Friday, February 29, 2008

Snow Melting, Rumors of Spring Persist

Spring has sprung but tree trimmers are hard to find--Ritter photo

BOISE--The Treasure Valley is basking in bright sunshine and the first warm days of a long winter. Temperatures hit the 55-degree mark on Thursday with 60's expected Friday. Ditch riders throughout the Treasure Valley took the oportunity to clear out canals, farmers were seen turning dirt and getting ready for planting.

Farmers have a lot on their minds as they head out in the fields as mentioned before fuel and fertilizer costs are through the roof, Sid Freeman of Middleton is also worried about finding field hand help.

"The cost of labor, if you can find it, its almost non-existant there tree trimmers and orchard people are trying to gather up crews and they can't find them. They're getting ready to start trimming at any time but labor is not there," said Freeman.

The water outlook is still strong with snowpack anywhere from 116-percent of normal in Clearwater Basin to the state low---97-percent on the Bear River Basin on the East Idaho-Utah border.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

President Priestley's Editorial

Water Storage Capacity Lags Population Growth
By Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President

The ongoing legal battle between surface water irrigators and groundwater pumpers may well be made insignificant if Gem State population growth continues to trend higher and nothing is done to increase water storage capacity.

A long list of solid reasons to increase water storage in Idaho was introduced to the Idaho Legislature recently. Sponsored by representatives Bert Stevenson and Dell Raybould, House Memorial 8 states the Missouri River basin is capable of storing 400 percent of its annual average runoff, while the Snake River basin is capable of catching just 25 percent. That’s puny when you consider Idaho is one of the fastest growing states in the West and is already fighting over allocation of its water supply. Add in drought and Endangered Species Act requirements for salmon flushing, and the future starts to look somewhat grim.

H.M. 8, which has passed the Idaho House of Representatives unanimously and is currently before the Idaho Senate, names Minidoka Dam enlargement, Teton Dam replacement and construction of Twin Springs Dam on the Boise River, Galloway Dam on the Weiser River, and Lost Valley Dam in Adams County as potential projects to increase water storage capacity.

Supporting legislation that is expected to be introduced this session seeks $1.4 million to study enlarging Minidoka Dam to store an additional 40,000 to 50,000 acre-feet of water, and $400,000 to study replacing Teton Dam. Minidoka is slated for improvements by the Bureau of Reclamation including replacement of the spillway. Environmental compliance and design work are ready to begin on that project. It makes good sense to evaluate enlarging the dam at the same time.

From an agricultural perspective, meeting the needs of a growing world population is becoming more challenging. This fall will mark the third consecutive year when less wheat is harvested than consumed worldwide. Food prices, driven mainly by the increasing cost of energy, add cause for concern. In addition, increasing demand for meat protein is coming from a growing population of middle class citizens in India, China and other countries around the globe. Agriculture’s future is bright and Idaho farmers don’t want to lose their water, or see the state’s economy take a nosedive because we didn’t carefully plan for growth. Increasing our water storage capacity is essential to Idaho’s future.

Just in from Washington

The Future of Idaho's Agricultural Tradition
By Congressman Mike Simpson

(Washington, D.C.) “For generations Idahoans have been taught a strong work ethic, Western values and invaluable management skills through hard work on the family farm. Sadly, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the upcoming generation of farmers and ranchers to follow in their families' footsteps. Each year the risks and costs of agriculture production increase. Drought is a recurring threat and fuel and fertilizer prices always seem to be on the rise.

Perhaps the most disturbing trend is that more and more farmland is being taken out of production for development to accommodate our growing population. It's not hard to see why. It is simply more profitable to sell farmland to developers than to sell it to young farmers looking to get their foot in the door or pass it along to children as an inheritance.

“No one should be forced to sell the family farm simply because they cannot afford to pay the tax to inherit it after the loss of a parent. Furthermore, farmers and ranchers who have worked hard all their lives should not be forced to choose between a well deserved retirement and the irreplaceable loss of their land to development.

“Congress has proposed two solutions that I believe can address these problems and help secure our agricultural tradition for generations to come. First, the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Act will allow retiring farmers and ranchers to receive a 100 percent exemption from the capital gains tax if their land is sold to a qualified beginning farmer or rancher. If the farmland is sold to another agriculture producer, there will be a 50 percent deduction.

