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Jacob Heitstuman (15 months) cheering on his daddy, Brian, and his papa, Dale, as they fill the sprayer
in Pomeroy.

Photo by Stephanie Heitstuman.


BioWest

FARMER'S TOOLBOX

Finding the right recipe

Eastern Washington growers uncover some of the uncertainties of cover crops

November 2021
By Trista Crossley

In Eastern Washington, cover crops hold promise, but growers are still weeding out some issues.

Ryan Poe, a grower from Grant County and president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, ran into one of those issues in 2019 and 2020 when he planted a cover crop at the same time he direct seeded 25 acres of winter wheat. The idea was that the cover crop, rather than chemicals, would keep weeds in check. The cover crop would terminate during the winter leaving a wheat crop he could take to harvest. Unfortunately, Poe ended up with subpar stands of wheat that were ineligible for crop insurance as the Risk Management Agency deemed the experiment too…experimental. Despite considering the trial to be a failure from the crop side, Poe said some of the results were positive.

“I thought we were going to have a weedy big mess,” Poe said. “It was shocking to me. We didn’t get Russian thistles and other weeds that I would have expected.” See more


PROFILES

Mobile mechanic specializes in farm, construction equipment

Scott Carroll, Big Iron Repair

November 2021
By Trista Crossley


Big Iron Repair owner Scott Carroll has shifted gears in his career nearly as many times as he’s rebuilt heavy equipment transmissions and engines. His journey began in the late 1970s on his father-in-law’s Eastern Washington farm.

Carroll was born and raised in Ephrata, Wash. After high school, he found work as a truck driver. It was during this time he met his wife, Cindy, whose family grew wheat, bluegrass, garbanzos and barley on their farm between Wilbur and Odessa. After marrying Cindy in 1978, Carroll went to work on the farm. See more


FARMER'S TOOLBOX

BEHIND THE MONIKER

Is a family farm by any other name still a family farm?

November 2021
By Trista Crossley


What is a family farm? Definitions vary, depending on the person answering, but one thing is for sure—it shouldn’t be based on the farm name.

“I think most people don’t realize that every business they interact with on a daily basis is in a legal entity of some kind,” said John Kragt, an attorney with McGuire, DeWulf, Kragt & Johnson P.S. in Ritzville, Wash. “But when people think of farmers, they think of the Johnson family, and when they see Johnson Farms Inc. or Johnson Family Landholding LLC, there’s a disconnect. There’s the concept that a family farmer shouldn’t be an entity. That doesn’t make any sense.” See more


POLICY

A 'dam' different view of the Snake River

October 2021

A few years ago, when I purchased my Ranger Tug, I started dreaming about the places I could visit beyond where roads and airplanes could take me! The breaching of the Snake River dams is in almost every Wheat Life issue. As a farm ground owner, I am quite familiar with the Snake and its valuable assets, such as transportation of goods and services and power generation. I’m concerned a few people may get their way and breach these dams, so I offer a different perspective that few people get to experience—a trip by boat on the Snake River.

In 2020 with my sweetie, Gayle (aka deckhand), we load my 150 hp diesel motor tug, Ruby Rose, with 80 gallons of fuel, 30 gallons of water, food, drinks and just about anything else we might need and head to Boyer Park and Marina. See more


PROFILES

What's better than one job? Four!

Stacy Timm Rasmussen, Farmer's Daughter Photography

October 2021
By Kevin Gaffney


When you meet Stacey Rasmussen, a few things quickly become clear. She is a true Type-A personality, she likes to keep busy, and she is quite adept at handling many tasks simultaneously. One of her mottoes is “why have one job when you can have four?”

Raised on the family farm west of Harrington, Wash., Rasmussen graduated from Harrington High School in 1999. Not envisioning a career in agriculture, she earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Eastern Washington University (EWU) in 2003. Her first employment following college was as the club program manager for the Inland Northwest Council of Camp Fire USA. See more


PROFILES

Organization helps keep PNW navigation interests flowing

Kristin Meira, Pacific Northwest Waterways Association

August/September 2021
By Kevin Gaffney


Many people travel through their careers with quite a few bumps, curves and unexpected stops along the road. Some folks just seem to cruise along, landing at one good position after another, despite the difficulties.

Kristin Meira fits into the latter category. Along with some good fortune, however, her skills, dedication and hard work had much to do with her successes over the years. Currently the executive director of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association (PNWA), Meira’s resume includes serving on the staffs of two U.S. senators in Washington, D.C.

