farming

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A survey of rural bankers in ten Great Plains states says their biggest worry in the coming year is farm and ranch foreclosures.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said the problem is that beef and other agriculture commodity prices continue to be so low and that could lead to a fairly sharp upturn in foreclosures in 2018. Goss said Wyoming has a double whammy since energy prices continue to be sluggish, too. He said that in turn would hurt rural banks.

Tennessee Watson

Farmworker families often have to move from state to state to find work, and that makes school challenging for their kids. For over 40 years the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) ran a program to support this vulnerable student population, but that has come to an end.

Wyoming’s sugar beet harvest once was a big draw for migrant workers. On a tour of the farmland surrounding Torrington, Simon Lozano remembered a time when the fields were bustling.

“It was like 90 percent beets,” he said pointing out of the window of his truck.  

 

The cold, wet spring is delaying crop planting for farmers around Wyoming. Normally, almost 80 percent of sugar beets have been planted by now. But only 56 percent has been planted so far this year. 

Jeremiah Vardiman is an educator for the University of Wyoming’s northwest extension in Powell. He said farmers were finally able to get into the fields to plant most of the barley crop. But the plants aren’t growing very fast because it’s too cold.

Baylen J. Linnekin

In 2015, Wyoming passed the Food Freedom Act, giving the state’s farmers and ranchers the most flexible food rules in the nation...making it possible for them sell things direct to consumers that are illegal elsewhere, like unpasteurized milk, poultry, jams, and other foods. Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards talked with the author of the new book Biting the Hands That Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, about Wyoming’s Food Freedom Act, and just how common this level of deregulation is in other states.

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In 2015, Wyoming passed the Food Freedom Act, allowing the state’s food producers to sell an unprecedented number of products often illegal in other states, like unpasteurized milk and poultry, direct to consumers.

But on September 21, U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors required a vendor at the Gillette farmer’s market to dump all of his containers of chicken chili. State Representative Tyler Lindholm worked closely with the USDA to get the law passed and said he’s trying to figure out what happened so the state’s producers can be in compliance going forward.

Maggie Mullen

Bright Agrotech, an indoor farming technology company based in Laramie, introduced a first-of-its-kind lighting system on Thursday.

CEO Nate Storey says indoor farmers depend on artificial light in the grow houses. But where there is light, there is also heat.

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With more people eating gluten-free diets and more countries growing their own wheat, Wyoming growers are getting stuck with more product than they can sell.

Weather conditions in the last few years have allowed Wyoming wheat producers to grow lots of wheat they used to be able sell to around the world. But Wyoming Wheat Market Commission Director Keith Kennedy says many countries, like those in Eastern Europe, are now growing their own wheat. He says the ratio of how much wheat the state has to how much can be sold is the highest it’s been since the farm crisis of the 80’s.

It isn’t easy for farmers in Wyoming’s arid climate to make a healthy profit on their crops, but at a conference next week in Cheyenne, farmers can learn how organic methods could help their bottom line.

University of Wyoming soil science professor Jay Norton is one of the organizers. He says the conference will offer a full schedule of talks focused on irrigated and dryland food production, among other topics.

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Harvest data is rolling in from around the state, and so far, it appears to have been a bountiful year. A wet summer and dry September were especially helpful for beans, corn and livestock pastures in Wyoming, according to Rhonda Brandt with the National Agriculture Statistics Service.

Albany County Public Library

Gardening in Wyoming’s cold, arid climate can be challenging, but using seeds that were raised and collected here could improve the results. So when Albany County Library’s Public Services Specialist Cassandra Hunter heard of a so-called ‘seed library’ in Montana, she decided to start one in Laramie. She says the area falls in one of the most difficult growing zones to garden in.

  

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture has assigned natural disaster status to Big Horn and Park Counties. An early freeze in September last year significantly damaged farms in the area.

Freezing temperatures hit crops early causing bean, corn and sunflower losses. Park County lost over $7,000,000 of crops while Big Horn County saw more than $3,000,000 of damage.

Gregor Goertz is the Wyoming Farm Service Agency’s Executive Director and says some farmers were hit harder than others.

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The Wyoming Farm Bureau is looking to the January legislative session as an entry-point to address issues surrounding trespassing, liability, and transportation.

The 4th annual Local Fest is moving from Pinedale to Lander this year. The festival is a celebration of Wyoming foods. It starts today with a free film festival at the Lander Public Library and runs through this weekend. 

Steve Doyle is a Riverton farmer who helped organize the event. He says this year’s event will be longer and more intensive than in the past. He says there are lots of success stories around the state.

The city of Jackson will host a sustainable food festival this week--which the city claims is the first of its kind worldwide. FoodSHIFT director Annie Fenn says the festival will showcase regional ranchers and farmers. Area chefs and foodies will offer advice on topics including finding the best sustainable seafood and making your own vinegars. Fenn says the festival will spend one day just on the subject of local meats.

Melodie Edwards

Last week, Sheridan County commissioners approved an amendment to planning and zoning rules that will give local farmers an edge on more direct sales to their customers. It will now be easier for them to put up farm stands and greenhouses on their property, as well as sell jams, salsas and other products made from their produce. Such activities either weren't allowed or required special permits in the past. Director Bill Benzel with Powder River Resource Council worked on the amendment.

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A cool, wet spring has Wyoming’s growing season off to a sluggish start.  Ken Hamilton with the Wyoming Farm Bureau says some crops—like corn and sugar beets—were planted as much as three weeks later than usual.  He says hay production has also been hurt by all the precipitation.