Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wheat beat

Idaho Wheat Off to Slow Start
Lewiston—Farmers on the Palouse are off to a slow start after a cool spring and a series of late season storms soaked the prairie.

Travis Jones of the Idaho Grain Producers Association told the Capitol Press that spring wheat plantings and general fieldwork are off by a week in some areas, up to two weeks along the Clearwater drainage due to heavy snow in March and April showers.
The delay doesn't seem to be affecting farmers planing wheat or barley according to Jones. "Prices continue to hover in the $4.50 to $5 (per bushel) range, depending on how far you are from your point in sale," Jones said. "That's a continual concern for producers, and acreage is down, but that's to be expected, given that last year was such a high water mark."
Famers near Cottonwood spent the day watching their fields dry after heavy rains on Tuesday and Wednesday, but with only a chance of rain between now and Monday, they hope to spend the weekend getting caught up.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Irrigation News

New York Canal, Boise, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam
Canal Companies Recharging Canals, Aquifer with Surplus
Idaho Falls--With heavy rains across Idaho this week, water masters are taking advantage of the runoff and putting water back in the ground.

Almost all Idaho reservoirs are full, so now water masters are looking to recharge the aquifer as much as they can by running water in canals and arterials they can, most of the water is still used on crops but a significant amount is seeping back to the aquifer.

"None of this is normal. See all this recharge has just happened recently. Because of the severe drought we've been in for about ten years," said Luis Thiel, Idaho Falls water manager.

Water master say there's more water than above -ground storage can handle can handle this year, so the best use is recharging the aquifer.

According to Local 8 News in Idaho Falls, canal managers said they pumped 50 cubic feet of water a second into the aquifer, which is enough to fill the bed of a pick-up truck every second."

"After seven days we had some emergency maintenance to do so we had to shut back off our canal and discontinue the recharge. And at that point we had recharged approximately 8- hundred acre feet into the aquifer," said Chairmen of the Idaho Irrigation Commission, Allen Kelsch.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Idaho Legislature Marathon Grinds On

Putnam photo

House of Representatives To Go Home on Wednesday

Boise--On day 108 at the Idaho Legislature the House of Representatives is standing firm on plans to pack up and go home on Wednesday. That decision was reached after a closed door meeting with Gov. Butch Otter in which he made a last pitch for $80-million dollars to fix Idaho’s roads and bridges this session.

But House Leadership didn’t bite on the bait and instead came up with a plan to remove the tax exemption on ethanol and raise fees at the DMV that would raise a paltry $25-million…far short of Otters proposal.

Rep. Ken Roberts told reporters "We're making plans to adjourn by Wednesday night and go home." According to law they can go home if they complete their legislative agenda but the big catch lies with the State Constitution that declares that the House cannot adjourn for more than three days unless the Senate agrees. So if the Senate is still working next Monday, by law they’ll have to come back.

The Senate has shown luke-warm support of the governor by approving a legislative package with gas-tax increases up to $75 million for roads….but still $10-million less than Otter’s budget.

Meanwhile Governor Otter’s now famous 'Monday letter' is still buzzing in the halls of the Statehouse Annex, in which he thanked lawmakers for their hard work. "For all this and for your civic virtue, your friendship and our shared commitment to limited government and unlimited opportunity, you have my deep and sincere thanks."

Lawmakers say the letter is open to interpretation, with some saying the Governor is throwing in the towel while others see a peace offering. Nonetheless both bodies are working today in a swirl of mixed and uncertain times. Is this the end of the session, or the beginning of the end of the 60th Legislative Session, stay tuned.

Trailing of the Sheep

Range Season Underway in Gem and Ada County

Eagle--Idaho herdsmen trail the sheep to the spring range in the foothills Northwest of Boise, Idaho. Trailing the sheep is a hundred year tradition in Ada County foothills and 21'st century traffic has to yield to the sheep. The Idaho Farm Bureau's Steve Ritter produced this story:

Moving the band of sheep to summer range entails a hundred mile, summer-long journey for sheep, herders and dogs.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Legislature 2009


Boise--The Legislature heads into the 107th day (weekends count) and this session could stretch into May. The sine die stumbling block continues to be transportation followed closely by the growing rift between the Executive branch and the Otter Administration.

The conflict deepened when Governor Otter vetoed 35 appropriation bills after the House failed to meet the governor’s transportation agenda. The legislature can’t adjourn until a balanced budget has been set and without Otter’s approval of the appropriation bills the budget isn’t complete.

Taxpayers cough up $30,000 dollars a day to fund the Legislature, so far the people of Idaho have been taxed more than $3-million for the 2009 session.

Cattle News

Fed Cattle Prices Continue to Improve

Boise-Fed cattle prices improved for the fifth consecutive week with the five-market weighted average live price averaging $88.91 per cwt.

Wholesale beef prices strengthened, with choice beef price on April 21st at $149.29 per cwt, up $10.81 per cwt from a week earlier. Select beef at $147.50 per cwt was up $9.15 per cwt.

The simple composite cutout value and average fed steer prices are now at or near 5-year averages. Corn prices that are near $2 per bushel cheaper than one year ago are a welcome relief to feeders.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Food News

Maximize the Shelf Life of Home-stored Potatoes

TWIN FALLS--They live. They breathe. And because they’re 80 percent water, potato tubers thrive in humid locations. Take heed, consumers wondering about the best spots in your homes to store your potatoes.

Cooperative research by University of Idaho Extension scientists and College of Southern Idaho students has confirmed that the optimum sites for home-stored potatoes are cool, dark and ventilated rooms, closets, cabinets and garages. In studies conducted in their own residences, the agricultural science students also found that the perforated plastic bags used in many groceries offer the best environment for extending shelf-life.

