Friday, October 31, 2008

The Economy

Ritter photo
Idaho’s Economy Slows

Boise--Economist Jeff Thredgold wrote in the latest issue of Zions Bank’s Insight magazine that the state’s slow economic pace could continue well into next year.Thregold pointed out the 1 percent drop in total employment from a year ago can be blamed directly on an “extremely weak” home-construction sector, softer prices for homes and struggles in the high-technology sector.

The 1 percent drop in total employment compares to average annual increases of 3.5 percent in the 2004-07 period. In the report Thregold addressed the credit crisis: “The Idaho economy, like that of other states, has been severely impacted by higher credit costs, and more limited credit availability for homes and proposed commercial real estate ventures. Many aggressive mortgage lenders have closed their doors during the past 24 months, while many others have required larger down payments and greater levels of paperwork.”

Stagnation in Idaho, he wrote “is a vivid reminder that what happens outside of the state’s borders can have both positive and negative influence upon the state, its companies and its citizens.”

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ritter photo
Idaho Farm Bureau Intermountain Grain and Livestock Report

POCATELLO -- White wheat 3.85 (steady); 11.5 percent winter 4.48 (down 11); 14 percent spring 6.35 (down 19); barley 7.00 (down 25);
BURLEY -- White wheat 3.84 (steady); 11.5 percent winter 4.58 (down 6); 14 percent spring 6.12 (down 7); barley 6.50 (steady);
OGDEN -- White wheat 4.50 (down 14); 11.5 percent winter 4.86 (up 6); 14 percent spring 6.69 (down 6); barley 7.40 (steady);
PORTLAND -- White wheat 4.75 (steady); 11 percent winter n/a; 14 percent spring 7.86 (down 1); barley n/a;
NAMPA -- White wheat cwt 6.08 (steady); bushel 3.65 (steady);

LIVESTOCK AUCTION -- Blackfoot Livestock Market on Friday. Utility and commercial cows 39.00-47.00; canner and cutters 35.00-41.00; heavy feeder steers 74.00-87.00; light feeder steers 77.00-100.00; stocker steers 78.00-111.00; heavy holstein feeder steers 45.00-58.00; light holstein feeder steers 35.00-50.00; heavy feeder heifers 74.00-86.00; light feeder heifers 74.00-94.00; stocker heifers 74.00-96.00; slaughter bulls 49.00-59.00;

Remarks: Cows and bulls steady. Feeder cattle 1 lower.

Dairy News

Tubbs Ranch, Malad, Idaho, Putnam photo
Dairy Futures Down in 2009

Gooding--Class III futures milk prices for January to March 2009 are averaging $14.40 per hundredweight while the April to June 2009 futures averaged $15.02 at the close of trading on Tuesday.

Magic Valley farmers are worrying over projected break-even milk prices that range from $15 to $16 per cwt. range, that's well below future's contract prices for the first half of 2009.

Market economists say tight prices will continue into the spring of 2009. Many farmers have started to tighten their belts to get through the winter, buying cheap fuel and feed to cut costs and all that activity has impacted feed and supply markets.

The tightening markets are evident from Gooding to Burley in the spot feed market with some still holding off locking-in prices until feed prices hit the bottom. Corn and soybean prices have dropped, but not all at the same pace.

As reported last week with the Farm Bureau Hay and Forage Committee, Dairy quality hay prices are down $10 in the last month because of all the activity; but still running $220 a ton, that's well above last November's $150 ton price.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Financial News

Jake Putnam photo
Fed Cuts Interest Rates

Washington--The Federal Reserve cut its benchmark overnight interest rate, the Federal Funds target rate, by one-half point, to 1 percent. According to the Federal Reserve Bank the move addresses sluggish economic activity in the United States and abroad, with the cut the Fed expects inflation pressures to ease.

Input Costs

Jake Putnam photo
Gas Prices Down Again

Boise--Gas prices continue to drop with some of the biggest price cuts coming in the past week according to AAA Idaho.

The free-falling prices averaged $2.87 per gallon around Boise on Monday, a far cry from the $4 per gallon motorists suffered through this summer. At some stations in town, the price per gallon fell below the $2.80 mark, and even lower at Costco, Albertson's and Fred Meyer grocery stores that offer discounted gas for their shoppers. That's a modest saving compared to $2.66 gas in Coeur D'Alene on Tuesday.

AAA Idaho spokesman Dave Carlson says its a nationwide phenomenon with Pump prices across the country tumbling. "They've taken a nosedive to reflect the falling cost of oil, already down $30 from Oct. 1 with prices around $63 a barrel." In July, oil was selling for around $147 a barrel.The gas price free fall could continue, sinking to the low $2-dollar mark, Carlson said.

Although the news is a breath of fresh air for drivers, economists says its a dire reflection of economic hard times around the world, saying supply and demand issues are driving fuel costs.

Economists point out that when business is down, the industrial sector uses less gasoline to manufacture and transport raw goods and services. Also motorists were having problems dealing with $3.00 gas and drastically cut back their use of gasoline.

