Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Just in

Cost of Thanksgiving dinner rises, still under $50 for 10



Thanksgiving graphicWashington—The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 29th annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $49.41, a 37-cent increase from last year’s average of $49.04. 

The big ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came in at $21.65 this year. That’s roughly $1.35 per pound, a decrease of less than 1 cent per pound, or a total of 11 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2013. 

“Turkey production has been somewhat lower this year and wholesale prices are a little higher, but consumers should find an adequate supply of birds at their local grocery store,” AFBF Deputy Chief Economist John Anderson said. Some grocers may use turkeys as “loss leaders,” a common strategy deployed to entice shoppers to come through the doors and buy other popular Thanksgiving foods.    

The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10. There is also plenty for leftovers. 
Foods showing the largest increases this year were sweet potatoes, dairy products and pumpkin pie mix. Sweet potatoes came in at $3.56 for three pounds. A half pint of whipping cream was $2.00; one gallon of whole milk, $3.76; and a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $3.12. A one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery ($.82) and one pound of green peas ($1.55) also increased in price. A combined group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour) rose to $3.48.   

In addition to the turkey, other items that declined modestly in price included a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.54; 12 ounces of fresh cranberries, $2.34; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.42; and a dozen brown-n-serve rolls, $2.17.
 
The average cost of the dinner has remained around $49 since 2011. 
“America’s farmers and ranchers remain committed to continuously improving the way they grow food for our tables, both for everyday meals and special occasions like Thanksgiving dinner that many of us look forward to all year,” Anderson said. “We are blessed to be able to provide a special holiday meal for 10 people for about $5.00 per serving – less than the cost of most fast food meals.” 
The stable average price reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks closely with the government’s Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home (available online athttp://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm), which indicates a 3-percent increase compared to a year ago.   

A total of 179 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 35 states. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey. 
Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages. Another option for busy families without a lot of time to cook is ready-to-eat Thanksgiving meals for up to 10 people, with all the trimmings, which are available at many supermarkets and take-out restaurants for around $50 to $75.   

The AFBF survey was first conducted in 1986. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation. Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.
   
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
Item
2013
Price
2014
Price
Difference
Misc. ingredients
3.20
3.48
+.28
Sweet potatoes, 3 lbs.
3.36
3.56
+.20
Whipping cream, ½ pint
1.85
2.00
+.15
Milk, 1 gallon whole
3.66
3.76
+.10
Pumpkin pie mix, 30 oz.
3.10
3.12
+.02
1-pound relish tray (carrots and celery)
.81
.82
+.01
Green peas, 1 lb.
1.54
1.55
+.01
Cubed stuffing, 14 oz. 
2.67
2.54
-.13
16-pound turkey
21.76
21.65
-.11
Fresh cranberries, 12 oz.
2.42
2.34
-.08
Pie shells (2)
2.49
2.42
-.07
Rolls, 12
2.18
2.17
-.01
TOTAL
49.04
49.41
+.37
    





Year
Average
1986
$28.74
1987
$24.51
1988
$26.61
1989
$24.70
1990
$28.85
1991
$25.95
1992
$26.39
1993
$27.49
1994
$28.40
1995
$29.64
1996
$31.66
1997
$31.75
1998
$33.09
1999
$33.83
2000
$32.37
2001
$35.04
2002
$34.56
2003
$36.28
2004
$35.68
2005
$36.78
2006
$38.10
2007
$42.26
2008
$44.61
2009
$42.91
2010
$43.47
2011
$49.20
2012
$49.48
2013
$49.04
2014
$49.41

- See more at: http://fbnews.fb.org/FBNews/Top_News/Cost_of_Thanksgiving_dinner_rises,_still_under_$50_for_10.aspx#sthash.JQsPTL1Q.dpuf

Monday, November 24, 2014

Just in


USDA Approves 11,200 More Acres in Idaho for Wildlife Habitat

BOISE — U.S. Department of Agriculture Idaho Farm Service Agency (FSA) Executive Director Mark Samson, today announced that an additional 11,200 acres are now available for wildlife habitat improvement incentives. 

“The additional acres have been eagerly anticipated,” said Samson. “Idaho producers are excellent stewards of their lands and work hard to ensure natural areas on their highly erodible acres. Idaho has the largest allocation of enrolled SAFE acres in the United States. The partnership of Idaho FSA and Idaho Fish and Game has increased the number of productive leks (nesting areas) for sharp-tailed grouse in each of the eligible counties.” For more information about the success of Idaho’s SAFE program click here

This opportunity comes from the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program, part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) whereby Farm Service Agency contracts with landowners so that environmentally sensitive land is not farmed or ranched, but instead used for conservation. 

