Friday, May 22, 2015

Just in

Sustainability should be off the table in federal dietary guidelines

Washington—While farmers and ranchers strongly support work on agricultural sustainability, there is no scientific basis for incorporating sustainability concepts in federal dietary guidelines, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

In comments regarding the scientific report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, Farm Bureau noted that the government’s dietary guidelines strongly influence policy development, program administration and delivery and the educational message directed toward American consumers with respect to food and nutrition issues, which makes it imperative that the Health and Human Services Department and USDA base the guidelines on well-established, widely accepted scientific evidence.

“Unfortunately, the scientific report of the advisory committee goes well beyond its designated scope of work, delivering a report that strongly suggests the committee would base dietary guidelines on more than health and nutrition considerations. The report includes an extensive section on the topic of sustainability, citing a need ‘to have alignment and consistency in dietary guidance that promotes both health and sustainability,’” Farm Bureau said, quoting directly from the report.

Not only is the concept of sustainability too vague to merit inclusion in the work of a committee that has explicitly been directed to be concerned with the concrete issues of human nutrition, the committee’s reliance on highly flawed reports and research—like the United Nation’s 2006 report, Livestock’s Long Shadow—is not a sound basis for a fair and objective discussion of the issue.

While the committee stops short of explicitly calling for the incorporation of sustainability into dietary guidelines, Farm Bureau said it was very concerned that the committee is already implicitly doing so by rather drastically changing past recommendations on meat consumption.

“Past reports have uniformly included a positive reference to the inclusion of lean meat as part of a healthy diet,” the organization said in its comments. “This report includes no such positive statement. In fact, in the body of the report, the only references to meat are negative.”

The numerous negative references to livestock products appear to be grounded almost exclusively in their perceived environmental impact. “Based on the widely recognized role that meat and dairy products can play in a healthy diet, we would urge USDA and HHS to restore positive statements about those products that have been a common feature of dietary guidelines in the past.”

In addition, the committee further strayed from its mission in advising that purchasing standards be applied to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Women, Infants, and Children program to “discourage” the consumption of foods the committee thinks people should eat less often. The committee also twice mentioned implementing taxes on “unhealthy foods” to generate revenue to fund public health promotion efforts.

“The merit of these policy proposals, or lack thereof, is not the issue,” according to Farm Bureau. “Rather the issue is that in advocating specific policy solutions, the scientific advisory committee has exceeded its mandate simply to support the development of nutrition guidelines and it has done so in a far more activist tone than previous advisory committees.”

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Just in from Washington

WTO rejects COOL ruling appeal

Washington—With the World Trade Organization dispute panel’s ruling that U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations for meats are not in compliance with previous WTO decisions, further efforts must be made to craft an acceptable COOL program, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

“Farm Bureau will carefully review the decision and then determine recommended actions,” Stallman said in a statement. “We will work with Congress, USDA and USTR to reach the goal of an effective COOL program that conforms to international trade rules.”

The appellate panel reviewed, at the request of the U.S., the October 2014 dispute settlement panel’s decision against the U.S. on the amended COOL rules. These rules were developed in response to the WTO appellate body ruling in June 2012 that the COOL meat labeling rules, issued in Jan. 2009 by USDA, unfairly discriminated against livestock raised in Canada and Mexico. The May 2013 rules from USDA added additional labeling requirements, including the country locations where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered.

The appellate panel confirmed the earlier decision that the amended COOL rules accorded less favorable treatment to imported livestock than to U.S. livestock. The panel determined that the COOL rules provided an advantage to U.S. livestock producers due to the extra costs associated with segregating animals.

The recent ruling allows Canada and Mexico to ask the WTO to determine a retaliation level, based on their losses due to the COOL regulations on meats. A WTO panel will then have 60 days to set the retaliation amount. Canada and Mexico could then impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods.

Introduction of legislation to address the COOL issue is expected. AFBF supports a country-of-origin labeling program that adheres to appropriate parameters and meets WTO requirements.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

