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Evan McDonald (3) is all farm boy. He has quite the fan club in Reardan because of his love for farming, machines and especially the farmers in his life, like grandpa Steve Krupke.
Photo by Cheryl Krupke

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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


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


Talking Trade

Convention presentations repeatedly return to world commerce

December 2019
By Trista Crossley


What do you get when you add a dash of farm bill implementation and trade to a new global order, served with a side of national wheat issues and topped off with a long-term weather forecast? An informative, engaging 2019 convention agenda, of course. Read more


Taking the reins

A familiar face voted in as executive director at the state conservation commission

November 2019

Earlier this year, members of the Washington State Conservation Commission (SCC) welcomed back a former employee as the new executive director.

Carol Smith had spent 15 years at the SCC—from 1998 to 2014—managing the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and other science-related issues. She left the SCC to take a position at the Washington State Department of Ecology heading up their environmental assessment program. She has also worked for the state’s department of fish and wildlife, the Morehouse School of Medicine and a chemistry lab in California.

Smith grew up in on the west side of the state and holds various biological science degrees.

The SCC is the coordinating agency for Washington state’s 45 conservation districts, which provide voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs to landowners. The SCC also helps the conservation districts work with other partners and is responsible for distributing state funds to the conservation districts. Smith replaced Mark Clark who retired as executive director in January.

In an effort to get to know Smith a little better, Wheat Life emailed a list of questions to her. Here are her answers. Read more


Meet the new guy

Jon Wyss takes over as FSA state executive director

August/September 2019
By Trista Crossley


The new Washington state executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) brings to the job a background as diverse as the crops his agency will be serving.

In June, FSA announced that Jon Wyss had been selected to replace Brian Dansel as head of the state’s office. Previous to the appointment, Wyss had spent more than a decade working as an analyst for his wife’s family farm, Gebbers Farms, in Brewster, Wash. Before that, he served as chief deputy assessor for Spokane County, was a state senator for Washington’s 6th Legislative District and worked for the U.S. Trustee Program, which oversees the administration of bankruptcy cases across the nation. Read more


Supporting USMCA on four wheels

Trade motorcade makes a stop in Benton County for roundtable discussion

August/September 2019
By Trista Crossley


Over the summer, the Motorcade for Trade has been making its way across the country, touring farm districts and holding events to emphasize the importance of trade, especially the necessity of passing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

In early July, the trade promotion-bedazzled RV found its way to the Benton County family farm of Nicole Berg, past president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers and current treasurer of the National Association of Wheat Growers. Waiting to greet the RV and take part in a roundtable were a smorgasbord of industry stakeholders that ranged from farmers and local and state policymakers, to exporters and a representative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Everything from wheat to onions to tree fruit was represented. Read more


On the Hill

Trade, labor, farm bill implementation top congresswoman's ag priorities

June 2019

Rep. Kim Schrier was elected last November in Washington’s 8th Congressional District to replace retiring Rep. Dave Reichert. She has been appointed to serve on the House Ag Committee, as well as the House Education and Labor Committee. Her district includes parts of King, Pierce, Kittitas, Chelan and Douglas counties. Before being elected, Schrier worked as a pediatrician in Issaquah.

We wanted to get to know Rep. Schrier a little better and introduce her to Wheat Life readers. Below are a series of questions we asked the congresswoman on issues that are important to wheat growers and her answers. Read more


Planting woes?

Tough field conditions leave farmers facing crop insurance decision

May 2019
By Trista Crossley

In some years, just getting seeds planted is a struggle for farmers. The fields may be too wet, or, conversely, too dry. The fields may be fine, but access to those fields may be blocked, thanks to flooded roads or washed-out bridges.

