Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The President's OP-ED

Gubernatorial Candidate Lacks Rural Perspective
By Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley
The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation does not endorse candidates for statewide offices. However, statements posted on Idaho Gubernatorial Candidate A.J. Balukoff’s website are reasons for rural voters to be concerned.
We believe Idaho voters should be aware of and informed about the candidate’s position on wolves, monument designations and several others. The following statement is one example:
“I think that was more about election-year politics than an attempt to create informed public policy. First of all, we don't need to spend $400,000 a year on another state board or bureaucracy to manage wolves—especially not when our state faces so many other critical needs, like public schools. That responsibility should fall within the state Department of Fish and Game, as does the management of all big game and other predators, like mountain lions, bears, and coyotes, in Idaho. Taking politically motivated steps that appear to threaten the viability of the wolf population solves no problem and creates two problems: first, it's the best way to encourage the federal government to step in and list the wolf as an endangered species again, removing state control; and second, it contributes to the negative "brand" our state government has been creating for Idaho among people across our country, nurturing the perception that we oppose conservation of a keystone species like the wolf.

If creation of a wolf control board qualifies as “election-year politics,” we’re not sure what wouldn’t qualify. In fact, the wolf control board was the product of a consensus reached by the livestock industry, legislators, Fish and Game biologists and experts from Wildlife Services, a federal agency charged with resolving wildlife interactions that threaten public health and safety, agricultural, property, and natural resources. The bill passed in the Idaho House by a vote of 49-16 and in the State Senate by a vote of 28-6. We would like to think that a competent gubernatorial candidate would know the difference between election year politics and actual problems.
The reason this money ($400,000) is needed to help manage wolves is because the federal government, (US Fish and Wildlife Service) pulled its wolf management money out of Idaho. Matching funds will be contributed by the livestock industry through increased brand renewal fees and by hunting and fishing license dollars. When the feds, who are responsible for reintroducing wolves in the first place, pulled their management funding, a large void was created. This isn’t a problem that the livestock industry should have to step in and solve. But in light of the fact that no one else was going to do it, hundreds of hardworking ranch families from across the state will make sacrifices to help manage a problem brought about by no fault of their own. We would like think that a competent gubernatorial candidate would know more about wolves in Idaho. 
The first thing we hope he can come to understand is that wolves are taking a toll on rural Idaho. Since 2009 wolves have killed about 400 cattle and 800 sheep in Idaho. Only about one in nine livestock depredations by wolves are actually confirmed. In other words, the numbers of confirmed kills are not a true reflection of actual wolf kills. Research conducted by the University of Montana has shown a correlation between wolf predation and lower weight gain in calves. Hunting outfitter businesses have suffered from lack of interest from out of state hunters due to wolves and declining elk herds. Hundreds of dogs and horses have also met an unfortunate fate due to the reintroduction of this predator. One dog was snatched out of a backyard near Troy when children played nearby. 
To us the wellbeing of rural Idaho families is more important than any negative “brand” that may or may not exist among people across the country with regard to how Idaho manages wolves. We would like to think that a competent gubernatorial candidate would care more about Idaho residents than the perceptions of people who live someplace else.
With regard to wolf conservation and sustaining a viable population in Idaho, no true stakeholder in this mess wants to see wolves back on the Endangered Species List and the federal red tape that would bring. Once again, we would expect a competent candidate to know this without playing into the hysteria and misinformation from animal rights extremists about Idaho seeking to exterminate wolves.
The wolf population in Idaho has grown far beyond expectations. The fact that wolf hunting success has increased every year since hunting began is a strong indicator that the population exceeds the official count. The fact that wolf populations in neighboring states continue to grow and expand their territories is further evidence that no one has a good handle on how many wolves we truly have in Idaho. It also disproves statements we hear about wolf populations reaching a plateau or declining. 
It’s shortsighted and unfortunate that Candidate Balukoff has chosen this topic as a platform for his campaign. We strongly encourage Idaho voters to study his positions on other wildlife, natural resources and agricultural topics before casting ballots this November.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Just in

Just-released EPA Maps Show Extent of WOTUS Overreach

Washington—Nationwide water and wetland maps assembled by the Environmental Protection Agency paint an astonishing picture of EPA’s plan to “control a huge amount of private property across the country,” according to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science Committee, which released the agency’s maps today.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Smith said that while the agency claims it has not yet used these maps to regulate, considering they were created just days after the agency released its sweeping “waters of the U.S.” proposal, it’s clear these maps were drafted with the purpose of regulation in mind.

In light of the ongoing rulemaking and the obvious questions these maps raise, Smith said EPA should: provide all documents and communications related to EPA’s contract with INDUS Corporation to create these maps; enter these and other previously undisclosed maps into the official rulemaking docket for public review; and keep the public comment period open for at least 60 days after the maps entry in the official rulemaking docket to provide adequate time for public comment.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Just in

