Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Just in

USDA Invests Over $300 Million to Help Hundreds of Small Businesses Improve Energy Efficiency, Adopt Renewable Energy Systems

AUSTIN – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing more than $300 million to help hundreds of small businesses across the country save money on their energy costs by adopting renewable sources or implementing more efficient energy options. Vilsack made the announcement at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, today during a meeting with several local business owners who will make use of these loans and grants.
"Cutting our energy waste is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to help families save money on their energy bills while reducing harmful carbon pollution. Over the course of nearly eight years, the Obama Administration has taken strong actions to advance energy efficiency in our homes and businesses," Vilsack said. "Through efficiency upgrades and private-sector partnerships, America has been able to cut its carbon emissions, create jobs and save families hundreds of dollars at the pump and on their utility bills every year. The Rural Energy for America Program alone has helped roughly 15,000 rural small businesses, farmers and ranchers improve their bottom lines by installing renewable energy systems and energy efficiency solutions. When businesses lower their energy costs, they are also able to expand their services and contribute to stronger local economies."
Nationwide, USDA is investing $237 million to support 423 businesses through the  Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Recipients will use the loans and grants to install renewable energy systems such as biomass, geothermal, hydropower and solar. The funds also may be used to make energy efficiency improvements to their heating, ventilation and cooling systems; insulation; or lighting and refrigeration units.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Farm to Food

'Thank an American Farmer or Rancher' Activity Helps Students Make the Farm-to-Food Connection

WASHINGTON- "Thank an American Farmer or Rancher," a Thanksgiving-themed activity for pre-K to first-grade students, helps teachers explain where food comes from, courtesy of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture ( . Through this activity, teachers also ask students to write, draw or create thank you letters or cards for America's farmers.
A free lesson plan and a letter from a farmer, suggestions for books to read, class discussion ideas and more are available online ( .
"Most Americans have never been to a farm and didn't even grow up near one, but they are ready to learn more about where their food comes from," said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. "'Thank an American Farmer or Rancher' is a fun classroom activity that helps young learners make the connection between farms and ranches and the food they eat."
Classroom ideas include:
  • Complete a free sample lesson ( from Farm a Month and read a free sample letter ( from a pumpkin farmer, followed by a discussion about farming in America.
  • Pull up a picture of a Thanksgiving Day plate or ask students to name common holiday foods such as turkey, cranberries, green beans, potatoes and stuffing, then discuss the agricultural origins of each item.
  • Have students in groups research online to discover where ingredients such as pumpkins, butter, sugar and wheat come from. Give each group one ingredient; don't tell them what the final product is going to be. Have students present where their ingredient is from and then have the class as a whole guess what the recipe is for!
  • Invite a local farmer into your classroom to discuss how he or she produces food, fiber or energy.
Letters written by students as part of the activity will be given to real farmers and ranchers in January at AFBF's Annual Convention. Learn more here ( .

Monday, October 24, 2016

Just in

During National Forest Products Week, USDA Announces $7 Million to Expand Wood Products and Wood Energy Markets 

WASHINGTON— Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest up to $7 million in grants for projects designed to expand wood products and wood energy markets that support sustainable forest management, especially in areas with high wildfire risks. These grants are available through the U.S. Forest Service's Wood Innovations Program. 
President Obama has proclaimed Oct. 16-22, 2016, as  National Forest Products Week. In his proclamation, President Obama recognized USDA's work to promote the use of wood energy and wood products, stating, "The health and well-being of our forests and our communities go hand in hand. With the Department of Agriculture, we are working to strengthen markets for forest products. By allocating millions of dollars to help expand technologies that encourage the use of wood in innovative ways, we are also striving to improve forest health and generate rural jobs. And we are exploring ways to help forestland owners respond to climate change -- earlier this year, we released a roadmap for implementing key building blocks to achieve this goal, such as private forest growth and retention, stewardship of Federal forests, and promotion of wood products."
Promotion of wood products is one of the ten "building blocks" in USDA's  Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry, the Department's framework for helping farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners respond to climate change. Through this initiative, USDA is committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon stored in forests and soils by over 120 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2025. That amount is equivalent of taking 25 million cars off the road, or offsetting the emissions produced by powering nearly 11 million homes.
"Growing markets for wood products and wood energy create new uses for diseased wood that otherwise would be hazardous fuel in our nation's forests, where we are experiencing increasingly longer and more intense wildfire seasons. By getting this wood out of the forests and putting it to use as building material or a renewable energy source, we are able to sustain the health of our forests and maintain their capacity to store carbon," said Vilsack. "Already, USDA has invested nearly $1 billion into 240 projects to uncover innovative new uses for wood, and our Tall Wood Building Prize Competition is proving that multi-story buildings made of wood can be a reality in major U.S. cities. This new round of funding will no doubt inspire additional opportunities for the benefit of our forests and climate."