President's Editorial

Quagga Mussels vs. Franklin County
by Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President
Franklin County, Idaho is on the frontline in a battle with foreign invaders and leaders there are suggesting strong measures to keep the pests and the myriad problems they present – out.
Due to concerns that quagga mussels could be transported from infected Utah reservoirs, several irrigation reservoirs in Franklin County, popular with fishermen as well as water sport enthusiasts, will be closed to boats in mid to late July when funding for a state funded boat inspection program is expected to run out. The owners of the irrigation impoundments simply cannot afford to inspect boats on their own.
Quagga mussels, believed to have been transplanted to the Great Lakes in the late 1980’s in ballast water of foreign ships, have now spread and infected lakes and reservoirs in 28 states. Utah and Nevada are among the latest to make the list. If Idaho fails to protect its water, we can expect to see declining fisheries and clogged water transmission infrastructure that will hinder the ability to deliver irrigation water.
Quagga mussels are not the only foreign invader that present concern, but they could be the most destructive. These mussels filter plankton, which nearly every aquatic organism, including small fish, depend on for survival. They also multiply rapidly and accumulate on all kinds of underwater surfaces.
Franklin County reservoirs are popular with northern Utah boaters. Veligers, the microscopic larvae of quagga mussels, were recently discovered in Deer Creek Reservoir, located about 50 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. They are believed to have been transported there from Lake Powell, near Utah’s border with Arizona. Quagga mussels were found there in late 2013. All of the reservoirs downstream from Lake Powell on the Colorado River are now contaminated.
Franklin County Commissioners recently voted down an ordinance that would have made boat inspections mandatory, fine uninspected boat owners, as well as provided the authority to limit the number of boats launched per day and limited the size of boats on the most popular reservoirs in the County. The commissioners voted 2-1 under pressure mainly from fishermen, to keep the reservoirs open without more stringent regulations. In light of the commissioner’s vote, the irrigation companies have taken matters into their own hands. They know their decisions will not be popular but that is outweighed by the threat posed by these foreign invaders. Boaters and fishermen need to understand the gravity of this situation. Irrigation companies that cannot deliver water to shareholders are about as much good as a chicken wire canoe.
We believe it’s time for the State of Idaho to step up its enforcement programs and spend the money it takes to keep these pests out. At the present time, Idaho is contracting with private companies to inspect boats at 20 different locations. And from the inspections we’ve been privy too, they’re doing a lousy job. A quick walk-around and checking bilges for water doesn’t cut it. In actuality, we are lucky to have kept quagga mussels out of Idaho this long, if in fact we have. Our state program is run with good intentions and within its budget, but it lacks an enforcement component. It’s not a carbon copy, but it’s basically the same as Utah and Nevada and the other 26 infected states. It’s time to quit relying on a quasi-honor system and get a program with some teeth. At present we are waiting for the inevitable. 
One of the reasons why 28 states have failed to keep these pests out is, to do it right inconveniences people. Idaho’s boat inspection stations are only open during regular business hours – that needs to change. Any boat that crosses an Idaho border - especially if that boat has been in infected waters – should be stopped and carefully flushed and inspected. If the inspection station is closed the boat needs to wait and should not be allowed to proceed without being flushed. Video monitoring equipment may be needed to monitor border crossings.
One of the biggest problems with spreading quagga mussels around is they can live in a teaspoon of water for a long time. From bilges to live wells to cooling systems to ballast tanks, boats have literally hundreds of places to harbor these pests. They can even live on wet anchor lines. Another major problem is veligers can be present in a lake or reservoir for an unknown period of time before mature adult quagga mussels appear. That means we could be transporting them around without even knowing it.
The “Clean, Drain and Dry,” public relations campaign needs to be stepped up as well. There should be signs at every lake and reservoir that allows boats. Boat dealerships should also be called on to help educate boaters.
If these pests become established in Idaho we can expect declining fisheries, beaches littered with smelly, sharp shells, declining recreation opportunities across the board and increased costs relating to irrigation water delivery to farms. It’s impossible to predict the economic consequences it could have on Idaho’s economy but rest assured it will be dramatic. In addition, what legacy do we leave for future generations of Idaho residents if we allow these pests to become established on our watch? Idaho has been blessed with clean, unique and unspoiled waters. Let’s insist they stay that way.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Just in

USDA to Expand Investment in Water Conservation, Resilience across Drought-Stricken States

WASHINGTON-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the Natural Resources Conservation Service will invest approximately $21 million in additional Farm Bill dollars to help farmers and ranchers apply science-based solutions to mitigate the short and long term effects of drought.

These investments will focus financial and technical assistance in the most severely drought-stricken areas in eight states to help crop and livestock producers apply conservation practices that increase irrigation efficiency, improve soil health and productivity, and ensure reliable water sources for livestock operations.

 "Since the historic drought of 2012, dry conditions have persisted in many parts of the country, particularly in the West," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "Every day, NRCS conservationists work side-by-side with agricultural producers and help them conserve water and increase resilience in their operations. Today's investment will provide additional resources in drought-stricken areas to help farmers and ranchers implement solutions to mitigate the impacts of sustained drought."

