Anna King | KNKX

Anna King

Richland Correspondent

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.

The South Sound was her girlhood backyard and she knows its rocky beaches, mountain trails and cities well. She left the west side to attend Washington State University and spent an additional two years studying language and culture in Italy.

While not on the job, Anna enjoys trail running, clam digging, hiking and wine tasting with friends. She's most at peace on top a Northwest mountain with her husband Andy Plymale and their muddy Aussie-dog Poa.

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Washington apple growers are shipping about 20 percent less fruit abroad now compared with this time last year.

The result is a drop to export levels not seen since 2003-2004, according to Washington Apple Commission president Todd Fryhover.  

Updated April 1, 2021, 5:50 p.m. PT:

Washington rancher Cody Easterday pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal district court to defrauding Tyson Foods Inc. and another company out of more than $244 million. Easterday admitted charging the companies for the costs of purchasing and feeding hundreds of thousands of fictitious cattle.

What’s the background on all this Easterday – Tyson “Cattlegate” stuff? See previous coverage from Anna King here.

The Northwest farmers who grow potatoes for your French fries are themselves plenty fried.

The three massive agribusiness companies that make much of the world’s frozen fries, tots and hashbrowns are going to pay Northwest potato farmers less this year. 

“It really is a punch in the gut,” says Adam Weber, a 27-year-old, third-generation grower in Quincy in Washington’s Columbia Basin.

Liberty Orchards Company will stop production of its famous Aplets and Cotlets in June after 101 years of candy making.
Courtesy of Liberty Orchards Company

The company that makes Aplets & Cotlets, the famous jellied fruit candy from central Washington, is calling it quits this June.

Served up for Christmas and family reunions alike, the gelatinous apple and apricot treat studded with walnuts was famous far beyond Washington’s borders.

Cattle rustling is as old as the West. And a recent $225 million alleged cattle heist involving Easterday Ranches and Tyson Fresh Meats in Washington is one of the largest cases in U.S. history.               

And that case, like others nowadays, happened on paper, not on the range.

The starting point of a Northwest-based saga of alleged invented cattle, a multi-million dollar lawsuit and two bankruptcies may lie in a short handwritten list of numbers scrawled on a lined sheet of three-hole punch paper that purports to show Cody Easterday’s annual losses from speculating on the cattle futures market.

Just how do you miss 200,000 phantom cattle over several years? That’s what some people in the Columbia Basin cattle-feeding industry are wondering in an ongoing saga between Tyson Fresh Meats and Easterday Ranches.

“It’s hard to believe,” says Mike DeTray, who runs a 4,000-head operation outside of George, Wash. 

In southeast Washington, the welfare of more than 50,000 head of cattle is worrying Tyson Fresh Meats

Can the herd continue to be fed and cared for while the company set up to guard over them, Easterday Ranches, files for federal bankruptcy?

Updated Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, 5 p.m. PT

The Easterday family spread unfurls across the Columbia Basin — yawning onion farms, massive potato sheds, huge swaths of ground cut into pens for cattle and a fleet of employee vehicles and tractors. 

But the Easterday family has other assets: A million-dollar house in Phoenix and a private plane and hangar. 

The case of so-called modern-day cattle rustling in southeastern Washington is getting more complex by the day. 

Now, Easterday Ranches has filed for bankruptcy in federal court. 

In a deepening cattle war, Easterday Ranches, Inc. has sold its so-called “North Lot” property in Franklin County, Washington, to a beef competitor of Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc.

It’s a modern-day rustling case. 

A major Washington state cattle operator allegedly “fed” more than 200,000 head of cattle that didn’t exist for years. Now Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc is suing. 

Tyson says in a lawsuit filed in Franklin County Superior Court this week that its losses are more than $225 million. The losses are from false cattle sales and feed costs.  

It was kind of like the fair — only not. 

On Monday the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick, Wash., were full of port-a-potties, event tents, people in bright vests directing traffic and hundreds of cars. But it’s bitter winter, not summer. There’s no cotton candy. And the smiles of patrons are briefer, with a solemn edge.

A potato processing plant in the central Washington town of Warden burned down in a dramatic overnight fire Thursday. 

By early Friday morning, emergency responders had evacuated nearly a third of the homes near the plant. Flames were licking a large tank of ammonia, and firefighters feared it might explode. 

“This was a very large fire,” Kyle Foreman with the Grant County Sheriff’s Department said. “Certainly one of the top 10 in my career.”

