Friday, July 21, 2017

President's Op-Ed

Time for a NAFTA Tune-UP

By Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau President

Some in Washington are calling this “NAFTA Week,” because the administration just yesterday came out with its objectives for the NAFTA renegotiation effort.

The American Farm Bureau’s goal has been primarily to maintain the good, reciprocal market access we have today for agricultural products that U.S. farmers and ranchers export to Canada and Mexico. We were glad to see that listed as the top objective in the agricultural section of the administration’s plan.

The plan also lists other goals we’ve outlined, including eliminating non-tariff barriers to U.S. agricultural exports, providing adjustment periods for our import sensitive agricultural products, and enhancing regulatory compatibility. The objectives also include creating a process to resolve trade barriers erected in the name of protecting animal, plant or human health—so-called sanitary and phytosanitary measures—but that are not necessary and are damaging to fair and open trade.

Our exports to Canada and Mexico have quadrupled from $8.9 billion in 1993, when NAFTA entered into force, to $38 billion in 2016.

I’ll admit that when talk of renegotiating NAFTA first began, many of us in agriculture were nervous about rocking the boat. NAFTA isn’t perfect, but it has been very beneficial for the majority of U.S. agricultural products and the farmers who grow them. Our exports to Canada and Mexico have quadrupled from $8.9 billion in 1993, when NAFTA entered into force, to $38 billion in 2016. So we wanted to make sure we did not lose the progress we have made. However, NAFTA is 23 years old now. Just like our farm machinery, it needs to be updated. Things have changed since 1993. For example, when NAFTA was negotiated biotech crops were just starting to come to market.

A lot of work remains ahead of us. Canada and Mexico will have their own negotiating objectives, which may or may not be compatible with ours. But the objectives outlined by the administration this week assure those of us in agriculture that the president and his trade team will work to fulfill a promise he made to farmers and ranchers: to keep the gains we have made so far, and to make agricultural trade even better in the future.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

2nd Crop of Hay

Idaho Farmers harvest second hay crop

Burley—On scorching hot days, idaho Farmers swath hay across the Snake River plain.

Farmer Rick Pearson out of Hagerman just got his hay in.

"We just got our second crop in, I haven't got the tests back but it looked good," said Pearson.

Rick Brune’s hay out of Hazelton is not dairy grade—but he got good yields.

"It was too hot and we had blooms in it, so it wasn't dairy grade. I'll make more than the first cut, but most of it will go to export," said Brune.

Domestic alfalfa is still firm. Trade is slacking off a bit with moderate demand only for higher testing and export Timothy hay. Mid squares of tarped alfalfa rated premium/supreme going for $150.

The Dairy industry continues to drive the market, here in Idaho even though quality is a bit off, Demand is picking up.

"Its been hot and there just isn't that much dairy-quality hay, Demand is picking up and that'll help us down the road in terms of demand," said Pearson.

The dry, hot weather has hurt and helped the hay market this year but producers think they can keep their hay operations in the black.

For the Voice of Idaho Agriculture, this is Jake Putnam

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

2017 IFBF Summer Presidents Meeting

IFBF Women's Leadership Judy Woody has a portrait taken at the Annual Summer Presidents meeting in Burley

FBF Women's Leadership Committee Meets at Summer Presidents Meeting

Burley—Women’s Leadership Chairman Judy Woody of Filer is in her second day of Board meeting at the Summer Presidents Meeting in Burley. It is hard to catch the chairman because she's been on a dead run since early Monday.

Yesterday it was leadership training for the board, today their task is to plan the group’s activities over the next 12 months.

“This is actually our yearly planning meeting and we address all our activities for the next year. We go through our programs award book and this is the time of year we get all that done. It takes about a day and half for our meeting, it’s a thorough meeting thats for sure,” said Woody.

The groups leadership training with Justin Patten helped the Committee surface group priorities moving forward.

“It really gave them an idea of what they want do this next year. Looking ahead and the evaluation of our programs is important and they’re dynamic and always coming up with new ideas,” said Patten.

Leadership for the group is more than a title and it only tells a fraction of what the group is all about.

“Women in agriculture have been involved since day one,” said Woody. “ Whether its inside the house, the company books, or the fields its takes both people, doesn’t make a difference if it’s a man or a woman,” said Woody.

Chairman Woody says leadership is passed on from generation to generation and everything they do now and all that they achieve can be passed down as new leaders emerge. She adds that’s the reason each meeting is important.


‘Just a farmer’

By John Schlageck

While I hoped I’d never hear this phrase roll off the lips of a farmer or rancher again, I did the other day. I heard someone say, “I’m just a farmer.”