 Today's announcement expands on the substantial efforts already underway to help producers conserve water, improve soil health and build long term agricultural resilience into their operations. Already this year, NRCS state offices have targeted significant portions of their fiscal year Environmental Quality Incentives Program allocations to address water conservation, soil health, and resilience.

 In California, for example, more than $27 million of fiscal year 2015 EQIP funding is directed towards beneficial drought management practices. With today's announcement, NRCS will provide an additional $21 million in technical and financial assistance through EQIP to target areas that are experiencing either exceptional or extreme drought conditions as of the May 5, 2015 U.S. Drought Monitor, which includes parts of California, Kansas, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Utah.

 The EQIP funding will allow NRCS to help producers apply selected conservation practices to better deal with the effects of drought in their operations, including prescribed grazing, livestock watering facilities, cover crops, nutrient management, irrigation systems, and other water conservation practices.

On average, farmers and ranchers contribute half the cost of implementing conservation practices. Between 2012 and 2014, NRCS invested more than $1.5 billion in financial and technical assistance to help producers implement conservation practices that improve water use efficiency and build long term health of working crop, pasture, and range lands.

These practices include building soil health by using cover crops and no-till, which allow the soil to hold water longer and buffer roots from higher temperatures; improving the efficiency of irrigation systems; and implementing prescribed grazing to relieve pressure on stressed vegetation.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Just in

Western Snowpack Melts Early, Little Remains

WASHINGTON - West-wide snowpack has mostly melted, according to  data from the fifth 2015 forecast by the United States Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
"Across most of the West, snowpack isn't just low – it's gone," NRCS Hydrologist David Garen said. "With some exceptions, this year's snowmelt streamflow has already occurred." 
Garen said that for much of the western US, the snowpack at many of the stations is at or near the lowest on record. Months of unusually warm temperatures hindered snowpack growth and accelerated its melt.
"We still have some snowpack in northern Colorado, western Montana and southern Wyoming," said Garen. "In addition, snowmelt from Canada will flow into the Columbia River." 
"It's been a dry year for the Colorado River," NRCS Hydrologist Cara McCarthy said. "Snowmelt inflow into the Lake Powell Reservoir is forecast at 34 percent of normal." The Lake Powell Reservoir supplies water to much of the Southwest, including Las Vegas, Los Angeles and southern Arizona. "We only forecast streamflow from current conditions," McCarthy said. "Spring and summer rains might relieve areas that are dry."
In Western states where snowmelt accounts for the majority of seasonal water supply, information about snowpack serves as an indicator of  future water availability. Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm in spring and summer. National Water and Climate Center scientists analyze the snowpack, precipitation, air temperature and other measurements taken from remote sites to develop the water supply forecasts.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Just in

Caldwell--Corn crop is getting a good start across the Treasure Valley. Corn requires a lot of water to finish and in some parts of Idaho that could be a problem come last summer. Ritter photo

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Just in

Simpson Supports Legislation to Limit EPA’s Reach on Water
Bill would require the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers to withdraw the controversial proposed rule expanding the definition of “waters of the United States”

Washington- Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson supported passage of legislation to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attempts to take control of state waters last night.  H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015, would require the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the controversial proposed rule expanding the definition of “waters of the United States” and develop a new rule after consultation with state and local governments and interested parties.  Simpson is a cosponsor of the bill, which passed the House by an overwhelming majority of 261-155.

“The EPA has received a record number of comments on this proposed rule, and during the 113th Congress over half of the members of House of Representatives registered their opposition to it.  This doesn’t surprise me one bit,” said Simpson.  “I have long known that expanding the reach of EPA regulations to ground water, farm ponds, and ditches would devastate rural Idaho, and I have been fighting against the EPA’s growing regulatory appetite for years.  Passage of this bill is an important step in the right direction.”

 The controversial proposed rule would expand the definition of “waters of the United States” by removing the word “navigable.”  As a result, federal regulation under the Clean Water Act could apply to virtually all water, including ground water.  States currently regulate non-navigable water.

Simpson chairs the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee and sits on the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversee the budgets of the Army Corps and the EPA, respectively.  He has authored numerous provisions to stop the flawed rule, including most recently a provision in the House Energy and Water Appropriations Act for FY16 that would prohibit any changes to federal jurisdiction under the Obama Administration’s “Waters of the United States” proposal.  H.R. 1732 is now before the U.S. Senate for consideration.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ag jobs

One of the Best Fields for New College Graduates? Agriculture.

