Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Just in

US Forest Service Announces Payments to States to Support Local Schools and Roads

Payments set to be Reduced Substantially as Program Reauthorization was not Passed
WASHINGTON-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that more than $50 million will be paid to 41 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to support local schools and roads under the Twenty-Five Percent Fund Act of 1908. The 1908 Act requiring 25-percent payments is permanent law and will guide 2014 distribution of payments, as the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act authority expired on September 30, 2014. 
The Administration supported a 5-year reauthorization of the program to transition payments to counties in the fiscal year (FY) 2015 President's Budget. However, it has not been reauthorized and in the absence of SRS, payments to states revert to pre-existing law under the 1908 Act that mandates 25-percent payments to the states from receipts from national forests in each state. Seven-year rolling averages of receipts from national forests located in each state are required to calculate the 25-percent payments for the benefit of public schools and public roads. Unlike SRS, these payments do not allow states an election to allocate funds for work similar to Title II (conservation work on national forests) or Title III (county projects for Firewise programs, emergency services or community wildfire protection plans) authorized in the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.
This year, the estimated total amount of all 25-percent payments to all eligible states is about $50 million, compared to around $300 million available for the entire SRS program last year.
In the late 1980s, due largely to declines in timber sale receipts, 1908 Act payments began to drop significantly and fluctuate. In 1994, Congress responded by providing "safety net payments" to counties in northern California, western Oregon and western Washington. In 2000, Congress passed the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act that provided enhanced, stabilized payments to more states. It also created a forum for community interests to participate collaboratively in the selection of natural resource projects on the National Forests, and has assisted in community wildfire protection planning. This is the first year since then that the act was not reauthorized.  Here is information on funding amounts by State.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Just in

APH Yield Exclusion Available for Pacific Northwest Farmers
Spring Planted Barley Eligible for New Farm Safety Net Option

SPOKANE —USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA), Spokane Regional Office, reminds farmers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington of the deadline to elect the Actual Production History (APH) Yield Exclusion option for 2015 spring planted barley.

A provision of the 2014 Farm Bill, APH Yield Exclusion can provide relief to farmers affected by severe weather, including drought. The decision to elect the yield exclusion must be made before the sales closing date for crop insurance coverage on their 2015 crops. The final date for spring barley (a spring-seeded crop) is March 16.

APH Yield Exclusion allows eligible farmers affected by severe weather to receive a higher approved yield on their insurance policies through the federal crop insurance program. Yields can be excluded from farm actual production history when the actuarial documents provide that the county average yield for that crop year is at least 50 percent below the 10 previous consecutive crop years’ average yield.

Additional information about APH Yield Exclusion and maps for eligible commodities is located on RMA’s Farm Bill website.

Federal crop insurance policies are sold and delivered solely through private crop insurance companies and agents. A list of crop insurance agents is available at all USDA service centers and on the RMA agent locator website.  Farmers are encouraged to visit their crop insurance agent soon to learn specific details for the 2015 crop year. All decisions on crop insurance coverage must be decided on or before the sales closing date.

Friday, January 23, 2015

From Washington

House passes bill requiring agencies to be more open, transparent 

Washington—The House this week passed the Farm Bureau-supported Regulatory Accountability Act (H.R. 185), which would give all stakeholders a greater voice in a federal regulatory process that is too often one-sided and, frankly, unfair, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

The legislation provides a much-needed update to the nearly seven-decades-old Administrative Procedures Act, which must be amended to “ensure that the public and the regulated community, in particular, are afforded a transparent, fair and open regulatory process,” Stallman said in a statement regarding the bill’s introduction.

This bill would require agencies to be more open and transparent on data justifying a rule. The most costly rules would be subject to on-the-record hearings. Agencies would be required to consider such rules’ impact on jobs and the economy. Moreover, agencies’ ability to use guidance and interim final rules would be constrained.

“Everything from the environment to trade, product safety and health, the fertility of farmland, even the security of our retirements, suffer when rule makers fail to take into account the harm they may cause,” Stallman said.

Sponsored by Reps. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), the Regulatory Accountability Act was among the first pieces of legislation offered in the new Congress, which returned on Jan. 6

Stallman noted the APA has traditionally received bipartisan support. AFBF will work actively for swift approval by Congress, he said.

“We need something better than attack, counterattack and litigation. We strongly urge all members of Congress to support this bill.”
- See more at: http://fbnews.fb.org/Templates/Article.aspx?id=39375#sthash.XFdxum9I.dpuf

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Just in

UI poll finds 90% of Idahoans support livestock grazing on public lands, the same level of support for mountain biking and guided recreation

BOISE  -- A new statewide poll found that 90 percent of Idaho residents approve of livestock grazing as a legitimate use of public lands, the same percentage as guided recreation and mountain biking. Ninety-eight percent of the respondents approve of hiking and camping on public lands, and 65 percent approve of the use of motorized recreation such as ATVs and motorbikes.