We’ve all heard these words before. We’ve heard them said at the grain elevator, the grocery story, the local café, church and just about everywhere else in rural America.

I heard them for the first time in years at a local co-op in the southwestern part of our state. They were uttered by an articulate, bright young man.

When asked for his name, he cheerfully told me. When asked his occupation, the man dressed in jeans, a flannel shirt and seed cap looked down at his boots, well-worn and nicked and replied softly, “Just a farmer.”

In my home state of Kansas and other states across our country, farming is a proud and cherished lifestyle.

Just a farmer.

With those three words, he revealed his uncertainty about the value of his profession. As if because of his occupation, his comments wouldn’t count.

There is no such occupation as, “Just a farmer.” In my home state of Kansas and other states across our country, farming is a proud and cherished lifestyle. It is also an industry that supports 21 million jobs across our country.

Farmers are responsible for the food we buy in our grocery stores and serve to our families each day.

Farmers sow more than seeds in the ground – they establish the roots that anchor our communities. They also supply many other items from their farms that are used in our nation’s industry.

Travel through rural America, and you’ll meet and talk to farmers and ranchers who not only care about their land but the towns where they live. They not only work to grow crops and livestock, but to make their communities a better place to live.

Without question, rural communities thrive and prosper when farmers,ranchers and community businesses work together for the common good. Probably the single greatest roadblock for success and growth in any community is a lack of organized leadership with vision and the determination to implement forward thinking. Fortunately, farmers and ranchers have always adhered to a “can do” attitude.

We continue to build on a long and proud heritage of self-help and self-responsibility by investing in our farms, ranches, businesses, communities and the people we employ. We believe our communities and our way of life can continue to be a part of a livable frontier – a community and state of mind where there is always room to grow and prosper.

And when weather calamities devastate a region of our state, people pull together and help one another survive while looking to better times ahead.

Yes, as I have always said, “No one is ‘just’ a farmer, teacher, mailman, lawyer or grocer. Everyone is important, especially the American farmer and rancher when it comes to putting the most nutritious, abundant food on our kitchen tables.”

Stand up, revel in your vocation. Be proud. Providing food, fuel and fiber for the people of this world is without a doubt, the most noble profession one can be a part of.

So, the next time you’re asked, “What is your profession?” you might consider responding like this:

“Yes, I’m a farmer stockman and there’s nothing I’d rather be. There’s not a better place I’d rather live, work and raise my family. My vocation involves helping feed the world and I have dedicated my life to doing so.”

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. This is a reprint of an earlier version of his Kansas Farm Bureau Insights column.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Spring Wheat Responds to Supply Concerns

Washington-Spring wheat, typically planted in late spring and harvested in late summer and early fall, prefers the mild summer weather of the northern states in which it is primarily grown. However, in recent months parts of the Upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest have been battling drought conditions, and this year’s spring wheat crop is showing the effects of little rain. Spring wheat is grown exclusively in the High Plains and Pacific Northwest, with nearly 99 percent of acres planted in 2017 in the states of Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington.

Spring wheat has a higher protein content than other varieties grown in the United States. This corresponds to a higher level of gluten, which means the flour from this wheat has the best dough-handling characteristics. Additionally, spring wheat flour has exceptional water absorption, which increases the moistness and softness of the finished products, resulting in a longer shelf life. These characteristics set spring wheat apart from other classes and make it the flour of choice for the crafting of high-quality bread and pastries. Spring wheat flour is often mixed with lower protein wheat flours to improve the quality of the resulting batch of flour, as well.

Drought in the High Plains
Due to the ongoing and worsening droughts in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, USDA’s July 10, 2017, Crop Progress report indicated that 39 percent of this year’s U.S. spring wheat crop, representing 4.3 million acres, is presently in poor or very poor condition. North Dakota, the largest spring wheat producer, has 35 percent of its 5.3 million acres planted in poor or very poor condition. Figure 1 highlights the percent of acreage in poor or very poor condition.

The drought occurring in these areas is significant. The United States Drought Monitor currently has categorized over 46 percent of the High Plains region to be experiencing drought conditions with 16 percent of that categorized as either in severe or extreme drought. To be placed in the severe and extreme categories, an area must be experiencing characteristics of prevalent crop and pasture losses and widespread shortages of water. Figure 2 geographically displays these exceptionally dry areas of the nation.