Nearly 60,000 High-Skilled Agriculture Job Openings Expected Annually in U.S., Yet Only 35,000 Graduates Available to Fill Them
WASHINGTON– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a new report showing tremendous demand for recent college graduates with a degree in agricultural programs with an estimated 57,900 high-skilled job openings annually in the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and environment fields in the United States. According to an employment outlook report released today by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Purdue University, there is an average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates with a bachelor's degree or higher in agriculture related fields, 22,500 short of the jobs available annually.
"There is incredible opportunity for highly-skilled jobs in agriculture," said Secretary Vilsack. "Those receiving degrees in agricultural fields can expect to have ample career opportunities. Not only will those who study agriculture be likely to get well-paying jobs upon graduation, they will also have the satisfaction of working in a field that addresses some of the world's most pressing challenges. These jobs will only become more important as we continue to develop solutions to feed more than 9 billion people by 2050."
The report projects almost half of the job opportunities will be in management and business. Another 27 percent will be in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) areas. Jobs in food and biomaterials production will make up 15 percent, and 12 percent of the openings will be in education, communication, and governmental services. The report also shows that women make up more than half of the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and environment higher education graduates in the United States.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Just in

Crapo-Wyden Wildfire Disaster Funding Act Gains Support of More Than 250 Organizations

Washington – More than 250 groups from across the country joined Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), to express support for passing the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act to ensure vital resources in the fight against catastrophic wildfires in the West ahead of this year’s fire season. 

The 261 organizations, including the Western Governors’ Association, the Nature Conservancy and the National Rifle Association, wrote to all 535 members of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives to show the importance of passing the bill.

“These groups are helping sound our call to action, which became even more urgent today with news that the fire outlook is worsening,” said Crapo.  “According to Chief Tom Tidwell, there is a 90-percent chance the Forest Service will run out of money to fight fires at a time when 58-millon acres of national forests face a high or very high risk of severe wildfire.  We have got to perform the management that will reduce catastrophic fires and make sure resources for that management, and to fight fires, are available.”

“Fire season is almost here, and for Oregonians and others in the West, who know that wildfires are no less destructive than other natural disasters, it’s past time to end the destructive cycle of playing catch-up on wildfire funding,” Wyden said. “I’m glad to have these groups standing with Sen. Crapo and me as we continue to push for our fix to address these wildfires before they start.”

Wyden and Crapo reintroduced the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act on Jan. 22. The bill ends the cycle of underfunding fire suppression, which currently forces federal agencies to steal from fire prevention just to put out fires. Instead, Wyden and Crapo’s bill will end this so-called “fire borrowing” by funding the largest wildfires from a similar disaster account used to fund other natural disasters. The Interior Department and the Forest Service estimate these fires – about 1 percent – consume 30 percent of firefighting budgets.
In March, Crapo and Wyden secured language in the Senate budget to allow a funding cap adjustment that has prevented agencies from treating wildfires as natural disasters under the federal budget. 

The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would move any fire suppression spending above 70% of the 10-year average to a disaster funding account that is separate from Forest Service and Interior budgets. The bill now has 14 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate and 79 representatives have signed on to the House version.

Monday, May 11, 2015


Let’s discuss water honestly

By Paul Wenger

Sacramento—California farmers are innovative, productive, knowledgeable—and now, a target for editorial writers, public policy think tanks, professors and talk-radio demagogues all around the country. Why? For daring to use water to grow food during the California drought.

DroughtEven though the drought has been hammering farmers for four years, many people—including many Californians—really started taking notice on April 1, when Gov. Jerry Brown imposed 25 percent water reductions on cities and towns. There was no similar requirement for agriculture, as the governor explained, because farmers have already endured significant, mandatory water cuts. Those cuts have rippled across rural California—land idled, people thrown out of work, communities suffering.

But criticism of California farms came fast and furious. A lot has been written about how farmers insist on growing “water guzzling” crops. Almonds, alfalfa and rice seem to be singled out most often.

Vitriolic and discouraging as the criticism has been, it has at least gotten people around the country thinking again about California’s outdated water system and the way water is used. Farmers welcome that discussion. But let’s have an honest discussion.

That discussion can’t be honest unless it accounts for all the water used. That means discarding the old bromide, “Agriculture uses 80 percent of California’s water.” It’s a dishonest representation, intended to incite discontent.

