Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Onion Harvest


Onion Harvest underway two weeks early

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

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Just in


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



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

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


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

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

Monday, August 31, 2015

Just in from the Statehouse


GOVERNOR APPLAUDS COURT RULING TEMPORARILY HALTING NEW EPA WATER STANDARDS

BOISE – Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter issued the following statement today about an eleventh-hour injunction, temporarily preventing the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from imposing contested rules on 13 states including Idaho. Federal Judge Ralph Erickson in Bismarck, North Dakota, granted a preliminary injunction preventing the rules from going into effect today.

“This is a short-term victory for common sense. I opposed these misguided, overly broad and one-sided standards from the outset and am encouraged that Judge Erickson sees merit in our argument. 

By law, the EPA is supposed to consult with states in developing these rules. They didn’t do that. Instead they forced on states like Idaho, regulatory language that is capricious and arbitrary. The EPA issued their draft rule prior to their own science advisory board finalizing their review. This kind of unilateral rule -making sets a dangerous precedent that fails to recognize the regional differences inherent in delivering water in arid places like the American west.  

We are hopeful a final ruling will permanently prevent the EPA from the inappropriate seizure of state authority that was attempted in this ill-conceived federal plan. In the meantime, I will work with our partners in the Idaho Congressional delegation to ensure Idaho is fairly represented in future rule-making efforts that have designs on Idaho water.”

Governor and Attorney General’s letter to the EPA: http://gov.idaho.gov/pdf/WOTUS%20EPA.pdf


Friday, August 28, 2015

Waters of US Ruling


Statement by Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding Injunction Against EPA Water Rule

WASHINGTON– “Last night Chief Judge Ralph Erickson of the District Court of North Dakota issued an order to stop the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule in its tracks. He found strong evidence that the EPA was arbitrary and capricious in its rulemaking. He saw no connection between key provisions of the rule and science that was presented to support it. Based on evidence presented so far, he ordered that the rule be stopped while the litigation continues to a conclusion.
“We applaud the court’s decision. The so-called Clean Water Rule is yet another example of EPA’s reckless and unlawful behavior in the face of science, economics and the law. Whether you’re a farmer, a rancher, a homebuilder or landowner of any stripe, the evidence is clear: This rule simply has to be stopped.
“Even in the face of this court order, EPA is reportedly asserting it will enforce the new rule in the 37 states that are not part of the North Dakota lawsuit. Thus, for much of the nation, this unlawful rule will continue to create uncertainty and legal risk for commonplace land uses like farming and ranching. It’s clear that now is the time for Congress to act and pass S. 1140 to send EPA back to the drawing board. We won’t stop until this rule is finished.”

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Just in


Farm Income drops 36-percent 

Washington--U.S. farm income is forecast to decline 36 percent in 2015, worse than originally projected—and representing the lowest farm income since 2006, according to the government. "Both net cash and net farm income for farms are forecast to decline for the second consecutive year after reaching recent historic highs in 2013," said the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 According to USDA, net farm income is forecast to be $58.3 billion in 2015, down 36% from 2014's estimate of $91.1 billion. That's far worse than the government's February outlook, which had projected 2015's farm income would be $73.6 billion, or down nearly 32% year-over-year.

 "Overall, the data confirms the deteriorating fundamentals in the farm economy," J.P. Morgan analyst Ann Duignan said in a research note. "After several years of improvement, farm financial risk indicators such as the debt-to-asset ratio are expected to increase in 2015, indicating increasing financial pressure on the sector."

 The government said the 2015 forecast for farm income would be the lowest since 2006 (since 2002 in inflation-adjusted terms) and a drop of nearly 53 percent from the record high of $123.7 billion achieved in 2013. USDA forecast crop receipts would decline 6% to $12.9 billion for the year, led by a projected $7.1 billion decline in corn receipts.

 It forecast livestock receipts would decline by 9% to $19.4 billion, largely due to lower milk and hog prices. Overall, farm net cash income is forecast at $100.3 billion, or down about 21 percent from 2014 level. But that's actually a slight improvement from the February outlook, which had net cash income projected at $89.4 billion, or down 22 percent. The disparity between the net cash income and farm income declines reflected the sale of carryover stocks in 2014.

 The USDA's net farm income projections include only earnings from production that occurred in calendar 2015. UBS Securities analyst Steven Fisher said in a research note Tuesday that there's a "close relationship between cash receipts and high-horsepower equipment sales."

 Using the government's forecast, he said it "suggests high-horsepower retail sales may decline 15.1 percent in 2015." Added Fisher, "That said, the strength in the cycle in recent years may cause the high-horsepower decline to be worse than the correlation suggests, and equipment declines have been more than twice as steep as the declines in cash receipts in 3 of the past 4 downturns. We expect double-digit declines in ag equipment sales over the next 12 months."