Friday, October 21, 2016

HIT a concern for family farms

Congress must act to permanently stop the HIT

 By Sen. Pat Roberts 
Roberts 10-2016America's small business community, including farmers and ranchers, consistently says that controlling the rising cost of health care is the number one concern when it comes to maintaining and growing their businesses. Unfortunately, burdensome regulations and taxes, such as the Health Insurance Tax, or "HIT," continue to raise their costs. 
The HIT is a largely unknown tax included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that directly raises costs on health insurance plans purchased by small business owners, their employees, and the self-employed. The tax has a particularly hard impact on farmers and ranchers across the country who are often on the hook for purchasing their own health care coverage for themselves, their spouses and their families.
The numbers behind the HIT are alarming, particularly for farmers and ranchers who already operate on thin margins. For the average employee, the HIT has an estimated impact of roughly $500 in higher premiums every year. Over the course of a decade, the HIT tax is expected to take $130 billion dollars out of the pockets of America's small business owners and their families. 
That's financing that farmers, ranchers, and small businesses would much rather invest in other areas - such as purchasing additional grain, hiring new farm hands, or upgrading outdated equipment. And the worst part is that the cost of the HIT tax will only increase every year, unless it is repealed. 
As Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, I have heard from many members of the American Farm Bureau Federation about the pain this tax will cause.  Congress needs to repeal this tax. Last year, we were successful in passing a one-year delay of the tax, thanks in large part to the work of the Stop the HIT Coalition - a non-partisan group representing business owners across diverse industries, including agriculture. This means that for the 2017 calendar tax year the HIT will be temporarily suspended, providing some relief to farmers, ranchers, and small businesses who otherwise would have had to keep paying the tax. 
Nonetheless, we need more than a temporary fix. If this tax goes into effect it will impose a tax hike and financial hardship on millions of small businesses and their families. For farmers, ranchers, and countless others - that would mean great financial uncertainty. 
I would encourage all of you to reach out to your representatives in Congress to ensure they understand the harmful impact of this tax on farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural businesses. 
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee. He also serves on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.   

Farm Bureau supports two bills that would repeal the HIT: The Jobs and Premium Protection Act (S. 183), introduced by Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah),  and the Jobs and Premium Protection Act (H.R. 928), introduced by Reps. Charles Boustany (R-La.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).    

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Water Resources Development Act

House, Senate expected to prepare final WRDA bill for lame duck

Container ship-Savannah HarborWashington-With the Senate and House each passing its own version of the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (S. 2848 , H.R. 5303), staff members from both chambers are expected to work during the October recess to negotiate a final bill Congress can approve after the election and send to the president for his signature. 
WRDA provides funding that helps put America's inland waterways and port infrastructure on a solid and sustainable foundation to contribute to U.S. economic growth, jobs and global competitiveness for generations to come, according to Farm Bureau. 
"Over 60 percent of America's grain exports and many other important commodities such as fuel, coal and agricultural inputs also move through our inland waterway system. Due to this importance, Farm Bureau policy explicitly supports the maintenance and improvement of our transportation infrastructure including the lock and dam system and other vital waterway infrastructure," American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall wrote in a Sept. 27 letter urging House members to pass WRDA. 

"Construction, dredging and repairs to our vital marine transportation system will help ensure the reliability of the most affordable, energy efficient and environmentally-sustainable mode of transporting agricultural products," Duvall added.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

IRS proposal

Farmers call for action to stop estate tax increase

Washington-Farm Bureau is urging Congress to pass legislation blocking a recent IRS proposal that would result in higher estate taxes for farmers and ranchers. The IRS' plan for more restrictive rules for using valuation discounts would make it more difficult for farmers and ranchers who operate family-owned partnerships, LLCs or corporations to transfer their farms and ranches to the next generation. 
The Protect Family Farms and Businesses Act (H.R. 6100 and S. 3436), introduced in the House by Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) and in the Senate by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), would stop the IRS from implementing its proposed restrictive estate tax discount valuation. 
"Individuals, family partnerships and family corporations own over 97 percent of our nation's over two million farms and ranches. Farm Bureau believes that America values these family-owned farms and ranches because of the food, fiber, and fuel they produce; the contribution that agriculture makes to job creation and the economy; and the open space that farming and ranching protects," American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall wrote in letters thanking Davidson and Rubio for introducing the bills. 
In addition to calling for congressional action, Farm Bureau is also urging farmers and ranchers to tell the IRS how the proposed changes could impose significant new tax costs onto their family-owned businesses and threaten the ability of families to pass businesses on to the next generation. 
To submit comments to the IRS before the comment period closes on Nov. 2, go to

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Just in

Leading Farm Organizations Challenge Dannon and Other Food Companies on Retreat from Sustainable Agriculture Practices