An honest discussion of California water use would include the significant proportion dedicated to environmental purposes. State officials agree that in an average year, 50 percent of surface water from rain and snow goes to environmental purposes, 40 percent toward growing food and farm products, and 10 percent for urban needs. These numbers will vary in any particular year, but correctly managed and stored, there’s plenty of water to meet all needs, even during extended drought.

As a farmer, I can account for how much food I produce with the water I have: the amount of “crop per drop.” Municipal water managers can also account for the water they provide to their customers. But those who “manage” environmental water have no such ability or requirement to account for the effectiveness of those flows.

Regardless of the figure we assign to agricultural water use, the real point is that farmers devote water to growing food. Food and water are the most fundamental needs of society, upon which the rest of the economy is built.

That leads us to a second statistic being used as a weapon these days: “Agriculture accounts for only 2 percent of the gross state product.” This one is usually coupled with the “80 percent” figure to allow for a double-damning of agricultural water use.

When pundits or professors throw that stat around, they don’t say what sector of the economy would be more deserving of the water. What is a more important use of water than growing food? Not “more valuable,” in terms of dollars and cents; by that measure, every major-league professional athlete is more valuable to society than every kindergarten teacher. No, what’s more important?

There are few industries that are truly essential to maintain life. Agriculture is one of them. There are few if any places in the world with the combination of climate, soil, water and know-how needed to grow food with the efficiency, care and stewardship that occur in California.

Any discussion of water also has to include how we add to the existing supply through new storage, more recycling, more desalination.

It’s time to start having that honest discussion about how to address California’s water problems.

Paul Wenger is president of the California Farm Bureau Federation.
- See more at:

Friday, May 8, 2015

Just in

SRBA, National Water Rights publications merge

CARLTON, Oregon - Two long-running publications centering on water rights, the National Water Rights Digest and the Snake River Basin Adjudication Digest, have merged.

They will run under the flag of the National Water Rights Digest, which has been published by Ridenbaugh Press since January 1994. The SRBA Digest has been published by Ridenbaugh since March 1993.

The launch of the SRBA Digest was prompted by the Snake River Basin Adjudication in Idaho, the largest basin-wide water adjudication in the country. When the final decree in that case was signed in August 2014, work in the case began to wind down.

The National Water Rights Digest is the only national periodical specifically covering water rights developments in the 50 states; it includes some reviews of activity internationally as well.

"Water rights activity around the United States and around the world has been increasing rapidly, especially in the last decades," said editor and publisher Randy Stapilus, who has produced the publications since their beginning. "When we began the National, water resources/rights agencies weren't even a blip on the state government screen. Today many of those same states are mired in interstate water rights litigations, struggling to create interstate compacts, and phrases such as 'aquifer recharge' are being heard in daily conversations."

The National Water Rights Digest provides water rights professionals with a monthly overview of activities throughout the U.S., giving them ideas and connections with other state agencies and professionals.

In recognition of the merger, Ridenbaugh Press is offering a special subscription package: an annual subscription to the National Water Rights Digest; a copy of the book "Water Wars" about water rights in the 50 states; a copy of the book "Upstream" about the SRBA, acclaimed by Idaho's chief justice as his first reference on the case when he served as the adjudication's presiding judge; and a digital archive of the National digests - more than 20 years of archival reports, more than 200 issues. The Digest is not available on other reference database sites. Total price for the package: $99. That package will be available only through the end of June, and is not expected to be repeated.

More information is available at

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Just in from Washington

USDA Designates 5 Counties in Idaho as Primary Natural Disaster Areas
With Assistance to Producers in Oregon

WASHINGTON,— The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated Blaine, Butte, Canyon, Custer and Payette counties in Idaho as primary natural disaster areas due to damages and losses caused by a recent drought.

“Our hearts go out to those Idaho farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times. We’re also telling Idaho producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Idaho also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.  Those counties are:


Farmers and ranchers in Malheur County in Oregon also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their county is contiguous.

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas on May 6, 2015, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

Additional programs available to assist farmers and ranchers include the Emergency Conservation Program, The Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Livestock Indemnity Programthe Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, and the Tree Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Just in

‘Get a Move on for GMOs’ Helps
Farmers Stand Up for Biotechnology
WASHINGTON – is Farm Bureau’s just-launched advocacy website that gives farmers and ranchers a simple way to “Get a Move On” for GMOs. Through the website, farmers can easily express support for a national, science-based labeling standard, like the approach taken in the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599).  

“Now is the time for farmers and ranchers to take action in support of innovation in agriculture,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “Access to crop traits that resist pests, diseases and drought stress is helping farmers across the nation grow more food using less land, water, fuel and pesticides,” Stallman said. “Biotechnology will offer even more benefits in the future.”