Born and raised in southern New Jersey about halfway between Philadelphia and Atlantic City, Meira actually grew up in a rural area that produced crops including peaches, apples, blueberries and corn. She was in 4-H for years and had many FFA friends through high school. She graduated from Williamstown High School in 1989. Meira worked at various jobs to earn money during high school and college; much of that involved working with horses. She began riding at an early age and trained horses and taught riding lessons as a teenager. After a hiatus during her early work life, Meira took up riding again in her mid-30s. She recently purchased a new project horse that she is jumping in the hunter category of equestrian show events. Living near Portland with her husband, Erik, and son, Alex, she keeps her horse boarded at nearby Aurora, Ore. See more


FARMER'S TOOLBOX

UNDEREXTENDED?

Eastern Washington producers concerned about vacancies in WSU Extension

August/September 2021
By Trista Crossley


For more than 100 years, Washington State University (WSU) Extension has played a pivotal role in dryland wheat farming in Eastern Washington, but growers are concerned that the service’s commitment to the area’s predominant cropping system is faltering.

“I think there’s a great deal of concern about the Extension coverage given the productivity of the region. This is the high yielding, high-end wheat producing area, and Whitman County is the highest, most productive wheat producing county in the nation,” said Jim Moyer, Washington Association of Wheat Growers’ (WAWG) Research Committee chairman and a grower from Columbia County. “The concern is WSU needs to figure out what they are going to do to support this area. Following the recession of 2009, there has been a very troubling increase in vacant Extension positions with some questions of relevancy. This pretty quickly translates into a lack of support at different levels.” See more


POLICY

The benefits of barging

River transportation critical to PNW grain company's farmers, customers

August/September 2021

Columbia Grain International, based in Portland, is a leading supplier worldwide of bulk grain, pulses, edible beans and oilseeds, both conventional and organic. Their supply chain stretches across the northern tier of the U.S., from North Dakota to Washington. They operate nine grain elevators in Eastern Washington, as well as barge loading facilities on the lower Snake River. To say they have a stake in the fight over breaching the lower Snake River dams is a bit of an understatement.

Last month, Wheat Life talked to Jeff Van Pevenage, president and CEO of Columbia Grain, on the importance of barging to his company and to farmers as far away as North Dakota. See more


POLICY

Dam champions

State, national agricultural leaders take part in dam advocacy tour

July 2021

Leaders and staff of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) joined with other agricultural industry stakeholders in Lewiston, Idaho, in June to highlight the importance of the lower Snake River dams. The group also discussed the region’s concerns about Rep. Mike Simpson’s (R-Idaho) $33 billion proposal to breach the dams, toured Lower Granite Dam and visited the Lewis-Clark Terminal at the Port of Lewiston.

Michelle Hennings, WAWG’s executive director, said one of the highlights of the tour was learning how Lower Granite Dam worked and the research and technology the staff there uses to facilitate fish passage, including fish ladders and fish monitoring.

“This is definitely something we need to showcase to Congress and our legislators. They need to take a tour and see what is being accomplished at Lower Granite Dam. Dams and salmon can coexist, and this is the perfect example. If we could implement this level of effort at all the dams on the Snake River, it would be a win-win situation,” she said, adding the staff at the dam did a fantastic job explaining how everything worked. See more


PROFILES

To Washington (DC), with love, from Washington (state)

Mariah Wollweber, National Association of Wheat Growers

July 2021
By Trista Crossley


Does it take a wheat grower to know how to represent wheat growers?

It certainly doesn’t hurt, which is good news for the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) as they welcome Mariah Wollweber, a fifth-generation Washington wheat grower, as their new director of communications and partnerships.

Wollweber grew up on her family’s farm in Edwall, Wash., where she began helping her grandfather bale hay at age 8 and stepped up to driving a harvest truck at 13. She graduated from Eastern Washington University in 2018 with a degree in public relations and a minor in journalism. See more


FARMER'S TOOLBOX

In the weeds

2021 Wheat College focused on resistance, stripe rust, Hessian fly

July 2021
By Trista Crossley


Resistance isn’t futile when it comes to managing weeds in wheat. You just have to be willing to mix things up.

