Thursday, July 2, 2015

Just in

Farm Bureau urges Senate to repeal COOL requirements on beef, chicken and pork 



HillWashington – Iowa Farm Bureau President and American Farm Bureau Federation Board Member, Craig Hill, testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee on the risks American farmers and ranchers face in light of the World Trade Organization’s ruling against mandatory country-of-origin labeling for beef and pork sold in the U.S.

“Farm Bureau clearly hoped the WTO would rule in favor of the United States on the regulatory changes made to COOL in recent years,” Hill, a grain and livestock farmer from Milo, Iowa, said. “But the writing on the proverbial wall is clear: that was not the outcome.

“We urge the Senate to act quickly to repeal the COOL requirements for beef, pork and chicken and prevent Canada and Mexico from taking retaliatory actions that will impact farmers and ranchers all across the nation.

“American Farm Bureau supports country-of-origin labeling that meets WTO requirements, and we appreciate that remaining COOL programs are being kept in place. The risk of retaliation by Canada and Mexico is too great. U.S. farmers and ranchers could suffer a serious blow if decisive action is not taken.”

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Just in

President signs Trade Promotion Authority bill 


Washington—President Obama’s signature on Trade Promotion Authority legislation opens the door to creating new trade partnerships around the world that will drive American business forward in the international marketplace, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

“The American economy stands stronger when we work together—and that’s just what Trade Promotion Authority enables us to do at the bargaining table. U.S. agriculture is ready for ambitious trade agreements that break down barriers to products grown and made in America, so our trading partners know we mean business,” Stallman said in a statement.

For the past 40 years, TPA and its precedent versions have provided U.S. negotiators the ability to reach agreement with other nations on trade matters that are not open to change by Congress, yet TPA has protected Congress’ constitutional role to set trade objectives and preserved lawmakers’ final “yea” or “nay” on the agreement.

In 2014, U.S. farmers and ranchers exported more than $152 billion in food, fiber, feed and energy commodities and products to customers around the world, providing the country with a positive net trade of $43 billion over imports. Agriculture’s 2015 export forecast isn’t as sunny, with a projected $9 billion drop. While some of this decrease stems from lower commodity prices for certain crops, ongoing challenges U.S. negotiators face in reaching multilateral agreements and resolving trade conflicts are also a factor.

“Without the ability to finish negotiations and present those agreements to Congress for an up or down ratification vote, we are ceding potential market development and expansion to our competitors and yielding global economic leadership to other nations,” Stallman said in a letter to lawmakers urging them to pass the bill.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Just in


Simpson Applauds Supreme Court’s Ruling Against EPA for Ignoring Onerous Costs

Washington – Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson issued the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for straying well be­yond the bounds of reasonable interpretation of the Clean Air Act.

Congressman Simpson has long voiced opposition to the EPA’s aggressive rules and regulatory agenda. He believes the agency too often fails to consider the full impact and costs of its actions to the American people.

“I am very pleased with the Court’s ruling today that the EPA must consider cost of compliance before issuing new regulations. I have been deeply concerned at how this Administration’s EPA has drastically expanded its regulatory authority over the last six years,” said Simpson. “Time and again the EPA issues new regulations, without Congress’s consent, that impact nearly every facet of Americans’ lives—from whom you can hire to remodel your house to what kind of car you can drive. Today’s ruling sends a much needed message to the EPA that it cannot continue to regulate in a vacuum.”

Monday, June 29, 2015

Just in


UI Extension, Regional Climate Change Project Hosts Precision Ag Field Tour July 8
MOSCOW,— The USDA-funded Regional Approaches to Climate Change (REACCH) project and University of Idaho Extension are holding a Precision Agriculture Field Tour on Wednesday, July 8, to respond to a growing desire among Palouse-area farmers to learn ways to more efficiently use resources, including fertilizers, pesticides and emerging technologies.

Registration begins at 7 a.m. at the UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Kambitsch Farm near Genesee along U.S. Highway 95.

The itinerary includes Odberg Farms near Genesee, Blair Farms near Kendrick, Jones Farms near Troy and loops back to Kambitsch Farm at the end of the day. Bus transportation will be provided.
“Each location explores precision agriculture methods geared toward the actual needs and practices of local growers,” said Kristy Borrelli, Moscow-based REACCH Extension specialist.

The tour builds on a field day at the UI Parker Farm near Moscow last summer sponsored by the collaborative REACCH project, which includes UI, Washington State University, Oregon State University and the USDA Agricultural Research Service. WSU’s Site-Specific Climate Friendly Farming project is also participating in the event.

“Focusing on efficiency not only allows farmers to grow healthier crops, but also to use fewer resources and to save money,” Borrelli said. “Additionally, efficient use of resources helps protect our natural environment by reducing pollution to our air, soil and water.”

“Farmers enjoy learning from other farmers, and this tour is a great opportunity for them to do that,” she added.
This year’s topics include variable-rate nitrogen application, yield maps, technical support, unmanned aerial systems and regulations, remote sensing, variable-rate liming, soil health and low pH soils and instruction on how to get started with precision agriculture. Lunch at Blair Farms is included.
Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP before Monday, July 6 to Borrelli at kborrelli@uidaho.edu or (208) 885-1220.
 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Just in from Capitol Hill


Congress Approves Trade Promotion Authority

Washington--U.S. agriculture took a big step forward this week with the U.S. Senate’s bipartisan passage of Trade Promotion Authority.

The legislation is vital to Idaho agriculture and every other farm state that depends on the ability to export commodities.

“Congress moving this legislation to the President’s desk sends a strong signal to foreign governments that we mean business at the bargaining table and are ready to complete new agreements that will break down trade barriers and open new markets all over the world,” said Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley.

