Sunday, May 31, 2009

What we do

What we do
Originally uploaded by Jake Putnam
Steve Ritter is shooting video for an upcoming production, over the course of a year we will shoot 70-80 videos, and a couple of documentries. While most of our videos are in house, almost all ends up on the Idaho Farm Bureau Channel on YouTube:
or Facebook.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Branding calves on the Shingle Creek Ranch in Riggins

Steve Ritter and I spent Friday at the Shingle Creek Ranch outside of Riggins, Idaho. We spent the day with Farm Bureau District 4 Woman of the Year Betty Devaney. The drive to the top of their ranch was a two-thousand foot climb from the Riggin Valley floor, but as you can see it was worth the drive. We will have a story later this week on the Devaneys and their annual spring round up.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Idaho Farm Profiles

The Idaho Farm Bureau caught up with long time farmer Mike Christensen of Melba. Christensen Farms was named the Canyon County Farm family of the year. Christensen and his family farms nearly 10-thousand acres in the Dry Lake area everything from potatoes to mint.

It was cold and wet throughout most of April, are you behind?

We’re about average for a good a season, maybe a little bit behind for a normal year. We had a few cold days this spring it’s starting to warm up right now. Spuds, I was checking the last couple of years, the chemical we’re applying are on almost the same date so we’re pretty close there. The field of spuds behind us is Rangers, that’s the variety; it’s for processing and will go to the J.R. Simplot Company.

What do you do on Christensen Farms?
We raise a lot of corn for the dairies, we put up 100-200,000 ton of corn that goes to the neighbors and we also raise peppermint, we distill it and sell it to Calliston where it ultimately goes to toothpaste or gum. Colgate is a big buyer of our mint products; we do some wheat, not a lot. We also have a lot of hay and raise it for the dairies that are close by, we also a few acres of sugar-snap peas and that’s about it.

Where will you ship today’s hay?

We have three main dairies close by, they own the ground but we farm a few thousand ton of chopped hay on it. They put it in a pit, pack it and feed it right away. They like it for a number of reasons, you don’t have to worry about rain on the first cutting, so that’s a good reason and it’s a little more soft and palatable so the cows eat more and that means more milk, our hope is to put in the best product we can for the dairymen, they in turn can turn it into milk and ultimately—money.

What are your typical spring worries going into a season?

This year we’ve had good snow pack and we haven’t worried about water; in other years it was a big concern. Right here behind us, this irrigation water comes out of the Snake River and we have a high lift, some 420 feet from the Snake River so we are pretty good with that supply of water. Fuel is our big concern, prices were up last year and it cost us. We will go through about 150-thousand gallons of diesel this year. In the fall we have the mint, potato and corn harvests going on at the same time, that’s a lot of fuel everyday running 30-40 trucks and running the mint still, it gets expensive doing that. This year with the diesel down its helping, let’s hope it stays there.

How many trucks and people do you have working just on the hay operation?

We’re running 9 trucks in the operation along with the choppers, behind those choppers we’re planting a crop of corn. We’re running a two disc ripping tractor; a ground-hogger and a planter and we try to keep it running so when the hay is off we can have corn in the ground.

What do you think about the round-up revolution?

All of our corn is roundup ready, it’s been a convenience we’ve had to get rid of weeds and save cultivation and that has been nice. I like the idea of round-up ready corn, we have used round up before and it will definitely clean up things, round up has definitely been a help. The cost per acre for other products is higher, and the timeliness in using it is the selling point, with roundup you can spray weeds when they’re real small or big and it’ll still get them. Other products don’t have that wide window application. So you don’t need to worry about cultivating it stops from having to do that.

How will the 2009 season turn out?

I wish I knew that one; I’d like to predict that. Every spring our goal is cut down on errors, the yield is the number one thing. It’s because we are contracted so we go out after the best crop we can, if you get good yields you’ll end up making out okay so, eliminating errors along the way makes the best crop, that’s what you are after: cutting expenses.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Renewable Energy

U.S.D.A seeks applications for renewable energy projects

Boise-Farmers, ranchers, winery owners and other rural small businessmen can now apply for grants or loan guarantees to initiate energy efficiency and renewable energy projects through a program expanded under the 2008 Farm Bill.

The Rural Energy for America Program offers grants up to 25 percent of project costs, with a maximum of $500,000 for renewable energy systems and $250,000 for energy efficiency improvements. Loan guarantees are also available for up to 75 percent per loan, or up to $25 million.

Farmers and ranchers who earn at least 50 percent of their gross income from agricultural operations are eligible, and small businesses in rural areas and rural electric cooperatives may also apply.

Energy efficiency projects may include retrofitting lighting or insulation, or purchasing or replacing equipment with more efficient units. Renewable energy projects can include wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydropower or hydrogen-based production.

The owners of one Idaho winery, Stu and Sue Scott of Camas Prairie Winery in Moscow, have used a REAP grant to pay for a solar panel array on their roof. The panels now supply about 20 percent of the winery’s power needs.

The five-year, $288 billion 2008 Farm Bill authorized $55 million for REAP grants and loans for the current fiscal year, which ends in July, as well as next year. Funding will increase to $70 million for the following two years. Applications are due by July 31. Contact Idaho’s USDA Rural Development office for more information.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

YF and R News

Dist. 4 Chairman Cody Chandler demonstrates skilled barbeque techniques at the YFR Dist. 4 barbeque in Caldwell (Gina Davis photo)

YF and R Draws Crowd at Annual Dist. 4 Barbeque

Caldwell--A warm spring afternoon made for a perfect barbeque at the District 4 YF and R picnic held at Caldwell Municipal park on Friday. The social event brought 20 Young Farmers and Ranchers from Caldwell, Weiser, Nampa together not to mention Idaho YF and R President Chris and Kimmel Dalley from Blackfoot.

The Chandler's planned the barbeque so new YF and R members can learn about Farm Bureau in a relaxed social setting. "It was fun, we sat around and talked about the cattle market, watched the kids play and visited with old friends," said Dist. 4 co-chair Britney Chandler. "I think its really important for the new couples because you dont realize all the opportunities out there, Farm Bureau is very supportive of the young couples, Its always good to meet people in the same situation."

Cody and Britney also took the time to tell the new couples and old friends about the annual YF and R Summer Activity taking place on Steadman's farm at Raft River on June 13th from 2:00 to 7:00. "We all work so hard in the summer, it's going to be nice to get away on a Saturday with the family," said Chandler.

YF and R members mingle--Gina Davis photo

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

President's Editorial

Producers Urged to Participate in Public Comment Process
By Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation President

A public comment period is about to open regarding a mine expansion in southeast Idaho that produces an element critical to agriculture worldwide.

The hills north of Soda Springs are one of the only places in the world that produce phosphate ore. A subsidiary of the Monsanto Corporation is seeking a permit to open the Blackfoot Bridge Mine, an extension of existing operations, north of Soda Springs. The mine would supply elemental phosphorus, the key ingredient used to produce Roundup brand herbicides.

