Agriculture | KUNC

Agriculture

It's strawberry season in northwest Washington's Skagit Valley.

For Ana, a farmworker, that means long days bent nearly doubled over to snap ripe strawberries from low bushes.

"You have to lean over a lot to pick strawberries, so of course everything hurts — your legs, your back — everything," she said in an interview in Spanish.

Ana moved to the U.S. from Mexico nearly 20 years ago. She asked that we not use her last name because she's undocumented.

Nick Cote for KUNC/LightHawk

Use it or lose it.

That saying is at the heart of how access to water is managed in the western U.S. Laws that govern water in more arid states, like Colorado, incentivize users to always take their full share from rivers and streams, or risk the state rescinding it. The threat comes in the form of a once-a-decade document that lists those users on the brink of losing their access to one of the region's most precious resources.

In Nevada, Investors Eye Underground Water Storage As A Path To Profits

Jun 2, 2020
David Calvert / The Nevada Independent

Twenty-two miles outside of the nearest town (Wells, pop. 1,246), graffiti on a crumbling hotel wall reads: "Home on the Strange." Down a dirt road, there's an abandoned car. An arch stands at the entrance of a dilapidated school. It's what is left of a town that lost most of its water rights.

Around the turn of the last century, New York investors established Metropolis, Nevada as a farming community. By 1912, they had constructed a dam. They built a hotel, a school and an events center. The Southern Pacific Railroad constructed an office and built a line to the town.

Then the water ran dry.

Third generation hog farmer Chad Leman, making his daily rounds, points to dozens of 300-pound pigs.

"These pigs should be gone," he said.

He means gone to the meatpacking plant to be processed. But with pork processing plants shut down due to worker safety concerns, he's faced with a grisly task: He needs to kill the pigs to make room for more.

And Leman isn't the only one. With meatpacking plant closures and reduced processing capacity nationwide, America's hog farmers expect an unprecedented crisis: the need to euthanize millions of pigs.

Beef prices are on the rise while live cattle prices are falling. One reason for that is COVID-19 disrupting meat processing plants. There are more cattle and less product because some cows can’t get processed. But many suspect there's more to the story.


Chris Descheemaeker ranches black angus, red angus cross with her family outside of Lewistown, Montana. The coronavirus pandemic, she says, comes after a few tough winters and an already tough market.


It’s hard to keep some items stocked in stores these days. We’ve all heard about the toilet paper shortage. But what about eggs?


Updated at 8:30 a.m. ET on April 10

In recent days, top U.S. government officials have moved to assure Americans that they won't lack for food, despite the coronavirus.

As he toured a Walmart distribution center, Vice President Pence announced that "America's food supply is strong." The Food and Drug Administration's deputy commissioner for food, Frank Yiannas (a former Walmart executive) told reporters during a teleconference that "there are no widespread or nationwide shortages of food, despite local reports of outages."

Jake Billington has worked at the livestock auction at the Twin Falls Livestock Commission in southern Idaho for 28 years.


As water becomes more scarce in the Mountain West, a new analysis finds that a surprising amount is being used to raise cattle.

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