Enrollment for New Dairy Farm Risk Management Program to Begin Sept. 2

USDA Launches New Web Tool to Help Producers Manage Unforeseen Economic Challenges
WASHINGTON—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that starting Sept. 2, 2014, farmers can enroll in the new dairy Margin Protection Program. The voluntary program, established by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides financial assistance to participating farmers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below the coverage level selected by the farmer.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also launched a new Web tool to help producers determine the level of coverage under the Margin Protection Program that will provide them with the strongest safety net under a variety of conditions. The online resource, available at www.fsa.usda.gov/mpptool, allows dairy farmers to quickly and easily combine unique operation data and other key variables to calculate their coverage needs based on price projections. Producers can also review historical data or estimate future coverage based on data projections. The secure site can be accessed via computer, Smartphone, tablet or any other platform, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"We've made tremendous progress in implementing new risk management programs since the Farm Bill was signed over six months ago," said Vilsack. "This new program is another example of this Administration's commitment to provide effective safety net programs that allow farmers and ranchers to manage economic risks beyond their control. And the supplemental Web tool will empower the nation's 46,000 dairy producers to make decisions that make sense for them."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Just in

Record Sugar Beet Crop Expected
Boise--Sugar Beet farmers say this years crop could top last year's record yield--but with higher sugar content.
Eight weeks of above 90, sometimes 100-degree heat, along with plentiful water helped. Amalgamated Sugar will start early harvest the week of September 9th, a full week ahead of schedule. The early season will start because processing last seasons crop dragged on till April, that caused beet quality to deteriorate.
Last season farmers had to replant in the Magic Valley yet recorded an average yield of 36.3 tons per acre. But sugar content averaged 15.87 percent, the lowest level in more than two decades. Sugar content should  be at least equal to the five-year average of 17 percent this year, but ideal conditions could drive it higher. Amalgamated intends to conduct its first sugar level testing next week.
The company’s crop size is estimated at 178,000 acres, thats down 4,000 acres from last season.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Just in

Wheat harvest delayed

Boise--While most of the north wheat harvest is in, farmers are struggling in the east to get the crop in because of rain.

Eastern farmers went from harvest mode to salvage mode to save the crop, they worked to dry out the crop but the storms continued.

“We got 6 inches of rain in the past three weeks, when has that ever happened? Not in my lifetime,” said farmer Bryan Searle of Shelly. “We harvested one field when the rains came, we started the next and it rained, then we held off a couple days to dry out. Then it rained again, then we waited and started cutting again and then it started raining, we still don’t have all the wheat in,” added Searle.

The Wheat Commission's Blaine Jacobsen says harvest is mixed at best.“We've had quite a range in our harvest this year. We’ve had rain in Southern Idaho the first three weeks in August and thats been the divide. Wheat harvested prior to the rain is some of the best quality we’ve produced, a falling number of 4-500 and a test weights of 62-64.

I would say that two-thirds of our winter wheat was harvested prior to the rain. The wheat still in the field when the rains came, needs to be looked at and we’re encouraging the growers to bin each of their fields separately because its almost a field by field situation. Summer storms would come through and hit one field and not the next one.

Wheat that remains standing, we think is still in pretty good shape. Some of the wheat was beaten down and we’re seeing more sprout damage in the fallen wheat than standing wheat. It's still too early to assess the 2014 harvest because so much eastern wheat is still in wet fields.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Just in

New Report Shows Budget Impact of Rising Firefighting Costs

Secretary Vilsack Renews Call to Better Protect Public Forests from Wildfire Threats
WASHINGTON—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new report showing that as the cost of fighting forest fires has rapidly increased over the last 20 years, the budgets for other forest programs, including those that can help prevent and mitigate fire damage, have substantially shrunk. The Forest Service's firefighting appropriation has rapidly risen as a proportion of the Forest Service's overall budget, increasing from 16 percent in 1995 to 42 percent today, forcing cuts in other budget areas.
"Climate change, drought, fuel buildup and insects and disease are increasing the severity of catastrophic wildfire in America's forests," Vilsack said. "In order to protect the public, the portion of the Forest Service budget dedicated to combatting fire has drastically increased from what it was 20 years ago. This has led to substantial cuts in other areas of the Forest Service budget, including efforts to keep forests healthy, reduce fire risk, and strengthen local economies."
Vilsack noted that on top of the budget reductions outlined in the new report, the Forest Service's non-fire program budgets are affected by "fire borrowing." Funds spent on fire suppression have exceeded the allocated amount in all but four years since 2000. In these cases, the shortfall is covered through transferring, or "borrowing" additional funds from Forest Service programs that have already been cut over the last 20 years. Secretary Vilsack renewed his request to Congress to allow an existing disaster fund to provide resources to fight catastrophic fires in years when Forest Service and Department of Interior fire costs exceed the amount Congress has budgeted, rather than forcing borrowing from non-fire programs.
"Bipartisan proposals to fund catastrophic fire like other natural disasters could help ensure that efforts to make forests more healthy and resilient and support local tourism economies aren't impacted as significantly as they have been in recent years," Vilsack said. "These proposals don't increase the deficit, they just budget smarter by allowing existing natural disaster funding to be used in cases of catastrophic wildfire."
Today's report shows the extent to which many Forest Service program budgets have been cut even before borrowing occurs to accommodate for the rapid rise in firefighting costs in the past 20 years.

    Friday, August 22, 2014

    Presidents Op-Ed

    Whose Land is it?
     By Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President

    Americans, and especially Idahoans, love and cherish public lands. We take it for granted that they will always be there for us to enjoy. Unfortunately, we all are incrementally being shut out of “our” public lands by the federal “managers.”

    A few decades ago there was undeniably far more timber harvesting and livestock grazing on federally managed public lands. However, recreation is also being systematically shut down.  Nearly everyone who hikes, bikes, camps, hunts or rides motorized vehicles has seen roads closed and areas restricted. The federal agencies are concentrating more people and activities on fewer acres; then imposing additional limitations when their own policies cause greater impacts. Restrictions increase every year.

