Friday, February 27, 2015

Just in


Simpson Examines Energy, Environment Budgets
Questions Agency Leaders on Nuclear Fuel Storage and Regulatory Overreach, Including Clean Water Act Regulations

Washington- Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today held a hearing with Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernest Moniz and attended a hearing with Administrator Gina McCarthy of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Simpson is the Chairman of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee and Vice Chairman of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee.

At the first hearing, Simpson noted that the Obama Administration has once again proposed a significant increase for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy while proposing to reduce Fossil Energy and Nuclear Energy. Simpson also discussed the long term strategic goals of the Department of Energy and questioned Secretary Moniz on whether the administration’s request for the currently shut-down Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) will fully support the target dates of reopening the facility in March of 2016.  

In response to Secretary Moniz’s comments that Yucca Mountain is an unworkable solution due to the lack of a consent-based process in selecting it, Chairman Simpson said, “Consent-based is in the eye of the beholder.  Talk to the local county commissioners around Yucca Mountain. They support it.  That’s consent-based.  Secondly, the Blue Ribbon Commission was precluded from looking at Yucca Mountain (as an option) for anything.  So to be fair, let’s admit that the decision not to proceed with Yucca Mountain after spending billions of dollars there was a political decision.”

In the afternoon, Simpson questioned Administrator McCarthy on the EPA’s fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget request. Simpson expressed deep concerns with the EPA’s proposed rules regarding the Clean Water Act.

“We aren’t talking about waters that were unregulated before. These were regulated by the state,” said Simpson. “I think this is a vast expansion of the EPA’s jurisdiction.”

Simpson has been a leading voice in opposing the EPA rule and last year secured provisions in the Cromnibus appropriations bill that restricted the administration’s application of the Clean Water Act in certain agricultural practices for soil and water conservation.

EPA’s FY16 budget request is a 6% increase from FY15 which, if enacted, would be the third largest budget in EPA history. The EPA’s request represents a stark contrast to when Congressman Simpson chaired the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee and wrote budgets that scaled back the agency’s funding to below FY1978 levels.

“The EPA ignores the realities of our debt and deficit by requesting increased spending,” said Simpson after the hearing. “Idahoans don’t want EPA overreach and I am concerned this budget is designed to do just that. This subcommittee will continue to challenge the EPA’s obtrusive policies that far too often harm the economy and kill jobs.”

Farm Bureau Honors PAL Graduates for Leadership Achievement

WASHINGTON – A group of 10 outstanding young farm and ranch leaders was honored today by the American Farm Bureau Federation as graduates of the organization’s seventh Partners in Agricultural Leadership class. The young agricultural leaders were recognized during AFBF’s Advocacy Conference. PAL is designed to help agricultural leaders accelerate their leadership abilities and solidify their roles as advocates for agriculture.

Row 1 (L to R): Joy Davis, Texas; Katie Heger, North Dakota; Jillian Beaty, Wisconsin; Shannon Douglass, California; and Stacey Forshee, Kansas. Row 2 (L to R): Joshua Geigle, South Dakota; Brandon Whitt, Tennessee; Elizabeth Kohtz, Idaho; Adam Hinton, Kentucky; and Jason Bunting, Illinois.
“This group of PAL graduates represents the very ‘best of the best’ among today’s farmers and ranchers,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “They are top-tier agricultural advocates, and we look forward to having them as vital contributors to our outreach efforts.”
Graduates of PAL Class 7 are: Jillian Beaty, Wisconsin; Jason Bunting, Illinois; Joy Davis, Texas; Shannon Douglass, California; Stacey Forshee, Kansas; Joshua Geigle, South Dakota; Katie Heger, North Dakota; Adam Hinton, Kentucky; Elizabeth Kohtz, Idaho; and Brandon Whitt, Tennessee.
To be eligible for the PAL program, applicants must have previously developed leadership skills built through participating in at least one Young Farmers & Ranchers program. This includes AFBF competitive events, Discussion Meet (“Sweet 16” finalist), Achievement Award (top 10 finalist) and Excellence in Agriculture Award (top 10 finalist). Retired members of the AFBF YF&R Committee and retired chairs of state Farm Bureau YF&R Committees also are eligible to apply.
PAL training involves four learning modules designed to develop specific leadership skills while exploring components of leadership and its theories and philosophies. The modules build on one another over the two years of the program and include intense, in-person, hands-on training.
The PAL program is sponsored by ­­­­­­AFBF, Agri-Pulse Communications, the Farm Credit System and Monsanto Company.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Just in


Farmers, ranchers call on Capitol Hill to address agriculture’s needs



Washington–Nearly 500 Farm Bureau members from across America are visiting policymakers on Capitol Hill today to discuss the most pressing issues facing agriculture.

