corner of the world. Some parts of the animal kingdom are the same. Honeybees, for instance, have old-world roots and are no more native to the U.S. than most of the country’s citizens. Now, with bee populations in crisis, researchers at Washington State University are exploring new avenues in order to introduce increased genetic diversity that will help the insects fight off parasites and diseases and safeguard existing genetic lines. One of these avenues — cryopreservation — has led researchers back to Europe, where the bees are native. Brandon Hopkins, WSU entomology research associate and lab manager of the WSU Apiary See New, Page 6A

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Geoff Crimmins/Daily News file photo

Washington State University researcher Brandon Hopkins points to a honeybee drone (with large eyes) in June 2013 in Pullman.


6 | Saturday, September 24, 2016 |

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Moscow-Pullman Daily News

New

Washington State University researcher Brandon Hopkins talk about the honey bees used in a breeding research in June 2013 in Pullman.

from Page 5 Program, said WSU has been importing honeybee sperm for several years, but a new approach using cryopreservation — in which the sperm is preserved at very cold temperatures — has made the trek less harrowing. The shelf life for fresh honeybee semen is a mere two weeks, but much could be gained by introducing a manner of preservation. While one of the project’s major concerns is the long-term survival of bees, Hopkins said there is more than just one advantage to the work. “This work provides two main advantages for the honeybee industry,” he said. “One is in conservation. There are a lot of important breeding lines that have been developed at different research institutions that can be preserved with cryopreservation instead of being maintained as live colonies out in the field.” Hopkins said cryopreservation of the bees’ genetic material can preserve the lines as they are, before other breeding lines can be established in the field. “You can’t put a fence around bees,” he said. “Then there are important breeding programs, commercial breeding programs where people have been selecting and developing lines of bees for multiple generations. Sometimes lines can fail, companies can go out of business ... there are those huge conservation advantages.” The project also opens the door for selective breeding programs for bees, much like those currently in existence for other species. “There are breeding programs for cattle, and 80 percent of those are done with artificial insemination. They’ve been able to rapidly improve desired

Geoff Crimmins Daily News

traits like milk production and meat quality. The ability to cryopreserve genetics makes the transportation of those genetics a lot easier. Although we’re not quite there yet, this provides that tool to help (bee) breeders rapidly improve the breeding programs. People that are doing selection programs and looking for specific traits have a better chance of improving that trait.” Hopkins, who started his education with the intent of becoming a high school science teacher, said he never gave a thought to bees until he was approached by a WSU researcher while working at another Washington university.

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“I was working on cryopreservation stuff at Eastern Washington University and then Steve Shepherd here at WSU brought us a sample of semen to try to freeze for a project he had started with importing semen from old-world sources,” he said. After his endeavor proved successful, Hopkins received an offer to work on his doctorate and the honeybee project at WSU. “I’ve been addicted ever since,” he said. Shanon Quinn can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to squinn@dnews.com.


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Moscow-Pullman Daily News

| Saturday, September 24, 2016 | 7

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11.20.16 Geoff Crimmins/Daily News file photo

A farmer harvests wheat in a field on Airport Road near Pullman. Moscow Mountain is in the background.

Wheat farmers hit hard by falling numbers blight Test draws questions, but end result is declining prices By Kathy Hedberg Lewiston Tribune staff writer

Wheat production in the Inland Northwest this year was one of the best on record as far as quality, test weight and yields. But the falling numbers blight, which affected 70 to 75 percent of the crop from the Camas Prairie to the Palouse and including the LewistonClarkston Valley, has cast a pall over what would have been a celebratory

year. “There’s not a lot of people that can identify why it happened,” said Randy Olstead, general manager of Columbia Grain in Clarkston. Whether the low falling numbers, which refers to sprout damage in the wheat kernel that affects the starch content, was caused by weather stress, too much moisture or even a

