• T.J. Burnham

    Tomorrow on Deck at Ag Robot, Unmanned Aircraft Conference

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on April 9, 2014

    It hit me at lunch while attending the Precision Farming Expo in McMinnville, Ore., last week. A young producer from Canada was telling me about how he is building his own fixed wing and copter robot planes in his farm workshop. It struck me that the future is here, although in the U.S. farm drones still are not allowed to fly commercially due to Federal Aviation Administration regulatory balking, the concept has move from engineering blueprints to the back 40 in other parts of the…

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    April Fool's Day - A 'Holiday' Sans Candy

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on April 1, 2014

    Sure, it isn't a nationally-declared holiday, sure it's origins are cloudy, and sure, few get excited about preparing for it. Yet, I love April Fool's Day because it is a holiday uncelebrated, yet widely acknowledged if only with a passing shrug of the shoulders. You have to love a special day that isn't the subject of parties, decorating the lawn, sending and getting gifts, and without the tacky trappings of most celebrations. For this reason I revel in April 1 as a…

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    Spring, Spring, Spring!!!

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on March 25, 2014

    Troughs of Easter candy line the aisle of Wal-Mart, and stories about the origin of colored eggs and Peter Cottontail are in the daily news. Must be --- can it be?  Yes! SPRING! Welcome back, daffodils. Where have you been, sun? Hey, time to turn the outside water back on and unwrap the spigots. Let's fire up the BBQ and try out that new smoker!! Yeah, I'm a spring person. I like the warmer, longer days when I can go outside and work without feeling the sting of cold on my…

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    Tax Time a Moment to Celebrate, Scream

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on March 20, 2014

    Taxes. April 15 can be another Halloween or a Christmas, depending on whether you are paying through the nose or getting a healthy refund. I haven't had a "refund" for so long I had to Google the meaning of the word. I mean, the government lives off of me, demanding I build new bridges, fight new wars and save more species. But it is still relative, the way taxes are viewed. I mean, since moving to Washington I have been able to avoid state income taxes like those I paid in…

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    Life Is Not For The Faint Of Heart

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on March 11, 2014

    Death. It comes and steals our loved ones from us. Just heard from a dear friend and former editor who sent a quick email that his son had passed suddenly, without warning, in the night in his bed. He was a grown man working for several years with lots of friends. Then, when he failed to show for an appointment, they checked his apartment and found him there. The note from his father, my good friend of many years, was short and poignant. I can imagine him sitting there writing it. My only…

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    What I Love About Traveling

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on March 5, 2014

    Heading to Denver and the airlines calls before I leave home and says the flight will be delayed for two hours, but that the plane could actually leave earlier. That means I get to sit listening to my MP3 player and messing with my iPad for who knows how long as the plane decides my fate. Not a comfortable way to start a trip, yet I am steeled to the vagaries of travel and get kicks out of watching others. One of my pet ways to keep busy is to eavesdrop on people complaining about late…

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    Repetitive TV Commercials, Snowbells & Little Sounds

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on February 28, 2014

    I tried so danged hard to watch the Olympics to the awards ceremonies each night, but by 10:30 or so, the incessantly repeated commercials – doubled up as the end of the show approached – put me to sleep in my recliner. I would think advertisers might be embarrassed at the barrage of unchanging spots they produce each night. By the time I have watched one of them a half dozen times, I actually cringe when it comes back again. Is that good advertising, or do some people promise…

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    Olympic Games Bring Cheers, Tears

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on February 20, 2014

    Forget about the latest episode of “Hawaii 50,” I am no longer in control of my clicker! The family only wants to watch the Olympics. Sure, I love the games as much as anyone, but the commercials usually dull my brain and quell the excitement about 9:30 each night, and I am ready to go to bed. All those new Super Bowl ads are repeated with incessant punishment, and they take the fun out of watching the Olympic sports. We're cheering with each gold, silver and bronze, and even…

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    Real Winter Visits the North Pacific Coast