WASHINGTON– Leaders of the nation’s top farming organizations joined together today in urging food companies to recognize that their sustainability goals, intended to reduce the use of natural resources, cannot be achieved without the use of modern agricultural practices, despite any misleading assertions to the contrary.
This focus on deceptive food company marketing claims is in response to Dannon’s recent pledge to eliminate the use of safe and proven crop technology to feed the dairy cows that supply milk for its yogurt products. Dannon is one of several prominent food manufacturers and retailers that in recent years has taken steps to eliminate genetically-modified ingredients from its supply, claiming that such a move improves the sustainability of its products.
In a letter sent today to Mariano Lozano, head of Dannon’s U.S. operations, the farm groups said that the company’s strategy to eliminate GMOs “is the exact opposite of the sustainable agriculture that you claim to be seeking. Your pledge would force farmers to abandon safe, sustainable farming practices that have enhanced farm productivity over the last 20 years while greatly reducing the carbon footprint of American agriculture.”
“This is just marketing puffery, not any true innovation that improves the actual product offered to consumers,” said Randy Mooney, chairman of the National Milk Producers Federation, and a dairy farmer from Rogersville, Missouri. “What’s worse is that removing GMOs from the equation is harmful to the environment – the opposite of what these companies claim to be attempting to achieve.”
The letter was cosigned by the farmer leaders of the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, American Sugarbeet Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Milk Producers Federation and U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. Collectively, the six organizations represent hundreds of thousands of farmers and food producers across the U.S.
The groups agree that biotechnology plays an important role in reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture, and challenged as disingenuous the assertion that sustainability is enhanced by stopping the use of GMO processes.
During the last 20 years, advancements in agricultural technology have allowed farmers to use less pesticides and herbicides, fossil fuels, and water, and prevent the loss of soil to erosion. Taking away this technology is akin to turning back the clock and using outdated 20th century technology to run a business.
“Farming organizations are standing up for the technology that supports continuous improvement in farm sustainability. Farmers and ranchers have grown GMO crops over the past 20 years precisely because biotechnology helps farmers preserve resources for the future,” said Nancy Kavazanjian, chairwoman of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), and a corn, soybean and wheat farmer in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. “When food companies are making sourcing decisions, farm groups encourage them to recognize that modern, conventional agriculture is sustainable.”
Numerous, conclusive studies have come out over the last 20 years proving the safety of GMO food and the environmental benefits of growing GM crops. Most recently, 109 Nobel laureates announced their support of GMO technology, citing a study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine saying, “the study committee found no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops, nor did it find conclusive cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from the GE crops.”
“Despite overwhelming evidence supporting the safety GMO crops and their benefits to the environment, marketers of some major food brands, such as Dannon, have aligned themselves against biotechnology,” said Wesley Spurlock, President of the National Corn Growers Association. “Farming organizations believe in open and honest communication with consumers, and allowing people to make informed choices in the market. But we cannot sit by while certain food companies spread misinformation under the guise of a marketing campaign.”
U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance CEO Randy Krotz also adds, “When food companies directly mislead consumers, as has been done in this example with Dannon, individual farmers as well as farm organizations will continue to assertively defend our critical technologies.”
For more information on sustainability in agriculture visit

Monday, October 17, 2016

Just in

Invasive Plants Conference in Boise Includes Focus on Rush Skeletonweed
MOSCOW, Idaho — One of Idaho’s toughest weed invaders will be a focus for the The Northern Rockies Invasive Plants Council when it meets in Boise, Oct. 17-20.

An all-day session on Tuesday, Oct. 18, will draw together experts from across the Northwest and as far as Rome to report on efforts to control rush skeletonweed.

University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences weed scientist Tim Prather will report on a mapping program that can help predict where the wind will spread rush skeleton weed, which has dandelion-like seeds with parachutes or pappuses.

Among the conference organizers is UI entomologist Mark Schwarzlaender, who specializes in finding insects to control invasive weeds. He is working with researchers in Russia studying a beetle that damages the stems of skeletonweed.

The weed was first reported in 1938 near Spokane. Since then it has spread to California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, crowding out native plants and damaging livestock grazing and wildlife habitat.

The Northern Rockies Invasive Plants Council conference Monday to Thursday at the Boise Centre will cover many invasive plants, problems they cause, current research and control strategies. University of Idaho Extension is helping to sponsor the conference.

Conference organizers also include UI’s Marijka Haverhals, Montana State University weed scientist Jane Mangold and Nancy Pieropan of the Fremont County, Wyoming, Weed and Pest program. More information is online at

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friend of Farm Bureau recognized

Boise--Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador was recognized as a friend of Idaho Agriculture by the Idaho Farm Bureau Thursday afternoon in the Boise office at 500 West Washington. 

"I can also say that it seems clear to all of us why Idaho Farm Bureau, from leadership to grassroots to staff, nominate Rep. Labrador for the Friend of Farm Bureau for the 114th Congress," Said IFBF Public Affairs Director Russ Hendricks. "His consistent, strong support of the issues important to farmers and ranchers; the access to both himself and staff, along with responsiveness; and the leadership he provides on those issue most critical to Idaho".

This award is given each Congress based on two key factors – first, is a quantified report on how each member of a State Farm Bureau’s delegation voted, which AFBF provides as information to each state on their respective delegation; second, each state then considers that information along with additional factors specific to their respective processes and nominates to the AFBF Board of Directors for consideration. 