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). TPA is a legislative procedure, written by Congress, through which Congress defines U.S. negotiating objectives and spells out a detailed oversight and consultation process for trade negotiations. Under TPA, Congress retains the authority to review and decide whether any proposed U.S. trade agreement will be implemented. TPA does not provide new power to the Executive Branch

With Trade Promotion Authority, the United States will be able to pursue 21st century trade agreements that support and create U.S. jobs while helping American manufacturers, service providers, farmers and ranchers increase U.S. exports and compete in a highly competitive, globalized economy.

Idaho’s congressional delegation, save one, showed their support for Idaho agriculture voting in favor of the legislation. Agriculture places a high value on TPA because it streamlines the trade negotiating process and keeps the industry competitive in a fast moving world. Idaho Farm Bureau thanks Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, and Congressman Mike Simpson who all voted in favor of the legislation.

Congressman Raul Labrador provided the following statement:

“I cast my vote to preserve the balance of power between the branches of government. I opposed TPA because it largely restricts the ability of members of Congress to ensure that trade agreements negotiated by a president meet objectives set forth by Congress. This bill permits only a select few the ability to withdraw or override fast-track authority. That’s an unacceptable concession.

“I have consistently voted for free trade agreements. However, TPA is a process bill, not a trade bill. I remain a champion of free trade and will continue to work with Idaho business leaders to preserve and expand access to overseas markets.”



Thursday, June 25, 2015

Just in


DOI, USDA, EPA, NOAA and USACE announce additional Resilient Lands and Waters Initiative sites to prepare natural resources for climate change sites

 WASHINGTON-The Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) today recognized three new collaborative landscape partnerships across the country where Federal agencies will focus efforts with partners to conserve and restore important lands and waters and make them more resilient to a changing climate.

These include the California Headwaters, California's North-Central Coast and Russian River Watershed, and Crown of the Continent. Building on existing collaborations, these Resilient Lands and Waters partnerships – located in California and Montana/British Columbia – will help build the resilience of valuable natural resources and the people, businesses and communities that depend on them in regions vulnerable to climate change and related challenges.

They will also showcase the benefits of landscape-scale management approaches and help enhance the carbon storage capacity of these natural areas. The selected lands and waters face a wide range of climate impacts and other ecological stressors related to climate change, including drought, wildfire, sea level rise, species migration and invasive species.

At each location, Federal agencies will work closely with state, tribal, and local partners to prepare for and prevent these and other threats, and ensure that long-term conservation efforts take climate change into account.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Just in

USDA Announces New Tool to Monitor Dams, Keep Communities Safe

WASHINGTON, June 23, 2015 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the availability of DamWatchThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website., a new web-based application that provides real-time monitoring of rainfall, snowmelt, stream flow and seismic events that could pose potential threats to dam safety.
"With tools like this, USDA is using the newest technologies to meet our mission," Vilsack said. "This tool provides a 'one-stop' source for accessing critical documents, databases, onsite electronic monitoring devices and geospatial information. The intent is to help keep the public safe and protect infrastructure."
Through a secure interactive web interface, DamWatch will help watershed project sponsors monitor and manage dams that were built with assistance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). By monitoring these structures, project sponsors can better prevent and protect against hazardous, costly and potentially catastrophic events. For example, during recent rainfall events in Oklahoma, NRCS worked with project sponsors to prioritize field reconnaissance of structure sites.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Just in


House’s TPA bill will grow farmers’ access to foreign markets


Washington–House passage Thursday of a trade promotion authority bill brings the U.S. a step closer to completing ambitious trade negotiations around the world, which is key to expanding access to international markets and continuing U.S. farmers and ranchers’ story of growth and prosperity, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

“Congressional support is critical to breaking down trade barriers and completing ambitious new trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. TPA streamlines negotiations and strengthens our position at the bargaining table,” Stallman said in a statement.

Stallman also noted Farm Bureau’s appreciation for the leadership of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), House Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader McCarthy (R-Calif.) on this issue.

The Senate passed a TPA measure in May.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Just in


WYDEN-CRAPO FIRE FUNDING PROVISIONS INCLUDED IN INTERIOR APPROPRIATIONS BILL

Washington- Provisions to pay for the most extreme wildfires through federal disaster funding were included in the Fiscal Year 2016 Interior Appropriations Bill, which was passed by a Senate panel.  The funding method is similar to legislation introduced by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), who have been concerned that firefighting budgets in recent years have taken funding from other programs, including those that restore habitat and maintain jobs in national forests.

The Wyden-Crapo bill, S. 235, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, would draw from disaster and emergency accounts whenever costs exceed 70 percent of the 10-year average cost of wildfire suppression, freeing up funds that could be used for wildfire prevention activities in the nation’s forests.  Year after year, money is borrowed from fire prevention funds in order to pay for wildfire suppression.  The Interior Appropriations measure, approved in a markup by the Senate Appropriations Committee, ends fire borrowing and calls for the use of disaster funding when 100 percent of the Forest Service budget is exhausted.

“I’m pleased the Senate Interior funding bill addresses the dangerous cycle of fire borrowing, because fires are getting bigger, hotter and more expensive, and Federal Agencies shouldn’t have to go bankrupt in order to fight these devastating infernos,” Wyden said.  “But solving fire borrowing is only half the battle—Congress must also ensure that adequate funds are available to get out ahead of the problem and prevent wildfires from raging out of control in the first place.” 