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Numbers from Page 7

difference in the way varieties develop, is uncertain. In order to sell the soft white and club wheat grown in this area to Japan, Korea, Taiwan and other customers who mill it for noodles and pastry, the falling numbers has to be at least 300, Olstead said. Since much of the wheat fails that mark, millers won’t buy it and other marketing avenues must be found. “I think everybody understands the issue with the miller and what he wants to buy,” Olstead said. “I think what everybody is most upset about is the test and how it’s hard to duplicate.” At a meeting to explain the situation held at Greencreek in mid-August, several farmers expressed skepticism about the validity of the falling numbers test. Some of them said they have tested wheat grown in fields side by side under identical conditions and the falling numbers were low in one place and above the threshold in the other. Others said some farmers have had low falling numbers in their wheat at harvest but after being stored in the bins for awhile the falling numbers went back up. Blaine Jacobson, executive director of the Idaho Wheat Commission, acknowledged such reports but said,

“We don’t know of any science yet that supports that.” Others questioned how export buyers would react to wheat with low starch content. Steve Wirsching, vicepresident of U.S. Wheat Associates, which markets U.S.-grown wheat to foreign companies, said Japan, one of the area’s top buyers of local wheat, is “almost fanatic” in its specifications for high-quality flour. “It really does damage the end product. That’s why customers pay premium price for our wheat,” Wirsching said. Olstead said wheat grown in southern Idaho appears to have higher falling numbers than the crop grown in this area. Some of that wheat will be able to fill the pipeline for regular overseas customers. In addition to the falling numbers discount farmers are seeing at the grain warehouses, overall wheat prices are depressed because of wheat production elsewhere in the country and in the world. “We will have over a billion bushels of wheat carryover and we haven’t seen that since the 1980s,” Olstead said. “World production is very large and we’ve got a large supply and have a lot of competition and the prices are definitely down. “It’s not too good to be a wheat farmer right now.” Kathy Hedberg can be contacted at kathyhedberg@gmail.com or (208) 983-2326.

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Doing what it takes to continue family-farm tradition Sixth-generation farmers run operations ‘like a business’ By Kerri Sandaine Lewiston Tribune staff writer

Farming comes with its fair share of frustrations, but Brit and Debra Ausman stick with it because they like the people in the industry and the satisfaction of helping feed the world. The Asotin County couple operates a family farm in the Anatone area, along with a small trucking company and a wildland firefighting operation. Because the soil in the area lacks nutrients and rainfall is scarce, they primarily focus on winter wheat production and diversification, such as custom farming services, to keep the business in the black. “Yes, it is a family farm, but we run it like a business,” Debra said. Brit, 45, is a sixth-generation farmer with a degree in agricultural business from the University of Idaho. Debra, 46, is a UI graduate who worked in the ag banking industry for 15 years before becoming an insurance agent. A typical day at the Ausman house in Clemans Addition begins at dawn and ends long after the sun goes down. Brit devotes 12 to 14 hours a day to farming activities and serves on the Washington Grain Commission as a representative for Asotin, Garfield, Columbia and Walla Walla counties. He will likely travel to Japan, Korea and the Philippines in the near future on behalf of the board. Debra is handling “95 percent” of their 9-year-old twins’ activities in addition to working part time at Stonebraker McQuary and performing the duties of bean counter, controller and banker of the family business. She also serves on the Tri-State Hospital Board and Twin County United Way and is active in the Lewiston Roundup. “It truly is a team effort,” Brit said. “One person can’t cover all of the bases.” They communicate via texts and phone calls throughout the day to keep on top of the paperwork and planning that’s required to keep the business

running smoothly. Labor and industry reports for six separate operations and quarterly reports all have to be completed on time, along with reviews and research. “In some ways, I’m a little bit addicted to the chaos,” Brit said. He started his career at a young age as a helper to his late grandfather, Carl Ausman, and his late father, Pip Ausman. Over time, he took on more management duties and now oversees seeding, spraying, harvest and the other ventures. Brit said he learned a lot from his dad and is grateful Pip was his mentor. He’s honored to carry on the family tradition of farming. “It’s what I know,” he said. “And he’s good at it,” adds his wife. “He’s a good farmer.” The most frustrating aspect of the career choice is when Mother Nature throws a curve ball and all of the technical adjustments, analysis and research isn’t enough to make a profit. “We can do everything we can possibly do, and the end of the day, if Mother Nature shows up with no rain or a frost, we lose money,” Brit said. The current economic climate is cloudy at best. Commodity prices are below the cost of production and that’s worrisome to ag producers who are in the middle of seeding. If the price doesn’t improve, the seeds they are sowing will not reap a profit. High yields are the only thing that’s cushioned the financial blows from the market. “We don’t spend any money if we don’t have to because of the current economic conditions,” Brit said, “and there’s no room to hire extra help.” In addition to Brit and Debra, the farming enterprise employs two fulltime workers and four part-timers. The other owners of the family farm are Brit’s mother, Mary Ausman, and his sister, Lynette Ausman of Asotin. Debra, who joined the family in 2004, started driving truck for Linehan Farms when she was a freshman at Genesee High School. She quickly figured out it