Approximately 60 growers dialed in to the Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization’s 2021 Wheat College to hear Washington State University Extension faculty talk about herbicide resistance and weed management in wheat production systems. While Wheat College typically consists of both classroom and hands-on learning, this year, it was once again held virtually because of COVID-19. See more


POLICY

Going green(er)

Palouse citizens group seeks input from producers on climate action

June 2021
By Trista Crossley


The Palouse is more than just rolling hills, small towns and exceptional crops. It’s also the home of an organization making a determined effort to include the agricultural industry in climate change discussions.

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) describes itself as a grassroots, nonpartisan advocacy organization focused on national and local policies to address climate change. With approximately 200,000 members nationwide, the CCL establishes relationships with local, state and federal officials to build political support for climate action in keeping with local culture and politics. The Palouse chapter of the CCL, established in 2012, has approximately 700 members from Whitman County in Washington and Latah County in Idaho and counts a number of large scale commodity producers among them. Read more


PROFILES

Couple flies into aerial aviation business

Erin and Gavin Morse, GEM Air Inc.

June 2021
By Trista Crossley


The success of Gavin and Erin Morse’s aerial application company, GEM Air Inc., didn’t happen without a little turbulence.

Neither of the Morses grew up in agriculture or aviation. Erin graduated from Quincy High School in 2000. From there, she went to Big Bend Community College (BBCC) in Moses Lake and (later) Eastern Washington University in Cheney. Gavin grew up in Spokane where his father was a contractor. He was homeschooled instead of attending public high school, but took and passed the GED at 16 so he could get to the thing he had loved from the time he was a child—flying. His mother wasn’t very pleased.

“At the time, I thought high school was in the way of becoming a pilot,” he said. “I took the test and passed, packed my things and moved myself, at 16, to Seattle to be closer to where airplanes were.” See more


MARKETING

From field to flour

Identity preserving wheat is no easy task

May 2021
By Trista Crossley


Identity preservation in agriculture isn’t a new concept, but as consumers become more interested in how and where their food is grown, it could give growers a way to connect with the public and add value to their product.

Identity preservation in agriculture is generally defined as tracking a specific commodity shipment or load by segregating it to maintain something unique, such as a trait or method of production, that would be lost if commingled during storage, handling or processing. While the advantages of identity-preserved (IP) wheat might be enticing, there are some obstacles to implementing such a system, namely how to store and handle the product. See more


FARMER'S TOOLBOX

Holding out a hand

Suicide prevention program is dedicated to helping farmers who are in crisis

May 2021
By Trista Crossley


You can’t really put a price on a life, but Don McMoran is hoping that $7.18 million is a substantial start.

McMoran, director of the Washington State University (WSU) Skagit County Extension office, is parlaying a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) into expanding a program that offers assistance and resources to farmers and farmworkers who are struggling with mental stress and thoughts of suicide. It’s an issue that hits home for him. When he was a sophomore in college, a hired man on his parents’ Skagit County farm took his own life.

“I had no idea his decision would have such a major impact on my own life. I always think about why he did what he did,” McMoran explained. “When I took the job here in 2006, I was noticing there were some suicides happening in the county, but between 2016 and 2019, we had three of them in agriculture, and the third one was a gentleman I worked with at the Skagit Conservation District.” See more


PROFILES

Promoting direct seeding in the Pacific Northwest

Ty Meyer, production ag manager, Spokane Conservation District

April 2021
By Kevin Gaffney


Born and raised in the wheat country near Colton, Wash., in the heart of the Palouse, Ty Meyer grew up on a wheat and cattle farm operated by his father and uncle.

After graduating from Colton High School, Meyer earned a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness from Washington State University in 1993.

“My first employment was with Northwest Farm Credit Services as a farm appraiser,” said Meyer. “I worked out of the Yakima office for two years.”

Meyer returned home to accept the position of assistant manager of Johnson Union Warehouse, which is now part of the Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative. By that time, Meyer and his longtime hometown sweetheart, Kay, were married, and they moved to the west side of Washington when Meyer landed a job with AT&T Wireless during the tech boom of the late 1990s. Meyer’s management duties included taking IT professionals around the country to train field office staff. See more


MARKETING

Where the US fits in a changing world

April 2021
By Trista Crossley


Peter Zeihan’s message to growers in February was simple—things are changing. Zeihan was visiting with Eastern Washington farmers as part of the Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization’s 2021 winter schedule. More than 90 participants logged onto the Zoom call to hear what the popular geopolitical strategist had to say about politics, global demographics, trade and how the U.S. fits into all of that.

