Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Just in


EPA Must Withdraw Irregular, Biased Rulemaking
Farm Bureau and Waters Coalition Say

WASHINGTON– Recent statements by the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the latest Clean Water Act rulemaking violate basic open-government requirements, a group of 63 business and agriculture organizations told the EPA and Congress. The resulting failure to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act is so egregious, the Waters Access Coalition said, the agency should withdraw the rule altogether.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, together with the other 62 members of the coalition, deplored a series of misrepresentations made by the EPA following release of the proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule, which is the agency’s own interpretation of the 1970s-era Clean Water Act.

Among other things, the EPA and other agencies:

·        Issued a series of agency blog posts that provide new interpretations of the proposed rule’s language;
·        Revealed new reports that detail national challenges with defining the term “ordinary high water mark,” which is the most critical term for defining “tributary” under the proposed rule;
·        Distributed comments from the Science Advisory Board that exposed serious problems  with the scientific justifications for the rule put forth by the EPA;
·        Released U.S. Geological Survey maps that show a massive expansion of territory covered under the EPA proposals, despite the EPA’s earlier and vehement statements to the contrary, and
·        Failed to conduct meaningful consultations with farmers, businesses and others most severely affected by the proposed rule, ignoring both timeliness and transparency in government.

“These are serious transgressions of principles of open government,” said Don Parrish, AFBF senior director of regulatory relations. “The EPA should withdraw this rule and have meaningful discussions with representatives of the farm families that stand to suffer most under this proposal.”

Op-Ed from the FSA


Op Ed from Aaron Johnson, Acting Director of the Farm Service Agency in Idaho

Boise--As the Acting State Executive Director of USDA Farm Service Agency in Idaho, I have traveled around this great state and have personally seen the resilience of our farmers and ranchers. I have watched them rebuild from natural disasters and bounce back from the harsh blows dealt by Mother Nature.

The USDA Farm Service Agency plays an active role in aiding producers during hardships such as these. We do a good job of caring for the constituents we serve. However, we all should do a better job of preparing for disasters when they strike, especially the ones that put our families at serious risk.

This September is National Preparedness Month and the Farm Service Agency is participating in America’s PrepareAthon by sharing helpful tips to educate the local community on the importance of being prepared for emergencies. The National Day of Action is September 30, 2014. The event, hosted by the Ready Campaign and Citizen Corps, is a month-long effort to encourage households, businesses, and communities to prepare and plan for emergencies.

It is important that you be prepared in the event of an emergency that may force you to be self-reliant for three or more days. Situations such as lost electricity, contaminated water supplies, or roads cut off so you cannot get to the supermarket – these are things you may rarely think about. There may even be a time when you have no access to police, fire, or rescue. What do you do in those situations?

Our focus during this month is turning awareness into action by encouraging all individuals and communities nationwide to make an emergency preparedness plan. In 2012, there were more than 450 weather-related fatalities and nearly 2,600 injuries, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. As few as 39 percent of individuals reported having an adequate household emergency plan.

You can start preparing with four important steps:
1.     Stay Informed: Information is available from federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial resources. Access the Ready.gov website to learn what to do before, during, and after an emergency.
2.     Make a Plan: Discuss, agree on, and document an emergency plan with those in your care. For sample plans, visit the Ready.gov website. Work together with neighbors, colleagues, and others to build community resilience.
3.     Build a Kit: Keep enough emergency supplies — water, nonperishable food, first aid, prescriptions, flashlight, and battery-powered radio on hand — for you and those in your care.
4.     Get Involved: There are many ways to get involved especially before a disaster occurs. The whole community can participate in programs and activities to make their families, homes, and places of worship safer from risks and threats. Community leaders agree that the formula for ensuring a safer homeland consists of volunteers, a trained and informed public, and increased support of emergency response agencies during disasters.

We know all too often that emergency situations do not wait for us to get ready. They hit unexpectedly and with little or no time to prepare.
Now is the time to prepare. Now is the time to take action and now is the time to plan so that your family, neighbors, and communities can be ready for any natural disaster that may arise.

