Thursday, May 5, 2016

Just in

Mountain Streams Offer Climate Refuge
BOISE- A new study offers hope for cold-water species in the face of climate change. The study(link is external), published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,(link is external) addresses a longstanding paradox between predictions of widespread extinctions of cold-water species and a general lack of evidence for those extinctions despite decades of recent climate change.
The paper resulted from collaborative research led by the U.S. Forest Service with partners including the U.S. Geological Survey, National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, University of Georgia and the Queensland University of Technology. The research team drew information from huge stream-temperature and biological databases contributed by over 100 agencies and a USGS-run regional climate model to describe warming trends throughout 222,000 kilometers (138,000 miles) of streams in the northwestern United States.
The scientists found that over the last 40 years, stream temperatures warmed at the average rate of 0.10 degrees Celsius (0.18 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade. This translates to thermal habitats shifting upstream at a rate of only 300-500 meters (0.18-0.31 miles) per decade in headwater mountain streams where many sensitive cold-water species currently live. The authors are quick to point out that climate change is still detrimentally affecting the habitats of those species, but at a much slower rate than dozens of previous studies forecasted. The results of this study indicate that many populations of cold-water species will continue to persist this century and mountain landscapes will play an increasingly important role in that preservation.
“The great irony is that the cold headwater streams that were believed to be most vulnerable to climate change appear to be the least vulnerable. Equally ironic is that we arrived at that insight simply by amassing, organizing and carefully analyzing large existing databases rather than collecting new data that would have been far more expensive,” said Dr. Daniel Isaak, lead author on the study with the U.S. Forest Service.
The results also indicate that resource managers will have sufficient time to complete extensive biological surveys of ecological communities in mountain streams so that conservation planning strategies can adequately address all species.
“One of the great complexities of restoring trout and salmon under a rapidly changing climate is understanding how this change plays out across the landscape. Dr. Isaak and his colleagues show that many mountain streams may be more resistant to temperature change than our models suggest and that is very good news. This provides us more time to effect the changes we need for long term persistence of these populations,” said Dr. Jack Williams, senior scientist for Trout Unlimited.
This study is complementary and builds upon the Cold-Water Climate Shield. This new study is unique as it describes current trends rather than relying on future model projections and addresses a broad scope of aquatic biodiversity in headwater streams (e.g., amphibians, sculpin, trout, etc.). In addition, the data density and geographic extent of this study is far greater than most previous studies because over 16,000 stream temperature sites were used with thousands of biological survey locations to provide precise information at scales relevant to land managers and conservationists.
The study, entitled “Slow climate velocities of mountain streams portends their role as refugia for cold-water biodiversity(link is external)” was conducted by Daniel Isaak, lead author from the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station; Michael Young, Charles Luce, Dona Horan, Matt Groce and David Nagel of the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station; Steven Hostetler, U.S. Geological Survey; Seth Wenger, University of Georgia; Erin Peterson, Queensland University of Technology; and Jay Ver Hoef, U.S. NOAA Fisheries, Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Additional funding for this research was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Great Northern and North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.
States covered by this study: Idaho, Oregon, Washington, western Montana; and then small portions of western Wyoming, northern Nevada, northern Utah, and northern California. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Just in

USDA Awards $16 Million for Research into Sustainable Crop and Livestock Production Methods 

WASHINGTON– The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today awarded $16.5 million in grants to support research into methods for boosting agriculture productivity and ensuring food security in the face of pests, diseases and a changing climate. In addition, USDA announced that it is seeking applications for the next round of projects, which will focus on pollinator health and plant and animal phonemics.

The grants are made available through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), administered by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Established by the 2008 Farm Bill and re-authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, AFRI is the nation's premier, peer-reviewed competitive grants program for fundamental and applied agricultural sciences. In the seven years since AFRI was established, the program has led to true innovations and ground-breaking discoveries in agriculture to combat childhood obesity, improve and sustain rural economic growth, address water availability issues, increase food production, find new sources of energy, mitigate the impacts of climate variability and enhance resiliency of our food systems, and ensure food safety.

