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Business in brief: Farm production values set record in 2006

Record production values last year for apples, pears, hay and other crops helped propel Washington’s overall farm production value to a record $6.87 billion, a 6 percent increase from revised 2005 figures, according to federal statistics.

It was the second consecutive record-breaking year for state production values, according to the Washington office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Top crops were apples, with a 34 percent increase to a value of $1.39 billion; milk, contributing $688 million; wheat, $626 million; cattle and calves, $588 million; and potatoes, $562 million.

Field crops, including wheat and hay, totaled $2.07 billion, near the 1995 record of $2.10 billion.

Government payments for 2006 totaled less than 3 percent of overall production value.


Public comment sought on Avista plan in Idaho

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission is seeking comments by Oct. 25 on a proposal by Avista Utilities to test new equipment in Sandpoint and Moscow that would temporarily turn off some home appliances to save electricity.

Avista said the test will run about a year.

The customers selected have to be willing to let Avista install devices that would, at key points, turn down thermostats or reduce appliance use.

The goal is to save energy over time and reduce peak-demand power shortages, said Avista officials.

Comments can be sent by e-mail or faxed to the commission. Mail can be addressed to: P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074. The fax number is (208) 334-3762. E-mail can be left at the commission Web site at


Airlines OK scanning cell phones for check in

Major airlines have agreed on a standard that will allow travelers to check in using a bar code sent to their cell phones, the International Air Transport Association said Thursday.

Passengers will register their cell phone number when buying a ticket and receive a bar code by text message, the group representing most commercial carriers said.

Check-in staff will scan the bar code directly from cell phones, doing away with the need for boarding passes. Alternatively, passengers can also receive the code by e-mail and print it out.

IATA said the move would help the industry phase out paper tickets by 2010 and save more than $500 million a year.


Tamperproof encryption to debut in Geneva election

A new “unbreakable” encryption method will keep votes safe for citizens in the Swiss canton (state) of Geneva in the country’s upcoming national elections, officials said Thursday.

The city-state will use quantum technology to encrypt election results as they are sent to the capital Oct. 21, said Nicolas Gisin of the University of Geneva.

A computer in Geneva will fire photons, or particles of light, down a fiber-optic link to a receiver 62 miles away.

If anybody wanted to eavesdrop on the line, they would need to intercept the photons, which means they won’t make it to the destination. The operators of the line will then know that someone is listening in.

“If anyone tries to even read the message it will explode like a soap bubble,” said Gisin, the physics professor who led the team that developed the technology.