Friday, May 30, 2008

Farm Income Up--But Inputs at Record Highs

Washington--The USDA reports that high commodity prices will push net farm income nationwide to $92.3 billion this year, up 4.1 percent from the $88.7 billion farmers are estimated to have earned last year. The average over the past decade, $61.1 billion.

The US Department of Ag predicts U.S. farmers will plant 86 million acres of corn this year - down 8 percent from 2007, when corn plantings were the highest since World War II. Plantings of soybeans are expected to be up 18 percent this year, at nearly 75 million acres.

The harvest of 2008 remains a question mark because of cold and unsettled weather across the nation. Snow throughout the west has slowed planting along with drenching spring rains slowing corn and soybean plantings for growers in the midwest that means late starts that cut into yields. In parts of California, Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico there's the chance of summer drought, all of these factors not to mention inputs like fuel, fertilizer and seed doubling over last year; could make 2008 one of the most interesting years of the decade.

On the Chicago Board of Trade, the cash price for corn has ascended from $1.86 a bushel in the 2004-2005 marketing year to the price lately of about $6 per bushel.
Soybeans, $5.88 a bushel in 2004-2005, are getting an amazing $13.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Unsettled Weather

Video by Steve Ritter

Emmett--A rash of Unsettled spring weather has slowed hay production and left farmers longing for BTU's. But as one farmer said yesterday in Canyon County "when all we have to complain about is too much rain, its a great year."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rail, the future of Ag?

Caldwell--Farmers, truckers and air freight operations are suffering through high fuel costs. But the third pillar in the nation’s freight infrastructure, railroads are dodging losses according to the Association of American Railroads. That's because rising exports of coal and grain travel by rail to port cities, and also because more and more trucking companies are turning to rail to move their trailers cross-country.

“By using railroads, we are achieving some economy on fuel,” said Dan England, chairman of C. R. England, a family-owned company based in Salt Lake City that runs 3,600 tractor-trailers and now regularly loads 350 of the trailers on railroad flat cars to get them from, say, Chicago to Los Angeles.

Still, 70 percent of the nation’s freight tonnage moves over the highways on trucks, much of it in the diesel-powered tractor-trailers of the nation’s 350,000 independent operators, each with a fleet of up to five vehicles, one usually driven by the proprietor. Profit margins, notoriously thin in good times, are minuscule now, and each rise in fuel prices pushes more truckers into the red.

Dairy grade hay now going for $215 a ton in Canyon county, Idaho

Jake Putnam photo

Hop production on the Upswing in Canyon County

Wilder--Once deserted Hop fields have sprung back to life in Canyon County. Hop production for Idaho, Oregon, and Washington last year totaled 57.7 million pounds, up 9 percent from the previous years crop of 52.9 million pounds.
Hop is a specialty crop in which female flowers, or cones, are used as a vital ingredient in beer production. Lupulin glands on the hop cones contain soft resins (a and b acids) essential oils that impart bitterness, flavor, aroma, foam (head) characteristics, and preservative qualities to beer. The total amount and percentage composition of these compounds varies with variety and growing conditions. Because the brewing industry depends on hops to provide distinctive and proprietary characteristics to beer, a stable supply of high quality hops is a high priority.

Idaho ranks third in U.S. hop production accounting for 8% to 10% of the U.S., and 2% of the world hop production. Idaho hop production from 1993 to 1996 averaged 1,388 pounds per acre on 3,977 acres. Total production for that period averaged 5,521,210 million pounds with an on-farm value of $8,889,148 million dollars, annually. In 1998, production dropped well below that average to 4,529,000 pounds on 3,909 acres with a total farm-gate value of $6,838,394.

Over 90% of the crop is contracted at the time of harvest. Some contracts prohibit the use of certain pesticides on the contracted crop, in order to meet specific brewing industry requirements or to comply with the import tolerance requirements of importing countries. In a given year 40% to 60% of the crop is exported to overseas markets.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

J.R. Simplot 1909-2008

(Steve Ritter Photo)

Boise--J.R. "Jack" Simplot, 99, who found fame and fortune many times over, the man that supplied french fries to McDonalds and then used the billion-dollar fortune to invest in computer chips, died of natural causes May 25 at his home atop the Grove Hotel in Boise, Idaho.