We’re not in the habit of endorsing one agricultural supplier over another, but the importance of this public comment period should not be lost on crop producers. Here’s why:
Roundup Ready crops are genetically engineered to resist glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicides. This resistance is a technological breakthrough in plant breeding which enables farmers to produce more crops while reducing the amount of herbicides applied to kill weeds. Fewer herbicide applications not only save farms money, it reduces environmental impact on the land.

This technology allows farmers to increase yields through better weed control. In addition, the technology allows growers to use no-till methods on 62 million acres in the U.S. alone, with the potential to more than double that amount. With no-till, farmers don’t have to plow fields. Less disturbance of the dirt sequesters, or traps carbon in the soil, rather than releasing it into the air in the form of carbon dioxide. This method conserves topsoil, reduces soil runoff into streams and decreases fuel use by reducing tractor traffic across fields.

In spite of the agricultural and economic benefits this project brings to southeast Idaho, we know that several environmental organizations will provide public comment to attempt to block the opening of this new mine. And we know they’ll do it with no consideration for the 770 southeast Idaho jobs at stake, the $115 million in annual wages paid, or the $773,000 in annual property taxes paid by the mine. Losing this mining operation would be a huge blow not only to southeast Idaho’s economy, but to farms and ranches across this country.

Once again, while we don’t make it a practice to endorse agriculture suppliers, this is exactly the kind of progress that makes farms more efficient and keeps American families on the land. We think that’s important. We know that not only farms but most families keep a bottle of roundup in the garage.

Roundup is also used by lots of other folks who manage ball fields, golf courses, cemeteries and various other large tracts of land. We urge all Idaho farmers, ranchers and anyone else who has a stake in this process to write in and let the Bureau of Land Management know how important it is to maintain phosphate ore production in southeast Idaho. For more information, visit

Monday, May 25, 2009

Farm Safety

Farm Safe Camp Held in Filer

Filer--Living a rural lifestyle can be dangerous, every year, thousands of farm workers are injured and hundreds more die in farming accidents across the nation according to the National Safety Council. The Twin Falls County Farm Bureau and the Women’s Leadership committee organized a farm safety day to teach kids how to stay safe on the farm with good cause.

There are approximately 3.1 million men and women who work on America's 2.3 million farms and ranches. According to Accident Facts published by the National Safety Council, farm accidents claim as many as 1300 lives and cause 120,000 injuries a year, most of which are preventable.

The dangers are endless — from falls, tractor roll-overs, and dangerous manure pit and silo gases to injuries from animals. Rescues are difficult because most farms are located far from paramedics, hospitals and some emergency responders don’t have the necessary equipment or training.

More than 80 people attended this years camp outside of Filer where each station taught kids how to stay safe and keep from becoming a safety statistic, the stations were manned by professionals and experts in the field…like 12 year old Rachel Miller who taught her peers the ins and outs of four-wheeler safey.

“Always wear protective clothing, it can protect your body if you crash, always apply the brake when getting on and off the four wheeler, never ride without a helmet,” said Miller. Her station was one of the best attended as fellow students watched in pin-drop silence.

Farm surveys indicate that the injury rate is highest among children age 15 and under, kids are highly vulnerable around horses and cattle.

Doctor Jenni Lanting addressed farm animal safety, “There are safe places to stand when around large animals,” she told the kids. “They can kick and injure you if you stand in the wrong place, gently touch the horse on the hind quarter and stand in close, move slow and deliberately, they’ll kick you if spooked, be gentle let them know you’re there.”

Last year more than 300 children are killed on family farms acording to federal statistics, many crushed beneath the wheels of tractors, heavy machinery and big rigs because of blind spots. Corporal Kevin Winn of the Idaho State Police demonstrated the lack of visibility behind and around the 18-wheeler. “You think you’re in plain sight, and you might be in the open, but that driver up there can’t see you, move up until the driver can see you without using a mirror.”

The number of electrocutions on the farm continues to rise each year, Idaho Power representatives gave a stunning demonstration of the danger of power lines that left an impression on Buhl housewive Crystal Ray. “Electricity is invisible and can be very dangerous, the demonstration surprised me. It’s been great, my boys are getting hands on experience on things that can harm them, its an eye opening experience for them.”

With alarming statistics farm safety days organized by the Idaho Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee is gaining ground with events planned in all five districts this year. “Its been great,” said one serious parent, “The kids are having fun, but this is stuff that can save a life.”

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wine Country News

Gina Davis with the 2008 crop--Jake Putnam photo
Idaho Winemakers Sweep NW Wine Summit
Marsing—Further evidence that Idaho’s wine industry has arrived: Gem State winemakers took home a record 47 medals at the prestigious Pacific Northwest Wine Summit held last week at Timberline Lodge in Oregon. It's the largest wine competition in the Northwest.

Canyon County and YF and R Farm Bureau Member Gina Davis of Davis Creek Sellers took home four bronze medals, two silvers, a gold and a double gold for her 2007 Syrah ($20.00) and 2007 Malbec (20.00), 2008 Rosé of Syrah ( $10) 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon($29); and 2007 Tempranillo ($20).

“I had no idea I’d win,” said Davis. “I had hoped to place somewhere in the middle of the pack because it was my first year out and I was hoping for decent placing, I didn’t think I’d place higher than some of the wineries I worked for.”

Davis recently graduated from the University of Idaho but already has gained a reputation for her Davis Creek Cellar label. She has her own shop in Marsing, Idaho. “The tasting room opened last June and the first wines were harvested in the fall of ’07, we’ve got ’08 in the barrels, so we’re moving right along.

Gina Davis’ reputation as a winemaker is secure after her rookie season but says modestly that she learned from the masters who passed on the tried and true methods to Idaho winemaking. “Working for Brad Pintler had an impact on my success, the basic of what I learned comes from him and Greg Koenig really helped polish my skills to get to where I am now.”

Davis is active in Canyon County Farm Bureau and the Young Farmer and Rancher group; she says the industry is growing because of diversity, new ideas, and blood in the Snake River viticultural area. She points out that growers are using open vine canopies, drip irrigation and aggressive pruning that stress the vine that produces fewer yet tasty grapes.

That diversity comes from plentiful irrigation water and volcanic soil that gives the land richness unique in the entire world; it transformed this land from desert sage to lush cash crops.Elevations are 2-to 3-thousand feet higher than California’s famed Napa Valley and this change in elevation combined with the ash laden soils, warm days, cool nights translates into grape sweetness that’s found only south of Nampa.

Aggressive new ideas and practices add up to a bright future according to Davis. “Our growers have improved BMP’s, we’ have great fruit out there and finally we’re getting the medals to show for it.”

At last count more than 15 wineries thrive in Snake River Wine Region with 46 distinct vineyards covering 1,107 acres.Most vineyards are open to the public and wine tasting rooms offer enthusiasts a taste of wine, picnics not to mention special events such as concerts, wine dinners, and even weddings.