The new survey conducted by the University of Idaho Social Science Research Unit for the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission (IRRC) was based on 585 telephone surveys with Idaho residents. The poll was completed in December 2014. More than half of the survey participants have lived in Idaho for more than 30 years, and participants represent a diverse cross-section oaid.

Public support for livestock grazing was approximately 20 percent higher than it was for logging, which had a 71 percent approval rating. Using public lands for energy development and transmission lines received the lowest level of support at 62 percent. Public approval of livestock grazing on public lands went up 1 percent since 2010, and 10 points since 2001, according to previous polls conducted for IRRC by the University of  Idaho.

"We're pleased to see public support for livestock grazing on public lands increasing," said Chris Black, IRRC board chairman and a Bruneau Rancher who has received a BLM national stewardship award for exemplary livestock management on public lands. "We think Idahoans are seeing improved range management when they're out recreating on rangelands and forests. And over the last five years, we've highlighted more than 30 stories of ranchers engaged in rangeland stewardship through the Commission's "Life on the Range" web site and video series.

"We feel it's important to show real people doing tangible things to improve public lands, the environment and threatened and endangered species, including candidate species such as sage grouse," Black continued. "That's what is expected in 21st Century public lands management."
IRRC officials said they commissioned the poll to understand the overall perception of Idaho residents about grazing, and how those perceptions might be evolving due to changes in Idaho's population demographics and the emergence of the "New West."

In a wildlife-related question, the poll found that 84 percent of the respondents recognize that private ranchlands provide important wildlife habitat. On a scale of 1-7, 68 percent of the  respondents rated the value of private farms and ranches for wildlife as being a 5 or higher.

Seventy-nine percent believe that sheep and cattle ranchers manage rangelands in a responsible manner, and 82 percent believe that livestock grazing should continue to be part of public lands management. 
In a series of questions rating the credibility or reliability of information provided to the public, ranchers and scientists rated 84 percent and 83 percent reliable, while BLM officials received a reliability rating of 80 percent and environmentalists received a rating of 55 percent.

The poll is statistically valid, sampling a broad cross-section of Idaho's rural and urban residents, an equal number of males and females, and mobile phone users as well as landline users, UI officials said.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Just in from Washington

Statement by Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding the President’s State of the Union Address

WASHINGTON – “The president this evening held out a glimmer of hope that he and the Republican Congress might still work together. His words were reassuring, yet recent history has been anything but. So many good things can be accomplished, so once again, we ask leaders of both parties: Please work together.
“We strongly support President Obama’s efforts to normalize trade and other relations with Cuba. Cuba remains off-limits to almost all American trade – a self-imposed tactic that has repeatedly failed to secure reforms. American agriculture needs the same access to Cuban markets that so many other countries have. Easing trade financing restrictions is a strong beginning to U.S. food and fiber being accessible to Cuba’s 11 million consumers. It’s also something most Americans know is right.
“Farm Bureau is also encouraged by the president’s strong support for Trade Promotion Authority, which would give Congress the responsibly to vote yes or no on foreign-trade treaties without deal-killing amendments. Congress must pass bi-partisan TPA legislation to strengthen U.S. negotiating positions in future trade agreements.
“We remain resolute that tax laws must protect the family farm. Our members grow America’s food and fiber for rates of return that are already miniscule compared to almost any other investment they could make. We need to continue to have tax policies that do not punish capital-intensive businesses like farms and ranches, and that do not hinder sons and daughters from following the agricultural legacy of their parents.
“America needs to move forward. We can do that only when both parties do what our founders did when they wrote the Constitution: compromise.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Guthrie Named to National Committee

Guthrie Named to AFBF National Womens Leadership Board of Directors

San Diego--Sherry Saylor, a row crop farmer from Arizona, was elected the new chair of the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee, which also makes her a member of the AFBF board of directors during her two-year term; Isabella Chism of Indiana was elected to a two-year term as vice chair. Lorenda Overman of North Carolina and Carol Guthrie of Idaho were elected to two-year terms on the WLC; Deb Walsh of Indiana was elected to fill a one-year term; and Marieta Hauser of Kansas and Debbi Tanner of Connecticut were re-elected to two-year terms.

Farm Bureau members will gather for the 97th AFBF Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show January 10-13, 2016, in Orlando, Florida.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Just in

House passes bill requiring agencies to be more open, transparent 

 Washington—The House passed the Farm Bureau-supported Regulatory Accountability Act (H.R. 185), which would give all stakeholders a greater voice in a federal regulatory process that is too often one-sided and, frankly, unfair, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

The legislation provides a much-needed update to the nearly seven-decades-old Administrative Procedures Act, which must be amended to “ensure that the public and the regulated community, in particular, are afforded a transparent, fair and open regulatory process,” Stallman said in a statement regarding the bill’s introduction.