Simpot’s rise in Idaho Agriculture is a story of dreams, hard work and luck. The journey began on the edge of the Magic Valley in the small town of Declo. He rose from the parched earth with water from the Snake River reclamation project that started in 1910. Irrigation brought the farmers that built the towns, cleared the dusty plains, and turned rock and sagebrush into lush, green fields.

Simplot could ride a horse before he could walk. He worked sunup to sundown beside his dad, carving out a life in a world of outhouses, kerosene lamps, and buckboards.
“My dad was a master for making us kids work,” said Simplot. “That was the name of the game. We got up, he’d call me at five in the morning, I’d have to pump the water for the cows, and when I got a little older I’d have to milk them. By God, I had to work.”

After finishing the 8th grade Simplot set out to make a living on his own. He moved into a hotel at a dollar a-day. He quickly figured out a way to make a living. The hotel was full of public school teachers. Back in those days some school districts paid their teachers with interest-bearing script. Simplot bought up as much script as he could find at 50 cents on the dollar. He then got a bank loan using the script as collateral.

With money in hand he turned to farming. The hog market had just collapsed and Simplot saw an opportunity. “Hogs got dirt cheap. And I decided by God, I’d try to run a hog ranch. I need a cheap way to feed them. I got my Dad to help me build this cooker, it would hold about 30 sacks of potatoes and two horses,” said Simplot. Wild horses were plentiful and a menace to cattle ranchers, Simplot saw a cheap way to feed his livestock.

At a dollar a head Simplot bought nearly a thousand hogs. It was back breaking work, and every day was endless and dirty, working in clouds of smoke and ankle-deep pig manure but he smelled money. Simplot says toward the end of winter he saw light at the end of the tunnel.

“And it comes spring and there wasn’t a pig anywhere,” recalled Simplot. “I had ‘em all, everyone had quit their hog business and the market wanted 10-cents a pound, nobody ever heard of 10-cents a pound.” Boy Simplot was the hog czar of the Magic Valley. “I sold all my hogs and made seven thousand dollars that’s about a hundred-thousand dollars today.”

In the days of $50-dollar a month mortgages, and hundred dollar cars. Fourteen year-old Simplot was sitting on a fortune. He sunk all of his capital into horses, farm machinery and leased two Minidoka County farms.

He grew only certified potatoes, and the operation took off. Simplot and a partner Lindsay Maggart bought an electric sorter and soon were sorting not only their potatoes, but their neighbors. This rubbed his partner the wrong way. Maggart didn’t want Simplot to sort the competition’s spuds. Simplot saw money in it but thought they should flip a coin to determine the ownership of the sorter. Simplot won the toss and never looked back. “That’s what got me started and I took that money and started building more potato houses and I got big into shipping of Idaho potatoes.”

While things were going great for Simplot the Great Depression hit Idaho like a kick to the gut. Farms went out of business, jobs and money disappeared, some starved but nothing could stop Simplot. He knew people had to eat and he kept producing potatoes. “I struggled and didn’t take it for granted and I accumulated some pretty good customers,” said Simplot, “I took care of them and they took care of me.”

Simplot got into the big-time potato market. He spent years making contacts with brokers in the Midwest and the Eastern seaboard. By 1940 he built 33 spud warehouses with operations stretching from Oregon to Idaho Falls. Every year Simplot did what others couldn’t he got bigger and better. Back in the twenties Simplot filled 560 railcars with spuds, by the 1943-44 season he shipped 5,000 railcars eclipsing all his competitors. He was 32 years old.

World War II presented Simplot with another opportunity. The Pentagon was looking for new ways to feed a six-million G.I.s. Fresh food spoiled quickly and supply lines to Europe and the Pacific were too long. The War Department looked into a new technology: dehydrated foods.

“I took it as an opportunity because I was the only guy that had a dryer,” said Simplot. “They sent a guy named Colonel Logan out here and we got dried potatoes for the Army. We wrapped them up awful good and sent potatoes overseas and they ate them and they were good.