“Second, the Save the Family Farm and Ranch Act of 2007 will exempt farmland from the death tax. This punitive tax has had a devastating impact on farming families. When a parent passes away the last thing a grieving family needs is a visit from the IRS. Furthermore, children who have worked side by side with their parents to establish the family farm should be allowed to receive their rightful inheritance without the government interfering.

“I am hopeful that lifting the cumbersome effects of these taxes will provide greater incentives for farmers and ranchers to keep Idaho's rich farmland in production, ensuring the upcoming generation will have the opportunity to continue Idaho's agriculture tradition. I am confident Idaho agriculture will not only survive for generations to come, but thrive if the government will simply stand aside and let the young farmers follow in their families' footsteps.”

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Production Costs Up, Farm Family Budgets Tighten

(Farmer Scott Bird fuels up at his farm in Pocatello, Ritter Photo)

By Jake Putnam, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation Writer
BOISE-Diesel prices have spiked to levels unmatched even by gasoline and it could drive the cost of living up across Idaho as farmers and families learn to cope with tighter budgets in 2008.

A gallon of diesel fuel reached an average cost of $3.37 in Idaho according to AAA, that’s compared to $2.54 a year ago. The prices are leading to diesel sticker shock from Soda Springs to Ontario.

Travis Jones of the Idaho Grain Producers told the Capital Press that production for wheat is projected to run at least $240 per acre this year, a new record.Nationally crude oil prices have topped the $100 a barrel mark that’s lead to increasing energy costs affecting every segment of our economy, directly affecting family pocketbooks.

“Higher consumer spending on gasoline, coupled with the financial strain of the housing crisis, will manifest itself at the retail level,” Boise economist John Church told the Idaho Statesman. "Retailers already didn't have a very good Christmas. So it could be pretty tough on them for years to come."

"Just about everything you buy has fuel in it, from food to seeds, to parts,” said farmer Sid Freeman of Middleton. "There’s fuel and transportation costs in bread, milk, and steak, these fuel costs have doubled our production costs."Most notably phosphate fertilizer prices doubled since last spring. Freeman bought 11/52 fertilizer (11 percent nitrogen and 52 percent phosphate) for $320 a ton last year, the same fertilizer is going for $750-800 a ton this year.

“It’s more than a 120-percent higher, wheat seed is 200-percent higher, you just hope and pray the market will hold till fall. I’ve got wheat locked in at $6.00 per bushel, then we’re open market on 60-percent, we’re covered to break even. But then Mother nature can come along and wipe us out, theres a lot of risk in this thing,” said Freeman.

Apprehensive farmers are looking for ways to cut costs some are buying fuel efficient trucks and tractors that can cover a field with fewer passes. Others are buying early to lock in prices but farmers like Freeman say you can’t stretch much fuel economy into $3-dollar diesel.
“We definitely have fuel input costs that are higher than they have ever been; gross receipts are yet to be determined on production, that’s why I’m contracting at 40-50 percent to cover input costs,” added Freeman.

Based on AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, Idaho's current average price for regular grade gasoline has topped the $3.07 mark, down 4 cents from a month ago, but 71 cents higher than a year ago. Meanwhile, the national average price has gone up 7 cents in the past week to an average of $3.11.Low domestic oil inventories have dropped for seven consecutive weeks thanks to many factors including political tension in Nigeria and Pakistan, the weak dollar, relentless worldwide demand and old U.S. oil refineries.

All the factors add up to $100 a barrel oil and high prices as the pump."The factors could mean even higher pump prices in 2008," said Dave Carlson of AAA Idaho. "Of course, commodities trade in a market pendulum, and if that pendulum swings too far as is the case in a recession, demand and prices for petroleum could suddenly go the other way."

Friday, February 22, 2008

Winter returns

(Budding aspens under snow--Jake Putnam photo)

(BOISE) Winter returned to Boise this morning after the weatherman promised 47 degrees and slight chance of showers. Southwest Idaho had cold clear weather the past two weeks until the latest storm. With warm temperatures the snow should melt off by noon.

