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Idaho dairy farmers produce more milk and cheese than almost any state in the nation. Idaho is ranked third behind California and Wisconsin.The biggest slice of Idaho's natural resource pie comes from agriculture. Along with mining and logging, it helped build the economy here. In 2010, agriculture and livestock cash receipts totaled about $5.8 billion according to Jay O'Laughlin at the University of Idaho's College of Natural Resources. O'Laughlin reports more than $2 billion in cash receipts went to milk producers.Fast Facts: Since 1997, the annual revenue from the sale of dairy products has exceeded the annual revenue from the sale of potatoes. In 2004, the revenue from sale of dairy products surpassed the revenue from the sale of meat animals and is now the largest single source of revenue of any agricultural product in the state. In 2008, Idaho dairy farms produced 12.315 million pounds of milk an estimated value at over $2.1 billion. In 2008, 13,180 people were directly employed on Idaho dairy farms or in Idaho dairy product manufacturing plants. The majority of these jobs 9,571 were within seven south central Idaho counties: Twin Falls, Jerome, Gooding, Lincoln, Cassia, Minidoka, and Elmore. Of those 13,180 jobs, 82 percent, or 10,809 were on Idaho’s dairy farms while the remaining 18 percent, 2,371 jobs, were in Idaho’s dairy product manufacturing plants. The economic activity generated by dairy farming and dairy product manufacturing in Idaho also generates a significant stream of annual tax revenues to the State of Idaho. An estimated $106.9 million in annual tax revenues that are received by the State of Idaho can be attributed to the direct and secondary economic impacts associated with the dairy industry.Source: BSU College of Business & EconomicsThe Idaho Dairymen's Association reports there were 569 dairies in the state as of September 30, 2011.That’s a significant drop from just a few years ago when in 2008, 800 dairies were licensed to sell milk.While the number of dairies is on the decline in Idaho, the number of milk cows and the production of things like milk, cheese and cottage cheese are rising. According to a study from Boise State University’s College of Business & Economics which looked at the economic impacts of the dairy industry in Idaho, the number of dairy cows here is up more than 35 percent.

Small Tract Of Northwest Wine-Growing Soil Attracting Big Outside Investment

Gewurztraminer grapes at Kiona Vineyards on Red Mountain. The winery founders were some of the very first to try growing wine grapes in the small southeast Washington appellation.
Gewurztraminer grapes at Kiona Vineyards on Red Mountain. The winery founders were some of the very first to try growing wine grapes in the small southeast Washington appellation.

Wine harvest is underway in a small growing region in southeast Washington called Red Mountain. The dusty wedge of earth has been attracting an increasing amount of investment from winemakers from Napa, Canada and even Italy.

Gewurztraminer grapes at Kiona Vineyards on Red Mountain. The winery founders were some of the very first to try growing wine grapes in the small southeast Washington appellation.
Credit JJ Williams / Kiona Vineyards
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Gewurztraminer grapes at Kiona Vineyards on Red Mountain. The winery founders were some of the very first to try growing wine grapes in the small southeast Washington appellation.

In the late-1970s, Red Mountain was mostly sagebrush and a primitive road slashed through the desert. Today, there are only small islands of desert peeking out from a sea of green grape vines.

One of the recent additions is Duckhorn Wine Company from Napa Valley. Company president and CEO Alex Ryan said Red Mountain's sloping southwest exposure, dry desert climate and 40-plus degree swings between day and night make it ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon wine grapes.

And at about 4,000-acres in this area, there just isn’t that much of it.

“If you look at the great wine growing regions around the world -- and there really aren’t that many of them -- they’re all very small, relatively speaking, and really limited in land,” Ryan said. “Just take Boudreaux, Burgundy, Napa Valley, Sonoma.”

The company is releasing its first Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Red Mountain this week. It’s a 2012 vintage called Canvasback.

Duckhorn has planted 20 acres of vines on Red Mountain. A Canadian company, Aquilini Properties, snapped up nearly $16 million worth of Red Mountain land last year. And the famous Italian Antinori family, along with Washington’s Ste. Michelle Estates, debuted a massive winery and vineyard on Red Mountain in 2007.

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