But before potatoes Simplot dried onions and in the 1941-42 season the company processed175-thousand sacks of dehydrated onions. Simplot built the largest food dehydrator in the world; he revolutionized food production in the United States.

J.R. Simplot learned a lot during the war years. With the demands on production he saw that the sandy soil along the Snake River Plain needed help. Farmers needed fertilizer to keep the yields up. Simplot built a plant outside of Pocatello and started what became known as Simplot Soilbuilders.”

“Nobody is beating us on prices, Because we are the cheapest producer of phosphate there is and in the world, we know what we are doing, we take the ore right out of the ground, pump it to Pocatello, we can do better than our competition,” said Simplot.

Before the Korean War Simplot added a lumber division that made boxes and crates for shipping. He wanted to expand into cattle and get an edge on the potato market with early potatoes. Simplot knew he could grow early spuds along the balmy Snake River. He bought two gigantic ranches one in Grandview, the other in Oregon and went to work on the two-prong plan.

“We got big into Cattle business,” he said. “I went to Grandview, 65 years ago and started a feeding operation, but we also started potatoes there. It’s a Garden of Eden in that valley. We could dig potatoes there and to market by the 4th of July and that’s how I got started in Grandview, I always made money on those early potatoes,” he said.

Everything Simplot touched turned to gold. He says in part because of the people he hired. “I’m just proud of them, they are proud of me and we get a long great, we have a pension fund for them and we have taken care of our people.”

The frozen food market of the 50’s and 60’s was expanding as the TV dinner generation settled in. J.R. Simplot thought he could capitalize, he hired this guy by the name of Ray Dunlap; he was a chemist and thought he could freeze potatoes, specifically frozen fries. “He [Ray Dunlap] said, ‘Jack, if you’ll get me a freezer, I think I can come up with some frozen products we can sell.’ I said, ‘if you freeze a potato, you’ll get a dish of mush.’ Anyway, I got him the box. He went to work and brought me in the pan of fries one day. He said ‘these have been frozen.’ And they were good. I said, ‘That’s a helluva thing.’ ”

The development of the French fry was one of J.R. Simplot’s crowning glories. It ushered in the fast food industry not only to the United States but the world. Between 1951 and 1961, the total production of frozen potatoes industry wide jumped from 25 million pounds to nearly 484 million pounds.

A handshake agreement with McDonald’s chairman Ray Kroc in the 50’s sealed Simplot’s place as one of the world’s great food producers. Simplot is modest about his role. “I would certainly say french fries were big one as far as achievements go. We took McDonalds a long way, of course they’ve been one of our big customer and we hope to continue with them.”

In the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, Simplot got bigger across the board, everything from cattle feedlots to fertilizer, to food production. Simplot moved his corporate offices to downtown Boise. He concentrated on investments opportunities leaving day to day worries with the division heads. He invested in gold mines and even freezing berries. In the early 1980’s he started looking into computers.

Scott Simplot convinced the elder Simplot to look into a new company called Micron. But the company needed a million dollars for start up capital and set up a meeting with founders Joe and Ward Parkinson. J.R. could see that the Parkinson’s had something big; he gave them their start up capital and later $20 million. He held 40-percent of the stock. When the PC market took off in the United States and world, Simplot pushed his multi-million dollar fortune to an estimated $2.2 billion dollars.

“I happened to buy in on a guy that knew what he was doing and he proved it. We’ve got into something big, recalled Simplot. “We know how to build memory and there’s never going to be enough of it, these damned computers today, how they work, don’t ask me, but we got it,” said Simplot.

J.R. Simplot’s seven decades of business deals changed the face of Idaho, changed the world. He made Idaho the potato state; He introduced billions of McDonald’s customers to the French fry. He gave the world dehydrated foods, gave the worlds farmers fertilizer, and through Micron he gave the worlds computers memory. Simplot’s success may lie in the fact that not only did he have a burning need to succeed, but he allowed those who worked for him to succeed.