From the website, farmers and ranchers can send House members emails encouraging “yea” votes for the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. The bill will clarify the Food and Drug Administration as the nation’s foremost authority on food safety and create a voluntary labeling program run by the Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Marketing Service, the same agency that administers the USDA Organic Program.  

The legislation will provide a federal solution to protect consumers from a confusing patchwork of 50-state GMO labeling policies, and the misinformation and high food costs that would come with them.  

Through, farmers can not only connect with their lawmakers, but find state-by-state fact sheets detailing the value and share of GMO crops in each state. They can then share this information in their emails.

“It’s critical that we as farmers help our lawmakers understand that there’s a cost associated with discouraging agricultural innovation,” Stallman said. “That cost will go well beyond the higher prices consumers will pay at the supermarket if each state passes its own GMO labeling law,” he added. 

In addition to the advocacy site, Farm Bureau’s grassroots toolkit continues to be a helpful resource for farmers and ranchers who want to share the many positives about biotechnology with policymakers, community members and others. Accessible at, this free online resource includes an overview of biotechnology; an explanation of biotechnology’s benefits to consumers, the environment, farmers, the U.S. economy, and more; links to credible sources for biotech information; and avenues for getting active on social media. 

A strong consumer-focused resource is, which allows people to ask any and all questions about GMOs. Responses come from independent experts in leading academic institutions, industry groups and representatives from Biotechnology Industry Organization member companies. The website also features studies, articles and safety data.

Just in

USDA Announces $235 Million Available for Innovative New Conservation Partnerships 

DENVER–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today an investment of up to $235 million to improve the nation's water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. The funding is being made available through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the newest conservation tool of the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). 
RCPP, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, empowers local leaders to work with multiple partners—such as private companies, local and tribal governments, universities, non-profit groups and other non-government partners—along with farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to design solutions that work best for their region. Local partners and the federal government both invest funding and manpower to projects to maximize their impact. This will be the second round of projects funded through RCPP. The RCPP program helps USDA build on already-record enrollment in conservation programs, with over 500,000 producers participating to protect land and water on over 400 million acres nationwide.
"This is a new, innovative approach to conservation," said Vilsack. "This initiative allows local partners the opportunity to design and invest in conservation projects specifically tailored for their communities. These public-private partnerships can have an impact that's well beyond what the Federal government could accomplish on its own. These efforts keep our land and water clean, and promote tremendous economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism, and other industries." 
Vilsack continued, "We had tremendous interest from local partners when we first launched this program last year. In this new round of applications, we'll be looking for even greater emphasis on expanding partnerships that break down barriers, work across boundaries, leverage resources and create new opportunities for innovation."
Secretary Vilsack made the announcement at a signing ceremony in Denver for the Colorado Pressurized Small Hydropower Partnership Project, a 2015-funded project that focuses on water quantity resource concerns in Colorado. The project, which will receive $1.8 million in NRCS support alongside local partner investments, will facilitate the conversion of flood irrigation systems to more resource-efficient pressurized irrigation systems with integrated hydropower.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Just in from Capitol Hill

Farmers cheer Senate move to stop EPA overreach

Washington—A newly introduced Senate bill, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, would put in check the EPA and its attempt to broaden the definition of “waters of the U.S.” Farmers and ranchers say they’re grateful congressional lawmakers are listening to them as it seems EPA has turned a deaf ear to their concerns.

“Tens of thousands of farmers, ranchers and land owners have spoken out, but EPA has yet to fully acknowledge the proposal’s potential impact on everyday farming activities,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said. “We work hard every day to minimize the environmental impact of raising the food, fuel and fiber we all consume. We’re grateful that our congressional representatives are paving the way to safeguard both farmers and their land.”

The legislation, introduced today by Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), directs the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue a revised WOTUS rule that does not include things such as isolated ponds, ditches, agriculture water, storm water, groundwater, floodwater, municipal water supply systems, wastewater management systems and streams without enough flow to carry pollutants to navigable waters.

Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) are also original cosponsors of the bill.

In a letter, Farm Bureau and more than 80 additional agriculture organizations urged leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Agriculture Committee to act quickly on the bill.

“The sooner Congress acts, the sooner the agencies can re-craft a rule that more accurately reflects the will of Congress, while respecting the concerns of all affected parties. By acting before the agencies’ regulation is promulgated, Congress can provide the best opportunity and path to ensure that a final rule is practical, reflects congressional intent, and ensures appropriate environmental safeguards,” the groups wrote to Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Inhofe and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberts, as well as Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Agriculture Committee.

