Thursday, July 31, 2014

Just in


John Beck of Hoffman Construction looks at an antique tractor at the Jack's Urban Meeting Place facility being built in downtown Boise. The $70 million facility will include 52 antique tractors that were purchased by J.R. Simplot in 1998 and will serve as a reminder of the state's agricultural roots. 
(Photo by Sean Ellis)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Just in

USDA Implements Key Farm Bill Crop Insurance Provision

WASHINGTON–The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced continued progress in implementing provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill that will strengthen and expand insurance coverage options for farmers and ranchers. The new Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO), available through the federal crop insurance program and set to begin with the 2015 crop year, is designed to help protect producers from yield and market volatility.
"America's agricultural producers work hard to produce a sufficient amount of safe and nutritious food for the country," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "It's critical that they have crop insurance options to effectively manage risks and ensure that they do not lose everything due to events beyond their control. Following the 2014 Farm Bill signing, USDA has made it a priority to ensure the Supplemental Coverage Option was available to help farmers in this upcoming crop year."
The 2014 Farm Bill strengthens and expands crop insurance by providing more risk management options for farmers and ranchers and by making crop insurance more affordable for beginning farmers. SCO, which is administered by the Risk Management Agency (RMA), further strengthens the farm safety net.
SCO will be available for corn, cotton, grain sorghum, rice, soybeans, spring barley, spring wheat, and winter wheat in selected counties for the 2015 crop year. Producers should contact their crop insurance agents to discuss eligibility in time to sign up for winter wheat coverage. RMA plans to make SCO more widely available by adding more counties and crops. Information on SCO for 2015 winter and spring wheat is available on the RMA website at www.rma.usda.gov. Selected counties for other commodities will be released later this summer.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Just in

White House Rural Council Announces $10 Billion Private Investment Fund to Finance Job-Creating Infrastructure Projects in Rural America

WASHINGTON-The White House Rural Council today announced the creation of the new U.S. Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund through which private entities can invest in job-creating rural infrastructure projects across the country. An initial $10 billion has been committed to the fund with greater investment expected to follow. Target investments will include hospitals, schools and other educational facilities, rural water and wastewater systems, energy projects, broadband expansion, local and regional food systems, and other rural infrastructure.
CoBankThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website., a national cooperative bank serving rural America and a member of the Farm Credit System, is the fund's anchor investor, committing $10 billion to get the fund off the ground. Capitol Peak Asset ManagementThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. will manage the new fund and work to recruit more investors to add to CoBank's initial commitment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other federal agencies will help to identify rural projects that could be potential beneficiaries of financing through this new fund and other private sources.
The creation of the new fund was announced during the first-ever White House Rural Opportunity Investment Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference brought together business and financial community leaders, Administration and other government officials, rural development experts, and others to promote investment opportunities in America's rural communities.
"This fund represents a new approach to our support for job-creating projects across the country," said Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary and Chair of the White House Rural Council. "USDA and other agencies invest in infrastructure through a variety of federal initiatives, but our resources are finite and there are backlogs of projects in many parts of the economy. We know where investment opportunities exist, so we are in a position to help promote these projects among investors. With new efforts like this we can move beyond existing programs and help encourage substantial private investment in projects that grow the economy and improve quality of life for millions of Americans."

Monday, July 28, 2014

Just in


Simpson’s Wilderness Water Bill Signed into Law
Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act will authorize water diversions that pre-date Idaho wilderness laws
Washington-- Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson expressed great satisfaction at the news that H.R. 876, the Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act, which he authored, has been signed into law.  Simpson first introduced the legislation in 2009, and today it was signed by the president. 

 The Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act corrects a long-standing oversight in law by authorizing a number of water diversions within the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area and the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness Area in Idaho which existed before the wilderness was created.  The new law will enable landowners to do the necessary maintenance and repairs on these diversions.

 “I’m so pleased that the Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act has finally been signed into law,” said Simpson.  “I introduced this bill five years ago when the Forest Service discovered that it didn’t have the authority to permit repairs on an historic water diversion in the Frank Church.  When we looked into the issue, we learned that a number of pre-existing diversions had been overlooked when the wilderness areas were created.  Any one of these diversions could need repairs to maintain integrity and protect the surrounded ecosystem.  With enactment of this bill, the necessary maintenance and repairs can now be done.”