Politics
Zeihan started off with a look at what’s changing in U.S. politics. He said the American political system encourages parties to be “big tent parties” made up of factions and alliances, and in the past five years, traditional relationships (think traditional Republican or Democratic alliances) are breaking down. See more


POLICY

Simpson defends proposal

Congressman says plan addresses loss of barging for growers

April 2021
By Trista Crossley


Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) held a conference call last month with Idaho food producers and regional stakeholders to discuss his proposal to breach the four lower Snake River dams.

Simpson’s proposal would establish a $33.5 billion Columbia Basin Fund to help mitigate the effects of removing the four lower Snake River dams. The money would be used for energy replacement, watershed improvement, nutrient management, economic development, recreation, irrigation infrastructure and to address the loss of barging. The proposal would also put a moratorium on salmon litigation for at least 35 years. According to the proposal, Lower Granite and Little Goose dams would be breached in 2030, while Lower Monumental and Ice Harbor dams would be breached in 2031. Read more

Related: Read Alex McGregor's response to Simpson's answer.

Related: Who does have the authority to order the lower Snake River dams breached?


MARKETING

Use data to drive marketing decisions

March 2021
By Trista Crossley


Successfully growing and then harvesting a wheat crop is only part of growers’ battle to make a living. They also need to know how to get the best price for their grain. Dr. Randy Fortenbery, an economist from Washington State University, provided some strategic commodity marketing tips during a webinar last month.

More than 85 growers joined Fortenbery’s Zoom presentation, which was part of the Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization’s (AMMO) 2021 winter schedule. He began his presentation by telling growers that the objective of marketing is to earn a reasonable return on investment while minimizing the risk associated with achieving a target level of income.

“Often, producers are much more risk seeking when prices are high. They don’t lock those prices in because they think they could go even higher. And they are more risk adverse, meaning they don’t want to take on risk, when prices are quite low, meaning they are willing to lock in prices that are sort of at the bottom end of their historical price experience. That’s backwards, from my perspective, of the way we really want to think about this,” he said. See more


PROFILES

New product targets some familiar weeds

BioWest Ag Solutions

March 2021

Being “in the weeds” is seldom a good thing, and there’s a new product on the market that could help get farmers out of them.

BioWest Ag Solutions, based in Caldwell, Idaho, is marketing a new bioherbicide based on research done by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service soil scientist Ann Kennedy, who worked in Pullman, Wash., before she retired. The product targets cheatgrass (also known as downy brome), medusahead and jointed goatgrass. See more


FARMER'S TOOLBOX

Wheat College precursor focuses on yield

March 2021
By Trista Crossley


Peter “Wheat Pete” Johnson made the first of two planned appearances in Eastern Washington last month to talk about the building blocks of yield potential. His “visit” was part of the Agricultural Marketing and Management’s 2021 schedule

Johnson is the resident agronomist with Real Agriculture, where he hosts a weekly podcast, “Wheat Pete’s Word.” He is also a regular on “Agronomy Monday” on Real Ag radio, Sirius Satellite Radio 147, and he owns a small farm in Ontario, Canada.

Although the January visit was virtual, Johnson will be the featured speaker at this year’s Wheat College, currently scheduled as an in-person event on June 15 in Ritzville, Wash. Johnson called the January session a “precursor” to Wheat College. See more


PROFILES

Selling wheat seed throughout the western U.S.

Riley Hille, farm wife and wheat seed expert for Syngenta AgriPro

February 2021
By Kevin Gaffney


High achievers like Riley Hille often graduate from high school along with their classmates. They just do it with two years of college work already completed.

Born and raised in the Tri-Cities, Hille graduated from Hanford High School in 2010. Not only was she earning college credit through the Running Start program at Columbia Basin College, she worked for Calaway Hay Company during her senior year.

“I was a little bored in the classroom, so most of my class time was online, and when I wasn’t studying or working, I spent time with my horses,” recalled Hille. Hille fell in love with horses at an early age and was fortunate enough to have parents supportive of her equestrian interests. See more


POLICY

License laws

Under EPA rules, no recertification extension allowed for Washington pesticide applicators

February 2021
By Trista Crossley


Unfortunately, Washington state pesticide applicators struggling to get their recertification credits done on time won’t be able to count on an extension.