This bill would require agencies to be more open and transparent on data justifying a rule. The most costly rules would be subject to on-the-record hearings. Agencies would be required to consider such rules’ impact on jobs and the economy. Moreover, agencies’ ability to use guidance and interim final rules would be constrained.

“Everything from the environment to trade, product safety and health, the fertility of farmland, even the security of our retirements, suffer when rule makers fail to take into account the harm they may cause,” Stallman said.

Sponsored by Reps. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), the Regulatory Accountability Act was among the first pieces of legislation offered in the new Congress, which returned on Jan. 6

Stallman noted the APA has traditionally received bipartisan support. AFBF will work actively for swift approval by Congress, he said.

“We need something better than attack, counterattack and litigation. We strongly urge all members of Congress to support this bill.”

Friday, January 16, 2015

Just in

Farm Bureau Approves
Strategic Action Plan for 2015

WASHINGTON – Following the delegate session of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 96th Annual Convention, which wrapped up this week in San Diego, the organization’s board of directors set AFBF’s strategic action plan to address public policy issues for 2015.

The board-approved plan focuses the organization’s attention on: advancing legislation that addresses agriculture’s long- and short-term labor needs; protecting farmers’ abilities to use biotech plant varieties and other innovative technologies; opposing expansion of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act; and advancing legislation that reforms the Endangered Species Act.

“We will work to advance all the issue positions approved by our farmer and rancher delegates this week, but this plan represents those issue areas where we believe the American Farm Bureau Federation and its grassroots members have clear opportunities to achieve success at this time,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “These are high-stakes issues that we must advance to help safeguard our members and their abilities to operate their farms and ranches.”

Stallman said farmers and ranchers know first-hand the importance of clean water. They usually live on the land they work, and in many cases their water resources are on or near their property.  He said they typically adopt new technology related to conservation and frequently those moves also enhance the performance of their businesses.

“Farm Bureau members support state-led, practical programs and they work to continually improve the environmental performance of their farms and ranches,” Stallman said. “Several recent and ongoing federal initiatives, such as the Waters of the U.S. rule, would give the federal government almost unlimited power to dictate farming practices and impose complex and costly permitting schemes, regardless of need. We will continue to work to ditch the rule.”

Stallman said AFBF recognizes that the need for agricultural labor reform is clear.

“Farmers need access to a legal, stable and reliable labor supply,” Stallman said. “America can either import our labor or import our food. We recognize the difficulty of passing meaningful immigration reform that addresses the agricultural labor crisis and border issues, but we must get this done. The recent executive action on immigration doesn’t offer a solution to increase the workforce for agriculture and we will work to secure a permanent solution through legislation.”

AFBF’s action plan also focuses on supporting agricultural biotechnology as a tool that will yield great benefits for agriculture, consumers and the environment.

“The American Farm Bureau Federation represents farmers and ranchers who use every type of agriculture production system to provide the safest food possible,” Stallman said. “Many of our members look to biotechnology as a way to increase environmental stewardship while farming more efficiently and effectively. Future innovation in this area will open up a whole new level of possibility.”

The action plan also puts a focus on reform of Endangered Species Act regulations.

“Farmers, ranchers and environmentalists agree that we must conserve and recover wildlife facing preventable extinction. But with a recovery rate of less than 2 percent, the Endangered Species Act is a failure,” Stallman said. “The ESA must be reformed to protect endangered species while allowing farmers and ranchers to use their land for food production.”

The AFBF Board approved an additional list of issues that will require diligent monitoring as they develop over the course of 2015. Those issue areas include: efforts to enhance international trade opportunities, business tax reform, farm bill implementation, the overall farm economy and energy availability and affordability.

According to Stallman, many other issues will warrant AFBF’s attention this year, and those issues will be addressed as they rise on the nation’s agenda.

“AFBF’s 2015 strategic action plan, as set by the board, is built on the dedicated efforts of our grassroots members to achieve policy goals that will benefit all of agriculture, as well as the nation’s consumers and our customers around the world,” Stallman said.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

AFBF Annual Convention

Stallman: Farmers and ranchers still optimistic despite Washington’s past dysfunction

San Diego—While America’s farmers and ranchers achieved notable victories on the farm bill and waterways infrastructure legislation in 2014, agriculture must push harder for important policy reforms in 2015, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

Stallman, a cattle and rice farmer from Columbus, Texas, told Farm Bureau members gathered for their annual convention in San Diego that progress in Washington will only come through real but principled compromise.

“We cannot ignore the extremes of the left and right, but we must speak to the center: the legislators in both parties who go to Washington because they want to make policy and get things done,” Stallman said. “It’s time for Congress to get back to work -- to do their job so you can do yours.”

Stallman said that time to act in 2015 will likely be shortened due to pressure created by the 2016 elections for Congress and the presidency.