For more information about the Ready Campaign and National Preparedness Month, visit www.ready.gov/be-inform or call 1-800-BE-READY, 1-888-SE-LISTO, and TTY 1-800-462-7585.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Just in from Washington

USDA Unveils Key New Programs to Help Farmers Manage Risk

WASHINGTON– U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today unveiled highly anticipated new programs to help farmers better manage risk, ushering in one of the most significant reforms to U.S. farm programs in decades.
Vilsack also announced that new tools are now available to help provide farmers the information they need to choose the new safety net program that is right for their business.
"The 2014 Farm Bill represented some of the largest farm policy reforms in decades. One of the Farm Bill's most significant reforms is finally taking effect," said Vilsack. "Farming is one of the riskiest businesses in the world. These new programs help ensure that risk can be effectively managed so that families don't lose farms that have been passed down through generations because of events beyond their control. But unlike the old direct payment program, which paid farmers in good years and bad, these new initiatives are based on market forces and include county – and individual – coverage options. These reforms provide a much more rational approach to helping farmers manage risk."
The new programs, Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC), are cornerstones of the commodity farm safety net programs in the 2014 Farm Bill, legislation that ended direct payments. Both programs offer farmers protection when market forces cause substantial drops in crop prices and/or revenues. Producers will have through early spring of 2015 to select which program works best for their businesses.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Ditch the Rule


DITCH THE RULE
Private Property Rights at Risk

Call to action: 
On April 21, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) published a proposed rule that will greatly expand federal regulatory authority to include virtually all water in the country. Private property rights are at risk.

This proposed rule is an effort by EPA and the Corps to go around the will of Congress and ignore Supreme Court decisions that have limited federal authority.  If this rule is finalized, essentially any area where any water flows at any time - even if just for a brief period - will be subject to federal regulation.

For years, Farm Bureau has successfully blocked legislation that would remove the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act. However, this rule will undo that success. This rule has been proposed by two federal agencies with no accountability to the citizens they intend to regulate. Farm Bureau opposes this rule and urges that it be withdrawn.


Click here to tell the EPA to ditch the proposed Waters Of The U.S. rule.  Ditch the rule!
WE NEED EVERYONE TO SUBMIT COMMENTS TO EPA


Please take a moment to send a message to EPA, letting them know that this rule is unacceptable. Explain the harmful impacts of the rule, and how it would affect you as a landowner.

EPA is accepting comments on this proposed rule now, and the deadline to submit those comments is October 20, 2014.

Click on the image to the right, and tell the EPA to Ditch The Rule!



POINTS TO CONSIDER IN YOUR COMMENTS


This rule will expand federal regulatory authority
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), “Proposed changes would increase the asserted scope of Clean Water Act jurisdiction…”

This rule is against the will of Congress
Several legislative bills have been introduced to strike the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act, and Congress chose not to act.

This rule ignores the Supreme Court
The Court has upheld limits to federal water jurisdiction in previous decisions.

This rule infringes on private property rights
It will empower EPA and the Corps to regulate activities in and around virtually all water.  This authority will restrict the rights of landowners to use their property.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Just in

American Farm Bureau releases videos on big-data risks, rewards 

WashingtonThe American Farm Bureau Federation has released a series of short educational videos to help farmers and ranchers understand the rewards and risks of data-analysis technologies sweeping the agricultural landscape.
    
“Modern data technology offers great benefits for America’s farmers and ranchers, but these new advantages don’t come without some risks,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said.     

From collecting weather data to analyzing nutrient applications and seed varieties, agricultural technology providers collect data that help farmers increase efficiency and yield higher profits. But many questions remain unanswered regarding who owns and controls this information once it is collected. Farm Bureau is leading the way in helping farmers get answers to these questions and secure their business data.    

Through a series of four new educational videos, Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director of congressional relations for AFBF, explains ownership of data, discusses key concerns for data use and provides guiding questions for farmers as they translate privacy agreements and terms-of-use contracts.    

“Farmers must understand the issues being raised now, before they sign an agreement with an ag tech provider,” Thatcher said. Ownership of data is often misunderstood, but this educational tool is an important introduction for farmers and ranchers considering signing on with ag tech providers.    
These videos are available at: http://bit.ly/1sl1G88 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Just in


Nampa--Pioneer Irrigation District announced that it will end irrigation water delivery on October 8, 2014, and then close its headgates on the Boise River one or two days later to stop all water flowing through its canals. 

