Friday, December 9, 2016

Just in

Farmers, Ranchers Welcome Selection of Scott Pruitt to Lead EPA

Washington—Farmers, ranchers and many others cheered President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of Scott Pruitt to lead EPA. In his position as attorney general in Oklahoma, Pruitt has stood up for common-sense, effective regulation that protects the environment and the rights of the regulated community, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.

Trump’s selection of Pruitt “is welcome news to America’s farmers and ranchers—in fact, to all who are threatened by EPA’s regulatory overreach—and should help provide a new degree of fairness for U.S. agriculture,” Duvall said in a statement.

Noting farmers’ appreciation for Pruitt’s effective legal work in response to EPA’s overreaching Waters of the U.S. rule, Duvall said AFBF anticipates that as EPA administrator, Pruitt will pay attention to the concerns of farmers and ranchers and others who work with the nation’s natural resources on a daily basis.

"Agriculture is a profession based on a solid ethic of conservation. It helps guide everything we do, and we expect that Pruitt will understand that in regulatory matters dealing with agriculture and the environment," said AFBF President Zippy Duvall

Pruitt led attorneys general from several states in filing one of a number of lawsuits challenging EPA’s WOTUS The EPA administrator must be confirmed by the Senate.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Just in

USDA Announces New Conservation Opportunities to Improve Water Quality and Restore Wildlife Habitat

DES MOINES–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will offer farmers and ranchers more opportunities to participate in the Conservation Reserve Program. The announcement includes new CRP practices to protect water quality and adds an additional 1.1 million acres targeted to benefit wildlife, pollinators and wetlands.
"The Conservation Reserve Program is an extremely popular voluntary program that offers producers and landowners a wide variety of opportunities to prevent erosion, protect wildlife habitat and reduce nutrient runoff," said Vilsack. "With the program close to the legal enrollment limit of 24 million acres, USDA has been working to use all of the tools at our disposal to maximize benefits by combining multiple soil, water and wildlife objectives in the areas where it is needed most."
Vilsack unveiled a new conservation initiative known as Clean Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers (CLEAR), which will add new tools to CRP that can help to improve water quality. CLEAR will assist landowners with the cost of building bioreactors and saturated buffers that filter nitrates and other nutrients from tile-drained cropland. Early estimates indicate that CLEAR could help to reduce nitrate runoff by as much as 40 percent over traditional conservation methods. CLEAR may cover up to 90 percent of the cost to install these new practices through incentives and cost-share. These new methods are especially important in areas where traditional buffers have not been enough to prevent nutrients from reaching bodies of water.
USDA will also add an additional 1.1 million acres to a number of key CRP practices that are critically important to wildlife and conservation. These include 700,000 acres for State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) efforts, which restore high-priority wildlife habitat tailored to a specific state's needs. In addition to SAFE, 300,000 acres will be added to target wetlands restoration that are nature's water filters and 100,000 acres for pollinator habitat that support 30 percent of agricultural production.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

TFBF President talks about Fellowship!

TFFB President Kohtz talks about her European Fellowship

Washington--An exchange program supported by the American Farm 
Bureau Federation helps farmers around the globe collaborate and learn
more about agriculture.
Clements: The McCloy Fellowship in Agriculture, an exchange program for promising American and German leaders in agriculture, offers international learning opportunities. The program takes four U.S. farm leaders to Germany and brings four German farm leaders to the United States. Elizabeth Kohtz, a farmer and dairy veterinarian from Twin Falls, Idaho, who has participated in the fellowship, explains the program.
Kohtz: For the Americans it involves a 10-day trip to Germany where we get to meet with fellow McCloy alumni, policy makers, agriculture experts, spend several days in Berlin learning about the government and the way agriculture is involved in the government and then doing tours of farms and various-sized cities to learn about how agriculture works in Germany.
Clements: She says the program allowed her to learn how agriculture works in Germany and compare it with the United States, on topics such as animal welfare and how the public views the treatment of farm animals.
Kohtz: We learned a lot about rules and regulations that are mainly dictated by consumers and grocery chains in Germany. And one thing that it did for me is it kind of reenergized my passion to advocate for animal agriculture here in the United States. A lot of the laws that are being passed there don’t have any scientific backing behind them and I’m hopeful that we can prevent that from happening in the United States.
Clements: She says programs like the McCloy Fellowship help U.S. farmers better understand agriculture issues globally.
Kohtz: Programs like the McCloy Fellowship are able to broaden our sights and give us a greater ability to analyze how the issues affect farmers in the United States and abroad. I have several different speaking engagements lined up so that I can share with other agriculturalists in Idaho about what I learned and hopefully be able to enlighten them and give them some insights to the global agriculture economy.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Just in

New USDA Cost of Pollination Report Scheduled for December 22 

Washington--USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) intends to release a new report detailing the cost of honey bee pollination in 2015 and 2016. The Cost of Pollination report, scheduled for release at 3:00 p.m. ET on December 22, will include statistics on the number of acres paid to be pollinated, the average price per acre, and prices per honey bee colony for selected crops.  
The new data series is part of the White House’s Pollinator Research Action Plan, which calls for economic research into pollinator health issues. 
In addition to the report, NASS will publish the estimates in the online data query tool, Quick Stats. All NASS reports and the publication calendar are available at

Monday, December 5, 2016

World Soil Day

On World Soil Day, astronomy meets agronomy with ‘out of this world’ message

BOISE – When it comes to soil, most think agronomy not astronomy.