Program participants establish long-term plant species to control soil erosion, improve water quality, or strengthen declining wildlife populations. In return, participants receive annual rental payments between 10 and 15 years. 

The SAFE program allows state fish and wildlife agencies, non-profit organizations and other conservation partners to target the Conservation Reserve Program within distinct geographic areas to help wildlife. SAFE is limited to 1.35 million acres nationally, with 97 projects in 36 states and Puerto Rico.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Just in


Senate’s rejection of Keystone pipeline sets up vote for next year
 Washington—The Senate yesterday narrowly rejected a bill that would have moved the long-awaited Keystone XL pipeline project forward. Senate Republicans said they’ll have the bill back on the Senate floor in 2015, when they’ll be the majority party. Final approval of the pipeline next year is not a done deal though.

While the House has voted favorably on the pipeline numerous times, including last week, and the number of Democratic Keystone supporters and Republicans in the Senate will likely ensure a filibuster-proof majority on the issue, there’s a good chance there won’t be enough Republicans and supportive Democrats in the Senate to overcome a presidential veto should President Obama make good on his threat.

 The Keystone XL project is a proposed 1,179 mile, 36-inch-diameter pipeline that would carry crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska. It has been awaiting a presidential permit for more than six years.

 “Agriculture is an energy-intensive industry, which is why farmers and ranchers support the Keystone XL pipeline project as part of a larger effort to ensure the availability and affordability of all energy sources,” said Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau Federation energy specialist. “It takes a lot of energy in many forms to water crops, run tractors and combines and keep cows, pigs, chickens and other animals comfortable, healthy and safe.”

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Just in

USDA Helps Open and Expand Export Markets for U.S. Agriculture

Fiscal Year 2015 Funding Strengthens Market for American Products and Commodities
WASHINGTON– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service has awarded funding to more than 60 U.S. agricultural organizations to help expand commercial export markets for American products. 
"The Market Access and Foreign Market Development Programs help agricultural organizations representing thousands of producers and businesses open and grow markets for American products around the world," Vilsack said. "Exports create jobs and foster growth that is critically important for rural communities and our entire nation's economy."
Through the Market Access Program, Foreign Agricultural Service partners with U.S. agricultural trade associations, cooperatives, state regional trade groups and small businesses to share the costs of overseas marketing and promotional activities that help build commercial export markets for U.S. agricultural products and commodities. The program, which focuses on consumer promotion, including brand promotion for small companies and cooperatives, is used extensively by organizations promoting fruits, vegetables, nuts, processed products, and bulk and intermediate commodities. Through MAP, the Foreign Agricultural Service will provide $173.2 million to 62 nonprofit organizations and cooperatives. Participants contribute an average 214 percent match for generic marketing and promotion activities and a dollar-for-dollar match for promotion of branded products by small businesses and cooperatives. 
The Foreign Market Development Program focuses on trade servicing and trade capacity building by helping to create, expand and maintain long-term export markets for U.S. agricultural products. Under FMD, also known as the Cooperator Program, the Foreign Agricultural Service will allocate $26.7 million to 22 trade organizations that represent U.S. agricultural producers. USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service partners with U.S. agricultural producers and processors, who are represented by non-profit commodity or trade associations called cooperators. The organizations, which on average contribute nearly triple the amount they receive in federal resources, will conduct activities that help maintain or increase the demand for U.S. agricultural commodities overseas.
USDA's international market development programs have had a significant and positive impact on U.S. agricultural exports. An independent study released in 2010 found that trade promotion programs like MAP and FMD provide $35 in economic benefits for every dollar spent by government and industry on market development. 
The past six years represent the strongest period for U.S. agricultural exports in the history of the United States. Farm exports in fiscal year 2014 reached a record $152.5 billion and supported 1 million jobs in the United States.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014



Farm Bureau and Coalition Call for Lame-Duck Congress to Extend Key Tax Provisions

WASHINGTON–America’s farmers and ranchers are ready for Congress to act swiftly to restore tax provisions essential to boosting small businesses and rural economies, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. In a letter to House and Senate leaders, Farm Bureau urged members of both chambers to work across the aisle to renew and preserve important tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013.

 “Farmers and ranchers rely on tax provisions that allow them to manage their cash flow and put that money back to work for their businesses,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Section 179 and bonus depreciation are important tools that lend stability and help minimize risk in an unpredictable industry.”

Agriculture is overwhelmingly united in its support of Section 179 and bonus depreciation, which provide flexible means for farm and ranch businesses to write off and deduct business expenses. Letters of support have been sent by groups from around the country, including the Broad Tax Extender Coalition. The coalition’s letter has been signed by more than 500 organizations.