Although Idaho gas prices have dropped dramatically Idaho is just the 22nd lowest nationally according to the AAA. Coeur d'Alene's $2.57 average is 36 cents lower than the state average and one penny more than Lewiston's, which is the lowest in the state, according to Carlson.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wall Street

Bruno Yoshimura photo
Stockmarket Soars Because of Proposed Fed Rate-Cut
New York--Dow Jones industrials climbed 900 points as investors anticipated a Federal Reserve rate cut and pushed aside gloomy consumer confidence news. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was up more than 10 percent and the technology-heavy Nasdaq rose more than 9 percent.

Idaho 4H News

Canyon County Fair--Jake Putnam photo
4-H Inducts 9 New Idaho Hall of Famers
Written by Bill Loftus

MOSCOW – Nine long-time 4-H volunteers will be honored as new inductees to the Idaho 4-H Hall of Fame during the annual statewide leaders’ forum Oct. 25 at Salmon, Idaho.

“It is our privilege to honor these citizens from across Idaho who have made a commitment to helping the state’s youth develop valuable leadership skills and have fun while doing so,” said Mary Jean Craig, University of Idaho Extension associate in the state 4-H office at Moscow.

Those honored include Gay Willis of Bonneville County, Janice Bosse of Latah County, Joan Parr of Cassia County, Eileen Bennett of Clark County, Helen Larson of Canyon County, Ken and Claudia Brush of Canyon County, Wallace Brown of Twin Falls County, and Barbara DeShon of Bonneville County.

The Idaho 4-H Hall of Fame was established as part of the 4H centennial celebration in 2002 to honor those who have made a significant impact on 4-H and the lives of thousands of members.Seven individuals and one couple have been selected to be inducted into the Hall of Fame during the 2008 Idaho State 4‑H Leaders’ Forum, joining the 100 inducted in 2002 and 14 inducted in 2005.

The contributions of those inducted include:Gay Willis, Bonneville County, began as a 4-H leader in 1979, quickly taking on more leadership roles. In 1982 she joined the 4-H Advisory Council and was secretary for about 13 years. She received Bonneville County’s Virginia Russell Memorial Award in 1986. Her favorite 4-H project was Teen Scene, which gave older teens real hands-on experience on how to budget, buy a used car, interview for a job, and even shop for an apartment.

Janice Bosse, Idaho State 4-H Office, provided the glue that held Idaho 4-H together behind the scene for 40 years. She began as a secretary for 4-H in 1961 but her responsibilities grew substantially before she retired in 2001. She managed communications with all 4-H Program donors, maintained the 4-H awards and recognition program and the 4-H endowment reporting system. In addition to working at the state level Jan served as a volunteer 4-H leader in Latah County. She received the University of Idaho Outstanding Employee Award in 1995, a Western Regional NAE4-HA Communicator Award in 1995 and the Secretary of Agriculture Honor Award for Support Services in 1998.

Joan Parr of Cassia County started her work for University of Idaho Extension in Cassia County focusing on 4-H, food safety, food preservation, leadership, child development, and communication skills. She served as Extension’s county chair and interim District III director.

Eileen Bennett of Clark County has served the 4-H program for 25 years. Besides teaching youth she has always been one to help out with fund raisers and community service projects. She came to the United States in 1947 with a Canadian combine crew and settled in Dubois to teach middle school. She became an American citizen in 1948. A 4-H leader guiding youth in numerous project areas, she also served as a past 4-H Council president. She organized and managed the Clark County Youth Horse Show for six years. A past charter member and secretary of the Clark County Fair Board, she received its Community Service Award. Helen Larson of Canyon County has devoted 48 years to Idaho 4-H as a club and resource leader and helping with county and district demonstrations. During her time as a club leader she worked with 959 youth. She was a devoted chaperone, accompanying youth to county, district and state level events. Her impact on 4-H will be long felt because her club members are now 4-H leaders, parents and committee members.

Ken and Claudia Brush of Canyon County have supported the educational opportunities for youth and 4-H for 20 years. Claudia has served on 4-H councils at all levels, most recently giving financial leadership to the 2008Western Regional Leaders Forum. They contribute to the State Leaders Association and provided scholarships to youth traveling to national 4-H events. In memory of their daughter, Cynthia, they endowed a college scholarship for 4-H members attending Vallivue High School, Caldwell. Wallace Brown of Twin Falls County has volunteered as a 4-H leader for 31 years helping youth with beef and leather craft projects and serving for many years as the 4-H beef superintendent and committee chair. He worked hard to improve the beef show ring, barn, and the quality of carcasses being raised by 4-H members. He made sure any youth who wanted to take a project could, no matter what their abilities or challenges may have been. He served as the Twin Falls 4-H Leaders Council president twice and received the State Distinguished Service Award in 1993. In 2007 the Twin Falls County Fair Board renamed the sale barn in his honor.

Barbara DeShon of Bonneville County for 38 years opened her 4-H club to all youths, especially those whose families struggled financially and those with physical and emotional challenges. She was a horse leader and put her time, effort and financial resources into the horse program so that many youth could afford the horse, tack and feed. Within her community she runs a Special Olympics program for local handicapped and challenged adults.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dairy News

Vermeer dairy, Wilder, Idaho--Jake Putnam

Idaho Dairy Prices Down

Washington--Idaho dairy operators report falling milk prices and it looks like that's a trend that could continue into January says USDA Outlook Board Chairman Gerry Bange. He says part of the problem stems from the overproduction of non-fat dry milk overseas.