“Farm Bureau members will need to be aggressive, and we will need to begin our advocacy efforts as soon as possible,” Stallman said. “Farm Bureau members will also need to cut through the political noise.”

While true opportunities for policy progress could grow slim by the time fall rolls around, Stallman detailed the long list of jobs that remain before Congress, including:
• Immigration reform, which must include a reliable and legal workforce for America’s farms and ranches;
• A national, fact-based approach to food labeling, rather than patchwork regulation that only raises the price of food while doing nothing for food safety;
• Tax rules that will encourage economic growth and multi-generational farming and;
• Policies to continue growing our nation’s energy independence through the production of all forms of energy, including those that come from America’s farms and ranches.

And yes, he said, it was time for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to ditch the widely reviled Waters of the U.S. proposal, which would regulate land use under the guise of the Clean Water Act.

No matter what the outlook in Washington, there’s plenty of reason to remain optimistic, Stallman said.

“Whether it’s a shortage of labor or water, or floods, or hail, or windstorms -- too much heat … or too much cold, farmers and ranchers across America keep working to farm another day,” he said.

Overcoming adversity is nothing new to those who have succeeded in farming and ranching, Stallman said. During the historic farm crisis of the 1980s, thousands of families lost their farms to foreclosure due to high debt and high interest rates, sinking demand around the world and depressed commodity prices. But today, while commodity prices have dipped compared to recent years, in general, America’s farmers and ranchers are better off than they were 35 years ago.

“That’s why anyone who’s been farming or ranching -- or whose family has been farming or ranching -- for more than 30 years is a living, breathing testament to the power of perseverance,” Stallman told Farm Bureau members in attendance.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Just in

State Farm Bureaus Recognized for Excellence

SAN DIEGO – State Farm Bureaus were presented awards at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2015 Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show recognizing their stellar performance in membership achievement and implementation of outstanding programs serving Farm Bureau members in 2014.

The Pinnacle Award, the highest award a state can earn for program and membership achievement, was awarded to: Idaho, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

Delaware (Education and Outreach; and Public Relations and Communications); Florida (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications); Georgia (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; and Public Relations and Communications);Idaho (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; and Policy Development and Implementation); Illinois (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications); Indiana (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications); and Iowa (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications).

President’s Awards were presented to states from each membership-size group that achieved quota and demonstrated superiority in the Awards for Excellence categories. The winning states and the number of President’s Awards earned are: Arizona (2), Connecticut (1), Delaware (1), Idaho (2), Iowa (4), Illinois (3), Kansas (1), Louisiana (2), Massachusetts (4), Michigan (2), Minnesota (1), Missouri (1), Montana (3), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (4), South Dakota (1) and Tennessee (3).

New Horizon Awards, presented to states with the most innovative new programs, were awarded to: Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New York and Pennsylvania.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Just in


BOISE – The Natural Resources Conservation Service just released the first water supply outlook report for the 2015 water year. Precipitation since the water year started on October 1, 2014, varies across the state with the majority of the watershed basins at 90 to 105% of normal.

“January 15th marks winter’s half way point which is when Mother Nature usually deposits half of the winter’s snowfall in our mountains,” said Ron Abramovich, Water Supply Specialist with the Idaho Natural Resources Conservation Service. “So far southern Idaho snowpacks are faring well this year with most basins ranging from 90 to 120% of average, although several lower elevation basins are below that range.” 

Typically north Idaho receives more precipitation than southern Idaho; however, the average snowpacks for northern Idaho are below normal. The lowest snowpack percentages are in the Spokane and Northern Panhandle Region. Luckily, there are several more months of winter weather to maintain or improve the snowpacks in all basins.

Based on Idaho’s Surface Water Supply Index, water supplies around the state should be adequate with some exceptions for the central Idaho basins.  With near normal spring and summer streamflows projected across most of the state, and half the winter still to come, expect  the water supply outlook to change.

For information on specific basins, streams, and reservoirs, please view the full report online at January Water Supply Outlook Report.

Just in from the AFBF Annual Convention in San Diego

Idaho Farm Bureau delegates attend AFBF Annual Meeting

San Diego--83 Members of The Idaho Farm Bureau delegation dined this morning at the American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in San Diego. In the history of Idaho Farm Bureau, this may go down as one of the best Annual meetings-- The Farm Bureau received 5 Awards for Excellence, 2 President's Award, The Navigator Award, Apex Award and the Pinnacle Award!

