Thursday, October 19, 2017

Wheat tour

Idaho Mexico Wheat tour participants from Left to Right: 
Clark Hamilton (Idaho Wheat Commissioner), Clark Johnston (JC Management) Mark Trupp (Idaho Farm Bureau Vice President and Idaho Grain Producers Association State Director) Cotter Norris (Senior Trader/Risk Manager Bunge Mexico) Bryan Searle (Idaho Farm Bureau President) Chelsea Conlon (Idaho Department of AG) Zak Miller (Idaho Farm Bureau Commodity Coordinator)

Idaho Farm Bureau Hosts Mexican Wheat Merchants

Idaho Falls—The Idaho Farm Bureau a Mexican wheat merchants spent three days on a whirlwind tour of Southeast Idaho wheat farms and grain elevators this past week.

A senior trader from Mexico along with Idaho Farm Bureau staff visited local elevators and talked to producers. The Delegation was joined by trade experts from the Idaho Wheat Commission and the Department of Agriculture which helped organized the event.

“During the visit with farmers and elevators, I think the quality of our wheat was the easiest point to make,” said Zak Miller of the Idaho Farm Bureau. “We have superior quality grain whether it's in a producer’s bin or at the elevator. Not only that but all our varieties speak for themselves. Our producers did not disappoint in showing off their superior wheat.” 

Miller says that the Department of Ag and the Wheat Commission continually stressed Idaho’s identity-preserved wheat.

“Very few places in the world have producers that manage their wheat with the precision that Idaho wheat producers do and we wanted to show the Mexican millers that.  As more and more consumers seek to ‘know their food’ this bodes well for Idaho producers in the future.”

For Idaho wheat producers freight is always a challenge, but shipping has improved according to Miller.

“There was a lot of discussion about transportation because it's been a challenge of the past, but that’s the past. Optimistically, we think there are new opportunities to move wheat into Mexico and at a competitive price,” said Miller.

Miller says the biggest takeaway from the tour was greater communication between all parties involved on the tour.

“We think future deals are possible between the Mexican millers and Idaho wheat producers, so we’re going to stay in touch and keep working on an agreement,” said Miller. 

Miller adds that the Farm Bureau will continue to monitor the needs of the Mexican millers and says these visits are productive. "We’re finding ways to help develop and enhance Idaho’s agriculture products," said Miller.

Food Technology

AFBF Backs Timely Reg Review of Food Production Tools

WASHINGTON -- Coordinated federal review of advances in agricultural biotechnology will help America’s farmers and ranchers achieve gains in efficiency and productivity needed to meet the continued challenges of the 21st century, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.

“American agriculture must stay on the cutting edge of technology,” Duvall said. “Agency collaboration and efficient government review of new food production methods will help foster public confidence, provide our farmers and ranchers tools that enhance their productivity and respect the diversity of our nation’s crops and cropping systems.”

Duvall’s comments came in response to a bipartisan letter from 79 members of the House to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Spearheaded by Reps. Neal Dunn (R-Fla.) and Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), the letter urges federal regulators to adhere to a “consistent, science-based, risk-proportionate regulatory system” for agricultural biotechnology.

Like the letter, Duvall urged the department and agency leaders to coordinate and advance timely reviews of advances in biotechnology and biology-based tools including gene editing. He said policies and strategies should embrace the review of innovation, domestically and internationally, through the president’s Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity.

“We will continue to highlight the need for a sound scientific and appropriate risk-based regulatory approach that will ensure farmers and ranchers have the tools and innovation they need to meet the challenges of the future in the most sustainable way possible,” Duvall said.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Just in

New Office opened in Emmett

Emmett--There's a new home for Farm Bureau Insurance in Gem County. Stu Barrett and Dusty Bryant cut the ribbon on the front doorstep of their new office located at 1312 S Washington in Emmett.

Just in

New Plymouth--At Memory Ranch near New Plymouth Monte & Luke Pearce started the day setting a broken leg on a new-born calf. They will remove the cowman’s split in about 10 days and expect a full recovery.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Wind Generation Benefits Farmers, Rural Communities, and Environment

Op-Ed by Robert Giblin

Washington—U.S. energy production is undergoing rapid transformation, with substantial impacts to the agriculture and rural economies. Many farmers already produce renewable energy by growing corn to make ethanol and soybeans for biodiesel. Now, more farmers and ranchers are harvesting the wind blowing over their land to make electricity.