Potatoes stored inside these bags in unheated areas of the students’ homes benefited from a relatively cool average temperature of 57 degrees Fahrenheit and a relatively high average humidity of 67 percent. They shrank just 0.9 percent—only slightly more than the 0.6 percent weight loss measured in commercially stored potatoes kept at 45 degrees Fahrenheit and 95 percent relative humidity at the University of Idaho’s Potato Storage Facility at Kimberly. Potatoes on countertops, in refrigerators and under the sink fared considerably worse.

Nora Olsen, co-author of the University of Idaho Extension’s recently released publication, “Options for Storing Potatoes at Home,” said she was a “little surprised” by how well the perforated plastic bags held in humidity and held down tuber shrinkage. The four-page publication can be downloaded from the Educational Communications catalog on the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Web site,

According to lead author and Extension support scientist Lynn Woodell, if you only buy enough potatoes to eat within a few days, you can store them almost anywhere in your home as long as you keep them out of the light. But if you buy or harvest between several pounds and several hundred pounds, your choice of location can clearly affect the potatoes’ long-term usability. Warm temperatures encourage sprouting and tuber disease, cold temperatures cause spuds to turn brown when fried, exposure to light prompts greening, sealed plastic containers starve tubers of oxygen and dry environments are downright withering.

Woodell and Olsen recommend storing potatoes in an unheated entrance, spare room, attic, basement or garage insulated to protect against freezing or in an extra refrigerator whose temperature can be set a few degrees higher than normal.

Just in from Washington

AFBF: Crop Insurance Works, but Improvement Possible

Washington--The federal crop insurance program generally works well for most producers and is a popular risk management tool, but there is room for improvement in areas such as duplicate procedures, efficiency and integration with other federal agricultural programs, according to AFBF President Bob Stallman.

In testimony today before a House Agriculture subcommittee, Stallman urged Congress to push the Agriculture Department to complete work on the Comprehensive Information Management System project. Once complete, that system would lead to more procedural efficiency for farmers and greater coordination among federal agriculture and crop insurance programs, he said.

Stallman said completion of CIMS, a system of computer programs and databases used to administer programs of the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation and Farm Service Agency, is vital for various government agencies to reconcile commonly used data.

“This would reduce duplicate efforts required by both producers and governmental office personnel,” Stallman testified. “Reducing the workload of federal employees by eliminating duplicate efforts would demonstrate efficient use of taxpayer money. In addition, reconciling data between FSA and FCIC would help guard against fraud and abuse. Farmers feel strongly about maintaining their well-deserved image of being considered good stewards with high integrity.”

In his testimony, Stallman said the federal crop insurance program generally works well for most producers.

“Participation in the program hovers at about 80 percent of eligible acres,” Stallman said. “In addition, about 85 percent of the insured acreage is now covered by a buy-up policy rather than simply a catastrophic policy. Our farmers and ranchers are annually provided more than $90 billion in risk management protection -- up from $31 billion in protection just 10 years ago.”

Stallman said the safety net works fairly well if a producer suffers a catastrophic crop loss because the producer doesn’t have to pay expenses, and crop insurance covers the majority of the loss. However, he said improvements are needed in what are called “shallow loss” crop insurance provisions. He called for increased support so that producers who experience shallow losses on a fairly regular basis can still afford the premiums.

“Crop insurance doesn’t work as well for those producers who lose 25 percent to 30 percent of their yields for three or four years in a row,” Stallman said. “Most growers purchase coverage at the 65 percent to 75 percent coverage levels. This means they must lose about a third of their yield before they receive any crop insurance indemnities.”

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Idaho Legislature Day 102

Otter Signs Aquifer Bill

Boise - Governor Butch Otter put the veto stamp away this afternoon and signed the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer bill.

The legislation would help increase flows to the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer and reduce pumping from the massive underground aquifer. The bill calls for managed recharge, groundwater-to-surface-water conversions, water rights buyouts and incentives to idle farm land.

Otter signed the bill despite vetoing 35 bills this week. The vetoes so frustrated lawmakers that they took Wednesday afternoon off leaving the Statehouse annex nearly deserted.

The measure will cost up to $100 million over the next ten years with 30- percent of the money coming from taxpayers, with the rest coming from irrigators.
Otter is using the veto in an attempt to get lawmakers to approve a gas tax to fix state roads and bridges.

The legislature costs taxpayers more than 30-thousand dollars a day, the session has rung up a $3-million dollar bill so far with the session stretching at least another week.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Springtime in Idaho


Twin Falls--With heavy snowpack still in the mountains above the Snake River Basin, Federal water managers have boosted water flows over the Shoshone Falls in southern Idaho.

Mike Beus, hydrologist with the Bureau of Reclamation, says flows over the falls have peaked and with increasing demands on irrigation water flows on the Snake will decrease drastically in the coming weeks.

Water masters started releasing water Snake River reservoirs to create space for the melting snows. In Eastern Idaho, Palisades Reservoir flows were measured at 6,500 cubic feet per second from the dam and that could double with warm temperatures this week.

For now, Beus says some of the excess flows are being used to fill the American Falls Reservoir. But that reservoir is nearing capacity, meaning more water will have to be sent downstream. Shoshone Falls had nearly 20-thousand visitors this past weekend many visitors had a 45 minute walk to the falls because of limited parking.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Black Monday

Otter Vetoes Eight Bills
Boise--Governor Butch Otter vetoed eight budget bills approved by the Legislature this morning. The vetoes came after an early morning meeting with lawmakers. Otter explained later that the failure to raise money for the State's crumbling roads and bridges led to the veto.

"Over the last couple of hours, things have clarified themselves quite a bit," Hanian told reporters after the veto. Raising money for failing highways and bridge maintenance is a top priority for the governor.

For lawmakers its back to the drawing board, they can't adjourn until the bills have passed in the second longest legislative session on record. The legislature is on day 99, the second longest in Idaho history and taxpayers are picking up the the $30-thousand dollars a-day tab.

Ag Economic News

2008 Grape harvest--Putnam photo

Wine Industry Growing
Boise--The Idaho Business review reports that Idaho’s wine industry produced $52 million in revenue in 2008– up from $15 million in 2002 . The growing industry accounted for 625 full-time jobs and paid out $19 million in wages according to the Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission and Boise State University.