"This award, while approved by the AFBF Board, is based on the experience and relationship the Idaho Farm Bureau has in working with Rep. Labrador," added Hendricks.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Just in

USDA Announces Plans to Purchase Surplus Cheese, Releases New Report Showing Trans-Pacific Partnership Would Create Growth for Dairy Industry

LA CROSSE–Following a roundtable discussion with dairy producers near La Crosse, Wisc. today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering to purchase $20 million of cheddar cheese to reduce a private cheese surplus that has reached record levels, while assisting food banks and other food assistance recipients. 
While USDA projects dairy prices to increase throughout the rest of the year, many factors including low world market prices, increased milk supplies and inventories, and slower demand have contributed to a sluggish marketplace for dairy producers and caused dairy revenues to drop 35 percent over the past two years. Section 32 of the Agriculture Act of 1935 authorizes USDA to purchase surplus food to benefit food banks and families in need through its nutrition assistance programs.
"America's farming families are being called on to demonstrate their world-famous resourcefulness and resilience in the face of this current market downturn, and USDA is making use of every tool that we have to help them," said Vilsack. "For dairy farmers, this has included $11.2 million in payments in August through the Dairy Margin Protection Program, in addition to the surplus purchase offers. While our analysis predicts the market will improve for these hardworking men and women, reducing the surplus can give them extra reassurance while also filling demand at food banks and other organizations that help our nation's families in need. Farmers at other points in the supply chain are also receiving a boost with over $7 billion in Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage payments for the 2015 crop year, which by design kick in when times are tough. As always, we continue to watch market conditions and will explore opportunities for further assistance in the coming months. For producers challenged by weather, disease and falling revenue, we will continue to ensure the availability of a strong safety net to keep them farming or ranching." 
A solicitation will be issued shortly, and cheese deliveries to food banks and other food assistance recipients are expected to occur beginning in March 2017.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Just in

UI Researchers Examine Waste Reclamation and Reuse in Idaho

MOSCOW— Manure, byproducts of food processing, and other agricultural and aquacultural materials are often considered to be waste. However, the University of Idaho Center for Resilient Communities (CRC), in collaboration with industries across the state, is beginning a project to help Idaho view and use these nutrients as a resource.

The National Science Foundation awarded the CRC nearly $3 million over the next three years to support the ReFEWS project, which will map Idaho’s opportunities for managing nutrients across landscapes for improved resilience in food, energy and water systems, known as FEWS. The project will focus on the Upper Snake River Watershed, which includes Twin Falls, Pocatello, Idaho Falls and the surrounding counties, but also will incorporate other sites across Idaho with an eye to improving community and human well-being.

“I’m very pleased that the University of Idaho’s Center for Resilient Communities has been selected to receive this grant to invest in renewable energy and sustainability projects,” said U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho. “As a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, I have long supported and understand the need for Idaho’s ReFEWS research. This grant will help strengthen our region’s energy security and will revitalize the way we conserve water.”

Reclaiming and reusing nutrients can benefit Idaho businesses by giving them new sources of profit and reducing the state’s dependence on external resources, said Lilian Alessa, the lead researcher for ReFEWS, UI President’s Professor and co-director of the CRC. The CRC is a state-wide, interdisciplinary research group and think-tank housed in the UI College of Art and Architecture.
“For example, waste is a raw material. It’s something that we typically dispose of, but we’re throwing money out when we do that,” Alessa said. “We have technologies that we’re developing here in Idaho to re-use nutrients in waste. Those technologies aren’t new, but figuring out how they best fit into a whole social-ecological system on a landscape scale is. We have a systematic and collaborative approach to increasing resilience in the FEW system for Idaho and, more broadly, the American West, and this project is a demonstration on how this can be scaled up to create strong and sustainable economies in both rural and urban communities.”

To accomplish this, Alessa is taking lessons learned from her previous work on sustainable agriculture in extreme and arid environments and applying them to this project. Her team connects some of the nation’s leaders in engineering, energy and water systems modeling, including Ron Fisher, homeland security division director at Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

"It is great news that the University of Idaho's Center for Resilient Communities was selected to receive a grant in renewable energy and sustainability," Fisher said. "The CRC offers a unique interdisciplinary approach that holistically considers social, economic and environmental issues that affect the resilience of communities in Idaho and the western United States. Grants like these are also crucial in furthering the collaboration between UI and INL, fostering information sharing, technical exchanges and integrated research."

In response to the state’s needs, the ReFEWS researchers will collaboratively create an integrated, systems-based technology blueprint for Idaho, which will note strategic opportunities for incorporating new technologies into existing systems and improving how technologies work together.
The blueprint will be developed with the users themselves, building on existing university-industry relationships involving both large corporations and small local businesses. It will consider the whole ecosystem, such as linking to CRC-affiliated programs in fire science, to considering how sustainable food, water and energy systems in Idaho could, for example, affect salmon fisheries in the Pacific Northwest.