Snowpack has doubled in some parts of Idaho, "We're still only 55-80 percent of where we want to be on April 1st," said Ron Abram of the U.S. Natural Resouces Conservation Service.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Beef Backer Award Video

(Edited and shot by Steve Ritter, Written, voiced by Jake Putnam)

The Idaho Beef Council has recognized the Peregrine Steak House of Kuna, Idaho with its 2008 “Beef Backer Award”. The Award goes to restaurants that promote, enhance and promote beef in their menus.“Consumers love beef and they can feel good about including today’s lean beef in their diets,” said Laura Wilder, Executive Director of the Idaho Beef Council.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ritter shoots

Ritter shoots, originally uploaded by jack9999p.

Steve Ritter, Wally Butler and I have spent the past two days shooting a documentry on Paul Nettleton and Tim Lowry. The Owyhee cattlemen won an impressive court battle that set water rights precedents on the western range but the court turned denied the cattlemen their legal both are faced with a million dollar bill from their attorneys. We are taking a look at the case and hope to have the production done in three weeks.

(Photographer, Writer Jake Putnam on the beat--Ritter Photo)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Buckaroo Beat

(JORDAN VALLEY,OREGON) We were on the road shooting another documentry and in our travels stumbled on the Stone House Saddle Shop in Jordan Valley.

It's a shop that's hard to pass, it sits on main street and through the window one can see bridles on the wall, and saddles. We walked into the smell of leather, linseed oil and saddle soap. No one was there so we took a look around this makeshift saddle museum. Wally Butler liked what he saw, antique bridles with old silver inlays and fancy bits of all kinds. In the corner was a magnificant saddle with hand tooled leather and a thick, sturdy saddle horn not to mention lots of old tooled silver; it was a work of art.

After a few minutes Skeeter Clark walked in, looking like he had blown in off the Owyhee range. He was weathered and looked like all cowboys this time of year, like he'd been up all night calving. But he was jovial with a booming voice and told us about the old bridles and saddles especially the fancy saddle in the corner. He had me climb onto was comfortable and fit like doe-skin gloves. Steve Ritter asked how much and Skeeter said about $3-grand and it was worth it, maybe more.

Clark custom fits saddles for the serious cowboy, the ones still making a living on horseback. He said with a sigh that there wern't many buckaroos left, but he's still here for the ones that need him. He says he doesnt ride as much as he used to, said the knees were giving out. Saddlery was a way for this cowboy to stay in the game.

He showed us photos of him by famous photographers, magazines and books written about him. We snapped some photos and I promised some fame, not the big fame he was used to, I promised just a few seconds worth and he seemed pleased with just that.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Gem County Farm Bureau's Legislative Lunch

Senator Brad Little (R-Emmett) addresses the Gem County Farm Bureau --Putnam photo

Representative Carlos Bilbao (R-Emmett) listens to Gem County Farm Bureau members during a noon lunch meeting. --Putnam Photo

(BOISE) The Gem County Farm Bureau held their annual legislative lunch with members and lawmakers at the Boise Farm Bureau Office at 500 W. Washington on Friday.

The Farm Bureau is just a block from the old courthouse and a convienient meeting place for rushed lawmakers on the run. Gem County President Tracy Walton welcomed Senator Brad Little, and Representatives Steven Thayn and Carlos Bilbao.

Water issues, taxes, and the high costs of doing business topped the cordial meeting. For lawmakers its the perfect way to get in touch with the people back home. For Gem County Farm Bureau Members its a way of letting the lawmakers know whats important to them.

Representative Steven Thayn, (R-Emmett) far left, listens to farmer concerns during the Gem County legislative lunch.

From Washington

(Onions are one of Idaho's biggest Specialty Crops--Jake Putnam photo)

Delegation Urges Support for Specialty Crops in New Farm Bill

Washington, D.C. - Today the Idaho Delegation led a bipartisan, bicameral effort to urge Farm Bill conferees to support specialty crop funding in the Farm Bill, which is currently under negotiation.

