Thursday, July 31, 2008

Agriculture Innovation

Photo courtesy of Bioteams

Idaho Farm Bureau’s Brave New World Social Networking and You

… Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world. –Tennyson

Boise--The Idaho Farm Bureau has embarked on a mission of change. The media world has undergone drastic changes in the past year and a driving force is the concept of social networking. The Farm Bureau has addresses on Blogger, Facebook, My Space and You Tube.

Social networking is the grouping of people into common interest groups over the Internet, much like a virtual small town or a neighborhood. Although social networking is possible in person, it’s a powerful phenomenon that's hard to ignore.

Social network sites are like giant echo chambers that repeat over and over what friends have posted. Given the typical friend overlap in most networks, many in the networks hear the same thing over and over until they become the gospel. It was in the blog sphere echo chambers in 2004 that convinced the media that Howard Dean had more political juice than he actually did.

Online campaigns and e-petitions are only the beginning of what the net can do to politics, argues British Political Commentator Bill Thompson.

Over the last two years we have seen political campaigns start from Internet web announcements rather than the traditional press conference.

Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama launched their campaigns from their websites, while Barack Obama has taken it a step further and is raising millions from his blog site.

Media observers say its a way of getting around the media gate-keepers, and sending out a message unfiltered by biased columnists and reporters.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain uses his blog and Facebook site to bolster credentials while attacking opponent Barrack Obama, he has clearly seen the 'social networking' light and is working hard to ensure that he speaks directly to the wired world.

Some facts can no longer be ignored by campaigns and political organizations: high fuel costs are keeping members home in record numbers. Social networking sites offer a way to keep members wired and interested and they can do it after the chores are done, and even in their pajamas.

Many Idaho farmers have found fellow farmers and kindred spirits worldwide through blogs and social networks sites like Blogger, My Space, Facebook that share the same values and political views; its an untapped political force, the 21st centuries' sleeping bear.

Activists from radical causes know that the networking sites on the web lets them reach more people, quicker with greater impact than ever imagined before in a compact, shared space on the Internet. The net not only collapses space and time, but ten million people can be reached at the same price as ten people.

Social Media has gripped the entertainment, political and marketing world – yet in traditional fashion, the Agriculture Industry is one of the last ones to catch on. There are more than 72 Million blogs on the Internet, but farmer blogs account for just a fraction of that number; insiders stress that farmers need to join up or get left behind.

Farm Bureau members have the chance to not only impact state politics but US public policy just by blogging or having a Facebook site. A voice is a vote in this new landscape.

“It would be great to have our farmers to not only have a blog and a Facebook account but to upload their videos and have a powerful voice in this new medium,” said Idaho Farm Bureau’s John Thompson.

“Political clout in this new medium is measured by contacts in a social network, this is a political clout issue and we don’t want to be left out. When decisions are made in Washington or the Statehouse in Boise we want lawmakers to consider our viewpoint, we have more than 60-thousand members, can you imagine the roar?" said Farm Bureau's State Broadcast Manager Jake Putnam.

While some say YouTube, Blogger and Facebook are novel, some public relations experts hint at the new frontier. “Don’t fool yourself; there is business value in just about every aspect of social media,” says Mark Jewell of

The Idaho Farm Bureau started their online Blog in January of 2008, they're on YouTube ( ) for the past two years and Facebook since May ( )

“If this blog has reached you, post it on your blog site, your Facebook site, add this site and become a bold voice in a new frontier," said Putnam.

Capitol For A Day

Special Assistant to the Governor Clete Edmunson talks transportation issues and taxes with the Idaho Farm Bureau's Steve Ritter.

Governor Otter Declares Emmett, Idaho Capitol for a Day

Emmett--Governor Butch Otter took his staff on the road and declared Emmett, Idaho Capitol for the Day. The road trip is a way to get the Governor and the cabinet out of the Statehouse to mix with grassroot Idahoans.

The first stop after breakfast was the Gem County Fair Breakfast at municipal park where the Governor, First Lady and the Cabinet not only had a delicious breakfast but took the time to meet and greet locals.

Later in the morning the Gubernatorial road show continued at the elementary school where State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, Idaho Transportation Director Pam Lowe and members of the cabinet, fielded questions from the public.

"It is a tonic for me and it's a tonic for our cabinet members. When we were first soliciting there was some 'well, maybe,' now we get full support from all cabinet members," said Otter.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Farm Bureau Woman of the Year


Rexburg--The Madison County Farm Bureau Board of Directors announced that long time member Rama Griffeth is the 2008 Woman of the Year.

The bubbly, energetic woman barely has time to sit down, let alone collect another award. She hand husband Melvin are the driving force behind the renowned Americanas horse-riding group and have won honors from coast to coast, performed at George W. Bush's inaugural parade, and even the Rose Bowl.

Griffeth competed against applicants from from Bonneville, Custer, Lemhi, Teton, Lost River, Fremont and Jefferson counties.

Boise Office News

The Paving crew gets parking lot ready for asphalt--Putnam photo

Paving Project Underway at the Federation Office in Boise

Boise--The long awaited parking lot expansion is racing towards completion. Crews have placed the gravel and will should start applying asphalt soon.

Potato News

Albert Wada a photo by Jake Putnam

Albert Wada Joins World Potato Congress Board

Prince Edward Island, Canada--The World Potato Congress named Albert Wada of Pingree to the Congress Board of Directors. The Idaho State University graduate is one of the largest potato producers in the US and considered a driving force in the industry.

Wada is the Chairman and CEO of Wada Farms Inc., an irrigated farming operation in eastern Idaho growing fresh, process and seed potatoes, seed and commercial wheat, corn, alfalfa and hybrid canola seed.

Wada is a lifelong Idahoan, he and wife Christine have four children and four grandchildren. He studied journalism at the University of Utah and has a BA degree in communications from ISU.

