Food insecurity has spiked across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tess Goodwin tells us about an event that will help farmers and ranchers provide food relief for some Idahoans.

Tony Dejak / AP Images


Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Idaho Foodbank has ramped up their efforts to fight food insecurity. The organization says their partners across the state have reported a 10-50% increase in food demand. 

Denver Public Schools / Twitter

A little boy in an orange shirt walks up to a grab-and-go meal site at an elementary school in Salt Lake City, Utah. A school worker wearing a mask uses a bullhorn to let kitchen staff know the boy's there. Then a staffer sets a bag lunch and some extra strawberries on a table and backs away.


Madelyn Beck

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.

Matt Guilhem / Boise State Public Radio

As the government shutdown approaches the one-month mark, federal authorities are recalling some workers on furlough to their posts in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Washington State Department of Agriculture / Flickr

Idaho and the rest of the northwest are growing more hops this year.

The number of acres of hops went up again this year in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. The three-state area is forecast to grow a record 55,000 acres. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that’s 4 percent more than last year’s record bumper crop.

Dave Shea / Flickr Creative Commons

Although neighboring states like Oregon and Washington may be better known for their craft beers, the Idaho beer industry is budding. One important ingredient is grown in the Gem State: hops.

The bitter ingredient is loved among craft-beer enthusiasts, and many popular hoppy beers are made possible by harvests from the Yakima, Washington area.

But DJ Tolmie -- who has been in the Idaho hop business for a while -- says the state has a lot of potential.

Federal officials say that more than 90 percent of Idaho's counties have either been declared natural disaster areas or are bordering disaster areas because of prolonged drought.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Benewah, Bonner, Clearwater, Kootenai and Latah counties as the most recent regions to qualify as primary natural disaster areas.

The declaration means farmers and ranchers in those counties are eligible to apply for low interest federal emergency loans. Eligibility is open for eight months from the date of the declaration.

USDA/NRCS / Flickr Creative Commons

Last week, the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a 21st century upgrade to a system that’s been stuck in the analog world. The Conservation Client Gateway is a new website that lets farmers and ranchers apply for programs under things like the Farm Bill. Before, a farmer would have to drive to their nearest USDA office – which, in rural Idaho – could be a time and fuel-consuming task.

Jim Peaco | Yellowstone National Park / Flickr Creative Commons

A group of pro-wildlife organizations filed a lawsuit Wednesday against two federal agencies over animal control operations in Idaho. The suit names the USDA’s APHIS Wildlife Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The court filing alleges:

Boise National Forest

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the U.S. Forest Service will soon have to tap into programs designed to prevent wildfires so that it can meet the expenses of fighting blazes this summer.

Vilsack says about $400 million to $500 million in forestry projects will have to be put on hold in what has become a routine exercise.

He predicted that the money set aside strictly for firefighting will run out by the end of August.

Some 30 large fires are working their way through federal and state forests in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

The value of Idaho’s agriculture products grew from $5.7 billion to $7.8 billion between 2007 and 2012. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA.) It released preliminary results from its Census of Agriculture Thursday.  The USDA provides the update every five years and the latest covers 2012.  

Chobani, Greek Yogurt
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho is one of four states that will participate in a program to offer Greek yogurt as a meat substitute in meals served at public schools.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday announced it was taking bids through July 22 to supply orders for schools in Idaho, Arizona, New York and Tennessee.

The USDA decided in January to classify Greek yogurt as an accepted meat alternative because of its high protein content. If the pilot program succeeds, Greek yogurt could become a permanent part of the school lunch program nationwide.

The US Department of Agriculture says stalks of genetically modified wheat found in a field in Oregon look to be an isolated incident. In an announcement Friday the agency says its own tests confirm the suspect wheat carries modified genes designed by agribusiness giant Monsanto.

Northwest farmers appear relieved that the government is calling the discovery of genetically modified wheat “a single isolated incident in a single field on a single farm.”

Idaho Schools Try Exotic Fruits Thanks To Grants

May 28, 2013
MIGreenberg / Flickr Creative Commons

Each May the U.S. Department of Agriculture gives grants to elementary schools to provide healthy snacks. This year 113 Idaho schools received the awards. The program teaches kids at low income schools about nutrition and introduces them to unfamiliar foods.

Brad Washa / Boise National Forest

A new report says climate change will be a growing factor in the way America's forests are managed.  The research is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  It predicts the number of acres burned in a typical fire season could double in the next quarter century. 

To find out more, we spoke with the Forest Service’s Climate Change Advisor, Dave Cleaves.  He says weather is changing and forest managers must adapt.

Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman

Many Northwest growers are left out of the partial extension of the U.S. Farm Bill included in this week’s fiscal cliff legislation. The new law largely covers conventional agriculture and not the organics, specialty crops and conservation programs that our region’s farmers are known for. 

A popular USDA conservation program encourages some farmers to turn their crop ground back into bunch grass or native forbs. That helps to preserve the soil so we don’t have another drought dust bowl.

Photo courtesy of Rosemary Love

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a long history of discriminating against farmers who are women, Hispanic, Native American and African American. Numerous lawsuits have cost the government several billion dollars. The latest legal settlement is for women and Hispanic farmers who can prove they were discriminated against in the 1980s and ‘90s. But some of these farmers say the deal to make amends for discrimination is itself discriminatory.

metaroll / Flickr

A week ago, the U-S Department of Agriculture sent out a newsletter encouraging employees to take part in a Meatless Monday initiative.  The USDA said meat production creates greenhouse gases, wastes resources, and uses pesticides.  Now Idaho’s Mike Crapo and a handful of other Senators are expressing their displeasure. 

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio


The USDA this week announced $4-million in funding to help equip more farmers markets with the ability to take food stamp swipe cards.  Idaho’s portion of the allotment is about $45,000. 

According to the USDA,  only ten of the state’s 58 markets have the technology to accept food stamp cards, known as SNAP cards.   

Jonathan D. Eisenback / Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (from USDA's website))

Three more Idaho potato fields are coping with the pale cyst nematode this year.  That brings the number up to fifteen since the pest was first found in 2006. 

The pale cyst nematode is about the size of a pinhead, but its effects can be devastating.  It attacks the roots of potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants. The nematode can also reduce plant yields by as much as 80 percent.