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on February 11, 2014

    I am looking at a foot of snow on the ground outside the window of the vast Western Farmer-Stockman campus. What's unusual about it is that we don't get snow here in the northern Pacific much. But it hit with a vengeance on Feb. 6. School administrators screamed "Snow Day," and thousands of students responded with "Yes!" Funny thing is that when I was growing up in Michigan, this kind of a day would be a mild event. People around here don't know ice storms and…

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    Hemp or Marijuana, the Similarities Bring Questions

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on February 6, 2014

    In the January issue of Western Farmer-Stockman I included an editorial asking readers how they felt about the marijuana issue since two of the states we cover – Washington and Colorado – have legalized recreational use and production. What happened was somewhat of a surprise, since only two responses came in from all of our readers asked whether we should cover production and research of the crop, should those matter become interesting to agriculture. You can view these letters in…

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    Dark Days of Winter Without the Holiday Glitter

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on January 28, 2014

    No way around it. January is a bad month. It has the task of being the wake after the holidays when we have to address another year. That's hard with short, dark and cold days for the West. Record low temperatures in Montana don't help folks there see the silver lining of much of anything. The pretty snow simply becomes a nuisance as we come to the realization there are a couple more months of short winter days. Yet, as the days begin to lengthen, we have the first glimpse of spring…

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    Super Bowl Fever Like a Holiday High

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on January 21, 2014

    I remember when I graduated from Michigan that I would only watch college football. I agreed with Dad, who felt once athletes were paid for what they did, it made the sport to commercial to stomach. So, defending the family concept, I put down the big NFL teams whenever they were mentioned. Then, one of my sons became an avid fan of the NFL and began watching Raiders and 49er games regularly on our TV. Not one to ignore the interests of my children, I sat and looked as well. Then, sometime…

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    Adieu 2013, auld lang syne, Guy Lombardo and Times Square

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on December 31, 2013

    Tomorrow: Michigan State vs. Stanford in the granddaddy of all them bowls, the Rose Parade from Pasadena, and lots of good snacks and candy thanks to Santa's bounty (and Wisconsin Cheese Company). Headlong we dive into a new one of those things called a "year." Ready or not, a new, clean page in the calendar to make promises to ourselves about change we know simply are too unrealistic to achieve. I am going to lose weight. I am. Really. I am. I even have a plan to start dieting…

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    So This is Christmas

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on December 24, 2013

    Yes, Virginia, there was a John Lennon who wrote "So This is Christmas" as an inspiration to us all, and with a grim footnote to us all. The gun that took Lennon from us was one of the early shots that have so ravaged our society since, and if we were to take a minute to commemorate all of the gun deaths over the past 20 years, the world would indeed be silent tonight. Don't get me wrong. Owning guns is a right, but we must remember the responsibility that comes with this power…

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    Watching Bustling Crowds A Christmas Treat

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on December 18, 2013

    Here were are once again in the final week before Christmas, and those guys who have been watching football and relaxing in their Lazy Boys are  out in the mall looking lost and bewildered. It's time to grab those red boxes with the pretty ribbon, no matter what perfume they contain, and to decide a desktop marble game is just what she wants. I love to sit in Starbuck's at the shopping center at this time of the year and enjoy the crowds. Everyone is really filled with the…

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    I Call it the 'Beacon and the Bell'

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on December 6, 2013

    Like a sea-sweeping lighthouse beacon , the warning light is similar to Thanksgiving Day, sending out the alarm that unless you get thee to a mall, your Christmas will crash and burn. When Christmas silver bells ring, you had better be tired out every night from fighting the Black Friday- hardened veterans of the shopping center, who will steal your parking spot from  right in front of your Suzuki, and push you away from the last red sweater in  large at Macy's. Yesterday…

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    Sometimes A Great Moment

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on November 29, 2013

    I can't get over the feeling that we are on the brink of a great agricultural age. When I look at how the world population is about to mushroom, combined with the fact our industry has never been so technologically tweaked to precision and efficiency, it seems our time has come. How can it not be so? Food is the elemental essential, and that is what we do. As the global community widens an unprecedented need for protein and fundamental nutrients, our role will become more pivotal than…

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    Blogging Into Winter

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on November 27, 2013

    I have met people who say they actually like it when the time change brings early day darkness along with cold rain, snow and otherwise nasty weather. I am a spring person pretty much, but do enjoy the low sun months of October and November, as you know. There is a cozy cottage mystique about this time of year when we cloister in our little nesties and light a fire in the fireplace and sip a little Cabernet as we curl with the new Stephen King thriller. Yep, there is something to be said for…

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    What is Halloween?