Pioneer requires water to flow after the last day of deliveries to flush the system. Superintendent Mark Zirschky stated “the 2014 irrigation season had a rough start, but ended well.  Pioneer is still expecting to have carry-over for next season.  Our Patron’s conservative use of water along with our employees managing their deliveries strictly allowed for the excess and we couldn’t be more pleased.”

            

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Just in

Congress likely to take up tax extenders in November


Washington—House approval last week of the Jobs for America Act (H.R. 4) sets the stage for post-election action on a number of Farm Bureau-supported tax incentives that lapsed at the end of last year. The legislation incorporates 15 bills previously passed by the House, including those related to section 179 small business expensing and bonus depreciation.   

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.   

“Because farming requires large investments in machinery, equipment and other depreciable capital, 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,” said Pat Wolff, American Farm Bureau Federation tax specialist. “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.”  

Section 179 allows a taxpayer to deduct all or part of the cost of new or used business property rather than depreciating the cost over a longer period of time. The immediate expensing provided by Section 179 allows farmers and ranchers to cash flow purchases that otherwise would be impossible or that would require them to incur debt expense when purchases cannot be delayed.

The bill (H.R. 4457) incorporated in the Jobs for America Act would make permanent the 2013 Section 179 small business expensing maximum limit of $500,000 with a dollar-per-dollar phase-out threshold set at $2 million. If Congress fails to adopt the legislation, the expensing limit for 2014 will be only $25,000.  

The bonus depreciation provision in the Jobs Act, passed earlier this year as H.R. 4718, would make 50 percent bonus depreciation permanent and expands the deduction to vines and trees that bear fruits and nuts.   


Monday, September 22, 2014

AFBF Op-Ed

Ag Agenda: Harvest 2014—A bounty of rewards and challenges



By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau Federation
Bob Stallman Washington—Harvest season is upon us, bringing with it that perfect blend of sunshine, crisp air and golden fields. While it is a farmer’s nature, it is harder for many of us to complain about the weather we have enjoyed this summer.     
High pressure system
Drought persists in some areas, but ideal weather elsewhere has our fields brimming with life and ripe for harvest. The farm-prices forecast, on the other hand, is less sunny. The bountiful harvest is putting pressure on crop prices: USDA projects mid-point pricing of $3.50 per bushel for corn and $10 per bushel for soybeans. These would be the lowest prices we’ve seen since 2009-10, possibly the lowest since 2006-07. With production costs higher than when we last saw prices at this level, USDA projects net farm income will drop 14 percent. 
    
America’s farmers aren’t the only ones with big harvests this year. Commodity production abroad has been higher than usual to keep up with the demands of the global market.

Just as one harvest can vary widely from the last, the prospects for some sectors of agriculture are much brighter due to the tsunami of grain we are about to see. This year’s big harvest adds up to good news for farmers and ranchers feeding livestock and rebuilding herds after a long dry spell. After several challenging years, the outlook is good. Cattle prices even hit a record high earlier this year. Lower feed costs will give livestock and poultry producers a chance to regroup and rebuild.
    
The crop price forecast is not as ideal as the weather, but most farmers I know would rather have a bumper crop in their fields.    

Snail rail 
American farmers have worked together time and again to support public policy that allows agriculture to succeed,
 but our ability to address some challenges is limited. An example is the current rail congestion in the upper Midwest, where a booming energy industry is creating high demand for rail cars. Booming industry sounds like a good problem, if you had to choose one. But the infrastructure in the region is groaning under the weight of all the extra cargo, and farmers are the ones at risk of being left behind as they look for the most efficient way to get their crops to market. 
With rail shipments already backlogged from a harsh winter, farmers will be hard-pressed to find adequate storage as they wait for the bottleneck to clear. As our bins and county elevators fill up, some of the grain will pile up outside, exposed to the elements and at risk of spoiling.   