AFBF National Convention

A Conversation With Tom and Bob: Farm Bureau Town Hall Meeting

SAN DIEGO, January 11, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman focused on farm policy and USDA’s priorities during a town hall-style conversation at the 96th AFBF Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show.
In his opening remarks, Vilsack thanked Farm Bureau members for assistance in helping secure the 2014 farm bill, strong ag education and farm safety initiatives, and involvement in the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.
Vilsack also praised the Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge, which gives entrepreneurs the chance to pitch innovative business ideas to judges and compete for prize money to implement their ideas.
“It has been extraordinarily helpful in encouraging investors across the U.S. to understand opportunities that exist in rural America,” Vilsack said. He then briefly discussed USDA priorities which include enhanced trade access for U.S. farm goods, rural development, increasing the number of beginning farmers and ranchers and encouraging veterans to enter into agriculture. Vilsack responded to questions from a standing-room only audience of farmers and ranchers.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Just in

American Farm Bureau Federation, 28 Other Ag
Groups Join to Lift Cuban Trade Embargo

WASHINGTON – The American Farm Bureau Federation today joined with 30 other agricultural organizations in announcing the formation of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (http://www.usagcoalition.com/).

Farm Bureau said the coalition would work with Congress and the president to bring about full normalization of trade relations between the two nations so that American business could have the same access to Cuban markets that so many other countries have.

“Easing financing restrictions on agricultural trade with Cuba will make U.S. farmers and ranchers more competitive in the Cuban market of 11 million consumers,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said.

“We still have onerous restrictions on trade with the island nation, despite the fact that numerous countries long ago moved on and now trade freely with Cuba. American farmers and agri-businesses must be afforded the opportunity to compete in the Cuban market,” he added.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Accountability Act

Statement by Bob Stallman, President,
American Farm Bureau Federation,
Regarding the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015

WASHINGTON--“The American Farm Bureau Federation strongly supports the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015. We applaud the leadership of Reps. Robert Goodlatte and Collin Peterson in reintroducing this measure, which has traditionally received bipartisan support, and we will work actively for swift approval by Congress.

“The Regulatory Accountability Act takes an important step towards updating and reinvigorating the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). That law is now nearly seven decades old and must be amended to ensure that the public and the regulated community, in particular, are afforded a transparent, fair and open regulatory process. This legislation would require agencies to be more open and transparent on data justifying a rule. The most costly rules would be subject to on-the-record hearings. Agencies would be required to consider such rules’ impact on jobs and the economy. Moreover, agencies’ ability to use guidance and interim final rules would be constrained.

“Goodlatte-Peterson updates to the APA will give all stakeholders a greater voice in a process that is too often one-sided and, frankly, unfair. 

“Everything from the environment to trade, product safety and health, the fertility of farmland, even the security of our retirements, suffer when rule makers fail to take into account the harm they may cause.

“We need something better than attack, counterattack and litigation. We strongly urge all members of Congress to support this bill.”

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Farmers cheer opening with Cuba

Washington—U.S. farmers and ranchers heartily welcome President Obama’s move toward normalized relations with Cuba, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. Farm Bureau has long called for a removal of trade restrictions with Cuba, and the organization is optimistic that expanded trade with the U.S. will serve as a cornerstone for additional reforms.

“The president’s opening to Cuba promises to improve trade conditions by making it easier for Cuba to buy U.S. agricultural and food products. This is welcome news for our nation’s farmers and ranchers,” Stallman said in a statement.

Currently, U.S. farmers can export to Cuba, but third-party banking requirements and limited credit financing make it harder to compete in the market than it should be, explained Stallman. “We look forward to a prompt lifting of those restrictions.”

“Improving trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba will expand access to a market of 11 million consumers for U.S. agriculture,” he continued. “That’s good for Cuba and good for America, too. We look forward to working closely with the administration on this issue.”

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Statehouse perspective

History of When the Idaho Legislature Convenes
Bob Geddes
Boise--Originally the Idaho Constitution stated that a biennially legislative session shall begin on the first Monday after the first day of January.  A constitutional amendment was proposed in 1967 and supported by a two-thirds majority of both the House and Senate.  The citizens of Idaho then voted to determine if their constitution should be amended to provide for an annual legislative session and to change the day that the legislative sessions should convene.  This measure passed by a majority vote of the people in the 1968 November general election.  
Article 3, Section 8 of the Idaho constitution now states, “Sessions of Legislature.  The sessions of the legislature shall be held annually at the capital of the state, commencing on the second Monday of January of each year, unless a different day shall have been appointed by law, and at other times when convened by the governor.”  
House sponsors of the Constitutional Amendment said that if the amendment is approved by the people, it could be implemented by law to provide that sessions in odd-numbered years could consider the full range of state business and those on even numbered years could be confined to financial matters.  While that idea has often been discussed, good reasons have prevented that from becoming the accepted practice.  
The people supported the amendment and since then, Idaho has convened an annual session of the Idaho State Legislature.  
In 1975, Senator Vernon K. Brassey (R-Boise) sponsored a bill that became Idaho Code 67-404.  This requires the following and it could be said that this statue takes precedent over the constitution.  The statute says, “SESSIONS OF LEGISLATURE.  At the hour of twelve o’clock M. on the Monday on or nearest the ninth day in January the regular session of the legislature shall be convened.”  There is no record identifying the basis for this change.   So, I will speculate.  I doubt that legislators enjoyed traveling to Boise to begin the session on the day after the New Year’s Day holiday.  
It is interesting that the constitution provides for the legislature to establish a different legislative starting date and time.  But In 2015, it just so happens that the legislature will convene on the date specified by both constitution and the precedent setting Idaho Code.  It also happened that in 1967, the day after the first day of January was the Tuesday following the New Year’s Day holiday.