Everyone in Idaho has a Simplot story. Everyone knows him or had a family members work for him, that makes J.R. Simplot family. His rags to riches stories are nearly mythical in Idaho lore. J.R. Simplot is our Paul Bunion, our David of Goliath. When Simplot speaks people listen, and if he offers advice take it to the bank.

His biographer Louie Attebery summed up the man in his wonderful book “J.R. Simplot, A billion the hard way.” “...there is something about this man that lingers in the imagination long after he has concluded the interview…there is something intensely Whitmanian about Jack Simplot’s love affair with the United States. He hears America singing; what he assumes, you shall assume; hold on to him and by God you shall not go down in defeat!”

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Portneuf Gap Idaho, A Place of Reflection

(Portneuf Gap's Hallowed Ground, photo by Jake Putnam)
Four thousand, five hundred crosses stand in a soccer field south of Pocatello, Idaho, each cross represents a fallen soldier.

For the past five years fellow veterans have erected the Field of Heroes to remember fallen comrades and those still fighting in distant lands.

There are thousands of Memorial Day events but this is the only one where all the fallen in Afghanistan and Iraq are represented with crosses in the Field of Heroes at Century High School.

"I don't think there's anybody looking at this field that doesn't get a lump in their throat," said Kathleen Stephens, Pocatello Fallen Soldier's Mother.

Blake Stephens of Pocatello, Kathleen's son, was killed in action May 8th last year. He was 25 years old and served for seven years in the military. Blake was Pocatello's first fallen soldier.

Just three months later, a second local boy, 23-year-old Nick Gummersall, also passed away during his fourth tour in Iraq.

"It's just... It's a lot of boys that died," said Clay Gummersall, father of the fallen hero.

All of Idaho's 39 soldiers are prominately represented, and especially the two from Pocatello.

"We shall not forget. We will carry their sacrifices forever," said Ralph "Doc" Lillig, Hospital Corps on Fridays opening ceremony.

"I think it's important to understand the price of freedom. Every cross makes you remember someone that's not coming home," said Heidi Young, Ceremony Coordinator.

The reality of war and it's casualties drive home the point that freedom doesnt come without a terrible cost.

"I'm trying to do more now to be concerned with others whose parents have a loss. I hope to be around them and give them my strength," said Kathleen Stephens.

This memorial is careful not to glorify those who've fallen, but rather to recognize, respect and honor.

The field of Heroes will be displayed for the entire weekend until Monday. It's located off I-15 at the Portneuf Gap exit at Century High School. The closing ceremony will take place at 7 pm on Monday.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Guest Worker Program Dies in U.S. Senate

Washington--A proposal by Idaho Senator Larry Craig designed to ease the apparent farm worker shortage in Idaho and across the United States has died in the U.S. Senate.
Craig told reporters earlier this week that the failure of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration legislation has cost $8 billion in crop losses so far. "This amendment was a clean, simple, temporary measure to sold an emergency in agriculture."

The Senate dropped the agricultural guest worker plan from the latest Iraq war spending bill after approval last week by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senator Craig said his plan would have granted temporary legal status to some 1.35 million illegal immigrants who work on U.S. farms as well as their spouses and children. The proposal was supported by the United Farm Workers union as well as farm organizations.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pacific Ethanol Opens Plant in Burley

It takes 1 acre of corn to produce enough ethanol to run a car for 72,000 miles on E-10 unleaded gasoline.

1.2 barrels of Mideastern oil is replaced for every barrel of ethanol produced in America. By 2010 US ethanol producers will replace 311,000 barels of crude oil.

Pacific Ethanol owns and operates ethanol production facilities in Madera, California; Boardman, Oregon, Burley, Idaho, Windsor, Colorado and is constructing plants in Stockton and and Calipatria, California. The company has announced plans to build 220 million gallons of annual ethanol production by 2008 and 420-million gallons by the end of 2010.

Ethanol replaces the equivilent of 1 large oil tanker per week.2.8 bushels of corn yields 1 gallon of ethanol.

Monday, May 19, 2008


(The first cut of 2008 near Glenns Ferry, Idaho, Steve Ritter photo)

Hay running two weeks behind schedule

Ontario--In Eastern Oregon and Western Idaho the alfalfa is short and almost three weeks behind schedule despite a weekend heat wave.