Wada Farms is made up of 6 diversified farming locations across three counties, totaling more than 30,000 irrigated acres. The operation includes a trucking company, a fresh potato packing plant, and a fresh potato and onion marketing company. Wada is a founder of the grower co-op, United Potato Growers of Idaho.
"The cooperative philosophy makes sense,” said Wada in a 2007 interview. “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...the cooperative model is the best chance, the best tool we have to manage our own economics.”

Wada serves on the Key Bank board of directors, Northwest Farm Credit Services, and the National Potato Council Board of Directors. Wada is the recipient of numerous awards recognizing his contribution to his chosen field, including:

2005, Potato Man of the Year, The Packer
2006, The Packer Top 25
2007, Potato Grower of the Year, Potato Growers of Idaho
2008, Idaho Governor’s Award for Marketing Innovation
2008, Idaho Potato Expo Hall of Fame

President Allan Parker said, “We are very pleased that Albert has agreed to join our Board of Directors. With his background in commerce, his agribusiness experience, and his commitment to excellence, he brings a wealth of experience. I am confident that Albert will make a significant contribution to World Potato Congress Inc.”

World Potato Congress Inc. is a non-profit organization. In cooperation with local Host Committees, WPC Inc. facilitates international congresses periodically, throughout the world. The Congress functions to promote information sharing on all aspects of the potato industry, between delegates from both developed countries and countries with developing potato industries.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Meet an Idaho Florist

Steve Ritter Video

Karen Brady Shows us How to Pot a Plant

Karen Brady of the Brady Plant Ranch in Virgina, Idaho is also the Farm Bureau's District I Woman of the Year. Brady not only runs a thriving nursery, but is a florist as well.

Monday, July 28, 2008

County Presidents Summer Conference Recap

Pocatello--The American Farm Bureau's Bob Wilson came to the Country President's Summer meeting with a powerpoint presentation and a rhetorical question, "Who will be our members tomorrow?"

Wilson told the County Presidents that organizations like Farm Bureau needs to bridge the member generations to stay healthy in the coming decades. From the Baby Boomers to generations X and Y, the 'me' generation has turned into the 'we' generation almost over night; and Boomer workaholics needs to move over and let the other generations in the game.

Wilson stressed that change in technology and society is happening at rates never seen before and with those changes should come changes in attitudes. By understand generations X and Y we can avoid conflict and benefit greatly from untapped talents and skills.

Wilson says that generations X and Y are asking a lot of questions and the questions need to be answered, their first question is the most blunt: 'what does this organizaiton have for me?'

Gen X, he says "will only stay around until the skills they need to do it themselves, this independence was forged from the computer."

Generation Y has 76-million members in society and they've had the computer from day one. Wilson says these are the enterpreneurs of the future stressing they don't need you, they already have it! He adds this generation seems to know more and if channeled in the right direction can greatly help their Baby Boomer peers.

Wilson says there'll always be a Farm Bureau but stressed that to keep members the Farm Bureau needs to create value, and with that value generations X and Y's stay involved.

Wilson ended his presentation with a sobering thought, "Whenever you say it's easier to do it myself, you're slowly killing the Farm Bureau." Because the Boomer hard-work ethic robs volunteers the chance to pitch in and help, and also robs them of the experience of failure and success.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Meet an Idaho Farmer

Steve Ritter video

Ashlie Bird, Farmers Daughter and Highland Ram

Farmers families are the unsung heroes of Idaho Agriculture, they work untold hours and help make the farm run smoothly. Ashlie Bird of Pocatello is the daughter of Scott Bird and a proud student of Highland High School.

Just in from Washington

Brady Farms, Virginia, Idaho, Putnam photo

AFBF: CRP Ruling a Win for Farmers and Ranchers

WASHINGTON, D.C.-– America’s farmers and ranchers claimed a major win today when a federal judge in Seattle ruled to conditionally allow haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program acreage, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Those provisions were part of the Critical Feed Use program announced in May by the Agriculture Department.

“The court recognized that this temporary USDA program will be of great benefit to farmers and ranchers in dealing with the increased costs of feeding livestock,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman.

The program was designed by USDA to allow the use of CRP acreage for critical feed use. The program was challenged by a lawsuit from the National Wildlife Federation, claiming USDA did not follow proper procedure regarding an environmental assessment.

The judge issued a narrow permanent injunction to allow those producers with approved CRP contracts to continue operations through the program’s original Nov. 10 deadline. Farmers and ranchers who sent applications but have not received approvals will have their applications processed. If approved, those producers may hay until Sept. 30 or graze until Oct. 15.

Farmers and ranchers who have not yet sent applications may do so provided they submit in their application a statement explaining their reliance on the CFU program. The reliance statement should indicate whether the producer made investments or preparations of $4,500 or more and provide documentation. If the contract is approved, those producers also will be able to hay until Sept. 30 or graze until Oct. 15.

Prior to today’s ruling, AFBF and other ag groups filed two friend-of-the court briefs on behalf of farmers and ranchers in the case. The first brief provided details from 29 farmers and ranchers on the management decisions and investments they made in preparation to take part in the program. The second brief addressed possible remedies that could be taken to consider the positions of the affected farmers and ranchers.

“We firmly believe our documentation of the good faith efforts and investments taken by farmers and ranchers to participate in a program, which was announced in May, weighed heavily in the judge’s deliberations,” said AFBF General Counsel Julie Anna Potts. “That is why we were invited to present additional information before the judge and why the program was not thrown out on first consideration. Involvement from our members made a difference.”

The critical feed use program was designed to give eligible farmers and ranchers permission for “special, one-time” hay and forage use of certain CRP acreage after the primary nesting season ends for grass-nesting birds. The program was developed with the goal of providing some relief for livestock producers by reducing record-high feed costs. According to USDA estimates, the initiative would generate around 18 million tons of hay, worth approximately $1.2 billion. The critical feed use initiative is not related to emergency use of CRP land.


Photo courtesy of Nutfield
Idaho Sugar Beet Plantings Down

Nampa— High fuel and fertilizer costs are forcing Idaho farmers to grow cheaper, more profitable crops in 2008. Sugar beet acreage is the lowest in the Gem state since 1977, but wheat acreage is up.

