Tuesday, October 6, 2015

President's Op-Ed

SRM Conference Yields Surprising Advice for Ranchers
By Frank Priestley, IFBF President
A recent column published in Beef Magazine by noted author, autism activist and animal science professor Temple Grandin, shows significant misunderstanding on livestock interaction with wolves.
Grandin is a well-known and respected consultant to the livestock industry who has done solid work on livestock handling and reducing livestock stress. However, her reporting on a recent meeting of the Society for Range Management (SRM) included a section titled “Four steps to coexist with predators,” that leaves us befuddled.
Step 1 recommending removal and disposal of all dead animal carcasses seems sensible. Step 4 recommends more human presence around herds. Both of those recommendations we can get behind. 
Step 2 is where the confusion ensues. The panelists who spoke to the SRM conference included Kent Reeves of Whole Picture Consulting, Montana cattle rancher Hillary Zaranek and Matt Barnes of Keystone Conservation. They claim indiscriminate killing of wolves and coyotes is counterproductive. They say because these animals form stable territories and individual packs develop tastes for specific foods, they shouldn’t be shot if seen among livestock herds. A wolf pack that prefers elk will leave cattle alone and keep other wolf packs out. The same principle applies to coyotes, they said.
This theory sounds humane and progressive in the context of an air-conditioned meeting room at a fancy hotel in front of a group of people with no financial risk in the livestock industry. But to believe a livestock owner should trust that the good wolves and coyotes will protect their herds from the bad wolves and coyotes is beyond foolish. Trying to tell a “good” wolf from a bad one is like looking into a box of chocolate covered candy. You might pick the delicious caramel center, but then again, you might pick the slimy cherry. 
Our advice remains the same. Ranchers who plan on ranching next year and beyond don’t have the luxury of trusting one wolf and distrusting another. If you see a wolf – any wolf - among your herd, do not waste time attempting to determine what its intentions may be. Hold the rifle firmly against your shoulder, place the animal in the center of the crosshairs, inhale deeply, and then exhale slowly while applying steady pressure on the trigger. Repeat if necessary.
Step 3 is another that doesn’t seem to bode well for anyone thinking ranching could be a vocation with some longevity. Cattle breeds today are too docile and independent. The experts that spoke at the SRM conference said cattle need to learn to stand together and rekindle the herd instinct that protects bison from wolves. To some readers this suggestion may seem like a step backwards. After all, we haven’t been breeding for traits that make cattle wilder all these years. Most livestock owners appreciate cattle that are docile. We wonder if these experts gave any thought to the longevity of the average cowboy before they adopted the “re-wilding” of cattle policy. How many Americans go to work and get advice like “Hey you need to find some ways to make your job more dangerous?”
In 1996 our government led by Bill Clinton and Bruce Babbitt, turned out wolves and started a war against ranchers in Montana and Idaho. Another perspective might be that reintroduction of wolves was just another battle in a long line of land and wildlife management decisions designed to ultimately ruin the economy of the rural West.
These suggestions for coexisting with predators presented in the Beef Magazine article are examples of how one dumb idea begets another. We’re way beyond fed up with being told to find another way to comply with the dumb decisions that get passed west from Washington D.C. Idaho has the largest wolf population in the lower 48. The government’s count puts wolf numbers at around 800. We believe it could be double that. The wolf population here has grown faster than anyone could have predicted. It’s grown to the point where it has arguably become the greatest success story in the history of the Endangered Species Act. We have complied and we have adapted to living with wolves.
If you take a realistic look at where we are today, according to this article we have a group of our most respected range management experts meeting to discuss ways to comply with dumb ideas foisted upon us by our government. Reintroducing wolves was a colossal mistake. Compounding that mistake by changing management practices to better suit a vicious predator is not a solution to a problem that is much better solved with a hollow-point bullet.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Lower retail prices

Dairy and bacon prices down, apples too

Marketbasket Fall 2015-LargeWashington – Lower retail prices for several foods, including whole milk, cheddar cheese, bacon and apples resulted in a slight decrease in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Fall Harvest Marketbasket Survey.

The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $54.14, down $.12 or less than 1 percent compared to a survey conducted a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, 10 decreased and six increased in average price.

Higher milk and pork production this year has contributed to the decrease in prices on some key foods.

“Energy prices, which affect everything in the marketbasket, have been quite a bit lower compared to a year ago. Processing, packaging, transportation and retail operations are all fairly energy-intensive,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist. Lower energy prices account for much of the modest decrease in the marketbasket.

The following items showed retail price decreases from a year ago:
• whole milk, down 17 percent to $3.14 per gallon
• bacon, down 11 percent to $4.55 per pound
• apples, down 7 percent $1.45 per pound
• shredded cheddar, down 5 percent to $4.56 per pound
• flour, down 4 percent to $2.37 per five-pound bag
• bagged salad, down 4 percent to $2.46 per pound
• vegetable oil, down 3 percent to $2.61 for a 32-ounce bottle
• Russet potatoes, down 3 percent to $2.64 for a five-pound bag
• white bread, down 1 percent to $1.69 for a 20-ounce loaf
• chicken breast, down 1 percent to $3.42 per pound

These items showed modest retail price increases compared to a year ago:
• eggs, up 56 percent to $3.04 per dozen
• orange juice, up 7 percent to $3.43 per half-gallon
• ground chuck, up 6 percent to $4.55 per pound
• toasted oat cereal, up 3 percent to $3.09 for a nine-ounce box
• sirloin tip roast, up 3 percent to $5.67 per pound
• sliced deli ham, up 1 percent to $5.47 per pound

“As expected we saw higher egg prices because we lost so much production earlier this year due to the avian influenza situation in Iowa, Minnesota and some other Midwestern states,” Anderson said.