With already short supplies, swathers were seen in the fields across Southwest Idaho cutting alfalfa that hasn’t even bloomed yet in an effort to get quick cash and move on to the second cutting in an attempt to catch up.

Normally alfalfa reaches 15 inches by the end of April, so far most alfalfa is measuring roughly 10 inches. Ninety-degree heat over the weekend helped but the first cut yields are expected to fall short because of the long cold snap.

Across Idaho hay prices are up to $145 from $120 per ton a year ago, a jump of 21 percent. In northern Idaho it’s $220 per ton and as much as $300 per ton in parts of California. Feeding a single horse can cost more than $2,000 a year or more.

Friday, May 16, 2008

How To Beat the High Cost of Living

Heather and Ted Glass of Boise are planting a garden this year to beat the high cost of produce.

Boise--With gasoline prices at all time record highs, the number of Idahoans planning to grow their own backyard vegetables this year is up sharply.

Edwards nursery on Hill Road in Boise, Gardening organizations, seed wholesalers, all report a sharp increase in the number of people buying vegetable seeds and starter plants.

The trend actually started a few years ago when people started worrying about where their food came from, food quality, and global warming, say garden gurus. Now it's gasoline and food price hikes that have led to this gardening tidal wave.

Retired dentist Ted Glass and daughter Heather live off Hill Road in Boise, Heather says they saved 'hundreds of dollars' thanks to last years garden. "We eat something every meal from last summers garden, whether its canned corn, frozen tomato sauce, last night we had frozen beans. So this year again I'm growing a big garden with tomatoes, green beans, corn and potatoes," said Glass.

A survey revealed that 39 percent of people with backyards told the Garden Writers Association they planned to grow vegetables this year that's up from 5 percent from last year. The vegetable seed market had leveled off this past decade, but sales now are expected to go through the roof.

"This is evolving into a perfect storm for vegetable gardening," says Charlie Nardozzi, senior horticulturist at the National Gardening Association in Burlington, Vt. "A lot of the economic things happening, and concerns are rising about global warming and carbon footprints, and so are worries about the quality of food, its price, and freshness – it's all come to a head."

"To be sure, food and fuel prices plus more and more people like their organic food and taste are big factors in the garden movement," said Glass.

Garden Writers Association annually surveys people to see how they plan to spend their gardening dollars, there was a big change this year in survey results with gardens moving up to number two.

"You've got a double whammy: The cost of food is going up disproportionately, and so is the price of gas to go get it," says Robert LaGasse, executive director of the Garden Writers Association in Manassas, Va. "With a garden, there's the cost savings, and add to it the time savings to walk out your back door and pull a couple of tomatoes from the garden for dinner tonight. It's wholesome, convenient, and you know what was done to it."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

President Frank Priestley's Farm Bill Editorial

Farm Bill Moving Forward - Finally

With any piece of legislation that runs 1,500 to 2,000 pages in length, there’s going to be some bad with the good. The farm bill package, passed by Congress this week, is no exception.

Like making sausage, everything in there isn’t mouth-watering, but the end product turned out politically palatable. At least that’s what 318 House members and 81 U.S. Senators thought.

Idaho’s entire congressional delegation supported the measure, which garnered enough support to override the veto threatened by President Bush. They showed commendable political courage in supporting this legislation, and agriculture thanks them for providing a basic, no frills safety net for farmers and ranchers that also increases support for hungry Americans and the environment.

The three-legged safety net of direct payments, marketing loans and counter-cyclical programs provides U.S. agriculture an essential level of financial security at a time when markets are volatile and expenses such as fertilizer and fuel are shooting through the roof.

Idaho Congressman Bill Sali called the bill “far from perfect,” but wisely recognized the importance of a safe, domestic food supply. “It is important that we create a sensible farm policy so that we will never have a day when we speak of America’s reliance on foreign food the way we speak of America’s reliance on foreign oil.”

A high point of the legislation mentioned by Sali is the inclusion of dehydrated potatoes in the Women Infant Children (WIC) program. This measure is expected to increase demand for Idaho potatoes.

