Thursday, January 31, 2008

Idaho Department of Ag Kicks Off Locate in 48 Campaign



(BOISE) The Idaho State Department of Agriculture started a coordinated promotional campaign to encourage the state’s livestock owners and others to take part in the premises identification program. Entitled Locate In 48, the program focuses on safeguarding animal health by educating Idaho landowners the importance of registering locations where animals are held.

Idaho’s Locate In 48 program will allow 48-hour trace-back if an animal disease outbreak were to occur. This program will help protect animal health, increase consumer confidence in the nation’s food supply and better connect farmers and producers to the global marketplace.

"I cant think of a better legacy that our generation can provide for the next generation than the security of our livestock industry as a whole," said Idaho Governor Butch Otter. Otter was one of the first ranchers to sign up for the program.

Otter dismissed fears of 'big brother' intrusions by the government. "Those folks that are worried about this program, the destruction of their privacy. I think I have as about as good as reputation as any for not wanting the government on my property."

The campaign is supported by a brochure, posters, print advertisements, billboards and an enhanced Web site that describes the program. The site — Idaho.LocateIn48.com — includes campaign materials, frequently asked questions and registration forms.

“We are very excited to introduce Idaho’s Locate In 48 campaign to the state. We believe that this information will help educate and encourage Idahoans to register their livestock premises and preserve the future of farming and ranching for generations to come,” said Celia Gould, director of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

Through the program, livestock owners are asked to voluntarily register their premises’ information. Premises are any location where animals are managed or held — this includes farms and ranches, hobby farms, veterinary clinics, stables, livestock markets and any other location where livestock is kept.

To register your premises, visit Idaho.LocateIn48.com, print a copy of the registration form and mail it to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, Division of Animal Industries Premises Identification, 2270 Old Penitentiary Road, Boise, ID 83712. There is no cost to register.

Conservation Easements Workshop

In the Hall of Mirrors, East Conference Room, at 1:30, the Farm and Forestry Working group met up with members of House. The purpose of the Gold Room Workshop was to explain conservation easements and why people should care.

Lou Lunte of the Nature Conservancy told lawmakers the nuts and bolts of easements explaining that A conservation easement is a restriction placed on a piece of property to protect its associated resources.

He pointed out that Idaho's working farms, ranches and timberlands offer the way of life, rural character, open space and outdoor recreation vital to maintaining Idaho's natural resource heritage. He said its important that all groups work together to protect and preserve some of Idaho's most critical and important working lands. Incentives will help ensure that workings lands remain working, and will reward good stewards of the land.

Lunte pointed out that easements can take many different forms. The Ranch, Farm, and Forest Protection Act would: 1. Provide state income tax credits to willing landowner who make a qualifying conservation contribution. 2. Allow recipients to sell tax credits to willing buyers. 3. Focus the allocation of tax credits on working lands that provide important benefits to fish and wildlife. 4. Create sufficient oversight to ensure effective use of tax credits and safeguard against abuses, and 5. Provide sufficient incentive while minimizing the impact to the state budget.

Kennon McClintock explained how easements would work on private forests and how Forest Capital keeps their gates open to hikers, hunters and fishermen. He stressed the importance of keeping endangered species habitat in tact. Nate Helm discussed how important it is to keep land open for sportsmen and game habitat. The committee asked a dozen questions and the meeting adjourned. The conservation legislation is scheduled for introduction later in the session.

The Idaho Farm Bureau worked with the group last summer and into the fall, producing the video, Idaho Ranch Farm and Forest Initiave. Steve Ritter and Jake Putnam video taped todays proceedings, Kent Lauer monitored the meeting.

January Snow Facts


According to the National Weather Service, 11.2 inches of snow fell on Boise during January. Just 1.9 inches fell last year. The 30 year avearage of January snowfall in Boise is 4.8 inches, so far we've had 20.4 inches snow this winter, that compares to 17.6 inches over the past 30 years.


Still Snowing, with Wind


The storm has been raging since 5-am and it's gaining momentum; although forecasters say we will only get two inches of snow. The ISP, BPD and the Highway District are urging people to stay off the roads until they thaw out at noon.


Prices for Key U.S. Crops Remain High

Supplies Remain Tight, Outlook Good for Spring Planting

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 30, 2008 – Prices for key U.S. crops such as corn and soybeans are likely to remain at high levels this year, as competition for acreage to plant these crops continues, according to the latest analysis of government data by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“Crop supplies in 2008 will remain tight, prices will remain high and strong competition will continue between corn and beans for acreage,” according to AFBF Senior Economist Terry Francl. “The tight supply-and-demand balance sheet that’s been in place for nearly all crops will continue for at least another year.”