“We’re seeing a broad level of support here because these tax provisions make for good business. They allow farmers and ranchers to plan wisely,” Stallman said. “Congress needs to act now if we’re going to see continued growth in the agriculture sector.” Farm Bureau also called on Congress to renew tax incentives that would promote clean, renewable, domestic energy, as well as provisions that encourage donations of conservation easements and promote charitable donations to food banks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

President's Op-Ed


GMO Labeling Measures Fail in Oregon, Colorado
by Frank Priestley, President, Idaho Farm Bureau
Ballot measures requiring labeling of food made with genetically modified ingredients recently failed in Colorado and Oregon. California and Washington voters rejected similar measures in recent years and now nearly half of all states have considered labeling requirements.
Only one state, Vermont, has passed a law requiring GMO labeling. It’s facing a legal challenge there and is not slated to take effect until 2016.
In Oregon, one of the nation’s most liberal states, the measure lost by a narrow margin. Many pundits thought a labeling bill had a good chance of passing there. In Colorado the measure was defeated by a two to one margin. Millions of dollars have been spent both advocating for GMO labeling and defending the status quo. So what is the takeaway message from this effort to implement state labeling laws?
In our opinion, this trend of turning GMO ballot measures down is in part due to the fact that it’s confusing to voters. However, for others who take the time to educate themselves about this complex issue, they learn that the advocates are trying to solve a problem that does not exist. Let’s look at biotech sugarbeets as an example. The crop is engineered to resist applications of herbicide or weed-killer. After sugarbeets are processed, which is a method of grinding them up and cooking them down into a syrup and then refining that syrup into sugar, there is no trace of any genetic modification of the plant left. The same is true with all of the other genetically modified crops that are processed into food products also to include meat and dairy products.
When livestock are brought into the equation the ability to label products becomes slightly more complex. Some state ballot measures would have required labeling of products that come from livestock that consumed genetically modified feed. Others would not. This is where the complexity of labeling food gains momentum and turns voters off. Livestock producers have been feeding cattle, sheep, hogs and chickens genetically modified corn and soybean meal for over 20 years now. Genetically modified feed makes up a significant percentage of the feed produced in the USA. Science can’t tell the difference between meat, milk, cheese and other products that came from cows that ate genetically modified feed and products that came from livestock that didn’t. And if genetically modified feed caused health problems in livestock, as some labeling advocates allege, it would surely have surfaced by now – it’s been over 20 years after all.
One of the problems with individual states adopting labeling legislation is that the country would wind up with a patchwork of different laws. This would put a lot of strain on companies that package, transport and distribute our food, which would add cost for consumers.
There are several other problems that arise from labeling food that has no discernable difference from other food. However, for consumers who want to avoid food products that contain GMO ingredients, following are a few simple rules: Shop around the outside aisles in the grocery store and avoid processed foods. Livestock feed and ethanol make up the bulk of the end products derived from genetically modified crops in this country. There are very few genetically modified fruits and vegetables available at the present time. Get to know local farmers by shopping at farmers markets, ask them questions about their production methods and buy meat and dairy products locally. Take an active role in understanding where your food comes from and how it’s produced and you’ll soon realize that more government intervention in our lives is rarely if ever a good thing to advocate.


Just in from Washington


Simpson Supported Keystone XL Pipeline
Calls on the White House to Stop Delaying Project

Washington - Idaho Congressman Simpson supported H.R. 5682, a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would put an end to years of bureaucratic delays and allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline project.  

The Keystone XL pipeline would transport crude oil from the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the United States. Because the pipeline would connect the United States with a foreign country, it requires a Presidential Permit issued by the State Department.  The State Department must find that the project would serve the national interest before it can issue the permit.

The first application to the U.S. State Department to build the pipeline was submitted in 2008, and after a thorough environmental review, in 2011 an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) found that the pipeline would have limited adverse environmental impacts during its construction and operation.  Despite this, President Obama denied the Presidential Permit request in January of 2012, requiring the permitting process to begin anew.  The State Department issued a second Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement in January of 2014, confirming once again that the pipeline would have limited adverse environmental impact.

“Moving forward with the permitting of the Keystone XL pipeline will create jobs and reduce our dependence on unstable foreign sources of oil,” said Simpson. “The President is yet again playing political games with our energy security, and ignoring the benefits of this project without a scientific basis for doing so.”

Canadian pipeline company TransCanada has estimated that it will invest $7 billion in the United States to build the pipeline, and that up to 20,000 jobs would be directly created by the pipeline’s construction.  The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the Keystone XL pipeline would be able to move 830,000 barrels of oil per day, which represents about half of the amount the U.S. imports from the Middle East. 

“This project has broad bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, and it has been reviewed and studied for six years and found to be environmentally safe,” Simpson said.  “I hope the Senate and the President approve this bill quickly, because the economic and energy security implications for this country are too important to delay any longer.” 