"In the face of diminishing land and water resources and increasingly variable climatic conditions, food production must increase to meet the demands of a world population projected to pass 9 billion by 2050," said Vilsack. "Funding in research to respond to these challenges should be considered as an investment in our nation's future, an investment which will pay big dividends in the years to come."

 The awards and available funding announced today fall into the AFRI Food Security Challenge Area, which funds projects that increase agricultural productivity and the availability and accessibility of safe, nutritious food. Fiscal year 2015 projects receiving support today focus on agriculture production systems, breeding and genomics of crops and livestock, and a national strategy for sustainable crop and livestock production. Since 2010, NIFA has awarded more than $219 million to the AFRI Food Security Challenge Area.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Just in from Capitol Hill

Simpson Opposes Onerous Rule from Department of Labor
Congressman cosponsors legislation to block DOL from implementing job-killing rule

Washington, D.C. – Idaho Congressman Simpson is a cosponsor of H.R. 4773, the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act, which blocks a U.S. Department of Labor rule to significantly increase the salary threshold for exemption from federal overtime pay requirements for managerial, professional or administrative positions.   
Currently under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), salaried employees who earn $23,660 or less are eligible for overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours per week.  In its final rule, the U.S. Department of Labor rule is expected to increase the income eligibility threshold to workers who make less than $47,000 a year.
“I am not necessarily opposed to increasing the salary threshold for exempt positions, but I am concerned that a sudden 99% increase will be too burdensome for nonprofits, academic institutions, and small businesses in Idaho” Simpson said. “The rule could create unintended consequences such as reduced hours and benefits for employees as businesses would be required to immediately absorb new labor costs.  Furthermore, this federal salary threshold does not take into account regional differences in wages and cost of living, which could put Idaho businesses at a disadvantage.” 
H.R. 4773 would block the current proposed regulation from taking effect and require the U.S. Department of Labor to perform further analysis of the impact that the changes to overtime regulations will have on small businesses, nonprofits, and institutes of higher education; as well as the impact on employment and employee benefit structures for exempt and nonexempt employees, before proceeding with its rule. 
H.R. 4773 is under consideration by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Just in

USDA Offers New Loans for Portable Farm Storage and Handling Equipment

Portable Equipment Can Help Producers, including Small-Scale and Local Farmers, Get Products to Market Quickly
COLUMBUS– U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide a new financing option to help farmers purchase portable storage and handling equipment. Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator Elanor Starmer announced changes to the Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) program today during a local and regional food roundtable in Columbus, Ohio. The loans, which now include a smaller microloan option with lower down payments, are designed to help producers, including new, small and mid-sized producers, grow their businesses and markets.
"As more communities reconnect with agriculture, consumer demand is increasing for food produced locally or regionally," said Dolcini. "Portable handling and storage equipment is vital to helping farmers get their products to market more quickly and better maintain product quality, bringing them greater returns. That's why we've added this type of equipment as a new category for our Farm Storage Facility Loan program."
The program also offers a new "microloan" option, which allows applicants seeking less than $50,000 to qualify for a reduced down payment of five percent and no requirement to provide three years of production history. Farms and ranches of all sizes are eligible. The microloan option is expected to be of particular benefit to smaller farms and ranches, and specialty crop producers who may not have access to commercial storage or on-farm storage after harvest. These producers can invest in equipment like conveyers, scales or refrigeration units and trucks that can store commodities before delivering them to markets. Producers do not need to demonstrate the lack of commercial credit availability to apply.
"Growing high-value crops for local and regional markets is a common entry point for new farmers," said Starmer. "Since they often rent land and have to transport perishable commodities, a loan that can cover mobile coolers or even refrigerated trucks fills an important gap. These producers in turn supply the growing number of food hubs, farmers markets or stores and restaurants interested in sourcing local food."