Francl analyzed the Agriculture Department’s Winter Wheat Planting Report, Grain Stocks Report and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report to develop his crop outlook.

The WASDE report, in particular, is instructive. “Corn feeding rates were virtually at one of the highest levels recorded despite the recent high prices. Likewise, corn exports appear to be on track to set a new record,” Francl said. “The outlook for soybean stocks remains extremely tight and very little improvement is anticipated for the already tight wheat balance sheet.”

Demand for U.S. corn and beans shows no signs of slowing, according to Francl, and that means prices are likely to stay high. “There’s a 90 percent chance that corn prices may match or exceed the old record of $5.54 per bushel that was set in 1996, and there’s a 75 percent chance corn prices could reach $6 per bushel during the spring.”

Wheat, another traditional U.S. crop, is playing a more important role now than it has in years. “The outlook may seem somewhat of a repeat of what happened in 2007 when there was a bidding war between corn and soybeans acres, but in 2008 spring wheat acreage is another consideration,” Francl said. “This seems to assure that crop prices will remain high and volatile going into the 2008 spring planting season.”

The price of fertilizer and availability of soybean seed are other considerations, Francl said. Several seed companies have apparently exhausted their supplies of high-quality soybean seed. “This means that higher planting rates may be required and suggests that soybean yields may be impinged upon in 2008,” he said. A similar situation occurred with corn seed in 2007.

Weather, as always, will play a large role in what happens next. If the drought in the Southeast persists, Francl believes some farmers may plant more drought-tolerant cotton and fewer acres of corn and beans that have greater water needs.

Spring planting conditions, especially rainfall, also may affect the mix of corn and beans in the Corn Belt. “If weather is dry in the early spring, it means corn plantings will proceed at a good pace and result in slightly higher acreage,” Francl said. “If it is a wet, later-than-normal spring it likely will result in a little more acreage for soybeans.”

Given these issues, Francl believes corn acreage will decline, “but not as much as some people think,” to 89.5 million acres in 2008. That would be a decline of 4.4 percent from 2007. Soybean acreage will expand to 69.5 million acres, an increase of a little more than 9 percent from 2007.

Francl predicts wheat acreage will increase to 62 million acres, up almost 3 percent from last year, while cotton acreage will continue to decline, to 9.5 million acres, which would be a drop of a little more than 12 percent from a year ago.

“A continued tight balance sheet for corn and soybeans is ahead, with only slightly less pressure for wheat,” Francl said.

Francl’s crop outlook was included in the January 2008 Market Update published today by AFBF. Market Update is a monthly analysis of economic conditions affecting the farm sector.

More Snow

Snow and Blowing Snow Advisory is in effect until 11 PM MST this evening...Its snowing hard and drifting. Heres what the AP is saying: TodayWidespread snow in the morning...then snow likely and a chance of rain in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation 90 percent. Snow accumulation of 1 to 4 inches. Highs 33 to 39. Breezy. Southeast winds 15 to 25 mph.

TonightSnow in the evening...then a chance of snow after midnight. Chance of snow 80 percent. Snow accumulation up to 2 inches. Lows 24 to 29. Southeast winds 10 to 15 mph in the evening...shifting to west after midnight.

Snowpack was a big concern going into this season because reservoirs across Idaho were empty, The next five weeks are the most critical, if temperatures stay where they've been we should have a good summer water supply.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Simpson Introduces Beginning Farm and Ranchers Act

Bill Would Benefit the Nation's Young Farmers and Ranchers

(WASHINGTON) Record-high fuel, fertilizer and operating costs are forcing the nation’s graying farmers and ranchers to retire, some are selling out to developers and agricultural land is lost forever. Representative Mike Simpson wants to keep Idaho farm and ranch land in production and thinks he can do it through the nation’s tax structure.

Simpson joined Congressmen Earl Pomeroy (D-North Dakota) and Lee Terry (R-Nebraska) as an original cosponsor of the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Act. The members introduced the legislation to the U.S. House of Representatives today.

The Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Act will allow retiring farmers and ranchers to receive a 100% exemption from the capital gains tax if the land is sold to a qualified beginning farmer or rancher.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult for the upcoming generation of farmers and ranchers to follow in their families’ footsteps,” Simpson said. “This legislation will help level the playing field for young producers to compete against land developers or well-established producers who are able to offer higher prices for farmland.”

The Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Act will also offer capital gains tax exemptions to agriculture producers who sell their farmland to other producers in order to keep the land in production.