 The USDA's farm income forecasts are released three times a year. The next forecast is scheduled to be released November 24.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Just in from Washington

Statement from Secretary Tom Vilsack on Updated 2015 U.S. Farm Income Forecast

WASHINGTON- U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today made the following statement:
"Today's farm income forecast is heartening for all Americans. The past several years have seen unprecedented highs in farm income, and despite the fact that farm income is forecast to be down from record levels, today's projections provide a snapshot of a rural America that continues to remain stable and resilient in the face of the worst animal disease outbreak in our nation's history and while the western United States remains gripped by drought. Thanks to its ability to be competitive through thick and thin, American agriculture remains fundamentally sound, supporting and creating good-paying American jobs for millions.
"The American agriculture success story is not celebrated often enough. That success is due, in part, to U.S. farmers' bold willingness to seize opportunities in new markets, both domestic and foreign, and harness the best of American technology and innovation. At the same time, markets continue to expand for locally-grown food, a market valued at $11.7 billion last year, and America's biobased economy has emerged as a new frontier for U.S. growth. The country's biobased industry contributed 4 million jobs and $369 billion to the economy in 2013, while displacing about 300 million gallons of petroleum-equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road. American agriculture achieved record exports last year and USDA continues to pursue strong new trade deals so that farm and ranch businesses don't miss out on new markets for their products.
"Since 2009, USDA, under President Obama, has made historic investments in rural America and American agriculture. Two-thirds of all rural counties gained jobs over the past year and the overall economy continues a record-breaking pace of 65 straight months of private-sector job growth. USDA and the Obama Administration will continue to stand with America's farming families, small businesses and rural communities as they build a brighter future for our country on the land that they love."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Soda Fire Aftermath

Owyhee County Ranchers recover Cattle

Marsing--One week after the Soda fire burnout Owyhee County rancher Chris Johnstone Is busy gathering cattle for tnansport to greener pastures.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Fire relief



From Rick Keller IFBF Executive Director

As you are all aware, Idaho is experiencing major fires around the state.  We are grateful for the lives that have been preserved.  There is significant property damage and insurance will assist in the much of the rebuilding.  Insurance will not cover all the losses.

Some of the current and future needs include feed for the livestock, fencing supplies, and pasture.  For those affected by the Soda fire in Southwestern Idaho, the Owhyee Cattlemen’s Association has established a website in which donations may be made.  Cash donations may be made at any U.S. Bank.  Please make checks payable to the Owyhee Cattleman’s Heritage Foundation.  Non-cash  and other donated items may be donated on their website: http://www.owyheecattlemen.com/2015/08/donations-accepted-for-ranchers-affected-by-soda-fire/

The North Idaho fires are still raging.  Centralized donation sites have not been established, but we will continue working the Idaho Cattle Association and other agriculture groups to identify sites to contribute to.

Idahoans have an unique spirit of helping their neighbors during difficult and trying times. We will keep you informed as more information becomes available.  Our thoughts and prayers continue with those affected by the fires and the herculean efforts of the professional and volunteer firefighters battling the blazes, preserving lives and property.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Just in

Statement from Secretary Tom Vilsack on Ongoing Devastating Wildfire Season

WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today made the following statement:
"This year, we are experiencing yet another devastating wildfire season, particularly in the drought-ravaged West. Climate change, drought, fuel buildup, insects and disease are increasing the severity of unprecedented wildfire in America's forests and rangelands, which impacts the safety of people, homes and communities. Development close to forests has also increased the threat to property, with more than 46 million homes in the United States, or about 40 percent of our nation's housing, potentially at risk from wildfire. USDA works closely with the Department of Interior and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, along with other partners, to deploy the workforce, equipment, and interagency coordination necessary to respond safely and effectively to increasingly severe wildfire seasons. We are expending in excess of $150 million per week on fire suppression activities, and that will likely grow in the days and weeks ahead. Well over 26,000 firefighters and support personnel from federal, state and local agencies are deployed, along with 28 next generation and legacy air tankers, and additional aviation assets. We are now working with the U.S. Military and foreign partners, such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, to bring in additional resources.
"One of our most critical assets in this fight is the courageous firefighters who work on the front lines. There are more firefighters on the ground today fighting fires than at any time in the nation's history. They work nights, weekends and holidays under difficult circumstances. While we do everything we can to reduce risk and ensure their safety, our firefighting personnel have been particularly hard hit this year. We've now lost seven precious lives over the course of this fire season, including three firefighters who perished just yesterday in Washington, and many more have been injured in the line of duty. We mourn for those lost, offer support to their families and loved ones, and pray for the continued recovery of those injured.
"Secretary Jewell and I not only share common concerns for the safety of our firefighting crews, but also share a common goal of restoring resilient forests and protecting against future fire outbreaks. Over the next few weeks, we anticipate the fire season will continue to intensify, putting lives and property at risk. As the fire season endures, we will continue to employ every available resource to protect our nation's forests, our families and our communities."