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Moscow-Pullman Daily News

| Saturday, September 24, 2016 | 9 Debra and Brit Ausman operate a family farm in the Anatone area along with a small trucking company and a wildland firefighting operation.

paid much better than baby-sitting. “I stayed in ag because of the people,” she said. “Farmers are really good people. They’re hard-working, honest, supportive, generous, saltof-the-earth kind of people. If a farm family has a death or illness during harvest, the neighbors swoop in and it’s done. That doesn’t happen with other jobs.” Ag producers sacrifice family time and a lot of sweat, Brit said, and they rarely throw in the towel. “Farmers put their heart and soul in everything they’ve got on the line, every year,” he said. “People in production agriculture are eternal optimists. They always think they’re going to do better next time, until the banker says there’s no next time.” The industry has changed dramatically since the Ausman ground was homesteaded in the late 1800s. For example, farmers now have to keep track of every ounce of herbicide on every acre, Brit said. Soil samples are analyzed and the data is used to develop fertilizer prescriptions to get the most out of marginal dirt. Technology plays a big role in the process as farmers rely on electronic maps to pinpoint where the fertilizer is needed. Although the business has its ups and downs, it’s satisfying to know you’ve contributed to the world’s food supply, Debra said. The Ausmans are not sure if their children will want to be farmers, but they are hopeful young people will continue the ag tradition in eastern Washington. From 2009 to 2012, business was booming and many college graduates returned to their family farms because it paid better than a lot of entrylevel jobs. That’s probably not the case in 2016, Debra said, but it’s still a good way to live. “We definitely hope to keep it going,” she said.

Courtesy of the Ausman family

Kerri Sandaine can be contacted at kerris@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2264. Follow her on Twitter @newsfromkerri.

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10 | Saturday, September 24, 2016 |

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Moscow-Pullman Daily News

WSU will try to manage Washington pear pests WSDA awards $247,000 grant to university’s tree fruit extension specialist to research pear pest management More than half of the pears produced in Washington — the top pear-producing state in the country — are grown in the Wenatchee River Valley. Unfortunately, that’s an area that also tends to be popular with damaging pests like psylla, a sap-sucking insect, and mites. The Washington State Department of Agriculture is turning toward Tianna DuPont, a tree fruit extension specialist at Washington State University’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center, to help with the issue. She was awarded a threeyear grant worth about $247,000 to research sustainable pear pest management. DuPont said pear growers are facing increasing concerns with psylla and mites because of a resistance the insects are developing to some of the current insecticide sprays. The project, which is set to begin Oct. 1 on grower farms in the Wenatchee River Valley, will focus on softer pear pest management pro-

grams and will include five main areas, DuPont said. Soft insecticide isn’t as harmful to beneficial insects like predacious plant bugs, lady beetles and parasitic wasps, DuPont said. These insects suppress pests and help keep populations in balance. She said the first step in the project is to document barriers to adoption. Growers will be asked why they are not currently using the pest management program she and researchers are advocating in the project. Second, about 20 pear fields will be monitored for both pests and beneficial insects in soft, organic management programs to develop information so growers can make more informed decisions. DuPont said the third, fourth and fifth objectives are to establish information-sharing networks during a series of workshops and field days and to create a training program to continue monitoring pear pests after the grant is over. DuPont said one of the goals of the project is to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. She said she and researchers hope growers will

Courtesy WSU

Psylla are pests that can damage pear crops. Growers are more concerned the insect is developing resistance to some insecticide sprays. increase their knowledge in how beneficial insects can be used as a tool in their pest management and limit their use of “hard” pesticides that can

be harmful to beneficial insects. Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 8834631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Hop growers look to new parts of US Charlie Hamblen feeds hops into a machine that strips the flower from the plant Sept. 2 at his farm in Gorham, Maine. An impending hop shortage is jeopardizing beer making in America, where hoppy craft ales are king.