ReFEWS will build on existing university-industry relationships, involving large corporations and small local businesses in the mapping and blueprint processes. CRC researchers also will study technological, social and ecological questions related to reuse in food, energy and water systems, inviting researchers across Idaho to add their expertise.

“This prestigious NSF award provides an exciting opportunity for Idaho to lead innovative and cross-cutting science in partnership with the communities and stakeholders where it can make a difference,” said Andrew Kliskey, another lead researcher on the project, CRC co-director and professor in the College of Natural Resources. 

This project also leverages interdisciplinary collaboration across the university – along with the College of Natural Resources and the College of Art and Architecture, other team members are from the colleges of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Engineering and Science.
In addition to ReFEWS, the CRC also received another $500,000 grant from the NSF to expand its work on partnering with rural communities to monitor and co-manage environmental changes that affect their food, water and energy security.
“Idaho is a small state with a big impact on the nation,” Alessa said. “The University of Idaho is leading the way in ensuring that we’re also having an even bigger impact on creating solutions for overall ecosystem services such as food production, water conservation, and access to energy. This is part of ensuring our nation’s overall security and well-being. It will take all of us, one Idaho, to accomplish this.”
“The ReFEWS project is a significant piece of the University of Idaho’s cross-disciplinary effort to address the needs of Idaho’s people and industries, helping sustain our state into the future,” said Janet Nelson, Vice President of Research and Economic Development. “We will continue pursuing projects that support Idaho’s food, water and energy systems.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Just in

USDA Looks Into Corn, Potatoes and Vegetable Production Practices
WASHINGTON–Over the winter, the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service plans to visit thousands of corn, potato and vegetable farmers across the United States to conduct the Vegetable Chemical Use Survey and the second phase of the 2016 Agricultural Resource Management Survey. Both of the surveys will focus on chemical use and production practices of these key crops.
“Production agriculture in the United States is constantly evolving and results of these surveys help ensure that the most current information about production practices is readily available,” said NASS Census and Survey Division Director, Barbara Rater. “By responding, farmers ensure that decisions impacting their industry are based on facts.”
Data for both surveys will be collected by personal interviews. All interviewers are employed by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, which partners with NASS to conduct face-to-face and phone interviews. These representatives will begin visiting farms in September. Because of variation in geographic and crop harvesting periods, the surveys will run through January 2017. 
The Vegetable Chemical Use Survey is part of NASS’ effort to maintain up-to-date statistics about commercial fertilizer and pesticide use as well as pest management practices. Since 1990, the agency has surveyed U.S. farmers for information on the chemical ingredients they apply to agricultural commodities through fertilizers and pesticides. The program currently alternates focus each year among vegetables, fruit and key field crops.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Just in

Top 10 Teams Win $120K in Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge

WASHINGTON -The American Farm Bureau Federation today announced the top 10 teams - four finalists and six semi-finalists - in the 2017 Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge. The challenge, now in its third year, provides opportunities for individuals to showcase business innovations being developed in rural communities throughout the U.S. It is the first national business competition focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs working on food and agriculture businesses.
AFBF President Zippy Duvall made the announcement at the organization's October board of directors meeting, noting that four of the top 10 teams are ag technology entries.
"Entrepreneurship is alive and well in rural America," Duvall said. "It's a pleasure to recognize these 10 outstanding businesses. The FB Challenge addresses some of the unique obstacles entrepreneurs typically face, namely, limited options for support such as startup funding."
The final four teams, chosen from 356 applicants, were each awarded $15,000 and will advance to the next phase of the challenge. The final four are:
  • Grow Bioplastics LLC, Knoxville, Tennessee--ag tech entry. Renewable, biodegradable products that eliminate oil-based plastics for farmers, greenhouse and nursery managers, and home gardeners. Team lead: Tony Bova.
  • Levrack LLC, Seward, Nebraska--support services entry. An efficient and orderly solution to reduce clutter in farm shops. Team lead: Ryan Stauffer.
  • Vertical Harvest Hydroponics, Anchorage, Alaska--farm/ranch entry. Turnkey, hydroponic vegetable production facilities inside 40-foot-long insulated shipping containers. Team lead: Linda Janes.
  • Windcall Manufacturing Inc., Venango, Nebraska--ag tech entry. Grain Goat, a battery powered, hand-held combine for sampling moisture content of grain. Team lead: Martin Bremmer.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Food prices down

Egg, Dairy and Chicken Prices Down, Beef Too

WASHINGTON– Lower retail prices for several foods, including eggs, whole milk, cheddar cheese, chicken breast, sirloin tip roast and ground chuck resulted in a 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 $49.70, down $4.40 or 8 percent compared to a survey conducted a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, 13 decreased and three increased in average price.

 Egg prices dropped significantly due to production recovering well from the 2014 avian influenza, according to John Newton, AFBF director, market intelligence. Milk prices are down substantially from prior years, particularly compared to record-highs in 2014, due to the current global dairy surplus.