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Potato Harvest underway

Boise--The Idaho Potato harvest is underway as farmers dig the first spuds  in parts of Canyon and Ada County. We chatted with Frank Muir of the Idaho Potato Commission. 
So how does it look this year?
"Well, it's hard to say,” said Muir, “Obviously the first digs are just underway and will not be completed for another two months, but it looks like we'll harvest more than 300,000 acres and anticipate it will be in the ballpark of about 13 billion pounds." 
Any idea about how much Farm-gate that'll will bring in?
"It just really depends on what the average price is for the year. In this past year we approached a billion dollars in farm-gate revenue. So it's really hard to say, it depends on what the average price is," said Muir.
"With crop numbers looking strong for the year and most of last years crop now gone, we're trending up and farmers are hopeful that they will be getting top price for their potatoes." 
What impact will drought, heat and irrigation play on crop numbers this fall?
"It'll probably take a little top off this crop,” said Muir. “There were those that were predicting that our crop was going to come in larger than we anticipated even with less acres a couple months ago. And now I think this probably reduced that projection. We're still, the No.1 crop in the state and a world-recognized brand that continues to grow."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Just in


Hay suffering through late summer thundershowers

Boise--Farmers harvesting the third and in some places 4th cutting of hay have dodged late afternoon thundershowers across the state.  But nothing like last summers monsoon in Southeast Idaho.

“Producers like to cut the hay when it is at high quality and they sacrifice yields a little bit for that. But high quality alfalfa is what our dairies call for, and this is an intense dairy area,” said Steve Hines  of the USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service Idaho field office.

With the rain, producers are having problems picking up the wet hay. Some producers can get as many as five cuttings of hay in southern Idaho, while others get three or four cuttings, and rain can hamper that. Last summer it rained most of August, leaving a glut of moldy hay on the market.

Southeast Idaho grain harvest is wrapping up and the beginning of potato harvest has started in Southwest Idaho.

“Harvest is progressing well, although there have been some rain showers,” said Steve Hines, University of Idaho Extension educator in the eastern region of the state. Producers are finishing up the dry pea and lentil harvest and spring wheat harvest is under way, he added.

According to the NASS report, rainstorms hampered the harvest of wheat and barley and put some third cutting of alfalfa on hold.



Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Just in


Soda Fire now 90 percent contained.

Homedale--Fire crews say that high winds that blew through the Owyhees last night didn't cause the fire to spread and wasn't as strong as the weekend.

Crews said Monday morning that cooler temperatures and more favorable conditions have helped firefighters begin to gain the upper hand on the Soda Fire, which is now mapped at 283,686 acres.

A total of more than 800 firefighters are battling the blaze.

"Crews made significant progress today (Sunday) including walking containment lines and mopping up," fire managers wrote on InciWeb. "They continue to look for heat pockets, but have found very few."

All roads to Silver City remain closed for tourists, but remain open to residents. Idaho Power crews are continuing to work throughout the day to replace power poles and restore power to the area.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Soda Fire update

video
Owyhee County--As flames move away from the Blackstock ranch, owner Ted Blackstock says the work is just getting underway.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Just in

Soda Fire Slows, Cooler temperatures

Murphy--Current Situation: Fire behavior moderated today due to cooler temperatures, decreased winds, and an inversion. Very little fire spread was observed. Firefighters were able to get containment lines around the finger north of West Rabbit Creek and around an area north of Reynolds Creek. 
On the north/northwest side of the fire, crews improved lines and extinguished any lingering hot spots. Very minimal fire activity was observed in this area. Tomorrow crews will patrol, secure firelines, and mop-up edges. They will assess areas to rehabilitate fire lines. 
Area Fire Closures: The Owyhee Co. Sherriff’s office issued road closures for all roads leading into Silver City, ID. All access points are closed to tourists and recreation vehicles, but roads remain open to residents. This closure primarily affects the Silver City, Trout Creek and Cow Creek roads. Upper Reynolds Creek Road is closed, as is the Jump Creek recreational site and all trailheads from Silver City to Jump Creek. Trail closures are in effect on the Owyhee Front Range. 
Public Safety: Expect fire traffic on Hwy 78 through the night. We ask all drivers to slow down and use extreme caution in this area. Roads may temporarily close due to fire activity. Owyhee County Facebook page is posting this information when it occurs. Recreationalists will need to find alternative locations until the fire area is reopened. 
Additional Info: The Bureau of Land Management and surrounding counties are sensitive to the economic, natural and cultural impacts associated with this fire. Neighbors helping neighbors makes our communities stronger. Donations to support each other can be made at: www.owyheecattlemen.com.
Fire Statistics: 
Location: 8 miles northeast of Jordan Valley, OR Start Date: August 10, 2015 
Size: 277, 278 acres Percent Contained: 25% 
Total Personnel: 860 Cause: Undetermined
Resources Include: 11 helicopters, 34 engines, 23 crews, 12 water tenders, and 9 dozers. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Soda Fire