"The price of nonfat dry milk has come down very, very sharply," said Bange. "Somewhat weaker demand owing to the work economic situation right now so the demand for US nonfat dry milk has weakened.”

Class IV milk prices have fallen farther than expected and Bange says they could drop another eleven and a half percent next year. Cheese prices are also off and the average all milk price has been revised downward.

"We're seeing that fall down to $16.95 for 2009, thats down about eight percent from 2008,” said Bange. One bright note; feed and fuel prices have started to come down. Bange says the high fuel and feed costs this year will probably lead to an all-meat production decline next year, down more than one percent.

“We’re seeing tighter calf supplies,"added Bange. "Calf supplies have been somewhat restricted due to drought conditions in various parts of the country.”

Bange says beef, hogs and broiler prices will also be down next year as well.
“Some signs of weaker demand which may in fact relate to the economic situation where people are just adjusting their expenditures,” he said.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Steve Ritter Video


Boise--Jerry Dewey of Associated Foods talks about Associated's handling of Country of Origin Labeling that went into effect September 30th.

Country of Origin Labeling Meeting

Steve Ritter video

John Nalivka Address The Beef Dairy Committee

Boise--The Idaho Farm Bureau Beef and Dairy Committee met to discuss the new Country of Orgin Labeling rule and regulations that went into effect September 30th. John Nalivka of Sterling Marketing talked about the importance of signing affidavits confirming cattle origin and how COOL is not only is a safety net for cattlemen but could soon pay dividends.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Age, Soure Verification

John Nalivaka, Sterling Marketing , Putnam photo
Country of Origin Impacts on Markets and Producers
Down now--Up Later

Boise--At the Idaho Farm Bureau Beef and Dairy Committee meeting, John Nalivaka of Sterling Marketing says that COOL rules and regs have impacted the beef market and cattlemen since implementation September 30th.

US beef exports last week were 25% lower than last year, according to USDA statistics but 13% higher than a week ago. Market watchers say there was an expected initial decline since the COOL implementation date, But its bounced back with increased demand as US packers adapted their operations to COOL.

Nalivaka says US cattlemen need to keep up with world competitors and if they do implementing COOL will have long range benefits. The beef marketing expert cited Brazil as an example. That country implemented trace back measures and has prospered in the European Union.

"Its all politics, global trade is politics, Brazil was allowed back in the EU two weeks ago", said Nalivaka. "They instituted an animal ID program, the EU liked what they saw and reinstituted them because of the program and their export numbers are way up."

He thinks US beef producers will do much better than Brazil and Austrailia on the world market when COOL rules and regs kick in. He acknowledged that the cost of COOL rules and regs will hit every producer in the US in one way or another. Nalivaka told the group there's other impacts as well.

"No doubt, costs are going up this year, there's increased consumer input regarding both the final product and inputs. There'll be increased competition in both domestic and global markets, theres going to be greater change in how business must be done and ultimately increased consolidation," said Nalivaka.

But he says ultimately "The market will find quality, there'll always be a place for beef but from here on out it must have age and source identification. We will see more Closed beef systems, harvesting of source verified, quality cattle and that will become the rule, not the exception."

Ron Davison of the Treasure Valley Livestock Auction agreed saying there'll be much more paper work and handed out sample affidavits that his company now passes out before cattle is sold.

“We have a form and the affidavit that was started the first of October," he says. "Sellers must sign it before selling, this tells us where the cattle came from and the records help us trace back the cattle from farm to fork," said Davison.

Davison and Nalivaka stressed the importance of trace back cattle and the paperwork.
"You can get by, have people sign the affidavit, get them home and put'em in a file, you don’t never know when something's going to go wrong on you," said Nalivaka.


Jerry Dewey, Associated Foods Briefs Idaho FB Farmers and Ranchers about the new COOL rules and regulations on Thursday in Boise

Boise--The Idaho Farm Bureau Dairy and Beef Committee is meeting with cattlemen, food retailers and government agencies to discuss the impacts of Country of Origin Labeling that went into effect September 30, 2008.

Jerry Dewey of Associated Foods told the committee that Associated will comply to the new rules. "The law is there and we'll comply the best we can, we've spent millions to buy more bandwidth just to keep records on all that meat. We ship 2 million cases of meat a week that's nearly a half billion dollars a week in beef, we have to keep those records for a year."

Dewey says the paper work is staggering but they've been working on it for years, he says there are still many misconceptions about COOL, perhaps the biggest is the intent of the new rules and regulations that originated from the commerce end of government rather than the food safety side.

"Cool has nothing to do with food safety, this is a marketing bill and should not to be confused with food safety. We're just telling the consumer where the food comes from. That’s our mission in our retail super markets."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Financial News

Stocks Dive Again

New York--Corporate sector worries sent stocks on Wall Street sharply lower again on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones industrials falling some 500 points for the day.

Modest improvements in the credit markets did'nt win over investors thanks to weak earning reports and a dire outlook for the rest of the year.