Mike Simpson, Idaho’s other member of the U.S. House of Representatives, also noted that as with any initiative as large as the Farm Bill, there are good and bad provisions. Overall, however, it’s a good bill that “will help nurture a stable farm economy for our nation’s rural communities.”

Senator Mike Crapo’s hard work is also reflected in this farm bill with language that provides incentives for landowners to help perpetuate endangered species found on private property. Under the current Endangered Species Act, land uses are strictly regulated when an endangered species is found on private land. This often results in a “taking” of that land. The new language makes landowners partners in a conservation process.

“The breadth and depth of this legislation reaches into so many people’s lives that everyone in America – not just those involved in farm country – everyone in America should be paying attention to this legislation and should be glad we’ve been able to find that agreement. . .” Crapo said.

This farm bill is good, solid legislation for American agriculture, consumers and the environment. IFBF salutes our congressional delegation for having the courage and foresight to vote in favor.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Just in from Washington


Washington—After five long years the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $290 billion farm bill. The 318-106 vote, nearly a two-third majority comes despite the threat of a veto from President George W. Bush.

Two-hundred billion dollars would pay for food for the poor along with nutrition programs. Congress earmarked $40-billion to farm subsidies and another $30 billion to farmers that enhance endangered species habitat and idle their land. Idaho Senator Mike Crapo has worked on these preservation programs for years and was delighted to see them included in the bill.

“Landowner incentives like permanent tax deductions and tax credits are critical to the involvement of private property owners in assisting with the protection of endangered species on their property,” Crapo said. “This is a major step in efforts to protect these species, since the majority of habitat is on private land. Forming a financial partnership is likely to engage more private property owners and recover more endangered species."

The Senate started debate on the bill just hours after passage in the House. Senator Crapo says he would vote to override if needed, against the President. Insiders say the Bush Administration has an uphill battle because of the large majority in the house and the fact that farm states have far greater representation in the Senate.

Congress has overridden a Presidential veto before, a water projects bill, during George W. Bush's two terms.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Farm Bureau Vows to Help Lowry and Nettleton

Paul Nettleton (Photo by Jake Putnam)
BOISE – The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation kicked off a fundraiser this week for two Owyhee County ranchers who went through a 10-year court battle initiated by a federal agency, won, and then got stuck with over a million dollars in legal fees.

It started as bad dream for Paul Nettleton and Tim Lowry. Nearly a decade ago the Bureau of Land Management hauled the two Owyhee County ranchers into state court to determine who owned the water rights on grazing allotments utilized by the ranches since the late 1800’s. The U.S. Grazing Service, which eventually became the BLM, was not established until 1934. This turned out to be a key factor in the court decision.

Eventually, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled for the ranchers nullifying the attack on state water rights by the BLM. While the fight was successful, the legal defense of the ranchers cost a small fortune and they were denied reimbursement of legal fees.

The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation is kicking off a fundraising effort with a 16 minute documentary telling the ranchers’ story. The two families won victories against an army of federal lawyers and against long odds. The outcome of this case sets a precedent that protects stock water rights throughout the West.

“It was just a concerted effort to get that water back out of the private hands and into the hands of the federal government, it was just going after and as far as I’m concerned extortion type tactics to steal a private property right from individuals,” said Tim Lowry.

“It’s time that we help these families because they helped us,” said Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley. “We want to pass the hat for these ranchers. What they did took a lot of courage and their example will continue to protect our way of life.”

The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation produced the video
And a website telling the ranchers 10-year struggle with the federal government and the lawyers that vowed break them:

“Their victory is a victory for all of us. All agricultural, mining and recreation users that utilize water on federal lands now have more secure rights based on this important legal case,” added Priestley.

· The ranchers own state water rights on federally administered lands
· The priority dates of the water rights date back to when the water was first put to beneficial use
·The state water rights are appurtenant to the ranch property and need not be specifically listed on the deed
· The U.S. government does not own and cannot hold stock water rights.
Order a video from the website ((, view it, and then pass it on to friends. Donate as much as you can afford to:
Agricultural and Environmental Research Foundation, C/O Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, 275 Tierra Vista Drive, Pocatello, ID 83201

Friday, May 9, 2008

Equine Assisted Therapy in Hailey, Idaho

Hailey--A group of therapists perform miracles everyday in Hailey, Idaho---and they do it on horseback.