Friday, July 25, 2014

Just in

Local Communities Benefit from Ag Literacy Mini-Grants

WASHINGTON – The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture has awarded 11 $500 mini-grants to communities across the nation. The grants are awarded through the Foundation’s White-Reinhardt Fund for Education program.
Madison County Farm Bureau in Rexburg won a mini-grant for a greenhouse that they'll build to help Junior High School students learn about plant structure and growth.
The grants are allocated through county and state Farm Bureaus and are used to create new agricultural literacy projects or expand on existing agricultural literacy efforts.
Criteria for selecting winners included: the effectiveness of demonstrating a strong connection between agriculture and education; how successfully the project enhances learner engagement in today’s food, fiber, and fuel systems; and the processes and timelines for accomplishing project goals.
“The mini-grant program was developed to help Farm Bureau members provide free tools to share with educators in their communities,” said Julie Tesch, executive director of the Foundation. “Our primary overall goal is to help teach young rural and urban students about the importance of agriculture and the vital role it plays in our everyday lives.”
The White-Reinhardt Fund for Education is a project of the Foundation in cooperation with the American Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership Committee. The fund honors two former committee chairwomen, Berta White and Linda Reinhardt, who were trailblazers in early national efforts to expand the outreach of agricultural education and improve agricultural literacy.
2014 Mini-Grants Awarded to State and County Farm Bureaus:
Chaves County Farm Bureau, New MexicoEducational program that incorporates the poem “Harvest Told” and a “Tracking My Taco” activity to teach students where their food comes from and how markets operate, as well as the importance of sustainable agriculture.
Colorado Farm BureauA Mobile Ag Trailer to be used at schools, county fairs and other events with five “Educational Barns” that illustrate ag commodities and industries in Colorado.
Cook County Farm Bureau, IllinoisSummer library program to introduce urban children to livestock and their uses through literature, learning activities and a craft or snack.
Davison/Hanson County Farm Bureau, South DakotaCreation of a combining DVD and display to teach students about the harvesting process and products made from crops.
Franklin County Farm Bureau, MaineSupplemental agricultural literature for the “Book Nook” that accompanies raised bed gardens, to reinforce the benefits of interdisciplinary teaching.
Franklin County Farm Bureau, Virginia“What’s in the Garden?” project to educate pre—K-5 students on how food grows from soil to table through hands-on activities, interactive labs and age-appropriate printed materials.
Irwin County Farm Bureau, GeorgiaCreation of an Agriculture Reading corner for the local elementary school that contains accurate ag books to encourage children to explore the world of agriculture through literature.
Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau, MichiganThe Barn Library, a traveling library with 20-40 ag books to teach students the importance of farming and agriculture to the Michigan economy.
Madison County Farm Bureau, IdahoA greenhouse to be integrated into the junior high school science curriculum. Students will have hands-on opportunities to see plant growth and plant structure.
Monroe County Farm Bureau, IllinoisAgriculture Book of the Month Club where 3rd grade classrooms in the Columbia School District will receive books each month.
Wexford County Farm Bureau, MichiganExpand the current Book Barn by purchasing books on Michigan food products, expanding reading level to 4th grade and replacing worn out books.
The Foundation will announce a second mini-grant application process in fall 2014. Applications will be available online at www.agfoundation.org under What We Support – Mini-Grants.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Just in


Congress moves highway spending bill forward

Washington—This week the Senate is expected to hold a series of votes on different proposals to maintain funding for the Highway Trust Fund, which provides reimbursement to states for road and bridge construction, transit infrastructure and operations, and safety programs.   
  
The authority to spend money out of the Highway Trust Fund expires on Sept. 30. In addition, the fund faces insolvency before Sept. 30 due to a revenue shortfall. Experts warn that if Congress fails to wrap up its work on the highway bill by the August recess, road projects across the country could be majorly disrupted.    

“The Highway Trust Fund is essentially so low on cash that by Aug. 1, states are going to see some of that money cut back,” said Rocky Moretti, director of policy and research for TRIP, a national transportation research group. “So it’s absolutely critical that Congress put in place a long-term program that continues the important role the federal government plays in providing funding for rural transportation.”    

Many Americans associate rural roads with idyllic and peaceful Sunday drives, but depending on the time of the year, there can be a lot of activity on country byways, with farmers moving equipment, bringing supplies in and sending farm and ranch goods off to market.      

“Twelve percent of [rural roads] have structurally deficient bridges, and 15 percent of the major rural roads have pavement in poor condition. This is the highest rate of deterioration [we’ve seen], and it’s consistent with the increasing travel and use of rural roads, which are absolutely vital to the economy of rural America,” Moretti said.   

The House-passed $10.8 billion Highway and Transportation Funding Act (H.R. 5021), one of the bills the Senate is slated to consider, would provide funding through May 31, 2015, by transferring $9.8 billion from the general fund through changes in pension contributions and increases in customs fees.  An additional $1 billion would be transferred from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund.  
Senate leaders are also expected to give floor time to the Senate Finance Committee’s Highway Trust Fund package, the Preserving America’s Transit and Highways (PATH) Act of 2014.  Like the House bill, the PATH Act funds the Highway Trust Fund through May 31, 2015, but would be paid for in a slightly different way.   


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer Presidents Meeting


Idaho Farm Bureau County Presidents Gather 

Grand Targhee--The 74th Annual Summer Presidents meeting is underway at Grand Targhee resort. 36 county presidents and families gathered to discuss everything from legislative updates and policy development.

"We're at an all time attendance high this year, but what we do is go over Farm Bureau issues both on state and federal level. This is a pre-resolution meeting and we'll discuss issues on the horizon. We will also discuss training of the Presidents, things like budgets and planning and how to make their counties better.

Every summer for more than 30 years Priestley has attended the Summer meeting.

"This is a family affair, Presidents can bring their families and for me we considered this an annual get away, our family and our extended family. The kids love it, if we wouldn't have had this meeting my kids would never have a vacation."




Monday, July 21, 2014

Just in


Farm Bureau decodes water rule proposal, asks EPA to rescind

Washington-The American Farm Bureau Federation last night released to Congress a comprehensive document that responds, point by point, to numerous inaccurate and misleading comments made about EPA's latest clean water rule. Nancy Stoner, EPA acting assistant administrator for water, made the statements in a recent agency blog post.