“We have some of the most beautiful vineyards in the in the country and yet they haven’t heard of Marsing or how to get here,” said Ron Bitner of Bitner Vineyards. But with the success more and more wine aficionados are finding their way to Marsing’s wine tasting rooms.

For the Idaho Wine Industry the pressure is on to keep producing great vintages and it all starts once again in the vineyards. “Well, you try and maintain and hope to do as well with the wine in the barrels right now. We’ve got the new vintages, the 2008 reds are in the barrel, I’m heading out today to go work on those right now, and make that Vintage as well as the last vintage,” said Davis.

The Gold Medal Winners:
Cinder Winery's Melanie Krause won gold and Best Rosé for her 2008 Cinder Rosé ($14.99).
Veteran Winemaker Greg Koenig won big, taking a total of 9 medals, including gold for his Koenig Cuvee Amelia Reserve Syrah ($50) and the Bitner Vineyard's Riesling ($12) he also makes.
John Danielson of Vale Wine Co. also took gold for his first vintage 2008 Riesling ($14).
Sawtooth winemaker Bill Murray won gold for his Reserve Cabernet ($24.99).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Port of Lewiston at Crossroads

Port of Lewiston manager, David Doeringsfeld, Jake Putnam photo
On a bright, sunny spring morning, the Idaho Farm Bureau's Jake Putnam paid a visit to David Doeringsfeld, manager of the Port of Lewiston. Port crews were loading a barge of hold-over grain from last year's harvest. Doeringsfeld could barely hide his excitement and enthusiasm at future expansion plans and opening markets both to and from Lewiston., here is Jake's interview:

Tell us about the Port of Lewiston?
We operate in three areas – mobile transportation is the movement of goods and cargo by water, rail and truck. We work in international trade and economic development and the development part consists of industrial parks and business parks that we operate in the community – we have roughly 270 acres of property with in Nez Perce county in the Lewiston area and develop business sites. We also have business incubators -- buildings for businesses to get started those are some areas we try to foster new Businesses.

How important is state transportation infa-structure to the Port?
On the inter-mobile transportation side – in order to be competitive you need to be competitive in all areas – not just water transportation, but river rail and roads. We also need to have good rail traffic which I think is a problem throughout the state– a lot of rail lines are being pulled. It’s a problem up here as well – we’ve lost rail service going south of Lewiston going south to Grangeville those lines have been pulled and it’s tough to keep them open – going out as far as Kamiah. Now most the traffic is between here and Orofino. It’s really unfortunate, most the rail line still in place running along Highway 95 is simply being used to store rail cars.
So the most important element supporting the Port is?
Truck traffic -- what we’re mainly concerned with is the condition of Highway 95. We’re closer to Canadian markets than we are to Boise, so it’s important to improve those highways. Probably the biggest deterrent today is the condition of Highway 95 as far as getting goods into the Port. Swift Transportation has a base out of Lewiston – they have about 500 trucks based out of Lewiston. They still direct a lot of their traffic through Washington and Oregon to get to Southern Idaho in order to avoid Highway 95 and that’s even with the improvements that we’ve seen and there have been significant improvements in Highway 95. But we still have a long ways to go –but Garvey Bonding is in place and we’re hopeful that improvements will continue to be made and that will help with some of the safety concerns that these trucking companies have with Highway 95 and help with the cargo traffic into the Port Lewiston.

So what's shipped out of the Port these days?
The majority of what we ship out here would fall into the paper products that are manufactured by Clearwater Paper, formerly Potlatch. Also Peas and lentils grown in the area and container loads as well as bulk loads of wheat shipments. Whitman Co. WA is the largest grain producing county in the US – just right next door. This is a niche market in that we grow soft white wheat and we grow peas and lentils –none of which is consumed in the US. Soft winter wheat is a commodity used for crackers and noodles in Asian countries along the Pacific Rim. The peas and lentils are a good protein source and not a lot are consumed in the US so we ship most of it to Pakistan, Peru, and Turkey. We’ve developed a niche market over the last 35 years that everything we grow within a hundred miles radius is exported overseas. The port allows us to cater to export markets.

The Port of Lewiston watched the Transportation Fight at the Statehouse, why?
People think we're just in the shipping business from the Port, but it has to get it here first. Because of that road issue we’re missing out on potential products that could come out of Southern Idaho or Canada that could be shipped out of the Port – we still have areas of concern along 95 and the northern side – above Sandpoint to the border has really tight areas when it comes to trucking. Truckers will look for alternate routes to get their loads downs. Truck weights are an issue too, because we have lower truck weights in this state, so that makes it more difficult to get your cargo around Idaho.

So connectivity has a completely different meaning up here?
Think of it – what other state has a single, two-lane highway connecting us with the rest of the state? We don’t have rail, our air service is difficult, it's hard to get here but once here we can ship to the world and cheaper than any competitor, all we have is the single two-lane highway – we can have snow slides in the winter and get cut off from each other and some people may think that’s good thing but when you’re moving cargo it’s not a good thing. We definitely have hurdles to over come.

You can't do much to improve Highway 95, what can you do?
We’re looking to expand our container dock – we have one 120 foot in length and a normal barge is 260 feet long. Right now when a tug comes up they drop off a barge and they leave the one barge and all we can do is work that one barge until they return – usually 48 hours later. With the expansion – we’ll be able to work two barges and double the capacity of the volume we can move across the container dock.

So turn around time becomes critical to growth?
That makes a big difference in sail times – the times the cargo ships leave Portland. For instance if a customer needs to get his cargo to Portland on a specific date to make the sail time. If we don’t have the capacity to get the containers on a barge we have to roll that traffic and customers here can lose a sale.

Washington's new truck weight rules could benefit the Port, how?
"We have some new opportunities now with oversize cargo from three different areas – The Port of Lewiston could be called on to move heavy cargo to the oil sands area in Alberta Canada the second largest oil reserve in the world right now. Also Wind turbines built overseas destined for the mid-west, and also coal equipment destined for Wyoming. A lot of this equipment is manufactured in China or South Korea. Because of the trucking laws it’s almost impossible to get these trucked across Washington so they're looking at the Port as a way to get this cargo to the interior of the mid-west. This cuts a significant mileage off the movement of cargo. The Port has talked to Shell, Exxon and Conoco and several large oil companies about moving this equipment though here.

Can the Port handle all the new,upstream cargo?
That’s another reason for the dock expansion. It’s a $2.7 million expansion. We’ve received a $237-thousand in federal appropriation to help with design fees, and the Idaho Rural Community Block grant program awarded us a $500-thousand dollar grant, and the Port contributed $250-thousand so we’re seeking 1.8 million Federal appropriation in the next go-around to see if we can’t come up with the monies to do this. The benefits are'nt just local – they’re regional and national. Job creation may be minimal at the Port but it has the ripple effect -- for instance these modules coming in headed for the oil sands are about the size of a double wide trailer and they require electrical work – heavy electrical switches so you’ll see electrical contractors working at the Port to wire them as they come through. Or if you are able to expand the dock and that allows farmers to compete in providing containers of wheat overseas then you’re helping that farm family stay in business. It’s not just the new jobs created but the retained jobs so it’s a big net that’s cast in the amount of people affected by the amount of shipping that goes through the Port.