Farm Bureau Committees

Putnam photo
Hay Prices Down Slightly

Boise--Farm Bureau's Hay and Forage Committee met Wednesday in Boise and the consensus is that the hay supply will tighten up when winter feeding operations start next month.

Hay reached an all time high of $240-a ton early this summer but has dropped from the $180 to $200 range depending on location.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Financial News

Steve Ritter photo
Farm Outlook Positive for 2009, but Careful Planning Needed

WASHINGTON-- In the year ahead farmers will probably continue to realize fairly strong cash receipts, but by the same token they will see significant increases in input costs.

Overall, the farm sector may very well see a down-turn in profits in 2009 compared to 2008, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

AFBF held national outlook conference earlier this month in Boston. More than 50 Farm Bureau economists and commodity specialists were on hand to gain an understanding of the crop, livestock and inputs situation and outlook so they can better provide the farmers they serve with the market intelligence they need.

By many measures, American agriculture may be in the best financial shape it’s ever been, but there are potential storm clouds building on the horizon, speakers generally concluded.

“The bottom line is that farmers need to exercise caution as they plan for the new year,” said Terry Francl, AFBF senior economist.

Most farmers should not have trouble getting credit, but they will have to work closely with their lenders and carefully prepare crop budgets, Francl said. In the upcoming growing season will face a traditional challenge: input costs continuing to rise, while the weaker economy could well push commodity prices lower.

“Our Farmers survived the financial crisis back in the 80's," said Idaho Farm Bureau Economist Bob Smathers. "Our debt to asset ratio looks good, farmers have the capacity to take on a lot more debt, but they've been a cautious bunch and thats good."

Still, farmers will have to keep a particularly close watch on their costs in 2009.

“If wheat price falls below breakeven, risk management plans will be the key to survival down the road,” said Smathers. “New crop insurance programs are tools that growers can look to for managing risk. Coverage’s exist for both price and yield risk, but the cost of these programs will likely be higher than traditional crop insurance.

“Using less inputs on the farm will also minimize risk assuming this can be done without jeopardizing crop yields,” says Smathers. There are new precision ag technologies such as tractor guidance systems (GPS) and variable rate systems that can help save inputs. Although these technologies are “cutting edge”, they are lowering input costs for those who have learned to use them effectively.”

Inputs in 2009 will get close scrutiny.

“Fertilizer costs are expected to be higher in 2009 than they were in 2008. Pesticide prices may also rise, but due to the increased role of biotechnology it is not clear how much actual spending on pesticide will rise,” Francl said.

The saving grace for American agriculture is the rise in land values.

“Land values serve as the shock absorber for farmers. Land values are very high right now, but just because they went up this year, does not mean they will continue to go up,” Francl explained.

U.S. land values reached a peak in 1981 in inflation-adjusted (real dollar) terms, but it took until 2006 to reach that peak again. “It took 25 years for land values to get back to that level, so rising land values is not always a given for American agriculture,” Francl said.

For 2008, farmers are expected to realize a record net cash income of more than $100 billion with strong corn, soybean and wheat prices pumping in more cash receipts to agriculture. For 2009, farm income will likely back down from these levels due to lower cash receipts as well as higher input costs, said Bob Young, AFBF’s chief economist.

“The agricultural sector as a whole is in the best shape it’s ever been since we started keeping these financial measures in 1960,” Young said. “However, farmers will still need to find new ways to market their crops, and they will still need risk management tools beyond hedging.”

The major worry facing crop producers will be continuing rising fertilizer costs.

“While you may see some moderation in fertilizer prices, there are no indicators of a serious collapse,” Young said.

Also, indicators point to falling corn prices in 2009. Young cautioned that cash prices for corn below $4 per bushel threaten farmers with a cost-price squeeze.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Financial News

Photo by Gary Dunaier
Stockmarket Doing Better Today

New York--There are signs of improvement in the credit markets thanks in part by comments by the Federal Reserve chairman that seemed to encourage a new government stimulus package helped give Wall Street a big lift on Monday.

The Dow Jones industrials closed up 413 points, or 4.6 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 4.8 percent, and the Nasdaq composite index was up about
3.4 percent.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Meet An Idaho Farmer

Marsing--Gina Davis is a winemaker in Idaho's Winecountry, she's launched her own label, opened a wine tasting shop and is a proud member the Farm Bureau's Young Farmer and Rancher group.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Statehouse Contruction Update

Putnam photo

Boise--The two-year, $120 million Statehouse rennovation project is on budget but more than a month behind schedule according to the Department of Public Works. The delay could push back the finish date to the start of the 2010 legislative session.

The facelift updates and expands the grand 1912 building. The project includes repairs to the original marble, decorative plaster and wooden doors, upgrading electrical, sewer and ventilation systems, and adding more than 50,000 square feet with the underground wings.

The Legislature met in the smaller old Ada County Courthouse last session and will meet again there in January during the remodel. The completion date remains Nov. 18, 2009, just a month before the beginning of the 2010 session.