Price checks of alternative milk and egg choices not included in the overall marketbasket survey average revealed the following: 1/2 gallon regular milk, $2.21; 1/2 gallon organic milk, $4.79; and one dozen “cage-free” eggs, $4.16.

The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks closely with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index report for food at home. As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped.

“Through the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 16 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Anderson said.

Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this $54.14 marketbasket would be $8.66.

AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, began conducting informal quarterly marketbasket surveys of retail food price trends in 1989. The series includes a Spring Picnic survey, Summer Cookout survey, Fall Harvest survey and Thanksgiving survey.

According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 69 shoppers in 24 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in September.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Just in

Cattle Prices Dip
Blackfoot--Rancher Todd Cook says beef prices have dipped the past four months. Thats after unprecedented years of high market prices.
"We're not going to do anything different, just monitor prices and wait for the market to adjust itself." he says.
Cook is moving cattle, something he says is routine for this time of year. "Things are going well and we're doing a lot of planning for next year."

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Just in

Poll Shows Broad Support for Endangered Species Act Reform

WASHINGTON– Most Americans think the Endangered Species Act is outdated and needs to be revised, a survey by Morning Consult shows.

The poll conducted in early August adds impetus to congressional efforts to overhaul the increasingly outdated 1970s-era statute. The survey shows:
 · 63 percent of Americans support modernizing the ESA;
· 62 of Americans believe the act should help with species recovery, as opposed to merely cataloguing changes in their populations;
 · 69 percent of Americans want the federal government to offer resources to third parties to help species recovery; and
 · 49 percent of Americans believe that state or local authorities, rather than the federal government, lead in recovery of endangered and threatened species.

Only 31 percent of Americans favor the federal government taking the lead. “The intent of the Endangered Species Act is inspiring, but results have been less so,” American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said.

“Farmers, ranchers and environmentalists agree that we must save wildlife facing preventable extinction, but the current recovery rate of less than 2 percent shows the law is a failure. “Today, many landowners hesitate to establish habitat that would help endangered species. That’s so because the law itself makes it impractical for them to use their land once they have made the effort to help in the first place.

 The ESA can and must be modernized to protect endangered species and respect private property rights. Neither agriculture nor the endangered species have time to wait.” A statistical summary of the poll can be found here. Detailed questions and answers can be found here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Just in from the Potato Commission

Farmers Mark Coombs and James Hoff step up their search for the Great Big Idaho® Potato Truck.
James Hoff named to Potato Commission

EAGLE – The Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) announced the recent appointment of James Hoff as a new Commissioner who will a serve three-year term.  James Hoff of Hoff Farms in Idaho Falls will be formally sworn in at the IPC’s October meeting.  Dan Nakamura and Lynn Wilcox, who have already served one term, will be sworn in for second three-year terms. The Commissioners were nominated by industry peers and selected by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.
“James has been involved with the IPC for many years but most notably, James and his red bi-plane appeared in the IPC’s 2014 national television commercial,” said Frank Muir, President & CEO, IPC. “I look forward to working with James and the other eight Commissioners in what promises to be one of our most successful years yet.”
Hoff is a fourth generation Idaho® potato grower whose family farm is located about four miles south of Idaho Falls. He has been involved with his family farming operation since he was 13 years old.  He is currently the Chief Operating Officer of the farm and is eager to jump into this new leadership position.

The eight other Commissioners representing the Idaho® potato growers, shippers and processors are:
  • Dan Nakamura, Idahoan (Chairman) 
  • Ritchey Toevs, Toevs Farm (Vice Chairman) 
  • Lynn Wilcox, Wlicox, Floyd & Sons 
  • Peggy Grover, Bench Mark Potato Company 
  • Tommy Brown, Lamb Weston 
  • Mike Christensen, Christensen Farms 
  • Nick Blanksma, Legacy Farms 
  • Randy Hardy, Hardy Farms 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Petition drive announced

Sign the Petition
Bend--An elderly Oregon rancher and his son have been tried as terrorists for setting defensive backfires on their land. Steven and Dwight Hammond of Oregon set backfires to protect their ranch. The fires burned a small amount of federal land. The ranchers concede that they made a mistake and have served federal prison time and paid enormous fines. But they're not terrorists. Yet the government wants to send them back to federal prison as terrorists. Help us try to stop government over-reach by signing the petition at www.savethehammonds.com

USDA Helps Rural Businesses Create Jobs and Increase Economic Opportunities

PINE RIDGE- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today awarded nearly $20 million through 385 grants to help support the start-up or expansion of rural small businesses.

 "These grants will strengthen the economic fabric of our rural small towns and communities by providing capital to small and emerging businesses," Vilsack said today during a visit to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. USDA is awarding the grants through the Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) program. Recipients may use the funds to provide technical assistance, training and job-creation activities.

 The Value Added Agriculture Development Center, based in Pierre, S.D., is receiving a $49,500 grant to teach local businesses in Oglala Lakota County, which is on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, how to commercially process and successfully market buffalo meat.

 In April 2015, the Obama Administration designated the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation one of eight new Promise Zones. Promise Zones are high-poverty communities where the federal government partners with local leaders to increase economic activity, improve educational opportunities, leverage private investment, reduce violent crime, enhance public health and address other community-identified priorities.

 While Secretary Vilsack was in South Dakota, he highlighted USDA's work to expand economic opportunities for Native Americans and rural residents throughout the state. For example, he announced that the Oglala Sioux Tribe is receiving a $1.85 million grant to construct a storage building and cell for a solid waste landfill.