    Federal management is severely curtailing our outdoor opportunities. But what can be done about it? The best remedy would be to reclaim state management of public lands. This is the way it was supposed to work, but the feds have simply taken over where they were not authorized to do so. State management would solve many of the problems we face on public lands today, including burning up thousands of acres annually.

    A short history lesson may be helpful. Many of the thirteen original colonies had vast “territories” that they controlled to the west. To pay down the Revolutionary War debt, these new states agreed that they would cede their territories to the federal government for the sole purpose of creating new states that would become part of the new nation. The proceeds from the sale of the land to settlers would be used to pay off the debt.

    Later, as the U.S. acquired other territories through the Louisiana Purchase and later acquisitions, the covenant continued. New states that were admitted to the Union disclaimed the title to the “public” lands within their borders to the federal government with the agreement that the land would be disposed of (sold) to new settlers. Under this contract, state relinquishment of title was a legally necessary step; otherwise there would be a clouded title when the land was sold.

    This is why our Idaho Constitution states: “the people of the state of Idaho do agree and declare that we forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof . . . and until the title thereto shall have been extinguished by the United States, the same shall be subject to the disposition (sale) of the United States.” 

    However, we agreed to disclaim title only, not management nor jurisdiction. The federal government never expected to manage the land, just hold the title until the land was disposed of. This promise to dispose of the land was eventually kept with all states east of Colorado, but not with the western states, even though the contract with all states is the same.

    Furthermore, the purpose of the US Constitution is to limit the authority of the federal government to specifically enumerated items. Other than for those limited purposes, the federal government is only authorized to exercise jurisdiction over a few specifically mentioned places, such as military bases. All other areas within state boundaries are to be managed under the jurisdiction of the states.

    Therefore, since the U.S. Constitution prohibits Congress from exercising management authority on public lands within states, even if we had agreed to relinquish management or legislative authority over the land, which we didn’t, it would not be valid.

    By every measure, the 2.4 million acres of Idaho’s state managed lands are more productive, healthier and better managed than the 32 million acres of federally managed lands. Wouldn’t it be far better for recreation and resource decisions to be made here locally than back in DC by some bureaucrat who has never set foot in Idaho?

    Idaho is great in spite of its poorly managed federal “public” lands, not because of them. State management of all public lands in Idaho would not only provide better opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, but would be a tremendous boon to our economy, restoring good paying, resource based jobs. We can have both. 

    The Idaho Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau both have clear policy supporting the states’ right to manage the public lands within their borders. As Utah and other western states work to reclaim state management of their public lands, Idaho must strongly support these efforts. “Our” public lands are not truly ours until we reclaim our right to manage the public lands within our borders.

    Thursday, August 21, 2014

    Just in

    USDA Reminds Idaho Producers of Important Procedures for Filing Crop Insurance Claims

    SPOKANE— The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency reminds Idaho producers affected by recent excessive rain and hail related crop damage of important procedures for claiming losses under the federal crop insurance program.  All producers should refer to their crop insurance policies for complete details on providing notice of damage or loss.

    In general, producers must give notice within 72 hours of the initial discovery of damage or loss of production of a planted crop, but not later than 15 days after the end of the insurance period. Additional provisions and timelines apply to crops insured with revenue protection. In the event there is no damage or loss of production for those who elect revenue coverage, producers must give notice no later than 45 days after the latest date the harvest price is released for any crop in the unit where there may be a revenue loss.

    Losses may be reported by telephone or in person to a crop insurance agent within 72 hours, but must be confirmed in writing within 15 days. It is important that producers do not dispose of the crops without contacting their insurance agent. Producers must get written consent from their insurance company before destroying any of the insured crop that is not harvested or put to another use, putting the acreage to another use, or abandoning any portion of the insured crop. Timely notices of damage and loss adjustment are extremely important for all crops.

    For more information on duties in the event of damage, loss, abandonment, destruction, or alternative use of the crop or acreage, producers should refer to their individual crop insurance policies and contact their crop insurance agents.

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

    Just in

    Parents Projected to Spend $245,340 to Raise a Child Born in 2013, According to USDA Report