Despite the delays caused by Governor Butch Otter's the last-minute change from a two-story to one-story underground wings, still the contractors think they made up a lot of lost time this past summer.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Grape Expectations

Rows of wine, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam

Sunnyslope--Canyon County winemakers says this years grape harvest could be one of the best of the decade. Yields and acreages are up, demand is strong but labor is still a problem. "Most of the grapes will be handled 5 times before harvest," said Ron Bitner. "We're barely getting the workers we need but we'll get by, we always do."

Last weeks surprise Treasure Valley snowstorm that buried Boise missed Sunnyslope and added up to needed rainfall that did little damage but instead helped fatten the grapes according to delighted winemakers.

The havest is now in full swing and will continue for the next two weeks with more and more pickers now coming off the potato and onion harvests to help out.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wine Harvest 2008

Winemaker Gina Davis of Davis Creek Cellars, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam.

Marsing--Gina Davis and her family have started their own wine label featuring five different award-winning wines. They've also opened a tasting room in downtown Marsing which is open every weekend. Gina is a University of Idaho Alumn and belongs to the Idaho Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher group.

Input Costs

Boise--Gas prices across the country have dropped dramatically in the past week with some parts of the country falling below the $3.00 a gallon mark.

Idaho AAA spokesman Dave Carlson says prices reflect sagging supplies and lingering demand: "Today we're posting a national average of $3.21 a gallon. It's come down some 14 cents since just last Friday and about 40 cents nationwide since October first."

Idaho gas prices are still well above the national average and traditionally lag behind the national average. In Boise the cheapest gas is $3.41 a gallon still twenty cents below the national average. Carlson says a barrel of crude oil dropped last Friday to its lowest price in a year.

"Crude oil prices have gone from a high in July from $147 down to about $80 today. That's taken the wind out of the sails of the petroleum marketplace." Carlson added that gasoline futures could drop to $3.00, in November and possibly down to $2.75 and that freefall could continue for the next six weeks.

"We're still nowhere near last years gas prices where we were in the $2.80 range. But it's quite possible we could get there before New Years," said Carlson.

Farmer Terry Jones of Emmett has carefully followed gas prices and with these prices he's buying fuel tanks and plans to buy some bulk fuel to beat gas prices when they start climbing in the spring. "I want to buy low and drop it in the ground and forget about until prices are back up again," he said.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Farm News

Putnam photo
Farm Economy Stable, Loans Available
Boise--The nations economic misfortunes has'nt greatly affected farm credit, in fact a rural economic boom reveals that farmers have not had trouble getting loans for crops, buying land or replacing equipment, so far.

"The farm economy in Idaho is stable," said Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley "Everything's looking good this year, we're cleaning up our balance sheets and should be in good shape for next year."

Strong markets for milk, potatoes, wheat, beets, corn has brought stability to local economies and that means banks are willing to lend to the Ag sector according to the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City.

But the financial crisis on Wall Street has led to more thorough credit checks with lenders asking more questions from farmers and that's meant more loan collateral, despite that the Federal Reserve Bank has'nt seen any drastic changes. Farmer demands for loans across the nations Federal Reserve Districts is on the rise with farmers understandably borrowing more to cover rising input costs.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hillroad Blizzard in October

Boise--The first snow storm of the year hit the Treasure Valley like a freight train. According to the National Weather Service this is the earliest measurable snowstorm on record in Boise.The last snowstorm was in May. Global warming?

Potato News

Putnam photo
Potato Growers Manage Another Great Year

BOISE -- Idaho potato producers will harvest 11 billion pounds of spuds by the end of October according to statistics just released by the Idaho Potato Commission.

"The potato market in Idaho is as strong as it's ever been," said Jerry Wright, President and CEO of the United Potato Growers of Idaho.

But the harvest falls far short of the record 14 billion pounds of potatoes harvested in 2001 but yields and quality are the best in decades. Those numbers are strong despite astronomical input costs, a killer frost in June and 50-thousand fewer acres planted because of excellent wheat, corn and hay prices.

"Costs are up, but farmers planting fewer potatoes and getting into other crops is helping keep supply and demand going in the favor of the farmers," said Wright.

Farmers like Merril Hanny of Shelly agrees saying: "It's really been a win-win situation for everybody,"

The commission says at least 60 percent of all potatoes grown in Idaho will end up frozen french fries and dehydrated products. Wholesellers will ship another 30 percent to grocery stores and restaurants , with 10 percent going into seeds potatoes for the 2009 crop.

Farmers planted some 300,000 acres this year, far less than last years 350,000 acres. All in all Gem State Producers account for one-third of the nation's fall potato crop, 60 percent of the total yield comes from the the eastern part of the state.

"We're really happy with this year's crop," said Hanny, "consumers can expect good quality potatoes this year which will be both pleasing to look at and very tasty."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Just in From Washington

Jake Putnam photo
American Farm Bureau Provides COOL Compliance Guidelines

WASHINGTON–Idaho Ranchers now have to provide cattle origin information to slaughter houses under the new country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) rules that went into effect October 1st. To help producers comply, the American Farm Bureau Federation prepared guidelines for providing necessary COOL documentation to buyers.
“Livestock producers are not directly regulated by the COOL law because livestock are not considered covered commodities. However, only producers have first-hand knowledge concerning the origin of their animals,” explained Caroline Rydell, director of congressional relations for AFBF.