 Other RBDG recipients include Boyne City, Mich., which been selected to receive a $30,000 grant to provide equipment for an incubator kitchen for local foods. The Town of Princess Anne, Md., is receiving a $21,400 grant to buy furnishings and equipment for the historic Washington Hotel. 

Funding of each award announced today is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement. USDA's Rural Business Development Grant Program is one of several that support rural economic development. Since the start of the Obama administration, USDA's Rural Business-Cooperative Service has helped 85,000 rural businesses.

 The City of Luverne, Minn., population 4,800, is an example of a small town USDA has helped. Luverne used a $99,000 USDA grant in FY 2013 to establish a revolving loan fund to provide affordable financing for downtown businesses. City leaders wanted to help downtown merchants upgrade their shops and eateries so they could attract more visitors and economic activity. Like many cities across the country, Luverne had lost shoppers to the region's larger towns and big box stores. So far, 13 businesses have been helped as a result of USDA's grant.

 President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way - strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Just in from Gem County

Harvest Dilema
Emmett--New orchard owners Ouinten & Cindy Snook of Emmett are faced with a unique problem.  As first year growers not really knowing much about growing apples or what to expect at harvest. Harvest is here the crop is plentiful but they have no market. Join Steve Ritter later this week for the rest of the story as Farm Bureau helps the Snook's  find markets for the golden delicious apples they have grown.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Just in from the Statehouse


BOISE – Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and the Idaho Legislature filed a lawsuit Friday challenging the federal government’s failure to stick to a transparent, collaborative process in setting new land-use restrictions on greater sage-grouse habitat in Idaho and other states in the West. 

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced on Tuesday that listing sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was “not warranted.” But Governor Otter and other Idaho stakeholders contend the process behind amendments to federal land-use plans aimed at protecting the birds imposed unprecedented and unnecessary restrictions on Idaho farmers and ranchers, sportsmen, recreationists, employers and others.

“We didn’t want an ESA listing, but in many ways these administrative rules are worse. This complaint is an unfortunate but necessary step to protect the rights of Idaho citizens to participate in public land decisions that will impact their communities, their economy and their lives,” Governor Otter said. “Our people deserve to be involved in development of critical land-use plans that will responsibly address the most serious threats to Idaho’s sage-grouse population – wildfires and such invasive species as cheat grass that are fueling them.”  

The Governor contends the flawed amendment process by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service effectively undermined years of open and partnership-driven work by local and State leaders and other stakeholders. Their goal was to avoid the potentially draconian impacts of a “threatened” or “endangered” ESA listing for sage-grouse.

Then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asked Idaho and ten other western states in 2011 to develop and submit state-based conservation plans for incorporation into a National Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy primarily focused on updating nearly 100 federal land-use plans.  Governor Otter responded by gathering a diverse Idaho sage-grouse task force and submitting a consensus- and science-based Idaho alternative.

Once the Idaho plan was submitted, the federal government ended collaboration and turned to developing a national solution that includes new and tougher land-use restrictions. Interior Department officials contend the last-minute, closed-door effort was necessary to prevent a sage-grouse listing decision. The lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., alleges the federal government violated the law by failing to complete the federal planning process in an open and transparent manner, or to complete a necessary analysis of the newly ordered land-use restrictions. The full complaint can be found here

“Under a collaborative framework that included industry, the conservation community, and state and federal experts, we achieved something pretty remarkable for sage-grouse and the citizens of Idaho through our planning effort,” said Dustin Miller, administrator of the Idaho Office of Species Conservation. “Unfortunately, the Interior Department has chosen to ignore our local efforts and replace them with top-down and unnecessary restrictions through the land-use plans that weren’t properly vetted with the states and the public.”  

Idaho Department of Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore said, “Idaho’s conservation actions and science support keeping sage-grouse off the Endangered Species list.   But U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leaders recently stopped using science and common sense when it came to identifying sage-grouse habitat for federal land managers. The Service ignored Idaho sage-grouse experts and arbitrarily designated thousands of additional acres as sage-grouse strongholds when they don’t even contain sage grouse habitat. Unfortunately the Forest Service and BLM relied on flawed information in making their land-use decisions for Idaho. It’s important we focus sage-grouse conservation on habitat and actions that really matter.”
“The Idaho Legislature values sage-grouse and their habitat; but we also value the people who use the land and make their livelihood there,” Idaho Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill said. “Idaho developed a plan that conserved sage-grouse and its habitat while maintaining predictable levels of land use, but the federal government rejected it. It is imperative that we defend our plan and Idaho’s way of life.”

“Dwight Eisenhower said, ‘Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the corn field.’ His admonition rings particularly true regarding the Obama administration’s heavy-handed sage-grouse mandates on millions of acres of western land that have no impact in Washington, D.C., but make a world of difference to us here in Idaho,” Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke said.

“Secretary Jewell, and Secretary Salazar before her, promised a transparent public process, but in the end they imposed unnecessary land management policies that have little or nothing to do with the birds – all developed during closed-door sessions with no input from Idahoans who have worked hard on our state management plan,” Bedke said. “That’s the kind of thing that leaves Idahoans not only questioning the process but doubting the Obama administration’s intentions.  These additional burdensome measures seem to speak to something besides the protection of sage-grouse.  I appreciate the Governor’s leadership in challenging them.”