    WASHINGTON-Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual report, Expenditures on Children by Families, also known as the Cost of Raising a Child. The report shows that a middle-income family with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend about $245,340 for food, housing, childcare and education, and other child-rearing expenses up to age 18. Costs associated with pregnancy or expenses occurred after age 18, such as higher education, are not included.
    While this represents an overall 1.8 percent increase from 2012, the percentages spent on each expenditure category remain the same. As in the past, the costs by location are lower in the urban South ($230,610) and rural ($193,590) regions of the country. Families in the urban Northeast incurred the highest costs to raise a child ($282,480).
    "In today's economy, it's important to be prepared with as much information as possible when planning for the future," said USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Concannon. "In addition to giving families with children an indication of expenses they might want to be prepared for, the report is a critical resource for state governments in determining child support guidelines and foster care payments."
    The report, issued annually, is based on data from the federal government's Consumer Expenditure Survey, the most comprehensive source of information available on household expenditures. For the year 2013, annual child-rearing expenses per child for a middle-income, two-parent family ranged from $12,800 to $14,970, depending on the age of the child.
    The report, developed by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), notes that family income affects child-rearing costs. A family earning less than $61,530 per year can expect to spend a total of $176,550 (in 2013 dollars) on a child from birth up to age 18. Middle-income** parents with an income between $61,530 and $106,540 can expect to spend $245,340; and a family earning more than $106,540 can expect to spend $407,820.
    "Food is among the top three expenses in raising children," said CNPP Executive Director Angela Tagtow. "Parents have the challenge of providing food that is not only healthful and delicious, but also affordable. We have great resources such as ChooseMyPlate.gov that features tips to help families serve nutritious and affordable meals. I encourage parents to check out our Healthy Eating On a Budget resources, 10-Tips Nutrition Seriesrecipes, and MyPlate Kids' Place, which features digital games for kids to get engaged themselves in healthy eating."
    In 1960, the first year the report was issued, a middle-income family could have expected to spend $25,230 ($198,560 in 2013 dollars) to raise a child until the age of 18. Housing was the largest child-rearing expense both then and now. Health care expenses for a child have doubled as a percentage of total child-rearing costs during that time. In addition, some common current-day costs, such as child care, were negligible in 1960.

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

    Just in from Washington

    American Farm Bureau to court: Stop EPA privacy abuses

    Privacy-small Washington—The Environmental Protection Agency’s public release of farmers’ and ranchers’ personal information violates basic tenets of federal law, the American Farm Bureau Federation told a Minnesota federal court late Friday.   

    The EPA surprised the farming and ranching community in early 2013 when it publicly released a massive database of personal information about tens of thousands of livestock and poultry farmers, ranchers and their families in 29 states. The information was distributed to three environmental groups that had filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act. The database included the names of farmers, ranchers and sometimes other family members, home addresses, GPS coordinates, telephone numbers and emails.      

    “The EPA is displaying a callous disregard for basic privacy rights,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “EPA believes that if information about you can be found somewhere on the Internet, or if you own a closely held family corporation, you have no interest in protecting your personal information. All citizens should be worried about that, not just farmers and ranchers.”     

    AFBF’s court filing argues that privacy interests are particularly strong for farming and ranching families, who typically have multiple generations living and working on the farm. The lawsuit cites a Freedom of Information Act exemption aimed at preventing federal agencies from publicly releasing personal information held in agency files.    

    “We wholeheartedly support government transparency, but we insist on protecting the privacy of farm and ranch families,” Stallman said.

    AFBF, joined by the National Pork Producers Council, filed the lawsuit last July to block EPA from responding to new FOIA requests seeking information about farmers and ranchers in six additional states. EPA agreed not to release further information pending the court’s decision in this lawsuit. AFBF’s latest filing asks the court for a permanent order preventing future disclosures of farmers’ and ranchers’ personal information in response to similar requests.

    Monday, August 18, 2014

    Just in

    Farm Bureau on USDA Report: Worldwide Corn Yields Up; WheatToo

    WASHINGTON – The USDA’s latest report on agricultural supply and demand for the 2014-2015 marketing year suggests supplies will continue to be on the tight side for key U.S. crops despite record harvests, the American Farm Bureau Federation said today.
    “The most interesting feature of today’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates Report is the projected corn yield of 167.4 bushels per acre,” Farm Bureau Deputy Chief Economist John Anderson said. “That is up from 165.3 bushels per acre a month ago, which pushes projected U.S. corn production to just over 14 billion bushels. That’s a record.”
    Increases in projected corn use largely offset the higher production, leaving stocks projections almost flat at just 7 million bushels above last month’s estimate, Anderson said.
    Prices are expected to trend upwards even so, since earlier forecasts had put production at about 170 bushels per acre. “Projected corn production of 14.032 billion bushels is still massive, but it is probably about 200 million bushels below what the market had expected,” he said.
    The bullish U.S. corn numbers were offset by less favorable world numbers for feed grains and wheat. Global feed grain production estimates, for example, rose by 4.9 million metric tons (MMT) over last month due not just to higher U.S. production, but higher EU corn production and higher barley production in the former Soviet zone, too. Projected global feed grain carryover for 2014-15 rose 2.7 MMT month over month.
    Projected global wheat production, meanwhile, rose 10.9 MMT to an expected record 716.1 MMT. Carryover is expected to rise 3.4 MMT as a result.

    Friday, August 15, 2014

    Just in

    Wheat prices still low
    Moscow--At Fleeners farm outside of Moscow the winter wheat crop is nearly harvested.The latest USDA supply and demand estimate projects higher production and stocks for U.S. and global wheat production. Wheat prices will stay low until more demand is found, market analysts say. The department raised projections for U.S. wheat supplies for the 2014-2015 crop year in its Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate, citing an increase in hard red winter wheat production forecasts, as well as smaller increases for soft red winter, hard red spring and durum.
    The USDA projected U.S. wheat ending stocks at 18.05 million metric tons, up from 17.97 million metric tons projected in July and 16.05 million metric tons in 2013. (Ritter photo)