Like crop prices, rail congestion is a market-driven issue, but we’re keeping an eye on it. Farm Bureau is monitoring the latest Surface Transportation Board reports and keeping in communication with the rail companies as they work to resolve the backlog and meet the region’s shipping demands.
Farmers will weather their share of storms this fall, but there is much to be grateful for with an abundant harvest. America’s farmers and ranchers will persevere, even as they face the constant challenges of competing in an inconstant marketplace.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Just in

USDA Invests $68 Million in 540 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects Nationwide

Funding includes loan guarantees and grants for solar energy to create jobs, promote energy independence and advance the use of renewable fuels
BUNN, N.C. – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is investing in 540 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide.
"These loan guarantees and grants will have far-reaching impacts nationwide, particularly in the rural communities where these projects are located," Vilsack said. "Investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency will continue the unprecedented increase in home-grown energy sources and American energy independence we've seen in recent years. This is creating jobs, providing new economic opportunities and leading the way to a more secure energy future."
Secretary Vilsack made the announcement while in North Carolina to highlight USDA's investments in rural renewable energy projects, as part of the Obama Administration's 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy. It is the most recent of a series of USDA actions to strengthen the country's energy sector. Two weeks ago, Vilsack announced a $105 million loan guarantee to a company that will produce jet fuel from municipal solid waste.
Today's funding is being provided through USDA Rural Development's Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP was created by the 2008 Farm Bill and was reauthorized by the recently passed 2014 Farm Bill.
The announcement comes on a day when President Obama is announcing new executive actions to further advance the development of solar technologies across the country. These new investments in solar will reduce America's energy consumption, cut carbon pollution by nearly 300 million metric tons – equivalent to taking more than 60 million cars off the road for a year – and save businesses nearly $45 billion on their energy bills. The renewed effort to invest in solar energy also includes commitments from a broad coalition of 50 public and private sector partners, including leading industry, community development organizations and housing providers in 28 states. To learn more about this new Obama Administration initiative to increase the use of solar power, visit the White House website.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

New Record: Pound of Ground Beef Tops $4 for First Time | CNS News

New Record: Pound of Ground Beef Tops $4 for First Time | CNS News

Just in


Farm Bureau praises bipartisan support for cash accounting 

 Washington—The American Farm Bureau Federation hailed the strong bipartisan effort by members of Congress as they urged Senate and House leadership to preserve the cash accounting system farmers and ranchers rely on to grow their businesses.

 “We are pleased to see members of Congress reach across party lines and stand together for farmers and ranchers who are working to build their businesses and communities,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said last week.

 Cash accounting gives farmers and ranchers an important tool to expand their businesses and boost local economies. But a recent proposal by the Senate Finance Committee would put a stop to this by requiring all businesses with annual receipts totaling $10 million to switch to the accrual method. Senators and representatives from both sides of the aisle warned this would “create significant long-term financial hardship.”

In letters to both House and Senate leadership, members from all 50 states called the cash accounting system fundamental to the success of small businesses across rural America. The letters were signed by 46 senators and 233 representatives. Under an accrual accounting system, small businesses would be taxed on non-existent income, thereby reducing their cash flow for operating costs and limiting opportunities for expansion.

The added financial burden would require many to take out loans to cover the liquidity problems they would face. Forcing small businesses to full-accrual accounting will hinder both profits and job creation in regions of the country that are still suffering from the economic downturn. Farm Bureau enthusiastically supports preservation of current cash accounting rules.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Just in

Farm Bureau denounces federal grab of states’ water rights


Washington—The Forest Service’s latest attempt to take water rights from farmers and ranchers violates fundamental constitutional protections, the Colorado Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation told congressional lawmakers last week. The proposed Forest Service Groundwater Directive, they said, would circumvent state water rights and give the agency unprecedented control over water use in the West.

“Water is the lifeblood for all farm and ranch operations,” Colorado Farm Bureau President Don Shawcroft told the House Agriculture Committee. “We are outraged that the federal government continues to grossly and willfully ignore the established system of water rights.”

Similar to the administration’s proposed “waters of the U.S.” rule, the directive seeks to stretch federal authority over water resources at the expense of private property rights and state authority. “The directive goes further by attempting to manage groundwater of both national forest system and adjacent private lands,” said Shawcroft. “Such an assumption of federal authority violates federal and state law and will ultimately upset water allocation systems and private property rights on which western economies have been built.”