Friday, April 29, 2016

Just in

USDA Prospective Plantings Report bearish for many row-crop farmers

Washington-The Agriculture Department's Prospective Plantings Report suggests low prices for corn and rice will continue, extending the current, two-year farm downturn through the end of 2016, if not beyond.

"The report really highlights how challenging the market is right now for major crops," said John Anderson, deputy chief economist of the American Farm Bureau Federation. "We currently have adequate supplies both in the U.S. and globally in these commodities. It doesn't look as though that will change. If we have normal yields, that supply side pressure will not ease up much."
Cornfield-smallThe 93.6 million acre prospective plantings figure for corn is up from 88.6 million acres planted last year, or close to three times the expected increase of 2 million acres.

The December corn contract on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange dropped by about 15 cents to approximately $3.70 per bushel within a few minutes of the report's release. 

The soybean prospective plantings figure came in at 82.236 million acres - on the low side of expectations, but still above some forecasts that had predicted just under 82 million acres. 
Wheat acreage was also smaller than expectations. Winter and spring varieties combined were reported at 49.559 million acres. Pre-report estimates covered a wide range but averaged around 51.5 million acres. None of the publicly-released estimates were below 50 million acres. Wheat, like soy, however, will not likely increase greatly in price as long as corn surpluses remain.

Rice prospective plantings were well above market expectations at 3.064 million acres vs. USDA's projected rice plantings at 2.8 million acres. If this projection holds, it will be the first time since 2010 that rice acreage has topped 3 million acres. Recent tightening of world rice supplies may limit the damage from today's report, but forecasts still suggest significant price drops are on the way. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

State Resolution Committee meets in Boise

Boise--The Idaho Farm Bureau State Resolution Committee met in Boise today. Producers from all walks of agriculture representing each of Idaho's Farm Bureau districts met in Boise to discuss and consolidate resolutions submitted by county Farm Bureaus across the state in preparation for the next annual meeting of the Idaho Farm Bureau.

Just in

Farmers and Ranchers Need Government Support, Not Opposition, Farm Bureau Tells Congress
Washington – Low commodity prices, tightening credit, expensive land and rising costs for expenses such as seed and fertilizer will lead to financial losses for many farmers and ranchers this year, Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert, Jr. told a House subcommittee today.

Testifying on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Illinois Farm Bureau, Guebert encouraged Congress to help farm and ranch families endure what observers agree will be a difficult year. He said Illinois farmers who produce row crops have been hit hard along with the rest of the farm economy.

“Over the last 18 months we have seen our working capital erode over 25 percent,” Guebert said. “Our equity is fading into the sunset. Indexed to inflation, the economic return for Illinois farmers after accounting for family expenses is currently at its lowest level since 1972.All of this has proven to be a very steep learning curve for a new generation of younger and less experienced farmers who entered the business when times were better.”

The emergence of global food markets in recent years has made already volatile commodity markets even less stable than before.

“Commodity prices used to be more predictable,” Guebert said. “They were primarily influenced by regional and national factors. Just in the past two weeks we’ve seen a $1.30 a bushel increase in soybean prices because of rain during harvest in Brazil, and then overnight on April 22 a drop of 22 cents a bushel. Farmers and ranchers are price takers, whether on the input or commodity side of the equation.”

Many government programs have helped farm families, but others have hindered the wellbeing of those who raise the food, fuel and fiber Americans depend on every day, Guebert said. 

On the positive side:
·       Congressional agriculture leaders have protected the farm bill’s safety net and risk management tools to help farmers and ranchers cope with market volatility.

·       Congress has bolstered the farm economy by supporting significant transportation projects to improve major waterways and make driver licensing more practical and easier to comply with.

·       The Environmental Protection Agency has taken a flexible approach on licensing dicamba herbicide formulations.

·       The President’s Task Force on Pollinators has recognized that beekeepers and farmers need one another and allowed them to work together to preserve pollinators rather than imposing a solution from the outside. 

Unfortunately, not all government actions have been so benign:

·       Proponents of mandatory labeling for products that include genetically modified ingredients have pushed their anti-science agenda in Congress to the detriment of farmers and consumers alike. 