“Firefighters, county officials and property owners alike deserve expedited action now that the fire season is underway,” Crapo said.  “Not only do we need certainty to protect lives and property, we also need to perform the maintenance, prevention and restoration work that prevents future fires.”

Severe drought this year has exacerbated the fire danger, with Douglas and Jefferson counties in Oregon receiving new disaster declarations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  In Idaho, Adams, Washington, Payette, Canyon, Owyhee, Elmore, Custer, Blaine, Butte, Cassia and Twin Falls counties have all received primary drought disaster designations. 

The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reports, as of today, twelve large fires have burned 35,372 acres in Alaska, Arizona, California and Oregon.  Smaller range fires have also been reported in Idaho.   NIFC officials say although mid- to late-spring rains have delayed the onset of severe fire activity in much of the Western continental U.S., low moisture over the winter and persistent drought have created conditions for above-normal fire potential in July and August, particularly in parts of California, Idaho and Arizona, and all of Oregon and Washington.  To the north, Alaska already this month is experiencing large, severe fires burning in the southern and eastern portions of the state and burning homes and other structures.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Just in


Free Trade Legislation Passes House

Washington- The US House of Representatives voted on a Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill and it passed by a vote of 218-208 this past week. Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson supports free trade and supported the legislation.     

TPA, known as “fast track,” is not a trade deal. TPA simply sets up a process for Congress to consider trade deals; in this case, Congress expects to consider the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is still being negotiated.  The TPA bill that the House voted on today guarantees that Congress will maintain a meaningful role in all trade negotiations through increased transparency and ensures that Congress will hold the administration accountable with effective oversight measures.  If TPA is signed into law, Congress and the public will have 60 days to review any proposed trade deal before it will come up for a vote.  Congress will retain the final say on passage or failure of trade deals, and Congress will reject any proposal that does not serve the best interests of the United States. 

“When Congress does consider trade agreements, we need to remember that 95% of the world market is outside of our borders,” said Simpson. “Participating in trade deals is good for the American economy and good for increasing employment here.  Americans need to be the ones writing the rules for international trade, not leaving it up to other countries and risk being left behind in the global economy.  Members of Congress can’t just claim to be supportive of free trade at home—we must support it here in Washington with our votes.”

Today’s vote follows last week’s three votes in the House related to trade.  Although fast track passed by a vote of 219-211 last week, it could not advance because it was part of a package sent by the Senate that didn’t pass overall.   Congressman Simpson voted in support of all four trade measures.  The TPA bill that passed the House today will now move to the Senate for further consideration.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

From the AFBF Spark Conference

NFL Player quits game to Farm

Charlotte—“I’m humbled by it all,” said Jason Brown, the former St. Louis Ram that quit the NFL to start a farm of his own.

Brown addressed the lunch crowd at the American Farm Bureau SPARK conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.

It's rare in a football-mad country for a player at the top of the game would quit to farm.

In 2009, the mountain of a man signed a five-year, $37.5 million dollar contract with the Rams making him the highest-paid center in the NFL. But it wasn’t enough because he felt a calling, something that would benefit fellow man.

Six years later Brown has never been happier. He’s now just a farmer who works with the simple goal of feeding the hungry. He runs a 1,000-acre farm with his growing family and still uses YouTube to figure out how to grow crops.

“You can learn anything from YouTube, I do my own plumbing, wiring, carpentry, and farming all learned from YouTube,” he says.

Brown was drafted 124th overall in 2005 out of the North Carolina and played nine seasons in the NFL before getting cut by the Rams in the spring of 2012.

At 29, Brown knew he had plenty of playing years ahead of him. But still in demand. He had offers from a lot of teams including the Baltimore Ravens.

It was tempting but Brown says it was time to give back, “God whatever you have in store for me,” he prayed. “I do it for you. I wanted to find a way to better serve man and you.” 

He walked away from the game at the top of his career and legions of fans were surprised. ESPN magazine even ran a story called “The Curious Case Of Jason Brown.”

“Everyone said you're making the biggest mistake of your life,'" Brown told the crowd and said, “But I didn’t. Of all the things, God wanted me to farm."

By trial and error, Brown got the farm up and going the first year he raised a modest 5 acres of vegetables. Along the way church groups and inner city kids heard about his cause and helped with the harvest. The gleaners and harvest volunteers are now part of Brown's farm ministry.

It’s a long way from Idaho,and the NFL and North Carolina, but Brown says farming is universal and sustains life and is the best way to serve mankind.

To this day, everything he grows he donates. This past year he celebrated his greatest harvest thus far, giving away 46,000 pounds of sweet potatoes and 10,000 pounds of cucumbers.

 Like any farmer he has seeds in the ground and is watching this years crop grow, hoping for a good year and instead of worrying about the Superbowl he just watches.



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Just in


Farm Bureau releases detailed analysis of ‘Waters of the U.S.’ rule

 Washington—The American Farm Bureau Federation released documents outlining how the EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” rule will give the agency sweeping powers to regulate land use despite a body of law clearly prohibiting such overreach.

 The Farm Bureau analysis, now available online, makes available to the public details the EPA has refused to address in public meetings over the past year. The documents are available as PDF attachments.

 “Our analysis shows yet again how unwise, extreme and unlawful this rule is,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said. “Our public affairs specialists and legal team have assembled the best analysis available anywhere, and their conclusions are sobering: Despite months of comments and innumerable complaints, the Waters of the U.S. proposal is even worse than before.”

 The WOTUS rule, first released in draft form in April 2014, has garnered fierce opposition from farmers, ranchers and land owners of all kinds. Dozens of states and countless municipalities oppose the measure since it would federalize regulation already handled at the local level. Just as important is the rule’s radical view of “water” which, in its view, should encompass the vast majority of land in the United States since it surrounds actual water that may or may not be protected under the Clean Water Act.