H.R. 5682 authorizes the construction, connection, operation, and maintenance of the Keystone XL pipeline.  The bill deems the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement issued by the Secretary of State in January of 2014 sufficient to satisfy all the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and any other federal law that requires federal agency consultation or review.

The House passed H.R. 5682 by a vote of 252-161. It will now move to the Senate for further consideration. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Just in


American Farm Bureau calls on EPA to ditch the Waters of the U.S. rule


Washington – The Environmental Protection Agency’s and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed Waters of the U.S. rule is a blatant effort to expand federal authority over land use by regulating land as if it were “water,” the American Farm Bureau Federation said today. 

AFBF filed formal comments with the EPA after rallying farmers, ranchers, other regulated industries and members of Congress behind its popular #DitchtheRule campaign. EPA keeps spinning its rule to sell it to different audiences, but individual regulators won’t care about that spin when they’re out enforcing the rule, AFBF said. Agriculture clearly isn’t buying the spin, as 146 agricultural groups joined in the AFBF-led comments. 
  
“EPA is hiding behind vague and confusing language, but that language can easily be read to regulate most any piece of land where rainwater pools or flows,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “This proposal is a perfect example of agencies run amok—in this case, running far past the limits set by Congress and two Supreme Court decisions.” According to Stallman, “There’s no way to know which areas are regulated and, most importantly, which are not. That makes farmers, ranchers and other businesses and land owners vulnerable to arbitrary agency enforcement and even citizen lawsuits—regardless of any actual environmental impact of their activities.”  


Friday, November 14, 2014

Just in


GMO Labeling Measures Fail in Oregon, Colorado
Salem--Ballot measures requiring labeling of food made with genetically modified ingredients recently failed in Colorado and Oregon. California and Washington voters rejected similar measures in recent years and now nearly half of all states have considered labeling requirements.
Only one state, Vermont, has passed a law requiring GMO labeling. It’s facing a legal challenge there and is not slated to take effect until 2016.
In Oregon, one of the nation’s most liberal states, the measure lost by a narrow margin. Many pundits thought a labeling bill had a good chance of passing there. In Colorado the measure was defeated by a two to one margin. Millions of dollars have been spent both advocating for GMO labeling and defending the status quo. So what is the takeaway message from this effort to implement state labeling laws?
In our opinion, this trend of turning GMO ballot measures down is in part due to the fact that it’s confusing to voters. However, for others who take the time to educate themselves about this complex issue, they learn that the advocates are trying to solve a problem that does not exist. Let’s look at biotech sugarbeets as an example. The crop is engineered to resist applications of herbicide or weed-killer. After sugarbeets are processed, which is a method of grinding them up and cooking them down into a syrup and then refining that syrup into sugar, there is no trace of any genetic modification of the plant left. The same is true with all of the other genetically modified crops that are processed into food products also to include meat and dairy products.
When livestock are brought into the equation the ability to label products becomes slightly more complex. Some state ballot measures would have required labeling of products that come from livestock that consumed genetically modified feed. Others would not. This is where the complexity of labeling food gains momentum and turns voters off. Livestock producers have been feeding cattle, sheep, hogs and chickens genetically modified corn and soybean meal for over 20 years now. Genetically modified feed makes up a significant percentage of the feed produced in the USA. Science can’t tell the difference between meat, milk, cheese and other products that came from cows that ate genetically modified feed and products that came from livestock that didn’t. And if genetically modified feed caused health problems in livestock, as some labeling advocates allege, it would surely have surfaced by now – it’s been over 20 years after all.
One of the problems with individual states adopting labeling legislation is that the country would wind up with a patchwork of different laws. This would put a lot of strain on companies that package, transport and distribute our food, which would add cost for consumers.
There are several other problems that arise from labeling food that has no discernable difference from other food. However, for consumers who want to avoid food products that contain GMO ingredients, following are a few simple rules: Shop around the outside aisles in the grocery store and avoid processed foods. Livestock feed and ethanol make up the bulk of the end products derived from genetically modified crops in this country. There are very few genetically modified fruits and vegetables available at the present time. Get to know local farmers by shopping at farmers markets, ask them questions about their production methods and buy meat and dairy products locally. Take an active role in understanding where your food comes from and how it’s produced and you’ll soon realize that more government intervention in our lives is rarely if ever a good thing to advocate.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Just in

Farm Bureau veteran remembered on Veterans Day

Jordan Valley--Farm Bureau member Bill Lowry, 94 served in the US Army Combat Engineers during World War II. Lowry served on Ascenion Island from 1942-45 building an airbase.

The Island is located halfway between Africa and South America in the Atlantic, below the equater. Lowry's unit won the Bronze Star. He returned back to ranching after the war, moved to Jordan Valley in 1966, ranched and joined Farm Bureau and been a member ever since.