The legislature will convene at 12:00 noon M. (assuming the “M.” means Mountain Standard Time) on Monday January 12, 1015.   

Monday, January 5, 2015

Just in

Secretary Vilsack names Jared Brackett to Cattlemens Beef Board

WASHINGTON– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced appointments to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board. All appointees will serve 3-year terms.

Newly appointed members representing cattle producers are: Jared D. Brackett, Rogerson, Idaho; Lyle V. Peterson, Custer, Mont.; Ross R. Racine, Billings, Mont.; Sherry A. Vinton, Whitman, Neb.; James J. Eschliman, Ericson, Neb.; Patrick L. Becker, Selfridge, N.D.; Barbara A. Jacques, Shidler, Okla.; Terry L. Wyatt, Hollister, Okla.; Richard C. McElhaney, Hookstown, Penn.; Gerald R. Sharp, Bath, S.D.; Robert H. Von Der Lieth, Jr., Copperopolis, Calif., representing the Southwest Unit; Paul H. Looney, Fredericksburg, Texas; Jackie W. Means, Van Horn, Texas; Lavinia G. Sartwelle, Sealy, Texas; Richard A. Winter, Canyon, Texas.

Newly appointed members representing importers are Joakim A. Holzner, Windsor, Colo.; and David M. Pietsch, McLean, Va.

The board oversees the collection of $1-per-head on all cattle sold in the United States, and $1-per-head equivalent on imported cattle, beef and beef products. In addition, the board contracts with established national, non-profit, industry-governed organizations to implement programs of promotion, research, consumer information, industry information, foreign marketing and producer communications.

The 100-member board is authorized by the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985. The Secretary selects the appointees nominated by beef, veal, dairy and importers certified organizations.

Research and promotion programs are industry-funded, were authorized by Congress, and date back to 1966, when Congress passed the Cotton Research and Promotion Act. Since then, Congress has authorized the establishment of 22 research and promotion boards. They empower farmers and ranchers to leverage their own resources to develop new markets, strengthen existing markets, and conduct important research and promotion activities. AMS provides oversight, paid for by industry assessments, which ensures fiscal responsibility, program efficiency and fair treatment of participating stakeholders.

Friday, January 2, 2015

AFBF Convention Preview

Innovate Conference, workshops focus on technology at AFBF’s 2015 Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show

 San Diego – Agricultural technology and innovation workshops will take the spotlight Saturday, Jan. 10, in San Diego, during the IDEAg Innovate Conference. The conference is one of the highlights of the A merican Farm Bureau Federation’s 2015 Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show, Jan. 9-14, at the San Diego Convention Center.

 IDEAg Innovate Conference 
The IDEAg Innovate Conference will feature topics such as managing agricultural big data, the use of drones for farming purposes, precision agriculture and Internet strategies for farmers and ranchers. The day’s events and exhibits will be open to all farmers, ranchers and agricultural professionals, not just Farm Bureau members. There is no fee for Farm Bureau members to attend but they are encouraged to register online at annualconvention.fb.org. Non-members may attend the special one-day conference by paying $75, in addition to $10 to attend the trade show, by registering online at annualconvention.fb.org.

 The Innovate Conference opens at 8 a.m., Pacific Standard Time, with Paul Schrimpf of PrecisionAg Magazine introducing the speakers and setting the stage for an exciting morning that will focus on the latest technology related to drones and unmanned aerial vehicles; big data and what it means for the future of agriculture; and the role of irrigation in California agriculture. Conference sessions include:

“Connected Precision Irrigation—The Next Leap in Productivity” with Andy Smith, director of industry relations at ValleyIrrigation; “Technology and the Internet of Things in Agriculture” withLance Donny, founder & CEO of OnFarm; and “ Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, the Future of Agriculture”withKyle Miller, farmer and Unmanned Safety Institute ambassador, and Aaron Greenwald, president, chief operating officer and co-founder of Waypoint Global Strategies and USI. 

Educational workshops
The Cultivation Center on the IDEAg Trade Show floor serves as the educational centerpiece of the trade show. Located in the middle of the show floor, behind the AFBF booth, the Cultivation Center allows attendees to gather information on various topics. The theater seating area provides the perfect opportunity for exhibitors, sponsors, educators and ag enthusiasts to each present 15-minute sessions.

Those sessions will highlight exhibitors’ newest and best ideas and will provide education on technological developments in the agriculture industry. In addition, Farm Bureau members will be treated to two dozen workshops covering a variety of topics and issues during the AFBF Convention on Sunday, Jan. 11, and Monday, Jan. 12.