At the Hanford site in southeastern Washington, along the Columbia River, stew millions of gallons of radioactive sludge cradled in aging underground tanks. Nearly 2,000 capsules filled with cesium and strontium rest unquietly in an old, glowing-blue pool of water. Two more reactors along the Columbia still need to be sealed up and cocooned.

The first time it happened, it was a squeezing feeling. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My heart raced. At the hospital, I got an EKG and took a blood test. It wasn’t a heart attack. Just felt like one. Then, it happened again. And again. 

Alan Scheiber is one organic farmer who would have never applied so-called “Agro Gold WS” to about a dozen acres if he’d known it contained synthetic herbicides. 

“It is just beyond the pale of acceptability,” Schreiber says. “No legitimate organic grower would ever use Glyphosate or Diquat — the products that were found in this organic herbicide in an organic farm — no person would ever do that.” 

Leavenworth Mayor Carl Florea says that this year, the “capital of Christmas” isn't doing any of the usual characters, festivals, open fire pits or even the famous tree lighting

“The only thing left that basically says we’re a Christmas town is that the trees in our park are still lit up with lights,” he says. 

Debbie Roberts wishes her step-brother had just slid away from his advanced Parkinson’s disease.

He died November 29, just one person among many who died in an outbreak of COVID-19 at North Valley Extended Care in the Okanogan County town of Tonasket — population about 1,000. So far, at least 16 people at the facility have died since Thanksgiving.

Ardel McPhail says it’s foggy now most mornings on her family’s cranberry bogs just north of IIwaco, Washington, near the Pacific Coast. 

She and her husband own the largest bogs in Washington —  more than 100 acres. 

Washington grows about 148,000 100-pound barrels of cranberries and Oregon grows about 558,000 barrels each year. 

Dusty pumpkins slap between rough hands as workers throw them into a tractor’s trailer. 

It’s a rhythmic, full sound, like a child testing a drum. 

This third-generation farm supplies more than 600,000 pumpkins to Walmarts, Wincos, Yokes and Home Depots in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. But here in southeast Washington near the Tri-Cities, the farm’s future is at stake.

There’s a fight over a proposed reservoir that pits these third-generation pumpkin farmers against thousands of potential water users.  

A year ago, blueberry executives and farmers from all over the world celebrated at a scenic winery near Richland, Washington. 

James Dean Kindle & the East Oregon Playboys jammed out catchy Western tunes in the ballroom. 

But as the wine flowed and chafing dishes brimmed with beef sliders and salmon cakes, there were warning signs for U.S. blueberry farmers.

Imports from Mexico, Peru, Chile and Canada are shipping in lower-cost fruit during the U.S. growing season. 

Thousands of vines roll over the hills like neatly placed stitches on a rumpled bed quilt. 

The sunset on Red Mountain’s Sunset Road near Richland, Washington, is usually spectacular. But on this evening, the sun just slips behind a dirty-white veil of smoke. 

Pickers can’t work as much in the smoke, says Red Mountain winemaker Charlie Hoppes

Correction, Sept. 18, 2020: A word to describe the amount of apples brought by Gov. Jay Inslee has been changed in this story to better reflect the amount of apples. The word "box" is now used instead of "bin." A "bin" of apples is a more technical industry term that is much larger than the actual number of apples in question.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s well-intentioned gesture of western Washington apples sent a detective hunting down the fruit in three counties this week.

The federal government has designated the Royal Slope as Washington state’s newest American Viticultural Area, or AVA.

To qualify as an AVA, a wine grape-growing region must set itself apart with climate, soil, elevation and physical features. A new one doesn’t come around very often.

Before I got sick with COVID-19, I was a social-distance ninja: I hadn’t been anywhere. Not even the grocery store. 

I recently wrote about my nearly two-months as a COVID-19 longhauler. And the number one question I heard was: “How did you get it?” So I decided to dig into the possibilities.

A lot of freshly harvested wheat bound for Portland, Oregon, could stack up on the Columbia River system soon because an old guy wire has snapped on the Snake River’s Lower Monumental Dam.  

Many Northwest wine tastings for groups are done over Zoom nowadays. 

Here at Fidélitas in southeast Washington, winemaker and owner Charlie Hoppes explains some of his favorite flavors in a video for wine club members with his son: 

“We always seem to get that little bit of dustiness in this wine, that we talk about from Red Mountain,” Hoppes says.

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