Today’s meetings are part of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Advocacy Conference. Farmers and ranchers representing nearly all commodities from 43 states gathered in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss top policy priorities and hone their grassroots advocacy efforts.

Fox News’ Dana Perino, White House press secretary for George W. Bush, and Donna Brazile, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, kicked off the conference, emphasizing how important it is to build bridges and make connections across party lines.

Additional sessions covered Farm Bureau’s top issues, social media advocacy trends and being a successful Farm Bureau advocate.

Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-Penn.) and Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) emphasized that regardless of what side of the aisle you sit on or whether you represent an urban or a rural district, agriculture is important to everyone.

Talking to Farm Bureau members about how to create stories to move the hearts, minds and votes of lawmakers, Brad Fitch of the Congressional Management Foundation shared the best practices of advocacy story-telling. Among them are opening with “the want,” setting the stage and establishing the stakes.

Just before heading to Capitol Hill today, Advocacy Conference attendees heard from Dr. Ben Carson. The well-known pediatric neurosurgeon and New York Times best-selling author stressed that the founders of this country expected citizens who were informed and involved.

Farm Bureau members are meeting with their elected representatives to discuss a wide range of issues including: immigration, tax reform, international trade, the Endangered Species Act, water regulation and biotechnology.

“Congress needs to hear straight from farmers and ranchers about the issues and regulations that affect their ability to do their jobs each day,” Dale Moore, executive director of public policy for AFBF, said. “Farmers and ranchers are on the frontlines working to feed a booming global population. They are the best representatives to tell agriculture’s story and explain to policymakers how legislation can make or break the future for more than a million family farms and ranches.”

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Just in


New bill would lift trade restrictions with Cuba 

 Washington—On the heels of President Barack Obama’s announcement that he plans to open trade with Cuba, a bipartisan group of senators offered what is expected to be the first of many measures that would fully normalize trade relations with Cuba. 

 Farm Bureau has long called for a removal of trade restrictions with Cuba, and the organization is optimistic that expanded trade with the U.S. will serve as a cornerstone for additional reforms.

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

Currently, U.S. farmers can export to Cuba, but third-party banking requirements and limited credit financing have made it harder to compete in the market than it should be, explained Stallman. The lifting of those restrictions will be helpful, but full trade relations with Cuba are a must. A bill introduced earlier this month by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) would end the overall embargo. 

 Specifically, the legislation (S. 491) would remove the sections of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 that established the trade embargo and the Cuban Liberty and Solidarity Act of 1996, which strengthened the embargo. The proposal would also repeal the current legal restrictions against doing business with Cuba and end limitations on direct shipping between U.S. and Cuban ports. This bill is among the first Cuba-related measures introduced after Obama’s announcement, but many more are expected to follow.

 “The bipartisan support for this legislation shows both Republicans and Democrats are as enthusiastic as farmers and ranchers about the prospect of normalizing of trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba and the opportunities the island nation presents to U.S. businesses,” said Dave Salmonsen, AFBF trade specialist. “Cuban cigars and rum are recognized the world over, but it’s U.S. chicken, corn, soybeans and many other commodities that Cubans are clamoring for.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Just in


PARTNERSHIP CONSERVES A LAND LEGACY
Multi-generational ranches protect areas vital to Idaho’s wildlife, water, agriculture and communities

BOISE - Nearly 2,000 acres of historic working lands and wildlife habitat in Blaine County will be protected by conservation easements through a collaboration between the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Molyneux Family, The Nature Conservancy, Wood River Land Trust and Blaine County’s Land, Water and Wildlife Program.

This unique, family legacy project is protecting farmland, wetlands, and water resources on properties homesteaded by the Molyneux family 60 years ago. The easements permanently protect these lands, which are located in four areas deemed as priority regions for wildlife habitat, water and scenic conservation in Blaine County. 

In 1953, Bill and Maxine Molyneux acquired their first property—a 160-acre parcel adjacent to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s Hayspur hatchery. Over the last 60 years, the family acquired more than 7,000 acres of farming and ranching lands, where they raised their family and made a living on the land. In order to protect their generations-old ranches, the Molyneuxs are donating portions of the easements’ values.

“These lands mean a great deal to us and we want to see them permanently protected for the value they provide to wildlife, to the community and to local agriculture,” says Bill Molyneux. “It’s also important to us to make a positive, long-term contribution to our community.”

Funding for the easement projects comes from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) and Wetland Reserve Program (WRP). The FRPP provides matching funds to help purchase development rights to keep productive farm and ranchland in agricultural uses. The Wetland Reserve Program supports landowners that want to improve or re-establish wetlands on their property. 