But a new public service campaign featuring astronomer Laura Danly, Ph.D., suggests there’s a universal connection between the stars, the soil and all of the residents of planet Earth. It’s a connection that is especially significant on Dec. 5, which the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has deemed World Soil Day.

Danly, who is the curator of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, Calif., and a former NASA astronomer, recently teamed up with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to lend her voice in a new public service campaign to highlight the importance of improving the health of Earth’s living and life-giving soil.

“The more I learn about our amazing universe, the more I realize what a special home we have within that universe – right here on planet Earth,” Danly said. “One of the things that makes planet Earth such a special place is its living soil.”

“Unfortunately, soil is one earthly resource that’s often overlooked, underappreciated and too often degraded,” said NRCS Idaho Soil Scientist Shawn Nield. “Especially on World Soil Day, it’s important to recognize that healthy soil and the teeming life within it, could very well help us address some of planet Earth’s biggest challenges,” he said.

“Not only does soil feed and clothe us, but we now know that improving the health of our soil can help us improve water quality and quantity, increase food production and improve wildlife and pollinator habitat,” Nield said. “Healthy soil also more resilient in the face of changing climate pressures.”

Through NRCS’ “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” campaign, NRCS Idaho State Conservationist Curtis Elke hopes Idaho’s urban consumers will become more aware of the role soil health plays in their environment, food, lives and futures. “In our rural areas, we’ll be connecting with farmers, ranchers and landowners who can adopt soil health management systems – which is good for the farm, the environment and the farmer’s bottom line,” he said.

Danly, who is also a frequent guest on the History Channel’s “The Universe,” said recognizing the connection between the stars and the soil is something that she wants to help her fellow Earthlings more fully understand and appreciate. 

“Ours is the only planet we know that has life on it, so it’s a natural for me to want to talk about Earth and share some important messages with people about how we can make it healthier. We can reach for the stars,” Danly said, “but we must cherish the soil.”

For more information on how NRCS is working with farmers to “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil,” visit .

Friday, December 2, 2016

2016 Annual Meeting

Idaho Farm Bureau Recognizes Past President at 77th Annual Meeting
BOISE - Delegates from 36 counties met this week during the 77th Annual Meeting of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation to set the organization’s course for the coming year.
Former Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley and wife Susan were awarded the IFBF President’s Cup for service to the organization. They served with distinction for over 30 years.
IFBF President Bryan Searle said the Priestley’s mentored him for decades as a Young Farmer and Rancher, then as a Board Member and now as President. 
"Whenever I see them, all I can think of is what an inspiration they've been to me," Searle said. The Priestley's served on the Franklin County Board and the State Board of Directors. Frank Priestley was elected President of the organization in December of 1997.
"It started way back in the Young Farmer and Rancher program when we served on the County Board. Later I became Vice President and then President, then ran for the State Board and the rest is history," said Frank Priestley. “After serving for so long and finally sitting in the President’s chair, it was humbling."
Farm Bureau’s annual banquet drew more than 350 members. 
Delegates reviewed the organization’s entire policy book updating positions and adding new policy on a wide range of agriculture, natural resources and other topics. Delegates adopted new policy on wolf management, tax credits for new farmers and ranchers, managing the state’s constitutional defense fund, pension spiking and several others.  
Farm Bureau Delegates elected Austin Tubbs of Oneida County and Bob Konen of Nez Perce County as new members of the State Board of Directors. Re-elected as State Directors were Scott Steele of Bonneville County, Rick Brune of Jerome County, and Cody Chandler of Washington County. Alton Howell of Bonner County and Mark Harris of Bear Lake County left the State Board and were recognized for their service as State Directors 
LaNae Nalder of Minidoka County was elected YF&R Chairman and will also serve on the Idaho Farm Bureau Board of Directors for a two-year term beginning in 2017.
Winner of this year’s Young Farmer and Rancher discussion meet was Erica Louder of Jerome County. Louder won a Polaris 450 HD ATV and an all-expense paid trip to Phoenix, Arizona to compete in the American Farm Bureau Discussion Meet in January. Marquee Ricks of Madison County was a runner up in the competition.
Chris and Autumn Banks of Caribou County won the Young Farmer and Rancher Excellence in Agriculture Award. Travis Beckstead of Franklin County received the Young Farmer and Rancher Achiever Award. The Banks’ received a $1,500 check while Beckstead won a Polaris 570 Ranger. The Banks’ and Beckstead will travel to the American Farm Bureau Convention in Phoenix next month to compete in the national Excellence in Agriculture and Achiever competitions.
Dealers from 16 Idaho Polaris Dealerships donated the 570 Ranger, valued at $10,000.

The Women’s Leadership Committee recognized four women as part of their Woman of Year program. This year’s winners include April Toone of Caribou County, Suzanne Takasugi of Canyon County, Jo Anne Kay of Teton County, and Emy Darrington of Cassia County.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

77th Annual Meeting

Idaho Farm Bureau Awards Frank and Susan Priestley the Presidents Cup

Boise--A Former Idaho Farm Bureau President and first lady were awarded the IFBF President's Cup for service to the organization they served for two decades.

Frank and Susan Priestley of Franklin came up through Farm Bureau from the county level more than three decades ago.

IFBF President Bryan Seale awarded the Cup saying the Priestley's are mentors and an inspiration to him, first as a Young Farmer and Rancher, then as a Board Member and now President. 

"Whenever I see you, All I can think of is what an inspriation you've been to me," Seale said at the Annual Convention Award Banquet. The Priestleys served on the State Board, 10 years before Frank was elected President, where he served some 20 years.