    Thursday, August 14, 2014

    Just in

    Drones take center stage at IDEAg Dakotafest

    SCHAUMBURG, Illinois – Day 2 of the IDEAg Dakotafest show will focus on the latest technological break-through in agriculture: drones. The IDEAg Group is teaming up with Measure, A 32 Advisors Company, to discuss Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and their uses in the field, and to display a sophisticated device, the ScanEagle from Boeing/Insitu.
    Measure will begin Wednesday August 20th at 7:30 a.m. with a special session, A Game Changer if Managed Properly: Drones for Precision Agriculture, held at Mitchell Technical Institute. The session will discuss potential use cases for drones in agriculture and critical issues to be aware of when considering this technology, including when to operate, how to finance drones, and ensuring all regulatory requirements are met. Boeing/Insitu will join Measure on the panel.
    "We are pleased to be the drone sponsor for Dakotafest by IDEAg. Measure provides Drone as a Service for our clients; we're the general contractor who ensures that all aspects of drone use are handled, and that operational gains more than cover the cost. We look forward to sharing our insights with the industry but, more important, learning from farmers at Dakotafest," said Justin P. Oberman, President of Measure, A 32 Advisors Company.
    Later in the day, SDSU Extension will be partnering with Measure, for a presentation and demonstration of the future of unmanned aerial vehicles in agriculture. The 3 p.m. panel will focus on the almost limitless applications for agriculture drone use and how, within the next decade, farmers & ranchers will be able to monitor crops and cattle with precision, efficiency and at a fraction of the costs and time.
    “IDEAg is proud to have Measure as the Official Drone Sponsor at Dakotafest,” says Raymond Bianchi, Senior Director of Expositions & Events for IDEAg Group, “We think that their insights and information will be invaluable to our attendees on this important topic”
    In addition to presentations by Measure, A 32 Advisors Company, the South Dakota Farm Bureau will conduct demo flights as part of the drone education at Dakotafest.
    More information on IDEAg Dakotafest can be found at http://www.IDEAgGroup.com/Dakotafest. More information on Measure can be found at http://www.measure32.com.
    IDEAg Dakotafest is property of IDEAg Group, LLC. The group delivers an optimal experience to attendees, exhibitors and industry thought leaders in the agriculture market. Through its established farm show events and Feed & Grain Magazine, the IDEAg Group is dedicated to bringing interactive, content-rich, high-value events to the marketplace, connecting top-level producers to the providers across the country. The IDEAg Group offers interactive events, publications and media products that are produced “For Agriculture. By Agriculture”
    Other upcoming IDEAg shows include the Amarillo Farm & Ranch Show (Dec. 2-4) in Amarillo, Texas; and the Northern Illinois Farm Show (Jan. 7-8) in DeKalb, Illinois. Learn more athttp://www.ideaggroup.com.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014

    Just in

    USDA Announces Selection of Advisory Committee Members to Help Guide Management of Public Forests and Grasslands

    WASHINGTON—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday announced the selection of 21 new members to the Planning Rule Federal Advisory Committee (FACA), which provides guidance and recommendations on management of America's national forests on Planning Rule implementation of the 2012 Planning Rule. The Planning Rule continues to guide stewards of national forests and grasslands in developing, revising or amending land management plans.
    "Members of the Planning Rule Advisory Committee help us strengthen ecological, social, economic and cultural sustainability objectives," said Vilsack. "The rule will allow the creation of management plans that will protect and restore National Forest System lands in order to sustain communities and protect natural resources."

    Tuesday, August 12, 2014

    Just in

    House approves significant Endangered Species Act improvements

    Washington—The House of Representatives earlier this month passed landmark legislation aimed at integrating commonsense transparency and accountability reforms into the Endangered Species Act. The Farm Bureau-supported 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act (H.R. 4315) would update and improve the processes and procedures that the ESA established 40 years ago so that they better serve the needs of the public and the people most affected by the law.

    “Thus far, agency coordination with farmers and ranchers is often lacking and at best inconsistent,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman wrote in a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio).  “Listing decisions are often made using outdated, insufficient or inaccurate data that is not always publicly available.”

    Too often, Stallman continued, ESA has been used to prevent farmers and ranchers from working their privately owned land, while little has been accomplished in the way of recovering imperiled species.   

    The 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act, which was expanded to include a series of bills related to ESA reform, addresses the problems Stallman noted in his letter by making ESA decisions more transparent and strengthening state and local involvement in ESA listing decisions and use of state data. The measure also provides transparency on ESA litigation costs and payment of attorney’s fees and makes ESA attorneys’ fee payments reasonable to ensure that scarce taxpayer dollars are prioritized.
    - See more at: http://fbnews.fb.org/Templates/Article.aspx?id=38977#sthash.PZgT7DGh.dpuf

    Monday, August 11, 2014

    Just in

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Provides Six-Month Update on Farm Bill Implementation Progress

    WASHINGTON— Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced continued progress on implementing the Agricultural Act of 2014 (the 2014 Farm Bill), which President Obama signed into law nearly six months ago on Feb. 7, 2014. The 2014 Farm Bill reforms agricultural policy, reduces the deficit, and helps grow America's economy.
    "I am pleased to report that we have made tremendous progress in the first six months since the Farm Bill was signed," Vilsack said. "Thousands of farmers and ranchers have received critical disaster assistance, innovative new conservation programs are up and running, new risk management programs for producers are available with more tools to come, the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research has been incorporated, and much more. Thanks to the hard work of thousands of USDA employees across the country, we are continuing to get new initiatives off the ground and make important reforms to existing programs that are helping to boost the country's economy."
    Since the Farm Bill was signed into law, USDA has made progress throughout all 12 titles of the 2014 Farm Bill.
    Among the first major Farm Bill initiatives to be implemented were disaster relief programs for livestock producers, many of whom have been waiting years for assistance. After the 2008 Farm Bill passed, it took over one year to set up disaster assistance programs. In 2014, it took under 10 weeks. As of July 31, 2014, approximately 165,000 claims have been processed totaling $1.85 billion disbursed through the Livestock Indemnity Program, Livestock Forage Disaster Program, and Tree Assistance Program.
    The 2014 Farm Bill established new risk management programs for producers, some of which USDA is in the process of developing and others that are in operation already. In May, USDA awarded $3 million to the University of Illinois, the University of Missouri and Texas A&M to develop online tools and outreach training that will help farmers and ranchers determine which new risk management options can best protect their businesses. USDA also awarded $3 million to state Cooperative Extension services to provide in-person education to help producers make the most educated decisions regarding new Farm Bill programs.