The effort originated as a joint letter between Senators Larry Craig and Patty Murray (D-WA) in the U.S. Senate and Congressmen Mike Simpson and John Salazar (D-CO) in the House of Representatives. Congressman Bill Sali and Senator Mike Crapo, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry who was instrumental in securing the programs currently in the bill, added their strong support to the letter.

In total, fifty-seven members of the House joined a third of the Senate in thanking leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees for including strong specialty crops provisions in both the House and Senate-passed versions of the Farm Bill, and stating strong support for maintaining these important programs through the conference process.
The letter stated in part:

"Specialty crops … are of great significance both to farmers working the land and consumers seeking healthy foods. Therefore we continue to believe very strongly that the Farm Bill should include mandatory funding for programs that support and enhance this important sector of American agriculture. …We ask for your continued leadership and support of mandatory funding and retaining the highest funding levels for specialty crop programs."

Idaho is one of the nation's top producers of specialty crops, boasting production of cherries, blueberries, apples, onions, plums, grapes, snap beans, mint, a variety of seed, nursery and ornamental crops, and of course, famous Idaho potatoes.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

2008 Beef Backer Awards

(Steve Ritter photo)

Kuna Steak House Wins 2008 Beef Backer Award
by Jake Putnam

(KUNA) The Idaho Beef Council has recognized the Peregrine Steak House of Kuna, Idaho with its 2008 “Beef Backer Award”. The Award goes to restaurants that promote, enhance and promote beef in their menus.

“Consumers love beef and they can feel good about including today’s lean beef in their diets,” said Laura Wilder, Executive Director of the Idaho Beef Council.

The Kuna Restaurant is famous for its 20 ounce steak, served with potatoes and green beans. Glen Umland happened on the steakhouse and is a regular. “Yes it’s excellent,” said Umland. “Actually I downgraded this time I got the 26 ounce steak last time; this is called the ‘ridiculous cut,’ it’s 20 ounces, it’s cooked great.”

Owner Greg Nelson says the secret is offering a good cut of steak and then keeping it fresh and well seasoned, over a flame the steak does the rest and customers keep coming back for more.

“I think that with our current menu we run about 70 percent of beef and so it’s a big sale item for us and we are very proud of the beef we serve,” said Nelson.

Nationally the Beef Council awards restaurants for promoting, selling and marketing beef. "In 2008, more than 8.66 billion pounds of beef were served in restaurants. It’s important that we recognize and thank establishments that provide outstanding beef- eating experiences away from home," notes California cattleman Bill Jackson, vice chairman of the Joint Foodservice Committee. "The 2007 National Foodservice Beef Backers are doing just that."

“Beef is an excellent or good source of nine essential vitamins and minerals, including protein, that meets the needs of health-focused consumers,” said Wilder. “A substantial body of evidence shows protein can help in maintaining a healthy weight, building muscle and fueling physical activity – all of which play an important role in a healthful lifestyle and disease prevention.”

Irrigation Watch

(The February 3rd snowstorm dropped 4 inches on the Treasure Valley: Putnam Photo)

Water Supply Looking Too Good?

By Jake Putnam

(BOISE) State hydrologists say it might be too much of a good thing. Last fall they were worried about the drought, now its flooding. Non stop snow storms in January and early February could mean floods in the state’s low-lands.

On Wednesday state Hydrologists met with the Idaho Water Supply Committee in Boise and the findings were not surprising with reports showing snowpacks above average on Idaho’s 19 major river basins.

The National Weather Service says that flooding could start on Weiser river basin with the first thaw as early as next week. The Bigwood River running between Ketchum, Hailey and Bellvue could flood by late March. The Boise river and the Payette and Portneuf outside of Pocatello are also vulnerable.

In Idaho, snowpack moisture content is good news for irrigators. The basins south of the Snake River are near average. The Owyhee Basin was at 110 percent of average, and the Salmon Falls Basin was at 106 percent of average.In the Bear River Basin, moisture content was 97 percent of average, while in the Snake River Basin above the Palisades, it was 95 percent of average."Right now snowpack is much better than last year," said Ron Abramovich, NRCS water supply specialist for Idaho. "We'll need near-normal snowpack or better on April 1 for irrigation this year."