“More and more farmland is being taken out of production and developed,” said Simpson. “Often it is more profitable for farmers to sell their land to developers then to pass it on to their children. Hopefully, this legislation will help alleviate the horrid capital gains tax that accompanies these transactions and allow for more choices for farmers and ranchers.”

YF and R Notes

Chris Dalley is the chairmen of the Idaho Farm Bureau YF and R. I met up with him at the leadership conference in Burley and I asked him why he ranched. He sent me a very well written email, it gave me a glimpse into life on his Blackfoot Ranch, here's what he wrote:


THAT’S WHY


Have you ever walked in the house around dark:30, hungry and tired, filthy dirty, and pissed off at the world and everything in it? I seem to do that quite often. It is then that I ask myself, “Why am I trying to be a rancher? Why do I do the things I do?” Some of my friends keep telling me I should get a real job with paid vacation, days off, 401k, insurance, and other luxuries. A job that ends at 5 O’clock and you can leave stress and worries at work. These are the same friends that seem to have plenty of time and money to go on vacations, go to the movies, and do what they want to do. So why don’t I leave the ranching life and get a real job? Why am I doing this?

Let me recap the previous events that led up to this point. I am sure that a lot of you can relate.

My banker has been riding me like a rented mule because my budget is pretty tight, nothing new there. Half of the calves on the place seem to have some kind of sickness running through them and we can’t seem to get a handle on it. The vet bill is getting pretty high and the calves still don’t seem to be getting any better. The semi is in Cheyenne stopped at the port with the driver out of hours on his log book, looks like he’ll be late for the next load of cattle. Can’t wait for that phone call. The desert is dry and the yearlings are running out of grass fast. We sure could use some rain. But I’d like to get one crop of hay baled without any rain. I was really looking forward to a couple hours of sleep tonight but the baler is broke down and this hay needs to be baled by morning.

So where do I start? Which one of these wrecks should I tackle first? Again I ask myself the question, “Why am I doing this?” Is being a rancher really worth the headache?

Since we didn’t get any rain, we are out of grass on the desert. It is time to move the yearlings to summer grass. So we planned a couple of days when we could get the whole wild and wooly crew together to gather the yearlings. The crew consists of some of the toughest hands in the valley. Everyone is up before the sun getting ready for the day. My Dad and I start by catching and saddling the horses. Kimmel, my lovely bride, gets lunches ready along with getting three of the cutest cowhands west of Blackfoot out of bed and ready for the day. 8 year old Naomi, 6 year old Quinci, and 2 ½ year old Saydi, get up and help where they can. My Mom and sister Sara tidy up a few loose ends and we pile in the pick-up and horse trailer and head to the desert range.

It was a nice day. It wasn’t too hot and the wind wasn’t blowing too hard, yet. Everyone gets unloaded and mounted on there horses and heads out for a long day of gathering cattle. Dad, Mom, and Quinci head south. Kimmel, Sara, and Saydi head north. Naomi and I head west.

After several hours of riding, we all meet up with the yearlings, ready to head down the road to the loading pens. We started down the road and it hit me. I stopped and looked around and it was becoming clear. There was my wife and sister in front of the heard, walking their horses talking and laughing. Dad and Mom followed with Naomi and Quinci doing the same. They all had smiles on their faces and couldn’t be happier. Saydi and I were bringing up the tail end. For that brief moment, everything in my world was perfect. I was with the people I love doing what I love. No banker hounding me. No trucks stopped on the road. No equipment broke down. Heck, my cell phone didn’t even have service. My troubled mind was at ease for the first time in a while.

That was the answer. That is why I want to be a rancher. It’s not for the money, days off, 401k, or any of those things. It’s the simple things in life that may only come around once in a while. It’s about a way a life. The life style that I love and want my kids to grow up doing the same. It’s teaching my children about the simple things like a new born baby calf. It’s the smell of the sagebrush on the desert after a gentle spring rain. It’s getting a hug from the three toughest and cutest cowhands in the valley. It’s checking cattle with my lovely wife watching a beautiful sunset. It’s being able to spend time with my family while working. It’s teaching my children the value of hard work.

I tip my hat to all those who continue to work hard. Who struggle through the hard times, who stick it out when the going gets tough so that their children can learn to enjoy more of the simple things life has to offer.

So when I am having one of those days that seem to last for weeks, or let myself get down I ask the question, “Why am I trying to be a rancher? Why do I do the things I do?” That’s why.