On the Ted Blackstock ranch near Givens Hot Springs in Owyhee County, the family is busy trying to recover cattle. These cattle are on the way to a local feedlot. Blackstock has no idea how many cattle were lost in the fire and is anxious to get on the range to see what's left. (Ritter photo)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Just in


Fire Destroys the Owyhee Range

Murphy--The Soda Fire continues to burn out of control in  45 mph winds. For ranchers in the area the winds presented another obstacle in trying to get cattle and horses to safety in remote Owyhee County.
Tens of thousands of cattle graze in the Owyhees from Grandview all the way to Jordan Valley, Ore., south to Silver City and north to Givens Hot Springs along Idaho 78. Bureau of Land Management officials can't estimate how many head have been killed in the fire, which began Monday. But the rapid runs Wednesday and increased fire activity Thursday night destroyed livestock and wildlife.
Fire and BLM officials were helping ranchers open gates to allow the animals to escape the fire Thursday. Twenty ranchers were moving 500 head away from the fire and down Squaw Creek on Friday afternoon according to the BLM.
“It has been devastating to watch the Soda Fire take over parts of Owyhee County throughout the past two days,” said Lt. Gov. Brad Little, a lifelong rancher. “Idaho families are doing all they can to protect their homes, their livestock and their livelihoods as this massive fire only continues to grow.”

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Just in


Farm Bureau: Maps show massive increase in EPA authority, regulatory uncertainty for everyone else

 Washington–A series of maps released today by the American Farm Bureau Federation show how the Environmental Protection Agency will radically expand its jurisdiction over land use if its controversial Waters of the United States rule takes effect as expected Aug. 28.

That expansion comes even as major parts of the rule remain largely incomprehensible to experts and laypeople, alike. The maps, prepared by Geosyntec Consulting, show the dramatic expansion of EPA’s regulatory reach, stretching across wide swaths of land in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Montana.

In Pennsylvania, for example, 99 percent of the state’s total acreage is subject to EPA scrutiny.
Landowners have no reliable way to know which of the water and land within that area will be regulated, yet they must still conform their activities to the new law. “Farmers face enforcement action and severe penalties under EPA’s new rule for using the same safe, scientifically sound and federally approved crop protection tools they’ve used for years,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said.

“This rule creates a new set of tools for harassing farmers in court, and does it all with language that is disturbingly vague and subject to abuse by future regulators. It’s worth saying again: The EPA needs to withdraw this rule and start over.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Just in

USDA Invests $63 Million to Support 264 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects Nationwide

Funding supports solar and other renewable energy projects to create jobs and promote energy independence
WASHINGTON– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $63 million in loans and grants for 264 renewable energy and  energy efficiency projects nationwide that USDA is supporting through its  Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
"This funding will have far-reaching economic and environmental impacts nationwide, particularly in rural communities," Vilsack said. "Investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects supports home-grown energy sources, creates jobs, reduces greenhouse gas pollution and helps usher in a more secure energy future for the nation."
These REAP projects are expected to generate and/or save 207.8 million kilowatt hours (KWh) of energy – enough to power more than 13,600 homes for a year.
For example, Bradley Phillips, owner of A.B. Phillips & Sons Fruit Farm, is receiving an $18,000 grant to install a photovoltaic solar system on his farm in the village of Berlin Heights, Ohio. The system will generate nearly 13,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. Phillips grows apples, peaches, pears, plums, raspberries, cherries and grapes on a farm that has been in his family for more than a century.
Blue Sky Poultry, Inc., of Bainbridge, Ga., has been selected for a $16,094 grant to install a solar array on the roof of the poultry houses. The array is expected to generate 36,300 kWh of electricity per year. 
Stokes Farms, LLP, of Chatfield, Minn., is receiving a $19,750 grant to install a 10 kW wind turbine. When operational, the project is expected to generate 30,000 kWh of electricity per year.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Just in from Ada County Farm Bureau


Ada County Farm Bureau Donation

Nampa--The Ada County Farm Bureau was the premier sponsor for the Snake River Stampede calf scramble donating $3000 of the total $22,000 for the event. This is an event where 200+ pound calves are turned loose in the Stampede arena and are pursued by sophmore and junior 4H and FFA students to halter and take to a finish line to be awarded a $1000 certificate to purchase a purebred heifer.