AFBF's document explains - with specific citations to the proposed rule and other authorities - how the rule would give EPA broad Clean Water Act jurisdiction over dry land features and farming practices long declared off-limits by Congress and the nation's highest court.

"AFBF and several state Farm Bureaus have met with the EPA repeatedly, and each time agency officials have declined to grapple with the serious, real world implications of the rule," AFBF President Bob Stallman said. "EPA is now engaged in an intensive public relations campaign, and we believe its statements are directly contrary to the reality of the proposed rule.

"We have therefore decided to take our arguments to a wider audience, as well. Farm Bureau is dedicated to communicating to farmers, their elected representatives and the public how the proposed rule will impose costly and time-intensive federal permitting regimes on commonplace and essential practices that our nation's farmers and ranchers depend on. Agency inspectors and courts will apply the rule, not EPA's talking points. It's time for the agency to ditch this rule and start over."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Just in


Farm Bureau Decodes Water Rule
Proposal, Asks EPA to Rescind
WASHINGTON–The American Farm Bureau Federation last night released to Congress a comprehensive document that responds, point by point, to numerous inaccurate and misleading comments made about the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest clean water rule. Nancy Stoner, EPA acting assistant administrator for water, made the statements in a recent agency blog post.

AFBF’s document explains – with specific citations to the proposed rule and other authorities – how the rule would give EPA broad Clean Water Act jurisdiction over dry land features and farming practices long declared off-limits by Congress and the nation’s highest court.

“AFBF and several state Farm Bureaus have met with the EPA repeatedly, and each time agency officials have declined to grapple with the serious, real world implications of the rule,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “EPA is now engaged in an intensive public relations campaign, and we believe its statements are directly contrary to the reality of the proposed rule.

“We have therefore decided to take our arguments to a wider audience, as well. Farm Bureau is dedicated to communicating to farmers, their elected representatives and the public how the proposed rule will impose costly and time-intensive federal permitting regimes on commonplace and essential practices that our nation’s farmers and ranchers depend on. Agency inspectors and courts will apply the rule, not EPA’s talking points. It’s time for the agency to ditch this rule and start over.”

AFBF hopes this document will contribute to the ongoing discussion in Congress regarding the rule and its implications not only for farming, but for the U.S. economy more broadly.

Just in

Farmers urge lawmakers to keep cash accounting option


Washington-The increase in tax compliance costs that would come with the elimination of cash accounting as an option for many taxpayers would especially hurt farmers, ranchers and other small businesses that already work with very thin margins, Sarah Windham, senior manager of South Carolina-based Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP, told Congress recently. Windham testified at the request of the South Carolina Farm Bureau. 

Almost all farmers use the simple, straightforward cash method of accounting in which income is not recognized until cash or other payment is actually received.  Also under the cash accounting method, expenses are not taken into account until they are actually paid.

"This method is used in determining profitability because it most accurately reflects the true financial picture of a farming operation," Windham told the House Small Business Committee's Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access. 

Windham used the fictitious Farmer Brown as an example.

"If Farmer Brown sold a bushel of corn in November with the understanding that he would be paid in January, under the cash method, Farmer Brown would record the payment in January when he received payment from his customer. Any expenses associated with growing and preparing the corn for market would be recorded when Farmer Brown paid his suppliers.  This method is not dissimilar to maintaining and reconciling a simple checking account," she explained. 

In the absence of cash accounting, farmers and ranchers would be forced to use accrual accounting, which simply doesn't work with the way family farms and ranches operate. 

"Since their income can fluctuate widely from year to year, accrual accounting, coupled with our progressive tax system, would likely cause farmers to pay more taxes over time than a company in a different industry with stable income over the same time period. Cash accounting allows them to accelerate expenses or defer income, giving farms the option to even out their taxable income comparable with long-term earnings of other industries," Windham said.

In addition, switching to accrual accounting would likely force family businesses to hire bookkeeping assistance and/or spend money on accrual accounting systems-adding another expense as the costs of production skyrocket.

At least one congressional tax proposal would reduce the number of incorporated farms, such as family partnerships, eligible to use cash accounting.  Under this particular tax reform plan, family farms and ranches operating as C-corps would see the threshold for switching from cash accounting to accrual accounting shrink from $25 million to $10 million of gross receipts.  IRS rules in many cases would lump multiple segments of a family business together, easily putting farms and ranches over that $10 million gross receipts cash accounting threshold. 

The $10 million threshold would also apply to farming S-corps and partnerships that have never had a switchover threshold.  

When related businesses are aggregated and have more than $10 million in combined cash receipts, each of the related businesses would be required to use the accrual method of accounting. 
Pointing to a study by Informa Economics showing it would cost farmers and ranchers as much as $4.84 billion in taxes over the next four years if they have to switch from cash accounting to accrual accounting, Windham cautioned that the rural communities and other small businesses and industries agriculture supports will also pay the price. 