·       The nation’s H-2A visa program for agricultural workers remains inefficient and impractical for most farmers.

·       Compliance with the Affordable Care Act remains confusing and difficult for small seasonal employers such as farmers and ranchers.

·       EPA is increasingly restricting pesticides and herbicides without proper scientific evidence for its positions.

·       The U.S. Forest Service recently proposed that ranchers surrender their water rights in exchange for the ability to graze on federal lands. The USFS later withdrew the proposal, but this remains a topic of discussion among environmental groups.

“The world population will continue to grow,” Guebert told lawmakers. “American farmers have proven time and time again we produce the food, fiber and fuel the world needs. Please don’t restrict, limit or constrain our ability to provide what consumers around the world need.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Just in


WASHINGTON--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the investment of more than $272 million will go to 41 states and Puerto Rico this year in support of local schools, roads and forests through the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS). The SRS is administered by the U.S. Forest Service.
"The Secure Rural Schools program has allowed USDA to work directly with community leaders to meet rural communities' unique education, transportation, and conservation needs," said Secretary Vilsack. "This support is part of the Administration's ongoing commitment help rural communities remain self-sustaining and prosperous."
The payments from the Forest Service may be used to support public schools and roads; to help maintain and improve the health of forests; and for other county needs like implementation of "Firewise Communities" projects, development of community wildfire protection plans and reimbursements for emergency services on national forests. Forest projects are reviewed and recommended by resource advisory committees made up of local residents working together to improve the environment and to help provide jobs in rural communities.
"I'm extremely pleased that the Forest Service is once again participating in this essential program," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "As we've seen repeatedly in past years, the Secure Rural School program not only provides funding for schools and roads, but also provides funding for conservation projects recommended by the collaborative Resource Advisory Committees."
The Secure Rural Schools local resource advisory committees (RACs) provide the public with opportunities to collaborate on the management of national forests and grasslands. This year almost $27 million of the SRS funding will be used to complete conservation projects on federal lands proposed by the local RACs. SRS increases educational opportunities and contributes to local economies through the jobs for implementation of local projects and the increased recreational opportunities that those projects support.
In South Carolina, for example, SRS funding helped a community repair a popular horse trail on the Francis Marion National Forest with the additional benefit of improving and protecting the integrity of nearby waterways. In Clearwater County, Idaho, the community is converting a fuel oil boiler system at the Pierce Community Center to use woody biomass culled from nearby State and federal forestlands.
Each state's payment amount is determined by a number of factors set in the law, including the number of counties electing to share in that State's payment. A breakdown of funding by state and county is available on the U.S. Forest Service SRS website.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Just in

Special Project to Assist with Low Elevation Sprinklers

BOISE– Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist for Idaho, Curtis Elke, has set aside funding under the agency’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for a special project to help producers in the upper Snake River Valley improve their irrigation efficiency.

The project will offer funding for cost share assistance on Low Elevation Sprinkler Application (LESA) Systems, which University of Idaho research shows save water. Cost share assistance is available up to $12,000 per person to implement this system.  In addition to the LESA cost share, there is also assistance available to purchase soil moisture sensors to aid in fully utilizing the new systems efficiency and water savings. 

“While Idaho’s moisture outlook has improved this year, drought will remain a threat to the state’s agriculture,” said Elke. “In setting aside these funds, NRCS-Idaho is calling for applications to ensure that our precious water resources are being utilized in an efficient and sustainable fashion.”