Large wind turbines increasingly dot the countryside, and, like ethanol and biodiesel production, wind energy is yet another example of how agriculture is becoming a significant provider of renewable energy.

Many of the roughly 500 manufacturing facilities and wind turbine technicians are located in rural areas.

From the late 1800s through the 1930s, farmers used wind to pump water, grind grain and, to a small extent, generate power for self-sufficiency. Although most are no longer functional, old metal windmills still stand as quaint symbols of farm life before the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 paved the way to extend electrical service to rural America.

In recent years, about $143 billion has been invested in U.S. wind energy, and the investment is growing. U.S. wind energy production has grown by seven times in the last decade, with more than 53,000 turbines in 41 states generating more than 84,000 megawatts of electricity -- enough to power nearly 25 million homes nationally. Wind energy currently contributes about 6 percent of the nation’s power grid but is expected to grow to as much as 20 percent in the near future, according to the Energy Department’s “Wind Vision” report. In some states, the percentage is much higher. In Texas – a state normally linked to petroleum production – wind accounts for 12 percent of the state’s electrical generation. Iowa leads the nation with 31 percent.

Employment related to wind turbine technology is among the fastest-growing career fields in the U.S., supporting more than 73,000 jobs. Many of the roughly 500 manufacturing facilities and wind turbine technicians are located in rural areas.

Rural communities benefit not only from the added jobs but also from payments farmers and ranchers receive to host turbines on their property.

Each turbine uses less than half an acre, so farmers can plant crops and graze livestock right to the turbine's base. Most can continue to use about 95 percent of the land around wind turbines. Some farmers have also purchased wind turbines, and others are starting to form wind power cooperatives. The payments farmers receive from wind power developers or utility companies can help offset long periods of low commodity prices and increase spending power in rural communities. Additionally, most wind power developers pay property taxes to counties, separately and above the taxes paid by local farmers.

Many communities also benefit from capital investments by companies choosing to locate facilities in areas served by wind generation. In Iowa, wind electricity helped attract billions of dollars in capital investment from Facebook, Microsoft and Google data centers, creating hundreds of jobs.

Wind energy also has no emissions and preserves water compared with other power generation methods, saving some 87 billion gallons in 2016 alone.

Some critics contend that farmers should be in the business of growing food and fiber, and not producing fuel or energy. But energy and food needs are ever-increasing, and U.S. agriculture has the capacity for both. The potential for 80,000 new jobs and $1.2 billion in new income for farmers and rural landowners increases farm economic stability and benefits rural communities. Renewable energy and agriculture are a winning combination.

Monday, October 16, 2017

'17 Beet Harvest

The Magic Valley might have the second greatest sugar beet harvest of the decade.

“On our farm the beet crop is looking very good,” said Tyson Wrigley. “So far I think our yield has been higher than the average. Even better than last year and it was considered a bumper crop. So far the sugars are good. Last year we had better sugars and we’re only part way through this year so we still have hope the sugar will raise as we go on in the coming weeks.”

Just in from Bloomberg

NAFTA Talks Left Reeling After Aggressive US Proposals

From Bloomberg

Washington—After laying out the Trump administration’s most aggressive Nafta demands to date, chief U.S. negotiator John Melle was asked on Sunday how things are progressing. “Fabulous,” he said, smiling and shrugging before entering a negotiating room once more.

The fourth round of negotiations is nearing an end amid rising tensions after the US presented proposals that could be politically unfeasible for Canada and Mexico. US industry and Congress, meanwhile, are mounting a more vocal defense for preserving regional trade ties as they sense the discussions could be in trouble.

U.S. negotiators in recent days put forth a string of bold proposals -- on auto rules of origin, a sunset clause, government procurement, and gutting dispute panels seen by the other nations as core to the pact. The moves were long-signaled, as was Canadian and Mexican opposition to them.

The proposals have spurred public warnings from prominent US lawmakers and the private sector about the perils of scuttling a deal that over more than two decades has broken down trade barriers, including tariffs, for industries like manufacturing and agriculture.