    Friday, August 8, 2014

    Russians impose Import BanBy Tammy Scardino
    Russian government officials said "niet" to select Idaho products Thursday.
    It is the latest power play in an economic struggle between the U.S. and Russia.
    So, now farmers are stuck in the field wondering where to sell their produce.
    "Our biggest impact in Idaho is on those growing bean, legumes, peas," said Jake Putnam with the Farm Bureau Federation.
    Idaho farmers who won’t be affected by the ban are those who grow anything other than beans and legumes. Cattle producers also escaped the ban.
    While Idaho was not hit the hardest, according to Laura Johnson with the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, this is not the kind of news state officials want to hear.
    "One of our most successful governor's trade missions ever with ‘Butch’ Otter over a year ago was into the Russian market,” Johnson said. “We made great contacts and the middle class was expanding rapidly with a growth opportunity projected to last a number of years."
    Farmers who know a thing or two about the market place are used to being put in this predicament.
    "Right now they're scurrying to find other places to sell these products,” Putnam said. “And, they'll find them. But, they're probably not gonna have the prices they hoped for."
    Johnson indicated that Idaho exports to Russia were the 14th largest in the market last year, which equates to $16 million dollars worth of gross product. She is thankful that livestock was left off of the ban list.
    "It's very unfortunate that now we are in the middle of a political crisis," she concluded.
    The ban went into effect on Aug. 7 and will remain in place for one year.
    Farmers seeking more information should get in touch with state agriculture department representatives.

    Thursday, August 7, 2014

    Just in

    EPA Shenanigans Panned in #DitchTheRule Animated Video

    WASHINGTON-A new animated video produced by the American Farm Bureau Federation is part of the organization’s popular Ditch the Rule campaign. The two-and-a-half minute animation explores how the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule is regulatory overreach and unnecessary.

     Download the Video
    “This video offers a fresh take on a serious subject of concern to farmers, ranchers and other landowners,” said Mace Thornton, AFBF’s executive director of communications. “It is time to get animated, share the video and join the movement to Ditch The Rule,” he urged.
    If adopted, the new rule would enable the agencies to micro-manage farming and impose unworkable regulations on farmers and other landowners. It would grant federal agencies – EPA and the Corps – rather than state and local governing bodies, primary oversight of land use, exposing farmers to penalties for common farming practices of up to $37,000 per day.
    Farm Bureau, together with dozens of other agricultural and land-use groups and hundreds of members of Congress, is fighting EPA’s attempt to redefine the Clean Water Act through the overreaching waters rule.
    Follow the social media hashtag #DitchTheRule and visit the Ditch the Rule website at ditchtherule.fb.orgto learn more.

    Tuesday, August 5, 2014

    Just in

    Farm Bureau members act on EPA overreach, immigration

    WashingtonOverreach by the EPA and immigration are sure to top the agenda as Farm Bureau members prepare for serious discussions with members of Congress now in their home districts.

    With mid-term elections just around the corner, farmers are taking this prime opportunity to share stories of how regulations like the EPA’s latest Waters of the U.S. rule and immigration reform directly affect their livelihood.

     “Congress needs to hear from America’s farmers,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said. “Environmental over-regulation and unworkable immigration rules are serious threats to American agriculture. We need action sooner than later on both of these issues.”

    Thanks to our grassroots effort, Farm Bureau members have been spreading the word on the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule, which would expand the federal government’s reach to previously unregulated land and expose farmers to fines and penalties for normal farming activities.

    Twelve thousand Farm Bureau members have already submitted comments to the EPA in opposition to the rule. With more than 205,000 comments submitted to the EPA’s public docket, it’s time for Congress to listen up and take action to stop the EPA before it’s too late.

    Agricultural labor reform is essential to helping American farms thrive. Farm Bureau recently redoubled its efforts to raise awareness of agriculture’s need for immigration reform by joining with the Partnership for a New American Economy on a new digital ad campaign. Videos, infographics and #IFarmImmigration tweets tell stories of how a broken immigration system is hurting farmers like Bernie Thiel, who had to destroy some of his crops for two years in a row when he was unable to find the workers he needed to harvest.

     “A farmer should never have to destroy a crop due to the lack of an adequate labor force,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said. “If that situation doesn’t illustrate the clear need for agricultural labor reform, I’m not sure what will.”