The only bad news at the Committee meeting was current reservoir storage levels. A troubling situation for upper valley irrigators is that the Palisades Reservoir and Jackson Lake are just 37 percent of capacity, compared to last years 72 percent of capacity.

The Magic Valley Reservoir topped 60-percent last year but is at just 11-percent capacity this year. "We used almost all of the water in the reservoirs in Southern Idaho last year," Abramovich said. The majority of the spring and summer runoff in Central and Southern Idaho is from snow runoff coming from 6,000-foot elevations or higher. Abramovich said that snowpacks typically lose 1 to 2 inches a day of melt off when the weather gets warmer.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Legislative Week Feature Story

Representative Steven P. Thayn (R-Emmett) farmer Tracy Walton, and Representative Carlos Bilbao sit down for dinner at last weeks strolling buffett.

Farmers New Winter Hobby: Lobbying
By Jake Putnam, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation Writer

(Boise) The buffet tables were stuffed with roast beef, ham and turkey at Boise’s Red Lion Downtowner. There were just a few empty chairs while more than 200 sat down to dinner. The Idaho Farm Bureau’s ‘strolling buffet’ is an annual event; where farmers have the chance to dine with their lawmakers.

Gem County farmer Tracy Walton sat with three lawmakers from his county, Representatives Steven Thayn and Carlos Bilbao and Senator Brad Little. Walton has spent most of his life farming the fields on the north bench outside of Emmett; he knows the lawmakers well and how important it is to weigh in on issues.

“It’s good to know your legislature, good to know what bills are being presented and we in turn give them valuable information from the district,” said Walton.

The Idaho Statehouse is no stranger to Walton who once served as a substitute lawmaker for a year. He knows the inner-workings of the Statehouse and knows that lawmakers welcome any chance to meet with constituents, especially during session when they’re hungry for information and opinions.

“There’s no better way to test the political winds,” said Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley of Franklin. “They need us as much as we need them; it’s their political livelihood and ours too. This is fun but its serious too.”

There are no speeches at the ‘strolling buffet’, no introductions, just a handshake and a smile at the door. The event is unique because it’s social dinner with a dash of political gravy and there’s an effort leave pressure politics back at the Statehouse.

Each table was marked and designated by Idaho's Legislative Districts. Bureau members then sat in their 'districts' and had the opportunity to break bread with their respective Senators and Representatives. Lawmakers in turn got caught up on the news from home and issues on constituent’s minds.

At the District 11 table the topic of discussion was the aquifer issue. “We have an aquifer here in Gem County that depends on irrigation. We’ll have plenty of water this year; we also talked about snowpack but also about the possibility of flooding,” said Walton.

At the District 26 table just a few feet away they discussed the same thing. Representative Bert Stevenson (R-Rupert) talked about comprehensive management plans for aquifers throughout all of Idaho. This past week a bill endorsed by the House Resources and Conservation Committee and chaired by Stevenson got a unanimous “do-pass” recommendation. Water is everything to Idaho farmers and it’s always the first issue discussed, but the second is taxes.

“We are always talking taxes, we want to keep taxes down so we can stay profitable and keep money in the economy,” said Walton. “We talked about fuel prices that are up, fertilizer’s is a larger percentage of our costs. We have to watch everything like a hawk, especially in this economy.” The lawmakers listened; they know what farmers are up against.

The Legislative Dinner was a huge success drawing 15 more lawmakers than last year, all in all 57 Lawmakers and 20 guests were among the 193 attending the ‘strolling buffet.’ Over a hundred farmers attended the event giving each a grass roots, hands-on visit with each legislator in the shade of the Statehouse.

For Walton and the other farmers it’s an event they mark on their calendars each year. “We just got to stay on top of this,” he says. “Farmers can’t just farm anymore, they have to get out there and get involved in the process, we have to help write our laws or they get wrote for us.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Idaho AG Summit Awards

Albert Wada Receives the Ag Summit Governors Award for Marketing Innovation

(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, which includes 10-thousand 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.”

Idaho AG Summit

(Boise) Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley from Franklin, Idaho and the Farm Bureau's Rick Keller attend the 13th annual A. Larry Branen Idaho AG Summit at the Red Lion Riverside in Boise.