By Patrick Whittle Associated Press

GORHAM, Maine — Geoff Keating grows a prized plant at the northeastern edge of the country, some 3,000 miles away from the region of America most associated with his crop — hops. Americans’ growing thirst for bitter, flavor-packed styles of beer has brought an unprecedented demand for hops, so growers are looking to new places to harvest its flowers. Hops are used to provide bitterness, aroma and flavor to beer. It the U.S., the vast majority are grown in Washington state, with significant numbers grown in Oregon and Idaho. But hop growers in states like Michigan, New York and Maine, where Geoff Keating runs the Hop Yard farm in Gorham and Fort Fairfield, are starting to ramp up production. The growth dovetails with craft beer’s growth, and its passion for using local ingredients. “As far as Maine-grown hops, anything done at good quality that’s coming out of Maine is being used by brewers,” Keating said. “We have limited supply.” The demand for hops is high, in part,

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Northwest Farm and Ranch because of America’s obsession with India pale ales, which use large amounts of hops to create flavors and aromas that recall fruit and pine. Total U.S. hop acreage grew by almost 20 percent to more than 53,000 acres this year, according to the Hop Growers of America. And brewers still often gripe about shortages of some hop varieties. In the U.S., the amount of acreage outside of the Pacific Northwest states grew from fewer than 900 in 2014 to more than 1,200 last year to nearly 2,100 this year, the growers association noted. Michigan’s acreage doubled to 650 this year, and Wisconsin’s grew by nearly 75 percent to almost 300 acres. “We are certainly getting a lot of calls from people saying they would like to be hop growers,” said Jaki Brophy, spokeswoman for the growers association. “There has been an interest in growing outside of the Pacific Northwest.” Prices for hops have also been high in recent years, even as the total amount of hop acreage and pounds of hops produced hits record highs. The price of hops can vary widely based on the variety

Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Associated Press

Peter Busque cuts hops from tall trellises Sept. 2 during the harvest at the Hamblen Farm in Gorham, Maine. Hop growers, once located exclusively in the Pacific Northwest, are branching out to nontraditional states like Maine. — there are hundreds, some of which are proprietary — but the average price of U.S. hops rose from $3.67 to $4.38 per pound last year. The availability of hops can be a concern for brewers,

especially those who trade in hoppy beer, and local growing can help make a difference, said Tim Adams, brewmaster of Oxbow Beer, in Portland, Maine. “The collective palate of the

world is way into very hoppy beers — IPAs and double IPA,” Adams said. “It’s a naturally limited resource and demand seems to be increasing at a rate that is much greater than supply.”

| Saturday, September 24, 2016 | 13 The production outside of the Pacific Northwest hasn’t yet reached the level where it can make a dramatic effect on the national hop trade. And big brewers like AnheuserBusch, which are the rival of craft beer and take up much more of the U.S. beer market, are potentially less impacted by fluctuations in the availability of hops. Anheuser-Busch also operates its own hop farms, in the U.S., Germany and Argentina. The growth of hops in places like Michigan and Maine is unlikely to affect the company or other beer giants. But Bart Watson, chief economist with the Brewers Association, which represents 3,200 beer makers from bucket brewing operations to regional players, said the spread of hops around the country reflects a growing interest in locally sourced beer. He expects the trend to continue. Pat Tiernan, chief operating office of Escondido, Calif.-based Stone Brewing Company, said it’s possible that hops grown outside of traditional areas might impart a slightly different flavor or aroma. He said players in craft beer are watching.

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Gene-editing breakthrough could be boon to cattle producers WSU discovery could help animals become resistant to diseases By Mary Stone Lewiston Tribune staff writer

Cattle engineered to resist disease could be as little as a year away from the marketplace. A gene-editing technology developed at Washington State University is being licensed to a global animal genetics company for developing lines of cattle resistant to bovine respiratory disease, the primary cause of cattle mortality for U.S. producers. By making a single edit in a gene, WSU researcher Subramaniam Srikumaran’s discovery helps prevent the lung inflammation and pneumonia characteristic of the disease, according to a WSU news release. Creating resistance to the disease through genetic means could greatly reduce the use of antibiotics, preventing antibiotic-resistant pathogens from forming, according to WSU professor Jon Oatley, who heads the university’s Functional Genomics Initiative. Through an agreement negotiated by WSU’s Office of Commercialization, the technology is being licensed to Genus, a