Shawcroft further explained that the new directive would empower the Forest Service to demand the transfer of private water rights to the federal government as a condition of a ranchers grazing permits renewal. Under these circumstances, if the Forest Service ever terminates the permitted use, the jointly held water rights would “succeed to sole ownership” of the United States without just compensation. Ranchers are greatly concerned that the Forest Service will use the groundwater directive as mechanism to further erode grazing opportunities on public lands.

“Should it succeed in this attempt, an agency of the federal government would gain unprecedented control over waters of the states through a purely administrative action, thus giving the Forest Service greater control over the natural resources in the West,” Shawcroft said.

 Farm Bureau urged Congress to stop the directive, and Shawcroft noted the organizations’ support for the Water Rights Protection Act (H.R. 3189), passed by the House in March. The bill would ensure those who hold water rights will not be abridged and that federal agencies may not unlawfully use the permit process to acquire rights they do not currently possess. Most importantly, the legislation does not bridge anyone’s rights—those of individuals, the states or the federal government.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Just in from Clearwater County



Farm Bureau at the Clearwater County Fair

Phil Zemaitis, FBMI Agency Manager for District 5 manning the wheat grinders at the Clearwater County Fair and his wife Kim helping with Molly. (Bob Smathers photo)

Monday, September 15, 2014

75th Anniversary Proclamation

Boise--Idaho Governor Butch Otter signed a proclamation Friday observing the Idaho Farm Bureau's 75th Anniversary at the Idaho Statehouse Rotunda.

"This year, 2014, marks the 75th anniversary of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation," said the Governor. For seven decades the organization has served as "The Voice of Idaho Agriculture."

Today marks the 75th year of Farm Bureau in Idaho.The organization was formed on this date back in September 1939 and was founded and is still run by its 70,000 member families.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Just in


Farm Bureau urges Congress to bring common sense to Endangered Species Act 


 Washington–Cost-benefit analyses from regulatory agencies that enforce the Endangered Species Act is a must, according to the Arkansas Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Since current rules account only for government expenditures, Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach said the often oppressive cost of ESA enforcement on the private sector gets ignored.

 “If over-zealous enforcement of federal laws, such as the ESA, were to hinder, disrupt or further burden our farmers and ranchers, we will not be able to sustainably raise the crops and livestock necessary to feed the 7 billion people currently on our planet, much less the 9 billion projected by 2050,” Veach said.

 Veach spoke before the House Committee on Natural Resources in support of the Common Sense in Species Protection Act of 2014 (H.R. 4319). The bill would require federal agencies to show full economic justification before placing any land under the protection of a critical habitat designation, which often severely restricts farming and ranching in the affected area.

 In Arkansas, the proposed critical habitat for Neosho Mucket and Rabbitsfoot mussels would cover nearly 42 percent of the state’s watershed and approximately 770 waterway miles. Ninety percent of those waterways pass through private land. Veach called this regulatory overreach “irresponsible.” Veach is not alone in calling for more accurate accounting in ESA enforcement.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock recently estimated the cost of the habitat designation in Arkansas alone was five times that calculated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the 12 states included in the designation of these two aquatic species. Many Arkansas farmers already operate under some of the most significant regulatory constraints in the country. All are proud, committed stewards of the land, Veach said.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

House joins farmers in stand against EPA overreach 


Washington—More than just a clear rejection of the overreach that lies in EPA’s proposed “waters of the U.S.” rule, House passage on Sept. 9 of the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act (H.R. 5078) “is an unmistakable signal that the tide is turning against those who ignore the constitutional separation of powers in the United States,” according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “We will ditch this rule.”    

Farmers, ranchers and many others are opposed to the rule because it could ultimately lead to the unlawful expansion of federal regulation to cover routine farming and ranching practices as well as other common private land uses, such as building homes. Among other things, the rule would expand federal control over land features such as ditches and areas of agricultural land that are wet only during storms.    

The WOTUS Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014 (H.R. 5078) would do the following three things: Prevent the agencies from using the rule as a basis for future administrative actions that would undermine the federal-state partnership or usurp Congress’ express authority to change the scope of the Clean Water Act through a redefinition of “waters of the United States”; prevent the agencies from developing guidance that would expand the scope of waters covered by the CWA; and prevent the agencies from implementing the interpretive rule.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Just in


Blink and you might miss them: Lawmakers return briefly to Capitol Hill


Washington—Congressional lawmakers are back in Washington, D.C., this week, but not for long. The House plans 12 legislative days before adjourning for the November election, while the Senate hopes to adjourn by Sept. 23. 