Early last month, EPA sent its WOTUS final rule to the Office of Management and Budget for interagency review. This is the last step before the release of the final rule. The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs received the proposed rule April 6. OIRA’s regulatory review is supposed to take 90 days, although controversial rules can be tied up far longer. EPA officials have long said that they are aiming to finalize the rule this spring.

Monday, May 4, 2015


Chairman Mike Simpson Protects States’ Water Rights
Defeats amendment that would allow expansion of federal jurisdiction over water

Washington – Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman, has led a successful effort to defeat an amendment that would have stripped a section of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill prohibiting any changes to federal jurisdiction under the Obama Administration’s “Waters of the United States" proposal.

The proposed rule would expand the reach of the Clean Water Act by replacing the term “navigable waters” with the term “waters of the United States.”  Non-navigable waters are currently regulated by the states. Striking this term means that the Act could be broadly interpreted to included everything within a state, including ground water.

Late last night Chairman Simpson fought the amendment on the House floor stating, “Many people believed that if the waters were not regulated under the Clean Water Act, they were unregulated.  Not true.  They are regulated by the states. And that’s how it should remain. . .  While there may be a desire for clarity on federal jurisdiction, providing clarity does not trump the need to stay within the limits of the law.  The proposed rule would expand federal jurisdiction far beyond what was ever intended by the Clean Water Act.  The provision in the Energy and Water bill does not weaken the Clean Water Act; it stops the Administration from expanding federal jurisdiction.  For those reasons I strongly oppose this amendment and encourage my colleagues to vote no.” 

The amendment was offered by Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) last night, and failed on a voice vote.  Consideration of the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill will continue today, with a vote on final passage expected soon.  To view a video of Chairman Simpson’s speech, click here:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Just in

Farm Bureau to FAA: Farmers and ranchers will soar with agricultural drones

 Washington–Farmers and ranchers are eager to use airborne drones to improve their businesses, but they need flexibility to use these tools to their full potential, the American Farm Bureau Federation told the Federal Aviation Administration in comments focusing on performance-based standards, in its rule on the “Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.”

 Farmers and ranchers have increased their yields while reducing their environmental footprint, thanks to advances in precision agriculture. “Drones are the next evolution in American agriculture,” said Dale Moore, AFBF executive director of public policy. “Used properly they let us grow more food on available land using less water and fewer pesticides. High-tech cameras and other airborne sensors give us important tools with which to reduce erosion and keep agricultural runoff to the absolute minimum. This is important not just for farmers but for anyone else who cares deeply about the environment. These tools won’t do anyone any good if they’re grounded by restrictions that make them too cumbersome to use.”

 Farmers need performance-based standards for drone use that promote innovation while keeping safety a top priority, the Farm Bureau wrote. For all the good they do, new technologies are not without risk, Farm Bureau told regulators. Farmers and ranchers need to be able to manage these tools safely and should be assured that their farm data is secure and cannot be used unfairly against them. Added Moore: “Farmers and ranchers are ready to unlock the potential of new technologies in agriculture, and we’re hopeful that the FAA’s final rule gives them a key to do that safely and quickly.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Just in from the Statehouse


BOISE– Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter announced today that he is calling a rare special session of the Idaho Legislature starting at 8 a.m. on May 18 to consider maintaining Idaho’s child support system.

“I don’t take either this decision or the legislative action that precipitated it lightly. With our partners in the Legislature and the experts at the Department of Health and Welfare, we have explored all our options and come to the conclusion that only a special session will accomplish our goal – protecting the children and families of Idaho who rely on court-ordered child support payments,” Governor Otter said.

The Governor issued a Proclamation calling the special session, which is limited to considering the issue of Idaho’s child support system.

A House committee tabled Senate-passed legislation, which would have kept Idaho in compliance with the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, shortly before the Legislature adjourned for the year in the early morning hours of April 11. 

The Department of Health and Welfare had cautioned legislators that failing to enact the bill would cut off much of the funding for the State’s child support system, including enforcement of child support orders. More than 400,000 children and parents – or one in four Idaho citizens – would be impacted by that loss, representing 155,000 child support cases. Health and Welfare no longer would be able to collect funds through wage withholding, locate parents when they change jobs, or work with other states on child support cases.