"Over 24 million people, or 17 percent of the U.S. workforce, are employed in agricultural industries," she said.  "The estimated $4.84 billion in taxes that would be required to be paid by farms could very easily limit the ability of those farms to hire additional employees or may cause them to lay off employees if they are forced to downsize."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Your Boulder-White Clouds

Just in

More Soybeans Wheat, Less Corn Forecast

WASHINGTON – A new report from the Agriculture Department updates projections for the 2014-15 crop marketing year. The report offered a mixed bag of projections on top crops grown by the nation’s farmers, says the American Farm Bureau Federation.
A record production for the nation’s soybean crop, 3.8 billion bushels, is forecast, based on record yield of 45.2 bushels per acre.
Ending stocks for old-crop soybeans were increased to a projected 415 million bushels. If realized, this would be the highest level of soybean carryover since the 2006-2007 marketing year.
“Globally, the estimate for soybeans supplies also increased, due to larger U.S. production as well as larger projected crops in Russia and Ukraine,” said John Anderson, deputy chief economist with AFBF.
The report increased 2013-14 corn ending stocks to 1.8 billion bushels because of lowered use for livestock feed. The 2014 corn crop is expected to come in at 13.86 billion bushels, slightly less than the prior year, based on projected yield of 165.3 bushels per acre. Strong demand from foreign markets coupled with continued steady use for feed and ethanol production is expected to consume about 13.34 billion bushels by the end of the 2014-15 marketing year.
Wheat production estimates were increased in this month’s report, both for the U.S. and globally.
“Provided moderate temperatures and moisture prevail, growers should bring in a good corn crop,” said Anderson. “Any late-planted corn and soybeans will need the advantage of temperate weather conditions as the growing season continues and we look toward fall with its ever-present possibility of an early frost,” he said.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Just in

 
Fernan--Verland Woempner shows Fernan Elementary kindergartners how to milk the cow at the Rider Ranch. There were 75 kindergartners that showed up for a day at the Rider Ranch. The kids learned about dairy, wheat, cowboy attire, climbed on a tractor, petted ponies and went on a horse drawn wagon ride. Verland is a board member on the Kootenai/Shoshone County Farm Bureau board.
Bob Smathers photo

Monday, July 14, 2014

Boulder-White Clouds



Fish and Game Commission Comes out Against Boulder-White Clouds Monument
Boise--The Idaho Fish and Game Commission stands in opposition of the 592,000 proposed Boulder-White Clouds National Monument in Central Idaho.

The Commission came out in opposition last week at a meeting Salmon, they fear losing control of wildlife management to the Federal Government.

 The Commission sent a letter opposing the monument to Idaho Governor Butch Otter and Idaho's Congressional Delegation last Thursday.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Just in


House Passes Energy and Water Appropriations Bill

Washington – Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson announced that the Fiscal Year 2015 Energy and Water Development Appropriations which passed the House of Representatives last night, increases funding for critical programs at the Idaho National Laboratory. Simpson is Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and had the lead role in deciding funding for all Department of Energy programs.

“I am pleased to report that the Energy and Water bill increases funding for many of the vital research efforts at INL,” said Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson. “We’ve worked very hard with the Lab and the people of Eastern Idaho to promote INL, its mission, and its vital workforce as keys to a strong nuclear future here in the U.S. and across the globe. The funding increases contained in the bill will have a lasting impact on enhancing the current capabilities of the Lab and building new, unique capabilities that are essential to a vibrant national laboratory. This bill sends a strong message that INL’s work as the DOE’s lead nuclear energy laboratory is critical to our nation’s energy security.”

The FY 2015 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill sets funding for the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, and the report which accompanied the bill laid out the following funding levels for nuclear energy research and development programs:

·         The Idaho Facilities Management account, which covers infrastructure maintenance and improvement at Idaho National Laboratory, is funded at $206 million – a $20million increase over the President’s request and $9.4 million above last year.
·         Idaho National Laboratory’s Safeguards and Security Program is funded at $104 million – an increase of $10 million over fiscal year 2014.
·         The Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies program is funded at $101 million – an increase of nearly $30 million above fiscal year 2014 and $22.8 million above the President’s request.  Increases under this program are directed to fully complete the installation of post-irradiation examination equipment at INL’s Irradiated Materials Characterization Laboratory (IMCL).
·         Small Modular Reactor Licensing Support Programs are funded at $54.5 million. This funding is slated for NuScale Power’s Small Modular Reactor which is proposed for construction in Idaho.
·         The Light Water Reactor Sustainability program, which is managed by INL and promotes the continued safe operation of America’s existing nuclear reactors, is funded at $35million, an increase of $5 million over FY2014 and the budget request.
·         The Reactor Concepts Research, Development, and Demonstration account is funded at $138 million – an increase of $25 million above fiscal year 2014 and $37.5 million above the President’s request. Within the overall $138 million level for this account, $33 million is allocated to fuel qualification for the High Temperature Gas Reactor, $11 million above the budget request.
·         Fuel Cycle Research and Development is funded at $182 million, $4.5 million below fiscal year 2014 and $7 million below the budget request. Within the fuel cycle program, the Advanced Fuels program is funded at $60.1 million, the same as last year and $17 million above the budget request, and Used Nuclear Fuel Disposition research and development is funded at $55 million, $25 million above fiscal year 2014 and $6 million above the budget request.
·         Within the Office of Naval Reactors, the bill includes $68 million for the operation of the Advanced Test Reactor, an increase of $1.5 million above fiscal year 2014.
·         Within the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, the bill includes $5 million for the development of an Electric Grid Test Bed program to enhance existing full-scale electric grid testing capabilities like those at Idaho National Laboratory.