How do rates compare with competitors?
If you move bulk wheat – the rough numbers are a third of the cost of using rail and about a fifth of the cost of trucking, those savings go back to the farmer and allows him to compete. Nampa is the same distance as Lewiston to Portland and on shipping costs – when selling wheat they’ll tell you its so many cents off of a Portland price. So let’s say wheat’s selling at 5.00 so the farmer delivers it to the grain elevator in Lewiston he gets 31-cents off of the Portland price–To factor in the transportation cost out of Nampa you’re probably more in the 70 cent price range so that’s significant to farmers when you’re talking about almost triple the transportation cost.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Beet News

Rep. Simpson urges Agriculture Secretary to Limit Sugar Imports

Washington, DC – Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, a Co-Chair of the House Sugar Caucus, today wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to resist calls for increased sugar imports from Mexico and other nations. Simpson sent the letter with the other Sugar Caucus Co-Chair, Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA).

In their letter, Simpson and Melancon expressed their concerns over the impact increased sugar imports could have on domestic producers. “Higher imports now could have the disastrous effect of depressing prices further, harming more sugar farmers – many of whom are already experiencing severe financial distress – and risking taxpayer costs for loan forfeitures,” wrote Simpson and Melancon.

Simpson, Melancon and other supporters of sugar producers have consistently argued that the current sugar program, recently reauthorized in the Farm Bill, operates at no-cost to the taxpayers and helps keep rural America strong.

“Despite the challenge of integrating the U.S. and Mexican sweetener markets, as prescribed in the NAFTA, the U.S. sugar market has consistently operated efficiently and the policy has operated at no-cost to taxpayers for years,” wrote the two Congressmen.

Combined, U.S. beet and cane growers and processors in 19 states generate 146,000 American jobs and nearly $10 billion in annual economic activity across the nation.

“It is vitally important that we do all we can to promote and protect U.S. agriculture, especially during these tough economic times,” said Simpson after sending the letter. “Sugar producers are an integral part of Idaho’s economy and I am intent on making sure they are treated fairly in all of our trade policies and negotiations.”

The Farm Beat

Emmett Farmer Tracy Walton, had held a 'green collar job he past three decades--Ritter Photo
Farming: The Original ‘Green Collar Job
By Stewart Truelsen
Chicago--As the economy loses blue collar and white collar jobs, one bright spot in the employment outlook appears to be so-called “green collar jobs.” But what exactly are green collar jobs?

Vice President Joe Biden described green collar jobs this way: “They provide products and services that use renewable energy sources, reduce pollution, and conserve energy and natural resources.” Biden did not say this, but by his definition farming is a green collar job. In fact, farming is the original green collar job.

Farmers were among the original users of renewable energy to provide products and services. Early agriculturalists relied on solar power to grow crops just as we do today. They used wind power to draw water and grind grain into flour. They built irrigation systems to make more efficient use of the water.

Yet, the term “green collar jobs” was unheard of until recently. It was first used as the title of a book 10 years ago, but there were references to green collar workers prior to that. It became part of everyday vocabulary during the last presidential campaign when the candidates, particularly President Barack Obama, talked about creating millions of green collar jobs.

There already were millions of green collar jobs a hundred years ago, but the rise in agricultural productivity made many of those farmers unnecessary. They went to the cities and took blue collar jobs in manufacturing. As manufacturing jobs moved overseas in more recent times, white collar and service sector jobs replaced some of that employment.

The farmers who stayed on the land built American agriculture into the unparalleled success it is today. They don’t get enough credit for their green collar accomplishments over the years.
Before there was an environmental movement, farmers were learning and adopting soil and water conservation measures. It was a painful lesson taught by the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

During the Great Depression, the American Farm Bureau Federation and others encouraged research into ethanol from corn and a variety of other crops and crop residues. They were decades ahead of the times, but again in the 1970s Farm Bureau revived its push for renewable fuels.

AFBF and state Farm Bureaus also were leaders in conservation tillage, well-water testing and many other environmental improvements of the 20th Century. And just as they were with ethanol, farmers were early adopters of modern wind energy and the use of methane from manure to generate electricity.

The green collar economy is really not a new thing for farmers or even for this country in times of economic trouble. President Franklin Roosevelt had a similar idea with the Civilian Conservation Corps. It’s just a little more high-tech this time around – installing solar panels, weatherizing homes, building a new power grid and hybrid cars.

Long after the current excitement about the green economy has worn off, American farmers and ranchers will remain green collar workers as they always have been -- efficient producers of food, fiber and fuel, and stewards of natural resources.

Stewart Truelsen is a regular contributor to the Focus on Agriculture column series and he recently finished work on a new book, “Forward Farm Bureau,” which charts the first 90 years of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Idaho Farmers Cut First Crop of Hay

Market Down, Farmers Still Optimistic

Emmett--Hay reached record highs in 2008, but could set record lows in 2009 if the dairy market continues to decline.

Hay prices dropped nearly a $100 a ton after national and global milk prices tanked after the economic slowdown that started late last summer.

Despite the doom and gloom alfalfa is still one of Idaho’s biggest cash crops according to U of I economist Paul Patterson. He told the Capitol Press that hay can still be profitable with good yields and quality. Emmett farmer Tracy Walton agrees an is undeterred by the sluggish market.

“Im operating the same, the dairy I sell to pays me monthly and we'll be doing that again this year,” said Walton. “Hopefully we’ll work together on other things too; just to keep our costs down. I work close with this dairy, I want to see him do well.”

Walton will miss the record high prices he got for hay last year when Class III milk prices broke the $20 hundredweight mark last summer.

“I tell ya, Ive been selling to this dairy for 15 years, its tough, we have lowered our prices this year quite a bit from last year, I hope milk prices come up a little bit. I feel sorry for the dairies, prices shouldn’t be that low.’

In Idaho, dairy hay went for $220 to $260 last summer while premium dairy hay sold for $190 to $225. Walton says those prices have dropped to $150 to $160 and $120 to $150, back to 2006-7 prices.

And Walton says expenses are up: "We had weevil come in this year and we had to spray for 'em; its another cost and fertilizer was pretty expensive. It was more than twice as much for fertilizer but hey it’s looking pretty good, it’s a little late than normal, but still average I think.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Special Funds Available for Organic Producers

Boise US Department of Agriculture announced a new initiative to encourage more organic agriculture production. As part of the new Organic Initiative, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service will have a special sign-up period for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to implement conservation practices related to organic agriculture. The application period is open for three weeks beginning May 11 and ending May 29.