Idaho now has 38 wineries, three times as many in 2002. This growth boosted the industry’s total economic impact and increased tourism to Idaho’s grape-growing areas, the commission said in a release.

“As Idaho’s reputation grows, there is a tremendous opportunity for growth for the industry,” the commission said. “Future growth of the wine industry will continue as a result of increases in national wine consumption as well as Idaho’s grape-growing potential.”

The federal government’s recent designation of the Snake River Valley as an American Viticultural area bodes well for the wine industry’s growth in Idaho, as do favorable soil and climate conditions, the commission said.

County News

Smathers photo
Bonner County Farm Bureau Meets
By Bob Smathers

Sandpoint--The Bonner County Board met in Sandpoint last week. Reports from various committees were given along with the Presidents report. Topics of discussion included the Idaho State Forestry Contest, the summer farm tour, scholarships, upgrades to the insurance office, and resolutions. Women’s committee co-chair Mary Miller gave a report on the Farm Bureau Women’s conference in Twin Falls. Dan Elliot reported on the upcoming cattleman’s meeting in Bonners Ferry.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

County News

Smathers photo
Kootenai-Shoshone Farm Bureau Meets
By Bob Smathers
Coeur d' Alene--The Kootenai County Board of Directors gathered on April 9. The board discussed the need to fill vacant board positions and who might be available to fill those positions. They also met with Ben Rae from the insurance company to discuss investment vehicles for excess county funds. The topic of a new office for the Post Falls insurance agents also surfaced.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

County News

Boundary County Ag Baby Recognized
Bonners Ferry--Boundary County Farm Bureau honored Ag. Baby Abraham David Hill and Mother Jenny Hill at the annual spring meeting. The Boundary County women’s chair Sandi Daniel presented Jenny a quilt on behalf of the Boundary County Farm Bureau.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Farm Technology

New Web Site Educates Ag Community On Benefits of Technology Use

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio –Growers wanting to learn more about precision agriculture technology and how it affects them have a new online resource,

The site features valuable content to help growers understand the technology including:
A glossary of precision agriculture terms and concepts
Research statistics on cost savings and return on investment, through use of precision technology
Articles and information on getting started and advancing with the technology
PrecisionAg TV, a video library in which growers, precision experts and practitioners share perspectives and success stories Links to partnering companies, informational resources and industry contacts The site, developed by the PrecisionAg Institute, is the online home for the Insitute's PrecisionAg WORKS educational campaign, an initiative created by the Institute to help educate the larger agricultural community about the benefits of precision agriculture technology.

“Through advocacy, education and research, the Institute intends to advance precision technology and its efficiency, stewardship and profitability on farms around the world," says Institute Director K. Elliott Nowels. "This new web site will be a place where the larger ag community can go to get general information on the benefits and uses of the technology."

County News

Benewah County President Del Rust presides over the annual spring meeting--Smathers photo

County Meetings Underway
Saint Maries--The Benewah County FB had their regular meeting for April on Monday, the 13th at the Farm Bureau Insurance office in St. Maries.

The board discussed having a report-back meeting at the conclusion of the legislative session and inviting Rep Dick Harwood, Rep Mary Lou Shepherd and Sen Joyce Broadsword to attend. They also talked about having a booth at the Benewah County fair and an entry in the parade on fair day. Other topics discussed were county by-law review, raising money for scholarships, Food Security Act, highway clean-up and resolutions.

Ethanol Economics

Congressional Budget Office: Ethanol not Big Factor in Food Prices

WASHINGTON-- American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said that the latest government statistics prove ethanol played only a minimal role in last year’s food price increases. During a call today with reporters, Stallman said a Congressional Budget Office report released last week proved that higher energy costs have a greater effect on food prices than the use of renewable ethanol fuel. Stallman was joined on the call by several other agriculture and energy organizations.

“These results of the CBO report came as no surprise to Farm Bureau,” said Stallman. “With so many fingers in the till between the farmer and consumer, there are numerous factors responsible for higher food prices, including labor expenses, energy costs, financial speculation, increased demand, weather production losses and the weak U.S. dollar.”

According to the Agriculture Department, farmers receive less than two dimes out of every dollar spent for food in the United States. Eighty percent of the costs of food, including processing, transportation, packaging, distribution and retailing are all added after the commodity leaves the farm.

“In order to find out what causes higher food prices, a close examination of all the components of the food price dollar is necessary,” said Stallman, who said
AFBF has called for hearings looking into all the reasons food prices increased last year. “It is disingenuous to only look at farm prices.”

Stallman said the CBO report estimates that from April 2007 to April 2008, food prices increased by about 5.1 percent. Corn prices from expanded ethanol production only contributed between 0.5 and 0.8 of a percentage point of that amount.

“Now, in spite of the tumbling price of oil and significant decreases in corn and other commodity prices, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the cost of food has still risen 4.3 percent during the last year,” said Stallman.

Overall, Stallman said there are many benefits to using ethanol. Aside from cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the use of ethanol is replacing 11 billion gallons of gasoline, the equivalent of about 7 percent of fuel use, thus reducing our dependence on foreign sources of oil.

Other organizations participating in today’s media call included the National Corn Growers Association, the National Farmers Union and Growth Energy.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tax Day Tea Party

A noontime Tea Party at the Idaho Statehouse drew 2300 people, despite the rain--Putnam photo

Tax Day “Tea Parties” Address Frustration With Gov. Spending

Boise--Idahoans gathered all over the state to demonstrate their frustration and discontent with the current tax system as well as the growth of government spending.

Chants like "Give me liberty, not debt" were heard across the street from the Capitol Annex Wednesday as anti-tax "tea party" protesters took to the streets to voice their opposition to big government spending.

"I have kids and I know we are mortgaging their futures away," said one protester at the Boise rally. The demonstrations are all part of a larger anti government spending group called 'Taxed Enough Already', or TEA in honor of the Boston Tea Party some 235 years ago.