Additional funding will come from Blaine County’s Land, Water and Wildlife Program. On February 17, 2015 the Board of County Commissioners approved $992,122 towards the purchase of these easements by TNC and the Land Trust. The Nature Conservancy and Land Trust will steward the easements in perpetuity.

The project includes five separate ranches, each with unique natural and agricultural resources:
·       Bill and Maxine’s ranch near the Silver Creek Preserve contains agricultural lands and important wetlands habitat;
·       The ranches owned by John and Kristy Molyneux and John, Chip, and Billy Molyneux along scenic Highway 75 are within one of the most notable viewsheds in Blaine County and contain productive agricultural land;  
·       Chip and Kathy Molyneux’s property adjacent to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve contains working farmland, Huff Lake, and wetland habitat.  Their parcel in the Pioneer foothills provides upland sagebrush-steppe habitat and agricultural lands; and
·       Billy Molyneux’s ranch contains over one mile of Silver Creek and the Little Wood River and agricultural lands south of Carey.


NRCS offers funding for conservation easement acquisition and works with local organizations and landowners to conserve natural resources on private lands..

The Nature Conservancy works with farmers and ranchers to protect wildlife habitat and maintain working farms and ranches in Idaho, the United States and internationally.

Wood River Land Trust works with private landowners and local communities to protect and restore land, water, and wildlife habitat in the Wood River Valley and surrounding areas.

Blaine County Land, Water and Wildlife Program works to achieve optimal conservation value and protect land, water and wildlife for future generations.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Just in

USDA Seeks Grant Proposals to Increase Recreational Public Access on Private Agricultural, Forest Lands

WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $20 million is being made available to improve wildlife habitat and enhance public access for recreational opportunities on privately held and operated farm, ranch and forest lands. Funding is available to state and tribal governments through the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill.
"USDA is harnessing the power of partnerships with state and tribal governments to ensure that our rural communities are able to sustain important recreational and economic opportunities," said Vilsack. "Enhancing wildlife habitat and providing new opportunities for the public to hunt and fish will create economic activity, and also encourage more Americans to enjoy the outdoors," said Vilsack.
According to a 2013 study commissioned by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the outdoor recreation economy supports 6.1 million direct jobs, $80 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue, and $646 billion in spending each year. Under VPA-HIP, state and tribal governments may apply for grants to encourage owners and operators of privately held farm, ranch or forest land to voluntarily open that land for public hunting, fishing and other wildlife-dependent recreation and to improve fish and wildlife habitat on that land. State and tribal governments may use VPA-HIP funds to create new public access programs, expand existing public access programs and to improve wildlife habitat on enrolled public access program lands.
Eligible governments may apply for VPA-HIP funds for proposed projects that can span up to three years. Award amounts range from $75,000 to $1 million per year. USDA's 60-day application period will run from Feb. 23 through April 24, 2015. Eligible governments must complete the applications through Grants.gov. Funding is not directly awarded by USDA to individuals or groups. Since the reauthorization of VPA-HIP in the 2014 Farm Bill, the program has been administered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). USDA provides the funds directly to state and tribal governments and they, in turn, disburse the funds to private landowners.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Just in

American Farm Bureau Federation appeals, secures stay in EPA privacy suit



Washington—A federal district court in Minnesota ordered EPA late Friday not to release farmers’ and ranchers’ personal information while AFBF and co-plaintiff National Pork Producers Council appeal the court’s decision dismissing their lawsuit. By dismissing the suit, the court ruled that farmers are not harmed when the government compiles and releases a storehouse of personal information, so long as individual bits of that information are somehow publicly accessible, such as through an Internet search or on a Facebook page.

“We are pleased that farmers’ and ranchers’ personal information will be protected while we appeal the court’s decision,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “We disagree that the Internet age has diminished the individual’s right to protect personal information. Now, more than ever, citizens need their government to help protect their information—not gather it, tie a bow on it, and send it out to anyone who asks.”

The suit concerns personal information (such as names, home addresses, telephone numbers and GPS locations) of tens of thousands of livestock and poultry farmers compiled by EPA and requested by environmental groups through Freedom of Information Act requests. AFBF and NPPC appealed the dismissal on January 29.
 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Payette County Annual Banquet

Ontario--Luke Pearce addresses the Payette Farm Bureau Annual Banquet on Wednesday night in Ontario. More than 65 members attended the event that included an amazing prime rib dinner at the Elks Club and presentation from the Department of Lands and Alta Vista about gas and oil exploration in the area.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Just in

Gem County lawmakers meet members for lunch
Boise--Gem County lawmakers joined Gem County Farm Bureau members for lunch at the Farm Bureau Building in Boise. Lawmakers discussed the Federal Land issue, taxes and pressing matters at the Statehouse.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Just in


Portmania: Pileup at the West Coast ports continues


By Kari Barbic, AFBF

Washington—U.S.-grown apples and pears rot on the docks never again to see the light of day. Bins normally piled high with U.S. produce at markets across Asia are looking scant. Storage facilities across the country are packed with tons of meat that should be on dinner plates around the world. Why? Loading docks from Seattle to San Diego—once bustling with activity—are now moving with all the speed of a DMV line thanks to prolonged contract negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union.