The bill also provides $380 million for cleanup activities associated with the Idaho Cleanup Project and the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project co-located on the Idaho desert with Idaho National Laboratory.  The funding level of $380 million is an increase of $13 million above the President’s request and allows the significant cleanup activities currently underway to continue. The bill also includes an additional $2 million for the National Spent Fuel Program, putting the unique expertise of INL to work in order to provide solutions for managing the Department of Energy’s inventories of spent nuclear fuel.  Finally, $10 million is provided separately for security improvements of spent fuel storage at Fort St. Vrain, Colorado, which is managed by INL. Separate funding will ensure these needs do not impact the progress of ongoing cleanup activities in Idaho.  

 Despite the Obama Administration’s unilateral decision to disregard the federal government’s legal requirement to take responsibility for civilian spent nuclear fuel, the bill continues Nuclear Regulatory Commission funding for a nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain and to support the continued adjudication of the Yucca Mountain license application. .

Overall, the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill provides $34 billion for the functions of the Department of Energy, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and a number of independent agencies, including direction for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Bonneville Power Administration.

“The Energy and Water Development bill touches virtually every American in some way and is critical to our nation’s energy and national security,” said Chairman Simpson. "This bill reflects the tough decisions necessitated by our challenging fiscal environment, while placing emphasis where it is needed most: meeting critical national security needs and investing in our nation's infrastructure. It prioritizes the maintenance and safety of our nuclear weapons stockpile, while also funding important infrastructure projects and research that will increase U.S. economic competitiveness and growth."  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ditch the Rule

Farm Bureau releases new Ditch the Rule video

Washington-The Environmental Protection Agency's proposed "clarification" to the 1972 Clean Water Act continues to receive a chilly reception from farmers and legislators, alike. Watch the latest AFBF-produced video, featuring Pennsylvania farmers Tommy Nagle and Carissa Itle Westrick, to learn more: http://fbvideos.org/ditch-the-rule/.

To help Farm Bureau members and others express the need for EPA to "Ditch the Rule," Farm Bureau has launched a website at ditchtherule.fb.org. Focused on topics and analysis related to the "waters of the U.S." proposed rule, the easy-to-navigate site includes several sections: Take Action, Go Social, Find Answers and Get Resources. Visitors may also sign up to learn more, comment on the proposed rule and send tweets using the hashtag #DitchTheRule.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Obama plans executive action on immigration 

 Washington-Soon after Speaker of the House John Boehner (D-Ohio) told President Barack Obama that he would not bring immigration legislation to the House floor this year, Obama announced his plans to take administration action on the issue, with a focus on border security.

 Specifically, the president is expected to direct Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to shift immigration enforcement resources from the interior section of the United States to the border. In addition, Obama is asking administration officials to send to him by the end of the summer recommendations on additional actions he can pursue that do not require the approval of Congress.

 "Farmers, ranchers and many others worked tirelessly with senators to secure passage of immigration reform legislation that met agriculture's labor needs, as well as ensured a secure border. Since passage of that bill last June we have focused all our efforts to do the same by working with House lawmakers to pass responsible immigration reform," said Kristi Boswell, American Farm Bureau Federation labor specialist.

 "The only long-term solution to agriculture's serious labor problem can be provided by Congress, and that's where we'll continue to focus." A farm labor study released earlier this year by AFBF showed an approach to agricultural labor reform that focuses solely on immigration enforcement would raise food prices over five years by an additional 5 percent to 6 percent and would cut the nation's food and fiber production by as much as a staggering $60 billion.

 In June 2013, the Senate passed the Farm Bureau-supported Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S. 744), a balanced immigration reform bill that includes a fair and workable farm labor provision.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Just in

Utah Farm Bureau to Congress: Stop federal agencies from usurping states’ water rights


Washington-New federal regulations are soaking up states' authority over natural resources and hurting hard working farming and ranching families, Utah Farm Bureau CEO Randy Parker recently told the House Natural Resources Committee's Subcommittee on Water and Power.

Parker specifically addressed the U.S. Forest Service's continued effort to expand authority and control of waters on waters that flow in, through and over public lands. In the agency's proposed groundwater directive, the USFS threatens to control surface and groundwater by considering all waters interconnected in all agency planning activities. The proposed directive not only asserts federal supremacy of state waters on national forest system land, but lands adjacent to federal lands.

The proposed directive follows ongoing USFS actions to limit public land grazing by reducing allotted animal unit months (AUMs), which land agencies use to measure how much forage is on public land. Fewer animal unit months result in fewer cattle being allowed to graze. Farm Bureau opposes federal actions to garner defacto water rights through reductions in grazing. 
As Parker noted, the water isn't the federal governments' for the taking.

"To be clear, the water originating within the borders of the state of Utah, including on the lands managed by the Forest Service, are not the waters of the federal government, nor are they the waters of the American people," Parker said.  "They are the sovereign waters of the state of Utah and belong to the citizens of Utah."
The USFS' directive is the latest in a long history of actions designed to leave states high and dry. The agency has filed 16,000 diligence claims on water livestock in Utah, sought ownership of ski area water rights, required "joint ownership" of livestock water rights and fenced cattle off from ranchers' private water rights. 

In March, the House passed the Farm Bureau-supported Water Rights Protection Act (H.R. 3189), which would prohibit agencies within USDA and the Department of the Interior from imposing conditions through the permit process that would require the transfer of privately held water rights to the federal government in order to receive or renew the federal permit for the use of land.