Priestley and Keller, along with Vice President Carl Montgomery and Director Terry Jones attended The Ag Summit Governor's Award ceremony. The Public Affairs Division produced the video for the event.

Locate in 48 News Conference

Produced and edited by Steve Ritter, written and narrated by Jake Putnam

(Boise) Governor Butch Otter and the Idaho State Department of Agriculture kicked off 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.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Guest of the Court

I haven't blogged the past few days because Im a guest of Idaho's 4th District court. I'm on jury duty and sitting in on a kidnapping case. I'm glad to do my civic duty but have fallen behind at work. The case should rest on Monday with verdict. Ill keep you posted!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Legislative Week Comes To A Close

(Idaho Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould addresses the Commodity Conference at the Red Lion Downtowner, photo by Steve Ritter)

(BOISE) Idaho Farm Bureau Federation's Legislative Leadership Conference drew to a successful close despite stormy, winter weather. Here's recap of the week as seen through the lenses of Steve Ritter and Jake Putnam.

(The Commodity Committee goes to work at the Red Lion Downtowner, Ritter photo)

(Kent Lauer addresses the Leadership Conference, as staff members Russ Hendricks, Dennis Tanikuni and Wally Butler look on. Ritter Photo)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Idaho Farm Bureau's Legislative Stolling Buffet a Hit with Lawmakers

Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley (left) congratulates Public Affairs director Kent Lauer on a successful Legislative Leadership Conference.

(BOISE) Idaho Farm Bureau Federation Governmental Affairs Division annual Legislative Dinner was a huge success drawing 15 more lawmakers than last year, according to Dennis Tanikuni, Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs. 57 Legislators and 20 guests were among the 193 attending the IFBF's Legislative strolling Buffet.

Finding a place to sit was the biggest challenge facing Farm Bureau members as the Red Lion Downtowner staff scurried to keep the buffet table stocked.

Each table was designated by Idaho's Legislative Districts, Bureau Members sat in their 'districts' and had the opportunity to break bread with their respective Senators and Representatives. Lawmakers were delighted to have the chance to talk to constituents from their districts and get caught up on the news from home.

One of the hottest topics of discussion heard during dinner was plentiful snowpack numbers across Idaho. Representative Scott Bedke (R-Oakley) says that snowpacks east of the Magic Valley were at record levels, the deepest snow he says "since the big winter of 1984."

Representative Bert Stevenson (R-Rupert) talked to Farm Bureau farmers from his district about in-depth comprehensive management plans for aquifers throughout Idaho. This past week a bill endorsed by the House Resources and Conservation Committee and chaired by
Stevenson got a unanimous “do -pass” recommendation. The Idaho Farm Bureau is a big supporter of the bill along with the Idaho Waters Association and the Idaho Ground Water Appropriators. The program would be funded by a $20 million appropriation from the general fund.

Senator Denton Darrington (R-Declo) talked at his table about "what a difference a year makes, last year there was worry of drought," he says. "This year we're worring about floods across the Snake River Plain. "We have 6 foot drifts, its the most snow Ive seen since the winter of '49," Darrington told his table.

Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley declared the evening a huge success for farmers and Farm Bureau members. "Any time we can voice our concerns directly to our lawmakers really helps us down the road and we're happy with the turnout."
Idaho Working Lands Coalition Introduces Bill
By Matt Miller

The Idaho Working Lands Coalition—representing a broad spectrum of agricultural, sporting and conservation organizations—introduced today a bill that would provide tax incentives for farmers, ranchers and forest owners who agree to protect their land.

The coalition formed two years ago to address the impacts of unplanned growth on Idaho’s working farms and ranches, wildlife habitat, rural heritage and quality of life.

“As more people call Idaho home, it’s critical that we find ways to keep ranchers, farmers and forest owners on the land,” says Laird Noh, the former state senator and sheep rancher and one of the leaders of the coalition. “These lands provide so many benefits to Idahoans, and we need market-based solutions to protect what’s best about our state.”

The bill, called the Idaho Ranch, Farm and Forest Protection Act, was introduced to the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. The Committee will review the bill in the coming weeks.