This drought is having widespread effects throughout the region. Actions are starting to be taken to combat the negative impacts that often come with drought conditions. For example, USDA continues to modify emergency haying rules as they pertain to the Conservation Reserve Program lands in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota so that producers of livestock have more forage available to sustain their herds through these tough growing conditions. This authorization will remain in effect until August 30, 2017. A recent Market Intel article, Northern Plain Drought Accelerates, Placements Head South, highlighted the impact of the High Plains drought on cattle placements.

Supply Concerns Spur Price Rally

USDA’s July 12, 2017, Crop Production report estimated spring wheat harvested area at 10.5 million acres, down 7 percent from 2016 and the lowest harvested area since 1972. If realized, this would represent an acreage abandonment rate of 3.7 percent – higher than in recent years but potentially below market expectations given recent drought conditions.

Continued dry conditions and expectations for reduced acreage drove up settlement prices of spring wheat futures contracts substantially over the past few weeks. Spring wheat futures are offered on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. Figure 3 shows the increase from a mid-May price of $5.50 per bushel to nearly $8 per bushel in early July. This 45-percent increase is a result of growing season supply concerns for new crop spring wheat.

The July 12, 2017, World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) projected 2017/18 spring wheat production to be 385 million bushels, a decrease of 22 percent compared to last year’s production. Total use for 2017/18 is projected at 561 million bushels, down 11 million bushels from the 2016/17 marketing year. Lower spring wheat production, driven by lower yields and harvested area, combined with a modest decrease in consumption would result in ending stocks of 122 million bushels, nearly half of last year’s 235 million bushels.

With growers having fewer bushels to harvest and take to market this year, they can expect higher prices per bushel to make up for the potential production losses they may experience due to the unfavorable growing conditions. Uncertainty remains in spring wheat. Prices could potentially fall from these lofty levels if growing conditions improve in the coming weeks, acreage abandonment is lower than anticipated or crop yields are higher than anticipated.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Vineyards Wiped out

Vineyards lose ’17 crop

Jake Putnam

This block of chardenay vines at Bitner Vineyards was planted 36 seasons ago. But a closer look reveals no grapes on the vine.  

“This winter, I have a weather station, It was -18 degrees below zero, the first 10 days of January. It killed the plants to the snow line. Luckily, our temperatures 24 inches down never got below 40 degrees.

While the vines are thin, they’re alive, green and thriving again. But to save the vineyards grower took drastic measures:

The hard part for farmers this year is that my vines are this big around and I cut the old vines out but it literally cost more to take out an old vineyard than starting from scratch. Im glad that most of the old vines have survived. Right now we’re training it up to the catch wire and there are some fruit spurs for next year and hopefully we will be back to a 2-3 ton crop, maybe one ton next year and 2-3 the next.

The damage was centered in the Sunnyslope region south of Caldwell. Where the majority of Idaho’s vineyards and wineries are located, and its will have a major impact on the state’s total wine-grape tonnage this year.

 Even though it killed everything above, we’re retaining the original suckers back up. The vines will continue as the same vines I planted back in 1981.

The biggest vineyard lost 480 acres of wine grapes after the cold snap in January. Bitner says the 2017 vintage is going to be light:

Most of the red grapes are in the barrel, even for the other guys. But the ’17 vintage is really going to be light, for them they’ll have to go up and get another source of grapes. Fortunately I don't have to.

Bitner has reserves that he’ll market this year:

Ive kept a lot more red grapes in the barrel, so we’re releasing our 2012 vintage. So I still have my 13, 14 a light 15 and 16, so 17 and Im out. We’re okay we sell most of our wine on our deck, we’ll stay in our 1500 to 2000 case range and sell to a few restaurants in the valley.

The 2016 wine-grape harvest was a bumper crop—and growers hope their reserves will get them through the disastrous winter.

For the Voice of Idaho Agriculture Im Jake Putnam

Friday, July 14, 2017

Bee mortality research

Simpson Applauds Secretary Zinke for Craters of the Moon Decision

Washington–Idaho Congressman applauds U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke for his announcement today that Craters of the Moon National Monument is no longer under review. Further, the Secretary will recommend that no modifications should be made to the monuments.

“I applaud Secretary Zinke for honoring the local consensus Idahoans have created with Craters of the Moon,” said Congressman Simpson. “I worked with a diverse group of stakeholders over ten years ago to ensure Craters reflects Idaho values and can be enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts. I know Secretary Zinke shares these values and I thank him for his leadership.”

In a press release issued by Secretary Zinke he said, “As a former geologist, I realize Craters of the Moon is a living timeline of the geologic history of our land on the Great Rift. Whether it’s hiking up the alien-like lava flows along the Spatter Cones, or just driving through the scenic loop, there’s a lot to see and learn at this historic location.”