Wheat prices were a dismal $3 to $3.50 a bushel for the past decade. But a worldwide drought drove prices up to $4 and then to more than $10 a bushel in 2007.

Farm Service Agency director Steve Ulrich is tracking the trend and says there’s not much of mystery for the move. “For the 2007 crops, the farmers got one of the highest prices ever for wheat,” said. “And it appeared it would continue on to the 2008 crop, and of course it has.”For farmers it’s an easy decision wheat takes less fertilizer to grow than sugar beets or corn. It takes a third less fertilizer than sugar beets and half the water needed for sugar beets; it’s also cheaper to harvest.

The breakdown:

• The number of acres of sugar beets grown in Idaho in 2008 is the lowest since 1977.

• The crop Amalgamated Sugar uses to process sugar and pulp dropped from 169,000 acres in 2007 statewide to 131,000 acres in 2008.

• Wheat production grew from 70,000 acres planted in Southwest Idaho in 2007 to 103,000 acres this year.

• Sugar beet production fell from 14,200 acres in 2006 to 13,200 acres in 2007 in Canyon and Ada counties.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Meet an Idaho Farmer

Steve Ritter video

Within in view of Interstate 15 north of Pocatello, Idaho, Scott Bird and his family grows potatoes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Transportation Road Show

Highway 91 Near Virginia, Idaho--Jake Putnam photo

Idaho’s Transportation Funding Conference
By Bob Smathers

Lewiston--Governor Butch Otter was in Lewiston on the third leg of the Idaho Transportation Funding Conference. “We're on a road trip," said Otter "and going to the citizens of Idaho to get their input on the crucial issue of transportation and road funding."

Pamela Lowe, Director of the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) said that the state of Idaho must raise additional transportation funding to keep up with higher costs, deteriorating roads and bridges and to preserve federal matching funds. Costs for concrete, asphalt, oil, and fuel have skyrocketed causing many projects around the state to be put on hold.

“Over 50% of Idaho’s bridges will be more than 50 years old in the next 10 years and very few are scheduled for replacement” said Lowe. She also indicated that these bridges were originally designed to last about 50 years.

Within a year or two Idaho will not have adequate state funds to match the federal monies that come to our state and if we are not able to match them, we may lose them to states like California and Arizona which she referred to as “doner” states. These states get back less than $1.00 for every $1.00 they pay in federal gas tax” says Lowe. Idaho is a “donee” state and gets back $1.67 for every $1.00 paid in federal gasoline tax. She said that the doner states are pushing for a larger piece of the pie, so if Idaho cannot come up with the federal match, these funds could be lost for good.

“The deficit that Idaho is currently facing on road and highway funding is about $240 million per year and this amount will need to be phased in over the next 2 to 3 years to get Idaho road and highway funding back on track” says Lowe. The $240 million would be distributed as follows: $136.8 million to the state, $91.2 million to counties, cities, and highway districts, and $12 million to the Idaho State Patrol. “ITD is currently being audited and any efficiencies uncovered by the audit that will save money, will be implemented” says Lowe.

The conference in Lewiston on Thursday was well attended by local industry leaders, the public, state legislators, and local government officials. Many who commented understood the current funding dilemma for roads and highways, but could not agree on how funds should be raised. Some felt that raising the gas tax was the most equitable way while others said the state should raise automobile registrations fees. Other ideas that were thrown on the table to raise funds included:
1. Fees on road developments.
2. Local options taxes.
3. Taxing commercial vehicles based on weight and miles travelled.
4. Assessing fees based on vehicle emissions.
5. Re-directing taxes on new vehicle purchases.
6. Raising taxes on new studded snow tire sales.
7. Raising taxes on all tire sales.
8. Increasing fees for special or personalized license plates.
9. Implementing a rental car tax.
10. Toll roads.

Some individuals suggested that the methods used to raise the $240 million should be fair and equitable. Raising automobile registration fees substantially for those who drive very little such as older retirees or those who drive $500 cars would not be equitable.

The panel for the transportation conference consisted of Governor Butch Otter, Pamela Lowe (ITD Director) Darrell Manning (Idaho Transportation Board Chairman) and Bruce Sweeney (Idaho Transportation Board Member). The panel was emceed by Clete Edmunson (Special Assistant for Education and Transportation.

Idaho Farm Bureau Summer Presidents Meeting

Former Congressman Larry LaRocco addresses the County Presidents' Summer Conference in Pocatello, Steve Ritter Photo

Candidates Address the Summer Presidents Meeting

Pocatello--A voice cracked clearly over the phone lines, telling a roomful of County Farm Bureau Presidents how she would bail out the mortgage crisis. Second Congressional Candidate Debbie Holmes of Boise spoke at the Idaho Farm Bureau's annual candidate Forum at the Holiday Inn in Pocatello.

Holmes also addressed Capitol gains taxes that plague Idaho Farmers. "Right now I don't like them, I don't know where my party stands on this issue but we need to keep limits on them. I don't think estate takes were meant to take down farms, Id like to see them exempted."

On Immigration reform Holmes addressed labor shortages "Everyone that comes into the country should have documentation. I want it to be easy to get workers in the country...but I want them to do it legally," said Holmes.

Incumbent Congressman Mike Simpson will face Holmes in November, he told the crowded room that the most important bill passed by Congress this year was 2008 Farm Bill. Simpson said Idaho Farmers badly needed the safety nets the legislation provides farmers. Congressman Simpson says that done farmers are suffering from skyrocketing fuel and fertilizer costs.

Simpson is advocating a comprehensive energy policy on Capitol Hill. "What we need is what I call the 'all of the above, energy policy'. We need to look at all alternatives, wind, nuclear, solar, bio fuels. We need to open up Alaska and the coasts, the continental shelf and we need to be more energy independent, now.

Simpson pointed to clean hydro-electric energy and things we can do in Idaho to continue to cash in on this clean, renewable energy source. "We need to look at increased hydro power and increased storage capacity. I'm in favor of raising the height of these dams. I don’t have any problem with expanding hydro power, we need to look very seriously at this.”