   With little time to waste, House lawmakers are expected this week to take up a bill that would prohibit EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers from developing, finalizing, adopting, implementing, applying, administering, or enforcing the proposed "waters of the U.S.” rule.    

Farmers, ranchers and many others are opposed to the rule because it could ultimately lead to the unlawful expansion of federal regulation to cover routine farming and ranching practices as well as other common private land uses, such as building homes. Among other things, the rule would expand federal control over land features such as ditches and areas of agricultural land that are wet only during storms.    

The Farm Bureau-supported Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014 (H.R. 5078) would do the following three things: Prevent the agencies from using the rule as a basis for future administrative actions that would undermine the federal-state partnership or usurp Congress’ express authority to change the scope of the Clean Water Act through a redefinition of “waters of the United States”; prevent the agencies from developing guidance that would expand the scope of waters covered by the CWA; and prevent the agencies from implementing the interpretive rule.     

Reps. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) will likely offer the Agricultural Conservation Flexibility Act (H.R. 5071) as an amendment to Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014. Ribble and Schrader’s measure, also backed by farmers and ranchers, clarifies that all soil and water conservation activities fall under the Clean Water Act Section 404(f)(1) exemption for normal farming, ranching, and silviculture activities.   
   
Whether the House bills will be taken up in the Senate remains very much up in the air. One issue that will almost certainly be addressed in both chambers is the federal government’s budget.  With mid-term elections looming, neither Republicans nor Democrats have any interest in dealing with even the remote possibility of another government shutdown. Over the August recess, Republican and Democratic leaders agreed on a plan to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government going through December, when lawmakers will return to wrap up their second session of the 113th Congress. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Just in

USDA Provides $328 Million to Conserve Wetlands and Farmland, Boost Economy

WASHINGTON–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that $328 million in conservation funding is being invested to help landowners protect and restore key farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across the nation. The USDA initiative will benefit wildlife and promote outdoor recreation and related sectors of the economy.
"Conservation easements help farmers and ranchers protect valuable agricultural lands from development, restore lands that are best suited for grazing, and return wetlands to their natural conditions," Vilsack said. "These easements are making a dramatic and positive impact for our food supply, rural communities and species habitat."
The funding is provided through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which was created in the 2014 Farm Bill to protect critical wetlands and encourage producers to keep lands in farming and ranching. Approximately 380 projects nationwide were selected to protect and restore 32,000 acres of prime farmland, 45,000 acres of grasslands and 52,000 acres of wetlands. A summary ofACEP funding provided to each state can be found online.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Just in

USDA Announces Loan Guarantee to Help Innovative Company Turn Waste Into Renewable Jet Fuel


LAS VEGAS- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA has closed on a loan guarantee to Fulcrum Sierra Biofuels, to build a biorefinery to produce jet fuel from municipal solid waste.
"This represents a huge step forward in the development of clean, renewable, job-creating American fuels," Vilsack said during a speech at the National Clean Energy Conference. "The nation is entering a new energy age that will make us more energy independent, cut carbon pollution and strengthen our economy, especially in rural communities where clean fuels will be produced."
USDA is awarding Fulcrum a $105 million Biorefinery Assistance Program loan guarantee through Bank of America, N.A. to construct a facility in McCarran, Nev., to convert municipal solid waste to biodiesel jet fuel. USDA Rural Development's loan guarantee represents less than half of the $266 million project cost. The plant is expected to produce 11 million gallons of fuel annually.
This is the first loan guarantee USDA has made for the production of bio jet fuel.
Fulcrum will produce synthesis gas from 147,000 tons of municipal solid waste and catalytically convert it to synthetic paraffinic kerosene/jet fuel through a proprietary technology. The plant will be the first of what the company expects to be several bio jet fuel plants throughout the country.
Last month, Cathay Pacific Airways announced that it is investing in Fulcrum Bioenergy Inc., the parent company of Fulcrum Sierra BioFuels, LLC, and has negotiated a long-term supply agreement with Fulcrum for 375 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel over 10 years. This would represent about 2 percent of the airline's annual fuel consumption.
USDA awarded the first loan guarantee in 2009 to Sapphire Energy in New Mexico. Sapphire has already paid off its $54.5 million loan guarantee. The program's current portfolio includes Fremont Community Digester, located in Fremont, Mich., which received a $12.8 million loan in 2011 to convert food and agricultural waste to biogas that is used as fuel to generate electricity. INEOS New Plant Bioenergy, located in Vero Beach, Fla., received a $75 million loan in 2011 to produce cellulosic ethanol from woody biomass and municipal solid waste.
USDA is negotiating three additional loans for biorefineries in Iowa, North Carolina and Oregon. These loans would provide financing to produce renewable fuels from woody biomass, municipal solid waste and energy grasses such as switch grass, miscanthus and arundo donax. One of these ventures will retrofit an existing corn ethanol facility to produce cellulosic ethanol.
Biorefineries have broad economic and environmental implications. They lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduce dependence on foreign oil, give businesses and consumers more energy options and create jobs.
Congress established the Biorefinery Assistance Program in the 2008 Farm Bill. It reauthorized and extended the program in the 2014 Farm Bill. The 2014 Bill expands the program to include bio-based renewable chemicals and bio-based product manufacturing. USDA staff are working on regulations to set forth upcoming application terms for additional loan guarantees under the program.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Just in