British-based company that sells biotechnology products to cattle and pig farmers and has research laboratories in Madison, Wis. Though Oatley could not speak to Genus’ timeline for implementOatley ing the technology, he said that “from a conceptual standpoint” it could probably happen within a year, given the ninemonth gestation period of cattle. “As far as modifying the embryo,” he said, “that could be done tomorrow.” Unlike previous forms of genetic engineering that included introducing foreign DNA, Oatley said, the geneediting process only involves changes to the existing genome. That difference makes the technology less controversial, he said. “From a human health standpoint, I don’t think the risk is there,” he said. As far as concerns about the animals, which would carry the altered gene forward to future generations of cattle, Oatley said the risk is small. “Off-target effects seem almost impossible with how precise the new tools are,” he said. “No unpredicted changes have been found.” According to the news release, the gene-editing discovery and its transla-

Lewiston Tribune

Gene-editing technology developed at Washington State University may soon help cattle resist diseases in new ways. tion to disease-resistant animals is an example of WSU’s recently launched genomics initiative, developed to address the challenges around health

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| Saturday, September 24, 2016 | 15

Some farmers worry Monsanto merger will drive up costs ST. LOUIS — Bayer’s buyout of St. Louis-based Monsanto has agricultural groups and farmers concerned that the merger will lead to higher prices for seed and crop protection products, though some experts are confident the deal will be good for farmers. Monsanto produces seeds for fruits, vegetables and crops, such as corn, soybeans, and cotton, and is the world’s largest seed supplier, including genetically modified seeds. The company also makes a variety of products to protect crops from pests, disease and weeds; its Roundup line is the world’s best-selling weed killer. Bayer makes several brands of crop protection chemicals used to kill weeds, insects and fungal diseases, including Liberty herbicides and Movento brand insecticides. Different stakeholders have different takes on what

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The companies Farmers will benefit from the combination of expertise that will emerge, officials from Monsanto and Bayer said, citing the possibilities of a combined research and development team that will be able to “accelerate innovation.” Hugh Grant, chairman and CEO of Monsanto, said the ag industry is entering an era with challenges “that demand new, sustainable solutions and technologies to enable growers to produce more with less,” and the merger will help do that.

Analysts Prices for seeds and crop protection will remain low because the farm economy simply won’t allow for higher prices, according to Juli Niemann of Smith Moore in St. Louis said “Everything is about cost

Associated Press

German drug and farm chemical company Bayer AG said it signed a deal Sept. 14 to acquire seed and weed-killer company Monsanto for about $66 billion in cash. right now because the farm industry is in the tank,” Niemann said. “They (farmers) are getting very low prices for the huge amount

of crop rolling in. Farmers aren’t making any money and you don’t start increasing the price of seeds when nobody is making any money.”

Macquarie Securities in New York said the merger See Costs, Page 16

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16 | Saturday, September 24, 2016 |

Costs from Page 15

will create a structure that will help farmers optimize crop yields.

Farm groups Some organizations that advocate for farmers worry reduced competition will force up prices on necessary products. National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson said in a statement that the deal marks the fifth major agribusiness merger in the past year. More than 250 members of the organization are in Washington this week to meet with members of Congress and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, raising concerns that such deals will result in higher costs of seed and fertilizer at a time when farmers are already struggling. “We will continue to express concern that

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these mega-deals are being made to benefit the corporate boardrooms at the expense of family farmers, ranchers, consumers and rural economies,” Johnson said.

Farmers

Beekeepers, growers get financially stung by hive thefts By Dean Fosdick

Blake Hurst, who farms 6,000 acres of corn and soybeans near the northwest Missouri town of Tarkio, wonders whether less competition will mean higher prices for seeds and herbicides. “I think farmers are always concerned when mergers occur that there will be upward pressure on prices,” said Hurst, who is also president of the Missouri Farm Bureau Federation, which hasn’t taken a stand on the merger. “I’m more worried about what it will mean for innovation in agriculture. “I think a larger, more bureaucratic firm may be slower to respond in innovation, and we need progress in our seeds and crop protection.”