Livestock producers may use one of the following methods to comply with COOL and provide the required information to buyers:

Affidavits -- Packers may rely on producer affidavits to initiate claims. Affidavits must be made by someone having first-hand knowledge and the affidavit must identify animals unique to the transaction. Producer and packer affidavits are available on the AFBF Voice of Agriculture Web site and may be used to comply with COOL. Producers can access the documents at:

National Animal Identification System (NAIS): Animals that are part of a NAIS-compliant system may rely on the presence of an official ear tag and/or the presence of any accompanying animal markings, as applicable, to base origin claims.

USDA-Approved Age Verification Programs: Participation in USDA Quality System Verification Programs (QSVP), such as the USDA Process Verified Program (PVP) and the Quality Systems Assessment (QSA) Program, which contain a source verification component, is also considered acceptable evidence to substantiate COOL claims.

COOL is a USDA marketing program mandated in the 2008 farm bill that requires retailers to notify their customers of the country of origin of beef (including veal), goat meat, lamb, pork, poultry, fish, pecans, peanuts, macadamia nuts and other perishable agricultural commodities. Retailers, packers and their suppliers are mutually responsible for contributing the information necessary to meet the requirements of this new law.

“Definitive origin information must be provided to slaughter facilities so that meat products, as covered commodities, can be accurately labeled at retail. Livestock producers should be prepared to provide necessary country-of-origin documentation to their buyers,” said Rydell.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sugar Beet News

Photo courtesy of Karen Moss
Beet Harvest Underway in the Magic Valley, Treasure Valley Starts Monday

Nampa--Amalgamated Sugar Company has started the 2008 sugar beet harvest in the Magic Valley and will start harvesting Treasure Valley beets on Monday weather permitting.

The season got off to a shakey start because of a cold spring. Acreage totals stand at just 123,000 acres, Amalgamated contracted for 140,000. At least 17-thousand acres were lost to frost and and continued cold ,wet weather thwarted efforts to replant beets in the affected areas.

This season beets also lost ground to wheat, corn and other money making crops, and many farmers report that fields needed to expand beet operations are almost imposible to find. Despite that, theres a giddy excitement in beets this year.

The co-op and farmers are eagerly awaiting to see how the genetically enhanced Roundup Ready impact the market. The co-op invested heavily in the new beets that have cut labor costs and weed control.

Executive Director of the Idaho Sugar Beet Association Mark Duffin told the Capitol Press that everyone's looking at the numbers.“This years Roundup Ready beets makes it interesting to see how they do with yield and sugar production.”

Meanwhile fewer beets could mean fewer bucks to pay the coop's bills and cashflow could impact contracts next year. But on the bright side sugar beet prices are up and demand should improve through 2009.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Cedar View Farms Fort Hall, Idaho--Putnam photo
EPA Comment Period for Soil Fumigants Closing in Fast

Washington--The Environmental Protection Agencies comment period on soil fumigants will close later this month and that has Idaho farmers and chemical companies concerned because they have just three weeks to comment.
The Reregistration Eligibility Decisions will cover the following pesticides: Chloropicrin, Dazomet, Metam sodium/postassiu and Methyl bromide.

Soil fumigants are used on potatoes, beets onions and hay, four of Idaho's biggest cash crops. Farmers think the proposed rules could drastically cut acreages and cost millions in added costs and lost revenue not to mention the mountains of red tape.

On July 16, EPA announced reregistration for the pesticides that kill soil-borne pests on crops including potatoes. They also opened a 60-day public comment period on these RED documents. In response to requests from Agriculture groups the agency extended the public comment period to Oct. 30.

Farmers and chemical companies contend there hasn't been enough time, data or research to close the comment period and say more research has to be done.

“The EPA needs to allow manufacturers time to develop data, these trials take a lot of time to generate and they're expensive and no one knows how to do them correctly; many haven’t been done scientifically and we need to take a real good scientific approach to it,” said John Orr of AmVac Chemical Company.

The EPA contends that when fumigants evaporate from the soil workers and bystanders can experience eye or respiratory irritation and even more severe and irreversible effects depending on the fumigant and level of exposure.

The agency took a look at all the soil fumigants on the market and decided reregister all the chemicals and to make sure there are no other risks out there. The EPA wants farmers to do the following :

A written, site-specific fumigant management plan; Buffer zones around treated fields; Posting requirements so people do not enter treated areas; Emergency preparedness information and training; Outreach programs to educate the community; Worker protection measures and training; and Classification of all soil fumigant products as restricted-use pesticides.

"It means that Joe Farmer in Blackfoot Idaho can't afford to do all of the mitigation rules, he could lose half of his potato acreage because he can't fumigate. We're worried that the small farmer will be most at risk," said Orr. "The little farmers could go out of business because they need fumigation in these fields and if they cant; they are done."

EPA's decision will stop the use of methyl bromide on sites where alternatives are available. The newly registered fumigant iodomethane will also be reexamined later this year to determine what new mitigation or restrictions are necessary according to the agency. The time frames worry farmers, manufacturers want to see the research data.