 “For all commodities in agriculture there is a lot of product on hand and prices are depressed,” Newton explained. The following items showed retail price decreases from a year ago: eggs, down 51 percent to $1.48 dozen chicken breast, down 16 percent to $2.86 per pound sirloin tip roast, down 11 percent to $5.04 per pound shredded cheddar, down 10 percent to $4.09 per pound whole milk, down 10 percent to $2.84 per gallon ground chuck, down 9 percent to $4.13 per pound toasted oat cereal, down 9 percent to $2.80 for a nine-ounce box vegetable oil, down 9 percent to $2.39 for a 32-ounce bottle flour, down 7 percent to $2.21 per five-pound bag white bread, down 7 percent to $1.58 for a 20-ounce loaf orange juice, down 5 percent to $3.26 per half-gallon bacon, down 3 percent to $4.40 per pound sliced deli ham, down less than 1 percent to $5.45

These items showed moderate retail price increases compared to a year ago: bagged salad, up 16 percent to $2.85 per pound apples, up 10 percent to $1.59 per pound potatoes, up 3 percent to $2.73 for a 5-pound bag “Dry conditions in the Northeast and Northwest the last few years likely contributed to smaller supplies and higher retail prices for apples,”

Newton said. In addition, he said salad prices are up due to lower output in the West, particularly in California and Arizona. Price checks of alternative milk and egg choices not included in the overall marketbasket survey average revealed the following: 1/2 gallon regular milk, $1.86; 1/2 gallon organic milk, $4.26; and one dozen “cage-free” eggs, $3.48.

 The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks 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 17 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Newton said. Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this $49.70 marketbasket would be approximately $8.45.

 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 59 shoppers in 26 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in September.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Rural Broadband

At White House Rural Forum, USDA Unveils New Funding to Support Rural Broadband and Economic Development

STATE COLLEGE At the White House Rural Forum convened today at Pennsylvania State University, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $32 million in loans and grants that will promote economic development and provide access to broadband in more than 80 rural American communities. Vilsack, who is chair of the first-ever White House Rural Council, convened the forum with rural policy, business and nonprofit leaders to discuss pertinent issues facing rural communities, including opportunities for economic growth and strategies for improving health care and housing.
"This funding will provide much-needed capital and bring cutting-edge technology to rural communities across the country," Vilsack said. "Investments in our rural businesses and communities, coupled with extending high-speed broadband, have led to a resurgence of economic development, created jobs and improved the quality of life in rural America. While we have made great progress, our work to extend capital and technology to rural America is not done."
Significant gains have been made across rural America: Rural household income climbed 3.4 percent in 2015, overall poverty and food insecurity fell dramatically, rural populations have begun to rebound, non-metro areas have added more than 250,000 jobs since 2014, and the share of rural Americans without health insurance is now at an all-time low. 
The White House Rural Council, established by President Obama in 2011, coordinates the Administration's efforts in rural America by streamlining and improving the effectiveness of federal programs, engaging stakeholders on priority issues, and coordinating private-sector partnerships to create economic opportunity and improve the quality of life. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Just in

USDA Looks Into Corn, Potatoes and Vegetable Production Practices

 WASHINGTON– Over the next several months, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) plans to visit thousands of corn, potato and vegetable growers across the United States to conduct the Vegetable Chemical Use Survey and the second phase of the 2016 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS II).

Both of the surveys will focus on chemical use and production practices of these key crops. “Production agriculture in the United States is constantly evolving and results of these surveys help ensure that the most current information about production practices is readily available,” said NASS Census and Survey Division Director, Barbara Rater.

“By responding, farmers ensure that decisions impacting their industry are based on facts.” Data for both surveys will be collected by personal interviews. All interviewers are employed by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, which partners with NASS to conduct face-to-face and phone interviews.

These representatives will begin visiting farms in September. Because of variation in geographic and crop harvesting periods, the surveys will run through January 2017. The Vegetable Chemical Use Survey is part of NASS’ effort to maintain up-to-date statistics about commercial fertilizer and pesticide use as well as pest management practices. Since 1990, the agency has surveyed U.S. farmers for information on the chemical ingredients they apply to agricultural commodities through fertilizers and pesticides.

The program currently alternates focus each year among vegetables, fruit and key field crops. The Agricultural Resource Management Survey is a three phase survey conducted each year jointly by NASS and USDA’s Economic Research Service. In 2016, the focus is on corn production.

Earlier this year in phase I of the survey selected growers were contacted to participate in the survey. During the phase II the survey will focus on chemical use and production practices. Selected growers will also receive a survey during phase III that will focus on farm financial information.