"It started way back in YF&R's when we served on the County Board, County Chair, we became Vice President and then President, ran for the State Board and the rest is history," said Frank Priestley. After serving for so long and finally sitting in the Presidents chair, it was humbling."

Susan Priestley has worked beside Frank through the years, attending countless meetings with him, patiently taking notes and what began as a few notebooks has turned into a storage shed library where she's documented thousands upon thousands of meetings.

"The first notes I took were on the State's Womens Committe, the Western Leadership Conference decades ago, I took notes because I wanted to remember as much as could from those meetings and they helped me remember and have served as a journal, a diary. My plans? I might go back and write a Farm Bureau history,"said Susan Priestley.

Frank Priestley says that Farm Bureau and its dedicated members mentored him during his 20 year rein as IFBF President.

"I think you learn from everybody," Priestley says. "And I surely was mentored by each and every Farm Bureau member, period. Whether it was from President Stallman or a county leader you learn something if you just listen. I really appreciate Farm Bureau and the way they do things," he said.

Susan Priestley says Farm Bureau gave her priceless opportunities to travel and learn.

"One of things that I have appreciated about all the leadership training I've had, is that you take that with you in all aspects of life. Whether its in the community, a Lion's Club, church work whatever you do, you take that leadership training with you and thats been a blessing in my life," said Susan Priestley.

A standing ovation, cheered the presentation of the Cup to the Priestleys, Life long members of Farm Bureau, an organization that they credit with enriching their lives.

"When I think of Farm Bureau, I think of Family, I always do and always will," said Frank Priestley, Thank you for the Cup and the memories."

77th Annual Meeting

Idaho Farm Bureau's 77th Annual Meeting underway in Boise

Boise--The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation opened its 77th Annual Meeting with a rousing speech and State of Farm Bureau Adress by IFBF President Bryan Searle. Searle showed members that grass root politics is alive and well in the Gem State with a video presentation of the organizations accomplishments this past year.

"At the Statehouse this past year we had a good session, we actively engaged with 77 bills and resolutions, 88-percent of the bills that were worked  by us became law, or were killed in harmony with IFBF policy," said Searle.

Over 300 members, county presidents, delegates gathered for the opening speech. Searle says as great as the organization is, success and all the hard work is done at the county level. 

"This is a great organization, we have clout and it comes from our County Presidents who spend countless hours organizing, making phone calls and emailing their boards and members. Without our Presidents the Farm Bureau wouldn't be as effective," said Searle.

Breakout sessions were well attended with Clark Johnson addressing up the up-coming winter markets. Trevor Gerdes talked for a long time about home-made solar energy, showing farmers how to cut costs through solars at a time when operating costs are soaring and profit margins are thin on the farm.

Farmer and former IFBF Board member Mike Garner did a session on employer/employee relationships and stressed that in this day and age the best management practice that an employer can do is express gratitude.

"You get a hundred percent payback on the return and it costs nothing. Employees just want to know that they're doing a good job. You can pay them the highest wage in the market, but if you're not telling them they're doing a good job its all wasted and they're not happy," said Garner who runs a dairy, farming and energy operation in Raft River.

At this writing, The IFBF House of Delegates is in session with President Searle presiding.  The Delegates can expect to be informed by experts on issues such as Water Adjudication, Solar Energy, Employee Relationships, Commodity Checkoff and Personal Safety, just to name a few.

Farm Bureau county leaders will write policy that in essence solves problems on the farm. Over the next two days, voting delegates from 37 County Farm Bureau’s  will write the 2017 policy book. The IFBF will send the book to our Congressional Delegation, the Governor and every member of the Legislature so they know precisely where the Farm Bureau stands on every viable political issue.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Just in

USDA Expands Public-Private Partnerships to Create Economic Opportunities through Regional Food Supply Chains

California, Illinois and Texas Sites to Join National Network
ELGIN- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Lillian Salerno today announced three new public-private partnerships that will create economic opportunities in Elgin, Texas; Fresno, Calif.; and Chicago. The Food LINC partnerships will help community leaders and private philanthropic partners develop regional food supply chains that drive job growth and increase farm income while helping to meet consumer demand for regionally produced food.
"USDA investments in regional food have the biggest impact when coordination between producers, processors, distributors and buyers is strong and locally led," said Salerno. "We are excited to add three new locations to the nationwide network of cities that are already leveraging government and private resources to build robust regional food systems, for the benefit of consumers, producers, and the economy."
USDA  Food LINC (Leveraging Investment for Network Coordination) partnerships are already working in ten communities to better connect the urban demand for local food and agricultural products with the supply from regional farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs. USDA's initial investment of $1 million provided the seed capital to attract an additional $2.5 million from 18 philanthropic organizations, plus more than $1.5 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Dairy workshops planned

U-IDAHO NEWS: Dairy Genomics Workshops Start Nov. 28 in Jerome, Help Producers Evaluate New Tests
JEROME, Idaho –– A nationwide series of dairy genomics workshops conducted by researchers from the University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Washington State University and other land-grant universities will begin Monday, Nov. 28 in Jerome.

Led by UI Extension dairy specialist Joe Dalton and WSU Extension veterinarian Dale Moore, the workshop series is designed to help dairy producers benefit from a U.S. Department of Agriculture research project awarded to WSU and first funded in 2013.

That study, which included UI Extension dairy specialist Mireille Chahine, focused on identifying markers on bovine chromosomes associated with fertility.