 Alarmed by the agency’s actions, the House of Representatives recently voted to prohibit the EPA from enacting the rule. A similar bill is moving through the Senate and could come to a floor vote within weeks.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Just in


Senators introduce bill to correct duplicative pesticide permit requirements



Washington—Recently introduced in the Senate, the Sensible Environmental Protection Act (S. 1500) would clarify that lawful applications of pesticides regulated under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) are not subject to permitting under the Clean Water Act. 

A 2009 decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit erroneously applied the provisions of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permitting process under the Clean Water Act to pesticide applications that were already fully regulated under FIFRA.

“This redundant regulation is an extra burden for farmers but does nothing to further protect the environment or water quality,” explained Don Parrish, American Farm Bureau Federation Clean Water Act specialist. “Protecting human health and the environment are very important, but we can achieve those goals with one federal program. It doesn’t make sense to require farmers to jump through extraneous regulatory hoops.”

Federal law requires that EPA evaluate pesticides and label them for proper use before they go onto the market. That evaluation process is extremely comprehensive and includes potential impacts on water quality.

“FIFRA was enacted more than 50 years ago, and it establishes a rigorous process of agency evaluation and scientific assessment of how a pesticide’s use will affect the environment. Requiring Clean Water Act permits on top of EPA-approved registration is all cost and no benefit,” Parrish said. 

Furthermore, it was never Congress’ intent to saddle farmers with additional permit requirements that would have little to no environmental benefit.

The additional and unnecessary permitting requirement can cause farmers and ranchers to lose crops while they’re waiting for a federal permit to allow them to control pests. This problem is made even more problematic by EPA’s overly broad WOTUS rule. Taken together, these two issues create significant liabilities for farmers and ranchers.

The permitting requirement also wastes the time and money of state and federal workers who have to process the permits.

The Senate bill, introduced by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. In March, the House Agriculture Committee approved a similar measure, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2015 (H.R. 897). 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Just in



Headed For high country.  The Don White family of Montour are on day two of a three day cattle drive to summer pasture in the Boise National forest. (Ritter photo)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Just in


Ada County Farm Bureau President Don Sonke accepts a warm thank you from Diane Davis Mykelgard at the celebration of the new Ag Pavilion at Boise's Julie Davis Park. 

Ada County Farm Bureau Celebrates Completion of JD Park Ag Pavilion

Boise-Ada County President Don Sonke along with Farm Bureau Board members met with Park officials to celebrate the completion of the $400,000 Ag Pavilion at Julia Davis Park in downtown Boise.

“I just wanted to get all the board members and everyone together for just a social gathering to celebrate the finishing of the Ag Pavilion in the Julia Davis Park. That said, it's not completely finished, we have a couple of things to complete but we’re almost done,” said Sonke. 

The pavilion includes a beautiful sandstone structure that depict the basics and historical timeline of farming and ranching Idaho. It includes sandstone blocks for each of Idaho's 44 counties, with a farm-related fact inscribed on each.

For example, one block tells people that all 44 counties in Idaho raise cattle, another that Idaho's cherry harvest starts in late June and another that only Russet potatoes grown in Idaho can be called Idaho potatoes. Other blocks inform people that a milk cow can produce 46,000 glasses of milk each year and that 12 bees must collect nectar from 2,000 flowers to produce one tablespoon of honey.

“We took on this project seven years ago,” said Sonke. “Diane Davis and the Parks Department offered us the chance to be the primary sponsor of the Ag Pavilion Center in Julie Davis Park. They’re going to have several centers in the park. For instance theres a pavilion for cancer survivors, they're building a grand plaza at the entrance and we have a very choice spot because anyone entering the grand plaza has to pass our Pavilion.”

Ada County Farm Bureau donated $100,000 and Idaho Agriculture groups donated more than $300,000 to showcase the industry that built Idaho.


“This pavilion will be here forever and I wanted the new County board members to feel a part of this. To take pride in what we done and be a part of something thats here forever. I think everyone is really happy with it,” said Sonke.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Just in


Boise's own Sarah Stephens proudly displays her championship saddle as the 2015 Amateur All-around Mule Days World Champion.(Jordan Miller)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Just in


EPA Abused Rulemaking Process,
American Farm Bureau General Counsel Steen Tells Senate

WASHINGTON– The EPA abused and distorted the normal rulemaking process to pre-determine the outcome of its highly controversial “Waters of the U.S.” rule, American Farm Bureau Federation General Counsel Ellen Steen told the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

Instead of inviting and openly considering public input, the EPA conducted an aggressive advocacy campaign to obscure the on-the-ground impact of the rule and to smear groups, like Farm Bureau, that dared to explain those impacts to the public, Steen told the committee.  

“The notice-and-comment procedure for rulemaking is designed to ensure that agencies take honest account of the thoughts and concerns of the regulated public,” Steen said. “Legitimate concerns over how the rule would affect agriculture, in particular, were subtly twisted and then dismissed as ‘silly’ and ‘ludicrous’ and ‘myths.’ Public statements from the agency’s highest officials made it clear that the agency was not genuinely open to considering objections to the rule.”

The agency also made use of new social media tools such as “Thunderclap” to gin up well-intended but ill-informed support for the rule among the lay public. Later, agency officials pointed to the resulting emails, petition signatures, postcards  and other non-substantive mass comments to contend that “the public” supported the rule, even though the vast majority of substantive comments—by state and local governments, business owners, and organizations representing virtually every segment of the U.S. economy—opposed the rule. 