 “This survey is one of the only sources of comprehensive chemical use and production practices data,” added Rater. “Resulting information is used by producers, buyers, suppliers, policymakers, and others. I encourage each person to take the time to respond.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Safety Net

USDA Issues Safety-Net Payments to Farmers in Response to 2015 Market Downturn 

WASHINGTON,— The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that beginning today, many of the 1.7 million farms that enrolled in either the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs will receive safety-net payments due to market downturns during the 2015 crop year. 
"This fall, USDA will be making more than $7 billion in payments under the ARC-County and PLC programs to assist participating producers, which will account for over 10 percent of USDA's projected 2016 net farm income. These payments will help provide reassurance to America's farm families, who are standing strong against low commodity prices compounded by unfavorable growing conditions in many parts of the country," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "At USDA, we are standing strong behind them, tapping in to every resource that we have to help. So far in 2016, this has included creating a one-time cost share program for cotton ginning, purchasing about $800 million in excess commodities to be redirected to food banks and those in need, making $11 million in payments to America's dairy farmers through the Dairy Margin Protection Program, and reprogramming Farm Service Agency funds to expand credit options for farmers and ranchers in need of extra capital. As always, we continue to watch market conditions and will explore opportunities for further assistance in the coming months. For producers challenged by weather, disease and falling prices, we will continue to ensure the availability of a strong safety net to keep them farming or ranching."
Unlike the old direct payment program, which issued payments during both weak and strong market conditions, the 2014 Farm Bill authorized the ARC-PLC safety net to trigger and provide financial assistance only when decreases in revenues or crop prices, respectively, occur. The ARC and PLC programs primarily allow producers to continue to produce for the market by making payments on a percentage of historical base production, limiting the impact on production decisions.
Nationwide, producers enrolled 96 percent of soybean base acres, 91 percent of corn base acres and 66 percent of wheat base acres in the ARC-County coverage option. Producers enrolled 99 percent of long grain rice and peanut base acres and 94 percent of medium grain rice base acres in the PLC option. Overall, 76 percent of participating farm base acres are enrolled in ARC-County, 23 percent in PLC and one percent in ARC-Individual. For other program information including frequently asked questions, visit
Payments are made to producers who enrolled base acres of barley, corn, grain sorghum, lentils, oats, peanuts, dry peas, soybeans, wheat and canola. In the upcoming months, payments will be announced after marketing year average prices are published by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service for the remaining covered commodities. These include long and medium grain rice (except for temperate Japonica rice), which will be announced in November, remaining oilseeds and chickpeas, which will be announced in December, and temperate Japonica rice, which will be announced in early February 2017. Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Just in

Statement by Zippy Duvall, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding Urban Ag Act of 2016

WASHINGTON,– "Regardless of where or how America's farmers and ranchers produce food, giving them the technology and tools to succeed supports our nation's strength and security. The Urban Agricultural Act of 2016 would do that for farmers in urban settings. As an organization that supports farmers of all sizes, commodities and production systems, Farm Bureau believes this legislation will build a stronger bond among all farmers--rural, suburban and urban."
"This legislation offers services and support to urban farmers. The research component of the bill is not only critical for production, but also for exploring the risk management, food safety, environmental and economic factors that are critical for economic success.
"It's exciting that more Americans want to become farmers. Whether it is access to technical, marketing and educational materials, securing the capital investment to start new ag enterprises or navigating regulations that can kill innovation, all beginning farmers need a helping hand. Mentorship is a two-way street and we have much to teach and learn from each other. America's farmers lend a hand when needed; they unite around a common mission. This legislation seeds a dialogue of cooperation, whether roots sink into a rejuvenated lot in Detroit or the rolling hills of rural Georgia. Farm Bureau looks forward to being a partner in those efforts."

Onions almost done!

The Idaho-Oregon Onion Harvest started Aug. 8th, which is average. More acres were planted this year and farmers report above average yields.  (Steve Ritter photo)

Friday, September 30, 2016

UI Rangeland Center Hosting Annual Fall Forum and Field Tour
MOSCOW, Idaho — The University of Idaho Rangeland Center will be hosting the Rangeland Fall Forum on Oct. 20 in Caldwell, Idaho.  The theme of the forum is “Summit to Stream: Managing Rangelands is a Watershed Affair,” and will focus on practices for thoughtful management of rangeland watersheds. 

Each fall the UI Rangeland Center organizes the Rangeland Fall Forum to discuss science and practical experience surrounding rangeland management challenges in Idaho. The forum offers opportunities for conversation around a series of moderated panel discussions. Each panel includes a rangeland scientist, a resource manager or conservationist, and a rancher, who all share insights from their own experiences and perspectives. Panel moderators encourage conversation with audience members.

This year’s agenda includes discussion of innovative riparian restoration projects and collaborative landscape management practices, featuring examples from Rock Creek Ranch and other areas across the region. All are welcome to attend the forum, which will be held from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Langroise Recital Hall at the College of Idaho in Caldwell.

On Friday, Oct. 21, forum participants and members of the public can enjoy a field day featuring research and restoration projects at Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed in the Owhyee Mountains. The tour is hosted by collaborators from the UI College of Natural Resources, the USDA Agricultural Research Service Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed and the Idaho Section of the Society for Rangeland Management
The registration fee is $35 per person.  More information on the agenda as well as registration instructions can be found

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Canals shut down


Nampa-The Treasure Valley’s largest irrigation district will shut down flows in its 500 miles of canals on October 6 marking the end of another successful irrigation season in which water users received a full supply of irrigation water, water managers with the Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District announced today.

