Farmers

The sugar beet harvest is underway across the Mountain West.

It’s a big industry that depends on accurate weather forecasts and a reliable workforce – both impacted by COVID-19. 

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.


New White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is working with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to see how to reduce wage rates for foreign guest workers on American farms, in order to help U.S. farmers struggling during the coronavirus, according to U.S. officials and sources familiar with the plans.

Opponents of the plan argue it will hurt vulnerable workers and depress domestic wages.

CC0 Public Domain via (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Senior research scientist Thomas Foulke first learned about these ancient grains in France, where he takes students for a yearly agriculture program. He was flipping through an old French cookbook when he came across a recipe that called for spelt. Unfamiliar with the word, he looked it up and found that it was a grain, one of the first ever cultivated.

USGS

The Wyoming State Engineer's Office recently heard a proposal to drill eight high-capacity water wells in Laramie County, and now 17 ranchers and farmers in the area are protesting.

Wyoming Women in Ag

When people think of women involved in agriculture, maybe they think of them paying the bills or raising children and keeping the workers fed, but the stereotype for Wyoming women is changing.

A new trade deal with Japan could soon help out dairymen, cattlemen, corn and wheat farmers, among many others.


United States Department of Agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced farmers who lost crops due to the irrigation tunnel collapse in eastern Wyoming are able to use their crop insurance policies.

Free for commercial use

Wyoming farmers were hoping that they could possibly start growing hemp this summer. But as the summer comes close to an end, the United States Department of Agriculture still hasn't approved Wyoming's industrial hemp plan. It also hasn't released its own hemp regulations.

About a century ago, African-American settlements sprang up across the West. Now, one of those sites in northern Colorado is set to host new houses.

The Black American West Museum, based in Denver, owns a number of properties in what used to be the town of Dearfield, Colorado. But a national homebuilding company, CMH Homes, Inc., also known as Clayton Homes, is now taking steps to turn other parts of the town into new residences.

Flickr Creative Commons/Jason Carter

Governor Mark Gordon has signed into law a bill that approves funding for a regulatory program to grow and sell hemp.

Industrial Hemp
Mountain Xpress

Many Wyoming farmers and ranchers are discovering that switching to organic methods makes their products more valuable on the market, but they don't always know how to get those products out to consumers.

Taylar Stagner

Rural communities have issues getting fresh nutritious foods in the best of circumstances. But in Native communities, it can sometimes be next to impossible especially if you are on a fixed income.

The second round of payments to farmers affected by President Trump’s trade war with China will soon get sent out. The application deadline for growers is Jan. 15.

But the bulk of that money is largely skipping our region.


Public Domain

Ranchers and farmers living in the Mountain West are vulnerable to all kinds of things—drought, fluctuating crop prices, trade wars—and in part because of those things - depression and suicide. But there's some help out there, from an unlikely source.


Trade spats between the United States with China and Canada have dominated headlines as of late. But we are also in an ongoing dispute with India and it’s crippling so-called “pulse crop” farmers in the Mountain West.

Some Montana farmers are hoping to hear some good news on trade as President Donald Trump brings his campaign to Billings tonight.

Cooper McKim

It’s a hot day south of Wheatland, near the small town of Chugwater. Dirt kicks up around passing cars on a long driveway as the sunbeams gold on waving fields of wheat. At the end is the Baker Farm, with old water tanks and rusted antique farm vehicles in front of the home. 

Hay prices are spiking this year, driven up by a drought-induced shortage of the crop. It’s affecting ranchers across the board, but horse owners in particular are feeling the pinch. Horses eat higher quality hay, so it’s harder to get. It’s forcing horse owners in Colorado to buy more hay from neighboring states like Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana and that’s driving the cost up even more.  


Caitlin Youngquist

The University of Wyoming (UW) is embarking on a new age by increasing its focus on economic development and entrepreneurship. One new project is taking this vision even further by trying to develop a new niche agricultural market for the state by producing first-grains, and the key to this innovation is actually ancient. 

Tennessee Watson

Farmworkers feed us, and to do so they travel around the country following the harvest. For their kids, that means moving from school to school. Wyoming Public Radio's education reporter Tennessee Watson found there’s a system in place to help these students, and brought us a story from North Dakota. To learn more about why we heard about one kid in North Dakota, Morning Edition host Caroline Ballard spoke with Tennessee about her reporting.

Tennessee Watson


Angel, a tall, lanky 14-year-old, dribbles down the basketball court of the school gymnasium in Manvel, North Dakota. Realizing he’s unmarked he goes for the three-pointer. It’s a nice arching shot, but the ball bounces tenuously on the rim and doesn’t go in.

Every day, about 19 people move to Boise. And that growth is creating a housing crunch in the valley.

The House of Representatives passed its newest version of the farm bill this week. It includes stricter work requirements for people who get food stamps.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may seem like an unlikely champion for an illegal substance, but the Kentucky Republican just added the legalization of marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin, hemp, to the Senate farm bill. The industrial hemp business is increasingly seen as an economic savior and substitute for vulnerable industries like mining, especially in Colorado, one of the first states in the nation to make hemp legal at the state level.

Public Domain / Jean Beaufort

The House did not pass its version of a farm bill last month, but the Senate may have a better shot this week when they consider the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.

National Park Service

Japan is considering hitting back against the U.S. in retaliation for America's steel and aluminum tariffs. A Japanese levy could hurt our region's agricultural industry.

According to a monthly survey, farmers across the U.S. aren’t feeling too optimistic these days.  

Cooper McKim/Wyoming Public Radio

Winds were gusting over 45 miles per hour on an overcast day at the Dunmire Ranch in southeastern Wyoming. Black cows grazed in the distance with wind turbines lined up on the horizon. At the center of ranch, young colts milled around the corral. Gator, a 14-year-old blind and deaf dog, barked, guarding the home of rancher Les Dunmire. 

 

Inside the house, Dunmire put on his dirt-caked cowboy hat and boots, as he told me how he’s owned this ranch for just over 30 years and that this lifestyle goes back generations.

 

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.  

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