From Washington President Obama defended his tax policy on Wednesday, saying, "Make no mistake: this tax cut will reach 120 million families and put $120 billion directly into their pockets, and it includes the most American workers ever to get a tax cut. This will boost demand, and save or create over half a million jobs."

In Michigan outside the state Capitol 4,000 people waved signs exclaiming "Stop the Fiscal Madness," and "The Pirates Are in D.C" while kids held makeshift signs complaining about the rising debt.

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson sent out a press release sharing the concerns of Tea party-goers and supports citizens spreading the tax message to lawmakers in Washington.

“I strongly support the concept of these “Tea Parties” and hope they will demonstrate to Congressional Leaders and to President Obama that the American people are fed up with government spending and intend on making their voices heard,” said Simpson.

Simpson supports of fiscal responsibility and recently voted against the President’s FY 2010 budget that included $3 trillion in spending, the Omnibus Appropriations Bill that spent almost $500 billion, and he voted against the $787 billion stimulus bill.

Simpson also is a cosponsor of H.R. 982, the Tax Code Termination Act of 2009, that abolishes the current tax code and requires a new tax code be instated that is simple and fair. “I believe the most effective course of action is to sunset the current complex and unfair federal tax code and replace it with a fair alternative,” said Simpson. “A new tax code should provide tax relief for working Americans, protect the rights of taxpayers, reduce tax collection abuses, and eliminate disincentives for savings and investment.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Idaho Legislature

Legislative Session Grinds ON
Boise—For 94 days legislative marathoners have reported to work at the makeshift Capitol Annex next door to the Idaho Statehouse.

The biggest stumbling blocks to the adjournment of the 2009 session are transportation, state payroll cuts and education spending issues.

Some Lawmakers think they can wrap up the session by Friday, others confided that it could take at least another to reach a consensus on a transportation funding package.

Veteran lobbyist Skip Smyser says its common knowledge that the session won't end this week, “next week is a much more realistic sine die,” he said.

Meanwhile the Idaho Statesman ran a paragraph on their Legislative page about the cost of running the Legislature. They stated that just one day costs taxpayers at least $30-thousand dollars, including weekends. The cost of the session so far to the people of Idaho: $2.79 million

Hallway Debate

Hallway Transportation Debate? , originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.
Boise--Senator Chuck Winder(R-Boise) chats with Senator John McGee (R-Caldwell) Wednesday at the Capitol Annex. The Transportation funding package is one of three issues keeping the 94-day session from adjourning.

Idaho Legislature

Idaho Legislature Marathon Grinds On

Boise—For 94 days legislative marathoners have reported to work at the makeshift Capitol Annex next door to the Idaho Statehouse.

The biggest stumbling blocks to the adjournment of the 2009 session are transportation, state payroll cuts and education spending issues.

Some Lawmakers think they can wrap up the session by Friday, others confided that it could take weeks to reach a consensus on a transportation funding package.

Veteran lobbyist Skip Smyser says its common knowledge that the session will not end this week, “next week is a much more realistic sine die,” he said.

Meanwhile the Idaho Statesman ran a paragraph on their Legislative page about the cost of running the Legislature. They stated that just one day costs taxpayers at least $30-thousand dollars, including weekends. The cost of the session so far to the people of Idaho: $2.79 million

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Trade News

American Farm Bureau Supports Easing Cuba Restrictions

Washington—President Obama okayed unlimited travel and transfer of money by Cuban Americans to Cuban family members earlier this week. The Administration will also lend support to better telecommunications with the island but will keep the long-standing trade embargo in place for now.

“We are very encouraged by President Obama’s actions and appreciate the administration’s prompt action on the issue. In this step-by-step process, the Farm Bureau would also like the administration to consider agriculture provisions,” said American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman.

U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba average $400 million annually since 2000, everything from poultry, wheat, soybeans, rice and dairy. With expanded trade to the country, The Farm Bureau expects agriculture sales to increase to more than $1 billion annually.

“Current language in the omnibus appropriations bill aids U.S. agriculture by allowing travel on a general license for those making agricultural sales to Cuba rather than the specific license currently needed. This would ease delays that significantly impact the ability to transact commercial sales with Cuba, which in some cases, have been lost to U.S. competitors because of the restriction.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Just in From Washington

Ritter photo
AFBF Appeals Pesticide Ruling, Disappointed EPA Not Doing So

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 10, 2009 – The American Farm Bureau Federation has asked the full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to review a three-judge ruling that would require permits for pesticide uses even if they are applied in compliance with pesticide labeling laws. AFBF expressed disappointment that the Environmental Protection Agency is not seeking a rehearing of the matter.

In the case, National Cotton Council v. EPA, the panel reversed an EPA rule that would have clarified that Clean Water Act permits are not required for pesticides application near waters, so long as the application complies with pesticide labeling laws.

That decision could lead to additional needless regulations on the use of crop protection tools, according to AFBF. Because of the potential impacts, AFBF expressed disappointment that the EPA has stated it will not seek a rehearing on the matter, requesting instead a delay of two years before the new permits for legal, label-approved applications would be required.
“Farmers should not need a permit under another law when they already are following an existing law,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “We are disappointed that EPA has decided not to seek a legal remedy for this situation. The decision made by the three-judge panel in January will complicate farmers’ ability to farm, and raise their expenses without improving the environment.”

The AFBF petition, filed jointly with the American Forest & Paper Association, National Cotton Council, Croplife and other industry petitioners, asks the court to reverse, or clarify, the January decision that vacated a 2006 EPA rule exempting certain pesticide applications in, near or around water from Clean Water Act permit requirements.

EPA filed a motion asking the court to delay enforcement of the ruling for two years to provide the agency and state authorities time to develop and implement a permitting program. Not all members of the Obama administration supported EPA’s decision not to seek a rehearing of the court’s decision. In a recent letter, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated support for a full rehearing.