Ag Summit Notes

Albert Wada Receives the Ag Summit Governors Award for Marketing Innovation

BY JAKE PUTNAM

(GARDEN CITY) In the produce department at the Wal-Mart in Garden City, shoppers gather in the produce section. They’re looking at the ‘baby potatoes’ in the microwave bag, ‘Look, they’re ready to go, no washing, nothin,’ said the 30-something shopper to his wife. He dropped the mini spuds in the shopping cart.

Albert Wada of Pingree has done it again. The head of Wada Farms knows that people are busy and spending less time in the kitchen, so he’s marketing microwavable spuds, “This may be a solution for today’s time-starved consumers,” he says.

The colorful bags catch the eye, “It’s a one and-a-half pound gourmet, petite size yellow, red or russet potato,” said Wada. “And it’s ready to steam in the bag, you end up with is a potato that’s quartered and buttered right and ready to go.”

Wada is known for fearlessly chasing ideas to keep up with consumers, “We’ve had missteps and mistakes in judgment, over expansion or weather situations that caught up with us, but things work out,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. Wada farms more than 30-thousand acres of irrigated spuds.

The farmer’s diligent monitoring of the marketplace and consumers has transformed Wada Farms into an Industry giant and this years Governor’s award winner for Marketing Innovation.

Wada has a long history of thinking ahead not only on the consumer side of things, but the production side as well. He’s watched the rise and fall of potato fortunes for more than four decades, he says through the years farmers at times were their own worse enemies.

“We worked ourselves into a chronic over production situation,” said Wada. “We were raising more and better potatoes every year and the marketplace couldn’t accept that. Quite honestly supply and demand couldn’t accept that volume without selling at lower prices and it took a serious toll.”

Idaho Farmers had operated with the assumption that free enterprise, hard work and good weather would get them through the hard times. But the globalization of the market made farming even harder.

Enter the North American Free Trade Agreement and suddenly the U.S. borders were open to the world, Canadian French fries started flooding the market and U.S. spud prices plummeted. To make matters worse in 2003 Canadians opened a large French-fry plant of their own, forcing the closure of the Burley plant and soon the United States was importing fries with Idaho farmers stuck with a huge surplus.

“Because of the magnitude of the losses we were surrendering huge amounts of money to this over production and getting half of the cost of production for a hundred weight of potatoes,” recalled Wada. “When you do that for more than a year or two you hemorrhage money and farm yourself out of equity. Wada set out to address the problem by managing the supply of fresh potatoes.

Albert Wada was the perfect person for the job, when the confident, soft spoken man speaks people listen.

He helped found United Fresh Potato Growers of Idaho in late 2003, and then worked at getting the attention of the nation’s other potato producers. He set out to unite as many growers as he could with the ultimate goal of ‘rationalizing the industry’ by fitting production to the market.

The next year at a National Potato Council meeting in Washington, D.C. Wada took it a step further and was the driving force behind the formation of the United Fresh Potato Growers of America an umbrella organization overseeing state co-ops. United immediately started monitoring the potato market and encouraged farmers to limit production to keep prices up.

“If you told me five years ago that I’d be involved in a cooperative movement the way I am currently, I probably would have given you a real dirty look, but the bottom line is that everything changes,” said Wada who started meeting with farmers stressing that the co-op preserved and promoted farmer independence. Under the plan farmers were still able to call their own shots, selling to anyone, on their own terms.

Wada told producers as long as prices stayed above the trigger point, the co-op would stay out of the picture. When it’s time to reduce supply, growers are free to take part in the buyout of acreage or crops and farmers with obligations were free to meet them. The market turned around but it’s a fragile, year to year proposition.The cooperative philosophy makes sense,” adds Wada. “It’s really unfortunate that more of the farming community can’t latch onto that and come together with enough effective critical mass to make a difference. We were able to do that at a relatively high degree because so many of us were in the same boat.”

“The cooperative model is the best chance, the best tool we have to manage our own economics,” said Wada.

At Wada Farms in Pingree everything is painted red, when asked about the color theme Wada chuckled. “When I get profitable with more assets than debt we’ll paint everything black; As long as I’m in the red, everything will stay red.”

Boise Snowfall








The snow continues to fall in Boise. After a year of drought conditions the heavens have opened up and Southwest Idaho has above normal snowpack levels. In the past 30 hours we've had 6 inches of snow, with more coming tonight.



YF and R Notes

Young Farmers and Ranchers Embrace Idaho Meth Project
By Jake Putnam

(BURLEY) The Idaho Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Rancher organization is putting their money where their worries are, the Idaho Meth Project. At their annual meeting in Burley the group voted unanimously to throw support behind the Project with fundraising activities throughout the year and pledged $700.00 on the spot.