The workshop agenda focuses on introducing dairy producers to genomics, its use to improve fertility in dairy cattle, case studies of how producers have used genomic testing and its economic value.
The Jerome workshop and other sessions — Nov. 30 in Prosser, Washington; Dec. 5 in Stephenville, Texas; Dec. 7 in Okeechobee, Florida; and Dec. 12 in Tulare, Calif. — will help dairy producers learn more about a powerful new herd management tool, Dalton said.

The Jerome session is planned at the Best Western Sawtooth Inn and Suites at 2653 S. Lincoln Ave. from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Those planning to attend are asked to reply to Dalton at or 208-454-7633. Information about other sessions are available online:
Improving dairy herds’ fertility increases dairies’ economic efficiency by decreasing the amount of time cows are not producing milk.

Dairy producers can develop different strategies to achieve economic goals, Dalton said, and genomics offers a way to put more power into decision making.

The workshops will help producers evaluate the value of genomic tests, which can cost $35 to $50 each. Many producers are either trying the technology or already committed to using the tests, he said. Some 1.6 million cows have been tested so far.

“There are certainly people who have a business strategy lined out, and they are using genomic testing,” said Dalton, who is based at UI’s Caldwell Research and Extension Center.
With a U.S. dairy herd numbering more than 9 million animals, many more dairy producers are still weighing the pros and cons of testing, Dalton added.

The tests' main value to producers, he said, is they allow the assessment of dairy heifers when they are much younger. Animals that carry the desired genes can be kept, and others may be sold.
In the past, producers managed their herds based on parentage. The offspring of a highly productive cow and a sire was likely to develop into a highly productive cow. The true test, however, had to wait until the cow began producing milk. That method had a reliability of about 35 percent.

Genomics testing, which essentially analyzes the cow’s genetic makeup, allows producers to assess an animal much younger and offers a reliability of about 70 percent.

Genetics aren’t everything, however. If an animal gets sick, its milk production potential may decline. If a dairy herd faces difficult environmental conditions or if management struggles to provide appropriate nutrition, housing and veterinary care, production will suffer, too, Dalton said.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

USDA Report Highlights Scientific Research, Development Breakthroughs

From Mosquito-Repelling Uniforms to Wood Fiber Microchips, USDA Research Creates Opportunities, Improves Lives
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today released results of investments in scientific research including 222 new inventions, 94 patents awarded and 125 new patent applications filed in 2015. The USDA Annual Report on Technology Transfer includes new agriculture-related discoveries, inventions and processes made by USDA researchers, universities and small businesses with the potential for commercial application.
"The work of USDA scientists and the private research we fund improves the lives of all Americans," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "From permanent press cotton clothing, mass production of penicillin, frozen orange juice to the most effective and widely-used mosquito repellents, our scientists and research partners have changed the world and every year their work leads to new advances. Studies show that every dollar invested in agricultural research returns $20 to our economy. Given that track record, we're aggressively working to speed the development and transfer of new technologies to the marketplace."
Highlights from the 2015 report include: 
  • A bio-refinery that turned a city landfill into an "energy park" 
  • Computer chips made from wood fiber
  • Mosquito-resistant uniforms for U.S. military personnel
  • A new biological control agent to combat a major citrus disease
  • An on-line climate and weather tool to better manage farm pests and plant diseases
  • Cost-effective solar-powered irrigation pumps for remote communities
  • Flu eradication through genome editing in pigs
  • Bacteria repellant cooking pan surfaces
  • Robotic apple pickers
  • Affordable tornado-safe rooms
  • Virus-based fire ant control
The  full 2015 Technology Transfer Report, as well as a look at previous USDA research and discoveries, is available on the ARS website. USDA's technology transfer program is administered by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency. 
USDA's technology transfer program is administered by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency. 
Since 2009, USDA has invested $19 billion in research both intramural and extramural. During that time, research conducted by USDA scientists has resulted in 883 patent applications filed, 405 patents issued and 1,151 new inventions disclosures covering a wide range of topics and discoveries. To learn more about how USDA supports cutting edge science and innovation, visit the USDA Medium chapter  Food and Ag Science Will Shape Our Future