Thirty six kids chased 22 calves split between the Tuesday night and Saturday rodeo matinee. An additional sportsmanship award of $1000 was given to a student that did not catch a calf but helped another entrant to the finish line. The winners are required to update the committee during the year and exhibit the animal at next years stampede. The goal is to help get these young entrepreneurs started on a potential enterprise. Ada County Farm Bureau president Don Sonke is shown presenting the check to a Stampede official.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Just in

Forest Service Report: Rising Firefighting Costs Raises Alarms 

WASHINGTON — For the first time in its 110-year history, the Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is spending more than 50 percent of its budget to suppress the nation's wildfires. A new report released today by the Forest Service estimates that within a decade, the agency will spend more than two-thirds of its budget to battle ever-increasing fires, while mission-critical programs that can help prevent fires in the first place such as forest restoration and watershed and landscape management will continue to suffer. Meanwhile, the report notes, these catastrophic blazes are projected to burn twice as many acres by 2050. 
As the costs of fighting wildfires grow each year with longer, hotter, more unpredictable fire seasons, the report details how the Forest Service has experienced significant shifts in staffing and resources. In effect, the Forest Service has nearly half a billion dollars less, in 2015 dollars, than it did in 1995 to handle non-fire related programs—the bulk of its programming. There has also been a 39 percent loss of non-fire personnel, from approximately 18,000 in 1998 to fewer than 11,000 in 2015, while the fire staff has more than doubled. Dedicated to its mission of protecting more than 190 million acres of federal forests and grasslands, as well as lives and personal property from the growing threats of catastrophic wildfire, the Forest Service in recent years has absorbed skyrocketing costs related to fire and relied increasingly on "fire transfer"—moving resources from non-fire accounts to cover firefighting costs. 
"Climate change and other factors are causing the cost of fighting fires to rise every year," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, "but the way we fund our Forest Service hasn't changed in generations. Meanwhile, everything else suffers, from the very restoration projects that have been proven to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires in the future, to watershed projects that protect drinking water for 1 in 5 Americans, to recreation projects that support thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic activity. The time has come for Congress to change the way it funds the Forest Service."
Today, fire seasons are 78 days longer than in the 1970s. Since 2000, at least 10 states have had their largest fires on record. Increasing development near forest boundaries also drives up costs, as more than 46 million homes and more than 70,000 communities are at risk from wildfire in the United States. 
"These factors are causing the cost of fighting fires to rise every year, and there is no end in sight," said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. The release of this report is very timely based on the current hectic pace of wildfires in this country. We have been pointing out this challenge for the past few years, but we have not been able to effectively address it through our current budget process. It is important to keep the focus on this problem, ensure the discussion continues and a solution to the funding problem be found."
By 2025, the cost of fire suppression is expected to grow to nearly $1.8 billion dollars, according to today's report, but the Forest Service would be expected to absorb those costs into its regular budget, which has remained relatively flat. And if these trends continue, the Forest Service will be forced to take an additional $700 million dollars over the next 10 years from all the other programs. No other natural disasters are funded this way.
When fire suppression costs more than Congress appropriates to the Forest Service in any given year, the agency is forced to transfer additional funds from already depleted programs, called "fire transfer." 
Vilsack said the bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, already introduced in the House and Senate, is an important step forward in addressing the funding problems. The proposed legislation, which mirrors a similar proposal in President Obama's Fiscal Year 2016 Budget, would provide a fiscally responsible mechanism to treat wildfires more like other natural disasters, end "fire transfers" and partially replenish the ability to restore resilient forests and protect against future fire outbreaks.
"We must treat catastrophic wildfire not like a routine expense," said Vilsack, "but as the natural disasters they truly are. It's time to address the runaway growth of fire suppression at the cost of other critical programs."

Friday, August 7, 2015

Just in


Simpson’s Boulder White Clouds Bill Signed by President
President Barack Obama signs legislation into law

Washington-U.S. President Barack Obama today signed into law Congressman Mike Simpson’s legislation creating three new Wilderness areas in Idaho. The legislation, The Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act (H.R. 1138), was signed earlier today in a signing ceremony at the White House.

“I am grateful to President Obama for his signature on this important legislation and humbled by the tireless work of countless Idahoans that led to its passage,” said Simpson. “The Boulder White Clouds area is now protected, in perpetuity, by the gold standard of preservation designations. I am proud that this was accomplished through a truly collaborative process that produced an Idaho solution to decades of conflict and debate. Without the work of our many partners in this process, and especially the tireless efforts of Senator Jim Risch, today’s signing would not have been possible.”