The dock workers’ contract expired in July, and although workers continue to show up, not much is getting done. Last weekend the ports were brought to a halt as shippers and port operators suspended operations for two days. The financial losses are stacking up along with the unmoved cargo. From $40 million per week in meat sales to $70 million in wasted fruit in Washington, these numbers are a mere fraction of sales and long-term market share losses that farms, ranches, lumber yards and factories are suffering.

While the two parties slog out salary and benefit terms, American businesses are paying the price as they lose skilled workers, valuable sales and good standing with our largest overseas customers. Fresh produce and meat exports to Asia are largely on hold until the docks are running at a normal pace again. Pork producers are among those being hit especially hard with no way to reach six of their top 10 world customers, all Asia/Pacific countries. While our supply is landlocked, the demand has not dwindled, and our overseas customers are now left to find other, more reliable, suppliers in the meantime.

Delays, added costs and failed shipments are putting our trade relationships on shaky ground. Agreements to open up more trade in Asia will do us little good if we can’t meet our end of the bargain. “This is turning into a disaster,” one potato exporter noted. “If we cannot supply to the Pacific Rim as we have assured over recent months, we will lose volume and confidence of these newly established customers.”

An estimated 60 percent of shippers have redirected their products to avoid the clogged ports. Although non-perishable products can be re-routed to Eastern U.S. ports through the Panama Canal, this still adds time and significantly ups the price tag. As a last resort, some retailers have taken to the skies to bypass the traffic jam. The U.S. military even resorted to air shipments to get yogurt and cottage cheese to troops in Japan and South Korea.

How did it get to this point? Last May, the PMA and ILWU began negotiating terms for a new contract. Weeks passed. The contract expired in July and work at the ports slowed. By the time holiday shipments were picking up in the fall, retailers could feel the sting. Two- to three-week delays in just getting goods off ships became standard operating procedure. In some cases, truck drivers would sit at the docks all day waiting for a shipment to be offloaded, only to be turned away empty-handed.

Meanwhile, threats of strike and full shutdown continued to loom. In January, both parties brought in a federal mediator. By month’s end a deal seemed nearly in sight. Under the new five-year contract the PMA presented, dock workers would see a 3 percent pay raise each year and full coverage for healthcare. PMA estimates the average dock worker’s salary to be $147,000 per year under the expired contract. Yet, negotiations continue.

Once a deal is finally struck and the ports return to operating at their normal speed, it’s still expected to take another eight weeks to clear the backlog. Some losses will never be recovered, but America’s farmers and ranchers are eager to get back to business and restore the trade relationships we’ve worked so hard to build. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Just in from Nashville

Idaho YF&R Members meet with AFBF President

Nashville--Members of the Idaho Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers had a meeting with American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman this holiday weekend.

The Leadership Conference focused on leadership and personal development opportunities for Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers. The highly interactive conference brought together Young Farmers & Ranchers from at least 45 states and was attended by nearly 800 Young Farmers & Ranchers, including the Idaho contingent. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Just in from Washington


CRAPO, RISCH, WYDEN INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN BILL TO RENEW
SAFETY NET FOR RURAL COUNTIES

Washington--Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) today introduced a bipartisan bill to renew the Secure Rural Schools  program, which supports schools, law-enforcement and roads in more than 700 rural counties across the country.  The legislation also addresses additional payments to counties under the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program.  

“While we continue to work on multiple ways to improve the economy of our rural counties that have been damaged by past federal actions, this bill will restore the rightful and traditional federal partnership to assist with funding schools, roads and other local services because federal lands do not contribute to property taxes,” Crapo said.  “Our bill renews county payments under the SRS program.  Full, mandatory funding for PILT expired in 2013, and the program now relies on yearly appropriations, creating uncertainty for counties burdened with large federally-managed, untaxable lands in their jurisdictions.  This bill would keep the promise made to local governments in 1976 that the government would mitigate for the lost tax revenue by restoring mandatory funding status to PILT.”