"I was drafted in early 1942, I turned 21 6th of June 1941, I was already registered when they bombed Pearl Harbor, I was drafted in '42 and did basic at Fort Lewis in Washington. We built that big airbase on Ascension Island. It was a main stopping off point for all bomber and fighters flying to Southern Europe and Africa," said Lowry.

It bothers Lowry that politicians took an oath of office and sent so many young men off to war. "We took an oath, politicians took the oath, yet many boys died or were wounded and not a single political faced gunfire, It burns me and I'm bitter to this day," he said. Lowry says many never made it home

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Just in


UI Extension Water Management Engineer Neibling Shares in National Research Award
MOSCOW – Howard Neibling, Kimberly-based University of Idaho Extension irrigation management engineer, works to improve irrigation efficiency on Idaho’s farms and ranches.

Work by Neibling and his colleagues on the 20-state project Microirrigation for Sustainable Water Use or W-2128 won the 2014 Experiment Station Section Excellence in Multistate Research Award. The award from the Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy was presented during the recent Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities meeting.

Neibling’s research on using microirrigation to boost corn silage production while reducing the amount of water required has focused on fields near Kuna. That work showed microirrigation, which uses tubing to apply water directly to the soil at the crop’s roots, boosted production over center pivot irrigation. Yield increased to 32 tons per acre from 28 tons. The water required dropped by 10 to 15 percent.

Neibling’s work on irrigating corn for silage, which is the stalks chopped and stored while green, will continue with other strategies. Large numbers of burrowing rodents, mostly pocket gophers, from surrounding public lands undermined the use of buried lines because the animals chewed holes in them.

The new strategy Neibling plans to pursue is the use of cheaper plastic tape products that will be used for a cropping season, then recycled.

The advantage for dairy operators and those growing feed for them is the tape can be applied to irregularly-shaped fields that are not suitable for center pivot irrigation. Tape can also be used on the corners of pivot-irrigated fields that normally produce less becausethey can be difficult to water.

Dairy farmers can benefit economically by improving production on fields closer to their operations and reducing haul costs.

Neibling has worked on the multi-state project since he joined the UI faculty 22 years ago. The project was established in 1974.

Neibling’s work helps ranchers improve water-use efficiency on irrigated pastures, hay fields and all of the state’s irrigated crops. He works with the Anheuser-Busch global sustainability campaign by helping barley growers increase water use efficiency.

His current barley project focuses on helping growers near Osgood, Ririe and Grace better use weather data and new technology for irrigation scheduling. Anheuser-Busch recently funded the installation of six new AgriMet high-tech weather stations in southern Idaho to aid growers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Just in

A second tour of duty for veterans

By Jessica Wharton    
Homegrown by HeroesWashington—As America honors and remembers those who served our nation in the armed forces this Veterans Day, they can also support veterans by buying food and farm products with the Homegrown By Heroes label. Nearly 100 veterans from 76 different farms across the country are now participating in this Farmer Veteran Coalition initiative, which was launched earlier this year.  

The Farmer Veteran Coalition works with and supports veterans who see an opportunity in agriculture upon returning from their military duties. Any farmer, rancher or fisherman who has served, or is still serving, in any branch of the U.S. military is eligible to apply to use the Homegrown By Heroes label. When customers see this logo on display, they know they are purchasing products grown or raised by veterans.    

Army veteran Dan Hromas served in Iraq where he was injured in combat. Today, he is selling farm-fresh eggs in Omaha markets with the Homegrown By Heroes label, and finding that customers are eager to support veterans in this way.    

“My eggs are flying off the shelf alongside others priced less expensive,” Hromas said.    
The Homegrown By Heroes program has a diverse range of veterans, from those just returning from military duties to others who retired after serving in Vietnam. For many of these veterans farming is a new calling. According to the latest Census of Agriculture, released by the Agriculture Department, thousands of veterans are entering the industry as a fresh start.    

Others, like Desert Storm National Guard veteran Shad Dasher, return home to the family business after serving their country. Dasher has spent most of his life on his 145-acre family farm in Georgia. As a third-generation Vidalia onion farmer, he now proudly carries the Homegrown By Heroes label.    
Communities not only wholeheartedly welcome these heroes home but are also eager to pitch in and help them succeed. Matthew Brady, an Army veteran, served two tours in Iraq and was awarded a Purple Heart before returning home to run his family’s 90-acre hay farm in Michigan. Upon hearing he was certified to carry the Homegrown By Heroes label, his neighbors offered him use of 160 more acres.    