Christina Zimmerman, program manager with the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s (WSDA) Licensing and Recertification Program, Pesticide Management Division, explained that in 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised the federal rule on pesticide application certification and training to limit the recertification period to five years. States can have their own limits, as long as they are within EPA’s maximum limit; Washington’s was already set at five years. Read more


PROFILES

A champion for agriculture

Previous WAWG president, county commissoner heads to state Senate

January 2021
By Trista Crossley


There’s a number of past Washington Association of Wheat Growers’ (WAWG) officers who have used their time leading the association as a springboard into politics. Perry Dozier, a newly elected state senator from Walla Walla County, is the latest.

Dozier, a republican, is replacing retiring Sen. Maureen Walsh in the 16th Legislative District. He was elected with 59 percent of the vote over his opponent, Danielle Garbe Reser, a democrat. The 16th Legislative District covers Columbia and Walla Walla counties, the southern portion of Benton county and the city of Pasco in Franklin County.

Dozier was WAWG president in 2000/01. He was recruited to go through the WAWG chairs by outgoing President Alex McGregor, who called him one night to ask him if he’d be interested in being an officer in the association. Dozier agreed, maybe a little too quickly, because McGregor called back the next day just to make sure. See more


Focus will be on small businesses

Walla Walla grower's background will come in handy as a state Representative

January 2021
By Trista Crossley


Mark Klicker’s agricultural experience is as diverse as his family’s history of raising crops, and he’s planning on taking that experience and putting it to work as a newly elected state representative for the 16th Legislative District.

“If we don’t step up, we are going to lose this country,” he explained, referring to a rural America that includes smaller urban areas like Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities. “It’s important that we get involved. I believe if I can find ways of working in collaboration with both sides of the aisle, we can find solutions. That’s what we need to do. We need to bring people together.” See more


FARMER'S TOOLBOX

Handling the hands-on

Remote learning presents unique problems for CTE classes, FFA activities

December 2020
By Trista Crossley

In a time of increased remote K-12 education, how are the traditional, hands-on classes and activities faring? It’s something of a mixed (tool)bag according to instructors.

Since February, the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced nearly all Washington schools to at least a partial remote learning schedule, hitting classes that require hands-on instruction, such as career and technical education (CTE) classes, not to mention extracurricular activities like FFA and 4H, like a hammer. The U.S. is already facing a shortage of skilled trade workers. A recent study by JFF, a national nonprofit involved in American workforce and education systems, predicts 1.3 million job openings annually through 2028 for electricians, welders, mechanics and others. See more


POLICY

Leaving a mark

National positions bring spotlight to Washington wheat leaders

November 2020
By Trista Crossley

When it comes to leaving a mark in the national wheat industry, three Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) leaders are stepping up to the challenge.

Nicole Berg, vice president of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and a WAWG past president (2013/14); Michelle Hennings, WAWG executive director; and Marci Green, WAWG past president (2017/18), have all accepted assignments that are bringing national attention to Washington wheat growers. Hennings said the Washington wheat industry has become more active at the state and national levels in the last few years, and she is pleased to see women in farming have become more involved as leaders. Read more


FARMER'S TOOLBOX

On the move

Rail, river, roads all make movement of products in and out of region possible

November 2020
By Trista Crossley


Although barging and the dams on the Columbia-Snake River System have monopolized the spotlight recently, that’s not the only transportation option that Pacific Northwest (PNW) growers and businesses rely on. Trains and trucks are critical links in a system with lots of moving parts.

Crops and products move both ways in the PNW with most utilizing all three modes of transportation at some point in their life cycle. Crops may go first by truck to a country elevator and then by barge or rail to downriver ports on the coast, while products such as fertilizer are shipped upriver via barge to river terminals and dispersed into the countryside by truck. Lose one part of that chain, and the whole system falters. See more


FARMER'S TOOLBOX

Beyond the bin

Eastern Washington wheat growers turn to grain bags for storage flexibility

October 2020
By Trista Crossley


Some Eastern Washington farmers are starting to think outside the bin when it comes to how they handle wheat at harvest.

“We were approaching the year with a lot of uncertainty out there in the grain market, and also the fear that maybe an elevator or two might have employees that contract the coronavirus and get shut down. If that was the case, what was Plan B? Where do we go with our grain if our elevator of choice is not open?” said Randy Emtman. “We always try to forward contract some of our crop, so say that an elevator had a temporary closure—there’d be no place to go with that grain that we are obligated to deliver.” See more


PROFILES

Jumping in is nothing new to this farmer and his family

Phil Isaak, WAWG past president 1993/94

Aug/Sept 2020
By Kevin Gaffney


Most Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) presidents spend several years working through the ranks of their county organizations. Many serve as committee chairs or county reps on the WAWG state board before going through the state officer positions. Phil Isaak jumped directly into the WAWG secretary-treasurer position at the request of then-outgoing President Chris Laney.