Specifically Simpson’s legislation will do the following:
  • Sawtooth National Recreation Area:  The Sawtooth National Forest would remain as the principle administrative body and the current management would remain intact under the existing SNRA law (PL 92-400) and the existing SNRA management and travel plans.  The Challis BLM would remain the managers of the East Fork BLM and Salmon-Challis National Forest areas.
  • Wilderness:  Three new wilderness areas would be created totaling 275,665 acres. They are the Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness (88,079 acres), the White Clouds Wilderness (90,841 acres) and the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness (117,040).  The total wilderness acreage would be reduced by 36,968 acres from the original CIEDRA bill that would have created 332,928 acres.
  • Multiple Use:  Four wilderness study areas would be released back to multiple use: the Jerry Peak Wilderness Study Area, the Jerry Peak West Wilderness Study Area, the Corral-Horse Basin Wilderness Study Area, the Boulder Creek Wilderness Study Area and any USFS recommended wilderness not made wilderness totaling 155,003 acres. This is up 23,333 acres released from the original CIEDRA bill which totaled 131,670.
  • Motorized Use:  No roads that are currently open to vehicles, or trails that are currently open to two wheeled motorized use would be closed.  The Grand Prize and Germania trails (including the ridge in between) and the Frog Lake Loop would be excluded from wilderness and remain open to two wheeled motorized use under the existing SNRA travel plan.  The following higher elevation snowmobiling areas would remain open as allowed under the existing SNRA travel plan: 4th of July Basin, Washington Basin, Phyllis Lake Basin, Champion Lakes and Warm Springs Meadows.
  • Mountain Bikes:  All areas currently open to mountain bikes outside of the proposed wilderness will remain open.  Under CIEDRA, the 4th of July trail would have been closed to mountain bikes and will now remain open.  This allows the Pole Creek/Washington Basin/4thof July loops to remain open.  The Germania/Grand Prize Corridor trails and all trails outside of the wilderness would remain open to mountain bikes subject to the SNRA travel plan.
  • Grazing:  Grazing plays an important role in the heritage and economies of rural Idaho and Custer County.  Along the East Fork of the Salmon River, generational ranching families provide significant benefits in maintaining the historic character and nature of East Fork while providing significant conservation benefits to the land, including sustaining the wide, open spaces and un-fragmented landscapes of the East Fork valley. In order to provide another tool for these families to maintain their livelihoods, a provision has been included to provide permittees within and adjacent to the proposed wilderness areas with a way to help them remain viable with as little disruption as possible.  Permittees with allotments within the boundaries of the “Boulder White Clouds Grazing Area Map” would be allowed to voluntarily retire their grazing permits and be eligible for compensation from a third party conservation group.  With this compensation, it is hoped that the ranching families will be able to create more secure and certain opportunities for future generations.
  • Support to Counties:  Over $5 million in grants have been provided to Custer County and the surrounding Boulder-White Clouds communities for a community center, a county health clinic and EMT support, and improvements to Trail Creek Highway.  Individual parcels of land will be conveyed to Custer and Blaine counties, and rural communities for public purposes the per latest CIEDRA bill.
  • Recreation Support:  Over $1.5 million in grants have been provided to the SNRA for trail maintenance and improvements, including maintenance and improvements to existing motorized trails and two existing trails to provide primitive wheelchair access, and for acquiring the land to build a mechanized bike/snowmobile access trail between Redfish Lake and Stanley. 


Just in from Capitol Hill


Senate committee approves bill to correct duplicative pesticide permit requirements



Washington—The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Aug. 5 approved a Farm Bureau-supported bill, the Sensible Environmental Protection Act (S. 1500), that would clarify that lawful applications of pesticides regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) are not subject to permitting under the Clean Water Act. 

A 2009 decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit erroneously applied the provisions of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permitting process under the Clean Water Act to pesticide applications that were already fully regulated under FIFRA. If left unchanged, this court ruling could impose duplicative and unnecessary permitting requirements on farmers and ranchers, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman warned in a letter to EPW committee members.

“Requiring permits for lawful pesticide applications provides negligible, if any, environmental benefit because pesticide applications are already reviewed and regulated for use through strict instructions on the EPA-approved product label,” Stallman wrote. “Under FIFRA, EPA approves labels and specifies the manner of application, which includes a thorough review of impacts to water quality and aquatic species.”

The redundant regulation is an extra burden for farmers but does nothing to further protect the environment or water quality. Permitting pesticide applications will also impose a resource burden on state regulators responsible for protecting health and the environment. The biggest concern though, according to Stallman, is that the permit requirement exposes farmers and ranchers to citizen lawsuits under the Clean Water Act for ordinary, essential and lawful crop protection practices.

The Sensible Environmental Protection Act “removes this unnecessary and duplicative burden without weakening stringent FIFRA requirements for pesticide applications,” Stallman said.

In March, the House Agriculture Committee approved a similar measure, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2015 (H.R. 897).