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on October 24, 2013

    If this Thursday's trick-treat night is successful, my grandsons will gather 4,394 pounds of pure sugar to consume over the next few days. I have padded the walls because they will be bouncing off them, and called to make dental appointments in six months when decay sets in. Those princesses, super-heroes and zombies we'll find at our doorstep will again have turned into little boys and girls at the school bus stop Friday morning chatting cheerfully about what they want for Christmas…

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    Government's Return Comes With An IOU To U.S. Public

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on October 22, 2013

    To begin with, true patriotism to one's nation should be a never-compromised iron-clad contract. But the political game-playing that came to a head with a shutdown of our government has been a tax on even the most dedicated citizen. I have talked with some who feel the whole closure was a symptom of deep disturbances in the nation's fundamental foundation. Whether we have become a nation based on political whims remains a concern. Will the next shut-down be the result of some…

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    Autumn Leaves Flag Whole New Season Slate

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on October 18, 2013

    Welcoming the season is always a delight for me, a former Michigander who loved the turning leaves, nip of the wind and scent of fall from birth. Now, in the Pacific Northwest, where we have all the nice  autumnal trappings without the threat of endless snow (at least in the western part of the area), the "ber" months (September, October, November and December) are even nicer. Spent last weekend on the last 2013 campout on the Kalama River where they were landing salmon by…

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    Government Shutdown Didn't Affect Bobby

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on October 8, 2013

    I know a guy named Bobby Tango who lives in a little unincorporated community known as The Shack, which isn't really a nice place. You see, Bobby is a homeless fellow I help out occasionally when he needs a bologna sandwich or a couple of bucks for socks. I met him working with a local outreach charity who let Bobby slip through the cracks when it came to changing lives. Sharing a chat with Bobby on a city bench recently, I asked him what he thought of the government shutdown. He…

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    October Begins the Holidays

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on October 1, 2013

    Does retail store staff live their lives three months ahead of the rest of us? I only ask, because it seems the Halloween decorations have been out so long they’re not even interesting by the time I get around to thinking about vampires and princesses at my door. I would not be shocked to see a St. Valentine’s day display tomorrow at my local big box mart. I guess they call it planning ahead, but it seems like when they pull  swimming suits off the hangers about the…

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    Washington Wine Science Center Poised As Pivotal Facility

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on September 24, 2013

    In what has become a Pacific Coast wine industry project, Washington State University’s new Wine Science Center, which broke ground last week in Richland, has caught the eye even of those crafty California viticulture/enology interests. A decision by the Boswell Family Foundation to donate $250,000 to the effort brings California into the project with the money funded on behalf of Boswell barrel production firms. This makes the project far more than a simple Washington concept…

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    Who Waits For Their Birthday Anyway! Part II

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on September 18, 2013

    It was me smiling last weekend in my little house on the wheelies. Yes, my first cruise with our new camper trailer went swimmingly, a suggestion of rain that did come with claps of thunder and flashes of light. But in the camper, the rain was no threat as we sat there and looked out  at tent campers with contempt and sarcastic grins. There, only a couple of weeks earlier, stood me in the rain cursing my leaky Coleman. For we have moved up a notch from tent trash to trailer…

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  • T.J. Burnham

    Who Waits for Their Birthday Anyway?