“Assisting organic producers is a priority of the 2008 Farm Bill as well as for the Secretary of Agriculture and the Obama Administration,” said Jeff Burwell, Idaho State Conservationist. “This nationwide initiative will help Idaho certified organic producers and those in the process of transitioning to organic production.”

EQIP is a competitive program reauthorized in the 2008 Farm Bill. To be eligible for EQIP support for organic operations, the 2008 Farm Bill requires producers to develop and carry out an Organic System Plan. These plans must be approved and registered by the Idaho Department of Agriculture or a USDA accredited certifier. Funds are available to producers that are pursuing organic certification or are in compliance with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 but EQIP payments may not be used for costs related to obtaining organic certification. Payments may not exceed $20,000 per year or $80,000 during any 6-year period.

Special incentives will be available for these practices: Conservation Crop Rotation; Cover Crop; Nutrient Management; Pest Management; Prescribed Grazing; and Forage Harvest Management.

The 2009 Organic Initiative is a nationwide special initiative to provide financial assistance to National Organic Program certified organic producers as well as producers in the process of transitioning to organic production. Organic producers can always sign-up for regular EQIP financial assistance however, the sign-up period for regular EQIP 2009 funds has passed. This limited organic sign-up gives organic producers an additional opportunity to participate in the EQIP program.

“Organic farming is one of the fastest growing segments in US agriculture. By setting aside funds to help Idaho farmers transition to organic production, NRCS hopes to gain more organic crop acres across the state.”

For more information, potential applicants should contact the USDA Service Center in their local area. To find the location of your local NRCS office, visit the NRCS website at and click the link “Find a Service Center” at the end of the list on the left side.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Farm Equipment on the Move In Hagerman

Equipment in Hagerman, photo by Steve Ritter.

Farm Equipment on Roads

Haggerman--With the sudden warm weather, comes the annual movement of Farm Equipment across Idaho. Farmers are moving equipment in the early mornings and late evenings, Law Enforcement agencies across the state urge motorists to slow down and watch for slow moving equipment.

Jake Putnam photo
AFBF Opposes House Climate Change Bill

WASHINGTON—Climate change legislation unveiled last week (H.R. 2454) “ignores the complex needs of a very diverse U.S. agricultural industry” and will draw opposition from the American Farm Bureau Federation.

In a letter to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, AFBF President Bob Stallman said that while the bill does not include agriculture under the greenhouse gas cap provisions, in other respects, the bill fails to include key principles Farm Bureau identified as critical to U.S. agriculture.

“We have consistently advocated that any cap-and-trade bill must: recognize and support the benefits agriculture can provide; make economic sense for agriculture; provide for a strong leadership role for USDA; and base any carbon sequestration program on sound science,” the letter stated.

According to Stallman, some sectors of the economy were accommodated as the legislation was crafted, yet the bill ignores the complex needs of American agriculture.

“The (bill) is laden with so many policy prescriptions that its impact on the U.S. is almost impossible to measure and evaluate,” Stallman said. “We can be certain of some things, however—it will increase our operating costs and reduce our competitiveness abroad.”

According to Stallman, the measure does not adequately provide for alternative sources of energy that will “plug the hole” created when fossil fuel costs escalate dramatically. Farm Bureau is also concerned about the potential impact on fertilizer prices, given their sensitivity to natural gas costs.

“The bill would effectively lock the United States into these changes regardless of what is done by other countries, such as China and India,” Stallman said. “Such an approach is little more than gambling with U.S. jobs and productivity. Taken as a whole, the bill falls far short of what is necessary for agriculture to survive and grow.”

Monday, May 18, 2009

Blair Farms back in Business after Wet Spring

Quad Track applying fertilizer, photo by Rhonda Blair.

Wheat Behind Schedule on the Palouse

Kendrick--Robert Blair reports that farming has moved into high-gear on the Palouse. After weeks of rain and wet conditions, he was finally able to plant and fertilize his thousand acres of the town of Kendrick, Idaho.

"Spring work is late this year due to high snowfall," said Blair. "Snow stayed long, and the fields are really, really wet. The ground conditions on May 17 is normal for April 17."

Blair seeds the upper reaches of Blair Farm on Saturday. Photo by Rhonda

Friday, May 15, 2009

Farm Labor Shortage

Legislation Addresses Labor Crisis in Agriculture

Washington--A Mexican government census report shows a sharp decline in the number of Mexican workers going to the United States this season; that means a drastically reduced labor force going into the 2009 farm season.

According to the report American farmers will have to make up a 226,000 worker shortfall, a decline of 25 percent from last year according to a story published in the New York Times.

On Capitol Hill the Senate addressed the labor issue by marching out and dusting off the shelved AgJOBS legislation that former Idaho Senator Larry Craig co-sponsored in 2007.

“Today across the United States, there are not enough agricultural workers to pick, prune, pack or harvest our country’s crops,” said Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California). “With an inadequate supply of workers, farmers from Maine to California, and from Washington State to Georgia, have watched their produce rot and their farms lay fallow over the years.”

AgJOBS as written, reforms the broken H-2A seasonal worker program, provide farmers with the stable, legal workforce they deserve, and offer a pathway to citizenship for hard-working, law-abiding immigrants already employed on American farms.

The AgJOBS legislation is a two-part bill. The first part creates a five-year pilot program to identify undocumented agricultural workers and legalize the immigration status for those who have been working in the United States for the past two years or more. The second part reforms the H-2A visa system and provide farmers and growers with a legal path to bring guest workers to the United States to harvest their crops.

The labor needs on the farm are growing because food demands grow each year. Many farmers say they don’t have enough labor to plant, tend and harvest their crops. Dairymen say there aren't enough workers to milk cows. As a result, farmers have been forced to decrease the size of their farms and switch to less labor intensive and less profitable crops. Efforts have been made for years to get Americans to do the work, but they simply won’t do it.

“As a result, billions of dollars are being drained out of our already struggling economy. This legislation would help to ensure a consistent, reliable agriculture work force to ensure that farmers and growers never again lose their crops because of a lack of workers.”

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Idaho Ag News

Monsanto's Round-up' ready beets were a hit with Idaho Farmers in 2008
Monsanto Announces Next Wave of High Impact Technology Products

Soda Springs-- With global demand for grain doubling in the next decade, Monsanto Company says they're introducing the next wave of High Impact Technology products focused on contributing to improving farmers' yields.

New, High Impact Technologies from Monsanto has the potential to impact more than 45 million acres in crops across the nation according to Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley.

Fraley says the company will soon launch Genuity(TM) Roundup Ready 2 Yield(TM) soybeans and Genuity(TM) SmartStax(TM) corn. The new corn products include drought-tolerant broad acre features; higher-yields and better nitrogen-utilization.

"The world population is expected to top 8 billion people by 2030, with significant dietary shifts toward more meat consumption," said Fraley." To help meet the growing food demands, we're focused on growing more grain with fewer resources through the application of new HIT products. Innovation from breeding and biotechnology has consistently delivered on the promise of more yield, helping farmers increase productivity."