Throughout the world the use of the horse in rehabilitation and education continues to gain recognition as an important therapeutic tool. At the Sagebrush Equine Training Center for the Handicapped, they've been at it for almost two decades.
Researchers have found that a horse's gait is similar to the human walk and it helps strengthen spine and pelvic muscles, improves posture and coordination not to mention a boost in confidence and self esteem.

The Sagebrush Equine Center serves more than a 100 children from the Developmental Preschool, Bellvue, Hailey, Woodside elementary schools and Wood River High School. The kids participate in therapeutic riding on a weekly basis for no charge.

SETCH also plays a big role in patients requiring on-going therapy due to accidents and serious illness. "For a person with a disability, in addition to receiving physical therapy, the back of a horse can take them to places where wheelchairs cannot," says founder Kristy Pigeon.

The self esteem built through these therapy sessions combats depression and improves the quality of life of the challenged individual.
SETCH is a nonprofit organization founded in 1991, Their goal is to provide physical, cognitive and emotional benefits that encourages independence, life skills, and the quality of life of the challenged.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Ada County Farm Bureau Meeting

Meridian--Ada County Farm Bureau President Don Sonke presented scholarship checks to four Future Farmer of America Students.

Benjamin Enger of Meridan (middle in photo above) accepted a check for $500 and will pick up another check later in the year for an additional $500. Enger will attend the University of Idaho and wants to study veterinarian medicine.

Tori Thornton of Kuna High school also picked up a check for $750 she plans on attending Utah State next fall, Jessica Smith of Meridian will also attend U of I and also picked up a check for $750, both of the $750 scholarships are renewable each year.

President Sonke and the Board listened to a presentation from Lori Cox of the Western Idaho Fair. Ada County FB is looking for way to expand and promote their annual barn tour. The barn tour is way of telling the farm story to the urban masses and has had moderate success over the years.

Cox pitched an idea that entails a new program called 'Ask a Farmer' and is looking for sponsorships of the program, the board listened with interest to presentation and will weigh pros and cons of both programs in the coming months.

The Board then listened to a presentation from Jake Putnam of the Boise Federation Office. Putnam made a plea for speakers, farmers willing to go on camera for media interviews.
Putnam pointed to recent ethanol, corn and food price stories as examples of why farmers need to speak up and tell the farm story on these emerging stories.

Bee Mortality Continues

U.S. Department of Agriculture Still Seeking a Cause of Colony Collapse Disorder

Washington--The Apiary Inspectors of America says bee mortality rates are up 13-percent over last years disasterous outbreak of Colony Colapse Disorder that wiped out 36-percent of the nations honey bees.

Idaho beekeepers report mortality, but so far not as severe as the year before.

The combined survey, which was conducted by telephone interview, checked on nearly 19 percent of the country's 2.44 million colonies.

ARS is continuing to vigorously seek the cause or causes of CCD.

One issue complicating research is that researchers only have samples taken after a CCD incident is reported. With just the one set of samples, especially since the adult bees have disappeared, researchers cannot look for specific changes in affected bee colonies preceding the collapse.

To deal with this, in February 2007, universities and states began taking samples about every six weeks from cooperating migratory beekeepers who move their colonies to provide pollination. Two of the apiaries being sampled had suffered outbreaks of CCD in 2006.

Some of these apiaries did have a CCD incident in late 2007 or early 2008. The stored samples will hopefully give researchers an opportunity to see what changed, and more direction to find the cause or causes.

Just in from Washington

AFBF: Food Fix Needs to be Thoughtful, Comprehensive

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 7, 2008 – The American Farm Bureau Federation today said there is no short-term fix for the complex global food situation. In a statement on global food prices submitted to Congress, AFBF said there are many factors causing an increase in food prices around the world that must be addressed with thoughtful and comprehensive measures.

Escalating energy prices, demand and weather are but a few culprits for rising food prices, said AFBF. The organization also said the overall food price issue is much larger than the U.S. “It is global and requires global solutions,” said the organization.