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on September 10, 2013

    Hey, I just spent a whole slug of money on a honey of a new camper trailer. As I hurry to construct a place to park it next my garage I am apprehensive about the upcoming course in "Camper Trailers 101" which the dealer will conduct on the day we pick up our little home on wheels. Why, you might ask, would I spend lotsa bucks on a camper trailer? Well, I answer you: because I had to do something to add a little ginger and snap to our lives. Spending money is always good…

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    Of Pickup Dogs, Getting A Phone And Combo Stoves

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on September 6, 2013

    When I see a mutt riding in the back of a Ram with its head hanging over the side, ears flopping in the wind, and squinting down the road, I think of Butch. He was my doggie as a kid, and as my first four-legged buddy, he lives in exaggerated infamy in my ever-embellishing memory. While Butch was just a rat terrier, actually with three legs, who really didn't like me much, I tell my grandchildren of this wonder dog who helped me wander through the fertile fields of youth. Why we…

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    What's Wrong With This?

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on August 19, 2013

    Maybe it is just me. Has anyone else wondered why we need immigration reform to entice out-of-country workers to the farm when many of our citizens of the U.S. in the low income echelon are looking for work? I know the answer is, of course, that most of the denizens of this nation find farm labor jobs too difficult for them to perform. That's been a social dilemma for lots of years, and one we can consider axiomatic in the social fabric. It creates a gap that has become accepted…

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    Heading For The Beach A Nice Outing For Stir-Crazy Family

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on August 12, 2013

    One of the nice things about summer is the long, long warm days that pull you to go outside. That is, if the heat wave isn’t soaring in the high 90s! Getting folks ready to go to the beach is always a busy task, but the rewards of summer sun and sand are worth the effort. I decided long ago that if we were going to drive 100 miles to the Pacific Ocean shore, we would stay at least two nights to make it a mini-vacation and not a fast turnaround trip. After a lengthy stay, I…

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    Here Come The Hot August Nights

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on August 1, 2013

    At a time when the world seems to be plugged in, let's take out the earplugs,  fingers off the keyboards, and just relate to the good life. August, when summer gets serious, is a great time to take advantage of nature's bounty and hike a river or climb a mountain. :Pull out the tent and  find the coolers and head for the camping ground with the family for a real experience rather than a virtual one. My favorite things are camping, hiking and photographing the…

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    A Time For A Magnificent Candidate

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on July 31, 2013

    The reason for so much frustration among voters about elections is the lack of candidates they feel they can trust to work for us. There was a time, I remember, when I had about three good people in mind to lead the nation (I am not going to name names to avoid any politics), but today I cannot come up with one, and that frightens me. Most potential candidates are "party choices" who their support feels will do the best job degrading the opposite party. That's not…

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    Western Drought Takes Toll As Some Get Too Much H2O

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on July 16, 2013

    Consider this part 2 of the great western drought/water diversity blog. Last week I lamented on the fact that although places like eastern Colorado were suffering from crop-killing drought, others in the Northwest had too much rain. A new Northwest Farm Credit Services report just crossing my desk underscored the weather diversity in the west, triggering me to write a little more about the topic. May and June rains helped some, hurt others, according to Northwest's report…

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    After The Fireworks, Settling Into Summer

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on July 9, 2013

    I hope that your Independence Day was as perfect as mine. My wife swept me off to the Oregon coast where we spent the holiday walking a local park filled with crafts tents where we ate Boy Scout burgers and watched swans in the pond. The rest of the day was spent cruising the Oregon Dunes in a scooter driven by an insane, funny driver. That evening, fireworks filled the sky, we ate pie and I went to sleep with a smile. It was, in my estimation, the perfect day, with accommodating blue…

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    Here Come The Fireworks! Hard To Keep Your Head Down When Looking UP

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on July 3, 2013

    I have always liked fireworks, to a point. I was one of those smiling kids who loved watching my brothers light rockets and throw cherry bombs. It was something I looked ahead to, and remembered fondly. But, over the years, my fireworks fascination has dwindled. I love going to public displays which I consider safe and sound, but when the neighborhood resounds with endless blasts and fills with the smell of gunpowder, I get a little annoyed. Particularly when it goes on for days…

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    Eastern Colorado Drought Heavily Impacting Livestock