USDA Designates 3 Counties in Idaho as Primary Natural Disaster Areas
With Assistance to Producers in Surrounding Areas


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated  as 
primary natural disaster areas in two separate designations. 

“Our hearts go out to those Idaho farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times. We’re also telling Illinois producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”
Designation #1
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated Jerome and Twin Falls counties primary natural disaster areas due to excessive rain that occurred Aug. 3-7, 2014.
Farmers and ranchers in Cassia, Gooding, Minidoka, Elmore, Lincoln and Owyhee counties in Idaho also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.
Farmers and ranchers in Elko County in Nevada also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.
Designation #2
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated Clearwater County as a primary natural disaster area due to high winds and hail that occurred Aug. 14, 2014.
Farmers and ranchers in Idaho, Latah, Lewis, Nez Perce and Shoshone counties in Idaho also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.
Farmers and ranchers in Mineral and Missoula counties in Montana also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.
All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas on Sept. 3, 2014, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. A fact sheet on EM loans can be found online at: Emergency Loan Fact SheetFSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Just in from Washington

Livestock Producers Urged to Enroll in Disaster Assistance Program by Oct. 1

Congressionally Mandated Payment Reductions to Take Effect at Beginning of New Fiscal Year
WASHINGTON-The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is encouraging producers who have suffered eligible disaster-related losses to act to secure assistance by Sept. 30, 2014, as congressionally mandated payment reductions will take place for producers who have not acted before that date. Livestock producers that have experienced grazing losses since October 2011 and may be eligible for benefits but have not yet contacted their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office should do so as soon as possible.
The Budget Control Act passed by Congress in 2011 requires USDA to implement reductions of 7.3 percent to the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) in the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, 2014. However, producers seeking LFP support who have scheduled appointments with their local FSA office before Oct. 1, even if the appointment occurs after Oct.1, will not see reductions in the amount of disaster relief they receive.
USDA is encouraging producers to register, request an appointment or begin a Livestock Forage Disaster Program application with their county FSA office before Oct. 1, 2014, to lock in the current zero percent sequestration rate. As an additional aid to qualified producers applying for LFP, the Farm Service's Agency has developed an online registration that enables farmers and ranchers to put their names on an electronic list before the deadline to avoid reductions in their disaster assistance. This is an alternative to visiting or contacting the county office. To place a name on the Livestock Forage Disaster Program list online, visit http://www.fsa.usda.gov/disaster-registerThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website..
Producers who already contacted the county office and have an appointment scheduled need do nothing more.
"In just four months since disaster assistance enrollments began, we've processed 240,000 applications to help farmers and ranchers who suffered losses," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Eligible producers who have not yet contacted their local FSA office should stop by or call their local FSA office, or sign up online before Oct. 1 when congressionally mandated payment reductions take effect. This will ensure they receive as much financial assistance as possible."
The Livestock Indemnity Program, the Tree Assistance Program and the Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program Frost Freeze payments will also be cut by 7.3 percent on Oct. 1, 2014. Unlike the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, applications for these programs must be fully completed by Sept. 30. FSA offices will prioritize these applications, but as the full application process can take several days or more to complete, producers are encouraged to begin the application process as soon as possible.
The Livestock Forage Disaster Program compensates eligible livestock producers who suffered grazing losses due to drought or fire between Oct. 1, 2011 and Dec. 31, 2014. Eligible livestock includes alpacas, beef cattle, buffalo, beefalo, dairy cattle, deer, elk, emus, equine, goats, llamas, poultry, reindeer, sheep or swine that have been or would have been grazing the eligible grazing land or pastureland. Producers forced to liquidate their livestock may also be eligible for program benefits.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Just in