"In many of our counties, the federal government is the majority landowner and because of that, the federal government should help shoulder the financial burdens facing these counties,” said Risch. “As always, I am committed to the reauthorization of Secure Rural Schools and PILT. I would prefer a longer term fix to provide more certainty to the counties that rely on this funding, but we need a solution very soon. I have always pushed for active forest management and will continue to do so, but until the timber revenues from our National Forests increase and refill the 25-percent fund, the federal government must maintain this lifeline to our rural schools and counties.”

“County payments are a lifeline for cash-strapped rural communities that are already facing shortfalls to pave roads, keep teachers in schools and firefighters on call,” Wyden said. “This bipartisan bill keeps up the commitment the government made to support rural counties in Oregon and across the country. I am glad to once again partner with Senator Crapo to get this vital legislation across the finish line.”

The bill would extend the program for three years at 2011 funding levels, rolling back years of declining payments. It would provide a total of roughly $360 million annually for more than 700 counties across the U.S. It would also restore mandatory funding of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program, which compensates counties that contain federal lands.

The PILT program provides critical resources to nearly 1,900 counties in 49 states and 3 U.S. territories.  It was created in 1976 to help offset losses to local governments from the presence of non-taxable federal lands.  Property taxes fund county governments allowing them to provide essential services such as law enforcement, public safety, infrastructure maintenance, education, and health services for local communities.  A fully-funded PILT program helps to ensure that counties that house federal lands can continue to provide these essential services. 

The SRS program reaches over 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools located near national forests throughout the country. SRS payments support public schools, public roads, forest health projects, and other county projects.  Along with PILT, rural counties rely heavily on SRS to help provide essential services to residents.

“Resuming federal payments to counties in lieu of property taxes is a good first step,” said Idaho County Commissioner Skip Brandt.  “Idaho counties need these programs and a strong, ongoing, and sustainable program to harvest timber on our public lands to reverse the economic issues created by federal regulations and overreach.”

The senators committed to extend this lifeline in a fiscally responsible way, including fully offsetting the bill’s cost to ensure it has no impact on the deficit.

Thursday, February 12, 2015



KEYSTONE PIPLINE MOVES TO THE PRESIDENT FOR APPROVAL
House Passes Senate Bill, Project awaits Presidential Approval

Washington - Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson supported S.1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act. The bill approves the Keystone XL Pipeline putting an end to years of bureaucratic delays and allowing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline project.  
The Keystone XL pipeline would transport crude oil from the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the United States. Canadian pipeline company TransCanada has estimated that it will invest $7 billion in the United States to build the pipeline, and that up to 20,000 jobs would be directly created by the pipeline’s construction. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the Keystone XL pipeline would be able to move 830,000 barrels of oil per day, which represents about half of the amount the U.S. imports from the Middle East. 
“Moving forward with the Keystone XL pipeline will create jobs and reduce our dependence on unstable foreign sources of oil,” said Simpson. “Our country cannot afford to play political games with our energy security, the Keystone pipeline needs to be built.” 
Because the pipeline would connect the United States with a foreign country, it requires a Presidential Permit issued by the State Department. The State Department must find that the project would serve the national interest before it can issue the permit. 
 “This project has broad bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, and it has been reviewed and studied for over six years and found to be environmentally safe,” Simpson said.  “I hope the President approves this bill, because the economic and energy security implications for this country are too important to delay any longer.” 
The House passed S. 1 by a vote of 270-152. It will now go to the President where he could sign the bill into law but will most likely VETO the legislation.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

IFBF Commodity Conference


Boise---Commodities broker Clark Johnston addressed the Idaho Farm Bureau Commodities Conference this morning in Boise.

"Its reported that ethanol production December reached an record 979,0000 barrels per day, exceeding the previous record set in November. Gasoline prices are down, yet people are still making money making ethanol," said Johnston who added that demand for corn will continue to be strong in 2015.

Legislative Leadership Conference

Speaker of the House Scott Bedke addresses the Idaho Farm Bureau Leadership Conference

Boise--The Idaho Farm Bureau Legislative Leadership Conference met with Senate and House Leaders this week.

Lawmakers discussed legislation that would improve Gem State road and bridges, the dilemma lawmakers face is how to raise revenue without drastic tax hikes.

The other issues centers around the ongoing debate of state control over federal land in Idaho. Lawmakers agree there are no easy answers to complicated issues they face.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Just in


The Farm Lobby--Idaho Farmers Lobby Idaho Legislature

(Boise) The buffet tables were stuffed with roast beef and ham at Boise’s Riverside Hotel. There were just a few empty chairs while more than 200 sat down to dinner. The Idaho Farm Bureau’s ‘strolling buffet’ is an annual event; where farmers have the chance to dine with their lawmakers.