Topics covered will include how to become a more effective advocate for agriculture, big data, the latest technology trends, updates on economic issues affecting today’s farmers, and skills and ideas leaders can take home and apply at their county and state Farm Bureaus. Full workshop descriptions will be available in the program available on-site in San Diego. AFBF Convention kickoff The convention kicks off with the opening general session on Sunday morning, when AFBF President

Bob Stallman will share Farm Bureau’s direction for 2015. At the general session on Monday morning, Commander Rorke Denver will provide insights on teamwork and courage when faced with pressure-filled situations. Members attending the convention are encouraged to support ag literacy by bidding on items in the online/onsite auction and purchasing tickets to attend the Flapjack Fundraiser, the golf outing or the Foundation’s Night Out event. Learn more at annualconvention.fb.org . 

Before registering online at annualconvention.fb.org, farmer and rancher members should check with their state Farm Bureau office to see if they have already been registered. The full Farm Bureau member convention registration fee is $100 and includes the IDEAg Trade Show and Young Farmer & Rancher competitive events (Saturday, Jan. 10 through Monday, Jan. 12), general sessions, workshops and the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture Silent Auction. Non-members may pay $10 in advance for a one-day registration to attend the IDEAg Trade Show and Foundation Silent Auction on Saturday, Jan. 10, plus an additional $75 to attend the IDEAg Innovate Conference.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Just in

Washington-In a USDA study just released, most U.S. farms—97 percent in 2015—are family operations, and even the largest farms are predominantly family-run. Midsize and large-scale family farms account for 8 percent of U.S. farms but 60 percent of the value of production. In contrast, small family farms make up 90 percent of the U.S. farm count but produce a 26-percent share of farm output.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Just in

USDA Announces No Actions in Early 2015 Under the Feedstock Flexibility Program

WASHINGTON–The U.S. Department of Agriculture Commodity Credit Corporation announced today that it does not expect to purchase sugar under the Feedstock Flexibility Program in the first quarter of 2015. CCC is required to announce quarterly estimates of sugar to be purchased for the Feedstock Flexibility Program based on crop and consumption forecasts.

Federal law allows sugar processors to obtain loans from USDA with maturities of up to nine months when the sugarcane or sugar beet harvest begins. Upon loan maturity, the sugar processor may repay the loan in full or forfeit the collateral (sugar) to USDA to satisfy the loan.

The Feedstock Flexibility Program was reauthorized by Congress in the 2014 Farm Bill as an option to avoid sugar forfeitures. USDA’s Dec. 10, 2014, World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report (http://www.usda.gov/oce/commodity/wasde) projects that domestic fiscal year 2015 ending sugar stocks are unlikely to lead to forfeitures. 

USDA closely monitors domestic sugar stocks, consumption, imports and other sugar market variables on an ongoing basis, and will continue to administer the sugar program as transparently as possible using the latest available data. The next quarterly estimate regarding the Feedstock Flexibility Program will occur prior to April 1, 2015.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Just in

Just in

Idaho Potatoes top National list
Washington--When it comes to potatoes, Idaho is #1. Results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture confirmed it. According to the census, Idaho farmers led the United States in acres of potatoes harvested, at 345,217 acres. And believe it or not, this was done by only 794 farms. On these farms, 58 percent of the potato harvested acres were for the fresh market and 42 percent were for processing.
Of course, the other parts of our agriculture are no small potatoes either. Overall, in 2012 we had 24,816 farms in our state, and our farmers sold more than $7.8 billion worth of agricultural products. Nearly a third of that amount – $2.3 billion – came from milk sales. Only three states, California, Wisconsin, and New York, had more milk sales than Idaho. Idaho’s Gooding County ranked fourth in the nation for milk cow inventory. The 2012 census counted nearly 179,000 head of milk cows there.
When it comes to crops, barley is one of the biggest commodities grown in Idaho. Nearly a quarter of all U.S. barley came from our growers. In 2012, they produced more than 51 million bushels of this important crop. Nearly 600,000 acres of Idaho farmland were dedicated to barley. We were also one of the top states for winter wheat, with more than 738,000 acres.
We also have plenty of less conventional agriculture, which was captured by the census. For example, 74 farms raised peacocks and peahens in Idaho in 2012. We also had 276 farms that raised llamas and 20 farms that raised bison. This less conventional agriculture was not limited to livestock. In 2012, the census also counted six farms growing boysenberries and 13 farms with currants.
This is just a snapshot of Idaho’s agriculture. Our state has a lot more to offer from both the conventional and the less traditional sides of agriculture. To see more of Idaho’s 2012 Census of Agriculture results, check out www.agcensus.usda.gov.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Just in