After the initial national launch of this program, the Illinois Farm Bureau became one of the first to work with its state agriculture department and the Farmer Veteran Coalition to create a state Homegrown By Heroes label and program. In addition to the use of the label for packaging, websites and social media, this program will offer farmer training and education programs, as well as provide informational resources. The Illinois state initiative will create mentorships for veterans with more experienced farmers, promote farmer training, increase farmers’ market opportunities, and foster relationships with retailers and food service organizations.

“Taking a state-wide approach will lead toward a cohesive program providing an opportunity for integration of resources and marketing opportunities,” Illinois Farm Bureau Manager of Business Development and Compliance Cynthia Haskins said.    

As these veterans serve their country a second time by providing food and farm products, the Homegrown By Heroes label offers Americans another way to support our veterans throughout the year, not just on Veterans Day.     

Jessica Wharton is a communications assistant at the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Just in



USDA Seeks Input on New Beef Promotion Order 

 WASHINGTON– The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service is seeking input from the public to guide its development of a new industry-funded promotion, research and information order (also known as a "checkoff program") for beef and beef products. The new order would be in addition to the existing beef checkoff program, providing American beef producers with more resources for the marketing of their products and research to help strengthen the country's beef industry.

"Beef industry representatives agree that this important program needs more resources. USDA is stepping up at a critical juncture to help achieve the industry's goal," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "With this action we can boost research investments, increase beef exports, and encourage folks here at home to support American beef producers." Beef industry leaders agree that the current fee of $1 per-head-of-cattle per producer is too little.

The $1 assessment has remained the same since 1985 when Congress first created the beef checkoff program, and the amount can only be changed through Congressional action. This assessment provides resources for marketing to promote beef sales, research, and many other benefits for producers.

An additional supplemental program like the one USDA is proposing would enhance available resources, which would help the beef industry address important issues including improving and enhancing nutritional and consumer information through initiatives such as consumer advertising, education, research and new-product development.

 Additional resources could help increase demand for beef both domestically and internationally, thus benefitting cattle producers and the domestic beef industry. USDA is acting to help beef producers continue to enjoy these benefits—and strengthen them—in a way that works for all producers. 

Interested individuals and organizations are invited to provide their views concerning provisions that would be included in the new order. A referendum on an order established under the 1996 Act would be conducted within three years after assessments begin to determine whether beef producers favor the program and if it should continue.

A second referendum would be held within seven years of the start of the program. Interested parties have until Dec.10, 2014, to submit comments on issues below-- Details of the notice of inquiry will appear in the Nov. 10, 2014, Federal Register. Comments may be submitted online at www.regulations.gov or sent to Beef Promotion, Research, and Information Order; Research and Promotion Division, Room 2096-S; Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program; AMS, USDA, STOP 0249; 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.; Washington, D.C. 20250-0249; telephone number (202) 720-5705.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Just in

Tax incentives slated for lame duck


Washington—When lawmakers return to Washington, D.C., later this month for a post-election lame duck session, action on a number of lapsed tax incentives is expected to be at the top of the congressional to-do list. Among the provisions important to farmers and ranchers are those related to Section 179 small business expensing, 50 percent bonus depreciation, conservation easement donations and charitable deductions for food contributions. 

Farm Bureau puts a priority on tax code provisions that give farm and ranch businesses the ability to deduct expenses immediately instead of having to depreciate them over time, said Pat Wolff, American Farm Bureau Federation tax specialist.      

“Farming requires large investments in machinery, equipment and other depreciable capital, so farmers and ranchers place great value on tax code provisions that allow them to write off capital expenditures in the year that purchases are made,” explained Wolff. “Tax provisions that accelerate expensing and depreciation allow farmers and ranchers to better manage cash flow, minimize tax liabilities and reduce borrowing. The ability to immediately expense capital purchases also offers the benefit of reducing the record-keeping burden associated with the depreciation.”

Republican and Democratic leaders from both the House and Senate agree on the need to get an extenders bill on the president’s desk for his signature. Far less certain is how long the incentives will be extended for.  Bills passed by the House earlier this year would make a number of the provisions permanent, while the Senate was poised to take up legislation that would have extended all the expired provisions for two years, covering 2014 and 2015.

Farm Bureau supports making permanent long-standing tax provisions such as Section 179 small business expensing because  Congress’ practice of extending important small business tax provisions for one or two years at a time makes it very difficult for farmers and ranchers to plan and adds immense confusion and complexity.  


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Just in



Statement by Bob Stallman, President,
American Farm Bureau Federation,
Regarding Results of 2014 Mid-Term Election

WASHINGTON- “The voters have spoken. Some will debate the meaning of the vote, but this much is clear to us at the American Farm Bureau Federation: Americans want – our farmers and ranchers need – common-sense governance and a halt to the punishing regulatory overreach that ignores the law and the courts. The nation, too, has grown weary of extremists who offer little more than disinformation and misguided ballot initiatives at the state level. Americans want elected leaders who work together to find solutions to move our country forward.
                                 