"Monsanto's ability to optimize the value of its products, deliver innovation and enhance biotech trait penetration on a well-established seed footprint applies no matter where you are in the world," added Kerry Preete, Monsanto Vice President.

Preete thinks Monsanto's U.S. seeds and traits gross profit will double by 2012 , with growth of nearly 85 percent from international seeds and traits forecasted for the same time frame.

Monsanto operates a 540 acre phosphate mining operation near Soda Springs. The phosphate produced here is used in the companies Round-Up product line, not to mention toothpaste, foods and cleansers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

2009 Farm Season Underway

Beets Late, Round Up to the Rescue

Wilder--April snowstorms, wet fields and cold weather has sugar beet plantings at least two weeks behind schedule but shouldn’t greatly affect the 2009 crop.

University of Idaho Extension agent Jerry Neufeld told the Capitol Press that everything is behind and beet acreages are expected to be below the 5-year average and down from 2008. But the late planting doesn’t have farmers worried, almost all are using Round Up Ready seed.

David Dixon of Wilder says last year’s season was identical to this year but Round-Up takes a lot of worry out of the beet crop.

“Last year we started out with a thin stand late but in in the end we did very well. The beets were able to overcome the late start, thin stands and grow all season long, I was impressed with that," said Dixon.

Nearly all of Idaho's sugar beet crop is now Roundup Ready, the genetically modified seed costs more but farmers can plant later and cut labor and fuel costs.

"It adds up to about 4 dollars an acre," said Dixon. "Where we really made our money was the fact that we had a good crop. We would have had a disastrous season in 2008 with the late planting and the weed pressure. We had healthy beet fields, they yielded well considering the start that they had."

Bill Sigrist with the USDA’s Statistics Service says Idaho farmers have planted 166,000 acres of beets thus far, "We’re a little behind."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ada County Farm Bureau News

FFA President Cassandra Zufelt is awarded the Ada County Scholarship


Kuna--The Ada County Farm Bureau has announced its 2009 scholarship winners. Casandra Zufelt of Kuna High School was selected from one of the most talented pool of applicants in the past decade.

"Casandra is quite a remarkable young lady carrying a 3.95 GPA while leading an active extracurricular schedule including being Kuna FFA president this past year and participating in numerous chapter and state FFA activities. She plans to attend U of I next year majoring in agriculture education," said Ada County President Don Sonke.

The Ada County Farm Bureau scholarship is awarded to 2 outstanding high school students that are planning to pursue careers in agriculture related positions. They are awarded $1000 scholarships initially and can be renewed for up to 4 years of study by reapplying and providing proof of attendance for the following year.

"This year we renewed the scholarships of former winners Jennifer Spencer. Kim Stucker, Ben Enger, Travis Blackstock, and Sara Vandenbos(Malaise). It is rewarding to our FB Board to help these remarkable young people with their college plans," said Sonke.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A New Start

International Refugees Get Dairy Training…and Dairy Jobs

Caldwell—When Joe Dalton, University of Idaho Extension dairy specialist, was approached by Boise’s International Rescue Committee to train refugees in dairy work, he didn’t hesitate. Dalton knew that area dairy producers were looking for legally documented, work-authorized employees, and he suspected that the refugees—many of them from farming backgrounds—would respond readily to the training and perform well at the work. He was right.

With Scott Jensen, University of Idaho Extension educator in Owyhee County, and several translators, Dalton is offering milking schools to IRC refugees and plans calving management and artificial insemination workshops in the fall. “They are very good students,” he said. “They are attentive and ask questions and, as a whole, are very interested.”

According to Lana Whiteford, IRC employment services specialist in Boise, 16 milking class graduates have already begun work at Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman, Ore., joining 14 other IRC refugees who previously were placed there. Whiteford is also negotiating with several Idaho dairies and is fielding calls from other refugee agencies nationwide who want advice on launching similar programs.

“Refugees make good employees because this is the first chance they’ve had to make a life for themselves,” said Whiteford. “Most of them come from agricultural backgrounds—especially those who are 30 or older—and this opportunity is really empowering for them. They realize they can do the work and have a life again.”

Whiteford said dairies also “pay better and offer more hours, and the refugees can live in areas where the cost of living is lower.”

Rabiou Manzo, an IRC resettlement program specialist who earned his master’s degree in animal science at the University of Idaho, said it was easy to place refugees in factories, hospitals, restaurants and cleaning jobs a year ago. “Now it’s more difficult—very difficult—because many Americans who are getting laid off are applying for these jobs,” he said.

When a National Public Radio story about the IRC’s resettlement efforts netted the first call from Threemile Canyon Farms last December, Manzo was so thrilled he said, “Let’s go.” He and Whiteford loaded up a 15-passenger van and drove it through a snowstorm to Boardman.

At Threemile Canyon Farms, Rose Corral says the results have been so positive that the dairy plans to hire more Extension-taught IRC refugees. “They’re excited to have an opportunity, and we’re excited to have them,” said Corral, director of human resources and corporate social responsibility. “A lot of them have backgrounds in farming—some have had their own livestock and their own farms—and I think they’ve found something familiar. They appear to be very dedicated, they’re very willing to learn and they’re enthusiastic.”

The dairy is even offering free English language instruction to its diverse group of refugees, who are native to Burma, Nepal, Togo, Iraq and Bhutan.

According to Whiteford, a thousand refugees land in Idaho each year and are expected to find work within eight months. “We want to see our people become self-sufficient and do things independently, and they can’t do any of those things unless they’re working.”

The University of Idaho Extension training “makes the refugees more desirable to hire,” Whiteford said. “They already know the basics and what to expect, and employers are impressed because they have a groundwork from which to go. It’s a valuable tool to market people.”

Friday, May 8, 2009


Putnam photo

2009 Legislature, Second Longest in History
Boise--Idaho Lawmakers adjourned just after 3 pm Friday making the 2009 session the second longest in State history at 117 days.

In the end Governor Otter, the House and Senate settled on a $50 million compromise, far short of Otters original $240 million dollar proposal to rebuild the State's crumbling roads and bridges. The compromise included shifting funding for the Idaho State Police and Department of Parks and Recreation.

The session was marred by a bad economy and sluggish revenue projections, forcing lawmakers to set a conservative $2.5 billion 2010 budget some $460 million less than the original 2009 plan.

Canyon County News

Volunteers Attack Canyon County Litter This Weekend

Middleton--Toxic, farm road litter is a growing problem in rural Idaho and volunteers will take to the roads to clean up Canyon County.
"Litter and illegal dumping on roads is up, said Canyon County Farm Bureau's Sid Freeman."In some high traffic areas it's impossible to keep it cleaned up."

Volunteers from Middleton High Future Farmers of America will team up with the Canyon County Farm Bureau, The Sheriffs Office, and the District 4 Canyon County Highway District for the first “Country Roads Cleanup”.

"We want to bring awareness to the detrimental effect that littering on our roadways, and illegal dumping, can have on the livelihoods of farmer’s," said organizer Wes Freeman.