Friday, September 25, 2015

Just in from Washington

Countdown is on to finalize price reporting, grain inspection authorizations

 Washington—The Senate on Monday approved a bill (H.R. 2051) to reauthorize mandatory price reporting (MPR) for livestock, the U.S. Grain Standards Act and the National Forest Foundation Act. Under the Agricultural Reauthorizations Act of 2015, MPR and the Grain Standards Act will continue through 2020, while the National Forest Foundation authority will continue through 2018.

The House addressed these issues in three separate bills, so to get the Senate bill to the president’s desk, the House would have to take up the new, Senate-passed H.R. 2015. Unless Congress finalizes the bill, mandatory price reporting and grain inspection standards will expire on Sept. 30.

One major difference between the House-passed legislation and the Senate’s version is how MPR would be treated during a government shutdown, which some say is very likely come Oct. 1. The Senate’s MPR bill does not include emergency authority for reporting during a government shutdown. The House legislation deems the price reports an essential service, guaranteeing they would continue during a government shutdown.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Just in

Simpson’s Statement on Sage-Grouse Decision

Boise- Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson offered the following statement regarding the determination by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the Greater Sage-Grouse does not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act:

“For years, state and federal partners have worked toward the not warranted listing that was issued today, and, given the impact that a listing decision would have on Idaho and the West, I am pleased with the Fish and Wildlife Service’s determination,” said Simpson.  “That being said, I recognize that this decision does not come without a price.  There has been widespread concern about the impact of the federal land management plans, especially from the states, which felt their recommendations in this process were disregarded.  Whether the price we pay for a not-warranted decision will be too high remains to be seen.  In the meantime, I will continue working with both federal and state agencies to see that the real threats to sage-grouse habitat, including wildfire, can be addressed.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Just in

Local efforts save sage grouse from ESA listing

Washington—Due to the success of state and local conservation efforts, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced today its decision not to list the greater sage grouse as an endangered species. The American Farm Bureau is a strong supporter of meaningful recovery efforts and counts today’s decision as a testament to the great strides states and landowners can make when they work cooperatively to develop effective wildlife management plans.

“Conservation plans developed at the state and local levels provide the greatest opportunity for species success, and we believe today’s decision endorses that approach,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Farmers and ranchers last year called on the federal government to allow time for these plans to work, and now we’re seeing positive results and real success with the birds’ populations across the Western states. State, local and industry partners have accomplished in just a few years a level of success largely unseen through 42 years of federal Endangered Species Act implementation.”

While today’s announcement is a victory for conservation work and species recovery at the local level, the Bureau of Land Management and USDA Forest Service also announced today their decision to move forward with land management plans which address sage grouse populations across the birds’ 184 million acre range. Farmers and ranchers are concerned that these new plans may threaten to further erode the multiple-use mandate charged to land management agencies by restricting existing and future rangeland management. The new plans add new land use restrictions which may affect the timing of range improvements, reduce livestock numbers, eliminate or reduce actively permitted grazing allotments, or impact the ability to renew future livestock permits.

“Continued active management of western rangelands through proper grazing management has and can continue to enhance sage grouse habitat and populations,” Stallman said. “These new plans send a mixed message by punishing livestock permittees who are already working to conserve species and resources.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

2015 Jalapeno Open

2015 Jalapeno Open benefits minority students

Boise--Senator Chuck Winder attempts the “pot shot” at the 2015 Jalapeno Open golf tournament benefiting high achieving minority students. This unique tee shot must be made by each member with equally unique results. This event was founded by Richard G. Cortez, owner of Metalcraft inc. 23 years ago and has awarded $329,000 in scholarships to 395 students.

This year Govenor Otter presented scholarships to 9 students at the state Capital. The Ada County Farm Bureau has sponsored 2 teams for this event for over 12 years. Ada County President Don Sonke feels this is a good fit for community relations as our agriculture industry relies heavily on Hispanic labor to produce the abundant, affordable food for the consuming public. Each year one team is made up of Farm Bureau insurance agents and the other team has included one or more state legislators or lobbyists that support Farm Bureau policies.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Just in