    Monday, August 4, 2014

    Rancher Doug Baker opposes the National Monument

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    House approves significant Endangered Species Act improvements

    Washington—The House of Representatives passed landmark legislation aimed at integrating commonsense transparency and accountability reforms into the Endangered Species Act. The Farm Bureau-supported 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act (H.R. 4315) would update and improve the processes and procedures that the ESA established 40 years ago so that they better serve the needs of the public and the people most affected by the law.

    “Thus far, agency coordination with farmers and ranchers is often lacking and at best inconsistent,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman wrote in a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio).  “Listing decisions are often made using outdated, insufficient or inaccurate data that is not always publicly available.”

    Too often, Stallman continued, ESA has been used to prevent farmers and ranchers from working their privately owned land, while little has been accomplished in the way of recovering imperiled species.   

    The 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act, which was expanded to include a series of bills related to ESA reform, addresses the problems Stallman noted in his letter by making ESA decisions more transparent and strengthening state and local involvement in ESA listing decisions and use of state data. The measure also provides transparency on ESA litigation costs and payment of attorney’s fees and makes ESA attorneys’ fee payments reasonable to ensure that scarce taxpayer dollars are prioritized.

    Specifically, the bill’s several important improvements to the ESA include:  
    ·         Requiring the public release (via the Internet) of the data that has been determined to be the best scientific and commercial data available and forms the basis of a proposed or final regulation to designate a species as threatened or endangered. 
    ·         Requiring an annual report on expenditures for certain ESA-related lawsuits.
    ·         Introducing a definition of “best scientific and commercial data available” that “includes all such data submitted by a State, tribal, or county government.”
    ·         Capping fees that may be awarded to attorneys with taxpayer dollars from ESA-related lawsuits against the federal government.   

    The first piece of standalone ESA improvement legislation to be approved in the House in nearly a decade, the legislation passed with a vote of 233-190.  The strong support the bill received is primarily due to the work of Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), according to Ryan Yates, AFBF ESA specialist.   

    “We’re planning on taking that momentum over to the Senate to get these much-need improvements and updates to the ESA in place,” Yates said.  “Farmers, ranchers, landowners and other stakeholders look forward to a productive dialogue with senators.”

    Friday, August 1, 2014

    Just in from Washington

    Simpson Hails Passage of Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act

    Washington-Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today hailed passage of legislation to clarify federal regulation of pesticides by the House of Representatives.  H.R. 935, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, would remove duplicative requirements that have added layers of paperwork on top of day-to-day operations for small businesses, farmers, and local governments by clarifying that pesticides which are already regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) are not also regulated under the Clean Water Act.  The bill, of which Simpson is a cosponsor, reinstates EPA’s long-standing position on the issue, which was overturned as the result of a lawsuit in 2009.

    “This ruling didn’t make applying pesticides any safer; all it did was create duplicative and unnecessary new regulations that cost money and increase the risk of litigation for local governments, irrigation districts, and farmers and ranchers,” said Simpson.  “Passing this legislation is common sense, and I’m hopeful that the Senate will act quickly on the bill so that we can address this issue once and for all.”

    Simpson has been a cosponsor of similar legislation since 2011.  H.R. 935 is bipartisan and widely supported in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  After passing the House by a vote of 267-161 today, it is now under consideration by the U.S. Senate.

    Thursday, July 31, 2014

    Just in

    John Beck of Hoffman Construction looks at an antique tractor at the Jack's Urban Meeting Place facility being built in downtown Boise. The $70 million facility will include 52 antique tractors that were purchased by J.R. Simplot in 1998 and will serve as a reminder of the state's agricultural roots. 
    (Photo by Sean Ellis)

    Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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    USDA Implements Key Farm Bill Crop Insurance Provision

    WASHINGTON–The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced continued progress in implementing provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill that will strengthen and expand insurance coverage options for farmers and ranchers. The new Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO), available through the federal crop insurance program and set to begin with the 2015 crop year, is designed to help protect producers from yield and market volatility.
    "America's agricultural producers work hard to produce a sufficient amount of safe and nutritious food for the country," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "It's critical that they have crop insurance options to effectively manage risks and ensure that they do not lose everything due to events beyond their control. Following the 2014 Farm Bill signing, USDA has made it a priority to ensure the Supplemental Coverage Option was available to help farmers in this upcoming crop year."
    The 2014 Farm Bill strengthens and expands crop insurance by providing more risk management options for farmers and ranchers and by making crop insurance more affordable for beginning farmers. SCO, which is administered by the Risk Management Agency (RMA), further strengthens the farm safety net.
    SCO will be available for corn, cotton, grain sorghum, rice, soybeans, spring barley, spring wheat, and winter wheat in selected counties for the 2015 crop year. Producers should contact their crop insurance agents to discuss eligibility in time to sign up for winter wheat coverage. RMA plans to make SCO more widely available by adding more counties and crops. Information on SCO for 2015 winter and spring wheat is available on the RMA website at www.rma.usda.gov. Selected counties for other commodities will be released later this summer.