 USFS' actions to reduce livestock grazing is especially egregious in light of the sizeable investment the state of Utah, ranchers and sportsmen have made in habitat restoration projects on public lands to increase livestock and wildlife feed. "Although there is more [for animals] to eat, the federal land management agencies continue to cut or suspend grazing permits," Parker said. 

Parker also took issue with the Forest Service's attempts to establish federal supremacy over state water rights by imposing federal permits requiring written authorization and reporting.

"This costly and time-consuming process overlaid on state regulatory functions will cause confusion and is detrimental to the economic future of states that rely on water flowing from Forest Service land," he told lawmakers.

Parker closed his testimony by urging Congress to act on their right and obligation to set boundaries for federal agencies, in particular on the issues of states' water rights and EPA's recently proposed "Waters of the U.S." regulation. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Just in

Mormon Cricket outbreak reported in Oneida County

Boise--The United States Department of Agriculture reports that they're keeping a close eye on a   Mormon cricket outbreak in Oneida County and are threatening alfalfa and other crops throughout the area.

USDA officials say Mormon crickets have been reported in large numbers in the Elkhorn Mountains, Malad Range, Pleasantview Hills and Samaria Mountain.

The department is taking damage reports from farmers in the area and they report extensive damage to pasture and alfalfa fields.

Mormon crickets destroy crops and rangeland in concentrated numbers. The insect, related to grasshopper, doesn't fly but can cover great distances.

The USDA says they're working the outbreak but say that the crickets have already laid eggs throughout western Idaho and could impact next years crop as well.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Just in


July 4th picnic still costs less than $6 per person 


 Marketbasket-Fourth of JulyWashington-An all-American Fourth of July picnic of the nation's favorite foods including hot dogs, cheeseburgers, pork spare ribs, potato salad, baked beans, lemonade and chocolate milk will cost slightly more this year but still comes in at less than $6 per person, says the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Farm Bureaus informal survey reveals the average cost for a
summer picnic for 10 is $58.72 or just $5.87 per person. That's up 5-percent from last year.

"Despite some modest price increases over the past year or so - meats, especially - most Americans should be able to find summer picnic foods at prices close to the averages found by our volunteer shoppers," said John Anderson, deputy chief economist at AFBF.

"Retail meat prices are higher compared to a year ago because the nation's cattle herd is now at a historically small level," Anderson said. "The total number of hogs farmers across the nation are raising is also down, which has contributed to higher retail prices for pork products."

Although consumers will pay a bit more for their Independence Day picnics, finding delectable meat cuts and ingredients for side dishes will not be a problem.

"As a nation, we continue to enjoy a consistent, high-quality supply of meats and poultry that can be grilled or prepared any number of different ways. The whole array of home-grown foods Americans typically enjoy in the summer also is in plentiful supply," he said.

AFBF's summer picnic menu for 10 consists of hot dogs and buns, cheeseburgers and buns, pork spare ribs, deli potato salad, baked beans, corn chips, lemonade, chocolate milk, watermelon for dessert, and ketchup and mustard.

A total of 84 Farm Bureau members (volunteer shoppers) in 25 states checked retail prices for summer picnic foods at their local grocery stores for this informal survey.

The July Fourth Picnic Survey is part of the Farm Bureau marketbasket series, which also includes the popular annual Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Survey and two "everyday" marketbasket surveys on common food staples Americans use to prepare meals at home. A squad of Farm Bureau members across the nation checks retail prices at local grocery stores for the marketbasket surveys. AFBF published its first marketbasket survey in 1986.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

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 USDA REMINDS PRODUCERS OF 2014 ACREAGE REPORTING REQUIREMENT
Boise — U.S. Department of Agriculture  Idaho Farm Service Agency Acting Executive Director Aaron Johnson, reminds agricultural producers that July 15, 2014, is the deadline to file an acreage report for all spring seeded crops.
 Fall planted crops, including fruit (such as apples, cherries, peaches, grapes, etc.) honey, and forage have different dates. Spring planted acres must be reported to FSA by July 15, 2014.  The Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill) requires producers to submit annual acreage reports on all cropland.  
  “Idaho has such a wide variety of crops that there are several deadlines throughout the year. July 15 covers the largest portion of Idaho crops including spring planted alfalfa,” said Johnson.  “Timely acreage reports for all crops and land uses, including prevented and failed acreage that producers submit to their local FSA office, are important to ensure program eligibility.” 
Acreage reports to FSA are considered timely filed when completed by the applicable final crop reporting deadline. Perennial forage crops intended for grazing or haying were required to be reported last fall, whereas perennial forage crops with an intended use of cover only, green manure, left standing, or seed, must be reported by July 15.
Producers should contact their county FSA office if they are uncertain about acreage reporting deadlines.  Johnson said that failed acreage must be reported before the disposition of the crop and that prevented acreage must be reported within 15 calendar days after the final planting date for the applicable crop. 
For questions on this or any FSA program, including specific crop reporting deadlines and planting dates, producers should contact their county FSA office or seek information online at www.fsa.usda.gov.   