USDA Offers Help to Fire-Affected Farmers and Ranchers

WASHINGTON- The  U.S. Department of Agriculture reminds farmers and ranchers affected by the recent wildfires in Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington State that USDA has programs to assist with their recovery efforts.
The  Farm Service Agency (FSA) can assist farmers and ranchers who lost livestock, grazing land, fences or eligible trees, bushes and vines as a result of a natural disaster. FSA administers a suite of safety-net programs to help producers recover from eligible losses, including the  Livestock Indemnity Program, the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the  Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, and the  Tree Assistance Program.
In addition, the FSA  Emergency Conservation Program provides funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters and for carrying out emergency water conservation measures in periods of severe drought. Producers located in counties that received a primary or contiguous disaster designation are eligible for low-interest  emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. Compensation is also available to producers who purchased coverage through the  Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which protects non-insurable crops against natural disasters that result in lower yields, crop losses or prevented planting.
"Wildfires have caused devastating losses for many farmers and ranchers," said FSA Administrator Val Dolcini. "Over the past several years, wildfires have increased in severity, intensity and cost as the fire season has grown longer, and drought and increased temperatures contribute to dangerous conditions. Natural disasters such as wildfires are unavoidable, but USDA has strong safety-net programs to help producers get back on their feet."
The  Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can assist producers with damaged grazing land as well as farmers, ranchers and forestland owners who find themselves in emergency situations caused by natural disasters. The NRCS  Environmental Quality Incentives Program provides financial assistance to producers who agree to defer grazing on damaged land for two years. In the event that presidentially declared natural disasters, such as wildfires, lead to imminent threats to life and property, NRCS can assist local government sponsors with the cost of implementing conservation practices to address natural resource concerns and hazards through the  Emergency Watershed Protection Program.
"After natural disasters such as wildfires, it is critical that farmers, ranchers and forestland owners have financial and technical resources available to protect their natural resources and operations," said NRCS Chief Jason Weller. "Conservation practices protect the land and aid recovery, but can build the natural resource base and may help mitigate loss in future events."
Farmers and ranchers with coverage through the federal crop insurance program administered by the Risk Management Agency (RMA) should contact their crop insurance agent to discuss losses due to fire or other natural causes of loss. Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private crop insurance agents. A list of crop insurance agents is available at all USDA Service Centers and online at the RMA Agent Locator.
When wildfires destroy or severely damage residential property,  Rural Development (RD) can assist with providing priority hardship application processing for single family housing. Under a disaster designation, RD can issue a priority letter for next available multi-family housing units. RD also provides low-interest loans to community facilities, water environmental programs, businesses and cooperatives and to rural utilities.
For the first time in its 110-year history, the  Forest Service, part of USDA, is spending more than 50 percent of its budget to suppress the nation's wildfires.
Today, fire seasons are 78 days longer than in the 1970s. Since 2000, at least 10 states have had their largest fires on record. This year, there have been more than 46,000 fires. Increasing development near forest boundaries also drives up costs, as more than 46 million homes and more than 70,000 communities are at risk from wildfire in the United States.
Visit  http://go.usa.gov/3eDeF to learn more about USDA disaster preparedness and response. For more information on USDA disaster assistance programs, please contact your local USDA Service Center. To find your local USDA Service Center go to  http://offices.usda.gov.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Just in

Wildfires are National Disasters
By Congressman Mike Simpson, Congressman Kurt Schrader, Congressman Ken Calvert, and Congresswoman Betty McCollum

Washington- The 2015 wildfire season has been brutal.  In mid-August the National Wildland Fire Preparedness Level was raised to the highest Level 5 and the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) mobilized active duty military personnel to fight wildfires for the first time in almost a decade.  Millions of acres are burning in the drought-plagued West—more than twice as many as last year—and the Forest Service anticipates that suppression costs will exceed the budget by nearly a half a billion dollars.

The severity of this fire season underscores the fact that our current wildfire suppression budget process simply does not work.  Twenty years ago wildfire suppression made up about 15% of the Forest Service budget.  This year it is over half.  This means that the Forest Service spends the majority of its time, funding, and staff resources putting out fires instead of managing our nation’s public lands. 

This situation has reached a crisis point.  This is why we have introduced H.R. 167, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (WDFA).  The WDFA discards the old, broken model for wildfire suppression and replaces it with one that treats wildfires like the natural disasters they are.

Today wildfire suppression funding is based primarily on an historical average of suppression costs over the past ten years.  The ten-year average funding model worked when the cost of wildfire suppression was relatively stable.  But wildfire suppression costs have steadily grown over the past two decades.  Drought, invasive vegetation, and increasing development near wildland areas increase the risk of catastrophic fires.  Fire season is longer, fires are more severe, and suppression is more costly—and these trends are expected to continue.  And because suppression costs now routinely exceed the budget, agencies are continually forced to transfer funding from non-fire projects to pay them.

Our current path only leads to bigger, more expensive, and more devastating fires.  The WDFA changes directions by treating catastrophic wildfires like other natural disasters.  It continues to use the 10-year average funding model where it works—for routine wildfire suppression costs—but it makes those few but very expensive emergency fires eligible for the same disaster spending cap adjustment as other natural disasters.  Catastrophic fires represent only about 1% of all wildland fires but make up 30% of the costs. 

The WDFA allows us to finally budget responsibly for wildfire suppression in a way that ultimately decreases firefighting costs by mitigating fire risk.  It restores the Forest Service’s ability to effectively manage our forests, and with proper management forests will be more resilient to catastrophic fire, disease, and other threats.  And ending the destructive cycle of fire borrowing means that land management agencies will be more accountable to Congress’s direction.

The fires we experience out west are just as devastating as the hurricanes and tornadoes that strike the East Coast and Midwest and they should be funded as such. Westerners have been suffering from this fairness issue and it’s high time that all states be treated the same—with equal access to disaster funding.

As wildfires continue to blaze, Congress has a responsibility to act.  Today over 130 Members of Congress have cosponsored H.R. 167, and that number continues to grow.  The bill is supported by a broad coalition of over 300 organizations who all recognize that the status quo is unsustainable.  Fixing the wildfire budget is the critical first step in making our forests healthier and, ultimately, reducing the cost of wildfires in the future.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Harvesting with Farm Bureau

Corn Seed Harvested in Nampa, Lawmakers get firsthand look
Nampa--Sweet corn seed harvest is going full speed ahead in Nampa. Workers are putting in 12 hour days until the harvest is done. The Idaho Farm Bureau hosted lawmakers at Seminis seed for their annual 'Harvesting with Idaho Farm Bureau' event.

"Our main idea is to invite legislators from urban areas here in the Treasure Valley to come and learn a bit about different aspects of Idaho Agriculture,"said Legislative Affairs Director Russ Hendricks. "This year we're focusing on GMO's, thats a hot topic of discussion lately. We're giving lawmakers a chance to see how these crops are processed and give them a chance to talk to scientists and decide for themselves about GMO crops."

Representative Joe Palmer of Meridian attended the tour, "Ive been on several of these tours and its a great learning experience. These tours remind us not only of Ag operations but all the supplemental industry that agriculture supports, this is the seed capitol of the US, right in our backyard."