It wasn’t like Isaak was an unknown quantity, however.

Isaak had experience on various boards and commissions before WAWG and many more in the years following his service in the leadership positions. And nearly as important, Isaak had already spent an entire year traveling around the state with his daughter, Brenda, as she served as WAWG Wheat Queen. Read more


POLICY

Tillage guidance

Ecology releases first set of ag BMPs to help regulate nonpoint source pollution

Aug/Sept 2020
By Trista Crossley


Back in March, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) published the initial chapter of their voluntary clean water guidance for agriculture. This draft chapter, which is the first of 13 that the department plans to release over the next five years, covers tillage and residue management.

To help protect water quality, Ecology recommends growers implement a conservation-based tillage system that achieves a residue coverage of 60 percent or more or a STIR value of 30 or less. The STIR value is a soil tillage intensity rating used by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to evaluate the effect of tillage on soil health. Read more


POLICY

Rural residents are looking for connection

July 2020
By Trista Crossley


There are lots of advantages to living in a rural location, but fast, reliable internet service is often not one of them.

As farm equipment becomes more computerized and sophisticated, an internet connection has become a critical link for growers to utilize GPS, manage data and help facilitate equipment repairs and upgrades, not to mention online interactions with U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies. In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the broadband deficiencies many rural residents and communities face as Washington students shifted to distance learning and many employees began working from home.

The Washington State Legislature has recognized the need for widespread broadband access across the state. In 2018, HB 2664, sponsored by Rep. Mary Dye (R-Pomeroy), was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee. The bill, among other things, extended telecommunications authority to Washington state ports in order to extend rural broadband infrastructure. In 2019, SB 5511, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island), established the Washington State Broadband Office (WSBO) to help develop broadband service to unserved and underserved areas through competitive grants and loans. Read more


FARMER'S TOOLBOX

Distance learning

AMMO's 2020 Wheat College goes online with Wheat Pete

July 2020
By Trista Crossley

Setting aside the factors that can’t be changed, such as weather, what has the biggest impact on wheat yields? Peter Johnson, a Canadian agronomist with 30 years of specializing in cereals, says it’s all about the producer.

“Researchers have identified that if you put growers in the same region with the same inputs, everything the same, 27 percent, basically 1/4 of the yield outcome, is based on the producer and how they apply those inputs,” he said. “That is outside of the weather and soil type and everything else. It’s really cool in terms of how we can drive those yields forward, so keep an open mind.”

Johnson was speaking to growers as part of the Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization’s 2020 Wheat College. Normally, Wheat College is a full day of classroom and hands-on presentations. This year’s event, however, was solely online thanks to COVID-19 restrictions. Nearly 60 growers logged into Zoom to hear Johnson speak. Johnson is the resident agronomist with Real Agriculture, where he hosts a weekly podcast, “Wheat Pete’s Word.” He is also a regular on “Agronomy Monday” on Real Ag radio, Sirius Satellite Radio 147. See more


PROFILES

Long-time ad sales manager retires

Kevin Gaffney has spent 30 years contributing to the success of Wheat Life

June 2020
By Trista Crossley


You may not immediately recognize his name, but he’s one of the main reasons Wheat Life is as successful as it is.

In May, after almost 30 years of involvement with the magazine and the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG), Kevin Gaffney, our ad sales manager, is hanging up his hat.

It’s an understatement to say we will miss him.

“Kevin has been a well-rounded and hardworking employee for WAWG,” said Michelle Hennings, WAWG’s executive director. “He has a great personality and a natural ability to connect with others. His working relationships with Wheat Life’s advertisers, growers and fellow staff members has helped make it possible for the magazine to thrive in a time when other print publications have struggled. We are sorry to lose him, but wish him the best in his well-deserved retirement!” Read more


PROFILES

Ag's story told

Sue Tebow turns to social media to spread the word on farmers and ranchers

June 2020
By Trista Crossley


Moses Lake resident Sue Tebow has taken the phrase “sharing is caring” to a new social media level.

“I had been thinking about doing something for a long time to share the ag life with people. I have a lot of friends that aren’t ag related and didn’t understand what goes on in agriculture. I put it off and put it off until one day, I just thought why not and what if? It turned out to be a really good idea,” Tebow said.