USDA Releases 2013 Annual Summary for Pesticide Data Program

Report confirms that pesticide residues do not pose a safety concern for U.S. food 
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service has posted data from the 2013 Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary. The PDP summary confirms that overall pesticide chemical residues found on the foods tested are at levels below the tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency and do not pose a safety concern. This information, along with an explanatory guide for consumers, can be found at www.ams.usda.gov/pdp.
The 2013 PDP Annual Summary shows that over 99 percent of the products sampled through PDP had residues below the EPA tolerances. Residues exceeding the tolerance were detected in 0.23 percent of the samples tested. The PDP pesticide residue results are reported to FDA and EPA through monthly reports. In instances where a PDP finding is extraordinary and may pose a safety risk, FDA and EPA are immediately notified. EPA has determined the extremely low levels of those residues are not a food safety risk, and the presence of such residues does not pose a safety concern. 
Each year, USDA and EPA work together to identify foods to be tested on a rotating basis. In 2013, surveys were conducted on a variety of foods including fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, infant formula, butter, salmon, groundwater, and drinking water. AMS partners with cooperating state agencies to collect and analyze pesticide chemical residue levels on selected foods. The EPA uses data from PDP to enhance its programs for food safety and help evaluate dietary exposure to pesticides. 
Statement from USDA: 
"The Pesticide Data Program provides reliable data through rigorous sampling that helps assure consumers that the produce they feed their families is safe. This report confirms again that pesticide residues are below levels deemed safe." 
Statement from FDA: 
"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is responsible for assessing whether pesticide chemical residues found on food make the food unlawful under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. FDA is able to conduct its own tests, interpret the reported violations, and determine if additional testing is needed in order to take enforcement action, as appropriate." 
Statement from EPA: 
"PDP is invaluable to EPA in its work to evaluate pesticide residues in food. EPA remains committed to a rigorous, science-based, and transparent regulatory program for pesticides that continues to protect people's health and the environment." 
Since its inception, the PDP has tested 112 commodities including fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, dairy, meat and poultry, grains, fish, rice, specialty products, and water. In 2013, the program expanded to include samples of infant formula, raspberries and salmon. The data are a valuable tool for consumers, food producers and processors, chemical manufacturers, environmental interest groups, and food safety organizations. 
The findings of the Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary, Calendar Year 2013 can be downloaded at www.ams.usda.gov/pdp. Printed copies of can be obtained by contacting the USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service, Science and Technology Program, Monitoring Programs Division by e-mail request @ amsmpo.data@ams.usda.gov.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Pressure easing on farmland conversion

By Stewart Truelsen

The Great Recession had many economic consequences, most of them bad, some still lingering, but the recession also helped slow the conversion of farmland to development. Typically, when farmland is developed it is turned into housing tracts, shopping malls, roads, other public works projects, golf courses and the like.  

All of these activities were impacted by the recession. Single-family housing starts peaked at 1.7 million on an annualized basis in 2006. They are just now returning to the 1-million mark. Retail construction suffered a similar fate. New shopping center construction plummeted in 2009, and 11 percent of retail space was vacant. A recovery finally began last year. Recreational development also declined. According to the National Golf Foundation, more golf courses are closing than opening. A little more than a dozen 18-hole courses opened in 2013, while 157 closed.  

Energy development has surged, but generally speaking it is compatible with farming and ranching because its surface footprint is small. It also benefits agriculture by spurring the rural economy.  
The recession’s effect on farmland conversion was the opposite of its impact on development. The full impact hasn’t been completely captured yet in the National Resources Inventory, a survey conducted every five years, but a mid-cycle release reported that the annual loss of farmland to development was down 38 percent from the period preceding the recession.  

At this point, the nation has around 300-million acres of prime farmland. This is farmland best suited to grow a crop because of soil quality, growing season and water supply. Not all farmland that is developed is prime farmland, thank goodness, but over a 25-year stretch, every state lost some of its prime farmland to development.

Now that economic growth is taking hold, does it mean that farmland conversion will accelerate? Not necessarily. Times have changed. Prime farmland is much more valuable today than it was in 1980, when farmland preservation first became an issue.  

Since then, federal, state and local programs were added to assist with preservation through agricultural land easements. The public also has a greater awareness and appreciation of local agriculture, which could prove helpful. Farmers and ranchers are more engaged with the public through social media and this relationship builds support for maintaining a healthy agriculture.  
Other trends also are favorable to reducing the pressure on farmland conversion. A recent analysis of housing trends found less interest in developing new suburbs and more interest in urban projects where transportation and public amenities are more accessible. Online shopping has taken a bite out of shopping malls, and big box stores are starting to be replaced by stores with smaller footprints.
Farmers have always said the best way to preserve farm and ranch lands is to make agriculture profitable enough to keep the land in farming and ranching. This maxim still holds true and is important for all of us.  

Stewart Truelsen, a food and agriculture freelance writer, is a regular contributor to the Focus on Agriculture series.
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