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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    White House Rural Council Announces $10 Billion Private Investment Fund to Finance Job-Creating Infrastructure Projects in Rural America

    WASHINGTON-The White House Rural Council today announced the creation of the new U.S. Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund through which private entities can invest in job-creating rural infrastructure projects across the country. An initial $10 billion has been committed to the fund with greater investment expected to follow. Target investments will include hospitals, schools and other educational facilities, rural water and wastewater systems, energy projects, broadband expansion, local and regional food systems, and other rural infrastructure.
    CoBankThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website., a national cooperative bank serving rural America and a member of the Farm Credit System, is the fund's anchor investor, committing $10 billion to get the fund off the ground. Capitol Peak Asset ManagementThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. will manage the new fund and work to recruit more investors to add to CoBank's initial commitment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other federal agencies will help to identify rural projects that could be potential beneficiaries of financing through this new fund and other private sources.
    The creation of the new fund was announced during the first-ever White House Rural Opportunity Investment Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference brought together business and financial community leaders, Administration and other government officials, rural development experts, and others to promote investment opportunities in America's rural communities.
    "This fund represents a new approach to our support for job-creating projects across the country," said Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary and Chair of the White House Rural Council. "USDA and other agencies invest in infrastructure through a variety of federal initiatives, but our resources are finite and there are backlogs of projects in many parts of the economy. We know where investment opportunities exist, so we are in a position to help promote these projects among investors. With new efforts like this we can move beyond existing programs and help encourage substantial private investment in projects that grow the economy and improve quality of life for millions of Americans."

    Monday, July 28, 2014

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    Simpson’s Wilderness Water Bill Signed into Law
    Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act will authorize water diversions that pre-date Idaho wilderness laws
    Washington-- Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson expressed great satisfaction at the news that H.R. 876, the Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act, which he authored, has been signed into law.  Simpson first introduced the legislation in 2009, and today it was signed by the president. 

     The Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act corrects a long-standing oversight in law by authorizing a number of water diversions within the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area and the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness Area in Idaho which existed before the wilderness was created.  The new law will enable landowners to do the necessary maintenance and repairs on these diversions.

     “I’m so pleased that the Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act has finally been signed into law,” said Simpson.  “I introduced this bill five years ago when the Forest Service discovered that it didn’t have the authority to permit repairs on an historic water diversion in the Frank Church.  When we looked into the issue, we learned that a number of pre-existing diversions had been overlooked when the wilderness areas were created.  Any one of these diversions could need repairs to maintain integrity and protect the surrounded ecosystem.  With enactment of this bill, the necessary maintenance and repairs can now be done.”

    Friday, July 25, 2014

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    Local Communities Benefit from Ag Literacy Mini-Grants

    WASHINGTON – The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture has awarded 11 $500 mini-grants to communities across the nation. The grants are awarded through the Foundation’s White-Reinhardt Fund for Education program.
    Madison County Farm Bureau in Rexburg won a mini-grant for a greenhouse that they'll build to help Junior High School students learn about plant structure and growth.
    The grants are allocated through county and state Farm Bureaus and are used to create new agricultural literacy projects or expand on existing agricultural literacy efforts.
    Criteria for selecting winners included: the effectiveness of demonstrating a strong connection between agriculture and education; how successfully the project enhances learner engagement in today’s food, fiber, and fuel systems; and the processes and timelines for accomplishing project goals.
    “The mini-grant program was developed to help Farm Bureau members provide free tools to share with educators in their communities,” said Julie Tesch, executive director of the Foundation. “Our primary overall goal is to help teach young rural and urban students about the importance of agriculture and the vital role it plays in our everyday lives.”
    The White-Reinhardt Fund for Education is a project of the Foundation in cooperation with the American Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership Committee. The fund honors two former committee chairwomen, Berta White and Linda Reinhardt, who were trailblazers in early national efforts to expand the outreach of agricultural education and improve agricultural literacy.
    2014 Mini-Grants Awarded to State and County Farm Bureaus:
    Chaves County Farm Bureau, New MexicoEducational program that incorporates the poem “Harvest Told” and a “Tracking My Taco” activity to teach students where their food comes from and how markets operate, as well as the importance of sustainable agriculture.
    Colorado Farm BureauA Mobile Ag Trailer to be used at schools, county fairs and other events with five “Educational Barns” that illustrate ag commodities and industries in Colorado.
    Cook County Farm Bureau, IllinoisSummer library program to introduce urban children to livestock and their uses through literature, learning activities and a craft or snack.
    Davison/Hanson County Farm Bureau, South DakotaCreation of a combining DVD and display to teach students about the harvesting process and products made from crops.
    Franklin County Farm Bureau, MaineSupplemental agricultural literature for the “Book Nook” that accompanies raised bed gardens, to reinforce the benefits of interdisciplinary teaching.
    Franklin County Farm Bureau, Virginia“What’s in the Garden?” project to educate pre—K-5 students on how food grows from soil to table through hands-on activities, interactive labs and age-appropriate printed materials.
    Irwin County Farm Bureau, GeorgiaCreation of an Agriculture Reading corner for the local elementary school that contains accurate ag books to encourage children to explore the world of agriculture through literature.
    Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau, MichiganThe Barn Library, a traveling library with 20-40 ag books to teach students the importance of farming and agriculture to the Michigan economy.
    Madison County Farm Bureau, IdahoA greenhouse to be integrated into the junior high school science curriculum. Students will have hands-on opportunities to see plant growth and plant structure.
    Monroe County Farm Bureau, IllinoisAgriculture Book of the Month Club where 3rd grade classrooms in the Columbia School District will receive books each month.
    Wexford County Farm Bureau, MichiganExpand the current Book Barn by purchasing books on Michigan food products, expanding reading level to 4th grade and replacing worn out books.
    The Foundation will announce a second mini-grant application process in fall 2014. Applications will be available online at www.agfoundation.org under What We Support – Mini-Grants.