“Regardless of whether you supported, opposed, or never heard of that rule, you should shudder to think that this is how controversial regulations will be developed in the age of social media,” Steen said. “Agencies must strive to maintain an open mind throughout the rulemaking process—and to inform rather than indoctrinate and obfuscate—even when policy issues have become controversial and politicized.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Just in

Farm Bureau asks Congress to repeal country of origin labeling for beef, chicken and pork

Washington—Farmers and ranchers are backing congressional legislation to repeal a law that forces food distributors to label beef, chicken and pork products as to their country of origin. The effort comes on the heels of a World Trade Organization ruling that grants Canada and Mexico the right to retaliate against the United States if it fails to stop the program by mid-November.

“While we were hopeful that the WTO would have found COOL to be legal, it is now clear that we are far better off with no mandatory labeling for beef, pork and chicken, which should end threats of retaliation by our two closest trading partners,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

The House Agriculture Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas), last week passed a bill to remove the language from current law. A vote by the full House could happen within days.

“We are pleased the House Agriculture Committee has moved to repeal country of origin labeling for beef, pork and chicken, and we ask the full House to do likewise,” Stallman said. “Whatever benefits labeling brought farmers and ranchers, the WTO ruled that the process of separating the herds was too cumbersome to permit free trade. Canada and Mexico could retaliate with $2 billion in tariffs against U.S. food if we don’t stop the labeling program.”

Monday, June 8, 2015

Just in from Washington


American Farm Bureau Federation reviewing final WOTUS rule


Washington—The American Farm Bureau Federation is undertaking a thorough analysis of the final WOTUS rule—released earlier today—to determine whether the EPA listened to the substantive comments farmers and ranchers submitted during the comment period. The organization is looking in particular at how the rule treats so-called ephemeral streams, ditches, small ponds and isolated wetlands, AFBF President Bob Stallman said in a statement.

“Based on EPA’s aggressive advocacy campaign in support of its original proposed rule—and the agency’s numerous misstatements about the content and impact of that proposal—we find little comfort in the agency’s assurances that our concerns have been addressed in any meaningful way,” Stallman said.

Stallman also reiterated farmers and ranchers’ concern that the process used to produce the rule was flawed, with EPA’s proposal transgressing clear legal boundaries set by Congress and the courts. The rule deals more with regulating land use than protecting the nation’s valuable water resources.

“EPA’s decision to mount an aggressive advocacy campaign during the comment period has tainted what should have been an open and thoughtful deliberative process,” he added. “While we know that farmers and ranchers were dedicated to calling for substantial changes to the rule, we have serious concerns about whether their comments were given full consideration.”

After a thorough review of the rule, which Farm Bureau expects to complete in the next few days, the organization will decide on an appropriate course of action.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Just in



American Farm Bureau calls on House to pass trade promotion authority

Washington—America’s farmers and ranchers need access to open markets around the world to boost the economy here at home. The American Farm Bureau Federation called on the House today to protect the future of U.S. agricultural trade by passing the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 1314).

 “We lead the world in agricultural exports but will soon give up customers and potential markets without the trade promotion authority needed to secure important new trade agreements,” American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said.

 U.S. agricultural exports exceeded $152 billion last year, but stand to fall by $12 billion this year, due in part to the challenges U.S. negotiators are facing in reducing trade barriers. TPA gives our negotiators the leverage they need to resolve trade conflicts, break down barriers to U.S. products and open new markets around the world. The need for this tool is particularly critical now to break through logjams in both the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations.

 Foreign governments are reluctant to work out the tough trade issues with the U.S. when it’s possible for Congress to change details at the final hour and send negotiators back to the drawing board. Importantly, TPA ensures Congress retains final approval authority and its critical role in setting objectives and priorities for trade negotiations, but eliminates the possibility of deal-killing amendments.

 “With TPA, we send a strong message to our international partners that when the United States comes to the negotiating table, we mean business,” Stallman said. “Without TPA, we risk yielding our global economic leadership to other nations. Farm Bureau urges the House to vote now to pass H.R. 1314 for the future of agriculture.” The Senate in late May passed a TPA bill, the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (S. 995).

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Just in

Secretary Vilsack Announces Additional 800,000 Acres Dedicated to Conservation Reserve Program for Wildlife Habitat and Wetlands 

Washington – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that an additional 800,000 acres of highly environmentally sensitive land may be enrolled in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) under certain wetland and wildlife initiatives that provide multiple benefits on the same land.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will accept new offers to participate in CRP under a general signup to be held Dec. 1, 2015, through Feb. 26, 2016. Eligible existing program participants with contracts expiring Sept. 30, 2015, will be granted an option for one-year extensions. Farmers and ranchers interested in removing sensitive land from agricultural production and planting grasses or trees to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality and restore wildlife habitat are encouraged to enroll. Secretary Vilsack made the announcement during a speech delivered at the Ducks Unlimited National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
"For 30 years, the Conservation Reserve Program has supported farmers and ranchers as they continue to be good stewards of land and water. This initiative has helped farmers and ranchers prevent more than 8 billion tons of soil from eroding, reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to cropland by 95 and 85 percent respectively, and even sequester 43 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, equal to taking 8 million cars off the road," said Vilsack. "This has been one of most successful conservation programs in the history of the country, and today's announcement keeps that momentum moving forward."
The voluntary Conservation Reserve Program allows USDA to contract with agricultural producers so that environmentally sensitive land is conserved. Participants establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species to control soil erosion, improve water quality and develop wildlife habitat. In return, USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Contract duration is between 10 and 15 years.
"CRP protects water quality and restores significant habitat for ducks, pheasants, turkey, quail, deer and other important wildlife. That spurs economic development like hunting and fishing, outdoor recreation and tourism all over rural America," said Vilsack. "Today we're allowing an additional 800,000 acres for duck nesting habitat and other wetland and wildlife habitat initiatives to be enrolled in the program."

