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Every year, landlord Dwan Jantz comes to her field
near Wilbur when the grain is being harvested.

Photo by William Bell



Rubisco Seeds


CRP rate redux

National FSA office decides to increase two Washington counties' rental rates

*Editor's note: A few weeks after this article was published, FSA received notice that the rate fix was complete. The new rate for Asotin County is $46 per acre. Franklin County's new rate is $51 per acre.

May 2022
By Trista Crossley
Editor, Wheat Life

There’s good news for some growers who enrolled in the 2022 Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign-up despite the overall lower rates. The national Farm Service Agency (FSA) office has decided to increase the rates in Asotin and Franklin counties after reviewing data compiled by the state FSA office, the FSA county offices, the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG).

Jon Wyss, FSA state executive director, said the rates are still being finalized, but the Franklin County rate will reflect the county office’s proposed rate, while the Asotin County rate will reflect the midpoint between the county office’s proposed rate and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) rate. Once the new rates are published, the county offices will begin contacting producers who signed up. See more

National spotlight

Benton County grower takes helm of national wheat organization

March 2022

This month, Benton County wheat grower Nicole Berg steps in as president of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG). Berg has a long history of advocacy for the wheat industry, especially in Washington state, where she served as president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) in 2013/14. Besides her NAWG duties, Berg currently serves as co-chair of WAWG’s National Legislation Committee.

What does it mean to you, in terms of responsibilities, to be NAWG’s president?

I believe it is a great honor to be elected as the 2022/23 NAWG president. Being president of a national association comes with many responsibilities, especially as we are on the eve of the next farm bill. But I’m looking forward to the opportunity to lead NAWG and provide a unique perspective from my region as we continue to improve the farm bill programs, be engaged in the sustainability conversations and work with our partners to bolster trade for the wheat industry. The farm bill plays a very important role in a producer’s business plan, and I have always wanted to have more of an influence for us wheat growers. See more

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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