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

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USDA Continues Farm Bill Implementation with Provisions to Help Farmers
Manage Risk

WASHINGTON–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced continued progress in implementing provisions of the 
2014 Farm Bill that provide new risk management options for farmers and ranchers. These improvements to crop insurance
programs will provide better protection from weather disaster, market volatility and other risk factors to ensure farmers 
aren't wiped out by events beyond their control.
Vilsack also announced new support for beginning farmers that will make crop insurance more affordable and provide 
greater support when new farmers experience substantial losses. These announcements build on other recent USDA 
efforts to support beginning farmers.
"Crop insurance is critical to the ongoing success of today's farmers and ranchers and our agriculture economy. These
 improvements provide additional flexibility to ensure families do not lose everything due to events beyond their control," 
said Vilsack. "We're also acting to provide more support to beginning farmers and ranchers so that they can manage their
 risk effectively. We need to not only encourage new farmers to get into agriculture, we must ensure they're not wiped 
out in their riskiest initial seasons so they can remain in agriculture for years to come."
The U. S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency filed an interim rule with the Federal Register, allowing 
USDA to move forward with changes to crop insurance provisions. The provisions provide better options for beginning 
farmers, allow producers to have enterprise units for irrigated and non-irrigated crops, give farmers and ranchers the 
ability to purchase different levels of coverage for a variety of irrigation practices, provide guidance on conservation 
compliance, implement protections for native sod and provide adjustments to historical yields following significant 
disasters.
The Farm Bill authorizes specific coverage benefits for beginning farmers and ranchers starting with the 2015 crop year. 
The changes announced today exempt new farmers from paying the $300 administrative fee for catastrophic policies. 
New farmers' premium support rates will also increase ten percentage points during their first five years of farming. 
Beginning farmers will also receive a greater yield adjustment when yields are below 60 percent of the applicable 
transitional yield. These incentives will be available for most insurance plans in the 2015 crop year and all plans by 
2016.
Starting in the fall of 2014, producers who till native sod and plant an annual crop on that land will see reductions in
 their crop insurance benefits during the first four years. Native sod is acreage that has never been tilled, or land which
 a producer cannot substantiate has ever been tilled for the production of a crop. The provision applies to acreage in all
 counties in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota that is greater than five acres per
 policy and is producing annual crops.

Monday, June 30, 2014

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Simpson and Walden Move to Stop Closure of Idaho Sheep Research Station

Washington – Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, Oregon Congressman Greg Walden, and other western members of Congress have asked the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture to stop the closure of the U.S. Sheep Experimental Station in Dubois, Idaho.   In a letter, the members ask that Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt not approve the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) request for reprogramming of funds from the sheep station in Dubois.  Reprogramming of funds would result in closure of the facility.

"We were disappointed to learn that ARS has plans to close the US. Sheep Experimental Station in Dubois and frustrated that ARS did not notify Congress or the sheep industry until the decision had been made," Congressman Simpson said.  "In our letter to Chairman Aderholt, we explain that closure of the Dubois Sheep Experiment Station would have a substantial impact on the western sheep industry and express our concern that people involved in the industry were not consulted before ARS made this decision."

"I was shocked to learn that the USDA is attempting to close the Dubois Sheep Experiment Station without consulting western farmers and ranchers or having a plan to ensure the station's important research continues.”  Congressman Walden said.  “No other station conducts research into the unique challenges that confront sheep producers in Oregon and across the west, like grazing techniques, diseases, or developing new breeds.  That's why we are working hard with other western representatives to keep this station open so this innovative ag research can continue."

Congressman Simpson and Congressman Walden state in the letter that the ARS sheep center at Dubois conducts critical research on the interaction between domestic and bighorn sheep, and that “it would be difficult, if not impossible, for this research to continue if the Dubois center was closed.”

Friday, June 27, 2014

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Crapo Focuses on Wildfire Mitigation in Homeland Security Appropriations Bill

Washington-U.S. Senator Mike Crapo is encouraged by the focus on wildfire mitigation strategies in the Homeland Security appropriations bill and call on their colleagues to pass the PREPARE Act, which would make targeted investments for pre-disaster mitigation and preparedness.

The Senate Appropriations Committee included language in the Homeland Security appropriations bill today instructing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to devise a strategy with the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to better mitigate the devastating effects of wildfires. The bill also requires FEMA to coordinate with state and local officials on cooperative efforts to mitigate and prepare for wildfires. The language stems from a report produced by FEMA that was requested by Crapo in last year’s Homeland Security appropriations bill.

“Common sense dictates that as we ensure disaster funding is available to fight our worst fires, we also have on hand the ability to help homeowners and local officials plan for recovery and prevention efforts,” Crapo said. “With more than 1,000 fires and 1.6 million acres burned last year in Idaho alone, the need for this preparedness and planning is clear.”

Last year Crapo introduced a bipartisan bill to enhance wildfire mitigation efforts with a dedicated funding stream for mitigation projects. The Prepare, Ready, Equip, and Prevent Areas at-Risk of Emergency (PREPARE) Wildfires Act would authorize an additional $20 to $30 million per year for a five year wildfire mitigation pilot program, as part of agency’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation fund. Senator Crapo also proposed an offset elsewhere in the budget to ensure the proposal is fully paid for.