“A rehearing of this decision is important because the court’s earlier ruling could result in a permitting program that complicates farmers’ effective use of important crop protection tools,” Stallman said. “Complications that are inevitable with any permitting process would impede the effective and time-sensitive use of pesticides to combat disease and insects that can destroy crops.”

A permitting program also would impose a great burden on regulatory authorities because of a staggering increase in the number of new permit requests.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Grazing Season Underway

Ritter photo
First Sheep Head to Summer Range in the Foothills

Emmett-- A band of sheep graze along Highway 16 Easter Sunday on thier way south to the Boise foothills. Eagle residents will start to see the sheep for the next few days as the sheep graze their way across the valley. After plentiful spring rain, the range is in the best shape in more than a decade.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Miracle March

'Miracle' March Snow Blankets High Country
Jake Putnam photo
Boise--After looking at snowpack and reservoir numbers, water officials are calling last months snowfall another 'March miracle'. Snowpack numbers went from an average 85-percent across the main watersheds to a fat 95-110 percent of average.

NRCS Hydrologist Ron Abramovich told the Associated Press that the moisture was the equivilent of a high country 'bailout' and now there's money or water in the bank.

According to NRCS snow-tel measurements precipitation was twice the normal average and caused the streamflow forecasts to rise 30 percent in 30 days on the Middlefork of the Salmon drainage. The Snake River drainage near Idaho Falls will have flows exceeding a hundred percent of normal.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Milk and Egg Prices

Tracking Milk and Egg Trends

Washington--For the first quarter of 2009, shoppers reported the average price for a half-gallon of regular whole milk was $2.16, down 22 cents from the prior quarter. The average price for one gallon of regular whole milk was $3.15, down 67 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.

The average price for a half-gallon of rBST-free milk was $3.19, down 26 cents from the last quarter and nearly 50 percent higher than the reported retail price for a half-gallon of regular milk ($2.16).

The average price for a half-gallon of organic milk was $3.71, up 1 cent compared to the third quarter and approximately 70 percent higher than the reported retail price for a half-gallon of regular milk ($2.16).

Compared to a year ago (first quarter of 2008), the retail price for regular milk in gallon containers decreased by 17 percent while regular milk in half-gallon containers decreased 10 percent. The average retail price for rBST-free milk dropped about 3 percent in a year’s time.

The average retail price for organic milk in half-gallon containers went up and down slightly throughout the year, rising about 2 percent in the first quarter of 2009 compared to a year ago.
For the first quarter of 2009, the average price for one dozen regular eggs was $1.50. The average price for “cage-free” eggs was $2.93 per dozen, around 95 percent more per dozen than regular eggs.

Regular eggs and “cage-free” eggs dropped in retail price by about 30 percent and 2 percent, respectively, between the first quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cost of Living

Ritter photo

Food Prices Drop for Second Consecutive Quarter

Washington--Retail food prices at the supermarket dropped slightly for the second consecutive quarter, according to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation Marketbasket Survey.

The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare a meal was $47.41, down about 5.5 percent or $2.80 from the fourth quarter of 2008.

Of the 16 items surveyed, 11 decreased and five increased in average price compared to the prior quarter. The overall cost of the marketbasket of foods in the first quarter dropped just under 1 percent compared to a year ago.

Shredded cheddar cheese, milk and vegetable oil showed the largest retail price declines and together account for most of the decrease in average price of the overall marketbasket.

Shredded cheese dropped 70 cents to $4.24 per pound; milk dropped 67 cents to $3.15 per gallon; and vegetable oil dropped 38 cents to $2.79 for a 32-oz. bottle.

“Continued weak demand overseas for U.S. dairy products combined with increased on-farm production are behind the softening retail prices for shredded cheese and whole milk,” said Jim Sartwelle, an AFBF economist.

Other items that decreased in price were: Russet potatoes, down 31 cents to $3.05 per bag; eggs, down 28 cents to $1.50 per dozen; toasted oat cereal, down 22 cents to $2.91 for a 9-oz. box; apples, down 16 cents to $1.35 per pound; boneless chicken breasts, down 12 cents to $3.38 per pound; bacon, down 11 cents to $3.26 per pound; white bread, down 11 cents to $1.77 for a 20-oz. loaf; and orange juice, down 2 cents to $3.00 for a half-gallon.

“The retail price decline for eggs is due to a combination of slightly higher production coupled with weakened demand as consumers respond to the economic downturn by curtailing spending in all areas. Industry analysts are predicting that slightly lower retail egg prices and relatively higher egg production will continue throughout 2009,” Sartwelle said.

Five items increased slightly in price this quarter: ground chuck and sliced deli ham, up 8 cents to $2.94 and $4.94 per pound, respectively; sirloin tip roast and flour, up 5 cents to $3.99 per pound and $2.51 for a 5-pound bag, respectively; and American salad, up 2 cents to $2.63 for a 1-pound bag.

New this quarter, Farm Bureau is reporting average retail prices on different foods in the marketbasket with the addition of sliced deli ham, shredded cheddar cheese, chicken breasts, orange juice and bagged salad. Pork chops, block cheddar cheese, whole chicken fryers, mayonnaise and corn oil were dropped from the survey.

“The balance of foods in the marketbasket has been adjusted to track more closely with the way Americans currently shop for groceries,” Sartwelle said. “However, it’s important to note that the foods we no longer report prices on as part of the marketbasket survey remain staples in the American diet.”

Farm Bureau’s volunteer shoppers have been gathering pricing data on the “new” marketbasket foods for the past year, beginning in the first quarter of 2008.

“Starting with the report for the first quarter of 2009, we’re able to provide ‘year-to-year’ and ‘quarter-to-quarter’ comparisons on the updated marketbasket of foods,” Sartwelle noted.

According to Terry Gilbert, a volunteer shopper and Kentucky farmer who chairs the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee, “A trend that shows no signs of slowing down is consumers buying more fruits and vegetables, as well as pre-chopped and partially prepared foods. The updated marketbasket survey takes that into account and is more contemporary.