We realize that there is a growing problem here in Idaho, we’re a big producer and so we’re supporting the Idaho Meth Project,” said YF and R chairman Chris Dalley of Blackfoot. “For the simple fact that it affects our communities, affects what we’re doing. People are stealing just to buy the meth. It impacts our families and the kids we’re trying to raise.”

Megan Ronk of the Idaho Meth Project addressed the gathering of Young Farmers and Ranchers and her frank message served as a wake-up call those gathered at he Best Western in Burley.

“The nature of meth amphetamine in Idaho is that it tends to be rural and isolated. People can do this drug under the darkness of night and no one’s asking questions. Idahoans are not seeing what’s going on; that’s why rural communities in the state have been so plagued by this drug,” said Ronk.

Ronk told the conference that there has never been a drug as powerful, addictive and quick to destroy lives and communities as Methamphetamine. She stated that meth is the top drug of choice and the #1 drug problem in Idaho.

“Its time that we all start looking around us and being a little more vigilant about what is happening in our communities, our state and especially as it relates to our youngest Idahoans, we need to ensure that they don’t go down that road,” added Ronk.

Ronk said the average meth user in the Idaho court system has a $3600 a month drug habit. Sixty-three percent of all people in felony drug court are meth addicts, while Idaho spends an estimated $66-million dollars a year to house meth addicted inmates.

The goal of the Meth project is arm teens and young adults with the facts about Meth so they can make well informed decisions when presented with the opportunity to try it. “We’re putting more of our emphasis on the Meth Project because we see something that’s affecting us more directly right now,” said Dalley.

Ronk went on to say the average Idaho meth user in the court system has a $3600 a month drug habit. Sixty-three percent of all people in felony drug court are meth addicts, while Idaho spends an estimated $66-million dollars a year to house addicts.

2008 YF and R Leadership Conference Breaks Attendance Record

Parking Places Hard to Find

By Jake Putnam, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation Writer


(BURLEY) The 2008 Young Farmer and Rancher Leadership Conference got off to one of its best starts ever at the Best Western Burley Inn January 24th-26th. More than 110 members registered and attended Thursday’s dinner dance with the band Crossfire.

“We’re excited about this meeting because this is the biggest attendance we have had,” said new YF and R committee chairman Chris Dalley. “We have people here from all over the state.”

The Best Western was packed with cars and pickups with license plates from most every county, members scrambled for the prized parking spaces out front and Perkins restaurant on site was busy throughout the two day conference.

“We’re growing every year and I tip my hat to the county YF and R chairmen. They’re the ones bringing people here and making them excited about coming. We’re showing them that Farm Bureau does more than sell insurance,” added Dalley. “We have a big voice in farming and ranching and we’re an important part of agriculture.”

In the Young Farmer and Rancher group, members work live and breathe production agriculture. Their ages range between 18 and 35 and they not only raise crops and livestock but also work in a myriad of agri-businesses everything from education and banking, to co-ops and trucking.

YF and R members develop leadership skills while also volunteering as active, vital members of their county Farm Bureaus,” said Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley. “Members are a vital part of Farm Bureau because of their dedication, enthusiasm and agriculture advocacy.” Priestley was active in YF and R and many others have gone on to be Idaho Ag Leaders. Leadership cultivation is a responsibility is a priority to the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation.

“Our workshops with Bill Mendenhall and our financial workshops are important to members,” said Dalley. “We come to these conferences and find out along the way that we’re not here just to have fun. We’re here to network, but more importantly we’re here to better ourselves and make our operations go smoother.”

Kids are welcome at all meetings and the family friendly atmosphere is a big draw for members that can’t leave the kids home with a sitter. YF and R members can be seen in the halls going from meeting to meeting with kids in their arms. Dalley says this is the only agriculture organization that encourages young parents to bring the kids.

“We just want to raise our kids on a ranch; we all do it’s a lifestyle we’re choosing and we’re all in it together, mom, dad and the kids. I’m encouraged by the enthusiasm I’m seeing,” said Dalley.

Dalley says the Farm Bureau’s YF and R organization is dynamic, progressive, and constantly changing and that’s the key to drawing people to the organization. To keep the enthusiasm up Dalley and the other leaders are making meetings a social, learning experience. It’s working in Burley; members dined and danced, attended the field trips and seminars and tackled issues. And in the coming year the YF and R will meet with state and congressional lawmakers; promoting their commodity and their industry to their friends, community and the world.

ESA Reform Bills in front of House Natural Resources Committee Washington—Western ranchers are keeping a close eye on a bill that would ...