First Congressional Candidate Walt Minnick grew up on a large wheat farm in Walla Walla. The Boise Democrat told the gathering of farmers that hes a proponent of fair trade "we need to level the playing field, Id like to wean agriculture back to a free market."

Minnick is the former Trus Jois CEO and says if elected he'll work for homegrown energy alternatives. "I think that the Federal Government needs to step up financing for cellulosic ethanol. We can help this country free itself of foreign oil. Agriculture has a huge part in independence and ethanol is not controversial to me. I'd rather see the Government use grant money than give everyone incentives to jump start the economy. I'd like to harness more energy from that manure and methane,its a win win for all of us."

Minnick also addressed labor shortages that have swept the nation. "Immigration—we have to secure the borders, we have to hire legal. But we need an expanded guest worker program. I support agriculture jobs, I endorse it, I think it’s a way to get the workforce we need. As long as jobs are unfilled people will cross the border. A working, guest worker program needs to be a key part of an immigration program."

Incumbent 1st Congressional Candidate Bill Sali spoke via speaker phone in between Congressional duties on the Hill. The first term Congressman and Representative Simpson can't get away from Washington until the August break. Sali loves his job but expressed his frustration with Capitol Hill gridlock.

"People are struggling with energy prices, because Congress is in the way. We've blocked companies from drilling for oil. Everywhere we need energy, Congress has restricted t. Places like like the intercontinental shelf with some 1.3 billion acres all unexplored. The White House rescinded that order, congress needs to step forward too."

Congressman Sali worries about the economy. "We're seeing deficit spending from the current majority and our debt not tops $9 trillion dollars. The budget is now 3.5 times our revenue and growing. And then there's the Mortgage crisis, we're putting the American taxpayers on the hook. Guaranteeing Fanny Mae and Mac to $5 billion in an environment of loan defaults…is unthinkable; instead of a bailout why not incentives? Give people tax advantages for moving into these vacant homes? We need to be sober of how we move forward from here."

Larry LaRocco, Democrat Senate candidate is no stranger to Idaho Politics, he's attended the Summer Presidents meeting for decades, as a candidate and US Congressman.

"Without a doubt the democrats will continue to control Congress back in Washington. We need a voice with the Democrat party. Having served in the 90's I have seniority, I'll take that back to Congress. I will get on the right committees, I want to serve on Energy and Natural Resources, and again I can't stress how important it is to have someone in the Democratic tent fighting for the people of Idaho," said LaRocco.

LaRocco is concerned about the cost of gasoline and its impact on families and farmers. He outlined his energy policy. "It’s a very comprehensive policy and represents the best values for the state of Idaho, and leads us to energy independence. I support the Idaho National Laboratory it has the brain trust that we need Biomass research that's going on there will be important to Idahoans. We need to fund geothermal, solar, and wind and we can meet our needs through high tech. Why don’t we manufacture windmills and solar panels? All we need is vision to do this, anything to reduce fossil fuels."

Independent Senate Candidate Rex Rammel told the gather that he wants change in Washington and wants it now. He couldn't wait to get in front of an audience and share his vision with his fellow farmers. Rammel still holds a Farm Bureau membership card. Rammel wants Idaho forest and range land under state control.

"I love to fight for righteous causes. Can you image what would happen if we had a constitutional challenge. If we could get the land turned back to the states, we could access the mountains, control over the wolves ; I would fight for this like I have never fought for anything in my life," said Rammel.

"I support a flat tax, 17 percent…straight across the board. That might not be enough to operate government but we need a limited federal government. The Federal Government continues to grow and the constitution does 'nt give them the power they have taken; I want to end that," said the veterinarian turned politician. "When the government took my elk, I got mad. I have enough fight in me for all of us. We need to get on Rammels road, I think Rammell and Sali would make a good team."

Lt. Governor Jim Risch, joined the Farm Bureau more than 30 years ago and the longtime lawmaker is the Republican Senate Candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Larry Craig.

"When I fill up my gas tank I get angry," Risch told the crowd. "I'm an angry American; this whole thing is the fault of the United States Congress for locking up oil reserseves. Their favorite whipping boys is the oil companies. This problem is a supply shortage in the world. But here we are sitting on the largest reserves in America and our offshore reserves, most of Alaska. We cant open them up…it will take ten years to get to that. Don’t believe it." Risch stressed the importance of oil.

"I believe that the biggest challenge to our quality of life is energy, availability and the cost of it. Congress has been asleep, we need a policy that’s aggressive and we will suffer serious consequences if we don’t." Risch says the Senate is one of the most important jobs in the land."Nothing moves in Washington DC unless 60 senators say it moves they have the philabuster rule. When you dont have the votes, if you can't sell your bill it dies." Risch says he won't hesitate to philabuster and fight for Idahoans.

Idaho Farm Bureau County Presidents Meeting

Monsanto Plant, Soda Springs, Idaho, Jake Putnam photo

The Idaho Farm Bureau is holding its annual Summer Presidents Meeting at the Holiday Inn in Pocatello. On Tuesday the group visited the Monsanto plant in Soda Springs, Idaho. The plant is important because because most all of the phosphate based fertilizer in the U.S. comes from this Soda Springs Plant.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wheat Harvest Underway

Good Global Weather Helping Early Wheat Yields, Prices Fall

Chicago--Wheat prices dropped this week on speculation that worldwide output will exceed demand. Early numbers point to increased planting and mild weather and that’s boosted global production.

Wheat is the fourth-largest U.S. crop, valued at $13.7 billion in 2007 just behind corn, soybeans and hay, government stats show.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says farmers will harvest a record 664.2 million metric tons worldwide in the marketing year that started June 1st, that’s up 8.8 percent from last year. Wheat prices are down more than 40 percent from a record set in February.

Farmers in Lewiston started harvesting this week and farmer Steve Claasen said the high prices of diesel fuel and fertilizer will take a toll on farmers, but most he says are staying the course.

Travis Jones of the Idaho Grain Producers Association agrees but said while prices won’t be near last years records, they remain strong.