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Just in


Boise-- The Idaho Natural Resources Conservation Service set a Oct. 16, 2015, application deadline for the general Environmental Quality Incentives Program and special initiatives funded through that program. To be considered for fiscal year 2016 conservation program funding, agricultural operators must submit applications before the Oct. 16 deadline. 

Initiatives funded through EQIP include organic, on-farm energy, seasonal high tunnel and soil health. Applications received after Oct. 16 will be reviewed in the 2017 funding cycle.

“Conservation planning is a priority for the Natural Resources Conservation Service and will be a requirement once applications are received and screened,” said Curtis Elke, State Conservationist for Idaho NRCS.  “We encourage all applicants to work closely with your local NRCS field office and certified conservation planner.”

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program helps agricultural producers complete resource conservation projects and make conservation-related management changes on their farms or ranches. Conservation program participation is voluntary and helps private landowners and operators defray the costs of installing conservation practices.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Just in

'All About Beef' App Features Two New Games

WASHINGTON - The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture released a new educational app, "All About Beef," funded in part by the Beef Checkoff.
App versions of "The Steaks are High " and "Grocery Grab" are STEM-based games funded by the Beef Checkoff Program and geared toward students in grades 3-5. In addition to teaching nutrition and environmental facts, the apps also feature kid-friendly beef recipes.
The My American Farm games, including "The Steaks are High" and "Grocery Grab" are available on the iTunes store for iPhone and iPad, at Google Play for Android devices, on Amazon for the Kindle Fire and on www.MyAmericanFarm.org.
The Beef Checkoff Program funded development of this game and supporting resources. The Beef Checkoff Program (www.MyBeefCheckoff.com) was established as part of the 1985 farm bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. In states with qualified beef councils, states retain up to 50 cents of the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.

The My American Farm educational resource is a special project of the Foundation. The site and resources are made possible through the generous support of title sponsor, DuPont Pioneer. To take advantage of the free My American Farm resources, games and activities, visit www.MyAmericanFarm.org.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Just in

As Wildfires Continue to Burn, New Maps Shows Expansion of Wildland-Urban Interface

WASHINGTON – A new U.S. Forest Service report shows the continued expansion of housing development near forests, an area referred to as the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI), with direct implications for the cost of wildfire fighting. Increasing densities of people and infrastructure in the WUI makes wildfire management more complex and requires more firefighting assets to ensure an appropriate, safe and effective response, which in turn drives up the cost of fighting wildfires. Expansion of the WUI has direct implications for wildfire management as more of the Forest Service's resources are spent each year to provide the firefighters, aircraft and other assets necessary to protect lives, property and natural resources in the wildland urban interface regions. In addition, overall fire seasons have grown longer, and the frequency, size and severity of wildland fires has increased. 
In recent decades, research has shown a steady increase in the area that is part of the WUI, as documented and visually depicted in a new publication titled, " The 2010 Wildland-Urban Interface of the Conterminous United States." The percent of homes in the WUI increased by over five percent between 2000 and 2010 (latest data available). As of 2010, the WUI of the lower 48 states includes about 44 million houses, equivalent to one in every three houses in the country, with the highest concentrations of houses in the WUI in California, Texas and Florida. The publication includes new, high-resolution maps showing housing density, land ownership, land cover and wildland vegetation cover for each state.
"The expanding wildland urban interface is a critical issue for wildland firefighting and for the conservation of our forests," said Robert Bonnie. "More people, homes, and infrastructure are at risk than ever before. As the WUI grows, our fire fighters must commit greater resources to protect homes and property which dramatically increases the cost of fire suppression."
The cost of wildfire suppression reached a record $243 million in a one week period during the height of suppression activity in late August. In 2015, 52% of the Forest Service budget was set aside for fire suppression, up from 16% in 1995. By September 2015, the Forest Service had already exceeded the funding set aside for fire suppression and was forced to borrow funds meant for other Forest Service activities. The bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, already introduced in the House and Senate, is an important step forward in addressing the funding problems. The proposed legislation, which mirrors a similar proposal in President Obama's Fiscal Year 2016 Budget, would provide a fiscally responsible mechanism to treat wildfires more like other natural disasters, end "fire transfers" and partially replenish the ability to restore resilient forests and protect against future fire outbreaks.
While WUI expansion has increased the likelihood that wildfire will threaten structures and people and increase the number of people affected by wildfire, not all WUI acres are at high risk of wildfire or the only management concern. Increased risk of invasive species and disruption of wildlife and ecosystem processes often accompany human habitation, making the WUI maps an important guide in conservation work.
To download a copy of this publication, visit the  Northern Research Station's website.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Just in

WASHINGTON--The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday published the first two of seven major rules of the Food Safety and Modernization Act in the Federal Register, moving forward on a process to update food safety rules that has taken more than five years.
The two rules released – one for Preventive Controls for Human Food and the other for Preventive Controls for Animal Food – will put greater emphasis on preventing foodborne illnesses, rather than controlling them.

Food Safety Modernization Act reaches fruition with final release of first two of seven major rules
Food Safety Modernization Act reaches fruition with final release of first two of seven major rules

The rules focus on implementing modern food manufacturing processes for both human and animal foods and require greater collaboration between FDA and food producers to prevent hazards to customers on the front end, rather than waiting to act until an outbreak has occurred.
FDA says the preventive controls rules require human and animal food facilities to develop and implement written food safety plans detailing possible problems and ways to mitigate or minimize those issues.
Under these rules, FDA says it will be able to assess food production systems to prevent problems, will better be able to respond when food safety problems occur, and better protect the safety of manufactured food.
"We've been working with states, food companies, farmers and consumers to create smart, practical and meaningful rules," said Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, FDA. "And we have made a firm commitment to provide guidance, technical assistance and training to advance a food safety culture that puts prevention first."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Just in from Washington

Ag groups detail priorities for highway bill

Washington—Strong infrastructure, such as highways and bridges, is hugely important in keeping U.S. agriculture competitive and consumer costs down, Farm Bureau and 27 other agricultural organizations wrote to House members in a letter urging them to pass multi-year surface transportation legislation that provides adequate funding for transportation infrastructure programs.

