Idaho farmers feeling the impacts of heatwave

Posted at 12:22 PM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 11:50:19-04

IDAHO — As the Pacific Northwest continues to swelter in an unprecedented heatwave, the agriculture industry in Idaho is starting to feel the impacts.

Hotter temperatures mean local farmers need more water to keep their crops alive--but that water is harder to come by than in years past. Most of the state is experiencing moderate to severe drought, and those living in Custer and Blaine Counties are dealing with the highest level of drought: exceptional drought.

“You can also incorporate temperature into it because a low precipitation amount can be exacerbated by having higher temperatures. I indicated that at the beginning that those go together, but not all the time," Russell Qualls, Idaho State Climatologist, told Idaho News 6.

Related: Idaho officials brace for tough wildfire season amid drought

Lee Rice is no stranger to the sometimes challenging summer heat. He's been farming in the Treasure Valley for the past three decades--but he says this growing season has been a unique one. He says he has enough water to get by, but he knows other farmers aren't so lucky.

"I'm sure some of the other farmers that are short on water--quite a few of them--they're not going to be able to get the amount of water on the crops they'd like to have in this kind of heat," Rice said.

This heatwave could also have a big impact on crops come harvest time in the fall. Rice says many of his warm-season plants like tomatoes and peppers aren't blooming properly because of the hot temperatures, so he's not sure what the harvest will look like in September.

Related: Organization sees donations come in to support local farmworkers as heatwave continues

Even in the summer, crops are having a shorter lifespan because of the excessive heat--something the Boise Farmer's Market is working to combat with their Mobile Market. Still, Mobile Market Manager Melissa Nodzu says they can only do so much.

"Everything is like three weeks ahead--easily 3 to 4 weeks ahead of schedule," Nodzu explained. "We have things that are dying out, it will be ready on a Wednesday and be dead by Friday, so we miss out on the crops."

Local farmers say one of the best ways to support them is to buy their products from local farmer's markets like the Boise Farmer's Market and the Capital City Public Market. Rice says right now, local farmers need the community's support more than ever.

"You can't know how much it means when you come to the farmer's market and the farmer can actually hand the food from his hand to yours," Rice said.