Applications for this program are now being taken through May 20 at the NRCS field office in Idaho Falls. Contact Josh Miller, District Conservationist, at 522-6250 ext. 3 for more information.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Just in from Washington

Statement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the Signing of the Paris Climate Agreement

WASHINGTON-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today released the following statement on the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement:
"By signing the historic climate agreement reached with nearly 200 nations in Paris this past December, the U.S. is moving forward on our commitment to take real action on climate change. The agreement establishes a long-term and durable framework to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and build resiliency for the future. America's farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners have a track record of coupling extraordinary productivity gains with natural resource stewardship, which positions them well to contribute to the climate solutions called for in the Paris Agreement. Since 2009, USDA conservation programs have helped American producers install practices that have reduced net greenhouse gas emissions by over 416 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or approximately 60 million metric tons per year -- the equivalent of taking 12.6 million cars off the road for a year. Through USDA's Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry, we plan to accelerate our efforts, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration by over 120 million metric tons a year by 2025. At home and abroad, USDA and its partners will continue to demonstrate that climate-smart strategies can build resilience, reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, and increase carbon storage in our soils and forest while boosting productivity and improving global food security. This Earth Day, USDA is proud to be part of this commitment."

Friday, April 22, 2016

Just in

Labor Visa Backlogs Threaten 2016 Crops, Farm Bureau Calls for Action

WASHINGTON– Agency delays in processing visas for workers who tend and harvest America’s food crops are fast approaching crisis proportions, all but guaranteeing that crops will rot in the field on many farms this year, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said today.

Communications with state Farm Bureaus across the nation have revealed worker shortages in more than 20 states.

“Many farmer members have called us and state Farm Bureaus asking for help,” Duvall said. “They face serious hurdles in getting visas for workers in time to tend and harvest this year’s crops. Paperwork delays have created a backlog of 30 days or more in processing H-2A applications at both the Department of Labor and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.”

Farmers depend on the H-2A agricultural visa program to fill gaps in the nation’s ag labor system, but, Duvall said, the program is far from perfect. Processing and procedural delays, such as the government’s use of U.S. mail instead of electronic communications, are leading to losses from unharvested crops.

Duvall and a group of other farmers and policymakers made his case on a conference call for the media. Also joining him were Gary Black, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture; Jamie Clover Adams, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development; and farmers Bill Brim from Georgia, Carlos Castaneda from California and Jen Costanza from Michigan. Each of the farmers described the challenges they face with securing adequate workers to tend and harvest this year’s crops.

Duvall said the Labor Department too often fails to comply with rules that require it to respond to farmers’ requests before crews are needed.

“Crops can’t wait on paperwork,” Duvall said. “DOL is routinely failing to approve applications 30 days prior to the day farmers need workers. That delay, coupled with delays occurring at USCIS, places farmers in an impossible situation. We’ve heard from members who are already missing their window of opportunity to harvest. They are already facing lost revenue.”

Duvall repeated AFBF’s call for Congress to pass responsible immigration reform that provides farmers access to a legal and stable workforce. He also outlined possible solutions to the challenge, including modernizing agency H-2A approval procedures. He said DOL and USCIS both rely on sending documents to farmers by regular mail, which he called “unacceptable in 2016.”

Duvall said AFBF is also working with the Agriculture Department “to be an advocate for farmers and take whatever steps it can to ensure farmers get the workers they need to tend and harvest this year’s crops.”

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Friend of Agriculture

Local Legislator Honored by Farm Bureau

Boise--Senator Lori Den Hartog, a Republican Legislator from Meridian representing District 22, has received the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation’s (IFBF) prestigious “Friend of Agriculture” award.

IFBF President Bryan Searle stated “The Idaho Farm Bureau is pleased to announce that Senator Den Hartog scored 93 percent in voting on selected bills that were important to agriculture and our members over the past two legislative sessions.  She has proven to be a great supporter of agriculture and we appreciate her dedication to protecting private property rights and keeping taxes low while she has been in the legislature.”

Every two years IFBF reviews the votes legislators cast on selected bills that are important to its membership.  These bills are used to determine which legislators will receive the IFBF “Friend of Agriculture” award.  This year five Idaho senators and thirty-seven representatives will receive the coveted award.

“Senator Den Hartog takes the time to study these important issues and make informed decisions” stated Ada County Farm Bureau President Don Sonke.  “Agriculture is so important to our economy in Idaho.  We believe it is important to let the community know who those lawmakers are that support agriculture.”