“AFBF looks forward to working with all our elected officials on issues that matter most to America’s farm and ranch families and all Americans who rely on them for their food. We will continue to amplify their voices and those of our neighbors across rural America.  We will seek public policies that support the vital work of the men and women who produce food, fiber and renewable fuel for our nation while caring for the environment, their animals and the rural communities in which they live.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Just in

USDA Announces $29 Million to Provide Housing for Farmworkers



USDA Bolsters Affordable Housing for Farm Laborers

WASHINGTON–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA is investing $29 million to provide affordable housing for farm laborers and their families.
"Housing is often the first step on the road to more economic prosperity for farmworker families," Vilsack said. "These loans and grants will significantly improve the lives of farmworkers, who are vital to America's agriculture sector. This program is one of many tools that USDA has to strengthen the rural economy, which will help bring a brighter future for children from farmworker families."
USDA is providing assistance through the Farm Labor Housing Loan and Grant program. Financing is available to qualified organizations to develop housing for domestic farm laborers. USDA also provides rental assistance to help very-low-income families afford the monthly rent.
Through today's announcement, USDA is awarding $20.7 million in loans and $8.3 million in grants for 10 projects in six states. When completed, the properties will provide 320 farmworker families with new homes. Rental assistance will be offered for 315 of the new housing units.
"I have witnessed firsthand the way these loans and grants help farmworkers and their communities," said Tony Hernandez, Administrator of USDA's Rural Housing Service, which runs the Farm Labor Housing program. Earlier this month, Hernandez toured the Sugarloaf Apartments farm labor housing complex in Hendersonville, N.C. Since the complex opened in 1995, it is usually fully occupied. Sugarloaf has two day care facilities onsite, one of which is year-round, making it a convenient place for residents to work and raise their families.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Just in

Agriculture Secretary Announces Funding to Strengthen Rural Businesses and Cooperatives and Boost Economic Development in Rural Communities

WASHINGTON-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the selection of 43 organizations in 27 states for grants and loans to help create jobs and boost economic development activity in rural areas. The announcement culminates a week in which the department has been highlighting products that are Made In Rural America.
"Many rural businesses and organizations are succeeding but with access to additional resources can create more jobs, promote growth and create an environment where more products can be made in rural America," Vilsack said. "The awards we are announcing today will not only provide funding, but they also will provide the critical training and technical assistance rural cooperatives and non-profit groups need to enhance the work they are doing to strengthen America's Main Street businesses."
The funding is being provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program and the Intermediary Relending Program. Vilsack announced $5.8 million in RCDG awards to 32 recipients, and just over $7 million in loans to 11 recipients under USDA's Intermediary Relending Program. Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.
Rural Cooperative Development Grants are being awarded to non-profit groups and higher education institutions. The recipients will use the funds to operate centers to develop or expand rural businesses, especially cooperatives and mutually-owned businesses. The funding can be used to conduct feasibility studies, create and implement business plans, offer technical assistance, establish low-interest loans, and help rural businesses develop new markets for their products and services.
Today's announcement of RCDG recipients includes several who are developing new opportunities for rural farmers and ranchers by capitalizing on the fast-growing market for locally produced food.
For example, the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability will receive a $200,000 technical assistance grant to help meat processing cooperatives link producers with local and regional consumers. Funding will also be used to provide education and training. The Cooperative Network in Wisconsin is receiving a $200,000 grant to help establish cooperatives focusing on health care, local foods and senior housing. Funds will also be used to help Native American tribal members form a cooperative.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Just in

USDA to Provide $4 million For Honey Bee Habitat

Announcement Builds on Previous Investment in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Idaho
WASHINGTON– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to help farmers and ranchers in the Midwest improve the health of honey bees, which play an important role in crop production.
"The future of America's food supply depends on honey bees, and this effort is one way USDA is helping improve the health of honey bee populations," Vilsack said. "Significant progress has been made in understanding the factors that are associated with Colony Collapse Disorder and the overall health of honey bees, and this funding will allow us to work with farmers and ranchers to apply that knowledge over a broader area."
An estimated $15 billion worth of crops is pollinated by honey bees, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is focusing the effort on five Midwestern states: Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. This announcement renews and expands a successful $3 million pilot investment that was announced earlier this year and continues to have high levels of interest. This effort also contributes to the June 2014 Presidential Memorandum – Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, which directs USDA to expand the acreage and forage value in its conservation programs.
Funding will be provided to producers through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Applications are due Friday, November 21.
From June to September, the Midwest is home to more than 65 percent of the commercially managed honey bees in the country. It is a critical time when bees require abundant and diverse forage across broad landscapes to build up hive strength for the winter.
The assistance announced today will provide guidance and support to farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that will provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees. For example, appropriate cover crops or rangeland and pasture management may provide a benefit to producers by reducing erosion, increasing the health of their soil, inhibiting invasive species, and providing quality forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators.
This year, several NRCS state offices are setting aside additional funds for similar efforts, including California – where more than half of all managed honey bees in the U.S. help pollinate almond groves and other agricultural lands – as well as Ohio and Florida.
The 2014 Farm Bill kept pollinators as a high priority, and these conservation efforts are one way USDA is working to help improve pollinator habitat.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Just in