Tebow’s idea was to create a Facebook page where she could share stories from farmers and ranchers. The idea—a daily post from a farmer or rancher, no names and a single photo—may have been simple, but it was effective. Four years later, her page, agri.CULTURE, has more than 25,000 followers from around the world and has more than 900 posts. In 2017, Tebow was awarded the Charles Easton Award by the Agriculture Council of America for her work as an advocate for accurate communications between rural and urban audiences. She has also been inducted into the Grant County Agriculture Hall of Fame and given the Excellence in Agriculture Service Award. Read more


FARMER'S TOOLBOX

Cart(ful) of changes coming soon

NRCS uses webinar format to update Eastern Washington growers

June 2020
By Trista Crossley


In the year and a half since the 2018 Farm Bill passed, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has had their hands full implementing changes called for in the legislation. That transition is in the final stages, and last month, Washington growers got a chance to see what the agency has been working on.

“There are quite a few changes to each and every program, a lot of final tweaks,” said NRCS Washington State Conservationist Roylene Comes at Night. “We have new tools. The field offices have a new conservation planning system called Conservation Desktop. It’s a new system that is more computer friendly, more user friendly, more connected. The farm bill asked us to streamline in many ways. One way you will see is we are starting to transition towards one application, one conservation plan, one contract. We aren’t there yet, but we are going that way this year. That’s the biggest thing you will hear us talk about—this year is a transition year.” See more


FARMER'S TOOLBOX

Rounding up the gains of conservation tillage

No-till, direct seeding have many benefits, but one important tool is causing conflict

May 2020
By Trista Crossley


There’s very little disagreement that no-till and direct seed cropping systems are responsible for dramatic improvements in soil health and a reduction in erosion in Eastern Washington. There is, however, lots of disagreement over one of the main tools that makes those cropping systems viable—herbicides, especially glyphosate (also known commercially as Roundup).

Both no-till and direct seeding are considered low-disturbance systems where farmers don’t plow their fields but instead fertilize and seed through the previous year’s crop residue. According to Ty Meyer, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association (PNDSA), direct seeding usually involves up to two passes over a field and causes a little more disturbance than does no-till, which generally only involves a single pass. That’s compared to three or more passes in a conventional tillage operation. See more


POLICY

Aiming for 2021

Legislator hopes DNR legislation finds its footing next year

May 2020
By Trista Crossley


Rep. Chris Corry (R-Yakima) is hoping third time’s the charm for his bill that would require the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to compensate growers when some leases are terminated early.

The 2020 Legislative Session was the second time Corry has sponsored legislation seeking to change the way DNR handles early termination of agricultural leases, especially under their “higher and better use” clause. The bill, HB 2498, passed the House unanimously, but failed to get out of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks before the policy cutoff deadline. The bill was almost universally supported, including by DNR. Corry is planning to reintroduce the bill next year.

“Stuff dies all the time. Some stuff you have to fight three to five years to get through,” Corry said. “I’m thankful that DNR is on the back end implementing policy, and I’m hopeful next year we will have no roadblocks getting this through.” Read more


FARMER'S TOOLBOX

A quick trip through QuickBooks

April 2020
By Trista Crossley

The last Agricultural Marketing and Management session of the 2020 winter series was an accounting of the popular financial software program, QuickBooks.

Presenter Cassi Johnson, a financial consultant and QuickBooks super user, gave growers tips and tricks to increase their productivity when using the software and answered growers’ questions. Everyone, no matter their level of experience with QuickBooks, walked away with something useful. Johnson has practical experience using QuickBooks in an agricultural setting—she is part of a multigeneration ranching family in Oregon.

“In all my classes and sessions, people will see I share a lot of family stories and struggles and real life experiences because I find people generally don’t want to talk about private things, and I want my participants to know that their struggles aren’t unique, and they are not alone,” she said after the session. “Not everybody is experienced in bookkeeping and QuickBooks, and nobody loves to do bookkeeping. We didn’t get in this business to do that. We got in it to raise crops and livestock and be outdoors. I hope growers get out of my session that somebody like me who may know a little more about QuickBooks still isn’t perfect and still has the same struggles they have. It’s all a work in progress.” See more


POLICY

Introducing Laura Watson!