Each table at the event had an assigned legislative district number, Farm Bureau members dined with their lawmakers and had the chance to discuss issues that concerned them, everything from taxes to ownership of federal land.

Lawmakers had the chance to check in with constituents back home. "Its good to know the lawmakers and know what bills are presented and we give them good feedback from back home," said one farmer.

“There’s no better way to test the political winds,” said Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley of Franklin. “They need us as much as we need them; it’s their political livelihood and ours too. This is fun but its serious too.”

There are no speeches at the ‘strolling buffet’, no introductions, just a handshake and a smile at the door. The event is unique because it’s social dinner with a dash of political gravy and there’s an effort leave pressure politics back at the Statehouse.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Women Committee makes donation to McDonald House

video
Women Leadership Committee makes annual donation to Ronald McDonald House

Boise--The Idaho Farm Bureau Women's Leadership Committee donated a $1000 cash, groceries and cooked dinner the Ronald McDonald House in Boise today.

Committee Chairman Judy Woody says the group has made donations to House the past 17 years.
"We gather food and donations from every county in Idaho, and give it to the House with hopes of helping young families that need it most," said Woody.



Women's Leadership Committee's Speech Contest


Challis Student Wins Women's Leadership Committee Speech Contest
Boise--Dale R. Parkinson of Challis won the Women's Leadership Committee Speech Contest. The event is sponsored by the Women’s Leadership Committee.
"I grew up on a potato farm, lived there my whole life. I did a speech last fall and the county President begged me to do the speech contest. I knew a lot already about Idaho Agriculture, but I got on the internet and learned even more, I like to learn. I love humor and try to work it into my speeches and everything worked out," said Parkinson. 
Idaho Lieutenant Governor Brad Little welcomed the 7 contestants to the West Wing of the Senate. He emphasized the importance of communication in agriculture and urged students to not only farm, but to tell the world about their farming operations.
Parkinson's speech immediately captured the Statehouse Audience by addressing the economic importance of Idaho agriculture. He said through technological change, yields are larger and a new generation is finding out that Ag is high-tech. "My Grandfather got 45 bushel of wheat  an acre, this past year my Dad got 150 bushels this summer, "change is good," he adds.
“Its Fertilizer, good irrigation and best management properties, one day we could get 350 bushels and acre, for me Agriculture is high tech," added Parkinson.
Parkinson won $150, he'll use the money for his college fund. All the contestants went on a special guided tour of the Idaho Statehouse.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Just in from Washington


House-Senate hearing scrutinizes state, local impacts of WOTUS rule



Washington—At a rare joint hearing today, House and Senate lawmakers are examining the impacts of a proposed Clean Water Act rule on state and local governments. EPA’s Waters of the U.S. proposal, farmers and ranchers have long warned, would expand federal jurisdiction over land and related land use activities far beyond what Congress authorized in the Clean Water Act. 

In a letter to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Penn.), American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said the organization is pleased the committees are standing up for farmers and ranchers to shed light on this unprecedented expansion of the federal government’s regulation of farm and ranch lands.

“It has been nearly a year since EPA and the Corps first proposed this rule, yet the farm and ranch community still lacks the clarity and certainty that was promised,” Stallman wrote. “We have asked the questions and submitted our comments, yet the agricultural community still needs clear and straight answers from administration officials over the intent and actual meaning of this proposed rule.”

Hearing witnesses include Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator, and Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary for the army, for civil works. Officials from Oklahoma and New York, as well as representatives of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the National Association of Counties will testify as well. 

The hearing comes on the heels of the introduction of legislation (H.R. 594) to prohibit EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers from finalizing rule. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Just in from Washington


USDA Creates More Bird Habitat Opportunities on Irrigated Farmland

WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini today announced that the Conservation Reserve Program now will encourage more bird habitats to be established in irrigated farmland regions.

Declines in upland bird populations, such as the northern bobwhite, pheasant, and prairie chicken, led to the creation of new Conservation Reserve Program features to help restore habitats for these species in these agricultural areasSince the program’s creation in 2004, more than 240,000 acres of marginal cropland has been converted to native grasslands, spurring an increase in upland bird populations.

In recent years, however, applications for this type of habitat creation have slowed. To encourage more participation, USDA’s new policy focuses on farmland with center-pivot irrigation systems where there are circular areas of cropland with patches of land beyond the reach of irrigation. Until now, these patches – known as pivot corners – were only eligible for habitat creation when connected by a linear strip of grassland also enrolled in the program. The new policy allows producers interested in habitat creation to use disconnected pivot corners to help increase the population of upland birds.