USDA Announces First Quarter Sugar Feedstock Flexibility Program 

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Agriculture Commodity Credit Corporation today announced that it does not expect to purchase sugar under the Feedstock Flexibility Program in fiscal year 2015. CCC is required to announce quarterly estimates of sugar to be purchased for the Feedstock Flexibility Program in a given crop year. USDA also announced fiscal year 2015 raw and refined sugar tariff-rate quotas.
Feedstock Flexibility Program
Federal law allows sugar processors to obtain loans from USDA with maturities of up to nine months when the sugarcane or sugar beet harvest begins. Upon loan maturity, the sugar processor may repay the loan in full or forfeit the collateral sugar to USDA to satisfy the loan.
The Feedstock Flexibility Program was reauthorized by Congress in the 2014 Farm Bill as an option to avoid sugar forfeitures. USDA's Aug. 12, 2014, World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report (www.usda.gov/oce/commodity/wasde/latest.pdf) projects a domestic fiscal year 2015 ending sugar stocks-to-use ratio of 6.9 percent. USDA has determined that sugar loan collateral forfeitures are unlikely.
The department will closely monitor stocks, consumption, imports, and all sugar market and program variables on an ongoing basis, and will continue to administer the sugar program as transparently as possible using the latest available data.
Sugar Tariff Rate Quotas
USDA is establishing the fiscal year 2015 traffic rate quota for raw cane sugar at 1,231,497 short tons raw value (1,117,195 metric tons raw value*), the minimum to which the United States is committed under the World Trade Organization Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture. Pursuant to additional U.S. note 5 to chapter 17 of the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule and section 359k of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, as amended, USDA published this decision in the Federal Register.
Raw cane sugar under this TRQ must be accompanied by a certificate of quota eligibility and may enter the United States until Sept. 30, 2015. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) will allocate this TRQ among supplying countries and customs areas.
USDA is also establishing the fiscal year 2015 refined sugar TRQ at 139,993 short tons raw value (127,000 metric tons raw value). Of this quantity, 117,568 short tons raw value (106,656 metric tons raw value) is reserved for the importation of specialty sugars as defined by the USTR. The total refined sugar TRQ includes the 24,251 short tons raw value (22,000 metric tons raw value) minimum to which the United States is committed under the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture, of which 1,825 short tons raw value (1,656 metric tons raw value) is reserved for specialty sugar.
Because the specialty sugar TRQ is first-come, first-served, tranches are needed to allow for orderly marketing throughout the year. The fiscal year 2015 specialty sugar TRQ will be opened in five tranches. The first, totaling 1,825 short tons raw value (1,656 metric tons raw value), will open Oct. 10, 2014. All specialty sugars are eligible for entry under this tranche. The second will open on Oct. 24, 2014, and be equal to 42,825 short tons raw value (38,850 metric tons raw value). The remaining three tranches will each be equal to 24,306 short tons raw value (22,050 metric tons raw value), with the third opening on Jan. 9, 2015; the fourth on April 10, 2015; and the fifth on July 10, 2015. The second, third, fourth, and fifth tranches will be reserved for organic sugar and other specialty sugars not currently produced commercially in the United States or reasonably available from domestic sources.
The USTR will allocate the refined TRQ, other than the amount reserved for specialty sugar, among supplying countries and customs areas.
* Conversion factor: 1 metric ton = 1.10231125 short tons.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The President's OP-ED


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

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


Friday, August 29, 2014

Just in


Just-released EPA Maps Show Extent of WOTUS Overreach

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

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

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