Specifically, Idaho stands to lose $16 million from the U.S. Office of Child Support Enforcement, or about two-thirds of the State’s child support enforcement budget. In addition, the State would lose access to the federal database system and tools for enforcing $205 million a year in child support payments to Idaho children. Another $30 million could be lost in federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which funds such services as child care for low-income working families, children’s mental health and the Head Start program. The federal Administration for Children and Families informed the State on April 14 that it had 60 days – until June 12 – to restore its compliance.

“It’s important for all of us to get a better understanding of the issue and what’s at stake. A special session will accomplish that,” House Speaker Scott Bedke said. “The Legislature as a body and legislators as individuals want to do right by the people of Idaho, and we will.” 

“This program affects thousands of children in Idaho who would become helpless victims without this action,” Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill said. “I express my appreciation to Governor Otter, Speaker Bedke and many others who have worked to resolve this important issue and look forward to a productive special session.”

Health and Welfare’s Q&A on what’s at stake can be found here, and a detailed analysis of the issue prompting the special session can be found here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

 Secretary Vilsack Announces Rural Schools Payments

 WASHINGTON-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that $285 million will go to 41 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico this year in support of local schools and roads as part of the Congressional two-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.

 "This support is part of the administration's ongoing commitment to rural communities," said Secretary Vilsack. "The Forest Service's century-long support of America's public schools and roads is one of many ways in which USDA helps rural communities remain self-sustaining and prosperous."

 "I'm grateful for the Congressional action to reauthorize this Act and understand how important these funds have become to the communities that receive them," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "We've been anticipating its passage and we are positioned to make the payments as rapidly as possible."

 The payments from the Forest Service may be used to support public schools and public roads, for projects to help maintain and improve the health of forests; and for county projects including "Firewise Communities" programs, reimbursements for emergency services on national forests, and development of community wildfire protection plans.

 The forest projects are reviewed and recommended by resource advisory committees made up of local residents working together to improve the environment and to help provide jobs in rural communities.

Monday, April 27, 2015

just in

USDA Awards Almost $3 Million in Research Grants to Increase Food Security Through Improved Livestock Health

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced three grants designed to boost food security by minimizing livestock losses to insects and diseases. The awards to support research, education, and Extension efforts were made through NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, which is authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
"These grants will allow scientists to discover the new tools and technologies necessary to deal with the threats insects and pathogens pose to livestock production in our nation, which ultimately benefit consumers through abundant, affordable food." said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. 
NIFA made the awards through the AFRI Food Security challenge area, which seeks to increase sustainable food production. Priority was given to projects that will improve prevention, early detection, rapid diagnosis, or recovery from new, foreign, or emerging diseases or arthropods (like fleas and ticks) that have the potential to cause major impacts on food security. NIFA will make additional awards later this spring through the AFRI Food Security challenge area that focus on minimizing crop losses by arthropods and diseases. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Just in


Washington—Citing the inclusion of critical new provisions to hold the Administration accountable, Idaho Senator Mike Crapo voted with the majority of Senate Finance Committee members today to approve a trade promotion authority (TPA) measure.  The bill lays the groundwork for removing trade barriers and better positions the United States to negotiate and secure fair trade agreements that would result in greater market access for millions of American farmers, ranchers and manufacturers.  U.S. exporters face higher tariffs abroad than nearly all our trade competitors and rank 130th among 138 economies in terms of tariffs faced by its exports. 
“This has been a difficult vote because the negotiating process for recent trade agreements has been too secretive with few details being made public,” said Crapo.  “This has raised strong concern about whether the President would negotiate away American sovereignty, or agree to change U.S. law, in both trade and non-trade related areas, in dangerous ways.  I was expecting to vote no because I didn’t have the confidence that we would be able to hold the Administration accountable in trade negotiations.  

“Fortunately, however, we have been able to negotiate changes to the trade promotion authority process that will provide significant protections against these concerns.  These changes include, but are not limited to, language protecting the sovereignty of the United States, limiting negotiating authority to trade related objectives, prohibiting negotiation of non-trade related issues, expanding Congressional involvement and oversight, requiring heightened transparency, and allowing Congress to withdraw trade promotion authority if the Administration fails to comply with these rigorous requirements.     

“If the Administration does not meet these standards, it should not be surprised if it loses the votes of many free trade supporters who have been disappointed with the process so far.  While I have supported some trade agreements, far too often, we have bad deals that I opposed such as NAFTA and CAFTA.

“I will scrutinize each trade agreement on its merits and whether it promotes trade and jobs in Idaho.  I have voted against agreements that are not in Idaho’s best interest in the past and am prepared to do so again,” Crapo concluded.