Monday, November 21, 2016

Just in from Washington

USDA's Five Tips for a Food Safe Thanksgiving

WASHINGTON–This week millions of Americans will gather family and friends around the dinner table to give thanks. But for those preparing the meal, it can be a stressful time. Not to mention, for many it is the largest meal they have cooked all year, leaving plenty of room for mistakes that could cause foodborne illness.
"Unsafe handling and undercooking of food can lead to serious foodborne illness," said Al Almanza, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). "Turkeys may contain Salmonella and Campylobacter, harmful pathogens that are only destroyed by properly preparing and cooking the turkey. Similarly, leaving leftovers out for too long, or not taking care to properly clean cooking and serving surfaces, can lead to other types of illness. We want to be sure that all consumers know the steps they can take and resources that are available to them to help prepare a safe and enjoyable holiday meal. "
To avoid making everyone at the table sick, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) offers five tips for a food safe Thanksgiving:
Tip 1: Don't Wash That Turkey. 
According to the most recent Food Safety Survey, conducted by the Food and Drug Administration, 68 percent of the public washes whole turkey before cooking it. USDA does not recommend washing raw meat and poultry before cooking. Washing raw meat and poultry can cause bacteria to spread up to three feet away. Cooking (baking, broiling, boiling, frying or grilling) meat and poultry to the right temperature kills any bacteria that may be present, so washing meat and poultry is not necessary.
Tip 2: Use the refrigerator, the cold-water method or the microwave to defrost a frozen turkey. 
There are three safe ways to defrost a turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave oven. Thawing food in the refrigerator is the safest method because the turkey will defrost at a consistent, safe temperature. It will take 24 hours for every 5 pounds of weight for a turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. To thaw in cold water, submerge the bird in its original wrapper in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. For instructions on microwave defrosting, refer to your microwave's owner's manual. Cold water and microwave thawing can also be used if your bird did not entirely defrost in the refrigerator.
Tip 3: Use a meat thermometer.
The only way to determine if a turkey (or any meat, poultry or seafood) is cooked is to check its internal temperature with a food thermometer. A whole turkey should be checked in three locations: the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast. Your thermometer should register 165°F in all three of these places. The juices rarely run clear at this temperature, and when they do the bird is often overcooked. Using the food thermometer is the best way to ensure your turkey is cooked, but not overdone. 
Tip 4: Don't store food outside, even if it's cold. 
Storing food outside is not food safe for two reasons. The first is that animals, both wild and domesticated, can get into food stored outside, consuming it or contaminating it. The second is temperature variation. Just like your car gets warm in the summer, a plastic food storage container in the sun can heat up and climb into the danger zone (above 40°F). The best way to keep that extra Thanksgiving food at a safe temperature (below 40°F) is in a cooler with ice.
Tip 5: Leftovers are good in the refrigerator for up to four days. 
Cut the turkey off the bone and refrigerate it as soon as you can, within 2 hours of the turkey coming out of the oven. Leftovers will last for four days in the refrigerator, so if you know you won't use them right away, pack them into freezer bags or airtight containers and freeze. For best quality, use your leftover turkey within four months. After that, the leftovers will still be safe, but can dry out or lose flavor.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Just in

Statement by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Rural America at a Glance, 2016 Edition

WASHINGTON—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today released the following statement on Rural America at a Glance, 2016 Edition, an annual report by USDA's Economic Research Service:
"At the depths of the Great Recession, rural counties were shedding 200,000 jobs per year, rural unemployment stood at nearly 10 percent, and poverty rates reached heights unseen in decades. Many rural communities were ill-positioned to bounce back quickly.
"Over the course of the Obama Administration, USDA has made targeted Federal investments in rural areas to create jobs, generate economic opportunity, and strengthen rural communities. This strategy, focused on production agriculture, the biobased economy, local and regional food systems, and conservation and natural resources, is helping the rural economy retool itself for the 21st century.
"Today's report underscores the result of these efforts: rural America has begun a remarkable comeback. Key economic indicators continue to show that rural America is rebounding. Rural unemployment continued to decline in 2015, dropping below 6 percent for the first time since 2007, and rural poverty rates have fallen. Median household incomes in rural areas increased by 3.4 percent in 2015, and rural populations have stabilized and are beginning to grow. Child food insecurity nationwide is at an all-time low.
"The future of rural America looks much brighter today than when President Obama took office. The incredible results highlighted in the new report demonstrate how long-term government investment and positive partnerships with public institutions are central to rural America's continued progress."
The  Rural America at a Glance, 2016 Edition report can be viewed on the ERS website. To read more about USDA's investments in rural America and its successful turnaround, visit USDA's entry on,  Rural America Is Back in BusinessThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website..

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Just in

Thanksgiving Dinner Ticks Down to Less Than $5 Per Person

WASHINGTON - The American Farm Bureau Federation's 31st annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year's feast for 10 is $49.87, a 24-cent decrease from last year's average of $50.11.

The big ticket item - a 16-pound turkey - came in at a total of $22.74 this year. That's roughly $1.42 per pound, a decrease of 2 cents per pound, or a total of 30 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2015.
"Consumers will pay less than $5 per person for a classic Thanksgiving dinner this year," AFBF Director of Market Intelligence Dr. John Newton said. "We have seen farm prices for many foods - including turkeys - fall from the higher levels of recent years. This translates into lower retail prices for a number of items as we prepare for Thanksgiving and confirms that U.S. consumers benefit from an abundant, high-quality and affordable food supply." 
The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.
Foods showing the largest decreases this year in addition to turkey were pumpkin pie mix, milk and a veggie tray comprised of celery and carrots. A 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix was $3.13; a gallon of milk, $3.17; a one-pound veggie tray of celery and carrots, $0.73; and a group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour), $2.81.
"Due to a significant expansion in global milk production, prices fell to the lowest levels since 2009, leading to lower retail milk and dairy product prices. Additionally, this year's pumpkin prices are slightly lower following the production decline and higher prices seen in 2015," Newton said.
Items that increased modestly in price were a dozen brown-and-serve rolls, $2.46; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.59; one pound of green peas, $1.58; 12 ounces of fresh cranberries, $2.39; a half-pint of whipping cream, $2.00; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.67; and a three-pound bag of fresh sweet potatoes, $3.60. 
The average price is down slightly from last year to $49.87. After adjusting for inflation, the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner fell to $20.66 - the lowest level since 2010. 
Although the classic Thanksgiving meal priced by Farm Bureau is considered modest by some, "we're fortunate to live here in America, where many people are able to enhance their holiday meals with another type of meat or additional side dishes or desserts," Newton said.
The stable average price reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks closely with the government's Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home. The most recent CPI report for food at home showed just over a 2-percent decline over the past year (available online at

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Just in from Washington

USDA Awards Funds for Fiscal Year 2017 Market Development Programs

WASHINGTON– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) is awarding $200 million to more than 70 U.S. agricultural organizations to help expand export markets for U.S. farm and food products through the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) Program.