Thursday, August 6, 2015

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Grain Farm Incomes Expected To Drop Significantly in 2015

WASHINGTON – Grain farmers should brace for a drop in net incomes this year as the prices for corn, soybeans and wheat have fallen significantly from recent years, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. 
The latest Agricultural Prices report, released last week by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, indicated the index of prices received for crop production was down 11 percentage points from the same time last year, while the prices-paid index was unchanged. The situation for corn and soybeans is even more telling, with corn prices down by more than 20 percent from last year and soybeans off nearly a third.
“Farmers will be tightening up and planning carefully to help control their costs,” said Bob Young, chief economist for AFBF. “There’s a lot less room for error at these prices.”
A report last week by the University of Illinois’ Dr. Gary Schnitkey suggested farmers will need to look at four areas in the months and possibly years ahead. These include reducing machinery purchases, closely managing seed, fertilizer and chemical costs, trying to negotiate lower cash rents and reducing family living withdrawals from the farm.
“With domestic demand growth relatively flat and a strong dollar giving us a challenge in export markets, we can expect prices to have a hard time moving above this level for the next couple years at least,” Young said. “Farmers have made equipment purchases and many are well positioned to face the challenges that changing weather and fluctuating prices may bring their way, but they will need sharp pencils.”

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

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Feeder hay prices down
Emmett--Feeder hay is fetching $130-to $150 in the Treasure Valley. Some hay was put up wet because of a summer storms thats keeping the feeder market down.
                          Tons      Price     Wtd Avg           Comments
  Alfalfa                                                                      
    Large Square                                                               
      Premium/Supreme   12,500  260.00-260.00  260.00     Organic           
      Good/Premium        1500  150.00-150.00  150.00     Tarped            
      Fair/Good         12,500  180.00-180.00  180.00     Organic           
                          1500  150.00-150.00  150.00     Tarped            

  Wheat Straw                                                               
    Large Square                                                            
      Fair/Good           8250   50.00-50.00    50.00                       
 
               

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

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Secretary Vilsack and USDA and New Mexico Officials Launch National Farmers Market Week

SANTA FE - Today, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the start of the 16th annual Farmers' Market Week, which will begin tomorrow, Sunday August 2, and run through August 8. Vilsack made the announcement as Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Anne L. Alonzo and local officials launched the annual observance of National Farmers Market Week at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. New Mexico Department of Agriculture Secretary Jeff M. Witte, Santa Fe Mayor Javier M. Gonzales, and Santa Fe Farmers Market Director Paolo Speirn joined the celebration.
"Farmers Markets benefit communities by offering healthy, wholesome food while local farmers and ranchers benefit from new ways to present their products to customers," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in Washington, DC. "People are changing how they think about farmers markets as they become community gathering points, and we have seen a  64 percent increase in customer traffic in markets open for at least two years."
In Santa Fe, Alonzo said "Farmers markets are at the heart of many towns and cities, bringing together rural and urban communities, providing Americans with fresh, healthy food, and creating jobs and opportunities for local farmers and ranchers." She continued, "USDA is proud to support farmers markets. Fifteen years ago, USDA worked with the Santa Fe Farmers Market to design this facility, and today it is one of the most successful markets in the country."
The Santa Fe Market operates three times a week and draws as many as 5,000 visitors a day during its peak season. It is also one of more than 6,400 farmers markets across the country that accepts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits as payment. AMS and USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) work together to help farmers markets accept SNAP benefits, giving recipients access to healthy foods, expanding the customer base for farmers, and encouraging the sale of local produce.
AMS supports Farmers Markets through grants, research, and technical assistance. Last year, AMS awarded $26.6 million in competitive grants though the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, including more than $500,000 in grants awarded in New Mexico. AMS also manages the National Farmers Market Directory, one of four  USDA Local Food DirectoriesThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. that provide customers with easy, one-stop access to locations, hours, and other information about farmers markets, community supported agriculture enterprises, food hubs, and on-farm markets.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack proclaimed August 2-8, 2015, National Farmers Market Week, noting that the country's more than 8,400 farmers markets play an important role in sustaining family farms and revitalizing rural communities. Secretary Vilsack has identified strengthening local food systems – including farmers markets – as one of the four pillars of USDA's commitment to rural economic development and job creation. The  Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative coordinates USDA's policy, resources, and outreach efforts related to this work.

Monday, August 3, 2015

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Renewable fuels proposal threatens progress on ethanol, advanced biofuels

 Washington—The proposed reduction in the amount of renewable fuels that must be blended into the nation’s gasoline supply strikes a blow to conventional ethanol production and dampens the prospects for the further development of advanced biofuels, the American Farm Bureau Federation warned in comments to EPA.

 The Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) has reduced the country’s dependence on foreign oil, reduced air pollution, increased farmers’ income and provided well-paying jobs in rural America. “Since the RFS2 was put in place in 2007, the U.S. has seen tremendous growth within the agricultural sector,” Farm Bureau noted. “If the proposed rule requirements are finalized, this decision will stall growth and progress in renewable fuels, as well as the broader agricultural economy.”