“This is how creative thinking can strengthen the intersection of both agriculture and conservation,” said Dolcini. “By removing the program’s requirement for connecting strips, we believe more participants will convert more pivot corners into habitat. Studies suggest that the shapes of these patches, and their proximity to each other, create an attractive environment for the birds, even without the connecting strips.”

Other species that can benefit from today’s change include the mourning dove, wild turkey, several sparrows, meadowlark and bobolinks.

The Conservation Reserve Program is a voluntary program. FSA contracts with agricultural landowners so that environmentally sensitive land is not farmed but instead used for conservation. Participants establish long-term plant species that control soil erosion, sequester carbon, improve water quality, and strengthen declining wildlife populations. In return, participants receive annual rental payments between 10 and 15 years.

Interested landowners can enroll pivot corners in the Conservation Reserve Program at any time. Participants and land must meet certain eligibility requirements. Other restrictions may apply. For additional details, contact your local Farm Service Agency office at offices.usda.govor visit the website at www.fsa.usda.gov/conservation.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Just in


Farm Bureau concerned about dismissal of privacy lawsuit



Washington—“Farmers, ranchers and citizens in general should be concerned about the court’s disregard for individual privacy,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said in a statement issued today. “This court seems to believe that the Internet age has eliminated the individual’s interest in controlling the distribution of his or her personal information. We strongly disagree.”  

Stallman was referencing the federal district court in Minnesota’s dismissal of AFBF’s lawsuit seeking to block EPA from releasing the personal information (such as a person’s name, home address, GPS location and telephone number) of livestock and poultry farmers and ranchers in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. AFBF was very disappointed with the dismissal, which was issued yesterday.  

The court concluded that no federally permitted livestock or poultry farmer is injured by such disclosure because the Clean Water Act mandates disclosure of information concerning permit issuance. For livestock and poultry farmers without a Clean Water Act permit, the court concluded that so long as the farmer’s personal information can be found somewhere on the Internet, EPA’s distribution of that same information does not result in any injury to the farmer. The court noted that a farmer with a public Facebook page used to promote the farm, or whose information could be found via search engine or any state regulatory website in any form, has no right to sue to stop the federal government from compiling and distributing that information.   

AFBF and its co-plaintiff the National Pork Producers Council have 60 days to appeal the decision. Prior to the AFBF suit, EPA had already released personal information of farmers and ranchers from 29 states. AFBF filed suit to block further disclosures regarding farmers and ranchers in Minnesota, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma and Washington.
  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Just in


Simpson Reaffirms Commitment to Stopping EPA Water Grab

Washington - Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson has signed on as an original cosponsor of H.R. 594, the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, which would support the existing partnership between states and the federal government by preventing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers from redefining “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. This bill addresses widespread concerns with the EPA proposed rule expanding its jurisdiction over water throughout the country.Congressman Simpson was also a cosponsor of this legislation when it passed the House of Representatives in the 113th Congress.

“This bill responds to some of the most troubling aspects of the EPA’s efforts to expand its jurisdiction,” said Simpson. “The EPA initially claimed that its rule would provide clarity and flexibility, unfortunately this is not the case. Idahoans have serious concerns about how the EPA may decide to interpret this rule in the future, thus causing even more uncertainty than they have now.”

The Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act expands on the achievements of House Republicans in the FY15 Cromnibus bill which included provisions restricting the application of the Clean Water Act in certain agricultural areas, such as soil and water conservation practices, from regulation.

“This bill recognizes that the EPA’s proposed rule undoes many existing and successful partnerships for cleaning up and maintaining our waterways, whether those are partnerships between farmers, ranchers, and conservationists or local, state, and federal governments,” said Simpson. “I think it’s an arrogant assumption on the part of the EPA to say that they alone should have such authority over every drop of water across the country.”

Simpson has long been a leader on this issue. As Chairman of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, he included similar language in the FY2015 House Energy and Water Appropriations Act and authored language in the FY2015 House Interior and Environment Appropriations Act to prohibit the agencies from finalizing the proposed rule.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Just in

Burley--Idaho Farm Bureau's Young Farmers and Ranchers are meeting in Burley. The organization expects at least a hundred members to make the trip. Seminars, fun and games are scheduled and the event will wrap up on Saturday.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dairy News


More than Half of Nation’s Dairy Producers Enroll in New Margin Protection ProgramIdaho’s Enrollment was Over 60%