“We’re seeing wheat prices staying stable in the $8-a-bushel range,” Jones said. “Wheat’s not as volatile as corn and soybeans, but clearly we had a high around $16 for a bushel of wheat last year, and I think growers definitely like to see that because all their input prices are high.”

Wheat futures for September delivery fell 7 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $8.11 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade. Futures still have gained 32 percent in the past year after adverse weather curbed 2007 production. The price reached a record $13.495 a bushel on Feb. 27.

Growers planted more winter wheat last year to with hopes of making money and to get a share of prices that climbed 77 percent in 2007. U.S. farmers sowed 46.6 million acres with winter varieties from September through November, up 3.6 percent from the prior year, government data show. Production is expected to rise to 1.86 billion bushels, the most since 1998, the USDA has said.

About 62 percent of the U.S. crop was harvested is already in. In Kansas farmers have already harvested 95 percent of their crop of winter wheat according to the USDA.

Just in from Washington

Photo by Calum Davidson
House Demands a Real Solution to the Energy Crisis –
Not Just Empty Promises

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives voted on H.R. 6515 today. While the bill gave lip service to domestic drilling, it made no advances to do so, therefore, Congress rejected the measure and is holding out for an energy bill that offers the American public real relief at the pump.

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson would love to see Congress pass an energy bill with some teeth, such as H.R. 6384, the Americans for American Energy Act. Simpson is a cosponsor of this bill and feels it is a comprehensive solution to our energy crisis.

H.R. 6384 would allow for responsible new oil and gas production on federal lands, improve our refining capacity, renew our commitment to nuclear power, and invest in alternative energy sources for the future.

“Ultimately, a real, long-term answer to the energy crisis will require the development of an alternative energy source that will replace fossil fuels,” said Simpson. “However, the truth is that while we can’t drill our way out of this problem, increasing domestic oil production is a necessary part of the immediate solution.”

For nearly a decade Simpson has been an advocate for alternative energy resources. He supports nuclear power, increasing domestic oil production, and lessening our dependence on foreign oil.

Not only would H.R. 6384 allow for new production of oil and gas in ANWR and the OCS and through oil shale production, but it also ensures that all federal revenues would fund efforts to boost conservation and efficiency and fund and incentivize the research and development of clean, renewable energy technologies.

The Americans for American Energy Act addresses long term solutions and authorizes the start of construction for new nuclear power plants by 2010 and requires the NRC to complete rulemaking on the recycling of spent nuclear fuel within 2 years.

Under current law, Cuba is allowed to drill closer to the United States than our laws allow us to drill, so H.R. 6348 addresses this issue and gives coastal states the right to determine whether or not they want energy production up to 100 miles off their shores and would establish an equitable revenue sharing program with the states.

“High gas prices are the obvious result of our nation’s energy crisis, but we should be very concerned about the security implications of our dangerous dependence on foreign sources of oil,” said Simpson. “Most energy companies in the world are government owned and that means that most of the $9 million a day that Americans spend on gasoline is going to support governments that we may not consider to be allies. This dependence must change.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Labor Shortage Addressed

Senators Feinstein and Craig Rally State Farm Bureau Presidents on Migrant Labor

WASHINGTON, D.C.,– As American agriculture looks to the 2008 harvest, farmers across the nation hope they have enough workers to bring the crops in. Senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Senator Larry Craig are urging the presidents of the nation’s state Farm Bureaus to support their efforts to pass the Emergency Agriculture Relief Act.

Feinstein told the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Council of Presidents this week in Washington that she and Craig will continue to work to pass the measure, which was stripped from the emergency supplemental spending bill in May.

The Ag Relief Act, sponsored by Feinstein and Craig would provide temporary limited immigration status to experienced farm workers who continue to work on American farms and ranches for the next five years.

"Time is running out to keep the growing labor shortage from doing permanent damage to America's farms and farm economy. Congress must act immediately to pass the Emergency Agriculture Relief Act and ensure U.S. agriculture can obtain the workers it needs today and in the future," said Senator Craig.

Feinstein implored Farm Bureau Presidents to address labor problems in their states. “You are the biggest farm organization. You represent every state. There is no way I can push this bill through the Senate without you in full force alongside me,” Feinstein said. She urged the state Farm Bureau presidents to help ensure the bill gains the needed 60 votes on the Senate floor.

The American Farm Bureau Federation strongly supports the Emergency Agriculture Relief Act, and AFBF President Bob Stallman thanked Feinstein for her efforts on behalf of America’s farmers.

“Farmers and ranchers are experiencing a serious tightening in labor. This issue impacts every facet of the agricultural community – dairy producers, fruit and vegetable growers, poultry and hog farmers, row croppers, nurserymen and others. We need stability in our labor situation as we strive to get food on America’s tables and work to solve the immigration problem,” Stallman said.

The bill would not provide green cards, Feinstein said. The temporary emergency agricultural program would be capped at 1.35 million workers. Eligibility would be limited to those who can prove agricultural employment for at least 150 days or 863 hours or who have earned at least $7,000 working in U.S. agriculture during the past 48 months.

“We know that people know what the problem is. The question is whether they are willing to stand tall and help us solve the problem,” Feinstein said.

Emergency workers would have to work at least 100 days per year in agriculture for the next five years. The legislation has a five-year sunset provision.

Feinstein said the United States is in danger of losing its domestic food source unless immediate action is taken to allow agriculture to legally hire immigrant labor. “We need to be proud of what we do. We need to stand up for what we do and be proud of the products and crops we produce,” Feinstein told the Farm Bureau leaders.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Agri-Pac Meets

Agri-Pac, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam
Farm Bureau AgriPac kicks off the 2008 Election Season

Boise--AgriPac, Idaho'sFarm Bureau's political action committee met this afternoon at the Boise Federation office in the group's first step in the long political support process running up to the 2008 election.

The committee is made up of Idaho Farmers from five districts and every corner of the Gem State. Representatives studied the races, looked at recommendations and carefully poured over candidate questionaires.