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on June 26, 2013

    Sad rangeland plant conditions are having a hard impact on eastern Colorado cattle grazing,  with vegetation all but gone in any areas. In a recent visit to the area near Wray, I talked with cattlemen who believe it may be time to pull their cattle and take them to far-away greener pastures, or to the feedlot early. This second year of drought is also having a ripple impact, since overgrazing of pastures can lead to loss of some of the most important vegetation next season…

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    A Good Time to Recall New Year Resolutions

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on June 24, 2013

    Last Dec. 31, I was getting excited about my promises to become a smaller person. I had to lose some weight. Now that the middle of the year is approaching, I wonder what happened. Did somebody take all of my diet drinks and hide them? No, there they sit, still and undisturbed in the corner of the kitchen. Containers of powder waiting for dilution into what they call "shakes" are covered with dust and   cobwebs, like my dreams of returning to my…

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    D-Day An Event That Should Be Remembered

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on June 11, 2013

    I know I'm late commemorating D-Day, which actually occurred 69 years ago last Thursday, but for weeks our troops were pinned down on the Normandy beach and dying trying to drive inland. I was only just three when D-Day took place, so my personal memories of the actual event do not exist. What I do remember is the story of my sister-in-law's first husband who was killed on Normandy beach that day. One day, she showed me the telegram stating that her husband, an Army captain, was…

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    Oregon's Transgenic Wheat Finds Just A Fluke

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on June 4, 2013

    Here we go again. The transgen thrashers have leaped on the incidental find of some escaped experimental seeds of Roundup resistant wheat in Oregon with a frenzy press feeding. That is to be expected in this unfortunate event, and our guards should be up already to such attacks. We need to continue to respond to these charges with the facts on the importance and safety of trans genetics, and let the critics rant and rave until the day when world population grows to such proportions that…

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    Amazing New E-World A Pleasure To Be In

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on May 28, 2013

    I am e-generation. But I remember when I was not. When electricity had not yet become electronics and charged the globe with super cyber teckietonics. I am an elder of the e-generation, because I was part of the transition years. I began my journalistic career pecking on a manual Royal 440. When they brought in the IBM electric Selectrics with their magic ball of letters, it was revolutionary. We hadn't seen anything yet! Univac was our intro into the e-world, bringing us…

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    Canadian Adventure To Another Vancouver A Surprise

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on May 21, 2013

    The T-shirt my wife purchased for me one Christmas reads: “Vancouver, Not BC. Washington, Not DC.” The idea is to remind people that the little Vancouver just across the Columbia River from Portland, Ore., is indeed a U.S. town, unlike the city of the same name 300 miles north in British Columbia. And, that we are in the state rather than the nation’s capital. But, when old Capt. George Vancouver of the British Royal Navy left MY Vancouver, he…

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    Getting My Way In The Merry Month Of May

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on May 9, 2013

    I emailed my personnel chief the other day to find out how many vacation days I had left for 2013 and was shocked to discover there were weeks and weeks I could take off. Now, I could take the full boat at once, and just hang in my hammock with a good stock of Scotch, or I could take a few days off here and there and fix fences and plant flowers. But I opted for a week off in May, yet to be determined by my work schedule for Western Farmer-Stockman. As you read this, I may already be…

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    Washington Wine Interests Drive For New Industry Self-Help Dollars

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on April 30, 2013

    I get a kick out of ag's never ending effort to continue to finance its own industry. While there are numerous examples I could pull up of this, the latest on my desk announces the Washington wine industry Annual Cup Race golf tournament. The money goes to advancing research, education and leadership in the business. The 13th  such annual event will be held at Meadow Springs Country Club in Richland on July 15. If you want to tee up, go to www.washingtonwindfoundation.org or…

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    $22,000 Left in Oregon's Wolf Loss Compensation Account

    Western Ag Vignettes

     by T.J. Burnham
     on April 23, 2013

    With less than $25,000 left in Oregon's Wolf Depredation  & Prevention Program bank, livestock owners who sustain confirmed kills by the pack can  look forward to little compensation. Meanwhile, the Oregon wolf pack is alive, well and hungry as it continues to  move throughout livestock lands at will, despite the efforts of a few  range riders paid by the fund to keep an eye on  the predators. Those who think the return of the wolf is a nice thing…

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