Craters of the Moon National Monument was under review in accordance with President Trump’s April 26, 2017, executive order. Secretary Zinke’s recommendation comes after review of public comments and conversations with stakeholders.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tax relief now

Farms and Ranches Need Tax Relief Now, Farmer Tells Congress 

WASHINGTON– Farm and ranch families need a permanent tax code that boosts the agricultural economy and frees them to reinvest in their businesses, Scott VanderWal, a South Dakota farmer, told the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tax Policy today.

“Farmers and ranchers operate under tight profit margins, often for rates of return that are modest compared to other businesses,” VanderWal said. “Our businesses are also cyclical where a period of prosperity can be followed by one or more unprofitable years.” 

Farming is challenging under the best circumstances, with uncontrollable weather, disease outbreaks and unpredictable markets, said VanderWal, who also serves as vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation and president of South Dakota Farm Bureau. On his family farm in Volga, South Dakota, VanderWal has seen the price of corn go as high as $7.60 per bushel to as low as $2.80 per bushel in the last 10 years. Nationwide, net farm income has been cut nearly in half since 2011.
“Reducing effective tax rates is the most important thing that tax reform can do to boost farm and ranch businesses,” said VanderWal. “Every dollar that we pay in taxes is a dollar that could be reinvested back into our farm, help lift my community and contribute to a robust agricultural economy.” That’s an investment the U.S. economy can’t afford to lose: In 2015, agriculture and related industries contributed $992 billion to U.S. gross domestic product and provided about 11 percent of U.S. employment. 

While emphasizing the importance of lower tax rates, VanderWal also urged lawmakers to consider the broader impact of tax provisions on the effective rates farm and ranch families pay. 
“Because our profit margins are tight, we are more likely to fall into lower tax brackets,” he said. “Tax reform plans that fail to factor in the impact of lost deductions, credits and exemptions for all rate brackets could result in a tax increase for agriculture.”

Wheat acres down, Millers worried

WASHINGTON - Wheat acreage had dropped to lowest level in more than 100 years.

This latest revelation from the USDA is not a big surprise, in fact
farmers have planted less wheat, each year for the past three decades.

Record yields have helped declining acreage according to the report but a drought or crop failure could severely impact bakers and bread makers.

This trend is discouraging for bread makers that depend on stable supplies grain, according to a new report from Rabobank.

“As the acreage base has continued to shrink year after year, the impact of droughts looms larger since there is less cushion in the case of production problems,” according to the report, which highlighted hard red winter wheat because it is important to breadmakers. “A lower capacity for production in this wheat class, based on decreased acreage, increases the probability of weather-related price volatility, driven by supply-related issues.”

American farmers still producing a lot of wheat despite a 40- percent reduction in wheat acres over the past 27 years, according to the report, that put wheat acreage for the 2017-18 marketing year at 46 million acres, down from 75 million acres for 1990-91.

Like acreage, production has also dropped. Farmers will produce about 1.8 billion bushels for the 2017-18 marketing year, according to the latest USDA forecast. That, Rabobank says, is down from 2.75 billion bushels for 1990-91.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Credit: AFBF 

Pruitt, Zinke Visit State Farm Bureau Presidents

By Mace Thornton

Washington-Two high-ranking Trump administration officials – Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke – made guest appearances Tuesday morning in Washington during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Council of Presidents meeting. Pruitt discussed with state Farm Bureau presidents the EPA’s recent decision to begin rescinding the Waters of the U.S. rule, as well as other issues of concern to America’s farmers and ranchers.

“EPA is returning power to the states and standing with farmers who have been hurt by misguided policies of the past,” Pruitt said. Following the meeting, Pruitt said, “The farming industry deserves regulatory certainty and I committed that to them today. The group expressed gratitude that their voices are being heard for the first time in a long time and I look forward to an ongoing partnership with the agriculture community in the future.”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Credit: AFBF

During his speech, Zinke outlined the importance of supporting multiple uses of the nation’s public lands. As an example, he said revenue from previous energy leases would have paid the backlog of expenses of the entire national parks system, with $3 billion left over for reinvestment. Zinke also spoke briefly about the challenges presented by wild horse overpopulation on public lands.

“Believe it or not, I work for you, the people,” Zinke told the presidents, a line that was greeted with applause.

President's Op-Ed

Time for a NAFTA Tune-UP By Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau President Some in Washington are calling this “NAFTA Week,” because th...