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Just in


USDA Announces Restart of Biomass Crop Assistance Program for Renewable Energy

BOISE – The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that incentives will resume this summer for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners interested in growing and harvesting biomass for renewable energy. The support comes through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which was reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. BCAP provides financial assistance to establish and maintain new crops of energy biomass, or to harvest and deliver forest or agricultural residues to a qualifying energy facility.

Financial assistance is available through BCAP for costs associated with harvesting and transporting agriculture or forest residues to facilities that convert biomass crops into energy. Eligible crops may include corn residue, diseased or insect infested wood materials, or orchard waste. The energy facility must first be approved by USDA to accept the biomass crop. Facilities can apply for, or renew, their BCAP qualification status beginning today.  $11.5 million of federal funds will be allocated to support the delivery of biomass materials through December 2015. Last year, more than 200,000 tons of dead or diseased trees from National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands were removed and used to produce renewable energy, while reducing the risk of forest fire. Nineteen energy facilities in 10 states participated in the program.

“Idaho currently has one approved project that processes timber biomass,” said Mark Samson, Idaho State Executive Director.  “This announcement allows for additional projects that can work with approved facilities to expand energy biomass, forest or agriculture residues in our State.”
Farmers, ranchers and forest landowners can also receive financial assistance to grow biomass crops that will be converted into energy in selected BCAP project areas. New BCAP project area proposals will be solicited beginning this summer and accepted through fall 2015, with new project area announcements and enrollments taking place in early spring 2016.  The extended proposal submission period allows project sponsors time to complete any needed environmental assessments and allows producers enough lead time to make informed decisions on whether or not to pursue the BCAP project area enrollment opportunity. This fiscal year USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will allocate up to $8 million for producer enrollment to expand and enhance existing BCAP project areas. Additionally, in accordance with the 2014 Farm Bill, underserved farmers are eligible for a higher establishment cost share. BCAP projects have supported over 50,000 acres across 74 counties in 11 different project areas. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Just in from Owyhee County


Owyhee County Ranch Celebrates 150 Years
By John Thompson
Water diverted from Sinker Creek spills out across a pasture where a pair of mallard ducks forage as Paul Nettleton leans on a corral rail talking about the history of this high desert ranch. 
Sinker Creek forms a narrow canyon that winds south from Highway 78. It’s been the lifeblood of the Joyce Ranch and helped sustain the family’s cattle operation since 1865. Cottonwoods and willows line the stream while sagebrush and bunch grasses stretch for 20 miles to the base of the snowcapped Owyhee Range which dominates the landscape. A California quail hails strangers with a high-pitched bark, disturbing the morning stillness.
Standing well over six-feet tall, Nettleton’s black felt hat and neatly waxed mustache make him a bit imposing. He’s not a guy you’d want to get on the wrong side of, or at least he gives off that appearance. But what strikes you most after sharing some time with him is his humility, which likely comes from the hardship he’s faced, and an earnest desire to see his family continue its traditions.
The Joyce Ranch originated when Matt and Mary Joyce left northern Nevada and formed a partnership with a fellow known as Scotch Bob on Sinker Creek, where the ranch headquarters is today. Nettleton said there were no official deeds, homesteads were popping up around the region, raising cattle to support the mining and prospecting that was going on at the time.
Shortly after the Joyce’s settled in and built their first house along the creek, Scotch Bob left for greener pastures. In the years that followed, the family faced mounting debt, droughts, fires, predators and cattle rustlers. They lost the original house in a flood and lived in a chicken coop for part of a winter.
With regard to Indians, Nettleton said the Joyce children made friends with the local tribe and when the Bannock War started in 1878 all of the neighboring ranches were burned out but they never touched the Joyce Ranch. “The kids were friends and we think that’s why they left us alone,” he said.
Matt Joyce Sr. was one of the founders of the Owyhee Cattleman’s Association formed in 1868 to control cattle rustling, Indians and predators. He died in 1893, leaving the ranch to sons Matt Jr., Jim and a sister, Annie Joyce. The ranch grew to encompass properties throughout the region but debt also piled up during this time period. Matt Jr. and Jim died in 1935 within five days of each other. They both succumbed to pneumonia. Paul’s grandmother Margaret Joyce married Vilo Nettleton and the ranch was passed on from the Joyce’s to the Nettleton’s after the death of the Joyce brothers.
Prior to the deaths of Matt Jr. and Jim, Paul’s father Hubert became distraught with the family business and struck out on his own. However, the Joyce sisters Annie and Margaret could not secure the financing they needed to keep the ranch solvent after their brothers died so they convinced Hubert to come back to the family ranch in 1935. With a large debt hanging over the operation Hubert saw an opportunity.
Paul explained that the industrial age had come to southwest Idaho and with the advent of tractors and automobiles, the demand for horses disappeared. Ranches still needed good saddle horses but draft horses were turned out by the hundreds to fend for themselves on the vast ranges. 
“All of those horses were literally killing the range,” said Paul. “So they gathered horses and sold them for slaughter. They were worth a penny a pound so you could get $10 for a horse which paid down a lot of their debt.”
Hubert was an innovative business man who also made money speculating in real estate. When a federal irrigation project was announced in the area, Hubert purchased several bankrupt homesteads in the area for 10 cents an acre, or the cost of the back taxes owed to Owyhee County. After the irrigation project provided an opportunity to make farmland out of the hardscrabble ranches, he sold the land for $200 an acre. Later the county would approach him with similar deals and he purchased other parcels for the cost of the back taxes owed.
Paul also remembers rounding up horses from the range in the spring, branding the young colts and breaking the older colts to sell to neighboring ranchers. This provided an income stream that helped keep the ranch running in the black.
Hubert was 53 when Paul was born. He decided to lease the ranch and move the family to Boise in the mid 1950’s so that Paul could attend Catholic schools at the behest of his mother. Paul later graduated from Bishop Kelly High School.
But living in the city didn’t stick for the Nettleton’s. Hubert said the ranch went to hell in those years it was leased. Hubert suffered a stroke and at 71 years old wasn’t able to boss a crew and work all day. So Paul took over managing the ranch in his late teens. “Being a cowboy was all I was really ever interested in,” Paul said.
Early on Paul wasn’t interested in the ranch paperwork and politics. His mother Margaret ran that end of the ranch. Paul said his son Chad is much the same today, making the transition into managing the ranch, the herd and the crew, but shows little interest in the books and politics.
“He’s doing an excellent job keeping the crew lined out, he’s just not interested in paperwork and politics yet,” said Paul.
There’s also a handful of grandsons that may move up and manage the Joyce Ranch one day.
“A friend told me once that I could sell this place and live like a king for the rest of my life,” said Paul. “But it’s not really mine to sell, I’m just a caretaker here.”
When asked about his future Paul said old ranchers never die, they just slow down a little. “I don’t think I’ll ever leave the ranch unless I’m not able to care for myself anymore,” he said.
The Joyce / Nettleton family will celebrate 150 years of ranching in Owyhee County on June 10-14. They will welcome family, friends, neighbors and guests for tours of the ranch and a banquet. For more informationhttp://www.joyceranchreunion.blogspot.com or check the ranch Facebook page at Joyce Ranch Reunion: Murphy, Idaho.