With over 74,000 Idaho families as members, the Farm Bureau is the largest general farm organization in Idaho.  It is a voluntary, grassroots, dues-financed organization dedicated to strengthening agriculture and protecting the rights, values and property of our member families and their neighbors.

Just in from Capitol Hill

Simpson Slams EPA Use of Taxpayer Funds
Joins 145 Members of Congress in sending a letter to EPA expressing concern over federally funded advocacy campaign

Washington- Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson joined a bipartisan group of Members of Congress in sending a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) top official expressing extreme concerns with the use of federal funding for advocacy and lobbying efforts.  EPA funds were recently linked to an advocacy project in Washington State.

“As an Idahoan I fully expect to have differences with the EPA regarding policy,” said Simpson. “But one thing that we should always agree on is the law and these advocacy campaigns clearly violate appropriate uses of federal resources. I will continue to use my seat in Congress to reign in the EPA whether it is overreaching regulations, or in this case improper use of taxpayer funds.”

Federal law prohibits appropriations for the use of publicity or propaganda purposes not approved by Congress. This new revelation comes on the heels of a December 2015 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found EPA committed violations on advocacy campaigns supporting the agencies Waters of the United States regulation.

The cosigners of the letter also signaled their support for Senators Jim Inhofe and Pat Robert’s efforts requesting an EPA Office of Inspector General Report official audit and investigation into advocacy efforts and grant management.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Just in

Simpson Protects INL in Energy Bill
House Energy and Water Chairman reverses cuts to Nuclear Energy research and development, increases INL funding

Washington –Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today announced that the Fiscal Year 2017 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill reverses proposed cuts to Idaho National Laboratory (INL), the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, and cleanup activities in Idaho. Simpson is Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, which passed the bill through the full House Appropriations Committee today, and had the lead role in deciding funding for all Department of Energy programs.

“The FY17 Energy and Water bill provides strong funding for the Office of Nuclear Energy and the essential work at the Idaho National Laboratory,” said Chairman Simpson.  “Every day, world renowned researchers at the INL work to promote and ensure our nation’s energy security, and this bill will provide them with the resources they need to continue their cutting edge work.  With increasing international competition, it is critical that the U.S. remain at the forefront of nuclear research and development, and I am proud that this bill will help maintain that leadership.” 

The FY 2017 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill sets funding for the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy at $1.01 billion, an increase of $25.4 million above fiscal year 2016 and $17.7 million above the President’s request.  Nuclear energy research and development programs that receive funding within the overall $1.01 billion allocation include:

·         The Idaho Facilities Management account, which covers infrastructure maintenance and improvement at INL, is funded at $240 million – a $19.5 million increase over last year and the President’s request.
  • INL’s Safeguards and Security Program is funded at $129.3 million – an increase of $3.1 million over fiscal year 2016.
·         The Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies program is funded at $121.4 million – an increase of $9.8 million above fiscal year 2016 and $31.9 million above the President’s request. 
·         Small Modular Reactor Licensing Support Programs are funded at $96.6 million.   This fully funds NuScale Power’s Small Modular Reactor which is proposed for construction in Idaho.
·         The Light Water Reactor Sustainability program, which is managed by INL and promotes the continued safe operation of America’s existing nuclear reactors, is funded at $40 million.
·         The Reactor Concepts Research, Development, and Demonstration account is funded at $140 million – an increase of $31.2 million above the President’s request. Within the overall $140 million level for this account, $33 million is allocated to fuel qualification for the High Temperature Gas Reactor.
·         Within the Fuel Cycle Research and Development program, the Advanced Fuels program is funded at $62.1 million, $2 million above fiscal year 2016; and Used Nuclear Fuel Disposition research and development is funded at $61.1 million, $23.8 million below fiscal year 2016.
·         Within the Office of Naval Reactors, the bill includes $75.1 million for the operation of the Advanced Test Reactor. 
·         Within the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, the bill includes $12 million for the development of an Electric Grid Test Bed program to enhance existing full-scale electric grid testing capabilities like those at Idaho National Laboratory.