“While all modes of transportation are important to agriculture, trucks move almost all agricultural commodities from the field to the warehouse and also transport 64 percent of grains and oilseeds from warehouse to end user,” the groups wrote. Among the areas of concern farmers, ranchers and agricultural transporters would like to see addressed in the legislation is an extension on the implementation deadline for positive train control, which is needed to prevent a disruption in the supply of necessary fertilizers, crop inputs and rail cars for transporting freight.

 “Several railroads have indicated that they may be unable to move important crop inputs such as anhydrous ammonia on lines that do not have PTC installed. This development could threaten delivery not only of fertilizers and other inputs but other traffic on those lines as well,” the groups wrote.

If Congress does not extend the Dec. 31, 2015 deadline for installing PTC, fertilizer manufactures would likely curtail production, leaving farmers without enough fertilizer to use during the narrow planting season. A minimum commercial driver’s license age of 18 would make federal law, which now puts the minimum CDL age at 21, consistent with the laws of the contiguous 48 states.

The federal minimum age of 21 means anyone younger than that cannot drive commercially across state lines, despite being licensed in a state. The groups requested that lawmakers carefully examine regulatory attempts to unduly raise the cost of truck transportation without corresponding safety benefits, such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) proposal to greatly expand motor carrier financial responsibility and its proposal to place unwarranted responsibilities on shippers and receivers for drivers who are not employed by them.

 “Motor carriers must be able to comply with safety regulations in an affordable manner; otherwise the pool of motor carriers will diminish and the cost of transportation will increase,” the groups cautioned.

In addition, an exemption to a hazardous materials endorsement for custom harvesters and other operators of similar equipment would allow the agricultural industry to perform more efficiently and recognizes the needs of modern production agriculture. The organizations also asked the lawmakers to confirm congressional intent in regards to provisions of MAP-21 that provide regulatory relief from several FMCSA regulations.

As those exemptions were being implemented over the past few years, several states raised questions regarding the scope of exemptions that could be provided to the intrastate operation of “covered farm vehicles.” When petitioned, FMCSA has interpreted the provisions of MAP-21 much more narrowly than Congress intended. To remedy this, the groups asked that lawmakers clarify “that states may adopt standards that still provide safety but are more reasonable to farmers and employees operating farm trucks near the farm, without jeopardizing federal funding.”

 Provisions related to giving states the option to increase truck weight tolerances on federal highways, the permanent removal of the 30-minute break after eight hours of service and the collection of port performance data are critical too, according to the groups. Noting that the Senate passed a reauthorization bill for the Surface Transportation Board, the organizations urged the House to pass a stand-alone companion bill or include the reauthorization’s provisions in a multi-year surface transportation bill.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Waters of the US

Farm Bureau: More maps show how EPA’s overreach imperils U.S. agriculture, housing and industry

Washington—The American Farm Bureau Federation released still more maps that show how the Environmental Protection Agency intends to radically expand its jurisdiction over land use via the newly issued Waters of the United States rule. Implementation of the rule in at least 13 states was recently halted by a court in North Dakota pending further hearings.

The maps prepared by Geosyntec Consulting show the dramatic expansion of EPA’s regulatory reach across wide swaths of land in Missouri, Oklahoma, New York and Wisconsin.

Nearly all of the states’ total acreage would fall under EPA scrutiny. Landowners have no reliable way to know which of the water and land within that area will be regulated, yet they must still conform their activities to the new law.

“The EPA’s new rule places farmers in the agency’s crosshairs for using the same safe, scientifically sound and federally approved crop protection tools they’ve used for years,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “This rule creates a new set of tools for harassing farmers in court, and does it all with language that is disturbingly vague and subject to abuse by future regulators. It’s worth saying again: The EPA needs to withdraw this rule and start over.”

Maps detailing EPA’s overreach in Missouri, Montana, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin can be found here: http://www.fb.org/issues/wotus/resources/
 - See more at: http://fbnews.fb.org/Templates/Article.aspx?id=39829#sthash.KIlvBhA7.dpuf