Fact: Farmers who grow crops for human consumption are at times bound to participate in Primus or Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) audits, which require field inspections by auditors who look for garbage in farmer’s fields. This could result in low scores on their audits and could possibly cause them to lose their contract on their crop.

Fact: The majority of the consumers have no idea of the stringent requirements that are placed upon American farmers to ensure the safety of their food.

Fact: The current penalties for littering on our road ways in the state of Idaho are very nominal compared to the detrimental effects that it could have on the livelihoods of farmers.

Fact: Infractions in Canyon County for roadway littering increased 29% from 2007 to 2008, and infractions for property littering increased 46% in that same time frame.
"Litter impacts farmers that grow produce crops that require Primus or Good Agricultural Practice audits. These audits require field inspections for several things, one of which is garbage in or around the field," said Freeman. "If garbage is found it can result in a low score on your audit, and could ultimatey result in the loss of your contract on that crop. Farmers spend alot of time and money trying to keep the fields free from the litter that is spread from the roadways out into their fields."

For more information please contact Wes Freeman at 941-7320.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Idaho Legislature, Closing Days?

The Final Day(s)

BOISE -- The Idaho House and Senate are quietly working on adjournment but with a log jam of legislation and last minute compromises adjournment won't come until Friday.

Senator John Goedde (R-Coeur d'Alene) was returning to the Statehouse after a quick lunch on Thursday afternoon thought that sine die won't come today. However, he said his car is packed and ready to go. "It's all part of the dance we have to go through this time of year."

The fragile, $50-million dollar road funding bill is still on the table and should pass without any 11th hour theatrics from anti-tax crusaders. The key to the compromise comes in the form a funding shift in funding. Instead of funding from the fuel tax; the Idaho State Police and the Department of Parks and Recreation will now get funding from the general fund, that $21-million will now go to roads.

Lawmakers will also form an ad-hoc committee to look into modernizing Idaho's roads funding system.

State Resolutions Meeting

State Resolutions Meeting, originally uploaded by IdFarmBureau.

State Resolutions Meeting

Boise--Producers from all walks of agriculture representing each of Idaho's Farm Bureau districts met in Boise to consolidate a bookful of resolutions submitted by county Farm Bureaus in preparation for the next annual meeting of the Idaho Farm Bureau.

“The issues we discussed at this meeting will be considered, adopted or rejected by the voting delegates at the annual meeting next December," said Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley.

Preistley said that taxes, and roads are two issues that always top the agenda when members meet, with lawmakers addressing the same issue just two blocks away at the Idaho Statehouse.

US Immigration System 'Broken'

Washington--The Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration held their first hearing on immigration reform this week on Capitol Hill.

Witnesses testified that current system is broken and legislative changes are needed, but there was a lack of new ideas on how to handle the future flow of guestworkers or a possible pathway to citizenship for illegal workers already in the United States.

The Senate hearing featured representatives of religious groups, the labor movement and the business community.

Alan Greenspan the Former Federal Reserve Chairman said that it's no surprise that illegal immigration makes a “significant” contribution to U.S. economic growth because of the flexible workforce. Greenspan went on to say that illegal immigrants provide a “safety valve” as demand for workers rises and falls.

“There is little doubt that illegal, immigration has made a significant contribution to the growth of our economy,” Greenspan said. An overhaul of U.S. immigration laws is “badly needed” to create legal avenues for skilled and unskilled workers to enter the country legally, Greenspan says that immigration laws must be reformed and brought up to date.

Congress started the hearings to overhaul of U.S. immigration policies, and it's also an Obama priority. The Senate killed legislation last year that would have given an estimated 12 million illegal migrant workers a path to earn legal status by creating a new guest-worker program, a measure supported by then-President Bush.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

President's Editorial

Making a Meaningful Contribution to the Planet
by Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley

National Public Radio’s All Things Considered recently broadcast a program about San Francisco residents and their celebration of Earth Day. As part of Earth Day’s 39th anniversary, a group of northern Californians were urging everyone to boycott beef and cheese for the day. They say this boycott will lessen agriculture’s carbon footprint.

Truth be known, all NPR and these misguided activists really accomplished was to fool themselves and confuse consumers about global climate change on a misunderstood holiday.
First off, NPR as a government-funded entity should be required to check their facts and ask appropriate questions when confronted with these and dozens of other artificial assertions about environmental groups and their efforts to “save the planet.”

If folks want to make a positive contribution on Earth Day, we suggest planting a tree, or a garden. How about picking up some garbage or properly disposing of hazardous waste? Homeowners can cut back on the use of household chemicals that eventually end up in storm drains or use public transportation to decrease fuel usage.

But not eating beef or cheese for the day, even if the entire city of San Francisco agreed, effects zero change on agriculture’s carbon footprint. On the dairy side, the same number of cows are still going to be milked and the same amount of cheese is still going to get made. It’s not a cycle capable of immediately reacting to a one-day slump in demand. With beef it’s similar. It takes roughly 18 months to grow a steer to market weight. If some people boycott beef for one day, we’re unclear on how that lessens agriculture’s carbon footprint.

A one-day boycott might make some people feel like they are doing a good thing for the planet, but in the end it’s just more erroneous propaganda that drives home the point that activism in its own right can be positive, but misguided activism only serves to confuse the issues.

America’s farm and ranch families are dedicated to caring for our planet. They are ethical caretakers of the land and water resources that help make our nation’s bounty possible. On this Earth Day, more and more farmers are joining the conversation about environmental stewardship, and with good reason. Through modern conservation and tillage practices, farmers and ranchers are reducing the loss of soil through erosion, protecting the quality of our lakes and rivers and in the process enriching the earth.

“Today, it is possible for farmers and ranchers to produce more food than ever before on fewer acres with fewer inputs,” said American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman. “These things are possible through the use of modern farming tools, such as global positioning satellites, biotechnology and conservation tillage. Thanks to a successful partnership with our government, as of January 2009, farmers had enrolled 33.6 million acres of their land in the Conservation Reserve Program to protect the environment and provide habitat for wildlife. In fact, more than half of America's agricultural producers intentionally provide habitat for wildlife, which has significantly increased many populations.

“Farmers are planting trees at record rates. And renewable fuels that they grow, such as ethanol and biodiesel made from corn, soybeans and other crops, are not only beneficial to the environment but are poised to play a significant role in promoting a greater degree of energy security for the United States. The American Farm Bureau Federation is proud of our nation’s farmers and ranchers for their dedication to caring for the planet as they engage in the hard work of helping provide food, fiber, shelter and renewable energy for our nation and the world.”

Bingham County Woman of the Year

Photo by Kimmel Dalley
Joyce Dalley Named Bingham County Farm Woman of 2009
Blackfoot--The Bingham County Farm Bureau honored Joyce Dalley this past week with a brunch in her honor after she was named Bingham County's Farm Bureau Farm Woman of the Year for 2009. Joyce is pictured above with her equally proud grandkids!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Storm Clouds over the Capitol

Stalemate Continues at Capitol

Boise--On day 114 House Speaker Lawerence Denney emerged from the Statehouse under threatening, cloudy skies. "There's no solution yet."