Associated Press

Bee rustlers are driving up the cost of one of nature’s sweetest enterprises: Honeybee hives valued at over $350 apiece are disappearing in large numbers. That figure doesn’t include rental fee losses of up to $200 per hive for bees transported to pollinate citrus in Florida, blueberries in Maine, cranberries in Wisconsin, vegetables in Texas, sunflowers in the Dakotas and almond orchards during their six- to eight-week California bloom period in January and February. There simply aren’t enough honeybees in those areas to handle the pollinating load. Even with thousands of commercial hives being shipped around the country, honeybee diseases and complications from theft have created too little supply of the bees and too much demand. California is prime ground for bee thefts since two-thirds of all

Associated Press

A beekeeper is pulling frames Aug. 2 from a box to check honey and larvae production in Langley, Wash. Marking the hives and frames with a registered brand is one way to recover stolen hives. beehives in the U.S. are used to help pollinate its million-acreplus almond production. Two beehives per acre are needed for pollination.

“It’s the easiest way for someone to steal in large-scale values that I know of,” said Darren Cox, a commercial beekeeper from Utah who recently lost 80

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hives rented to a California almond grower. Most bee yards are isolated and in remote areas, said Joy Pendell, media director for the California State Beekeepers Association. “Anyone with a forklift and truck can easily pick up the hives and drive to a new location,� she said. “Bees are typically transported at night since bees do not fly at night or in cooler weather� (below 55 degrees Fahrenheit), she said. Losses are difficult to determine nationwide, but 1,654 beehives were reported stolen by California almond growers between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28 this year, the peak period there for almond trees to bloom, Parnell said. “It’s all about making an easy buck at someone else’s expense,� she said. “The price of bees renting for almond pollination has skyrocketed and it is attracting the thieves.� Prevention is difficult, but there are ways to catch a beehive thief. They include: n Marking your hives using a registered brand on boxes and frames. “A brand provides concrete evidence of the ownership of the beehive,� Pendell said.

n Using GPS tracking. “The trick is getting a device that will motion-activate,� Pendell said. “I’m not sure how well it will work out, but it is worth a shot.� n Hiring a security service. n Placing bee lots out of sight and securing them with locked fencing. n Using surveillance cameras. n Posting rewards. The California State Beekeepers Association currently offers a reward of up to $10,000 for the arrest and conviction of people selling member bees or equipment. “The whole problem with this hive theft thing is the probability of getting caught is low and the returns are high,� said Brittney Goodrich, a Ph.D candidate at the University of California, Davis, who is writing a dissertation on honeybee contracts in the almond industry. “Almond acreage continues to expand, and demand for pollination continues to grow. The price of bee pollination will continue going up and hive thefts will probably increase.� For more, see this fact sheet from University of Florida Extension: http://edis.ifas.ufl. edu/in872

Associated Press

Beekeepers worldwide are getting financially stung by the high number of hive thefts. Stealing beehives is a surprisingly simple operation since most bee yards are isolated and remote from homes and people.

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Woolley Food Forest Association aids local food bank By Kimberly Cauvel Skagit Valley Herald

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — While walking through her property in Alger, Sarai Stevens could gather the fixings for a meal or simply snack along the way, plucking leaves, berries and plums from the branches of trees and bushes throughout her food forest. Here there are no traditional garden rows, and instead of using artificial fertilizer and watering profusely, plants are strategically placed so that they support one another rather than compete for sun, water and soil nutrients. This concept is called permaculture — the idea that mimicking nature can produce a lot of food without a lot of effort, reported the Skagit Valley Herald. “You don’t have to battle back nature in order to get a few things you want to eat,” Stevens’ friend, Will Honea, said while touring the food forest.

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Stevens and Honea are members of the recently formed nonprofit Woolley Food Forest Association, which seeks to create a food forest to the Helping Hands Food Bank in Sedro-Woolley. “Our group’s goal is to demonstrate the way this can work in our ecosystem. It’s beneficial for people and nature,” said Honea, who is one of the association’s board members. As the Woolley Food Forest Association formed earlier this year with a mission to spread the word about permaculture to others in Skagit County, the food bank sought to relocate and start a community garden at its new site. Honea said it was a perfect opportunity to form a partnership. The association will plant and manage the community food forest, which will provide fresh food to food bank customers. The association will also organize workshops to teach food bank customers and volunteers how to manage