“Although this survey’s slight decline in retail prices for the quarter is welcome news, through our new nutrition fact sheets, we are pleased to offer consumers information on how to stretch their grocery dollars with healthy, nutritious food,” she said.

According to the federal government, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all food is projected to increase 3 percent to 4 percent in 2009.

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

“Starting 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 $47.41 market basket would be $9.00.

AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, has been conducting the informal quarterly marketbasket survey of retail food price trends since 1989.

According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 90 shoppers in 32 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in late February and early March.

Grass Root Politics

Bob Smathers photo
Spring Resolution Meetings Underway

Lewiston--The Clearwater/Lewis Farm Bureau held their annual spring resolution meeting on April 3. County representatives came up with three resolutions that were sent onto the District resolution meeting in September.

The heart of the Idaho Farm Bureau annual meeting is the delegate resolution process. The policy resolutions adopted by voting delegates will become IFB's 2010 policy roadmap for agriculture advocacy efforts before city councils, county commissions, the state legislature and the U.S. Congress. The resolutions approved at the IFB Annual Meeting are the result of a yearlong grassroots effort, involving input from the counties throughout Idaho.

The national farm policy resolutions approved by the IFB delegates will be carried to the American Farm Bureau Federation resolutions process through the end of the year and voting delegates from Idaho will join their counterparts from other states in a similar consensus-building exercise at the AFBF Annual Meeting in January 2010.

Idaho Farm Bureau has represented grassroots agriculture since establishment in 1939, this non-profit advocacy organization supports farm families who earn their living in a changing industry.

District Manager Bob Smathers reports that the new resolutions in Lewis/Clearwater included everything from USDA Stamped Meat, sales taxes on replacement vehicles, and agricultural dust. Other topics of discussion were the state scholarship program, the Clearwater Forest and Farm Fair and county by-laws.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Idaho Fish and Game Releases New De-listing Video

Idaho is Ready and Able to Manage Wolves
The recent decision by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list was great news. Idaho has been preparing to manage wolves for nearly 15 years and will manage wolves much the same way as we do mountain lions and bears.Healthy bear and lion populations exist across Idaho and they have done well under the state's classification as big game.

Trade, Tourism and Agriculture

Photo: courtesty of Craig Warrington
American Farm Bureau: Stop Cuban Travel Ban

Washington--American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman joined congressional members on Capitol Hill to advocate the removal of travel restrictions to Cuba.

Stallman spoke in support of S. 428, which opens Cuba to travel by U.S. citizens and gives the U.S. president authority to restrict travel to Cuba only in times of war or imminent danger.

“This legislation is an important step in easing trade restrictions on Cuba,” Stallman said. “Allowing unrestricted travel to Cuba will increase U.S. agricultural sales and boost tourism.”

U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba have been on average $400 million annually since 2000, with top commodity sales including poultry, wheat, soybeans, rice and dairy. With passage of S. 428, AFBF expects sales to increase.

In addition, language in the omnibus appropriations bill further aids U.S. agriculture by allowing travel on a general license for those making agricultural sales to Cuba rather than the specific license currently needed. This would ease delays that significantly impact the ability to transact commercial sales with Cuba, which in some cases, have been lost to U.S. competitors because of the restriction.

Other priorities for AFBF in regard to Cuba include commercially defining “cash payments in advance” as intended by Congress in the 2000 Trade Sanctions and Reform Act; allowing the country to directly wire payment to U.S. banks instead of going through a third-country bank as it does now; and issuing visas for Cuban inspectors to travel to the U.S. to meet with suppliers, inspect facilities and verify procedures and standards associated with the sale of U.S. food and agricultural exports to Cuba.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Idaho Snowpack Improves in March

Deer Point,Boise Foothills, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam

Boise--Snowpack levels gained ground throughout the month of March, making up for a sluggish February.

A series of Northwest storms combined with freezing temperatures added to summer irrigation water. The Clearwater Basin stands at 102-percent of normal, the Salmon Basin 98-percent of normal, the Upper Snake is 101-percent of normal, Weiser Basin is 99-percent of normal, Bear River Basin is 97-percent of normal according to NRCS in Boise.

The cold temperatures have kept runoff to a minimum this past month, warm temps on Sunday did'nt greatly affect runoff, it'll take weeks of 80 degree weather to melt mountain snow and that wont happen typically until Memorial Day weekend.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Garden News

Got the Home-Grown Veggie Fever? Try a Little Moderation and Lots of Education

BOISE—As spring awakens Idaho yards this year, recession-weary citizens aren’t just anticipating the summer’s aromatic roses and aristocratic delphiniums. Hot with the nation’s grow-your-own fever, they’re dreaming of far more humble—but filling—lettuce, tomatoes and squash.

“Veggie gardening is the big thing this year because people are trying to save money on produce,” said Susan Bell, University of Idaho Extension educator in Ada County. “Oftentimes, their eyes are bigger than their backs are strong.” To make sure 2009’s “big thing” will work for you, Bell and her statewide colleagues say the best thing is to start small.

Before you till a quarter-acre tract, stop, smell the—uh—onions and consider what your family will actually eat. “If they’ve never eaten okra in their life, there’s no reason to grow it,” said JoAnn Robbins, University of Idaho Extension educator in Jerome County. “If your family eats a lot of carrots, by all means plant them. But if they’re banana eaters, it’s not going to save you money to grow a garden.”

Steve Love, University of Idaho Extension horticulture specialist in Aberdeen, applauds Americans’ renewing interest in self-sufficiency. “I think people should be at least partially self-sustaining,” he said. “Growing your own food gives you the satisfaction of doing something that is relatively difficult, has true meaning and tastes really good.” When gardeners overplant, they “lose a lot of effort, time and money—and wastage in the garden is one of the things that people should try to avoid.”

