CASCADE, Idaho -- There's a big problem happening right now in Valley County. Hundreds of thousands of grasshoppers are damaging crops and fields, and the Idaho Department of Agriculture is now getting involved to help fight the outbreak.
"We started seeing an increase in population back around Fourth of July and since then it just really exploded," said Mike Cooper with the Idaho Department of Agriculture Plant Industries.
The hot, dry weather is providing the perfect conditions for the grasshoppers to multiply. Cooper says more than 24,000 acres in Valley County have been affected by the grasshoppers. The hardest hit areas include: Cascade, Donnelly, Round Valley and Lake Fork just south of McCall.
"A lot of ranchers started noticing they were losing hay fields, pastures. Grain crops were being damaged," said Cooper.
While Cooper doesn't have a finally tally on the amount of crops and fields damaged, he says some ranchers have had to move their cattle to better pastures for feeding.
By state standards, a grasshopper outbreak reaches damaging levels when there are eight grasshoppers per square yard. Cooper says there have been more than 200 grasshoppers per square yard in parts of Valley County.
The state is mandated under the Idaho Plant Pest Act to assist ranchers and farmers when they request help for controlling grasshoppers and Mormon cricket outbreaks. The state began spraying on Thursday, and they hope to complete the task by mid-week.
"The immediate results that we've had from the ranchers we've already sprayed is they seem to be happy with the amount of mortality they're seeing," said Cooper.
Farmers and ranchers are splitting the cost of treatment with the state. The price tag to fight this outbreak is not yet known. Cooper says the state is only spraying the areas that farmers and ranchers requested assistance, and that the state has provided notification to those who might live or work around those sprayed areas.