 "USDA and the U.S. agricultural industry work together in a unique public-private partnership to open and grow markets around the world for high-quality, American-made farm and food products," Vilsack said. "The federal investment in these programs is multiplied by industry matching funds, not only boosting agricultural export revenue and volume, but also supporting farm income and enhancing the overall U.S. economy."

 Under MAP, FAS will provide $173.5 million in fiscal year 2017 funding to 70 nonprofit organizations and cooperatives. The organizations use the funds to help U.S. agricultural producers promote their products to consumers around the globe through activities such as market research, technical assistance, and support for participation in trade fairs and exhibits.

MAP participants contribute an average 137 percent match for generic marketing and promotion activities and a dollar-for-dollar match for promotion of branded products by small businesses and cooperatives. Under FMD, FAS will allocate $26.6 million in fiscal year 2017 funds to 26 trade organizations that represent U.S. agricultural producers. FMD focuses on generic promotion of U.S. commodities, rather than consumer-oriented promotion of branded products, and preference is given to organizations that represent an entire industry or are nationwide in membership and scope.

The organizations, which contribute an average 130 percent cost share, conduct activities that help maintain or increase demand for U.S. agricultural commodities overseas. A new study conducted by noted land grant university economists shows that MAP and FMD contributed $309 billion to farm export revenue between 1977 and 2014, an average of $8.2 billion per year. From 2002 through 2014, the programs boosted average annual farm cash income by $2.1 billion, annual U.S. economic output by $39.3 billion, annual gross domestic product (GDP) by $16.9 billion, and annual labor income by $9.8 billion. In addition, the programs generated economic activity that directly created 239,000 new jobs, including 90,000 farm sector jobs. To learn more about the Economic Impact of USDA Export Market Development Program study, visit

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Just in

USDA, Partners Celebrate First Wood-to-Jet-Fuel Commercial Flight

USDA and a Washington State University-Led Alliance Support Sustainable Jobs in Pacific Northwest
WASHINGTON– Alaska Airlines today landed the first commercial flight powered in part by a new renewable fuel made of wood waste salvaged from private lands in Washington, Oregon and Montana. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack greeted the passengers for flight AS-4 arriving from Seattle at Washington Reagan National Airport to highlight this breakthrough in bioenergy that supports jobs and rural economies by developing a sustainable bio-products industry in the Pacific Northwest utilizing wood harvest left-overs that would otherwise go to waste. 
This flight is the culmination of a five-year, $39.6 million research and education project supported by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and led by Washington State University and the Northwest Advanced Renewables AllianceThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. (NARA). Launched in 2011, NARA has advanced research into biofuels and biochemicals, fostered the Northwest regional biofuel industry and helped educate tomorrow's workforce on renewable energy.
"In 2011, USDA awarded our largest-ever competitive research grant to the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance, betting on the promise that cellulose-rich, discarded wood products could be a viable renewable fuel source instead of going to waste. Today, we are able to celebrate the results of that investment, which is a major advancement for clean alternatives to conventional fossil fuels," said Vilsack. "Over the course of the Obama Administration, USDA has invested $332 million to accelerate cutting-edge research and development on renewable energy, making it possible for planes, ships and automobiles to run on fuel made from municipal waste, beef fat, agricultural byproducts and other low-value sources. All of this creates extra income sources for farmers and ranchers, is bringing manufacturing jobs back to rural America, and is keeping our country at the forefront of clean energy and innovation. We must continue to focus on targeted investments to help the rural economy retool itself for the 21st century."
The demonstration flight used a 20 percent blend of jet fuel made from cellulose derived from limbs and branches that typically remain on the ground after the harvesting of sustainably managed private forests, known as harvest residuals. Cellulose, the main component of wood, is the most abundant material in nature and has long been a subject of investigation for producing sustainable biofuels. The harvest residuals used to make fuel for this flight came from forests owned by Weyerhaeuser in Washington and Oregon, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe in Washington and the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes in Montana. The biofuel used is chemically indistinguishable from regular commercial jet fuel.
In addition to producing 1,080 gallons of biofuel used for the flight, other key tasks of the NARA project included evaluating the economic, environmental and societal benefits and impacts associated with harvesting unused forest residuals for biofuel production. NARA's 32 member organizations from industry, academia and government laboratories take a holistic approach to building an aviation biofuel supply chain within Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. The NARA initiative has also resulted in more than 50 peer-reviewed research publications in 2016 related to the development of biofuels and other products from residual wood, the development of  teacher's guides and lesson plans on renewable energyThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website.,  a biofuels webinar seriesThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website., and the NARA Knowledge Base, an ongoing  clearinghouse of biofuel informationThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website..

