Washington ag employment up

TRI-CITIES, Wash. (AP) -- Employment in Washington's agricultural industry grew last year, with nearly 12,300 more seasonal and permanent jobs added between January 2009 and January 2010, according to a state report released Tuesday.

Wages for seasonal workers also rose from an average of $8.79 per hour in January 2009 to $9.42 per hour in January 2010, according to a survey of 1,800 Washington agricultural growers. The state's minimum wage for 2010 is $8.55 per hour.

And mild weather in January boosted seasonal employment in the north-central, southeast and south-central regions of the state as workers were able to prune fruit trees, primarily apples. The number of seasonal ag jobs climbed by 7,110 from January 2009 to January 2010, an increase of 47.4 percent, the state Employment Security Department said.

Yellowstone elk carrying disease

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) -- A study by the U.S. Geological Survey says elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem appear to be carrying the disease brucellosis at increasing rates.

Researchers found that the prevalence of the disease in the ecosystem's free-ranging elk was between 0 percent and 7 percent in 1991-92. That had increased to between 8 percent and 20 percent in 2006-07.

Paul Cross, a USGS disease ecologist and lead author of the study, said high elk densities are probably responsible for the increased rates of brucellosis, which can cause animals including cattle, elk and bison to abort their young.

But the new research, which focused on six herds, "shows that brucellosis may also be increasing in some elk populations that are distant from supplemental feeding grounds and bison."

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