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the forest and harvest the produce. “Knowing how to do this is super empowering. It’s empowering to grow your own food,” Honea said. The association hosted its first work party Aug. 28, when volunteers spread pond liner over the 2 acres at the corner of Fruitdale and Wicker roads that will soon become the first community food forest in Skagit County. Stevens, executive director of the association, said the liner will kill grasses and weeds, preparing the soil for planting in January. She has designed a food forest that will use a wide variety of edible plants ranging from walnut and peach trees to grapes and mushrooms. It will also include designated areas for spices and medicinal flowers. Walkways and benches will provide access to the nontraditional community garden, which will be sprinkled with common varieties such as rhubarb, onions, spinach and chives as well as goumi berries, which provide the key nutrient of nitrogen to other plants. It’s a low-input, high-yield model. Food forests don’t require tilling, seeding, fertilizing, watering and weeding like traditional gardens, and they can produce a variety of nutrient dense foods. Stevens’ own food forest is flourishing with apple, plum, peach, hazelnut and

| Saturday, September 24, 2016 | 19

Christina Becker/Skagit Valley Herald via Associated Press

Will Honea describes how different plants planted next to each other promote growth Sept. 1 in Sedro-Wooley, Wash. He is one of the organizers for the recently formed nonprofit Woolley Food Forest Association.

See Woolley, Page 20

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20 | Saturday, September 24, 2016 |

Woolly from Page 19

chestnut trees, and a variety of berries, vegetables, greens, herbs and spices. “It’s unbelievable the amount of food it can produce in a small area,” Honea said. He picked and sampled sour leaves from a sedum plant and cucumber-like-flavored flowers from a boarge plant, highlighting how much of the nontraditional garden is edible. Stevens and Honea are excited to bring these foods to the food bank, characterizing it as a community effort. It has received support including donations and volunteer labor from several groups and companies in Skagit County and surrounding areas, including the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, Skagit River Ranch and Janicki Industries. “It’s turned into this great, positive, community thing,” Honea said. Stevens’ own food forest also has community ties. She said friends have helped her cultivate it, and shared the fruits of the labor. Many of her seeds and starts also came from loved

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Northwest Farm and Ranch

ones. The plum tree thriving in its nook was a seedling from her grandmother’s yard; some of the flowering plants were from a friend whose mother brought them from outside the U.S. “My garden represents a lot of my community, my friends,” Stevens said. “Everything here has a story.” Before she started building her food forest 11 years ago, only an apple tree and powder-pink rose plant stood in her yard, surrounded by grass. Today, edible bushes are tucked around the base of the apple tree and the pink rosebuds peek out from among berries, greens and herbs that thrive in the Pacific Northwest’s climate. Once plants are established in a food forest, they can reseed themselves. Beneath the soil a fungal web forms, connecting the roots of the various plants and allowing them to exchange nutrients. “That’s where all the magic happens,” Stevens said while holding soil laced with some of the white web. Stevens and Honea said permaculture draws off of indigenous practices and adds scientific knowledge and plants from around the world.

Sarai Stevens plucks raspberries Sept. 1 from a bush in her forest garden, in Sedro-Wooley, Wash.

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| Saturday, September 24, 2016 | 21

Associated Press

Maria Ceja joined other farmworkers Aug. 29 in celebrating outside the California Assembly Chambers after lawmakers approved a measure requiring farmworkers to receive overtime pay after working eight hours in Sacramento, Calif.

California farmworkers on edge over overtime bill By Scott Smith Associated Press

MENDOTA, Calif. — Many California farmworkers who make up the backbone of the nation’s No. 1 agricultural state on Tuesday were praising historic legislation that brings them closer to receiving the same overtime pay as the rest of the state’s workers who are paid by the hour. If signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, a new overtime bill would put California at the forefront nationally of farm labor pay and mark a victory in the fight to improve farmworkers rights in the decades old movement launched by Cesar Chavez, the legendary co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association who fought for higher farm worker pay.