“What really needs to happen is that the EPA needs to allow the industry, the manufacturers time to develop data that supports reduction of these buffer zones, we know we're going to have buffer zones of some kind, that’s a given. If we had time to generate good data, sound scientific data then our farmers could live with the smaller buffer zones," added Orr.

Timeline for Next Steps:
October 2008 – Comment period closes
Late 2008 to Early 2009 – EPA considers comments, develops responses
Early 2009 – EPA issues RED amendments if needed and issues product specific and generic data call-ins 2009 – Registrants begin implementing training and community outreach and education programs
Late 2009 – Product data and revised labels submitted to EPA
Early 2010 – EPA reviews, approves new soil fumigant labels
2010 – New labels begin appearing in the field
2013 – EPA begins reevaluation of soil fumigants under the Registration Review program

How to Submit Comments:
Comments will be accepted on implementation of the risk mitigation measures in EPA’s soil fumigant risk management decisions until October 30, 2008 on this website:

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sugar Beet Harvest 2008

Roundup Ready Beets: The Rage

Middleton - Despite heavy weekend rains, Canyon County farmers are getting sugar beet fields ready for the 2008 harvest. There's a new buzz in beets this year, many growers planted roundup ready sugar beets for the first time and those that didn't-- wished they had.

"The Roundup fields look a lot better," said farmer Sid Freeman. "They're more expensive, but workers are getting harder to find, bottomline it's less hassle and a lot less work."

In some Canyon County fields this time of year weeds are high and they're more than an eyesore, they lower crop yields and cost farmers thousands in labor costs.

"With those weeds you can lose three, four-ton less per acre," adds Freeman.

Controlling weeds is a farmers nightmare because the chemicals that kill weeds also can kill beets. Throughout the season farmers have to carefully apply low doses of herbicide twice a month and they walk a tightrope protecting the beets. What herbicide can't kill, migrant workers are hired at a premium to do the rest.

Roundup ready beets are genetically modified and immune to most weeds. But some weeds still get through the immunity gauntlet but are now easily handled without fear of hurting beets.

Sugar industry representatives say that just over half of the sugar beets planted this year were Roundup Ready created by Monsanto. They say farmers who used the product have a demonstrated and clear-cut edge in weed control.

And those that planted GMO beets this year say there's far less cultivation, not as many passes in the field with fewer sprayings. Most conventional beets have a minimum four applications of spray per season while roundup has just two applications. With fewer trips across the field farmers save diesel.

But while producers have saved cash on labor and fuel doesn't mean the GMO beets are cheaper to grow.
Monsanto charges a technology fee --a whopping $60 per acre - which offsets most of the savings.

Field test thus far show that GMO beets overall don't produce higher yields than traditional varieties. But that should change as the GMO seed is improved over the next couple of years.

Industry officials say next year at least 90 percent of sugar beets will be Roundup Ready. That means seed companies will stop producing traditional seed within the next three years. Sid Freeman says he's already felt the impact of Roundup, "There's more labor available out there, the ball is back in our court and that's good for this year but we don't know where its all headed."

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Milk and Egg Production

Ritter photo
Tracking Milk and Egg Trends

Washington--For the third quarter of 2008, shoppers reported the average price for a half-gallon of regular whole milk was $2.57, up 19 cents from the prior quarter. The average price for one gallon of regular whole milk was $3.92, up 4 cents. Comparing per-quart prices, the retail price for whole milk sold in gallon containers was about 25 percent lower compared to half-gallon containers, a typical volume discount long employed by retailers.

Compared to a year ago (third quarter of 2007), the retail price for regular milk in gallon containers decreased by one-half of 1 percent while regular milk in half-gallon containers increased 7 percent. The average retail price for rBST-free milk rose about 14 percent in a year’s time. The average retail price for organic milk in half-gallon containers went up steadily over the year and was 8 percent higher in the third quarter of 2008 compared to a year ago.

For the third quarter of 2008, the average price for one dozen regular eggs was $1.71, down 11 cents compared to the last quarter. The average price for “cage-free” eggs increased 5 cents to $3.00 per dozen, around 75 percent more per dozen than regular eggs.

Regular eggs increased in retail price by 13 percent between the third quarter of 2007 and the third quarter of 2008; “cage–free” eggs increased about 8 percent.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Food Prices UP

Market produce and market basket, originally uploaded by rosidae.

Retail Food Prices Rise in Third Quarter

Washington--Retail food prices at the supermarket increased in the third quarter of 2008, according to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation Marketbasket Survey. The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 basic grocery items in the third quarter of 2008 was $48.68, up about 4 percent or $2.01 from the second quarter of 2008.

Of the 16 items surveyed, 11 increased and five decreased in average price compared to the 2008 second-quarter survey. Compared to one year ago, the overall cost for the marketbasket items increased approximately 10.5 percent.

Potatoes, cheddar cheese and apples showed the largest retail price increases. A five-pound bag of potatoes was up 83 cents to $3.38; cheddar cheese was up 31 cents to $4.91 per pound; and apples rose 26 cents to $1.80 per pound.