Nafta’s fate may now hang on how flexible the US is about its demands heading into the fifth round of talks, scheduled for Mexico City around the first week of November. While the parties had wanted to reach a deal by December, officials familiar with the negotiations say the talks are likely to drag on for months.

Hanging over negotiations are Donald Trump’s regular threats to walk away. One official familiar with the proceedings, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said on Sunday that it seems more likely Trump will give the mandatory six months’ notice required to leave Nafta, though not necessarily end up backing out. Others were less sure.

“He’s unpredictable, so I don’t know,” said Stephen Moore, a senior economic adviser during Trump’s campaign and chief economist at the Heritage Foundation. “I do feel, though, that his bark has been worse than his bite on trade. That doesn’t mean that he’s retreating. But I think we’re going to see a Nafta 2.0 that will find areas that will give the U.S. even greater benefits while protecting American workers.”

Mexico has signaled that it won’t negotiate during the six-month window if Trump announces he’ll walk away, and it’s unclear what the next steps would be were that to happen. Congress and others are vowing legal and political fights if the president tries to pull out. If Trump manages to, though, Canada could still fall back on an existing bilateral deal with the U.S.; Mexico has no such previous deal.

Warnings are growing from Congress. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means committee, said he prefers a Nafta renewal to a pull-out, which he said Congress would probably block.

If Trump “even suggests that the United States should leave Nafta, to undo that relationship, you would have to go back to Congress. And that would be a much more difficult task for him,” Neal said in a Canadian TV interview with The West Block that aired on Sunday.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has issued its own warning. Last week, Chief Executive Officer Tom Donohue visited Mexico City and pledged to fight “like hell” to preserve Nafta. The largest American business lobbying group plans to send an “army” of representatives to Capitol Hill to demonstrate support for the deal, Donohue said.

The Canadians were sounding the alarm to the chamber. Canada’s chief negotiator, Steve Verheul, told stakeholders during an earlier negotiating session that he’d warned the U.S. business group to brace for the possibility of life after Nafta, according to two officials familiar with the meeting. A Canadian government spokesman declined to comment.

Who’s In Charge?

The fourth round of Nafta talks will continue today at a Washington-area hotel, before a ministerial-level meeting on Tuesday. People familiar with the proceedings describe essentially a two-track process: legitimate progress being made to modernize the pact in less contentious areas, including topics like regulations and services, with essentially no progress on the most divisive US proposals.

The proceedings also raise questions of which Trump administration official is in charge. U.S. officials, preparing for an Oval Office meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week, added Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to their delegation while removing Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who officially is the top negotiator, one government official said.

As talks proceeded, U.S. negotiators told their counterparts that Ross played a key role in developing the autos proposal, two officials said. A spokeswoman for Lighthizer declined to comment. A Ross spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment outside regular business hours.

Mexico’s negotiators said they’re still optimistic a deal can be reached because they expect pushback from the U.S. private sector, according to two people familiar with the talks, who asked not to be identified.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has been increasingly downbeat in her public comments on Nafta. Still, she knows first-hand that a walk-out doesn’t necessarily kill a deal -- last year, she walked out of Canada-EU trade talks saying an agreement looked impossible. A deal was made in the end, though, and the pact entered provisional force last month.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Antiquities Act Legislation

House Committee Moves Bill Requiring Transparency in Designation of National Monuments

Washington-The House Natural Resources Committee yesterday approved a bill that would restore Congress’ original intent in passing the Antiquities Act in 1906. In modernizing the law for the 21st century, the Farm Bureau-backed National Monument Creation and Protection Act (H.R. 3990) would protect archeological resources while ensuring public transparency and accountability in the president’s use of the Antiquities Act.

Approved by Congress more than a century ago, the Antiquities Act does not explicitly require the president to consult with local and state authorities, but it does mandate that the president reserve “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

However, over the last eight years, the Obama administration used the authority provided by the Antiquities Act to go well beyond Congress’ intent, locking up millions of acres of land from multiple-uses by designating land as national monuments.

In a letter sent to President Donald Trump early this year, Farm Bureau and 18 other organizations highlighted their concerns and called for action. The groups represent the landowners, grazing permittees, loggers, forest products companies, miners and local governments who have been harmed by federal government’s overreach in the national monument designation process.