Monday, June 1, 2015

Just in

USDA to Invest Up to $100 Million to Boost Infrastructure for Renewable Fuel Use, Seeking to Double Number of Higher Blend Renewable Fuel Pumps

WASHINGTON - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest up to $100 million in a Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership to support the infrastructure needed to make more renewable fuel options available to American consumers. Specifically, USDA will administer competitive grants to match funding for state-led efforts to test and evaluate innovative and comprehensive approaches to market higher blends of renewable fuel, such as E15 and E85. States that are able to provide greater than a one-to-one ratio in funding will receive higher consideration.
"American-made, clean energy sources support the environment, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create jobs and sustain the economy in rural communities across the country. We are fortunate that our farmers are producing record amounts of feedstock for these fuels," Vilsack said. "However, a combination of factors, including lower commodity prices and reduced demand for feed as the poultry industry recovers from highly pathogenic avian influenza, are creating uncertainty for America's corn and soybean producers. With this partnership, USDA is helping to ensure the infrastructure is in place for consumers to access more renewable fuels, expand marketing opportunities for farmers, and grow America's rural economies."
Higher blends of renewable fuel offer significant potential for increasing the use of renewable fuels in the U.S. gasoline pool, but currently, the typical gas pump can deliver fuel containing a maximum of 10 percent ethanol, limiting the amount of renewable energy consumers can use to fuel their cars. This new USDA partnership will help support the installation of fuel pumps capable of supplying higher blends of renewable fuel by partnering with states to fund innovative, public-private partnerships to test more comprehensive approaches to marketing such blends. This new investment seeks to double the number of fuel pumps capable of supplying higher blends of renewable fuel to consumers, such as E15 and E85.
The United States exported more than $2 billion dollars of ethanol last year, making the United States the world's largest exporter of ethanol. Additionally, the United States has become a market leader in the export of high-quality distiller's dried grains (DDG), a byproduct of ethanol production used as a high-protein feed for livestock and poultry. Other countries are investing in clean energy technologies because they realize the tremendous economic potential of these energy sources, and the United States must do the same to remain competitive. The projects funded by these competitive grants will expand markets for farmers and help them diversify their rural energy portfolios, support rural economic growth and the jobs that come with it, and ultimately give consumers more affordable options at the pump.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Just in



Idaho Water Board approves $10.5 million for Snake Plain Aquifer recharge projects in FY 2016 

IDAHO FALLS – The Idaho Water Resource Board adopted a $10.5 million budget for fiscal year 2016 to expand Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer (ESPA) recharge projects and develop aquifer stabilization projects statewide.

Set during the Board’s two-day meeting in Idaho Falls, May 21-22, the budget includes $6.25 million in recharge infrastructure development and improvements and $1.2 million for recharge operations on the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. The $6.25 million in aquifer recharge infrastructure development and improvements will go toward six projects:
  Milner-Gooding Canal - Concrete flume rehabilitation and bypass structures for hydropower plants
 Twin Falls Canal recharge improvements
 Northside Canal hydro plant bypasses
 Great Feeder Canal recharge improvements
 Milner Pool development and other projects
 Egin Recharge enlargement within the Fremont-Madison Irrigation District

 In addition, the board approved $300,000 for investigation of additional aquifer recharge capacity and $200,000 for ground water conservation grants. All the improvements are designed to increase the capacity of the Water Board's managed aquifer program, which went into full-scale operation during the past winter. The Board placed top priority on shovel-ready projects that can be implemented in the near term while initiating the necessary technical planning efforts to develop long-term projects.