Brown, a Democrat, has not said whether he will sign the law that would be the first of its kind for the United States. Florentino Reyes, 48, has been picking tomatoes and working a wide variety of crops in California’s fertile Central Valley for more than two decades and says he could make another $60 weekly. That would give him more purchasing power to buy better food and clothes for his wife and three children and ease his stress over paying down bills. “For me, it’s discrimination,” said Reyes, finishing up a day harvesting green tomatoes near the town of Mendota. See Overtime, Page 22

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Overtime from Page 21

But other farmworkers are nervous about California farmers’ claims that the higher overtime pay could hurt them economically and outprice California products from the marketplace in favor of crops grown in other states and countries. Gonzalo Najera, who drives a tractor on Salinas Valley’s lettuce, carrots and broccoli fields, said some farmers are saying the extra overtime payments could drive them out of the state, but he doesn’t buy the argument. “The growers can’t leave,” Najera said. “They can’t take their dirt with them.” The 35-year-old father of four also has parents back in Mexico, who rely on money he regularly sends. He earns about $33,000 a year and said he has worked seven days a week since March this year. The added overtime pay he expects to receive will correct a longstanding injustice so farm workers are no longer treated as second class California employees, Najera

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said. Under the current law, California employers must pay time-and-a-half to farmworkers after 10 hours a day or 60 hours a week. Lawmakers in Sacramento on Monday sent the legislation to Brown that would give them overtime after eight hours in a day or 40 hours a week. It is backed by the United Farm Workers, which Chavez helped found in 1962, more than three decades before his death. Farmers vehemently oppose it, and third-generation almond and olive farmer Pat Ricchiuti said approval by Brown could prompt him to cut his workers’ take-home pay by as much as 33 percent. The Fresno Country farmer says he and others he know would respond by limiting crews to eight hours by finding other workers and increasing their use of farm machinery. “It is really, really sad,” he said. “The only people getting hurt in this are the workers.” Ricchuiti argued that farming shouldn’t be compared to other industries, because it is seasonal, susceptible to unpredictable weather and the availability of water.

Associated Press

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, receives congratulations from Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers, after the Assembly approved her bill requiring farmworkers to receive overtime pay after working eight hours, at the Capitol, in Sacramento, Calif.

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Northwest Farm and Ranch

Moscow-Pullman Daily News

| Saturday, September 24, 2016 | 23

Group says it has sued Dow over pesticide used By Scott Smith Associated Press

FRESNO, Calif. — Chemical manufacturing giant Dow fails to warn people in farming communities throughout California when a potentially dangerous pesticide is applied to nearby fields, health advocates claimed in a lawsuit filed Tuesday. Telone is among the most commonly used pesticides in California — applied to strawberry fields, almond orchards, vineyards and other crops. The chemical kills pests in the soil and dissipates before crops are planted, so health advocates say harmful residue is not found in food. Rather, they say the fumes released when it is first applied can potentially cause health issues. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the chemical can cause

cancer when inhaled over long peri- of illness connected to the pesticide. ods. Dow spokeswoman Rachelle The OaklandSchikorra declined to based Center for comment about the Environmental lawsuit. Health said it filed the As the manufaclawsuit in Alameda turer of Telone, Dow County Superior is responsible for Court against Dow making sure resiAgroSciences LLC, dents potentially in which makes Telone. the path of its fumes “For decades, Dow know when it’s being and state regulators used, the advocacy have put profits ahead group says. of our health,” Michael Telone is the third Michael Green Green, CEO of Center most commonly used CEO of Center for for Environmental pesticide in California. Health, said in a stateIt is applied to fields Environmental Health ment. “It is long past in the Central Valley time for California to counties of Fresno, protect children and families from Kern, Merced and Tulare as well as Dow’s dangerous chemical.” coastal Monterey County. The center has not cited any cases California regulates its use, but

For decades, Dow and state regulators have put profits ahead of our health.”

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the Center for Environmental Health says it fears that an upcoming change to California’s pesticide regulations could increase the use of Telone. Charlotte Fadipe, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, declined to comment on the lawsuit or on any proposed changes to how the state regulates Telone. “It is no secret we are looking very closely at how we allow California to use this pesticide to protect crops,” she said. The health advocates focused their lawsuit on Shafter, a farming community in Kern County. The lawsuit asks the court to impose penalties against Dow of $2,500 a day for each violation. Dow AgroSciences is a global company with sales last year adding up to $6.4 billion.

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24 | Saturday, September 24, 2016 |

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Northwest Farm and Ranch

Moscow-Pullman Daily News

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Northwest Farm and Ranch, Fall 2016