The act would provide a tax credit for a landowner who makes a voluntary conservation donation. The credit would be for 50% of the fair market value of the donation. The land must remain in agriculture or forestry, and the credit cannot exceed $500,000 per donation. Landowners seeking the credit must apply to an independent board and show that their donation protects important fish and wildlife habitat.

A recent poll conducted by Bob Moore of Moore Information found that 83% would support tax incentives for landowners who agree to keep their land in farming, ranching and forestry, in order to protect clean water and wildlife habitat.

The coalition includes a broad spectrum of organizations including the Idaho Farm Bureau, Idaho Cattle Association, Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Forest Owners Association, Idaho Foundation for Parks and Land, Idaho Grain Producers Association, Idaho Smart Growth, Idaho Sportsmen’s Caucus Advisory Council, Idaho Wildlife Federation, Idaho Wool Growers Association, Intermountain Forest Association, Forest Capital Partners, Potlatch Corporation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land and local and regional land trusts in Idaho.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Farm Bureau's Women's Committee Makes Donation to Ronald McDonald House

By Jake Putnam, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation Writer

(BOISE) The Idaho Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership Committee unloaded more than 300 pounds of food at Boise’s Ronald McDonald House, Monday afternoon, February 4th.

Cars packed with cases of food jammed the House’s snow-covered parking lot, Committee members cautiously walked across the icy parking lot loaded-down with canned goods.

“This is a two-fold mission, we’re helping kids and trying to get the word out and its simple: we have the best and safest food supply in the world,” said Chairwoman Carol Guthrie.

Each year Farm Bureau women come to the aid of families with seriously ill children and Carol Hagen of Boise’s Ronald McDonald House is thankful. “I love this partnership, and we’ll spend all of this on food. We have to keep milk, bread, eggs all basic supplies as well as soup, hamburgers, frozen entrees available for families so they can eat any time of night and day.”

The mission of the Ronald McDonald House is to provide a “home away from home” for families of critically ill and injured children receiving medical treatment at Saint Lukes Medical Center in Boise.

“We’re offering food that we helped raise but we’re also donating cash from Idaho’s 44 counties. We want people to know about the productivity and efficiency of our farmers and along the way we’re here to help the McDonald House with their many causes.” said Carol Guthrie, Chair of the Women’s Committee.

The event is held annually on the fifth week of the New Year, that’s when most Americans will have earned enough money to pay for their families food supply for the year. By comparison Americans need to work until May to reach "Tax Freedom Day," the date when the typical family meets its tax commitment.

"Americans have become accustomed to a safe, affordable food supply," said Idaho Farm Bureau Federation President Frank Priestley of Franklin. "Most Americans take our quality of life for granted, but we need to pause and recognize the contributions that farmers give to society. We’re proud of those contributions, but as an organization, we’re deeply concerned that only 22 cents of every dollar we spend on food goes to the farmers who grew it."

According to the Agriculture Department, Americans devote only about 10.6 percent of their disposable income to pay for food. The percentage of income spent for food in the United States has declined over the last 30 years. Food is more affordable today due to a widening gap between growth in per capita incomes and the amount of money spent for food, according to the USDA

Food Checkout Day Observed at Idaho Capitol

(Stever Ritter photo)

By Jake Putnam, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation Writer

(BOISE) Wednesday, February 6, is Food Check-Out Day, the day the average American will have earned enough money to pay for their family's food supply for the entire year.

To drive home the point, the Women’s Committee packed bag lunches and delivered them to the Idaho Senate and House to remind lawmakers where their food comes from and how cheap it’s produced.

"Imagine, that's just five weeks into the year to be able to pay for the entire year's food," said Shari Kuther, of the Idaho Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee, "and that includes all the meals we eat away from home; we Americans are eating very well."

To put Food Check-Out Day into perspective, it takes the average American 77 days to earn enough to pay their federal taxes; 62 days to pay their housing and household operation expenses; 52 days to cover health and medical care costs; 39 days for state and local taxes; and 36 days for recreation, clothing and accessories.

“The snack lunches are actually snack bags made up of different products that are Idaho grown commodities that are representative of the potato, the dairy, the wheat, and fruit industries here in Idaho,” said Kuther of Nez Perce, Idaho.