 EPA is proposing to require that refiners blend 14 billion gallons of corn ethanol for 2016, short of the 15 billion gallons called for under the RFS. EPA is also proposing slashing the overall renewable fuel blending requirements below what Congress prescribed under the RFS for 2014 through 2016. EPA is proposing blending mandates for renewable fuels overall of 15.93 billion gallons in 2014 (using actual consumption numbers that year), 16.3 billion gallons in 2015 and 17.4 billion gallons in 2016. That overall figure will include 2.68 billion gallons for advanced fuels (biomass-based diesel and cellulosic biofuel) in 2014, 2.9 billion gallons in 2015 and 3.4 billion gallons in 2016.

The corn ethanol number isn’t specified but is the only other mandate covered under the RFS for those years. If the volume requirements are cut as proposed, investments in the infrastructure needed to distribute and dispense larger volumes of ethanol would slow or halt, as would investments in cellulosic biofuels. Farm Bureau’s biggest criticism of the proposal is related to conventional ethanol. The proposed renewable volume, and therefore the implied proposed conventional ethanol mandate, is well below the level mandated by Congress.

While EPA has specific authorization to partially waive the cellulosic ethanol mandate if sufficient volumes of product are not available to meet the mandate, the implied reduction in the ethanol production mandate is not authorized, nor is it warranted as the renewable fuels industry has more than enough capacity in 2015 to produce more than the 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuel Congress called for.

Friday, July 31, 2015

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Army Corps Memos Reveal Dysfunction, Secrecy and Misconduct at EPA, American Farm Bureau Says

Washington A cache of internal memos that federal regulators intended to keep private reveals a culture of secrecy, falsehood and dysfunction that permeated the Waters of the U.S. rulemaking process.

Yesterday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released more than 50 pages of documents in which the Army Corps of Engineers repeatedly rebuked EPA officials for their abuse of the rulemaking process in producing the deeply controversial Waters of the United States rule. The entire economic analysis used to support the rule, Army Corps officials wrote, had no basis in either science or economics: https://oversight.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Army-Corps-Memoranda.zip.

“It is clear from the memos that there were dire concerns internally that EPA was getting it wrong and with a high degree of arrogance,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “The flawed economic study is just the tip of the iceberg, and it was known internally that trouble was ahead. In fact, the memos themselves were stamped ‘Litigation Sensitive.’ They were never intended to see the light of day.”

The Corps documents also validate American Farm Bureau Federation’s own concerns that the rule makes it impossible for anyone, including the Corps, to know which features on the landscape are regulated, and which are not. The Corps even raised concern that it would be difficult to determine whether “a low depressional area on a farm field that ponds water after a rainstorm for ten days” would be a regulated “water” or an excluded “puddle.” EPA insisted throughout the rulemaking process that “puddles” would not be regulated. 

As the Army Corps memos clearly show, political appointees repeatedly ignored vigorous objections of career agency staff in order to rush the rule through. 

“The Corps documents confirm what we have been saying all along,” Stallman said. “Even the Army Corps of Engineers concedes this rule is unworkable. The Army Corps’ name is on the rule, yet experts tasked with determining its validity said they wanted the Corps’ name removed from the economic analysis used to justify it.

“U.S. Army Assistant Secretary Darcy pleaded with Congress to keep these memos from the public eye. Well, now we know what they say, and we want to know more. What other internal agency documents are out there?  If the Corps’ economists objected so strongly, what did the EPA’s economists think? What else are these agencies hiding from the public? As Americans, we expect better, but during the entire WOTUS rulemaking process, we got worse – much, much worse.”

AFBF is calling on EPA to immediately withdraw its flawed rule, go back to the drawing board and address the concerns of farmers, ranchers and business owners across the country.

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USDA Announces Available Funding for Farm Bill Broadband Loan Program

WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the availability of loans to build broadband in rural areas, along with changes to the program required by the 2014 Farm Bill.
"USDA is committed to providing broadband to rural areas," Vilsack said. "Broadband is as vital as electricity was 80 years ago. Since 2009, USDA investments have delivered broadband service to 1.5 million households, businesses, schools, libraries and community facilities. But our work is not done. With program improvements and available funding made possible by the Farm Bill, we can continue our work to make broadband more accessible to those who live and work in rural areas."
In a rule published on page 45397 of the July 30  Federal Register, USDA is establishing two funding cycles to review and prioritize applications for the Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee program. USDA also is setting a minimum level of acceptable broadband service at 4 megabits downstream and 1 megabit upstream. USDA urges applicants to design systems that allow for 25 megabits downstream and 3 megabits upstream to meet future needs. USDA is accepting comments on these changes through September 28.
To be eligible for funding, an applicant must serve an area where at least 15 percent of the households are unserved. Applications with the most unserved households will be processed first. 
The maximum loan amount under today's announcement is $20 million. Applications will be accepted through September 30, 2015. For more information, see page 45504 of the July 30  Federal Register.
The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the previous five years while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve the quality of life in rural areas.