Monday, November 14, 2016

Just in from Washington

Farm Bureau opposes speed limiters proposal

Truck-highway-ArkansasWashington-The Department of Transportation's proposal to require speed limiters for large commercial vehicles fails to take into account the fact that many commercial vehicles often cover hundreds of miles on open roads with few other vehicles, Farm Bureau pointed out in recently submitted comments.  In addition, the proposed rule would pass on significant costs to already struggling farmers and ranchers who only use heavier trucks seasonally. 
The proposed rule, put forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and DOT, would require vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds to be equipped with a speed limiting device initially set to a speed no greater than a speed to be specified in a final rule and would require motor carriers operating such vehicles in interstate commerce to maintain functional speed limiting devices set to a speed no greater than a speed to be specified in the final rule for the service life of the vehicle. 
Speed limits should not be arbitrarily established by federal rule, Farm Bureau said in its comments. Instead, it should be based on conditions in the area in which it's posted. 
"Our members operate in all types of environments from the most rural regions of this country to more urban areas in high population densities. That is one of the reasons we have different posted speed limits for different scenarios based on the distinct local conditions," the organization said. 
"The proposal ignores the fact that many commercial vehicles often operate for hundreds of miles without much interaction with other traffic. There is no clear rationale in the rule for suggesting a truck traveling in a rural setting with minimal traffic should have the same top speed as a truck traveling in a large city," Farm Bureau continued. 
The organization also pointed out that the proposal would be too costly for farmers and ranchers who use large trucks only during certain times of the year. 
"The rule, if adopted, would pass on significant costs to our members who do not operate as commercial motor vehicle enterprises but only utilize heavier trucks seasonally. These costs would impact an industry that is currently struggling to make ends meet with the recent downturn in the farm economy," Farm Bureau said. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veterans Day

Joe Goicoechea of Boise, fought at Wake and was was POW for the duration of the war. Jake Putnam photo
A Different Veteran's Day Story
By Jake Putnam

Boise--On this Veteran's day 92 year-old Joe Goicoechea of Boise has mixed feelings. He never joined the Marines, but fought with the leathernecks shoulder to shoulder on Wake Island back in 1941. 

The Boise native manned a machinegun fending off elite Japanese marines for two weeks from December 8th till the 23rd. During those frantic days he was wounded, captured and held as a prisoner of war.

While the attack on Pearl was a clear cut victory for the Japanese; the invaders were stopped dead in their tracks for the first time by U.S marines and construction workers on the windswept, coral island.

Construction workers like Goicoechea readily volunteered for action and fought fiercely with the Marines when the invasion came a week after Pearl Harbor. To this day the darkest memory for many Boise residents is observance of December 8th, the invasion of Wake and the fate of 98 laborers, cat skinners, carpenters, iron workers cut down in cold blood by the Japanese.

By 1939 the U.S. Navy started building an airport and submarine base on the island and MK Contractors from across Idaho were brought in to help bolster Island defenses. MK bosses sent the call across the Gem State for laborers, iron workers, and heavy equipment operators.

“There was a lot of recruiting in Idaho and the west because MK had offices here,” said Goicoechea, of Boise. With the Depression still lingering good paying jobs were hard to find.

“They offered us $120 per month and we thought we were millionaires,” said Goicoechea. “We didn’t have to pay taxes, we got room and board all we had to bring was our personal gear and we had the chance to learn a trade, none of us bargained for a fight against the   Japs.”

The MK’ers dug revetments, runways, and fortifications with urgency. Goicoechea and his high school buddies worked long hours. “I learned a trade there and I loved it, I learned how to be an ironworker, most everyone was older than me. I was just 19, most of the guys were as old as my dad, but had worked all the big projects of the time like Boulder Dam.”

The 1,146 Construction workers took orders from MK’s Dan Teters while the 449 Marines got their marching orders from Major James Devereux. Major Paul Putnam took charge of the Marine Fighter Squadron. Captain Harry Wilson commanded the 71 sailors but overall command of the Island fell under Commander Winfield Cunningham.

Wake was important because our heavy bombers could easily strike the Japanese-controlled Marshall Islands. For the Japanese a base on Wake made Hawaii and the West Coast vulnerable. The Pentagon wanted to set up a defensible picket line in the Pacific to keep the Japanese from striking range.

On Sundays workers played in a softball league, went to church and visited the camp library but for the most part there were few distractions on the island. They lived in barracks and ate at the company mess hall; many sent paychecks home.

“Late that summer the Marines came in and started putting up the 3-inch antiaircraft guns and they asked for volunteers to take instruction on the guns so evenings after dinner, I did that and I’d go over there and practice on the .50 caliber machine gun”. Goicoechea and his Boise buddies took ROTC and even spent weekends in the Idaho National Guard. Abruptly the practice sessions ended on December 6th.

“I was on Peale working on a bomb-proof generator next to the Pan-Am offices and we heard that Pearl had been hit but we didn’t give it much thought,” said Joe Goicoechea."But across the lagoon the alarm sounded after the radio shack picked up a dispatch from Pearl saying that Hickam Field had been bombed."

Minutes later the Marines sounded general quarters across the three small atoll islands. The Marines took up arms in full battle gear and the construction volunteers followed. They didn't have to wait long.

“Then about 10 or 15 minutes to Noon,” recalled J.O. Young from Nampa. “We thought we saw our planes coming in. We ran outside looking toward the airstrip and could see the bombers coming in and then the strip started to explode and the planes were flying right toward us. As they come close above the roar of the engines we could hear a steady "tut-tut" and realized that they were machine-gunning us.”

36 Japanese Mitsubishi Nell bombers roared across Wake in three distinct V-formations. “They came in with the sun and you couldn’t see them, the sun was so bright and the white sand we could barely see them until they were right on top of us and they leveled Wake. They fighters came in so low I could see their faces and the big red meat ball on the side of the plane. Those pilots just played hell with us,” said Goicoechea.

The twin engine bombers dropped fragmentation bombs spewing razor sharp shrapnel and coral everywhere, buildings burned, cars, trucks equipment burned and in seconds scores were wounded, smoke bellowed and confusion reined. Survivors remembered the smell of burning oil and blood.