AFBF cited a February 2008 report by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization that “identifies the rising cost of energy, increased worldwide demand, weather impacts on crop production, lower stocks levels, and the production of biofuels and the operation of financial markets as part of the current global food situation. This has resulted in world price increases of 80 percent for some products from 2005 to 2008,” said AFBF in its statement.

Domestically, said AFBF, the spiraling cost of natural gas and crude oil are having a major impact on production costs for farmers, ranchers and the entire food production chain. “Action must be taken to reduce our reliance on foreign sources of oil,” said AFBF. “Development of domestic oil and gas reserves, a continued commitment to biofuels and development of renewable resources must be part of the solution.”

Because of the renewable fuels standard (RFS), gas prices have already been lowered by as much as 15 percent according to AFBF and other studies, saving the consumer roughly 50 cents per gallon.

The organization also said other remedies are needed, such as investments in agricultural research and infrastructure, which play a critical role increasing agricultural production. Globally, countries should be discouraged from placing embargos on exports, which only result in escalating prices, and markets must be given time to adjust to growing demand and be allowed to stabilize.

Short-term solutions, such as food aid, agricultural assistance and efforts to calm markets, could help through the difficult time, but, says AFBF, “The situation we face today has been building over a long period. It will not be resolved by politically expedient solutions but must be addressed in a thoughtful and comprehensive manner.”

Long-term, said AFBF, there also needs to be more objective and open-minded approaches to agriculture productivity around the world. “Deciding to forgo technologies that can significantly improve yields, reduce pesticide needs and provide for greater output puts a major cost on developing and other economies.”

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Food Prices Expected to Stabilize This Summer

WARSAW, POLAND--The European Union's agriculture Chief Mariann Fischer said world food prices will stabilize below peak levels, but warned that speculation has led to higher food prices worldwide and could cause even more marketplace instability.

"We saw some huge peaks (in prices) from late August, September and October," EU Agriculture Commissioner Fischer. "They might come back to a certain extent, but we expect that prices will stabilize at a level that is a bit below the peaks that we have seen" and that all this "has had a huge consequence on the increase in cereal prices that we have seen."

"If speculation, again, has a major implication, it's impossible to give any clear forecasts of the crisis," she added.

The World Bank says food prices are up 83 percent in three years. Skyrocketing prices have sparked violent protests in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia this past winter.

Monday, May 5, 2008

From Washington

American Farm Bureau Recommends Changes to Agriculture Worker Program

WASHINGTON—The American Farm Bureau wants Congress to craft an effective H2A temporary worker program. In comments submitted to the Department of Labor,
AFBF told the Department of Labor that revisions to the program are needed to help slow a serious agriculture labor shortage and recommends moving toward a more market-based wage program.

The H2A program currently mandates an “adverse effect wage rate” that forces farmers to pay higher than market wages—on top of housing and transportation costs. In some cases, according to the Farm Bureau, those requirements make the program impossible to use from an economic standpoint.

“Growers have been clamoring for a more sensible, market-based wage,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “We’re hopeful the Labor Department can implement this reform in an open, transparent manner that makes it easier for farmers and ranchers to use the program.”

The AFBF also favors eliminating the so called ‘50 percent rule’ because it keeps growers from participating in the H2A program. The rule requires an employer to hire any qualified and eligible U.S. worker who applies for a job until 50 percent of the work contract is completed.

“There’s no reason to mandate that a grower’s obligations to find and recruit eligible U.S. workers should extend past the recruitment period; imposing such an obligation serves only to disrupt operations of the producer and does little to protect U.S. workers,” said Stallman.

AFBF urged the department to further reform the H2A program by providing a housing voucher for program users and including packing and processing employees, as well as the dairy sector, as part of the program. Farm Bureau also asked the department to change some of its proposals. The Farm Bureau said the 120-day recruitment requirement was far too long and should be cut to no more than 60 days.

AFBF also called for fundamental due-process reforms in the department’s proposed debarment process, which could result in a grower losing eligibility for the H2A program for one action or violation.


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