Other items that increased in price were: pork chops, up 22 cents to $3.62 per pound; vegetable oil, up 18 cents to $3.19 for a 32-oz. bottle; corn oil, up 15 cents to $3.63 for a 32-oz. bottle; sirloin tip roast, up 14 cents to $3.98 per pound; ground chuck, up 10 cents to $2.95 per pound; mayonnaise, up 8 cents to $3.27 for a 32-oz. jar; flour, up 5 cents to $2.62 for a 5-pound bag; and whole milk, up 4 cents to $3.92 per gallon.

We continue to see increases in several staple food items due primarily to the long-term effects of high energy prices in the food sector. Sustained high costs for processing, hauling and refrigerating food products are reverberating at the retail level,” said Jim Sartwelle, an AFBF economist.

Regarding the top gainer in this quarter’s survey Sartwelle explained, “Acreage planted to potatoes was down nearly 8 percent this year. The combination of a smaller crop and some production losses in the field has led to higher-priced spuds in the produce aisle.”

Apples prices tracked by Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers increased for the third consecutive quarter.

“The number of U.S. apple trees continues a long, slow decline which translates into less fruit for everything from processing to ‘pick-your-own’ to Mom’s apple pie,” said Sartwelle. “As a result, retail apple prices have crept higher.”

Large eggs decreased for the second consecutive quarter, down 11 cents to $1.71 per dozen. White bread also dropped 11 cents in the third quarter, to $1.79 for a 20-oz. loaf. Whole chicken fryers and bacon both dropped 6 cents per pound, to $1.43 and $3.51, respectively, while a 9-oz. box of toasted oat cereal decreased 1 cent, to $2.97.

The combination of increased summertime chicken production and lighter demand for chicken breasts resulted in a slight retail price decrease for whole fryers, according to AFBF.

As retail grocery prices have increased gradually, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped over time.

“In the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. That figure has decreased steadily over time and is now just 19 percent, according to Agriculture Department statistics,” Sartwelle said.

Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this quarter’s $48.68 marketbasket total would be $9.25.

AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, conducts its informal quarterly marketbasket survey as a tool to reflect retail food price trends. According to USDA statistics, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable income on food annually, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 74 volunteer shoppers in 32 states participated in the latest survey, conducted during August.

Spud Harvest Wrap

Cedarview Farms wraps up Harvest--Steve Ritter video

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bean Harvest

Rick Brunie of Hazelton is harvesting garden bean seed near the Snake River Canyon--Steve Ritter Photo

Futures Markets Slightly Down, Corn and Bean Harvests Behind

Chicago--Harvests are behind schedule for corn and beans with only 9% of the crop thus far compared to 21% normally on this date. On the bright side unusual mild fall weather has limited the risk of early frost damage.

Corn markets are stronger in parts of Iowa as feed users and some ethanol plants have come up short before harvest. Key players in the region are up 10 to 20 cents a bushel in the past few weeks. Along the river system, basis was on the defensive as barge rates were up for shipments to the Gulf.

Spud Harvest wraps up near Chubbuck, Idaho

Spud Harvest wraps up near Chubbuck, Idaho, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam
Bannock County Wraps up Potato Harvest, Beets, Corn, Hay Next
Pocatello--Cedar View farms loaded the last truck of norkota potatoes early today to the relief of farmer Scott Bird. Bird says dry weather helped but says the last three weeks have been a blurr.

Bannock County Farm Bureau News


Pocatello--Nearly a thousand Bannock County 4th graders learned where their food comes from.

Each year the Bannock County Farm Bureau sponsors the Bannock County Ag Day and over three days students from all Pocatello schools visit Mike Swore's farm.

"The program keeps getting bigger," said volunteer Carol Guthrie. "Kids and parents are eager to learn about healthy foods, we want to connect the face of an Idaho farmer with their food, and this program does that."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Norkota Fresh

Norkota fresh pack potatoes, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam
Idaho Growers Weather the Storm
By Bill Scott and Jake Putnam

Blackfoot--Jerry Wright of the United Growers of Idaho says hurricane Ike has affected the norkota fresh pack market in the South in many ways. "First is the fourth largest natural disaster in US history," And if that's not enough, "Ike which hit Houston is the fourth largest American city thats a lot of our fresh pack market."

What did you see in those southern markets after the storm?

“Two weeks ago we were over 33 dollars for the weighted average price for selling all of the saleable potatoes out of a hundred pounds. That price has dropped to about 29.50. We’ve come down three dollars and fifty cents or about seven dollars per hundredweight.”

Whats the impact of huricane Ike, and how long?

“It's effectively impacted those markets. Those markets historically take a lot of this large size carton business for food service out of Idaho.”

Add to that the larger size Norkota crop being harvested and you have an oversupply in the potato pipeline. Wright says this is a temporary problem and should be corrected within two to four weeks.

What's the message to growers?

"The message for growers is go to storage. There’s no sense in crashing the market just because we’re in a hurry to rush these things out of the field to the marketplace.” Wright expects to see prices stabilize in the 18 dollar range for cartons long term with consumer bag prices somewhere in the twelve dollar range.

Idaho Farm Bureau and Dairymen hold Dairy Revenue Protection Insurance meetings across Idaho

Boise—The American Farm Bureau Federation teamed up with Farm Bureau Insurance and Dairymen to develop a new risk-management insurance sa...