Meet the Washington State Department of Ecology's new director

April 2020

At the tail end of 2019, Gov. Jay Inslee named Laura Watson to the director’s position at the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology). Previously, Watson had served as the senior assistant attorney general in the Ecology Division of the Attorney General’s Office. In that position, she provided advice and representation to Ecology’s 10 environmental programs and to the agency’s administration.

According to a press release from the Governor’s Office, Watson has advised on a wide array of environmental issues including cleanup at the Hanford nuclear site; toxics reduction strategies; protection of the state’s Clean Water Act authority against federal intrusion; and options for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Watson earned her law degree from the University of Washington School of Law. She lives in West Olympia with her husband, Dan, who is a professor of mechanical engineering at St. Martin’s University, and a daughter.

Watson replaced Maia Bellon who was appointed in 2013.

During their annual Olympia Days trip in January, wheat growers were able to meet with Watson and talk to her about wheat industry issues and priorities. Wheat Life reached out to Watson and asked her to answer some questions so readers could get to know her a little better. Here are her answers with very minor editing. Read more


MARKETING

A wild ride through the markets

April 2020
By Trista Crossley


Kevin Duling’s 2020 Agricultural Marketing and Management (AMMO) session take-home message for growers was simple: prediction in the markets isn’t possible, so why try? Instead, he recommended talking to buyers and developing flexible tools to be able to move when/if information becomes available.

Duling is co-founder and manager of KD Investors, a consulting firm dealing with the marketing of grain. While KD Investors is based in Oregon, Duling works with clients throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia.

Duling begin his presentation by inventorying world wheat stocks. Leaving China out of the picture, he said, things look tight. Besides the U.S., the other major wheat exporters—Canada, Australia, Argentina, EU, Black Sea Region—are all likely to run out of wheat to export in June. The U.S. (at the time of his presentation) is projected to have approximately 25.6 million metric tons left in June. Read more


Dams already a model of fish recovery success

In April's issue of Wheat Life, on page 40, we ran a graph showing a 100-year perspective on salmon and dams co-existing in the Columbia River Basin. Unfortunately, due to space limitations, we weren't able to run the graph as large as we would have liked to, so it can be a little hard to read. Click here to download a larger, more easily read PDF.


POLICY

FOOD FOR AID

Growers travel to Kenya, Tanzania to see how U.S. commodities are helping feed the world

March 2020
By Trista Crossley


The idea of food aid is easy to understand. The actual nuts and bolts of food aid, however, are a little more complicated.

Back in November, a group of U.S. farmers and agricultural stakeholders from the wheat, barley, rice and sorghum industries set out on a two-week trip to Kenya and Tanzania to learn how food aid from the U.S., including grain, is sent to recipients in need, and how that food is distributed. Nicole Berg, past president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, treasurer of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and a Benton County farmer, took part in the trip. Read more


FARMER'S TOOLBOX

Creating a conversation around mental well-being

March 2020
By Trista Crossley


The first regular Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization (AMMO) workshop of 2020 didn’t cover the usual weather/marketing/financial topics. Instead, it aimed to break down barriers surrounding mental health in agriculture.

“No one knows what a farmer is going through better than another farmer,” explained workshop presenter Lesley Kelly. “Your words matter. Your conversations matter. What you have to say can have an immense impact on somebody around you.” See more


FARMER'S TOOLBOX

Narrowing down the options

Data indicates PLC will likely be the better option for crop years 2019, 2020

February 2020
By Trista Crossley


The take away from last month’s farm bill education workshops was that the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program looks to be the most attractive option for the next two years, but that growers should run the numbers for themselves to make sure.

Sponsored by the Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization in conjunction with Washington State University (WSU) Extension, three workshops were held in Davenport, Walla Walla and Colfax. More than 155 growers and landlords braved snowy weather to attend the sessions.

Copies of the workshop presentations can be found here, here and here. A livestream of the Colfax session can be found online.

This article reviews the Colfax session. See more.


POLICY

FSA opens CRP general signup

Rule changes mean lower rental rates, no signup for Douglas County

January 2020
By Trista Crossley


After several years of one-year extensions and months of anticipation, the first Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign-up under the 2018 Farm Bill—and the first general sign-up since 2015—has finally arrived.

According to Farm Service Agency (FSA) records, there are nearly 190,000 acres expiring in Washington in 2019, with another 195,000 expiring next year. Rod Hamilton, farm programs chief for the Farm Service Agency’s Washington state office, said this is expected to be one of the bigger sign-ups in state history. Read more