Boise — On January 12th, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that more than 23,000 of the nation’s dairy operations – over half of all dairy farms in America – have enrolled in the new safety-net program created by the 2014 Farm Bill, known as the Margin Protection Program. The voluntary program provides financial assistance to participating farmers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below the coverage level selected by the farmer.
“Enrollment far exceeded our expectations in the first year,” said Vilsack. “We’re pleased that so many dairy producers are taking advantage of the expanded protection. USDA conducted a lot of outreach to get the word out. When you compare the initial enrollment rate for the Margin Protection Program to the longstanding federal crop insurance program, where participation ranges from 30 percent to 80 percent depending on the crop, it’s clear that these outreach efforts made a difference.”
During the three months of the enrollment period, USDA conducted a robust education and outreach effort to the nation’s dairy producers. The department held over 500 public meetings, sent out nearly 60,000 direct mailings, and conducted more than 400 demonstrations of the Web-based tool designed to help applicants to calculate their specific coverage needs.
Idaho held meetings around the state with the help of the University of Idaho Extension. This combined with the efforts of the county committee staff to work one-on-one with producers, allowed Idaho to reach well over 60% enrollment from Idaho’s approximately 550 eligible dairies.
Mark Samson, State Executive Director for Idaho said, “This new Margin Protection Program (MPP) will assist producers to manage their risk if milk prices fall. I want to commend our FSA county staff on their diligence in contacting dairies in their counties to make certain each operation was aware of MPP.”
Unlike earlier dairy programs, the Margin Protection Program offers dairy producers a range of choices of protection that are best suited for their operation.  Starting with basic coverage for an administrative fee of $100, producers can select higher levels of coverage at affordable incremental premiums. In Idaho over 25% of producers selected this higher coverage.
Dairy producers interested in enrolling in the Margin Protection Program for calendar year 2016 can register between July 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2015.
To learn more about the Margin Protection Program, visit the Farm Service Agency (FSA) online at www.fsa.usda.gov or contact a local FSA office at offices.usda.gov.  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


NEW USDA PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM FUNDS TWO IDAHO PROJECTS

BOISE – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that 115 conservation projects across the country will receive more than $370 million as part of the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Additional funding from project partners will more than double the financial impact of the program which is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“RCPP projects are led locally and demonstrate that public-private partnerships can solve natural resource challenges,” said Travis Thomason, acting Idaho NRCS State Conservationist. “We were able to provide funding for two projects here in Idaho: The Blackfoot River Conservation Project and the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer Stabilization Project.”

The Blackfoot River Conservation Partnership aims to repair riparian corridors in the Blackfoot River watershed and improve water delivery efficiencies to benefit a unique population of the Yellowstone cutthroat trout. A diverse group of partners, led by Trout Unlimited is working on this project.

“This is an incredible opportunity for us to work with likeminded farmers and ranchers on conservation projects that will benefit hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreationists. We’re excited to get to work on some landscape scale solutions for conservation here in Idaho,” said Matt Woodard, Trout Unlimited’s Home Rivers Initiative Project Director in southeast Idaho.

Trout Unlimited joined with the Upper Blackfoot Confluence to work on this project. The UBC group includes Agrium-NuWest, Idaho Conservation League, J.R. Simplot Company, Monsanto, and Trout Unlimited. “We are beginning a new chapter in conservation history with the rollout of the successful Regional Conservation Partnership Program grant applications here in Idaho,” said Woodard. “Trout Unlimited looks forward to rolling up our sleeves and working with farmers and ranchers on conservation efforts to restore native Yellowstone Cutthroat trout in the Upper Blackfoot River Watershed.”

The other project that successfully received funding is the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer Stabilization project submitted by the Idaho Water Resources Board. This project will help farmers employ several specific strategies to stabilize and recover groundwater levels and spring discharges to benefit the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. The aquifer is an essential resource for agriculture in south eastern Idaho as well as other businesses.

“The Idaho Water Resource Board’s RCPP funding will support the State of Idaho’s on-going efforts to stabilize and recover groundwater levels in the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer,” said Neeley Miller, Senior Water Resource Planner with the Idaho Department of Water Resources. “Aquifer stabilization will help to recover spring discharges that are crucial to maintaining the minimum streams flows in the Snake River.” 

Over the next two years the Board and collaborating partners will work with producers to implement projects on the ground that include: 1) end-gun removal and pivot enhancements, 2) surface water delivery improvements, 3) flood irrigation enhancements, and 4) Thousands Springs conservation.

The Idaho Water Resource Board is the lead partner on the ESPA Aquifer Stabilization RCPP project; other partners include: Ag Spring, Center for Management of Professional and Scientific Work, Ducks Unlimited, General Mills, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho Department of Water Resources, Idaho Ground Water Appropriators, Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission, MillerCoors, The Nature Conservancy, Thousand Springs Water Users Association, Trout Unlimited, and Wood River Land Trust. These collaborating partners have committed to providing financial and technical assistance for RCPP projects each year.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Just in

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

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