The bill also provides $390 million for cleanup activities associated with the Idaho Cleanup Project and the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project co-located on the Idaho desert with INL.  The funding level is $20 million above the President’s request and will allow the significant cleanup activities currently underway to continue. The bill also includes an additional $4 million for the National Spent Fuel Program, putting the unique expertise of INL to work in order to provide solutions for managing the Department of Energy’s inventories of spent nuclear fuel. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Just in

USDA Seeks Applications for Nearly $12 Million in Broadband Grants for Rural Communities

WASHINGTON–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA is soliciting applications for grants to establish broadband in unserved rural communities through its Community Connect program. Community Connect is administered by USDA's Rural Utilities Service and helps to fund broadband deployment into rural communities where it is not economically viable for private sector providers to provide service. 
"Through Community Connect and our other telecommunications programs, USDA helps to ensure that rural residents have access to broadband to run businesses, get the most from their education and benefit from the infinite services that fast, reliable broadband provides," Vilsack said. "USDA is committed to supporting America's rural communities through targeted investments in our bioeconomy and renewable energy, local and regional food systems, conservation initiatives and rural development."
USDA plans to award up to $11.7 million in grants through the Community Connect grant program. The grants fund broadband infrastructure to help foster economic growth by delivering connectivity to the global marketplace. The grants also fund broadband for community centers and public institutions.
USDA has invested $160 million in more than 240 projects to bring broadband to unserved rural communities since the Community Connect Program was created in 2002. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Just in

USDA Expands Safety-Net for Dairy Operations Adding Next-Generation Family Members

WASHINGTON–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that dairy farms participating in the Margin Protection Program (MPP) can now update their production history when an eligible family member joins the operation. The voluntary program, established by the 2014 Farm Bill, protects participating dairy producers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below levels of protection selected by the applicant.
"This change not only helps to strengthen a family dairy operation, it also helps new dairy farmers get started in the family business, while ensuring that safety net coverage remains available for these growing farms," said Secretary Vilsack. "When children, grandchildren or their spouses become part of a dairy operation that is enrolled in MPP, the production from the dairy cows they bring with them into the business can now be protected. By strengthening the farm safety net, expanding credit options and growing domestic and foreign markets, USDA is committed to helping American farming operations remain successful."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) published a final rule which makes these changes effective on April 13, 2016. Any dairy operation already enrolled in the Margin Protection Program that had an intergenerational transfer occur will have an opportunity to increase the dairy operations production history during the 2017 registration and annual coverage election period. The next election period begins on July 1, 2016, and ends on Sept. 30, 2016. For intergenerational transfers occurring on or after July 1, 2016, notification must be made to the FSA within 60 days of purchasing the additional cows. Each participating dairy operation is authorized one intergenerational transfer at any time of its choosing until 2018.
For $100 a year, dairy producers can receive basic catastrophic protection that covers 90 percent of milk production at a $4 margin coverage level. For additional premiums, operations can protect 25 to 90 percent of production history with margin coverage levels from $4.50 to $8, in 50 cent increments. Annual enrollment in the program is required in order to receive margin protection. The final rule also provides improved risk protection for dairy farmers that pay premiums to buy-up higher levels of coverage by clarifying that 90 percent of production is covered below the $4 level even if a lower percentage was selected above the $4 margin. 
Earlier this year, FSA gave producers the opportunity to pay their premium through additional options including via their milk cooperative or handler. This rule facilitates those options and also clarifies that the catastrophic level protection at $4 will always cover 90 percent of the production history, even if a producer selected a less than a 90 percent percentage for the buy-up coverage.