A candidate's political affiliation has no bearing in the PAC's support decision.

The PAC will release a list of supported candidates later in the fall.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Input Watch

Hay Theft and Prices at All Time Highs

Boise--High prices hit an all time of $235 a ton last week and today the Idaho Department of Agriculture reported that hay thefts are up dramatically.

"There's a lot of competition for hay right now," said Dave Ogden, of the Idaho Department of Agriculture. "We're having a lot of problems with unlicensed dealers and speculators and outright thefts. You always have a little of this, but this year it's brazen,"

Theives are driving up to fields and snatching bales in broad daylight. "There's just so much money involved now that people are willing to take the risk, " added Ogden.

High grade dairy hay that went for $160 a ton last year is selling for almost a hundred dollars more a ton and prices are still going up according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's market report.

"Hay is pretty expensive right now," said Canyon County farmer Richard Haensli who had 10 bails stolen from his field just feet from the road. "The bails were stolen from Hoskins Road, they come along the road there and they see the hay sitting out there and if they are interested in stealing, well it's pretty accessible, It's dark, nobody's around, so they drive their pick up and throw on ten bales and away they go,"

Six months into 2008, the department reported 20 complaints of hay theft or the taking of hay without payment. In 2006, there were only 25 complaints of the same nature for the entire year.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Garden Update

Boise--Buying and eating locally produced food is more than just a healthy lifestyle decision for Heather Glass and her father Ted who live off Hill Road in Boise, for them its a way of saving gas, money and the environment.

Glass is a teacher and father Ted is a retired dentist and they spend the summer watering and tending the garden that feeds them. "It's fun to sspend time out here, at night the owls come out and it's fun to watch it all grow," said Glass. "Ive always been close to the land and I'm closer out here."

Glass says the first food was harvested in late June and each night she's had a different salad featuring whatever's ripe. "The flavors are really amazing, I don't use salad dressing, just a touch of balsamic vinegar."

Seed companies across the nation report record seed sales, and farmer markets are taking off in urban centers across the nation according to seed producers.

"People just want to buy and grow local foods these days, and many are finding their way to the garden and farmer markets," said Glass "We couldn't be in a better place to really enjoy local produce."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Meet an Idaho Farmer

Steve Ritter video

Steve Richards is a farmer and also runs a produce stand in Emmett, Idaho

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Just in from Washington

A Vermeer Farm Truck Hits the Scales--Putnam photo

AFBF: Truck Weight Laws Leave Farmers in the Lurch

WASHINGTON, D.C.-– Farmers and ranchers hauling their own goods to market across relatively short distances should not be held to regulations intended for commercial long-haul drivers, according to Mike Spradling, president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau.

During a hearing Wednesday before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, the Sand Springs, Okla., cattle and pecan producer testified on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation regarding the negative impact existing truck weight laws and regulations have on farmers and ranchers.

“Current weight limits imposed by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) burden farmers and ranchers hauling their products to market,” said Spradling. “The American Farm Bureau Federation recommends changes to FMCSA’s rules regarding Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs) that will make them more workable for some farmers and ranchers while still maintaining the safety of rural roads.”

The current federal definition of a CMV is a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more. It takes very little to reach that threshold. For instance, a heavy duty pickup truck can often exceed the 10,001 pound weight limit. This makes interstate travel unreasonable by triggering requirements such as a commercial driver’s license and compliance with hours of service rules.
“Establishing a national threshold of 26,001 pounds would begin to eliminate the inconsistent and confusing system currently in place and free small farmers and ranchers from being regulated the same as commercial truck drivers,” Spradling said.

“Concentration within the agriculture industry has reduced the number of grain elevators, cotton gins and livestock markets forcing farmers and ranchers to drive longer distances, often across state lines, to sell their commodities,” Spradling said.

Additionally, the lack of uniformity between states causes confusion and frustration, according to AFBF, which has proposed solutions to ease the burden of trucking regulations on some farmers and ranchers.

“Farm Bureau believes there are several changes that need to be made to the agency’s current regulations,” Spradling testified. “They include exempting border crossings between states with similar weight restrictions, raising the weight limit for CMVs to at least 26,001 pounds, or exempting state border crossings within the 150 air mile radius currently recognized by FMCSA.”

Precision Agriculture Cutting Input Costs, Study Says

Stitched image of Robert Blair's farming operation in Kendrick, Idaho

Precision Ag Returning Cash on Investment

ST LOUIS, MO, July 9, 2008– Higher crop input costs are bringing more and more farmers into high-tech farming practices like precision agriculture and they're saving money according to a new study.

Robert Blair, owner of PineCreek Precision in Kendrick, Idaho says that “to remain profitable in this day and age, farmers will have to cut costs on the input side because they don't have control over output prices.”

Precision farming or precision agriculture is a new farming concept relying on the existence of in the field options. It's about doing the right thing, in the right place, in the right way, at the right time. It requires the use of new technologies, such as global positioning (GPS), sensors, satellites or aerial images, and information management tools (GIS) to assess and understand variations.

Farmers can use the collected information to precisely evaluate optimum input needs, sowing density, estimate fertilizers and to better predict crop yields. Precision Ag throws does away with expensive inflexible farming practices and applying what inputs are needed where which drastically cuts waste and saves money.

Robert Blair uses an unmanned aerial system (UAS) to analyze his fields. The UAS he uses is called the CropCam equipped with a high resolution camera mounted on what looks like a model airplane with an 8-foot wingspan. The plane is programmed to fly a pattern over the field and can cover about 640 acres in 25 minutes. The series of images are then stitched together into a large seamless mosaic image of the field that gives the farmer an understanding of what is happening in the field.

Blair has used the UAS technology to track weeds and wildlife damage in his fields and using color spectrum overlays, pinpoint exactly which areas need more or less fertilizer. Robert says his savings on reduced inputs last year approached $50,000, enough to pay for a good share of the new technology in one year.

Elliott Nowels of the Precision Ag Institute says its the bottom line and saving money. “Research shows that growers are gaining back their investment in precision ag technology faster than we thought – often in just one to three years, and they are saving from $15 to $39 per acre by using inputs more efficiently with precision ag tools, depending on crop and region of the country.”

