Anna King

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 went abroad to study 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.

In 2016 Washington State University named Anna Woman of the Year, and the Society of Professional Journalists Western Washington Pro Chapter named her Journalist of the Year. Her many journalism awards include two Gracies, a Sigma Delta Chi medal and the David Douglas Award from the Washington State Historical Society.

Anna King/Northwest News Network

Record heat across the Northwest is taking a toll on agriculture – both the crops and the workers who harvest them.

Central Washington farmer Alan Schreiber is worried about his fields.

“Melon, watermelon, tomatoes, eggplant, okra. What you call hot crops,” Schreiber says. “But they need a lot of water.”

Editor’s Note: Anna King knew John Zachara, he was a friend and colleague of her husband at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. 

John Zachara was a brilliant geoscientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. And he had a dry sense of humor. 

In the mountains of British Columbia a decade ago, Zachara was really getting bugged by horse-flies. 

Nicole Berg's stunted wheat field is so short and sparse she doesn't think the combine can even reach the wheat without, as she puts it, eating rocks.

"Combines don't like dirt and rocks," Berg says, standing amid the damaged rows. "They get indigestion."

Berg is a dryland wheat farmer in the sweeping Horse Heaven Hills of southeastern Washington state. She shows off one head of half-turned golden wheat amid a sea of them. Besides being too short, the plant's kernels didn't fill out properly.

Sometimes I feel as low as this cold-early-morning snail on the Richland river path. 

June 3 marks a year since COVID-19 blasted through my immune system. I have never figured out how I got it. And my recovery has come in fits and starts. But mostly it’s just been incredibly, snail-slow. 

Nicole Berg wades into her stunted wheat field. 

It’s so short and sparse, she doesn’t think the combine can even reach the wheat without eating rocks. 

“Combines don’t like dirt and rocks,” Berg says. “They get indigestion.” 

Berg is a dryland wheat farmer in the sweeping Horse Heaven Hills of south-eastern Washington. She shows off one head of half-turned golden wheat amid a sea of them. Besides being too short, the plant’s kernels didn’t fill out properly. 

After a year of hate speech culminating in the murders of Asian women in the Atlanta area, rural Asian Americans are recalibrating how safe they feel in their own communities. 

This week President Joe Biden signed an anti-Asian hate crimes bill. And a recent survey found nearly 80% of Asian Americans don’t feel respected and say they are discriminated against.

Redtail hawks glide off telephone poles sailing above verdant fields that scoop downward along a basalt slope to the bending Columbia River. 

This unique swath of ground is about to get a new owner; the roughly 12,000 Easterday family acres in Benton County are to be auctioned off starting in mid-June. 

You can drive an hour on the highway and still be in central Oregon’s Crook County. 

Perhaps, then, it’s easier to understand why patrolling the vast remote region is difficult.

Much of the Northwest’s high country is still deep in good snowpack but short on rain this spring. That has dryland wheat farmers and cattle ranchers fretting. Cold, wind and dust are even wreaking havoc with produce farmers in the region.

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation are opening a two-day mass vaccination event to any resident age 16 and above who resides in the 11 counties that span the tribes’ ceded territory. The offer is open to anyone, not just tribal members. 

The 11 counties include: Benton, Walla Walla, Columbia and Garfield counties in Washington and Morrow, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, Grant, Baker and Malheur counties in Oregon. 

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.

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.

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?

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.”

The U.S. House voted 232 to 197 Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time.

A central Washington sheriff’s deputy has died of COVID-19,  according to the Grant County Coroner's office. 

Jon Melvin, 60, was found Dec. 11, 2020, in bed at his home in Desert Aire, in southwestern Grant County. Fellow deputies were checking on his welfare after family members were unable to reach him.

“He had pneumonia due to COVID-19,” Jerry Jasman, chief investigator with the Grant County Coroner's office, said Monday.

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. 

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.

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.

Lauri Jones has been working in public health in Washington’s Okanogan County for 17 years.

But after repeated threats to her safety, she recently got a new security system for her home.

“I still find myself sometimes looking over my shoulder,” Jones says. “Especially if I walk out of the building and it’s getting obviously dark earlier.”

She’s not leaving her post as the community health director. But her colleague Dr. John McCarthy is in December. He says the workload has become too heavy.

In the weeks leading up to the election, residents in five smaller areas around eastern Washington and Oregon spoke about how they were feeling.

Now, as people are awaiting results, I checked in with a few.

Anxious raking

Since Tuesday, Cynthia Hurlbutt has raked about an acre of walnut leaves on her property near Walla Walla, Washington.

Pages