Friday, April 15, 2016

From Capitol Hill

Farms Face Increased Financial Pressure, Farm Bureau President tells Ag Subcommittee

WASHINGTON – Farmers are feeling the pain of the continued slump in commodity prices, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall told Congress today. Lower prices will affect income for all farmers and ranchers, but will have an even greater impact on new and young farmers who have not built up equity, are renting a significant portion of their land or are paying off equipment.
“The bottom line is that farmers and ranchers are being forced to tighten their belts and pay much closer attention to their financial situation,” Duvall told the House Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management. “They will be in greater need of safety net and risk management programs than has been the case for some time—for some, since they started farming.”
Duvall's testimony included a long list of bad economic news:
·         Cotton -- 80 cents a pound just a few years ago -- now brings prices in the 50-cent range.
·         Milk that was selling for $20 or more per hundred pounds a couple years back now fetches $15 or $16.
·         Net farm income, which includes other factors like depreciation, inventory change and other non-cash costs, declined from $123 billion in 2013 to $56 billion in 2015 and is estimated at $55 billion for 2016.
·         Longer-term projections by the Agriculture Department leave net cash income averaging less than $80 billion for the coming decade and net farm income at less than $70 billion over the same period.
Bad news notwithstanding, the Farm Bureau president found hope on the horizon. Duvall told lawmakers there were numerous things they could do to help the farm economy, including:
·         Approving the Trans-Pacific Partnership to raise overall farm income without adding to government spending;
·         Stopping the Waters of the U.S. rule, which places additional costs and burdens on farming;
·         Reversing spill prevention and control requirements that add costs without clear environmental benefit; and
·         Establishing a nation-wide labeling standard for genetically modified food to avoid a patchwork of state laws.
Duvall’s testimony can be found here  

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Just in

Farm Bureau Asks Senate Subcommittee to Rein in Out-of-Control EPA

WASHINGTON–Congress should hold the Environmental Protection Agency accountable for its repeated violations of open government laws, American Farm Bureau Federation board member and Oklahoma Farm Bureau President Tom Buchanan told a Senate subcommittee today. 
Buchanan testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management and Regulatory Oversight nearly a year after the conclusion of the EPA’s flawed Waters of the United States rulemaking process. The agency came under fire then for acting as a vocal and highly politicized advocate for its proposal, rather than as a fair broker that would weigh all public comments impartially. The Government Accountability Office ultimately found EPA had violated the law by pushing “covert propaganda” on an unsuspecting public to gin up support for its own actions.
Buchanan highlighted EPA’s anti-farmer war of words: “That campaign consisted almost entirely of non-substantive platitudes about the importance of clean water – which no one disputes. It used simplistic blogs, tweets and YouTube videos to generate purported ‘support’ for the rule among well-intended people who have absolutely no idea of what the rule would actually do or what it will cost,” Buchanan said. “Regardless of whether you supported, opposed or never heard of the waters rule, I hope many of you would agree that this is not how rulemaking should be conducted.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Grant opportunity


BOISE – The Natural Resources Conservation Service in Idaho has set aside $150,000 for the 2016 Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program. The program funds projects that demonstrate new and creative ways to conserve and sustain the state’s natural resources. Full proposal applications are due to the Idaho NRCS State Office by 4 p.m. on May 31.

“This grant program funds progressive, on-the-ground conservation projects on agricultural land,” said Curtis Elke, Idaho NRCS State Conservationist. “It offers an opportunity for organizations or individuals to get funding for one- to three-year projects that work on solutions to specific resource issues related to agriculture.

“We are looking for proposals that lead to effective conservation techniques or technologies that producers can adopt,” said Elke.

A complete proposal package must be submitted to NRCS Idaho by May 31 in order to be considered.  Grants will be awarded through a statewide competitive process.

Projects must take place in Idaho and address resource concerns that occur in Idaho. Complete application requirements, along with application materials, are posted on the Idaho NRCS Web site at Information on past years’ projects are also posted.

Applications that best meet the grant criteria and address state priorities will be selected for funding consideration. Selected applicants will be notified by June 30 if their project has been selected for funding.

Proposal applications must be received by 4 p.m. on May 31 at the Idaho NRCS State Office, 9173 W. Barnes Drive, Suite C, Boise, Idaho, 83709 or electronically through For specific information contact Denise Adkins at (208) 685-6991.