Love advocates developing a plan for how and when your anticipated produce will land on your family’s table—and in its larders—this year. That includes learning what to expect of each variety and when to harvest it. Some fruits and vegetables can be picked casually over a prolonged period, Love said. Others have an unforgiving harvest window of just a couple of days.

In Canyon County, Extension educator Ariel Agenbroad advises gardeners to focus on high-value crops like tomatoes and peppers that can really save money at the grocer’s compared with low-value, space-hogging crops like sweet corn. Some top-dollar berries and herbs can even make your landscape look good while making you feel good about the cash they’re leaving in your pocket.

In Nez Perce County, Extension educator Lydia Clayton suggests growing food in modest-sized raised beds and even in containers, thus saving precious time in watering, weeding and pest management. For gardeners with few hours to spare, time-saving approaches make the difference between delight and despair, Clayton says. If you want, you can always plant more containers as the season progresses.

For those who will be tilling their own ground, Extension educators agree: great produce depends on great soils. If you don’t have them already—and few of us do—it’ll take several years to achieve them with generous, repeated applications of composts, aged manures, leaves, grass clippings and so forth. “Most of our soils here have less than 2% organic matter content,” said Wayne Jones, Idaho Falls-based Extension educator in Bonneville County. “Adding anything organic helps.”

While a soil test can be moderately pricey, Mike Bauer—Jones’ counterpart in northern Idaho’s Bonner County—said it’s “worth the money to know what your soil needs. After you’ve spent a couple or three years improving the soil, you may not need to add fertilizers”—and the test will begin to pay for itself.

University of Idaho Extension educators are rich in other cost-cutting tips as well:
Start plants from seed if you have time.
Share spendy seed packets, fertilizers, tools and equipment with fellow gardeners.
Stagger your plantings so you don’t harvest two-dozen kitchen-ready lettuces all at once.
Save space by interplanting, like slipping carrots in between lettuces or tucking herbs into your flower borders.
Save water—and the weeds it awakens—by using drip irrigation, soaker hoses and mulches.
Make your own tomato cages, bean supports and other garden structures: creativity pays.
Be vigilant for pest damage: nip it early while you can still treat pests cheaply or—better still—dispatch them for free underfoot.

“If you’ve never gardened before, it’s okay to start with three tomato plants, a 6-foot row of carrots and maybe a zucchini,” said Robbins. “Insuring your personal success is more important the first year than growing a lot to eat. If you find that you like gardening and were successful at it, then put in more next year.” In the meantime, Robbins suggests supplementing your home-grown produce with trips to the local farmers’ market.

Knowing and growing are unquestionably linked when it comes to producing food, said Agenbroad. “An educated gardener is a successful gardener.” Fortunately, University of Idaho Extension offers a cornucopia of gardening education through its county extension offices, its p:// Web site and its Educational Communications catalog that’s ripe with how-to publications. These publications—most of them downloadable—walk you through the gardening experience with everything from “Planning an Idaho Vegetable Garden” to “Harvesting and Storing Fresh Garden Vegetables.”

If you prefer the personal touch, sign up for a University of Idaho Extension gardening class or ask local Master Gardener volunteers to help you diagnose pests or determine whether your crops are performing as they should. The university’s Extension Food Safety Advisors can even teach you how to can, freeze and dry your harvest.

“You bet, I tell new gardeners to give it a shot,” said Jones. “We’re here and we can help you out.”

Saturday, April 4, 2009

American Farm Bureau Editorial

White House photo

Teaching Moment for Agriculture
By John Hart, American Farm Bureau

Washington--On the first day of spring, which was also National Agriculture Day, first lady Michelle Obama, with the help of local elementary school students, broke ground for a fruit and vegetable garden on the south lawn of the White House. The 1,100-square-foot garden will provide as many as 55 different fruits and vegetables for use in the White House kitchen. Some of the produce will be donated to a nearby soup kitchen.

The new garden—the first of its kind since Eleanor Roosevelt planted a victory garden during World War II—made headlines and brought some positive news and brightness to a nation that has been inundated by negative economic news. Planting a garden in springtime means new life, growth and hope, something America’s farmers certainly understand, since they devote their lives to carefully growing crops and raising livestock.

For American agriculture, the new White House garden offers a great teaching moment. Farm Bureau sees the garden as just one more way to engage the public about what goes into producing food. American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman is hopeful that other families across our nation will join the Obama family and plant their own gardens this spring.

“It’s a great way to discover what it takes to produce food and learn about the growing cycle, from preparing the seed to tending the weeds and pests, and with hard work, a bountiful harvest,” Stallman, a Texas rice farmer and cattle producer, said this week. “Home gardens are a great way to complement production agriculture that Farm Bureau members devote their lives to.”

In that statement, the AFBF president chose a key word: “complement.” Home gardens are great for providing fruits and vegetables for family meals, but no one expects these gardens to displace the bounty brought forth by America’s hard-working farm and ranch families. Modern production agriculture in the United States is an undisputed marvel in feeding a hungry planet.

The White House garden rekindles a whisper of the agrarian spirit that built our nation. Gardens, and the dirt-under-the-fingernails work that goes with them, instill a degree of appreciation of what it takes to put food on the table.

The first family, the White House staff and the school children who will help tend the garden throughout the year are indeed leading by example. More than 98 percent of our nation’s farms and ranches are owned and operated by individuals or families, and those farm and ranch families appreciate the first family’s nod to food production.

While gardens have always been a traditional part of life for farm families, they also know that the productive farms they own and operate remain critical to the strength of our ation. Whether it is bread on the White House table, made from Kansas wheat, orange juice from a Florida citrus grove, baked potatoes from the rich soils of Idaho or rice from the lush fields of Arkansas, professional farmers fortify the nutritional needs of our nation.In other words, it takes all of America’s farm and ranch families to feed this nation and much of the world.

Today, each American farmer feeds an average 143 people, compared to just 19 people in 1940. Thanks to modern technology and state-of-the art production practices, American farmers are the world’s most productive.