GOP leaders met with Gov. Butch Otter they emerged with the same message: They're still talking, but no resolution, yet.

The House killed six previous bills, there is a compromise bill that would raise $52 million a year to repair roads; but Lawmakers are not thrilled at raising the 25-cent-per-gallon gas tax in bad economic times.

The afternoon meeting was the first between Otter and fellow Republicans in a week. The House adjourned last Wednesday and with another stalemate looming another ajournment is not out of the question.


Idaho Legislature

House Back to Work, No Sign of Compromise

Boise--The House of Representatives reconvened on Monday afternoon and started considering backlogged bills from last week's 4 day recess.

Members havn't shown any sign of giving in to Governor Butch Otter's $75-million dollar gas tax bill and are sticking fast to their own $25-million proposal.
For now the House will continue to work on Tuesday and will not adjourn unless there's a massive break down in the next 48 hours, that leaves doors open to compromise, hushed meetings and heated discussions.

H1N1 Flu

Key Facts About H1N1 (Swine) Flu

Atlanta--This past weekend the media rightfully started to call the Swine flu by its proper name, H1N1 flu. Dr. William Schaffner, a flu expert at Vanderbilt University has said, "There's no evidence that any influenza virus, and in particular this one, has ever been transmitted by the foodborne route or by handling food products.”

Can people catch H1N1 flu from eating pork?
No. Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You can not get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.

How is the virus spread?
Influenza viruses can be directly transmitted from pigs to people and from people to pigs. Human infection with flu viruses from pigs are most likely to occur when people are in close proximity to infected pigs, such as in pig barns and livestock exhibits housing pigs at fairs. Human-to-human transmission of swine flu can also occur. This is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu occurs in people, which is mainly person-to-person transmission through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

What is Swine Influenza?
H1N1 is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs. Swine flu viruses cause high levels of illness and low death rates in pigs. Swine influenza viruses may circulate among swine throughout the year, but most outbreaks occur during the late fall and winter months similar to outbreaks in humans. The classical swine flu virus (an influenza type A H1N1 virus) was first isolated from a pig in 1930.

Can humans catch swine flu?

H1N1 viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with swine flu have occurred. Most commonly, these cases occur in persons with direct exposure to pigs (e.g. children near pigs at a fair or workers in the swine industry). In addition, there have been documented cases of one person spreading swine flu to others. For example, an outbreak of apparent swine flu infection in pigs in Wisconsin in 1988 resulted in multiple human infections, and, although no community outbreak resulted, there was antibody evidence of virus transmission from the patient to health care workers who had close contact with the patient.How common is swine flu infection in humans?In the past, CDC received reports of approximately one human swine influenza virus infection every one to two years in the U.S., but from December 2005 through February 2009, 12 cases of human infection with swine influenza have been reported.

What are the symptoms of H1F1 flu in humans?

The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

--Centers for Disease Control

Monday, May 4, 2009

Idaho Legislature

House Back Home

Boise--The House of Representatives return from their 4-day, $120,000 adjournment this morning and will consider eight budget bills passed by the Senate on Thursday.

Members are returning by law, because according to the Idaho Constitution neither chamber of the Legislature can adjourn for more than three days without permission from the other.

The stalemate centers on road and bridge maintenance. Gov. Otter wants $75 million while the House has offered just $25 million; so far the Senate is backing Otter.
House Republicans say they will caucus first thing this morning, so leaders can present new ideas that have come up since Wednesday on the highway issue. Then the caucus could also decide to once again or "sine die" - the official term for ending the session.

Today is the 13th day of the legislative session, just five days short of the all-time record set back in 2003, that session was tangled in a 118 day session before passing a sales-tax increase.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Storms Rock the Treasure Valley

John 8:12, originally uploaded by jack9999p.
Severe Thundershowers Slow Farming

(Boise) Afternoon storms brought tornado warnings for parts of Gem, Washington, and Payette counties just after 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

Farmers who hoped to get back in the fields had to watch from the sidelines for the 3rd straight day, planting is at least 2-weeks behind for some farmers.

The storms were followed by a severe thunderstorm warnings throughout the region, with heavy rain, hail and even a funnel cloud sighting.

"It was like totally awesome,” funnel cloud witness Bob Davis told KTVB 7 news: “I haven't seen a funnel cloud like that since I was a kid in Oklahoma- Arkansas area.”

Saturday, May 2, 2009

2009 Legislature

Otter: Revenue Not As Bad, Reconsider Gas Tax

Boise--Governor Butch Otter wants House Lawmakers to reconsider the gas tax when the Legislature goes back to work on Monday. Otter told a news conference that state revenues aren't as bad as first anticipated and hopes the House will see that and approve his $80-million gas tax proposal.

On Friday Otter put the veto stamp away and instead signed education bills into law while, but keeping his focus on roads.

"We will continue to work we will continue to try and go forward on the transportation funding because it is so important", says Governor Otter. That plan now includes adding a three cent hike to gas starting in July of 2011 and another three cents the following year.

Representative Scott Bedke has continued to work through the House recess, acting as a mediator between the Governors Office and the Speaker of the House he says the caucus is reluctant to enact a gas tax that comes into affect two years from now.

On Friday House leadership called for a new interim committee to handle the issue saying the committee's would study the transportation proposals as a whole and seek common ground. Governor Otter says he's on board only if they accept his counter offer, meanwhile the calls for compromise are getting louder.

"Its time for the Legislature to step up and say Governor we agree with you so we can go home", says Senator John McGee. The House of Representatives is expected back at the Capitol Annex on Monday by noon.

Friday, May 1, 2009

No One in the House

No One Home in the House, originally uploaded by Jake Putnam

Boise--There’s no one home in the House of Representatives, House lawmakers stormed off on Wednesday over the contentious gas tax with Governor Butch Otter; but they could be back on Monday.

By law the House has re-convene on Monday if the Senate is still in session. Some House lawmakers say the gas tax has been replaced as main stumbling block to adjournment by the rift between House Leadership and the Governor.

For the first time since 1980 one chamber has adjourned without the assent from the other which emphasizes the deep discord within the Idaho Republican Party which has dominated the Legislature for decades.

Governor Otter wants to raise taxes to fix roads to the tune of $80 million; But the Speaker of the House can only agree to $30 million and is firm on that number. But there is hope, since adjournment on Wednesday the Speaker’s office and staff have stuck around to negotiate.

House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, met with Senate leaders much of Thursday without finding a solution to the gas tax and road money.

Unless there’s significant movement today in the glacial ice between the House and Governor’s office the Legislature will be back in session on Monday.

Congress considers Farm Bill this week

Washington--House Ag Chairman Mike Conaway finally get the House farm bill to the Senate this week, but it all depends on House Republic...