At a time when inputs costs are going through the roof “There’s never been a better time to adopt this technology,” says Nowels.

Aditional results indicate the following:

· Eighty-five percent (85%) of corn growers, 88 percent of cotton growers and 100 percent of soybean growers indicated their operation has been more profitable using precision ag technology.

· The average input savings per acre for these precision ag users (inputs including seed, fertilizer, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and time/labor) $19 per acre for corn, $18.50/A. for beans and up to $39/A. for cotton.

· Fertilizer cost-savings led the way, coming in at $4 to $13 per acre depending on crop.

· The top benefits growers listed from their use of precision ag technology were 1.) the ability to apply chemicals and fertilizer where needed, 2.) greater profitability due to lower input costs, and 3.) identification of poor producing areas of their fields.

The research was compiled earlier this year from in-depth written responses and telephone follow-up interviews with corn, soybean and cotton growers. A pre-selection survey was used to find growers who’ve used multiple tools – GPS, controller-driven application and yield monitors -- for at least three years. Nearly half of the 66 growers interviewed had been using some precision ag technology for at least six years. In order to get the most comprehensive information, growers agreeing to the study were asked to answer written questions, as well as participate in an in-depth phone interview.

“Measuring the return on investment (ROI) for individual components of precision is difficult because the tools are part of an overall crop management system,” says Nowels. “This gives us deeper insight on the ROI from those with deeper experience with it. We wanted to find out what new adopters might expect from using this technology long-term.” This contrasts, Nowels says, with earlier research conducted by the Institute of hundreds of adopters and non-adopters to gain a broader view.

“We can marry the hard and fast figures we are getting in this research with some of the practices that are being adopted out there and it really helps the whole thing make sense to growers,” says Paul Schrimpf, group editor of, PrecisionAg Special Reports and the PrecisionAg Buyer’s Guide. “We’re currently at work to incorporate this data into a special insert inside our next edition of the Buyer’s Guide coming out next month.”

“Certainly results from adopting this technology will vary from crop to crop and farm to farm, “ says Schrimpf, “but higher input costs have made growers hungry for ideas on cutting costs while growing yields. I think this research will help them see some new possibilities.”

Food Trends

Internet Coupons Saving Shoppers Money

With food prices on the rise, as well as the price of the gas that it takes to get to the store. It's enough to turn carefree spenders into tightwads.

And tightwads across the nation are turning to the Internet where they can find coupons on everything from toilet paper to groceries. Coupons that once graced every newspaper in America can now be found online and shoppers are printing them out and cashing in.
Just like the old days it still takes some effort to hunt down coupons for the things you need, find the stores with the best deals but a growing number of people are doing the extra work and saving money.

According to a company called Hitwise, visits to coupon Web sites are up a whopping 56% for the week ended June 6, compared with the same week in 2007., and were some of the most popular coupon destinations.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Energy Independence

(Photo courtesy of Seetwist)
EPIC calls for Energy Independence Day
by Erin Voegele

As many American’s struggle with the price of gas, the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council, in partnership with other ethanol support organizations, is calling for citizens to celebrate Energy Independence Day this Fourth of July.

According to EPIC, the United States’ current domestic gasoline production is enough to supply the country’s gasoline needs for 149 days. Through increased use of biofuels and conservation strategies, the organization said Americans can extend its supply to 186 days – or from January 1, 2009 until July 4, 2009. The organization is urging the public to secure the United States’ energy independence by continuing to develop clean alternative fuels, renewable energy sources and improved energy efficiency.

EPIC is also calling for Americans to take steps to conserve fuel, fill up with ethanol, consider flexible fuel vehicles and encourage retailers to offer ethanol products. During the next 365 days, EPIC will implement a public education and outreach program culminating on July 4, 2009, with the ultimate goal of creating a more energy independent nation.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fuel for Thought

(Photo courtesy of Gunnar Valdimar Bergsveinsson )

Americans are paying $83 per week for gas, a 335% increase from 2002

Sioux Falls-–Americans will pay $1.13 more per gallon to travel to their Fourth of July celebration than they did last year, and $2.60 more per gallon than they did just five years ago, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

“I think we’ve all become numb to constant gas price increases, but a look at the numbers should make people take notice. An average household pays $4300 a year now for gasoline instead of the $1200 they paid just five years ago,” said Ron Lamberty, Vice President / Market Development of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE). “Just six years ago, a twenty dollar bill would fill your tank for your Fourth of July holiday trip and you’d have enough left over to buy snacks, but today that same trip will cost you more than $60.”

ABC News has reported that some cities are canceling Fourth of July festivities due to high gas prices and the general downturn in the economy.

“It’s sobering to realize that our dependence on foreign oil may even be threatening our celebration of Independence Day,” Lamberty said. “Ethanol’s opponents will tell you that the cost of the Fourth of July picnic is slightly higher this year, but the cost of the picnic is irrelevant if Americans can’t afford to drive to the celebration,” Lamberty said.

While much recent media attention has focused on increased food prices, a look at the Consumer Price Index from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the gas price increase is by far the heavier burden for American households.

§ In January 2002, an average household paid $102 a week for food (groceries and eating out) and $25 a week for gas.
§ By June 1 of this year, a household paid $124 a week for food (an increase of 23.1%) and $83 a week for gas (an increase of 335.8%).
§ If gas prices had increased at the same rate as food prices during that time, the pump price would be $1.39 per gallon.

ACE published a fact sheet today with more food price and gas price information, highlighting more data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A PDF copy of the fact sheet is attached.

“Ethanol is here today as a clean and cost-effective alternative to expensive oil. Increasing the availability of ethanol, and increasing the amount of ethanol in each gallon of gas, will continue moving the U.S. down the path to energy independence,” Lamberty said.

Domestically produced ethanol is helping to keep gas prices from going even higher. Here’s what experts are saying:

- The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy note that gas prices would likely be 20 to 35 cents higher per gallon if ethanol were not available.