“We strongly oppose the ongoing misuse of the Antiquities Act by the executive branch and request your administration to work swiftly to resolve these conflicts and work with Congress to pass legislation to improve accountability and transparency in the designation of national monuments. Such reform will ensure that the will of local communities is respected and true American antiquities can be protected,” the groups wrote.

The National Monument Creation and Protection Act addresses several of the groups’ concerns. It includes provisions to protect endangered antiquities and to prevent abuse of executive authority and the designation of excessive national monuments. The bill would also empower impacted local communities and protect property rights.

Key provisions of the bill would:

• Retain flexibility to designate a National Monument up to 640 acres, allowing the president to rapidly protect objects of antiquity in imminent danger and restore the original intent of the Antiquities Act.

• Ensure all new monument designations between 640 acres and 10,000 acres are reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act prior to being finalized. Proposed new monument designations between 5,000 and 10,000 acres must be reviewed under an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement.

• Require the approval of all county commissions, state legislatures, and governors impacted by a national monument for any designation between 10,000 acres and 85,000 acres.

• Require prior written consent of impacted state and private landowners before private property is included in a national monument.

• Allow the president to designate new “Emergency National Monuments” for up to one year to protect areas of any size in times of emergency.

• Redefine the terms used in the Antiquities Act to prohibit the designation of marine national monuments, restoring the original purpose of the act to only protect objects on lands owned by the federal government.

• Require monument reductions greater than 85,000 acres in size to be approved by the impacted counties, state legislatures, governors and have undergone NEPA analysis.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

'17 Beet Harvest

2017 Beet Crop nearly as sweet as ‘16

Burley— Magic Valley farmers might have the second greatest sugar beet harvest of the decade.

“On our farm, the beet crop is looking very good,” said Tyson Wrigley. “So far I think our yield has been higher than the average. Even better than last year and it was considered a bumper crop. So far the sugars are good. Last year we had better sugars and we’re only partway through this year so we still have hope the sugar will raise as we go on in the coming weeks.”

At the Dot.11 farm south of Burley they’re sending up great clouds of dust, running sun-up to sundown topping and digging beets.

According to Amalgamated Sugar Company, last years beet crop broke a lot of company records with sugar content climbing towards 20 percent and yields above 40 tons per acre. Preliminary 2017 price estimates are running at $37 to $40 per ton, not far off last years blistering pace.

Magic Valley suffered through one of the worst winters on record followed by weeks of rainfall. All that mud kept equipment out of the fields, delaying planting for weeks.

“We ran our beet planter 24 hours a day for five days and luckily got all the beets in. When the rain came and it created a very good emergence this year. We had a great crop right from the start and we didn’t have frost or anything to where we didn’t have re-plants, that's why the numbers are so good,” said Wrigley.

According to Amalgamated Sugar Company, last years beet crop broke company records with sugar content climbing towards 20 percent with yields above 40 tons per acre. Preliminary 2017 price estimates are running at $37 to $40 per ton, not far off last years blistering pace.

“The last field we did we got $45 a ton and 17 percent sugar,” said Wrigley. “I think $45 ton is a very good crop, we’re happy with that and hoping the sugar content continues to rise as we go along. We’re hoping for closer to 18-percent and I think we’ll see that.”

Last year Wrigley says his fields averaged almost $48 a ton and the sugar content was between 18 and 20 percent.

“I’m excited about this year. It is fun to get the harvest over with and see what the crops did. I like to see what we’ve earned for all the hard work that started last winter and it is exciting. Last year was a very good year. I don’t think this year will totally beat it but it'll be close and that’s a very good year in my book,” said Wrigley.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Farm Bureau hosts NAFTA talks

Idaho Export Hay heading to drought-stricken Canada

NAFTA Meeting Resume on Wednesday in Washington

Washington—The American Farm Bureau Federation hosted trade meetings this past week in Washington, D.C.

“The North American Free Trade Agreement has helped America’s farmers and ranchers make significant gains in US Agriculture exports to Canada and Mexico,” said American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall.

Duvall thinks the administration’s negotiating objectives for the agreement will maintain and improve agricultural trade with our nearest trading partners. 

"We look forward to expanding our market opportunities with our North American neighbors even further by bringing this agreement into the 21st century,” added Duvall.