“There’s also a letter in there from Farm Bureau telling them what we're about as well as what food checkout day is about. Since lawmakers have so much control over all the different aspects of agriculture, we want to make them aware of not only Idaho Farmers, but also how inexpensively we’re producing their food.”

While Americans spend slightly less than 10 percent of their disposable income for food, those figures are considerably higher abroad: Japan, 14 percent; Israel, 20 percent; China, 26 percent; the Philippines, 38 percent; and Indonesia, 55 percent.

USDA says the average American spends about $2,400 on food consumed at home and in restaurants. Farmers get about 22 cents of every dollar spent on food in this country, Wages and materials for production, processing, marketing, transportation and distribution.

Back in 1980, farmers received 31 cents of every dollar spent but it took Americans a longer time to pay for it. In 1970, it took American families an extra two weeks to pay for their annual food supply.

“That number is even more impressive if you take into account the fact we buy more food in restaurants than we did back then,” said Kuther.

"We have a great deal to be thankful for when it comes to our safe and abundant food supply in America, credit the farmer who receives just 20 percent of the consumer's food dollar," added Kuther.

Allison Whale Wins Women's Leadership Committee Speech Contest

(Seven finalists wait to deliver their speeches at the Idaho Women's Leadership speech contest in Boise. Steve Ritter, photo)

(BOISE) Kuna High School junior Allison Whale won the 2008 Idaho Women's Leadership Committee Speech Contest at the Comfort Suites Inn in Boise.

Whale gave a compelling speech on the nation's bee mortality crisis. “I didn’t think so much depended on bees and we'd only have bread and water without pollination because all your meat and dairy projects would be gone," she said. "Almost all fibers would disappear too, it’s scary.”

The contestants competed at the county level, then qualified from five districts to reach the state championship. The finalists then delivered a minimum five-minute speech to a panel of three judges. Nervous families packed the room and each speech addressed a different segement of Idaho agriculture.

"Every year my mind is blown away from the facts and topics they've researched, its amazing and it's is one of my favorite programs,” said Women's Chairman Carol Guthrie of Inkom. “I think it builds character, it builds awareness of agriculture and that’s what we are all about."

Whale accepted a check for $150 the other finalists pocketed $75 in the annual contest.

"These kids are just phenomenal, they research their speeches, they learn about them, and it’s a growing experience for them and us," added Guthrie.

Farmers see Green in Snow-covered Fields

Farm equipment may be covered in snow right now, but everyone hopes the wet winter will lead to a productive harvest season across Idaho.

From KTVB's Monique James

BOISE - Snowfall in the Valley can mean a headache for drivers - but not everyone views the snow as a problem.

Idaho farmers know snow in the valley also means snow in the mountains which translates to a healthy snow pack.

A snow pack that will produce water for the hot summer months.
“Agriculture is still the foundation of Idaho's economy and we can't have agriculture without water,” Idaho farmer Sid Freeman said.

Idaho farmers - such as Freeman welcome the recent abundance of snow in the Treasure Valley.
He says in the past few years Idaho farmers and their crops have suffered from a lack of water - making farming a near impossible venture.

But with recent and above average snow fall, Idaho farmers anticipate a productive and profitable harvest.

“We're pretty sure that we've got this year in the bag, we're hoping we've still gotta plant the crop and cultivate it and grow it all next year, but we have the water to do it with and without that we don't have anything,” Freeman said.

Farmers say they hope a good growing season in Idaho can help to stimulate a lagging economy at the state and national level.
(Sid Freeman is a member of the Canyon County Farm Bureau)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Around the Office

Legislative Intern Cory Smith shovels Farm Bureau Snow. Two inches fell yesterday but just a trace this morning. Driving conditions are treacherous because of the melt-off on the roads. More snow is forecast later today and through the weekend.

Im working on a 'Locate in 48' broadcast package and hope to have it done later today. I spent much of yesterday logging tape (4 pages of notes from the news conference) and writing today.


Boise– Governor Butch  Otter and House Speaker Scott Bedke announced an agreement today between water users and water managers on prioriti...