And without a doubt, the vast majority of America’s hard working family farmers welcome a new garden on the south lawn of the White House as just one more way to tell the story of America’s amazing, miraculous food production system. It becomes easier to take in that big picture after you have had a little dirt under your fingernails.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Endangered Species Act

One Step Closer to De-listing

Boise--The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published rules this week for de-listing the Rocky Mountain gray wolf. The move puts into motion a 30-day countdown to the removal of wolves from the Endangered Species Act once and for all.

The Wolves will lose their ESA status in all of Idaho and Montana and in portions of eastern Washington, eastern Oregon and northern Utah. Because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not happy with Wyoming's wolf management plan, de-listing wont apply there.

The states of Idaho and Montana classify wolves as big game animals and set up seasons and harvest quotas. The de-listing is the second in a little more than a year. The first de-listing back in February 2008 was halted by conservation lawsuits over proposed hunts in those states.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has established a statewide wolf hunt starting this fall should the de-listing stand. According to US Fish and Wildlife, 1,639 wolves inhabit the northern Rockies region—846 in Idaho, 491 in Montana and 302 in Wyoming. There are an estimated 95 breeding pairs—39 in Idaho, 34 in Montana and 22 in Wyoming.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Farm Safety

Accidents on Rural Roads on the Rise, IFB helps Produce PSA

Nampa--Canyon County and Ada County Farm Bureau organizations formed a partnership to produce and air public service announcements urging motorist to look out for farm machinery this spring on rural roadways.

"There's a lot more congestion on our roads," said Canyon County Farm Bureau Board member Sid Freeman. "We're seeing more and more impatient people that don't realize how long it takes machinery to get from one field to the next. They put themselves and others at risk by making bad decisions on the road."

Ada County Farm Bureau President Don Sonke points out that Ada County farmland is being replaced by subdivisions, that means more traffic and more accidents. "Drivers don't expect to see farm equipment anymore and they're miles from the city limit, they don't know what to do." he said.

Steve Ritter and Jake Putnam produced the PSA for the county Farm Bureaus and said with minor edits the PSA's are ready for the air. "This is the world premier for the PSA's right here on the blog, we will take feedback and make adjustments and hopefully keep motorists safe in rural Ada and Canyon county."

No Farming Today on The Palouse

Bob Smathers photo

Moscow--A late, April-Fools day snowstorm has buried the Palouse under seven inches of snow. Snow is also reported in Pocatello and Idaho Falls with rain in Boise and Twin. The storms and cool temps continue to add to mountain snowpack totals while precipitation levels still lag behind normal readings.

"Before this snowstorm I heard one of the farmers say he didnt expect to get out until May 1st, you hardly see storms like this in April, nothing this big," said Idaho Farm Bureau's Bob Smathers. "Our guys say they have plenty of water, they just want dry ground now."

Unsettled, Wet Weather Across Idaho

Driving through life's storms, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam
Cool, wet and unsettled weather has dominated spring thus far across Idaho. Farmers have only made a few visits to their fields and the snow keeps piling up.
Snowpack, though is still 80-90 percent of normal but runoff has been delayed a few weeks adding more water to the back end of irrigation.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Just in from Washington

Antibiotics Vital to Animal Health, Food Protection

WASHINGTON-The Use of antibiotics in animals has some scientist worried that it could compromise antibiotics used to combat human illness. That fear has resulted in Capitol Hill Legislation banning the use of antibiotics in the nation’s food supply.

But veterinarians say not using the drugs could threaten the health of livestock and poultry while compromising efforts to protect the safety of the country's food supply. The Nations largest Farm organization is calling for careful study before a ban is enforced.

The American Farm Bureau Federation voiced strong opposition to the legislation that restricts important antibiotics for veterinary and farm use. In a letter to Congress, AFBF President Bob Stallman said the bills (H.R. 1549 and S. 619) would handicap veterinarians, livestock and poultry producers in their efforts to protect the nation’s food supply and maintain the health of their farm animals.

“Farmers and ranchers and the veterinarians use antibiotics carefully, judiciously and according to label instructions, primarily to treat, prevent and control disease in our flocks and herds,” Stallman said. “Antibiotics are critically important to the health and welfare of the animals and ultimately the safety of the food produced.”

Farm, Ranch and food producer groups oppose the ban saying food prices would go up, supply drop off, and it would cost ranchers a fortune to keep their herds healthy. Groups also contend that there’s no evidence of a health threat, past, present or future linked to antibiotic use in animals.

Senator Edward Kennedy introduced the bill in the Senate and Representative Louise Slaughter in the House. The legislation has specific language that would ban the use of antibiotics important to human health from being used on sick cattle, hogs, sheep and poultry.

Stallman said more than 40 years of antibiotic use in farm animals proves that such use does not pose a public health threat. In fact, Stallman said that “recent government data shows the potential that it might occur is declining.” Bacteria survival through food processing and handling is decreasing, food-borne illness is down, development of antibiotic resistant bacteria in animals is stable and resistant food-borne bacteria in humans are declining.

“In order to raise healthy animals, we need tools to keep them healthy – including medicines that have been approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration,” Stallman said. “Restricting access to these important tools will jeopardize animal health and compromise our ability to contribute to public health through food safety.”

Under the new legislation Drug manufacturers would be allowed to sell antibiotics for nonhuman uses if they can show there is no danger to public health from microbes developing drug resistances.

Those backing the legislation think that the overuse of antibiotics in animals leads to new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. As a result, people may be at risk of becoming sick by handling, eating meat or coming in contact with animals that have an antibiotic-resistant disease; although there have been no illnesses reported in the United States.

Stallman told members of Congress that by opposing the bills, they would “protect the professional judgment of veterinarians and livestock producers in providing safe and healthful meat products” for consumers.

House Passes Interior Bill with Idaho Priorities

Simpson authored provisions would benefit Idaho and the West Washington,- The House of Representatives passed the fiscal year 2019 Inter...