 "All of these projects will fund important infrastructure improvements to allow for increased aquifer recharge activities in the coming year," Water Board Chairman Roger Chase said. The Board is focused on issues in areas of the state with declining aquifers or that have existing or potential water use conflicts between ground water and surface water users. The ESPA is the most widely known among these declining aquifers. Other areas with ground water level concerns include the Big Wood River, Mountain Home area, Treasure Valley, and Palouse basin.

The volume of water in the ESPA has been declining by about 200,000 acre-feet per year since the early 1950s. The declines are attributed to changes in irrigation practices, increased ground water pumping, and periodic drought cycles. The transition from flood irrigation to sprinkler irrigation along with a shift from the delivery of surface water through unlined canals to ground water pumping significantly reduced the amount of seepage, or “incidental recharge,” that historically helped to replenish the aquifer.

 The ESPA is an important source of drinking water for cities and rural residents, commercial and industrial businesses, and ground water irrigators. The reduction of incidental recharge and increased ground water pumping from the aquifer has led to a reduction in spring flow near American Falls Reservoir and Thousand Springs near Hagerman. Springs are a critical source of water for aquaculture operations in the vicinity, and they provide a major source of water for the Snake River downstream.

Stabilization of the ESPA is critical to prevent future ground water user-versus-surface water user conflicts and to maintain minimum flow requirements in the Snake River at Swan Falls. In addition to aquifer recharge, the Board is pursuing other strategies such as ground water-to-surface water conversions, conservation/water demand reductions, weather modification (cloud seeding), and surface water storage to promote aquifer stabilization and sustainability. In other action, the Water Board:
  Approved a $500,000 loan increase for improvements for a water delivery system in the Preston, Idaho area as part of the Board’s Financial Program.
  Approved funding for a pipeline concept study for a project to provide reliable water supplies to the Mountain Home Air Force Base. Board members also toured potential managed recharge sites within the Freemont-Madison Irrigation District and Great Feeder Canal Comp

Friday, May 29, 2015

Just in

BLM, U.S. Forest Service Plans for Western Public Lands Provide for Greater Sage-Grouse Protection, Balanced Development 

CHEYENNE– The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service today released final environmental reviews for proposed land use plans that will help conserve greater sage-grouse habitat and support sustainable economic development on portions of public lands in 10 states across the West. The land management plans, developed during the past three years in partnership with the states and with input from local partners, will benefit wildlife, outdoor recreation, ranching and other traditional land uses that rely on a healthy sagebrush landscape.
The updated plans are an essential element of an unprecedented and proactive strategy to respond to the deteriorating health of the American West's sagebrush landscapes and declining population of the greater sage-grouse, a ground-dwelling bird under consideration by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 
The collaborative federal-state effort includes three key elements to conserve the sagebrush landscape, which faces threats from fire, invasive species and encroaching development: a comprehensive strategy to fight rangeland fire, strong conservation plans for federal public lands, and conservation actions on state and private lands. 
"The West is rapidly changing – with increasingly intense wildfires, invasive species and development altering the sagebrush landscape and threatening wildlife, ranching and our outdoor heritage," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. "As land managers of two-thirds of greater sage-grouse habitat, we have a responsibility to take action that ensures a bright future for wildlife and a thriving western economy. Together with conservation efforts from states and private landowners, we are laying an important foundation to save the disappearing sagebrush landscape of the American West." 
The plans contain three common approaches:
1) Minimizing new or additional surface disturbance – The plans seek to reduce habitat fragmentation and protect intact habitat by implementing surface disturbance caps on development, minimizing surface occupancy from energy development, and identifying buffer distances around leks – areas critical to the sage-grouse life-cycle – to be considered during project implementation.
2) Improving habitat condition – While restoring lost sagebrush habitat is difficult in the short term, it is often possible to enhance habitat quality through purposeful management. Where there are unavoidable impacts to habitat from development, the plans will require mitigation to enhance and improve sage-grouse habitat.
3) Reduce threat of rangeland fire – Rangeland fire can lead to the conversion of previously healthy sagebrush habitat into non-native, cheatgrass-dominated landscapes. Experts have identified wildfire as one of the greatest threats to sagebrush habitat, particularly in the Great Basin region of Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California. The plans seek to fight the spread of cheatgrass and other invasive species, position wildland fire management resources for more effective rangeland fire response, and accelerate the restoration of fire-impacted landscapes to native grasses and sagebrush. 
Individual proposed plans contain variations where different approaches or priorities were consistent with overall conservation objectives. To learn more about the BLM-USFS plans for each state, visit www.blm/sagegrouse
The vast majority of federal lands within the priority sage-grouse habitat have zero to low potential for oil and gas, solar, and wind energy development. The plans limit surface occupancy within priority habitat areas for oil and gas; however, technological advances in horizontal drilling make it possible to conserve sensitive habitats while still developing subsurface resources. A fact sheet on the proposed plans is available  here.
Over the last four years, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and its partners in the Sage-Grouse InitiativeThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. have worked with more than 1,100 private landowners to restore 4.4 million acres of habitat for sage-grouse while maintaining working landscapes.
More than 350 other species rely on a healthy sagebrush habitat, including elk, mule deer, pronghorn and golden eagles. Greater sage-grouse habitat currently covers 165 million acres across 11 states in the West, representing a loss of 56 percent of the species' historic range. At one time, the greater sage-grouse population likely numbered in the millions, but is estimated to have dwindled to 200,000 to 500,000 birds range-wide. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Just in


Lewiston--The Port of Lewiston learned earlier this spring that its largest container shipper would no longer transport cargo on the Columbia River.

 Port of Lewiston commissioners met with farmers and shippers Thursday...The closure could drastically impact wheat and the garbanzo bean crop.