The Farm Bureau met with counterparts from Canada and Mexico to discuss all of the North American Free Trade Agreement trade issues last week. AFBF trade specialist Dave Salmonsen says the meeting shows a unified voice across the NAFTA partners on agriculture issues.

“We think it’s very important that among all the countries, that industries can come together,” said Salmonsen. “And agriculture has seen the benefits across the board in all three countries. So, they came together to say this is an important part of our economy and we want to see the gains we’ve gotten from this preserved.”

The meetings this week follow a similar meeting held in August between influential agriculture groups from Canada and Mexico along with the American Farm Bureau.

“Free trade agreements have a proven track record of boosting revenue for U.S. agriculture. They create a level playing field for our farmers and ranchers to compete in the global marketplace,” said Duvall. “And NAFTA is no exception with ag exports to Canada and Mexico increasing from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $38 billion in 2016. It is vital that we lock in that progress as the first point of talks to improve NAFTA.”

The NAFTA delegates got together back in August and last week to decide what commonalities they might have.

“And we all agreed that overall NAFTA’s been very positive for all countries and to announce the fact that we didn’t want to see anything go backward,” said Salmonsen. “But we're looking forward to some modernizations. And at the meeting we just had we affirmed all of those same issues.”

Salmonsen added that the main issues include standards and market access.

“We don’t want to have food safety standards used as a protectionist trade barrier, so let’s base them on science, and there’s a lot of agreement there. At some point they’ll be talking about U.S. and Canada dairy trade,” said Salmonsen.

Within the TPP, there had been new access for the US into Canada.

“We hope that we can get that kind of access in the NAFTA agreement. We have issues with what role geographic indications labeling will take so plenty of work ahead and Wednesday the negotiators will be back in Washington, D.C., for another round of talks,” added Salmonsen.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Just in from Washington

USDA Issues Farm Safety Net and Conservation Payments
Total Exceeds $9.6 Billion

WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced that over $9.6 billion in payments will be made, beginning this week, to producers through the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), Price Loss Coverage and Conservation Reserve programs. The United States Department of Agriculture is issuing approximately $8 billion in payments under the ARC and PLC programs for the 2016 crop year, and $1.6 billion under CRP for 2017.

“Many of these payments will be made to landowners and producers in rural communities that have recently been ravaged by drought, wildfires, and deadly hurricanes,” Perdue said. “I am hopeful this financial assistance will help those experiencing losses with immediate cash flow needs as we head toward the end of the year.”

The ARC and PLC programs were authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and offer a safety net to agricultural producers when there is a substantial drop in revenue or prices for covered commodities. Over half a million producers will receive ARC payments and over a quarter million producers will receive PLC payments for 2016 crops, starting this week and continuing over the next several months.

Payments are being made to producers who enrolled base acres of barley, corn, grain sorghum, lentils, oats, peanuts, dry peas, soybeans, wheat, and canola. In the upcoming months, payments will be announced after marketing year average prices are published by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service for the remaining covered commodities. Those include long and medium grain rice (except for temperate Japonica rice), which will be announced in November; remaining oilseeds and chickpeas, which will be announced in December; and temperate Japonica rice, which will be announced in early February 2017. The estimated payments are before application of sequestration and other reductions and limits, including adjusted gross income limits and payment limitations.

Also, as part of an ongoing effort to protect sensitive lands and improve water quality and wildlife habitat, USDA will begin issuing 2017 CRP payments this week to over 375,000 Americans.

“American farmers and ranchers are among our most committed conservationists,” said Perdue. “We all share a responsibility to leave the land in better shape than we found it for the benefit of the next generation of farmers. This program helps landowners provide responsible stewardship of the land that should be taken out of production.”

Signed into law by President Reagan in 1985, CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the United States. Thanks to voluntary participation by farmers and landowners, CRP has improved water quality, reduced soil erosion and increased habitat for endangered and threatened species. In return for enrolling in CRP, USDA, through the Farm Service Agency (FSA) on behalf of the Commodity Credit Corporation, provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Participants enter into contracts that last between 10 and 15 years. CRP payments are made to participants who remove sensitive lands from production and plant certain grasses, shrubs and trees that improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and increase wildlife habitat.

Wheat tour

Idaho Mexico Wheat tour participants from Left to Right:  Clark Hamilton (Idaho Wheat Commissioner), Clark Johnston (JC Management) ...