District employees will close the headgates of the Ridenbaugh Canal on the Boise River near Barber Park in early morning of October 6th to let the system slowly bleed down. It could take up to two to three days for the canal system to empty completely in its furthest reaches.

“It was a very successful irrigation season especially considering that water demand started off high because of the warm spring temps we experienced and there has been very little precipitation throughout the growing season.  We will carry over a fair amount of water going into next year but we won’t have an exact amount until the final water accounting process is finished,” said Greg Curtis, NMID Water Superintendent. 

The Nampa & Meridian Board of Directors made the decision to end water deliveries at its last regular board meeting. Last year the NMID system was shut down on October 1.
The canal water cutoff means residential water users using pressurized urban irrigation systems managed by the District will need to switch to another water source such as a municipal system if they want to continue to irrigate lawns and landscaping.

As soon as the canals have drained, NMID work crews will switch to working on several large projects in preparation for the next irrigation season. The rapid building boom in the valley has given the District several opportunities to participate with developers to do upgrades to the canal system. These projects help conserve the valuable resource as well as make the system work better, Curtis explained.

            The Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District is a water storage, conveyance and distribution system founded in 1904.  The District supplies irrigation water to some 69,000 acres of farmland, residential and commercial lands, including pressurized irrigation for nearly 16,000 individual parcels of land in Ada and Canyon counties. More information is available at the District’s website:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

PILT Funding

Simpson Advocates for Full Funding of PILT and SRS
Signs letters to House leaders encouraging action on vital funding for Idaho
Washington- Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson joined 94 colleagues in urging House leadership to secure full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Simpson and others urged the federal government to fulfill its responsibility to counties with tax-exempt federal land by fully funding both programs.
“Last year’s Omnibus spending bill was critical in preserving funding for PILT at levels that keep up with the needs of communities across Idaho,” said Simpson. “If Congress doesn’t act again this year, then counties are strapped with the uncertainty of how they will pay for essential services. I am committed to making sure that Congress does its job and honors the commitments to counties with large percentages of federal land.”
Congressman Simpson also signed a letter to House leadership advocating for an extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) program. In 2015, Congress enacted a two-year extension of the SRS program which, similar to PILT, provides an alternative source of education funding for counties with a high percentage of national forests.  This program also fulfills the federal government’s responsibility to counties with tax-exempt federal lands. 
The bipartisan coalition of 52 Members of Congress wrote that, “the SRS program continues to be a critical safety net for forest counties…We stand ready to work with you in support of this important program.”
Congressman Simpson has been a long-time advocate for PILT, ensuring full funding was provided for the program when he chaired the House Interior and Environment subcommittee. In July, he supported the fiscal year 2017 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill which passed the House of Representatives and included full funding for PILT.
“While I would prefer a long-term solution to both PILT and SRS, I support immediate and necessary funding for both programs,” said Simpson. 
Both letters were delivered to House leadership in the last week. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Beef to China

China Moves to Reopen Market to U.S. Beef

WASHINGTON– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today issued the following statement: 
"I welcome the announcement from China's Ministry of Agriculture that it has lifted its ban on U.S. beef following a recently concluded review of the U.S. supply system. This announcement is a critical first step to restore market access for U.S. beef and beef products. We look forward to prompt engagement by the relevant authorities for further technical discussions on the specific conditions that will allow trade to resume. True access to China's beef market—consistent with science-based, international standards for trade—remains a top priority for the United States. The United States produces the highest-quality beef in the world, and China's 1.3 billion consumers are an important market for U.S. producers. The Obama Administration and USDA will continue to press trading partners to eliminate unfair barriers to trade that hamper American farmers and ranchers."

Monday, September 26, 2016

Presidential Debate tonight

Presidential Contenders Weigh in on Agricultural Issues

WASHINGTON– FBNews, the online/digital newsletter of the American Farm Bureau Federation, this week began posting responses from the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees on a range of issues that concern farmers and ranchers the most. 

AFBF asked Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump the same questions. Both candidates explained their positions on biotechnology, trade, immigration reform, regulatory reform, food safety and more.

“The fact that the candidates took the time in the middle of this very competitive election season to go into such detail in their responses says a lot about the importance of these issues and the farmers and ranchers who care about them,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Each of these issues touches our members at the farm and ranch level. Being able to provide information about the candidates’ platforms on issues that are important to agriculture is something we do every presidential election cycle.”
The candidates’ responses have been posted on:
·       The farm bill, biotechnology, food safety –
·       The Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act –
·       Regulatory Reform –
Additional responses will be posted at in the following order:
·       Sept. 27 - Immigration
·       Sept. 28 - International Trade and TPP
·       Sept. 29 - Energy
·       Sept. 30 - Full List of Issues
While AFBF cannot endorse or support a political candidate, the organization is providing the candidates’ positions to inform Farm Bureau members and others. FBNews signup is free at