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Member benefits

Farm Bureau, Caterpillar Inc. Announce New Partnership

WASHINGTON– American Farm Bureau Federation and Caterpillar Inc. announce a new partnership that will provide members up to $2,000 in purchase incentives on Cat machines. In addition, Caterpillar plans to support Farm Bureau programs in 2016 and coordinate with Farm Bureau on other efforts.
“Our extensive product line, with more than 300 Cat machines, reflects our commitment to the ongoing success of American agriculture and rural businesses,” said Dustin Johansen, Caterpillar Agriculture Industry Manager. “We’re proud to partner with the American Farm Bureau Federation and help members get their jobs done with the highest quality, best value equipment, attachments and integrated solutions in the industry.”
Eligible equipment includes Cat skid steer loaders, compact and multi-terrain loaders, wheel loaders, telehandlers, backhoe loaders, hydraulic excavators and track-type tractors. A range of incentives are offered:
  • Small Wheel Loaders: $2,000
  • Compact Wheel Loaders: $1,000
  • Small Dozers: $1,000
  • Backhoe Loaders: $500 - $1,000
  • Compact Track Loaders: $500 - $1,000
  • Multi Terrain Loaders: $500 - $1,000
  • Skid Steer Loaders: $500 - $1,000
  • Telehandlers: $500 - $1,000
  • Mini Hydraulic Excavators: $250 - $500
“Farm Bureau’s commitment to providing members with exclusive access to superior, high-quality brands, programs and products continues with this new partnership,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Caterpillar and agriculture have a shared history that goes back more than a hundred years. Our new partnership will make it easier for our members to improve productivity and efficiency to maintain profit margins,” he added.
In addition to providing reliable, fuel-efficient equipment that is more economical for farmers, ranchers and rural business people to own and operate, Caterpillar is also committed to the safety of operators and to ongoing innovation in design and engineering. Along with providing unparalleled parts availability, Cat Dealer service helps ensure the long-term reliability of equipment.
“Our product solutions are designed and built for maximum performance and safety,” said Johansen. “We are constantly developing and refining advanced power and hydraulic technologies to ensure that our products provide Farm Bureau members with the power, versatility, efficiency, ease of operations and reliability they have come to expect.”
The Farm Bureau Member Benefit discount on Cat machines can be combined with any current retail discounts, promotions, rebates or offers available through Caterpillar or its dealers, with the exception of other membership purchase incentives (such as the NCBA discount).
All participating state Farm Bureau members are eligible. Discounts cannot be applied to past purchases. Members must provide a valid Member Verification Certificate to the Cat dealer at the time of quote to receive the discount. Certificates may be obtained at www.fbadvantage.com/cat as of September 1, 2015.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Deadlines approach

Deadline to Enroll in Key Farm Bill Safety Net Programs Approaches
Producers have Until Sept. 30 to Sign Up for ARC/PLC and MPP-Dairy

WASHINGTON– U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency Administrator Val Dolcini reminds farmers and ranchers that they have until Sept. 30 to enroll in several key Farm Bill safety net programs – Agriculture Risk Coverage, Price Loss Coverage  and the Margin Protection Program for Dairy.

“These programs provide important risk protection for farm and dairy operations, so it is important not to miss the deadline for enrollment,” said Dolcini. “Producers already have elected ARC or PLC, so now is the time to sign the contract and enroll for the 2014 and 2015 crop years. I also remind dairy operations to enroll for coverage in 2016. Just $100 covers 90 percent of milk production at a $4 margin, and with incremental premiums, up to an $8 margin can be covered.”

ARC and PLC programs trigger financial protections for agricultural producers when market forces cause substantial drops in crop prices or revenues. More than 1.76 million farmers and ranchers are expected to sign contracts to enroll in ARC or PLC. Covered commodities under the programs include barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium grain rice (which includes short grain and sweet rice), safflower seed, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed and wheat. Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity. The elections for each farm stay in place through 2018, but ownership and shares can be adjusted through the annual enrollment. For additional program information, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc.

MPP-Dairy offers protection to producers when the difference between the milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. Participating dairy farmers will remain in the program through 2018 and pay a $100 administrative fee each year. Producers also have the option of selecting a different coverage level during open enrollment each year. MPP-Dairy payments are based on an operation’s historical production, which will increase by 2.61 percent in 2016, if the operation participated in 2015, providing a stronger safety net. More than half of the nation’s dairy producers are enrolled in the program. For more information, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/dairy.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Wolf Meeting in Cambridge

Preventing Wolf Depredation in Idaho A USDA public meeting 

Cambridge--The US Department of Agriculture sponsored a meeting in Cambridge this morning addressing wolf depredation in Idaho. Farmers and Ranchers learned everything from how to file a depredation report to the number of estimated wolves in Idaho.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Onion Harvest

Onion Harvest underway two weeks early

Canyon County--At Storey farms in Roswell, Idaho onion harvest in underway.  This field of Vaquero onions is headed to J.C. Watson company in Parma to be prepared for markets.  The harvest is about 10% complete overall and about 10 to 14 days early this year. (Ritter photo)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Just in

Judge finds evidence EPA was arbitrary, capricious in writing WOTUS rule

Washington—District Court Judge Ralph Erickson on Thursday granted a preliminary injunction requested by North Dakota and a dozen other states that sued the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers in June over their Waters of the United States rule.

Judge Erickson “found strong evidence that the EPA was arbitrary and capricious in its rulemaking,” explained American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “He saw no connection between key provisions of the rule and the science that was presented to support it. Based on evidence presented so far, he ordered that the rule be stopped while the litigation continues to a conclusion.” 

Stallman continued, “We applaud the court’s decision. The so-called Clean Water Rule is yet another example of EPA’s reckless and unlawful behavior in the face of science, economics and the law. Whether you’re a farmer, a rancher, a homebuilder or landowner of any stripe, the evidence is clear: This rule simply has to be stopped.”
EPA said in a statement that the judge’s ruling applies only to the 13 states involved in the lawsuit. The agency considers the WOTUS rule to be the law of the land in the rest of the country, beginning today. The 13 states that brought the suit are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

 “Even in the face of this court order, EPA is reportedly asserting it will enforce the new rule in the 37 states that are not part of the North Dakota lawsuit,” Stallman said. "Thus, for much of the nation, this unlawful rule will continue to create uncertainty and legal risk for commonplace land uses like farming and ranching. It’s clear that now is the time for Congress to act and pass S. 1140 to send EPA back to the drawing board. We won’t stop until this rule is finished.”