In any case, the longer a farmer has to wait to plant, the more likely it is that they’ll run afoul of the Risk Management Agency’s (RMA) final planting deadline, and when that happens, farmers will need to make a choice: forego planting altogether and receive a crop insurance payment (called prevented planting coverage), which is 60 percent of their total insurance guarantee, or plant late and take a deduction on their crop insurance production guarantee. For many Eastern Washington wheat farmers, neither of those choices makes them particularly happy. Read more


To burn or not to burn

Washington state farmers use Ecology, Ag Burning Task Force to answer that question

April 2019
By Trista Crossley


For more than two decades, the Ag Burning Task Force has been quietly going about its business helping keep the air over Eastern Washington clear. They’ve had to balance the impacts of air pollution on public health with the needs of growers who rely on burning as part of a successful farming operation. These days, maintaining that balance is more difficult thanks to a wildfire season that is starting earlier with bigger, more intense fires. Read more


Data dispute

Growers get a victory in 2018 Farm Bill, but industry still fighting to correct past years

March 2019
By Trista Crossley

In the struggle to help growers maintain their livelihoods, the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) was able to help win one battle in the 2018 Farm Bill, but the war isn’t over yet.

In the past year, growers have been raising a red flag about why farm payment programs haven’t been triggered in spite of below-average yields, especially for the Agricultural Risk Coverage-County (ARC-CO) program. Growers in Spokane County had poor spring wheat yields in 2017, but no program payment was triggered. The average winter wheat yield in Benton County in 2017 was reported to be 82 bushels per acre, a total unlikely in an area that averages 8” of rain a year.

The culprit eventually turned out to be the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) data used by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). In order for NASS to publish a number, they have to have at least 30 reports or reports that cover 25 percent of harvested acreage. In the Spokane County case, NASS was unable to collect enough spring wheat data through grower surveys to determine a spring wheat yield, so the much higher winter wheat data was used instead. In Benton County, NASS doesn’t differentiate between irrigated and nonirrigated wheat, resulting in a county average that doesn’t accurately reflect dryland yields. Read more


Rail funding finalized

$5.6 million BUILD grant will help stabilize Washington's PCC Shortline Rail

February 2019
By Trista Crossley


For the state-owned Palouse River and Coulee City (PCC) Shortline Rail in Eastern Washington, the path to a well-maintained, stabilized system just got a little smoother.

In December, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that $1.5 billion in discretionary grant funding would be awarded through the Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development Transportation Discretionary Grants Program—otherwise known as BUILD grants. The PCC was one of 91 projects nationwide to be awarded a BUILD grant; it will receive $5.6 million, which will be matched with $5.6 million of state and private funding. The money will be used to replace or rehabilitate approximately 10 bridges, replace about 4.5 miles of rail and rehabilitate nearly 16.3 miles of track. The repairs will increase operating efficiency on the shortlines by allowing heavier freight cars to be moved faster.

“The Department of Transportation statewide could submit only three grants,” said Ron Pate, the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) director of rail, freight and ports. The project proposals weren’t limited to rails, but could include any transportation project. “In a department as big as we are, with as many road miles, bridges, airports and infrastructure projects as we have, the secretary of transportation decides which three grants get submitted. The secretary supported this project wholeheartedly. He understands the PCC moves a lot of wheat, which is very important to the east side of state. We wanted to make sure that as a transportation organization, we weren’t just looking at highways.”

WSDOT is in the process of developing a construction plan using the grant money, and Pate said they hope to begin work on the PCC this summer. However, if the government shutdown continues, it could cause delays in getting the paperwork signed. Read more


Dowsing for water

State agency balances developing new supplies for thirsty fish, farmers, families

January 2019
By Trista Crossley


Water is never far from the surface when you talk about the Columbia River Basin, and one state program is doing what it can to make sure there’s enough to meet users’ needs now and well into the future.

Established in 2006 as part of the process to solve the Columbia River water rights gridlock in the 1980s and 90s, the Office of Columbia River (OCR), part of the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology), is primarily tasked with the development of water supplies in the Columbia River Basin that benefits both in-stream users (ecosystem, fish) and out-of-stream users (irrigators, industry, municipalities) through storage, conservation and voluntary regional water management agreements. Read more