USDA Extends Dairy Margin Protection Program Deadlines

Enrollment Continues Through Dec. 5; Comments Accepted Until Dec. 15
GRAPEVINE, Texas– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, speaking at the National Milk Producers Federation annual meeting, today announced extended deadlines for the dairy Margin Protection Program. Farmers now have until Dec. 5, 2014, to enroll in the voluntary program, established by the 2014 Farm Bill. The program 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.
"We want dairy producers to have enough time to make thoughtful and well-studied choices," said Vilsack. "Markets change and the Margin Protection Program can help protect dairy producers from those changes."
Vilsack encouraged producers to use the online Web resource at www.fsa.usda.gov/mpptool to calculate the best levels of coverage for their dairy operation. "Historical scenarios also can be explored to see how the Margin Protection Program would function should poor market conditions occur again in the future," said Vilsack. The secure website can be accessed via computer, smartphone or tablet.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also extended the opportunity for public comments on both the Margin Protection Program and the Dairy Product Donation Program until Dec. 15, 2014.
"USDA is committed to creating strong opportunities for the next generation of farmers and ranchers. When dairy producers bring new family members into the business, these changes could affect safety net coverage," said Vilsack. "If our current rules hinder intergenerational changes or if improvements are needed in these programs, then we want to hear from dairy producers."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Just in

Agriculture’s leading role in the international marketplace

By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau
Washington—Farmers and ranchers have a long history of promoting American strength and goodwill through international trade. Thanks to our ability to satisfy demand here and abroad, U.S. agriculture is one of the few sectors that can boast a positive trade balance, overall shipping out more than we bring back in. The balance could shift, however, if political barriers stand in the way of agricultural trade.  

  Getting markets open for business     
U.S. agriculture is ready for a boost in activity in the Asia/Pacific region. This area holds great promise, and it makes no sense to limit access to food here or anywhere else. The Trans Pacific Partnership promises to open up trade among the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan. But the real success of TPP negotiations rests on an agreement between the U.S. and Japan, which would require Japan to resolve its long-standing tariff and non-tariff barrier issues. Price restrictions and high tariffs have been the standard for too long, and Japan will have to play on the same terms as other participants for the TPP to work.    
The European Union is also primed for growth. Last year, U.S. agricultural exports to the EU totaled $11.5 billion compared to $17.3 billion in EU agricultural exports to the U.S. American farmers and ranchers are ready to be competitive here, but the EU system has stubbornly held to guidelines that are based in politics rather than science.     

Although the U.S. and the EU both follow the safety guidelines set out by the World Trade Organization, the EU tacks on a “precautionary principle,” which allows it to add non-scientific guidelines to risk management. Match this with its snail’s pace for approving biotech products, and it is not surprising that we’ve seen a significant drop in corn and soybean exports. For U.S. food products that do make it over to the EU, the use of geographic indications can put some at an unfair disadvantage, limiting their marketability.  
  
Standing firm in negotiations     
No trade agreement can be fully successful without the support of agriculture. In September, AFBF’s Trade Advisory Committee met with EU officials in Brussels, where we urged them to remove unnecessary trade barriers once and for all and to move forward with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. A free trade agreement between the U.S. and the EU can bring a serious boost to U.S. agriculture, but only if politics are set aside.    

AFBF also met with several ambassadors and the WTO director-general in Geneva where we affirmed U.S. support for completing the Trade Facilitation Agreement, an accord that would eliminate many antiquated customs procedures that serve no useful purpose. The agreement is currently on hold thanks to India—which originally signed on with all other WTO countries back in December but is now delaying the ratification. U.S. agriculture is ready for ambitious trade negotiations. Hanging onto failed ideas that place certain agricultural sectors at a disadvantage or create special exemptions for developing countries is no way to move forward in today’s marketplace.    

Waiting for trade negotiations to conclude can feel a bit like watching paint dry, but persistence pays off. A recent agreement between the U.S. and Brazil has resolved Brazil’s complaint to the WTO and ended years of uncertainty for America’s cotton growers. Thanks to the support of the U.S. government, the current structure of commodity programs remains intact. We must continue to hang tough in trade negotiations to keep the marketplace open to the American farmer.