Studies have shown that targeted investments in mitigation will prevent and reduce large-scale wildfires and save money in the long run. A 2007 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study of FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program found that a very small share of the agency’s mitigation funding went to wildfires. Yet, in the same report, CBO concluded that these infrequently funded fire mitigation projects have one of the highest returns on investment out of all the different FEMA mitigation categories, saving more than $5 in future disaster losses through every $1 in mitigation funding.

The PREPARE Act would provide a funding stream for FEMA, in consultation with the U.S. Forest Service, to award competitive grants to states for projects related to wildfire mitigation and preparedness. States that have received a large number of Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) declarations from FEMA in the past decade would be eligible to apply. States and local governments would provide matching funds, leveraging federal dollars for maximum efficiency. Recognizing the reality that wildfires don’t respect jurisdictional boundaries, the bill also prioritizes flexibility, permitting local officials to use the mitigation dollars for priority projects on federal, state, or private land.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

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Simpson Supports Bills to Create Jobs, Increase Energy Independence



Simpson supports legislation promoting energy independence

Washington-Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson this week supported legislation that will lower energy costs and promote U.S. energy independence.  H.R. 3301, the North American Energy Infrastructure Act, eliminates the requirement that oil and gas pipelines and electric transmission lines that cross U.S. borders with Mexico or Canada obtain a Presidential Permit in order to begin such projects. 

H.R. 6, the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act, would set a timeframe for the Energy Department to review applications for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and to require applicants, as a condition of approval, to publicly disclose the specific export destinations of such LNG exports.  H.R. 4899, the Lowering Gasoline Prices to Fuel an America That Works Act of 2014, would require at least 25 percent of eligible federal land be made available annually to lease for oil and gas exploration. 

“Lowering the price Americans pay at the pump and achieving energy independence will lead to a stronger economy and increase our national security,” said Simpson.  “Since the Obama Administration took office, they have offered more roadblocks than solutions toward these goals.  For example, although our country still heavily relies on imported oil, the Obama Administration continues to block and delay permits for increased domestic energy production on our public lands as well as for job creating oil and gas pipeline projects and increasing LNG exports.  These bills will help get us back on the right track.”   

H.R. 3301, H.R. 6, and H.R. 4899 passed the House with bi-partisan support, and will now move on to consideration in the U.S. Senate. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

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USDA Announces Landmark Commitment to Improve Sage-Grouse Habitat


WASHINGTON-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a ground-breaking commitment
 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to accelerate and focus conservation efforts
 that will benefit ranchers and also the distinct population of greater sage-grouse population that
 lives in the Intermountain West. The population of sage-grouse is being considered for protection
 under the Endangered Species Act.

"With proactive conservation investments, we're helping farmers and ranchers who are
 improving habitat through voluntary efforts to stabilize this population of sage-grouse," said
 Vilsack. "Through action such as this, along with the support of our partners, we can
help secure this species' future and maintain our vibrant western economies."

USDA will provide up to $25.5 million of conservation investments over the next five to ten
 years as part of its contribution to delivering the federal, state and local 2012 Action Plan,
a conservation strategy that will benefit the sage-grouse population in both states. The plan,
sanctioned by the Department of the Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS),
 aims to focus resources on cost effective and efficient solutions that could avert the need
to list the bi-state population as "threatened" or "endangered" under the Endangered
Species Act.

Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also announced a $6.5 million commitment
over the next ten years to implement a wide range of priority conservation activities on the
public lands it manages to improve sage-grouse habitat. The BLM is coordinating with the
U.S. Forest Service to amend resource management plans that will include standards and
guidelines designed to conserve and enhance sage grouse habitat.

"We have made it a high priority to engage in voluntary partnership with ranchers, farmers
 and other landowners to conserve the wildlife and habitat that are so important to our
heritage and way of life," said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. "I applaud the NRCS,
USFS and the BLM for their very significant commitments, which will help provide
certainty that important conservation actions in key areas of the bird's habitat will continue
 to be implemented. Together, we can make our landscapes work for both agriculture and
 the bi-state sage-grouse."

The U.S. Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), both USDA
 agencies, are leading the Sage-Grouse Initiative (SGI) and will have the means to fully carry
out conservation practices and policy changes agreed upon by the Bi-State Local Area
Working Group in its action plan.

The announcement comes at the conclusion of an extended public comment period on the
USFWS proposal to federally list the bi-state population of greater sage-grouse as a
threatened species. A final decision on the proposal is expected by April 28, 2015.

Since 2010, USDA has funded $27.5 million of conservation efforts, primarily through
working with farmers, ranchers and other land managers in on-the-ground projects that
 address critical threats identified in the action plan. Conservation easements on private
lands are keeping working ranches intact that provide important wetlands for growing
sage-grouse broods. Removal of conifers that have invaded sagebrush-steppe is restoring
 sage-grouse habitat on private and public lands.

The Bi-State Executive Oversight Committee estimates it will cost about $38 million more
to fully implement the remaining priority actions identified in the action plan for California
and Nevada. The U.S. Forest Service and NRCS will provide over 80 percent of that
estimated need under the new agreement with a focus on high impactful projects.

The Sage-Grouse Initiative teams up with partners in 11 western states to achieve wildlife
conservation through sustainable ranching. From 2010 to 2013, the initiative enrolled more
 than 950 ranches and conserved 6,000 square miles through NRCS investments of $247
million that generated $107 million in partners' matching funds for a total of $354 million
of on-the-ground sage grouse conservation.