On Peale, not far from Goicoechea, the bombers blew up the Pan Am Building killing 10  workers. Enemy fighters strafed equipment, trucks and anything that moved. The three and five-inch guns emplacements were favorite targets for the Zeros and the bombers but survived. The marines were unscathed by the attack, they rallied, manned guns and fought back.

“As the smoke cleared after the first wave I could see we suffered quite a few casualties,” said Goicoechea. “Our hospital was hit and quite a few were killed there. That was the day I was knocked around a bit.” Goicoechea ran to a gun emplacement and was helping the Marines load the 5-inch guns when an explosion nearby knocked him and a Marine corporal Ken Marvin off their feet. Both survived, suffered shrapnel wounds from the coral and though bloodied they kept on fighting.

“The pounded us all afternoon and then high-tailed it home, thats the way it was for the next two weeks, every afternoon,” recalled Goicoechea. 

Before each raid, a few battered American Wildcat fighters met the enemy and proved they were up for the task, they fearlessly tangled with enemy fighters and bombers. A few enemy aircraft were shot down and transports were strafed. 

  At 3-am on December 11, the Japanese invasion task force moved in for the kill. Offshore a light Japanese cruiser, six destroyers, two troop carriers along with two armed merchant ships made a run for Wake's beaches under the cover of darkness.

Marine gunners stalked them to 4,500 yards then opened up with spotlights and the 5-inch naval guns. Their aim was deadly blasting a Japanese destroyer in half with a ball of fire and it sunk so fast that there were no survivors. The defenders also damaged a cruiser and sunk three destroyers. The force turned tail; it was the first retreat of in the Pacific and the first U.S. victory of the young war. “We were mad as hell and all we wanted to do was fight,” recalled Goicoechea.

For two and a half weeks the outmanned Americans fought back and had turned the tide but they were low on ammo and needed medical supplies. The air raids continued. At 2:15 am on December 23 the Marines spotted another Japanese assault force. Wake radioed Pearl: "Enemy apparently landing." It was the final showdown on Wake.

The Marines, assisted by construction volunteers opened up on Japanese Patrol Craft 33 and their 5-inch gun hit the powder magazine of a landing ship the explosion turned night into day and fighting intensified and gave hope to the defenders.

Over on Wilkes island a company of 100 Japanese landed and overran a gun position at Battery F. Just a dozen Marines fixed bayonets and counterattacked. They drove the surprised enemy back toward a skirmish line held by 24 Marines; who counterattacked into the enemy flank, causing the Japanese to panic. The 37 U.S. Marines completely gutted the elite Japanese company, killing 94 and capturing two.

Everywhere the fighting was desperate; a Japanese marine charged Cpl. Alvie Reed with a bayonet both fell on the battlefield. A few feet away Platoon Sergeant Edwin Hassig shot a charging enemy soldier between the eyes at point blank range.

On the main island of Wake more Japanese troops charged ashore. With no infantry in reserve, the Marine aviators and construction workers fought where they stood; "This is as far as we go," yelled Major Putnam to his airmen, and they met a platoon of enemy Japanese marines with raised hands.

On other parts of the atoll the U.S. marines had turned the tide and controlled their sectors only to learn that the command post had surrendered. As noon broke under a blazing sun, the Japanese captured all 16-hundred people on the island.

In two weeks the island’s brave fighter squadron shot down 21 aircraft, damaged 51 others. Island defenders sunk four warships and damaged eight others, and killed more than 850 Japanese sailors and more than 200 soldiers of the landing force.

“It’s always an argument over who talked to Hawaii that day recalled,” Goicoechea, “Commander Cunningham or Major Devereux , I think Devereux told Cunningham he was the commander of the Island and it was up to him to make the decision to surrender, but I thought we had ‘em that day.”

The captured Americans were marched to the airstrip with bayonets at their backs and forced to their knees in long rows. They were stripped naked in the hot sun, eye to eye with Japanese machine-gunners for two days and nights.

"We got sunburned that first afternoon and at night it was freezing cold, we got burned again and the nights were pure hell, we had no cover at all, no way to get out of the sun and no way to get out of the wind at night," said Goicoechea.

On Christmas day Goicoechea said the Japanese allowed them to bury the dead and moved out of the sun and wind. The marines and construction workers were marched to the north end of the island and jammed into their battle damaged barracks. In January they were shipped off to Japan and China as slave laborers. But the Japanese kept 98 construction workers behind to fortify the Island.

By 1943 the Pacific war by-passed Wake. It had no strategic value and it was cut off and used for target practice by the U.S. Pacific fleet. The USS Yorktown arrived offshore on October 5th, 1943 and during a two day exercise dropped 340 tons of bombs on the atoll. The group’s cruisers and destroyers blasted the island with 3,198 eight-inch and five-inch projectiles. The raid flattened the island and 31 Japanese planes were destroyed on the ground.

Commander Sakaibara thought that that the taskforce offshore would send landing craft and worried that the 98 workers would rise up and fight; so he issued an execution order.

When Wake fell to U.S. Forces in September of 1945 Commander Sakaibara claimed that the American raid of ’43 killed the civilian construction workers but his own men confessed to the execution. He was hung after the War Crimes Tribunals on Guam in June of 1947.

The families of the 98 didn’t know of the execution until January 1946. With the help of Senator Larry Craig, Joe Goicoechea was awarded the Purple Heart five decades after he took up arms for his country. He is retired from MK and lives in Boise.

World War II magazine, Idaho Press Tribune, J.O. Young, Joe Goicoechea, MK survivor, Marine Corps Association, Leatherneck Magazine contributed to this story.