- Merrill Lynch analysts believe oil and gas prices would be 15% higher if ethanol producers weren’t expanding their output, which would mean $21 per barrel more for oil and 61 cents more per gallon for gas.

- Iowa State University found that between 1995 and 2007, Americans in all regions of the country spent less on gas – between 29 and 40 cents a gallon – than they would have if ethanol had not been available. Using the low and high estimates of ethanol’s savings – 20 cents to 61 cents per gallon – ethanol is saving American households between $210 and $642 per year.
By growing the production and consumption of ethanol in the U.S., and taking basic conservation measures, the nation can fuel its own energy needs for nearly six months out of the year.

- America currently produces enough oil (49 billion gallons) and enough ethanol (9 billion gallons) to provide 149 days of energy independence – or up to May 29 each year.

- Expanding ethanol production to 14 billion gallons, and taking basic fuel conservation measures that would reduce each driver’s gas consumption by 21 gallons a year, would result in a true “Energy Independence Day” – or the U.S. being able to fuel its own energy needs through July 4 each year.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Meet an Idaho Farmer

Tracy Walton
Emmett--Tracy Walton is a volunteer fireman and a farmer in Gem County. He has served on the Gem County Farm Bureau Board for at least a decade and through the years has insured that Gem County voices are heard and its influance felt in Idaho Farm Bureau Policy.

Idaho Farm Innovation

PineCreek Precision Agricultural Field Day
by Bob Smathers

Kendrick--The second annual PineCreek Precision Agricultural Field Day, sponsored by PineCreek Precision and Nez Perce County Extension was held on Thursday, June 26 at the Robert Blair farm near Kendrick. Several topics were discussed at the event including weed and insect control products, IPM concepts for breaking disease cycles and herbicide resistant weeds and precision agriculture.
Robert Blair, owner of PineCreek Precision, stated that “to remain profitable in this day and age, farmers will have to cut costs on the input side as they have no control over output prices.”

Cutting input costs and keeping yields up can be done with new cutting-edge technologies such as satellite guidance systems and variable rate applicators. Using satellites to guide tractors can reduce overlap in field operations by 3 to 5 percent thus saving on fertilizer, seeds and chemicals and on the environment.

Variable rate application technology can save fertilizer by applying more fertilizer in the productive areas of the field and eliminating wasted fertilizer in less productive areas of the field. Flow rates vary based on where the machine is in the field thus applying fertilizer and chemical where needed, not uniformly over the entire field. Shallow, lower yielding soils cannot utilize as much fertilizer as the deeper and higher yielding soils, so uniform fertilizer applications over an entire field can result in wasted product and crop damage. For weeds, variable rate applicators put chemicals where the weeds are. Since weeds tend to grow in patches, it makes sense to spray the patches and not the entire field.

Robert Blair uses an unmanned aerial system (UAS) to analyze his fields. The UAS he uses is called the CropCam. A high resolution camera is mounted on what looks like a model airplane that has an 8-foot wingspan and 4-foot length. The plane is programmed to fly a pattern over the field and can cover about 640 acres in 25 minutes. The series of images are then stitched together into a large seamless mosaic image of the field to give the farmer an understanding of what is happening in the field. Robert has used the UAS technology to track weeds and wildlife damage in his fields and using color spectrum overlays, pinpoint exactly which areas need more or less fertilizer. Robert says his savings on reduced inputs last year approached $50,000, enough to pay for a good share of the new technology in one year.

Idaho Farm Innovation

PineCreek Precision Agricultural Field Day

by Bob Smathers

Kendrick--The second annual PineCreek Precision Agricultural Field Day, sponsored by PineCreek Precision and Nez Perce County Extension was held on Thursday, June 26 at the Robert Blair farm near Kendrick. Several topics were discussed at the event including weed and insect control products, IPM concepts for breaking disease cycles and herbicide resistant weeds and precision agriculture.

Robert Blair, owner of PineCreek Precision, stated that “to remain profitable in this day and age, farmers will have to cut costs on the input side as they have no control over output prices.”

Cutting input costs and keeping yields up can be done with new cutting-edge technologies such as satellite guidance systems and variable rate applicators. Using satellites to guide tractors can reduce overlap in field operations by 3 to 5 percent thus saving on fertilizer, seeds and chemicals and on the environment.

Variable rate application technology can save fertilizer by applying more fertilizer in the productive areas of the field and eliminating wasted fertilizer in less productive areas of the field. Flow rates vary based on where the machine is in the field thus applying fertilizer and chemical where needed, not uniformly over the entire field. Shallow, lower yielding soils cannot utilize as much fertilizer as the deeper and higher yielding soils, so uniform fertilizer applications over an entire field can result in wasted product and crop damage. For weeds, variable rate applicators put chemicals where the weeds are. Since weeds tend to grow in patches, it makes sense to spray the patches and not the entire field.

Robert Blair uses an unmanned aerial system (UAS) to analyze his fields. The UAS he uses is called the CropCam. A high resolution camera is mounted on what looks like a model airplane that has an 8-foot wingspan and 4-foot length. The plane is programmed to fly a pattern over the field and can cover about 640 acres in 25 minutes. The series of images are then stitched together into a large seamless mosaic image of the field to give the farmer an understanding of what is happening in the field. Robert has used the UAS technology to track weeds and wildlife damage in his fields and using color spectrum overlays, pinpoint exactly which areas need more or less fertilizer. Robert says his savings on reduced inputs last year approached $50,000, enough to pay for a good share of the new technology in one year.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Meet an Idaho Farmer

Boise--The Idaho Farm Bureau includes more than 60,000 Idaho families. We have active county boards in 37 counties. The main goals of the organization is to enhance net farm income and improve the quality of life for farm and ranch families.

Vaughn and Lisa Jensen work a farm outside of Emmett, Idaho and Vaughn serves on the Gem County Farm Bureau Board of Directors. When you drive by the Jensen place you'll often see Vaughn and Lisa working the land they love.

House Passes Interior Bill with Idaho Priorities

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